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OOC: I'm hooked. I just can't quit. I've tried going cold turkey. I've tried toning it down. Nothing works. I just can't stop. I have to RP. Even if it isn't the same as what everyone else does. I break the rules. Free style. Approach the outer limits. But, I can't help it. It gives me pleasure. I really should be doing something constructive, but here I am again. Starting yet another thread. And this one is even more blatant than the others! No real theme. No real reason for existing other than purely for my own personal pleasure. And, maybe yours, who knows?


Scattered throughout the WOT series we have seen very little of any type of middle class. The rich seem to be very well off and the poor are dirt poor. You either lounge around all day at someone else's expense or you work your tail off from daybreak to sunset just to put food on the table. Just so I could have something to RP about, this thread is purely for characters. Snap shots of different Randlanders. I might mix in a little comedy. Maybe some light drama. Mostly, just whatever pops into my feeble brain. This catch-all thread will give me a place to relieve myself...feed my addiction...escape from the real world. Not because I have to, but because I want to. And, because it is practically free. :biggrin:



I've become accustomed to the idea that it is a waste of cyber space to invite others to join in, but, again, it costs me nothing to do so. If you feel so inclined, by all means join the fun! But be careful...you, too, might become addicted!!! :wacko:


I haven't decided yet what the first tale will be. Maybe next Sunday I'll have something in mind. Yes, I'll try to remember the PG-13 guidelines.




Edited by GrandpaG
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OOC: A good writer has a solid plan before beginning. I have no plan. Lots of notions. A few ideas. No plan. No different than any other time. Just tear into it and let the words fall as they may. Takes the stress out of it. Adds to the enjoyment. Feeds the addiction.


I am thinking along the lines of centering the activity in and around the Shadow Coast. Windbiter's Finger. Kelsey's Tavern. The area between Tanchico and Ebou Dar. Seanchan territory. Virtually ignored throughout the series. I hope RJ wasn't saving it for AMoL!!!



As things progress I'll probably find a reason to stray, but let's begin in that area. ENJOY!!!













"She claims that before she became damane she held the title to Amyrlin Seat. She certainly has been a tough nut to crack. Even wearing the adam she is defiant. But, she is somehow lovely, don't you agree?".


Why? Why was it so necessary to have a truth teller? Very few people were allowed to make a noise in his presence let alone speak aloud yet this...this...SUBORDINATE...was allowed by law to say whatever she wished whenever she wished with no fear of punishment. Punishment? She should be ran through with a sword...then TWIST...Rourke could feel his teeth grinding as he turned the imaginary sword...he could almost feel her warm red blood gushing out onto his wrist. Why must a High Lord endure such agony? It just was not right.


"Yes. She will do.". He gave the signal that his attendants were dismissed and they vanished silently as expected. Realizing that she was now alone with a High Lord the Suldam postured herself face first on the floor remaining perfectly still and quiet. The semi-trained damane imitated her handler but kept peeking while trying to avoid getting caught doing so. "You may leave the damane with me. What is her name?".


The Suldam glanced up quickly with a pale white blank expression on her face which spoke of the fear that she was feeling. When she realized that her eyes had nearly met his she quickly resumed her self control and whispered "Rosie, High Lord.". She flinched as if just realizing that she could have been seen as overstepping her bounds by adding more than she had been asked for...they both knew who he was after all. Maintaining her pose she eased her way out of the room by crawling backward. She was VERY intently keeping her eyes downward. Rourke felt generous. He decided that ten lashes should pay her bill.


When Rourke was sure that they were alone and that nobody could hear he addressed the damane. "Rise.". The command was standard and simple enough that even a new trainee should understand it. This one must really be stupid. She looked up slightly then looked around the room. She saw the empty bracelet at the other end of her adam and immediately emptied her stomach. When she was done she wiped her mouth on her sleeve then looked him squarely in the eye. He smiled his most wicked smile. She did not smile back.


"Do you know that the penalty for looking into my eye can be whatever I choose?". He waited for her to repose herself. Instead, she scowled. Far beyond defiant. Her scowl clearly said that if she had a dagger in her hand that she would drive it deeply into his chest hoping beyond all hope to cut his heart in two. And she was staring...STARING...those daggers directly into his eyes! Even as a youngster before he had earned his first name Rourke had never felt such hatred directed toward him. He should have been furious! He should have her drawn and quartered on the spot! Damane or not! He was a High Lord and NOBODY looked at him this way! And yet, for some reason, he was amused. Intrigued. This feeling was something new for him. He would explore it.


He pointed to the floor beneath her. Any school child would interpret this as a shouted command and would have dropped in a heap. She remained kneeling. And glaring. Rourke was usually a patient man. He could feel his patience draining quickly. "SIT!", he commanded and pointed again. Rosie must have felt his anger and knew that it meant trouble for her. She slowly softened her glare and quite deliberately eased herself to a comfortable position on the floor. She made sure that her garments lay properly. Then she regained eye contact with him. This time as an equal would. Or, perhaps even as a superior would.


Rourke recalled a stones game that he had once participated in with a school mate. They were both leaders among their peers. Had they both lived, Panda would have one day been given names of his own. He had been a friend. The particular game of stones lasted for several hours. Both young men would challenge, gain, and lose, then regain. Back and forth. Gain. Lose. They stared at each other trying to gain an edge. Out of desperation and not being willing to accept a loss, Rourke had "accidentally" spilled the game onto the ground while reaching for his glass of water. Something about the look in Rosie's eyes made him remember that game.


"May I speak freely, High Lord?", she asked almost politely. It might have been polite had she been above him. Or, possibly a High Lady with whom he was about to be intimate. But, a damane? NEVER!!! At the very LEAST she should have her tongue removed!!! Yet, the look in her eyes and the tone of her voice softened him somehow. In a strange way he felt almost compelled to enter into a relaxed conversation with her. Commoner to commoner. That thought smashed into his forehead like a brick! What kind of spell was she casting on him? Surely she was not able to use the One Power on him while in the adam! What was causing this? He needed time to think.












Thirty seven years.







More than that...nearly thirty eight years.







Yup. Thirty eight years this Sunday. Yup.







Daeve gave a whistle and tugged on the left rein. As directed, Charlie tugged to the left and Randie followed. The wagon followed the team and easily missed the chuck hole that could have shaken Daeve's teeth loose. Another quick whistle and a tug on the right rein made Randie tug to the right bringing Charlie behind him and guiding the wagon back on track. The three of them made a good team. Actually, the four of them. Rycke was snoozing while riding beside Daeve. It was Rycke's turn to stand guard tonight. Besides. Guard duty wasn't nearly as exciting as driving.


Driving was all that Daeve had ever wanted to do. Even as a small child he had dreamed of traveling all over Seanchan and seeing the world. His childhood days were spent in the common rooms of the inns listening to the drivers telling of the things that they had seen and the people that they had met. Even then he realized that some of the tales were just that. But, they were still interesting to hear and to dream about. Danger. Extreme temperatures. Wild beasts. Highwaymen. Of all of the stories his favorite were those told by those who had been chosen to drive for the Emperor may he live forever. He didn't live forever, but that was just the Will of the Pattern, that's all.


Thirty six years. That's how long he had driven the wagons around Seanchan. He had hauled loads North, South, East, and West. He had even spent time on the outer islands running illegal hooch just for a change of pace. Thankfully, word of that never followed him back to the mainland and into the service of the Empire. Seventeen years of that. Special loads to special places. Ho-hum loads to mundane places. Some paid well. Some not so well. The money always went as fast as it came in. Expenses. Food. Clothes. Drinks. Women.


It sometimes bothered Daeve that he had never taken a wife. He could have had great-children by now. But that would have meant running a shop or tending a farm or being a sailor or a fisherman or maybe even a soldier. He guessed that those lives are OK for some folk but not for him. Even with the regret of never having children of his own, he was uncle to a multitude and they all loved the candy treats that uncle Daeve brought. Even with it's down sides, there just wasn't any other life for him than driving.


Now, here he was. In this strange new land with a team and wagon of his own. Still in the service, but here he was under contract and making VERY good money. Even after he paid Rycke he still had money left over at the end of each month. The drink and women were not taking the toll that they once did. His four member team was efficient. The loads were steady and he was allowed to pick and choose to keep the weight down. That cut back on the wear and tear on his team and the equipment. Somehow, even though his omens had warned of possible heartache, he had known deep in his soul that he just had to accept the offer to take this job and leave Seanchan behind. Perhaps he could visit his family for a while next year. He would have to start stashing away some candy.

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OOC: the Isle of Landalea is the third island out from the mainland in the chain referred to by the Sea Folk as the Windbiter's Finger. It is approximately 150 miles in diameter. The coastline is flat and sandy. The terrain gradually rises and becomes fertile a short distance from the beach. Banana and coconut palms are abundant. Several small fishing villages can be found along the coastline. Farms and more small villages are carved out of the thick jungle further inland. A single tall volcano rises from the center of the island. Clouds forming around the top of the volcano provide fresh water to a multitude of small rivulets. The inhabitants stay close to the fresh water sources. Along the northern shore a fairly deep and wide natural channel allows passage by trading vessels and even small Sea Folk ships during high tide. At both the east and west ends of the channel larger villages have grown to handle any trade that can be had. Center City stretches along the coast from the East Town to the West Town. The Lord of Isle Landalea lives in Center City in a large manor. He is the sole magistrate for the entire island. He also determines what taxes are needed and who shall receive welfare. Tariffs and rights of passage through the channel are also under his control. The job is passed down from father or mother to the most deserving child as determined by a family vote upon the passing of the sitting Lord or Lady. This system has flourished for countless generations. Mutual trust and respect between the ruling family and the islanders have kept the peace. Outsiders have always seen these people as backward so they leave them alone. Since the island offers no great wealth they have never been invaded. Simple people living a simple life style. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel desires.




IC: "Let the making of merriment begin!!!"


The gathered crowd erupted in cheers, whistles, and all manner of noise making from banging on pots with spoons to beating on barrels with sticks and everything in between. It didn't matter what noise a person made or how loud it was. The simple act of being heard was what was important. Jonnie Featherwig, Lord of the Isle, Favorite Son of Landalea, or as most of the people living on this island referred to him, "Jolly Jonnie", was sure that he added noise of his own. He grabbed two large sticks that he had brought with him and clapped them together over his head while jumping up and down and hooping as loud as he could. His smile was as grand as any in the crowd. He really loved this time of year.


The tide would remain extremely low for several weeks. Why, nobody knew for sure. Some act of nature that always happened. Every year. Around this time of year. When it did, anyone caught inside the channel would be stuck there until the tide returned. Traders who had been stuck in the past knew what to avoid. They usually would simply accept their fate and pull in to which ever Town they were closest to, East or West, and wait. This meant extra business for the inns. Some enterprising individuals even offered special tours of the island for those who were visiting...for a fee, of course. This time of year always meant more revenue for everyone to enjoy. Occasionally, a traveler would fall for a local lass and settle down to become part of the island family. On a rare occasion an island girl would hook up with a sailor and leave her home for the mysterious world beyond the horizon. The low tide did not last long. Thankfully.


The Feast of the Low Tide was a time for making merry. Jolly Jonnie could still remember watching his mother make the announcement that he had just made. She had been a grand Lady. Always full of joy and compassion. Able to hand out tough punishment one moment and in the next breath declare that everyone should rejoice that a new baby had been born to a poor fisherman's family on the south shore. She worked hard from the time that she got up until she finally went to bed. But she never let the job get her down. A smile was on her face more often than not. She always had loved the Low Tide, too. A time to put aside the work and worries of the day and simply relax and have fun. She never chastised the few who still felt it necessary to carry on with their day-to-day tasks but she always took the time to let them know how she felt about refusing to take a day or two off. "Relax.", she told them. "Make merry! You can work when the tide returns! You will wish for these days when you don't have time to catch your breath!". She was a remarkable person who truly knew how to honor the Low Tide.


Jonnie kicked up his heels and spun around and around until he made himself dizzy enough that he fell to the ground in a laughing heap. For several moments he rolled around in the dirt not caring that his finest clothes were getting soiled. Then he lay on his back and closed his eyes letting the world spin around him. When he thought that he could do so without making himself sick he brought his arms together in the dirt above his head and spread his legs far apart. Then he brought his arms back down by his side and put his heels together. Back and forth. He kept doing this until he was sure that his Gull Of Peace could be seen where he had made it in the dirt. He banged the back of his head into the dirt to form the head of the gull. When he got up and saw his creation he smiled. Another fond memory of younger days.


"Make merry! Make merry! Enjoy the day! Be thankful that you are alive! Everyone! Make merry!". Jonnie ran through the crowd spreading his bidding. It really was his hope that everyone on the island would enjoy the next few days. Some would surely drink too much and suffer the soreness the morning after. A good many would lose their clothes and run through the daylight for all to see. Swimming in the creeks or at the beach. Eating too much. Sitting a playing a game of stones with an old friend. It didn't matter what a person did as long as they made merry and didn't get in the way of someone else's merriment.


Even Ellen let her hair down a little. She hadn't always been willing. When she had first arrived to be his mother's "adviser" she had been quite prudish. Prim. Proper. Unwilling or unable to relax? Jonnie didn't know. At that time he was just a young man. He knew that Ellen was Aes Sedai and that she had been sent to their island as some form of punishment by her peers. It had taken her a great many Low Tides to allow herself to do more than sit and watch. She still looked the same after all of these years. Except that she had learned some of the island ways and now knew that relaxed behavior was OK. Her loose-fitting white dress with the large yellow flowers and yellow trim around the arms and neckline looked far more comfortable than her normal high collared yellow dresses. And, in place of the normal bun on top of her head, she literally had let her hair down to hang loosely about her shoulders. And, she was smiling. That made Jonnie smile, too.








OOC: Kelsey's Tavern is actually a small, comfy inn located in a small town on the Shadow Coast. If you walk down to the beach you can see the largest island in the Windbiter's Finger chain in the distance. The water is shallow enough that a person can wade to the island at low tide. Only the shallowest draft trading vessels try to pass between the island and the mainland and then only at extremely high tide. Masts of countless shipwrecks can be seen sticking up out of the water as testament to the dangerous waters. The town itself was nearly annihilated over in the Last Battle thread but here it has been miraculously rebuilt into it's former splendor. Kelsey's is a favorite haunt of the Channeling Tinker Gleeman GrandpaG. This is where he brought his latest girlfriend and possible soul mate Ghina the Aiel Wise One for a romantic getaway. All of that is in the past.








The woman playing the fiddle was showing far too much bosom. The man with the washtub bass couldn't count to three...his playing was never in time with the tune. The lad pounding on the dulcimer had obviously just begun learning what stings made what notes. The three of them deserved each other. They had arrived early this afternoon and had begged Master Greggory to allow them to perform in exchange for a meal and a cot for each of them. The Master was getting the short end of the deal. At least none of them had tried to sing.


"When I was a little bitty baby my momma would rock me in a cradle...", the bass player began. Kerrie chastised herself for ever having the thought that had jinxed her so. The man's singing was the only thing that could have possibly been worse than his sense of rhythm. In the worst way she wanted to plug her ears. The expressions on the faces of the few patrons that Kelsey's had tonight said that they felt the same way. If this terrible trio drove away Master Greggory's handful of paying customers it would surely foul his mood. Bad mood's had a way of flowing down hill. Kerrie needed to turn things around.


Putting on one of her best smiles and assuming some of her most attractive posture she hefted her tray of drinks high above her head and threw herself bravely to the wolves. Using the table wiping cloth in her other hand as a playful weapon she carefully slashed away at the hands reaching for her behind hoping for a pinch. Dodging and weaving through the seemingly endless onslaught she maintained her smile and skillfully kept the drinks from spilling. Flirting just enough to divert the interest toward her and away from the "musicians" she made her way to the table that had ordered the drinks. Placing them in front of each paying customer while allowing just enough of a peek down the cleavage to remain decent, she soon had neighboring tables ignoring the performers and ordering ale from her. Plenty of ale was the only cure for this band.


Kerrie's performance did the trick. Soon enough, the trio was drowning their sorrows in ale while taking a break and the paying patrons were feeling no pain. The Master would not be taking anything out on her this evening. She yawned and rubbed her eyes. Her feet ached. Even though the night air was brisk she was sweating from all of the swatting and maneuvering and taking and delivering orders. Just as she was feeling that she might make it through the night without "it" happening, "it" did.


One of the wagon drivers sitting in a stall near the front window whistled and motioned for her to come over to take his order. Kerrie made her way through the crowd and arrived in front of the man for at least the sixth or seventh time. His breath was strong of ale. His smile was nearly as filthy as his hands. He reached out toward her and nearly fell out of his seat. His glazed eyes narrowed to slits and he smiled. His rotted teeth were stained from too much tabac. He obviously hadn't shaved in several days. Or bathed. She tried to remain polite. After all...he was still paying.


"What say...", the man burped. Kerrie waited for an explosion then sighed in relief when it didn't happen. Those messes were always hers to clean up. The man caught his breath. "What say...you and me...head on up...to my room...for...BBURRPPP...the night?". Kerrie had worked these tables long enough to know what was coming. The man smiled a wicked smile. She reached between her shoulder blades and gave the signal. Before the man could get out of his seat to lunge at her or started yelling or swearing Boris had him by the scruff of the neck and was escorting him to the street out the front door. Paying customer of not, Master Greggory just did not tolerate certain behavior. The other customers watched silently. Some left their seats and headed for bed. Others began to urge the musicians to end their break and continue with the lovely tunes. Kerrie sighed a sigh of relief. She gave Boris a grateful nod when he came back in. He smiled.

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Princess Polly was not a real princess at all and nobody would ever call her that within earshot. She knew that everyone thought of her as a spoiled rotten brat. That didn't seem to bother her as much as the nickname. This morning she was in rare form indeed.


"By the winds, Penelope, you had best find that worthless oaf Frederic and have him bring me another mattress!!! Unless you would like another taste of the nine tailed cat? Get your lazy body moving!!! I mean to have a decent night's sleep...TONIGHT!!! Just look at this bruise!!!". Polly pointed at the dark spot on her left forearm.


"Yes, myz. Right away myz. No, myz, I don't need the cat, myz. I'll hurry myz.". Penny bobbed and curtsied as she backed her way out of the room. She could clearly remember the feel of the beating that she had "earned" last week by leaving a wrinkle along the hem of Polly's shawl. She honestly did not want another beating. She would hurry to find Freddie. She would help him carry in the new mattress and add it to the pile of seven that were already stacked up to make the princess a nice comfy bed. Then, just as she had for the past several nights following her beating, she would place a single pea under the top mattress once the bed was made. "Paybacks are hell.", she thought to herself.




OOC: Sorry. I just couldn't resist. For those of you who don't get it, Google "The Princess and the Pea.". :biggrin:

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For probably the hundredth time in the past few months The Right Honorable Mayor of Mason Manor cursed the day that his great father had ever been born. Not that he had any special dislike for the man himself. He had always been one of Karlee's favorite people right up to the day that he died and left the Mayor duties to Karlee. If only his father had not been lost at sea. Then HE would have been saddled with the title and everything that went along with it.


Sure. There was gold. Lots of gold. Being the only real habitable establishment for miles in any direction meant a monopoly on any trade or taxes to be had. Anyone who chose to homestead within fifty miles in any direction had no choice but to bring their commerce here. There just were no other options. It was deal with the Masons or go without. Pay the Mason price. Eat the Mason food. Drink the Mason ale. Give the Mayor of Mason your tribute in exchange for his protection. There was plenty of gold. Mason gold.


Karlee had not been given a choice when he took over as Mayor. For generations the eldest surviving Mason assumed the station automatically when the existing Mayor perished. He had not asked to be placed in the job. Being raised in the Manor gave him an insider's perspective. He watched his great father for over thirty years. For as long as he could remember. How many times had he considered leaving? But, where was there to go? The family gold was not his to take with him. In the outside world he would be a commoner. A nobody. No title. No gold. He was stuck.


"Send in the next one.", he sighed to his clerk Irene. She smiled knowingly and turned to exit to the outer waiting room. Karlee chastised himself for having evil thoughts about the way she wiggled when she walked. It just wouldn't be proper for him to become involved with her. He was mayor, now. He had duties. He could have chased after her many years ago when it would have been OK but he chose not to. For the life of him he could not remember why. Anyway, all of that was past. Now, he had a job to do. An important job. A thankless job. A job that nobody could understand unless they had done the job themselves. He waited for Irene to bring the next one.








"I still love him, mother.", Opel cried into her upraised apron. "He is the father of our five children. He really has tried to be a good husband and father.". She pulled a clean handkerchief from the pocket of her apron and wiped her eyes and nose. She snuffed then sobbed some more. "He tries so very hard. He's just...", sniffle, sniffle, sniff, "just not...", whimper, sniffle, sniff, "he's never...satisfied.". Opel buried her face deeply into her apron and let it all out.


Opel's mother sat beside her daughter with her hand on her shoulder blades. She patted her back reassuringly. "There, there, Opel. Try not to give up hope just yet. Perhaps things will still work out just fine. Sometimes we have to be patient.".


Opel sprang to her feet and glared at her mother. "PATIENT!!!". Her mother back away reflexively as if she expected Opel to become physically violent. Opel yelled at the top of her lungs. "PATIENT!!!" She was breathing heavily and drool oozed from the side of her mouth. She was a little upset. The worried look on her mother's face caused her to realize what she must look like. She tried really hard to calm herself. She searched desperately for some way to make up for her outburst. Sniffle. Snuff. Snuff. Sigh.


"Things could have been worse.", she said almost calmly. "He could have been a drunk. Or a womanizer.". She thought for a moment. "No. I almost think I could have accepted either of those compared to THIS!". She started to lose it again. Then, she became stubborn. VERY stubborn. She was NOT going to let this thing come between her and her mother! She became determined to calm herself. And she did. Sort of. At least she stopped crying. And most of the sniffling. Most of it. She took a deep breath then sighed. After a few moments she was able to think more clearly.


"He and I left here mother, as you remember, in search of the dream. We just knew that it was 'somewhere out there waiting for us'. We would have it all. Love. Happiness. Wealth. A fine home and family. We deserved all of those things and we WOULD have them! We headed for Almouth Plain. He heard travelers telling about riches to be earned working in the timber business so away we flew. Little Caron was born up there. So was Pele. Three back breaking years working daybreak to sunset. Most of what we earned went toward survival. We lived on love in a wagon like a Tinker. Then he heard that there was a brand new gold mine in the Mountains of the Mist that an honest, hardworking man could become a partner in with very little money down. He invested what little we had saved and we moved. A new location but the same wagon and the same lifestyle. Along came Timmie and Tux. When it finally became crystal clear to him that we were not going to strike it rich in the gold mines he used his superior brain to figure out that he should be a fisherman. The Silver Back Shiners were plentiful off the coast near Falme, or so he heard. A man with a single net could fill his boat each day for a year without making a dent in the catch to be had. Fish all day. Sell his catch. A year or two of that and they would have enough gold to buy a farm. Maybe even one close to home. That's when we were blessed with Falmsey.". Opel paused and sniffled.


"He wasn't drinking or chasing skirts. But, he was never satisfied. The dream just HAD to be out there someplace just waiting for us to stumble upon it. I love him. But I hate what he is about to do to our family.". Opel steeled herself then looked her mother square in the eye. "Mother. He is leaving us. He wants us to wait here for him while he...", she could feel herself losing it again. NO! She could get through this and she WOULD!!! "he wants us to live with you while he goes to fight the SHADOW!!!". She lost it again.


"WHAT?", Opel's mother asked with shock in her voice. She had remained quite calm through all of the rest of the tale but her eyes were now wide and her face was pale. Tears swelled in her eyes and Opel was quite sure that her mother would begin sobbing soon. She had to stop for her mother's sake. As Opel gained her self control her mother calmed somewhat, too. "What do you mean, Opel? I don't understand.".


Sniffle. Snuff. She blew her nose in the handkerchief. "He's chasing the dream, mother. He is going to hire himself out as a mercenary to fight with the Andoran army. They swear that the Last Battle will take place soon. He figures he can earn as much fighting for half a year as he could by fishing or mining for several years. Then when the fight has been won they will pay for him to get a proper education so he can have a high paying job and we can live the dream. In the meantime, you get to feed me and the kids.".


Opel's mom's face went pale again.

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"INSOLENT DOG!!!". The truth teller's dagger was unsheathed in the blink of an eye and in another blink she had Rosie by the hair with the dagger poised to slit her throat. "Even the most 'VALUABLE' damane is not above the law! It is well within my rights and duty to remove your rebellious head and then reach through the hole to pull out your heart!!!". She glanced toward Rourke as if waiting for the go ahead nod. He didn't nod. Instead, he pointed back to where the truth teller had sprung from.


You would have thought that he had smacked her between the eyes with a two by four and then yelled at her "JUST SIT DOWN AND SHUT YOUR STUPID TRAP!!!". Her face went pale and she almost staggered as she moved swiftly to comply. There was no doubt in her mind that Rourke was upset and that it could be HER heart getting removed if she pushed him too hard in the wrong way. He might even order her to remove her OWN heart! It really was nearing the time to do something about her.


Remaining calm, Rourke returned his stare to Rosie. She was ignoring him while she smoothed the mess that had been made of her hair. The option of removing her head still remained. But that strange feeling toward her still remained also. She was obviously a strong willed person. Her mannerisms spoke of her being used to the finer things in life. The so-called Aes Sedai in this strange land thought of themselves on a level similar to the Blood from what little Rourke had been able to learn about them. Trying to remain calm might be difficult.


"Why Rosie?", he asked her. She paused with her fingers protruding from her hair and looked at him, directly in the eye, as if he had questioned the existence of the Creator. She didn't answer and the truth teller fidgeted as if holding back the urge to draw her blade again. "I don't know what you mean.", she finally replied. Rourke gave the truth teller the signal that he WOULD remove her heart if she took any action. He heard the dagger being sheathed...quickly. Rourke smiled a small smile. "Let both of them wonder why I am smiling", he thought to himself.


"How did you receive your damane name?". It really ground his gizzard to have to be so specific. The original question should have been understandable. This damane was indeed going to be a tough nut to crack.


Rosie considered her answer for a moment then replied, "I have a certain...'talent'...with plants. Especially roses.". Tears formed in her eyes but she held them back. She paused to allow her voice to steady, Rourke assumed. "My name is a form of punishment. Each time that I hear it I am reminded of the freedom that I once had. I am also reminded that I will never be free to enjoy my talent as long as I wear the adam.". Another pause as she wiped her eyes on her sleeve. "The punishment it is cruel...but affective. Very affective.". Her eyes lost the gleam of tears and now shown with pure hatred. Rourke could almost feel the truth teller twitching over his left shoulder.








A Raven. The purest omen of all. And yet, the most vague. To experience a single raven omen was even more precious than seeing several ravens. It was almost as rare and wonderful as the almost unheard of flock sighting. And here it was. Here in this strange land where most of the locals question the validity of omens and less than a handful have the ability to recognize them let alone interpret them. Here. Today. Daeve just couldn't believe his extreme luck.


The day had not started off lucky. Cold water to wash his face and hands before breakfast. Cold breakfast. Rycke was in a grumpy mood. Charlie was limping for no reason. And that goat kissing rut that had nearly shook his brains loose. No. The morning had not started off with any indication that he would spot a raven. But, there it was. Perched in the top of a tree above the road where a smaller trail broke off to the left of the main trail. A raven in a tree is good fortune, indeed.


Then it happened. The great black bird fell toward the ground and swooped to a rabbit carcass lying beside the side trail. Rycke gasped. He obviously had watched the diving bird and understood what it implied. A feeding raven MUST be heeded. To ignore it's warnings was to invite certain bad luck up to and including a slow painful death. But, now came the vagueness. What was the omen telling them to do? It could be as specific as "kill a rabbit and eat it" or as general as "from now on leave some of each meal for the birds". The answer might not reveal itself for some time to come. The only thing that was immediately and undeniably evident was that Daeve's wagon MUST follow the left trail to avoid imminent disaster. He tugged on the reins and whistled for the team to turn left.


As the wagon creaked it's way down the bumpier less traveled trail they soon passed the raven. Luckily, it kept eating and only glanced briefly to be sure that the wagon was no threat. Had it flown away the wagon would have had to stop further down the trail and wait for the bird to return to it's meal. If the bird flew away and did not come back then financial problems could be expected until the next raven sighting. Daeve sighed in relief.


Now came the problem side of a raven sighting. The team was traveling entirely on trust. They had not been down this road before. They had no idea where it would take them. It might loop around and rejoin the trail that they normally took. It might even turn out to be a short cut. Daeve's sense of direction, finely honed over nearly forty years of driving, told him that they were NOT taking a short cut. If anything, this trail would send them south toward the coast and they had been heading west with a load for the new rulers of Tanchico. Oh, well. They had been a little ahead of schedule. This side trip might take up what time they had gained but it had to be done. The omen said so.

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Jolly Jonnie skidded to a sudden halt in the sand. He purposely dug his heels in deep and sent a shower of loose sand flying toward Ellen Aes Sedai who had a moment earlier been running away from him but now stood trying to glare with hands on hips. He knew her well enough to realize that she was not really mad but just stalling to catch her breath. After all. He had done nothing wrong. The game was for her to run and him to try to catch her and that was exactly what he had done. Sort of.


"Cheaters never win, Lord Jolly Jonnie!", she said in a scolding tone. Jonnie could tell that she was having trouble holding back her laughter. Jonnie was having trouble catching his breath. The few extra pounds that he had accumulated around his middle were making him work harder than he used to. Ellen didn't seem to age a bit from year to year but Jonnie had heard that agelessness was common among Aes Sedai. It was even rumored that some warders lived long beyond what would be considered normal. Unable to hold to her ruse any longer she let out a squeak and sped away again. "Try to catch me NOW, cheater!", she taunted.


"You go ahead.", he answered. "I'll be along shortly. I just need to rest a moment.". He really did feel the need to sit down for a while. It was sad to think that he could not play as hard as he once had. But, at least he was still able to play. Some men his age no longer could for one reason or another. Some men did not live to be his age. There were actually men who simply had lost their desire to have fun. Jonnie reminded himself once more that he was a very lucky man. His breathing was becoming more normal by the time Ellen Aes Sedai returned. She sat down beside him with a concerned look on her face. "Are you OK?", she asked. Jonnie took a deep breath then touched her on the forearm.


"YOU'RE IT!!!", Jonnie shouted as he leaped to his feet and began to run. He was laughing loudly when he felt his arms and legs suddenly stop responding to his commands to move. In a matter of moments he went from full stride to dangling helplessly. Ellen Sedai strolled nonchalantly around him so she could look directly into his eyes. "Sometimes, Jolly LORD Jonnie, it is necessary to give you a reminder that I am still Aes Sedai. Not often, mind you. Just sometimes. I believe you will remember it for a while. Am I correct?". Jonnie blushed and nodded and tried to look shamed.


He must not have looked humble enough because Ellen didn't turn him loose. Instead she shook her head and walked away. Jonnie doubted that begging or trying to apologize would do any good. He decided to accept his fate and to have as happy thoughts as possible while he waited for her to come back and set him free.







The sun was almost making it through the sickly haze that blocked it from view most days recently. That sickly haze brought with it the stench of rotting potato peels and fish scales. No. Worse than that. The smell of decay was constantly there. You never got used to it. If you tried to block it out with an apron it just got worse. Kerrie was beginning to think that it was not real but rather a figment of her imagination. No. It was real. Nothing that she could possibly imagine could ever be that bad.


Today was her turn to fetch vegetables from the farmer's market. Master Greggory said that he could do it himself but he wanted each of his employees to feel like a contributing member of the team. In other words, he grew tired of the task so he palmed it off. In the days before the gloomy stench it had seemed good to get out for a brisk walk. Not today. The lack of clean pure air and sunshine made this more of a chore and less of an outing.


"Get out of the street you goat kissing urchins!", Kerrie heard from an approaching wagon. Some of the town children were getting too close. One stuck a stick through the spokes of the rear wheel then let go so that the stick made a slapping sound on the ground with each revolution. A pair of boys were on opposite sides of the wagon tossing a stone back and forth to each other seeing how close they could come to the driver and guard without actually hitting them. "Go tell your mothers that they need your hides for tanning!", she guard shouted again. The children laughed and ran off to play elsewhere. It was all good clean fun.


Kerrie was not upset. The children played with most of the wagons that passed through town. Most of the drivers used their foul language on the children. That was far more normal than the lingering stench haze. If only the sun would shine.


As if her prayer had been answered her next step found her standing inside a pool of deliciously clean fresh air and bright almost blinding sunlight! "Oh, my!", she couldn't help exclaiming. It felt so good! She stopped dead in her tracks and let the suns rays warm her face. She loosened her shawl and let it drop exposing the low neckline of her work dress. She drew the clean fresh air deeply into her lungs. "Oh, my!", she repeated. When the beam of light was finally absorbed into the gloom of the haze her smile faded with it. She begrudgingly put on her shawl and a frown and resumed her trek to market.

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"Forgive me, Master Karlee, but I just had to come to you. I have no other option. You are my only hope for justice.", the man muttered the last nearly under his breath. This...person...was obviously a farmer, or, at least, he had been at one time or another. His mannerism spoke of an education handed down from elders. His clothes were plain and worn although they did appear to be relatively clean which spoke of a good wife taking care of him. Stout shoes. His hands looked rough and callused. "My goats are my livelihood, Master Mayor. The times have been hard lately. I cannot afford to lose goats.". He shook his head and lowered his eyes sadly. Karlee had seen grown men crying many times but it was never easy to watch. It would be better if those tears could be avoided.


"Please calm yourself Master...", Karlee glanced at the note that Irene had prepared, "Master Guelph. My time is as precious to me as yours is to you. Let's get to the bottom of this matter. Tell me your story.". Karlee tried to appear to be stately. His great father had been very good at that when necessary. To keep things from getting out of hand this was one of those times. He leaned forward and placed both palms on his knees staring as if waiting. Master Guelph got the message and continued calmly.


"Mys Krullskein here,", he pointed to the lady in the bright green dress and stout shoes standing next to him, "well, she, well...", he was searching for the story that would work best in his favor, "she has a cat.". He waited to see if he had said enough or not. Karlee said nothing but scowled slightly to indicate that the testimony was lacking. Guelph looked down at his shoes and blushed. He kicked at the floor board and twitched his thumbs. He looked back up after a short while. "My goats they don't like that damned cat. Begging your pardon for the language.". He blushed again. Ms Krullskein put her hands on her hips and glared at Guelph as if telling him to get on with it. "Anyway, Your Honor, that...cat...wanders over to my place and my goats won't milk for days. Then, one day last week, Old Mary, my best milker, just keeled over dead from that...cat...being about!". Guelph put HIS hands on HIS hips and glared at Ms Krullskein.


"Is this true Sally?", Karlee asked in a non-judgmental tone. He had learned that from watching Gramps, too. Actually, he would never have been able to perform his duties had he not spent time learning from his beloved great father. Things would have been much worse for him now. Knowing that did not make the job easier or more satisfying but it was reassuring.


"True?", Sally almost drooled. "About as true as the snow that is falling outside at this very moment!". She was HOT! "Justice? You want justice old man? Come over here closer and I'll SHOW you some justice!". She made a fist and offered it so Guelph could see it clearly. "You wouldn't know truth OR justice if they both smacked you in the forehead!". She sniffed.


OOC: always wanted to use "sniffed" but the time was never right before now. :biggrin:


Karlee still had a lot more to do today and he didn't want to have to have Irene send for help breaking up a fight. "What do you see as being the truth, Sally? Tell me YOUR story.". He looked at her calmly and waited.


When she was good and ready she answered. Not before. She nodded triumphantly first. "Yes. I have a cat. I allow her free run. She keeps the rodents out of my yard and my gardens. When she gets bored she might wander over to HIS place sometimes.". She didn't bother pointing. She merely motioned toward Guelph with her head. "His goats going dry is from the weather, that's all. I don't blame HIM for my turnips rotting in the ground! The Dark One's touch, that is.". She shook her head and spat. So did Guelph. So did Karlee. It was bad luck to mention the Dark One without spitting. "And my cat had NOTHING to do with him losing Old Mary. He's been milking that goat for all she was worth for the past fifteen seasons at least. Her time was up, that's all.".


"She was good for at LEAST two more seasons, I tell you! It was that...CAT...what killed her and YOU know it!". Now Guelph was shaking his fist. It was time to put this thing to bed and move on to the next one. Karlee stood and raised his arms. With a palm pointing downward he reached out toward the two partitioners. They both calmed and moved to stand with their heads beneath his palms. This ritual was generations old.


"You have both come to me for justice. Will you accept it now from me?". They both nodded in agreement. "Then hear my words and know that they are final in this matter.". He paused as if considering carefully what to say. Truth was that he had decided before they had ever entered the room. But, it was his duty to follow tradition. "Sally." He looked her in the eye and lowered his arm from above her head to hang by his side. "Your cat is causing no harm to his goats but his goats don't know that. It is your responsibility to keep your cat away from his goats. How you do that is for you to decide.". Sally nodded. "Master Guelph." Karlee looked Guelph in the eye then lowered that arm to his side. "I mourn your loss of Old Mary. I hereby order you to set aside the next born female in your flock to be given special treatment in honor of Old Mary. You shall name this goat Mary in remembrance of her. I sincerely hope that she turns out to be as good of a producer as her namesake. My judgment is final. Heed the words of justice.". He looked them both in the eye once more for emphasis. "You may leave now.". They turned and walked away holding hands.


When they were both out of sight Karlee allowed himself to grin. He should have ordered them to marry. He wondered whether there was more than a cat wandering back and forth between their houses. Knowing how to handle them was another gift from his great father. A gift that he still wished had been bestowed upon his missing father. Irene poked her head in the door. "Send in the next one.", he told her automatically.







"Has he totally lost his mind?", Opel's mother sobbed. "Times are hard all over the world but especially here! Food spoils before it can be prepared. What little bit that actually bothers growing, that is. Fishing isn't much better. Families who used to eat well have resorted to walking the beach searching for dead trash fish. You would think that your fool husband would realize that with all of the traveling that he has put you through! What can he be thinking?". She buried her face in her apron and cried hard.


Opel was beyond crying. She had no tears left in her. It was her turn to try to comfort her mother. "He's not crazy, mother. He's just...desperate. He wants SO much to be a good provider. In his mind he is being a hero. There is a chance waiting for him just beyond the horizon to turn things around. A coward would have kept fishing. A lazy man would never have left this town in the first place. We could have built a small farm somewhere close by now but he wanted better than that for us. He's not stupid, either...just...just...gullible. And determined.".


Opel's mother sniffled and caught her breath. "Do the children know where he has gone? Did he tell them that he might not come back? Does HE know that he could very easily DIE and never see any of you again? This isn't some peacetime tour of duty that we're talking about, Opel...this...THIS...is the Last Battle!!! Instead of being one of a few who is accidentally killed during a training exercise he will have to be one of the few who survives the LAST BATTLE!!! Yes. I believe the Andorans are right. Every sign in nature screams that this age is ending. I fear, dearest daughter, that you have seen the LAST of your husband!".


The thought made Opel cringe. Not for the first time. How many countless times since he left had she had that same exact thought. And every time that she did she felt a sharp pain between her shoulder blades like a dagger being driven through her backbone into her heart. How could she help but be afraid. This was the man that she had loved through good times and bad ever since she could remember. The idea of losing him haunted her. But, what was done was done. Either he would return with his pockets full of gold and dreams or she and the children would miss him for the rest of their lives. Only time would tell the end of the story.

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The most stupid truth teller in the empire knew better than to object when dismissed so Rourke was not surprised when his simply bowed then backed her way out of the room. Her presence had added nothing but problems to his situation. Rourke needed to be entirely alone with this..."Rosie". Years of experience dealing with matters of intrigue while climbing to his station had taught him the value of privacy. "Former leader of the Aes Sedai", he thought to himself. "She must be skilled. Caution is best. Do not underestimate her. She is like a pretty bird sitting on a perch...waiting to pluck out your eyes.". He stopped watching the truth teller exit and returned his eyes to hers.


Silence and intensity dominated for many long moments. Rourke could feel Rosie's eyes digging deeply inside his, searching, probing...just as he was doing. He knew that he was also subconsciously keeping careful track of any tell-tale signals that her body language might send him. A twitching finger. A tapping toe. Repositioning her hair. Smoothing her dress. Anything that he could use to his advantage. She offered nothing. She was watching him just as carefully. Yes. Caution need be practiced with this one. She obviously understood what was lost or gained by being the first to act or speak. With that thought clearly in mind, Rourke allowed her the first blow.


"We are alone. You will speak with me openly but truthfully and without malice. Betray this trust and you will be ordered back into submission. Do you understand and agree?".


Rosie appeared to be chewing up the words for proper digestion. As she did she continued to study Rourke's eyes. She twitched uncomfortably for a brief instant before answering. "Why should I trust you?". Her voice was soft and controlled without heat or emotion. "Are you sure the sun is hot?", she might as well have been asking. Yes. Be careful with this one. Any other damane in the empire would have been weeping and begging to leave by now. Rourke had witnessed as much following a simple caress. This one might be VERY dangerous...and VERY valuable!












Daeve drove from the time that they had spotted the raven until they stopped beside a creek to rest and water the horses and to eat a light lunch. A small spot had been cleared out by previous teams and it served perfectly for them. Rycke even took the opportunity to puff on some of the Two Rivers tabac that he had become accustomed to. It was smoother and lighter than the leaf from home but Daeve still preferred the taste and bite that he had grown up with. He also built a small fire. After having a cold breakfast he was ready for some hot Kaf.


This trail was not as well traveled as the main road that they had turned away from. Tall trees grew thick along both sides giving almost constant shade. Not that it was needed. The sun had no hope of burning through the thick layer of stinking clouds. Daeve had smelled clouds like that back home way up north near the Taundurah Line where it got so cold that trees would freeze their own sap and split wide open in the winter. Rumors told tales of the Blight reaching down to touch that area at times of really bad luck. Some of the smell always lingered. But this land here was warm and far from the frigid north. The smell must be a result of the locals ignoring the omens.


When everyone was rested and the fire was properly doused the team remounted and Rycke took his turn driving. He would finish the trip for today and start the trip tomorrow. Then Daeve would finish the trip tomorrow and start the following day. That way they were sharing the load without getting into a rut. Sort of. This team had worked together that way for many years and the system worked well for them so that's how they did it. Whoever had the morning drive was in charge of breakfast and lunch. Whoever drove in the afternoon prepared the evening meal and did the day's dishes. If one of them got sick the other one covered it all until the sick one recovered. A simple system that served their team well.


Since they came to no villages or towns where an inn could be hired for the night, they made camp in another convenient spot that had been left cleared by others. There was sufficient cover but not so much as to be worried about wolves attacking the horses. A good sized creek gave plenty of water. Bedrolls were spread under the wagon in case of rain. The horses were tied to long leads to allow them to graze until dark then they were tied to trees for the night. After a good night's sleep, Rycke made a nice hot breakfast and the team set off in anticipation of what the raven sighting had waiting for them.


Just as Daeve was beginning to think that they would have to start looking for a clearing for the mid-day meal the trail bent to the right slightly and the trees became less dense. By the time the path straightened again he could see signs of several small farms in the near distance. They were returning to civilization of some sort. Driving through the woods for a day or two was soothing to a point, but it was always good to see people again. For a while. Then it felt good to head back into the woods.


The sea was nearby. There was no denying that. Even above the smell of rotting whatever it was that was rotting in those goat kissing clouds Daeve could make out the distinct odor of salt water. He couldn't see it or hear it but it was there. He never missed the chance if he could help it to go and stand by the sea. He loved to watch the waves. He'd take his shoes off and walk in the sand. He even made sure that he took a taste of the nasty stuff just to be sure that he remembered what it tasted like. Perhaps the raven had known that he had not tasted the sea for a while.


After perhaps an hour the trail became a dusty dirt road and the farms were replaced by rows of ramshackle houses that were probably owned by some of the better off fishermen of this town. Daeve knew without a doubt that there would be another part of this town where the houses were even worse. Those would be within walking distance of the docks. The newly weds who had chosen fishing as a livelihood would live there until they could afford to move out to the edge of town and buy a horse and maybe a cow. Strange how life here was sometimes so similar to life at home.


Rycke whistled at the team as they entered what appeared to be the town itself. There were several shops lining both sides of the street. A farmer's market appeared to be surprisingly busy. Most towns these days had little produce to offer. Daeve made a mental note of it's location for a visit after they were settled into an inn. Even though it wasn't evening yet, Daeve had already decided to stop here because there might not be a hot bath and a decent meal for several days. That was yet another down side to the good luck of a raven sighting.


Some of the local urchins came out to greet them as was normal. In a town this size this far off from the beaten trail there were probably not many wagons passing through on a regular basis. Something different gave the children something to become excited about. That didn't make them any less of a nuisance. As was traditional, Rycke shouted and swore at them. He knew that they meant no harm even if some of their stones did seem to come very close to taking them in the noggin. The kids probably knew that Rycke was just doing his job. They soon departed and the raven sighting made itself perfectly clear.


The most beautiful woman in all of the world, home or here, was walking down the street when all of a sudden a bright bar of pure sunlight pierced it's way through the stinking clouds and surrounded her. The sudden brightness caused her to stop dead in her tracks with her eyes as wide as saucers. She was almost beyond earshot but Daeve faintly heard her exclaim, "Omen". There it was. A direct announcement. The raven sighting was being revealed and explained. Daeve paid close attention to be sure that he totally understood it's meaning. The woman squirmed in the sunlight then removed some of her clothing to display the most delightful bosom Daeve had ever seen in all his travels. The light reflected off from her eyes and twinkled in Daeve's direction. After a few more moments the rays were gobbled by the overcast and the woman exclaimed, "Omen" again. That must have meant that the explanation was over.


Daeve sank back against the back of the wagon bench. He couldn't believe what he had just learned. HIM! After all of these years driving! He would settle down here in this town in the middle of nowhere and marry this woman who was half his age! He knew NOTHING about her! He wasn't READY to retire! Although, come to think of it, his butt had been kind of bothering him lately from all of those years sitting on those hard seats. But, there was no questioning the omens. It had been made perfectly clear to him. He turned to face Rycke. "Want to buy a wagon?", he asked.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The trouble with festivals is that they sooner or later come to an end. Jonnie loved festivals. He hated festivals ending. Even though he tried to thoroughly enjoy every moment of every festival he always felt...empty...when they were over. The Feast of Low Tide was always Jonnie's most enjoyable time and the hardest to get over when it was done. This year was no exception. Yesterday had marked the beginning of the channel refilling with water. By tomorrow traffic would resume. Commerce and the wealth that came with it would return. So would responsibility. Jonnie sighed. He glanced up from his breakfast to find Ellen Sedai with her back toward him looking down from the balcony of his conference room onto the gardens below. How beautiful she was. And SO off limits. He sighed again even harder.


In the distance over the tops of a multitude of lower roofed buildings he could make out the mast of a small Sea Folk ship making it's way through the barely passable channel. They must have been under full sail and ready the very instant that the tide shifted. "Time is money", was the saying that seemed so popular amongst the traders. Jonnie understood. If they wasted time then they lost out on trade opportunities and that cost them money. What a sad concept. Jonnie had more money than he could ever spend if he lived to be a thousand years old. His time was still precious to him. Wasting time was worse than wasting money.


Ellen's shape was clearly outlined against the backdrop of the constantly overcast sky. Jonnie tried not to think about it. He tried to ignore the sky because there really was nothing that he could do about it other than to endure it's gloom and hideous odor. The fact that it existed at all was enough to dampen spirits. It was unnatural. It had lasted far too long. The rumors of the Last Battle and the end of this age must be true. Only the touch of the Dark One on the land could cause such a menace. He also tried to ignore Ellen's shape. Far too many times he had allowed himself to become entranced only to get caught staring. There would be no believable lie that he could conger if he got caught again. Luckily he found the strength to look back at his breakfast just in time.


Ellen turned toward Jonnie. He glanced up and tried to pretend that he was surprised to see her watching him eat. Her understanding grin told him that he had been caught again. With the grace of a Domani temptress Ellen calmly took her time slinking toward Jonnie's table. She eased out a chair and lowered herself gracefully into it. Jonnie tried to take another bite of food but couldn't. He used the sleeve of his shirt to wipe away the drool from the corner of his mouth. When he realized what he had done he blushed and Ellen smiled. He blushed harder and tried to smile back. She carefully placed her left hand palm down on the table then put her right palm on the back of her left hand and relaxed her shoulders. At least ONE of them was relaxed!


"How was your breakfast?", she asked in a casual tone.


Jonnie's jaw dropped. What brought THIS on? Was he in danger? This just had to be some kind of Aes Sedai trick that she was up to. Why didn't she just set him on fire or something? She was ALWAYS formal with him other than at festival time! NEVER friendly! NEVER relaxed! NEVER smiling! And most certainly NEVER seductive!!! He could not imagine himself being more shocked if a blue tailed comet had just streaked through the sky and landed in the canal smashing the Sea Folk ship to smithereens! Well. Maybe.


"Fine.", he finally managed to squeak. He cleared his throat and tried to regain his composure. "Ahem. AHEM. Just...AHEM...just fine.". He couldn't help himself. He had to find out what she was up to. "Why do you ask, Ellen Sedai?". He felt his face going flush then he blushed again. What a sight THAT must have been!


"No reason.", she replied innocently. "Just thought that I might have a piece of that nice, juicy fruit myself if it was good. What do you call it? PASSION fruit?". She smiled an almost wicked smile.


Jonnie had heard of the Game of Houses that the aristocrats on the main land played. He had also been told that Aes Sedai had invented the game and were experts at it. He had never had any reason to learn anything about it. Even though he had very little real knowledge and exactly NO experience he had the sinking feeling that he was being introduced to the game at this very instant and the thought half scared the crap out of him. Ellen Sedai had always been a friend of his family and had never acted in any way that might be considered threatening but Jonnie felt VERY threatened and he didn't like it. If he couldn't change the situation fast, he would have to...he'd have to...he didn't know what he COULD do. He took a deep breath then exhaled slowly.


"How did you come to be with us here, Ellen Sedai?". He had no idea where the words had come from but he didn't care. He had to change the situation somehow. It must have worked because she gave just a hint of a puzzled frown before answering calmly.


"How do you mean, Jonnie? It's been a long time, but I don't remember wading ashore so I must assume that I rode some sort of boat or ship. Why do you ask?". Her puzzlement was gone. She appeared to be back on the attack. She smiled ever so slightly.


Jonnie was calmer and he could tell where his question had originated. Earlier in the week during the celebration the thought had occurred to him that Ellen must have done something REALLY bad for the Aes Sedai to send her here as punishment. Or, maybe that wasn't the case at all. Maybe this was her place to hide. But what was she hiding from? And why? She had been here for almost as long as Jonnie could remember. That was a long punishment. Or a long time to hide. Now that he understood where the question had come from he had a better idea of where to go with it.


"I misspoke myself. I probably should have asked WHY you are here. You've been living with us for a long time. Is it by choice or are you on some sort of assignment?". Ellen Sedai narrowed her eyes momentarily then all but glared at Jonnie. He felt threatened almost as much as before. "Please. I mean no disrespect, Ellen Aes Sedai.". He added the extra honorary in an attempt to smooth things over a little. He lowered his eyes to the table. "I am merely curious.", he said in a very low voice trying to sound meek.


Without looking up he could feel Ellen Sedai's eyes burning through the top of his skull. Every second that it took her to respond made him want that much more to pour a glass of water into his hair. After what seemed and hour but was probably far less than a minute she spoke.


"I was little more than newly raised. Not much beyond Accepted, actually. Sure, I had passed the test and chosen my Ajah but I was oh so young and inexperienced. Enthusiastic. Excited. Ready to set the world on fire. But green. I wanted so much to achieve great things. I dreamed of having my name entered into the books as one of the greatest healers in printed history. My heart was in the right place. My skills were all that was lacking.". It was obvious that the memories were difficult for Ellen Sedai to confront. Her eyes did not tear up but there was a glossy shine present that was not normally there. "For years I had watched the yellows. I studied their weaves from a distance. They knew of my desire to be one of them so during my years as Accepted some of them gave me lessons in private even though some of what they showed me would not have been considered appropriate. I was a 'golden child'. My potential was well known. I would do the yellow proud one day. Such promise.". She took a deep breath and paused. Then she sighed.


"I...practiced...when nobody was around to catch me. I used what I had learned to heal all sorts of animals. A dog that was bleeding from a fight. A cat that had been mauled by a dog. A bird with a broken wing. I even revived a fish that I had found lying half dried out on a pier. It swam away gratefully after my healing. My greatest challenge was a horse that would have been put down had I not gotten to it in time. That took most of my skill and strength. But, I pulled it off and nobody ever knew but me. Of course, the groomsman did notice that the animal ate like a horse for a few days but other than that he couldn't get over the sudden total and mysterious recovery. It was a miracle. I knew what the miracle was. My head swelled. The dangers were born.".


Jonnie could tell that Ellen Sedai was hurting. That was not what he had wanted at all. "You don't have to continue, Ellen Sedai. I was just curious.".


Ellen Sedai smiled. "I have begun. I might as well finish.". She fidgeted slightly with her fingers then continued. "Where was I. Oh, yes. I was tested and raised and joined the Yellow Ajah at last. You cannot possibly imagine how happy and proud I was. I could FINALLY openly practice the healing that I so longed to do. My heart ached to get started. I just HAD to get out into the world and get on with my life. Fame and glory would surely be mine! I used some of the money that was given to me and bought the very horse that I had healed. A few supplies tied to his back and we were off! Across the bridge away from Tar Valon! Then it happened.". This time tears did well up.


"Really, Ellen Sedai, you don't have to...". She held up her palm to me and shushed me. After a gulp or two she was ready and able to continue.


"I had given the horse the name Josh. Josh and I had just made it to the other side of the bridge into a small village. I didn't know how long it would be before we had water available so I led Josh down by the river bank and let him drink. When he was done, I led him up the bank to see which direction looked like a good way to go. A mother with a small child approached us and asked if the child could pet Josh. I said the child should be careful but go ahead. The child strode bravely up to Josh and stood beneath his massive chest reaching up to pet his front shoulder. He smiled from ear to ear. Without warning, the leg that I had miraculously cured gave out and Josh helplessly plunged forward. The child did not know enough to move. As quickly as it started it was over.". Ellen Sedai wept hard. Jonnie rose to stand behind her with an understanding hand patting her shoulder.


Jonnie said nothing as she cried for several long minutes. It was difficult to imagine her as having feelings let alone being able to cry. To him she had always been Aes Sedai. It was hard to think of her as being human. He waited patiently for her to continue.


"It was my fault. Entirely. The Tower has reasons for it's rules. I broke the rules and cost that child it's life. The child's mother said that it was an accident. Josh was put out of his misery. Had that been done to start with, the child would not have died. The blame was mine. The guilt still is. After all of the years of training and yearning to be Aes Sedai...to be Yellow Ajah...to HEAL people who needed my skills...I walked away. I had heard of sanctuary in Ebou Dar where some girls went when they were put out of the Tower. Since I considered myself an outcast that is where I went. I learned as much as I could. I healed a LOT of needy souls. I became very good at the craft. But my name will NOT go down in the History of the Great Healers in the halls of the Yellow Ajah. They don't know that I exist. To them I simply ceased to exist. Justice was served."


"I don't know why I came here. A twist in the fabric of the pattern? Dumb luck? Whatever the reason, one day I simply walked away from my life in Ebou Dar with no idea of where I was headed. The clothes on my back and a pet dog. By the time I got here even the dog was gone. As I remember, I concocted a story and your father accepted me as his adviser. Since I cannot lie, I doubt that I ever told him that the Tower had sent me. I was here and Aes Sedai and that was good enough for him. We needed each other. Here I am.". She smiled and wiped her tears with a handkerchief.


Jonnie smiled back and went back to his breakfast. He no longer felt threatened.








Boris gave Kerrie a smile and left the room. For a big man he had the gentlest touch. When her muscles were tired he could extract the ache and make her relax. One would think that he would be an insensitive brute and would hurt such a frail one as she but quite the opposite was true. His caress was very soothing and loving. He would never hurt her in any way. It gave her shivers when he pecked at the back of her neck or nibbled her ear lobe. One of these days when they had enough money saved they would be able to stop hiding their love for each other and be properly wed. Until that day they had to settle for what little time they could steal in his room or hers.


The water in the basin on her night table was warm and stale but better than nothing. She promised herself that tomorrow she would take her pitcher down to the well and fill it with fresh water. Washing her body in old water was not nearly as dreadful as washing her teeth. Yes. The half hour spent walking to the well and back would be worth the effort. For now, she dipped her wash cloth into the basin and rubbed it with the cake of soap that she kept on the table beside her candle stick. This was the second scrubbing that she had tonight but after the sweat that she had worked up with Boris she felt the need for another.


Getting clean was one thing. Getting dry was something else. The air was cooler at this time of day, or should she say morning since it was well past midnight, but it was still damp feeling because of the stinky never-relenting mist that hung in the air. Even with the absence of sweat the air itself was sticky. She dabbed at her skin until frustration made her stop. She hung her towel to "dry" next to her wash cloth, blew out her candle, and climbed onto her bed. She didn't bother pulling the covers up. She tossed and turned for a while then finally nodded off.


The sun was shining bright and warm. The salty smelling air coming in off from the sea was slightly humid but far from sticky. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. She smiled. Since there was not another soul to be seen she shed her clothes and quickly dashed into the surf. The waves resisted her as she waded away from shore. Now and again one would hit her hard enough to splash salt water into her eyes. She didn't care. It was so blessed good to finally be rid of those bleak, stinking clouds! She strode confidently into the waves letting that caress her body. It felt SO BLOODY GOOD!!!


For what must have been hours she swam. First on her front then on her side then on her back. She'd stop now and again to be sure that she could still touch bottom then launch herself away again. Her skin was getting red from the sun but even that felt good. The salt eased the sting somehow. She began to tire somewhat and decided to make her way back toward shore. When she was about half way back she looked up and saw the man who Boris had tossed into the street standing over her pile of clothes. He smiled his wicked rotten toothed smile and bent to pick her clothes up. "If you want these, sweetie, you'll have to come and fetch 'em!". Kerrie tried to scream for Boris to come and help her but nothing would come out of her mouth. She crouched down in the surf and tried to cover herself as best she could. She would have even been happy to have Master Greggory show up to chase this ruffian away. Nobody came. The grubby ex-customer got tired of waiting. He threw her clothes on the sand then piled his own on top of them. With that nasty smile of his he waded into the surf toward Kerrie.


With a start Kerrie sat up and looked around in the dark half expecting to be grabbed at any second. When reality finally made it's way back into her brain she sighed and almost cried. For probably the hundredth time in the past year or so she thanked her good luck that she had learned the truth about what a wonderful person Boris was. And she just knew that he felt the same way about her. Yes. Now all that they needed was enough money to start the rest of their lives together.

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Another day done. And a long day it had been. Karlee sat back in his plain yet sturdy wooden chair and used the toe of his shoe to pull the foot stool over in front of him so he could prop up his tired legs. He sat back and tried to relax. Easier said than done. It had been several days since the last time that he had smoked his pipe. Mother Grub had told him to give it up or it would kill him. After a day like today he really didn't care. He reached for the wooden case that held his pipe and tabac and lifted the lid. His hand twitched in hesitation as he reached in and took out the pipe. With care not to spill any of his favorite blend he slowly filled the bowl and tamped it to a perfect tension. Luckily for him there was no fire on the hearth or he would have grabbed a splinter and started puffing. He sighed and put the thing away.


"Nasty habit, anyway.", he mumbled begrudgingly.


Still determined to try to ease away the stresses of the day he leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He really was tired. A quick nap before supper would be welcome indeed. He shifted his bulk around trying to get comfortable. This chair was not really made for comfort but that didn't matter at the moment. He was sure that he could nap on top of a rock right now. He twisted and turned and frowned. He squeezed his eyes really tight. He pulled his knees to his chest then stretched his legs as far as he could. Tighten the muscles. Relax the muscles. Nothing was working.


"Perhaps a nice warm cup of tea would help.", Irene said in a mild quiet tone. She nearly scared the crap out of Karlee. He had not heard her enter the room. He sprung to his feet and felt like his eyes were popping clean out of his skull. As if he had just been caught stealing pies off from the window sill he blushed and brushed himself off nervously. Man! He sure was uptight today to react so! Then the embarrassment set in. Irene smiled. That only made matters worse because she had survived the rigors of the day and was still able to function while he was a pile of nerves. How DID she DO that?


"Oh. Well. Yes. I think a cup of tea might be good. Do you have any brewed?". Irene smiled again. She knew Karlee far too well. Better than anyone, he would guess. They had been working together for some long time now. She was the one constant in his life. He met a multitude of people through the course of a week but Irene was the only person that he saw regularly. Following his great father's death Karlee simply didn't have time for any kind of social life. Even his childhood friends had stopped coming to visit because he was either working or too tired. He no longer took part in any of the things that he used to consider fun. Hunting. Fishing. Dancing. Singing. Making music. Painting. Cooking. Playing stones. Shooting his bow. None of those things interested him any more. He frowned and sighed.


"Yes, I do have some tea.", Irene said in a concerned voice. She was looking at him as if she expected him to fall to the floor at any moment. "You just sit right back down in that chair and I'll bring some.". She pointed to the chair then helped Karlee find his way there. After he was properly seated she said in a stern manner, "now you just stay put right there until I get back! And put your feet up! Try to relax!". Karlee wanted to say that he had been trying to do just that until she scared the crap out of him but he figured that he had better not. He didn't want her spitting in his tea.







Opel's husband walked with a group of perhaps a couple of hundred other men who also carried long poles with hooked spikes on the end. They balanced the weapons on their shoulders and tried to keep in step to the beat of the drums. Since most of the men were no more professional soldiers that he was the lines were far from straight and the poles were not at any particular angle. But none of that mattered. They didn't have to look pretty. They just had to be able to fight. And survive.


This group had once been much larger. How many hundreds of men had already fallen? Sure, they had taken out their fair share of darkfriends and trollocs, but the toll was still high. Every day without being killed was a day to celebrate. Every battle could be the last that he would walk away from. The number of scars from near tragedies were increasing and his odds of winning were getting slimmer. What day would be his last? Or, would he be one of the lucky few who made it home in one piece?


The attack was sudden and without warning. As they marched through a valley between two tall hills the cavalry leading the march whirled around and headed back toward the protection of the foot soldiers. The front rows of pikes separated to let them pass to the center. The archers made their way forward from the rear. The previously unseen hordes of trollocs popped up over the rises of both hills with their horns blasting. At a full charge they swarmed down into the valley onto the awaiting poles.


Opel sat up in her bed. She could almost hear the cries of the men, horses, and trollocs being killed. The smell of death made her plug her nose. This same nasty dream ruined her sleep more nights than not. She had no way to know if it was simply a nightmare that she should ignore or if it was some glimpse of the pattern that was telling her that she would be a widow. Crying was not an option. All of her tears were used up. She sighed and told herself once again that she could do nothing but wait. Eventually she would either see her loving husband standing in her parent's doorway with pockets full of gold or she would learn that it was time to move on.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Come. Sit beside me. Make yourself comfortable.", Rourke pointed to the cushioned chair sitting at a slight angle to his own. He would be able to watch her easily out of the corner of his eye while talking. She would be at a more awkward angle making her own side vision less useful. She hesitated as if looking for a hidden dagger. A light came on in her eyes. She nodded slightly then walked toward the offered chair. Instead of sitting she picked up the chair and sat it squarely in front of Rourke. The corners of her mouth worked into a very faint smile as she lowered herself onto her throne and rearranged her damane colored gown.


A smile of victory and nothing less. She might as well have jumped up and down shouting "YES!". She had analyzed his strategy and executed a perfect counter. Even if she had never been the leader of the White Tower this woman was definitely a skilled adversary. She would make a VERY valuable ally indeed.


Rourke nodded. "Nicely done.". He smiled a congratulatory smile. She nodded in acceptance of his compliment. The Game was on.


The two of them sat in silent contemplation for what seemed to be a very long time. Waiting for an opponent to make a move always makes time pass more slowly. A game of Stones that actually takes perhaps an hour against a strong player can seem to last several hours. Sometimes a single move can last an eternity when the stakes are high. Getting an opponent to lose their patience is an affective strategy but it can be difficult to pull off. Rourke was very good at being patient. Apparently, so was "Rosie".


"I have a proposition for you.", he finally allowed himself to say. He had NOT lost his patience. He simply had an agenda to meet. He couldn't sit here all day waiting for her to blunder. And her physical beauty had nothing to do with his actions. There were LOTS of women who were FAR more beautiful than this one and many of them would offer themselves to him willingly just for the faint chance of gaining some favor in his eyes. This...this...fancy damane...was nothing special. Just a valuable tool. That's all.


Rosie nodded. "Yes?".


Her tone was that of the Empress, may she live forever, speaking to a court petitioner. Well. Maybe not quite THAT bad. But almost. Perhaps allowing her into this situation was not too wise of a move. Rourke had been positive that this would be a good plan when it first occurred to him. Now, he was not so sure. He actually hoped that it did not backfire on him. He almost shivered. Then he realized what he was allowing to happen. She had stolen control from him. That could NOT continue! He stood up.


Without giving Rosie time to react he grabbed the bracelet of the adam and clasped it around his wrist. Immediately he could feel her surprise then the terror. Her face went pale and her eyes bulged. Through the adam he could feel her pulse racing. And something strange. Astonishment? No. ADMIRATION! She was impressed by his bravery. And she found him...HANDSOME! Then the fear crept back in. It shown in her expression as well.


"You...you...you cannot! The adam is a tool of Saidar! Men cannot touch Saidar! You CANNOT do this!!!".


Now Rourke was back in control. Physically as well as emotionally. The Game was going HIS way. He formed an evil grin on his face then let her feel through the adam what would be the equivalent of his fingertips tickling her earlobes. Her eyes bulged wider and she gulped. "I can! I can do whatever I desire! Would you like more proof?". She shuddered and shook her head violently. Through the adam he felt "NO!". She would be easier to handle now. He removed the bracelet and laid it in her lap.










"May all of your roads be smooth and paved with gold, my friend!". Daeve waved and Rycke smiled and waved back. The wagon which they had shared for so long now lumbered away without him. Rycke had found a young lad looking for adventure to be his apprentice. Daeve had gotten a fair price for his portion of the business. Actually, had he been at home he could have spent a lot of years living a very comfortable retirement on the money that Rycke had agreed to. But none of that mattered. The raven had brought him here. This is where he would marry and settle down. If only he could find the girl of his omen.


The past few days had not been very fruitful. Daeve and Rycke had checked in to a local inn with a strange sign hanging out front. The inn keeper said that it was from a time before the Age of Legends. He had found it buried in the woods along with other strange items. It wasn't made of glass because it could be bent yet you could almost see through it. Bulging out at the top was the picture of a large mug with a foamy substance that looked like really stout tea or perhaps kaf. Below that were strange ancient symbols of some sort. A peaked mountain with a straight line to mark the snow line. A strange curving line that might be a map of islands in a river. Then two mountains upside down only with no snow lines. Very peculiar symbols to say the least. The inn keeper called his inn the "River in the Valley Inn" because the island river was between the odd looking mountains.


OOC: for those of you who couldn't figure it out, the sign is an A & W sign that our people threw in the dump along with other plastic stuff that still has not decomposed even after the Breaking.


This town was not really all that large. He should not have trouble finding his future bride. On the second day he had even asked Rycke to split up and check a different direction to cover more ground quicker. Neither of them had any luck. Rycke finally had to get going since they were already behind schedule and he had a new partner to train. The lad seemed a little slow witted but eager to learn and even more eager to be away from home. Reminded Daeve of himself when he was young. Now all of that was done and they were leaving him behind. Daeve thought to himself "May all of your omens bring happiness" as the old saying went. Then he turned away from Rycke and headed back to the River in the Valley.


For perhaps the hundredth time since they had begun searching Daeve passed by the open door of the only other inn in town. The natives referred to it as Kelsey's. There was no sign out front to advertise it as an inn or a tavern as some referred to it. Apparently, the only customers the place ever got were ones who knew about it. There was nothing special looking about the place. Just another building on this street if you knew no different. No reason for him to step through the door. But he did. And there she was.

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Now that the fun of the festival was past, Jonnie got back to business. Even though his duties were nothing compared to being a noble in some place like Ebou Dar he still had plenty to do. Most days flew by. Being busy was good so long as things didn't get stressful. Jonnie didn't mind working but he hated stress. He was good at his job. He also felt that his subjects appreciated him as a leader. He tried very hard to remain fair. Humility was a large part of the success that his family had enjoyed all of these years. He suited his job and his job suited him.


Today brought a requirement for him to travel. A young couple on the far side of the island were due to deliver their first child and they had sent word asking his blessing. He could have sent a return message of some sort but that was not the way things were done around here. He would take the time to journey to them to deliver his grace in person. That's what his father would have done. And his great father. It was proper. It was tradition. It WOULD be done!


The trip cross country would be much harder and would take longer than to take a small sailing craft most of the way to a small village on the other side of the island then hire some pack animals and bearers for the last short leg. Preparations were being made down by the east dock. Provisions were loaded. The small ship was a bustle with deck hands checking everything from mooring lines to rigging and sails. Since it was somewhat rare that Jonnie made such a voyage a small group of curious onlookers were gathered. As Jonnie made his way up the gang plank he turned to wave at the crowd and nearly bumped into Ellen Sedai. Apparently she had not noticed him slowing and turning. She did not blush. Neither did she admonish him. She simply caught her balance then nodded. Jonnie smiled. Then he waved as planned and the crowd shouted wishes for his safe and timely return.


"We request your permission to come aboard.", he recited to the deck watch officer. As was tradition he stood politely waiting for a likewise traditional reply of, "Permission granted.". Then he placed his hand over his heart and turned to bow to the ensign flying on a short staff at the fantail. Proprieties being met, he and Ellen Sedai proceeded to stand near the center mast. Several members of the house staff followed carrying all manner of trunks and traveling goods. One fellow even carried lanterns on long poles in the event that they had to spend a night camping. Jonnie's house mistress was very good at thinking of even the tiniest detail. He was quite sure that his favorite mug was packed somewhere in one of those trunks.


"We shall depart within the hour Master Jonnie.", came a familiar voice from over his left shoulder. He had not noticed Captain Morgan approaching. Jonnie had sailed with him several times in the past and had always enjoyed his company. He was a top notch Captain with a top notch crew. The Mary Anne was a fine ship, too. She creaked and groaned sometimes, but overall she was sturdy and fast. Yes. This would be an enjoyable trip.








The early morning crowd was long gone and the noon bunch had not started to stroll in yet so Kerrie took advantage of the lull to rest her feet for a short spell. Master Greggory didn't normally object as long as the work was caught up and everything was wiped clean and the place looked orderly. He demanded a lot out of his help but he was also understanding. He had worked his way up from the bottom to build the nice place that he now had and he remembered what it was like to work hard for a living. Anyway. Had he said anything to her she probably would have bitten his head off. Today was NOT the day to cross her!


Kerrie couldn't get last night's dream out of her head. The sight kept popping up of that horrible, HORRIBLE man splashing into the surf toward her. What was even more disturbing was the fact that she couldn't conger up any help from Boris. Boris was ALWAYS there for her when she needed him. Day or night. Winter or summer. She could count on him. He was the one thing in her life that she COULD count on. It upset her that he had not grabbed the man and thoroughly thrashed him! How dare he! She looked toward the door where Boris was standing and gave him the evil eye. He looked around puzzled and mouthed "WHAT???". That silly man didn't have a clue why she was upset!


Kerrie sniffed and turned away reaching down to rub a tired toe. Boris could have rubbed her feet much better but she still wasn't ready to have him touching her just yet. Besides. That would mean sneaking away for some privacy which would probably lead to more than a foot rub and she DEFINITELY wasn't ready yet for anything like that in the middle of the day! Begrudgingly, she grabbed a different toe. That's what she was in the middle of when a stranger walked through the front door. He looked vaguely familiar. She didn't care so long as it wasn't the beast from her dream.


The stranger hesitated then looked around. He obviously had never been here before. After a thorough survey of the common room he chose a booth and sat down. Kerrie had the feeling that the man was purposely avoiding looking at her. He kept his eyes moving and when they got near her direction he quickly looked somewhere else. It reminded her of the young lads at a dance trying to sneak a peak at their favorite girl without getting caught. But this man was far from young. He didn't appear to be old but he had obviously lived a rough life. His skin was wrinkled and burnt from long hours in the sun. A sailor perhaps? No. More like a wagon driver.


Then recognition set in. The other day on her way to market she had seen this man riding guard on a wagon with a younger driver. The driver had been swearing at the children while this man stared at her. The thought almost gave her the creeps. Not as bad as the animal in her dream but along the same lines. She did NOT think that his admiration of her had been honorable in nature. His stare had made her feel somehow...invaded. Almost as if he had watched her taking a bath by peeking through a knot hole.


But, the man was a customer. Master Greggory would not be pleased if she did not do her job. In spite of the day that she was having she forced herself to her feet and went to take the stranger's order.

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Irene cleared her throat just loud enough for Karlee to hear without startling him as she returned with a tray with two cups and a steaming pot of tea. Maybe she really did feel bad about her earlier surprise attack. Her timid smile was welcome. While she was gone he had been able to fit in forty winks. That made him feel a little better. The tea sounded really good now. Just as Irene had predicted, as usual.


"I added just a touch of mint. I thought that might be a special treat. You haven't asked for mint in your tea for some time now.". She sat the tray on a nearby table and poured a cup. She seemed to be extra careful as she handed it to him. Perhaps he still looked tired to her. Her concern for him was becoming routine. He tried hard not to take her for granted. She really did treat him better than he deserved. He sipped his mint tea. It was good. Another couple of sips and he was feeling better and smiling slightly.


"Why do you stay here with me, Irene? Don't you get tired of the same old thing day after day?". She finished pouring her own cup then sat in her padded chair facing him.


"What would you have me do? Go chasing off to who knows where looking for a better situation? I'm comfortable here. I know my place. I know my duties. I have a good boss. I enjoy what I do.". She took a slow sip of her tea and peered over the rim of her cup as if watching for a reaction from him. She lowered her cup and held it in her lap with both hands. "Are you growing tired of having me around?". Her eyes didn't show how she meant that.


"NO!!! Certainly NOT!". Karlee wondered if he was blushing. He certainly felt embarrassed. "It's just...", he started then couldn't continue. He wasn't sure himself where the question had come from. "It's just that, well, sometimes I get...bored...going through all of the same motions without ever doing anything different.". He searched hard for a better explanation. "Don't you ever yearn for some excitement? Wouldn't you like to experience first hand what there is beyond the reach of this manor? Every now and then I have a childhood memory of staring out from the balcony toward the south road and watching a wagon leaving and wondering what it would be like to be riding with them. It's not so much that I dislike my life here. It's just that...well...have you ever had thoughts like that?".


Irene took another sip of her tea while watching his face. "Yes, I suppose so. I don't allow those thoughts to influence me too much, though. Dreams are wonderful things to have. They do serve a good purpose. But they must be recognized for what they are. Allowing dreams too much influence is not good. That leads to dreams becoming nightmares.". She took another sip then returned the cup to her lap. She appeared to be waiting for her words to fully sink in.


"Will you accompany me on a trip?". Karlee thought about taking a sip of tea but realized that if he did he would probably suck it down the wrong hole then blow mint tea all over Irene and cough his foolish head off. Where in the world had THAT come from? Now there was no doubt that his face was cherry red! What a way to end a stressful day! The temporary calm that the mint tea had given was totally gone.








Opel jumped slightly to grab the clothes line. Her father had pulled it tight at a height that was just right for her mother but too high for Opel. She pulled it down and tied one end of the clean sheet to it. Working her way to the other end while pulling down on the line she eventually got to a point where she could tie up the other end. With a sigh of regret she let go of the line and it shot skyward like a bow string slapping the wet sheet against her face. She was about to let out a mild oath when she heard her eldest daughter screaming at the top of her lungs.




Opel looked in the direction of the screams. Her heart pounded as she searched past the hanging laundry trying to see what was causing such a commotion. Was her daughter having some sort of fit? Or playing some terrible prank? She did not allow herself to have any thought of her husband actually being there. There just wasn't any room left for any more tears. Something must be wrong. Why couldn't she see past those flaming shirts? She almost fell down when she finally did catch a glimpse of her husband coming toward her with their daughter clinging to his waist and sobbing.


Without caring in the least Opel ran through the clothes and kicked over a basket full of freshly washed under garments into the dusty dirt. She fully expected to wake up from this brand new dream at any moment. This just could NOT be real!!! Why was it taking her so long to close the distance between them? Her husband was dragging their daughter as he tried to get to Opel. Finally the daughter let go and Opel's husband sprang to Opel and grabbed her and hoisted her into the air then hugged her while swinging her around and around. "Oh, please! Don't let this dream end yet", she pleaded to her brain.


The daughter caught up and hugged both of them still sobbing. Opel wanted to let out some tears in the worst way but just couldn't. Maybe she would be able to cry again some day but not right now. Trying to keep the dream from fading she squeezed her husband as hard as she could. She wanted to say something...ANYTHING...but that just was NOT going to happen! She was afraid that if she asked him where he had come from or how he had gotten here that he would disappear and she would wake up in a tearless stupor again. She squeezed him even tighter although that really wasn't possible.


Opel finally allowed herself to look up at the apparition that she clung to. He smiled down at her. He must be having as much difficulty as she for he said not a word. Then he kissed her. Long and hard. He hadn't kissed her that way in a LONG time. She kissed him back trying to match his intensity. The daughter stopped sobbing and giggled with an occasional gasp for breath. When the kissing finally tapered off Opel and her husband brought their daughter back into their grasp. The trio stood smiling silently for what seemed to be a long time. Opel's husband was the first to regain his speaking ability.


"I've missed you so! You cannot imagine how many nights I cried myself to sleep.". He blushed for some unknown reason. Opel guessed that he was embarrassed about admitting that he had feelings. Men never cry. "What a bunch of crap.", she thought. He got over his blushing and returned to smiling. "There were times that I wondered if I would ever see you again!". Sadness now dominated his expression. Somehow that made Opel smile.


"Well, I didn't miss you at all!!!", she lied. He saw right through it and hugged her again.


"I missed you, too, Father.", their daughter added. She hugged him tighter than before.


When they could bear not hugging they simply stood real close to one another with their arms around each other. They both held their daughter, too. "What are you doing here?", Opel asked. "Is the Last Battle done already?". Her husband got a serious look on his face and allowed his touching of her and their daughter to end. He crossed his arms across his chest and frowned. Deep wrinkles crossed his brow. He backed away from them and kicked at the dust at his feet.


"I bought my way out of the fight.", he said barely loud enough to hear. Shame bloomed heavily. He stood in silent contemplation for several long moments. When he finally could, he continued after a heavy sigh. "It's not a thing that I am proud of. But I had to do it. It cost me a full three month's pay but it was worth every ounce. I could no longer bear the thought of leaving you a widow and the children without a father. My comrades consider me a coward not much better than a deserter. I could have stayed and died with them. That would have been the honorable thing to do. But, here I am. I'm alive and I'm with YOU!!! I will hurt for the rest of my days from having to make that decision but I will NEVER allow myself to regret it!!!

Edited by GrandpaG
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  • 2 weeks later...

"Rosie" sat staring blankly at the bracelet in her lap. "It can't be.", she kept whispering without appearing to realize that she was speaking. The surprise attack had worked wonderfully. She was beyond disbelief. She was totally stunned. And vulnerable. When the perfect opportunity presents itself, aggression is mandatory. A full force, all-out attack with a massive finishing blow. That's what this situation called for. Rourke just couldn't bring himself to do it.


Why? What was it about this... female... this... walking talking she-devil... this... this... DAMANE... that got under his skin so? Over the years he had squeezed the last breath out of countless women without batting an eye. He had even dared to kill a few of the empire's precious little damanes. No hesitation. No remorse. He was who he was and they were who they were. It was within his station to do WHATEVER he pleased with ANY of those who were beneath him without fear of reprimand. Why was this... being... any different?


He realized that he really should not waste the moment by over-analyzing his actions. Somehow, deep in the pit of his stomach, he knew that he was following the proper path. Over the years he had come to trust the "little voice" in the back of his head. Right now it was telling him what to do and he was obeying. Things would turn out best. Rourke had no doubt that he was doing the right thing and that the pattern was in control of him. He reached out and placed his right hand on Rosie's left shoulder. She looked up.


"I have a proposition.", he repeated while looking her directly and firmly in the eye. She glanced briefly at the bracelet then eagerly returned her gaze into his eyes. "Yes?", she almost blurted out. "Good.", he thought. "She is ready now.". Rourke sat back down and took his time getting relaxed. There was no need to hurry now. The game was going well. He had the larger group of stones poised so she could see that he could claim victory at will. She was at his mercy. He had regained control.


"Are you familiar with the duties of a Truth Teller?", he asked calmly. Rosie obviously was not expecting that question. It took her several moments to form her answer.


"Well, yes, I suppose that I do understand the basics. I am also sure that there are some things that I don't know. I guess to give you a better answer, you will have to be more specific.". Rosie looked genuinely puzzled. Rourke smiled.


"Do you think that YOU could be MY Truth Teller? Would you be able to perform those duties?". He felt her shock even without an adam. He smiled again. As hoped, she recovered quickly.


"You already HAVE a Truth Teller.". She waited for his reaction. She was not stupid.


"That is a minor detail that can be easily taken care of. Would you be willing and able to be my Truth Teller?". The earlier shock in her expression was now replaced by a look of curiosity. She studied his expressions searching for a hidden booby trap. She was being cautious as she should be. These were treacherous waters that she was wading in. He knew it and so did she. If knowledge of this conversation leaked out they could both lose their lives in an instant. She carefully weighed her answer before offering it. As Rourke had hoped.


"Perhaps.", she teased. She smiled an evil smile of her own. "You obviously know that you could lose your head just for having such thoughts. There must be a VERY big prize available for you to be willing to take such a risk.". She maintained her grin and settled back into her chair looking quite relaxed. "Tell me what you have to gain.".


Rourke grinned back at her. He was comfortable with these conditions. She was more relaxed with him and he was feeling that he had done the right thing by taking this action. They didn't trust each other but that was OK. He didn't need her trust. He needed her cooperation. Trust could lead to betrayal. If things went as he planned he could NOT afford betrayal.









Daeve couldn't believe his luck. He and Rycke had wasted three full days searching high and low all over this fly speck of a town. Neither of them had even considered checking the inn that they were not staying in. Now it had been pure good luck that he had happened to find what he had been searching for. Bad luck. Good luck. The pattern uses both as part of it's plan.


Daeve sat in a booth just inside the door and watched his future bride rubbing her tired feet. How he longed to go over to her and offer to do that for her. It must be hard to spend the entire day walking from kitchen to table and back in a constant rush. Daeve promised himself at that very moment that after their wedding he would find a way for her to be able to quit this job and stay home to tend their children.




He had never had time to even consider having children of his own. His nieces and nephews were great fun to be around. He enjoyed spoiling them with candy and telling them tales of his travels. Daeve never had to administer any punishment upon any of them. Their studies were the responsibilities of their parents. Daeve had enjoyed all of the play and none of the toil. Regardless, he promised himself to be a fair and loving father. A little bit of play mixed in here or there could surely do no harm.


The woman who was to be his bride and who's name he did not know bent over to put her slippers back on and Daeve felt himself blushing slightly. He had seen nice cleavages before but had never considered being married to any of them. But, the omens had clearly shown him that he would be enjoying much more of this delightful view. He tried to quell the anticipation. Now was not the time. He still had to learn her name for crying out loud.


Daeve tried to remain calm but it was difficult. Once her shoes were in place the beauty rose and headed toward him. She seemed to move in slow motion. Every step was like a dance. Her motions reminded him of the Tinker dances that he had heard about from local drivers. Or perhaps some of those wicked women from up in Arad Domain. The pattern really could not have chosen him a more perfect wife! He tried not to let her know that he was staring but on the other hand he found it impossible to look away. At last she was standing in front of him in a friendly waitress pose. She sang politely to him, "may I take your order, sir?". He nearly fainted.

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"HHHHUUUUUAAAAAHHHHHhhhhh...", Jonnie blurted out noisily as he coughed up the last of his breakfast. He spat to get the last few chunks out of his mouth. His head ached terribly. What little sunlight there was made his eyes hurt. This reminded him of the time that he and his cousin Filbert had sneaked that awful jug of wine from Filbert's father's secret stash and sucked down the entire thing as fast as they could. That memory sent him leaning over the rail for some more conversation with Master Ralph.


Ellen Sedai stood nearby with her hands on her hips tapping her right toe on the deck planks. The scowl on her face had all of the deck hands keeping plenty of distance. Most of them knew that she was Aes Sedai but that look on ANY woman's face would be enough to cause them to shy away. No, it wasn't hard at all to tell that she was less than pleased.


"There really is NO reason WHAT SO EVER for you to suffer so!!! The healing of sea sickness is a MINOR task!!! I could do it in my sleep!!! Why are you being so stubborn?". After a few moments Jonnie heard her whisper just loud enough for him to hear "silly man.". He knew that she couldn't see his face so he allowed himself a small smile.


"I'll be fine. You just said that this illness is minor. I will save your services for when I REALLY need them if you don't mind.". He had to stop talking. It made his head hurt. He squeezed his eyes tight and prepared for the next dry heave.


"Well, at least let me check to see that you don't have anything more serious going on. Just for the sake of caution. It won't hurt and it won't make you hungry. Please.".


Jonnie raised his head enough to look toward her. In all of his years he had seldom heard that word coming from her lips. And her sincere tone was almost frightening. The look on her face showed genuine concern. Jonnie almost felt ashamed for toying with her. He nodded then hung his head back over the railing.


Other than knowing that she had her hands on him he felt nothing. There was no flash of coolness or heat like there had been the few times that she had healed him. He didn't quiver or shiver or shake. He did feel a few seconds of slight relief of his upset stomach but that was probably because he was trying so hard to concentrate on detecting what she was doing. After all. She WAS using the One Power on him! No man could relax while in the clutches of an Aes Sedai no matter HOW friendly she might be! Ellen Sedai gasped and released her touch. Jonnie turned to see her face as white as his had to be.


"What's wrong?", he asked. His concern for her made him forget his own condition. It took her several long moments to answer.


"I...I...", she started but couldn't seem to continue. She almost seemed to be breathless. UNABLE to speak. Jonnie totally forgot his troubles and went to take her by the hands. She stared at him wide eyed. Then she began to cry.


"Ellen Sedai, WHAT IS WRONG?". Jonnie was sure that he had NEVER seen this much open emotion coming from her. Her dignity was a shield. It protected her. It made her better than ordinary people. For her to show her feelings so openly was like a soldier dropping his lance in the middle of a battle. It just wasn't done. It took a while but she gradually brought herself back into control and looked Jonnie hard in the eye.


"I...suspected...", she started again then paused to regain her composure. "For some time now I have noticed...changes...in your behavior. Small signs that only a trained eye would notice. Things that you yourself have probably shaken off as being a temporary nuisance or part of getting older. A missed step. Dizziness. Shortness of breath. Getting tired easily. Loss of appetite. An occasional cough or wheeze. Little things that by themselves are no big deal but when they reoccur and happen together they add up. I was almost afraid to check you for what I might find. You will die soon.".


"The sky is blue.", she might have said. "Winter will follow summer.", she might have said. From the tone of her voice she was convinced. There was no doubt. She couldn't be playing some elaborate joke because even if she was she could not lie. She was Aes Sedai. Yellow Ajah. If she said he was going to die, then he would die. SOON!


"I LOVE YOU!!!". Jonnie couldn't believe his own ears. Had he actually SAID that? Or was this part of the sea sickness and he only IMAGINED saying it? And where had it come from? Until this very moment he had never really considered the possibility before. He didn't regret saying it. And, he meant it. It was so clear to him. He had loved her for a very long time but had never allowed himself to admit it until now. Now that his life was almost over. The woman that he loved had just condemned him to death. SOON!!! But he didn't care. He was in love.







"Well,", Kerrie muttered to herself as she made her way to the kitchen, "THAT was certainly interesting!".


"What's interesting?", Tuna asked. Kerrie hadn't realized that her friend was within earshot.


"Oh, nothing, really. Just that strange old man who I was waiting on. I think he might be San Chan or something. He talks funny. Slow. Weird. He used to be a wagon driver but now he wants to live here of all places! Wanted to know if I knew of any good farms for sale. With chickens. And pigs. The price doesn't matter. He has plenty of gold.". Kerrie smiled and so did Tuna. Girls like gold. Especially working girls.


"Can I help?", Tuna whispered while looking around to see who might overhear.


"Help what?", Kerrie replied innocently.


"Getting the gold from the old geezer.", Tuna answered just as innocently.


Kerrie tried to look shocked but failed miserably. Tuna and she had worked together for many years and been friends for most of that time. Their only trouble had been the time that both of them were duped by the handsome stranger who played them like finely tuned fiddles. He had nearly caused the two of them to come to blows before they realized the game that he was playing and joined forces to teach him a lesson that he would never forget. They were a good team when they wanted to be. This might be one of those times.


"I don't know.", Kerrie answered. "He doesn't seem to be a bad fellow. I'm not sure that he really means to stay here. If he does, that might make it hard to get his gold without getting in trouble. It's not like he's just passing through and we can charge him extra for his meals. And I have the need for more than a couple of coins.". She tried really hard NOT to glance toward Boris. That cat wasn't totally out of the bag yet. "I don't know WHAT I'm going to do. If anything. Maybe nothing. I don't know.".


Tuna shrugged. "Let me know.". She turned back to the mug that she was polishing. Kerrie turned away and continued on toward the kitchen. It was almost time for her lunch break. Maybe a mid-day session with Boris wouldn't be such a bad idea after all.

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Irene looked stunned. And for good reason. Karlee didn't fully understand for himself where the idea of a trip had come from. He supposed that it could be an OK idea. He had taken trips before. Some good. Some not so good. But those trips were nothing like what he now had in mind. Not just a week to Ebou Dar and back. Not a quick boat ride to Tanchico. His brain was telling him that he wanted an adventure. He wanted to experience his deeply hidden dream. He hoped that it wouldn't be the nightmare that Irene had spoken of.


"Forgive me if I caught you off balance. Perhaps I should explain myself.". He waited for her to answer but only received a nod. Taking that as a yes he continued.


"I want to do something special. I want to GO to SOMEPLACE special. I want to experience first hand what some of the tales tell about. I've never touched the Stone of Tear. I've never smelled the tanneries in Illian. I've never tasted roast Lionfish. Do you believe in snow? I can almost feel it's bitter cold but I have not touched it or watched it melt. Forgive me, but one day I would like to watch a Domani woman in action.". He felt his face turning red. "My point is, I want to see the world that I have heard so much about. If Shara was not so dangerous I almost think that I would like to visit there just to say that I had been there. Do you understand?".


Irene seemed to be mulling his words over inside her head. She was lost deep in her own thoughts. Karlee didn't exist. For several longs moments she sat, slightly slumped, breathing slow deep breaths, concentrating. At long last she raised herself to her normal proper stance and looked him directly in the eye. "I would be honored to accompany you on your quest.". She smiled. Not a huge beaming smile. Not a nervous smile. A simple, contented, satisfied smile. Karlee smiled back at her.







Opel still just could not believe that all of this was real. The past year without her beloved husband had seemed to last a lifetime. Now that he really was back... well... it just didn't seem possible. But it WAS possible and he WAS home!!! Here he was sitting having lunch in her parents home with her and all of their children! But, as things usually happen, that in itself presented a new problem. Where would they go from here?


Opel still had some of the money that they had saved while he was working in the woods and mining and fishing. Even though he had payed to get free of the military, he had managed to save a substantial sum because he had no expenses. Between the two they had enough for a good start here in their home town. With people deserting their farms left and right to run off to join the Last Battle there were plenty of established places to be bought fairly cheap. Same with fisherman's cottages. Those were a dime a dozen. And the fishing was good due to decreased pressure.


"So,", Opel's father said to her husband while smiling proudly, "where will you go from here, son?". He let out a soft burp in gratitude for his good meal and reached for his pipe and tabac. Opel's husband already had his pipe lit and was sitting back in his chair with his arms crossed on his belly. He was happy to be home. Opel smiled.


"I heard that the Lord Dragon is opening an Academy in Illian. I can go there to study under some of the greatest minds in the land. If I am lucky enough to be taken as an apprentice to one of them I might even MEET the Lord Dragon some day! Provided, of course, that all goes well with the Last Battle and all. But, even if I didn't meet him, perhaps I could be the person who discovers the next great discovery or something, right?". He winked at his father-in-law then peered toward Opel out of the corner of his eye.


"YOU!!! YOU are NOT funny!!!", Opel screamed as she threw a perfectly good saucer at her husband. As soon as it left her hand she realized what she had done but it was too late. She grabbed at it but only caught thin air. Her husband saw the missile approaching and put up his arm to deflect it just in time. He was OK, but the saucer slammed against the wall and shattered. Opel squeaked. Her father laughed. So did her husband. Apparently a broken saucer was a small price to pay for a good chuckle.


"Now, dearest,", her husband said in a consoling tone, "you know that I have no intention of ever leaving this town again. I've LEARNED my lesson! There's no place like home! There's no place like home! There's no place like home!". He blew out a smoke ring and sighed a contented sigh. "All I have to do is to choose between fishing and farming. Or, perhaps I could become a blacksmith. That's an honorable trade. I spent some time among them in the troop. Yes. Maybe that's what I'll do to support you and our darling family.". He made a loving gesture to his children. They smiled.


Opel apologized for the broken saucer and went to fetch a broom to clean up the mess. Her mother and the children cleared the table. The men retired to the living room with their pipes. It seemed to blessed good to have this family together again. Almost too good. After the year that Opel had just endured she was positive that something bad was going to happen. She just could not trust all of this good luck.

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Rourke briefly considered giving a truthful explanation of his intents then caught himself. That move could have proven fatal. Even if trust had been established between them some things were just better left unsaid. It was far to soon to disclose anything that could be used against him. But, on the other hand, this one was far from naive. He had to give her enough without crossing the line. Keep her interested and under control. Sometimes it takes patience to land a large fish.


"You're right.", he finally answered. "I do have something to gain. But I am not yet ready to tell you everything. Surely you understand.". Rosie looked thoughtful then nodded. "I thought that you would.", Rourke said with another slight smile. This woman would be a tough adversary in a game of stones. With the right guidance she could be a valuable ally. "For now, just assume that my plans will profit me. This is important enough that it caused me to speak to you. That in itself is a rarity. In our society it just is not done.". He was talking WAY too much! Let her chew on what he had said. He settled back and crossed his palms on his lap.


Rosie did seem to be processing what he had said. Perhaps she really had been some sort of leader of those women running loose with no adam to keep them under proper control. At the very least she was skilled in the Game. She understood the value of caution and patience. Her observation of him made him uneasy. Perhaps it was the remembrance of her finding him handsome. It was one thing to suspect that a woman felt that way about you and it was something entirely different to KNOW what she thought! "STOP! Those thoughts are totally irrelevant! Concentrate! Don't lose control!". Rourke did not like what he was feeling.


"I really hope that I am not missing anything here.", Rosie finally said. Rourke realized that they had both been silent for quite some time. "For you to step outside your comfort zone as you have, your motivation has to be extreme. You have much to lose. In your mind you must have a great deal to gain. Somehow, I am valuable enough to you that you are willing to take a huge risk.". She lowered her eyes and thought some more. "You do know that I am incapable of telling a lie, correct?", she said to her lap.


Rourke stared at the top of her head while searching for a reply. Had she really been able to think that far ahead without knowing the details of what he intended? That thought was REALLY frightening. Perhaps he HAD underestimated her abilities. Either that, or perhaps she had just gotten lucky while fishing. He could be getting ready to take her bait hook, line and sinker. If only he could gaze through those beautiful eyes to see what she was up to. "You have lovely eyes.".


Where in the name of the omens did THAT come from? Surely the pattern was standing on edge. Everything to the core of his soul told him that he could not have possibly have made that statement...but he knew just as well that he had. She knew it, too. She glanced up at him with a surprised look that gradually changed to a sly grin. Had this been a game of stones she would be claiming her victory at this exact instant. She might as well have been jumping up and down shouting at the top of her lungs that she had won! She did and said nothing of the sort. Instead, she eased her grin. "I need details of what you have in mind.".








Daeve paid his bill and thanked the owner of his former inn for his hospitality. With the help of a hired youngster he hauled his belongings to Kelsey's where he had arranged to stay while he searched for a proper dwelling. He didn't own much. A few changes of clothes. An extra pair of boots in the event that they were needed...you just never knew when you would need dry boots. Grooming essentials. All of which were piled inside his traveling chest on top of his life savings. That was why he kept the chest locked. The key hung from a leather cord around his neck under his shirt. The chest was heavy but the lad who was helping him was young and strong. For the silver penny that Daeve had offered he was sure the lad would have carried the chest by himself if not for Daeve's insistence that they carry the load together. Kelsey's was just a few more steps away. They could make it easily now.


Master Greggory had already shown Daeve his room so he and the lad did not need to hesitate. They went directly up the stairs to the second door on the right. Daeve pulled the room key from his left pants pocket and opened the door. He and the hired lad sat the chest next to the head of the bed. Daeve produced a silver penny and a copper from his right pocket and gave them to the lad with his thanks for doing an exceptionally good job. The boy smiled and bolted out the door. He obviously couldn't wait to part with his newly earned money.


The only window in the room looked down onto the main street. Daeve had the strangest feeling that he had seen this view before. Deja Vu. Then he realized that it was impossible since he had never been in this room before today. It must be his imagination.



OOC: yes, this room was in the Last Battle thread. Love, Gramps. :biggrin:



Since he thought it might be a few days before he found the right place to raise his family he decided to unpack some of his clothes. Most of them had been stored for quite some time so he thought he might even get them laundered just to freshen them up a little. Now that he was settling down, he might have to consider buying something other than work clothes. He would need a nice outfit to get married in. His bride might want to go out for dinner sometime. Maybe he would have to dress up to visit her parents. Did Kerrie have parents?


Kerrie. Perfect. What a beautiful name. He had almost swallowed his tongue when he asked her what her name was. How many names of lovely bar maids or waitresses had he learned and forgotten over the years? Since he heard the name Kerrie all of the old memories had been wiped clean. There was no longer any reason to recall what they looked like, either. Kerrie was the only name that mattered now. Kerrie. Perfect.


The cleanest clothes were hanging in the wardrobe. Those to be cleaned were in a heap on the bed. His spare boots sat beside the chest at the head of the bed. His money was accounted for to the last copper. He kept out one piece of gold that he would get changed into the local money so he could hire his laundry done. He really hated doing his own laundry. He also intended to visit the market for some fresh fruit. Most of the time he preferred meat and beans but every now and then fruit hit the spot. One piece of gold should cover everything that he needed to get done. There was plenty more where that came from when the time was right.


He put the gold coin in his right pocket and turned to leave. Under the bottom of the door he noticed some movement. Then he saw a nose with whiskers. Then a head. Followed by the rest of the mouse that was squeezing under his door. Daeve sat on his bed and grabbed at his heart. How could this be happening? Why today of all days? Who would be the loved one that would die? Rycke? One of his brothers or sisters? Or a niece or nephew? This omen was never misinterpreted. Someone that Daeve cared about would die today. Then Daeve felt his heart racing and he wanted so badly to turn back the hands of time so he could rush over and step on the nose of that mouse before it had a chance to come in! What if the omen meant that KERRIE was going to die? Daeve couldn't handle the thought. He didn't bother to chase the mouse back out of the room or to cut it into three even chunks to lessen the evil that it foretold. He bolted for the door and made up his mind to nothing else today but make sure that nothing bad happened to his future bride!

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"I didn't realize it before now. If I did have any inkling about how I really felt about you I didn't allow myself to acknowledge it. I am not deserving. A common man, even of my elevated station, has no business dreaming about becoming involved with an Aes Sedai. I know my place. I am below you. I can never be your equal. You and I...it just... couldn't possibly work. Especially now.". Jonnie tried not to look like a whipped puppy but couldn't help lowering his eyes to the deck below his feet and pouting slightly. He waited patiently for Ellen Sedai to say something. Anything.


When she remained silent for a little too long he just had to look up. Sure enough. She was staring at him. He knew she would be. After this many years working together he had learned pretty much what he could expect from her. Her expression, however, was NOT expected. She was smiling. And BLUSHING!!! Jonnie had expected to see her frowning and pondering whether to have him flogged or filleted. Instead, she was squirming like a teenage girl at a dance. She even giggled a small, delicate giggle. Her eyes shown and they had a trace of moisture in them. Most unexpected of all, she lunged toward him and applied a huge bear hug. Well. Sort of a bear hug. Only better.


"You have no idea how long I have yearned for this moment.", she sighed into his shoulder as she rubbed her hair under his nose. It smelled of rose pedals and tickled. Part of him wanted to push it away before it caused him to sneeze but another part of him wanted to inhale as deeply as he could to draw in every possible drop of her essence. She held him tight. VERY tight. He tried not to panic and push her away. She had yearned for this moment? What? She wanted to tell him that he would die soon? Then it hit him. SHE loved HIM, too!!! And apparently she had felt that way for some time just as he had about her!


"CRAP!!!", Jonnie blurted out as he struggled to free himself from Ellen Sedai's grasp without hurting her. She was pretty strong for a girl. Or, maybe she was using the One Power on him somehow. When he was finally standing staring blankly at her and she was waiting for him to explain himself he came to his senses enough to speak. "You mean that you have feelings for me, too?". He couldn't keep the disbelief from coming through in his voice. She nodded and smiled almost meekly. That was not like her at all. "For a long time?". Another smile that was not meek at all but almost sensual. Her eyes sparkled. That was not like her, either.


"I did not want to ruin our relationship by letting you know how I felt. As long as I was simply your adviser I could remain close to you and speak openly to you about almost anything except how I loved you. I was very careful not to allow you to find out because I didn't want you to send me away. I had no idea that you had feelings for me.". Ellen Sedai was almost breathless. And glowing radiantly. She had just removed the weight of the entire world from her shoulders. She was in love with Jonnie and he knew it after all of this time. Her expression told the story clearly. Jonnie smiled back at her then lowered his gaze to the deck again.


"Are you sure? Am I... going to die... soon?". He was almost whispering.


Ellen Sedai lifted his chin so she could look squarely into his eyes. "Yes, my love.", she spoke softly yet in her normal businesslike tone. "You have what many refer to as 'The Slow Death'. Your body has decided to destroy itself and no amount of Healing will ever reverse it. It usually starts in one place then gradually spreads. Eventually your vital parts stop functioning. Some people lose one or two things at a time. Others lose several all at once. Regardless, the end result is that you die. It might take a few days or a few weeks. Some people last for a year or two. My Healing can help with the suffering but the Pattern has made up it's mind that it is your time to die and that will be that.". She was very good at maintaining her businesslike tone when necessary. Jonnie loved that about her. Among other things. She gave him time to think about what she had said.


"I have no heir.", Jonnie muttered part to himself and part to the wind. Ellen Sedai smiled an understanding and loving smile.








Since that strange old man Daeve had moved into Kelsey's, Kerrie had become obsessed with the knowledge that he had a large trunk in his room that just HAD to contain enough gold for her and Boris to start the life together that they both so longed for. So far, she had said nothing to Boris about it. Men sometimes did stupid things that they regretted later. She would work this out by herself. There was plenty of time. Boris and she had waited this long. A little longer would hurt nothing. But the thought of that chest of gold just kept popping back into her head. Luckily, Tuna hadn't figured out the secret yet.


The lunch crowd was gone. On most days there were several hours of slow time in the early after noon. This time was needed to get everything tidied up before the evening bunch got there. Once things were ship-shape, Master Greggory didn't mind if the girls relaxed for a while to get rested up. This is exactly what Kerrie was in the middle of when Daeve came flying down the stairs. His face was white as a clean sheet. He was panting and almost frothing at the mouth. He was definitely excited about something. He looked wildly about the common room until at last he fixed his glare upon her. He almost immediately relaxed and sighed. A small satisfied smile formed on his face and he continued down the stairs almost calmly. He went to his favorite booth and sat down motioning for a cool beverage.


Yes, he surely was a strange fellow. And he had confirmed to her that he was from Seanchan. He had been a wagon driver for "far too many years" and was determined to plant his roots here in Cross Village.


OOC: for the life of me I can't remember ever giving a name to the town where Kelsey's is located. If I did, and it is not Cross Village, please ignore the old name and rewrite this one into your memory chip. Thanks. Love, Gramps.


He seemed to be a harmless fellow. Almost likable. Easy going. He said that he had learned lots of jokes and wagon driver's tales that he would be willing to share. She was even getting used to the weird way that he talked. He was a steady paying customer who behaved himself. There wasn't so much as a pinch on the butt for any of the waitresses from him. As wagon drivers go, he seemed fairly tame. Maybe he was just getting tired after all of those years traveling. It was time for him to settle down and take it easy.


That's what made that chest of gold so tantalizing. Kerrie was sure that if she explained to Daeve about her needing money to be able to settle down with Boris this strange old Seanchan man would probably loan it to her without hesitating. Blood and ashes. He'd probably GIVE her the money outright if she took the time to smile while asking him. Or maybe show him a little shoulder. She had caught him sneaking a peak a few times. Nothing bad. Just a normal dirty old man who can't change his old habits. Harmless enough. She really didn't want to hurt him just for his money. Especially not if he planned to become a citizen of Cross Village.


Kerrie took Daeve his drink and gave him a quick friendly smile and wink as she sat it down on his table. She was taken aback when he asked if she had time to walk to the market with him to buy some fruit. She considered lying about having too much to do but changed her mind when he added that he also would need to trade his piece of gold for some local change. It was a strange coin that she had never seen before. Seanchan, he told her. With those foreigners controlling everything from Ebou Dar to Tanchico their gold had to be the most valuable right now. She assured him that she would get him top silver for his gold. Boris watched as they exited through the front door.

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"Yohon will do just fine", Karlee told himself for the hundredth time. Just as Irene had been his personal assistant for all of these many years, Yohon had taken care of the books. In all of that time Karlee had never caught him skimming or so much as forgetting to carry a one. He didn't have Irene's people skills but he should be able to keep the ship afloat until Irene and he returned. The goat disputes would have to work themselves out or wait for Karlee to get back. For the hundred and first time he resolved to stop worrying about it.


The trip to Cross Village had only taken two days. In another couple of days his party would be boarding a fast Sea Folk ship and leaving for The Creator only knew where. The Pattern would determine if they departed Landalea from East Town or West Town. Karlee still didn't have any idea which way they would go. It might come down to the toss of a coin. More likely it would depend upon where a ship could be hired quickest. Just the thought of being so impulsive scared him and excited him at the same time. It was definitely out of character for him. His job required him to maintain a sound mind. This trek was far from sound. It was closer to insane. He could hardly wait!


"Good evening to you, Master Greggory. Tomorrow will be a busy day. I think I will retire early.". Karlee smiled to the owner of his favorite place to stay and nodded a small bow of his head in respect for his old acquaintance. Master Greggory gave his wishes for a restful sleep and returned the bowing nod. "Good night, Irene!", he called to where his secretary was sitting watching the patrons dancing to the music of a flute player, a fiddle player, and a harpist. She smiled and nodded. The musicians mistook his shout for a request and began playing a song that he did not recognize. Karlee had to admit that they were pretty good but he was tired. Irene had coaxed him into several dances that he had no idea how to do. She insisted that if he was going to truly enjoy this experience that he should "let his hair down" some. Her laughter had been worth the pain of his inability to dance.


Several of the other members of the group traveling with him were also drinking and dancing. Some of them knew the steps. Others tried desperately to learn. Those who had consumed the most wine didn't care. Most of them seemed to be having fun. For a moment Karlee considered going back to Irene's table and drinking enough wine to relax and have fun. Then he convinced himself that he should do the wise thing and get rested for tomorrow's toils. Some of those dancers would regret tonight when they had to perform their tasks in the early morning. That was their business. Karlee headed upstairs.


Karlee passed the doors of the rooms where his entourage would be sleeping and proceeded to the next stairway. Even though it meant climbing an addition set of steps, the best rooms were on the top floor. That few feet of height difference provided cooler, cleaner smelling breezes. Also, since they were more expensive and not rented out as often, the upper rooms were usually cleaner and did not smell of the previous patrons. Fresh bed linens were a given. That might not be true in the lower rooms unless someone had an accident in the night. Karlee unlocked his door and entered.


A candle was already lit for him. Since it wasn't raining his window had been left open to let in the cool breeze. Rose pedals scattered on the bed gave off a pleasant aroma. The oil that stayed on the coverlet would maintain that welcome odor all through the night. There was a pitcher and basin on a stand beneath a mirror for cleaning up. Karlee's maid had already laid out his night shirt. Other than the physical size of the room everything seemed similar to home. He even found a chamber pot in the corner by the bed. A quick glance told him that it had been cleaned since the previous patron's visit. This was exactly why he chose to stop a Kelsey's whenever possible. They knew how to treat their guests.


After he was clean and dressed for bed, he turned back the sheets and crawled in. He felt a little guilty that he had such a comfortable mattress while his help would likely sleep on a thin layer of down. But then he remembered that his father had explained to him that some of the comforts that he enjoyed were necessary to set him apart in the minds of those who were beneath him. If they all had comfortable beds they might lose some of their envy for his station. Envy was necessary for maintaining respect and respect was vital to keeping order. Sleeping on a comfortable bed was a small price to pay for keeping the peace. The same could be said for the clothes that he wore.


As Karlee allowed himself to relax he had a sudden thought that caused him to sit upright. From out of nowhere he wished that Irene had come up the stairs with him. He yearned to have her snuggled in beside him. He wanted her to cuddle up next to him. He wanted more. The thought took him by such surprise that he gasped out loud. What kind of cad was he? Where did he get off having such ideas? Sure, some nobles took advantage of their station and abused their help. Karlee had always prided himself that he was NOT like that! Until tonight! Just by having such thoughts he had all but committed the act itself. Shame stung his soul.


When he was sure that he had sufficiently punished his mind for misbehaving so and he was thoroughly convinced that it would never happen again, he laid back onto his nice, soft pillow and tried to think of anything at all that would keep him from having a relapse. Several times he caught his dirty mind trying to revive that nasty thought and quickly drove it away before it could bloom. What worked best was thinking about work. How many new wells would be needed to replace the ones that had gone bad or dried up? What could he do to offset the effects of the crops rotting in the fields? Should he send an envoy to the White Tower seeking aid? What were the other Mayors doing to help their people? Perhaps he should forget this foolishness and turn around and go home. "Yohon will do just fine", he thought as he finally faded off to sleep.








"It's just PERFECT!", Opel told herself as she stood in the back yard of her new home staring toward the back door. Even though they had already been there for more than a week the newness still hadn't worn off. Just yesterday her husband had strung a brand new clothes line at just the right height for her to reach. It was right outside the back door so she wouldn't have far to carry the wet clothes. And that BRAND NEW OUTHOUSE!!! Well, the boards weren't new. Neither were the nails. But her husband and her father had dug the hole and built within two days of moving in. It was level and square with overlapping boards to keep out the breeze. Two seats. A chimney at the back leading up to the vent at the top to let the smell get away. "Simply PERFECT!!!".


Opel could barely remember what the old fisherman looked like who had raised his family here. She did remember the old house that used to be next door on the left. The old man had torn that down and used the wood to build the storage shed that now stood strong and straight on that lot. She couldn't remember the shack that her mother said used to be on the other side. All that was there now were a couple of apple trees and one tall oak that gave a nice afternoon shade for her new home. HER NEW HOME!!! After all of these years she and her husband were finally settling down!


The inside of her house was not new but it was in very good shape. The attic was big enough for the boys to have their own room. They loved that. There was a bedroom for the girls to share on the main floor. That had belonged to the old fisherman's only daughter who Opel's mother said had been spoiled rotten. Opel didn't remember her, either. A roomy living room with a working fireplace that had seen very little use especially lately but would be nice if the weather ever took a turn for colder like it had last winter. There was even a couple of wooden benches and chairs. And a window to let in the breeze. The dirt floors were now covered over with boards that her father had been saving for a rainy day.


The kitchen had a built in hearth with an oven in the mantle. Inside the fire box was enough room for a large pot to be swung in on the solid metal hook. Two large shelves for the dishes. Another window. The fisherman had left a good sized table and a few chairs. Opel's husband had found a couple more that had been abandoned by people leaving town to join the Last Battle. That still bothered him some but he was getting better. His love for his family was winning that war. He also brought home a couple of stools so the kids could help with dishes. Opel couldn't wish for more if she tried.


They had found this place entirely by accident. Or, perhaps by Will of the Pattern. Yes. That was more likely. Anyway, they had been on their way to the market one morning when Opel's mother said right out of the blue "I wonder what ever happened to Old Jess the fisherman's place?". Since it was only a street over from where they were walking anyway, they checked it out. Mistress May who lives next door told them that "that crazy old coot just up and left! Told me I could have his place. Sell it for what I want. That's what he said.". She asked a fair price and Opel paid it.


Now, here she was standing in her very own back yard still not believing that all of this was happening. Part of her expected to wake up from some silly dream. If she woke up and her husband was still gone then it would be a nightmare. She still couldn't cry. But, at least she was beginning to believe that maybe that day would return soon. And maybe her dreams really were coming true.

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Yup. Sighting that raven was the best thing that could have ever happened. Pure good luck. Rycke just couldn't believe how everything had turned out so wonderful. After all of these years of being Daeve's partner he was finally the boss. He had never dared to dream of owning his own wagon because his life had revolved around Daeve and HIS wagon. Now, because of one simple raven sighting, here he was perched on the seat of HIS wagon. "Pattern be praised.", he thought.


Rycke felt a little bit ashamed that he was feeling so good about his own situation and not really feeling sorry for his old friend. After all. They had shared countless nights in all kinds of terrain and weather. How many days had they had only each other for companionship? How many meals had they prepared for each other? Rycke was sure that if he concentrated really hard that he could remember how many years the two of them had been in business together but what would be the point? That was the past. Mostly fond memories. That was then and today is now. He nodded.


Poor Daeve. He really did believe that the sighting had been for him. Rycke had not wanted to spoil his excitement by letting him know that he had seen the omen long before Daeve had. The omen belonged to him, not Daeve. Now, here Rycke was atop a fine barely used wagon that they had purchased new when they arrived here and poor old Daeve was probably still wandering the streets of that flea speck of a village trying to find an apparition that did not exist. Sure, he had the lion's share of their savings but Rycke had the wagon. Poor, poor Daeve.


Then there was Ty. His full name was Tymathee but Ty was easier and sounded more like a wagon partner's name. It was surely the work of the Pattern that Rycke had been blessed with Ty. Young. Energetic. Strong as an ox yet gentle. Caring. Beautiful. With that cute little sprig of whiskers that he left in the shape of a triangle pointing down from his bottom lip. He liked Rycke and Rycke liked him. It wasn't quite love. Not so soon. But Rycke had no doubt in his mind that within a year or so the two of them would be far more than business partners. He could tell that Ty was having similar feelings. "Pattern be praised.", he thought again. He glanced at Ty and smiled.


It was Ty's turn to drive while Rycke sat guard. Riding guard could get boring on the most interesting day. A sore rump sometimes gave a guard something to concentrate on. Watching the passing scenery. Keeping a sharp eye out for possible bandits. Whittling. Honing a knife. Rycke had a favorite stone that he kept in his pocket. Over the years he had rubbed that stone perfectly smooth until it gleamed in the sunlight just by rubbing it between his thumb and fingers for countless hours while riding guard. If he really tried hard he could probably remember where he had gotten that stone but why? That was then and now was now.


Even with the time spent in Cross Village hunting for Daeve's "future wife" and the out of the way path that the raven had sent them down Rycke and Ty were almost back on schedule. After Rycke had explained to Ty that they could make up the time by getting an earlier start and driving longer into the evening they had agreed to do just that. Ty was anxious to see Tanchico. He had never been to a major city. Rycke assured him that he wasn't missing anything. Out here in the wilderness was better. But Ty still wanted to get there as soon as possible. So, push they did.


It reminded Rycke of the time that he had been milking his mother's cow when the old cat wandered up under the cow's belly and the cow missed kicking the cat and instead caught him squarely in the Adam's apple. That had immediately taken his breath away. Just like now. Rycke had just now felt that cow's hoof even though there wasn't any cow riding with him. Instinctively he reach up toward the sudden pain and found a small arrow protruding from both sides of his neck. That seemed strange. Why would there be an arrow in his neck? :blink:


For reasons unknown it took a few seconds for the reality of the situation to sink in. Maybe he was in denial. He had seen nothing even with his keen eye. The arrow had to be real because it was hurting but where had it come from? He looked toward Ty even though it made his neck hurt and found his answer. A figure covered with clothes that faded into the background with the exception of a black veil was removing the tip of a short spear from Ty's neck. The figure seemed to be deciding whether another stab was required or not. Rycke tried to scream but couldn't. He knew that even if he could move enough to retaliate that it was too late to save Ty.


"So called Aiel.", he thought. He had heard that some of them had come out from the Waste but why would one be over here on the Shadow Coast? And what were the odds against one of them deciding to steal HIS wagon? Somehow, this all just had to be the work of the Pattern. As Rycke gave up and slumped over to lean against Ty's dead body he decided that maybe that blasted raven really HAD been Daeve's after all.

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OOC: in case you missed it, there is an extra "Friday" post this week (see above). Daeve should have sliced up the mouse. :biggrin:




"What are your plans for me? And how are you able to use the adam? I thought that only WOMEN could use those dastardly devices.". Rosie was obviously upset. This amount of emotion did not hold with Rourke's impression of her. She really didn't like the adam or the fact that he could control her with it. She had also deduced that the adam was a part of his plan for her. She had a fine mind, indeed. He purposely let her stew for a few moments before answering.


"I plan to use the adam to keep you under control.". He could have told her that the cost of an apple was two coppers. No emotion. Just a simple fact. Nothing out of the ordinary. He knew different as well as she. He might as well have poked her in the ribs with a stick and she knew that he had done it on purpose. She was NOT pleased. Nor did she appreciate his humor. His answer was so obvious that it was wasted breath. Rourke was only slightly embarrassed because he actually had been attempting humor which he rarely did for the simple reason that he was not very good at it. He smiled an apologetic smile.


"Please, forgive me.", he offered. "That was not appropriate of me. I understand that wearing the adam is not funny. In the future, I will try to avoid a similar blunder.". He waited for some sign that his rare apology had been accepted. Rosie's eyes told him that she knew how seldom he apologized for ANYTHING and her nod said that it was accepted in the spirit that it was given. "Let me begin again.".


"If all goes well, and if the Pattern so pleases, one day soon I will be Emperor.". Rourke did not bother saying anything about "may the Empress live forever" because the only way that he could get to be Emperor would be for the Empress to be dead. Even though it was the constant goal of every High Lord and High Lady to achieve top leadership, mentioning that goal out loud was cause enough for instant beheading if the wrong ears caught wind of it. Even an accusation by a damane could be damning. The dice were tossed. Rosie's reaction would tell how they fell.


The initial shock disappeared quickly from Rosie's eyes. She was a seasoned veteran. Hard as stone when necessary. Cautious. Cunning. Yes. Rourke had chosen the perfect ally. Being able to control her use of the One Power was his ace in the hole. He could see her figuring it all out. His plan was unraveling in her mind. She was able to see it working even though he had not disclosed it to her. She could easily be considered brilliant. Either that or she was going to be sick. Her face went pale. She started to sway. Before she could hit the floor Rourke caught her. When she was able to, she spoke.


"You will use me to get what you want then I will be discarded just like you plan to do with your Truth Teller. I will experience a small amount of freedom as long as I am valuable to you. When you have no more use for me I will be... disposed of.". She shuddered once then steeled herself and thrust herself upright defiantly.


Rourke felt something that he had not felt in a very many years. Over the course of earning the position that he now enjoyed he had learned to ignore emotion. He pretended to use it when he had to for personal gain but other than that emotion was a negative trait to be avoided at all cost. It could lead to becoming soft and incapable of making hard decisions. One did not get to be High Lord by riding the waves of the emotion ocean. But, for this brief instant for a reason that he could not explain he felt himself softening just a smidgen.


"That WAS my initial plan. I am presently reconsidering in favor of... other options.". He dare not say more. She was DAMANE! Even if she wasn't, she had NOTHING to offer him! She had no title or property or land holdings. She was not the leader of any recognized enemy who could offer him greatness through an alliance. She had no wealth. She was nothing more than a plain, insignificant, damane. And he had nearly offered her the position as Empress if his plans succeeded!!! He clapped his hands for a servant. It was time for some Two Rivers tabac and a nice hot cup of kaf!!!








The last tone sounded on the clock in the common room at Kelsey's and Daeve couldn't help letting out a huge sigh of relief. Ever since that blasted mouse had entered his bed chamber he had been concerned that his future bride would die today. Now, today was over and she was sitting at a table across the room rubbing her tired toes. Daeve smiled. Then the thought hit him that if she was OK then someone else that he cared about was dead. He had not, after all, taken the time necessary to ward off that evil. Without knowing WHO it was exactly, he thought a silent prayer wishing their soul a safe journey home and a pleasant rebirth. There was nothing else that he could do.


Even with that unpleasant thought still in mind he realized that today had been rather pleasant in spite of his worry. He and Kerrie had walked to the market which gave them about a half hour each way to chat. She got him a very good rate of exchange for his gold piece. They shared some fruit on the walk back to Kelsey's. He had even gotten so bold as to ask her if there was a particular house that she had hoped to someday raise her family in. They took a detour to see an old fisherman's cottage with a nice big oak tree for shade and a storage shed that looked sturdy. It even had a nice new outhouse and a freshly strung laundry line. Kerrie sadly told him that she had heard that someone had already bought the place but that there were plenty of others available with all of the crazy people chasing off to follow the Dragon Reborn. That had given him some idea of her taste so he would have a better idea of what to look for.


She should have been a singer. Her voice was like music to his ears. Some women had that awful, screeching tone when they talked. Others spoke as if they held a chip on their shoulder that they just dared you knock it off. Not Kerrie. She was polite and friendly. Probably from all of those years waiting tables. She spoke softly yet knowledgeably. Daeve really had regretted it when they finally got back to Kelsey's and she had to get back to work.


It had been a VERY long day after that. He didn't want to let her out of his sight for fear that something would happen to her. He didn't want to keep ordering ale as a reason to watch over her for several reasons. Ale cost money. Ale could get a man drunk. Ale made a man pee and while he was gone doing that something bad could happen to her. She could die while he was getting rid of ale. The same could be said for ordering food, except for getting drunk of course.


So, he sat. He asked for a book then pretended to read it while watching over the top of it to see that she was safe. He introduced himself to a wagon driver who was sitting with his back to where Kerrie was working then asked if he could join him. After an hour or so of trading jokes and traveler's tales the driver finished his meal and returned to his wagon. Daeve was ashamed that he had chased off one of Master Greggory's paying patrons. But, Kerrie was OK. He watched the musicians and the dancing customers until that blessed clock finally chimed the end of the day.


Since it was well beyond his normal retirement time he left a tip on his table then made his way up to his room. After he had his clothes off he resolved to purchase some proper night clothes. If he was going to be civilized he might as well dress the part. He made his way to the wash basin to clean up for the night and there it was. Bloated from eating most of his cake of soap and floating face down. That rascal of a rodent had drowned in his washing dish. He knew that that would not be the same as if he had killed it and sliced it up himself, but he still hoped that perhaps at least this meant that whoever died would not have suffered too much in the process.

Edited by GrandpaG
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"Well,", Ellen Sedai began then hesitated before continuing, "that is not entirely correct." Jolly Jonnie could tell that he had a puzzled look on his face. Ellen Sedai motioned for him to have a seat in a nearby chair and she pulled up one for herself. "You remember that I am unable to tell you a lie, correct?". Jonnie nodded. "Even though I have never actually lied to you there was one instance where I... bent... the truth... somewhat.". She blushed and lowered her eyes as if waiting for a reply. Jonnie told her to go on. She sighed then continued.


"Do you remember the year that you were just beginning to really enjoy yourself during the Celebration of the Low Tide? The year that you woke the next morning needing my Healing for your sore head from too much wine? And I took a year sabbatical shortly after that?". Jonnie nodded and she continued. "Do you remember that when I returned I brought with me the infant child Lonnie?". He nodded again. She blushed again. "I ...implied ...that the child was an orphan. He was not. I am his mother. You are his father.". By the time she finished she was almost breathless. Jonnie nearly fainted.


"WHAT!!!", he shouted as he jumped from his chair. He considered calling her a liar but caught himself. Besides being totally impossible, it was NEVER a good idea to treat an Aes Sedai that way. She could have decided there and then to deny him the Healing that he would be needing in the near future. Herbs just would not be the same, he was sure. In stead, he walked over to the rail. He still wasn't sure that he would not pass out or be sick. He stood there watching the waves slamming against the side of the ship wishing that he something left in his stomach that he could throw up. His headache was worse. He went back and sat back down.


Ellen Sedai placed her hands on his shoulders. Without asking she used her Healing on him. He recognized the feeling. It wasn't as intense as past treatments but it did make him feel better almost immediately. Even though he was grateful he gave her an evil look. "Please ask me before you do that.". Her face showed that his words had hurt her feelings. Jonnie felt terrible. "I'm sorry.", he muttered. She nodded then vowed that she would ask first in the future. They both smiled.


"So.", Jonnie began after a long awkward silence, "tell me. How did this happen? And how did you keep it secret so long? Why?". She must not have anticipated these questions because it took her some time to answer.


"How did it happen?", she almost whispered. "You were so young and strong. And beautiful. Full of fun. I had no business getting involved with you. But, we were both enjoying the wine far too much that night. I lost my self control and took advantage of your condition. You don't remember that night on the beach but I will never forget it. Nor will I regret it. My best dreams are those when I remember us being together on the sand. Caressing each other. Enjoying the company. Kissing and talking. It was foolish wine talk, yes, but it was so pure and uninhibited. In the end you passed out and I was with child.". She smiled a contented smile.


"Secret? The only secret that I kept was about who the child's parents were. If you remember correctly I asked if you could raise him as your Ward. He has been your son in every way except for your acknowledgment. He has lived under your roof. Eaten your food. Received the same training that your heir would have otherwise. He even enjoys your love. Do you deny any of that?" Jonnie shook his head "No.". "Had I told you when I returned that Lonnie was your son then things could have been far more complicated and harder to explain to your subjects. They might have even insisted upon having you replaced. For your sake and the sake of our son I chose the path that we have followed for these many years. Until now, it has not been necessary to tell you the rest of the story.".


Jonnie smiled and sighed. Once more he remembered why he felt so much love for this woman. And, as of today, he has a son! An heir! He had always loved Lonnie like a son and now he WAS his son! Down the road it might be tricky getting his subjects to accept all of this along with the fact that he was in love with an Aes Sedai. But, the Pattern willing, somehow it would all work out just fine.








Boris was snoring. Not loud nor obnoxious. Soft. Intermittent. Shallow. It was a cute kind of snore. Kerrie loved to watch him sleep. She could hardly wait until the day came that they didn't have to hide their feelings and she could watch him sleeping in their very own bed every night. There had to be a way. Somehow.


The chest. That awful, bloody chest! It didn't belong to her and she had to find some way to stop thinking about it! There had to be another way of getting the money that they needed. Maybe she and Boris could find other work to supplement what they were earning now. He could spend a little of their nest egg to buy a boat. With so many of the fishermen leaving Cross Village to follow the Dragon Reborn there were plenty of fish to be taken and Boris was strong enough to handle the task. Maybe she could take in some laundry for extra money. She could do it during her breaks. Master Greggory wouldn't mind as long as she got his work done. Laundry and fish. That should help some. The chest would be quicker.


Kerrie reached over and slapped Boris on the chest with the palm of her hand. It made a loud CRACK and she realized that she had swung harder than she meant to. Oh, well. What's done is done. Boris sprang upright and grabbed where he had been swatted. "What did I do?", he asked with a puzzled look on his face. Kerrie just frowned and said "you were snoring and we need to talk.". She jerked the sheet off from him and wrapped it around herself then got up. She walked to where she had piled her clothes then proceeded to put them on after tossing the sheet back to Boris. Boris went to his pile to get dressed.


"So.", he grunted, "What's so all fired important? I was sleeping really good! I've had a couple of hard days and needed some decent rest!". He was frowning. He sure was grumpy when he first woke up. She would cure him of that some day. But for now there was more important stuff to work on. "We need to find a way to make more money. How will we ever get to be together if we can't afford a decent place to call our own? If we are ever going to have a family then we will need a house and yard big enough for us and the children. I don't earn enough to buy what we need and neither do you. What are we going to do?".


Boris had that "you woke me up for THIS?" look on his face. Kerrie hated that look. How dare he? This was IMPORTANT! And all that HE could think about was SLEEPING!!! Men!!! "You can't live with them but you dare not stab them", as the old saying from Ebou Dar went. Overall, Boris was just right as men went. But, at times like this, he could be almost as bad as any of the rest of them! "EEERRRRRRRrrr!!!", Kerrie exclaimed as she headed for the door. Boris finished pulling on his shirt then shrugged and followed her.

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OOC: I might be busy Sunday with family stuff and I've been wanting to sneak in this post so here is a special Friday edition! ENJOY!




Yohon kicked back in Karlee's chair and put his feet up on the foot stool. It had to be safe by now. Surely they had made it to Cross Village or beyond. Unless they had decided to abandon this foolishness and had turned back for home. That thought gave him a quick stab of panic that caused him to pop out of the chair and rush to the window. He saw no traveling carriage. No line of servants. Just an empty courtyard. He sighed a big sigh of relief and went back to get comfortable again.


Karlee must have forgotten his bag of Two Rivers leaf because it was still on the table beside the chair. Yohon looked around. There would be no harm in "borrowing" a load for his own pipe. Why should he waste his own tabac when there was a full pouch just sitting there waiting for him? If Karlee was gone for more than a few weeks the stuff would go stale, anyway. He probably wouldn't even remember that he had left it behind. Why would anyone of Karlee's means care about one small pouch of tabac? Yohon packed his pipe full and tamped it tight. He had it lit and was puffing contentedly when Susie-Q came in carrying a tray with tea and two cups.


"YOU NEARLY SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF ME!!!", Yohon scolded her. "You need to announce yourself before you come sneaking in like that!". He was a little calmer now. And he was a little ashamed for his over reaction. He smiled a friendly smile and motioned for Su to take Irene's chair. He moved the tabac pouch so she could sit the tray down. Su looked around timidly before complying. She was still not convinced that they would not get into trouble for using the master's facilities. "Calm down. There is nobody to catch us. As long as you keep your gossiping mouth shut, none will be the wiser and no harm will be done.". Yohon scowled at her for emphasis. When he was sure his message had been understood he replaced the scowl with the previous friendly smile. After all. He did want this encounter to be... "friendly".


"Did you order the cakes?", he asked Su in a friendly tone. There was no reason to be businesslike with her. The two of them had been "seeing each other" in secret for some time now. "And the rice pudding? You know how I adore rice pudding.". She hated rice pudding but he loved it. A funny thing, rice pudding. Most people either loved it or hated it. Sort of like ale.


"Yes. I did.", she replied with her eyes cast downward shamefully. "I still don't like it. Spending the master's money on frivolous treats for yourself. You don't get enough to share with everyone. Word will get back to the master when he returns. He will not be pleased.".


Yohon slammed his fist on the table and nearly spilled the tea. "I TOLD YOU!!! We will NOT get into ANY trouble!!! I alone keep the books! For years I have managed to... "procure"... an... "allowance"... for myself without anyone catching on. When the master returns he will find every "T" crossed and every "I" dotted... by ME... and he will NEVER know that a single copper was spent for ANYTHING other than "necessities"! Yohon could feel the vein in his forehead bulging just as it always did when he was really upset. So much for a nice relaxing "friendly" cup of tea. "GET OUT OF HERE!!! NOW!!!". He pointed to the door. Susie-Q made haste to leave.


It just wasn't right. Yohon kept the manor running smoothly even when the master was here. He took care of all of the details that the master "didn't have time for". Closer to the truth was to say the master dumped all of the "crap that he didn't want to mess with" onto Yohon to get done. And what did he get for his good service? A small pittance. Hardly worthy a common servant. So, if a few extra gold pieces were to find their way into Yohon's nest egg while the master was gone, then those should be labeled as a gratuity for a job well done. Yohon would not regret a single coin of it. And, if he could keep Su quiet, the master would never find out.








"That was just too easy", Dixie muttered to herself as she wiped the driver's blood from the tip of her spear. It took some doing but she managed to push his corpse and that of his "guard" (she used the word loosely...he had not been a very good guard) out of the wagon onto the side of the trail that they had been traveling. For a moment she considered retrieving her arrow but decided that twigs were plentiful in these wetlands and that she would have plenty of time for making more arrows.


Actually, she had far too much time on her hands. Rosanne, her spear sister, had contacted some strange coughing disease and had died a few weeks ago. Before that the two of them had been having a wonderful time. There were so many soft, defenseless, easy picks living here. They didn't care about water. They had no guards on their goats or cattle. A single family stayed on their "farm" in the middle of nowhere with no clan to protect them. Yes. Rosanne and Dixie had found this place fun indeed. Now, Dixie had to find her own fun.


Getting the horses to move was not difficult. She had watched the driver from a distance. She grabbed the long leather strips and gave the horses a slap on the rump with them. She couldn't remember the whistling sound that he had made but apparently that didn't matter. The wagon lurched forward. Straight for a tree. Dixie didn't know what to do to get the creatures to stop or to turn. She tried screaming and shouting. Slapping the leather again only made the beasts go faster. Straight for that bloody tree! She was considering jumping off when she accidentally fell backward and pulled hard on the leather strips. The horses stopped and so did the wagon. Dixie tumbled over wood at the front of the wagon and slammed her head into the horse on her left. She bounced between the two and landed straddling the heavy wooden beam that ran from the wagon to the front of the horses.


"OOOOOOOoooooo. That HURT!!!", she moaned. She considered pulling her veil to kill the horses where they stood but that would be such a waste of good meat... she decided to keep them alive for a while. When she could move again she made her way into the wagon to see what her fifth would be. It seemed that she had stumbled upon some sort of supply wagon. Probably for those bloody SAN-CHAIN or the likes. Large heavy boxes. She took the lids off from several before she finally decided that there was nothing worth keeping. There was one small chest that had some clothes in a small amount of gold coins. She took her fifth then closed the chest.


"Why only a fifth?", she asked herself. "You are no longer Aiel. You will never see your home again. Your clan is scattered. Rosanne is dead. There is no way that you can ever live by Ji or Toh again. It is all yours. You should take it all.". She glanced toward the chest then jumped down from the wagon and slipped away into the nearby underbrush.

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OOC: EXTRA post above. ENJOY!




East Town it was. The choice had been easy. The tide was dropping and there was no appropriate vessel in West Town. The only suitable conveyance was a medium sized Sea Folk ship that was anchored just off shore near East Town. The row boat ride for he and Irene had been rough but tolerable. She even squealed when one of the waves splashed over the bow and got her wet. Karlee had gotten a good laugh and a sour look out of that. Then Irene shook the water out of her hair and chuckled herself. Her smile was so lovely.


The crew quickly scampered up the rope ladder hanging over the side of the ship and disappeared on deck. Karlee offered to follow Irene up the ladder but for some reason she insisted that he go first. He shrugged and climbed. At least she didn't refuse his offered hand to help her up the last little bit. He had offered to come out here by himself but she had insisted that he wouldn't own his own scalp if he tried to bargain with these people. He had agreed to let her do the talking. There were some things that she was simply better at than he.


It had always stricken Karlee as being odd that the Sea Folk WOMEN were in charge of their ships. And they referred to their vessels as HE instead of SHE as the mainland sailors did. Not that it really made THAT much difference. As long as the rules were understood and adhered to it really didn't matter who was in charge or what the ships were called. It just seemed strange, that's all. A matter of what you are used to. With that thought fresh in his mind he bowed and remained silent as Irene took charge.


"We request permission to come aboard, the Light be willing. We have a desire to discuss a Gift of Passage.", she recited. The crew had given specific instructions before they left the dock. They had also told what the reply would be and how they should respond. "May the Light be with you and your crew. May we all prosper today.", Irene responded as she was supposed to. The Captain motioned toward a door leading to a ladder going down. Karlee followed Irene down the steep stairs and kept quiet. The Captain and her party followed like jailers escorting prisoners. The man kept one hand on his sword as if to ensure that it was there if he needed it. Karlee tried very hard to look anything but threatening.


When everyone was seated at the bargaining table the discussion began. Karlee was VERY happy that he had yielded to Irene. She saw through and avoided several traps that Karlee would have waded straight in to. She seemed to ignore the man with the sword. Karlee could not help noticing that he had unsheathed it and was sharpening it with a wet stone very deliberately while staring with an evil eye at Karlee. In the end Irene seemed satisfied with the price. She spat into the palm of her hand and offered it to the Captain. The Captain looked to the man with the sword who nodded approval. The Captain spat in her own palm then sealed the deal. Both women stood and hugged while smiling at each other.


"You bargain well.", the Captain commented to Irene.


"As do you.", Irene replied.


"My crew will signal the boats ashore to begin shuttling your party. We should be ready to leave within the hour. We should reach Dar in about a week if the winds are in our favor.", the Captain stated calmly.


"DAR!!!", Karlee shouted. "A WEEK!!!", he nearly spat as he turned to cast his ire onto Irene. "You gave away nearly half of our entire fund to ride a ship to where we could have traveled by carriage in a day or two more? What kind of bargain was THAT? What kind of ADVENTURE is that?


Irene calmly returned his glare. "Are you quite finished?", she asked in a tone that Karlee had never heard before. Except maybe from his mother when he was still quite young. He hadn't liked it then and he was not much more comfortable now. He had a feeling that he was about to discover that he had really stuck his foot in it this time. "The Captain did NOT say Ebou Dar. The Seanchan control that port. The Sea Folk do not get along well with the Seanchan for their own reasons. Dar is in the middle of nowhere toward the Isle of Madmen. You could have avoided this embarrassment had you paid closer attention to your lessons.". Irene was calm. Karlee was REALLY not calm. He tried to undo his blunder.


"Please. Excuse my ignorance. I...", he could tell that his face was beet red, "I... apologize... for my behavior and for my mistrust of your competence, Irene. I also apologize to you, Captain, for allowing my temper to run so rampant in your presence.". He lowered his eyes then closed them with his head hanging down. The Captain slapped him on his left cheek so hard that his teeth chattered.


"You are forgiven.", she said. "DON'T let it happen again!!!".




OOC: there is more information about Dar in the "UP THERE" post.








Opel sensed blackness in all directions except for the multitude of small specks of light floating all around her. She likened it to a clear summer night sky filled with stars. Only these stars didn't twinkle. They glowed. Sort of. They seemed to get brighter then dimmer. Slowly. Like a pulse. Brighter. Dimmer. Brighter. Dimmer. But not in a steady pattern. And no two changed at the same time. Some would get larger, too. This place was strangely familiar like she had been there before yet she was sure that if she had been here that she really did not remember it.


It was kind of like floating on the water. Only she couldn't feel the waves. Or her body. She knew that she existed but that didn't seem real. Her body didn't matter. She didn't need it. It was a restriction to her. This was freedom. This was better. She imagined herself smiling with her nonexistent face. Calm. Peace. Contentment. Relaxed. Care free. Yes. If she had a face, she would be smiling.


Some of the glowing balls seemed... familiar... somehow. Like she should recognize them. But, she couldn't. She tried. That feeling was strong with some of them and barely recognizable with others. She floated past some that gave no feeling whatsoever. A couple of them made her nervous. Scared. She tried to get away from them but they followed her. They wanted to consume her! She HAD to get away from them!!! NOW!!! They were gone. She was drifting peacefully again. The memory of them faded to nothingness.


One caused her to become curious. There was no familiarity. She didn't recognize it. She sensed nothing to be afraid of. It wasn't special compared to any of the thousands of others that she felt she could reach out and touch. It was the same as all of the rest yet somehow different. That different feeling called to her. She had to get closer to it. Closer. Her hand that did not exist could reach out and touch it she was sure. She used the eyes that she did not have to look closer. The ball of light grew bigger. Bigger. BIGGER. She could see INSIDE the glow. She WAS inside the glow!


This place inside the glow just could not be real. It could not possibly exist. Hundreds of people wearing all manner of strange clothes as colorful as Tinkers and as plain and colorless as a Carheinen were all gathered around the front of a HUGE building with windows as tall as doors. They were mumbling in a continuous hum of some strange language. Through some sort of magic Opel began to understand what they were saying. Much of their talk was gibberish and some of it was often profane. Even though she understood the words, the meaning was lost. Many of them made reference to some day of ritual called "Black Friday". Overall, Opel wished that she still did not understand what they were saying.


A man in a uniform came to the tall windows and the crowd pressed toward him. Perhaps he had their food? The man pulled the windows toward him and they opened just like two huge glass doors. He jumped behind one of the glass doors just as the people burst through the opening that he had created. Opel was swept along with the flood of people around her like a twig on a rushing river. If she had not have followed the crowd she was sure she would have been trampled just like her cousin Kan who had fallen into the sheep pen at her uncle's farm. She did NOT want that to happen so she went with the flow.


Once they were past the man holding the glass doors the people sprinted off in all directions. Shouts and screams could be heard from every place that the people disappeared to. Perhaps there were wild beasts waiting to eat them? A loud, thunderous voice came from nowhere telling the crowd of "special deals" in this department or that. All of it made about as much sense as the profanity. Opel just knew that it could not be real.


The ceilings glowed. There were no candles or torches yet the room was full of light. Strange long thin round light sticks shown brightly overhead. It was hard to look directly at any one of them even with her nonexistent eyes. Together, they made it easy to see even though it was still dark outside. The floors were polished smooth but they appeared to be made of some kind of stone. Opel had heard the traveler's tales about the floors in the Stone of Tear. Maybe THAT was where she was at? No. Commoners were not allowed in there.


With a blink of her imaginary eye she was standing in a line. There were several people in front of her and as many behind. They all seemed to be waiting impatiently for their turn at whatever awaited them at the head of the line. Most of them pushed strange baskets on wheels in front of them. Opel felt of the basket behind her. It was VERY hard. Strong. A skilled blacksmith must have taken months to create each basket. No. This place could not be real. The lady behind her told Opel that she should get out of line if she was not going to buy anything. Opel had nothing to buy. If she did need anything she had no copper. Here, she would probably need SILVER! Or GOLD!!! Her invisible body shivered at the thought.


Opel got out of line and thought that she needed to pee. She found a vacant corner and squatted. She was hardly finished when two men in the uniforms each grabbed an imaginary arm and threw her out the glass doors into the street. She guessed that people here only peed in the street. She shrugged. Then she heard a blood curdling scream.


Opel sat up in her own bed in her own home. Her husband was sitting with his elbows on his knees and his palms on his eyes. He was sobbing and rocking back and forth. "They never had a chance! They just didn't have a chance!!!", he moaned. Opel reached around his shoulders and pulled him to her. "Trollocs. Everywhere. Came from nowhere. Thousands of them. My friends were overwhelmed. They didn't stand a chance.", he sobbed. Opel whispered words of reassurance to him that it was just a dream and that it wasn't real. She couldn't help feeling that her dream had been worse than his.

Edited by GrandpaG
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