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An Echo of a Windfinder’s Call (attn. Carys Sedai)


Elessar
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An Echo of a Windfinder's Call (attn. Carys Sedai)

A Bond of Hope - Part 3

 

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It was in late afternoon, under a gorgeous sapphire-blue sky and with the sun sending golden rays down upon the travellers, that Carys Aes Sedai and Elessar Gaidin of the White Tower passed the border into Andor. A tender breeze coming out of the south-east touched their travelling cloaks and blew softly in their faces, as they rode at a canter down the forest road in the direction of Caemlyn.

 

Their destination was Toman Head and the city of Falme in the far west - and they had a long way to go.

 

 

It was almost five months since they had returned to Tar Valon from their eventful journey to Cairhien and Ebou Dar. Five more months to get adjusted to their Bond. Neither of them had, perhaps, expected that they would head out on the road again so soon, but as all his bondholders had been fond of quoting: The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.

 

They had decided to travel south-westwards to Caemlyn and then to head straight across Andor to Whitebridge. By this route they would avoid the Caralain Grass, an extensive area of plains a little farther north - once part of several ancient kingdoms of the past - that was largely unsettled and harder to travel through. From Whitebridge the plan was to head towards Baerlon in far western Andor and then across the mountains to Katar near Almoth Plain. It was a very long journey and they would make many stops on the way. The first of these was to be a little farther into Andor this day, where they would make camp in the woods before continuing towards the Andoran Capital the following morning.

 

 

Looking across at Carys who rode a touch behind off to his left, Elessar smiled inside. Truth be told, he was glad to be on the road again. After their long ‘adventure’ in the south he had been happy to be back in Tar Valon. As had Carys, he believed. However, as weeks had turned into months in the White Tower the Warder had gradually felt an increasing restlessness and so he had been more than happy when one day, not long ago, Carys had told him of her travelling plans. And here they were, once again journeying together, companions on the road.

 

Shifting his gaze back to the forest road ahead, Elessar considered their Bond. In some ways he felt he knew his bondholder better now after all this time, but at the same time he felt there were some things he would never understand about his Aes Sedai. It had been the same with Leandreen and Carrain. They had raised an eyebrow at him when he had mentioned it in passing. Carys would probably do the same. What was important though was that their Bond had saved him. He was certain of it. It had given him a new beginning, a new purpose and an opportunity to right his wrongs. To succeed again. To regain his honour.

 

To forgive himself for his failures.

 

 

He was walking a new path and the warmth of the sun brushed his shoulders.

 

A knowing smile came upon his lips for a moment.

 

A certainty deep inside.

 

Their Bond was one of Hope and he embraced it to fill his Soul with Light.

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

The color white was everywhere: the floor shone despite hundreds of people walking across it daily, the walls sparkled, tiny flames dancing in them as they reflected the torches on the wall, even young girls wore the color – their dress stark with no detail, save a few with a banded hem. It was funny how she’d never noticed how …oppressive the color could be. She quite literally breathed a sigh of relief when she entered the Ajah wing. Yellow in various shades covered the walls and floors of the hallway, breathing life back into her. Light hues curled amongst dark muted colors to lend an almost dancing state to the walls.

 

Tucking a strand of golden hair behind her ear, Carys entered her apartments striding directly toward the large room on the right. Her apartments…and his now. She’d left the Tower alone, but come back with a Warder. Though no Sister had approached her, she knew that it had been the height of momentary gossip. The petite Yellow had had a reputation as a loner. She threw the scarf she was wearing down onto the bed and almost laughed; she’d thought of herself as a loner too. Never needing anyone close as long as there was someone to save. Oh how my opinion has changed. She thought with a small smile, her attention turning momentarily to the bundle of emotions at the back of her mind. She felt strength, determination, and a hint of enjoyment that he would never admit. He must be practicing out at the Yards.

 

It had been over five months since she’d Bonded the Warder. In many ways it felt brand new, which she supposed, in comparison to some older Sisters and Warders it might be. In many, however, it felt as if they’d known each other for ages – the events of Cairhein and Ebou Dar creating a stronger connection than would normally be possible for a pair of people who had only had five months. It was both a surprise and not a surprise when she learned something new about her Gaidin.

 

Shaking her head, Carys turned her attention back to the task at hand. An empty suitcase lay on her bed, the top open. A flutter of nervous excitement fluttered through her stomach as she stepped up to the wardrobe and began drawing out dresses and undergarments. Though the Infirmary was once all she needed, the Yellow had realized that Cairhein had left her craving adventure. The White Tower would always be home, but she couldn’t stay cooped up any longer. That’s why she’d immediately agreed when Camigwen had ordered her to Falme. She was to teach and observe the Sea Folk, sending missives back when she could. It had been an intriguing offer, large wooden boats dancing on the waves in her mind – not that she would have been able to refuse the First Weaver. It was as close to an order as Camigwen had ever given her. The woman had almost seemed sorry for her as Carys had accepted, the lines around her eyes softening for a moment before they snapped back to Aes Sedai serenity. A dress snagged on the latch for her case and she deftly untangled it, tucking the soft material into the case and snapping it closed. Curious. I hadn’t noticed that earlier.

 

The next morning found Carys once again atop her gray mare and Elessar on his black stallion, as they set out for Toman Head. The scenery was familiar at first, the city of Tar Valon bustling around them, rolling farms of Andor stretched out around. The Aes Sedai patted her mare’s neck, Gray she’d decided to call her, and felt the placid peace of the journey spread through her. The earlier nervousness and apprehension was gone; for now it was just her, her horse and her Warder.

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.. The Compact of the Ten Nations ..

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Darkness spread across the forested area called the Braem Wood in Eastern Andor as Elessar Gaidin and Carys Aes Sedai prepared to make camp for the night.

 

Leading their two horses, Gray and Stormbreaker, into the woods the Warder tethered them to a tree and gave them a brush and an affectionate pat on the back before returning to the centre of the camp-site where Carys was in the process of making a fire. He gave her a nod and placed their supplies within reach. Then he walked off to scout their surroundings, his Warder’s cloak shifting in the soft breeze coming out of the south. They had not perceived any danger, but with their last journey in mind Elessar found it only prudent.

 

This part of the Braem Wood was thick with trees of all kinds - vast, gnarled oaks with long limbs sweeping out amid dark firs and spruces - and the blackness filled the forest with silence. Walking softly through the dark terrain the Gaidin studied the sodden ground in front of him. At intervals he stopped to gaze into the distance - as far as was possible in the dark - and to listen. An owl hooted from afar, a ghostly silhouette shimmering in the night, breaking the silence. Elessar’s keenly watchful eyes swept in that direction, then back again. Nodding to himself he continued his inspection of the area, a shadow in among shadows.

 

 

Some time later he returned to the camp-site and joined his bondholder by the fire. He gave her a soft nod to indicate that he had seen nothing of import and sat down opposite her, accepting a piece of dried beef that she handed to him. Chewing on the meat in silence his eyes went to the flames of orange light that arose from the fire between them. The flames broke the darkness of the night, creating a refuge of warmth and light. It reminded him of many such camp-fires throughout his many years as a bonded Warder.

 

As he reached for a water-flask to quench his thirst, his eyes met his Sedai’s for a moment and his thoughts returned to the present. Drinking slowly from the flask, he then put it aside and looked back at Carys. He studied her face for a second or two before looking away. It was strange. In some ways it felt as if they’d known each other for ages - the events of Cairhien and Ebou Dar creating a stronger connection than would normally be possible for a pair of people who had only had five months. At the same time Carys was a mystery to him. As all his bondholders had been. As all women are, a teasing voice said in the back of his mind. It was a paradox. One of many.

 

After a while he spoke. Placing a twig carefully on the fire, he said: “I have heard many things about Falme, but have never been there myself.” Staring into the flames he paused for a moment. Then he went on. “The city was formerly known as Miereallen while a part of the nation of Safer during the Compact of the Ten Nations.”

 

The Compact.

 

Elessar recalled what he had read about it in history books:

 

 

.. Following the Breaking the threat of Darkfriends and the fear that Shadowspawn could once more pour forth from the The Blight led to a general feeling that an overarching organization was needed. The memories of the utopian Second Age were still fresh, but none would relinquish sovereignty..

 

..But then in 209 AB, ten nations came together to sign a mutual defence pact that would become the Compact of the Ten Nations. The ten nations who participated were: Aelgar, Almoren, Aramaelle, Aridhol, Coremanda, Eharon, Essenia, Jaramide, Manetheren, and Safer. Mabriam en Shereed of Amaraelle, who was also Aes Sedai, was the driving force behind this unification. As many of the Queens at the time were also Aes Sedai it is suspected that the White Tower played a significant role..

 

..For eight hundred years the Compact held, and society flourished in peace. Many great cities were constructed with the aid of Ogier stonemasons. The time before the Breaking was still relatively fresh in peoples’ minds and many hoped for a return to the glories of the past. Armies remained large, however, and military tactics were not forgotten..

 

..All hopes came crashing down when suddenly, around 1000 AB, huge armies of Trollocs, led by the Shadow’s channeling Dreadlords, struck south. It was the beginning of what was to be called the Trolloc Wars..

 

 

 

“Historians claim that the White Tower played a significant role in the unification of the nations in the Compact”, Elessar added contemplatively after a period of silence. “They say that the hand of Aes Sedai was everywhere..”

 

The fire crackled as if in response to his words and fiery red sparks flew into the air, momentarily piercing the enveloping darkness.

 

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Edited by Elessar
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The days seemed to go by quickly, blue skies turning rainbowed hued and then dark. The stars were merely tiny pinpricks of light against the massive black backdrop, but they were beautiful. Carys stretched out on her cloak, looking up at the stars. Elessar had offered to build a tent for her, but she'd passed, preferring the wide open sky after the stifling feel of the Tower. Besides, the weather was nothing. She'd learned that trick long ago and if she put her mind to it, she could recall how to set ignore the wind as it turned cool at night. It seemed of late it had been easier – like a task she'd practiced repeatedly as a child but hadn't used since then. That's exactly what it is, she mused to herself. I haven't needed to use it since I wore a banded dress. Has the world changed so since then, or is it me? Mayhap both, she decided, sitting up as her Warder reappeared.

 

They'd exchanged a few words and then retired to their respective sides of the fire for sleep. Their conversation flowed easily, as it did most often now. Odd how comforting having another person in your head could be. She propped her head up on her elbow and stared into the flames, letting the crackle of the fire lull her into drowsiness. She smiled as the flames licked the air and settled into the plush lining of her cloak. Half asleep, she heard Elessar poking at the fire and she smiled again.

 

 

That's how the first night had gone; the second was shaping up to be a repeat. So very different from the last trip, she thought to herself as she Embraced Saidar and flicked a lick of flame toward the logs. The kindling lit immediately, orange flames roaring up toward the rapidly darkening sky. Elessar returned from setting up the horses and nodded at her. Setting the supplies close to the two logs she'd slid over with Air, he walked off to check the perimeter. Carys rooted around in the bag for food and sat down on a log near the fire; the tall trees making the light disappear faster than expected. “Much faster and I'll have to create a light ball just to see beyond the flames,” she mumbled to herself, still content with the situation. When Elessar returned, the Aes Sedai handed him a piece of dried beef and watched as he moved to sit on the other side of the fire. They were Bonded and seemed to know each other so well in so many ways, but in others he was a mystery. Like sitting across the fire instead of on the other side of the log on which she sat. Smiling inwardly at the confusion, the Yellow merely pulled out her sketchbook and flipped through the day's drawings, the fire providing all the light she needed.

 

After a while Elessar spoke. Closing her book, Carys looked over the fire to her Warder. Placing a twig carefully in the flame, he said: “I have heard many things about Falme, but have never been there myself...The city was formerly known as Miereallen while a part of the nation of Safer during the Compact of the Ten Nations.” The Yellow nodded, recalling some of the history from her Accepted lessons. She knew not nearly as much as Brown, nor probably as much as Elessar, but she recalled some details of the city. Soon, though, her thoughts turned to the Sea Folk and what she could remember about the guarded people.

 

Most of what the White Tower knew was courtesy of the few Sea Folk Sisters. When it had come out that the Sea Folk could channel, channel well, and knew things the White Tower did not, it had caused quite an uproar in the Hall; in every Ajah. Carys only knew what Camigwen told her, but she could extrapolate from there. The stern First Weaver had been almost visibly upset at her request to Carys. She'd explained that it would not be an easy task and that she'd had almost no choice in the matter. Someone had to be sent and she'd proven her worth in Cairhein. The young Yellow had almost jumped at the chance, furthering the furrow in the First Weaver's brow. She'd drawn a deep breath and sent Carys on her way. Carys had headed straight for the Library, wanting to find out more about the culture. From the notes she'd taken at the Library, the Sea Folk were stubborn and contemptuous toward Aes Sedai. But she'd already agreed and so they went. At least Cam hadn't given her a deadline time for their arrival. Caemlyn was ...enough on the way and she was itching to see Celter again. To see how his position in the Palace was suiting him.

 

 

“Historians claim that the White Tower played a significant role in the unification of the nations in the Compact”, Elessar added into the silence. Carys nearly jumped with surprise; it had been at least an hour since they'd both stopped talking. “They say that the hand of Aes Sedai was everywhere..”

 

 

The fire crackled as if in response to his words and fiery red sparks flew into the air, momentarily piercing the enveloping darkness. She nodded, agreeing with the historian claims. “As Servants of All, the White Tower would have been heavily involved in such a Compact. It was a plan for protection and protect it did. No one could have predicted the War that followed; the astonishing amount of Trollocs that would pour out of the Blight.” Elessar spoke his assent and the conversation turned lighter as she made a joke about the Aes Sedai always being involved and he smiled. His smiles were rare, but beautiful. She said as much and laughed at his reaction. The fire popped happily in between them.

 

 

Yawning, Carys stood up and bid the Gaidin goodnight. It was just formality, as she was merely retiring to the other side of the log, but she did it all the same. The fire warmed her back as she spread out her cloak, staring out into the woods. It wasn't long before sleep took her, dulling the sound of the fire and forest until she was no longer listening.

 

 

They set out in the morning, working as a team to dissemble the campsite and ready the horses. Gray nudged her hand, looking for a treat and Carys obliged. Reaching into one of the saddlebags, she produced two small red apples. One for Gray and one for Elessar's warhorse. Holding out her hands – one to each side – she giggled as the whiskers tickled her palms. The horses made record work and the Yellow wiped her hands on her dress before mounting. Her Warder jogged out from behind some trees to mount his horse and lead the way.

 

 

The day was just like the previous days had been – sunny clear skies and pleasant. At one point, she noted to Elessar how much different this journey was than their previous journeys. She missed his reply, said as he began moving forward again to check the path, but she paid it no mind. She drew the sketchbook out again and set to drawing the Warder. Drawing people wasn't something that she did often. Ever, actually. Her eyes were much more trained to drawing animals. It was past midday before she looked up from her drawing. Not bad for the first attempt at drawing a person she thought, smudging some coal to create shading. Her eyes caught movement out of the corner and she her head to see her Warder staring at the drawing. She blushed for a moment before she assumed Aes Sedai serenity. Her fingers worked quickly to shut the book and tie the ribbon. "Oh look," she said, pointing forward, "town."

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  • 3 weeks later...

.. Honour to the ‘Soldier Amyrlin’ ..

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It was a pleasant new day with sunny clear skies. They left the campsite behind and headed southwards along the road that eventually led to Caemlyn. Elessar rode in front with Carys just behind and to the side. They spoke at times, their conversation easy and natural, and at other times the Warder rode ahead - and behind - to check the path. At one point Carys mentioned that this journey was so different to their previous one. Elessar mumbled a reply, before heading forwards to scout again. After their previous experiences he was far from certain that danger was a thing of the past, but he kept his thoughts to himself. And when later that day he spotted the drawing that she had made of him, they were equally flustered though Carys was quick to hide it. He looked at her from time to time from the corner of his eye as they rode through the forest but she was all Aes Sedai serenity again and it was difficult for him to know whether she noticed or not. As the hours went by his focus returned to the journey and mission at hand.

 

 

In late afternoon Elessar and Carys rode slowly into the small Andoran town in the Braem Wood. In truth it was more of a village and somewhat rugged looking at that. A sign by the road proclaimed its name and number of inhabitants but grime and dirt covered it to the extent that it was impossible to read what stood underneath. Elessar’s eyes took in the worn buildings as they rode by. At the centre of the village they found an inn. It too looked somewhat worn but it offered a bed and a warm meal and that was good enough for the travelling companions. A sign hanging above the entrance read “The Braem Grove” and it moved back and forth in the breeze coming out of the east as the Sedai and Warder entered the establishment. They quickly found the innkeeper, a bald man with blue eyes and a sour expression on his face, wearing a huge apron, who was speaking heatedly to one of the serving maids behind the bar. His eyes narrowed slightly when he saw them, but he was polite when Carys asked for rooms. Perhaps it was also because Elessar gave him a no-nonsense look. They also made sure that a stableboy took care of their horses and then they headed up to their rooms which were on the second floor.

 

 

Evening came and Elessar and Carys met up in the common room. They found a table off to the side and sat down to have a drink and some food. A gleeman was playing the flute as they waited for the drink and food to arrive. Elessar studied the man. He was of middle age, tall and athletic with short brown hair, large eyes and a beak of a nose. His eyes lit up when he saw joy in the faces around him and it was obvious that he loved his craft. Most of the tables in the common room were filled with local villagers, some more loud than others, some more drunk as well, and they appeared to appreciate the evening’s entertainment. When the gleeman was finished with his tune he bowed to much applause and his coat of many colourful patches swirled around him in a flourish.

 

After some moments the crowd quieted down. There was a grin on the gleeman’s face as he faced the crowd and said dramatically: “And now, my good men and ladies, I will tell you the story of Rashima Kerenmosa, the ‘Soldier Amyrlin’”. Aes Sedai were a touchy subject in some countries on the continent, but he had performed this song of the past - this story of legend, myth, history or perhaps a mixture of them all - in Andor many times before and it seemed to be well liked by most. Several in the crowd cheered enthusiastically at his announcement, Elessar - as ever a passionate student of history and legend - among them, others nodded silently in approval, while a few men drinking heavily at the back looked less pleased but said nothing. Soon the gleeman’s voice filled the common room. His voice was strong and melodious and within a short while most of those present were captivated as he took them on an enthralling journey into the past..

 

 

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Honour to the ‘Soldier Amyrlin’

 

Brave Rashima Kerenmosa! Valiant Sister of the Green

The Flame of Tar Valon, boldest Leader ever Seen

A Sister of Battle, she the Shadow fought with Might

In the Trolloc Wars she battled, gave her Life for the Light

 

A General, a Politician - her Talents were There

She handled situations with Tact and with Care

But as a Military Leader she was Respected by All

She led the Ten Nations through Fire and Gall

 

When Aridhol fell and Manetheren as Well.

Rashima restored morale in the Compact, they Tell

She led the defence of Tar Valon with Strength

When Trollocs attacked the Sedai city at Length

 

Victories followed at Kaisin Pass and Larapelle

The Sorelle Step, Tel Norwin where many soldiers Fell

In the middle of Battle, the Amirlyn fought Strong

To vanquish the Shadow, the Evil, the Wrong

 

The Battle of Maighande was the Beginning of the End

For brave Rashima, though they Conquered, my Friend

The back of the invasion they Broke, the Shadow’s Plan

At Maighande, where ‘the Victory of humankind’ Began

 

Rashima died a hero, with her five Warders Near

Valiant as few! Battle Sister, Honour Clear.

‘Round their bodies a wall of Trolloc corpses’ Stain

With many dead Fades and nine Dreadlords Slain

 

Brave Rashima Kerenmosa! Valiant Sister of the Light

The ‘Soldier Amyrlin’, a Star shining Bright

A Sister of Battle, she’ll be Remembered by All

In the Turning of the Wheel, until Darkness’ Fall

 

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OOC: I thought it’d be fun to include another of my poems in our story at this point. Enjoy! :)

Edited by Elessar
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  • 1 month later...

ooc: Lovely poem E :). As always!

 

The soft beating of wings awoke her, the noise out of place a quiet room. A thin line of daylight shone underneath the red of her eyelids as the Yellow tried to guess the bird by the wings. It had been a long time since she'd tested herself in such a manner. Memories of her childhood flashed through her mind, the Wise Women blindfolding her and making her identify herbs by her other senses, her testing herself on the sounds and feel of an animal, putting together a human skeleton from a pile of bones. Life as an Aes Sedai – and especially with the drama of late – had made the tasks she'd done before seem mundane and yet they were at the root of her. She owed her excellence in Healing to both the Yellow Ajah and the Wise Women of Ebou Dar.

 

Cocking her head to the side just a smidge, Carys smiled and opened her eyes upon labeling the visitor. A tiny hummingbird flitted from the upper right corner of the window to the left and then back again. “How did you get in here little one?” the Altaran croaked softly – her throat still dry from the night. The bird paid no heed to her voice, its wings beating furiously against the glass in an effort to find freedom. On the other side of the panel of glass, the sky was a brilliant blue. Small white clouds the shape of cotton balls dotted the blue of the sky, somehow adding to the beauty rather than mar it. The hummingbird bumped against the glass again and the Yellow frowned momentarily. Slowly sliding out of the bed, she made her way over to the window and slid it up, all the while trying not to scare the bird. She needn't worried, however, for as a breeze began to filter in through the open window, the small bird swooped down and flew out. Carys watched it for a few moments, until it became too tiny to see with the naked eye, before she shut the window and began to dress.

 

As she pulled a comb through her golden hair, the Yellow reflected on the events of yesterday. She'd expected an awkwardness to form between her and Elessar when he caught her drawing him, but there had been no such issue – at least there had been merely the same camaraderie between them as they'd listened to the gleeman tell the story of Rashima Sedai. It was perplexing to her what had inspired her to draw him in the first place, as she was generally a purveyor of animal and landscape art. Shaking her head slightly as if to clear her mind, she finished drawing the comb through her hair and placed it in the saddlebags to her left.

 

Gathering the bags in her arms, Carys trudged down the stairs in the Common Room. A few surprised stares met her blue eyes as they saw an Aes Sedai carrying her own bags. Surely an Aes Sedai was above such a task, was she not? The innkeeper motioned for a serving girl to run forward and collect the things from her, but the Yellow refused politely. “I won't break,” she murmured to the girl – pressing a silver coin into her hand anyway. Struggling momentarily, she made it through the front door and around the corner to the stables.

 

Elessar was already prepping their horses for the day's journey. He frowned at her carrying her bags, but said nothing. He merely returned to tightening the straps on Gray's saddle. Carys wrinkled her nose at him - almost going so far as to stick out her tongue, but she maintained decorum instead. Walking over to her Warder, she set the saddle bags at his feet. "I'd throw them up over her, but I think you'll have an easier time of it." A grin accompanied her statement, taking the malice out of her words.

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  • 2 weeks later...

.. A Memory of a Silver Pond ..

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Soft winds touch the beautiful pale silver water of a small, sacred ethereal Kandori pond, situated somewhat to the east of the Plain of Lances, creating minuscule ripples that slowly spread outwards and beyond. Darkness covers the land in all directions and far above stars paint the sky in tiny lights, while the full moon shines its silver rays into the night. By the pond’s shoreline a young man stands in silence, watching. In his hands he carries a sword. It feels heavy to him, as if it weighs more than its ordinary weight. Dark eyes stare fixedly at the pond’s surface. The silver sheen almost beckons to him. He waits.

 

And then finally he nods to himself, bends down on one knee and places part of the sword in the cold water. Droplets of water run down the blade like liquid crystals as he slowly brings it up to his face. Holding the sword up before him, his heart beating harder, the young man smiles. The promise made, he exhales. The sword in Elessar’s hands glistens, mirroring the tears of pride now running down his cheeks..

 

 

.. The Silver Pond ..

 

.. My Promise ..

 

 

Elessar Gaidin, Bonded Warder of the White Tower, was quickly brought back to the present as he heard - and felt - his Bondholder turn the corner and come toward him. He did not know why the memory from so long ago had suddenly appeared in his mind. He had been preparing the horses for today’s journey and his mind had wandered. Back to Kandor, his homeland. - My former homeland. Tar Valon is my home now. - And back to that time by that silver pond, where he had for the first time made a sacred promise to himself to succeed at becoming the accomplished soldier that his father wanted him to be.

 

It has been a long road, he thought to himself as Carys came up to him. A long road indeed.

 

Seeing that the Aes Sedai carried her bags herself, the Warder frowned but said nothing. He had expected the serving girl to take his Bondholder’s bags outside and was little pleased that she had not. Had he known, he would have gotten Carys’ bags himself, but it was too late now. Sensing that she was not amused by the situation he judged it best to not say anything and returned to tightening the straps of Gray’s saddle.

 

He felt her eyes on his back for a moment and then she stood beside him, setting the saddle bags at his feet. She said that she would throw them up over her horse, but she thought he would have an easier time of it. A grin accompanied her statement, taking the malice out of her words. Elessar met her eyes in silence and gave a Warder’s bow to his Sedai - not too flippant of course, and with a glint in his eye - and picked up her bags and placed them on her mount. His own saddle bags were atop his black war horse, Stormbreaker and as soon as they were ready they rode out into the street and set course for the Andoran Capital, Caemlyn.

 

 

They arrived in Caemlyn on a sunny afternoon, as a strong breeze from the north-west made the banners atop the City Gate ripple and dance in the wind. A few grey clouds marred the otherwise perfect blue sky as the Warder and Sedai rode slowly into the city.

 

Elessar recalled well their previous visit to Caemlyn, and the Capital’s colourful past..

 

Andor was one of the oldest nations in the world, founded during the War of the Hundred Years. Many of Andor's traditions were established during those early years. Unlike many nobles of the time, Queen Ishara, Andor's first ruler, realized that no one ruler would be able to take control of Hawkwing's entire empire. Instead, she focused on controlling only what she could. As a result, Andor began only with the Capital city of Caemlyn and the small surrounding villages. Cautious expansion marked the reigns of the early Queens of Andor..

 

The Strength of Andor is its Queens, Elessar thought, as he guided Stormbreaker further into the city, Carys slightly behind him on his right. Ishara had started an unbroken bloodline of female rulers. It was the way of Andor. It was a tradition not to be broken. Few Andorans will consider a King now.

 

 

A banner hanging above the door of an old bookshop that they passed on the way to the city-centre depicted a white lion rampant on a field of red: the Banner of Andor. It rippled strongly in the wind, dancing on flows of air, as if welcoming the two visitors back to the city.

Edited by Elessar
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Staring up at the sky, Carys absent mindedly blew a golden curl out of her face. She did not want to admit it to herself, but she was slightly bored with the monotony of the journey. Green hills rolled by, the sun rose and set, burning brightly in the sky, birds flew lazily, and her mare clopped along on the path. Betimes behind Elessar’s warhose, betimes in front, or rarely side-by-side. Her sketchbook was full – the last few pages filled with attempts at drawing people rather than animals or plants. While the first two pages had been practice, she was now happy with her skill. There were always point to improve – of course – but the likeness was satisfactory.

 

So, she felt listless. Nothing to do with her hands when they were almost always occupied. There was always something to do in the Infirmary – whether taking care of a patient, filling out paperwork, cleaning materials, or restocking medicines. Carys was not afraid to “get her hands dirty” for the Infirmary; she was often found refilling empty herb cabinets or scrubbing the counters. The servants had given up trying to talk her out of it after two years straight of standing there uncomfortably as she wiped down the materials. To her, it was all part of the same. Cleaning was part of healing – and Healing – and she would do her part. And then her first journey had been filled with excitement and a need to rush. She’d left the Tower in a group, pushing their horses because someone’s life had been in danger. It was there, in Cairhein that she’d met Elessar and ever since their lives had been plagued with Darkfriends and danger. It wasn’t that she missed the terror, it was the action. What’s wrong with me that I can’t even enjoy the peaceful scenery? She chided herself, a frown marring her ageless features. It wasn’t a problem before, so why is it now?

 

The sound of Elessar returning made her end that train of thought though she knew she would return to it later. He told her that Caemlyn was ahead, and indeed the road had widen considerably since they’d left the small town. She thanked him and allowed herself to think, instead, of their last time in Caemlyn. Pondering where they would stay, if their Historian friend was still employed by the Palace. Mayhap a visit to the Library would be in order, so she could see if Andor had anything different on the Atha’an Miere. Tar Valon had had decidedly little on the people of the sea. As she had been assigned to teach some of their girls, Carys still felt underprepared in terms of their culture. How the women of the Aiel and Atha’an Miere had managed to avoid the long arm of the White Tower she’d no idea.

 

It had come as both a shock and an acknowledgement of unspoken truths when the Amyrlin had decreed that each group had women with the ability to learn and that training agreements had been made. Many had always suspected – no group in existence could NOT have channelers - but that the Amyrlin had allowed these girls to stay in their own societies AND have Aes Sedai as trainers was unexpected to say the least. Still, who was she to question the Amyrlin? Sending Aes Sedai into the thick of things was commonplace; a woman could observe more when she was surrounded rather than merely told. But while she was thankful for the excuse to once again leave the Tower, Carys could not help but think she was undertrained for a mission of this sort. Gathering intelligence was a skill of the Blue, White, and Gray Ajahs.

 

The sight of Caemlyn made her table her thoughts again, and she quickened the mare’s pace until she was riding alongside her Warder. He gave her a sidelong glance, but said nothing. It struck her momentarily of how alike they were in that regard. They were both quiet and did not waste words when a look or a touch would do. As a perfect example, she dropped back a hair’s breadth as they approached the gate. Elessar exchanged quiet words with the guards, they looked to her ageless face, and ushered the pair of them in. Her Warder headed toward the Inn they’d used on their previous visit; she followed, marveling once again in the beauty of the city. It was second only to Tar Valon, but it was still a sight to behold.

 

The Innkeeper’s face lit up as they entered – whether due to recognizing the pair or simply an ageless face. They were shown to the very finest rooms and then left to their own devices with a reminder that dinner was in two hours. Carys thanked the male attendant who had carried her things from the stable to her room, after she’d shared an amusing look with Elessar, and pressed a few coins into his hand. “If you’ll excuse me, Elessar, I’d like to freshen up before dinner, as well as pen a note to the Sister in the the Palace. She might take it amiss if I do not at least let her know I am here.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

.. Echoes of the Past ..

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Memories touched the sleeping Warder of the White Tower like echoes of the past..

 

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-Echoes-

 

 

..Young Elessar’s face lights up when his Warder teacher says it is time for some basic sword-training. “I hear you are not totally hopeless with the sword”, the Gaidin says testingly as they are walking across the Warder’s Yard to a secluded spot near the far end where they will be on their own. Arriving there, his teacher faces him. “Show me what you can do”, he says simply and gives Elessar a sword. It is a mock-blade for practice with a soft tip which means it can be used safely in training. Holding the blade, feeling the balance of it in his hand, it feels different from the blades he has used before.. lighter.. but the same principles matter. And so he goes into the motions as he has done many times before in what he already is beginning to think of as his previous life. Against an imaginary opponent he sweeps through the forms and finally is stopped by the Gaidin.

 

“Not bad .. you have obviously handled a sword before”, the Warder teacher begins. “Your technique is very rough of course, and your moves sometimes combine in inefficient ways, but on the whole we have something to work with here.” “Of course,” he adds after a few seconds, “we shall make you a hell of a lot better!”

 

In the weeks and months that follow Elessar often trains sword-forms on his own, moving from stance to stance, balancing the sword, striking and defending, using the Void as focus of attention, becoming one with the sword as his teacher tells him to. He sparrs with his teacher, learning from his guidance to move with agility, to attack and to feint, to thrust and to parry..

 

 

 

-Echoes-

 

 

..One day his Warder teacher looks closely at him. “Now then, Elessar of Kandor”, the Gaidin begins, “let us see if I can teach you some new techniques, forms that are more advanced.” He proceeds to show Elessar several new forms that also can be combined in innovative and lethal ways. “As you can see, many of these forms depend on speed and agility. This one for instance.” The suddenness of the Gaidin’s thrust and move catches Elessar off balance and he parries as well as he can but is too slow to defend against the follow up-strike. “You see”, says the Warder as he moves back to guard-stance, “how hard it is to parry that quick thrust. Let me show you again, a little slower this time.” He does it again but more slowly and Elessar watches intently to learn. The next time it is Elessar’s turn to strike and the Gaidin parries. Again and again, back and forth, they attack and defend, thrust and parry, honing their skills..

 

 

 

▲▲

▲▲▲

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▼▼▼

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..On a cold spring morning, Elessar and his Warder teacher face each other in the Warder’s Yard. They stand inside a circle. Picking up his own blade the Gaidin meets the younger man’s eyes. “Show me what you have learned”, is all the Warder says and stands ready, in opening stance, waiting for Elessar to make the first move. The Warder trainee focuses on his real opponent and makes a few testing thrusts with his blade which are easily parried by the other. They circle each other, neither going on the attack, both looking for weakness and an opening. Suddenly the Gaidin thrusts the sword forward with great speed and Elessar almost loses balance. As it is, he reacts just in time and parries, following it up with a swing with the blade that the Gaidin parries easily. Back and forth it goes for a while, neither getting the upper hand. Elessar senses that his teacher is holding back, but it only motivates him to try harder.

 

Elessar waits until the right moment, then uses a combination he has practiced a little earlier, a swift and effective attack that might have slipped past the guard of a lesser opponent. The Gaidin, however, is experienced and has anticipated such a move and so is able to parry well. Even so, he gives a nod to his student in approval. The next move is the Warder’s. He feints a high thrust but reverses in mid-air and the mock-blade comes much lower and almost goes inside Elessar’s guard. He deflects at the last instant but loses his balance. The teacher’s blade touches his side.. Elessar regains his balance inside the circle, faces his teacher anew and they go at it again. After a few tentative thrusts the Gaidin repeats his successful move from before, but this time Elessar anticipates the strike and parries it competently..

 

Afterwards, the Gaidin joins Elessar as they walk together - Elessar a tad behind, breathing heavily - back to the Barracks. “Well done, Elessar”, he says with approval. “Your skills are improving. You learned from your earlier mistakes there and were faster and better prepared at the end.” He says. “Anticipate what your opponent will do and you will have an important edge in any confrontation.”

 

“And”, the Warder teacher adds with a grin, throwing a quick glance over his shoulder, “as I have told you many times before, a Gaidin always expects the unexpected..”

 

 

 

-Echoes-

 

 

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Waking abruptly from memories and dreams, Elessar pushed himself up from the bed, slightly wide-eyed, and ran a hand over his face. He felt his Sedai through the Bond, she was at rest in the next room. Looking out the window he saw that it was still nighttime. Darkness spread across the city of Caemlyn. High above a few stars shimmered in the sky, glittering rays breaking through a light blanket of clouds. Standing up from the bed, Elessar walked across to the window - and with his hands on the window sill, he stared silently into the night.

 

All these memories. Why now?

 

It was a very long time since he had thought about his Warder-training days. It was, after all, a long time ago and he had been preoccupied with a multitude of events in his life since then. But lately - somehow, for some reason - his past was often at the forefront of his mind. And now even in my sleep, he thought wryly to himself as he slowly lay back in the bed, staring up at the wooden ceiling. His memories of his days of learning the sword in the White Tower were fond ones for the most part. The training had been hard and strenuous - as it should be, for training the greatest warriors in the land - but all his effort and exertions had paid off. I made it in the end, he thought with a pleased smile, recalling the pride he had felt when finally he had become a Tower Guard and then a Warder. And it was only the beginning of my journey.

 

His head resting on the pillow, he pulled the blanket around him and closed his eyes. It took a little while, as the echoes slowly faded in his mind, but finally, as the Caemlyn night continued on its long path toward morning, Elessar fell into a dreamless sleep.

 

 

They had arrived in Caemlyn the day before, on a sunny afternoon, as a strong breeze from the north-west had made the banners atop the City Gate ripple and dance in the wind. A few grey clouds had marred the otherwise perfect blue sky as the Warder and Sedai had ridden slowly into the beautiful city and Capital, passing an abundance of people, shops, stands and the like, on their way to the inn they had used on their previous visit. They had dismounted in front of the building and Elessar had made sure their horses were taken good care of by the stableboy before joining his Bondholder by the inn’s entrance. The innkeeper’s face had lit up as they had entered the establishment - whether due to recognizing the pair or simply an ageless Aes Sedai face it was hard to tell - and they had been shown to the inn’s very finest rooms.

 

Carys had thanked the male attendant who had carried her things from the stable to her room, after sharing an amusing look with Elessar, then had pressed a few coins into the attendant’s hand. She had then told her Warder that she would like to freshen up before dinner as well as pen a note to the Aes Sedai in the Palace, to let her know that she was there. Elessar had given her a nod and a Warder’s bow - was there a twinkle in his eye? - and had entered his own room, placing the saddle bags on a bench, before throwing himself on the bed..

 

They had met up downstairs for dinner a couple of hours later and had shared a decent meal in the Common Room amongst quiet visitors, rowdy locals and tired travellers. The evening entertainment had been underwhelming, however, and so they had decided to get an early night.

 

Elessar had fallen quickly asleep, on a night that was to become one of memories and dreams..

 

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  • 2 months later...

.. Bathed in the Light of White Bridge ..

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Elessar Gaidin and Carys Aes Sedai rode slowly into the town of Whitebridge in central-western Andor on a bright and sunny afternoon. The wind was blowing from the south-west, making their travelling cloaks flap against the side of their tired mounts. Both travellers were weary from a long day’s ride and looked forward to some rest before continuing their journey.

 

Riding across the huge white glass-like bridge - from which the town took its name - which spanned the River Arinelle, Elessar recalled what knowledge he had of this impressive structure. The bridge was believed to date all the way back to the Age of Legends, thousand of years before. It looked to be made of impossibly fragile white glass - almost as if carved from one piece -, yet of a type so strong even a chisel and hammer would not mar it. Furthermore, despite its glasslike surface it never became slick, even in the hardest rain. The White Tower knew perhaps more of its origin, but even with Elessar’s limited knowledge he was mighty impressed.

 

The town of Whitebridge grew up around the large stone-paved square at the bridge’s eastern foot. With its imposing bridge being the only span crossing the Arinelle south of Maradon in Saldea, Whitebridge town had from early on flourished in trade. Most buildings in the town were made of stone and brick, and the docks were made of wood. From what the Warder had read, all social classes were represented in Whitebridge - from merchants in their shiny lacquered carriages and velvet coats to farmers and peasants in rough wool ..

 

Elessar did spot several merchants in carriages and a few farmers passing, as the Warder and Sedai headed toward one of the town’s inns a little further up the road. They dismounted outside the “Eastern Bridge”, one of the better inns in town if the locals were to be believed, and Elessar took their horses to a stableboy at the back of the establishment before returning to join his bondholder. They quickly found the innkeeper, a somewhat fat, blond-haired man of middling years with sunken eyes but a welcoming smile, standing at the back of the room, who seemed suitably impressed at having an Aes Sedai visit his humble inn. A short while later they were settled in their adjoining rooms (one of the inn’s best rooms for the Aes Sedai, of course) and it was time for a well earned rest.

 

 

They had left the Andoran Capital Caemlyn, many miles to the east, many days earlier.

 

The day after their arrival in the Capital, they had gone into the city to buy some provisions for their journey westwards. They had also been to the Palace and had spoken with charming Old Celter. On their way to the Palace that day, Elessar had thought back on the first time they had met the old man, when they had visited his antiques-shop on an earlier visit to Caemlyn. He remembered almost every detail of that first meeting and a fond smile had came upon his lips as he had reminisced..

 

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.. He is a very old man, Elessar remembered thinking, wearing a woolen shirt which had once been colourful but where the colours had faded over time, and trousers which had not been in fashion for over a century. He had a prestigious girth, and a wrinkled old face, grey hair, crystal blue eyes with bushy eyebrows, big ears and a large nose. He wore ancient glasses and he looked positively shocked to see them there.

 

Elessar and Carys had exchanged a quick look and the Warder tried for the second time that morning not entirely successfully to hide a grin. Light, the man looks like an ancient scholar! he thought with kind amusement. He must be as old as some of the books in here! Carys met the old man’s eyes and answered him that they were visiting the city and had seen his shop as they were walking by. “We’re students of history, my good man” Elessar added, his gaze eagerly taking in the room with all its objects of great age. “We’re interested in Andoran history and traditions”, the Aes Sedai said and smiled. The old Andoran scrutinized them, noticing the woman’s fair skin and complexion, then nodded to himself, murmuring under his breath. “History and traditions you say?” he said and a wide grin came upon his lips. “Well then, come in, come in strangers”, he said as he started to walk back in the shop, bidding them to follow. “Old Celter will give you some of our history”. He chuckled a little, then added: ”Come now. Hardly anyone visits my shop nowadays anyway, so little chance we will be disturbed. Come follow me. Follow me to the back. Follow Old Celter.” They exchanged a quick glance, shrugged, and followed the old man to the back of the shop.

 

He had placed the plate of steaming food on a shelf in the back room and it was soon forgotten as he motioned for the two of them to sit down in a pair of heavily decorated brown wooden chairs that looked as old as the Trolloc Wars. The ancient chairs creaked slightly as they seated themselves and Carys and Elessar exchanged a silent glance which read: please, let these antiques carry our weight! “Traditions... yes”, the old man mumbled to himself as he ran a finger down the side of his chair. “I don’t often get visitors”, he said and he pushed up his glasses that had fallen down on his nose. “History is all about us here”, he said, “but noone seems to care.” He shrugged. There was regret in his voice, but then, as if a switch had been turned, his eyes lit up and he studied them closely again. “But you do, strangers”, he said and a playful grin came upon his lips. “So all hope is not lost.” He smiled in a strange way but Elessar was charmed by this old man, who, he somehow felt, was more than your everyday shopkeeper and antiques-dealer. What is your history, old man, I wonder? the Warder had thought to himself. I bet you have seen many things in your long life ..

 

▀▄

 

It had been a warm reunion at the Palace, though as always the old man had seemed lost in his own thoughts part of the time and surprised to see them there most of the time. After a while Elessar had taken him for a long walk on the Palace grounds leaving his Sedai behind in case she had personal matters to attend to.

 

The Warder had not known if she had plans to meet the resident Sister, but had known that Carys had sent her a letter to let her know she was there. She would appreciate some time on her own, in any case, he had thought, as he had strolled along the garden paths, an arm on the old man’s shoulder. Soon they had been lost in an intricate - and suitably long - discussion about Andoran history.

 

 

Their subsequent journey toward Whitebridge had been rather uneventful. They had first ridden to a village called Four Kings. It was located at the junction of the Caemlyn Road and the road leading south to Lugard. The village had been named for the site of the famous Battle of Four Kings where Andor had won a major victory over four rival kingdoms during the War of the Hundred Years. Elessar knew the story well:

 

.. In FY 1063 no less than Four rival Kings, envious of the growing power of Andor, united their armies and invaded the Kingdom, marching on Caemlyn. Queen Maragaine led the Andoran army into battle, meeting them some distance west of the River Cary. In a furious battle, in which Queen Maragaine is often depicted personally leading a charge, the Andorans broke the invading force and routed it, securing the future survival of the Kingdom ..

 

Despite its proud history, though, the village of Four Kings had been a drab, careworn place, Elessar had thought, and had seemed to be used mostly as a stopover by merchants' wagon trains. From Four Kings they had headed westwards, riding across central Andor straight to Whitebridge. The days had been long and they had pushed their mounts hard, both of them gradually becoming more and more impatient to reach their destination as the days went by.

 

 

At long last they saw the gleaming White Bridge in the horizon, touched by sparkling streams of sunshine from an ocean-blue sky, and as they neared it they were bathed in the Light of Shimmering Glass.

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  • 1 month later...

.. An Echo of a Windfinder’s Call ..

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Elessar and Carys arrived in Falme just as the sun was setting, colouring the sky a beautiful red. They had ridden throughout the day with few stops and were very weary. Arriving at their end-destination, however, brought a touch of relief on their faces. It had been a long journey in many ways and it was good to be in Falme. They found an Inn fairly near the waterfront - the Ocean Sweeps Inn a sign proclaimed above the main entrance door - , handed their tired mounts to a young stableboy who seemed only half-awake but who lead the horses dutifully to the back of the establishment, and went inside to get two adjoining rooms for the night. A rather sour Innkeeper brightened at the sound of coins in the pouch they carried and quickly got them the required rooms. A quick meal followed in the Common Room, alongside a somewhat rowdy crowd of locals and travellers from all over the land, and then they headed for their rooms and a very welcome nights sleep.

 

▀▄

 

Their journey from Whitebridge had been a long one. They had travelled north-westwards in the direction of Baerlon, a small town in far western Andor, where they had arrived one late afternoon under a dark and cloudy sky. After spending a night at a local Inn they had continued onwards through the Mountains of Mist north-west of Baerlon on the road that lead to Katar on the other side of the mountains, a city on the north-eastern edge of Paedish Swar, the Darkwood to the east of Almoth Plain.

 

Their passage through the mountains had been arduous, not the least because of days of rain and bad weather, and they had been happy to see the back of them. From Katar they had headed westwards towards Toman Head and Falme, at one point leaving the main road that lead to Bandar Eban, the Capital city of Arad Doman.

 

Much of the time they had ridden in silence, focusing on travelling as many miles a day as possible, but inbetween they had spoken a little and had conferred on practical matters. Elessar had continued his daily scouting-routine, even though no danger of any kind had been apparent, and they had continued their - by now - regular camp-routines when no Inn had been close by. Life on the road had felt pleasant, compared to the more restricted life at the White Tower, but at the same time tiring.

 

Thinking back on the past weeks, as he lay in his room at the Ocean Sweeps Inn that late evening before falling asleep, Elessar wondered at the great paradox that perhaps too little happening to them on this journey, too little excitement in fact, had made them both more weary and impatient.

 

▀▄

 

The next day they saw what the city of Falme had to offer visitors. Elessar had been there once before many years ago, with his first Bondholder Leandreen, a travelling Green, but the place seemed.. different, somehow, this time. It was hard to say exactly what it was that gave him that impression, but the feeling persisted as they made their way through the city streets.

 

The Warder knew Falme’s history well. He remembered descriptions in books of the city and its people..

 

 

.. Falme is a harbour on the Aryth Ocean which lays to the west. It is the largest city on Toman Head and on the Almoth Plain, though actually it is only of moderate size and some would, perhaps, rather call it a town ..

 

The city was formerly known as Miereallen while a part of the nation of Safer - ruled by King Eawynd according to history records - during the Compact of the Ten Nations. The next country to control the city was Darmovan. It is likely that the residents of Falme participated significantly in the famous "People’s Uprising" that squashed a rebellion against High King Artur Hawkwing. After the War of the Hundred Years, the nation of Almoth came into being. It controlled most of the Almoth Plain, as well as Toman Head and thus Falme. In time this country too faded away, as most nations do after a period of time ..

 

.. The unwalled city of Falme contains streets of cobblestone, dark stone buildings, and docks also of stone. The city rises up from the high cliff slopes of the hollow that make the harbour ..

 

.. Fashion in Falme involves copious embroidery for both rich and poor. The wealthy sport intricately embroidered shirts, vests, and dresses, while a woman of a more modest country life will wear embroidery on the chest of her long fleece coat..

 

 

The Gaidin saw local people dressed just as described in the books as he made his way across the city, Carys by his side. A woman of middling years wearing an intricately embroidered dress in pale red colours swept past them as they rounded a corner, seemingly intent on her own business, and almost bumped into a tall elder and more modestly clad local man who had to hurriedly sidestep so as to avoid her. In doing so he lost his balance and was close to falling on a nearby merchant’s stall. The man’s eyes tightened for a moment, but he said nothing and walked on. From across the street another man, a foreigner by the look of him, stared fixedly at the woman in red until she was lost among the crowds. Then, shaking his head, he headed in the opposite direction, his fists tightened and an angry expression on his face. Soon he too was but a memory.

 

The Warder and Sedai continued down the street toward the harbour in the distance. Carys was to meet one of the Atha'an Miere, or the Sea Folk as some called them, a Windfinder from one of their huge ships. Elessar only knew the bare details, but he did know that his Bondholder was on an important mission for the White Tower and he would do all he could to help her fulfill it.

 

 

Later that evening Carys and Elessar ate a decent meal in the Inn’s Common Room. It had begun to fill early with locals and visitors alike and by the time the kind-looking bald, grey-bearded southern Gleeman, wearing his cloak made of many colourful patches, began to play his flute the Common Room was almost filled to the brim. Always enjoying a good story and a song, Elessar watched and listened attentively from their table off to the side. After some cautious applause for his flute-playing, the Gleeman faced his crowd and with dramatic gestures and flair worthy of his profession began to speak about The Watchers Over the Waves. Several locals cheered enthusiastically and banged their tables in appreciation as the Gleeman’s whispered words turned into melodious song..

 

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The Watchers Over the Waves

 

To Watch and Wait, that was their Call

The proudest people of them All

Their duty clear, sworn on their Graves

They were The Watchers Over the Waves

 

Do Miere A'vron, the Old Tongue Learn

They waited for the Armies’ Return

That Hawkwing across the Ocean Sent

With mankind’s hope, their chances Spent

 

Along Toman Head-coasts, watchtowers were Raised

And the wisdom of the First Watcher was Praised

They would remember, what others Forgot

Bending the knee, when others would Not

 

From dusk ‘till dawn they watched the Sea

Awaiting sights of sails that Be

The warriors of ships and Stones

Returning to their rightful Thrones

 

Long have they waited, their loyalty Strong

Their steadfastness will be remembered in Song

When the Hawkwing’s armies return to the Land

In triumph and glory, the Watchers will Stand

 

►▲◄

 

It was several days later, when the Warder remained standing by the quay-side, amidst ships of all sizes, gazing with interest at the buzzing life around him. Carys had been in talks with the Atha'an Miere daily since their arrival, but now she stood at his side on the stone docks, face serene, silently watching the surrounding activities with him.

 

He sensed her through the Bond also. And like on so many previous occasions this remarkable Warder-Sedai connection made him smile inside.

 

Their Bond was one of Hope and he had embraced it to fill his Soul with Light.

 

 

The Borderlander-bred Gaidin’s gaze finally shifted to the sea. Staring thoughtfully at the endless sapphire-blue waters of the great Aryth Ocean, the ardent whispers of the south-eastern wind, touching the waves brushing insistently against the stone-based harbour docks of Falme, sounded to Elessar almost like An Echo of a Windfinder’s Call.

 

▀▄▀▄▀▄

 

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  • 1 month later...

Pale colored sand fell out of the jar, hitting the paper with a small tinkle.  The dark ink was momentarily concealed, and then almost magically revealed as the small grains soaked up the extra liquid; their color turning dark as midnight.  After a moment, the darkened sand was upended into the wastebasket and the letter folded.  Turning it over, the author penned a name on the outside, sealed it with wax, and leaned back against her chair, arms crossed.  How luxurious to have a desk with all the necessary – and unnecessary – writing implements when there was so little given in other places.  Fingering the pen, she wondered idly if it was the same ink used to tattoo the skin.

 

A knock and voice at her door made her look to the left.  If she stayed in the desk chair, whoever was calling wouldn’t be able to open the door.  For half a second she considered this, but duty won out over petulance – for now.  How much longer she could make that decision remained to be seen.  The Atha’an Miere were nothing if not demanding, and so far none of the promised replacements had arrived; she’d checked meticulously at every port. Carys checked her hands quickly for wet ink. When she found none, the Yellow ran her hands once over her face before pushing her saggy curls back and standing up.  Is it time again already? Sluggishly, she pushed the chair in and opened the door.  The dark skinned woman on the other side barked a word at her, Carys thought it was ‘Finally,’ and stomped off.  As expected, the Aes Sedai pulled her door shut and followed tiredly, face serene. 

 

As she walked toward another brutally tiring session with the Windfinders, Carys checked the bundle of emotions at the back of her head.  It must be close to dawn, she thought, as Elessar was beginning to stir.  Despite her random schedule, the Yellow had finally convinced her Warder to keep as normal a sleeping and training schedule as possible.  No harm would come to her on the ship.  Well, no harm a Warder could protect her against.  She masked over her exhaustion as best she could, as she had been doing for days.  While she hated masking the Bond, it was in everyone’s best interests.  Elessar had been none too happy during the first month when she’d been repeatedly told to perform whenever the Windfinders wanted – whether she was ready or not – and he had acted on those feelings.  She grimaced, thinking about the discussions that had taken place during those weeks. 

 

As she followed the woman up to the deck, Carys breathed in the salty sea air and went through the calming exercises that were now seemingly an every hour tradition.  Her temper had grown short since boarding the Raker, but she’d realized early on that working herself into a frenzy did not work with these women.  They were much more likely to listen if she remained calm; although they were apparently welcome to rage all they wished.  She looked up and saw lines of Water and Air floating in the clouds above.  She watched as the woman threaded the thick ropes with smaller lines, seemingly gathering wind and bringing it directly to the ship sails all the while peeling the clouds back to reveal a shining sun.  It was an advantage, admittedly, begrudgingly, for the Tower to know more – anything – about controlling the weather.  Still, at quite a price.

 

Her hips rocked with the motion of the boat, having finally gathered her “sea legs.”  There had been quite a few jibes in her and her Warder’s directions when they’d first set out.  The grace of men and women born on the sea had been lacking in her steps.  Those had slowly faded away, however, as she and the Warder grew more accustomed to the rolling waves underneath.  It was near to riding a horse, she explained in a letter to the First Weaver sent weeks ago, in that constant movement is an unsettling feeling for those unfamiliar, but soon fades into the background as one adjusts.  Her surprise and embarrassment regarding the clothing – or lack thereof - of the Atha’an Miere women had long since faded as well, though she made no move to join them.  The men and women of the ship hadn’t yet tired of teasing her about that; betimes it was difficult to maintain serenity while the crew was discussing her milky white skin. 

 

As they climbed the ladder to the top deck, the Yellow thought about her relatively peaceful journey to Falme.  She remembered feeling almost bored by the complacency.  What she would give for that restful journey now.  Her limbs ached as the Windfinders constantly demanded results, but gave her little in return.  Healing was something that she needed to earn, according to the women on the ship and it appeared they almost reveled in not giving it to her.  It would be nice to go back to the comfortable monotony of the journey, to have rolling hills rather than crashing waves surrounding her.  To have another conversation with Celter about the history of Andor.  At least Elessar was aboard with her.  Betimes her Warder was the only thing keeping her sane. 

 

Carys brought her consciousness back to the women in front of her as she finished climbing the ladder and stepped onto the broad deck.  The women were discussing when they would next dock.  Apparently in three days they would be porting into Mayene.  The Yellow briefly wondered which Sister was stationed there and whether she would get a chance to correspond with her.  It was doubtful.  For the most part, the Atha’an Miere kept her on ship.  She’d barely set a foot down on the last port, and hadn’t at all for the two before that.  She would only be in the way, they’d claimed, as they planned training sessions while docked.

 

“Finally,” the woman at the head of the deck said as Carys stood up.  A fine chain connected her ear and nose; two gold medallions jingled against each other in the wind.  “What took you so long?”  The Yellow forced herself to merely smile in response, the silence speaking more than any response could have.  “Let’s go back to the beginning,” said the Windfinder with a sharp smile of her own.  A glow sprung up around the two other women on deck as they looked toward her expectantly.  The two were lower ranking Windfinders, aboard the ship solely to learn from the Aes Sedai.  Drawing on inner strength that was quickly draining, the Altaran Embraced the Source and began the teaching anew.  For the third time. Light help me.

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  • 2 weeks later...

.. Adrift in a Storm of Emotions ..

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Elessar was adrift in a Storm of Emotions.

 

The Sea Folk ship, a Raker called Windsweeper, was a large vessel with multiple decks, easily a hundred paces long, with three towering masts amidships, and one shorter one on the raised sterndeck. It had large triangular as well as somewhat smaller white squared sails, and a very narrow body, as was common in such ships, that made for great speed across oceans.

 

The ship was commanded from the Quarterdeck by a Sailmistress called Marah din Toral Rising Wave, a tall dark-skinned woman with grey streaked hair, a grave face and with five rings - of good quality metal - in each ear, one of them being connected to her nose by a chain, a sign of her higher rank.

 

She had begun aboard a ship as a deckhand many years before, in the Sea Folk tradition, and had worked herself up through the ranks. She had finally fulfilled her ambition and gained the rank of Sailmistress with her own vessel - and she felt as protective of her ship as she would of a child.

 

Elessar’s problem was, in truth, not with the ship.

Not really.

 

It was rather with the ship’s owners.

 

The Atha’an Miere.

 

The Warder was in a foul mood.

 

The way these Sea Folk women in authority aboard the Windsweeper appeared to be treating his Bondholder and Sedai, with arrogance and little gratitude or respect, pushing her to exhaustion more often than not, working her so hard that he could feel the strain through the Bond, was grating on his nerves.

 

Damn them!

 

 

Though he was never present during the ‘lessons’ in question, he had seen the looks they had given his Bondholder behind her back - and also, a few times, almost to her face. Patronizing looks full of smugness. Condescending stares. With the constant exhaustion coming through the Bond it was enough for the Gaidin to understand that they were inexorably wearing her out.

 

He worried for her health and condition and had told her so emphatically in the several discussions they had had in the two and a half weeks since boarding the Sea Folk ship in Falme.

 

At one point, after a particularly heated discussion, he had considered confronting ‘these bloody Atha'an Miere’ and telling them to their face what he thought of their treatment of his Bondholder, but Carys had - eventually - calmed him down and had made him see that their cause would not benefit from any ‘confrontation’, however well grounded.

 

She was Aes Sedai. She would cope. He need not worry.

 

Even so, his mood darkened and he was far from happy with the situation. Like most Bonded Warders he was very protective of his Aes Sedai and of her honour - and the one thing he would never stand for was her being treated badly or disrespectfully by anyone, especially outside the White Tower.

 

 

Cursing to himself for the third time in as many minutes, Elessar’s fists clenched and unclenched as he stood on deck, staring coldly outwards at the rolling ocean around them.

 

He tried, moreover, to ignore the growing - and very familiar - feeling of queasiness in his stomack, as the ship mounted the rising waves of the Aryth Ocean.

 

He already regretted the breakfast he had had that morning.

 

Damn this accursed sea!

 

With as much dignity as he could muster, he walked not too steadily along the deck past several Sea Folk, who gazed at him with amused looks, toward the bow of the ship where, in a slightly secluded spot by some heavy ropes on the starboard side, he unceremoniously vomited into the sea. It was becoming a daily routine. A daily nightmare. He sincerely hoped it would not take him long to get his ‘sea legs’, or he might, very soon, voluntarily throw himself into the ocean, Warder-Bond or no!

 

♦♦♦

 

As the days had gone by and another week at sea had passed, Elessar and Carys had - thankfully - gradually grown more accustomed to the rolling waves and motion of the ship and the gibes coming their way from the sea-accustomed Atha'an Miere men and women had become less frequent.

 

Finally the mockery had stopped alltogether.

 

 

Time passed in its own way on board the ship. Elessar had a daily routine and kept as normal a sleeping and training schedule as possible. He rose at dawn, walked the deck every day, found a spot out of the way of the working Sea Folk where he could practice balance and sword-forms, and spent some time reading in his cabin. Carys, on the other hand, had a very random schedule, working all hours or so it seemed to him - and it had taken some convincing on the part of his Sedai to make him see the wisdom of her words. No harm would come to her on the ship, she said - and though his Warder instincts told him to stay close to her at all times, he accepted her decision.

 

As time went by it also seemed from the emotions coming though the Bond - and from Carys’ sparse words on the matter when he asked - that the Sea Folk were putting somewhat less strain on her, something which comforted her Gaidin. Even so, he still felt some of her frustrations, at times, seeping through the Bond and his view of these Sea Folk remained adverse.

 

As the Sea Folk ship sailed further southwards, Elessar’s daily routine continued. In the late afternoons he retired to his small cabin to read. He had brought some books about the Atha'an Miere from Caemlyn and had purchased a few more in the port towns they had stopped at on their journey south. Carys had only come ashore a few times since their departure from Falme - she had duties to carry out onboard it seemed - but Elessar had taken every opportunity to do so.

 

Although he had gotten his ‘sea legs’ eventually, he would never feel as comfortable aboard a ship as he was ashore. The Sea Folk had said nothing about his frequent trips to shore while they docked - seeing his no-nonsense look he presumed they were too wise to debate the matter - and it was hard to say if they approved. What mattered to him, however, was that Carys was okay with it and that she was safe aboard the ship. He used these port calls to ‘stretch his legs’ as it were, to gather news on events, and to listen for rumours on matters of interest. He also bought a few choice items on occasion.

 

 

The Sea Folk had several strange and unfamiliar customs, as Carys and Elessar learned during their sea journey, not the least the fact that Atha’an Miere women at sea, away from port, wore nothing above the waist. That particular custom was certainly.. exotic.

 

‘Exotic’ was, in truth, a word often used to describe the Atha’an Miere. In one of Elessar’s books the author, an obvious admirer, had described the Sea Folk in almost poetic terms:

 

 

.. The Atha’an Miere - the People of the Sea - have a dark complexion and an exotic appearance, enlivened by colourful clothing and tattoos on their hands, as well as gold and silver jewelry. Sea Folk women are known as the epitome of seductiveness and grace.  Undoubtedly, the Sea Folk custom of wearing nothing above the waist while away from port only enhances the reputation of these beautiful women ..

 

 

Elessar Gaidin climbed the stairs to the raised sterndeck of the ship and stood there by the railing watching for a while as the Sea Folk worked. Looking at the dark-skinned men and women moving about the ship with quick and sure steps and everpresent alertness, with grace and proficiency and obvious pride in their work, the Borderlander-bred Warder could not help but be somewhat impressed.

 

 

Shifting his attention, he sensed his Sedai through the Bond, working on a different deck at the other end of the Raker, and once again hoped they were now treating her with respect. With the Sea Folk general attitude toward Aes Sedai, that was far from a certainty. But things were getting better, or at least that was his impression, and that knowledge kept his latent anger at bay.

 

He turned to face the sea.

 

Standing there, with both hands on the railing, he gazed silently at the endless sapphire-blue ocean waters for a long, long time, tasting the salt sea air, feeling the growing breeze on his face, and he wondered where and when they would reach their next port of call.

 

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  • 2 months later...

 

.. A Moment in Time among the Atha'an Miere ..

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Much about the Atha’an Miere, the Sea Folk, was unknown, or at least known only to some, though the history books that Elessar had read with interest told part of their story ..

 

 

.. It was during the Breaking of the World (a period also known as the Time of Madness, when male Aes Sedai destroyed much of the known world, ending the Age of Legends, and heralding the beginning of the Third Age) that the ancestors of the Atha’an Miere first fled to the sea. These people knew little of the sea, but they recognized that no place on land remained safe. Over the course of generations, the Atha’an Miere learned the ways of the sea and became one with their vessels ..

 

.. The Atha’an Miere were, it is believed, untroubled by the Trolloc Wars (a series of sustained conflicts fought between humanity and Shadowspawn between 1000 and 1350 AB) and the War of the Hundred Years (a devastating series of overlapping wars among constantly shifting alliances that erupted in the wake of the death of the High King, Artur Hawkwing), leaving them free to perfect their seagoing technologies.  As a result, the Sea Folk sail ships far superior to anything the mainlanders possess. It is this superiority which helps the Atha’an Miere maintain their dominance in trade. The Sea Folk, it is said, view each ship as gifted with a man’s heart and a man’s courage, and as such refer to their ship as “he,” not “she”  (as is most common elsewhere). Each ship is, moreover, lovingly built by the crew which will eventually sail him ..

 

.. The Atha'an Miere have a hierarchy that is very strict and complex. They are headed by a Mistress of the Ships, roughly equivalent to a queen, but without a fixed geographic territory. Her consort and/or male counterpart is the Master of the Blades, responsible for trade and security concerns. She is also assisted by the Windfinder to the Mistress of the Ships, the highest rank a Windfinder - a channeling woman of the Sea Folk - can achieve. Under this leadership, the Sea Folk are further organized into thirteen clans, each headed by a Wavemistress. She is assisted by their Windfinder and Swordmaster, respectively. Each ship of the various clans has a Sailmistress - the captain of the ship -, a Windfinder and a Cargomaster, respectively. The rank of a Windfinder and Cargomaster is dependent on their Sailmistress. The eldest thirteen of the Sailmistresses of a clan elect its Wavemistress, while the thirteen Wavemistresses elect the Mistress of the Ships. The rank of a Sea Folk member can be determined, among other things, by the number of earrings (typically ear and nose, with a chain in between for higher ranks) a man or woman has, and the number of medals they have on their honour chain ..

 

 

The great intricacy of the The Atha'an Miere hierarchy made the Warder grin. It would be almost unsurpassed in the lands and worthy of even the White Tower itself.

 

 

Life among the Sea Folk was interesting in its own way, they were after all an exotic people with exotic customs, but Elessar grew more and more restless as the days and weeks went by. Carys and he spoke little, she seemed preoccupied much of the time after her 'sessions' and she seemed to him a little drawn though she hid it well. He had his suspicions, but out of respect for his Sedai - and their seafaring hosts - he said nothing and instead blew off steam through his daily sword training sessions.

 

 

Elessar unsheathed his sword, beginning to go through the forms. A Warder had to practice often to keep that small edge, that extra piece of sharp attentiveness and excellence as he flowed from one form into the next .. Unfolding the Fan, the opening move, which flowed into Low Wind Rising, a diagonal slash which began low and rose cleanly, followed by The Boar Rushes Down the Mountain, a vertical slash starting high and which in this case altered course in midswing, paired with Tower of Morning, a verticle slash but this time beginning low and ending high.

 

In the Void he felt complete calmness and truly felt one with his sword, a participant in a never-ending dance of motion. A few pearls of sweat beaded on his bare chest, arms and forehead as he moved efficiently through the forms, his focus all on his imagined opponent before him. The Falling Leaf and then straight into The River Undercuts the Bank.

 

For quite some time he moved from one form into the next, until at last he ended the session with Folding the Fan, sheathing his blade. The sword was smoothly swung around from guard stance and sheathed, all in one motion. He breathed a little heavily, but that was to be expected after this exertion, and he was well pleased with the practice session and felt the better for it.

 

 

On a moonlit night some days later, when the bright stars spread out across the far horizons like burning gems on a canvas of blackness, Elessar of Kandor stood quitely on the deck of the southward running Sea Folk Raker, staring upwards - and inwards. He had for some reason been unable to sleep and had pulled on a shirt and pants and had walked out onto the open deck to get some fresh air.

 

As he took in the great canopy of the stars and the moon above, his thoughts drifted back to an inn Carys and he had visited on a previous journey southwards - and to a gleeman who had told the most wonderous story from another time, the epic story of “Star and Moon”.

 

Elessar could almost hear the whispers from the story, reaching out across time and space, the words of the poem clear in his mind..

 

                                                                                                                          

Star and Moon

 

Princess sweet and Prince of Light

Fell in love one autumn Night

Great were days of joy and Smiles

Both together through the Miles

 

Beautiful she was to See

Handsome man was also He

Perfect couple for the Lands

Wedded true and holding Hands

 

Then the darkness fell on All

In the war , the Prince`s Fall

Tore her heart, the Princess Sad

In her grief, she went all Mad

 

Heart was broken and the Mind

Death a solace, far Behind

But at last she passed Away

To the lands beyond, to Stay

 

Mourning hard the people Cried

Hope and beauty had now Died

Then one evening up they Stared

Wonder great, the night-sky Fared

 

In the sky a star was Born

Brilliant it shone, Forlorn

And the people felt in Heart

She was back, a brand new Start

 

Tears from heaven, from the Queen

Of the sky, of beauty Seen

She would watch the land till End

Came to all that was , my Friend

 

But alone she was in Truth

Missed her loved one, and her Youth

Where was Prince and all Delight

Then she saw him, moon in Night

 

And the moon would glow with Life

Her great Prince with his dear Wife

Both together, far Above

Star and Moon, forever Love

 

                                                                                                                         

Elessar’s gaze was met by the glitter and the beauty of the stars and the moon high above, as he remained standing there on the Sea Folk vessel deck for a long while, swept away by the whispers of ages past.

 

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  • 3 months later...

.. At the End of a Journey ..

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Standing on the crowded, busy docks of Falme, Elessar and Carys waved goodbye to the Sea Folk.

They were almost at the end of a journey.

Taking a last look at the Sea Folk ship, the Windsweeper, Elessar admired her lines. She (he could not get used to the Atha’an Miere naming of ships as ’he’) was alas a large vessel with multiple decks, easily a hundred paces long, with three towering masts amidships, and one shorter one on the raised sterndeck. She had large triangular as well as somewhat smaller white squared sails, and a very narrow body, as was common in such ships, that made for great speed across oceans.

And you have served us well, dear Lady, he thought.

The weeks and months aboard had been part joy and part hell, if truth be told, but the ship had kept them safe in high seas and he had nothing but admiration for Sea Folk shipbuilding craft.

Sailmistress Marah din Toral Rising Wave, a tall dark-skinned woman with grey streaked hair, a grave face and with five rings - of good quality metal - in each ear, one of them being connected to her nose by a chain, a sign of her higher rank, gave them a quick nod in parting and then strode across the Quarterdeck intent on her many duties.

She had spoken at length with Carys before docking and it appeared that his Bondholder’s mission had been successful. At least, no emotions contradicting this view came through the Bond to Elessar. His Sedai had spoken little throughout their long journey south and back about her ‘work’ onboard and Elessar had rarely asked. It was, in truth, not his business, as long as she seemed fine and was safe. After that early period when she had seemed to wear herself out, things seemed to have gone better. He had felt less strain through the Bond and that had pleased him.

And now we have a long journey ahead of us, he thought, turning to face his Sedai. Let’s hope it does not become too tiresome for her.

“It is time we go, Carys Aes Sedai”. He said.

He spoke with some formality in his voice, as was often his way. She nodded back and they mounted their horses. Riding slowly through the streets of Falme, amongst locals and visitors, sellers by the dozen, noblemen and poor, dust and grime - as was always the case of towns and cities - Elessar reflected on his experiences with the Atha’an Miere.
 


They chose a similar route back toward Tar Valon as the one they had used to Falme, travelling through the Mountains of Mist on the road that lead to and from Katar, a city on the north-eastern edge of Paedish Swar, the Darkwood to the east of Almoth Plain. They passed through the western Andoran town of Baerlon on a cloudy and breezy morning, and then, several days later, they reached the town of Whitebridge.


Riding once again - just in the opposite direction - across the huge white glass-like bridge - from which the town took its name - Elessar reminisced what he knew of this impressive structure which spanned the River Arinelle. The bridge was believed to date all the way back to the Age of Legends, thousand of years before. It looked to be made of impossibly fragile white glass - almost as if carved from one piece -, yet of a type so strong even a chisel and hammer would not mar it. Furthermore, despite its glasslike surface it never became slick, even in the hardest rain. The White Tower knew perhaps more of its origin, but even with Elessar’s limited knowledge he was, as ever, mighty impressed.


The town of Whitebridge had grown up around the large stone-paved square at the bridge’s eastern foot. With its imposing bridge being the only span crossing the Arinelle south of Maradon in Saldea, Whitebridge town had from early on flourished in trade. Most buildings in the town were made of stone and brick, and the docks were made of wood. That night they slept once again at the ‘Eastern Bridge inn’, and the innkeeper - the somewhat fat, blond-haired man of middling years with sunken eyes but a welcoming smile from before - welcomed them back like a long lost friend.


They passed through the Andoran Capital Caemlyn without visiting Old Celter at the Palace. The journey from Whitebridge had been wearisome due to days of travelling on muddy roads in heavy rain and they just wanted to get on with it and get back to Tar Valon as soon as could be.


When they finally reached the small Andoran town in the Braem Wood where they had stopped on their outward journey, they stopped anew and found ‘The Braem Grove’ inn. A bed and a warm meal sounded perfect to them both. A stableboy took care of their horses and Warder and Sedai entered the establishment.


The innkeeper - a bald man with blue eyes and a sour expression on his face, wearing an apron - appeared not to recall them, but it was hard to tell what he was thinking. He was polite to them, however, and soon they had their rooms. Some time later they enjoyed a meal in the common room, amongst a fairly spirited crowd of locals and travellers, while listening to a gleeman playing the flute. The entertainer with his coat of many colourful patches made a theatrical bow when he was finished, and after some scattered applause went on to captivate the audience with an almost mythical song of bygone years. Elessar remembered this song well - another gleeman had performed it at an inn on one of their previous journeys. The words had stuck in his mind.


Bygone Years

Let me sing of bygone Years
Time of heroes and of Fears
Of the Shadow and of Tears
Tales of war from Bygone Years

Let me sing of valour Great
Time of struggle , hardship`s Weight
Memories of land and State
Not forgotten , be it Late

Let me sing of hope in Heart
Time of yearning for a Start
To a peace for land and Part
Joy and laughter from the Heart

Let me sing of rose in Night
Scarlet-coloured, stunning Sight
Shining strongly, burning Bright
Precious beacon for the Light

Let me sing of Sword and Flame
Heart and soul, they sang his Name
From the northern hills he Came
Conquered darkness, purged the Shame

Let me sing of Southern Queen
Fairest Maiden ever Been
Lead her armies to be Seen
Washed her lands from evil, Clean

Let me sing of soldiers Brave
Hardened men with lives to Save
Honour great, for freedom Crave
Fought the Shadow to their Grave

Let me sing of bygone Years
Time of battles and of Tears
Of redemption and of Fears
Tales of war from Bygone Years
 


It was many days later, on a sunny but very windy afternoon, that they once again came in sight of the impressive Shining Walls of Tar Valon. Seeing the city always made Elessar smile.

Tar Valon

And so it was that Carys Aes Sedai, Sister of the Yellow Ajah and Elessar Gaidin, Borderlander-bred Warder of the White Tower, Bonded in the Light, rode slowly across one of the many magnificent arching bridges over the River Erinin connecting the island city to the mainland.

Fabled Dragonmount rose in the distance and on the city walls high above them the proud banners of Tar Valon - wonderous city of the Aes Sedai - rippled strongly in the wind, as if welcoming them home.

 

 

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