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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Riding the Waves of Time


Wayward_fool
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The darkness was eerie. The silence, even more so. For the night was young and the world seemed to be holding its breath. There was a stifling humidity that blanketed the shadows. It seemed to be a night of portends. But not for the two men cloaked in black the rode out into the cover of trees. Both rode black stallions, dangerous and fear-mongering. Both seemed to shimmer slightly in the heat of the night, and yet...

 

"This is insane, Milord." One of the riders spoke in hushed tones, his voice quickly absorbed by the woods around them. "There is no precedence. Even if the laws of Tar Valon have changed, which I doubt they have..."

 

"Be still, Charoen. Follow my treading, but there is little I can offer in terms of guidance nor understanding. Too much has changed and happened. Even if the Council chooses not to have me on this mission, I would have gone myself. First Far Madding, then Illian and now Tar Valon. There must be a connection somehow. I do not doubt the will of the Aes Sedai, nor do I claim knowledge of what they do."

 

"Yes, Milord." Charoen's hand stroked his steed to calm the jitters the beast felt.

 

"You should probably call me Tsorovanm'hael this close to the Farm. I do not want the Council coming down on me like stone bricks again."

 

"Yes, tsorovanm'hael." He spoke meekly. And rightly so.

 

And so they did ride on, the darkness returning to stillness. The night back to its attempt at solitude. Not a sign of their passing could be seen.

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A few weeks later…

 

Nails in the dark. A bed of nails. Sharp, hard, unforgiving. Were they nails? Rusty. No. That wasn’t quite right. Not nails.

 

Needles. Fine, stinging, stabbing. A hundred, a thousand needles. Penetrating deep, thrusting inside, twisting. His innards scrambled. Fire filling his belly, his chest. No. That wasn’t quite right either. Not needles.

 

A smell caught his nostrils, fleeting, momentary only. Rust, again. Tainted. Metallic. Agony ripped through him and a low groan bubbled out from between his lips, his mouth filling with a foul, bitter taste. But not enough strength to spit it out, not enough breath. It dribbled instead, pitifully, a dark stain down the corner of his chin. Drip.

 

Only one eye would open. His view seemed skewed, lacked perspective. Why only one? The other, not responding, not doing as it was told. Strange.

 

Pine. Another smell. Skewed pine needles. They lacked depth. Didn’t seem real. His bier of unforgiving spikes. And then that metallic taint again. The Taint. That should mean something to him. That should be important.

 

To what?

 

-To Be Continued…-

 

A Shattered Man.

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From the depths of darkness he swam. Struggling against a current unseen. Drowning, surely, yet still trying to get to a light. The Light. It would surely drag him down, consume him, destroy him. It was inexorable, unavoidable.

 

But he clawed. Scraped. Strained. It was pitiful. A newborn baby would have had more chance. An ancient man, shrivelled, hunched and wrinkled worse than a prune would have been stronger.

 

Something split through the darkness. Silver knives striking agony into his dying soul. It hurt, if anything could hurt anymore, then this hurt. Desperately, his eyes closed against the onslaught. Desperately he sought the darkness again. A haven.

 

And he dreamed. He remembered.

 

The study door clicked open, rousing Dalinar from his revery. It was soft, unaccompanied by a knock, but years of training and instinct meant that even that would rouse him. That and the ten-deep Power-wrought wards that always smothered the room, some of them too finely wrought for many but Dalinar himself to see.

 

His head lifted, slowly, his eyes swung to the door. Who would assume not to even knock? His body was on the edge of tense, but ever so casually relaxed all the same. Many years of training.

 

The man who slipped in had the same casual tension to him, taking in the room at a glance. His coat sleeves marked him clearly. Tsorovan’m’hael.

 

“It’s polite to knock.” Dalinar’s voice was low, but cut through the space between them nevertheless.

 

“I do no come with courtesy as my priority,” The Illianer’s brogue came back at home. Brent Enios, one of the strongest the Tower had seen in it’s short history.

 

Dalinar noted the lack of his honoraray, M’Hael. “I see.” Brent was headstrong. Opinionated. And he had the Power to make his points more often than not. “If not courtesy then…?”

 

Brent wasted no time. Perhaps one of his positive traits was that he didn’t mince his words. An Aes Sedai could learn much from him, certainly. “This business with the Aes Sedai must stop. There be many in the Tower who be angered by the leniency you show them. It cannot go on.” His voice brooked no argument. Interesting.

 

Dalinar barely restrained his sigh. He launched into the same diatribe that he had delivered to others who had come before him with similar sentiments. “What would you have me do? A conflict with the White Tower distracts us from our true purpose. Remember what our name means. Remember what it is to be asha’man. Remember who we serve. The Dragon has not directed us in all-out conflict with the White Tower. Can you imagine the consequence of such a clash? Our numbers have grown exponentially these last few months, but against a 3000 year old institution? We would be lucky if we only Broke the world, this time. Better that we swallow our pride, accept what has been woven in the Pattern, and make the best of recent events.”

 

A vein pulsed slightly in Brent’s forehead. “Swallow our pride? We be seen as soft!” The last word came almost as a spit. "This course be inviting the witches of Tar Valon to press this advantage, in your weakness. You do be leading this Farm to its doom. I do no be asking, I be telling you, this must end!”

 

Dalinar stood, pushing his chair back from the dark mahogany desk that he had sat over for only a few months, but months that seem like years. His voice was hard, reflected in his still grey eyes. “Yes, Brent. You are quite correct. This must end. Right now. There is far more than the future of either Tower at stake in this, you must see that. Take these foolish, impulsive thoughts, and bury them. We may not see eye-to-eye here but one thing is clear. We must present a united front to Tar Valon. Anything less will be exploited. You may consider this an order.”

 

Brent closed the distance between them, and Dalinar could feel saidin in him. So powerful, it almost made Dalinar envious. Almost. “I do be taking orders no from the likes of you. Pillow-friends with the likes of those women. Who have hunted and gentled the likes of you and me for 3000 years. There be only one end to this.”

 

In the space between moments, saidin coursed through Dalinar’s being. It came almost too easily now, at times nearly unbidden. Its invigorating, addictive essence. Its foul, gut-yanking Taint. With the True Source filling him, it was undeniably clear now the intent in Brent Enios’ eyes. Dalinar braced himself for what would surely come.

 

-A Broken Man.

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It was a dream. He was certain. It was a fluid, fluid dream. One that seemed to be on the verge of waking. One that seemed like a light sleep. Brought on by rich food, and no wonder. It was a mess. Whoever made dreams did not file. Did not organise. Did not make things coherrent. He was sure. He could see light. Sense it like the pores of his skin were the leaves of a giant tree, reaching heaven. He could feel warmth. But in that warmth, there lay pain. Sharp, sharp pain. Pin pricks that shocked him. He would awake. But he could not. And that confused him.

 

He knew he was not there. Not really. Not in the way that would have burnt him. Charred his being. Left him shattered amongst jutting rocks, dashed by the great waves of the sea. No. Something was buffering him. Like a cushion that would be soon too wasted to keep him protected. There were shadows in the clouds. Darkness. A very dangerous darkness. And he did not understand. Not really. Not like what they taught in classes on the Great Game. A giant picture that needed to be viewed from afar. And he was always skilled at that. Learned in his ways. He could easily pass that class now. This was not it. This was darker. Death was no comforting embrace tonight. Why did he think that? He could not comprehend. Nothing made sense. It was a dream, that much he was sure. Not really. Perhaps.

 

Then there was that weird feeling of sadness. A profound sense of betrayal. Of longing. Or trying to to reconcile two conflicting emotions and not quite doing it well. There was so little that made sense now. His eyes sought to see the light. But, there were no eyes. Or was there no light. But he could feel it. Like how having your eyelids shut in the glare of the sun. You could could see it. But it permeated your being. This foolishness was poetry. And poetry meant little to him.

 

Then there was that silence. Everythin was an emotion, really. But the silence, it blanketted his being with a stifling pressure that threatened to make him lose everything he'd eaten. Which wasn't much. It had been a long night. A long night. But what did that have any significance to him. It had been a long night. And a long day would follow. Did it not always? Was there ever any doubt. Why, then, in his current state did he feel like running away. Crawling into a dark hole and never crawling ou. Why did he feel like there was no future to behold. Like everything was lost. Everything was gained. A conumdrum, Like tangled yarn, impossible to untangle. Thick skeins of threads, unraveling in its pattern. Tel'aran'rhiod, he remembered reading of it. It was supposed to be a dreamscape. But this was no dreamscape. This was a dream.

 

And yet, he felt like screaming. For there were a thousand daggers, piercing his eye lids. Slicing his skin open and spilling crimson, crimson blood. It foutaine dout of his mouth, his ears, his nostrils. Where he could stand, and that was something else that made no sense, he felt the liquid congealing into sticky, stiffening goo. It did not feel good. Nothing did. It was like a nightmare.

 

He wondered how long it would last. And indeed how long it had lasted. Was it even real? Was he in bed still? Had he moved beyond the pattern. Or was out of the pattern the Wheel had spun. For he knew that he was significant in the pattern. And that scared him. To be significant. He had been a puppetmaster before. Pulling strings with such subtlety that the world had been amazed. It was one of the things he was good at. Skilled at. Talented at. Talented. Talent.

 

The thoughts washed like waves over him. But he held strong to the thought of his Talent. His ability to Heal. That he knew he had no doubts. He was sure. He could bring those from the brink of death. And for that he was also cursed. The insanity that encroached. Perhaps that was the darkness. Perhaps. No. It was not. He was a Healer. Strongest of them all. He could not teach it. Nor learn it. It was a part of him, and he had no doubts. That was he could do.

 

And yet, there was another.

 

Another? What was another? No, that was lost a long time ago. A memory, wiped out by grief and mourning. And that face. Covered in blood. Blood? What, what was this madness? The last time he saw... no, it was over. He had left that behind.

 

And yet the face flashed in front of him. Blood covered, moaning in pain. A face.

 

Skechid jolted out of his dream and sat upright. And the name that escaped his lips was hardly a whisper. But it tore the night asunder.

 

Dalinar.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The Power crackled and flashed in the study room. Charred marks flawed the mahogany wood of the desk from which Dalinar led, had led, the Black Tower.

 

For all his skill, finesse, the lightest touch like spider’s silk frosted with early morning dew – Dalinar knew he could not stand against this Brent Enios. Sooner try to shield a house from an avalanche with the spider’s web. Dalinar had always at best been average in strength with saidin and Brent was certainly more than this, exceptional. Skill that could near match that of the Forsaken was not saving him from this man whose strength could nearly match those same Dark icons.

 

But his skill held for a time. He cast webs of the Power at Brent in the space between moments while Brent took moments to form his more cumbersome weaves. Dalinar could form ten for every three of Brent’s skeins of saidin. But knives, no matter how sharp, barely penetrated the plate armour protecting the Storm Leader. Perhaps here a slash, there a scorching burn, but it was nothing to the injuries that were inevitably inflicted on the M’Hael.

 

Time stretched, and pain and debilitation battered at the Void that Dalinar was struggling to hold onto. The True Source raged through him, struggled for release, and Dalinar drank of it heavily, more deeply than ever before unaided. He hungered for the angreal cached in a warded box on his desk, but dared not let his attention waver long enough to secure it.

 

The Void trembled, wavered, shimmered. Somehow, outside it, Dali was aware. Aware that firstly, he was losing. And aware the secondly, his injuries were already mortal.

 

He had no choice. He had to try. Perhaps… Perhaps he could escape and rally for a counterstrike against this mutiny.

 

It had been many months since Skechid had suggested it. A safehouse. In case this very event should come to pass. Skechid and his Game of Houses. But now, Dalinar could only be thankful. Was the safehouse itself a trap? Part of Skechid’s Daes Dae’mar? It could be, but it was Dalinar’s only route now. And Dalinar trusted him – or as near trusted him as he ever had anyone at the Black Tower except perhaps for Andar and Ragnar.

 

Now it was a haven. A slim chance. The only hope he could see.

 

The Power surged in him. The Pattern twisted, folded and the meeting between here and there was made, a cavity punched in between the two and a silvery slash of a Gateway rotated in a shimmer then swung open.

 

A weave from Brent hammered into him in that moment of distraction. He felt the cracks and the giddy certainty of internal organs splitting, haemorrhaging. The impact flung him through the Gate and into the beyond.

 

Dalinar fell, stumbled onto his knees and then crumbled to the ground. The Void burst like a bubble pricked by a pin. But before the Void shattered, saidin was lost to him. Brent had struck in those moments of weakness, Spirit, a heavy, blunt knife, crushing and severing Dalinar’s connection with the One Power. The Gate between here and there dissolved into nothing behind him.

 

The world closed in around Dalinar, the agony of his injuries overwhelming him. Had the wards on the safehouse triggered? Would Skechid come? He struggled to find the Flame and Void again, to clutch at the male half of the True Source, but neither would come to him. Darkness dragged him down and folded its cold, heavy arms around him as his last conscious thoughts left him.

 

-A Severed Man.

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  • 1 month later...

There was no moon in the dark sky. The main gardens of House Teobon's Manor was empty as Skechid rode his horse towards it. It was unusual since servants typically worked around the clock. And with the Bel Tine coming soon, there was bound to be activty somewhere. Somewhere. Just not here. And that suited Skechid just fine. He could feel the tug of the coin in the his pocket. It would be glowing dark red, hidden in the fabric. And slightly warm to the touch. It would be dark red. Because it was a colour Dali loved. Perhaps it reminded the man of blood. Either way the fact that it was glowing did not please Skechid.

 

Skechid glanced down at his tunic. Nothing special about it. In fact, it was as common as some of the peasants. That did not disturb him in anyway. What was nobility to an Asha'man. And a Storm Leader at that. Not that it mattered anymore. News had arrived that the Black Tower was in trouble. Something about Asha'man fleeing. The news had been vague. But as the Black Tower's spymaster, it was probably the best anyone would hope for. The Black Tower. In trouble. That gave Skechid a sour taste in his mouth. The Black Tower needed to stand. It was to be a pillar of hope for the Dragon. And now...

 

He took a deep breath and seized Saidin. Fighting the filth, but also feeling the joy of life itself. Everything became clearer. Stronger. More dangerous. He gestured curtly with his hand and a thin line of light appeared before him and rotated into a Gateway. On the other side was a clearing. A clearing he had hoped he would never have to walk into. But there was need now. Perhaps urgent need. But Skechid was cautious. With the Black Tower in turmoil and the Dark One's hold on the world. There was too much danger about. And Skechid was not about the risk his life, even if it was Dalinar. Burn you, Dali, why did you choose to stay in the Black Tower. We could have left together. Together.

 

Clutching the coin in his pocket tightly, he rode forward and into the warmth of the safehouse. Saidin never left him.

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  • 2 weeks later...

His father's look almost seemed disappointed. "Peace, son! I thought it was clear. The Blight grows stronger by the month, the Shadowspawn seem ever more blatant with their attacks and their numbers grow rather than dwindle. This Keep stands between the Shadow and the rest of the free lands! And now you tell me you won't hold a sword, won't train, won't become a warrior to fight at my side like I did by my father's and he beside his." A shadow of a scowl found its way onto his chiselled features. "You must reconsider!" His tone became more pleading, "You must..."

 

Dalinar could remember, looking into his father's eyes then - grey eyes meeting pale blue. "No, father, you know I won't."

 

Everything blurred, twisted and... shifted.

 

His mother's eyes had always been just as grey as his own. She had ever been gentle, by Shienaran standards, though she kept an orderly house and brooked no nonsense. Her eyes, though, were gentle even when she was delivering a harsh reprimand. "Your father is unwell. You know how the Lurk blade has left him. Lord Argand says he would be dead already if not for your own hand." She looked away, unable to meet his eyes, a tear slipping down the side of her face. "But if the King summons then you must go. You must. He would not send unless there was dire need. Not this far." Her voice was pleading, slightly desperate, but hopeless at the same time. "But we could find a way, a reason, for you not to go. Your father needs you. Please... Won't you reconsider?"

 

Dalinar felt the weight of the satchel he slung over his shoulder. Was it that burden that he felt though? Or a greater burden that hung heavy over him? It seemed to drag him down, inexorably. "No, mother. You know I won't."

 

Blur, twist and shift.

 

Her hand trembled slightly in his. The porcelain agelessness of her features now seemed somehow paper thin, delicate, near transparent. A vein fluttered, thready, weak on her forehead. Her breaths were slow, but her chest rose and fell only slightly with each one. A touch of blue reached her lips and fingertips. The Yellow had been sent away, perhaps only a couple of hours before. Dali thought he had seen relief in her eyes as she left. He didn't know whether he felt relieved that she was gone, or angry. He didn't know what to feel.

 

"Do you understand?" Her voice was strong even in its quiet whisper.

 

"I do," Dali replied, unable to meet Brianna's eyes.

 

"And you accept this final charge, Gaidin?"

 

"Only with reluctance that you won't share the task with me, Brianna Sedai."

 

A ghost of a smile touched her lips. "Then it is done, Dalinar. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. You will be free of the Bond soon."

 

Dali squeezed her hand gently, careful not to bruise her fragile fingers. "Too soon."

 

"Dali? Please don't leave me, not yet."

 

Somehow, he kept his voice steady. He was afraid. "No, Brianna. You know I won't."

 

Blur, twist, shift...

 

Dali could see the flame, feel it. Something about it resonated with him, with the fibre of who and what he was, what he had been, what he would yet become. It was like his heart beat, but an echo to his heart beat, that thrummed with a depth that made his core vibrate.

 

And then it was gone.

 

"So..." Dramon's gaze was intense. For some reason, Dali felt afraid of that look. "You, my friend, can learn to channel."

 

Channeling. Using saidin. The One Power. Breaking the World. Madness. Death to him, to all he loved. Dali couldn't breathe.

 

"You have a choice, of course. You can learn, but only if guided. The ability will not manifest without some leading. You could go about your life never having known any different, practically. Or you can join me. Join the Dragon and fight for what is true, and right, and just. Prepare for the Last Battle. For the Last Day."

 

"So, Dalinar, what will it be? Will you run from your fate? This gift? This curse?"

 

It took Dali a long, long time to reply. But when he replied his gaze met the other man's steadily, unwavering. "No, Dramon Calgar. You know I won't."

 

Blur-twist-shift...

 

"Give up! You cannot win. You be finished. The Tower will be better for it if you concede defeat and bend knee to me. The new M'Hael. Admit i!" Brent was near manic in his words, a maddened hysteria finding its way into his words.

 

"No, Brent. You know I won't."

 

Blurtwistshift-

 

It was a flash, out of a dream in a dream. Blinding, clear, hurting his eyes. Skechid. Skechid bent over him. Skechid in common clothes. A most bizarre juxtaposition for the Cairhienin noble and Storm Leader - normally he did his utmost to maintain appearances.

 

Dimly, he was aware of something, he wasn't sure what. A Loss. An Emptiness. And an Ending yet to come.

 

"Don't you flaming, bloody give up, Dali. Don't you dare."

 

He wasn't sure if he said the words out loud or just in the echoing vaults in his mind. "No, Skechid. You know I won't..."

 

 

-Dali.

Edited by Dalinar
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Skechid's face was pale with the effort of focus. Not for the first time, he wished his Talent with Healing was better. But he was one of the strongest the Black Tower had had, and that had been that. Unfortunately, being away from the Black Tower as long as he had made it difficult for him to channel without drawing notice. But today, channel, he must. Sweat dripped down the sides of his face onto the wan figure lying comatose before him. That was the least of his worry for now. The five threads of Power were a dazzling tapestry of patterns but...

 

"Don't you flaming, bloody give up. Don't you dare." He whispered through gritted teeth.

 

This was hard. The wounds were urgent and serious but they dissolved under Skechid's skill with Healing. He had brought others back from the brink of death and Dali would not be any different. This much he was confident of. The other thing... he did not want to think about it. He would deal with it later. For now... Saidin raged through him. As the torrents charged through his veins and into Dali, Skechid could almost give in to the rush. But that would be suicide. Losing control of this much Saidin would probably kill him. If not turn him into... No, he would not go there. He would focus. He would breathe. He would not think about the lack of resonance from his channeling. That was for later.

 

His head throbbed. It seemed like hours, when it really was just a few minutes. But the concentration involved was greater than most other patients. This form of Healing took its strength from the Healer rather than the person being Healed and it was taking its tow. Skechid clenched his fists, gasping for breath. Almost... almost...

 

And it was done. Skechid sat back heavily and wiped the sweat from his brows. His hands shivered in exhaustion and his vision swam in and out of focus. He shut his eyes tightly and squeezed his lips together in an effort to get rid of the dizzying feeling that made him want to lose the contents of his stomach. He reached out and touched Dali's forehead. It was cool to the touch. Not the heat of fever that had plagued it when Skechid first saw him. He listened to Dali's breathing. Lighting. Calmer. Less laboured. That was good. It meant the Healing had worked its magic. Sometimes Skechid wished he could work Saidin on himself. For one, he longed for someone who could take his exhaustion away. During times of battle, that worked wonders. But now all he could do was to take in a deep breath and try the exercise he had learned from Camigwen Marivin, the Yellow Sister. To calm himself. And to maintain focus. Like a rose, opening its petals one by one. To feel the sun's warmth as each petal opened. And with each open petal a breath. Slow. In. Out. In. Out.

 

It worked. For a moment anyway. Skechid looked down at Dali. The man had grown older and slightly more weathered than Skechid remembered. But that was no surprise. It had been a long time. And all that time, Skechid had stayed away, afraid to be pulled under the currents that threatened to overwhelm the Black Tower. Skechid's own rank as Storm Leader had been forfeited. But his far reaching network of spies were still loyal. And that helped keep him informed. It had been a difficult decision to leave, abandoning some of his comrades at their moment of need. But sometimes self preservation was more important that friendship and brotherhood. At least he had left a legacy of safeguards to deal with dire situations like this.

 

And still, there was more to deal with. Much more.

 

With a grunt, Skechid stood up, swaying slightly, fought for balance. He took a towel from the shelf beside the bed. First, he unbuttoned Dali's sweat soaked clothes and removed them. The blackcoat with its pins and embroidery gave Skechid pause. But he muttered to himself and dumped them in into a pile. With the dry towel he wiped the man's face and then torso. Blood mixed with sweat soaked into the towel. But the body was unmarked by wounds. At least it was clean and dry. It would help Dali sleep better and for now that would be a welcome relief. Light knew the next few days would be difficult. Skechid shook his head as another bout of dizziness swept over him. With the same towel, he wiped up the stains of blood from the floor around the bed. There was more, but he decided those could wait.

 

The room was simple. It was an old house. In the middle of a village. In the middle of nowhere. It was a part of House Teobon's extensive estate. But a verily forgotten part, for it was not even close to Cairhien. An old investment of his grandfather's. And that suited Skechid's need for it well. Noone from the village knew Lord Skechid Aran Teobon, or even the existence of House Teobon. Many had never even been to Cairhien. It was truly as remote as it could be. Which was exactly what a safehouse needed. As far as the rest of the village was concerned, it was an uninhabited house belonging to a merchant who travelled so much he had little time for a proper home. And now, it would have to be inhabited for a while. Skechid wondered how long they would need to be there. But that triggered another dizzy spell and it made him lean against the wall for support. Gasping for breath, he steadied himself. He needed rest, that much he was sure.

 

He looked at the bed that Dali was lying on. It looked welcoming. It felt like he had been running for days. He still felt wary of Dali. Old friend, notwithstanding, the man was a part of Skechid's life that he had hoped to abandon forever. And that made him dangerous. But perhaps now, the tie would be severed. Severed. The word sent a shiver down Skechid spine as he sat down beside Dali. Dalinarius Traachanshield. M'hael. One of the strongest the Black Tower had, like Skechid himself. A member of the Guardian Council. Not the least, a Healer like Skechid. That alone marked so many similarities between them. And yet... the man had been central to the running of one of the most dangerous groups of men the world had ever seen. M'hael. Leader of the men who were fated to go mad. Whilst Skechid himself eschewed that power. Choosing instead to abandon it. Leaving it behind. And now... would it make a difference?

 

Skechid shook his head. There were too many things to think about. And he was exhausted. He did not even have the energy to check the Wards that held the room. With the little strength he had, unbuttoned his own sweat soaked tunic and he pushed Dali further into the bed. Laying down beside the unconscious former M'hael, Skechid had a sense of deja vu. It did not feel strange sharing the man's bed. They had done it more than once before. And not always due to a lack of space. No, this was not the time for such thoughts. That could wait. That would wait.

 

Pulling the blanket over himself and Dali, Skechid closed his eyes with a deep sigh. He was not sure what tomorrow would bring. But for now, there were only dreams of what could be.

Edited by Wayward_fool
Because frogs are cute.
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  • 3 weeks later...

Awareness came slowly. Like a morning mist giving way to light and sunshine and fading, slowly, into the clarity of a bright new day.

 

Bright. It did seem bright. Eyelids peeled apart slowly and gave way to harsh reality of the outside world. He couldn’t help squinting against it, waiting for his eyes to adjust gradually.

 

Wooden walls, a plain room. The covers of an even plainer bed. A softly snoring mound of shape tucked under them next to him.

 

Skechid. Well of course it was Skechid. The man had always said if there was need, he would find him. If there was need. Well, Dalinar thought to himself, the need had surely never been greater, even if it was a selfish need. A need to survive.

 

Of course, the course Brent could now set the Black Tower on might be enough to Break the world again. White versus Black in all out conflict, if that indeed were his track, could surely bring a conflict so devastating that entire nations would fall. There had to be survivors. There had to be someone to stand against it.

 

Dalinar rolled out of bed quietly, careful not to disturb Skechid, and bare feet found their way to the window. He parted the curtains there a crack, peering outside. Ah, yes, the safehouse. He remembered now, the choice to flee. The daring risk.

 

It was uncomfortably warm in the room, a heavy humid stickiness in the air that made a faint sheen of sweat a familiar cloak. He could cool it, make it more comfortable for them both until Skechid woke. The Void came easily to him, the Flame scouring away that sense of tropical mugginess. The trick to ignore hot and cold would work well enough for him, but not for Skechid while Skechid he slept, paying the price for the Healing that he had rendered Dali. It was the least he could offer the man who had saved his life. Again.

 

Dali reached for saidin. The bitter, gut-churning torrent that would fill him, seeking to engulf him, rip him apart, but sustained him like mother’s milk did a babe. He could see it, the familiar sickening glow. He reached, strained and grappled.

 

Saidin evaded him every time. Like trying to catch water with a fish net. It wasn’t a Shield, he had been Shielded often enough to know that feeling, that ephemeral barrier between himself and the Source. This was different. Here there was nothing stopping him from touching the Power. It was there. He could sense it. But he could not reach it. As well reach his hand to try to touch the sun. He could almost feels its warmth on his face, but he could draw no life from it.

 

There was a chair by the window. Subconsciously, he realised that he had landed in it, heavily. The Void slipped from him, empty.

 

Empty. Hollow. Like a shell. Brittle and hard and fragile. He thought he recognised these feelings, from the description those poor men at the Farm had described to him, those who had burnt themselves out, or been severed in a training accident.

 

Severed. The other mortal blows Brent had struck had been horrible, but this was the worst. This was a slow, lingering, inexorable death. He could feel the will draining from him. Purpose seemed… pointless.

 

He sat there, not moving, barely breathing more than enough to sustain his minimal bodily function, gazing out the window into the sunlight, for a very, very long time. Why bother getting up anyway? There was nothing he could do now. Not without the Power. Not against Brent. It was all so… meaningless...

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The fire roared. The sea of flames was hot. Skechid could feel the hairs on his skin singeing. But he had to hold on. The torrent of Saidin riding through him was madness. But he had to draw more. More... he had to draw more. He had to cleanse Saidin. He just had to....

 

Abruptly, something snapped. Skechid groaned and fell to the ground. He could feel the spasms rock his body. And the feeling of emptiness...

 

"NO!" Skechid awoke with a gasp. The piercing light of the morning sun forced his eyes shut. He felt the aftershocks of the dream. The hollow pain that threatened to destroy his identity. His person. His very existence. Saidin. Severed.

 

Awkwardly he stretched, relieved that it was but a dream. And pulled the blanket off himself. It was far too hot and stuffy in the room. He looked around the room and stared at the only other figure sitting on a chair in the middle of the room. Dalinar. Skechid gingerly got up from the bed and walked over to Dali. His steps caused the floor to creak a little but the other man did not even seem to notice his approach. Skechid's mind whirled at what to say. For the other man, the dream had become reality. Severed from the One Source and unconsolable, Dalinar seemed to be a man devoid of life as he sat there.

 

"Dali?" Skechid whispered gently. The man didn't even blink. Worriedly, Skechid seized Saidin and Delved Dalinar. Focusing only on the physical aspects of the man. But he knew the problem was far deeper and far more complicated than that. It was a problem Skechid was not able to solve. And that irked him. "Dali?" He tried again, shaking the man's shoulders a little. Again, there was no response. It was as if the man had gone catatonic.

 

It happened sometimes. Patients with too much mental trauma would at times sit at their beds staring into the sun, uncaring of the people around them. These were worse than those who went mad from the Taint. It was definitely not ethical to kill them with the poison reserved for the Tainted. And yet, there was little the Healers could do for them. Skechid knew that the Yellows had a similar Infirmary of patients in the White Tower. And had secretly sent some of his own over to Camigwen Sedai for her care. Light knew the White Tower had the resources of patience and integrity that the Black Tower sometimes lacked. Petain, the other Healer who looked after the Infirmary would call this "sky-freedom". Having lost themselves to the skies, free at last from whatever hurt them. It was a nice name. A good name. Probably not exactly the truth. But sometimes people needed balms that could sooth them. And Healers were no different. At this point... Dalinar was sky-free.

 

Not. Good.

 

Skechid took a deep breath and tried to calm himself down. There was nothing he could do specifically to aid Dali's situation. Severing was not common enough in the Black Tower for him to have had the experience to study it. He had never heard of a channeler regaining the ability after having been Severed. But it did not mean that never happened. If only he could keep Dali alive long enough to figure out what to do. In the Black Tower, those who had lost the ability were made into serfs and guardsmen, ostracised and ignored. But it did not matter, as most of them hardly lasted. A week or two at the most. Some went sky-free. Others lost the will to live and took matters into their own hands. The coffers that held the poisons in the Black Tower were not well guarded. Intentionally so.

 

Dali could not die. He was one of the pillars of the Black Tower. Whatever the Black Tower was going through, it would need people like Dali to keep the Dragon safe. Skechid was not about to do this alone. Not alone. Never alone. That had been Dali's words when Skechid left the Black Tower. It was a memory. And with the Last Battle approaching... well... besides that, Skechid knew in his heart that he could not lose his friend. They had been through too much together. And losing Dali, well, that would be difficult.

 

"Dali. Can you hear me?" Skechid leaned forward and whispered into the ears of the man. He did not get a response, but then again, he did not expect to. Those who were sky-free would not even respond to loud noises or shocks. "Come back. We need you here. I need you here. I have to do this to you, but I swear if you get better... well... it'll be up to you. But, this is the only thing I know that could keep you here for a little longer. And..." Skechid's eyes reddened at this, he could feel the prickling of tears. He could not be emotional. He could not.

 

The weave he wove was not a conventionally taught weave. In fact, only a few in the Guardian Council even knew it. More importantly, it was a forbidden weave. Without the expressed permission of the Guardian Council, noone was allowed to use it. But Skechid figured, the Council was probably gone. And two of its members were sitting in this room. And quite honestly, he could not give a damn. It was simple. Not complex compared to the Healing weaves he had done before. Mostly Spirit, woven in the shape of a crown. It settled upon Dali like the gentle blossoms of an elderflower. Skechid leaned down and touched his lips to the other man's. He had no idea how that helped, but it had been a part of the weave for some reason. He could feel the other man's lips stir in response. But that was not the end of it...

 

Skechid gasped. It was like a large display of fireworks going on in his brain. His body rippled with strange feelings. Like a mantle that was too tight that you felt every hair, every bit of fabric. But more importantly...

 

"Skechid...?" Dali's eyes were wide. Very wide.

 

"I'm sorry Dali. This was the only way I knew." He smiled worriedly, heart in his hands and mind in a mess. The thoughts. Light, the thoughts. What is this? Oh Dali... He shook his head and touched the man's face gently."Dalinarius Trachaanshield. We are... Bonded."

 

And so, they were.

Edited by Wayward_fool
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  • 2 years later...

Regalia smoothened the front of her dress and sighed. It was a long ride and the village was small anyway. It was not exactly small, it was just... far away from everywhere else. Riding was not her favourite past time and if she had been smarter about it, she would have insisted that they Travel. Well, she would have insisted harder anyway. But the Aes Sedai next to her was bordering on legendary status and she had to back down eventually. Ageless and beautiful, but more importantly a former Yellow Sitter who had done things that many Aes Sedai would never even dream of, including capturing a few false Dragons and Bonding two Ashaman. They stood behind them now. Death in their eyes and danger in their stance.

 

"Be still, Regalia." Camigwen Marivin's voice was cool and emotionless, but her fingers traced the outline of her horse's reins. A sign that she too was nervous.

 

"We are here now, Camigwen, surely you do not expect me to continue acting your hand maiden as we did when we passed Caihien?" That had been another thorny reason for Regalia's discontent. But Light, the woman was strong in the Power and that was certainly a reason for some deference.

"Perhaps not. But we must be wary. This is a small population. They might not be familiar with the ways of the White Tower. As far as I know, there has only ever been one Aes Sedai who has ever visited this place. And that was for a personal retreat." Camigwen gestered for her two Ashaman Gaidin. "Nuler. Varanel. Scout ahead and find your M'hael and Storm Leader." The two men gave her a bemused look and nodded. Then disappeared into the shadows.

 

"Alright, Regalia, let's take a break somewhere and perhaps some tea would be good." Camigwen got off her stead and led the mare towards a building that looked like an inn.

 

"And then?"

 

"And then, we wait. All wolves must come out to hunt eventually. Or they would surely starve." With a nod, Camigwen handed the reins to a young boy and headed into the shade of the inn lobby.
 

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