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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

How to Save a Life


claireducky
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As the bells struck High, Gianna headed out into Tar Valon. She crossed the gigantic square in front of the White Tower and joined the foot traffic on the broad road there. She could have traveled easier by horse, but Gianna didn't mind. Only an Aes Sedai for a few months, she did not yet possess the ageless face that could make pedestrians jump out of the way. Today, it served her purpose to be nondescript. Gianna was heading to visit her glovemaker; a glovemaker who was also a spy.

 

She had learned the value of spies and watchers while growing up immersed in the intrigues of Daes Dae'mar. Upon arriving at Tar Valon as a Novice, Gianna had sought to create her own network of eyes and ears-- to keep her apprised of what her uncle Toram was up to. Theodrian Damorwin was just one of many that Gianna had managed to add to her network over the last 15 years. While most spies wanted money, Theodrian was different. The fatherly glovemaker had close kin that worked on one of Gianna's estates near Jurene.

 

Gianna could remember Theo's sister quite well, or at least she could remember her cooking. Deana Damorwin made quite possibly the best pastries in all of Cairhien, if Gianna's childhood memories could be trusted. She had filched a number of Deana's honeycakes from the kitchens at the Jurene estate when she was a child.

 

No, Theodrian didn't want money for his whispers, at least not from her. He was happy to give Gianna information in exchange for friendly conversation over tea. They talked about everything, from the weather to the prices of leather. Gianna suspected that the man was lonely; his wife had passed on some seven years ago now, and he had not remarried.

 

It is no good for him to be alone. I wonder if he has any other family besides Deana?

 

Gianna pushed the thought away as she approached the banking district. Master Damorwin kept his shop in an area flanked by banks. She had asked him once why he didn't have his shop in the fashion district like all of the other clothing suppliers.

 

"Safety, Mistress Gianna." he had replied. "I might make more money in the fashion district, but thieves run thicker there. Anybody that tried to rob me here would find himself surround by the banker's strongarms before they crossed the street."

 

What times are these, where common thieves have become a problem in Tar Valon? This is the safest city in the world!

 

Shaking her head, Gianna wiped the frown from her face and replaced it with a calm mask as she approached the shop. It would not do for her to appear troubled. As she opened the door, a little bell tinkled to notify the shopkeeper of her arrival. Gianna breathed in the scents she'd come to associate with this place-- freshly tanned leather and dyed wool.

 

"Ho, I'm coming!" the glovemaker bellowed from the back of the shop. After a few moments, he poked his head out from behind a curtain which concealed the workshop area of the store. Gianna couldn't help but smile. Something about him was very endearing and reminded her of home. A fuzzy fringe of gray hair ringed his bald head, and a broad smile lit up his face when he recognized her.

 

"Hello, Master Damorwin," she said.

 

He walked around the shop counter to her. "Why Mistress Gianna! I am very glad to see you! Here, let me take your cloak, Mistress." He shot her a sidelong look. "Or is it Gianna Sedai now?"

 

Gianna gave him a small smile and nodded; the last time she'd been to visit, she had still been Accepted. "But, please continue to call me Mistress Gianna," she replied.

 

"Of course, of course," he said mischievously, and laid a finger along the side of his nose.

 

He always did think the spying thing to be such a lark. Hopefully, he'll never learn the dangers of being a spy for an Aes Sedai.

 

Gianna shrugged out of her cloak, which Master Damorwin placed on a hook near the fireplace. She let him guide her over to a wooden rocking chair by the fire. As she took her seat, Theodrian busied himself with the kettle and water. Gianna didn't try to speak to him; she knew he preferred to hold to the old manners of Cairhien. Civilized people waited until the tea was served and all were seated to have conversation.

 

 

Several minutes later, Theodrian placed a tray with kettle, cups and honey on the table between them. That done, he seated himself in the rocking chair opposite of Gianna, laying his jacket over the arm of the chair as he sat down. Gianna poured, serving the steaming black tea and adding a generous amount of honey to each cup. She knew he liked his tea sweet, just as she did. Only when they were both sitting back in their chairs and enjoying the vapors from their cups did Gianna finally speak.

 

"What news of the world, Master Damorwin?"

 

(to be continued)

Edited by claireducky
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  • 3 weeks later...

Theodrian looked up at Gianna's question and snorted in amusement. "What isn't news, Gianna Sed-- Mistress Gianna? Cairhien is in an uproar over the latest decrees by the King, your Uncle Toram has made a pact with House Carellian for some unknown purpose, there's apparently a False Dragon on the loose in Shienar, and there are bandits loose on the road between Cairhien and Caemlyn." He sighed heavily, his words coming slower. "My great-nephew Brannen was traveling here to become my apprentice when the party he was in was waylaid-- they were robbed and then the whole group was murdered."

 

Gianna's breath caught at the mention of Toram. She had heard about both the False Dragon and of the King's decrees, foolishly attempting to push the Foregaters out of the city-- but this was the first news she'd had of Toram's activities in quite awhile. Despite her mind buzzing with possibilities, she pushed them aside when she saw the sorrow on Theodrian's face as he told the story about his nephew.

 

She reached across the table to squeeze Master Damorwin's hand. He looked up at her touch, surprise on his face.

 

"I am very sorry to hear of your loss, Theodrian. It's appalling that the very roads aren't safe any more," she said. "Hopefully, I will be traveling to Cairhien myself soon-- and I promise you this: if I come across these bandits, they will not have any mercy from me." Her voice grew steely as she thought of what exactly she'd do if they made the mistake of waylaying her. And after that, she would find her Uncle and deal with him.

 

The glovemaker wiped away the tears from the corner of his eyes. "I appreciate that, Mistress Gianna, I do. It would do my heart good to see those devils brought to justice. I was very much looking forward to Deana's grandson coming to be my apprentice-- I am getting old, and it's been so quiet around here these seven years since Marinda passed."

 

He picked up the teapot and began to refill Gianna's cup, but the tea was gone and only a few drips splashed into the bottom of Gianna's cup. He stood, turning away from the table to make another pot. Gianna rose from her own seat, stopping him with a hand on his arm.

 

"No need to trouble yourself, Theodrian," she said. "If things in Cairhien really are as dire as they seem, I should be making preparations to leave soon."

 

Theodrian set the teapot down, and turned to face her. "Then you best have some new riding gloves to see you there, eh?" He smiled mischievously, and leaned over to grab a small bundle from the counter. "I made these for you," he said as she carefully unwrapped the bundle. "I hope I got the color right." Gianna pulled away the wrapping cloth, revealing two new pairs of leather gloves. One was identical to the other pairs he had made for her over the years-- black, with the Five Stars of House Riatin embroidered in thread-of-silver on the back of the hands. The other pair was different though-- they were a deep navy blue, with the teardrop symbol of the Aes Sedai inlaid with a cutout backed with leather of the purest white.

 

A smile grew on her face as she admired the new gloves, then looked up at the master glovemaker. "They are perfect, Master Damorwin. I cannot thank you enough for this beautiful work."

 

She reached for her belt pouch to pay him, but he stopped her with a shake of his head and a chuckle. "I'll not be taking payment on these gloves, Mistress. Consider them a gift from me, in honor of your raising. If you want to repay me, you can do it by finding them that killed Brannen."

 

Gianna smoothed the smile from her lips, replacing it with solemn seriousness. "I will do everything I can, Theodrian. Thank you again, so much."

 

The man just chuckled again, running a hand over his fuzzy head as he helped her with her cloak, and holding open the door for her as she left. "I hope to see you again soon, Mistress Gianna. Fare you well, now."

 

She clutched the gloves to her chest as she stepped out into the streets of Tar Valon. The door shut behind her, cutting off the sound of its tinkling bell. She looked up at the White Tower, its shining walls glinting in the morning sun.

 

I will find a way to repay him for this, she thought, and to bring light into his life again.

Edited by claireducky
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As she set off across the city, Gianna's thoughts were full of what she should do next. She had only recently been raised, but she hoped that would not be a bar to her leaving to deal with these Bandits and also with Toram. Perhaps the best course would be to speak to her Ajah Head about the matter. If things were simple, permission would be granted and she could set off immediately. But in her experience, things were never simple.

 

If she will not let me go, I will go anyway. This is important enough to risk being in Ajah trouble over.

 

Gianna continued to walk back towards the Tower, letting the press of the crowd move her along at its own pace. She was in no hurry, and needed time to decide her course of action with Toram. Should she approach him directly? Maybe a disguise? As she considered the options, the group of pedestrians she was in reached a major intersection, and stopped to wait on the passing wagon train. Grain from the east was being brought into the city, and these large wagons would feed the people for months once winter arrived. These wagons were essentially barges on wheels-- they were gigantic, crafted from hardwoods for sturdiness and bound by strong iron strapping to keep them solid across bumpy roads. Even their axles were made of solid iron to prevent breaking. This was a large train of them; at least 40 or 50 wagons. The drivers shouted at each other and at the crowds, perhaps flicking a whip at someone who strays too close. Those wheels would surely crush a person if they were unlucky enough to get caught beneath their path.

 

------------------------------

 

As she watched the wagons pass, lost in her own thoughts, a man approached her from behind. He had been watching her these last few weeks, though she had not likely noticed him. Gredor prided himself on his stealthiness. He knew his target was Aes Sedai, but that didn't worry him. An Aes Sedai could die from a knife in her ribs as easily as any other person. Gredor didn't know why the Cairhienin man had wanted this one dead, but he wasn't paid to ask questions. He was paid to kill, and to do it without anyone else being the wiser. "Accidents" were his specialty, and this wagon train provided an excellent opportunity. He scooted closer behind the young Aes Sedai, keeping an eye on the rest of the crowd. She stood near the front of the press of people; only one other person stood between her and the passing wagons-- a scrawny boy of about 12. That wasn't an issue for Gredor, collateral damage would reinforce the impression of an accident.

 

The time was approaching. Gredor could see the last of the wagons down the line, coming towards the intersection where they stood. It must be soon, or he would have to wait for another opportunity-- one that might not be as good as this one. Gredor used his trick of throwing his voice to cause a distraction. "Look out! The wheel's coming off of that 'un!"

 

The crowd turned their attention towards the street, looking for the wagon in question. While their eyes were on the street, Gredor braced his feet on the cobblestones, whispered a prayer for the dead, and pushed. The Aes Sedai and the street urchin in front of her both toppled into the road, right in the path of an oncoming wayn.

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Gianna watched the huge carts rolling by, lost in her thoughts. She kept getting distracted by the fidgety boy in front of her. He kept hopping from one foot to another, like he either had to use the privy or he was in a great hurry to be somewhere. Judging by his messy hair and threadbare clothes, he was a street urchin.

 

Probably on his way to the soup kitchens, she thought. Her stomach grumbled. Now that I think of it, I could do with a good meal, too.

 

The last of the grain wagons was approaching in the distance. Gianna was glad; they'd been standing near twenty minutes waiting on it. As she watched the last wagon coming nearer, she heard a shout over to her right.

 

"Look out! The wheel's coming off of that 'un!"

 

Gianna turned her focus back to the street, looking for signs of trouble. Perhaps she could help steady a wagon with Air if the wheel came off-- it would be a shame to lose any of the grain into the muddy street. Murmurs rose from the crowd as they watched the wagons.

 

Suddenly, Gianna felt a hard shove from behind. She reeled forward from the impact, knocking into the urchin boy and sending him flying into the street. The world tumbled as Gianna tripped and sprawled face-first on the muddy cobblestones. She could hear shouts from the wagon drivers, screams of fear from women in the crowd, and frightened whinnies from the horses as the drivers tried to pull them up. Dazed and panicked, she raised her head from the ground and saw a horse's hoof inches from her face. She wasn't as concerned with that as what lay beyond. The little boy who had been in front of her now lay right in the path of the iron-shod wheels as they plowed inexorably through the mud towards him. The unconscious boy didn't move to escape the death that was quickly approaching.

 

"No!" Gianna yelled, reaching for saidar. The warmth of the Power filled her, and she wove Air desperately. The frenzied horse standing above her reared, landing on her back as he came down with his front hooves. Pain exploded in her shoulders, shooting down her arms. It took her breath away, but she continued to weave-- gesturing with her hands as she used her weave to grab the boy from the ground and drag him out of the wagon's path. He bumped like a ragdoll across the cobblestones, as first his legs, then his body, and then finally his head and arms were out of harms way. The wagon wheel came down with a crunch on a stick in the road, next to where he'd been only moments before.

 

Gianna breathed out a painful sigh of relief and released her weave as the wagon finally halted. The horse was still prancing, but a driver was standing next to it, edging the creature sideways and away from Gianna. She felt hands on her, trying to help her stand-- she took in a sharp breath when the hands pulled on her shoulders, but pushed the pain aside as she was brought to her feet. Another driver stood before her, holding on to her muddy arm to steady her and eyeing her warily. Gianna could hear murmurs of "Aes Sedai" from the crowd. Her eyes sought out the boy who she had pulled from the wagon's path. Relief flooded her emotions as she saw him sitting up on the muddy cobbles, being tended to by some women from the crowd.

 

The drivers continued to watch her warily; they were obviously afraid she would be wroth with them over the incident. She turned to them, her face a calm mask of serenity tinged with pain. "Do not worry, gentlemen. I do not blame you for what happened; in fact I commend you for keeping calm and bringing your wagon to a halt as quickly as you did. This was not your fault; I was pushed."

 

She could see the tension drain out of them, the grizzled one steadying her nodded and spoke in a low voice, his eyes crinkling at the corners in thought. "Ayuh, I did think I saw someone push you as we came up, Aes Sedai." He shook his head, and turned his head sideways to spit upon the cobbles. She gestured for him to continue. "Who would do such a thing, I don't know-- Whitecloaks, mebbe. But this man weren't a Whitecloak, at least he didn't have the look of a soldier. A slight man, skinny, you know? I saw him yell something over his shoulder, then a moment later he just reached out and shoved the two o' you in ter the street." He shook his head again. "After that, I were so busy with the horses that I didn't see where he got off ter."

 

Gianna nodded and looked the grizzled man in the eyes. "I will make sure he is found, ser. I thank you for the information." She turned to look at where she and the boy had lain in the street, and suppressed a shudder. "And I thank you for stopping."

 

She stood as straight as she could, gently removed the man's steadying hand from her arm, and walked slowly over to where the boy was sitting on the cobbles.

Edited by claireducky
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As she neared the boy sitting on the ground, the women surrounding him all stood and took a step or two back. She nodded as they murmured, "Aes Sedai," and dropped small curtsies to her. Gianna knew she must look a fright; covered in mud from head to toe and limping slightly as she walked. The crowd was beginning to disperse, and she turned attention to the boy in front of her. He started to stand, but Gianna waved him back down. "No, young master, you should sit and rest a few minutes after what just happened. Are you hurt?"

 

The boy shook his head, drying flecks of mud flying from his shaggy hair. "N-n-no, Aes Sedai," he stammered nervously. "At least, I don't think I am."

 

Gianna bent over gingerly, reaching a hand out to place upon his forehead. She quickly wove a Delving; the boy was telling the truth-- he was miraculously unhurt but for a few bruises he got landing in the street. She let Delving turn into Healing, and the boy shivered a little as the weave went through him, smoothing his small hurts away. She straightened and released saidar, looking over the boy with an appraising eye. He was probably 12 or so, but small for his age. And definitely an orphan or homeless; his clothes had more holes than fabric left. She asked him gently, "What is your name? I am Gianna Sedai. Do you remember anything of what happened?"

 

The boy nodded, wiping a hand across his face. All he accomplished was to smear the dirt there a little more. "I'm B-b-bili, Gianna Sedai. I was on my way to the community kitchen for midday meal when we got stopped by the wagons there. I didn't want to be late, or there might not be any left. I'd work at the docks, but Coran says I'm too small to buck bales of goods. Or I would work in a bakery, but Tim says my hands are too small to knead dough." He seemed to realize he was rambling, and gulped a breath before continuing on. "Anyways, I was waiting here just like you was, waiting on the wagons. I kept looking around at everyone, cause I like to see what everyone's wearing-- I like to imagine that someday I'll have fancy clothes like them. So, I was looking around, and then I heard someone yell about a wagon losing it's wheel. Then right after that, I felt a big push, and everything went dark for awhile." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "They's saying that somebody pushed you, Aes Sedai. Is that true?"

 

Gianna stifled a laugh at the flood of words pouring from the boy, and turned serious again when he brought up the pusher. She nodded solemnly. "Yes, Bili-- it appears someone pushed me into the street, and I unfortunately took you with me on my way down."

 

He scrunched he nose up at that. "Tweren't your fault, Aes Sedai. It was that little man who done it."

 

"What little man?" She asked.

 

"The little man with no hair," he replied. "I noticed him standing behind you; he was wearing a nice and heavy black wool tunic. I wish I had a tunic like that. He was about your height, and thin as a rail. But the one thing strange about him-- he had no hair, Gianna Sedai! I swear it by the Light-- his head was bald, he didn't have a moustache or beard, and even his eyebrows was missin'! It's like he shaved them all off. I bet you anything it was him that pushed you." The boy sat back, scrubbing his hands through his own dirty hair, sending more mud flecks flying everywhere.

 

Gianna considered this information silently, tapping a dirty finger on her pursed lips. This was the second account of a small man, a small man who had pushed her. And this new information about having no hair-- hadn't Gianna seen a bald man this morning as she left Theodrian's shop? Surely the man had to be an agent of Toram; she doubted the Whitecloaks would attempt on a sister's life in Tar Valon itself. She shook her head, sending her own flecks of mud flying. A bath would definitely be in order once she returned to the Tower; as soon as she had a Yellow make sure that horse hadn't cracked her spine.

 

She regarded the boy for a moment, and an idea began to form in her head.

 

Too little for the docks, and hands too small for the bakery... It was true, the boy was a scrawny thing, with small hands that had long, delicate fingers. And he has an eye for clothing as well as good observational skills... I think I know just the place for him.

 

Gianna offered the boy her hand, he looked at it askance for a moment before grabbing it and hauling himself to his feet. She bent over slightly so her face was on his level, ignoring the screaming coming from the muscles in her back.

 

"Bili, how would you like a hot meal, a warm place to sleep AND the chance to see as many beautiful clothes as you wish?" She asked.

 

The boy's eyes grew wide as she spoke. "Boy, would I!" He exclaimed. "It would be a dream come true!"

 

She smiled at him, and drew a small slip of parchment and a slate pencil out of her belt pouch. She scribbled a few words on the paper, folded it, and handed it to Bili.

 

She brushed a stray lock of hair out of her eyes as she spoke. "Well then, Bili-- take this piece of paper, and give it to Master Damorwin. He is a glovemaker in the banking district. Do you think you can find his shop?"

 

Bili bounced eagerly. "Sure, I can! I will go there right now." He paused a moment, face turning serious. "Gianna Sedai, is it true what the ladies said-- that you saved me from that wagon crushing me?"

 

Gianna nodded her head. "Yes, I had to weave Air and pull you out of the street so you wouldn't be killed."

 

What came next was a complete surprise. Bili rushed forward, clasping Gianna around the waist in a 12-year-old's version of a bear hug. It was enough to knock the breath from the Blue, and she looked down awkwardly at the boy crushing his face into her dress. Gianna had never really had much experience with young children before. She tentatively reached out and patted the boy on the back of his grimy head as he attempted to hug the life out of her. After several minutes, Bili finally disengaged himself and scrubbed the back of his hand across the unfallen tears in his eyes. "I can't thank you enough, Gianna Sedai. I'll never forget how you saved me. Thank you!" And with that, the boy turned and sprinted away, down the boulevard and out of sight.

 

Gianna stood alone in the intersection a moment, wishing she could hug the boy again, just one more time. Then she shook her head and walked slowly towards the White Tower. If this was Toram's doing, she needed to be away to Cairhien tonight.

 

At least if that note to Theodrian works like I hope it does, perhaps I'll have saved two lives today, not just one.

 

--------------------------------

 

Theodrian Damorwin stood in his shop's parlor, looking rather befuddled as he regarded the grimy child in front of him and the scrap of paper he bore. He put on his reading glasses and read the short note, smudged with muddy fingerprints.

 

Theodrian,

 

This is Bili. I know he's a muddy mess right now, but I think he has the right qualifications to make you a wonderful apprentice. He also has excellent powers of observation, if you take my meaning. I will instruct my bank to pay his apprentice fee to your account immediately. I know the two of you will get on famously.

 

Gianna

 

He read the note a second time to make sure his eyes were not playing tricks on him, then turned to look the boy over once again. Bili was small, true-- but Master Damorwin saw strength in those small hands, and deftness in those long fingers. He'd have the dexterity he needed to sew the most complicated designs. Perhaps Gianna hadn't gone crazy, after all.

 

"Well, Bili-- it seems that you are to be my new Apprentice." Theodrian told the boy kindly. "How about we take care of getting you a bath first, and then I will begin to teach you about working leather. How does that sound?"

 

The boy took his hand as they walked towards the living quarters of the shop. "A real bath? In a tub?! And I get to make stuff with leather? OH BOY!" Bili jumped in the air with glee, and Theodrian roared with laughter, laughter which echoed through the empty shop and seemed to fill it up with a light of its own.

 

 

OOC: This storyline continues in this thread: Unexpected Help

Edited by claireducky
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