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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Drunken Lullabies - attn: Sasra


Winter Mist
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~Dilora~

 

Well, this was a nice little place. Reminiscent of the little village taverns that Dilora had stopped at during the course of her travels through Andor, the little alehouse had appealed to her because the windows. It was an odd thing to be drawn to, but Dilora had been attracted to the fact that this particular tavern, completed with sawdust on the floor and a low-beamed ceiling, had clean windows. Neat curtains, held back with ribbons that spoke tellingly of care and attention, despite the fact that the furniture seemed to be made from cheaper woods. This was Tar Valon, after all. She'd found it relatively easily, left Altie and her brightly-painted wagon in the stable for a rub-down for her horse and a long stand in somewhere out of the elements for the wagon, and gone inside to warm up.

 

Dark strands of wind-whipped hair had escaped the clasp she used to hold it in place and, standing in the doorway, Dilora removed it and put it in the pocket of her shirt so as not to lose it. Raking her fingers through it, she used the opportunity to scan the inside of the room to see what was happening this chilly evening. This place, aside from having nice clean windows, had an atmosphere that reminded her of Baerlon for some reason, and surveying the patrons she found a few fellow peddlers, obvious by the travel stains on their outfits and weary-looking faces, and nodded at them. They returned the nod good-naturedly and one even went so far as to wink at her. She couldn't help herself. Flashing a large smile, the one she used when she turned on her full charm, Dilora pushed her hair behind her ears and winked back, twinkling with suppressed mischief.

 

"Evenin'."

"Evenin'."

 

The exchanges happened all around the room; the same camaraderie that could only happen when weary travellers met again and talked of their times on the road. People who had met once or twice became old friends, colleagues under the same sky reunited in taverns with tankards. She knew what they'd want from her, and she knew full well that if she wanted any information about the conditions and trade-routes around the area, she'd have to do her special. Sighing to herself, she crossed to the bar and ordered a glass of spiced wine and a tankard of ale. The ale was to sip, to enjoy, while the wine was to settle the sudden onset of nerves, and that went down in one. She cleared her throat, and crossed to stand in front of the fireplace, and began to sing...

 

The Aes Sedai lady, all calm and serene

She uses the power to light up a candle

The Aes Sedai's Warder is handsome and lean

And a warder's sword has a bloody long handle.

 

The noble born lady, she acts like a queen

With matters of state and occasion to handle

Her husband or consort is always too keen

And a warder's sword has a bloody long handle.

 

Her eyes in the room turned to the doorway in the break between the verses. A seemingly young woman, with dark brown hair with a fringe across her curious face had entered. Dilora couldn't see the rest of the woman under her cloak, and the warmth from the wine had spread throughout her body,and up into her mind a little. She would suit the next verse perfectly. Pointing at her, Dilora continued, and the crowd followed her finger.

 

The big-eyed young lady o'er there by the wall

Is looking around for knees on which to dandle

Voluptuous movements have them all in thrall...

 

The crowd hushed as though they were holding their collective breath, with puzzled silence reigning. Dilora trailed off uncertainly, wondering what was up with the audience. The dark haired woman had such a knowing look on her face that Dilora held her own breath, and for what seemed like eternity the only sound that could be heard was the crackling from the fireplace. Suddenly, Dilora realised where she was. Tar Valon. Oh, Light, no...

 

And the woman opened her mouth to speak...

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Sasra pulled her cloak a little tighter around her shoulders and continued to stroll casually along the cobbled street. Behind her, the White Tower loomed over Tar Valon, many of its windows showing the dim yellow lights of candles, or the clearer bluish light of the One Power. Down here in the city, many of the windows were already dark, save for the windows of inns, where flickering candlelight or oil lamps allowed small pools of dim dirty light to spill onto the edges of the street.

 

It was the inns that Sasra sought tonight. Inns were special to her. She’d spent the first 15 years of her life in the Greased Pig in Whitebridge, and even though the White Tower had been her home for over 100 years since, there was so much about an inn that reminded her of home. Whenever she was away from the Tower, and she went to eat or stay at one, the smell was always the first thing to hit her when she walked in. A heady mix of clean sawdust, ale, spiced wine, cooking, and candle-fat. That smell always made her expect to see her father behind the bar, her mother coming through a door holding a pot of stew. If she closed her eyes and breathed in she could see their faces, long-dead though they both were. Her younger brother – the one she’d not known about, because she hadn’t known her mother was carrying him when she left for the Tower – had taken over when her father became too old, and his son now ran it, probably with the assistance of his own son. She’d not been back in a while, and last time she did, she hadn’t announced who she was, it was reassurance enough to see the likeness of her mother and father in the face of the man serving.

 

She stopped now, outside one bar, the Flame and Void – it had been named to appeal to Warders, but instead was favoured by travelling merchants of the less well-off variety, and other people passing through the city who wanted somewhere clean and friendly to drink, eat and stay, but which wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.

 

Like many of Tar Valon’s inns, fighting was infrequent, and as an Aes Sedai Sasra felt safe in just about any of the city’s drinking establishments. She didn’t drink, as such, not to get drunk, but just to sit in a corner of a common room nursing some spiced wine for an evening made her feel connected with her own past, her history, her childhood. She’d sit and watch people, listen to the singing, watch the dancing. She never joined in with the dances, but often could be seen smiling and singing along quietly to songs that seemed to be the same wherever you went. Sometimes the words were a little different, sometimes the tune was different, but generally songs didn’t change much. Music and singing seemed to be a universal constant.

 

This inn had caught her attention though. One of the small windows was open, and she could hear singing from inside. An enthusiastic voice, singing a song that she hadn’t heard in years. The tune was even the same as the one she knew for the song. She stood outside humming along to it, and smiling as she mouthed the words. She couldn’t help herself, and drawn by the memories of her youth she opened the door and quietly entered the common room, standing near to the small bar at the back.

 

A young woman, attractive, with longish dark hair was standing near to the fireplace, not just singing a song, but performing it in such a way that it looked as if she was delivering a class to a room of novices. The men laughed at the words, and all some, but not all, joined in for the chorus. She was certainly holding their attention well, and none turned to look at her as she stood there watching and smiling.

 

“The big-eyed young lady o’er there by the wall.”, she pointed generally in Sasra’s direction with this line, and many of her audience turned to look.

“Is looking around for knees on which to dandle.

Voluptuous movements have them all in thrall…”

 

As she continued singing, Sasra’s appearance began to register on the faces of those who had turned at the singer’s gesture. Men nudged othger men, eyes widened and jaws dropped open. Someone grabbed the singer’s arm as she paused theatrically, taking a deep breath, and hurriedly whispered something in her ear. A deathly hush seemed to descend on the room in an instant. Not just quiet, but it was almost as if all the sound had been somehow sucked out of the room. Sasra took a step forward, and the singer seemed to be looking for a deep hole to fall into.

 

“My dear woman, I have seen many, and I have to advise you that in general they are of varying lengths.”, she took another step forward, and there was a sound of sucked-in breath around her and wood scraping on wood as men who had been laughing less than a minute before tried to move as far out of the way as possible.

“But that said, the best ones do indeed have bloody long handles.”

 

The singer stared at her, seeming to be juggling with some kind of internal dilemma. Sasra maintained her smile, but raised both of her eyebrows and glanced around the room.

“Why has the fiddle player stopped? I believe you have yet to cover Shienar, Arad Doman, and possibly that dark verse, if you feel so inclined. Don’t worry, I’m not squeamish about such things.”

 

She sat down in an empty chair with her spiced wine, and looked up at the woman who still seemed to be staring in disbelief or confusion, and took a sip, as the fiddle player began again, if a little hesitantly.

 

Sasra Cooper, Aes Sedai of the Grey Ajah.

Bonded to Urien Santra.

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~Dilora~

 

The pressure of fifteen or twenty pairs of eyes had rooted Dilora uncharacteristically to the spot. True, she had not noticed when the fiddle had joined in, and had got more than a little carried away with the rhythm the song conveyed. It had always been one of her favourites because of its slightly mischievous air, and it got the crowd behind her. Any publicity was, after all, potentially a good thing. Dilora was far from the slowest wit in the world, and noticed that being in Tar Valon and the way that her audience had regarded the newcomer giving comment on her song meant that the woman was likely an Aes Sedai. One did not step so frivolously around a sister of the White Tower and inwardly, she winced at her lack of care. It was most unlike her.

 

Obviously the spiced wine had been stronger than she thought, or she’d been hungrier than she thought and it had affected her quicker. Most days, Dilora could drink even the sturdiest mercenary under the table, and here she was feeling light-headed and gauche in front of an Aes Sedai after one tiny cup of wine. It must have been fortified with lots of brandy – strong brandy at that. But the woman had requested that she continue… Dilora could hardly pass up that offer. A smile radiated from her lips as she thought she recognised a trace of familiarity about the woman’s features, reminiscent of her hometown but not quite. The ageless look predominated in a pale face, but she was definitely Andoran, and there was a glint in her eyes that Dilora rather liked. It was similar to her own cheeky gaze, but managing to appear as serene and calm as the first verse dictated! The fiddler picked up the tune again and, finally overcoming her bout of stage-fright, Dilora began to sing once more.

 

The Emond's Field lady, her hair in a scarf,

Stout Two River's Wool and stout shoes form her mantle.

But on feast-days she'll light up the town with her laugh,

And the Warder's Sword has a bloody long handle.

 

The northern born lady is known to be fierce

With eyes that would challenge the Dark One to stand, All

The men will adore her and love, but with fear!

And a Warder's Sword has a bloody long handle.

 

The willowy Domani lady by trade

Was taught from her first words which assets to dangle.

A whisper, a caress, just like from a blade,

But a Warder's Sword has a bloody long handle.

 

The music played a loop, to allow Dilora to catch her breath and a surreptitious swig of ale, which she was sure the woman now almost certainly an Aes Sedai had seen. Who would have thought that Dilora Fashelle, peddler of renown would be singing a slightly off-colour song to a peddler’s convention and a sister of the White Tower? Smiling and drawing a hand across her mouth to remove traces of foam from her lips, Dilora launched into the next set of verses with gusto and noticed that there were a fair few feet tapping along to keep the beat. Were the toes of the Tower-trained woman tapping?

 

The fierce Aiel lady, majestic and true

A wise man would find him a lion to fondle

But give her some water and she'll be with you

And a Warder's Sword has a bloody long handle.

 

The Atha'an Miere Lady, when not on the shore

To our eyes she would cause a bit of a scandal.

Trousers and jewellery and not a bit more!

And a Warder's Sword has a bloody long handle.

 

The Forsaken ladies, we dare not forget:

Lanfear, Mesaana, Semirhage and Graendal

Beautiful, deadly - we hope they're bound yet!

And a Warder's Sword has a bloody long handle.

 

The fiddler played another loop to allow Dilora time to catch her breath and have another sip of her ale. It was a nice vintage, and the way her audience was responding buoyed her substantially to continue. Hands were clapping and feet were stamping and, on impulse, she twirled, giving a slight flare to her skirt as she did so. Small patches of colour appeared on her cheeks from where Dilora’s excitement was showing in a faint flush, and one grizzled looking man had intercepted a serving girl and was dancing with her. Sharing a smile with the Aes Sedai, Dilora started to sing again.

 

The southern born lady, is just like the tide

She can be demanding or she can be gentle.

A passionate woman to be by your side.

But a Warder's Sword has a bloody long handle.

 

The Aes Sedai lady, all calm and serene

She uses the power to light up a candle

The Aes Sedai's Warder is handsome and lean

And a warder's sword has a bloody long handle.

 

All ladies are beautiful - that is no lie

With many a burden, so make sure you guard her.

The Aes Sedai's strength like the sun in the sky

And the strength of the sword's in the hands of the warder.

 

Face flushed with excitement, Dilora curtsied deeply before the Aes Sedai, and took a long pull from her ale. Applause greeted her as she turned her head from left to right, and then her eyes fell on the expression on the Aes Sedai’s face, and Dilora blushed before speaking.

 

“Greetings, Aes Sedai. My name is Dilora Fashelle, and I hope I did not cause offence.”

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Sasra listened as the fiddle player started, and the young woman joined in, once she had found the rhythm and caught her breath. One or two verses were slightly different to the version she remembered, but it didn’t matter. After a few verses she couldn’t stop her feet from tapping, and she closed her eyes and let her mind drift back over the years.

 

A little girl, wakened from a bad dream, creeping down the rough wooden stairs to find her parents, hiding behind the door to the common room, listening to the songs being sung by the patrons. Her mother appearing, and gathering the child in her arms chides her, but with a smile. She sings a soft lullaby as she carries the young girl back up the stairs and returns her to her bed, stroking her hair as she sings her back off to sleep.

 

The sound of clapping brought her back to the present, and she joined in enthusiastically, smiling as the young woman gulped down some of her ale and then approached her table.

 

“Greetings, Aes Sedai.  My name is Dilora Fashelle, and I hope I did not cause offence.”

 

So, the young woman at least had realised that Sasra was Aes Sedai, finally. She smiled warmly, and gestured to the empty seat opposite hers.

“I’m not offended Miss Fashelle. I take it Miss is correct, yes?”, she didn’t pause for the woman to answer, “I am glad to make your acquaintance, please, join me?”

 

The woman sat opposite her, and took another drink from her mug. She smiled, and looked as if she was trying to think of something to say.

“You are a long way from home, Dilora Fashelle. From your accent I’d say West Andor, probably Baerlon, or near to it, am I right?”, she continued, not noticing whether the woman nodded or not, but sure that she was right. “May I ask what brings you to Tar Valon?”

 

Sasra Cooper

Aes Sedai of the Grey Ajah

Bonded to Urien Santra

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~Dilora~

 

Leaning back in her chair, Dilora crossed her booted feet at the ankles and stretched out. It was good to feel the warmth from both the fire and the spiced wine flowing throughout her body now that she had calmed down a little after her performance. This enigmatic woman whom Dilora had already assumed to be Aes Sedai was controlling their conversation like a seasoned horse trader, and asking all the right questions. How had she known that the accents of her home town, Baerlon, lay thickly on her speech? It had been a long time since she had walked those cobbled streets, and may gates had been passed through. She wouldn't forget the small town she'd grown up in, remembering that it seemed so huge as she'd been a little girl playing in the road and now, noting with a pang of regret, that it was so small in comparison.

 

Dilora realised though that, although Baerlon were long behind her, her home was not. The smallish wagon she had left secured in the stables here was her home now and had been for a good few years. The interior was as cosy as she could make it, with many concealed nooks and crannies for the storage of her belongings and the items she wanted to trade or sell. If anyone looked in the wagon itself, they would see only what Dilora wanted them to see: barrels that were too large to hide, usually containing brandy or wine, or in some cases, dye, and delicacies that nobles would pay high prices for. At this precise moment there were no less than two barrels of finest brandy and several trays of sugar coated almonds, and even some jewelry hidden under the false panels of her floorboards in addition to the usual peddler's staples of pins, needles, books and other useful items.

 

Another sip of ale passed her lips. "What brings me to Tar Valon? Oh, that's a good question, Aes Sedai. I do apologise, but I didn't catch your name." The other woman merely smiled. Dilora smiled back. Enigmatic. "I am a peddler, Aes Sedai. I am currently travelling all over the continent, selling what people need, spreading news and gathering information. You're correct, of course, I'm from Baerlon. It is my hometown, and I spent most of my life there before I hit the road." She took another sip of her ale and marvelled at how good it tasted as it coursed down her gullet into her stomach. "I remember how my father would always let me come to the tavern early with him when he was home during the day and I'd sit on his knee while he talked business. The serving girls would always make a fuss of me because I was a pretty child." A vague look of memory flickered across Dilora's face. "It wasn't until I got too big to sit on his knee that I worked out why he'd taken me along. Other people would think twice about cheating him because of a little girl present and they were sometimes distracted by my chubby little fingers playing with a string of beads I used to have, or a bit of their hair if they leant too close in." Unconsciously, Dilora rubbed her fingers together as though remembering the feel of the beads. "Coming back to the present, I'm here in Tar Valon to do a little business, see the White Tower and the sights. What brings you to a little tavern such as this?"

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  • 1 month later...

~Sasra~

 

“A peddler?”, Sasra’s smile brightened at this news, “Oh how wonderful!”

She remembered the peddlers who often stayed at the Greased Pig when she was a child, and how she loved hearing them talk of places far and wide. One or two of the more regular visitors were usually given the use of the private dining room away from the noise of the common room, and she used to sneak in and hide in a corner to listen to the tales. Of course, thinking back on it she realised that they must’ve always been aware of her presence, and the tales were almost certainly made far more exciting than they really were, purely for her benefit.

 

This woman was interesting. Few peddlers were women, in Sasra’s experience. There were merchants who were women, wealthy and well spoken, with large houses or estates, but peddling was a different game entirely, and one she’d always associated with men. It must take a particular breed of woman to survive and succeed in such a game, and if this woman was indeed any kind of success as a peddler – and the fact that she was still breathing was a success in itself – then she must be of that special breed. Even though she barely knew her, Sasra was coming to admire her.

 

But even though she was a woman, and an Andoran, she was Aes Sedai before all of these things, and as a result, the part of her that would always be Aes Sedai was already seeing the potential benefits of a friendship with the peddler. The Grey Ajah had many eyes and ears around the world, as did all the ajahs, no doubt, but the majority of them were in fixed locations. Someone who wandered, particularly if they wandered along a regular route, would be an absolute boon in terms of the information which they could provide.

 

She smiled, and drank some more of her spiced wine, knowing that no matter what Sasra Cooper’s actions were tonight, Sasra Sedai’s actions would be to enlist this woman’s help as a travelling eyes and ears. For now, though, Sasra Sedai’s influence was pushed to tbe back, out of the way, and Sasra Cooper took over.

 

“Tell me, Dilora Fashelle, are you often passing through Andor? Have you spent much time in Whitebridge?”

 

She kept her voice calm, and her face steady, as she and all her sisters always did, but her heart burned for any news which might tell her how things were in her home town, and whether The Greased Pig was still standing, and being run by her family.

 

~Dilora~

 

Dilora leaned back in her chair, wiggling her toes again in her boots. The ale was making a definite impression on her, warming her from within and bringing more of a flush to her cheeks. Good company and good ale were sometimes difficult to find on the open road, especially when it was usually just a horse for company. Feeling better than she had done in many weeks, Dilora relaxed and studied her companion openly.

 

The fabric of the dress she wore was well cut and made to a pattern that suited the woman down to the ground. Everything about her was well-maintained and exact and the fact that Dilora still could not place her age made her think she might have been wrong about her initial guess that the woman was an Aes Sedai. In some lights she looked scarce more than a girl, in others she appeared older than her years. What had those eyes seen? Maybe she should offer to write the woman's story ... certainly it made her wish she kept a diary so she could write about her encounters. Maybe she should do, but the roads were too busy at this time of year and when business was brisk the only time one had for writing turned into the markings in ledgers and receipts, and bills of lading for over-zealous officials. It wasn't simply a question of selling things to people, peddling. It was a fine game, sometimes like a dance and sometimes a worrying struggle that few realised. True, she did it for the open road and the love of the job, but Dilora had always considered herself to be a strange one.

 

"Whitebridge, eh?" Dilora sat up straight, leaning on her elbows on the table surface. The normal hub-bub of conversation had resumed around them, somehow leaving a little space respectfully around their table. Serving maids carried trays of drinks here and there, a patron raising his arm appreciatively or passing a coin to the particularly pretty ones. She wondered how late it was getting. "My path crosses through Andor fairly regularly as I use it as a base for my peddling." A finger traced a pattern in a tiny drop of spilled ale, working it in an elaborate design across the tabletop. "I'm originally from Baerlon, so I don't like to stray too far from Andor in general, and I do love the little towns and villages that punctuate the lands. Whitebridge is a lovely place - the people are so friendly!" Happy memories filtered through from all the times Dilora had passed that way, the little inn she had stayed at for a few days when bad weather had made a section of the road impassable for her wagon. It had been a sort of travel lodge that Dilora would look back on with fond memories.

 

"There's this lovely little inn in Whitebridge. I think it was called the Greasy Pig, or something like that, and the welcome was as warm as the hearth. I stop in every time I go through the place, to pay my respects to a wonderful barrel of ale they have in the taproom, and to partake in a nice, hot bath." A nice,hot bath would be just about right now, as well.. Dilora considered having a word with the tavern owner to see if he'd let her use a copper bathtub to get rid of some of the more ingrained dirt. "I'd stay there for a couple of days at a time while I did my counting and would read by the fire when I wasn't called upon to sing. I like to read." She took a sip of her ale. "I have a fair few books in my wagon, you know, collected on my travels. Not a large library, to be sure, but enough to sell should people be interested. Some are for my own personal pleasure - I'd have to think long and hard before I sold those."

 

Dilora went on to explain more details of the things she liked about Whitebridge, and how often she visited Andor in general. She wondered if she was talking too much, but the woman didn't seem to mind her stories and positively encouraged her when she seemed to fall back. She had another drink, and considered saying a story from her history where she had been chased through the Mountains of Mist by a bear, all big and hairy, but decided against it.

 

"I never did catch your name..."

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Greasy Pig?”, thought Sasra, with a minor start. That couldn’t be anything other than the Greased Pig – unless someone had opened another inn with so similar a name, but that was unlikely. If it was, then she could easily remember the taproom that the woman spoke of, and she could remember helping to clean the floors of the room at the back of the ground floor which had held the large copper baths as if it was yesterday. So long ago, and yet the memories were still so fresh.

 

She held onto that thought, and smiled at Dilora, encouraging her to talk more about her journeys. She was certainly well travelled, and had a wealth of tales, most of which seemed to be amusing. Sasra certainly didn’t have to force any laughter – beside being interesting and relaxed, the woman was genial comnpany. Sasra lifted her goblet to her lips, to find it empty. Without interrupting the flow of Dilora’s storytelling, she made what is a fairly universal gesture, which was replied to with a nod, and then leaned back in her chair and craned her neck around to the bar, raising one hand into the air.

 

The innkeeper saw her instantly, and cuffed a potboy around the ear before pointing urgently to their table. The boy, who couldn’t have been more than 14 came dashing over, and when he arrived, Sasra was already handing the small empty pitcher that had contained spiced wine to him.

“More of...”, he began to ask, but she was nodding before he had finished, “Yes, of course.”, he said hurredly, “Straight away, Aes Sedai. Thank you.”

 

The boy returned, this time with a larger pitcher, enough for two, and a spare goblet for Dilora. He placed both on the table with a nod of deference to Sasra and turned to leave. As he did, Sasra’s left hand whipped out like lightning and caught his arm in a firm grip, like a wary market trader stopping a careless thief. She pulled him back towards the table as his face paled, without taking her eyes off Dilora, her smile never wavering. The poor potboy clearly believed himself to be in some kind of unknown trouble, and opened his mouth to speak, but Sasra simply smiled at him, and with a sideways glance to make sure the innkeeper wasn’t looking, pulled his arm towards her, pressed a copper coin into his hand, and closed his fingers around it with her own.

 

He gaped for a second or two in obvious relief, and when he opened his mouth to speak once more, Sasra simply held a finger to her lips and the boy nodded in mute understanding. He gave another polite nod, and hurried away from their table, concealing the coin.

 

During this brief exchange, Dilora had stopped speaking, and was watching Sasra, so she returned her attention to the woman opposite her. The last thing she had mentioned was a collection of books in her wagon, and that had piqued Sasra’s interest. The White Tower held an impressive library, of course, but the books were mostly reference volumes and records. She liked to read stories. Stories were a window into the culture and social structure of the place where they originated from. You could tell a lot about a people from their stories. Of course, she knew a lot about culture across the known world, but she also believed that the day a woman stopped learning was the day she died. One of the brown sisters who had taught her before she was raised to the shawl had said “A woman who thinks she has nothing left to learn, has learned very little.”, and like so many things people said, she had carried those words with her ever since.

 

“Books, you say?”, Aes Sedai had a reputation for hiding any emotion, but Sasra had been allowing her smile to touch her eyes for most of the time she had been listening to Dilora. That smile continued now, genuine in its warmth.

“If you have any for sale, I’m always pleased to pay a reasonable price. You’ll find this hard to believe, but I’ve been singularly unable to replace a copy of The Travels of Jain Farstrider which... which I brought to the Tower with me.”

 

Dilora poured them each some of the spiced wine, which smelled warm and sweet and delicious, and Sasra spoke again.

“So you know The Greased Pig in Whitebridge? I’ve stayed there myself, on more than one occasion. Aes Sedai have always been quietly welcomed there. Tell me, is it still run by the Coopers, do you know?”

 

Sasra Cooper

Aes Sedai of the Grey Ajah

Bonded to Urien Santra.

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~Dilora~

 

“Oh, The Greased Pig! That was the one I meant. I knew it had a pig in it somewhere, and some grease … come to think of it, why would you have a greasy pig anyway?” The wine was making her a little garrulous and the company… Well, the company made her feel welcome, and wanted. The road was a lonely place, after all. Dilora could have talked about the books in her wagon all evening. She knew for a fact The Travels of Jain Farstrider on the shelf in her wagon; she had two copies in fact. One was her own personal copy picked up in The Two Rivers when she had passed through on her very first solo-peddling trip and the other she had acquired in a sale of items from a house where the occupant had died. The only heir had sold all his relative’s possessions for money, and then had gone to the tavern to drink it all away…

 

“I remember that place very well. The owners were really kind. I believe it is still run by the Coopers, yes.” Dilora took a sip of the wine that the lad had brought over, kindly paid for by the woman she was beginning to consider her newfound friend. Although that might have been the wine talking… She was pretty though. “I have a copy of The Travels of Jain Farstrider too that I don’t mind selling to you – you look like an honest sort.”

 

“Its back at my wagon though. You can understand that I don’t carry everything around with me, or I’d have shoulders like an ox or a blacksmith! I don’t think they’d suit me.” She held her arms up and turned from the waist, demonstrating her elegant grace and showing arms that were toned rather than muscular through the thin linen of her shirt. She took another drink of the refreshed wine and raised her cup in toast to her companion.

 

“To travels and travellers, and to memories of lives behind us.”

 

The other woman raised her cup with a strange expression on her face. We all have past lives behind us. We all have memories. Dilora put the cup down and placed both hands on the table as something occurred to her. The song. How had the woman known about the song? When Dilora had sang the song about The Warder’s Sword and the woman had stood in the doorway, accompanied by a lot of open-mouthed stares, she had definitely known the song. It made her wonder… Was she the source or the inspiration? If she were the inspiration, how would she know the length of a Warder’s Sword…? Dilora decided to cut that line of thought short before her mind took it in it’s own direction. Given the city she was in, that was probably wise. It didn’t stop her wondering though. Instead, Dilora returned to her copy of Jain Farstrider. “Do you want me to fetch it now?”

 

“No, wait, I’ll get it later. I’ve stayed in so many places; I will travel to so many more. I’ll traverse the continent and see so many sights; I’ve been told I should keep a diary. I don’t know why I haven’t until now. Now, I feel like I really could do it. The things I’ve seen! I could tell you a thing or two.” Dilora took another drink and smiled.

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