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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Chronicles of a Warrior-Poet (attn. Edana)


Elessar
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.. Returning Echoes of the Fall of Manetheren ..

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A week had passed since his return to Tar Valon - the famous City of the Aes Sedai located by the river Erinin and within sight of famed Dragonmount - from the Borderlands, after his Warder-Bond had been released by Kathleen Sedai of the Green Ajah, a woman of great integrity that he respected much but to whom he was alas no longer Bonded. It had been only a week but it felt more like a month - and for Elessar of Kandor, experienced Warder of many years, soldier, advisor, friend and ‘Warrior-Poet’ at heart, it had passed in a kind of haze.

 

He had practiced his sword-work daily in the Warder’s Yard, but he had gone through the motions, the sword-forms, without passion or intensity, his mind elsewhere. In the evenings he became pensive and reclusive, thoughts of his many years as a Warder in service mixing with memories of his Bondholders, their many journeys together, their choices, their sacrifices, their deaths..

 

Leandreen.. Carrain..

 

And at night his recurring nightmare with Leandreen’s - his dead of many years Bondholder’s - morose but hard eyes condemning him for his failure to do his duty, to do what he had promised, his everlasting guilt for not saving her life like an eternal cloud on his soul. My life before yours, I promised. I failed. Forgive me. He kept much to himself, lost in a swirl of dark thoughts, personal incriminations, puzzlement, but also, at times, with some feelings of hope. In his better moments, he felt that he had atoned for some of his failures. And he would do better. He was a Warder and now had a duty to the White Tower and all Aes Sedai. The days went by as he was lost in a sea of emotions, riding the waves of his inner doubts, trying to escape the haze that had surrounded him.

 

 

And so it was that one late evening he found himself in the ‘Servants of All’ inn, one of the newer establishments in the centre of Tar Valon. It was buzzing with life, both locals and foreigners mingling, food being served on relatively clean tables and drinks being poured into relatively clean glasses and cups, as serving women rushed around the place to cater for the many guests. Behind the bar the innkeeper - a Southerner by the looks of him, a fat middle-aged man of above middling years, almost bald and with somewhat hawkish eyes - kept his gaze fixed on everyone and everything as he collected the coins delivered with a greedy look on his face. Innkeepers - and inns in general - were, despite some differences, more or less the same everywhere, Elessar thought to himself as he found an available table off to the side near the wall.

 

He ordered an ale from one of the serving-women, a lush Andoran woman with long golden hair, blue eyes and a slightly cheeky smile, and then waited for it to arrive. It was some time since he had last visited an inn on his own, in truth; he had never been a big drinker and so his visits to inns and taverns had usually been with his Sedai Bondholders on their many journeys together around the lands. Tonight, however, he had felt the need to get out among people, to get out of his self-inflicted haze and swirling thoughts if just for a moment, and this inn, which seemed popular and well thought of by the locals, had seemed like a good choice.

 

He drank his ale slowly, for once enjoying the buzz and laughter and life around him. His gaze swept over the Common Room and fastened on the men and women gathered there. He recognized garments from the North and faces that were obviously Southern, accents and dialects from far away as well as local people enjoying the drink and the evening. A dark-haired Saldean man, easily recognizable by his bold, prominent nose and slightly upturned, almond-shaped eyes, standing beside the next table and obviously drunk started an argument with another of the serving ladies and was quickly - and forcefully - taken by the shoulder by one of the large no-nonsense-looking men standing by the door and lead - cursing - outside. Elessar’s eyes narrowed slightly, a small amused smile on his lips, but then his attention was grabbed by some commotion at the other end of the room.

 

His eyes swept that way and he quickly saw a middle aged man of Andoran looks in a characteristic cloak of many colourful patches enter the small stage and face the crowd. Elessar nodded, pleased. A good story was exactly what he needed to take his mind off his oft troubled thoughts. The gleeman bowed and then started playing an instrument and soon those nearest banged their tables in appreciation. Afterwards he sang a rather bawdy song of a young lord and his even younger mistress in days gone by which produced laughter and lewd comments from many. He sang several more before he took a break, waving to the mostly appreciative crowd before joining the innkeeper at the bar for a drink.

 

When the Andoran gleeman returned to the stage a little later, he began to recite an old poem. With a dramatic flourish of his cloak he silenced most of the crowd and grabbed their full attention.

 

“Now then.. let me tell you a story of old..” He began. “A Story both heroic and tragic - a story of bravery and courage.. the story of the Fall of the ancient nation of Manetheren.”

 

Several of those gathered recognized the story and cheered enthusiastically. Elessar joined in, a broad smile on his face. He had listened attentively to this epic story - whether myth or history, who could really tell? - being told in another inn on their - his and Kathleen’s - journey North not that long ago - and it was one of his favourites. He had heard it many times in many places over the years, by bards and gleemen alike, but every time it left a great impression on him. Telling this ancient story here in Tar Valon, close to the nation of Andor, and in the midst of Aes Sedai power, seemed doubly appropriate to him.

 

In what was now a region of Western Andor, its legendary, beloved last Aes Sedai Queen Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan (the “Rose of the Sun”), wife of her Warder-husband, King Aemon al Caar al Thorin, a Battle Queen of the Light, had led her nation in their final valiant fight against the Shadow..

 

The Gleeman’s voice rose - and as he began the ancient story, those present quieted down - and soon most of those assembled were lost in mesmerizing Echoes of Myth and History..

 

 

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Rose of the Sun: The Fall of Manetheren

 

“Carai an Ellisande!” For the honour of the Rose of the Sun!

The Shield against the darkness, the Hammer weight to Stun.

The Sword that could not be broken. Was shattered in the End.

As valiant Manetheren, no longer could Defend.

 

Brave fighters of the land. Fought with pride and with Heart.

Under Red Eagle banner, they resisted Shadow’s Start.

Until Mountain Home was taken. Noone came to their Aid.

Weep for Manetheren!, all their allies were Afraid.

 

King Aemon and his men ran to aid from Field of Blood.

Countless miles they covered, daring river huge and Flood.

Slaughtered beasts of Shadow. Crying battle cries of Might.

“Carai an Ellisande!” echoed everywhere in Sight.

 

Brave warriors, brave King! They fell to Darkness’ Yoke.

When Aemon husband died, Queen Eldrene’s heart Broke.

Woe to the Shadow! With anger, grief and Pain.

An Aes Sedai of might, she struck out like Insane.

 

She filled herself to bursting. The Power oh so Sweet!

The Sa’angreal beside her, glowed brightly with its Heat.

She was an awesome figure. Her arms she lifted High.

And then she threw her Balefire and Storms of Lightening Nigh!

 

A harbinger of death. She destroyed the Shadowspawn.

The messengers of Darkness disappeared from Battle’s Lawn.

But her body came on fire. Flames of Saidar burned her Soul.

In her agony she cried out, for Manetheren, her Goal!

 

The destruction levelled all. Old Manetheren was Dead.

The Rose of the Sun, she was gone, it was Said.

But she would live forever. In many people’s Hearts.

And Manetheren’s bravery, is eternal in its Parts.

 

Oh Ellisande! Greatest Queen, we won’t Forget!

Your fight against the Shadow and the death you Met.

Mourn for Manetheren! The bravest place of All.

Honour to the Mountain Home! Your enemies shall Fall.

 

►▲◄

 

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Edana glared at the Guards who saluted her as she left the Yard. She'd been back from the far reaches for less than a week, her new sword hanging on her hip and weighing her down. Now, they saluted her. Stupid secrets that everyone knew. She'd had to report to the Mistress when she returned, Kynwric had backed her up. She'd killed a Blade Master and now his hard-won respect seemed to have fallen on her shoulders.

 

She muttered and tried to disappear into Tar Valon, instead. She ducked into the first tavern she saw a light in and dropped onto a stool at the bar. "Whiskey, neat," she said when the man behind the bar speed in front of her. "And leave the bottle."

 

She dropped a purse full of coins on the bar, earning her a nod, a glass and a bottle before he drifted away. She opened the bottle herself, filling the glass up a few fingers, emptying it and refilling it before she looked around.

 

Everyone in the tavern was listening to a retelling of the fall of Manatheren. She snorted inwardly, returning to her glass to empty it again. Damnable sword was going to get her drug into that mess, too. Bonded and dead, dragging the Aes Sedai down with her. She shook her head at the bottle, tilting it to poor slowly into the glass.

 

"Not while I have a choice about it," she muttered, swirling the amber liquid around in her glass. "Give me a lifetime on the wall, instead."

 

~Edana

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.. The Dark Amusement of Daggers in Hearts ..

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The crowd cheered loudly when the gleeman finished his re-telling of ‘the Fall of Manetheren’ and many banged their tables in boisterous appreciation. The gleeman bowed, enjoying as always - like all in his profession - being the center of attention, then took a long sip from the mug of ale that stood on a small table beside the stage. Facing the crowd again he listened to shouts of suggestions for what he was going to do next.

 

“Give us something funny”. One man shouted. He was grey-heaired and pretty drunk.

“Yeah, drop the ‘grand drama’ and give us a funny song instead”. Another man said.

“Shut up you two!” Said another man, a Cairhien by the look of him. “Give us more epics!”

“More history!” A woman shouted. By her looks she was a Taraboner. Her eyes glinted.

“No, we want something fun!” A man countered. He was kind of shabby-looking and drunk.

“We want something unique”. A woman near the front cackled. “Make us laugh!”

 

The gleeman nodded, agreeing with the sentiment. It was time for a different kind of song now. Variety was something most gleemen mastered well, but one had to judge one’s crowd well and see what was suitable. Alas he had a song in mind and faced the inn-guests with a broad grin.

 

“Something funny and a little unique you want, something funny and a little unique you’ll get!”

 

The crowd clapped enthusiastically and he added, that the jaunty little melody he had in mind was an Altaran song, called “A Dagger in my Heart”. “We all have our strange customs”, he finished, “but some are.. let’s say more unique than others..” His grin broadened and those knowing the topic at hand cheered loudly in anticipation.

 

 

Elessar joined in the cheering, remembering this funny Altaran song - always a crowd-pleaser - from several times before, but especially another gleeman’s performance in a Southern inn a while back when he was journeying south with his former Aes Sedai, Carys.

 

Thinking of her made him wonder for a moment how the Yellow Sister, another woman he respected highly, was coping in the Infirmary. That had been her life, until change had come for a time with travelling the lands on Tower business with her new Warder. She had subsequently returned to her many duties in the Infirmary and as far as he knew she was still working hard there.

 

His thoughts turned to the imminent song and performance.

 

He knew of the peculiar Altaran custom, especially popular in Ebou Dar, whereopon a married or widowed woman wore a so-called Marriage Knife, or Dagger, hanging hilt-down from a choker around her neck. When a couple got married the man gave the woman the knife as part of the ceremony and then requested that she use it to kill him! should he ever displease her. Elessar found the custom beyond understanding - some would say insane - but it surely made for some hilarious puns and some good satire.

 

With a theatrical bow the gleeman began - and soon his voice was spinning his satirical tale of the “doomed” Ebou Dari husband, and his traditional Ebou Dari wife..

 

 

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A Dagger in my Heart

 

A dagger for you, my Dear

Now that our wedding day is Here

If I displease you, stab me True

I’ll be dead, but I’ll still love You!

 

You fought for me well, as you Vowed

Your dueling scars make me Proud

There’s no other lady for Me

You’re everything I’d want to Be!

 

A duel is good for the Soul

Teach our children to fight, it’s their Role

And should they be weak, without Spine

Disown them, they’ll tarnish our Line!

 

Oh love, stick the dagger in my Heart

Your strength makes me proud for a Start

I am sure I’ll deserve this Rest

An Ebou Dari man at his Best!

 

►▼◄

 

 

The cheers were loud when he finished. If there were any disapproving Altarans in the crowd none came forward, or rather were, perhaps, drowned out by the loud cheers, laughter and cackles in the song’s wake.

 

A few guests at intermittent tables seemed less focused on the performance and more focused on their drinks, however. Some were indeed lost in drink, others lost in dark thoughts. Many were both. Elessar knew that look that he saw on several faces of men and women alike. Life was indeed cruel sometimes. His gaze swept over a few tables on the other side of the room and there he suddenly saw a kind of familiar face. Not of a friend or a mate but of someone he had seen before. A few times. He was sure of it. Who was she? He stared more closely, thinking of where he might have seen her, and then he remembered.

 

The Warder’s Yard.

 

Yes.

 

 

He got up from his own table and walked across the room, passing an old Andoran man in rough worker’s clothes who would have fallen backwards onto the hard floor had Elessar not steadied his chair as he passed by He came to a stop beside her table. She was swirling the amber liquid around in her glass, a partially full bottle nearby. He recognized the dark look on her face. Yes, it was her. He had seen her doing swordwork in the Warder’s Yard on occasion. He did not know her, but she was, he thought, a Tower Guard. A fierce - and skilful - one at that, from what he had seen. And now she looked, he thought, indeed as if she was ready to throttle someone.

 

 

“So tell me“, Elessar said facing her, with a dark grin on his lips, his dark hard eyes betrayed by the ready banter in his voice.

 

“Who do you want to stick a knife into?“

 

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Edana flinched, her hand going to her hilt before she recognized the man and relaxed. "I'm afraid that list is very long," she said dryly. "In this case, the one I already stuck is the one that's the biggest of my problems. Perhaps that's why must of the world doesn't do much in the way to stabbing men when they anger them?"

 

She smiled, leaning her elbow on the table. "I don't see you out of the Yard much. What brings you out into the city?"

 

~Edana

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.. Wounds of the Soul are the Worst Kind  ..

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Elessar was amused by the woman’s dry reply, but only a hint of a grin showed on his face.

 

We all have our demons to face. He thought to himself. In one way or another.

 

From her words he understood that there was a personal story there, a dark one at that, but it was hers to tell, if she wished, when she was ready to.

 

Nodding softly, he said: “Sticking.. is bad business.” He met her eyes levelly. “But”, he added, “sometimes necessary”. Looking at her hilt, his eyes hardened slightly. “In our line of work, as we both know, sometimes difficult decisions must be made.” He left it at that.

 

Leaning her elbow on the table, she said that she hadn’t seen him out of the Yard much. She asked what had brought him into the city.

 

His very dry reply was: “To be honest, I am trying to remove some ‘knives stuck in me’.”

 

And figuratively speaking. Elessar thought with a wry inner smile. That is in many ways true.

 

 

In a timeless moment.. he is back with Leandreen, his first Bondholder, a proud Sister of the Green, the Battle Ajah, a valiant Soldier in the eternal War against the Shadow, cradling her head in his arms, wetness developing on his cheeks, as he sees the lifeless emerald eyes staring into nothingness, the deadly Darkfriend-arrows protruding from her ribs..

 

A Knife in his Heart and Soul. A Wound that Never Heals.

 

..The Warder-bond snaps, like a razorsharp knife slicing through the thinnest of paper, leaving only emptiness behind.. He feels utter and incredible shock, his whole world comes crashing down upon him. Looking at her dead body shortly after, his fury erupts in grief and anger.. I was too late, he thinks. He berates himself. I failed. I promised, my life before yours. I failed. I am so sorry, Leandreen. Forgive me..

 

Anger turns to hate, and an unstoppable desire to wreak vengeance on the Shadow envelopes his entire being. Madness lurks in his obsessed mind, like a Shadow waiting to spring, but he pays it no heed. I will have my vengeance. For Leandreen. I will kill them all, he thinks.. I am a Harbinger of Death..

 

 

On the stage the gleeman had begun another song for the crowd in the Common Room. It was a melody the Warder from Kandor did not recognize, but then again he was not paying much attention right then. The crowd seemed pleased though, clapping along with the jaunty tune.

 

A momentary pause - he was not sure if she had noticed - and then he re-focused on her and their conversation.

 

“Care if I join you?” He asked.“Between us, I am sure we have enough misery to share to last a lifetime.”

 

There was a certain dark grin upon his lips just then.

 

Nothing was, after all, better than a similarly ‘suffering’ mate to ‘drown your sorrows’ with.

 

▀▄

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Edana watched his eyes change, a hard expression around the edges. Memories sucked the soul right out of you if you weren't careful and she felt the difficulty of his in the stiffness of his shoulders. She smiled and nodded, waving at a stool next to her and waving at the bartender for another glass. Once the man had departed, she poured his full and topped hers off. "To the pointy end of the sword that gets us in the most trouble," she said, lifting it in the air before downing the glass in one gulp. 

 

She sighed as she set it back down and eyed the gleeman. "My father used to say that misery loved company and it never ceased to find you when you needed someone to share it with. You seem to be enjoying the gleeman's choices in entertainment. Trying to drown your own misery in someone else's happiness while I prefer whiskey?" she smiled when she asked, lightening the question a bit. "Everyone deals with their misery differently. I can't stand to be alone with mine, but I can't smile through it without sarcasm, either. And I'm old enough to know that, which sickens me." 

 

She refilled her glass, but just swirled it as she waited for his response. 

 

~Edana

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.. The shared Joy of sinking into Depths of Gloom  ..

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Elessar nodded, sat down on the offered stool and took a sip from his glass. Listening to her words and especially to the tone of her voice made him think of another ‘warrior lady’ he had known long ago.

 

Areana.

 

Hard as steel she was but brittle as well. Cynical. Straight to the point. Funny, she loved banter, but almost always her humour was dark. A kind soul and a terrific warrior. And she loved her whiskey. That she did. She had been a soldier-guard in the Borderlands for several years. Until she was broken like glass.

 

He took another sip, a longer one this time, casting a knowing glance at her hilt.

 

A Blade to draw Blood.

 

"Your father was a wise man. " He said. "Misery shared is indeed better than lone brooding. I know all about that. " He nodded. "The problem with dark shadows upon the soul, " he added knowingly, "is that they easily fester and no matter how much you try to drive them away they dig in deeper. "

 

He drank some more, casting a quick glance at the performing gleeman at the other side of the room. He was finishing his latest song to eager applause from many in the crowd.

 

"As for entertainment". He said, more lightly, indicating the gleeman. "I do often appreciate gleeman-performances, but not for the reason you mention. I have always had a passion for poetry and stories". He said. There was some warmth in his voice. A momentary pause, then he added reminiscently. "Leandreen used to call me ‘her Warrior-Poet’. That was before she died. " His voice turned cold and morose at the end.

 

 

He downed his glass. He was usually not a drinker, but tonight, he thought, he might make an exception.

 

"In many ways we are all hard as steel but also brittle at the same time." He added silently beneath his breath. He did not know if she had heard.

 

"There are many kinds of deaths. " He said, meeting her eye levelly. "But the worst kind is the death that you re-live again and again in your dreams."

 

He waved for one of the serving-women to bring him another ale. His eyes had a somewhat haunted look, but then he calmed himself and the look was gone.

 

"Now then", he said turning to her again, a dark glint in his eyes, "who did you put the sticky end of your sword into? "

 

▀▄

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Edana nodded, raising her glass to him. "I agree... to all of that. Death is ugly business." 

 

She downed the whiskey and refilled her glass again, swirling it a little at his question before she answered. "I've put the sharp end in many beasts and people," she said quietly. Starting with the enemies of Camelyn, moving through her brothers and then on to the BladeMaster who she'd gotten the sword from. "Some of those deaths linger in your head longer than others."

 

She stared at the whiskey in the glass, the night her brother's confronted her in that tavern standing out in her thoughts like a rigid spike. She didn't let herself dwell on that night very often, for obvious reasons. She hadn't killed them, she knew that now. It had taken a decade for her to have the courage to find out for sure. They hadn't forgiven her, though, and the worst of it was that they thought worse of her now than they did, then, even though she'd proven them wrong in the simple act of besting them. She sighed and downed the whiskey again. Best to focus on the last one to feel the bite of her sword. "This," she said, running her fingertips over the hilt of the sword on her hip. "This is the work of dumb luck. Tower business, rescuing a future Novice from a kidnapping. Who knew the kidnappers had a Blademaster in their employ. I meant to sacrifice my life giving the Aes Sedai and her Warder time to get away with the girl, but..." 

 

She sighed, refilling the glass. "It wasn't what the Wheel had in mind, I suppose. I'd been practicing on water the whole trip, so when we found ourselves on a pier that bobbed with the waves of the river, I was prepared. I'm not quite sure why he wasn't, but it caught him off guard and I pressed through." She held the glass up again and sighed. "The Creator needs me for something, I suppose. Who am I to thwart that?" She downed that glass and shook her head. "But that's enough sad stories, let's try something lighter, instead. You're a poet, you say? What is your favorite story to tell?" 

 

~Edana

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.. A Touch of Light in Memory of the ‘Soldier Amyrlin’  ..

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Elessar listened to her story in silence. It was another story of sacrifice and bravery, however underplayed. He nodded to himself in agreement when she mirrored his words regarding the ugliness of death. He refilled his own glass while she spoke. He observed as she intermittently stared at her own glass in deep thought before continuing her tale. Like his tales it was one of both dark shadows and courage. Aren’t most tales like that, after all? He wondered, taking another sip from his ale.

 

When she spoke of the Tower Business they had been on he kept silent, thinking of the many journeys he and his Sedais had made through the years on business for the White Tower. Successful missions and less successful missions. Chance did indeed play a role sometimes, but most often luck was, in his experience, part of what made some men and women warriors victorious in battle; ‘the conqueror rides waves of luck and tides of chance’, a fighter of note had once said somewhat poetically - and he agreed that there was some definite truth in that.

 

Her comment about ‘the Creator needing her for something’ made him smile inside. He had often wondered the same thing regarding himself. How otherwise could one explain that he - Elessar of Kandor - had served and protected in a sacred Bond four different Aes Sedais in his time in the Tower? Most Warders were lucky to serve even two.

 

 

"But that's enough sad stories," she said, downing her glass and with a shake of her head "let's try something lighter, instead. You're a poet, you say? What is your favorite story to tell?" 

 

He agreed with her change of topic. Despite the certain twisted joy of sharing gloom and misery over a few drinks, there was a limit to everything.

 

"Well I’m not really a poet per se", he replied, "but Leandreen, my first Bondholder, used to call me one because of my great interest in, and passion for, poetry - and also history". He said. "I have written a few poems over the years", he added, "dabbled a bit in that Art, but mostly I enjoy the great poetry of others."

 

"As for my favourite poem to tell, that is a difficult one." He looked thoughtful. "Though the one the gleeman told a little earlier, about Manetheren, has always been one of my favourites. Another one is the one about Rashima Kerenmosa, the ‘Soldier Amyrlin’."

 

"That was Leandreen’s favourite poem." He added pensively. "Being a Green Sister, and valiant as few, I think Rashima was her idol if such can be said of any Sister. Come to think of it, I think that goes for most Green Sisters."

 

He paused for a moment, thinking about Kathleen - another respected former Green Bondholder of his - who had indicated something similar regarding Rashima.

 

"Another great story that deserves to be told here in Tar Valon." He said earnestly, his focus once again directed at Edana. "Here, where brave Rashima Aes Sedai, the Flame of Tar Valon, assembled the united strength to take on the Shadow."

 

Since she had asked, he told her the story in a soft voice, loud enough for her to hear above the gleeman’s performance, but soft enough not to intrude on the enjoyment of the gleeman’s words for those sitting close by.

 

 

►▼◄

 

Honour to the ‘Soldier Amyrlin’

 

Brave Rashima Kerenmosa! Valiant Sister of the Green

The Flame of Tar Valon, boldest Leader ever Seen

A Sister of Battle, she the Shadow fought with Might

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

 

A General, a Politician - her Talents were There

She handled situations with Tact and with Care

But as a Military Leader she was Respected by All

She led the Ten Nations through Fire and Gall

 

When Aridhol fell and Manetheren as Well.

Rashima restored morale in the Compact, they Tell

She led the defence of Tar Valon with Strength

When Trollocs attacked the Sedai city at Length

 

Victories followed at Kaisin Pass and Larapelle

The Sorelle Step, Tel Norwin where many soldiers Fell

In the middle of Battle, the Amyrlin fought Strong

To vanquish the Shadow, the Evil, the Wrong

 

The Battle of Maighande was the Beginning of the End

For brave Rashima, though they Conquered, my Friend

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

At Maighande, where ‘the Victory of humankind’ Began

 

Rashima died a hero, with her five Warders Near

Valiant as few! Battle Sister, Honour Clear.

‘Round their bodies a wall of Trolloc corpses’ Stain

With many dead Fades and nine Dreadlords Slain

 

Brave Rashima Kerenmosa! Valiant Sister of the Light

The ‘Soldier Amyrlin’, a Star shining Bright

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

In the Turning of the Wheel, until Darkness’ Fall

 

►▲◄

 

▀▄

 

 

 

 

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Edana listened, smiling at the tale. She'd heard of Rashima, mostly from Loraine on boring nights when she accompanied the Aes Sedai and her warder on missions. She refilled his glass, hearing the emotion he infused into the tale. When he'd finished, she handed him the glass and applauded quietly. "I see you've accurately earned the nickname," she grinned. "You're fond of women who stand up and fight, I'm guessing?" 

 

"I'm Edana Kellar, by the way. If we're sharing a bottle, we should at least know each other's name, right?" She grinned. "You sound as if you're far from a Tower Guard, though, my friends. Dare I ask why you're drinking alone?"

 

~Edana

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.. Befallen by Light Memories and Dark Shadows  ..

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When he finished his tale she handed him his glass, now refilled, and gave him some praise for his storytelling. He nodded back in thanks.

 

"I see you've accurately earned the nickname," she grinned. "You're fond of women who stand up and fight, I'm guessing?" 

 

The question caught him a little off guard, but when he came to think of it he had in a way always been ‘fond’ of - admired, respected, thought highly of  - strong women, women who were not afraid to stand up and fight for themselves or for what they believed in, be they Rashima Kerenmosa or Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan out of story; Leandreen or Areana. Or many others whose strength and courage were an inspiration to everyone.

 

"I have always admired strength and courage in people. In both men and women alike". He said, taking a sip from his drink. "Of course there are many kinds of strengths and many kinds of fights." He added a little cryptically. "But strong women are to be admired, I say."

 

In the background the gleeman had begun to spin another tale, this one about an Illianer merchant and his hillarious quarrel with a local nobleman, but Elessar did not pay much attention. His thoughts went back to his early days with Leandreen, when he had been a young inexperienced Warder. Oh Leandreen.

 

 

Then she spoke again and he refocused on her.

 

"I'm Edana Kellar, by the way. She said. "If we're sharing a bottle, we should at least know each other's name, right?" She grinned. "You sound as if you're far from a Tower Guard, though, my friends. Dare I ask why you're drinking alone?"

                    

"I’m Elessar Telcontar". He replied, giving her a respectful nod. "Unbonded Warder, Borderlander, loner, and - perhaps - ‘Warrior Poet’." He added the last part with a small grin. "Glad to make your acquaintance." He took another sip from his drink, meeting her eye.

 

Tower Guard. The word resonated in his head. Guarding the White Tower.

 

He was, in reality, a Tower Guard again, now that his last Bond had been released. After so many years as a Bonded Warder, however, it was strange to think of himself as one. Unbonded Warder was how he thought of himself, though that was an anachronism in itself. He felt sure though that his days as a Warder in Service were not at an end. There was use for him yet.

 

I will be given the chance to redeem myself. He thought intensely. I must.

 

 

Now swirling the liquid around in his glass, his thoughts went back to his early days in the Tower..

 

 

… He had just finished the strenuous - but rewarding - Warder-training, finally passing the tests, reaching his first goal: he was now a Tower Guard. The multitude of months had flown by as he had practiced his sword-skills in addition to learning all the other skills that Tower Guards had to learn to reach the proficiency the Tower demanded.  

 

As a Tower Guard, he kept on training, improving his skills, and served to the best of his ability. Two years passed, and then one day, on a sunny spring day which he would never forget, he was approached by an Aes Sedai who was in need of a Warder. Her name was Leandreen and she was of the Green, the Battle Ajah. He joined her on several trips in the months that followed, to see how their working relationship functioned. Though both knew that he was obligated to serve in whatever capacity necessary, they also knew that for a Sedai and Warder to work well together they needed a certain understanding and “chemistry” for it to function well. She had said as much on that first day and he had nodded softly, inwardly agreeing but knowing his place and so had said nothing out aloud.

 

They Bonded after this period and their Bond was one of companionship and friendship. His final goal reached, he worked as hard as he could to protect his Sedai and to do his duty honourably and well. They were a good and efficient team, travelling often in service to the Tower and enjoying the companionship, and Elessar’s world consisted, day and night, of protecting and serving his Sedai. It was a life with which Elessar was very content. It was what he was. It was who he would always be. It was all there was for him.

 

It all ended on the day, 15 years later, when his Sedai died…

 

 

The eternal wound in his soul threatened to re-open and so he took a large sip from his drink and pushed the feelings of guilt and shame down into the deep recesses of his mind. Feeling calmer now, the whiskey helping well in that regard, he answered her question.

 

"Once a Tower Guard, always a Tower Guard I hear some say." He paused. "Guess I’ve been a Warder for too many years for that to ring true with me."

 

He did not explain any further and it was hard to say from her look whether she understood the meaning behind his words.

 

"As for why I’m drinking alone?" He added, meeting her eyes levelly. "Too many dark shadows on my soul I guess."

 

The bottle before them was rapidly emptying and Elessar felt that he was starting to get drunk.

This night he was passed caring though. He wanted those dark shadows gone.

 

"How about you?" He asked, eying the whiskey left in his glass.

 

▀▄

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Edana saw the haunted look in his eyes and sighed inwardly. Was there no one in this blasted Tower that wasn't haunted by something in their past? 

 

She blinked and tilted her head at him a moment. Was that a slight slur in his voice? She grinned at the thought, and shook her head at the question. "No one can tame me," she laughed. "Or drink me under the table. It makes me a poor drinking companion, but an excellent buddy to carry you back to your bunk when you can't walk straight." It was mostly true. There had been one who had tried to tame her... had nearly succeeded, too. 

 

Sandre, his name could still cause her heart to flip and she cursed at it as she refilled her glass, again. Would she ever be free of that dratted man? He'd left her, seemingly for good, this time, and she'd do well to remember that when he was here, trouble was always in his wake. At least, for her it was.

 

She emptied the glass and turned back to Ellesar. "And I'll be a Tower Guard until I die for the same reason," she said, her voice leveling off. "Attachments are trouble, no matter what nature that attachment happens to be. As long as I have a say in it, I'll not be bound to another person for anything. I'll protect the whole blasted Tower full of Aes Sedai, because it's what I've signed on to do and it's all I've got. I'm just not going to let one of them..." she shook her head. By the look of him, he'd enjoyed being bonded. He'd probably never understand. "I've seen so many warders broken by their Aes Sedai. Their spirits crushed, their will sublimated. Their skills become second to their ability to follow orders. There are exceptions, I know," she shook her head, knowing a few right off the top of her head. "But my luck has never run to being an exception." 

 

~Edana

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.. To Embrace the Sacredness of Bonded Warder Service ..

►▼◄

 

Elessar listened to her voice as she spoke of her desire to remain a Tower Guard for life. One could learn much about a person by listening to a person’s voice. Most of the time. As she explained he thought about how different they were, all the men and women who came to the Tower to train and serve the Aes Sedai, some through a sacred Bond to a specific Aes Sedai, others in honourable service to all Aes Sedai.

 

Warders and Tower Guards.

The same but also so different.

 

For him the ultimate goal had always been to serve as a Warder in a Bond with a Sister of the Tower. Listening to Edana’s words though, he could see that she would probably never understand.

 

She said that she had seen so many Warders broken by their Aes Sedai, their spirits crushed, their will sublimated. Their skills becoming second to their abilty to follow orders.

 

To Elessar, four times happily Bonded, her words were truly puzzling though he tried to keep the incredulity from his face. She does not understand the Warder-Sedai relationship, or the Sacredness of the Warder-Bond, he thought to himself, taking another long sip from his drink. Yes, some Bondholders may be hard on their Warders, but most are not like that. Far from it.

 

Becoming One in mind and purpose is hard to describe to those who have never experienced it.

 

She added that there were exceptions, shaking her head, but said that her luck had never run to being an exception.

 

 

"I think if you were Bonded you would see things with different eyes". He said carefully, meeting her eyes levelly. "’Warders serve and obey, but strongly, proudly and ably. We gain many benefits and do our duty with honour and integrity in a fruitful companionship and valuable friendship with a Sister of the Tower.’ That is how it is often described to our new recruits in training. There is much truth to that."

 

"As for what you mention, it is my experience over many years that most Aes Sedai treat their Warders well, though there will always be exceptions. However, that is the same as elsewhere in life."

 

The real problems - the endless emotional pain - starts when your Sedai dies on your watch, under your protection. He thought silently with sadness and a touch of bitterness.

 

The gleeman had begun another tale, some of those seated closest to the stage enthusiastic in their vocal response, but Elessar ignored it. His thoughts were on his former Bondholders, and as always mostly on his dead Leandreen.

 

Will you forgive me?

 

After a few silent, pensive moments he added, "You know, there are those who say that Tower Guards are just Tar Valon soldiers ‘with a fancy name and coat’, some even imply that they are cowards". There was a slightly amused grin on his lips. "That such men and women take the easy way out, not having to serve and protect an Aes Sedai with all that that valuable but demanding - and sacrificing - service entails, who run away from the responsibility they are trained for." His voice slurred slightly but he did not notice it himself. "They are wrong, of course", he added as-a-matter-of-factly, "though personally it was always my ultimate goal to become a Bonded Warder to an Aes Sedai."

 

"We are all different though", he said, "I remember way back when I finished training several of my mates, to my amazement, had no desire but to be and remain a Tower Guard in service to all Aes Sedai." He gave her a slight nod, as if to say that though her choice was a puzzlement to him he respected it.

 

Staring long at his remaining Whiskey, he added thoughtfully, "We all do what we can."

 

 

He was beginning to feel a little drunk, he was after all not used to heavy drinking. Though part of him did not care and welcomed the growing fuzziness in his mind, another part grew wary and asked for caution. He shook his head in a vague attempt to clear it.

 

"So, what made you come to the Tower to train in the first place?", he asked with interest, meeting her eyes, a small - slightly drunken - grin on his lips.

 

▀▄

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  • 3 weeks later...

Edana flinched as if she been slapped. The coward's way out? She clenched her hand around her glass, pouring a refill with a hand that trembled in anger. She emptied the glass while he continued, forcing herself to meet his eyes. He didn't understand her any more than she understood him. There was that, at least.

 

"So, what made you come to the Tower to train in the first place?" his question was an innocent one, but she was still angry about the coward bit.

 

The truth came out between gritted teeth. "My father was the Captain of the Queen's Guard in Camelyn. He trained my brothers, and even myself, after my mother passed away. In time I became an officer in the Queen's Guard, surpassing my brothers' rank."

 

She looked down at her glass again. "I caught them making disparaging remarks about how I got my commission. I was going and angry and I challenged them. All four of them. I had to flee Camelyn under cloak of night to avoid charges of murder."

 

She refilled and emptied her glass. "I was betrayed by my own brothers." She looked up at him again. "I vowed right then to never hand control of my life to anyone, again. I've been tested, repeatedly, by people who meant less to be than my brothers had and a few who meant more. If I had given in to any of them, where would I be, now? Dead, or wishing I was."

 

"I understand duty, warder, and I'll defend any one of those Sisters with my life. But it'll be my decision to pay it, not theirs. My duty is to all of them, not just one. My training was never about becoming a warder, that's not what the Yard does. The Yard trains Guards, who make the personal decision to become something else. I could argue that they're cowards for handing over their abilities to protect only one of them. I don't believe that, though, no more than I believe the men on the wall tonight are any less than the warder sleeping with his Aes Sedai, instead. We all stand for the same things."

 

~Edana

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.. Bathed in the Light of the Star and Moon ..

►▼◄

 

Elessar listened silently to her story without interrupting her.

 

Despite being slightly drunk, Elessar sensed her unease and the undercurrents in her words. She seemed to him bitter, and considering what she said about her past and her reasons for leaving Caemlyn he was not that surprised.

 

"I vowed right then to never hand control of my life to anyone, again." She said then, looking up at him.

 

And that, he thought to himself, probably explained her lack of trust in anyone, including a Bondholder, and thereby paving the path for her choice to be a Tower Guard and not a Warder. He sipped his drink quietly, as she continued, thinking again that they all had their inner demons to contend with.

 

"I understand duty, warder", she said, "and I'll defend any one of those Sisters with my life." She spoke on, explaining that it would be her decision to pay it, not theirs. Her duty was to all of them, not just one. She added that her training was never about becoming a warder, that was not what the Yard did. The Yard trained Guards..

 

She went on explaining and while he listened Elessar also wondered at her words. It was clear that they had very different outlooks on Warder training.

 

 

From the very start Elessar had seen Warder training as, primarily, a preparation for future Warder duty in service to an Aea Sedai. That had been his impression from his Warder teachers at that time as well. He respected though that some trainees chose instead to serve all Aes Sedai and the Tower as Tower Guards. She seemed, in his view, to view things differently. She seemed to him very defensive of her Tower Guard roots and he got the impression that his words about Tower Guard service being a ‘coward’s way out’ as some people, though not he himself, saw it, had hit a sore nerve.

 

"I could argue that they're cowards for handing over their abilities to protect only one of them. " She ended. "I don't believe that, though, no more than I believe the men on the wall tonight are any less than the warder sleeping with his Aes Sedai, instead. We all stand for the same things." 

 

"You shouldn’t take note of what a few ignorant persons say about Tower Guards", he said carefully in reply once she was finished. "They don’t know understand the very valuable service provided by Tower Guards."

 

"As you say", he added, "Warders and Tower Guards both stand for the same values of duty, service and sacrifice to the White Tower."

 

He did not add that some of those ignorant - ultra-traditionalist - people also claimed that women had no place among Warders or Tower Guards. Somehow he got the impression that would not go down well with her.

 

Her comment about Warders sleeping with their Aes Sedais produced a playful grin upon his lips. She could, of course, have meant sleeping with as in sleeping near as in close by - in the next room or for instance nearby in a makeshift camp - she could, of course, have meant that; but with her somewhat strained, or skewed, view of the Warder-Sedai Bond and relationship he presumed it was a slight barb and that she meant it quite literally.

 

Very few Warders, however, had that kind of relationship with their Sedai, only some Greens and not all of them either loved their Warders in that way, most Warders had a close and valuable friendship and companionship with their Bondholders but nothing more.

 

Elessar had himself been Bonded to two Green Sisters - Leandreen and Kathleen - over the years and both had been Friendship Bonds. With Edana’s predisposition she would, he thought, probably not understand though, so he let the comment pass.

 

Looking at her, he wondered at her words.

 

Elessar did not view her as misguided as such, there were no rights or wrongs when it came to chosen service, but her views and experiences in this area were certainly alien to him and they puzzled him, as he was sure his views and experiences did her.

 

We are all different indeed. He thought. We must choose our own paths.

 

"Duty, service and sacrifice." He nodded, almost in a whisper. "They are indeed what makes us who we are."

 

His mind drifted as he was lost in thoughts for several moments, thinking back on his own reasons for joining Warder training those many years ago. She had not returned the question, so he did not explain his own reasons.

 

In his mind, he was back in the Tower, as a young but ambitious Warder-trainee from the Borderlands, ever striving for excellence..

 

 

Elessar’s attention was suddenly grabbed by the gleeman’s voice. The man - like all members of his profession - loved the centre-stage attention and made a grandiose and theatrical bow to his appreciative audience.

 

"I have a story for you now." He said with dramatic excitement in his voice. "A very old story.. an epic tale of love and sorrow."

 

This sounded somewhat familiar to Elessar and he nodded pleased when his suspicions were confirmed. The gleeman was about to tell the eternal story of "Star and Moon". This was another of Elessar’s favourite poems and he had heard it told on many of his journeys in the land with his Sedais over the years. He never tired of it though, it had epic resonance and the splendour of myth. Though his mind was slightly befuddled from drink, that did not take away his enjoyment of hearing this eternal and mythical tale once again.

 

"A story from before the Age of Legends, some say". The gleeman added to plenty cheers. "Listen well then.." He said almost in a whisper. And then he began to sing, his voice rising slightly in pitch.

 

As he sang, an almost complete silence swept through the inn, almost every man and woman’s attention focused on the talented performer before them, as they were caught up in the beauty and wonder of this timeless, mythical and heartwarming epic story..

 

 

►▼◄

 

  Star and Moon

 

Princess sweet and Prince of Light

Fell in love one autumn Night

Great were days of joy and Smiles

Both together through the Miles

 

Beautiful she was to See

Handsome man was also He

Perfect couple for the Lands

Wedded true and holding Hands

 

Then the darkness fell on All

In the war , the Prince`s Fall

Tore her heart , the Princess Sad

In her grief , she went all Mad

 

Heart was broken and the Mind

Death a solace , far Behind

But at last she passed Away

To the lands beyond , to Stay

 

Mourning hard the people Cried

Hope and beauty had now Died

Then one evening up they Stared

Wonder great , the night-sky Fared

 

In the sky a star was Born

Brilliant it shone , Forlorn

And the people felt in Heart

She was back , a brand new Start

 

Tears from heaven , from the Queen

Of the sky , of beauty Seen

She would watch the land till End

Came to all that was , my Friend

 

But alone she was in Truth

Missed her loved one , and her Youth

Where was Prince and all Delight

Then she saw him , moon in Night

 

And the moon would glow with Life

Her great Prince with his dear Wife

Both together , far Above

Star and Moon , forever Love

 

►▲◄

 

▀▄

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Edana listened with the rest of the tavern, shaking her head. Light help she should never feel love that turned her mad. She drank another glass of whiskey and stared at the wood in the bar.

 

"Sounds like torture. She only gets to see him a few hours a day?"

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.. Memories of a Bondholder and the Atha’an Miere ..

►▼◄

 

Elessar was hard pushed to hide the grin upon his lips produced by her comment.

 

He wondered again at her words, and at the kind of woman she was. He had met many women of the years, in combat and elsewhere, and in some ways they were all a mystery to him.

 

All women are a mystery to men. He thought with not a small portion of amusement. Some, of course, more than others.

 

What he said though, was: “Well, I suppose, for some, a few hours of magic a day.. might make all the difference.”

 

He drank the last of his whiskey, feeling the warmth of the liquor flow through his veins.

 

The applause was enthusiastic when the gleeman finished his re-telling of the "Star and Moon". The Warrior-Poet from Kandor joined in the applause and the gleeman bowed his thanks to his appreciative crowd.

 

 

He soon started on a new story, this one about an adventurous, strong-willed young woman of the Sea Folk or the Atha’an Miere as they were also called.

 

Nodding towards the gleeman, Elessar said with some amusement: “Ever had the.. pleasure.. of meeting the Atha’an Miere? An.. interesting.. people to say the least.”

 

His tone of voice indicated that his own experiences with the Sea Folk had not been without cetain.. challenges .. as it were.

 

Lulled into a pleasant doze by the whiskey and the gleeman’s almost hypnotic voice, Elessar was momentarily lost in Memories of his journey, some time back, to the Sea Folk with his former Bondholder Carys Aes Sedai of the Yellow Ajah..

 

Carys!

 

 

He remembered..

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

..Elessar was adrift in a Storm of Emotions..

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Not really.

 

It was rather with the ship’s owners.

The Atha’an Miere.

 

The Warder was in a foul mood.

 

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

 

Damn them!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

He already regretted the breakfast he had had that morning.

 

Damn this accursed sea!

 

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

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

▀▄

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