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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

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The sun had just set, causing an impressive array of colors across the sky to the west. A soft golden glow lit the farmhouses in the distance as small specs of people finished up their chores and turned in for the night. Similarly, the intense buzzing that sounded through the forest in the daylight hours began to drop, as those insects guided by light began to take cover. Within mere moments, stars began to appear as the pastel streaks slowly drained from the sky and the soft hum of nature’s nocturnal occupants started to crescendo.

 

Directly overhead, blotting several spans to the north was an amorphous blob of dark clouds, their gray underbellies heavy with water. Humidity had been filling the air for some time, clinging heavily to everyone and everything. Even the onset of night did little to change the temperature; it wasn’t until sometime later when the clouds finally burst that the heat abated.

 

At the edge of a clearing, a dark horse whinnied and stamped his foot on the ground. Instantly, a woman was at his side, patting his neck and offering an apple. The horse nipped at the fruit greedily, nearly biting the hand that had been soothing him a moment earlier. He finished his treat and nudged her for more, snorting happily when she produced another from her satchel. A soft laugh sounded from her lips as he ate the second with the same intensity, though her blue eyes were scanning the horizon. A second horse whinnied softly, darker still than hers, and she moved four steps to her left to gift the warhorse a treat as well.

 

There was no notice of her traveling companion along the tree line, though it was increasingly rare for there to be a sign. He had taken these last two years very seriously – increasing skills that were already better than most to ensure her, and his, safety. The corner of her mouth ticked up a bit as she remembered the first few excursions they made as a pair. It was as if they were trying to out ‘survive’ each other on the open road. Her father would have liked him, surely. Her brothers, as well, probably, once they were done “looking out” for their baby sister.

 

Leaving him to it, her eyes moved to focus instead upon the animals that came forth with the night. As she opened herself up to it, Saidar rushed into her. Inwardly, she simultaneously sang with joy and sagged with relief. She hadn’t been entire sure it would be available to her here – no one was; the Library only held brief snippets of description, none which mentioned the Source. Using Spirit, the Aes Sedai wove a delicate strand and tapped an owl that had perched on a branch near her head. She received a set of pictures about the previous night’s activities. Nothing untoward had occurred from what she could see, though the connection only served for a few hours of data. Perhaps in due time, more could be gleaned, but this was the extent of the weave currently. It hadn’t existed two years ago. As if annoyed at the interference, the owl swiveled its thick neck and hooted directly at her. As she released the weave, the bird unfurled its wings and took flight. It quickly faded into the night sky, leaving her alone with the horses yet again.

 

Not that she minded being alone. Her father had treated her no different than her brothers. Just like the boys, as an adolescent, she had often been left in the middle of a forest with nothing but the clothes on her back and a small knife. It had been a game to her father – rewarding the child who was the first of the six to return, and punishing the last. Colana had been forced to learn quickly, lest she be constantly last. Her young age hadn’t been an acceptable excuse. Training in Salidar had been difficult, at best, with the constant swarm of people. Perhaps it would have been easier in the Tower, but she would never know. She was better off on her own; it had been no surprise to anyone that knew her when she chose the Blue Ajah. She was the ideal candidate for an Ajah that spent more time out of the Tower than in it.

 

A quiet rustle to her left alerted her that she would have company momentarily, though if she’d been paying attention, the Bond would have signaled her Warder’s presence. Taking a breath, she smoothed the front of her dress and then looked up at the tree branch, now devoid of owl. “It appears to be as peaceful as it looks,” she said, turning as her Warder stepped out from the brush. Locking her blue eyes on his, she gave an awkward smile. “It also appears normal, thus far.”

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 “It appears to be as peaceful as it looks. It also appears normal, thus far.”

 

Berick grimaced at her words. He hadn't found anything to dispute what she said. Everything was peaceful. It felt normal and that is what concerned him. It was too easy to relax and forget where they were. The Last Battle had been fought two years before. The world was starting to heal and grow and prosper but they were no longer in their world. This was a different world. He had just come from the woods. He had stalked ahead to get closer to the farms they had seen in the distance to observe the people. They looked and moved and talked like real people.

 

Portal Stones. The concept had amazed him. He had not truly believed what he had been told until they had traveled through them. There was no question now though. There were other worlds and this was one of them. He would never forget how they had traveled through. Other worlds had been grey and washed out. They had not lingered there long, for which he was thankful.

 

Colana was all confidence on the outside but the truth was that despite the books she had read this was new to both of them. From what they had gathered this was a world that had not faced the last battle yet. It was a thought that chilled him, yet also hardened his resolve that they were here for a purpose. The trees, and animals, and people they saw here looked and sounded just as real as any he had known in his world. How could he say their lives and their world was any less important? The wheel weaved as the wheel willed. They were here for a reason and by the look he had seen in her eyes she was determined to discover it. His own path was a clearer one. He had found it late in life but it had never been clearer. He was to protect her.

 

He stepped around her to check on his horse. He had seen her feeding him. He was amazed by how quickly his horse had taken to her. He understood though. She had had the same effect on him. He still wasn't sure how she did it. He kept his face firm against the smile that tried to spread across it at the thought. He found his thoughts spinning out in a thousand different directions. He willed himself to focus on the present.

 

"You are right. These people know peace. There are no watches, no patrols. Ive seen more farms today than yesterday and more yesterday than the last several days before that. We will come to the next village tomorrow. Do we approach this one?"
 

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His tone sounded flatter than she was used to, like something was weighing on him. Perhaps it was the difficulty of being in an unfamiliar place – an unfamiliar world – where it was impossible to plan for what could happen. It could also be the lack of expected conflict. He might feel off kilter at arriving in a place that felt extremely like their “home world”. Perhaps it was the responsibility that came with having knowledge of the (it sounded like) future here. Or maybe, it was the proverbial pink horse in the “room”. The event that neither of them seemed keen on discussing. Maybe it was, like it was for her, everything together.

 

Colana knew she should be the one to start the conversation. She was always the one that initiated difficult conversations. Growing up with six men had left her extremely - often brutally – honest, much to the dismay of her Sisters. It seemed like half of her training had been attempting to “fix” this trait. In the beginning, they had tried to completely stop her from speaking her mind. When that backfired – causing her exorbitant amounts of punishment – it devolved into why she needed to restrain herself from pure honesty. But unlike most of the women who gained the ring, The First Oath had felt more like a relief than a constraint to her; she finally had a “reason” to be honest. However, they did teach her that speaking honestly did not have to mean always blurting out what was on her mind. In this case, she felt more comfortable with the uncertainty of the situation than the possibility of what he might say, and feel.

 

“Yes, we should,” she said with more confidence than she felt. “We have observed enough, it is now time to interact and grasp a better picture of where we are, who they are, and possibly most important, when we are.” Drawing a breath, she grabbed Atreyu’s lead and began moving the horse forward, deeper into the woods. She didn’t look back to see if Berick was following, because she knew he would. Regardless of what happened the night before last, he was her Warder and he followed her lead.

 

They moved quietly in the dark, both surefooted despite the unfamiliar surroundings. I am quite sure many that many Sisters would already be using a lightball to guide her way. Colana silently thanked her father again for her upbringing. It hadn’t been easy, and she definitely hadn’t been thankful at the time, but it had served her well since.

 

Before long, Berick was beside her, pointing ahead and slightly left. He waited for her acknowledgement and then pulled ahead, scouting the area briefly as she maneuvered the horses through the trees. The spot he had chosen was a moderate sized gap in the thicket of the forest. Trees tightly ringed three sides of the area, the fourth more sparsely blocked. It was just big enough for two horses and two people to bed for the night, if a fire was not needed. Dry pine needles lined the gap, giving it a slight cushion when she and the two equines entered the area. “What a nice surprise,” she murmured to herself, thinking of the rocks and upturned roots they had encountered along the way. Atreyu snorted as if in agreement.

 

Setting to work quickly, Colana placed a Ward around camp that would warn her if anything bigger than a dog tripped it. Following that, she began to strip the horses of their saddles and all accoutrements. The saddles were propped up against the trees directly behind her, bags and folded blankets next to them. A song her oldest brother had taught her when she was five, to help her remember the steps of taking care of a horse after a ride, still came to mind after all these years. She found herself humming it as she worked, breaking for a quiet laugh at one of the more ridiculous lines.

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The village they had come to was called Taren Ferry a farmer had told them as they approached. Berick had never visited it himself before to recognize any differences between the portal stones. The cobbled streets felt solid enough underneath his horse Cole, as well the people they passed. From what he had picked Taren Ferry up was the gateway into the two rivers. The Dragon Reborn had been from the two rivers area. He'd trust Colana to know the specific village though.

The early morning mist was still rising from the ground when they entered Taren Ferry. They had agreed it was better to approach in the morning than in the middle of the night. The villagers still watched them curiously and in some cases suspiciously as they passed. Despite their best efforts to appear inconspicuous the truth was that they were not farmers and the people of Taren's Ferry knew with one glance. Even without his cloak he still carried himself like a solider. Colana drew even more of their looks though. Few women carried themselves with the confidence and command that she did, in Berick's opinion that list included Aes Sedai too.

They stopped at an inn on the edge town. It was a two story building with a green roof. It also had the same red sandstone foundation that Berick had seen all over town. The boy in the stables had been more than happy to allow Berick to tend to his own horse. Cole wasn't tolerant of other people and he wasn't about to train the horse to behave differently. Cole gave him a look as he unsaddled him. "I'm not about start singing to you if that is what you are expecting."

The innkeeper was happy to see them. With their appearance he knew they would have coin and they did have coin. They had coin from their world. They had not tested it yet in this world to see how well it was accepted. Most places took gold and silver no matter what face was stamped on it. It would be preferable to avoid any extra attention besides what they had already managed to draw to themselves though.

Colana gave the innkeeper their "names". She had a few different sets they went by depending on her mood. He was interested to see which she would pick today. The innkeeper rubbed his hands on his apron and asked how many rooms.

"One." Berick said firmly. Colana shot a glance at him but didn't say anything else. That glance was the same as a gasp of surprise from anyone else but she was Aes Sedai. The innkeeper nodded and began talking about the room. Berick nodded without listening. Instead he counted out the coins and included an extra for the innkeeper's discretion. The innkeeper nodded again, his bald head bobbing as he took the coins. Their appearance did not surprise him Berick realized with relief. Their money was good here. It was one less thing to have to worry about.

Colana turned to eye him when they entered the room. For a moment he was not sure what the look was for until he realized there was only one bed. His thoughts flashed back to a previous night and the feel of her skin and the catch of her breath. He smiled.

"One room. I do not trust this place no matter how peaceful it appears. I aim to stay as close to you as I can Colana." He said in answer to her questioning look.

 

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Water splashed as it hit the sides of the tub, sending droplets spraying in several directions.  The girl holding the bucket looked chagrined at realizing she’d poured a bit too forcefully, though not so far as to act cowed.  A sign of security in her position - both with what she did and how she was treated.  The people in this area just seemed…good.  It was no wonder that the Dragon had been a man of such honor.  Colana thanked the girl, passing her a silver coin as she dismissed her.  With a small curtsy, the girl left the room, no questions asked.  The silver coin and the silver snake on the Blue’s finger were answer enough.

 

Shutting the door firmly, the blonde opened herself up to the Source and wove a delicate strand of Fire into the water.  It warmed instantly, steam rising to fill the room with a gentle haze of humidity.   It was a comfortable temperature to remove her clothing – the girl having unlaced her dress before she was dismissed.  Sighing contentedly, she shrugged out of the dress, stepped into the tub, and immersed herself.  The liquid was just below scalding and perfect for working out the aches of traveling.  Even her father and brothers had spoken of the necessity and helpful restorations of a good bath.

 

It was a shame the rest of the evening wasn’t as calming.  Following her bath, she and Berick had eaten dinner in the Common Room of the Inn.  The girl who had lugged the water up for her bath attended the few tables that were occupied; the Innkeeper moved back and forth between the bar and presumably a storage area accessed through the kitchen.  After every disappearance into the kitchen area, he would return with a bottle or two.  It was a quaint scene, but the idea that they would be sharing a room again had Colana agitated. She twirled the spoon in her bowl of stew and tried not to bite her lip as she played through the possible scenarios.  

 

They retired early, and uneventfully. Upon returning to the room, Colana collapsed onto the bed and was blissfully asleep in mere moments.  When she awoke, Berick was rummaging around in one of the saddlebags and there were birds chirping outside the window.  It was still mostly dark in the room, the hushed feel of the air telling her that most of the occupants of the Inn were still asleep.  A quick glance out the window showed a sliver of sun just beginning to peek over the horizon.  Local farmers were beginning to set to their daily business.  

 

“I’d like to stay in town today,” she said, her voice still slightly hoarse from sleep.  “Talk to the people about …anything.  Specifically, as I mentioned before, we need to know when we are.” Her voice cracked and before she could reach for a glass of water, Berick was handing one to her.  “You know, the Dragon was from this area of the…of our world.  A place called Emond’s Field, just south of this Taren Ferry.  I find that a truly remarkable coincidence that this is where we ended up.  Especially since the Stone we used was in Mayene.”  Yes, talk business, because that’s going to solve the problem.

 

They agreed that they would first approach the Innkeeper and the Cook, as they were likely to be awake and readily available.  From there, Berick would approach the Smithy and she would head to the Women’s Council – if this was anything like the real Taren Ferry.  The Gray Ajah had been in a tizzy – as much as Aes Sedai could be – over the governing bodies of this area of the country.  It was entire unique and bicameral.  After the Last Battle, one of the first excursions beyond those deemed “extremely necessary” was for the Gray and Brown Ajah to jointly study the history of politics in this area. 

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Berick could sense Colana's agitation through the bond. Her face betrayed none of it as they ate but he felt the ripple in her calm demeanor. He wasn't entirely sure if she was feeding off of his uncertainty or it was hers that was having an effect on him. He wasn't sure how to proceed. Neither of them had been forthcoming with their thoughts. He wasn't the easiest man to approach.

Any uncertainly quickly disappeared when Colana pulled the blanket over herself and went to sleep. The light burn him if she thought she as going to be more stubborn than he was capable of being. The night crawled by slowly and quietly. The chill of winter was beginning to settle in. He paid it little attention but he was aware of the change. He was becoming dangerously close to forgetting they were in a different world. Even the stars in the sky were the same.

He wasn't sure the time spent talking to the smithy would prove overly beneficial. He talked of the things men usually did when they did not know you. The smithy started by talking of the weather. Winter had not set in yet but he believed that when it did it would be colder and harsher than the last few years. There had been no other strangers passing through. Teran Ferry was a peaceful place that was not concerned with the passing of the world farther off.

Berick started listening more closely as the topics turned to more serious matters as the smithy warmed up to talking. There was war other places in the world. A false dragon, though he wasn't sure if he was in Tarabon or Ghealdon or somewhere else entirely. In either case events like that never reached Taren Ferry and they were beyond his concern. One thing he had heard was that there whitecloaks in the region. He'd heard they were in Baerlon. In his opinion all they were good for was bringing trouble. They walked around telling people to walk in the light like it was a threat. He waived his hammer in Berick's face to emphasize what he'd take to them if they thought they could start pushing him around.

Colana was still out when he returned to the inn to share what he had heard. He ate the food that was provided by the cook. It was bland but his mind was elsewhere. The false dragon information could be helpful. Could they establish a when based just on that though? He needed more. He waited but Colana did not return. With a smile he shook his head. He should have known that it would take longer for her to wrap up any conversation with the women's council. Things rarely ended quickly when a group of women gathered together.

He found himself leaving the inn. While it was not a large village there was more than one inn. He would visit the next he found and see what other information he could gather. The inn he found was much like the one they had choosen with the same sandstone foundations that were prevalent throughout the village. The common room was far from crowded. A few travelers that ventured this far from the main roads and a few regulars from what Berick gathered. He took a seat and did his best to not appear threatening.   

He picked up the nearest conversation. They were talking about the false dragon. One of the man was adamant that anyone who could channel and was willing to declare himself the dragon needed to be put down while another could not be swayed that the dragon would one day be needed to save the world.

"The fighting has gotten heavy. A merchant told me he'd heard there had been a full scale battle and that the man who had declared himself the dragon could channel. The merchant said it was the biggest battle since the Seafolk attacked Tear."

Berick nearly dropped his mug of ale. The Seafolk had never attacked Tear. What were these men talking about. He leaned forward and tried to listen more closely.

"I bet it was worse than anything the Seafolk did," a younger man said. "You said he could channel."

The man who had been interrupted laughed. "You youngins are always so easy to forget the past. You may not remember it, with it being more than fifteen years ago but that was a war."

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

The sun was just beginning to set when the women began to quiet down.  Tegerie, a stout woman with handsome features and more gray than brown in her hair, thrust a few wispy pieces of hair out of her face and stood.  “We are in agreement?” she said, making eye contact with every woman around the table – including Colana.  Half the women nodded immediately – just shy of eagerly.  Those four beamed at Colana, their eyes flicking from the ring on her finger to her emotionless stare.  The other half grumbled a bit under their breaths before sighing and nodding assent; these four obstinately avoided eye contact with the Aes Sedai until the Wisdom fixed each of them with a stare of her own.  “As always, despite our discussion here, we provide a united front outside these walls.  Otherwise, the men might get confused.”  Her stern features melted into a smile at the jab and the other women followed suit. 

 

Tension began to seep out of the room, making the air seem cooler.  Many of the women fanned themselves; several took a healthy sip from the water glasses dotting the table.  “Colana Sedai, we will provide you aid however you need it.  Including talking to the woolheaded Village Board.” Tegerie said, sitting back down and adjusting her skirts before she looked back at the Blue.  Her eyes seemed to convey an additional message – do not make me regret this.  Aes Sedai or not, if I do, so will you.  Fighting a smile, the younger woman nodded her thanks and rose to leave the room.  Tales regarding the Dragon’s homeland had not been remiss in describing the degree of stubbornness that thrived in the Two Rivers.  It appeared no different here than in her home world. 

 

Yet, despite their stubbornness, they were good people.  The separation between Taren Ferry and the more southern villages – including Emond’s Field – was less pronounced here than it was in the other world.  They met with the Women’s Councils of the smaller villages once a month and discussed local politics.  It would be interesting to see the change that afforded the smaller places.  Colana had visited Emond’s Field only once, but that had been after the Last Battle.  It had been remarkably different from the small village she had read about in both the White Tower Library and the Royal Library.  It had once been so small and out of the way that even the Crown of Andor had forgotten about it.  However, in the years after the Last Battle, everyone wanted to know about the Dragon Reborn’s hometown.  In every library she had visited, multiple rows were filled with books regarding his life.  Mostly speculation, of course, but there were some of note.  Particularly the Ogier’s novel.  It had been a fabulous read.

 

She walked back to the Inn, surprised when the Bond told her that Berick was not there.  He wasn’t much of a conversationalist and generally neither were Blacksmiths.  Remembering the ride into town, Colana guessed he was taking a drink at the other inn.  A great place to gather information if one could remain inconspicuous enough.  With his size and air of confidence, she wasn’t sure that was possible.  It wasn’t as if they had been on many investigative missions in the past.  Both of them were more comfortable hunting for tracks than hunting for information. 

 

The innkeeper smiled at her as she walked in, torchlight glinting off the top of his head.  She gave him a small smile and asked for her dinner to be delivered to her room.   Though the Common Room was not extremely noisy, the Blue wanted to write down everything she had learned from the Women’s Council.  The bald man nodded and immediately stopped wiping down the bar to walk back to the Kitchen.  As he left, one of the serving girls stepped up to the bar and took up the rag.  A well-oiled machine, Colana thought as she walked up the steps.  She still had to the resist the childish urge to run up the stairs every time she encountered a flight of them.

 

She’d finished her dinner and was sitting at the small desk, pen scratching the paper, when Berick finally returned.  In her eagerness to find out what he had learned, and to relate what she had uncovered, the Aes Sedai turned to him with a bright smile spread across her lips, and a pen dripping black ink onto her dress.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

"Colana Sedai," Berick said as he entered the room. He paused for a moment when he realized he had caught her by surprise. He watched as ink dropped from her pen. He hadn't realized how late it was until now. Her beauty and composure struck him and for half a moment he forgot what he was about to say. Instead an image, a memory, flashed of her back arched and her head thrown back with his lips on her neck. It had been something they had both needed. Nothing else had been said about it. He wasn't sure how to bring it up. Sometimes actions were better than words. He took half a step forward before he remembered what had brought him back so quickly.

He looked up to her eyes and saw an amused smile cross her face. "Do you know what day it is?"

He saw her think for a moment, unsure of where he was going with his question. They had a gathered some basic information to have a general understanding of when they were but rarely did the actually day matter.

He continued, answering his own question, "Its the day before Bel Tine."

He saw the realization flash in her intelligent eyes.

She rose quickly to her feet. She set her pen down and brushed her skirt. She was not one to hesitate when things needed to be done and this was a moment when things needed to get done. He couldn't help but grin a little.

I"ll go settle with the innkeeper." she said. Just like that things were settled. It felt good to be part of a pair that could set to task without wasting time or debating.

"I'll ready the horses," he said. "Meet me when you are ready."

Bel Tine was suppose to signal the end of winter but it was still a chilly night as he saddled the horses and secured their packs. He tried to remember what he had heard about the Dragon Reborn. Colana had read more books than he imagined could be researched, written, printed and bound in the few years after the Dragon had emerged. There was something about his village. Emmond's Field, Colana had called it, had been attacked when they were preparing for Bel Tine. Was it already too late? He did not like the thought of galloping through the night. That was a good way to break his horses leg or get thrown.

Colana emerged out of the darkness and he quickly helped her onto her horse. She settled into the saddle naturally. A moment later he was in his saddle. "You know the accounts of the story better than I. Will we make it in time?" He asked.

 

The owner of the ferry was not happy to be awoken. Berick been reluctant to pay so handsomely but there was no helping it. He told the man he was likely to need him again within the next few days. After that it was just riding, as quickly and safely as they could. There was little talking now, just the sense that time was running out. It was like something he could feel in the air. He looked up at the moon in the night sky. At least there were no Draghkar yet.
 

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