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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

The Sea of Lights [attn: Corin]


Sirayn
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Somebody had lit the sea on fire and it had washed across a thousand leagues to burn the night in southern Kandor. Nothing else explained the sight that greeted her; black the skies above her head, black as pitch and not broken by a single star, yet from where she stood clutching the icy stone atop a wall she glimpsed a thousand thousand stars reflected in the impossible water beneath her. Like waves they surged and broke upon the wall underneath while brilliant points of light eddied and swirled far out. The strange fantastic view overwhelmed her; her senses failed to cope with its intensity, with the glass sharp contrast of black and star-white, the impossibility of it all. Yet she wasn’t dreaming.

 

Carefully, though she felt that it must set her loose like a ship upon the storm-tossed waters beneath her, she loosed her grip on the hard cold stone and let go a long breath. Then she shut her eyes; sealing herself momentarily into undisturbed blackness. Eyes closed, she reminded herself that the sea lay many weeks’ journey from here, that no amount of the One Power could wreak such a tremendous change, and that even had it done so the stars reflected in the supposed water beneath her did not in fact shine above her head. She might have lived a sheltered life, loved and spoiled, but that did not actually make her an idiot. Finally she opened her eyes again.

 

The starry sea still surged beneath her. Her eyes had sharpened enough despite the dimmest of lights to pick out subtle distinctions in the waves and … as the scene crystallised for her in more detail she realised that each star was in fact a torch held aloft; the distance between herself at the top of the wall and the sea of torches beneath her had narrowed each flaming brand to a single point of light; as people moved their artificial stars produced the look of slow but inexorable currents. If she stared at it too long the sight disorientated her all over again. Tiredness was only making its effect worse. She rubbed her eyes wearily and did her best to remember why she had come up here in the first place.

 

“Get off the wall, woman.”

 

An unexpected voice made her jump amid shards of the previous silence. Lifting her eyes, she found herself face to face with a brawny-looking stranger, a Tower Guard by the half-glimpsed redness of his cloak. His cold look indicated quite clearly that this wall top was not wide enough for two and that, between the civilian and the highly skilled warrior, it was quite clear who should give way. Far be it from her to argue with somebody who might later save her life at the risk of his own. “Yes, sir.” She lowered her eyes decorously and headed toward the narrow stairway that led down to the ground. Snow crunched as she went. Once enough time and distance had elapsed she hid herself in a small corner of the wall and drew her soft white furs more tightly round herself, for warmth and concealment both, and contemplated the starry ground thoughtfully.

 

Days ago the Tower had come like a sudden storm. Amid driving snow they had arrived in force, rank on serried rank of them, all armed to the teeth and ready to do battle; herself trapped in a sieged town for several days now, Anjen had experienced a curious mix of relief, gladness and fury. Once her initial elation at being saved from an unfortunate future had faded her resentment had bubbled up all the harder. One night she’d found herself a quiet corner in a tavern and watched the off duty Tower Guards, memorised them intensely, these people whose masters had spread such lies and ruin. And when one had come over to her and offered to buy her a drink -- a pretty youngster, all dark mahogany colouring, maybe a night’s worth of fun in her -- she had damn nearly hit him. Only by the greatest self control had she simply walked away leaving baffled strangers behind her. In that moment she had hated them every bit as much as she hated the nameless Aes Sedai.

 

In the meantime she had taught herself to meet red cloaks and smile for them, and even the colour-shifting Warders, though she had so far managed not to even see an Aes Sedai. The thought made her so bitter that she didn’t trust herself not to do something unfortunate to them and Anjen doubted that her goals would be achieved any faster if the Tower folk threw her in chains. So she had watched while the Tower took over this walled town as a base to secure the surrounding country; watched while the streets filled with strange soldiers; watched while barrels full of arrows multiplied on the walls; watched while red-cloaked strangers drilled endlessly in the squares; watched, watched, watched.

 

She didn’t want to watch any more. She wanted to bloody do something. The snow and the swarms of Tower people everywhere made it near impossible to make any progress on her main goal; she’d come up here to try to spot a better way to approach her target, learn the street layout a bit better maybe, since at this rate she would have to circumvent a good number of Tower Guards, but even from this vantage she didn’t rate her chances of getting past them. Frowning absently, she drew patterns in the snow with one cold finger, watching the sea of improbable lights. Then something occurred to her. It was a way to gain access to places and information she couldn’t reach on her own but desperately needed. And it was so beautifully simple.

 

Not far away another Tower Guard crossed the snow. He looked approximately a hundredth as frozen as she was, but maybe being associated with the Tower brought heroic powers as well as making one a filthy liar, and for all she knew he didn’t feel the cold at all. She sidled up to him. “Sir?” Her sidelong glance conveyed better than a thousand words that he looked most handsome in his fine red cloak, what a skilled warrior he undoubtedly was, and that a man of his stature could surely spare a moment for a young lady all by herself. Anjen slipped her arm through his, partly so she could give him the benefit of a sultry look through her lashes and partly so she could get a bit bloody warmer, and put on her smokiest tones: “If you aren’t too busy saving the world, I want to enlist.”

 

Anjen

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Rhythmically the snow and ice crunched under boot; reminded him that for another day he still drew breath and would face yet another sunrise. Watch as that sunrise brought forth the view of a hundred shades of red spilled out on the country side as men he sent to battle, men he battled alongside of met the dark anarchy that had besieged these lands and brought forth Mothers decision to send so many of there number to pay this bill. The simple though of her blossomed those never ceasing gray eyes in his mind again. A source of comfort and strength, a source of constant aggravation and challenge. As confusing and fluidly changing as the battle field, she held him in toe though he still could not reason why he found such dire need to be what she obviously had no need of. It was said that women were like a blacksmith's puzzle and indeed he had found that to be true. Only when added with the light's ironic twist of a shawl; it became a blacksmith's puzzle in the hand of a blind man with only one arm.

 

Shadow flicked in a pool of light and had his eyes attention instantaneous though he made no movement beyond that. Life and death hanged on the smallest of movements; the quickest reactions. But not everything in this place dealt death. Too large a force filled these closed walls in truth, at least in his opinion for what it was worth. More then once he had been to a tavern to drag off soldiers drunken beyond civility. It was expected when dealing with the numbers here. A way for men who had to face another day in the sea of red and steel to find a bit of solace from the nightmares that would come. He was a strong believer in keeping the off duty antics of men and women needing a release from the stress of war away from civilian eyes. They could not understand the horrors of the battlefield as it closed around you. The shouts of anger, cries of mercy and the pleading rasps of a man dieing at your feet. Nightmares, at times his life seemed to be an endless nightmare. He had come here in hopes of helping, in hopes of clearing his head and finding a meaning for his existence in the Tower's service. Yet faced with all the chaos that surrounded him one person above all else still plagued him relentlessly.

 

As if on cue, the creator's hand reached in to set pieces in motion; Corin's mind flickered on his ironic sense of humor. Why is it with you there is always trials and tests. Like night's own existence wrapped in a thick blanket of snow the girl swept in next to him. The sway of her steps only partially masked by the thick white fur covering her. Even wrapped as she was she still seemed to make the fur come to a life of it's own. There was trouble with this one, Corin could feel it before she had even spoke her first word. At one time her face might have caught him off guard, placed wonder in were such a beauty could be from. But the trials with a certain Lavinya Sedai and the object of his life's goal had helped to ensure a quick resolute to future matters of awe for her kind. The Tower had many in it's folds and he recognized them easily now. With the skill only a Domaini woman could have her eyes portrayed a hundred compliments and promises in the span of a few heart beats. Trained from childhood it was said and he believed it so. Even more as she slipped her arm around his and pressed in closer, the look offering the observer a plethora of ideas yet committing to none, as if making the person not sure if there really was promise there or if it had been imagined. Yes this one was as dangerous as a tub full of silverpike; Already he could she Sirayn's cold and distant look as she studied a fool, could her the scorn and ice edge in her voice as she cast him away yet again.

 

Glancing over to the dark pools that bed him to sink into, “Enlist, it is no matter to joke about girl.” She looked barely able to defend herself should someone decide her look promised a pleasure she did not intend to offer. But even the smallest and tenderest branch on a tree worked to keep it alive. With the mired of trainee's he had had to date he was learning quickly not to discount the abilities of anyone. A lesson from the field of battle honed by Sirayn Sedai that he carried in his personal as well as professional life. After his failure so completely at the hands of Lavinya Sedai as Sirayn had seen it he was far more cautious with those of the opposite sex. Especially those of her heritage. Light he wanted Sirayn to see him as the man she had know before all that had transpired; before Lavinya, before his foolish plan with the cabin. But she was far from this place and still at a distance even when he was in the same room as her.

 

“What makes you want to give up the safety and warmth of a comfortable house; the benefits of a city to supply your needs? Why would you want to give up all to spend your days hard at labor, cold and hungry with only your fellow men and women at arms as friends and confidants?” The warmth of her arm wrapped around his, the heat where her body pressed to his from hip to shoulder picked at his mind but he forced the sensation to the distance. Focus was the game he would need until this one was discouraged enough to offer something other then enlistment. Then it would be easy to find reason's why duty and chaos would not allow him the free time to escort her in further adventures. His eyes flicked to the her face briefly as his pace across the square continued. Far to pretty to be stained in blood and dirtied from the field, go home girl. A soldiers life is not for you.

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One drawback to playing the empty-headed Domani lightskirt to her fingertips, she decided while her smile became a little fixed and she fought not to let her grip on his arm betray her tension, was that just occasionally it prevented her from satisfying the urge to slap someone. It was on the tip of her tongue to deliver a suitably caustic response but she dared not betray any intelligence or spirit; if she marked herself out from the nameless masses in any way she caused herself trouble; only the unmemorable and the underestimated had freedom. So inwardly seething she held her silence.

 

It appeared that the wretched man had taken one look at her and concluded that staying pretty had to be her top priority. As a foreigner alone in war-torn Kandor, whose red and bloody snows had caused refugees to flee in their thousands, he had also assumed that she lived a sheltered life despite there being no work nor shelter nor food nor safety in the entire country. Perhaps he disliked women. She had no idea why, serving the world’s greatest matriarchal force ought to foster respect, but it was the only reason save malice or misjudgement she could come up with. Neither eased her irritation.

 

Maybe she should take it as an oblique compliment, her performance as the feckless stripling had been better than even she planned, but frankly when she considered the circumstances it offended her all the more. No soldier herself, even she could tell that Kandor’s liberation would be a long and costly enterprise, as likely to fail as succeed, and if they planned to leave a gap in their ranks where old members had fallen then discouraging would-be recruits was an excellent way to go about it. Light forbid that a Domani girl should even be able to spell the phrase sustainable recruitment, far less have any concept of strategy or even common bloody sense, so she bit her tongue.

 

Damn it: for whatever obscure reasons he had, he had clearly taken against her. She managed not to tell him that if he refused to help her she would find somebody who would, her current frivolous fool of a self would not have thought that far ahead, but if he had two thoughts to rub together he would work that out for himself. She only hoped she hadn’t accidentally stumbled across the Commander of the Tower Guard or some such fancy title. It would be just her luck that the people she needed to let her in had conceived some irrational dislike for a Domani face and refused her.

 

Instead, falling back on the old familiar tactic of playing dumb, she widened her dark eyes in feigned surprise. “You don’t mean it might be hard work, do you sir?” On reflection the tone of horrified realisation had perhaps been overdone. “I wouldn’t want to chip a nail sir, and I’m afraid I really don’t know one end of a sword from another, and I’m surely not one for the hard life.” It took some effort to maintain the sweetly uncritical lightness when she thought of the journey’s hardships, her hopeless search here, the snows and the freezing cold and the hunger and pennilessness and the sheer helpless frustrated despair, or the plight of the thousands of refugees starving and homeless around them.

 

At least the Tower Guards had a bloody roof over their heads, three square meals a day and warmth and clean clothes, it wasn’t even their country being torn apart inch by bloody inch. She knew damn well they spent half their time sunning themselves in her beloved Arad Doman while their Aes Sedai brought down people’s families for fun. No, she had no sympathy. Not that she would say so.

 

“I must admit I’ve had second thoughts, sir,” Anjen furrowed her brow as if deep in thought, doing her best not to mention recruitment, numbers, hypocrisy or anything of the sort, “but I still want to save the world. Just like the Aes Sedai! Only with swords!” She tried out a brilliant smile on the unhelpful halfwit she had landed herself with. She had never undergone Aes Sedai testing and had absolutely no intention of it either; her commitment to this vengeance scheme had its limits. But she had come all the way to Kandor, she had yet to find what she was looking for, and a pat on the head was little enough to suffer to gain access to the next step of her plan. “Doesn’t everybody want to save the world?”

 

Fingers crossed that that would suffice. She certainly didn’t want to talk about why or how she had ended up here with her request; keep the lies simple, that was her principle, and the fewer stories she spread around the less effort she had to expend in keeping track of them. This stranger had proved more problematic than the Border Patrol, that was for certain, but if her luck held she could get around him as well. She smiled ever more brightly: pretty, dumb and eager, that was her. “So when can I start?”

 

Anjen

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  • 2 weeks later...

Her wide dark eyes created the perfect illusion of innocence and shock; words adding to the presented package a display of surprise. But the words tried to convey to much; artificially supported and puffed up they spoke volumes of one who carried a far greater knowledge then she wanted reveled; the words adding a certain level of sarcasm that did not touch her voice. This one like others of her kind before him held subtle skills and a hidden agenda. In a way he could actually picture those words delivered in the acrid tone Sirayn seemed to enjoy when she felt a smiting was in order. Knowing her heritage as he guessed he would believe more then one agenda sat at the head of this little one's mind. None of that however added any reassurance or comfort.

 

The lands around them lay riddled with the cast off corpses of those who had fallen to the bite of merciless steel. Painted red the lands of Kandor be them snow, rock, dirt, or even the wood floors of tavern and house. Each reclaimed town meant deadly and often costly battles within the small cramped quarters of buildings and shed. Given the option Corin would lead a thousand men into open field or forested glade battle rather then the costly and messy affair of building to building searches. But like all those in the red cloak of the Tower Guard. His life was to that of the towers purpose and need. Though even the strongest supporter questioned some of it's masters decisions.

 

Her smile grew with another verbalization of want in the need of joining those that must die for the White Towers cause. In another time and another place he could think of many a men who would have fallen to this one quickly. Their hearts and minds wrapped around her little finger in baited anticipation of any promise she might offer. Images and a heart's remembered whisper began to rise up like wisps of smoke from within; Lavinya's face blooming within it. I'm sorry my dear but now is not the time. We have decided this already. With a twinge of pain and guilt still somewhat raw on the edges he scattered the thoughts and pushed her remembered softness away into the distance. Too much death lie around him in this light forsaken realm of Kandor to allow him any moment of remembered or hoped for warmth from either of those that had occupied so much of his mind before this posting.

 

“No idea of one end from another you say,” Casual conversation was all the tone in his voice carried as his hand stroked the line of his jaw thoughtfully. “Well then it would be difficult to make use of you anytime soon, though I suppose I could find a purpose you could fill nicely.” He stopped and turned toward her, eyes looking her over as if sizing her ability and strength for the needed task. Her smile had slipped a little and a touch of puzzlement floated in her eyes. “Yes, I think you will most defiantly do. I usually prefer reds but in this frozen place warmth in bed from a pretty face is still welcomed warmth.” His face took on a skewed look, “You aren't married or betrothed are you? I would hate to have to kill a jealous lover, might get blood on my clothes. That would never do, I prefer the touch of soft hands not wrinkled hands from extended time in the wash water,” his wink filled with warmth and barely contained restraint.

 

Like the moments before battle, it's combatants at the verge of movement, time seemed to slow down. The few seconds that passed between them could have contained a half a hundred different thoughts and emotions. It was a rather bold play for himself but then here there was little time to ferrite out a firm understanding of those you may have to deal with. Perhaps under different circumstances he would have offered her more credit to her present ability to maintain composure. But here it just worked to solidify belief that this one would need to be watched closely. Her smile returned to a broad and inviting expression; a slight tilt to her head. But as she opened her mouth to offer her justification to such a scandalous offer he began to chuckle.

 

“Relax deary that is not the way you advance in the ranks of the Tower Guard. To reach this cloak,” his hand grasped it's edge draping it out for emphasis, “you have to earn it with old fashion sweat and tears. Obviously you are determined to complete this little quest of yours what ever it's reason.” His voice had begun to take on the authoritative drone of a drill Sargent. “If this battle is to remain here and last for an extended time then additional ranks will be required, though it will be long before you will be ready to truly survive. If it was just the opportunity to fight you would have joined one of the many militia groups popping up, or what is left of the armies for these lands. Know if you desire the cloak then you will have to accept the time it takes to earn it.” While he talked he slowly circled the girl, her eyes trying to follow him. “I can not simply turn you away as you will no doubt accost another until you gain the entrance you seek; and with the drink the way it has been of late it is a risk I can not willfully accept.” The last was delivered in quiet dark tones, too many of the younger files still sought out it's mind numbing qualities to deal with what their eyes beheld each day.

 

“So little one, unless you are truly attached to that name perhaps you can share with me your true name and why it is you feel so strongly lead to the service of the Tower?”

_________________

Corin Danveer

Tower Guard

Tied to the Flame

 

ooc: Anjen-reply later. :P

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ever since her wedding night she had carried the knowledge that revenge was her duty as the last free member of her line. She kept an internal list of her obligations to remind herself daily; each day she spent out here in snowy Kandor was another day apart from her husband and her family, another day before she could return and set matters to rights, another day with no bloody progress whatsoever.

 

Every instinct she possessed clamoured to go home. Leaving her brother in a Domani jail and her House’s reputation in shreds had burned her; she had never spoken of the shame she felt at fleeing like a thief in the night, letting her family believe her dead or a deserter, but she kept it close all the same. Even being here made her a traitor. It had been hammered into her since she took her first steps that a Domani girl of high birth should become a wife and a mother, that her worth was calculated by how well she performed those duties, and here in Kandor she could do neither.

 

Having to live alongside loud, lewd red-cloaked halfwits and the sinister Aes Sedai into the bargain had stretched her patience to breaking point. Once she had held the Tower in high esteem; now, having seen her home burn for Aes Sedai trickery, she watched each red cloak pass her in the street and asked herself where they had been last summer. Yet even if she had known the right names all she could have done was land herself in some festering foreign jail. Frustration and bitter fury had been building up ever since.

 

So to be propositioned like a common whore by some lecherous idiot distinguished by nothing but the size of his sword hilt came very close to snapping her tolerance altogether. It hadn’t escaped her notice that the Tower Guard were a rough lot with nothing in their empty heads but drink and women, intellectually she’d known that a woman on her own would be a target, but she had never expected such an insult. As the daughter of a high House and a married woman to boot it outraged her; she nearly snarled that she charged for that kind of service.

 

On the other hand … to let her fierce Domani temper show would be to betray her true colours. She was beginning to find this man thoroughly disagreeable with his constant round of demeaning nicknames and lecherous behaviour but the Light forfend that she have the wits to be angered even by rampant male idiocy. So she choked down her wrath, with a mighty effort, and even forced herself to smile; preparing as she did so some light words that would defuse any immediate expectations but still leave the possibility open later if he made himself useful; she had no intention whatsoever of breaking her marriage vow but he didn’t need to know that.

 

Fortunately for both of them, including her continued pretence at good humour and simplicity, he dropped this particular display of stupidity shortly afterward. Being labelled little one by a man only an inch taller than her vexed her but it paled in comparison to taking her for some sort of scarlet woman. Her family had brought her up to act only with consideration; she forced the old bright innocence into her voice once more. “I keep telling you, sir, I just want to save the world.” She could stonewall just as long and hard as necessary. “My name’s Raffiel. Like Rafael, only more … raffish.” She summoned an attempt at a charming smile from somewhere, though frankly her hand itched to punch him, and even fluttered her long dark lashes dislodging bits of snow: “Since you’re inducting me into your fine order and so on, could we perhaps get in from the cold?”

 

Anjen

Tricksy lass

 

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Her smile seemed genuine on the surface, but something about her still nagged at his mind; perhaps it was the way she still seemed to use her eyelashes as a means to further her position. Perhaps it was just the simple fact she was Domani and he still nursed the wounds Lavinya had left him with. For the time being he could not put his finger on it and if he could not be sure then caution became his cloak of security. His dear Sirayn would be safe under the eyes of the guard back in Tar Valon; at least he prayed she would be. For now he had other Aes Sedai lives to watch over and a land to free from the Dark One's touch. Which side this impish girl placed her flag of loyalty on was still up for grabs and he was not about to let one of the Father of Lies children into the sheep's pen unobserved.

 

“Raffiel is it,” his hand came up to stroke his chin in thought. Give them solid indications when you are doing key things like thinking in the beginning and they may forget to look at the small things later when the trap is before them. The words were from one of his teachers in the path of Misdirection, and he took all his instruction in that path seriously. Anything that might sway vantage to his side was always a welcome lesson. “Well Raffiel, as I stated earlier that is not how we advance the ranks in this order. Especially those in my care. If you are to join and eventually earn the Red cloak then you better get use to putting those eyelashes of yours in neutral. I will not stand for simpering fools tarnishing the ranks.” Light knows there is enough of them already, and the drink does not help. He had almost sworn off the stuff after his unfortunate altercation with a particularly penchant guard who had been snooping around Sirayn's affairs. But he still enjoyed a good ale or glass of wine from time to time, only it was kept to extreme moderation.

 

“So you do not like the cold, I wonder if you truly understand the unpleasantness of the future you are looking to bind yourself to?” He let the question hang there for a moment, but before she could reply he turned on heel heading back down the street. “Come,” it was not exactly stated as a command. But there was no doubt that it was not a suggestion either, it was time to see what this young lass believed the guard held for her.

 

The journey was a short one to the Inn that was acting as one of the many barrack buildings to house the force Tar Valon had sent to Kandor's aid. The common room had been converted to a mess hall of sorts and the private meeting rooms on the main level office quarters. The upper rooms had become the barrack rooms of the rank and file with three and four to a room where the scheduling would allow for it. Space was a premium for an army on the move and not of this land, large field encampments would have been too convenient a target so they were avoided this close to the fighting. Stopping by the counter Corin gathered a bowel of stew and a chunk of torn off crusty bread while motioning for Raffiel to do the same. Once seated in a corner table and several bites warming his stomach it was time to return to the game at hand.

 

“You understand that by entering the ranks you will give up your present freedoms and may be called upon to forfeit your life if need be in the service of protecting the White Tower and all that call it home? It is important you understand that and weigh it's commitment seriously. This is not a decision to be snappily made to ease the conditions one presently lives in.” He turned the spoon over and over in his hand as he spoke to her; watched her expressions; her eyes. The Dark One had too many in his following and the guard could not afford to let even one slip into their ranks. It was so much easier when they came petitioning at the Tower. There the Mistress of Trainees and other senior officials could weed out the deadwood and watch over the unknown. But here, he was but one person that still had all the responsibilities of his present station in this war. If he accepted her he would be responsible for her as well until he could hand her over to the Mistress of Trainees for official entry and mentorship. Knowing his luck with her he would find the girl assigned to him until raised. “Tell me about yourself Raffiel, where do you come from, family, hobbies?”

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It took some effort not to give him an incredulous stare and the newly named Raffiel, shaking off her old identity like a cloak as she had done to her only true name before that, managed only barely not to ask what under the Light he had against her. Immediately upon meeting her for the first time he had taken her for some cosseted fool who did not deserve his time, he who stood in a city full of starving, desperate refugees with neither homes to go to nor the food and shelter the Tower Guard took for granted, and in the intervening ten minutes he had advanced only to propositioning her like a common whore. Now he called her a simpering fool -- and this from a man who claimed to realise the Tower Guard needed replenishment!

 

The sheer half-witted prejudice of it all made her blood boil. Tonight’s little truth could not have been clearer had it been written in the snow in ten-foot words of fire. The Tower Guard needed new recruits … but not Domani ones, oh no, and certainly not women, Domani women had only one use and they were over-priced for that too. If she had been a strapping young Borderlander man nobody would have questioned her; northern men had not only the strength but the right to take this path. But because she had been born a daughter rather than a son, and she had the dark colouring of her native Arad Doman, self-evidently she was only here for some man to use and cast aside.

 

She just didn’t understand. Her father had brought her up right, when she took her first steps she had learnt that no matter how high she stood in Domani society it was still her duty to step aside for an Aes Sedai, and despite the fires and the burning and the stupid tragedy of it all a tiny, childish part of her couldn’t believe that an entire group -- the timeless Aes Sedai and their legendary companions, Tar Valon’s swords -- could be this bad. Could it be that Lothair Mantelar, of whose work she had heard tell, had had the right of it all along? That all of them were Darkfriends? Of course folk of the Light could be as malicious a pack of bigots as anybody else, she knew that all too well, but there wasn’t even any sense or logic here. It seemed as if this little show had been put on purely for cruelty’s sake.

 

As he stalked off, this nameless little worm who made mock of her intellect and her virtue for the sin of being a Domani female, raffish-Anjen stared after him in the snow and the darkness and seriously contemplated not following him. She had better things to do with her time than suffer a barrage of accusations from some jumped-up nobody with a chip on his shoulder the size of a town block. If it was truly necessary for her to join the red cloaks, if only for a short time, she could find somebody else who would be less repulsive in behaviour. But the stupidity of this had outraged her as well as upset her; tempting as it was to seek another way, she had not been brought up to take the easy way out, and the thought of slinking off like a kicked puppy offended her. Clenching her jaw she stalked after the object of her wrath.

 

To nobody’s surprise, this self-appointed hard man went straight to the nearest inn, where naturally he found a warm welcome and something to eat. The sheer hypocrisy of slandering everyone else and lamenting the hard conditions a Tower Guard lived in when the aforesaid Tower Guard never had to worry about where his next meal was coming from deserved to be pointed out, but Anjen strangled out the sharp comment he fully deserved; sweet, simple Raffiel, friend to everybody, would have neither the intelligence nor the inclination to point it out. The strain of holding back her usual acerbic commentary was going to consign her to an early grave. Perhaps she should have chosen a slightly cleverer personality … but no, that would never have worked, if the half-wits of the Tower Guard reacted this badly to a woman the Light only knew what they would make of a smart one.

 

Hungry though she was, she refused the offer of food. She knew people like him. In her estimation there was a better than even chance that he would wind up this little heart-to-heart by laughing off her ambitions, weak female that she was, and demand payment before driving her off the premises. Anjen refrained from rolling her eyes at yet another lecture on how difficult Tower Guard life was; she could see exactly what hardships they endured -- an inn, warmth, a full plate and the freedom to jeer at little girls and their fool’s notions. Choking down her ire, though she promised herself she wouldn’t easily forget how the Tower Guard behaved when they thought their victims couldn’t push back, Anjen did her best to look as half-witted as she could manage. Just model herself after this man and she should do fine.

 

Maintaining this particular sham was beginning to grate on her nerves no end. The likes of this maggot would never dare to speak to her if they knew who she truly was; only the red cloak and the knowledge that this town was stuffed full with friends gave them any courage. So much for the fine upstanding folk of Tar Valon. “Commitment, unpleasantness, my favourite words.” She gestured breezily to show what she thought of the aforementioned. Unpleasantness! Exactly how unpleasant was it to walk into what used to be an independent inn and know that Tower folk would give him a meal? How unpleasant to have a roof over his head and a warm bed waiting for him and the ability to harass and proposition strangers in the knowledge that they couldn’t fight back? Light forfend that the red cloaks should pull their heads free long enough to realise how easy they had it.

 

He had not earned himself a single scrap of honesty. She intended to give him no information whatsoever and he deserved every bit of stonewalling. “Family … nothing much to speak of.” It pained her to sound so dismissive, it was for her beloved family that she suffered this idiot’s attentions, but it would keep him off her back and besides Raffiel was far too stupid to have any troubles of her own. She had loved her parents dearly, she had had two fine brothers as well, and a newly-wedded husband she had left behind … “My mother was a whore,” she kept her voice smooth though her inner mother screeched in outrage. “You can imagine the rest.” Hobbies. She had liked to ride on her family’s estates. She played stones like a champion. As befitted a Domani lady, nobody could outwit her at the trading table, she had a head for figures and a shark’s instinct for a bargain, and her mother had been proud of her. Shades and memories only: that part of her life was over now. Raffiel kept smiling: “I like warm places, the occasional drink and pestering complete strangers on wall duty. Can I sign up now?”

 

Anjen

or possibly Raffiel depending on who you are!

 

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It concerned him that she had refused the offer of food. No doubt she was hunger and cold, most civilians within a sizable distance to this mess were. Was it that she believed the Guard would poison her? Perhaps she took his probing question as truth and feared he would drug her only to awaken used and tossed out in the street like so much rubbish in this light forsaken place. The spoon rolled over again in his hand as he listened to her story or lack there of. Little information was offered and at the moment he could not say if it was from evasion or shame she kept the tale thin and short of meat. His mind wandered again briefly as she described her mother as a whore; Raffiel's heritage and bitter words bring back pain. How could I not have seen how Lavinya viewed the relationship? Light how do I explain this all to Sirayn, she hates me so already.

 

He forced his mind back to the girl sitting across from him, her smile still simple. If she had been a man, a soldier he would not have had such hardship with this decision. Even that grated on him. He knew there should be no difference; fought side by side with women his life trusted to their hands. Watched his comrades in arms die; death's embrace caring not for the sex of the flesh it claimed. He had sent women to their deaths before and no doubt would send many more in the future. So why was it this one caused him so much hesitation.

 

He wanted to rub his eyes; find his bed and sleep for a week. It seemed so long since he had actually had time to have a proper sleep. Between reports and sorties against the Dark one's armies that had take this land it had become a rare and elusive beast. But even in his present state of exhaustion some of Sirayn's training remained. He would have to begin the task of checking up on her now, whether she joined or not, to ensure the ranks remained safe. There was also the added task of actually training the fool girl and marking her progress so it could be reported back to the Mistress of Trainees if the light seen fit that he survived this war. His eyes studied her a little longer as she finished her tale, measured her worth and found the appearance presented lacking. But as Daes Dae'mar always showed. What is presented is not always true. In fact it rarely was; most holding just enough truth to be believed.

 

“Wait here Raffiel I will be back in a moment,” the words sounded more flat then he intended. Rising from the table he stepped back to the bar to converse with what had one time been the Inn keeper. In fact he still was, he just followed orders now instead of making his own whimsical decisions. Once the war was done he could go back to that but for now he was in the service of the Tower army. After making his requests Corin watched as Averan's eyes swept to the girl at the table and a knowing smile bloomed on his face with a nodded. Patience already worn with the games and the pace he had been keeping his hand slammed hard against the bar's surface and brought the man back with a start. “It will not be that way and don't you ever presume that again. I expect the room ready by the time I am back to the table.” As quickly as the words were out of his mouth in a far too loud of voice he regretted them. She would have been disappointed in him no doubt. Some how he had to find time for sleep.

 

Taking a cleansing breath he collected himself and a book from the counter and returned to the table and his guest. His fingers hesitated on the books cover as he eyed her once more before opening it to the last entry and sliding it in front of her. “Make your mark and be welcome to the training ranks of the White Tower.” He waited, his eyes still studying her openly, for her to take the pen and write her name. Once complete he pushed the book aside still open to allow the ink to dry. “As we do not have the luxury of time and the Mistress of Trainees here to make assignments for you it will be left to me to look after you. I will be your mentor until such time as you leave the service of the Tower, we return and your care is transferred to the MOT, or you die.” His voice held the authoritative edge once more; stating the options as in inconsequential facts. “You will do what I say when I say. If we are in the safety of the city then there is openness for discussion in your training and the tasks I ask of you. If we are not then there is no discussion, you do exactly as I tell you. No arguments. Now follow me.”

 

Turning from the table he moved halfway back down the common room to a door and stepped through into a small corridor with multiple small meeting rooms off of it. Opening the second door his eyes swept the room quickly spotting the bedding laid out in the corner. He knew that anything of value in relation to knowledge was secreted away as he always did. But prudence was worth the time it took to check. “This will be your room while we are in this city,” he motioned her forward. “Space is limited and there is no room for a trainee section so you will stay with me. Perhaps it will work to advantage the speed of your training. Perhaps we will just get on each others nerves, only time and the wheel know that. You can have the floor or the bed the choice is your's.” His voice softened slightly for the first time as his gaze lingered on the bed momentarily, “it seems I rarely have the time to use it.”

 

A pain raced through his chest briefly. It had been agitating to say the least to be so near Sirayn and know he was banished from her presence unless her bidding required it. But to be here so far away, unable to watch over or know exactly what problems filled the yard and tower that could present danger to her was maddening. She had to be delighting in how this would affect him; sending him so far from her. Turning back to the girl he had to double his resolve to keep the emotions from his face through the strain of exhaustion. He was her mentor now and could not show weakness in her presence, not yet at least. Had it been Dorian the tables could have been different; might have been able to show some. Light he hope the boy was working well for the temporary mentor put in charge of him. Temporary, nothing in this felt temporary any more. Perhaps here in the cold surrounded by waste and loss she would find her silent wish fulfilled and Corin Danveer of the White Tower guard would cease to exist, wrapped in the arms of death. “Do you have any personal effects you need to collect? Items you own that you would like to see with you now that you have a new home?” Something about her eyes still bothered him, it was not like they held open defiance and hostility. But they flashed from time to time with something. An emotion Corin could not put a finger to yet but certainly planned to find out.

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