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  1. See post #5489 in the Gwampy thread in Fiddlesticks.
  2. See post #5489 in the Gwampy thread in Fiddlesticks.
  3. Ellen Sedai, or "The Black Widow" as she preferred to think of herself nowadays smiled as she watched her son stepping gracefully through his sword forms. Some day soon he would take a place of honor along side her in the Last Battle. He would make a fine dreadlord. Perhaps her mentor Moghedian could hook him up with a male tutor. That was almost too much to wish for. Everything that he knew so far he had learned on his own. She knew that if he went to the Black Tower that she would never see him again. No. She had been patient this long... she could wait a little longer for everything to fall into place. It seemed like just yesterday that she had been ordered to gain control of this hell hole in the middle of nowhere. Now, she understood. This small hamlet that she now ruled was strategic for controlling trade between the coastal cities of Ebou Dar, Illian, and Tear and the western ports from Tanchico to the Arad Domain coast and beyond. This area was known as the Shadow Coast and by jingles the Shadow would indeed control it. With her being the rightful dictator here, all was as it should be. Her plan was coming together nicely. It did sometimes bother her a little that it had been necessary to exterminate Jolly Johnnie because she really did enjoy his company. She missed his smile. Sometimes. But, work was work and her job took precedence over her personal feelings. Maybe when this whole nasty Last Battle business was done she might find time to live her life as she pleased. Maybe.
  4. Gradhrt looked around the gathering of Guardians that he was about to address. They waited in eager anticipation. Yes. All had indeed selected this group. There could be no other explanation for the perfection. Their personalities and abilities had proven to be exactly what this task had required. All of the Ancient Ones with their memories linked could not have done better. It was common knowledge among the ancient ones that All had more ability in one blink of an eye than all of them combined had in all of their lifetimes of memory. The Creator. The Force. God. All. Whatever name was placed on him he deserved awe and respect if not worship. For perhaps the billionth time Gradhrt pondered if All considered himself male or female. Perhaps he was actually just like the Ancient Ones...both yet neither. It really didn't matter. All could be whatever he/she wanted to be. The preparations were complete. The links were all repaired. Each of the volcanoes had been test fired individually. The "Tree" was renovated and ready for the new age. All that was left was for the inhabitants to complete their "Last Battle" ritual. Then all 27 volcanoes could be fired simultaneously in coordination with the other strategic sights scattered about the surface of this planet to begin the reorientation of the poles. Just as a rotated chicken on a spit cooks better, and planet that is rotated occasionally ages more evenly. Since they could not change on their own, it was up to the Ancient Ones to help them along every few thousand years. This reorientation also help stabilize and renew their momentum and reduced the tendency to "wobble". This was part of All's Pattern. All gave the orders and the Ancient Ones helped get them executed. These Guardians deserved a pat on the back for their efforts. "Welcome!", he started. The Guardians could not help themselves. They burst into applause and cheers. Gradhrt tried his best to smile at them. After an adequate period of time he waved his arms to calm them. They responded perfectly, of course. "There are not adequate words to describe the... PRIDE... that I feel concerning the work that you have done here. I have been through countless numbers of projects like this and I can truthfully say that your efforts rank among the upper percentile. Give yourselves a hand." They did. When they were done he continued. "Every task has been completed flawlessly and timely. Your teamwork is exemplary. There has been very little questioning or complaining which is refreshing indeed. It has been a pleasure working with you. All must be pleased." The place erupted. Guardians jumped up and down and patted each other in celebration. Some wept openly. When things calmed down sufficiently he continued. "I have a short story to tell you about another... UNNAMED... experience that I remember vividly. I won't tell you if it took place on this planet or another because it really doesn't matter. What does matter is the contrast to what you have done here. That race was TOTALLY opposite to you. When it came time for their renewal they faced it like cowards. Fear of change gripped them. They fought to keep things as they had been. Instead of working to aid All they did everything in their power to resist the inevitable. They couldn't comprehend the necessity of change. The end of their age meant the end of their world and they were NOT going to accept it! Rather than try to see the grand scheme of things they could see nothing but their own interests. Even though they had been given centuries to prepare physically and mentally they were far from prepared when the end of their days neared. They clung to their pitiful useless existence to the last strand even though the Pattern was dissolving around them. I speak of this race not to chastise them for being different but to praise you for being different from them. Yes. You have a right to be proud." Gradhrt shuddered. What a mess that "Earth 2012" project had been.
  5. Rourke gave the signal for the return of his truth teller. She appeared almost instantly. Her face was pale and her eyes bulged. She must have some idea of what awaited her. "Your services are no longer required. Because of your many years of service and my charitable mood I will allow you to choose between opening your veins or being sold into servitude." He looked away from her. He didn't care which option she chose. If she killed herself the servants would clean up the mess. He barely caught a glimpse of the light reflecting off from the dagger. In a heartbeat it was buried deeply between his shoulder blades. He guessed that it had probably found his heart. "YOU! TRAITOR!!! You would raise yourself to Emperor? YOU? You should NEVER have been raised to HIGH LORD let alone EMPEROR!!! Now, you will no longer crave that which you do not deserve!". She removed the dagger and he began to really bleed...a LOT. As he fell to the floor he watched his former truth teller hauling Rosie away convulsing and vomiting. His final sad thought was that he never got to rename her... "Rose". ===================================================================================== Daeve glanced at the massive heap in the corner. Boris had been a handful. His body was slumped forward and his broken neck barely supported his head. He might have still been alive had he not under estimated Daeve's strength. All of those years spent loading and unloading cargo had built his muscles. He looked lean but was quite tough as Boris had learned the hard way. And Kerrie. Poor, lovely Kerrie. Daeve still regretted having to kill her. He had been so sure that they belonged together. Until he caught her with that... that... BOUNCER!!! She claimed that they were in love. BAH!!! The omens had promised her to HIM! Well, if she would not belong to Daeve then she would belong to no body. She was lovely even in death. Although, her face did look a little blue from being strangled with her own scarf. Daeve finished his note leaving all of his worldly possessions to Master Greggory as payment for cleaning up his mess. Then he tugged the bed sheet that he had tied to the rafter to be sure that it would hold his weight. He stuck his head into the noose, said a prayer wishing good luck to all of his friends and relatives, then jumped off from the chair. He smiled when he felt his neck snap. That meant the end would come soon. ====================================================================================== Jolly Jonnie stood on the edge of the platform that he had ordered built for this announcement. There was plenty of room so that most of his subjects within walking distance could attend. They would spread the word until everyone knew. Ellen Sedai knew how to amplify his voice so everyone could hear without him having to shout. "Today is a happy day! After all of these years I have learned that Lonnie is my son by blood as much as he has been my son otherwise these past twenty years. His birth was accidental. Ellen Sedai did not tell us for our benefit. It matters not to me and I ask you to accept him as my son also.". The crowd applauded as Lonnie stepped forward for a bow before stepping back to his place. "Ellen Sedai and I are also happy to announce that we were wed by Captain Morgan during our return voyage!". She stepped forward and bowed to an even louder ovation then stepped back. Jonnie was preparing to declare this a day of celebration when he felt a jolt of wind pushing at his back. The flags overhead were hanging limp but his was standing in the midst of a strong breeze. It grew stronger and Jonnie staggered toward the edge of the platform. He glanced back to see Lonnie with an evil smile on his face and both hands pointing toward Jonnie while twitching. Jonnie had never seen that look on Lonnie's face before. Lonnie pulled both arms to his chest then thrust them out in a pushing motion. Jonnie was hit with a massive blast of air that knocked him over the edge of the platform. He glanced down. His subjects would catch him. They would not let him fall to the ground. As he approached they spread out leaving him a clear path. He tried to catch himself. Both shoulder dislocated just before his face slammed into the sand. He felt his neck snap. In a flash Ellen Sedai was beside him. She sobbed that she could not heal him. He smiled at her then closed his eyes. "At least I won't suffer the slow death.", he thought. ===================================================================================== That crazy old man Daeve was a LOT stronger than he looked. He and Boris had struggled for some long time while she screamed for help but nobody came. Just as it looked like the old coot might be getting tired he jumped off from a chair and wrapped both legs around Boris's head giving it a mighty twist. Kerrie heard his neck snap and his eyes bugged out. A few pointless gasps and Boris was gone. Kerrie took off her silk kerchief and sobbed into it. She didn't see Daeve coming toward her. "If I can't have you then nobody will.", he mumbled in his strange accent. She didn't stand a chance against him. He grabbed her scarf and pulled it tight around her neck. She did try to struggle but it was no use. After what seemed an eternity of trying to catch her breath so she could plead for mercy she finally gave up. Strange that her final thought should be about how much money had actually been in that chest. ==================================================================================== Karlee ducked down beside a rain barrel and pulled Irene tighter against his chest to try to protect her. The door to the ladder leading down to their room was now only a short distance away but it seemed like miles. The ship's Wind Finder was standing on the fantail waving her arms in a sweeping motion over her head. Each time that she stopped more lightning slammed into the masts of the Seanchan vessel that was chasing them. A woman wearing a chain on her neck stood in the bow of their enemy's ship making similar gestures with similar lightning bolts striking over Karlee's head. Having Irene clinging to him was the only good thing happening. Timing the attack Karlee made a dash for the door. He pushed Irene down the ladder in front of him then quickly followed pulling the door shut behind him. That business up there was none of theirs. Realizing that if things went poorly he might never get another chance he decided it was time to bare his feelings. He took Irene by the wet sleeves of her dress and pulled her toward him. "I love you, Irene. I have for some long time now but didn't take time to admit it to myself let alone you.". He blushed and so did she. "Well,", Irene began then hesitated as if searching for the right words, "I'm flattered. But,". There it was. The word that Karlee had so feared. He could feel his smile melting. Irene must have noticed. "NO! It's not like that! It's just that... well... I'm... I'm not... 'available'. I already have a true love in my life. Her name is Johenna. You know. The pretty chamber maid that I hired last year? You yourself commented on how lovely she was.". Karlee sat down in a nearby chair and chuckled. That was just the way his luck had been running lately. Maybe he should have listened to that voice in his head that had told him to join the Dragon Reborn in the Last Battle. Oh, well. Maybe he still could when they got back from this "Dar" place. That was his last conscious thought. The ship split into two even halves across the beam. Water flooded in from both sides. A heavy beam fell from over head and landed squarely on top of him. He tried to cry as he watched Irene being washed through the side of the ship into the open ocean but he just didn't have the strength. He closed his eyes and exhaled. ==================================================================================== The world was just WONDERFUL!!! Opel couldn't believe the recent run of extra good luck that she and her family had been experiencing! First, her family reunited then finding the perfect house at the perfect price. Then, her husband had learned that there indeed WAS a need for a blacksmith in town since the old one had up and left everything to join the Last Battle. He had even left his tools. Her husband had simply asked permission to take over and it was granted by the caretaker. To top it all off, the mayor of Cross Village had stopped at their home on his way to join the Dragon Reborn and told them that he would not be needing his coach any more. He was determined to walk "every step of the way" to the fighting no matter how long it took him. The man was obviously touched in the head but, hey, a free carriage is a free carriage! And that's how they happened to be taking this family ride today. Her husband and sons were driving. She and her parents and her daughters were riding in style inside. The two free horses had no problem pulling them. They were all going to see how nice and tidy her husband had arranged the blacksmith shop. He was so proud! That's probably what he was daydreaming about when he pulled out in front of the cargo wagon at the intersection. Opel heard the wagon driver swearing and looked out to see his horses rearing. Massive beasts with huge heavy hoofs. Slow moving but powerful and steadfast. One of those massive hooves found it's way through the window that Opel was looking out. She had no time to dodge. It caught her square in the face. She actually was able to sob. Not for long but long enough to appreciate being able to. Then she died. ==================================================================================== "Seventeen!", Yohon shook his head. "It took me seventeen times!". He looked around then walked on. He told himself to be careful. He promised himself to never gamble again. This could have been a DISASTER if not for today's good luck. And he realized that luck was all it had been. On the previous sixteen wagers he had only went further into the hole. Today's winnings would allow him to replace what he had "borrowed" from the coffers to place all of those losing bets. Almost. He would have to supplement it with some of his personal savings. "A hard lesson but well learned", he vowed. It was almost dusk. The last race was a late one. Had he lost that one he would have been forced to flee in shame and never return. Now, if he could just make it these last few blocks he could replace the gold and nobody would ever know but him... and Suzie-Q. He was having an evil thought about eliminating her so that she could never reveal his secrets when he felt a burning sensation in his left kidney. He reached around and was cut on the palm of his hand by the retreating dagger. He felt the tug at his side and heard the sound of his winnings being cut loose from his belt. He fell to the ground and didn't know which he should feel worse about... losing the money or losing his life. ======================================================================================= Dixie couldn't believe it. She had walked for miles in both directions. Nothing but SAND!!! It felt so GOOD that she had removed her boots and was walking bare foot. And WATER!!! She had read stories in the books about oceans and ships and such but she had always thought that they were works of fiction. Here she stood. Looking out at a REAL ocean! It was wet like water but it sure didn't TASTE like water! It tasted like every wetlander there was had all peed right where she was drinking! It didn't satisfy her thirst, either. If anything, it made her thirstier. Still. She couldn't help being mesmerized by the sight. And the sound. And the smell and the taste. So, she kept walking. Bare foot. Day after day. She found a few fish that had been washed ashore. They smelled and tasted just as bad as the water but it was food. It wasn't the same as home but at least the sand reminded her of home. One day after several weeks of walking up and down the ocean she sat down. Her mouth was beyond dry. Her body ached. She longed for home. And food. And clean water. And her spear sisters. She dug herself a bed in the sand and crawled in. The next morning she had awakened from her dream. ===================================================================================== OOC: Sorry for killing everyone off. It was turning into an "obligation". Hope you understand. I also hope that everyone enjoyed reading this stuff as much as I enjoyed writing whatever popped into my head. I'm sure I'll find something to write again sometime "lord willing and the creek don't rise". Love, Gramps
  6. Are there darkfriends among the Ogier? If there can be Aiel darkfriends why not Ogier? Or, for that matter, Tuatha'an (Tinkers)? Oops... drifted off subject... sorry. Back to the Ways. My understanding of the WOT time line gets fuzzy. I've read every book five+ times and I still have trouble keeping it all straight. Right now I can't remember whether the Ways were already established by the time of Hawkwing. Or if they were already tainted. As I remember the story, Hawkwing did not simply pick up his army and move to Seanchan. They were an expeditionary force of some kind who simply never returned for a couple of thousand years. It makes sense that if Hawkwing didn't really know that he was moving to Seanchan, then the Ways were either not made yet or they had not gone to Seanchan. Unless the Seanchan exit was forgotten or something. My guess is to agree with the post that said they don't go there. As for the R & R thought, ANYPLACE away from the Last Battle will be restful. Knowing that there will be no trolloc attack will make Seanchan more relaxing regardless of their internal strife. Maybe the Empress, may she live forever, will set up a special area for the troops of the Light to let their hair down... a few at a time... she wouldn't want too many soldiers hanging out at a time... not enough booze and women to go around!!! Thanks for the comments. Love, Gramps
  7. So with the exception of Seanchan darkfriends (there are darkfriends everywhere, even among the Aiel) and whatever Shadow forces that find a way to Skim or Travel, Seanchan should be a place for R & R (rest and relaxation) for the Light troops during the Last Battle. No Trollocs. If, that is, IF the Seanchan Empress, may she live forever, allows it. Interesting.
  8. There are Ogier Guards in the Seanchan army, so the Ogier must have interacted with them at some point in time. It might be possible that the Ways once connected the mainland to Seanchan. If the Ways go to Seanchan and the Trollocs are using the Ways then the Trollocs will probably invade Seanchan unless they think of it the way they do the Aiel Waste or the former city the Rand destroyed while cleansing the source. I tried searching this topic with no luck. Do you think the Ways go to Seanchan? Will the Trollocs go to Seanchan? If Seanchan has to deal with Trollocs, how will this affect Rand's need for their help at the Last Battle? Just curious.
  9. OOC: EXTRA post above. ENJOY! East Town it was. The choice had been easy. The tide was dropping and there was no appropriate vessel in West Town. The only suitable conveyance was a medium sized Sea Folk ship that was anchored just off shore near East Town. The row boat ride for he and Irene had been rough but tolerable. She even squealed when one of the waves splashed over the bow and got her wet. Karlee had gotten a good laugh and a sour look out of that. Then Irene shook the water out of her hair and chuckled herself. Her smile was so lovely. The crew quickly scampered up the rope ladder hanging over the side of the ship and disappeared on deck. Karlee offered to follow Irene up the ladder but for some reason she insisted that he go first. He shrugged and climbed. At least she didn't refuse his offered hand to help her up the last little bit. He had offered to come out here by himself but she had insisted that he wouldn't own his own scalp if he tried to bargain with these people. He had agreed to let her do the talking. There were some things that she was simply better at than he. It had always stricken Karlee as being odd that the Sea Folk WOMEN were in charge of their ships. And they referred to their vessels as HE instead of SHE as the mainland sailors did. Not that it really made THAT much difference. As long as the rules were understood and adhered to it really didn't matter who was in charge or what the ships were called. It just seemed strange, that's all. A matter of what you are used to. With that thought fresh in his mind he bowed and remained silent as Irene took charge. "We request permission to come aboard, the Light be willing. We have a desire to discuss a Gift of Passage.", she recited. The crew had given specific instructions before they left the dock. They had also told what the reply would be and how they should respond. "May the Light be with you and your crew. May we all prosper today.", Irene responded as she was supposed to. The Captain motioned toward a door leading to a ladder going down. Karlee followed Irene down the steep stairs and kept quiet. The Captain and her party followed like jailers escorting prisoners. The man kept one hand on his sword as if to ensure that it was there if he needed it. Karlee tried very hard to look anything but threatening. When everyone was seated at the bargaining table the discussion began. Karlee was VERY happy that he had yielded to Irene. She saw through and avoided several traps that Karlee would have waded straight in to. She seemed to ignore the man with the sword. Karlee could not help noticing that he had unsheathed it and was sharpening it with a wet stone very deliberately while staring with an evil eye at Karlee. In the end Irene seemed satisfied with the price. She spat into the palm of her hand and offered it to the Captain. The Captain looked to the man with the sword who nodded approval. The Captain spat in her own palm then sealed the deal. Both women stood and hugged while smiling at each other. "You bargain well.", the Captain commented to Irene. "As do you.", Irene replied. "My crew will signal the boats ashore to begin shuttling your party. We should be ready to leave within the hour. We should reach Dar in about a week if the winds are in our favor.", the Captain stated calmly. "DAR!!!", Karlee shouted. "A WEEK!!!", he nearly spat as he turned to cast his ire onto Irene. "You gave away nearly half of our entire fund to ride a ship to where we could have traveled by carriage in a day or two more? What kind of bargain was THAT? What kind of ADVENTURE is that? Irene calmly returned his glare. "Are you quite finished?", she asked in a tone that Karlee had never heard before. Except maybe from his mother when he was still quite young. He hadn't liked it then and he was not much more comfortable now. He had a feeling that he was about to discover that he had really stuck his foot in it this time. "The Captain did NOT say Ebou Dar. The Seanchan control that port. The Sea Folk do not get along well with the Seanchan for their own reasons. Dar is in the middle of nowhere toward the Isle of Madmen. You could have avoided this embarrassment had you paid closer attention to your lessons.". Irene was calm. Karlee was REALLY not calm. He tried to undo his blunder. "Please. Excuse my ignorance. I...", he could tell that his face was beet red, "I... apologize... for my behavior and for my mistrust of your competence, Irene. I also apologize to you, Captain, for allowing my temper to run so rampant in your presence.". He lowered his eyes then closed them with his head hanging down. The Captain slapped him on his left cheek so hard that his teeth chattered. "You are forgiven.", she said. "DON'T let it happen again!!!". OOC: there is more information about Dar in the "UP THERE" post. ====================================================================================== Opel sensed blackness in all directions except for the multitude of small specks of light floating all around her. She likened it to a clear summer night sky filled with stars. Only these stars didn't twinkle. They glowed. Sort of. They seemed to get brighter then dimmer. Slowly. Like a pulse. Brighter. Dimmer. Brighter. Dimmer. But not in a steady pattern. And no two changed at the same time. Some would get larger, too. This place was strangely familiar like she had been there before yet she was sure that if she had been here that she really did not remember it. It was kind of like floating on the water. Only she couldn't feel the waves. Or her body. She knew that she existed but that didn't seem real. Her body didn't matter. She didn't need it. It was a restriction to her. This was freedom. This was better. She imagined herself smiling with her nonexistent face. Calm. Peace. Contentment. Relaxed. Care free. Yes. If she had a face, she would be smiling. Some of the glowing balls seemed... familiar... somehow. Like she should recognize them. But, she couldn't. She tried. That feeling was strong with some of them and barely recognizable with others. She floated past some that gave no feeling whatsoever. A couple of them made her nervous. Scared. She tried to get away from them but they followed her. They wanted to consume her! She HAD to get away from them!!! NOW!!! They were gone. She was drifting peacefully again. The memory of them faded to nothingness. One caused her to become curious. There was no familiarity. She didn't recognize it. She sensed nothing to be afraid of. It wasn't special compared to any of the thousands of others that she felt she could reach out and touch. It was the same as all of the rest yet somehow different. That different feeling called to her. She had to get closer to it. Closer. Her hand that did not exist could reach out and touch it she was sure. She used the eyes that she did not have to look closer. The ball of light grew bigger. Bigger. BIGGER. She could see INSIDE the glow. She WAS inside the glow! This place inside the glow just could not be real. It could not possibly exist. Hundreds of people wearing all manner of strange clothes as colorful as Tinkers and as plain and colorless as a Carheinen were all gathered around the front of a HUGE building with windows as tall as doors. They were mumbling in a continuous hum of some strange language. Through some sort of magic Opel began to understand what they were saying. Much of their talk was gibberish and some of it was often profane. Even though she understood the words, the meaning was lost. Many of them made reference to some day of ritual called "Black Friday". Overall, Opel wished that she still did not understand what they were saying. A man in a uniform came to the tall windows and the crowd pressed toward him. Perhaps he had their food? The man pulled the windows toward him and they opened just like two huge glass doors. He jumped behind one of the glass doors just as the people burst through the opening that he had created. Opel was swept along with the flood of people around her like a twig on a rushing river. If she had not have followed the crowd she was sure she would have been trampled just like her cousin Kan who had fallen into the sheep pen at her uncle's farm. She did NOT want that to happen so she went with the flow. Once they were past the man holding the glass doors the people sprinted off in all directions. Shouts and screams could be heard from every place that the people disappeared to. Perhaps there were wild beasts waiting to eat them? A loud, thunderous voice came from nowhere telling the crowd of "special deals" in this department or that. All of it made about as much sense as the profanity. Opel just knew that it could not be real. The ceilings glowed. There were no candles or torches yet the room was full of light. Strange long thin round light sticks shown brightly overhead. It was hard to look directly at any one of them even with her nonexistent eyes. Together, they made it easy to see even though it was still dark outside. The floors were polished smooth but they appeared to be made of some kind of stone. Opel had heard the traveler's tales about the floors in the Stone of Tear. Maybe THAT was where she was at? No. Commoners were not allowed in there. With a blink of her imaginary eye she was standing in a line. There were several people in front of her and as many behind. They all seemed to be waiting impatiently for their turn at whatever awaited them at the head of the line. Most of them pushed strange baskets on wheels in front of them. Opel felt of the basket behind her. It was VERY hard. Strong. A skilled blacksmith must have taken months to create each basket. No. This place could not be real. The lady behind her told Opel that she should get out of line if she was not going to buy anything. Opel had nothing to buy. If she did need anything she had no copper. Here, she would probably need SILVER! Or GOLD!!! Her invisible body shivered at the thought. Opel got out of line and thought that she needed to pee. She found a vacant corner and squatted. She was hardly finished when two men in the uniforms each grabbed an imaginary arm and threw her out the glass doors into the street. She guessed that people here only peed in the street. She shrugged. Then she heard a blood curdling scream. Opel sat up in her own bed in her own home. Her husband was sitting with his elbows on his knees and his palms on his eyes. He was sobbing and rocking back and forth. "They never had a chance! They just didn't have a chance!!!", he moaned. Opel reached around his shoulders and pulled him to her. "Trollocs. Everywhere. Came from nowhere. Thousands of them. My friends were overwhelmed. They didn't stand a chance.", he sobbed. Opel whispered words of reassurance to him that it was just a dream and that it wasn't real. She couldn't help feeling that her dream had been worse than his.
  10. OOC: I might be busy Sunday with family stuff and I've been wanting to sneak in this post so here is a special Friday edition! ENJOY! Yohon kicked back in Karlee's chair and put his feet up on the foot stool. It had to be safe by now. Surely they had made it to Cross Village or beyond. Unless they had decided to abandon this foolishness and had turned back for home. That thought gave him a quick stab of panic that caused him to pop out of the chair and rush to the window. He saw no traveling carriage. No line of servants. Just an empty courtyard. He sighed a big sigh of relief and went back to get comfortable again. Karlee must have forgotten his bag of Two Rivers leaf because it was still on the table beside the chair. Yohon looked around. There would be no harm in "borrowing" a load for his own pipe. Why should he waste his own tabac when there was a full pouch just sitting there waiting for him? If Karlee was gone for more than a few weeks the stuff would go stale, anyway. He probably wouldn't even remember that he had left it behind. Why would anyone of Karlee's means care about one small pouch of tabac? Yohon packed his pipe full and tamped it tight. He had it lit and was puffing contentedly when Susie-Q came in carrying a tray with tea and two cups. "YOU NEARLY SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF ME!!!", Yohon scolded her. "You need to announce yourself before you come sneaking in like that!". He was a little calmer now. And he was a little ashamed for his over reaction. He smiled a friendly smile and motioned for Su to take Irene's chair. He moved the tabac pouch so she could sit the tray down. Su looked around timidly before complying. She was still not convinced that they would not get into trouble for using the master's facilities. "Calm down. There is nobody to catch us. As long as you keep your gossiping mouth shut, none will be the wiser and no harm will be done.". Yohon scowled at her for emphasis. When he was sure his message had been understood he replaced the scowl with the previous friendly smile. After all. He did want this encounter to be... "friendly". "Did you order the cakes?", he asked Su in a friendly tone. There was no reason to be businesslike with her. The two of them had been "seeing each other" in secret for some time now. "And the rice pudding? You know how I adore rice pudding.". She hated rice pudding but he loved it. A funny thing, rice pudding. Most people either loved it or hated it. Sort of like ale. "Yes. I did.", she replied with her eyes cast downward shamefully. "I still don't like it. Spending the master's money on frivolous treats for yourself. You don't get enough to share with everyone. Word will get back to the master when he returns. He will not be pleased.". Yohon slammed his fist on the table and nearly spilled the tea. "I TOLD YOU!!! We will NOT get into ANY trouble!!! I alone keep the books! For years I have managed to... "procure"... an... "allowance"... for myself without anyone catching on. When the master returns he will find every "T" crossed and every "I" dotted... by ME... and he will NEVER know that a single copper was spent for ANYTHING other than "necessities"! Yohon could feel the vein in his forehead bulging just as it always did when he was really upset. So much for a nice relaxing "friendly" cup of tea. "GET OUT OF HERE!!! NOW!!!". He pointed to the door. Susie-Q made haste to leave. It just wasn't right. Yohon kept the manor running smoothly even when the master was here. He took care of all of the details that the master "didn't have time for". Closer to the truth was to say the master dumped all of the "crap that he didn't want to mess with" onto Yohon to get done. And what did he get for his good service? A small pittance. Hardly worthy a common servant. So, if a few extra gold pieces were to find their way into Yohon's nest egg while the master was gone, then those should be labeled as a gratuity for a job well done. Yohon would not regret a single coin of it. And, if he could keep Su quiet, the master would never find out. ========================================================================================= "That was just too easy", Dixie muttered to herself as she wiped the driver's blood from the tip of her spear. It took some doing but she managed to push his corpse and that of his "guard" (she used the word loosely...he had not been a very good guard) out of the wagon onto the side of the trail that they had been traveling. For a moment she considered retrieving her arrow but decided that twigs were plentiful in these wetlands and that she would have plenty of time for making more arrows. Actually, she had far too much time on her hands. Rosanne, her spear sister, had contacted some strange coughing disease and had died a few weeks ago. Before that the two of them had been having a wonderful time. There were so many soft, defenseless, easy picks living here. They didn't care about water. They had no guards on their goats or cattle. A single family stayed on their "farm" in the middle of nowhere with no clan to protect them. Yes. Rosanne and Dixie had found this place fun indeed. Now, Dixie had to find her own fun. Getting the horses to move was not difficult. She had watched the driver from a distance. She grabbed the long leather strips and gave the horses a slap on the rump with them. She couldn't remember the whistling sound that he had made but apparently that didn't matter. The wagon lurched forward. Straight for a tree. Dixie didn't know what to do to get the creatures to stop or to turn. She tried screaming and shouting. Slapping the leather again only made the beasts go faster. Straight for that bloody tree! She was considering jumping off when she accidentally fell backward and pulled hard on the leather strips. The horses stopped and so did the wagon. Dixie tumbled over wood at the front of the wagon and slammed her head into the horse on her left. She bounced between the two and landed straddling the heavy wooden beam that ran from the wagon to the front of the horses. "OOOOOOOoooooo. That HURT!!!", she moaned. She considered pulling her veil to kill the horses where they stood but that would be such a waste of good meat... she decided to keep them alive for a while. When she could move again she made her way into the wagon to see what her fifth would be. It seemed that she had stumbled upon some sort of supply wagon. Probably for those bloody SAN-CHAIN or the likes. Large heavy boxes. She took the lids off from several before she finally decided that there was nothing worth keeping. There was one small chest that had some clothes in a small amount of gold coins. She took her fifth then closed the chest. "Why only a fifth?", she asked herself. "You are no longer Aiel. You will never see your home again. Your clan is scattered. Rosanne is dead. There is no way that you can ever live by Ji or Toh again. It is all yours. You should take it all.". She glanced toward the chest then jumped down from the wagon and slipped away into the nearby underbrush.
  11. "Well,", Ellen Sedai began then hesitated before continuing, "that is not entirely correct." Jolly Jonnie could tell that he had a puzzled look on his face. Ellen Sedai motioned for him to have a seat in a nearby chair and she pulled up one for herself. "You remember that I am unable to tell you a lie, correct?". Jonnie nodded. "Even though I have never actually lied to you there was one instance where I... bent... the truth... somewhat.". She blushed and lowered her eyes as if waiting for a reply. Jonnie told her to go on. She sighed then continued. "Do you remember the year that you were just beginning to really enjoy yourself during the Celebration of the Low Tide? The year that you woke the next morning needing my Healing for your sore head from too much wine? And I took a year sabbatical shortly after that?". Jonnie nodded and she continued. "Do you remember that when I returned I brought with me the infant child Lonnie?". He nodded again. She blushed again. "I ...implied ...that the child was an orphan. He was not. I am his mother. You are his father.". By the time she finished she was almost breathless. Jonnie nearly fainted. "WHAT!!!", he shouted as he jumped from his chair. He considered calling her a liar but caught himself. Besides being totally impossible, it was NEVER a good idea to treat an Aes Sedai that way. She could have decided there and then to deny him the Healing that he would be needing in the near future. Herbs just would not be the same, he was sure. In stead, he walked over to the rail. He still wasn't sure that he would not pass out or be sick. He stood there watching the waves slamming against the side of the ship wishing that he something left in his stomach that he could throw up. His headache was worse. He went back and sat back down. Ellen Sedai placed her hands on his shoulders. Without asking she used her Healing on him. He recognized the feeling. It wasn't as intense as past treatments but it did make him feel better almost immediately. Even though he was grateful he gave her an evil look. "Please ask me before you do that.". Her face showed that his words had hurt her feelings. Jonnie felt terrible. "I'm sorry.", he muttered. She nodded then vowed that she would ask first in the future. They both smiled. "So.", Jonnie began after a long awkward silence, "tell me. How did this happen? And how did you keep it secret so long? Why?". She must not have anticipated these questions because it took her some time to answer. "How did it happen?", she almost whispered. "You were so young and strong. And beautiful. Full of fun. I had no business getting involved with you. But, we were both enjoying the wine far too much that night. I lost my self control and took advantage of your condition. You don't remember that night on the beach but I will never forget it. Nor will I regret it. My best dreams are those when I remember us being together on the sand. Caressing each other. Enjoying the company. Kissing and talking. It was foolish wine talk, yes, but it was so pure and uninhibited. In the end you passed out and I was with child.". She smiled a contented smile. "Secret? The only secret that I kept was about who the child's parents were. If you remember correctly I asked if you could raise him as your Ward. He has been your son in every way except for your acknowledgment. He has lived under your roof. Eaten your food. Received the same training that your heir would have otherwise. He even enjoys your love. Do you deny any of that?" Jonnie shook his head "No.". "Had I told you when I returned that Lonnie was your son then things could have been far more complicated and harder to explain to your subjects. They might have even insisted upon having you replaced. For your sake and the sake of our son I chose the path that we have followed for these many years. Until now, it has not been necessary to tell you the rest of the story.". Jonnie smiled and sighed. Once more he remembered why he felt so much love for this woman. And, as of today, he has a son! An heir! He had always loved Lonnie like a son and now he WAS his son! Down the road it might be tricky getting his subjects to accept all of this along with the fact that he was in love with an Aes Sedai. But, the Pattern willing, somehow it would all work out just fine. ========================================================================================== Boris was snoring. Not loud nor obnoxious. Soft. Intermittent. Shallow. It was a cute kind of snore. Kerrie loved to watch him sleep. She could hardly wait until the day came that they didn't have to hide their feelings and she could watch him sleeping in their very own bed every night. There had to be a way. Somehow. The chest. That awful, bloody chest! It didn't belong to her and she had to find some way to stop thinking about it! There had to be another way of getting the money that they needed. Maybe she and Boris could find other work to supplement what they were earning now. He could spend a little of their nest egg to buy a boat. With so many of the fishermen leaving Cross Village to follow the Dragon Reborn there were plenty of fish to be taken and Boris was strong enough to handle the task. Maybe she could take in some laundry for extra money. She could do it during her breaks. Master Greggory wouldn't mind as long as she got his work done. Laundry and fish. That should help some. The chest would be quicker. Kerrie reached over and slapped Boris on the chest with the palm of her hand. It made a loud CRACK and she realized that she had swung harder than she meant to. Oh, well. What's done is done. Boris sprang upright and grabbed where he had been swatted. "What did I do?", he asked with a puzzled look on his face. Kerrie just frowned and said "you were snoring and we need to talk.". She jerked the sheet off from him and wrapped it around herself then got up. She walked to where she had piled her clothes then proceeded to put them on after tossing the sheet back to Boris. Boris went to his pile to get dressed. "So.", he grunted, "What's so all fired important? I was sleeping really good! I've had a couple of hard days and needed some decent rest!". He was frowning. He sure was grumpy when he first woke up. She would cure him of that some day. But for now there was more important stuff to work on. "We need to find a way to make more money. How will we ever get to be together if we can't afford a decent place to call our own? If we are ever going to have a family then we will need a house and yard big enough for us and the children. I don't earn enough to buy what we need and neither do you. What are we going to do?". Boris had that "you woke me up for THIS?" look on his face. Kerrie hated that look. How dare he? This was IMPORTANT! And all that HE could think about was SLEEPING!!! Men!!! "You can't live with them but you dare not stab them", as the old saying from Ebou Dar went. Overall, Boris was just right as men went. But, at times like this, he could be almost as bad as any of the rest of them! "EEERRRRRRRrrr!!!", Kerrie exclaimed as she headed for the door. Boris finished pulling on his shirt then shrugged and followed her.
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