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  1. Arinth was tired. He was hungry. He was sweaty. His wounds were not yet fully healed and with each step they felt like they were going to rip wide open again. He was miserable and it put him in a bad mood. To make things worse, they had promoted him to Sergeant after the incidents in Tanchico. The last thing he wanted was more work to do. The area they marched through was wooded. They had passed the last town the day before and according to the scouts it would be several more days before they reached the next town. They were following a stream. It was calm, and peaceful and boring. He walked in silence as memories flashed one after another. His most recent skirmish with the Seanchan where he had run his sword through a man and watched the life bleed out of his eyes was his first thought. Time had failed to fade earlier memories. The battle with the Aiel where he had seen friends and soldiers die by the scores against the Aiel and their spears came vividly back next. Hed come close to losing an eye that day. He felt the scar under his left eye. He had turned at the last moment. Songs and training, drinking and barfights all swarmed around him. He saw happy faces and angry faces from his foes and friends alike. Someone spoke at his side. Arinth blinked. For a moment he thought it was Daruun but that man had disappeared years before. In any case they were stopping to make camp. He glanced at the sun and realized it was getting late in the day. He took a drink of his water and forced down a gulp. He grimaced at the reminder that he was out of alcohol and there was no tavern nearby for even one mug of ale. He heard voices and looked around to see what was going on. The trees and the stream all looked the same to him. He had no idea where exactly they were, just that it was some place between Tanchico and the Citadel. He left the maps to likes of Arkin and the scouts. They knew how to do their job. He followed the voices until he found two soldiers arguing. “What is going on here?” He demanded with a scowl. The two men stopped talking and regarded him. Neither looked too pleased to see him. They had known him when he was a private which made it harder to accept his authority but that was their problem not his. “We found tinkers down by the stream.” The first said and spat. “Its too late in the evening to find another place to make camp.” The second responded. “I don't want to camp next to tinkers. They are thieves and liars.” The first cut in. Arinth raised his hand to silence them. “We aren't saints ourselves. The fact remains that we have to make camp, there is no point in fighting over that. If you don't want to sleep next to them, you can stay up all night.” That silenced the two men, who left to see that the march was called to a halt and camp made. Arinth looked around. He would have to find Arkin and see if the man knew anything about these Tinkers or just go and meet them himself.
  2. Andar Traveller sat at his table in the tavern, drinking. He drank a lot these days. All these bloody Aiel all over the place. He spotted them everywhere, doing the Dragon's orders. Aiel brought back painful memories. Drinking pushed those memories away. Today, however, he made sure not to lose himself in his drink. That might be dangerous. This particular tavern was ... less than safe. The clientele was rough around the edges, to say the least. A drunk man was unlikely to be able to defend himself from a cutpurse or worse. So Andar made certain he didn't become drunk. As he mused over these thoughts, a stranger opened the door to the tavern. The wind and rain blew in, drawing angry grunts and curses from many of the patrons. The stranger closed the door. Andar wondered what brought the stranger here. Not many visited this establishment. Andar was only here because he was hoping for a fight. A fight would be entertaining. It would establish his reputation in town, perhaps attract a customer. He squinted at the stranger, who had turned away to hang up their cloak. Andar could not quite tell whether the newcomer was male or female. He shrugged, and went back to his drinking, daring someone to try to snatch a coin he had laid tantalizingly on the table.
  3. Corik sat outside on a bench in the courtyard. The newly risen sun shown down on him from behind, casting his shadow out in front of himself. A gentle breeze stirred his red hair. He did not notice, his focus was on the book he held, unopened, in his hand. Most mornings were spent in training. To know the sword had been something he had always thirsted for. It motivated him and his dedication had been rewarded. He was far from a blademaster but he knew how to fight. He was no easy opponent and he would only get better. The philosophy of the Children of the Light was something that some spent more time on than others. In Corik’s eyes it was simple. Aes Sedai, dragonsworn, bandits, thieves, and those that opposed the children were all darkfriends. It was his job to find them and deal with them. It was unavoidable. The light could not live in harmony with the darkness. One or the other would prevail and the other would fail. While his superiors did not necessarily disagree they desired Corik to have a deeper knowledge of the Children. It was because of this that he held a book in his hands instead of his sword. Lothair Mantelar, he had known the name of their founder but little about his life. He opened the book and began reading about a time before the children when the world was torn with war and an order of priests emerged known as The Light.
  4. The shining walls of the city loomed ever larger in the distance, totally dominating the surrounding county side. Yrean slowed his horse to a walk and studied the vista in front of him. It had been sometime since he had last visited this city and upon leaving he had sworn that he would never return, there were too many painful memories associated with this place for him. However, he also had unfinished business in the city and now he had the information that he needed to allow him to complete matters, but he was in no rush to arrive and decided to spend one more night outside the city in a small inn he had stayed at before. The next morning Yrean was awake before dawn and after packing his saddlebags made his way to the common room to break his fast. Yrean arrived at the city mid afternoon and immediately made his way to the dock area. He kept his hood up and did his best to avoid any areas that he used to frequent. His purpose was solely business and he wanted to conclude his business as soon as possible. The inn he stayed at had the amusing name of the Spanked Woman and a smile came unbidden at the sight of the sign, gently swinging in the light breeze. Some said it was a painting of the owner and his wife, who was being chastised. Yrean had never been able to confirm this, but it was an amusing story none the less. Entering the inn he found the common room to be half full, mostly with dockworkers and stevedores who had finished their work for the day. Because of this there was much raucous laughter and a Gleeman was just starting his performance, playing a fiddle and singing some song about a wayward woman who was caught by her husband in a delicate position. Dumping his saddlebags on the floor in front of the bar, Yrean spoke quickly with the owner and after a short conversation made his way to his room. After closing and barring the door, Yrean stowed his gear and then lay on the bed, resting as much as he could. His business would take place during the hours of darkness and he wanted to be as rested as possible. Yrean finally left his room, three hours after the sun had set, and ate a hasty meal in the common room, washed down by a tankard of Dark. Leaving the Spanked Woman Yrean made his way through back alleys to where his shop used to stand. It had been destroyed in a fire and Yrean and Mat had only just got away with their lives, although their clothes were singed and Yrean’s eyebrows had been burned clean off and still had not grown back properly. Concealed by the shadow cast by a tall building, Yrean observed the area, making note of the changes since he had last been here. He paid particular attention to the rooftops, a favourite way of getting around for him and one that still provided the easiest route of escape for him. Many times his use of the rooftops had saved his life or allowed him to confuse anyone who had tried to follow him. Finally satisfied, Yrean made his way further into the deep shadows before finding the spot he was looking for. His ascent was swift and surefooted, having climbed buildings since he was a child in his home city of Illian. It was while he was there on a visit that he had come across the information that he had been searching for and would now make use of. The climb was not a hard one and soon Yrean emerged onto the rooftop and started to make his way across the roofs to North Harbour. When he got within range of the location he was searching for, Yrean settled down behind a large chimneystack and watched the surrounding houses for activity. This part of the city was still fairly busy and it was a few more hours before the late night revellers had returned to their homes. Not wanting to take any chances, Yrean stayed in position until he was certain the city was quiet and then made his move. He first sorted through the gear he had taken along, leaving his bow and quiver behind the chimneystack, along with his sword and a few other items. All the weapons he now carried were for close quarters fighting several concealed throwing daggers, a mace and a longer dagger, that was almost a short sword. Carefully he made his way across the roof to towards his target, jumping the few feet between the buildings and landing with cat like grace. Scanning the roof, Yrean soon located a few loose roof tiles and started to remove them, making sure they would not slide off the roof and alerting the people inside. Eventually he had made a hole large enough for him to be able to enter the house and he dropped silently through the hole. It took him longer than he had expected to find the way out of the loft, but he eventually found the loft hatch and dropped through it to the house proper. He knew the location of the rooms he needed to find and worked swiftly, identifying his targets and deciding on what order he would take them in. Most of the people in the house were males, and all had been implicated in the attack on his shop. He also had a sneaking suspicion they may have supplied information that led to Mat’s capture and subsequent death. This alone marked them out for special treatment and Yrean was only too happy to supply that treatment. The first door opened without a sound and Yrean stealthily made his way over to the bed containing the slumbering form of his first victim. Placing his hand over his victim’ mouth, with one swift thrust, Yrean severed the man’s jugular. It was a swifter death than Yrean felt the man deserved, but this was about retribution not punishment. Moving swiftly, Yrean dispatched his targets one by one until there was only one left. Moving to the room of his last target, Yrean had no way of knowing that the occupant of the room had placed a small bell behind the closed door to alert him of any intruders. The first Yrean knew of this was when the bell fell over and a loud voice demanded to know who was trying to enter the room. Throwing all caution to the winds, Yrean shoved the door open and dived into the room, narrowly missing the small crossbow bolt that thunked into the doorframe. A shaft of moonlight illuminated the room and the man’s face creased up with anger as he recognised his assailant. “You! I thought we had done for you last year.” Yrean did not bother to answer the man, but the confirmation that this man had been one of those to target his shop, only caused a minor ripple to slide across the Void. Moving with much more caution now, Yrean advanced on the prone figure, who suddenly jumped out of the bed and lunged at Yrean with a concealed knife. Yrean waited until the last moment and then side stepped the man’s attack. Unfortunately Yrean’s assailant was quicker than Yrean and changed the angle of his attack. His blade penetrated Yrean’s upper arm, glancing off the bone. Yrean did not show any outward signs of pain, and cocooned inside the Void it only felt like a fly landing on his skin. However the wound started t o bleed profusely and the blood quickly flowed down Yrean’s arm and started to drip onto the floor. Knowing he had to finish this fight quickly, Yrean feigned pain and loss of concentration and sank to his knees, without taking his eyes off the man. Closing the distance between himself and Yrean, he kicked out aiming for Yrean’s head. However, Yrean was ready for him and swayed to one side, parrying the kick on his uninjured arm and turned most of the blow to one side. Yrean stepped away from his adversary, realising that the advantage of surprise would no longer work, Yrean decided on a different tactic. Pulling a throwing knife from its place of concealment, Yrean through it, aiming for the man’s chest. However the man was wise to this and dodged to the left, which was exactly what Yrean had hoped for and a well placed kick to the groin, followed by a bone jarring upper cut laid the man out. Taking a quick breath, Yrean moved swiftly, not knowing if the sounds of the struggle had alerted anyone or not, and grabbing the man’s hair Yrean lifted him from the floor. Reversing his grip on his dagger, Yrean used the pommel to smash the man’s larynx and then dropped him to the floor. As Yrean exited the room, the last sounds he heard were the dying gurgles of his last victim. Yrean had a dilemma now, he knew he would need to rest up for a day or so as the wound to his arm was deeper than he had realised. He also knew there would be a hue and cry raised throughout the city over his work this night. Having to explain how he got an obvious knife injury would not be easy, but neither would it be that easy to make his way to a place of refuge. Cutting a strip of cloth from his cloak, Yrean hastily bound up the wound and then made his way back to his lodgings, he needed time to recuperate and hopefully he would have at least a day and night of rest.
  5. As the Traveling portal closed behind Martyn, the Malkieri warrior took a deep breath, wondering where he was supposed to go to now. He knew who he needed to see, a woman named Salla Alliatar, acting Commander of the Band of the Red Hand. And in his hand, he held a letter bearing the seal of the Dragon himself, which probably meant orders from above. He could understand how he got to be selected for this task. He had been among those that fought that disastrous battle in Shienar. Narrowing down the options further, he had also been with the group in Tear that had sworn fealty to the Lord Dragon, and had recieved training from him personally. And lastly, his block made him the most expendable of the group, the one that could be missed for a couple of days without an all too great impact on the daily training routine. Looking over his shoulder, he figured he should be getting off the Traveling grounds now before he would no longer be delivering a letter to anyone. After a few minutes of walking around, he noticed someone that wasn't overly busy, and walked over to ask which way it was to the Commander's office. Some ten minutes later, he was knocking on a wooden door, waiting to be given permission to enter.
  6. Keeping a cheery smile on his face was difficult, but Mehrin somehow managed to do it. He had come across the Band's path five days previously, and had spotted the first tail scouts two days later. By now, he was seeing one every hour or so, which meant that there were at least four that he was missing. He made a point to wave at each one that he spotted; by now, tales should have reached the Band regarding the strange fellow clad in black following them. More would probably mention his oddities, including an over-sized claymore and a proclivity for rising before the sun to train with said weapon until sunrise. By now, anybody that had been with the Band for more than a year knew that Mehrin Deathwatch was beating a path to their back door. The idea was bittersweet. At one time, the Band had been home. For many years, Mehrin had marched with these men, killed alongside them, and seen many of them die. Those memories came unbidden at times. On the trek south to meet the Band, Mehrin had passed by Bandar Eban, where the combined might of the Band, the Children, the Wolfkin, and the Aiel had cast back the invading forces of Seanchan. Mehrin had stood on the pitted and twisted battlefield, had said a prayer to the Creator- if the bastard was listening- at the mass graves. Even the Seanchan ones. It was there that Mehrin had received a field promotion that seemed to send him spiraling up the ranks until he had received the worst news possible: he had been promoted to Commander of the Band. The walk south had continued, bringing the plague of memory with it. Step. Anya Tarin Winter, an Illianer and infantrywoman who Mehrin had loved, died shortly after his promotion. Step. The walls of the Citadel, a simple wooden barricade, were being eyed and measured by Ogier masons, who would be given free hand in the building of a mighty fortress. Step. A day in the life of a Commander: hours of self-training before sunrise, then hours of training with recruits, an expensive bottle of brandy for breakfast. Step. A woman, thought long dead, staggered into the Citadel, claiming her name was Drea Raylin. Step. A girl, no more than nine, came to his office, a daughter named Renalie Malon. Step. His daughter, taken. Mehrin had forced memory to silence after that. It was too much to think about all that had happened. He needed to forget. He needed to move. In Saldaea, Mehrin had nearly picked up the bottle again but for a message that arrived for the Band's eyes-and-ears. The code was one that meant "call to arms". The one word had read, "Tanchico." There was no time wasted. Step. The scouts were coming out of the trees, some with bows drawn and aimed. Mehrin raised his hands, still smiling, and said, "A black wind blows from the north, and the grey geese fly south for winter." The scouts looked around at each other in confusion. More were limbering up their bows now. "I take it that means they've changed the password?" Mehrin asked rhetorically. Well, there was nothing to do but wait. Somebody would be along to fetch him eventually.
  7. Sweltering, unnatural heat changing to bloody midwinter in less than a bloody month. Just my flaming luck. Irritably, Calder Berrick clunked his tankard of wine- it was the only word that Calder could bring himself to put to it- on the wooden table and watched the merchant next to him as he picked up the dice. The merchant had been living large and laughing condescendingly at his fellow gamblers only ten minutes ago, but now he was grim as death. His winnings of the night had inexplicably found themselves drawn to Calder shortly after he had seated himself. Calder gave the man a grin, earning a glare in reply. Some people just didn't have a sense of humor. He grinned wider, though the grin was only skin deep. Ungrateful bastard, who's coin has been keeping your flaming cup full? he thought venomously. The dice in the cup rattled for a few seconds before the merchant sent them spinning across the table, then he let out a cheer. Four sixes and a five. "Beat that, little lordling!" he gloated. Calder didn't really hear him. In his mind, there was a hissing, almost similar to a snake, but not the same. It was happening again. The sound had stuck in his mind ever since that fateful day at the Stone of Tear, when he had used fireworks to blow a hole in the wall. Calder knew the sound of a fuse intimately; it had nearly killed him before. However, he knew that there were no fireworks this time. Not like the Illuminators' fireworks, anyway. Calder was not an idiot, and he could reach a logical conclusion. The fuse only meant that something was about to happen, and the flaming Pattern was about to meddle in his bloody life yet again. In a daze, Calder threw the dice, unsurprised when five sixes came up. The other men around the table smiled smugly; the merchant was furious. “Cheat!” he cried, hurling his chair away as he stood, his hand moving for the sword at his waist. Reacting faster than thought, Calder stood as well, his fingers deftly teasing one of the knives from his sleeve. The merchant found himself standing quite tall, sword less than quarter-drawn. “I’ve been using your flaming dice for the last ten flaming minutes, you goat-kissing Trolloc!” he growled. “You gamble, you lose, you bloody well take it gracefully!” Unbidden, many more memories swam up, some of them his own, some belonging to dead men, all of them of similar events. Neither he nor the dead men in his head had ever reacted so strongly. Bloody fuses and bloody premonitions and bloody, flaming luck! Easing off the blade, Calder looked at the merchant coolly as he collected his winnings. “I apologize for my outburst,” he said carefully, leaving a gold crown on the table. “Drink on that until it runs out. Light’s blessing.” Out in the night, Calder tried to whistle a tune to keep his spirits up, but there was nothing for it. The fireworks in his mind were threatening to go off, as they had been doing since he had ridden through the gate of Tanchico a week ago. The longer they whispered their viper’s hiss, the more tense Calder became, though he could not remember ever losing control as he had tonight. Maybe it was this business with the Panarch and the King. Despite his stated reasons for being in Tanchico- an overwhelming desire to get away from the lords whose levies made up the Legion of the Dragon before he strangled them- the two had been plying for advantage over the other by winning his approval. This had escalated to the point where the king had offered him lodgings in his palace, while the panarch had offered lodgings in her bed. It had taken very little thought to refuse both of them. A shadow passed over the moon. Instinctively, Calder looked up, seeing only darkness against darkness in the sky. In all likelihood, it was a cloud. The concept of “all likelihood” had been long absent from Calder’s life. Not knowing why he was even bothering with it, Calder found himself climbing the wall of a nearby building, bringing cries of, “Thief!” and, “Vagabond!” and, “There’s a man in the window!” from inside. For a moment, Calder found himself staring at a crossbow after accidentally kicking over a wash basin left on the sill, but a gold crown dropped on the floor left the man forgetting that there was ever a visitor that night. The roof gained, Calder scanned the night sky. As he suspected, it was full of stars. That could mean drakgar, he thought coldly as he untied the odd quarterstaff he had slung over his shoulder. His scan wrapped around the entire city, ending above the harbor. Convulsively, his hand tightened around the haft of the quarterstaff. There were ships far out to sea, but their shadow on the horizon was visible. And above the ships and approaching shore, small shapes flew in the air. Blood and bloody ashes, it’s the flaming Seanchan! In his mind, Calder changed over to a general’s mentality. “If I can see them,” he muttered, “then the city guard can see them, too. They wouldn’t take a chance like that unless… oh, burn me…” Another shadow passed over the moon. Calder followed its path, barely able to make out the swept-wing shape of one of those bloody flying creatures that the Seanchan used. “Unless they were already in the flaming city.” A flash of light near the west gate caught Calder’s eye. The Tanchicans had a barracks complex in that area. The echoing boom that followed the light confirmed Calder’s suspicion. The Seanchan had landed. More flashes of light from the ground, and a few bolts of lightning from the air, and the fox medallion around Calder’s neck went cold. “Blood and bloody ashes,” he muttered. That meant fighting. It was past time that he left the city. That was when the building under Calder’s feet shuddered, accompanied by the sound of an explosion. It was nothing to the explosion in Calder’s mind. “Just my flaming luck,” he muttered, as a corner of the building gave way. Then, there was nothing to do but fall… ***** Even before he could hear or see, Calder was aware of the pain. It felt as if a building had fallen on him, or maybe he had enjoyed too much wine. Possibly both. “At least I can bloody well be sure that I’m still alive. I would feel a damn sight better if I was dead,” Calder groaned. This was echoed seconds later by some rather colorful cursing as he forced his eyes open. All there was to be had was pain. However, Calder could be certain of one thing: he either had a bad head for wine, or he had fallen and hit his head. This theory was supported by some careful experimentation. All of his fingers and toes seemed to work. His eyes, finally recovering from the dazzling pain of sunlight streaming through a window, seemed to be having problems. They were not showing him his room. He was in a large room that suggested that its owner was quite well-to-do. Extremely well-to-do, as a matter of fact. Sitting up caused Calder a moment of nausea, but he was soon limping across the room- his body, it seemed was covered from his shoulders to his toes with livid bruises- to the strange staff that he had gotten at the end of his old life. With it, Calder limped to the window. The city was a bustle of activity. From his vantage point, Calder could see the bustle of troops in the streets. In the air, raken and to’raken circled the city. The King’s Palace was… Calder rubbed his eyes. It couldn’t be. The King’s Palace was a smoking pile of rubble, with hardly a stone left standing on top of another. The King must have chosen to fight to the death, and the Seanchan had obviously obliged him. With growing confusion, Calder began scouring the streets for the Panarch’s Palace, wondering if he’d find that it had come to the same fate. It wasn’t there! There was no- “… oh, blood and bloody ashes…” From behind him, Calder heard somebody snigger. Still leaning heavily on his quarterstaff, Calder turned to confront the newcomer, only to find the Panarch herself standing behind him. “What am I doing here?” Calder asked, a bit more harshly than he had intended. The Panarch didn’t answer right away, instead making a point to thoroughly examine Calder. It took a moment for him to notice the draft in his nether-regions. With as much dignity as he could muster, Calder hurled himself at the bed in which he had found himself only moments before, pulling the blankets up under his chin. “Pity,” the Panarch muttered. Then, as if she hadn’t spoken, the woman said, “My soldiers were patrolling the city when they heard the sounds of a building collapsing. Imagine their surprise when they found a young man with a large cut and several bruises on his head in the middle of the street, curled up inside what used to be a window. One of the men recognized you, and issued orders for you to be brought here.” At that, the Panarch smiled mischievously. Apparently, she had had his description circulated among her soldiers. Also apparently, she had no idea who he really was. “I hope you’ve slept well, too. You’ve been unconscious for a week.” A week! What had the Seanchan done to that palace? “Anyway,” she continued, “by the time you were brought here, the Seanchan were deeply entrenched. I could see that there was no hope of victory, but our dear king was not nearly as wise. He rallied his troops bravely, claiming that he would die before giving the city to these bloody invaders.” The woman shuddered. “The Seanchan obliged him, setting their damane to tearing his palace down around him.” The Panarch began eying Calder again, sizing him up. “I do hope that you will be on your feet soon,” she said. “The Seanchan governor is rather interested in meeting you, but she has declared that you are to be given time to recuperate. Hopefully, a couple of days will see you right as rain.” The smile that the Panarch gave Calder was predatory. Where is my bloody luck now?
  8. ~Ruan~ The pristine oaken hulls shone dully in the low hanging sun. Not yet arisen from its bed, the sun would eventually speed them on their way with fair weather and, the Light willing, swift currents. It would take time to get to their destination, but they were ready now. The High Lady Ruan Andradem Kore Paendrag, Daughter of the Nine Moons and leader of the Return, looked out to see through the spyglass and focussed on the horizon. No land mass would be visible for a long time yet, but it gave her a sense of purpose to look so far ahead. She withdrew it from her eye and held it by her side, reluctant to give it back to the captain even if she held the right to retain it. Orange beams of sunlight strained through the banks of cloud, fading to salmon pinks and the duskier purples where the night struggled to keep its hold. Dim stars twinkled overhead in the mass; Ruan made the symbol for good fortune with her thumb and forefinger and gestured in the hope of smooth sailing. May the Lady of the Shadows not rouse herself to their number yet, she silently prayed. Final preparations and checks were still being made as Ruan walked along the harbour wall to the gangplank to the Hailene. The most prestigious ship of the fleet would naturally carry her. Barrels of food, carefully preserved, would stand the test of the journey, as would the hard biscuits normally carried by ships to further eke out provisions. Not that such deprivation would affect her. No one would dare give the Daughter of the Nine Moons anything less than the highest of anything! And she would not deny it either; the position was hers by right of birth, and the blood spilt by her hand had cemented that right as her own. Small cracks began to appear in the clouds overhead. The sun would be breaking through at any moment. Those to accompany her awaited the final orders to board; there was little remaining to do now. On her words, the Return would begin and on her second words the lines would be cast and the harbour at Seanchan put behind them. She should check that all of the Damane had been brought aboard safely and kennelled and that there were no issues with the Sul’dam. Most likely such issues would not be brought to her attention anyway. Ruan regarded a seabird flying over the boat, dipping its wings briefly in some sort of salute before diving cleanly into the ocean. It was a good omen. She returned her gaze to the deck. At the far end, the handlers were loading the Raken on board; they would be so very essential to the Return. Able to fly easily for long distances carrying scouts and messengers, most of the distance communication would be enabled by these winged darlings. She rather fancied having an exotic, one day. Effectively everything here was her property as she was in command, but it was not the same as raising it oneself. On the far side the soldiers were drilling, preparing themselves for the inevitable resistance they would encounter on the mainland. A few of those hardy souls had caught her eye in training and she felt a few field promotions were in order. As soon as the sun sank behind the horizon this very night she would pen the necessary words to install some of them in her personal guards; Deathwatch by name. The experiences received by a new recruit would be far greater than a lifetime spent in the somewhat protected expanses of the Court of the Nine Moons. Fighting battles was a completely different exotic to protecting the nobility from a dagger in the back, or settling minor land conflicts by open displays of force or object lessons. Besides, it would improve morale, and there would likely be casualties even of those with the calibre of the Deathwatch. An idea occurred to her. No commander would dare let his or her unit become idle or complacent on such an important mission as this, but she felt morale needed to be wooed to her personally, as a figurehead, rather than the Seanchan as a whole. They were proud, and rightly so, but Ruan Andradem Shoa Paendrag did not know how much of that pride was for her mother, the Empress, might She live forever. Tournaments would be held, and the winners further tested and promoted. Daily swims would be encouraged as well as demonstrations of fighting ability. They would acquiesce; they had no choice, but it would be for the good of all. It would be for the Empire. She raised her voice. Every face turned to look at her, even as their downcast eyes did not catch her visage. Every soul stopped what they were doing and looked at her. Time for a speech, she decided, and then time to leave. Time to put Seanchan behind and reclaim what had been denied. It was time. “Until now, those ignorant savages have occupied what is rightfully ours. You know why we load bales and barrels onto so many ships. Now, we return to take back the lands so vehemently denied to our ancestors! Now, we are ready. Do not think you are so little to be noticed. Everyone will have his or her piece of glory in the coming days. New names will be recorded by our scribes and taken to the Empress, might She live forever! Yes, there will be danger, but nothing good is ever easy! For those that demonstrate bravery in the face of adversity there will be riches and there will be glory, prestige and a new name. There will be many lands in need of new leaders, all united under the Ever-Victorious banner and I mean for as many of those that deserve to claim one. Every man, woman and child has their part to play and by the Nine Moons I intend to use you all, but I will reward you handsomely. Now we sail to glory!”
  9. Sabelle walked the halls absentmindly, she had tread these halls so many times her feet knew where they where headed on their own acord. As she neared the section dedicated to the flying units she let her eyes stray the wall paintings and screens, the theme was of course that of the flying exotics. Finaly she reached the front office, she would report here and be shown through to the right office. She left the letter with a secretary without a word, it was bellow her to speak directly to covale, there was several of them busteling around under the watchfull eye of a superior so'jin. Her wait wasnt loong, soon she was followed through to the hall where the offices lay and shown the office she where to enter. She watched the covale knock and then open the door upon an answer from within. Without a second look at the slave she entered and gave the proper greetings to the der'morath'raken inside. If but only her hopes where true she would be joining the masters of her craft before this day was over. She pondered wheter she should have made sure before going that the crest on her head not was to windblown, but she knew that it wasnt, her hair wasnt of the unrully type and the preparations she used in it was enough to make it fall easily in place with a brush of her hand upon landing. No in truth it was but having to wait on a message this important that had her inwardly fuzzing, though she showed no signs outward as it was something she long since had learned to control, showing emotions was a weakness.
  10. The rather large and extravagant home that his 'ally' was using never ceased to amaze. Every detail was exact, from the mundane to the magnificent. There were points where Asmodean felt the urge to stop and simply admire the beauty, allow it time to soak into him, to inspire him. In his mind, notes had been composing themselves on mental paper since he'd stepped into the building, loud enough to nearly overpower the more subtle music that was his own thoughts. Asmodean had always suspected that that music, that sense of harmony in his mind, was the reason why he had always been a more capable governor than general. Battles were about dissonance, about breaking. Governing was more of a balancing act, more about maintaining a harmony. It made sense to him. Ever since his arrival in Seanchan, Asmodean had been busy. Common in his day were tales of rags-to-riches men and women, people who worked, sweat and sacrificed their way to the top to live happily ever after. He himself had once been commissioned to write the musical score for an adaptation. These stories were the basis for Asmodean's plan to rise in Seanchan society. Well, that and a little bit of 'luck'. His rise had started with the unfortunate death by slow roasting of the former court bard of a low-level Blood family. Their son, a man-about-the-town, had stumbled across a replacement a few days later in one of his favorite taverns, a simple gleeman whose songs were summoning laughter and tears and, above all, applause. The boy was utterly entranced by the man's playing, and he'd brought him home that very night to play for his father. After countless hours playing for Lord Derleth, the gleeman found a permanent place as the court bard. Shortly after this, Derleth's family began to experience a change in fortunes. A rival family collapsed into disgrace and financial ruin, eventually being sold like animals on an auction block themselves. Derleth happily took advantage of the situation, more than doubling his area of influence. His bard showed an odd grasp of politics and governing, suggesting things that Lord Derleth would never have thought of, and this began a steady increase of Derleth's wealth. One of Derleth's allies, another of the Blood, perished with his entire family in a house fire, leaving ruin in his district. At his bard's suggestion, Derleth fronted the money to rebuild the other damages done by the fire, thus buying the loyalty of men who had been loyal to a dead lord. Derleth's rise to prominence and rank among the Blood was astounding, landing him in the upper tiers of the wealthy, giving him and his bard access to personal invitations from the ruling family. Asmodean was right where he wanted to be. With a start, Asmodean realized that he was late. A hurried walk through the halls of the manor house brought him to the door of Graendal's private sanctum. Asmodean always dressed for the occasion, and today's meeting saw him in elegant silks, an ebony harp hanging from a shoulder strap on his back. "The High Lady summoned me," he said, bowing slightly to the man at the door. "Could you tell her that the court bard Jaros Nameros is here to see her?"
  11. Taking a to'raken from the capitol to the main military port was a short flight, but to Muaghde it seemed like an eternity. He had just finished with his second ever audience with the Emperor, may he live forever in the Light. Not only was command of the Return given to him, but so was the duty of protecting his daughter. But it wasn't just any of the Emperor's children, but his heir, the Daughter of the Nine Moons. That, with his recent adoption into the Blood was more honor than he could handle in such a short time. With such great honor came great responsibility. He was being trusted with the Empire. If he failed, there would be no court martial, there would be no banishment... there would only be death. Muaghde had been on edge since his utter failure as the Commander at the end of the Hailene. Even after so long and so much success since, it was still in the back of his mind. He looked at the der'morat'to'raken up in the front. He remembered training him about 10 years ago. He was an excellent flier, but didn't have a mind quick enough to handle the smaller raken. Life was simple as a common soldier, even as just the Air General. He had grown up around raken. He knew everything about them. He was perhaps the most famous flier in recent history. He then thought about the girl to his right. The Daughter of the Nine Moons. Light. He looked at his laquered pinky and ring nails. Life was much more complicated now. Until recently, he knew little of land battle or of many of the other exotic animals they used. He knew nothing of politics and issues with the Blood. Now he knew. Even those of higher Blood were envious of this honor. To lead the Return, and to have the stewardship of the Daughter of the Nine Moons was an honor too great, they thought, for one who was once of common blood. However, the Emperor, may he live forever in the Light, had chosen Muaghde because not only was he a military man and far superior in martial knowledge than any of the Blood, but he had been to the east, and he had seen these lands first hand. If he weren't so high in Imperial favor at the moment, he would have been dead long ago. The cold air of the upper skies quickly turned into summer heat as the decended to the landing site, just outside of the port. Muaghde had just now snapped out of his own thoughts to notice the sight in front of him. Ships as far as the eye could see. Thousands. He had long known just how many ships and men he would take, but the sight of it made the Hailene seem like a training excursion. A gaping hole was made in front of them as the four Deathwatch Guards walked in front of Muaghde and Ruan. In matter of minutes, they had arrived to his flagship. He was the largest and grandest ship in all the waters of the world. The Guards went up first, followed by Ruan, then tailed by Muaghde. In such distinguished company, Muaghde was little more than a rear guard, even on his own ship.
  12. "Why must you lie to me? I abhor liars." The man may have been one of the Blood of Seanchan, but he screamed just like any other man would. Asmodean wasn't as talented at the stimulation of the pain centers of the brain as Semirhage was, but he was good enough for something this simple. All the man would know is that the man standing before him would reach out at touch his forehead, and there would be pain. A lot of pain. "You primitives couldn't lie to save your lives. I know that she's here somewhere, High Lord. Where is she hiding?" Asmodean had to give the man credit; he had held up for the past two hours, but he was going to break. Reaching out to the Air-bound man, Asmodean touched his temple, spinning a web of all five elements and touching it on the man's pain centers. The screams came immediately, pleading, begging, and promising anything. Asmodean didn't think anything about increasing the stimulation. The man's pleading changed into wordless howls of agony. It sounded almost musical... There was an ocean between him and Semirhage, but Asmodean wouldn't feel safe until the Dark Lady was dead. That was part of the reason why he had chosen Seanchan. If she did what Asmodean expected and fled to a stronghold somewhere else, he would need an army to see to her. And a Seanchan army? She might not even die. How Asmodean would gloat if he could stand over her and see her broken and leashed. The chaff whittled away, the strong core left. And Asmodean would be at its head. It took a moment for Asmodean to realize that the agonized screams had changed into a name. The name of a High Lady. Perfect, Asmodean thought, letting the weave dissolve. "You've done well, High Lord. Thank you." Asmodean's bow was mocking. Dark eyes glittered in their deep-set sockets. "As payment for your services, I won't kill you." The High Lord relaxed visibly against his bonds of Air. Asmodean began to spin again. Compulsion was not a Talent for him, but there were some things within his power. As the web settled upon the man, Asmodean said, "Okay, listen well. You will leave here, mentioning nothing of what has happened, and you will go before the Seekers of the Truth and confess to them that you are a Darkfriend. And you will go now." The man's eyes widened, but once the weave locked in, he had no choice. Even the basest delving by one of these damane and their sul'dam handlers would reveal the weaving, and the man would know exactly what happened, but he would have no choice. He was dead. In the most technical sense, Asmodean hadn't lied. Now to go meet an old friend... ****** Getting into Graendal's stronghold wasn't nearly as difficult as Asmodean had thought it would be. Aside from the guards on the door, he met no resistance except for the guards at the door. Getting in to meet her, on the other hand... "Please state your business, Bard," the doorman said in that strange, slurred accent of the Seanchan. Asmodean smiled the same smile he'd given his mother just before severing her. Even three thousand years couldn't dim that memory; she had been the first to surmise what he had become. But now wasn't the time to reminisce over days long dead. "If you could, tell the High Lady that an old friend named Joar is here to see her. Tell her that it feels like an Age has passed since we last saw each other." In truth, it hadn't been nearly that long, but she would get the picture.
  13. The world had many new and exciting things to show Ikena Adelar. The military barracks outside the port city of Shon Kifar were not one of them. Since she had first tested true to the bracelet Ikena had been to a number of similiar encampments to walk among the soldiers and train the damane that would walk into battle. The encampment was the same orderly chaos that she had always associated with soldiers, though today's sojourn was about her companion. She walked with Chali among the soldier's today, reviewing the troops and getting her acclimated with the camp and the soldier's in general. Damane were normally kept separate from the main body of the army, but Ikena liked the damane to understand the working of the army they would be working with. And the layouts of the camps in case anything happened to her. Showing the damane around the camp here would at least get her to understand the workings of a military camp, even if it wasn't the one they would eventually be stationed in. Of course, they still had some time in Shon Kifar before the ship took them across the sea to the land of their forefather's but Ikena was making use of their time here. There was never a time when she would stop training Chali, though she had long since given up hope that the damane would regain her personality. It had been too thoroughly beaten out of her and though she had tried for their first year together, Ikena had never been able to get Chali back. Two years now they had worked as a team and though Ikena had sweated the cose, she had never regretted the purchase of her own damane. She had been given honors and had gained the same for her family. She had become known as someone who handled tough cases well so her services were asked for around the Empire. And now, when they were preparing for the Return, she was in a position to be among them. "What do you think of it Chali?" She asked the woman attached to the leash on her wrist. Throughout her two years of service with Mistress Ikena, her leash holder had never ceased asking her questions about the things around them. Her answers did not matter, but they were expected of her so she was required to conjure an answer. Any answer would do, but she was required to satisfy her mistress as best she could so she fulfilled her duty as she was able. "It is a military camp, Mistress Ikena." That is what she thought, as that was what she saw though it mattered little. What mattered was that she served and that was what she did. Ikena shook her head and gave a small smile to the damane. Her answers were always the same, though Ikena couldn't break her own habit of asking. It made her feel less alone to talk to the damane, her only constant companion since her father's death years before. She couldn't help but think that somewhere in Chali's mind there was an actual answer, a true response to the things she asked about. She would never know what it was but it had to be there somewhere. Either way, Chali had been a good damane and their work was recognized as well as their good repore so she didn't get upset over the lack anymore. "Take notice of the lines and the way they interact." Ikena said as they continued walking. "Military camps are almost always set up in a similiar fashion. Once you understand their workings you will be able to navigate them much easier. We'll have time to learn our base camp on the other side of the Sea, but I want you to learn what you can here." She said, confident that her damane would do as she commanded. Listening to Mistress Ikena, while she took note of the command she was already aware of the camp layout. One was much the same as any other with few differences, if she needed to she could find her way around easily enough. If she had been more aware of herself, she would have asked the question of why it was even necessary for her to be able to know how to navigate the camp because all she had to do was stay with her sul'dam, but she wasn't so the question went unspoken. Instead she followed and took heed as instructed. Ikena didn't waste time as they walked. She knew where she was headed in a general way and with few questions was able to stand before the tent she had been told to report to. She hated these sort of first time introductions, but it was part of her duty and she wasn't about to shirk off anything. She approached the tent with her head held high and herattention firmly on the behaviour of her damane. After all this time it wasn't likely the creature would misbehave, but Ikena wasn't about to start this compaign on an off note. "I need to speak with General Suloth." She said to an underling at the main tent. "Tell him Sul'dam Ikena Adelar is reporting for duty." Ikena Adelar Sul'dam Chali Damane
  14. Obedience. That was what it meant to be damane. A leashed one, one who surrendered their will for the greater good of the Empire. A risk to all those around them yet at the same time a source of miracles and wonders when harnessed for the right purposes. Damane were possessed of many skills beyond their ability to channel, talents as it were that made them apt at certain applications of the One Power. Some could sense metals in the earth, some could make those with one foot in the grave whole again, and still there were others who could shatter armies singlehandedly. Regardless of their talents or abilities, they were the most prized slaves one could find. So prized that the Imperial throne owned all of the damane. Well, all but a few. There were occasions were the Imperial Throne did not claim ownership of a damane, or they required funds and would sell one of their own off in order to fill their coffers quickly. Sometimes the weakest were sold, the least desirable or those that did not please their mistresses. Such displeasure was often marked with punishments that would have made those an Ocean away shudder at the cruelty of such a thing. But it was not cruel to punish an animal, it was simply another way of taming a beast. Punishments could range from a flogging to disfigurements and amputations, and that was not even giving consideration to things that could be done with the One Power. Such damane fetched low prices when they were sold because as prized as they were, such marks revealed a damane's unruliness or inability to perform as was required of them. In any property that would be a concern, but with damane and the powers at their command it was a dangerous risk to take. These were things that all those present in the auction house were aware of as they sat in their gilded seats. A small room, it was nevertheless full with potential buyers and spectators who had come to witness and perhaps bid on the item that was being brought forth today. A rare occasion it was, the sale of a damane. Not that the damane knew why she was being sold or what price she would fetch. In fact, she had no care at all as she was led up to the stage and presented before all those present. Pristine, elegant, there were no marks upon her to suggest she had was intractable. Five feet in height and of athletic build, her dark hair fell no farther than her jaw. Yet there was something different about her that only a trained eye would have realised. Damane were well trained to behave in public, yet their eyes were still questioning of what was about them, childish curiosity matching the infantile personalities they had been shaped into. In this damane's deep green eyes there was nothing.
  15. I am so sorry that I didn't get this up yesterday, I had every intention of doing so but I got completely swamped with uni work. Ack! IC: There was a crash and a splatter as the plate fell to the floor, and the head of the table frowned down at the girl now whimpering on the floor. Hardly the best way to start breakfast, and Edie frowned as the girl cried something about the plate jumping from her hands, but before any of them could speak, the cutlery was dancing across the tables and imbedding itself in the chairs, the candles, and even one of the covale. Blood and flames and chaos took over their table and after putting out the flames from the candle that had fallen over, Edie darted out into the streets, following the sound of the cries that she could hear. They lived close to the heart of Seandar, and everywhere she looked Edeline Jadien saw chaos. Carts had overturned, their contents pummelling the shoppers and shopkeepers alike - some of whom had the grave misfortune of standing at a cart loaded with weapons. Stones were flying about and people were spilling into the streets with bedsheets tangled around their necks and pots straining to beat them, and Edie was stunned speechless. How was this happening? What was it that was happening? She could not tell, she could not know... and then she saw it. The exotics had gotten loose. To'raken flew above the city, saddles slipping and reins broken. Grolm bounded the streets in packs that Edie quickly darted into a building to avoid - but that was not the worst of it. The damane... There were women in gray dresses everywhere, walking free, uncollared and uncontrolled. If only she had gone for training with the sul'dam before now, Edie may have been able to help. But instead she watched helpless, unsure what to do, with no ideas coming as to how to stop the damane from wreaking such havoc in the capital city of the Seanchan empire. How had they gotten out? Who had let them loose? Heads would roll, she was sure, but what were they going to do to get the city back under control? Some of them simply looked lost, and one damane was sitting in the middle of the street crying, clutching at her neck. But others were smiling and obviously enjoying the chance to get back at the sul'dam who had held them collared so long, and Edie shook her head as she saw at least one corpse wearing a lightning-bolt dress. Perhaps it was a good thing that she'd had no training after all. A whistling sound was her only warning and she ducked to avoid the heavy porcelain bowl that had been thrown at her head, watching as it smashed against the wall and fell in pieces at her feet.
  16. The rich aroma of the kaf reached her nose before she reached the kaf house, and Edie breathed in deep, enjoying the scent and even more enjoying the anticipation of the taste. She could have kaf at home, it was true, but sometimes she just wanted to get away from her parents, who were beginning to chafe with all their lectures of what was the right thing to do and the right way to act to be true to their noble house. Edie snorted at the thought. She was considering going down and training with the sul'dam for a while, even though it would gain her no prestige, unlike some of the girls who were the only hope of their families. Still, training damane could be interesting, though Edeline was willing to admit - to herself, if no-one else - a slight nervousness about holding her sister's collar. She is not your sister anymore. Her name had been struck off the records, true enough, but her mother was adamant that if Edie reminded anyone of the family's weakness in producing such a daughter she could lose face not only for herself but for her future children as well. Edie wasn't worried - she hadn't told her mother about it, but there was a young man from another house, slightly higher in standing to their own, who was interested in her, and since she could not marry anyone that she wanted, she might as well marry someone who would let her behave how she wanted. She pushed all the thoughts from her mind as she reached the source of the scent, though, and she entered the kaf house and took a seat that would allow her to watch the people going past, ordering a pot of the potent brew and a selection of pastries and sweets to accompany it. She knew that she would not eat them all, and so she left the other seats on her table empty and facing in such a way that showed she was not wanting the table to herself, which some might have presumed from the parts of her hair that were shorn. Taking a deep sip of the brew, and enjoying all of the sensations that it gave, Edie settled down to watch the people going by. ~Edeline of House Jadien
  17. OOC: wow, first to post and a first post for my first SC character! IC: The long corridor down to the main bedroom was dark, the curtains were drawn and the mistress of the house had retreated to her rooms. The housekeeping staff knew not to bother her, for she had a bad temper these days. They sent someone on turns to visit her and see if she needed anything, usually no more than a cup of tea or some fresh water. She did not eat and had not for thee days straight now, the servants were not very fond of Lady Gundun but they knew that it was not all her fault. The Master of the house had wronged her badly and the girl he had used for his pleasure and to lower himself and the house name had been fired on the spot. Lori was stupid, the staff had agreed on this weeks before Lady Gundun had even found out. Maybe they were stupid for not informing her of what they had seen happening right under their noses. But even the staff felt that this shame was brought on them as much as on their House, only they could not dwell in it as much as the Lady Gundun did. Suddenly, the sound of a door opening and then slamming shut filled the empty corridor. Light clicking noises of slippered feet on a rush were heard over the marble stone floors. The door swung open again and a woman’s voice yelled, “Get the note over to her now and get me someone to help me dress up,†the servant girl was new, hired after Lori was fired. Jinni was new to the work, just out of her home from the safety of her mother’s wings she had chosen an occupation in this house. She regretted it now, on her second day as the Lady of the house was yelling at her for things her predecessor had done. And then the note that had been handed to her, for the Master’s mother to find that her daughter in law would attend dinner that evening. Jinni wiped her brow and was suddenly very glad she was not born in a high family and did not have to worry about such important things as dinner by invitation and the status that came with the right invitations. “What insolence,†Kaira muttered and stomped her feet as she walked up and down her room. Her deep red robes flung about the soft silk hem she wore and this made her even more angry. For the past three days she had been hiding away in her bedroom, not getting dressed, not powdering her face, not even bothering to comb her hair. But that was going to change now, she was no longer the victim and he would know, he would know and he would regret beyond what he had tried to regret so far. She would make sure, for revenge was sweet, especially if she could gain from it personally. Kaira smirked and heard a soft knock disturb her thoughts. The girl had been quick about her errand and Sophia helped her in a dress that suited Kaira’s mood. It was a deep brown color with green slashes from the hem down to the ankles. It had a high cut neckline and with her hair up in a bun, Kaira looked regal and nothing like the woman scorned that had hidden away from the world over the betrayal of her husband. Glancing over her reflection in the small hand mirror, Kaira smirked and said, “I’m ready,†then closed her eyes and let the world die down around her as she prepared herself for the meeting with his mother. Her demands would be met, she would see to that now. Kaira Gundun Disgruntled spouse
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