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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.
The only word to describe her mood was dejected. Nynaeve Sedai had released her from her tasks early, the Sister’s attention taken up with some important matter in the Infirmary that could not wait and so, Kiyi had been able to leave the wards and take some time just for herself. She wandered the gardens slowly, looking for a secluded spot to think and regain some composure, hoping that the peace and beauty of the grounds would restore her sense of well-being. She felt little these days other than tired, ground down and depressed. Things were not going at all according to plan and she had no idea why that should be. Finding a bench nestled in the lee of some bushes covered in pretty purple flowers, Kiyi dropped exhausted onto the wood and stared morosely at the Tower. She’d had such hopes in coming here, such dreams. She was no closer to attaining them than she had been on arrival though and that was baffling to her. Kiyi’s fingers picked distractedly at a loose thread on the sleeve of her novice dress as her thoughts turned to Esther and Deanne. The girls had been absent from the Tower for some time, returning only recently, though Kiyi did not know why and when they had come back everything had changed. In truth, things had changed even before that, the friendship she’d begun to form with Esther seeming to dissipate overnight. Where did it all go so wrong? the thought snaked through the young girl’s mind as her shoulders slumped. She felt as though a huge weight was pressing her down and suddenly, everything was just too much to cope with. She didn’t sob and howl as Deanne was wont to do; even in distress Kiyi was too reserved for such an outpouring of emotion, but the tears flowed just the same, obscuring her vision and tracking their way down her cheeks in an unstoppable stream of sadness. Entangled in her own concerns, she was oblivious to the approaching footsteps until it was too late to hide.
Nynaeve paced in her office from one side to the other, her mind racing. She couldn't understand how people could be so foolish. So reckless with another person's life. If she only could, she would pummel them until they saw reason, regardless of the amount of pummeling that required. She suspected it would keep her occupied for a day or two, pending on her determination. In her shopping in Tar Valon Nynaeve came across a married couple. The woman passed out and hurt her head from the fall. Nynaeve hurried to her and just when she was about to heal her, her husband pushed her away. She had to keep Damian at bay because he was well on his way to drawing out his sword and carving some new holes into the man. "Keep your filthy hands off of my wife, witch", he said. Nynaeve tried to talk some sense into the man. After all it was his wife and her life could very well be in danger if there was any internal bleeding. But the man wouldn't hear about it. He carried her off, against Nynaeve's explicit warnings that it might worsen her state. But the man was blinded by his hate. Enough to toy with his wife's life. And so, Nynaeve returned to the tower, but she couldn't relax. She was literally climbing the walls, wondering if the woman was alright. She felt the sort of helplessness that ate her up from the inside. And there was nothing she could do to make it go away. A knock on the door admitted Kiyissalle into the study. Nynaeve sighed. She completely forgot that she summoned the girl. But the quicker she dealt with her, the better it would be. "I trust you've settled in and that your current classes are going well." It was a rhetorical question and Nynaeve didn't pause to give Kiyi any time to form a response. "Some of the stable boys caught something. Well, I imagine one of them did and passed it on to the rest. As it were, they're recovering at the moment which leaves the stables poorly tended. Novices are sent there in shifts to keep it at least minimum conditions. After all, the horses need not suffer." Nynaeve strolled to the window and peered out, trying her best not to think of the woman's face. "You will find in the stables what you need to clean. And the food should be there by now, next to the entrance. I will come to monitor you later today. I expect to find the place spotless and the horses well fed. If you have any doubt, feel free to ask Joseph, the only stable boy that didn't fall ill. He should be about. You are excused." The only indication to Kiyissalle leaving was the sound of the door closing behind her. Nynaeve never turned to verify it. Her mind was already far away. Nyn Yellow
It couldn't be possible to be any more dust logged than she was already but Kiyissalle found herself looking forward to the reprieve that arrival at the White Tower would bring. She was tired, she was dirty and all the stour was making her throat worse than normal. She'd had to cough several times to clear it enough just to reply to the Brown Sister's chit chat. Longing for some cool clear water, Kiyi patted at the silk skirts of her dress and watched as clouds of dust rose from the ruined material. She wondered idly if her parents would have been quite so keen to let her leave if they'd known that she would be sleeping rough more often than not. The Brown had stated that it was best to avoid unnecessary attention and then had not vouchsafed another word on the topic. Not that Kiyi objected to sleeping under the stars. The weather had held fair and the novelty had not yet worn off. Still, a bath would be about the best thing in the world for her aching muscles. Even as an accomplished horsewoman, she had never been accustomed to riding from sun up to sun down and the exercise was taking its toll. Finally though, the small group arrived in Tar Valon, quickly crossing the bridge over the Esendrelle Erinin and making their way past the ancient Ogier Grove. The Sister pointed out places of note as they picked a route through the bustling crowds on the city streets. Kiyi's eyes were everywhere taking in as much as she could, for though she'd visited Cairhien with her parents on several occasions, this was Tar Valon and an altogether different kettle of fish. As with any visitor to the island, her gaze was drawn again and again to the tall, elegant Tower dominating the landscape. It was so big and so beautiful... and it was to be her home. She still hadn't wrapped her mind around that fact by the time they reached the Tower Grounds and she could feel the impact of the place up close and personal. The whole structure oozed authority and power as did the ageless faces of the Sisters they passed more frequently now. Inwardly, the self composed girl realised at last the enormity of what was about to happen to her and began to quake. She was going to give up all that she knew for the chance to become Aes Sedai and to commit her life to this White Tower. Should she change her mind? Did she want to? Kiyi shook her head as though to rid herself of a buzzing insect, brushing the thoughts aside and dismounting before following the Brown up the main steps. Well, this is it. There'll be no going back. Kiyi compressed her lips and threw her shoulders back with a determined air as she passed under the portal and into the Tower.