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  1. A scatter of solitary stars up in the sky, touched here and there with fading tints of rose, heralded messages flying to several different folk. Like the spider at the heart of a great web Sirayn twitched the strings she had tied to people of ambition, cunning and wit, devious folk who, like her, would stop at nothing to achieve their ends; and obediently, small spiders in turn, waiting in her shadow to realise their full promise, those summoned came to her call. The seeds of secrecy scattered far across a citadel just starting to fall into slumber. Scarcely a whisper stirred among the ivory white corridors, a spell of footsteps in the silence, a shift of shadow maybe while folk flitted across open spaces, nothing to warn those who lived nearby. One by one the recipients of her terse messages entered her quarters. Installed in a soft white chair near the fire Sirayn watched with a cool grey gaze, fingers lightly steepled, while they came to her; from the youngest only a few decades to the shawl, to some whom she had known for a century and more; Green Ajah in the most part, with a trio to make up other colours, they stood for a great sweep of generations and causes. Their loyalties lay with her now, of course, or otherwise she would not have involved them with this at all. The mission she had in mind for them was not illegal as such; but it required a certain discretion of which she deemed few truly capable, not to mention another uncommon quality, being trustworthy. Few would dare to interfere in her business at all of course. Tradition dictated otherwise and her own standing was strong. Nevertheless, it was with a certain satisfaction that Sirayn noted the arrival of all those sisters she had summoned, from Domani youngsters Lavinya and Christine to Serena, once of Saldaea, Alyria the Mayener and of course her Cairhienin counterpart, Aramina sur Dulciena. Sisters. A slight inclination of her head, fractionally more than she would have granted those of similar rank had they not been sworn to her. Their courage in breaking long held custom deserved respect and, besides, one did not scorn those few one could trust. "Thank you for attending me this evening. Take a seat if you will." A careless gesture indicated chairs set out ready for their gathering. Fire leaped bright and blazing in the grate; its heat warded against the night's cool. "I have a certain task which I intend to trust to you all." Sirayn cut straight to business, though her gaze remained just as sharp on those gathered to her. "There is work to be done over near Cairhien. Something which, shall we say, requires the kind of judgement only Aes Sedai can exercise properly. I shall not be leaving Tar Valon myself and I think you will perform this task commendably in my absence, in which, I trust, you will not disappoint me." "I imagine everyone will know that the city of Cairhien," briefly she looked toward her fellow Cairhienin, both as composed as ever, "is currently held by Aiel and other madmen purporting to be pawns of the Dragon Reborn. The truth of that is open to question; however, what is indisputable is that strife and hardship has hold beneath the Topless Towers at this moment, resulting in a great many refugees. Near this city they have been massing and causing some difficulty to the local town folk. There is, possibly, some danger of an uprising. I am tasking you with investigating this refugee camp, the problems within and restoring some measure of calm to the region. I need not remind you that the whole place is swarming with dangers which may not scruple to target Aes Sedai. This is your official mission. Should anyone trouble you I trust you can think of other reasons. "You will also be visiting a holding in the area. If my information is correct, there is a woman at the Rashad Ranch who is skilled in certain helpful substances; drugs, herbs and poisons, if I may be so blunt, in the supply and use of which I am greatly interested. You will locate her, negotiate with her for a supply of whatever poisons and so on she will agree to send, and otherwise see what you can learn from the area. This is your real mission. You will not fail it." Briefly she paused measuring the responses of those present. These were good women, some harder than others, a few highly skilled at trades she did not herself practise, and all useful to her cause. "The party will be led by Aramina Sedai." She had not yet confided in the other woman exactly what she intended, in her experience it was best to conceal all from Cairhienin as much as possible given their subtlety and cunning, but as expected Aramina sur Dulciena gave no outward sign of startlement. She rather thought this one would make it into the Hall before long. She had that marked out for some others gathered here as well; not that she could overtly place those in other Ajahs, but there were more discreet moves she could make, and lack of caution could frustrate her plans as easily as any other. "Are there any questions?"
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