PDA

View Full Version : The Flame to Cairhien


RogueSavior
11-07-2009, 10:22 PM
Before this begins, a cast of characters for the unknowing, and a note of thanks to Danette, SBX(Dycin), Van D’Vere, Sinistrum, Stormy and Great Lord of the Dark for being wonderfully creative with their characters - I hope to not have botched them too poorly, but I’ve read back as far as I can to strive to remain consistent.

The Characters:

Danette, The Flame of Hope, Former Amyrlin of the White Tower. Ruler of Amatsiru, a city-state between Andor and the Borderlands. She has lost her memory.

Gaul, Her Warder, and Husband. The Car’a’carn

Ambrok Chiqel, an Under-Commander of Cavalry in the Ever Victorious Army of the Seanchan, also an Isai of the Valley of the Three Towers under the false name of Elriq.

Gnarled, an Ogier with a dark and mysterious past

Dycin, an Asha’man of one tower or the other (just noticed The WoT Den died, and I honestly can‘t remember…), Danette’s recently Bound Warder

Ven D’Vere, an Asha’man of the White Tower, and the Blue Order. Of Some Renown.

Here goes nothing! Note, this early part will include lots of blatant plagiarism

Ambrok strode through the main gates, fuming at Bane, his Commanders, this accursed city full of marath'damane, life in general. The one person he'd thought sure wouldn't be able to channel in this Light-Forsaken "Valley" could. Next thing he'd learn, bloody Kartael would be able to channel.

Ambrok strode through the streets toward the Flame and Fang, intending to ask Timothe where he'd lodged Kelriq. There had been a Stables in the middle of the entry plaza. Pausing in the street, Ambrok turned back towards it. It was a distance to the Flame and Fang, and Ambrok might as well check there first.

Weaving through the crowd, Ambrok found his way to the door of the Public Stables. Stepping through the door, he stared, awed by the enormous presence of the stables. If Kelriq was here, locating him would take a while, unless...

A woman walked towards him, holding the reins of a tall Gelding. Stepping past her, Ambrok pulled a whistle from his pockets. Ignoring the attention such a tool was liable to receive, he blew a quick cadence, one that was sure to catch Kelriq's attention if he heard it. As the whistle's shriek carried through the stables, Ambrok heard the satisfactory sound of a horse rearing. Looking for it's source, Ambrok saw his proud Stallion standing in the difference. Stepping through the rows of horses, Ambrok reached the stall holding his real companion.

Hopping the gate, he stroked the horse's muzzle. “Long time no see, my friend. Have you been playing nicely with the other horses?“

He turned, to notice the woman who had been leading the Gelding storming towards him in obvious unhappiness. "Well, young sir, simply asking would've worked better than inflicting noise upon my ears and those of my horses!" She paused to collect herself, brushing hair out of her face, “Glad I am you found your beast, although for your future reference, all stallions live on the south hall of this stable, the mares as you would expect on the north hall, with geldings and assorted donkeys, mules, and striped horses on the east and west. You will remember this henceforward! And you will call a farrier sooner rather than later, since I can tell from here that your prancing stallion needs a new set of shoes."

At hearing the woman's concern about the state of Kelriq's horseshoes, Ambrok reached down and picked up the stallion's foreleg. Tsking at himself, and, also, at Timothe, Ambrok shrugged his shoulders. He'd have to return to the Isai barracks to get enough money to pay for having his horse re-shoed. He doubted that Isai had their horses re-shoed as standard maintenance because of the woman's comment, and he turned to her.

Placing the whistle back in his pocket, he apologized for disturbing the horses. After all, he wouldn't need the whistle again. He knew where Kelriq was stored, if only a very general area.

"How much would it cost me to have Kelriq reshod? I've only recently arrived, and I'm an Isai." There was an off chance after all, that Isai had their horses reshod for free.

"And from the looks of your horse, ye're not exactly poverty-stricken. But in answer to your other question that maybe you should've asked, stabling is free for Isai. Shoeing usually runs about a silver piece per hoof, but Isai get a break there, as well - although sometimes I wonder why. You'll be charged 4 coppers per hoof, and a fine job the stable farrier and his helper, Donidil, will do with it, too."

Smiling at the woman's complement of Kelriq, Ambrok hurried to the Isai barracks to grab his money. Isai did get a discount! What luck!

Hurrying up to his bed, he gathered his money pouch.

Noticing a note on top of his table, he put it in his pocket. He'd read it later, he had to hurry and get Kelriq shoes. The Stallion had practically danced when he'd seen him. If there was something they both needed, it was a good run.

Ambrok hurried back to the public stables, hands on his money pouch. He hoped that it wouldn't take too long to shoe Kelriq, he needed to ride.

Seeing the woman who had scolded him earlier, he walked up to her and carefully got her attention.

"Excuse me, ma'am. Can you direct me to the stable farrier's? Kelriq does need new shoes." The woman seemed to be exasperated with Ambrok’s neediness, but indicated the direction he needed to go.

The blacksmith pulled a few times on the bellows at his forge, thrust a curved piece of metal into the red coals, held it there, then pulled it out with the tongs and started shaping it some more with his lighter hammer. He was dark haired and possessed a stocky build common in the north, but with slabs of heavy muscle built up from decades of work at the forge. He had the usual burn scars on his forearms, and a perpetual squint from the glare of the metal. Standing nearby was a handsome black-and-white gelding, maybe 16 hand high, with a deep chest - perhaps a hunt horse. Holding the gelding was a man who looked as if he might be heavier than the horse!

The giant seemed to be talking to the horse, keeping him calm as the farrier filed the hoof and prepared to nail on the shoe. At that moment the gelding snorted, and the giant instantly calmed him but looked to see what had startled him. A young man approached, leading a fine-looking stallion, so naturally the gelding was a bit nervous. His huge face was split by a friendly smile. "Don't come too close - still putting ashoe on Dahvee, here." His voice seemed to come from someplace deep underground.

Ambrok stopped at the giant's warning, and looked for someplace to tie Kelriq. Seeing a post, he looped Kelriq's reins around it and sat down. He'd have to wait his turn.

After sitting for a short while with nothing to do, he remembered the note that had been on his nightstand. It was probably from one of the Isai he'd left earlier. Well, now was as good a time as any to read it. Opening it up, he stared at the words before him...

A little news that might be of interest to you: A minion of the Storm Leader, General Cor Sinistrum, holds the ancient city of Cairhien under an iron fist.

The farrier finished the paint gelding's shoe, cleaned it up, and grunted to his aide, who led the horse away and returned a moment later. He then looked at Ambrok, then more closely at the stallion. "Ahhhh, I see. Good you came. Well, let's get to work on him, then."

The giant took the stallion, stripped off his tack and replaced the bridle with a simple leather halter, then brought him to stand near the forge, and the farrier commenced working on him.

Ambrok sat on the bench, reading and re-reading the note. Who had sent it? How did they know about Ambrok's interest in the Storm Leader? He lost track of time as he was deep in south.

Noticing that Kelriq had been reshoed, Ambrok dug in his pouch for the money to pay for the re-shoeing . To thank the man for the quick service, he added 4 coppers. All-in-all, he handed the man 20 coppers, and, thanking him, led Kelriq back to the stallion's stall to grab his saddle.

Securing the straps of his saddle around the horse, Ambrok clambered up.

"I'll be back late," he informed the mistress of Horse, lingering nearby and leading two horses, "if you're gone, can I just put him back in the same stall?"

She grinned up at him. "There's always someone here. But I would not want to let that keep you from putting your horse up yourself. The same stall is fine, of course. Hold - here." She reached into a pouch on her belt, pulled out a hoofpick. "Take a hoofpick on your ride; the Valley roads can be rocky, and even the the sulcae on your beast's hooves won't be too deep now, he can still pick up a stone."

Her eyes twinkled. "And when you come back from your doubtless exhilaratin' gallop, you will of course take time to walk the lad till he cools down, then curry and brush him?" Still grinning, she raised her eyebrows. "And you'll be wantin' to know that the grooming gear is kept in each of the tack rooms, midway in each hall. And late in the evening, cross-tying in the aisle is okay." She grinned again, said "Off with you then," and gave the stallion a light slap on the rump, then turned to go back about her business as Ambrok galloped off into the city.

Nodding at the woman's answer, Ambrok slowed Kelriq to a walk through the gates and Foregate. Reaching the edge of town, he turned off to the east, galloping in a circle around the Valley.

As Kelriq began to tire, Ambrok pulled up on the edge of a clearing, and pulled out his note again.

A little news that might be of interest to you: A minion of the Storm Leader, General Cor Sinistrum, holds the ancient city of Cairhien under an iron fist.

There was something he was missing in the note. What it meant was clear - Cor Sinistrum, a minion of Tsorovan'm'hael, held sway over the land of the Rising Sun - ! His dream came back to him in a rush, he stood on a hill looking out over a Rising Sun that emanated evil! He must go to Cairhien. Only by following links to the nae'blis could he find the nae'blis, and regain his Empress', may she live forever, control of the Empire of Seanchan.

Folding his note, he put it back in his pocket. He looked around, noticing a man leaning up against a tree on the edge of the clearing. The man spread his hands wide. "Excuse me, I seem to have lost my way. Can you direct me to the Village of the Towers?"

Turning to him, Ambrok was surprised. He hadn't even seen the man there when he entered the clearing, or before he’d pulled out the note. Ambrok pointed over the new man's shoulders. "It's behind you. Turn, and walk straight. You can't miss it."

The man didn't even turn around, he kept coming towards Ambrok. A few feet away, Kelriq shied away, and this was all the advanced warning that Ambrok had. The man had pulled a dagger out of his sleeve, and his slow pace had turned into a running jump.

Spurring Kelriq, Ambrok let the horse pull him out of harm's way. He felt the horse lash out with it's rear foot, and the new horseshoe met the landing man's chest with a thud.

Satisfied that the horse had done his job, Ambrok and Kelriq darted eastward, weaving through the trees, knees gripping the saddle. He held on as Kelriq avoided stray roots and stones.

Breaking free of the trees, Ambrok found himself on a road that was growing empty with the setting sun.

Who WAS that guy? What did he want with me?

Sitting upright, Ambrok wheeled Kelriq about to look back at the woods. He hoped the man wasn't still following him - that Kelriq had done enough of a number on him to discourage pursuit.

Ambrok and Kelriq made their way along the road, heading ever eastward. Ambrok kept himself from looking back - Kelriq had to have disinterested the man.

He rode on until nightfall, and slept under a bush that night.

RogueSavior
11-07-2009, 10:24 PM
It was hard working testing the limits of this Asha'man, but Gnarled had to know what he was capable of, if he was to use him. And to avoid being used by him and his mistress Frenzy.

By now the Asha'man knew as much about Gnarled as Gnarled knew about him, insofar as any soldier can know about his commander, and a commander about a soldier. Endless hours of drills under great duress were not what the marath'damane had in mind when he was assigned to Gnarled, but he now understood how the Ever-Victorious Army broke in its soldiers.

The channeler would do pretty much anything he was asked to do in simple training, but what was needed now was some mental stress to add to the fatigue.

"When you hold the Power, what do you see on yonder hill?"

"A horse, and a man sleeping under some bushes. I think it is one of the Isai we saw blundering about yesterday."

"Yes. His name is Ambrok," Gnarled said. He hadn't yet trapped the Asha'man in a lie, which was to the good. But the day would come when he would have to choose between Frenzy and Gnarled. The Ogier figured all this drilling would earn him one single time when his order would be followed without question, and then a split-second later, Santomere would fry him with power-wrought flames. But so far, the more he pressed the Asha'man, the more Santomere tried to show his allegiance was to Gnarled, and not Frenzy.

Time to test that limit again.

"Can you set fire to the bush Ambrok is sleeping beneath?"

"I can combust the man himself if you like," Santomere countered. His face showed no emotion. Gnarled thought he WOULD do it, if asked, and to the Pit of Doom with any consequences for cooking an Isai in his skin.

"No. The bush is fine. Test his reflexes. If he's slow, let him roast. If not, he'll want to talk with us."

Santomere squinted at the bushes on the far hillside and raised his hand.

***

Ambrok rolled over, trying to shield himself in the shade from the amazingly hot sun. What was that crackling sound? Rolling over onto his back, he opened his eyes, squinting against the brightness of the... fire!

He scooted out from under the bush, scraping his elbows as he pushed them across the rough ground. Staring at the bush that had just moments ago been his shelter, Ambrok pushed himself to his feet. He felt Kelriq's nose nudge his shoulder, in an oddly human gesture of concern, but ignored it.

How odd that the bush should light like that...

At least it seemed like he'd gotten some sleep, the sun was lower now than it had been.

Turning, he untied Kelriq and resaddled him, and looked out at the road behind him. Many people were still travelling, but there were two standing still. Well, not two people - One was an Ogier. Odd that they were stopped in the middle of the road... Wait, Ambrok recognized the Ogier he'd spoken with the night before. What was going on?

He made up his mind to go find out, and Kelriq and he made their way down the hill. As he approached the Ogier, he hailed him in greeting, quickly noticing his companion’s predisposition towards black clothing.

The Ogier spoke first, "Ambrok. How good to see you again. I trust our training didn't harm you? Good." Gnarled’s saucer-sized eyes seemed to take him in, “Going somewhere? Shouldn't you be in Isai training?"

"Ah... Training... heh. We're dismissed for the day, and I'm... going to Cairhien. I have something to address." His eyes flickered ever so slightly towards the man with the deformed Ogier, blatantly eavesdropping on the conversation. "This is something much more important than those children. What about you? What are you up to?" His eyes flickered towards the man again.

Gnarled surprised him by addressing the man, "Santomere! I want to know how fast you can run to the pine atop yon hill. I want to see a light flash atop your head every time your left foot hits the ground. And levitate this rock three paces in front of you. Go!"

This Santomere took off at a run, in pursuit of the stone floating before him. A blue ball blinked on and off above his head as he ran. The man was clearly marath’damane.

Gnarled pulled Ambrok thirty paces to the right, out of Santomere's line of sight, but where Gnarled could see the light blinking above his head.

Gnarled pulled Ambrok over to the side of the road. "What troubles you, Ambrok. Speak freely. Are you in trouble? Do you require aid?"

"No, I'm not in trouble..." he paused before continuing. "She is. I must go to Cairhien, for the Storm Leader holds the Crystal Throne in his hand. I received this note," he handed it over, "this afternoon, after I played Isai. It awaited my return."

Watching the Ogier peruse the note, Ambrok fidgeted. This entire crusade had started to sound ridiculous to him now... but he'd be damned if he was going to let his homeland be ruled by the Dark One, even in rumor.





"I can't help you directly. Not yet.” The Ogier shook his massive head to strengthen his words

Ambrok nods. "Of course you can't." The marath’damane was coming back now, and Ambrok climbed astride Kelriq.

“But I can take you where you need to go. My marath’damane can Travel. We can go as soon as you are ready. Is there any other small thing I can help you with?"

“No, friend. Travelling will be a great enough help.”

Santomere ran up, barely breathing difficultly. Frowning, Gnarled snapped at him, "Tell me what you know of Frenzy's relations with This Sinistrum and this Tsorovan'm'hael."

The marath’damane began listing off a series of facts on the two leaders of the Darkfriend tower, none of which had not been included in Ambrok’s own briefing before he’d left for the Valley. After he was done, Ambrok turned once again to Gnarled.

"Will you meet me tonight? Where this road meets the town of Edmond's Field?" There were preparations to be made. Kartael would have to be placed in charge of their current mission, and thus made known of their associates within the Valley’s walls.

"No, I was thinking about leaving right now. If you're leaving the Isai, it may be wiser to do so sooner than later."

There was truth to that - he risked discovery by the leaders of the Valley by returning, both as a potentially escaping Isai and a Seanchan agent. The less he spoke of any of his intentions where others might here, the better. “Perhaps you are right. It is best to leave quickly.”

He’d be in Cairhien by the end of the day. They were going to Travel. Leap great distances using the One Power. It was one of the more useful things that could be done with the marath'damane's abnormality.

Ambrok paused, trying to remember his Westland geography. "Try to land us in a wooded area, if it's possible." He didn't know, it very well might be. He thought about asking for Cor Sinistrum's bedchamber while he was at it, but was stopped short when a vertical bar of light appeared in front of them.

Santomere showed no surprise or emotion when Gnarled ordered him to make a Gateway to the place Ambrok described. Ambrok’s mouth went dry as the bar of light flattened itself before them, showing a thickly wooded area on the other side. Kelriq took a hundred mile step, and Ambrok, Gnarled, and the marath'damane found themselves in another part of the world.

"Stop! Who goes there?" A voice shouted as the bar of light disappeared.

As she stepped from the trees, Ambrok's eyes were drawn to the woman who spoke. She wore a pair of black pants, and a sleeveless tunic of blue which revealed an almost familiar tattoo. Her dark curls tumbled around her face, restrained by a black headband, centered by a dazzlingly blue gem. Her shocking blue eyes flashed over Gnarled, the marath'damane, and himself as she spoke.

"Identify yourselves, or be killed," she said in an icy voice, depressing the button at the center of her staff so a blade slid into view, glittering wickedly in the light.

Ambrok paused a little at the interesting weapon. His eyes ran along it, studying its surface, trying to devise how it worked. The woman's feet shifted, and he was brought back.

He thought quickly, "My name is Ambrok." He turned to Gnarled and the marath'damane, "The Ogier is my childhood bodyguard, but," he pointed to the scar along the Ogier's mouth, "he was muted when I was young. The last man is an Asha'man, who owes me quite a lot of money."

Ambrok hoped the presence of an Asha'man would encourage the men to release them on their path. If not, he'd been taught to lie - make sure there was truth somewhere in your story. His was obvious, and his facial expression was stone, the soldier in him itching for his saber.

He returned his steady gaze to the woman, whose blue eyes had not followed his gestures towards Gnarled and Santomere.

"An Asha'man?" The woman murmured. "Then I assume you are from - that place?"

She made a slight gesture and a Lance of soldiers emerged from the surrounding woods surrounding all of them. "Of all people, those at the Towers should know they are not welcome in this place," the woman said icily. "Capture them."

Ambrok felt his arms tied to his sides by nothing, and cursed the woman who’d given the orders for letting them touch him with their Power, "Blood and ashes... I'd heard the Cairhienin weren't friendly, but this???" He paused. These folk might work for Cor Sinistrum. He should find out.

"Who do you work for? I've come to stop Cor Sinistrum."

Ambrok realized his ploy was desperate, yet that was his only chance. It wasn‘t likely they did work for the Dark Lieutenant, and so they may let him go if he showed like intentions. If not - he trusted Kelriq to keep him alive. If he was brought to Sinistrum, he'd escape, and the dark Lieutenant would tell him all he wanted to know.

The things you learn from Sharans.

"Cairhien?" The woman’s laugh was more musical than he would have expected, given her harsh tone. “I think that your compass is a bit far off, perhaps you should talk to your Asha'man about opening Gates properly."

Another hand signal, and soldiers strode forward with ropes at the ready, binding Ambrok and Santomere even as two others forced a canteen of some liquid down Santomere’s throat. Adding a finality to their imprisonment, Ambrok felt them tie a blindfold around his face. He was alone to his thoughts and the sounds around him.

The woman’s voice issued another order, “Release the Builder.”

A short pause, before she continued. "If you would please bind your eyes, we do not wish the layout of our camps to be known," she said quietly. "There will be no harm to you nor any of your party until we reach our destination."

Ambrok felt himself get pulled from Kelriq, and heard Kelriq rear in protest. The horse's hooves stamped the ground, and something which grunted in pain, but he stayed by his master. Ambrok whistled at the horse, and he calmed down, still snorting. Ambrok felt himself begin to get marched along the ground, and tried to make sense of the situation.

They weren't in Cairhien, the girl's voice had told him that much. The marath'damane had botched his channeling. But where are we? The last surprised him - he'd said it aloud.

Not expecting his captors to answer, he didn't hear if any of them did. He thought back to his lessons in Shara, from the swordsman prisoner he'd come to know. In your mind, create a fire. Feed everything to this fire, make it grow. Focus on the emptiness. You are the emptiness. You live in the emptiness. The man's odd meditation technique had served Ambrok ever since, just as much as the flowing sword style he’d taught him had.

Thinking of his sword, Ambrok noticed that it still hung at his waist. No matter, he couldn't move anything but his legs - and they would wield no sword. Sword wielding reminded him of the sparring session with the Illianer that morning. A smile split his face... feed everything to the flame. Ambrok had to maintain focus. He'd need his wits around him.

"What have we done, exactly, that we must be led like this?"

A harsh male voice responded from directly behind him, “All who enter these lands are treated like this, you are not an exception, you are the rule. Now walk and be silent if you wish to keep your tongue."

They walked for a long while, stopping only to have water forced down his throat before they continued their marching. After what must have been the remaining daylight had long since expired, Ambrok began hearing the bustle of life.

"The Builder is to be given one of the rooms that we have free and watched carefully," the woman ordered his captors, "The other two go to the dungeons. See that the channeler is continually dosed with forkroot and shielded, we do not need him running amok."

Ambrok was led away - clearly inside, and clearly well below the ground. His sword belt was lifted free of his hips. "Watch them," the woman whispered quietly. "Do not let them speak to each other. We will question them later--be on your guard though. They are from Towers."

Ambrok lost the Void as he was dumped into a prison cell, his blindfold removed. The room was incredibly barren, he imagined even the cells in the Tower of Ravens would look luxurious compared to this.

Where had he been taken? More importantly, how was he going to get out? - he had to find Cor Sinistrum!

He turned to study the room, finding only one door, which he had been flung through.

Blood and Ashes... I have to get OUT!

Ambrok went up to the door and peeked out.

Outside of the dungeon, four visible guards were standing, their faces like stone, and their eyes held something akin to hatred as they glared at the prisoners. These men were from the Towers, the one of the greatest evils in the land as far as they were concerned short only of the Dark One himself or the Chaotic One.

They were well-armored and their weapons were well-made even if they weren't Power-wrought. Most bore signs of previous battles and one wore a patch over one eye where a puckered red scar spread from is forehead through the eyes and down his cheek. The one-eyed man seemed to be the leader and hanging from a chain around his neck were the keys to the cells.

He was talking quietly with another man, this one a very young-appearing man with long black hair caught in a braid and cold blue eyes that held more years than his appearance said he should have, if it was possible he was glaring with even more hatred at the prisoners than the other four combined.

A few cells down from the two new captives chains rattled, but no other sound broke the subterranean silence.

Ambrok turned away from the door, cursing. His situation was much worse than it seemed. He didn't expect to be liked by the guards, but outright hatred shone in their eyes.

Ambrok strode to the middle of the room with a sigh. The heavily tattooed face of his Sharan mentor materialized in the front of his mind - a reminder to keep calm.

Most important was remaining calm, he'd done nothing wrong. He strode to the corner of the barren room and leaned against the wall, waiting for someone to come.

RogueSavior
11-07-2009, 10:27 PM
A soft breeze blew through the open window bearing on it the scents of wood and freshly turned earth, the construction had long since been stopped for the day, and for the moment all was calm and quiet. Danette stood next to the window staring out over the city, torches lit every street and alley she could see from her window. Further on she could see the silhouettes of the guards walking what they could of the walls.

It was her city.

The thought felt odd as it went through her mind, but Danette dismissed it. A brief thread of fire lit the candle next to her bed and the pool of firelight made the other furniture in the room loom almost ominously. She picked up the candle and went to the single shelf of books that rested on the wall and held the candle up to look at the titles. A smile flickered across her face, some of her favorites were in amongst them. However, her mind did not rest long on the contents of the room. The dress was still laying out, but it didn't make much sense for Danette to put it on right now, so she propped the pillows up and sat back down on the bed, leaning against the pillows as she considered what to do next.

It was obvious that the shadows in her mind concealed a lot more than Danette ever expected, especially if she had been at one point the Amyrlin in the Tower of Light at the Towers. The very thought disturbed her, but she came to the conclusion that it had probably seemed best at the time and had later proved to be a foolhardy endeavor. After she had left the Tower of Light, she had obviously come here for some reason, perhaps it had been a home or something at some point in the past. Danette knew that she was a lot older than the twenty-eight years her reflection in the mirror possessed, but she wasn't sure how much older.

She half-wished that someone was up so they could tell her everything she needed to know, but then what they knew of her may not be the truth. Danette sighed irritably and scrubbed her hands through her hair, she needed to know more. Silently, she tallied up what she did know.

One, her name was Danette Galliana and she could channel saidar, fight fairly well, and if the city around her was any indication she knew a bit of strategy and diplomacy.

Two, most people here knew her by the name Flame, there was something significant about the name, but she couldn't grasp it right now.

Three, this city was hers or so it seemed, the reaction to her walking the halls and streets had been varied but one thing was that they all knew her, now whether they were enemies or friends was yet to be seen.

Four, because of her tenure as the Amyrlin of Light (Danette had very little doubt in the truth of the statement based on Dycin's comments), there existed an enmity between her and the Towers, but just as obviously the majority of the Towers people at least in the lower echelons believed that she was dead--not that impression would last much longer after the girl--Calliste?--told them, unless for some reason they thought she was killed in the tunnel collapse, but she doubted that.

Five, Dycin was her Warder now, but she had not originally Bonded him, someone else had somehow passed the Bond to her.

Six, Gaul and Logain were important names to her, even now she felt a sharp bit of sorrow as she thought the names. They must be (or must have been?) Warders to her.

Seven, Kyra Rahein was the person that she had entrusted with the care of the city, which meant that Danette had very strongly trusted her at some point or another--she would have to be the first person that Danette spoke to. Maybe Kyra would have some hint of the answers to the questions that were starting to plague her.

Who am I? Who was I? And, burn me, what do I do now?

Danette drifted off into sleep with the questions still racing through her head.

Opening her eyes, she found herself in the half-light of Tel'aran'rhiod lost among the piles of stones and the walls of what was going to become Amatsiru. Glancing down, she saw that she wore a heavy dress embroidered with so much goldthread that she could barely see the green beneath it on the bodice and the flames embroidered on the skirt rose all the way to her hips. The gown was heavy and hard to move in and so Danette concentrated until she was wearing a pair of fawn-colored pants, a white shirt, and boots.

Eight, I know Tel'aran'rhiod at least a little bit.

The thought was vague on the edges of her mind as Danette began to move through the Dream. A footstep took her to the outer fringes of the city and she turned to look at it. The city itself held no answers, and Danette turned to go and came up short as she spotted a dark-haired man dressed in black lined with blue vanishing into the woods and she followed.

He always seemed to stay just ahead of her and she never saw his face. Their travels took them through several places and Danette would think that she lost him only to have him reappear just a little ahead to lead her on. The thought didn't occur to her that he was going to lead her into a trap, although it really should have, but for some inexplicable reason, Danette completely trusted the man.

They passed through the Borderlands and even in the Dream the destruction was horrifying. Danette could not seem to go anywhere without seeing the ruins and devastation. "Do you see now what kind of things truce with the Shadow brings?"

The voice was deep and just behind her, but try and she did she could not see the speaker. "Do you see what must be corrected?"

Danette stared over the devastation and felt the bleakness in her heart. "Well, there is nothing I can do about this now," she said, her voice harsh. "I don't even know what I am doing, how am I to lead others? Not to mention that even if the army is bigger than what I've seen in Amatsiru, it's not going to stand against an army that can do this."

"That is not the Danette I know," the voice growled.

"What Danette did you know?" she demanded whirling around.

He wasn't there, but his voice came from the side of her. "Then it is time you remembered who you were."

Then they were off again.

This time they wound up in a barren waste that Danette knew immediately was the Threefold Land or the Aiel Waste as most others called it. "Find some of your answers here," the man said. "Now get out of here before you get yourself killed because you don't know what kind of trouble your running into--not that that's ever stopped you before."

There was a sense of exasperation in the voice and Danette turned to look at him and he was gone. She considered his words and decided that she had enough of her answers for tonight and stepped out of Tel'aran'rhiod.


In the predawn grayness, Danette silently donned the gown the maidservant had laid out the night before. She realized with a start that the gown was the same as the one she wore in Tel'aran'rhiod except red where the other had been green. She wondered idly if she had ordered anything so heavy and ornate. It felt like it was the gown of a Queen, but whatever Danette was, she wasn't that.

There was a click as the door opened and Danette whirled around immediately embracing saidar. The person that entered was a girl completely garbed in white. "The Flame, I must serve the Flame," she said brightly.

The girl was small and slender like Danette with brilliant red-gold hair and had a brilliant smile, but the amber-green eyes above it were empty. Danette felt a chill as she stared into those doll-like eyes, the girl looked quite a bit like her and her hand clenched. Had she known her at some point? Was she a cousin, a niece, a daughter?

Danette wanted to tear out her hair and she would have if it would have brought some sort of coherence to the blackness. She knew so much, but she didn't know how she came to know it. There was a polite knock on the door and Danette called for the person to enter still staring at the white-clad girl like she was a coiled viper. "Amber, please make the bed, the Flame would like it if you did that."

"I'm here to serve the Flame," the girl said brightly and set about making the bed.

The voice was Kyra's and Danette turned to look at her in question. "Good morning, Danette, did you sleep well?"

"Well enough," Danette responded slowly. "Strange dreams, but that's not unusual."

"Do your Dreams disturb you, Danette?" Kyra questioned softly.

"No more than the blackness in my head," Danette stated, her amber eyes distant.

The girl--Amber, Danette corrected herself--finished making the bed and came back to them looking at Danette for all the world like a puppy waiting for her to throw a ball for it to fetch again. "Get some breakfast for the Flame, Amber," Kyra said quietly. "She's hungry and needs food."

The girl immediately left the room and Kyra turned to regard Danette seriously. "So Dycin spoke the truth? You have no memory?"

"I have vague recollections every now and then that fade away. I remember names of people I don't remember meeting, see faces in my mind I can't put names to, or hear names and feel emotions I don't understand--like Gaul and Logain. Why do I feel like I might cry when I hear those names or feel as if I've lost something precious and irreplaceable?"

Kyra was about to say something but Danette continued, all of the confusion and worry coming out in a torrent of words. "I have notions of whether I can trust someone or not, but I don't know why. I can probably tell you the plans of the city, but I don't recall ever working on them." Danette rubbed her temples. "It's like I know everything I've done, but I don't remember actually doing it. My memories are there, but they're not. Then, there are things I don't even have vague recollections of..."

"So you do not remember what happened the day you disappeared?" Kyra questioned.

Danette shook her head. "I woke up in one of the Healer's Halls on the other side of the world and have been journeying ever since," she replied. "I didn't even know of my tenure as the Amyrlin of Light until Dycin told me. If I had, I would not have come within a hundred miles of that Dreadlord's fortress that the Towers are waging war against."

"What?" Kyra exclaimed. "Did anyone from the Towers see you?"

"A wolfsibling called Calliste, an older gentleman called John Snow, and a man from the Sea Folk whose name I didn't get."

Kyra swore softly and Danette gave her a questioning look. "John Snow is the Keeper of the Twilight Tower, the wolfsibling Calliste I only vaguely recognize. Until now, rumors had naemd you dead, but that will be for naught now."

"The harm is done then and there is no use trying to put the wine back in the barrel," Danette stated calmly. "We'll have to take the consequences into consideration in our future plans."

Kyra nodded slowly and then took a deep breath. "I know you have just arrived, but it is my suggestion that you leave soon and find your memory. It's too dangerous for you not to know," Kyra said.

"I plan on it, but first I have to figure out what's going on here," Danette said adn fell silent as Amber entered carrying a well-laden tray.

Kyra gathered some clothing and handed the pile to her. "Have these laundered and when the midday meal is served, return here with a tray for the Flame."


The girl took the laundry and left. After she was gone, Kyra turned her crystal blue eyes on Danette. "To begin with, the girl is--or perhaps was is more accurate--your niece, Amber. She arrived at the camp a time before you vanished, but you did not see fit to tell us anything else beyond that. Second, Gaul is an Aiel and your Warder, but he has been gone for some time. Third, Logain was also your Warder, but he died and no one is sure who is responsible."

The information didn't shake any other memories loose, but at least Danette understood the sadness, even if she couldn't truly understand it. The names, though important, were little more than letters on the blank puzzle pieces that made up her memories.

The woman sitting before Kyra was indeed the same person the Healer had known. She had the same mannerisms, same pattern of speech, and even the same steady look in her amber eyes. However, the air of confusion and uncertainty was not something Danette usually possessed and the people were sure to notice it.

"I assume you have some reports for me?" Danette asked and Kyra suddenly remembered the sheaf of papers in her hand and passed them to her.

The red-haired woman scanned through them and then set them on the desk. "Now, tell me what's been happening in the world outside of Amatsiru."

Kyra took a deep breath. "As it stands right now the Towers have a reward out for any information about what happened to the Tower of Light or connected to it. Once they get news of you, I suspect they'll start a search for you, but I do not think that they will make it public knowledge because it could cause too much backlash. To half or more of those serving the Light you may be a hero, to the others a traitor. Branding you a rebel could cause much chaos and dissention in the world and, Light knows, we don't need anymore of that."

Danette nodded in agreement and Kyra continued. "As for the rest of the world it continues to go on. Tar Valon's in the hands of the Path of the Dragon last I heard, Cairhien is in the fist of the Shadow--"

"What?" Danette exclaimed.

"There has been a lot bigger troubles people have been dealing with. I think many have forgotten Cairhien--or they're waiting to see who would move on it," Kyra stated. "More the latter rather than the former I think."

"Send some people to investigate," Danette ordered. "People we can trust to report just the facts and not get caught."

"But--" Kyra began.

"I don't plan on moving now, but if I do choose to move, information would be good to have," Danette observed.

"Understood," Kyra agreed. "The Borderlands--"

"Are in ruins, but I'm not sure when, how, or even if it is done yet," Danette interrupted flatly. "I saw it in the Dream last night."

"That's more information than I’ve gotten on the Borderlands in a long time," Kyra said soberly.

"We should send--" Danette started.

Kyra shook her head. "I've already sent several people to the Borderlands and none have come back. We haven't the men to keep sending scouts to their deaths. They'll have to be left for now."

Danette looked as if she were about to protest, but then deflated. "I'm no fit spy for this in my current state and you're needed here," she sighed.

"I know it's hard given your affinity for them, but sometimes there is nothing you can do," Kyra stated.

"I know," Danette said. "What is going on here?"

"Things are progressing as well as can be anticipated given the current difficulties, although of late there have been more strangers than normal coming through here."

"Strangers?" Danette frowned.

"The man that came with you, Ven D'Vere, he is a Light Tower Asha'man, but you know more about his presence than me," Kyra answered. "Earlier yesterday there was a party of three. Santomere, an Asha'man of the Dark Tower, a young man with the accent of a Mayener, and an Ogier, but one like no Builder I have ever seen. The young man claims to be the leader, the Ogier his bodyguard, and the Asha'man indebted to him--"

"But you don't believe him," Danette concluded. "What do you think?"

"You can never assume, but I am inclined to believe that they are a party from the Dark Tower, though one wouldn't normally affiliate the Builders with them," Kyra said quietly, "but you never know now."

Danette nodded thoughtfully. "I would speak with these visitors later today, have them prepared."

"Shall we keep both Asha'man dosed with forkroot?"

Danette looked considering. "The Dark Tower Asha'man, yes," she replied, "but see only that Ven D'Vere is shielded securely. After I speak with him I will decide what to do."

Kyra looked doubtful. "Are you sure that is wise?" the Healer asked cautiously. "He is from the Light Tower and may bear you more enmity than the so-called Children of the Light."

"We won't know that for sure until I speak to him," Danette said and rose. "He may have some answers I need. That golden-eyed girl last night, what is her name?"

"She is Phoenix, one of the Shukuchoku, your elite guards," Kyra informed her.

"A wolf sibling?" Danette queried.

"Yes," Kyra replied.

"Can she be trusted?" Danette asked.

"She has saved your life on three occasions and if you asked her to go to Shayol Ghul and free the Dark One she would," Kyra stated flatly.

Danette nodded. "Then ask her to attend me during questioning of the prisoners and Ven. I think I will speak to the young man that would name himself leader first of the three other strangers."

"Wait."

Danette glanced at her in question and she reached out and place her hands on either side of her head and embraced saidar. She Delved Danette carefully, searching for anything to hint at what had taken her memories, but found nothing. She withdrew the weave and stepped back. "Please warn me next time you do that," Danette gritted out and Kyra noticed the dagger in her hand with shock.

"My apologies," Kyra said humbly. "Dycin asked me to see if there was anything I could do to bring back your memory."

"And the diagnosis?" she questioned, putting the dagger away.

"There is nothing physically wrong with you to fix," the Healer sighed. "Mental injuries are not my forte."

"Then I'll have to see about finding the answers for myself," Danette said grimly.

"Where will you start?" the dark-haired woman asked.

"The Threefold Land," Danette replied.

"Why there?" Kyra questioned.

"My dreams say to go there," Danette said. "I'll be leaving after I question our guests today."

"And what do I tell the people?" Kyra questioned. "You can't just vanish again."

Danette looked thoughtful. "Tell them I go to fight the Shadow," she said. "Tell them it is time that we prepared for war."

Kyra nodded and bowed. "As you command."

"May the Light guide you," Danette said.

"I trust the Flame," Kyra stated, "and as long as she trusts in the Light so will I. I'll get Phoenix."

***

After Kyra had left, Danette realized that she was hungry and should probably give some time for the guards to wake the visitors up. The scents from the covered tray were very tempting and she silently sat down and began to eat. She was about halfway through the meal when there was a knock on her door.

She called for the person to enter and recognized the golden-eyed girl from last night--Phoenix, Kyra had said her name was. "You summoned me, Flame?" the girl questioned.

Danette nodded. "I am going to go talk to our guests and would like you to accompany me."

Phoenix nodded. "Of course."

"Thank you." Danette set aside her half-finished meal and stood up. "Well, time waits for no woman, so I'd better get started."

RogueSavior
11-07-2009, 10:29 PM
A guard paused in front of the room that held Ven D’Vere and glanced at his companions, they nodded and he slammed the door open abruptly. The channelers immediately shielded him as they all entered. Four more men in plain workman's clothes came in bearing a simple wooden table and two chairs that took up most of the rest of the space in the room. As soon as they were in place, the guard dropped the tray loudly on the newly placed furniture.

"Get up and make yourself presentable," the guard ordered. "The Flame comes. You will remain shielded until the Flame decides your fate, I would suggest not causing trouble."

The guard turned to leave and then paused. "It is only at the Flame's sufferance that there is no forkroot with this. I would see you Severed for consorting with Darkfriends were it up to me, but the Flame knows best and I trust the Flame."

He left the room and another guard entered in addition to the three channelers who stood in three corners of the room cross-legged on the floor.

Sitting up, only half-awake, Ven D'Vere glanced around as the guard who spoke left the cell. At least there's no Forkroot in the tea this time. A small favor. He was still shielded, but that wasn't quite as bad as Forkroot Tea, somehow...

Trying to ignore the channelers who were watching him like hawks, Ven splashed some cold water on his face, and straightened his clothes, the unrelieved black of the Ashaman uniform.

Then, he gladly sipped the tea, and picked up a slice of bread, grateful, after the injuries, and Healing, of yeaterday, to have some food to eat...

There wasn't much more to do than that, he realized. She wants to talk to me...

On the one hand, this was the woman who had brought down the Light Tower. Although the loss of life had been minimal, a few Aes Sedai and Asha’man had left the Tower a bit too slowly, and died for their slowness, and the one woman who had been made up to look like her, the one Calliste had found, Ven remembered.

Somehow, that had felt wrong, [/i]someone else taking advantage of the situation?[/i] Somehow, Ven knew someone else had done that. Mordeth, most likely, in an attempt to sow yet more chaos.

But the Aes Sedai's deaths were the fault of the one who had brought the Tower down. Yet, something in Ven hesitated to call it murder. Manslaughter, or negligent homicide, definitely. But Murder? Not very likely.

I will need to find out everything I can about her. There's more to this than I know. I need to understand WHY she did what she did.

***

Danette and Phoenix left the room and headed towards where Kyra had said that Ven had been put the day before, she had a suspicion Dycin would be along sooner or later to accompany her, but didn't have time to wait for him. They moved through the corridors in silence and Danette saw the guard coming away from his room. As soon as he caught sight of her he bowed deeply. She spoke to him quietly for a couple moments and frowned at his response. "Have someone bring up some more food for him, he was Healed of serious injuries and I would not see him further harmed for lack of sustenance."

The guard looked suprised and then nodded. "As you command, the Light illumine you."

"And you," Danette said and covered the rest of the distance to the door.

She paused in the doorway and glanced over the spartan room and frowned ever-so-slightly, but not at Ven. Silently she entered and all of the inhabitants of the room bowed deeply. She gave them all a gracious smile, but her amber eyes were fixed on the Asha'man. "Give me the care of the Shield," Danette ordered the channelers. "I would speak with him with fewer ears in the room. Phoenix should provide enough of a guard for now."

She embraced the source and wove a Shield herself and then nodded at the others and the other Shield dissolved. They reluctantly left the room and shut the door behind them. "I do apologize for the quarters, I gave orders that you were to be treated kindly if carefully watched. There will be another tray of food coming up here shortly."

She took her time and arranged herself in one of the two chairs smoothing the vibrant red of her gown as she contemplated how to start their conversation. "I suppose we can start with introductions, though you obviously seem to know me," Danette finally said, she wanted badly to pretend that she knew everything, but any attempt would likely fall flat. "I know little but your name and I'm not even sure how I know that. So, please, your full name and rank?"

The Asha’man rose to his feet, and made a quick little bow. "I am Ven D'Vere, Light tower Ashaman of the Blue Order."

“Blues meddle in causes," Danette murmured the words almost under her breath, but not quiet enough the Asha'man wouldn't hear it.

She glanced up her amber eyes intent on him. "Tell me, Asha'man of the Light Tower, why have you not demanded that I return you to your… Towers?"

Danette couldn't help the slight twist she put on the word Towers.

"Well...Danette Sedai..." Van paused, then began again. "First of all, Danette Sedai, I wasn't given much opportunity to demand, or even ask nicely, about being returned to my Tower. People here seem to distrust me, and I don't even know what it is I've done to arouse such ill will. If I may ask...Why?"

Danette considered as he posed his question. "Because they are the Towers, because they are so-called followers of the Light banding together with the Shadow - the antithesis of all that those following the Light believe," she replied. "There are other reasons I'm sure, I just don't know them."

She shrugged her tiny shoulders, "As for returning to the Towers, you are correct about not being given a chance to make your request or demand."

"It wasn't done lightly," Ven D'Vere countered. "In fact, I do believe you were the one who made that particular decision. I believe it had to do with fighting Mordeth, who was more of a danger then, and still is now, I might add, than the Shadow was. But this was before my time, and I may have gotten my facts wrong."

The statement seemed almost true, but Danette's eyes went distant as if she were considering something else. "Sometimes decisions you make turn out to be the wrong ones," Danette murmured and then shook her head as if to bring herself back into reality. "Tell me, Ven D'Vere, what would you like to do if you are not permitted to return to your Towers at this time?"

Van paused, obviously deep in thought at how to answer the question. "I am an Ashaman of the Light Tower. My oaths have been always to the Light. If you wish to do the Light's work, then I suppose I could be happy working with you."

"Could be happy working with me, eh?" Danette couldn't help the wry smile that curved her lips at his words. "I suppose that could do for now, but I still do not know how far I can trust you. Trust anyone for that matter, except Dycin and maybe Kyra..."

The last sentence was pitched low so that it would be difficult to hear and her eyes flickered over the room. "I will not keep you from your Towers forever," there was the twist on the word Towers again, "just until something happens."

Danette did not specify what that something was or when it would occur, she herself didn't know when, but she did not wish him to store up too much resentment against her for keeping him from the Towers. Light knows there were enough people out there who resented her for things she couldn't even remember doing, but she knew that she wouldn't stop doing what she felt was right.

"Following the Light..." Danette murmured half to herself, "I wonder what kind of battlefield that is going to lead me through this time--Lights knows there's enough fields out there right now to begin with."

"Until something happens?"

Ven repeated her words curiously and Danette glanced at him through a screen of auburn bangs as if carefully considering her answer. "Yes, until something happens," she said, "I will not be specific because I don't know when it's going to happen and I would not give you false hopes of leaving sooner rather than later. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills and eventually it may weave you back to your Towers. Until then, I am faced with a dilemma."

She rose from her chair and Phoenix stepped out of the way. Momentarily Danette was startled she'd almost forgotten the other woman was there, but she quickly recovered. She began to pace the length of the room. There was a polite knock on the door and then it opened admitting Amber with a large covered tray. Danette paled slightly at her appearance and bit her lip, anger lightly staining her cheeks even as she avoided the doll-like eyes. "Whoever did that to her, I will kill," she growled, her hands clenched and her knuckles went white.

With difficulty she brought her mind back to the problem at hand, she would have to solve the mystery of Amber later. "I serve the Flame," Amber said brightly. "There is food now for you."

"Thank you, Amber, please see to the laundry Kyra asked you to do," Danette said gently and urged the girl out of the room.

The girl nodded even as the door closed and Danette focused her gaze on Ven. "Eat, I'm sure the Healing still has you feeling like you haven't had a crumb all day."

She went back to her pacing and Phoenix eyed her worriedly. Finally Danette came to a halt and turned to face him. "There are two possible solutions to the current problem," she announced and held up one finger. "First, I can leave you here and either shielded or dosed with forkroot until such time as I can allow you to return. Or..."

A second finger joined the first. "You can swear an Oath that you will not harm anyone unless I give you word that you can and obey and follow my direction until such time that it becomes possible to return to your Towers, which I swear to you by the Light and my hope of salvation and rebirth will eventually come."

After her words, silence reigned and she regarded Ven with steady amber eyes.

Ven D'Vere stared back at her, obviously trying to ignore the aroma of roast beef, beans, and tea, that arose from the covered tray.

As quick as thought, he dropped to his knees before Danette. "I swear, by the Light, by my hope of Salvation and rebirth in the Light, that I shall obey, not harming anyone unless at your behest, and follow your orders until I may return to my Tower."

RogueSavior
11-07-2009, 10:31 PM
She went back to her pacing and Phoenix eyed her worriedly. Finally Danette came to a halt and turned to face him. "There are two possible solutions to the current problem," she announced and held up one finger. "First, I can leave you here and either shielded or dosed with forkroot until such time as I can allow you to return. Or..."

A second finger joined the first. "You can swear an Oath that you will not harm anyone unless I give you word that you can and obey and follow my direction until such time that it becomes possible to return to your Towers, which I swear to you by the Light and my hope of salvation and rebirth will eventually come."

After her words, silence reigned and she regarded Ven with steady amber eyes.

Ven D'Vere stared back at her, obviously trying to ignore the aroma of roast beef, beans, and tea, that arose from the covered tray.

As quick as thought, he dropped to his knees before Danette. "I swear, by the Light, by my hope of Salvation and rebirth in the Light, that I shall obey, not harming anyone unless at your behest, and follow your orders until I may return to my Tower."

Danette nodded in satisfaction and let the shield between the Asha'man and the source disappear. "I will give orders that you may be allowed to walk around the keep, but do not venture into the city unless you have been given permission, not that you'll really have much opportunity, there are two more people I must speak to today, but then I will be leaving and you will be coming with me. While I trust you to keep to your word, the others here may not. Until we meet again."

Danette inclined her head gracefully in parting and then with a glance at Phoenix gathered her to her side and left the room. The guard went to lock it and she shook her head. "He has sworn an Oath to me that he will not break, he is to be allowed free access to the keep," Danette stated, "and see that he has the food he requires. Until I say otherwise he is to be treated as my liegeman with the courtesies thereof."

"But he's from there," the guard protested.

"He is also of the Light Tower, Kyra confirmed it for me," Danette said, "no one who follows the Light will break the Oath that he has given me."

There was a sound of icy command in her voice and the guard bowed quickly. "It will be as you command, Flame, the Light illumine you."

"And you," Danette said quietly and strode away with Phoenix still at her back.

Once they were away from the guards, Danette glanced at Phoenix. "There was no smell of deception from him, I would have informed you, somehow, if there was," Phoenix said. "Although I wonder at your wisdom in bringing him."

"If I do not, oath or no, I think that the others will kill him or see him imprisoned," Danette said. "I may not like these Towers, but I will treat those who walk in the Light with respect. The Darkfriends in the prison though..."

Danette's voice became cold and icy. "They will not be treated so courteously."

Danette walked purposefully through the halls of the keep, automatically acknowledging the bows and curtsies that flooded all around her. Some of the soldiers only saluted and that was fine with her as well. The halls around her became less and less ornate until they were descending below into the torchlit depths of the dungeon. The guards standing watch immediately bowed and she heard a chorus of "The Light illumine you and guide your path" even as she approached the man in charge. "Is all in readiness?"

The guard nodded. "The man is in the room ready for questioning."

"Very good, I'll see to him."

Danette entered the room and noted that the young man was bound to a chair and didn't look too happy about it, a slight smile curved her lips, but didn't reach her eyes, this man had come with a known agent of the Dark Tower. "I suppose we'll start this off politely, I've never seen a need not to to be polite at least at the beginning. I am Danette Galliana, Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah and the ruler of Amatsiru."

She probably had a huge list of titles she could probably rattle off if she wanted to (once she found a paper with them), but she only knew for sure that she was the ruler of this city and the shawl secured deep in her belongings with the green fringe named her of the Green Ajah, she may have once been Amyrlin, but she was no longer and she doubted any Green would dispute her anyway. "How are you called?"

Phoenix took up a position behind her, regarding the young man with unblinking golden eyes.

"I'm Ambrok Chiqel, Aes Sedai. I come from the nation of Mayene, and I've done nothing wrong."

Amusement entered Danette's amber eyes and a smile curved her lips. "Jumping onto the defensive is never a good way to convince someone you've done nothing, it makes one wonder why you are so quick to say nothing. Don't you agree, Phoenix?"

The red-haired wolf-sibling nodded slowly and Danette settled casually in a chair across from him and smoothed her skirts. "I suppose you can say that entering this area was not wrong, but you travel with an Asha'man of the Dark Tower. Regardless of where you came from, a Darkfriend is still a Darkfriend here and the punishment is death. The Shadow may walk freely elsewhere, but if it steps foot here it will be destroyed."

The boy visibly flinched when he was told the Asha’man was a Darkfriend - was it possible he didn’t know? She spared another glance to Phoenix, who shook her head slightly - no deception was scented.

"Though the Asha'man be a Friend of the Dark, I am not. The Ogier accompanying me found him, and I asked him to transport us to Cairhien with his... ability. Apparently, he can't even control the One Power well enough to get me to Cairhien. Considering your claims that he is a Friend of the Dark, I find it most likely he did it on purpose, in an attempt to stop me on my business in Cairhien."

"Business in Cairhien?" Danette repeated the words thoughtfully. "And what business would that be Ambrok Chiquel?"

The boy stared straight into her eyes as he continued, “I'm going to... stop Cor Sinistrum. His master holds that which is most important in thrall. Through death of the dark general, and the Master of Storms, I will save..." He choked off the last, even as he tried to stand up where he was bound to the chair. "Light! I have to kill Cor Sinistrum!"

She watched with some inner amusement as the young man tried to stand up though he was bound with physical ropes and not the Power, but his words did not amuse her at all. She did not know who this "Master of Storms" was, but an image flashed through her mind and she knew him to be an enemy and if this Cor Sinistrum held Cairhien for him it meant that the city was held in Shadow--that disturbed her.

"Pray tell, Ambrok Chiquel, how did you plan to get to him when he is likely well-guarded from within and without? Do you have an army hidden somewhere in my lands? Or perhaps you can use the Power and have something to supplement your strength in order to channel a whole city down? Not to mention, one such as this Master of Storms likely cares little for this Cor Sinistrum. If you sneak in and assassinate this one, like as not there will be minor unrest and then another will replace him and it will be just the same as before."

The Shadow in Cairhienin, Danette had little affection for the Cairhiens--Treekillers the word whispered through her mind in another's voice dripping with contempt, a voice she should know--but no one deserved a life under the Shadow, not even Treekillers.

Do you have an army? she asked herself mockingly--in truth Danette did not feel as if she was truly leader of Amatsiru in her current state.

She needed to recover her memories!

"I don't know how I was going to do it, but I was going to! Surely there are rebels in Cairhien I could have banded together into an army of sorts - I'd have found help."

"If the rebels in Cairhien were strong enough to take him down, they probably would have done so already, one more sword I don't think will tip the balance either way," Danette stated flatly. "It might be a good thing you're not a soldier, a strategy like that has too many ifs."

Danette frowned at him slightly and glanced at Phoenix, the girl shrugged indicating that she was sensing no deception at this point, either, despite the boy’s face splitting momentarily into a grin.

"A sword? No. That wouldn't help." Ambrok fumed, obviously thinking something over inside his head. "Yet I must try. Allow me to go - the Shadow will be eradicated from the land of the Rising Sun."

“Even if I were sure you were speaking the truth, I would just as soon leave you here in the cells than allow you to go into Cairhien and try and fight," Danette stated. "I'm not one for wasting life when it is not necessary, many things can be replaced but never a life."

Danette scowled at him for just a moment and then her face smoothed. "No. No, I do not think I am going to allow you to leave the cells as of yet. Foolish children take foolish risks, I know I was one of them, but I had...others to protect me and I never was silly enough to go try and take a city from an army with superior numbers."

Danette had almost had names on the tip of her tongue, but just as she was about to speak them they faded away like mist and inwardly she swore, it would have been a memory, a good memory. In her head she heard familiar voices lecturing her on running headlong into trouble, but she couldn't identify the lecturers and she wished she could.

For the first time, the boy broke eye contact with her, looking to his side with a derisory snort. He muttered something to himself, clearly unable to restrain himself, “I already have…”

He met her eyes and Danette could see pride burning in them and she wanted to laugh, the boy probably would try and take the city by himself. Amusement set her amber eyes sparkling and she had to avoid speaking for a few minutes or the laughter that was bubbling below the surface would show through. Come to think of it, Danette could almost remember trying to do something like that on her own, but the--others--had stopped her, probably all for the better, she was strong but not that strong.

With some effort she controlled her mirth and regarded him with amber eyes that still glittered with humor, but her voice was cool. "Do you really think you can get by me much less all my guards to escape this city, Ambrok Chiqel?" she inquired icily.

His shoulders sagged in defeat, but the effect was lost when he continued to stare directly into her eyes. "The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills..." he mumbled, in what he must have surely thought was a resigned tone.

Danette couldn't resist the urge to laugh any longer and her laughter filled the room. "Resignation does not suit you, Ambrok Chiqel. You almost remind me of myself when I was younger, that means I'll have to be taking some extra precautions with you."

She rose and stretched. "Perhaps if your claims play out, I may be able to offer a small bit of assistance, but that would require you to assist me first."

Danette frowned as the words left her mouth--where had those come from? She had no desire to help this young man with anything when it wasn't clear which side he was on, but she would deal with it as it came, one of her strengths had always been adjusting to unexpected circumstances.

"Of course how you help me and how much help I offer you is up for negotiation, once I've confirmed that you walk in the Light, I won't work with a Darkfriend," Danette stated flatly and added to herself. Not ever again

Ambrok was clearly as startled by her sudden change of heart as she had been. "The only proof I can offer that I walk in the Light is here - in my pocket.” He reached his tied hand into it and pulled it out as best he could. A slip of paper sat in his hand.

"Though I've no doubt that I won't be able to assist you at all tied to this chair."

Danette gestured for Phoenix to get the note and the red-haired wolfsibling obeyed silently. Danette opened it up and read it:

A little news that might be of interest to you: A minion of the Storm Leader, General Cor Sinistrum, holds the ancient city of Cairhien under an iron fist.

"Well, it doesn't help your cause any as far as proving you are not a Darkfriend," Danette told him. "It is a well-known fact that the Forsaken are always plotting against each other and you could be very well working for one of the others. Lucky for you I just received a report that confirmed this."

A silence momentarily broke the room, before Ambrok began speaking again, quietly. "I dreamt once, after being struck by a Halfman in the Foregate, of a Shining Sun surrounded by shadow. I charged into it, finding myself surrounded, as Kelriq roared in defiance, my sword slashing left and right. Upon waking up, I found that note. I don't care aboutthose Towers, or your town. But I will not let my home fall to the shadow that controls Cairhien."

Danette listened to his words and all humor fled from your face. "I am not about to let Cairhien sit in the Shadow for much longer than it already has," she stated, her tone cold. "I am the Flame of Hope, I will fight for the Light in whatever way I must, but taking a city is no easy matter. You need soldiers, information, and many other things that neither you nor I currently have. Patience is something that is well-learned..."

Phoenix snorted slightly at that comment, but when Danette glanced at her the girl's face was smooth. Patience has never been one of my virtues, it's something everyone else must learn so I don't have to... her own voice echoed in her head, and Danette smiled wryly to herself--that did ring true.

"...at any rate, perhaps we can enter a bargain, of sorts," Danette said. "You will swear that you will not harm anyone unless I give you word that you can and obey and follow my direction until such time that Cairhien falls, which I swear to you by the Light and my hope of salvation and rebirth will happen--one way or another."

"On the Light and by my hope of Salvation and Rebirth, so do I swear - I will not directly harm you or your allies, and I will work with you to ensure that Cairhien does not fall to the Shadow. When the time comes, I'll follow your command" He swore, his gaze not leaving her eyes, even as he swore.

Cairhien has already fallen to the Shadow," Danette frowned at him, she'd almost accepted the Oath despite his alterations. "What we must do is pull it out of the Shadow and in order to do that you must follow my direction, there is only one person I would allow to be a general if it is not me, and that would not be you. When we go to battle we will be fighting together but only one person can give direction--or the battle will be lost."

Phoenix had tensed at his alteration of the Oath, but managed to force herself to relax slightly when Danette responded to Ambrok.

The boy spoke up once more, a new fire to his voice. "To say that Cairhien has fallen to the shadow is to give up all hope of its salvation. As long as men and women who walk in the Light fight for the Banner of the Rising Sun, it has not fallen. Look no farther than Malkier for an example of what we who walk in the Light can accomplish." He paused a moment, as if letting his message settle onto Danette.

Know that with me, you gain someone who has battled against everything we'll find in Cairhien and worse. Channelers, Shadowspawn, I hold no fear of either. Sharans have surrendered fortresses to the charges of Cavalry led by me. Battle is something I've always done quite well."

"..and arrogance such as yours has led to the fall of far greater fortresses than any Sharan you can imagine," Danette said in a cold, icy voice. "I have fought and won more wars at worse odds than anything you may have claimed. I have fought the Shadow for over 300 years, can you say the same? I have stood against armies with minimal troops, survived, and thrown them back. Whatever triumphs you claim I have as many or more. I will accept the oath you gave me and allow your freedom, but only if you promise to follow my direction when it comes to this battle--all aspects of this battle. If you do not agree, you will not see the light of day until you've gray in your hair--or perhaps I should just execute you to keep you from getting in my way."

The last was said in a cold, hard voice that held no emotion, just a simple statement of fact.

"I said I would follow your command. I break no oaths." The words would have sliced a lesser person than Danette to ribbons, such was the tone of Ambrok's voice. He was angry - obviously so. "Now, if you'll release me, I'd like to speak to the Ogier."

Danette knew the young man before her under no circumstances was under her thumb; he reminded her a bit of some others she knew, but couldn't remember, but two faces flashed across her mind an arrogant dark-haired man and an Aiel with a look of stony confidence. This should be interesting--very much so.

"Very well, I shall accept your Oath in the spirit in which it was given," Danette said calmly, "but, know this, should you do something to harm me, my people, or my cause, I will kill you."

With that, she sliced the ropes with a Weave of Air. "As for the Ogier, I will be speaking to him first," she stated flatly. "After I am done, if there is time I will allow you to talk to him. However, I plan to leave very soon after I speak with him and you will be coming with me."

With that, Danette left the room all of her strength and belief in her own self gathered around her in a cloak. Phoenix watched him warily until they left and once the door was shut Danette spoke to the guard. "Ambrok has spoken an Oath to me, he will be allowed to go free, but keep an eye on him, I do not know if I trust him yet."

RogueSavior
11-07-2009, 10:32 PM
Silently, she left the cells and made her way immediately to the rooms that she was informed the Ogier was staying in. The guards jumped as Danette appeared at the door and bowed deeply. She smiled at him and very calmly knocked on the door of the room the Ogier was staying in. This conversation shouldn't take too long hopefully, Danette merely wished to know why the Builder was traveling with a Dark Tower Asha'man in her lands. The guards had told her that the Ogier was unable to speak but she wondered at it, but the Builders had their own way of doing things

The door opened and Danette was momentarily startled by the Ogier's appearance, he was indeed far different from any other Ogier she had seen. He also appeared to be much older than most of the Ogier she had met.

"Kiserai ti wansho," Danette said politely, her amber eyes silently assessing the Ogier, the scars he bore in no way seemed to really mean he couldn't talk. "Can you actually speak and were just following the puppy's lead, or do I need to have writing materials brought? It's been a long time since I spoke with an Ogier."

She smiled though it was somewhat wry, she could not remember talking to an Ogier at all, but knew she had at some point in the past. She also realized she had forgotten to introduce herself.

The Ogier hesitated, then answered "You are a perceptive woman Mistress, I am called Gnarled." enhancing his pronunciation to make it obvious that he did have some speech impediment, even if he was not mute. "You appear to have control over the situation. What are your intentions towards Ambrok?"

"I am called Flame at this point in time," Danette told him. "Currently, the puppy has sworn an Oath that turns him into my puppy for all intents and purposes," Danette didn't see the need to conceal the facts. "We shall see how strongly he holds to it, if he fails in any part of it he will die."

Danette stated it simply, neither to frighten nor enrage just a fact.

"The one that concerns me is the Darkfriend that is currently residing in my dungeon," Danette said calmly. "Arriving with a Darkfriend in this particular territory is akin to being a Darkfriend yourself. Being what you are, you have been granted a benefit of the doubt, but you never know in this day and age who serves the Shadow and who serves the Light. Those in the Towers," there was that derisive twist to the word again, "namely the so-called Tower of Light claim to follow the Light, but even they are in doubt. I also would know how one such as yourself came to be traveling with a spoiled puppy and a Darkfriend."

"Mistress Flame. A fitting enough name, I suppose. There has never been an Ogier who walked in the Shadow. There is an equally old proverb that says one should keep their friends close, but their enemies closer."

Danette smiled slightly. "I have heard and oftentimes used that particular proverb myself. Sometimes it's interesting to see what category the people fall in, sometimes it's not the one you think."

She tilted her head to regard him with steady amber eyes. "Of course as interesting as your answer was, it didn't answer my question. How did you come to be traveling with Ambrok and the Darkfriend? I'm not buying the tale of your being his guardian. Any way the dice fall, the Darkfriend's life is forfeit--those that walk in the Shadow do not depart this land peacably. Your answer on this will likely decide your fate, Ambrok has already chosen his."

Gnarled harrumphed, making a particularly grotesque thrumming of his damaged lips. He glared at the Flame. "Ambrok believes he knows of trouble to the Empress of Seanchan. I, too am... was Seanchan. If the Shadow is involved..." He cracked his large knuckles noisily as he clenched his fists.

"I play at a dangerous game, Mistress Flame. I use the Shadow as they try to use me. The Asha'man was my watcher. If he is to be disposed of at last, I will interrogate him. He WILL tell us anything we want to know."

He arched an eyebrow. "You DO want to know what Frenzy is up to before she finds you, don't you?"

Frenzy...

Danette cast about in the darkness of her mind, searching for an association, but the only thing she came up with was a snippet of one of the reports she had read earlier this day, a snippet that gave the name Frenzy as the one known as the Dark Amyrlin. Her amber eyes narrowed as she considered things.

He had admitted to associations with the Dark Tower, and by Danette's own laws his life would be forfeit, but there was more advantage to be gained by letting him walk than seeing his head on the headsman's block--and Danette had identified a loophole that she may or may not have intentionally placed in the law.

He could be useful.

"By the laws created by my own hand, friend Ogier, what you have just told me now should seal your death warrant," Danette stated quietly and held up a hand to stall any violent reaction the Ogier might have to her statement--if he was from Seanchan it was quite possible he is--or rather was--one of the Gardeners.

She continued quickly, but spoke in the same calm, controlled voice she'd been using the entire interview. "However, if I were to treat everyone who ever stepped into the Dark Tower as a Darkfriend there would be many more lives other than yours considered forfeit," Danette murmured, somewhere deep in her echoing mind, Danette understood the necessity of using what you could to advance a cause, "including my own. In another time, I was called Danette Galliana."

Danette let her old name hover in the air, waiting to see if the Ogier would identify it.

The Ogier shrugged. "Danette? Flame suits you better. Eastland politics are confusing. But I knew you would recognize my unique position."

Danette smiled slightly at his comment--the name Danette Galliana was still hers, but now she was Flame for all intents and purposes, the Ogier showed no recognition for the name of the former Amyrlin of Light. Danette smiled inwardly, it was probably best all things considered. "As for what Frenzy plans, chances are he will know nothing more than what we do," Danette said calmly. "She is careful that one."

The information slipped up somewhere from the depths of her mind. "You may question him if you so wish," Danette stated, though she'd never been one to approve of torture, but information was the key here--information was something she needed and didn't have nearly enough of, if the Asha'man had something even remotely useful that she didn't know now, it would be enough. "It would be appreciated if you used normal methods before resorting to extremes."

"In the first matter, we must learn how the Asha'man came to Travel us to this place. He still thinks we travel together in his Mistress' service. I can convince him to share all he knows with me. He must know his life is forfeit. But he will tell me things he would die protecting from you. It must be done now. The longer he waits, the more convinced he will be that I've been compromised."

"If I could I would trust you completely with this matter," Danette said, "but even were you to foreswear any promises you made, it would still be regarded with much suspicion were you to question him on your own. I do not intend to question your word, friend Ogier, but if you made any promises I cannot be sure of you because an Ogier does not break his word."

Danette looked considering. "Perhaps I could rig an invisibility ward on myself before you go in for questioning, his mind though is likely foggy from the tea we have been feeding him so he may be less likely to notice me. I will neither say or do anything except merely listen, but I have my interests to protect as well."

Use whatever channeling tricks you like. He must believe he is alone with me. Twenty minutes will do. If he hasn't revealed all he knows by then, I will use forceful methods." He grinned, a horrible rictus that crossed his face.

"I will say things that make you angry. It is to prod him. DO NOT REACT." His voice boomed, causing a startled silence to settle over the room and nearby hallway.

Gnarled gestured to the door...

Danette left the room first and murmured some orders to the guards and then sent Phoenix on her way. "Thank you very much for your help today, Phoenix," she told the girl gently. "Go grab some breakfast and rest for a little while, I do not believe I am in danger currently--and if danger does comes..."

A wolfish smile crossed Danette's face. "If danger does come, I'll handle it on my own."

Phoenix nodded and left and Danette silently waited for the Ogier to come out, when he did the soldiers would form up around him and lead him to the dungeon where the darkfriend was being held. As soon as they were on their way and almost to the dungeons, Danette would place herself behind a "screen" of sorts that would conceal her. She warned the soldiers in advance just in case, and then waited.

Danette trailed the Ogier, allowing him to storm into the Darkfriend’s cell before her.

"Santomere. What in the Pit of Doom happened? You were supposed to bring us to Cairhien. Do you know where we are?"

Danette had used the Ogier's huge frame to conceal herself--it was very easy, and for once in her life Danette didn't mind being as small as she was. A rueful smile curved her lips, but she remained silent, wondering what kind of revelations she would get by listening in on the conversation--and wondering if she would still be able to spare the Ogier after those revelations.

She hoped it would be so.

Silently, she settled back to listen.

Danette had expanded her patience quite a bit over the course of her lifetime, but that was by no means enough to cover this. Silence had dwelt in the cell too long and she was all for hanging the Darkfriend now so she could get on with things, but, with effort, she controlled her immediate reaction and waited impatiently for something to happen.

If it wasn't soon, the Darkfriend was going to die...

The Darkfriend looked up at the Ogier. "Have they released you?" His eyes accused.

"They might," Gnarled grumbled, "if I can prove I'm no Darkfriend." He shrugged. "This Danette means to keep her existence a secret from everyone, including our Mistress. Who is she, Santomere?"

Santomere looked about the room. "They could be listening you fool. Best not to speak." He turned his back to Gnarled.

"OH I'M A FOOL?" Gnarled roared. "YOU brought us to this mudhole. Is this some plot you've snared me in? Does she want me to do something? Or are you just incompetent?"

Santomere glared at Gnarled. His mouth curved in an odd smile, the first like it Gnarled had ever seen grace his face. "I am quite competent, Ogier. I have many Talents. If an Ogier had the same he might see the Web that has brought him here."

Gnarled frowned. "They won't let you live, and I can't help you escape," Gnarled said.

“So what will you do then Ogier? Turn your back on us already? Two days of service? Is that all your pledge is worth?" He spat at the Ogier's face but it fell short and dropped to the ground.

Now, Gnarled grinned, taking special care to contort his features in the most hideous way possible. "Now?" He answered. "Now I find out what Frenzy plans."

Gnarled began with a punch to Santomere's head that sent him crashing into the opposite wall. He lifted Santomere by the head, one huge hand cupping his skull. "YYYYYYYARGH!" Gnarled roared as he swung the Channeler around and hurled him at another wall.

The interrogation took several hours. Gnarled screamed at Santomere, and Santomere screamed as well, if for different reasons. Santomere was remarkably strong-willed, probably because he knew his death was imminent. He obviously held some things back, but even so, he told Gnarled many things about his Mistress and Danette, whether she knew of the Flame's existence, about other Shadow Leaders and the Towers, and of the Dark Amyrlin's plans for Gnarled.

ooc: Frenzy can detail any info Santomere has coughed up about Gnarled or Danette or Ambrok here.

When it was done, it would have been difficult to say whether Santomere or the scant furniture occupying the cell was in more pieces. Gnarled knelt beside him and pressed his ear to what was left of the man's face to hear his last whispered words, so faint, even Ogier hearing had trouble discerning them inches away from his throat.

"Amm....auk..." Ambrok. Gnarled raised a fist and shrieked "YOOOOOU BASTAAAAARD!!!" His fist descended again and again until the stone floor beneath cracked just as Santomere's skull had.

Finally he stood up, wiped Santomere's brains on his tunic and kicked the door off its hinges. He stalked out without a word for Danette.

Danette quietly left the cell, keeping her dress out of the spattered blood as much as possible and dropped the weave that kept her concealed and considered what she heard. She stopped and spoke to the guards, requesting that they do a thorough cleaning of the cell and dispose of the body, there wouldn't be a Darkfriend execution today.

The Ogier hadn't so much glanced her way and Danette considered her course of action and then caught one of the one of the soldiers in the hall. "If the Ogier wishes to leave allow him to go, but make sure anything that could cause trouble is hidden from his eyes," Danette said. "I don't care if Frenzy knows about a half-built city here, but she needn't know specifics about the city."

"Is he a Darkfriend?" the soldier asked, looking after the Ogier suspiciously.

"I think he is not a Darkfriend, merely one desperate to find or do something and willing to go to whatever lengths he has to in order to do it," Danette replied. "I cannot agree with entering an alliance with the Shadow to do it, but we do as we must at the time it happens."

"What about you, my lady?" the guard asked. "He could deliver word back to the Towers..."

"Word is going to reach the Towers any way we look at it whether by the mouth of the Ogier or by the mouth of John Snow and Calliste, they saw me while I journeyed," Danette said quietly. "I wasn't planning on hiding forever, this is just a little sooner than I hoped."

At least she figured it was, Danette admitted to herself, it seemed like the right thing to say.

"We could just--" the guard left it hanging.

Danette shook her head fiercely. "No," she said forcefully, "the Ogier himself hasn't done anything wrong and if we hang him or execute him just on circumstantial things we'll be no better than the Children of Light and we are not the Children of Light."

The guard nodded, his face paling slightly at her tone of voice and Danette swept out of the dungeons. She walked up to her room and changed into a pair of black breeches with a white shirt and a black coat with small bits of scarlet and gold embroidery. She checked her bags, which had already been packed and then slung them over her shoulder.

She walked through the halls and noticed the looks on the people's faces as she passed and quietly spoke to them assuring them that she was merely going out to further their cause and giving them words of encouragement. Finally, she reached Kyra's office.

Inside the taller woman was going over a sheaf of reports and she glanced up immediately as soon as Danette entered. "You're leaving already?" she asked.

Danette nodded. "I have to find answers, Kyra," she said quietly.

"I've sent summons to Kyohaku, she is a Healer well versed in injuries of the mind, she could help you I am sure," Kyra said.

"I don't know that she could," Danette said quietly, "this Kyohaku, however, may be able to help Amber."

"So you're going to leave without being treated?" Kyra frowned.

"You said yourself, I'm as healthy as I can be, I just have a lot of blank spots in my memory," Danette said, "I have to go to the Threefold Land, something's pulling me there. When I leave there I'll let you know where I am going. Meanwhile send some of the Shukuchoku to Cairhien, I aim to see that city taken out of the Shadow as soon as I can. The Ogier that is here now, I have given orders for him to be able to leave as he sees fit, I don't know how well you can keep him from finding out specifics about our home here, but I'd like him to find out as little as possible. I don't care if Frenzy finds out about the city, but I do care that we keep our people safe. If worse comes to worst scatter them into the forest, cities can be rebuilt lives cannot be replaced."

"Do you seriously see that much trouble coming?" Kyra asked her soberly.

"I don't know what I see," Danette said, "I'm operating on an instinctual level and am preparing for the worst, get word to the villages as well. For all I know, the Towers will declare me renegade and come down here like an avalanche, or they'll keep my reappearance quiet and send assassins. Although with the troubles that are brewing right now, I am not sure if they'll bother with us yet."


"As you requested, every man, woman, and child in the city that can be has been trained to fight, they will not find us easy taking no matter who they send after us," Kyra pointed out.

"I have no doubt they'd defend it to the last, but I don't want to lose more lives Kyra," Danette said, "there's a war coming and we're going to need everybody. We have to be prepared, both Chaos and Shadow are threats and we have to be ready to face it."

"And Towers?" Kyra frowned.

"We'll leave them alone for now," Danette said. "I do not know if they will give us the same courtesy, but I have no intention on moving on Towers, it could prove the strengthening that they need to continue this ridiculous truce. I will not give them an excuse to band tighter together."

"As you command," Kyra sighed. "We will continue to train and await your return."

Danette nodded grimly. "Remember if they come, disperse, we'll rebuild again later. Send word to Ven d'Vere, Ambrok, and Dycin that I will be leaving soon."

Kyra nodded and Danette left, making her way to the stables. She'd already left orders with the kitchens to put supplies in the stables for their journey.

RogueSavior
11-07-2009, 10:34 PM
Danette arrived at the stables and was led to a hardy-looking gelding that wouldn't win any contests for looks, but she was assured that he was one of the most suited to the journey ahead. The stableman saddled her horse for her and while he did, she talked to him quietly putting some of his fears to rest. When he was finished, he bowed to her deeply. "I trust in the Flame and as long as she trusts in the Light, so will I," he said quietly and departed.

Danette considered whether or not she should be disturbed by that comment, for she had heard it multiple times since she arrived and many of the people she had talked to had said almost the same thing. Idly, she wondered if she declared for the Shadow instead if they would follow her into it, not that she would do any such thing, the very idea made her skin crawl.

She led the horse, called Flyer, out of the stable and walked him around the yard a little bit. Hopefully, the others would come soon, she was impatient to be moving again.

Danette stared towards the Threefold Land and she half-hoped that either Ven or Dycin knew enough of the Threefold Land to Gate or Skim them there. There was much to do and not much of a window to do it in, Danette had no idea when word of her presence would reach the Towers and how much of a window that would bring her before they acted on it.

Ven D'Vere had been told to change out of his Ashaman garb, then to meet the Flame at the stableyards...

Now, wearing plain clothes and a hooded cloak, Ven walked to the stables, seeing Danette Sedai there, readying her horse for a long journey.

"Danette Sedai", Ven bowed to her formally. "If I am to journey with you, may I please ask a favor? I lost my ashandarei in the battle from which you rescued me. May I be allowed to take a quarter-staff?" He paused, then added, "Where are we going anyway?"

"You can talk with the Captain of the Guard, he'll be happy to let you have a weapon, just tell him I said you could," Danette said, distracted. . "I hope you're okay with heat, our next stop is going to be the Threefold Land, there is something there I need to take care of."

I was in the Aiel Waste once,” Ven D'Vere nodded. "I'm familiar with the heat there. If you'll excuse me, I'll go find the Captain of the Guard now. I'll be back as soon as possible."

Ambrok walked up next, a strangely weighted sword on his hip, lance in his sword hand, and a breastplate in his other hand. A young girl, Rowan, obviously smitten with the young man, followed in his wake. Danette suppressed a smile as much at the girl as at the walking oven as he quickly slipped it over his head and belted it secure around his chest.

"I'm sorry I'm late. I stopped to pick up a few things. If you'll excuse me, I need to ready Kelriq." Ambrok made his way to his horse, and quickly prepared the stallion for travel. He saddled the horse, and placed the lance through a loop intended for that very purpose.

"You're not late," Danette told him calmly, checking the straps and bags on her horse once more. "This is Ven d'Vere, Asha'man of the Blue from the Tower of Light. Your--traveling companion--Santomere will not be joining anyone ever again unless he's reborn soon. Ven, this is Ambrok Chiquel, he'll be joining us for now as well."

She glanced towards another direction. "Now if that blasted Warder of mine would show up we can get moving--if he's not here in less than three minutes I am going to leave without him and he can catch up later."

Suddenly she giggled to herself. "Light, Logain and Gaul would have a fit if I ever said that about them..."

For a moment she looked confused at why the words came out of her mouth, but then somewhere in the back of her mind she heard two voices letting her know in no uncertain terms the consequences of her riding off into trouble again by herself would cause.

A tear welled up and slipped down her cheek and she quickly brushed it away, looking with some curiosity her glistening fingertips. "That's strange I don't cry..."

Gnarled stepped into the small assembly of men surrounding the Flame.

"Did you plan to let me WALK out of here? I brought Ambrok this far. With my Traveler dead, he owes me some transportation. Among other things." He idly scrubbed at a dried piece of Santomere's brain stuck to his tunic.

Slightly Started, but none of it showing on her face, Danette regarded the Ogier. She thought ruefully, maybe they should take a bit longer and let the Ogier bathe, the smells were going to get worse especially once they hit the Threefold Land. Silently, she sighed, if anyone ever said she didn't make sacrifices for the Light, she'd personally balefire them--well, no, not balefire, not ever, unless it was against Shadowspawn.

"Friend Ogier, if you wish to travel with us I have no objections," Danette finally said, "but I can also arrange to have a Gate made to wherever your original destination was, and I guarantee you won't wind up in the wrong place. We are going to be headed to the Threefold Land and from there I cannot say where we'll be next."

Likely Cairhien, my memories are important, but freeing them from the Shadow really should be taken care of first, I am sure I'll be allowed to be selfish just this one time...

"Now where is Dycin?"

***

Dycin sat quietly on the edge of the practice yard. Deep in the void the he flowed easily from form to form, both with a sword and unarmed. There was no void to stop dreams however. Sleeping last night hadn't been easy. He received a fair number of invitations to join with the others, but he refused them. He didn't really trust himself to know exactly where to draw the line at the moment and didn't want risk hurting someone, even with practice swords.

The sun was approaching it's peak when a servant came into the field. He looked around and was about to move away when he spotted Dycin. He quickly came over too him. After a slight bow he said, "The Flame has sent word that she is too be departing soon. She is expecting you at the stables." Hardly the type of thing a servant would say to the Flame's Warder, but he suspected that few in this town knew that. Dycin merely nodded as he rose off the ground and headed off the field.

His long stride propelled him to the room he had been given and gathered up his gear. Not that he had much, as he and Mikara had always travelled light. The void shuddered for a moment at that name. Shuddered violently. It almost collapsed before he was able to feed those emotions into the flame in the center of his mind. On his way out stopped by the kitchens and had them put something together for him to eat. After a moment considering the Bond he also had them put in twice as much food.

Tossing that into his pack he then headed for the stables. He noticed a small knot of people gathered around Danette, two men, one of which Dycin recognized as the Asha'man from the Valley, and an Ogier of all things. The Ogier looked to have recently been through a gorey battle. Ven had picked up a quarterstaff, while the other bore equipment that announced "cavalry" to any that cared to look, although where the blade came from exactly Dycin couldn't tell.

He came up behind Danette leading his horse, ready to go.

***

Danette glanced up even before Dycin actually came into view and a slight frown marring her features for just an instant--Dycin didn't seem to be in the best state of mind. "We're going to the Threefold Land, Dycin," she announced to him. "After that I haven't decided yet. As soon as everything's together, we'll go.

"I shall accompany you. I am in no hurry to meet my other obligations." Gnarled cleared his sinuses loudly and spat on the ground.

Suit yourself, Friend Ogier. Choose a horse if you need one, I believe there are larger horses to the back--"

Gnarled snorted, an obvious substitute for the typical Ogier response to the suggestion - no, he wouldn’t be needing a horse.

She smoothly mounted the horse and then turned to regard her strange traveling party--she really should insist that the Ogier take a bath, but she didn't want to see what would happen if she tried--Power or not, she was sure that the Ogier would be able to break her in half and there was too much left for her to do to risk it for something as little as her sense of smell. She'd just try to stay upwind of him.

"Well, let's go," she said to the group at large, at urged her horse into a walk.

Leaving the keep proper, they went through the half-built city and found the streets oddly deserted, apparently her orders had already gotten through and everyone was staying out of sight until the visitors were gone. Idly, Danette wondered if it would still be standing for her to return to after she was done with what she needed to do.

They passed into the clear area outside the keep and Danette urged her horse into a faster pace, her mind already focusing on the task ahead, if only she could remember something about the Threefold Land, she needed a place to start.

After some time had passed they came to a roped off clearing and Danette pulled the Flyer's reins gently guiding him to a stop. Here she dismounted and looked at them. "Ven, do you remember a place in the Threefold Land well enough to Travel there?"

"I was only there briefly,” Ven D'Vere answered Danette Sedai. "And that was quite a few years ago. But I'll see what I can do..." A Gateway’s telltale line widened into a scene of wasted desolation.

"Where exactly are we going?" Danette asked the Asha'man.

"Cold Rocks Hold," he responded.

Nodding, Danette quickly urged her gelding through the Gateway, momentarily surprised not to see two forms darting into it ahead of her. Gaul...Logain...

She shook her head and quickly forced the sadness back and focused on the task at hand. The sun beat down on her head and as far as she could see there was nothing but sand and rocks. Thoughts idly swam through her mind as she wondered what she would find in the Threefold Land--had she made many enemies there in the time she couldn't remember, or friends--perhaps even a combination of both?

Sighing, she ran her hand through her short red hair and stared over the terrain. She couldn't see them, but she knew that there were several Aiel watching them right now. They would most likely ride about four steps and find themselves surrounded. For some reason, even though she couldn't distinguish the differences in the terrain, Danette felt as if she knew this area almost as well as she knew the idea around Amatsiru and likely the Valley.

***

Ambrok was one of the last through the Gateway, followed only by Van D’Vere himself. In an instant, Ambrok was more uncomfortable than he'd ever been in his life. Even compared to the jungles of Shara, the Aiel Waste was a furnace. Sweat should have poured down his chest, but, as soon as sweat appeared on his brow, or his chest, face, underarms, wherever, it evaporated, leaving only its' salt behind.

"Light... it's so blasted hot..." Ambrok groaned to no one but himself. The skin under his breastplate felt as if it were cooking. That blasted woman hadn't informed them in the slightest they'd be going into the middle of the desert - he spared her a glance, his agony shining through his normally stern visage. He'd even let her Channel on him, if she could make the heat go away!

The glance he’d directed towards her allowed him to notice her insufferable grin, which was nearly enough to make him drop the breastplate to the ground and leave it to melt in the sand.

Once the marath’damane Ven D’Vere’s Gateway disappeared, Ambrok’s hand flew to his sword as a woman wrapped in fabric the color of the desert stood up directly in the path of Danette. Other similarly clad forms rose up in a circle around the small group, but the one directly in front of Danette was the first to speak.

"I see you Danette Galliana," she said formally. "Please accompany us, Amys is waiting for you."

Waiting for her? The Aiel had begun running across the desert before Ambrok could ask them how they knew Galliana was coming. When the rest of the group clearly made to follow them, Ambrok turned his gaze to Gnarled.

“What do you know of these Aiel?” He whispered to the Ogier Gardener, who seemed to know enough about everyone to get by.

Gnarled snorted, in his disgusting manner. Obviously cantankerous in the desert heat, he marched on, not even deigning to fake his role as bodyguard.

The group followed the woman across the desert towards a collection of buttes - or was it merely one eroded into several? What was so special about it? It could have been one of any number in the surrounding area - this must be the Hold they spoke of, or an excellent point from which to launch an ambush. Once again, Ambrok was grateful he’d left the breastplate on.

As they neared the collection of buttes, Ambrok clearly saw two women waiting for them along what was increasingly resembling a road. Both women wore matching dark wool skirts and white algode blouses, and both had a wealth of gold and ivory necklaces and bracelets on. But where a folded scarf held back one’s silvery hair from her aged face, the other’s scarf held back fiery red hair from a beautiful face that was only growing more beautiful as she ages. Their Aiel guide stepped forward. "Roofmistress, I ask leave to come beneath your roof."

"You have my leave, Naeise," The red-haired woman told their lean guide. "Beneath my roof, there is water and shade for you. Far Dareis Mai are always welcome here."

"I give thanks, Roofmistress." Naeise said simply, completing the obvious ceremony. "Wise One, I have brought those whom you said would be here." She said, backing away so the two women could see them clearly.

The older woman gave the group a sharp look. "I see you, Danette Galliana. The Dreaming said you would be here this day, though I would expect manners from a Treekiller first. Why do you come to the Three-fold Land?"

Danette frowned. "If you saw it in a Dream you probably know it better than I, Wise One," Danette responded finally, keeping her tone polite. "The ones that travel with me are Dycin, Ven d'Vere, Asha'man of the Blue, and Ambrok Chiqel."

She introduced them quickly and then turned to the red-haired woman. She bowed to her since her pants made it awkward for her to curtsy. "Roofmistress, I ask leave to come beneath your roof."

Sefela smiled to herself. "Such humility," she murmured. "You have my leave, Danette Galliana. There is ever water and shade in Cold Rocks for the wife of the Car'a'carn.

"You have business with the Wise Ones. Enter my hold and see to your business." She said simply, giving Amys full control of the situation. The white-haired Wise One's face showed no emotion. Both women turned and led the way into the Hold, making their way past men and women dressed similarly to their guides, and men and women dressed in pure white who seemed to be da‘covale, and past children in kilts and short skirts, playing with dolls and hoops and toy spears. The Roofmistress' roof was a grand structure deep within the Hold, and when they entered the pillows were already arranged, and Gai'shain brought in silver trays with hammered cups of wine and water to share. The elder Wise One took her place in the circle atop a richly brocaded pillow and pinned Danette with a look, waiting for her to speak.

Danette her hand into the bag she carried and produced a delicately crafted crystal bird wrapped is soft green silk and offered it to the Roofmistress. Sefela took the proffered gift and inspected it with a shrewd eye.

"Exquisite." She said simply, then she turned to Dycin, Ambrok and Ven, and in a friendly but firm voice told them, "This is Wise One's business. Come. You are guests beneath my roof. We will drink water and wine, and share tales of the places we've been and the things we've seen." She turned and strode deeper into the Roof, her bracelets clacking softly as she walked, fully expecting the men to follow her back.

Seeing Dycin and Ven quickly follow the woman, Ambrok, too followed her out back into the Hold. "Come. I will show you Cold Rocks Hold while Danette Galliana and the Wise One speakHave any of you ever been to the Three-fold Land?" She asks as she walks.

Women dressed similarly to Sefela carried water alongside the Aiel da’covale, though the latter did not join in the chatter and laughter that seemed infectious in the Hold. Outside a dwelling nearby, several women laugh with each other, clearly using a secret language spoken with the hands. One, who he quickly recognizes as their guide, nodded a greeting at Sefela.

Remembering something the Sharans had told him, Ambrok turned to the Roofmistress. "Is it true what they say of these Maidens? Are they really so fierce your men refuse to fight them? They're still women, after all." His voice trailed off as he finished his questions under the watchful gaze of the Maidens of the Spear.

Most of the Maidens stopped what they were doing and fixed Ambrok with cool stares. Sefela kept a very straight face. "Why don't you ask them yourself, Ambrok Chiquel. What have you to fear, they're just women after all."

Something in her tone made Ambrok blush with shame. He strongly suspected this wasn't going to end well. He turned towards the Maidens, and stepped back, shocked at the presence of Naeise, maybe a foot from his face.

"Excuse me, Ambrok Chiqel, but my spear sisters and I were wondering if you were man enough to play a game with us mere women?"

Ambrok gulped. A game? That doesn't sound so bad... "I'd... love to play." Ambrok said, sparing a quick glance at the Roofmistress. Sefela's face was even, but her eyes twinkled with mirth.

Ambrok followed the Maiden over to her ‘spear sisters‘. When he was surrounded, two of the maidens pulled the buckles of his breastplate apart, and it fell to the ground, exposing his sweat-stained tunic. He felt the first spear prick the back of his neck, but before he could turn, he was surrounded by a ring of spears, each exactly an inch from his neck.

Panicking, he looked over to Dycin and Ven, who each wore laughing smiles on their faces. He felt a hand on his cheek, and his face was pushed back towards Naeise. Her head cocked to the side, "Have you heard of Maiden's Kiss, Ambrok Chiqel?"

He hadn't, but before he could shake his head, Naeise's lips clamped on to his in a fierce embrace. Shocked, Ambrok was unable to return the kiss. When she broke contact, Naeise frowned, and pressed her spear against his throat. A little more push, and she drew blood. “Was that your first time kissing a woman, Ambrok Chiqel?”

A pull on his right shoulder spun him around to face another Maiden, who took his head in her hands and pulled their faces together. Ambrok was able to return the kiss, but it was a poor, clumsy effort, and he was rewarded by her, too, pulling a drop of blood from his neck with the point of her spear.

On his third attempt, the Maiden pulled away with a smile, and the Maidens spun him around more quickly, eager, it seemed, to bleed him to death for failing them. Ambrok was only too happy to comply, but after a few minutes, the circle of women fell away, laughing to each other as their hands flickered back and forth.

Ambrok took a deep breath, and grabbed his breastplate from the ground, and walked sheepishly back over to his companions and the roofmistress. He didn't meet their eyes, for the first time feeling he had lost sei’taer.

Ven D'Vere shook his head. "It's plain you don't know all that much about the Maidens of the Spear, they're every bit as good as the other warrior societies"

Ven turned to Sefela, "To answer your question, I was here, very briefly, a few years ago, Roofmistress.”

"Tell me of the Car'a'carn and the Flame Danette," Gnarled ordered bluntly, and Ambrok couldn‘t help but share the Gardener‘s curiosity. "I have been long from the World of Men. I need to know what has happened these last years."

"The Car'a'carn and Flame met while she was in training here with the Wise Ones, as was the tradition then. When she became Aes Sedai the Car'a'carn became her Warder and they left the Threefold Land for a long time," Sefela replied. "They returned to us some time ago and were married."

The silence that followed in the finality of Sefela’s tone was broken only by Danette’s laughter as she approached.

RogueSavior
11-07-2009, 11:45 PM
Amys watched their retreating backs, then turned her gaze back to Danette. "You have not answered my question, Danette Galliana. What is it you seek here in the Three-fold Land?"

"A Dream told me I might find answers here," Danette responded quietly. "I'm not sure what your Dreams have told you, Wise One, but my dreams are a jumbled mess I can't even begin to put in order. I have vague recollections every now and then that fade away. I remember names of people I don't remember meeting, see faces in my mind I can't put names to, or hear names and feel emotions I don't understand," she glanced at Amys, her voice quiet and strong as she continued. "I have notions of whether I can trust someone or not, but I don't know why. I can probably tell you the plans of Amatsiru, but I don't recall ever working on them. It's like I know everything I've done, but I don't remember actually doing it. My memories are there, but they're not. Then, there are things I don't even have vague recollections of--like being Amyrlin of Light or disappearing from Amatsiru before cementing an alliance with Tar Valon. Something or someone has deprived me of my memories and I want them back."

Her eyes glittered dangerously and her hands flexed as if feeling the neck of the person between them. Despair had long since passed to be replaced by anger and grim determination.

Amys laid a comforting hand on Danette's shoulder. "The Dreaming tells me what you seek is not here in the Three-fold Land, Danette." Amys said sadly. "If Gaul were here, I'm sure he could he help you regain what was taken from you. But he is not here, and I don't know where he is." Amys sounded irritated by that, her ivory bracelets clattering sharply as she adjusts her shawl.

"The Dreaming says you will hear news that will draw you to a distant land. Perhaps that news is what you seek. Or it could be a trap. The Dreaming is obscure."

Danette wanted to sigh, but chose not to. "Then my search continues, I should know by now the path is never easy," she said. "It never was. I have most like steered many people onto different paths by my actions, and, undoubtedly, I shall continue to do so in the future."

Danette smiled bravely. "I have a feeling we've had some disputes in the past over the paths I have chosen to take and those that followed, but it is my hope that I wasn't always a disappointment to you, Wise One."

"All children grow up eventually." Amys said with a ghost of a smile. "Go to that distant land, Danette. If what you seek is not there, then find Gaul. Listen with your heart, and you will find him. You may not be ready to face him as you are now, but to make him wait longer deepens your toh." Amys said pointedly. "Although he has been without you so long he may ingore it, insulting you so much he may be foreced to take you gai'shain to keep his skin." Amys chuckled. Aiel humor was like that.

Danette ran her hand through her short hair and looked distantly at the wall for a moment before looking at Amys again. "Thank you for your guidance, Wise One, it is deeply appreciated."

Amys gracefully unfolded herself from the floor, adjusting her shawl as she rose. "Come. Let us find your companions. That young one looked foolish enough to ask the Maidens to play Maiden's Kiss, and you may need him still."

Danette's eyes widened slightly as she remembered what the game was and then she laughed softly. "Now that would be a sight to see."

She followed Amys and they found the others, but not before she heard the Maidens of the Spear laughing over teaching the wetlander how to play. She glanced at Ambrok and smiled mischievously. "Lovely marks, dear, you really should learn to pick your games with more care," she said, strolling up.

“Danette Sedai," Ven D'vere spoke. "Do we stay here for a while? Or do we go elsewhere?"

"We will stay here for the night, tomorrow morning we will be leaving," Danette stated. "There's something else that needs to be taken care of. And, Ambrok, do me a favor, no more trying to best the Maidens--you'll lose every, single time, I guarantee." A flash of hand talk, and the Maidens of the Spear erupted in laughter.

Ambrok blushed again, then made a show of dangling his breastplate on his horse, taking care to ensure the metal would not slip off and touch his proud stallion’s flesh. Awash in previously trapped sweat, he turned back to Danette, "So we leave tomorrow. What shall we do until then?"

Danette looked at him in some surprise, even though she was sure he didn't mean too there was a hint of indignation in his voice and a smile flickered across her face only for an instant before she actually responded. "First we eat, then we sleep," she said, speaking as one would tell a person that the sky was blue or the Waste rocky.

***

Danette awakened early the next morning and silently prepared for the journey ahead. She changed into a dark brown coat and pants with a shirt of a lighter brown. She put her boots on and quickly brushed her hair and scrubbed her teeth before leaving the room she had kindly been allowed to use. A word with one of the gai'shain sent them after the other members of her party and she rather hoped Gnarled had at least changed clothes if not taken some form of a bath.

She sat on the floor in front of one of the tables and accepted the breakfast that she was given with a smile and grabbed a bit of bread before pushing the plate slightly aside to spread out her map and look it over. Her Dreams last night had shown her many things, but unfortunately none of them were in relation to her current dilema.

However, she had learned one thing.

Her current problem was going to have to wait, the shadow looming over Cairhien was a lot bigger than she had originally thought and if something wasn't done--she had dreamt of Aiel spears breaking through the walls of Cairhien and the city laid to waste with no hope of rising again. She couldn't allow something like that on many levels.

Not to mention, Cairhien may make a valuable ally in the battles to come.

She traced a path to the Spine of the World and considered briefly, surely someone had been to one of the border cities at some point and could gate them there. If not, it was going to be an unpleasant ride back over the Spine. Looking up, she saw Gnarled approaching, and be intercepted by a group of Cor Darei who looked as if they might veil themselves at any moment. She pointed them out to the Ogier, who had apparently not noticed them.

"Not to worry, Flame. A small matter of Ji'e'Toh. Don't trouble yourself." He stalked over to where their leader stood alongside a bruised man with an arm in a sling.

"You have Toh, Ogier," their leader snarled.

"No, YOU have Toh," Gnarled snarled back, "Your little Night Spear brothers sought to take advantage of me while I was drunk on oosquai. Is this how Taardad share water and drink with guests? Six men set upon one? How much honour is that worth?" He spat on the ground, an insult meant to enrage which worked to great effect.

"See how he mocks us, Dealde? The gift of water, wasted!" The broken-armed man's face turned deep crimson.

"You can lick it up off the sand if you want it so bad, Fennec," Gnarled said, dismissing him and addressing Dealde once again. "If I understand right, the men I beat last night are gai'shain now," Gnarled began.

Dealde's face coloured now. "It does not work so with Wetlanders," he began, but once again Gnarled cut him off.

"Does Amys need to be asked how your honor stands, Dealde? Do Night Spears lack the courage to meet their obligations?"

Cor Darei keeps its own honour!"

"Then tell your boys that I will allow one of them to stand for the lot, and meet their obligations to me for the insult, and for letting an unarmed foe take their spears. I will choose which one, if they have the courage to stand before me. The rest can have their weapons back." Dealde flinched at that. Fennec and the others had left that detail out, apparently.

Dealde made a flick of his wrist that brought the Night Spears in a circle about him, and they conferred briefly, with Dealde doing much shouting, before the six assailants stood before him in a line.

Ambrok walked up, coming from behind the Aiel, extricating himself from Naeise with a final kiss. The sight of him apparently reminded him of the increasingly blatant charade they had fostered, and he continued on.

"Master Ambrok, these men wish to help. Why don't you pick one to assist me? Don't stare like an idiot, just pick one, and be quick!" Ambrok stood next to the much taller Ogier before picking a particularly angry-looking Night Spear and then continuing to where a gai’shain held his horse.

"Dealde, your men will find their weapons in a hollow under a large flat stone near that spire. I haven't told anyone about what happened last night, so far as anyone else knows, your honour is intact. Find water and shade." With those words, Gnarled walked back towards Danette, his new Night Spear in tow. "This man wishes to follow me and help us. I trust that will not inconvenience you. I lost my last helper in your village if you recall."

Ven D’Vere, who had nearly gotten ran over by the Night Spears as they stormed off, came up to Danette, clearly noticing the remaining Aielman trailing in the Ogier’s wake. “I hope you can get those two corralled before they get all the Aiel angry at us," he said to her. "They look just about ready to raise veils now..."

Danette groaned inwardly, just what she needed on top of everything else, but outwardly her appearance was as calm and unruffled as ever. I do not even want to think about the toh I may have just incurred for bringing the Ogier here, and we just got back on good speaking terms... she thought to herself. I'll have to check with Amys if I owe toh to her or the society for this. I have no wish to have a dispute with the Aiel over a matter like this.

"I offered you a replacement for the one you lost as well, Gnarled," Danette said coolly, "but you refused. I will leave it to the Wise Ones to decide who owes the greater toh--me for bringing you under their roof, you for your needling of the Aiel which I have no doubt you did, or them for attacking you six on one."

She rose from her seat and moved forward to confront the Ogier--the sight surely looked ridiculous a human of no more than five feet confronting an Ogier almost twice her height. "However, you and I will be having a very long discussion," she added icily, her amber eyes glinting with fire.

"I am sure Dealde would rather Amys and the Wise Ones never learned the details of this. He surely won't be the one to bring it up, or he'll lose face. I lived 300 years in a society that lives on honor, Flame. Everyone will be happier if we all just act like it never happened and this Night Spear and I have become fast friends."

"It wasn't that we are going to discuss, but that particular discussion will wait until later," Danette stated flatly, "I will leave it up to them to decide what they want to do. Now, for those who are wondering, we are leaving today. We will be heading back over the Spine towards Cairhien. Ven, have you been to one of the bordertowns or at least somewhere near Jangai Pass? Time isn't waiting for us and there is stuff that needs to be taken care of."

She didn't say what, not sure what the Aiel would do if they knew she had plans to go break up the Shadow around Cairhien before they could wash their spears in Treekiller blood.

"I did go to Cairhien some years ago, Danette Sedai, “Ven D'Vere said, "I can take us near Cairhien."

"I don't want to go all the way to Caihien just yet," Danette told Ven quietly, "I just want to go to the border, there are things I need to do before we get there, not to mention, I don't fancy going into a situation blinded, how about you?"

Idly, she cast about the Bond trying to find Dycin, hoping maybe her Warder had been somewhere closer to where she wanted to go.

"I have been to Jangai Pass, Wise One." The Aiel said. Gnarled barked a laugh. "I am Buahle, a Night Spear. I can describe a safe place overlooking the pass that I have used when hunting... If your man can use that description to travel there, I will accompany you. The Ogier may not follow ji'e'toh, but I carry Cor Darei's honor, and will aid him as I may."

Danette nodded sharply. "Then let's finish getting things together and let's go. There is much to be done."

With that, she turned on her heel and marched back to the table to pour over the map once more before folding it up and putting it in her travel bag.


After a few last minute preparations, Danette was finally ready to go and she gestured for her companions to go out ahead of her. She turned to Amys and murmured. "May you have water and shade."

After the round of good-byes, Danette followed and they went through the hold and back out into the pounding sun of the desert. "Let's move over that way a bit before we try and go anywhere," Danette suggested, pointing and then suiting her words led her horse over to the area she pointed out.

She turned to the Aiel that now accompanied them and prompted. "Please describe Jangai Pass in detail."

She listened intently to the description and then opened up the Skimming gateway and stepped onto the crystalline platform, waiting patiently for everyone to get on and once they were all on, she set it moving smoothly into the darkness.

They finally arrived at their destination and stepped foot onto the rocky path leading up through the Jangai Pass. She looked at the sky and then the pass and nodded as if in confirmation to herself and swung gracefully into the saddle.

"Well, let's get moving." Ven, Dycin, Ambrok, and Danette swung into their saddles. Ven D’Vere rode at her left, her oddly silent Warder to her right.

"Danette Sedai," he said. "Where are we going now? Did you find anything you needed?"

She smiled wryly at his question. "About the only thing I found is more questions, but that is going to have to wait for now. Cairhien is our next goal, but I don't want to simply Gate there, I need to gather allies and hope that we can liberate it before the Aiel move. If the Aiel move on Cairhien there will be no one left but ghosts to walk the streets--and I will not, cannot let that happen."

"So... Danette Sedai," he asked. "Just where do you think you're going to find allies to help you?"

Ambrok, obviously more comfortable after leaving the searing heat of the Waste, attempted to field the question for Danette, "Few people would live under Shadow, even the most loyal defect from the Dark One's fools. I wouldn't worry, Ven d’Vere. Allies should find us soon enough."

Danette smiled at his question. "Do you think I am without allies, Ven d'Vere?" she inquired. "There are many who do not trust the so-called 'truce' with the Shadow. There is a reason I chose to come here to Jangai Pass instead of going directly to either Amatsiru or Cairhien."

They rode on in peace for a while, each in their own thoughts. Gnarled and his pet Aiel glared and muttered at each other, but otherwise the party was strangely civil.

A rock tumbled down the slope, and Danette immediately reined her horse in, her amber eyes flying towards the source of the sound. "Ambush!" she exclaimed, but only the first syllable was out of her mouth before their attackers fell among them.

RogueSavior
11-09-2009, 04:54 PM
Ambrok whirled Kelriq at Danette's words, and found himself smack in the middle of legends. Trollocs swarmed from the hills, led by several Halfmen, and accompanied by humans nearly equal to their number. He drew his sword, and met the charge with Kelriq, sword biting into man and trolloc alike, and warhorse kicking any man that came into his range.

Ambrok kept the horse spinning in place, minimizing the likelihood he would be pulled down from the side, but also turning Kelriq into half a ton of whirling, stomping, kicking, and biting angry horse. Trollocs and their darkfriend allies attempted to swarm the horse, but Ambrok’s saber removed any limbs which got past Kelriq and tried to grab him.

Lightning hammered the earth around him, obviously the work of the marath’damane, for none of it came close to touching Ambrok. In other spots, the earth itself exploded, sending bits of shadowspawn spraying into the air to fall in a rain of gore. A trolloc reached up with a loop, attempting to drag him from the saddle. Ambrok sliced the loop and turned Kelriq, and the warhorse drilled the goat-faced creature with a kick that sent him barreling directly into a lightning bolt’s path.

A quick glance around showed Danette and Dycin fighting back to back, their horses long since pulled from beneath them. Ven stood alone, quarterstaff whirling even as lightning fell around him, sending his enemies flying. Gnarled and his Cor Darei fought on their own islands, Gnarled grabbing a Trolloc and flinging him past him into his fellows with a twist of his hips.

Kelriq reared, and leapt towards Ven, Ambrok’s sabre taking the head of a Trolloc preparing to tackle Ven d’Vere from behind - the marath’damane had so far proved a likable fellow, and his Power was truly invaluable, at least as powerful as most of the damane he’d worked beside. Only careful horsemanship kept Kelriq from running over Ven anyway.

The adrenaline a battle brought was coursing through his veins, even though he strained to see through the dust. As he spurred Kelriq towards where he’d last seen Danette and Dycin, he hollered the battle cry of the Ever Victorious Army of the Empress, “Ever Victorious!”

His sabre was a blur, cutting into trollocs and men alike on both sides of Kelriq’s trampled path of broken shadowsworn bodies. Ahead, he saw a knot of Halfmen turn to face him, and brought Kelriq to bear, quickly reminded of what had happened a few days ago when he’d faced just one of the eyeless shadowspawn. Fireballs flew past him, shredding the Halfmen moments before Ven D’Vere ran past him to fill the gap his roasting of the Myrdaal had created.

Ambrok looked around the battle, to see that the enemy was quickly scattering under the vicious counterattack of his reluctant comrades. But there, on a hill, a Friend of the Dark raised a crossbow, leveling it at Danette’s turned back. Ambrok spurred Kelriq to get him to run the man down, but a nasty twist of fate made the proud stallion stumble in the wreckage of a Power-wrought crater. The well trained-horse tossed Ambrok over his head, even as Ambrok heard the unmistakable twang of the crossbow bolt being launched.

Mere moments later, Ambrok’s arc was interrupted when the bolt thudded into and shattered his shoulder blade. The force of the bolt flipped him around like a rag doll. Landing hard on his shoulders, Ambrok felt the crossbow bolt punch deeper into his back. The edge of his vision became red, but he couldn't stay on the ground. He struggled to his feet, and slumped himself into his saddle. Kelriq carried him off, every motion jarring the crossbow bolt in his back. Light, but it hurt. He fell from the saddle a short way away from the fight, and lay where he fell.

***

Danette heard the twang of the crossbow bolt and whirled just in time to see it punch through Ambrok's armor and she swore softly. She created a small firestorm of Fire and Air that seared through everything that appeared in front of her in an effort to reach the young man.

Weaving what she could she set up a Air shield around them, leaving a hole in the top for air circulation as she was unsure what kind of care she'd be able to give. "You idiot," she growled at him, not caring if he heard or not. "Pay more attention to the things around you and you don't get hurt as badly. Light save me from woolheads who think they can play hero, only two people have ever managed to reach that status in my book and one of them is dead and Light knows where the other is..."

Even as she was lecturing him she was carefully examining the injury and came to the conclusion there was absolutely nothing she could do--not that it surprised her, it never bothered her about her lack of Healing ability until times like this. I wonder if Healing would have helped Logain... the thought swam into her mind and she pushed it aside as pain sliced through her. Gaul...Logain...I could really use a hero right now...

Angrily she shoved the thought aside, cursing the names and wondering why they hurt so much. She glanced out of the shield which was being thoroughly tested by several Trollocs and knew there was too many left to distract Dycin from the battle in order to try and take care of the young man. "There's no help for it, something tells me you've got something you need to do and I can't let you die," she growled and reached out her hands. "You're going to hate me when you wake up and realize what I've done, but there is nothing left I can do for now. You picked a bad time to get hurt, boy."

Reluctantly she pieced together the Weave and laid it on him, not really paying attention to what was happening around her and abruptly she became aware of the youngster in the back of her mind and felt the burning pain of the bolt lodged in him. "Hang in there," she told him, "if you die now, I'll have you brought to life so I can kill you myself, losing one Warder is more than enough for me."

With that she rose and staggered slightly, but shoved aside the tiredness and opened up a piece of the shield and came out swinging, the enemy was almost ready to break she could tell and she hoped they'd break and run soon, the Warder bond could only keep the boy alive for so long.

She rewove the shield to keep the kid safe and then re-entered the fray, the One Power coursing through her. Dycin was a whirlwind of death, sword slicing through enemies as if with reckless abandon. Gnarled swung an enormous black blade, obviously taken from a Fade’s dead hand, as his Aiel truly danced among his enemies.

In her mind, she pleaded at their assailants. Break soon, please...

***

Ambrok felt the hands touch his face, moments before he felt... something... settle into him. He gasped, the pain in his back seeming to spread in a flash across his whole body. And then he was aware, aware in a way he hadn't been before, as if he'd been half asleep the first 20 years of his life. He gasped, the crossbow bolt in his shoulder nudged by the motion in his shoulders. He felt other wounds, as well, thin lines of cuts where he'd been knicked by blades before, along his arms, and legs, cuts which would heal on their own, but he felt them.

And he now shared his head, it seemed, with Danette. He couldn't see her, but it felt as if, if he turned, he could point directly to her. She was a knot of concentration at the back of his conciousness, but he sense touches of other things, as well. What felt like worry, sadness, many things. Were all women so full of emotional?!

Ambrok reached back, and found he could grab the crossbow bolt, but touching it sent jolts of pain through his body. He raised himself to one knee, in time to see Ven whirl his quarterstaff, smashing the head of the final trolloc in, the sturdy staff splitting lengthwise from the force of the blow. His good hand on the ground, Ambrok attempted to rise.

"Stay there, Ambrok. I'm coming..." Ven D'Vere glanced at the ruined quarterstaff, tossed it to one side, and made his way over to the injured man.

"I can heal," Ven said, kneeling at Ambrok's side. "But we'll have to pull that bolt out first.

Danette had made her way over, and stood besides Ven, looking down at him. "Will he survive if we take him back to Amatsiru for Kyra to take care of instead?" she asked, "Unfortunately for the youngster, he just became a Warder and I'd rather not take unnecessary chances. I have no desire to lose a second Warder--the first was harsh enough." She took a quick glance across the battlefield, as if ensuring the enemy had truly broken.

"You made him a Warder?" Ven D'Vere paused for a moment, obviously in shock.

"Yes," Ven spoke again. "I can Heal the wound, if someone pulls the bolt out first. A return to your base would be a good idea. Ambrok will need lots of good food, and at least twelve hours uninterrupted sleep, after which, he should be well as rainwater. Do I have your permission to Heal him?"

Danette glanced up at the Asha'man's shocked tone and then turned away. "Would you rather I have let him die?" she countered quietly. "We did not know when they would break and he could have easily died--something tells me that should not happen yet. If you think you can do it, do it and get it over with, I'll make the Gate. We return to Amatsiru.”

Ambrok interrupted, furious that Ven was asking Danette for permission to heal him. . "I give you all the bloody permission you need, now pull this damn bolt out!"

He looked straight into the Asha'man's eyes, but his thoughts weren't on the moment. He had something to distract him, fortunately... or rather, someone.

Danette had made him her Warder, she had said. He was a soldier of the marath'damane, and a deserter of the Ever Victorious Army. But he would still free the Empress from the hold of the Shadow. He was determined to do that.

Ambrok gasped in pain as the crossbow bolt was ripped free by the Asha'man. His vision swam, but he retained conciousness through some miraculous feat of concentration. He felt the Asha'man grab him, and a wave of cold cascaded down his body. Ambrok gasped again, as he felt weak, as if he'd fought for several days in a row. He crashed down onto all fours, and his head sagged.

He heard Danette ask Gnarled a question, but he wasn't sure what it said. His arm gave way, and he fell to the ground, asleep before he hit.

RogueSavior
11-11-2009, 09:44 PM
Receiving no answer from the Ogier or the Aielman as to their continued attendance, Danette assumed they would be tagging along, but something in her was slightly uneasy about this whole situation. She watched Ven Heal her new, probably reluctant Warder and then turned her concentration to the ground in front of her in order to open a Gateway so they could Skim to Amatsiru, she had a notion of where she needed to go and someting was tugging her that way anyway, something important and something that was very much going to be affected by what just transpired.

A Warder?

Gaul? the name whispered tauntingly through her mind.

She felt Ambrok lose consciousness. "If it wouldn't be too much trouble can you pick him up and carry him in some fashion?" she asked distractedly. "We'll be going to Amatsiru and from there we'll examine our options. Cairhien is still our ultimate goal, the Shadow should not have a stronghold so close to the Light."

The Gate opened and she stepped through onto a Skimming platform made of snowy white marble with a golden flame etched into the stones and waited for the others to join her.

"He'll need to be given some food immediately..." Ven D'Vere warned her as he lifted the unconscious man, settling him over his shoulder.

Danette stepped onto the platform, followed quickly be everyone else. Ven gently sat Ambrok down on the pure white platform. Gnarled and Buahle followed, an obnoxious grin on the Aielman’s face. Dycin followed last, a wary eye cast behind him.

Ambrok stirred as he was set to the ground, and Ven kneeled down to speak gently to him. "Danette Sedai panicked," Ven explained, "She forgot I could heal you; so...she Bonded you, as a Warder. we're going back to Amaritsu, where you shall rest and eat a large meal to replace what came out of you during the Healing. As for the Bonding, I suggest you take that up with Danette Sedai. When you're feeling better, of course."

Danette's mind was on far different things than who took up a position where on the platform. The nagging sense of something, someone calling her persisted. She vaguely heard Ven's statement of explanation to Ambrok and spoke quietly. "I did not panic," she stated flatly, "it was the only option open at the time if he wasn't to die. The attack could have lasted far longer and then we would be bearing a body back to Amatsiru."

She let her voice fall into the darkness and as soon as everyone stepped on the platform the entrance winked out and the marble platform began to move. I'm coming... the thought swam through her mind, but the tenseness of the other presence didn't lessen.

There were going to be fireworks when she returned to Amatsiru, and, unfortunately, not of the Illuminator's variety. Peace, what a mess this is turning out to be, but something has to turn out right eventually.

Gnarled had pushed himself close to Danette, and Danette noticed for the first time the Ogier’s thakan’dar-wrought sword, obviously taken from the hand of one of the Eyeless. Danette casually shifted herself out of the Ogier’s range or as much as she could without even thinking about it, silently she considered what was going on until they reached their destination.

She stepped through the Gateway and was immediately almost overwhelmed by a sense of relief quickly followed by towering anger from the other presence in her mind--her other Warder. Gaul.

As if summoned by the name a tall Aiel with furious green eyes stalked into the Traveling room with a somewhat harried Kyra following after. The Aiel's eyes immediately landed on Danette and narrowed. "Where have you been?" he bit out, striding forward and grabbing her shoulders, giving her a rough shake. "And which ones do I need to kill...there were to be no more...and what..."

Suddenly he stopped and something akin to shock flashed through his eyes but was gone quickly before the others would see the visible expression. "Gaul, please, calm down..." Kyra began.

The Aiel's grip gentled and he stared down at her suddenly. "You were right," he said softly, "she..."

He quickly cut himself off and Danette could feel the pain that was tearing through him and wanted to comfort him, but she didn't even know where to begin. Two golden rings dangled from a cord around his neck and she touched them lightly. "I--" she began and stopped herself, silently pulling away.

Her amber gaze turned to the Healer. "The puppy was injured in a run-in with some Shadowspawn in the Jangai Pass on our way back here," she said gesturing with her head towards the slumped young man. "There may be some other injuries I don't know about so check them out if you please. After they're tended to, please bring me the reports of the latest developments in Cairhien, I still have the intention of moving on that Shadow-blighted city since our wonderful friends haven't seen fit to take any sort of action."

There was a very sarcastic edge to her voice when she spoke the words friends. "The puppy will be rather hungry when he awakens, make sure there is plenty of food available. Set up the Ogier and his Aiel companion in the west wing where they can admire the sunset.”

Danette used the key phrase automatically, communicating to Kyra she wanted them watched very carefully and with great caution. "Ven, Ambrok, and Dycin can have some of the rooms on my side of the palace, and G--"

"I'll be in your room," the Aiel stated flatly, "as I always have been."

Danette fought back the urge to flinch and succeeded (barely), his voice sounded almost dead and she didn't know what to do about it, but she would have to figure it out and soon.

Kyra saluted her. "As you command, my lady."

She whistled sharply and several soldiers entered the room. She delivered Danette's orders in a clipped tone and the soldiers immediately took on their tasks.

"I will see you all at the evening meal," Danette said calmly. "I have other matters to attend to. G--"

"I'm staying with you," the man said quietly. "You get in too much trouble when I let you out of my sight it seems."

A ghost of a smile flickered across Danette's face. "As you wish," she said affably.

She waved to her companions and left the room, the Aiel close at her heels.

***

Keeping as silent as possible during the…argument?… Ven D'Vere waited until Danette Sedai, and… Gaul?…were finished with… whatever it was, then he motioned to Kyra, "I'd like to keep an eye on Ambrok, Kyra Sedai. At least until we're sure he's well."

At her impatient, obviously very distracted nod, he followed the attendants, who had placed Ambrok on a stretcher, carrying him off to the Healer's Hall here.

"I've seen sunsets before. I will stand vigil over Ambrok." Gnarled’s lisp gave a touch of ridicule to a tone that stated no one had best argue with him. Ven was constantly surprised by the Ogier, he’s unlike any Ogier I’ve ever heard of.

"We'll put him in the west wing then," Kyra said quietly, "after the Healers see to him." When Kyra left with the litter, Gnarled and Buahle stepped in behind Ven d'Vere.

Ven D'Vere turned to look up at the Ogier. What in the Light is wrong with him? Does he seriously believe I wish to harm Ambrok? Shaking his head a little, he continued to follow the attendants as they carried Ambrok to the Healer's Hall...

Kyra ushered them to the Healer's Hall and examined Ambrok herself before nodding in satisfaction. "You did well, Asha'man," Kyra said softly and lowered her voice for Ven's ears only. "Don't give up on Danette yet, she will be able to give you the answers you seek some day, hopefully sooner rather than later."

Ven D'Vere smiled ruefully at her. Do they all know? he wondered briefly. Then, he set the matter aside. Finding a seat, Ven settled himself to wait until Ambrok awakened from his sleep.

"Don't forget," Ven called out. "He's going to need a hearty meal when he wakes up."

He's also going to be furious when he realizes what Danette Sedai did...

The idea of Bonding anyone repelled Ven, the returns seemed to small to justify what being Bonded would do to a Warder in the event of the other's death, well, that wasn’t for him.

"Ambrok may not wake for some time. How did you come to be with the Flame?" Gnarled ordered, in a surprisingly gruff manner, given their complete lack of previous relations.

Ven D'Vere chose his words carefully - something urged caution in talking to this Ogier, "I was injured in a battle, someone Healed me, and I wound up in the company of Danette Sedai. As you know, none of us have been allowed to depart yet."

Gnarled laughed loudly. "Ambrok might say the same has happened to him when he wakes. It appears HE will remain with her now. I will not be remaining much longer, if I can find a way to leave quickly and quietly." The Ogier shrugged his massive shoulders. "Danette is building ta'maral'ailen around her. Soon it will be too late to escape the web."

Very likely, Ven D'Vere realized, but he had sworn an Oath to obey her. Well... Done is done. My choices were limited at the time.

"As long as you're sticking around, watch over the boy." Gnarled made it sound like an order, like most everything he’d said. "Ambrok is bloody important. But more importantly, when I want to leave, can you help me? The Flame seems to think Ogier have the time to bloody walk anywhere."

"Of course," Ven bowed slightly, trying very hard to keep the irony out of his voice. "As for leaving, you may trry that if you wish, but I don't think you'd get very far. Danette Sedai will release us when she's ready to, and not one minute before. Just rest while you can. Things have a habit of exploding when she's around."

***

Danette found herself under the regard of a pair of bright green eyes that asked far more questions than she could even begin to find answers for. "What has happened, Danette?" Gaul asked quietly. "Why can't you remember?"

"I honestly don't know," Danette said softly. "I woke up in the hut of a Darkfriend Healer on the edge of Shara and things have just moved on from there."

In a quiet voice she related everything that had happened to her from the time she woke up in the hut to finding Dycin (or rather him finding her) to going into the stone keep, the oddness of Teneme, and everything else in between. When she related her Dream, Gaul seemed particularly intent on the man who had spoken to her in the Dream. A slight smile curved his lips. "It seems even in death he tries to help as much as the precepts allow," the Aiel said softly.

"Who?" Danette demanded.

"I think you'll have to remember that yourself," Gaul said. "I can tell you everything that has ever happened to you from before we met until here, but it will not be the same as remembering it for yourself. If I told you the story, it would just be someone else's story--you have to remember on your own. There are answers only you can give, but to do that..."

"I have to remember," Danette sighed softly and glanced up at the Aiel hesitantly. "Would now be a bad time to tell you that I am scared to death?"

He lifted a hand and slid it through her short red hair before drawing her closer and placing a light kiss on her forehead. "That is a first," he said gently, "in all of the years I have known you, you have never said anything like that."

"Don't get used to it," Danette mumbled.

He laughed softly. "I won't," he assured her and then sobered and leaned in closer, "but I will not leave you again, I will protect you and we'll see our way through this together, the way we should have gotten through our other difficulties. Now about the other two whom you have Bonded..."

Danette glanced up at him in surprise and then shook her head. "Nothing can be done now, Dycin was passed to me by someone else, I can't betray that person's trust and the puppy..."

"He's not what he seems," Gaul scowled, "there is more than what you think you know about him."

Danette sighed. "Why do I have a feeling we're picking up an old argument here?" she grumbled.

"Because we've had this discussion far more than we should have had," the Aiel stated. "I understand why you Bonded him, but as soon as possible you need to find someone else to pass the Bond to, I will not tolerate having to defend both of you."

"The Wheel spins as it wills, Gaul," Danette said, "maybe it was something I had to do, maybe it was important."

"That sounds like excuses to me," he frowned.

Danette smiled somewhat mischievously and Gaul hesitated a fraction before laughing softly and drew her into a gentle embrace. "I am serious about you having to pass the Bond," he said in her ear.

RogueSavior
11-11-2009, 11:03 PM
A soft glimmer of light, catching the light of the moon in the midst of the velvety darkness of a spring night, catching the attention of the Flame who was up far later than she was supposed to be. She frowned briefly, Snow? Now? she thought to herself as she rose from her large, cluttered desk.

Some things never changed, the pile of paper in the inbox was far larger than the one in the outbox and several items of varying sizes were scattered over the top of the desk--none of which had anything to do with the paperwork she was supposed to be doing. On the very top of everything was a thin red cord that the former Amyrlin had been playing with in lieu of doing her paperwork. A sword rested against the desk and a pack of her special "playing cards" was on the corner next to where the hilt rose slightly above the surface of the desk.

She went to the window and stared in shock as the snow began falling heavily over the city and a frown marred her smooth features. The door opened and she turned and saw Gaul standing in the portal. "This is not natural," he stated flatly, his green eyes on the snow falling outside the window.

Danette grabbed her cloak and swung it around her petite frame and headed for the door. "Coming?" she asked him.

"What do you think?" Gaul said flatly.

"I don't think your spears are going to be much help against an unnatural snowstorm," Danette observed as he loosened his weapons as if going to battle.

"Perhaps not against an unnatural snowstorm, but your enemies can be anywhere, you would do well to remember that Danette," he frowned at her.

They ghosted through the sleeping keep populated at this hour only by a few of the servants that did many of their tasks under the dark of night so as not to get underfoot during the day. Tonight, most of them were not working, they were at the window gaping at the vista outside. Danette didn't bother to scold them, her mind more focused on getting outside and trying to discern the nature of the snowstorm.

They exited through one of the less widely used exits and Danette stepped into a glimmering world of white and her breath misted as she gazed at the sky. "Saidar was used to create this," Danette said softly, "with a focus of some sort as a person who could manipulate the weather to this extent would be well known, even if I cannot remember specifics."

"Not just saidar," Gaul stated quietly. "I feel saidin."

Danette started at his words but then it swam into her mind that Gaul was a channeler, a potentially strong one, but he could not use his ability and chose to leave it untapped instead quite happy to use his spears instead. Danette held out her hand and the snowflakes settled on her hand, melting not long after touching warm flesh. She clenched her hand into a small fist and scowled at the sky. "Who would do this?" she wondered outloud. "It could disrupt the weather patterns in the entire world."

"The Towers?" Gaul suggested.

Danette considered his words carefully rolling them around in her clouded mind, but they came up empty. She shook her head silently, unclenching her hand and staring at the moisture on it as it caught the faint moonlight shining through the clouds of snow. "This isn't their style," Danette stated quietly, "they have other, better means to cause trouble than this. We can dismiss this as a freak storm and the people will buy it for a little while, if it continues we will find other reasons for it, but it most definitely is not the Towers. Arlena would never agree to something like this because it could cause a great deal of harm to many innocent civilians, Chani wouldn't agree to it either on the same grounds--their goal is to forge ties between the channelers and the common people, something like this goes directly against their precepts--something like this would set a witch hunt up for most of the common people. Perhaps Frenzy, but she has different methods that she much prefers to use."

"Danette..." Gaul trailed off and looked at her questioningly.

"It doesn't require a memory to know that," Danette said quietly, but some of what she said had faint echoes of it.

Perhaps I will remember one day.

"Let's go inside, we're going to have to take care of some stuff now," Danette said and turned and swept back inside with the Aiel following her.

She walked up to one of the servants gaping outside and touched her arm. The girl jumped and emitted a slight scream of surprise before her eyes widened in horror when she realized who was looking at her. "Ah, um, my lady, I uh..." she stumbled over her words.

"Summon Kyra and the others in the upper Hierarchy to the conference room, we have a situation," Danette ordered her calmly. "Do not stop to stare at the snow until you're done."

"My lady, why..." the servant began.

"Explanations will come in due time, I need those members of the Hierarchy now," Danette stated flatly. "Also see that Ven d'Vere the Blue Asha'man is sent to my study."

"It's so late, my lady..."

"Are you questioning her orders?" Gaul said dangerously.

The girl squeaked and shook her head, stumbling over herself to make a curtsy and racing off as if the Dark One himself was chasing after her.

"Was that really necessary?" Danette frowned at him.

"This is not the time for questions."

Danette shrugged and quickly made her way through the halls towards the large room used when the Hierarchy assembled and gave orders to one of the other servants to awaken some of the kitchen staff to put together a light meal--this meeting could take a while.


A few minutes later, Ven stepped inside, bowing formally to Danette Sedai, as if she were still Amyrlin. "Danette Sedai," he said. "I am here at your Summons."

Danette noticed the bow and acknowledged it automatically with a slight inclination of her head and her eyes drifted back to the window where the snow could be seen falling.

"Tell me, Ven," Danette said conversationally, "would anyone in the Twin Towers do something like this?"

Ven paused to think, obviously considering his answer carefully. “It could be the Shadow," he added. "Or the Agents of Chaos. They're still active; perhaps even more so than before..."

"Agents of Chaos?" Gaul repeated the Asha'man's words. "Explain to me why they would be 'more active', now."

Danette glanced at the Aiel, somewhat surprised by the sudden intentness in his voice. "Has a new piece been added to this old game?" she asked in a somewhat light tone.

"It's possible..." Ven D’Vere replied. "I'm not a member of the Towers Hierarchy, so I don't know all the details, but it seems that the Mordeth Soul has found a more...vigorous...body... Thus, this person has been much more active."

Clearing his throat, Ven added, "This happened after you left the Towers, Danette Sedai." Danette stared out the window and then back at the Asha'man. "A new form?" she said softly, there was a slight vibration in the wall that seemed to stand between her and her memories and she flinched ever so slightly.

There was a polite knock on the door and one of the guards opened it and peeked in. "They're here now, my lady," he announced.

Danette nodded. "Send them in."

***

An empty feeling in his stomache brought Ambrok awake. The sight of a ceiling above him, and the sounds of Gnarled and his aiel whispering in the corner of the room combined to confuse the young cavalryman to his whereabouts.

"Where am I?" He said, as he sat up, his hand rubbing his shoulder, where he remembered the crossbow bolt piercing it through. "Last I remember was getting shot, and..." He felt her, there, in the corner of his mind.

"What did that witch do to me, Gnarled. Why can I point out exactly where she is?" His hand flew in the direction he knew where she was.

Gnarled shrugged. "She is marath'damane. She healed you, and who knows what else. Warders are like damane with no leash, I have heard."

The table held several plates of food. "Eat," Gnarled ordered. Ambrok didn't hesitate to start emptying the plates. The healing must have taken a lot out of him.

Gnarled interrupted Ambrok’s furious eating, "Santomere told me something before I killed him. Ta'maral'ailen holds us fast Ambrok. If you are to succeed in your mission, we may have to escape the Flame."

Ambrok finished several trays of food - far more than he had ever eaten at one sitting in his life. Finally satisfied, he stood up, and looked at Gnarled.

"She has made me her Warder. Now I am tied to this woman - it does me no good to escape her now - wherever I go, she could find me. If it is the pattern which holds us, there is nothing for us to do. Cairhien must be liberated from the Shadow, and the Forsaken’s grip on the Empress must be broken. If Danette marches to Cairhien, so do I"

With those words, Ambrok left the room he'd been in, and followed the presence in his head to Danette's location. Gnarled and Buahle fell into step behind Ambrok, Gnarled whispering as best he could into Ambrok‘s ear. "She will try to separate you from us. Don't surrender any control to her. She will try to accord you a lesser rank than befits you. You have been adopted into her 'High Blood'. You're in bloody line for her 'Crystal Throne', so you act like it!" Most of his hopes lay with the boy now.

He arrived at a massive door shortly after another group of people, many of them the guards who’d initially been assigned to watch him, and was suddenly unsure of what to do. He wasn't sure if he was invited to this meeting, but he certainly felt he belonged there, regar. He stood in the hall outside the door, waiting to be invited in.

Ambrok heard Danette’s voice from the other side of the door. "Ambrok is outside of the door. Undoubtedly that Ogier and his Aiel are waiting out there as well, let them in."

Ambrok let himself in, even as Danette continued to speak. "The Asha'man informs me that this is not the work of the Towers the he is aware of, something like this would not suit their purposes," Danette stated. "If they wanted to do something about us they would likely do it in a far different manner.

She went to the table passing by Ven d'Vere and whispering to him on her way. She picked up the papers she had ostensibly come for and began to flip through them rapidly. "Sabre, send word out to some of the outlying outposts and see if we can get some idea of where this came from," she ordered. "Kyra, see about doing some 'damage control' for lack of a better term, tell them someone has been playing with the weather, but not to panic. As for the rest of you, I am sure you can all tell that this is not a natural storm given the time of year and the suddenness, we need to collect a list of people who may have the ability to do something like this and start investigating."

Danette looked up. "Before we get started are there other questions?"

Ambrok met her straight in her amber eyes. "I have one. Several" He said in a voice meant to be heard, but not as a shout. An Officer's voice, one he had developed in the cavalry. "Why can I feel you inside my head? Why are we here, inside your stronghold, and lastly, why aren't we getting ready to go back to Cairhien instead of wondering about some snow?"

Ambrok found himself under the glare of the tall Aielman who stood at Danette's side. A swallow tried to reach his throat under the man's icy glare, but Ambrok refused it. Ambrok suspected showing fear was exactly the wrong thing to do under the much taller man's eyes. Ambrok made himself step forward, aware fully of every pair of eyes in the room as they followed him, and the dead silence which had followed his question?

"Well?" Ambrok suppressed a wince. In his head, he said more than one word. In his head, those words were forceful, and sure. Instead, he'd managed only that one word, and that not nearly as certain as he'd like.

He stepped towards Danette. The Aielman met his step with one of his own, placing himself between Ambrok and Danette in doing so. Ambrok wasn't immediately sure if the man knew he'd done so, but amusement radiated from the knot of emotions that was Danette in his head. "Do you know who I am, Wetlander? Do you know who it is you challenge? I am Gaul, of the Imran sept of the Shaarad Aiel. I am Gaul, husband and Gaidin to Danette Galliana, the Flame of Hope, ruler of Amatsiru, Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah and former Amyrlin of the White Tower."

"I see you, Gaul of the Imran Shaarad." The words leapt to his mouth, part of his training for the mission he'd abandoned. A Mayener would know how to address Aiel, so Ambrok knew how to address Aiel - some significance was attached to the term, something to do with the veil which hung about the man's neck. "But I was not speaking to you -"

The Aielman interrupted him, "When you stepped into this meeting, to which you were not invited, and interrupted my wife with your words, you called my attention to you." The atmosphere in the room was static, any moment now, Ambrok would undoubtedly be thrown bodily from the room by the Aielman. "Now," Gaul continued, "we will talk, Ambrok Chiqel. Step over here with me, where we will not interrupt the meeting." He gestured and walked to the opposite side of the fairly large room. Ambrok followed, appearing far more confident than he really was - if Gaul was going to kill him, it would probably be further from the others.

Before turning to Ambrok, Gaul began speaking, his voice dripping with more ice than the eaves of Danette's Fortress, "Danette made her decision, and I respect it. But I do not agree with it." He continued, turning to Ambrok. "You are not worthy of being Danette's sword against Leafblighter. You are an impetulant child, who does not think before he speaks." Ambrok's back stiffened, and he prepared to defend himself to the Aielman, but Gaul didn't pause a moment as he continued speaking. "You have seen far more snow in life than I have, Wetlander. Yet even I notice what you apparently do not. It is two weeks before Bel Arvina, and not only does snow fall, but half a foot covers the ground entirely. The leaves are still green on the trees, wetlander, but already are they killed by frost and snow. Snow which appeared from nowhere, and was brought by the One Power, both halves, if I sense correctly. Danette believes so, as well" For the first time, Gaul's voice lost an edge of it's iciness. Speaking of his wife apparently brought warmth to the man's voice. Perhaps there was a moment

In the background, Ambrok heard Danette continue with the meeting, sending several of those gathered away in intervals, each obviously on the duties Danette had assigned. The largest clump, made up of Dycin and Danette‘s personal guard, the Shukuchoku, left via Gateway. Most left quickly, their eyes momentarily passing across Gaul and he where they stood. A select few lingered, doing the same. But Ambrok's attention was back on Gaul, who'd paused long enough for Ambrok to speak.

"I am not a child for you to lecture, Gaul. Do you think I didn't know what time of year it was? Can there be more proof that the Shadow has involved itself here than that snow falls at the end of Summer? Who else would cause such a thing to happen in the world. And look who is affected by it -"

The Aielman cut in again, "It may be the Shadow, but not certainly. Ven d'Vere believes it the work of the Chaos leader, Sno'deth. You are too tied to your passions, Ambrok Chiqel. You remind me of -" Gaul stopped himself, looking as if he was mad at himself for what he'd been about to say.

Ambrok tried to stand a little straighter in front of the Aielman. "I am a reminder of nobody. I am Ambrok Chiqel, and I am nobody's whipping post. Especially not Danette Gall-"

The bond to Danette changed, and Ambrok had turned and was at her side before he'd fully comprehended the shift. She'd... wavered... for a moment, and lay now in his arms, resting against his knee, barely conscious. Strong hands lifted her out of Ambrok's arms, and Ambrok recognized the tan arms of Gaul as he carried her gingerly in front of him.

"The Door!" Gaul shouted as he nodded at Ambrok, praise present in the aielman's body language as he did so. Gaul turned, and strode through the door, his glare stopping the guards who'd stood at the door from following him.

The ice eyed woman who had met him when he'd first came to Amatsiru was the lone occupant of the room besides himself, Gnarled, Ven d'Vere, and the Aiel who was in service to the Ogier - Buahle.

"You two." He commanded the guards at the door, "Come here, and shut the door." The guards obeyed, eyes bulging in fear - obviously, they thought that Danette had been harmed on their watch. "None outside this room are to know this happened. Understood?"

Ambrok's eyes passed over each guard as they nodded. He trusted most of the others enough to know they wouldn't tell of it. "The two of you," he instructed the guards, "Will forget this happened as soon as you," he indicated the one of the left, who'd composed himself before the other, "inform Phoenix that she is requested in the Flame's chambers." The guards turned as one and left, each going seperate directions as they left the door.

"Kyra," he turned to the blue eyed woman, "do what must be done to make sure their tongues do not wag. Try not to harm them, but this is a poor time for the Flame to waver, and not all eyes in Amatsiru report only themselves. The Shadow is treacherous." The woman nodded, as if she knew that already, but left nonetheless.

Ambrok paused a moment, considering his most recent actions, many of which had been fueled by a sense of entitlement fueled by a combination of Gnarled’s attempts at treachery and a single approving glance from Gaul. Assuming the position of favored prisoner was out of the question - he charged on.

"Ven d'Vere," Ambrok looked at the Asha'man, "I would appreciate it if you would relay to me all that you know of Sno'deth while we await the Flame's recovery." Ambrok felt certain that commands would not work with this man, and sat himself at the head of the long table.

Ven tried to meet his gaze, but Ambrok could not claim sei‘taer against a man who‘d so recently and obviously saved his life, and focused his attention on his mouth. "I think," Ven spoke cautiously. "That we should wait until either Gaul, or Kyra gets back before I make any kind of report. Wouldn't you agree?"

Ambrok lounged in the chair he'd taken. "It is unlikely either will return for some time, Ven. Gaul will undoubtedly remain at the Flame's side until she wakes, and Kyra will have to write the orders for our two guards to spend a period of time away from Amatsiru. In any event, I'd like not to consider this a report, so much as one who is uninformed asking to be taught - that is the purpose of your Valley, is it not?"

“First,” Ven D’Vere counted off points on his finger, agitated at something. "I don't know you. Do you have any reason why I shoul trust you sight unseen? That's point number one. Point Number Two is that I rather suspect that Danette Sedai would not take it too kindly if I spoke out of turn. I did, after all, give my Oath to her. Thirdly, there is Gaul to consider. He seems to be in command after her, and I believe he would be the one I make my report to. Should you choose to be there when I make my report is of no concern to me, but, if I am required to make a report on Chaos to anyone, it will be him, or Danette Sedai."

Ven took a sip of his kaf, looking over the rim of the cup at Ambrok.

"Required? You think I would require you to tell me what you know of a man I'm not even sure exists? If you want to wait for Danette, that's fine, but we may not have until she wakes up." Ambrok stood up, and walked to one of the small windows of the study, and indicated the snow falling outside. "Unless you think whoever has caused this has done it for no reason? What if they move tonight, while we're still reacting to the snow - and before Danette awakens?"

"Ven, if I'm going to defend Danette's city against this man, then I'd like to know as much about possible assailants as possible. Gaul is defending his wife, and Dycin is with the rest of the Shukuchoku in Cairhien. As Danette's final Warder, that leaves the responsibility of defending her and her city to me."

His quick acceptance of these fast developments continued to suprise Ambrok, but as soon as the words left his mouth, he felt them become... right was the only word for it. Perhaps the Web of Destiny truly did spin itself around Danette, but that wasn't important right now.

"And that's what I'm going to do, Ven. With or without what help you will give me."

“Ambrok, whatever's happening right now, the snow has nothing to do with us. Trust me on this. Channelers can sense the Source when it is being actively used. Whatever's happening, it's far away from us. Besides, I really don't know all that much; just that Chaos is exceptionally active."

"Ven. It's happening nowhere near us now, but who's to say whoever's doing this won't step through one of those holes and change that? Be ready, Ven d'Vere, that's all I ask. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to make sure Amatsiru does the same."

With that Ambrok left his position near the window and left the room, a sideways glance at Gnarled telling him he had something to say to him. Gnarled and Buahle stepped into line behind Ambrok as he left.

Ambrok strode through the halls, trying to ignore the knot of emotions that was the Flame of Hope. She was upstairs, in her quarters, and she was asleep, but emotions still flooded through the bond - she dreamt, and vividly.

"Buahle," Ambrok addressed the Aielman, "Leave us." Ambrok wanted to speak to the Ogier alone, and he liked the Aielman far less at the moment than usual. Gaul's lecture was starting to irk Ambrok, nearly as much as it irked him that he'd been happy at his fellow Warder's approval. Surely that was something coming through the bond from Danette - Ambrok didn't care if Gaul liked him, he hadn't asked - or been asked - to become Danette's Warder. But now he was, and he must act like it. Gaul protected the Flame. Dycin protected the Flame's interests. It fell to Ambrok to protect the Flame's city, should it come under attack.

"Gnarled, should we come under attack, I'd like for you to protect Danette as if she were the Empress herself." Ambrok didn't turn to the Ogier either, but his eyes scanned for possible listeners to his softly spoken words. "Gaul may be able to handle anything that comes, but I won't be able to protect her myself. You're my bodyguard, so far as these people know, and her Bond makes me hers."

Ambrok turned now to face the Ogier as they reached the rooms Ambrok had been staying in. A servant passed by, on an unknown errand, and Ambrok paused until he‘d passed. To the Ogier he said, "I do not need you now, attend the Flame."

With those words, Ambrok stepped into his rooms, and gathered his weapons from their position in the corner - he'd need a new breastplate, and he'd need to ensure the guards were in their places. His list of errands was long - and so would be the night. Strapping on his sword belt, he sat down to pen a few orders to deliver to the captains of the Flame's soldiers. He'd need to get Kyra to place the seals, of course, but that didn't stop him from writing them and signing them himself.

The orders were standard procedure for a fortress preparing for a siege - the men on the walls were to be doubled for the night, and Channelers - The Ever Victorious Army would have used Damane, of course - would be both among the men on the walls and placed throughout the fortress. If any channeling occured, or any forces appeared at the gates, the alarm would be raised.

Ambrok signed his name at the bottom, nodded to make sure he'd included everything, and stepped out of his room. The Ogier was gone - near an hour was a long time to wait. Hoping the Ogier had gone where he'd asked, Ambrok walked the corridors that would take him to Kyra's office. The orders must be sealed and delivered to the captain of the guards as quickly as possible.

RogueSavior
11-12-2009, 02:00 AM
Orders had been sent out to all of the soldiers and the guards had been doubled as much as they could be. Kyra had been quite firmly ushered out of Danette's room when she'd gone in to check on her, there was something in Gaul's eyes that erased her urge to argue with him. The Flame had been oddly still while she slept, curled up like a child and appearing very small in the huge bed in her chambers.

"She sleeps, do not disturb her," Gaul warned her.

"She doesn't look well, I should look her over," she frowned.

The Aielman shook his head. "Not right now, please do check her tomorrow morning, but...leave her alone for now."

"What is stalking you, Danette?" Kyra murmured to herself just as she heard heavy bootsteps outside of her door. Kyra waited calmly for the person outside of her door to enter. Her crystal blue eyes held no emotion nor did her face betray any of the worry that was running through her for Danette. Something big was happening tonight, but she wasn't sure what. There were many times when she wished Danette had chosen to Bond her as a Warder--then at least she would know what was going on underneath the redhead's surface and she couldn't hide anything from her.

Kyra sighed inwardly, that proposal hadn't been taken well by her Warders at the time, and now it wasn't going to be worth it, though every once in a while, she considered pressing Danette into it somehow, but for now she'd have to sit back and wait until Danette decided to explain herself.

Entering, Ven D'Vere bowed slightly. "Ma'am," he began, "I would like to check in on Danette Sedai. I can Heal. Besides, I'm...worried...about her."

"You can Heal?" Kyra asked, her voice somewhat icy. "Do you believe you can do something that I, a Master Healer, cannot do? I have been Healing since your great grandparents were likely in diapers if not for longer."

She sighed and ran her hand through her long black hair dislodging her headband and tugging it back into place irritably--the man didn't deserve her snapping at him. She took a deep breath. "I do apologize," she finally said. "Honestly, I do not think there can be much done for Danette at this point, everything is really up to her and if she's ready to deal with it. I am not a mind Healer, but I have had one who is one check her and she could find nothing to fix."

"Do you think it's possible..." Ven D'Vere spoke quietly. "That she might be remembering what she has forgotten?"

"If it's just that, I might be able to help," he added. "I think I understand why she did... Some of the things she did..."

***

The wall was long and blank, but it seemed to be quivering under some unimagineable strain on the other side. Danette walked along it running her hand lightly over the smooth, slick surface. Under her fingertips she could feel the vibrations in the wall. She didn't try to calculate how long she walked along the wall, but up ahead something was reflecting the light and she moved towards it quickly, the rainbow hues reflecting form a smoky crystalline door in a sourceless light.

Every step she took seemed to take it farther away, even if she ran and she swore softly, she needed to find out where that came from. "Why don't you wait for it to come to you?" a calm voice suggested. "You were always far too impatient Danette--with pretty much everything."

Danette whirled and her eyes met a pair of dark blue eyes that were very, very familiar. "Logain?" she whispered.

"He's dead you know," the other said calmly and Danette flinched at the words.

"It was time," Logain, or the man who appeared to be him, said calmly. "And now it is time for you to remember."

His movements were too fast for Danette to counter and he shoved her into the wall and she fell through the slick darkness and tumbled to the other side and pain exploded in her head.

***

Danette whimpered softly in her sleep and Gaul was immediately by her side, his hand touching her face. He gently eased her into his lap and she curled up against him as trustingly as a child and he quietly stroked her short red hair, missing for a moment the length it had once had, but quickly forgetting under the assault of emotions running through his wife’s head.

He didn't know how long it happened, but when she finally quieted, his eyes drifted to the window and saw the faint color of the sunrise beginning to lighten the sky. "Gaul?"

The Aielman glanced down and met a pair of hazy amber eyes and Danette suddenly smiled. "I missed you," she said softly and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Don't run off again. I get into trouble when you're not around."

"I won't," he said gently.

"Good."

***

Ambrok woke up, pain flaring across his brain. Barely a moment passed to be angry at having fallen asleep while waiting for an attack passed before the source of the pain was apparent. The knot of emotions that was Danette had momentarily flared in pain, but was still there - the Flame lived, and had awoken. What could only be interpreted as love passed through the Bond to Ambrok, but he knew he was not the object of Danette's affection. Her husband was at her side - he wouldn't let her come to any real harm.

Ambrok walked to his window, noticing that the guards still stood at their posts, and the snow still covered the ground in an unbroken sheet, making the world look serene. But what had caused the Flame's pain?

Ambrok dressed quickly, and buckled his sword onto his belt. He'd grab Kyra on the way to the Flame's quarters. He grabbed a servant, and asked her to fetch Ven d'Vere - he'd want to talk to Danette, as well, no doubt.

He turned into the hallway which led to Kyra's office, and was met by the Captain of Channelers, who was on duty at the time.

"Sir," the man began reporting, "Someone Travelled into Amatsiru not 10 minutes past. They tried to hide it, but such a large weave is tough to hide. I'd have warned you earlier, but you weren't in your quarters. Some servants said you passed this way."

Ambrok nearly muttered a curse, but opted against it in front of the man, "Raise an alert, and warn Kyra. The Flame may be in danger!"

Ambrok tore down the hallway, keeping his sword from tripping his legs as he ran back the way he'd come, heading for Danette's private rooms. Servants flew out of his way, or were pushed out of it, with gasps and grunts as they met the wall.

Ambrok arrived at the Flame's door, and was pleased to see Gnarled standing at it with Phoenix. "Has anyone passed by here? A man?" The two's puzzled looks raised Ambrok's hopes, and he knocked on the door and stepped into the room. "Send Kyra in when she arrives." he said as he closed it again.

Turning, what he saw surprised him.

And apparently, it surprised Danette as well. Surprise radiated briefly through the bond, but something else, as well. Guilt?

A man stood in the corner, apparently at ease, but just as at ease as Gaul was sitting on the bed. Both men looked as if they pounded nails into rock with their foreheads, and both looked as if they were already armed.

"Is... Is everything alright?" Ambrok asked Danette, Gaul, and the other in one sentence, trying to keep his hand off the sword hilt, but near it. He now wanted to protect Danette - not get her killed.

Gnarled slunk as best as an Ogier could into the room immediately behind Ambrok, using his foot to keep the door from slamming. Moments later, Kyra came charging into the room, her strange staff tipped with its deadly blades, and with Ven D’Vere in tow.

Danette very calmly uncurled herself from Gaul's lap and stood up, her amber eyes inscrutable in the growing light of dawn. "It seems my bed chamber has turned into a meeting hall," she commented in a cool voice. "I do not recall inviting a single one of you inside."

She ran a hand through her desheveled hair and her eyes touched on every one of the males standing uninvited in her bedroom before coming back to the unexpected visitor. "Since you've come such a long way to come see me, I suppose I can spare you a few minutes," Danette said, watching him carefully.

Gnarled's eyes remained fixed on the stranger. "My place is to protect you. If you don't like it send me away." He spat out of the corner of his mouth.

Ambrok turned to Gnarled. "Please, Gnarled, go inform Captain Kontan the intruder has been found. We don't want too many resources wasted trying to find someone we've already found." Ambrok detected an eagerness about the Gardener that was unsettling.

Gnarled did not move. "There may be more than one."

"In any event, my bodyguard," Ambrok made sure to include those words, to remind Gnarled of his place in these people's minds, though that charade would need to end soon - who ever heard of a Warder who needed a bodyguard, "I am here, to attend the flame, and I would like a report on the search effort. A report I'd trust most from you."

Ambrok hated that he had to look up to the Ogier - it made issuing even fake commands awkward. Ambrok hoped the Ogier caught the meaning at the end of his last message - Ambrok would fill him in on what happened, but it made little sense for him to be in Danette's chambers now, especially with Ambrok here.

The look Gaul had given Ambrok when he'd arrived had been ghastly - he apparently did not accept Ambrok as Danette's Warder yet, but he would. Ambrok's hand rested on his saber, and he waited for Danette or the intruder to begin talking. The room hung in silence, everyone seemingly glaring at one another with varying levels of hostility or amusement.

"Who are your friends Danette? This one ran in like he was a warder with his cloak on fire and the Ogier has all the grace of a Gardener rather then a mason." The man said flatly. "Well since our hostess has not mentioned to you who I am, I will introduce myself. I am Hugh." Hugh said simply.

"Now Mother,” Hugh turned back to Danette, “I have a little beef with you." Hugh said in a sarcastically scolding manner.

"I'm sure you and hundreds of others do at this point," Danette said flatly, "Though I must say I'm flattered you came here to deal with me directly, I've been half-expecting an army."

Hugh raised an eyebrow at that. "Do I seem like the type that would send an army after someone? I thought you knew me better then that. I am not nearly as strong as Logain was, but I do have better means then an army to deal with people." Hugh returned in a more masculine version of the same deadpan voice. "I assume you are going to have these people stay?"

Danette appeared to be thinking for a moment, her amber eyes going around the room to everyone who was standing there. "Gaul stays, the rest of you, out...now," she stated curtly. "If you do not leave on your own you will be ushered out by other means. Is this understood?"

Ambrok could barely hide his glare at being sent away, and it had nothing to do with being Danette's Warder. She did not trust him, when he'd very nearly died to save her once already. Turning about, he strode through the door, and very nearly ran over Kyra and Ven d'Vere, who had paused immediately outside of the room.

Ambrok addressed the two he‘d nearly trampled, "So Danette says we are not to disturb her. Come - let us see if the search for more intruders has been completed, or if this Hugh brought more friends.”

Ven, looking much paler than usual, put his arm on Ambrok’s shoulder to stop him from marching off straightaway. "If there are other intruders," he said. "Then it would be a separate incursion, and nothing to do with the M'Haeal. I'm telling you the Light Tower had nothing to do with this snow. They wouldn't do something like that."

Ambrok snorted, then turned to Kyra. “Come, let us make a search of the citadel. Gnarled, you are dismissed.”

***

Ven D'Vere was tired, and walking down in the general direction of his quarters. Then, he almost walked right into the Light Tower M'Hael. Of all the people to bump into, it would have to be him...

Ven tried to pull himself into a posture at least approximating military attention. "Uhh...M'Hael. It's good to see you..."

Hugh did not say a word, just opened the door to Ven's quarters and walked in. Ven followed.

"Asha'man." Hugh said with a nod. "What have you been up to of late?" Hugh's voice was flatter then normal. It could not be a good sign.

Ven D'Vere began uncertainly, "You know I was injured during the atack on The High Dreadlord Ghi'ast's fortress? It seems that Danette sedai's party was there too, just passing through. I landed on top of them, literally; one of them Healed me, and they brought me here. Ever since then, I've been trying to understand what happened to her. When she was Light Amyrlin, she suffered a lot of loss, the death of one of her Warders, and the loss of her twins because of that poisoning incident. I think she had a mental breakdown when she destroyed the Light Tower. She didn't remember anything of what happened, and I'm not sure how much she remembers now..."

When he though about it, Ven realized there was much for everyone to be grateful for. It could've been Jagad, instead of me. "What are you going to do about this, M'Hael?"

"It depends on you Ven. You are an Asha'man, and therefore allowed to do your own thing when not under orders. But you are also with someone who is known as a traitor to the Towers, specifically our Tower. On top of that, there are many who think you dead. So I must ask again, what have you been up to and what are you planning on doing."

"This is where thing get a little...sticky...M'Haeal.” Ven D'Vere replied. "In order to be able to move about freely, I had to take an Oath-by my hope of Salvation and Rebirth in the Light-not to move against her. She was all right about my being in her company; but there are lots of those under her who don't trust the Towers, or the Pact. Come to think of it, I don't think she trusts the Pact either. Either way, I'm Oath Bound to her until she sees fit to release me from my Oath. If I may ask a favor?"

At the M'Haeal's impatient nod, Ven went on. "I ask that you not tell anyone I'm alive yet. It's not so much the the Light Tower people in general, as it is one member of the Light Tower in particular. If Jagad ever finds out about Danette being here, he's fully capable of coming here just to kill her. As far as he's concerned, there is no need for a trial, and no need to ask why she did it. I believe she suffered a moment of mental incapacity, a state from which she might not yet be completely recovered. But, Jagad wouldn't see it that way, and there could be a tragic misunderstanding. In any event, I'm a firm believer in due process, and I'd like to understand what brought her to this pass before I start passing out judgements and punishments.”

"Well Ven, you might be facing charges of treason yourself you know." It was not a question. "But, I think we can avoid that for now. You had little choice from what you have said, and it is not like you joined Sno'deth. So what I need you to do for me is send reports on Danette's actions. Do not worry, I am not asking you to brake your Oath. But I do ask that you keep me informed, and do everything you can within the boundaries of the Oath to keep the Tower safe." Hugh waited a moment. "Remember you have other Oaths. Some that you took before this one."

Ven D'Vere bowed formally, "So, I am to be an Agent for the Light Tower," he said. "I'll do my best, although I can't guarantee you it'll be a good as you would like. I'm a soldier, not a spy, and I wouldn't know how to act like one..."

All in all, Ven preferred honesty to secrecy. There's less to worry about when things are open...

"Rather an Agent than a Traitor." Hugh stated. "You do not need to like it, just do it. And I do not need a spy, I have more then enough of those. How do you think I found this place? I need you to keep me formally updated. That way we can say we had someone here observing and keeping track of Danette."

"But, by no means are you to tell anyone about your reports." Hugh said. "Gaul may spear you before even thinking about it. But I think he would understand the oaths you have and the your sense of honoring both."

"So do you have anything to report now?"

"I think Danette Sedai is planning to liberate Cairhien, somehow," Ven replied glumly.

He hadn't liked the options left to him. Traitor, or Agent... The Light take it, I'm neither!

"Also, I think she Bonded someone new, a Seanchan called Ambrok. That's all I know about the man; except for the fact that he's befriended this really...strange...Ogier called Gnarled. That one really sets my teeth on edge..."

"I saw this new Warder, or someone that must be him. Watch him closely, I do not like people who keep slaves and own people. As for the Ogier, watch for him, I think he might be a Gardener, rather then a mainland Ogier. I am not sure what else to tell you. You have any questions?"

"I would like to know what happened with the attack on High Lord Ghi'ast's fortress," Ven replied. "Did it succeed? Were there any casualties, and are Calliste, Gilshalos Sedai, and Katra Sedai, all right?"

"It did and they are." Hugh said simply.

"They were all back at the Valley last I checked." Hugh then explained the details, after making Ven wait.

"Are you sure there is no one you wish told of your health?"

Ven D'Vere sighed. "I'd like that," he said at length. "If you're making me an...agent...This might as well be official. But secret. Jagad must never know where Danette Sedai is, or he will do something terrible. We can do this as a secret assignment. But, I can only report to you in this; and no one else."

"It is your life." Hugh said simply.

"But I would not worry about Jagad, he is on an assignment at the moment, which he better not fail, and even if he did come running after Danette, it would be Jagad that got hurt, not her."

"Well, I assume you know how to Travel still correct? And to make small gateways for passing reports?" Hugh did not wait for an answer. "Good, then make a gateway to the loft the Skull and Bones in Four Kings. It should not be too hard for you to find."

Hugh turned to leave. "I expect consistent reports, weekly and big events. You can decide what is big. I will check in on you and Danette from time to time."

"Till then." And Hugh left the room.

Ven D'Vere stopped him with one question, "When I go to this Skull and Bones in Four Kings, will I be reporting to you personally? or will you be employing another agent? If that's the case, how will I know whom to report to?"

Hugh smiled. "Just leave the report in the loft, someone will pick it up, you do not even need to go there, just open a small gateway and drop the note."

"I see..."Ven D'Vere nodded; then watched as the M'Hael took his leave.

This was only going to make things more difficult.

RogueSavior
11-12-2009, 09:09 PM
Buahle finally returned to the sleeping quarters he shared with Gnarled. "Where have you been?" The Ogier roared at him. "I've been up half the bloody night running useless errands for Ambrok. There's got to be some bloody way out of this hole-in-the-ground!"

Buahle shrugged, and lay his buckler and spear on the floor next to the reed mat he slept on. "You've run out of leverage. The Flame has a better hold on the boy than you do now. But there is Ven d'Vere..."

"The Asha'man? He might be on our side. If he's not, we're dead." If things went badly, he really did feel like killing someone...

"We?"

Gnarled snorted. The Aiel kept to his vows, but just barely. He was lazy and untrustworthy, his sept was Gaul's sept. But his laziness did not extend to the field of battle and he moved like a ghost.

"Well? What about Ven? Speak!"

"I happened to be close by when Ven spoke with the stranger who caused all the uproar. They did not see or hear me."

When he finished telling Gnarled what had passed between them, the Ogier's laugh echoed down the corridors.

***

Danette sat in her chair, looking out the window at the softly falling snow, when the silence which had fallen over Amatsiru was interrupted by a knock at her door. Danette glanced away from the window and towards Gaul and the Aiel shrugged and went to the door, ready (as always) to do battle if necessary. He opened the door and saw Ven waiting. The look in his eyes was a familiar one to Gaul and he glanced at Danette. "Ven's here to see you," he stated calmly.

Danette nodded and Gaul stepped out of the way and gestured for the Asha'man to enter. She waited until the door was shut and then turned inscrutable amber eyes on him. "Is something troubling you, Asha'man?" she asked calmly.

"I have a problem," Ven D'Vere announced to her. "The M'Hael has seen me, and has seen fit to put me into an impossible position. He wants me to make regular reports on you. The alternative is being charged with treason. However, I also see an opportunity to make this work for you as well, if you wish."

The words that tumbled from Ven's lips were not unexpected, but Danette did not respond immediately to him. After a moment, she spoke. "That is not unexpected," she said quietly. "It is the way of Hugh the Hand to do such things. This could cause some complications."

Danette tapped her finger against her lips thoughtfully as she considered her options. "It is easier said than done to use it to my advantage--anything you report will likely be taken with a grain of salt, for all they know you fell for my charms and are on my side and only paying lip service to Towers. I am usually considered quite charming..."

A mischievous smile quirked her lips, but didn't quite reach her eyes. "We will simply play it by ear and see where we wind up," she decided. "I'm sure you've told them of my plans for Cairhien....that does not matter presently, we will move faster than Towers on that after all they've left them sitting there for far too long. It is time the Shadow lifted."

Danette turned to Gaul. "Order our troops to prepare for Cairhien. We will leave part of the army here in case this storm is only covering an attack, but we can still abandon the city for now if worse comes to worst and rebuild later."

Gaul gave her a flat look.

"Or order someone to give the orders, whatever works," Danette said airily. "Ven you'll be staying near me through the operation."

Bowing Formally, "I hear and obey, Danette Sedai." He turned and left, obviously intending to finally get some sleep.

***

Ven d’Vere was exhausted as he stumbled down the hallways of Amatsiru. The spying Hugh demanded of him ran so contrary to his nature, and so did the double agent role he’d offered so easily to Danette. Ven anticipated many more draining days ahead.

Gnarled fell in alongside Ven as he neared his quarters. "We must speak," he commanded. Ven didn't appreciate the tone .

"I know things about you Ven. Things you won't want others to know. I want you to send me back to the valley. To the Towers. Tonight."

Ven D'Vere chuckled a little, “You didn't even wait a minute, did you?" he asked. At the Ogier's startled reaction, Ven continued. "Why don't you just walk into Danette Sedai's quarters, and do what you threatened to do? Whatever you think you know, know this; I will not be blackmailed. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever."

Nodding cordially to the Ogier, Ven D'Vere went quickly on his way.

The Ogier grabbed him with a massive hand. "Hold! The Flame may think she knows all. What of Gaul? Hugh? How long before your flimsy web of deceit collapses? What do you think will happen to the Flame's followers if they perceive her as too weak to deal with a traitor? Will you risk that Ven?"

"Do as you will..." Ven D'Vere called over his shoulder. "The head you lose may be your own..."

Then, he headed beck to his quarters, fully intending to grab what rest he could.

***

Gnarled growled to himself as he stalked the halls. All Ven had to bloody do was get rid of Gnarled and he wouldn't even do that? Idiot. What did all this mean? Certainly the Flame knew he was supposed to be helping Hugh, and he had managed to keep her confidence. What did Hugh know? Driving a wedge between Gaul and the Flame might be impossible. However...

to bloody do was get rid of Gnarled and he wouldn't even do that? Idiot. What did all this mean? Certainly the Flame knew he was supposed to be helping Hugh, and he had managed to keep her confidence. What did Hugh know? Driving a wedge between Gaul and the Flame might be impossible. However....

He found Buahle and told him not to spread the rumors just yet. Had Ven not approached him with a code phrase in the next five minutes, Buahle would have done the dirty work Gnarled had set out for him. Next he found Ambrok. One of the Flame's inept guards tried to stop him from disturbing the boy's sleep, but a knuckle sandwich dissuaded him. Gnarled nearly knocked the door off its hinges as he knocked it open.

He had to duck to enter the room, and as he did so, he began speaking, “Ambrok, we are in danger. We must speak... privately."

Gnarled, now in the room, straightened a bit only to feel the cool steel of a sword on the back of his neck. The boy, too, had grown infuriating - before his Bonding, he’d never have been able to sneak up on Gnarled. "What have you done, Gnarled?" Ambrok said in a level voice.

Gnarled was unconcerned about the blade pressed to his neck. In the dark, Ogier eyes still held the advantage over a Warder‘s. No need for the boy to know that. He spoke straight to the point, "If you can keep anyone from overhearing us, then do so now. Ven is a traitor to the Flame. Buahle overheard him agreeing to spy on her for this man Hugh. He believes the Flame will take his part even if he is exposed. I don't know if he plans more than that. Yet."

Now for the big question. What would Ambrok choose? "We can deal with him in two ways. If the Flame will not take action, I think this Hugh will. He will not tolerate Ven betraying him. I know how to contact him, if we can make a small Gateway." He held his thumb and finger together to form a small circle, assuming the man could see it in the darkness. Best to know just how much of an advantage his eyesight was.

"Instead, you arrange for me to leave. Preferably back east. Without Ven's knowledge. Not knowing where I am may set him off-balance, especially after our confrontation. Then he will be yours to deal with. Ambrok, the Flame will trust you, but she will never trust me completely. Send me away and you may move up in her standing. She will also see you need no protection."

There was a third option, but that would only be put into action if Ambrok proved too stubborn, though the news of Ven d’Vere’s ‘betrayal’ clearly shocked the boy. The news of Ven d'Vere's betrayal shocked Ambrok. It seemed unlike the man. "I cannot act on one of Danette's advisors with so little proof. How is it possible for you to contact a leader of the Light Tower - I have not forgotten, Gnarled, that the Asha'man who brought us here was a Darkfriend."

Gnarled quickly relayed the possibility of a small Gateway, which Buahle had overheard. Ambrok appeared unconvinced, but he had little real choice in the matter, “I will watch Ven d'Vere, to make sure nothing that should not leave the Flame's camp escapes. In the meantime, I need you to carry a message to my soldiers in the Valley, should any still be alive."

Ambrok stepped around the Ogier, sheathing his sword before opening the drawer to his bedside table. He reached in, and pulled out a folded and sealed piece of paper. "Here are their names, ranks, and descriptions. We were a squad of 6, including myself. Inform them they have been declared traitors, and that they are welcome to join me in Cairhien. Use one of those... windows to contact me once you've reached the Valley, and again once you've relayed the message."

He handed the paper to Gnarled. Gnarled read only the first name, Kartael of Seandar, before placing the note in his pocket. This Kartael could round up the others. Ambrok spoke again, "I can't guarantee you a Gateway to send you. Danette is calling her banners. We march soon."

Gnarled glared down at the Under-Commander, "I need a Gateway Ambrok. Otherwise we're back to contacting Hugh. You will find a way." If it was possible he would. Things had a way of working out for the boy, just as that dead Asha'man had suggested they would.

A soft scrape behind him announced another’s presence.

"If you wanted to leave so badly, Gnarled, all you had to do is ask," Danette said icily. "I don't need people fomenting discord amongst my people nor causing more trouble with the Towers--we've enough of that as it is. Never once, in my recollection, did you ask to leave."

"Leave? I protect Ambrok. You leashed him so now I must protect you! You stupid, stupid woman! You take snakes to your bosom like a whore invites sailors off the wharf. When an enemy strolls into the heart of your stronghold, you send him off with flowers while he lays traps to destroy you! You gutless moron! Do you think Ven is his only agent here? How many assassins has he deployed? Ven won't resist if Hugh applies more pressure to him, no matter what he has promised you. You gullible lackwit cow! All you do is run to keep your troubles from catching up to you. Your house of cards trembles under the Lady of Shadows' hand and you have no plan, just blind dumb luck. The Shadow will bury you alive if your own incompetence doesn't kill you first! The first I've seen of you trying to deal with a problem is now. You think this scarred old Ogier is fomenting discord more than any of your other enemies? You have the courage of a mole." It had been days since he'd cursed at anyone but Buahle. Light, but that felt good.

Amusement twinkled in Danette‘s eyes. "You know nothing of me, Ogier, regardless of what you think. Everything that goes on around here, I know--for many and varied reasons. Luck, why yes I do have my share of that and I'm not going to object--that would be rather silly of me don't you think?"

Danette looked at her new Warder for a moment and then back at the Ogier. "Somehow, I think he'll be just fine without you, Gnarled, more than fine," she smiled sweetly. "Would you like to leave now, or do you need a few minutes to pack? I am ready to send you on your way when you are ready to go."

Gnarled grumbled. The only possession of value he owned was at his hip. "I'll run Ambrok's bloody errand. Make me a Gateway to the Towers and I'll find the men on his list. Buahle will be happy to see the end of me. Cairhien is close enough to the Waste he'll be content to join your army, and likely desert at the earliest opportunity." Did Buahle have some further role to play? He had been randomly chosen from a pack of Cor Darei by Ambrok.

To Ambrok he added, "When you're done in Cairhien, we have unresolved business in the east. Remember your duty." And the fact that Gnarled outranked him significantly. Used to outrank. He spat.

Danette nodded and calmly led the way out of the boy’s sleeping quarters. Arriving at the Travel Room, Danette told the people manning it to wait outside. Gaul slipped into the room behind them and Danette began to weave the Gateway. "You can't Gate directly to the Valley, so you'll be in a place about a day or two out," Danette said calmly, "but I'm sure you likely know that."

The Gateway rotated open and Danette nodded in satisfaction. "Safe journey Ogier," she said. "And one would suggest you don't come back through here if you can avoid it. Those in league with the Dark Tower or accepting help from them are not welcome in this place. And if you report to Frenzy give her my greetings--I'm assuming since you were guided by an Asha'man of the Dark Tower here you had some minor dealings with her."

Gnarled waited until the Gateway winked out of existence, then spat where it had cut a razorline in the tall grass. She truly didn't care whether Frenzy knew of her plans or not. Ta'veren could afford such luxuries, he supposed. He gauged from the sun that he was indeed within the approximate latitude of the Towers. Good.

Gnarled began running as only Ogier can. Over a century of military service gave him a stamina matched by few of his brethren. He would cut her day or two to less than half that.

So ends the copying and pasting portion of the Invasion of Cairhien.