In the Pit of Doom, the Dark One summons his High Servant...
Moridin: How may I serve you, Great Lord?
DO: YOUR BROTHERHOOD INTERESTS ME, BUT IT IS AGAINST MY INTERESTS.
Moridin: What do you mean, Great Lord?
DO: YOUR PURPOSES ARE AGAINST MINE. I SENT DEMANDRED TO THE SISTERS TO HELP FORGE AN ALLIANCE, NOT TO DRIVE US INTO WAR.
Moridin: I apoligize... But what have I done so wrong?
DO: YOU HAVE DONE SOME GOOD WITH THE BONDING OF SISTER EGWENE2. BUT THE REST NEED TO BE SO ALIGNED. FIND THE MALE CHANNELERS NECESSARY, AND BOND SMOKE AND SUNDARA TO YOUR BROTHERHOOD.
Moridin: Is that what you want?
DO: THE TIES YOU HAVE WILL PUT ARIELLA AND ME ON THE SAME GROUND. THE DESTRUCTION OF ONE SIDE IS THE DESTRUCTION OF THE OTHER, AND THUS WE ARE EQUAL WITH THEM ALIVE OR DEAD.
Moridin: What of Demandred, though?
DO: DEMANDRED NEEDS TO LEARN HUMILITY. THIS SEEMS LIKE THE BEST CHANCE...
Moridin: I understand. And Darkhound?
DO: I GAVE HIM PERMISSION TO USE MY POWER. HE IS SHAIDAR CANINE, THE HOUND OF THE DARK. HE IS MY TOOL FOR ARIELLA.
Moridin: Tool, Great Lord?
DO: YOU ASK TOO MANY QUESTIONS, DEATH. LEAVE, AND TELL THE JOYOUS NEWS TO THE OTHERS.
Moridin: As you command, Great Lord...
An apology and correction of sorts from
Moridin, High Servant of the Great Lord.
Having listened carefully to Moridin's tale, the Great Mistress of the Dark gave him a considering glance. Perhaps she had misjudged him; him, and his Master... "Very well, Moridin. Tell your Master that I have no wish to expend my energy in needless hostilities -- I'd rather occupy my time in more, pleasant pursuits. Should he wish to proceed in a more civilized fashion, tell him I would welcome his company for tea on say, Monday next? Perhaps we cancome to an arrangement..."
Moridin bowed slightly, and snapped his fingers. A single black rose bloomed there, Power-wrought and imperishable. "For thee, Lady, as a token of our truce. I will carry thy message to my Master." Moridin Gated back to the Pit of Doom. Ariella conjured a crystal vase for the rose, and called to the other Sisters. "Oh, girls... company's coming..."
Ariella, waiting for the next move...
Darkhound sat on his haunches behind Ariella's great throne. At the sound of the word tool, he nearly leapt out and wrapped his jaws around Moridin's throat, but he mustered his will and stayed put. After all, it was only a term, and at least it conveyed a respect for his powers on the BBS. He remembered a great friend called Taim who often got in trouble for his use of blunt terms, and figured that Moridin had a similar turn of tongue. He gave a mental chuckle, and thought of what fun he and Moridin could have if they were on the same side. Actually, Morirdin had made a brave and unprecedented move by coming here, and the Great Mistress seemed... pleased, with the way events were turning out. He had noticed lately that her stature had become somewhat burdensome, and though she ran from no fight, hostilities with the Dark Lord and his servant were something she could do without. So he concluded that it was good that there would be a truce, whereby each side openly appreciated each other and didn't let their struggle for power mutate into something more poisonous, like a battle of the sexes.
After Moridin had gone, Darkhound padded around to the front of the throne, and sat at the feet of the Great Mistress.
"So there's going to be a party, Great Mistress?" he said.
"Yes Darkhound. The Dark One and I have decided that should we contest our powers, it would destroy the universe of the BBS. So, instead we will form an alliance, and rule those that would be ruled from there. But only those who want to be."
"But there's going to be a party?" he said again.
She smiled. Sometimes Darkhound was very astute and clever, but the thought of parties, of loud music, food and drink, and of course, girls, had set his mind firmly into one direction. "Yes, you mangy mutt," she said affectionately, giving him a soft kick, "there will be a party. Only a tea party, mind! Nothing extravagant, not yet. Though I've half a mind not to let you come after that naughty trick you tried on Egwene2 the other day." She tried a menacing frown, but she was too lighthearted today to get any real manace into it. Still it was enough to send Darkhound to his belly, whimpering.
"I didn't mean no harm, Great Mistress! I knew Egwene2 wouldn't fall for it, like I knew you wouldn't either! I was just playing about, being mirthful and frollicsome! Please let me come to the party, Great Mistress, please! I promise I'll do the washing up if Demandred does the putting away." pleaded Darkhound.
"Well, alright then." Darkhound gave a backflip of delight. "But formal dress, Darkhound. Your collar with the bow-tie should do nicely."
"Yes Great Mistress!" he said excitedly. "Will there be jelly? And Ice cream?"
"No jelly, no ice-cream" she said.
"Will there be sweeties? Biscuits? A clown? Party games? Pass-the-parcel? Musical statues? Party hat's? Streamers? Fireworks?...."
"No, Darkhound.... No darkhound... No darkhound...." the Great Mistresses voice continued on in the face of Darkhounds tirade of happy enthusiasm.......
As soon as he is sure the Great Mistress and the Great Pain have left the throne room, Demandred emerges from a hallway behind her throne. He stood in silence, overhearing enough of the conversation to realize what was going on, and he did not like any of it. The Great Lord was never one to concede power when he had the chance... Also, Moridin had to be the world's greatest fool to even tell this; better to have the Sisters kneel to the might of saidin. Come the Day of Return... He sighs, as a white flame rises from the ground before him, a minor creation of saidin. What does He have planned for Ariella?
He started rubbing his neck as images of a possible future appeared in his mind. He figured Moridin in the near future would tell HIM to Bond Smoke Ashalen. Light, the woman's already in his head every single waking moment, to understand why she acts the way she does... "Would that be more harm than good?" he wondered aloud, his gaze moving now to Ariella's throne.
"Would what be more harm than good?" A woman's voice, rising from the drudges of his memory, so long ago, and still too soon... Swallowing suddenly, he turned to Aran'gar. How long had it been since the incident with Cauthon's creation? "What are you doing here now?" "Relax, Demandred. The Great Lord sent me and Moridin to make sure you don't do anything...endangering His plans. And to ensure you follow his commands." Tossing her head back, revealing a lovely smile on her oval face, though the emotion in her eyes was anger. "And to make sure you Bond Smoke. He is not pleased with your actions, as of yet..." Demandred came as close to smiling as he ever did in that moment. "I intend to, don't worry." Aran'gar smiled, her eyes flashing with amusement. "We'll be watching you, Demandred. If you destroy any chance of this merger, it will be on your head. I can't wait," she added with a laugh. "Farewell..." He sighed at her exiting, watching her fade out of existence. Two lovely women driving his life in a direction he couldn't face... This could be bad, he thought.
Smoke stalked through the halls of the palace, her surly expression frightening off the servants. Aran'gar had gone, and Demandred was left standing alone. She stood in the shadows, considering. It had been a bad day. First, she had to find a dress to wear to the tea party- she hated dresses. No doubt the only dress her size would turn out to be streith or something, or else a Domani dress Sundara had with her. Second, it was being forced into this position that she hated. She had heard what had happened to Egwene, and was determined the same would not happen to her. Earlier, she had embraced saidar to weave a keen-edged barrier of Spirit around herself and her dreams, sharp enough to slice a soul to shreds. She hated having to take this defensive position, and even worse, acting subservient. She would see Demandred in Shayol Ghul before she saw him bonding her...
Suddenly, she had a thought. She remembered Moghedien saying that she and the other AoLers could not understand how Warders were bonded to Aes Sedai. Had Demandred gleaned that knowledge yet? A slow smile curved her lips; she would have to make the first move.
Sundara looked down at her dress, puzzled. Made especially for the party, it was cut in classic Domani style, sheathing her slim body in moonlight and silvery cobwebs. It wasn't that revealing - was it?
Oh, well, it didn't matter. A party! Sundara laughed with delight, tossing back her long dark hair. A party meant dancing - and a chance to show off her Domani arts - and maybe she would meet that charming Eval Ramman again. Yes, a party would be fun.
On the other hand - Just what game was Moridin playing now? This business of bonding, for example. Well, it would snow on Shayol Ghul before Demandred or Moridin managed to bond her or her sisters. With another laugh, she laced up her dancing slippers and headed off to enjoy herself.
Sundara 'Domani and proud of it' Aes Sedai
Moridin swiftly returned to Shayol Ghul...and noticed immediately something different. The usual dryness of the place was absent - at least he wouldn't need moisturizer after this visit - and above him, for the first time ever, it snowed. Staring above in absolute shock... One of the Sisters must have done this. Either that, or the Great Lord decided to redecorate for the party. Also, another feeling penetrated the air, one that Moridin knew well. The Great Lord would have no visitors, now...
Releasing the True Power, the memories, and Egwene's presence, roar into his head again. He remembers how his predecessor went completely mad, and now he saw why... Egwene's presence was too strong, and her being a Sister is enough to drive a man crazy, either my drawing enough of the True Power to push her away or letting her stay in your head... Again he took in the True Power. Better to go insane on this than the alternative.
His thoughts hovered at the edge of the Void... How would Demandred react? Would he succeed? Probably not. He would have Moghedien try to Bond her first, to see if it is at all possible. Worst case, she can be resurrected.
The Great Lord will not be denied his wish... He vanished into his chambers for something...more appropriate for the party.
Moridin, High Servant of the Great Lord.
Egwene2 rubbed her aching forehead. Damn Moridin! tricking me like that. She wished she could turn back time. And how did Moridin keep disappearing from the back of her mind, she wondered. She snarled in frustration, and then brightened at a sudden thought! Maybe she could find a ter'angreal or sa'angreal that would help her to break free!
She decided to forgo the party (and after she just got a new dress!) and channeled a Gateway. She stepped through and the sights and sounds of Tanchico surrounded her. If she couldn't find what she needed here, she wouldn't find it anywhere. Letting go of saidar she stalked through the Panarch's palace...
Smoke stood in the nothingness of the void between the palace and Shayol Ghul. She considered her options. She didn't want to bring herself and her sisters to the brink of war- that simply wouldn't do. Men and women had to work together to control the world- with the women in charge, of course. That left bonding Demandred before he could bond her. Of course!
For once, she was glad of the dress she wore, cut in the old style from the finest silver silk and trimmed with Sovarra lace. Royal blue vines curled up her bodice and down her sleeves, complemented by the fall of sapphires in her ash-blond hair. The bodice was a bit to low for her taste, but tonight it would serve her needs.She stepped into the party, smiling and nodding pleasantly. She spied Demandred in the corner, idly swishing his glass of wine and looking 'round- and looking splendid in black and silver. Carefully, she hid a smile and stepped over to him.
"Good evening, Chosen," she greeted him formally, holding out her hand. It was a battle to keep the eagerness from her eyes. "The same, Dark Sister," Demandred returned, taking her hand in one of his and kissing it. Smoke lunged for saidar. The Power filled her to bursting with life and radiance and joy, yet she kept her face impassive as she wove the threads for bonding through him... His eyes widened and he felt the chill of a woman channelling too late. He stared at her, those remarkable eyes bulging with shock. "What... what did you do?" he sputtered. Smoke smiled softly, silk wrapped around iron. "One guess, my Chosen..."
"Very funny, Shai'tan," Sundara muttered as she surveyed the snowy landscape
that was Shayol Ghul.
The youngest of the Dark Sisters was not in a good mood. The party was starting without her. The Dark One was deliberately mocking her words. And to top it all off, she was freezing. Her dress and silk slippers, while beautiful, were hardly suited to standing in the snow. But she could not leave yet, not and let them get away with - Hmm.
Sundara smiled as an idea dawned on her. Gathering up her skirts, she picked her way across the ice to what had been the Pit of Doom - now a large, frozen lake. "I could go ice-skating on this," she mused. But right now she had something else to do. Standing at the edge of the lake, she spoke, slowly and clearly:
"The Dark One will voluntarily imprison himself for all eternity before Demandred or Moridin succeed in their plans."
The earth growled beneath her feet. Steam rose from the lake as its inhabitant fumed. Apparently she had struck a nerve. "Take your pick, Shai'tan. Let's see you call that bluff." Fire erupted from the edge of the no longer frozen lake. Sundara skipped back. The burst of fire, she noted, had conveniently dried out her slippers. "Goodbye, oh Great Lord. And may the Light be with you..."
With that parting shot, Sundara darted through a gateway and back to
the party. Just in time to see Demandred's jaw drop open as he was involuntarily
"Score one for her," Sundara murmured with a smile. Shaking snowflakes from her hair, she accepted a proffered glass and raised it in a silent salute to her near-sister. "Now, I wonder..."
Eval Ramman shook the dust of the road from his boots before entering the palace of the Dark Sisters. He had not cared to trust gateways as a method of travelling here, despite the apparent innocence of his surroundings. It was not wise to Travel close to Shayol Ghul, after all, so perhaps the same applied here. Closing the great doors behind him, he studied the diversity of people talking, laughing, dancing, eating and drinking all around him. A tall, hawk-faced man in black and silver - could that be Demandred - stood talking to a lovely blond woman he recognised as one of the mysterious Sisters. Judging from his expression, she had just sprung some surprise on him...
He glanced across the room, and instantly spotted yet another Dark Sister
- a striking beauty with dark hair and eyes that could swallow a man's
soul, gowned seemingly in shimmering mist. She held a glass in one hand,
and was watching the couple with amusement. She, he knew well, very well,
from one night not long ago. Eval crossed the room toward her. "Good evening
to you, Aes Sedai." Sundara turned and smiled at him - a smile that made
his heart pound and his face hot. "Good evening, Dark Lord." She was even
lovelier than he remembered, a hint of laughter in her voice, diamonds
- or were those snowflakes? - sparkling in her silken hair. He cleared
his throat. "How fare you and your sisters, Sundara Sedai?"
"Oh, we are well. My newest sister, Egwene2, has made many friends on the board." He had heard that, too, although 'friends' had not been the word used. "And Smoke Ashalen is getting on - very well - with Demandred." There was open laughter in her face now: obviously he had missed a joke, or more likely been intended to miss it. "That is welcome news." He resolved to ask Demandred what was going on at the first opportunity. "Perhaps, then, there is a possibility of agreement between our factions?" "Perhaps." Her smile was enigmatic. "Under one term or another..."
At that point, Eval started to get worried.
Aran'gar walked into the party, sporting a pure black silk dress, just translucent enough to hint at her naked form, with a midcut bodice. She never kept dresses of her own, but instead had to borrow this from Graendal; and this was one of the more...decent ones. "Ah, well," she sighed under her breath. "If you have it, flaunt it."
Her eyes traveled over those invited to Shayol Ghul. She had to stifle a laugh after she saw Demandred's Bonding, but then she saw...
Eval Ramman was slowly backing away from Sundara, a look of pure fear in his eyes. Her skin became ice-cold immediately as the Aes Sedai stepped closer. She knew well what was going to happen, she warned Moridin about this; but of COURSE he didn't listen, like the arrogant being he is. Swiftly she stepped in between them, slipping into Eval's arms. "Hello, love," she said, barely above a whisper, while stroking the side of his face. "I didn't expect to see you here..."
Sundara laughed softly as Aran'gar joined them. It appeared that Moridin wanted her kept away from Eval - something that she, of course, had no intention of going along with. No doubt Aran'gar actually thought that look in his eyes was fear It would be interesting to see how this turned out.
"Hello, Aran'gar," she greeted the Chosen. She would have to find out the name of the other woman's dressmaker - but that could come later. With a smile, Sundara turned back to Eval, who looked somewhat bemused. "Shall I see you...later, then, my Lord of Darkness?" Standing on tiptoe, she brushed his lips with hers. "Until then." With another smile for Aran'gar - whose eyes were already somewhat greener - she glided away across the room.
Demandred slowly backed away from his Bonder, becoming more aware of her presence in his mind. He could feel what she felt in her, a sense of victory running through her, enveloping her as much as saidir had, skimming across her Oneness. Desperately he clawed for the male half of the True Source, tried to burn away her presence in saidin's fury. Obtaining this precarious balance he weaved a Gateway, to the one place where he can escape this Bond...
He found himself in the Heart of the Stone of Tear, its colassal stone pillars rising almost to heaven above him. Before him, Callandor shone brightly, beckoning him to take it, but he knew all too well al'Thor had woven traps around it. Besides, he wasn't here for the sword; there were a few places outside a stasis box where ter'angreal could be found, perhaps one made after the Breaking, after Bonding was discovered, could be found in the Stone. He started searching for the Hold...
Smoke leaned against a beautifully wrought marble column, trying not
to let her weariness show. She felt sure she had set a world record in
speed, and that had made her somewhat tired. She picked up a glass of wine from the server and sipped it, contemplating. Idly, she watched the tableau between Aran'gar, Sundara, and Eval. She knew Sundara wouldn't let Eval out of her reach, and she felt a certain solace in that.
Still... she knew where Demandred had gone. She'd seen the Great Hold in the gateway, and cursed the weave that covered the Hold. She had overheard Messaana talking about the weave- that any woman who passed through it would have her ability to channel burned out of her. What if she didn't go through the ward by walking, but by simply gating in without passing through the ward directly? She wasn't sure she could take the risk of finding out.
A slight smile creased her lips; no ter'angreal had been made since the Breaking, and Bonding hadn't been known in the Age of Legends. Demandred couldn't possibly find a ter'angreal for his purposes. He'd come out sooner or later...
"What did you do that for, Chosen?"
Aran'gar looked up at Sundara's "Lord of Darkness," seeing a quite handsome face on the man - the face she used to have before that incident with the Bore, and then the Nym. Still, the Great Lord must have liked it enough to create a facsimile in this Age... "I just momentarily saved you from being Bonded by Sister Sundara. A fate worse than hell, I can assure you." Smiling softly, she stepped away from the man. Suddenly she reached for burning life of saidin, while taking Eval's hand.
"How...how is it possible that...but you're a WOMAN, at least I hope..." Eval quite quickly backed away from Aran'gar, whatever fear was in his eyes before replaced by pure terror. Quickly he did the same, preparing for the worst.
To his suprise, Aran'gar only laughed. "Fool man, I was only going to teach you how to get the better end of the deal." Setting a ward extending a few feet around them, she continued. "Watch the weaves carefully, Eval. I'm only going to show you once how to Bond Sundara instead of her you." An intricate weave seemed to flow from her fingers, vanishing into thin air, but still enough to demonstrate the intended purpose.
Releasing saidin, Aran'gar sighed for a moment, then looked up at Eval. "You understand?" Eval nodded, something akin to a smile of relief on his face. "Good," Aran'gar said, on the verge of a whisper, as the ward fell away. "Now go, but be careful..."
Eval frowned as he left the odd woman. He wasn't sure he wanted to be bonded to a Dark Sister, no matter which way the bond went. On the other hand, there seemed no other way short of becoming a hermit. Perhaps in time he would forget Sundara's smile.
Somehow, he doubted it. For a moment, he just stood listening to the music. He had to find a solution, but there seemed none. Perhaps it would be easier just to give in?
"Keep that thought," a soft voice said from behind him. He jumped.
Recognising the voice, he turned, every muscle and nerve in his body
tensed to breaking point. He wondered if she knew what effect she had on
him, and suspected
the answer was yes. "What thought was that, Sundara Sedai?" She laughed. "Oh, I cannot read your mind, never fear. Your face is a different thing. You were thinking about giving in, were you not?" She moved closer, looking up at him with those night-deep eyes. "We might want to discuss that - somewhere private." Holding the weave Aran'gar had shown him in readiness - it was better than the alternative - Eval bowed fluidly. "Of course, my Lady. The gardens perhaps?"
"Why not?" Resting her hand lightly on his arm, she turned towards the door. "Oh - and call me Sundara." A smile flickered again on her lips. "I think we know each other well enough now." "As you wish - Sundara."
They walked through the gardens, the moonlight shimmering down around
them. It sparkled and danced off the water in the myriad fountains, shone
on the trees and
flowers, turned the grass beneath their feet to living silver. "The night is still young," Eval said finally. "Perhaps we could postpone the discussion you spoke of until later? There are many hours yet till dawn." "Why not?" she said again, with a look in those eyes half daring, half inviting. The moonlight transformed her, too - gleaming on her night-black hair, making her thin dress as sheer as the finest spider-silk. Beneath it was only her own slenderness.
"Why not indeed?" Releasing the Bonding-weave he still held, Eval took her in his arms.