The morning after the "truce" party, Ariella looked with dismay at the state of her abode. Judging by the looks of the room, as well as her own aching head, it seemed to have been quite the event. She had drunk quite a bit more wine than she should have; frowning thoughtfully, she banished its effects from her head. Ahh! Much better!
She thought back to the party itself. She and her Sisters had all looked splendid, of course. In fact, Ariella still wore her gown from last night; her younger sisters might have the bloom of youth on their side, but she could still hold her own in any room. Abandoning her customary black, she’d chosen a deep, emerald silk, complementing her auburn hair, green eyes, and ivory skin. The gown was a study in simplicity: no jewels, lace, or embroidery for her. Floor length and cut demurely neck-high in the front, the view from behind was something else entirely. Her back was bared from the shoulders down, the "neckline" draping so tantalizingly low every male in the room had checked at least twice to see if the cleft of her buttocks was visible. It was not, but only just. The thin silk clung to her slender form, emphasizing every movement, every curve. She caught her reflection in the mirror, and smiled with satisfaction. No, she was definitely no young maiden anymore...
Everyone who was of any importance had shown up, at one point or another. And some of the pairings had been quite... interesting. Smoke and Demandred were a given, of course, although her bonding of him had been an unexpected bonus, nicely balancing out Moridin’s bonding of Egwene2. Demandred had looked quite splendid, Ari mused thoughtfully, then broke off that line of thought. She did not poach from her Sisters. And the newcomer, Eval Ramman, had looked to be completely under Sundara’s spell, until that transsexual trull Aran’gar had showed up. Apparently, she’d been raiding Graendal’s closets again, but she didn’t pull that dress off nearly as well as Grenny could. Of course, no one pulled off a decadent dress like Grenny.
Ari made a mental note to check in with her youngest Sister about how it had gone with Eval Ramman, then got started on the clean up. Of course, it really didn’t require much effort -- she was the Great Mistress of the Dark, after all. She waved one hand negligently at the mess, and it simply vanished. She looked out the window toward Shayol Ghul, and laughed aloud at the sprinkling of snowflakes still dotting the otherwise black and blasted landscape. So, Shai’tan had a sense of humor, did he? She was sorry he had not shown up at the party himself, sending Moridin instead. Not that Moridin had been an unwelcome guest; he’d been looking quite fine, himself, as a matter of fact. Ariella wondered how he felt about older women...
She spied a sleek, black form curled in a ball under one of the tables. Darkhound! She’d wondered where he’d gotten to. He’d declined to attend in his natural form, saying he preferred to keep his canine shape because people tended to overlook him that way. She supposed he was right, but still, one simply could not be seen in public dancing with a dog. Light only knew what people thought of her for consorting with a hound! She gave him a gentle kick to wake him.
As soon as his eyes opened, she said "Change back!" and in a heartbeat, a handsome man with raven hair and azure eyes stood before her. "Yes, Great Mistress?" he asked, innocently. "Well... what did you hear ‘Shaidar Canine’?" she asked, impatiently. He gave her a rakish smile, and said only "Nice dress." She turned around to give him the better view, and he whistled between his teeth. "What say I give you that report where we won’t be disturbed, Great Mistress?" he suggested. She tossed a wicked smile over her shoulder and started off down the hall to her rooms. "Okay, but talk first, DH. Business before pleasure, you know..."
Ariella, so how's everyone else feeling this morning?
Still reeling from the shock of being Bonded, Demandred woke up the next morning with a massive hangover that not even the Oneness could eliminate, if he could manage to obtain it for long. Beside him, Smoke lay deep in slumber's hold, her chest rising and falling softly, a smile of victory still touching her lips. He could smile, revel in her beauty for hours, but what she did to him last night...the crowning glory of the failure that is his life. Sighing, he rose from the bed, clutching his robe from flows of Air. He would get his revenge somehow, but not on Smoke, never on her. Moridin seemed the more obvious candidate for a beat-down.
Smoke stirred slightly, rolling over in his direction. He turned around, fastening his robe quickly, watching fluttering eyes open to the world. Deftly flows of Spirit run from him, sending her back to sleep. "Sleep, dear Smoke. Believe me, you don't want to see what happens next..." He softly stepped out of the room, shutting the door behind him. He might as well have breakfast, first, the day's young yet, and Moridin's days are numbered. An evil smile touched his lips.
Memories flooded in of the party when saidin retreated. It almost seemed a dream, watching Darkhound get up on the table after a few drinks and expose himself to the party. A shudder ran through him. Aran'gar's little escapade with Eval Ramman; the Great Lord would have some choice words for her, then. More memories, one continually replacing another. Struggling with the memories, he failed to notice the dark-haired man and the Great Mistress passing him in the hallway...
Hiding a yawn, Smoke blinked sleepily after pulling herself out of TAR- she could feel a faint tinge of evil floating over from where Demandred had been- he'd gotten up and, judging from the hunger in the back of her mind, he was thinking about breakfast. "Sounds like a good idea," she murmured to herself as she sat up.
Blushing self-consciously, she smothered a yelp and pulled a sheet over herself. She didn't mind being naked, but it was something about the big picture window looking out over the forges of Thakan'dar that made her channel her thick robe over in a hurry, pull it on, and pad downstairs.
She could hear Demandred's stomach growling and feel it too, for that matter. As she walked down the halls, nodding politely to TGMotD and Darkhound, she immersed herself in her own thoughts.
Smoke hoped fervently that Demandred didn't go and do something stupid- after all, she hadn't gone through all the trouble bonding him for him just to get killed. And besides, she found herself strange- no! She shook her head- important negotiations with Shai'tan were coming up and she had no time to fall in love. Well, he was cute and the way he almost smiled...No!
Growling she stalked into the kitchen. A servant saw her and curtsied immediately, then darted off to pour Smoke a bowl of Lucky Ter-angreals and her customary cup of tea. Taking them with a curt nod, she spied Demandred in the corner sipping coffee and strode over to him.
Wincing at the tinge of hangover, she channeled the flows for healing to soothe away his headache. His head jerked up as he felt her embracing saidar, but he didn't do anything. Smiling softly, she set her bowl and cup down to join him...
Smoke "Runnin' short on time" Ashalen
Matrim was screaming. "Somebody, please! Get these rocks offa me!" There
was no reply. Matrim sighed. He was missing out on the party of the century
all because of those stupid Seanchan... suddenly, a figure appeared in
front of him. It was a woman.
"Er.... hello?" he said, meekly.
"Hey, how did you know my na-- Oh no! YOu aren't the Daughter of the Nine Moons, are you?"
"Oh, no. Never heard of her."
"Ahhhhhh.... then who are you?"
"I'm the dress seller that you dumped back in Arad Domon. Now come on dear. I want to talk more about our LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP.
"NO! NO! I'll stay under the rocks where it's safe!"
"Now really dear! Why are you so stubborn? I met a nice girl a the way here. What was here name? Ashes Smokelan? Thats not it... oh well. She gave me a wonderful new outlook on life. She also gave me this (holds up a collar).
"AAAAAAHHHHHHHH! BURN YOU SMOKE!!!!!! Bloody ashes Ashalen! (Hey, that makes sense in a strange way)
Matrim "Storyteller" Cauthon
Smoke sipped her tea. "I can feel your thoughts in the back of my mind,
you know... I can sense you're plotting something. What?"
Demandred smiled bitterly. "Just because you've Bonded me doesn't make me your slave."
Thoughtfully, Smoke took a bite of her Lucky Ter'angreals. "Of course you're not my slave, per se. I had to do it, you understand that."
Sipping his coffee, Demandred sighed. "You didn't have to."
"I doubt you would have liked my being Bound to you... and I would have liked it even less."
Demandred blinked at that. "How do you mean?"
Smoke stared at him intently, her misty blue-gray eyes peering deep into his remarkable dark ones. "A man once said 'Only a fool thinks a lion or a woman can be truly tamed', Demandred. It would have been... a grave mistake to Bond me," the words were forced, and she prayed he didn't read the bluff behind them. She didn't want to be Bound, but...
Demandred merely nodded...
The sunlight shining through the leaves woke Sundara from her sleep. She sat up, for a moment disorientated, wondering where she was - then smiled as she caught sight of Eval still asleep beside her. The gardens of the palace at Shayol Ghul, of course. The soft moss and leaves beneath them were quite comfortable - it was a shame to have to get up. Ah, well.
Catching sight of her reflection in a nearby pool, her smile turned rueful. Oh, she did look a sight, black hair wild - it would take ages to comb out all the tangles. Of course, she did have other methods available to her. With that thought, the knots vanished and her hair flowed down her back like a silken tide. Creating clothes out of nothing, however, was a little more difficult. With a sigh, Sundara pulled her silver gown on again - she might attract attention wearing that in the daytime, but better that than going naked.
Fully dressed again (or as fully as she could be) she knelt beside Eval and shook his shoulder gently. “Wake up, love.”
He stirred and mumbled, but did not wake. Sitting back, she considered ways of waking him, but decided to let him sleep. They would just have to postpone that ‘discussion’ until later. Meanwhile, she should see how her sisters were this morning. Weaving a ward of invisibility around him, she slipped into the silver sandals she had worn last night and headed off through the gardens to the palace.
The first place she went was the kitchens - they’d left the party before dinner, and she was hungry. Sitting down with a bowl of sweet, sun-ripened berries, she spotted Smoke and Demandred at a table on the other side of the room. Apparently they’d left early, too. She wondered if Demandred had resigned himself to being a Warder.
Egwene was still in Tanchico as far as she knew. Ariella and Darkhound she had seen on her way in - Darkhound was really quite good-looking in manform, she could see now why Ari kept him around. Moridin and Aran’gar were nowhere to be seen, most likely reporting back to Shai’tan.
There was a familiar footfall on the stone floors outside...With a smile, Sundara turned in her seat to see Eval Ramman at the door.
Sundara - I'm feeling just fine Ari, and you?
Demandred looked up at Smoke, smiling at her over the rim of his mug.
He noticed a certain...jerkiness...in her words, as if she was trying to
force her words out. In his mind he felt her increasing nervousness; he
chose not to betray what he felt in her, what he felt FOR her, instead
nodding in silence.
Smoke stared at him, looking as if she had been struck by lightning. "You...understand what I'm trying to say?" she managed to say after a while.
Demandred smiled - not his 'almost' smile, but a genuine smile, warm, gentle. "I guess I must, if this is the way we will be living from now on..." Setting his coffee down, he simply looked into the mist of her eyes, sighing. Moridin will live, yet, he thought, as Smoke touched his hand.
Demandred - Couldn't be better, Great Mistress, except for time constraints...
Darkhound staggered outfrom the Great Mistresses chamber. Running a
hand over his dark, short hair, he took a great lungful of air, and tried
to slow his trembling. Smoke and Demandred walked by, Demandred meeting
his eyes with a tight nod - almost a warm hug, by his standard. "He must
be happy," thought Darkhound, looking at Smoke. She jabbed a finger at
"Why aren't you writing Stag Party?" she demanded.
Hands held up in suppllication, he disarmed her with a smile. "Soon, ma'am, shall I finish another episode of mine great work and with pleasure shall I devote it to thy beauty..." he said with a bow.
"You daft Mutt..." she said, walking away, but he caught the grin on her face. In fact, happiness seemed to be catching around here. Even Moridin, once he had relaxed, proved to be quite a character, quick of mind and wit.
He laughed as he remembered Sundara start, as she saw him in man-form. He laughed again, as he remembered Mat Cauthon thinking himself safe from Sundara and Smoke now they were otherwise engaged, only to find himself pursued by Egwene, an enthusiastic and welcome addition to the house. Egwene certainly took her duties seriously, and he hadn't seen without her whip and boots yet.
"Darkhound! Get your mangy hide back in here now!" came a voice from
With a smile, Darkhound flexed his body. "No rest for the wicked" he said softly. Then louder "Yes, Great Mistress. I was just getting some oxygen. I think I might need it..."
The Great Mistresses answering giggle was evil...
Darkhound, the dreamer.
Egwene2 paused, her Gateway open and waiting. Looking around the Panarch's palace hadn't been a totally wasted effort. She bounced the leash and collar on her hand. Just wait until Mat saw this! Thinking of his cute b... she smiled lewdly, and wove a Mist of Illusion. There! she thought in satisfaction, now I look like that silly little dressmaker! Mat won't even know what hit him!
Stepping throught the Gateway, she closed her eyes and twirling
around once she located her prey... oops, I mean her goal. He was under
a pile of rubble. Wot on Earth had happened here? Ahh, the Seanchan, she
and her Dark Sisters would have to take care of them someday soon, but
first things first. She stepped briskly towards the rubble with Mat's rugged
body trapped within. A loud bellow pinpointed his location exactly for
"Hey, how did you know my na-- Oh no! YOu aren't the Daughter of the Nine Moons, are you?" he asked quickly
"Oh, no. Never heard of her." Egwene was puzzled.
"Ahhhhhh.... then who are you?"
"I'm the dress seller that you dumped back in Arad Domon. Now come on dear. I want to talk more about our LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP.
"NO! NO! I'll stay under the rocks where it's safe!"
"Now really dear! Why are you so stubborn? I met a nice girl a the way here. What was here name? Ashes Smokelan? Thats not it... oh well. She gave me a wonderful new outlook on life. She also gave me this (holds up collar)." Egwene was pleased at her inventiveness, he'd never believe she would pose as another woman!
"AAAAAAHHHHHHHH! BURN YOU SMOKE!!!!!! Bloody ashes Ashalen!" Mat shrieked furiusly as the collar clicked into place around his scarred neck.
Egwene smiled and channeled the rubble off of her new ... friend. Mat gaped in astonishment and his eyes came close to falling out of his head as Egwene let her cloaking weave fade away.
"Oh no! You ... you ...flaming daughter of a bloody goat..." Mat cursed
"Tsk, tsk, tsk. Such language!" Egwene shook her head smiling lightly.
"You and I will be such good ... friends" A delighted peal of laughter burst from Egwene.
She channeled again, this time a Gateway to the Great Mistress' house.
She just had to show off her new pet! Even the feel of Moridin's bond no
longer chaffed as it had. Taking the dumbfounded Mat by the hand, she pulled
him through the Gateway.
"Hello everyone!" Almost everyone was in the kitchen, breaking their fast and Egwene settled herself into her customary seat tugging lightly on the chain attaching her bracelet to Mat's collar. It jingled faintly, catching the eyes (and ears) of everyone in the room.
The Sisters immediately abandoned their breakfasts and surrounded her. Darkhound grinned broadly, while Eval and Demandred pretended to notice nothing amiss.
"This is not what it looks like" Mat croaked weakly, "This is all a mistake."
Egwene smiled and stroked his hand, while answering her Sisters questions.
"Yes, the collar appears to work very well, Smoke, thanks for suggesting it. I just wish I could have found the ter'angreal that Sunny suggested! Moridin will just have to wait for another time, I guess."
A brilliant flash of light announced a Gateway opening in the corner of the room. Neatly sidestepping the unfortunate servant lying in two pieces on either side of the the Gate, Moridin entered the room.
(Continue this if you dare!)
Egwene2, oh what a lovely day it is, Great Mistress!
Moridin walked quickly through the "Gateway", leather boots incessantly clicking on the kitchen floor. The blood of the servant seemed to slide off his boots with every step, as all remains of the servant burned in black fire. His eyes, a blue deeper than natural, stabbed through the Sisters and their companions, though in the throes of the True Power emotion showed not.
"Moridin, how nice of you to join us again..." Egwene2's voice stung like acid against his ears. "Tell me, are you up to a little game of ours? We promise we won't hurt you - much." The Sisters laughed amongst themselves, while the man between them - at first glance it seemed like the Sounder of the Horn - only hung his head in shame.
The High Servant only laughed, though he refused to tell that they had succeeded in shattering his Oneness. "Maybe another time, dear Sister. I only came to deliver a few messages." The smile on his face could have made Demandred rethink of fear, if that Chosen was even paying attention to him; at the least, Darkhound was hiding under the table. The Sisters' faces only showed stone, however. "First..." Leaning into Egwene's ear, he said something that sounded like "Bonds of the True Power cannot be broken with One Power ter'angreal" to anyone trying to listen in. Egwene's face still appeared stonelike, but a little of her confidence seemed to have vanished.
Next, he turned to Ariella. "The pact is sealed, Great Mistress." He pressed two fingers against his lips, and then against hers. "Forever we are allies..."
Finally, he turned to the table, where Eval and Demandred were seated. "You two," he barked, "are lucky the Great Lord offered this pact. If not for that, you would wish death in the most horrific way possible compared to what me or Semirhage would have for you. But next time..." He shook his head with disappointment. "Don't fail the Great Lord's commands. You belong to him first and foremost."
"Thank you, Moridin... Would you care to have breakfast with -" Before Sundara could continue with her question, Moridin had vanished. She sighed, eternally thankful not to have to invite him, even out of politeness...
Moridin, High Servant of the Great Lord
Of all the women present, only the Great Mistress of the Dark could sense the faint traces of the True Power Moridin had used to leave her home. Of course, the True Power was her power, hers and the Great Lord's. But where he sometimes granted access to the True Power to his followers, she did not. Her Sisters were managing just fine without it -- they didn't need any help.
The morning had gone magnificently. It seemed Sundara's campaign with the ravishing young Eval Ramman had been wildly successful, and even Demandred was looking almost content at Smoke's side. Of course, Smoke seemed to be bound just as tightly as the Chosen, but that was a small price to pay. Darkhound had provided her with some very interesting intelligence gleaned at the party, not to mention a most exhilirating morning workout. And then, Egwene had sauntered in with a collared Mat Cauthon. Ari had had to bite her lip to keep from laughing aloud at that one. So, Mat had bemoaned the fact that he'd missed the party? Well, it seemed he'd be missing little else from now on...
But the crowning touch to the entire morning had been Moridin's arrival, with his messages. The vivsection of the servant had been unfortunate, but at least he'd been thoughtful enough to clean up his own mess. She'd paid only scant attention to the messages he delivered to others, except to note that he managed to discomfort nearly everyone. It was the message for her that had made her day: the alliance with Shai'itan was sealed, the long years of planning come at last to fruition. But while the message had been Shai'tan's, the method of delivery had been pure Moridin.
Ari raised one fingertip to her lips, still able to feel the impression
of his light touch. Almost as if he had kissed her in truth... She wondered
briefly what that might be
like, wondered if he were still a man or simply the Great Lord's creature. And then, she smiled -- a feral, wicked smile that made even her Sisters sit up and take
notice. Oh yes, the deal might be done, but the game -- aah, the game had only just begun...
Ariella, the Great Mistress of the Dark
Concealed by inverted weaves of saidin, Moridin watched Ariella's companions finish off what they could of breakfast. At least, Egwene felt a shade greener, and had good reason as well. How damaging a weapon the truth can actually be... A laugh almost escaped his lips, but he suppressed it. Only incredible self control kept him from betraying his location to anyone. That same self control was what kept Moridin from falling to his knees before the Great Mistress earlier. She posessed an aura similar to the Great Lord's, except much more...passionate, he thought. His fingers still burned with the feeling of her lips. Burning, and yet such pleasure at it... He then realized he was smiling. No! Falling for a woman he barely knows, and the Dark One's SISTER at that... He tried to create the Void in his mind, but it proved impossible. Besides, what would he draw upon? If the Great Mistress posessed the True Power, and Demandred and Balthamel saidin... Best to keep still, then, and leave when the rest do.
Seconds turned to minutes, minutes to hours, it seemed, and his patience burned away, replaced increasingly with anxiety. Their pointless conversations chafed at him, breaking him down slowly but efficiently. It was all Moridin could do just to keep his eyes away from Ariella, in fear she may see him, but doing so was like trying to cease breathing. Finally, after what seemed eternity, Smoke and Demandred left the kitchen, followed by Eval and Sundara a few moments later. Soon, most everyone had left, except for Ariella.
"You can stop hiding now, Moridin. Come join me..."
Moridin, always short on time nowadays.
The Great Mistress of the Dark was seemingly alone in the kitchen; her Sisters and the others had scattered to their separate rooms, to contemplate the messages Moridin had brought them and plan their next moves. But Ariella knew she was not the only one left in the vast kitchen; although she could not see the weaves of saidin he used, she could still feel Moridin’s presence through his link to Shai’itan, her twin. "You can stop hiding now, Moridin. Come, join me..."
The faintest trace of a smile curved Ariella’s lips as Moridin let his concealing weave fall away and stepped out from the shadows. "So, you knew I was here all along, Great Mistress?" he asked. "I should have known I couldn’t hide from you," he added with a wry smile. "Call me Ari," she said softly, her voice low and husky. "And yes, you should have known, but I’ll forgive the error just this once, in honor of the truce between my brother and me. I must say, his choice of messenger was... inspired." She let her gaze wander over him in a fashion that left him fighting the urge to blush. She seemed to sense his inner struggle, and smiled archly. "That’s what I’ve always admired about you, Ishamael -- your exquisite self-control. Always made me wonder how far I’d have to go to make you lose it..." She left the image hanging there, and he thought that it would take her very little effort indeed, if she really wanted to.
She moved gracefully to stand just in front of him, close enough that he could smell the subtle, musky scent of her perfume. To senses still enhanced by the Source, it was torture, and he was certain she knew it. She’d finally changed out of that maddening gown she’d worn last night, but her simple black silk robe was only marginally less distracting. She tossed her long auburn locks negligently over her shoulders, and touched his cheek with one scarlet-nailed finger. "This form suits you, Ishamael, or do you prefer Moridin now?" By a supreme effort of will, he managed to keep his voice even. "Moridin, if you please Great Mis... Ari," he replied, correcting the slip at the last moment. "Ishamael became... unbalanced, but your brother, my Master, saw fit to correct that when he gave me this body. I am still myself, but as I was before the turnings of the Wheel took their toll on my sanity."
She moved a fraction closer; the muscles of his jaw tightened. "Moridin, then, if that pleases you," she said, her tone intimate, insinuating. "It seems we will be working together quite... closely, from now on, so I suppose I should take note of your preferences." She leaned forward until she was just touching him, whispered in his ear. "And I take very detailed notes." Then, she kissed him lightly on the mouth, and stepped away before he could react. Her eyes sparkled wickedly, but her voice was cool as ice when she said, "You’d best be getting back to Shayol Ghul now, though. If I know my brother, he’ll be waiting not-so-patiently for your report. Until we meet again..." And with that, she stepped out of reality and vanished. Moridin stood there for just a moment, struggling to regain the Void, and then he too was gone.
Ariella, they don't call me the Great Mistress for nothing...
As the Great Mistress and Moridin departed, an intangible entity sat watching the whole episode. Not a physical form, certainly, but a point of conciousness in space. An infinitessimally tiny entity, floating in the etheric plain. After waiting about half hour, tasting, sensing, it suddenly shot in a straight line through the fabric of matter making up the Great Mistresses abode, through several thick, hot walls, back to it's origin....
Darkhound sat up, waiting for the nausea to stop. When it had, he smiled to himself. There was a very good chance that the Great Mistress had known he was there, since she alone knew of his ability to cast his conciousness beyond his body. In fact, since being in her service, he had watched, and waited, and learnt, until he had quite a few tricks of his own.
"Old dog, new tricks indeed!" he chuckled. Clearly, the Great Mistress wanted to explore other avenues for the moment, use Moridin until she had what she wanted. Moridin would learn that he was no match for her. Possibly the hard way.
But what of him? Well, with the Great Mistresses attention at least half-diverted, he thought he'd have some fun. He used another of his talents to shape-shift into his trademark black hound shape, and bounded out the door. There was this rather lovely knew lady by the name of Egwene2 who had a fierce enthusiasm, and importantly, sense of humour, too. He thought he might go play....
Egwene2 sighed. Why did Mat have to be so difficult? Somehow during the short time Moridin had been in the kitchen, he had snapped a link of the chain and had escaped. Not far to be sure, the empheral link from bracelet to necklace was still intact, but it was rather an annoyance to be forced to traipse after him like this! Experimentally, she tweaked enough of Saidar to heat the collar slightly. She grinned at the answering surge of irritation from Mat. He had not yet realized how to remove the collar. His silver amulet wouldn't help him against this, but still he had to try!
Hearing a slight noise behind her, she spun around and saw the
most adorable little dog in the hallway.
"What a sweet thing you are!" she held out her hand and channeled a small doggie treat into her open palm.
"Here you go! Just one for now, I'm rather busy."
The puppy snuffled and licked her palm scooping up the treat and sniffed trustingly at her ankles looking for more.
"Silly thing! I've got to go now, stay here and I'll be back."
Walking away and focusing on Mat's presence she never noticed the small creature shadowing her.
"Oh Mat, my dear, come out, come out wherever you are!" a wide smile graced her perfect features. This was such fun!
Egwene2, the huntress
Smoke stood in the center of her bedroom, contemplating. She ignored the thick draperies of silk and tapestries from the Age before the Age of Legends, the beautiful sculptures and paintings from the lands beyond the Aiel Waste.
Absently, she tucked a stray lock of ash-blond hair back from her face, a habitual gesture indicating that she was deep in thought and not to be disturbed. Demandred, somewhere in the other chambers of her suite, must have caught her mood and stayed away.
Good, she thought. At least he was staying away... in a bitter and odd sort of fashion, she wanted him as far away from her as he could get. No! She wanted him to stay- oh, Shai'tan take her soul, she didn't know what she wanted.
It had taken a will of stone, a heart clad in iron to keep her face straight when Moridin showed up that morning. Serious news, yes, but unexpectedly welcome. A new alliance meant a new chance to triumph on the Day of Return, and certainly any chance at advancing the Dark Sister's position should be taken.
Her mind kept going back to Demandred, though, the Light burn it! Trying to break out of her pensive mood, she flopped down on the bed and tried to sleep.
Maybe she shouldn't have Bonded him, she reflected; after all, it had been a sneaky, underhanded, despicable move- one which he might have tried on her, part of her mind whispered- but she had never been one to take the low road. Unconsciously, she toyed with the top button of her dress. Why was she wearing the damn thing still, anyways? Oh, the Shadow take everything!
Snarling, she wrapped herself in saidar and flung herself into TAR to walk the dreams of the nobles to the west and see how things went in Tanchico. Several servants had failed in their tasks, and she, in a bad mood already, tied their spirits in the World of Dreams to live at the mercy of whatever walked TAR until she chose to release them.
As she drifted back to her body, Smoke reflected that she really should ask tGMotD for advice. She could keep control of her own affairs, and with any luck, keep Demandred at a comfortable distance as well...
Smoke "The plot thickens" Ashalen
In a pensive mood for once, Sundara studied the snows of Shayol Ghul from where she stood on the balcony of her room. Things had been becoming... strange, lately. Moridin, and other Chosen, constantly turning up in the palace she and her sisters shared. Not that it was all bad, of course...A slow smile drifted over Sundara's face as she remembered last night with Eval. She felt colour rising in her cheeks, and was glad that there was no one to see her blush. Sundara *never* blushed. And this was the second time now! It was all Eval's fault...
With a sigh, the youngest of the Dark Sisters leaned against the balcony railing. She was quite sure that no innocent sixteen-verging-on-seventeen girl, even a Domani, should be having thoughts like these. It was a very good thing that she had stopped being innocent long ago. Still - it had been a long time since any man had had this effect on her. Sundara wondered if it was an illness of some kind. If it was, she decided, it was clearly contagious. A single look at Smoke was enough to tell that.
Sundara smoothed the silk robe she wore - white as a wisp of cloud, and not much thicker - and with a last look at the falling snow, turned to go inside. After all, she was not an innocent girl, she was a Domani, a Dark Sister, and experienced beyond her years. After all, in the White Tower she passed as ten times her age at least, without question from other Aes Sedai. She should have no difficulty in handling a single Chosen. Even if he was unfairly handsome.
Still, it might be wise to stay away from Eval for a while...With that thought, Sundara decided she would head for the Tower. It would be interesting to see what Mesaana had found. And if the Chosen was not disposed to share it with her, well, she had spies of her own. Embracing saidar, Sundara formed an image around herself: a Domani woman with an ageless face and silver among her dark hairs, clad in a fairly modest dress of coffee-brown silk. Nodding in satisfaction, Sundara opened a gateway to her rooms in the Tower and stepped through.
Demandred stood at the far end of Smoke's chambers, staring out a window overlooking the palace training grounds. He could feel her emotions, struggling between pensiveness, guilt, and love. Never a safe situation for a man to be around, especially the one responsible. A few of the Great Mistress' guards were there with practice swords, briefly taking his mind from the issues at hand. But not for long, never for long... Quickly, he wove a Gateway to the slopes of Shayol Ghul, looking for any excuse to leave.
The Gate was only to release him at the slopes, but the Pit of Doom awaited him on the other side.
A voice like lightning struck the Chosen, shaking the world in its intensity, and yet only he felt it. Falling to his knees, he clutched his head, struggling to control the extacy.
DEMANDRED, YOU HAVE SERVED ME WELL. BUT I HAVE NOT CALLED YOU TO COME HERE; WHY ARE YOU HERE AND NOT WITH SMOKE ASHALEN?
"Great Lord..." His voice came out a hoarse whisper. "Smoke won't have it that way, she wants me away. For that matter... I am not sure how long I can humanly be her Warder." Silence followed for what seemed like years. As Demandred rose to leave, another bolt of lightning sent him crashing to the ground.
YOU WILL STAY WITH HER UNTIL OUR ALLIANCE IS NO LONGER. BRING HER HERE, AND HER SISTERS.
Demandred shook his head. "Great Lord, you have no ide-"
WOULD YOU BE NAE'BLIS, DEMANDRED? Demandred shut his still-gaping mouth quickly, though anger brimmed inside him. FIND THE SISTERS, AND BRING THEM HERE.
"Yes, my Great Lord." A Gateway appeared before the Chosen, though not of his weaving. With great haste, he leaped through...
WOULD YOU BE NAE'BLIS?
With a cynical part of his mind, Eval wondered how many of the other Chosen had been offered the same position, and in the same words. The rest of his mind was occupied remembering last night, when...
YES. The Great Lord's voice was like an avalanche, a volcano, in his
head, yet it no longer struck him with the same force as once. Strange
how a single night, no
matter how bright the moon or how fragrant the air, could have such a profound effect. IT IS GOOD THAT YOU HAVE FORMED THIS ALLIANCE. YOU
WILL FIND HER, AND BRING HER AND HER SISTERS TO ME.
Eval gaped, bewildered. "Great Lord, why -"
DO MY CHOSEN NOW QUESTION ME? GO NOW, AND DO AS I HAVE COMMANDED.
"As you command, Great Lord." Eval rose from his obeisance and wove a gateway from Shayol Ghul.
Safely in his own rooms, he rubbed his aching head. What did the Great Lord intend with the Sisters? Ariella was his equal, of course, and he was quite sure Smoke Ashalen and Egwene2 could take care of themselves. Only...
Sundara. Eval was not certain of his own feelings towards her, but he would not see her harmed if he could help it. She was oddly contradictory - so young, innocent-seeming, yet her dark eyes knowing. She was so beautiful, his throat was dry at the thought of her, and yet in some ways she seemed - fragile. Vulnerable. As though a harsh wind might blow her away.
Eval told himself not to be a fool. She was a Dark Sister: by no stretch of meaning could she ever be called innocent. She would laugh if she knew how he saw her, perhaps laughed already. And yet - Well, he could find her, anyway. Then he would decide whether or not to deliver the Great Lord's invitation.
He had heard that she sometimes passed as an Aes Sedai, out in the world. Very well; the White Tower was as good a place as any to look for her. He would start there.
The White Tower, gleaming like mother-of-pearl in the pale twilight,
loomed tall above Tar Valon. It was a large building. A very large building.
It housed, reportedly, nearly a thousand Aes Sedai. Standing in the square
below, Eval Ramman was beginning to realize just how hard it might be to
find a single woman from among that thousand. Especially if she did not
want to be found. Ah, well. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Climbing the
stairs to the great doors of the Tower, Eval intercepted a girl dressed
all in white.
"Excuse me, but could you tell me where -" The girl hurried past with barely a look at him. Eval sighed and turned to a girl slightly older, in a white dress embroidered with bands of colour.
"Excuse me -" She brushed past, ignoring him. This was becoming irritating. As a third white-clad girl came past, Eval stepped directly in front of her. As she moved to the side, he reached out to block her way.
The girl looked up in annoyance. "Look, I'm busy -"
"I don't care" Eval cut in, "how busy you are. I am looking for an Aes Sedai named Sundara. Is she here?"
"She's in her study." The girl tried to push past him. Eval blocked her way again. "Then you will go and tell her that I am here, and that I wish to speak with her. Now."
"All right! I'm going!" She ducked under his arm and fled. He must have frightened her.
Leaning against a marble pillar, Eval folded his arms and settled in to wait.
Eval Ramman, Lord of Darkness
Curled up in an armchair by the fire, Sundara read the last of her reports. There was little enough news. The Dragonsworn and Whitecloaks continued to run rampage, the Cairhienin were plotting again - when were the Cairhienin not plotting? and the Red sisters that fool of an Amyrlin had sent were about to attack the Black Tower. Sundara spared a brief smile; that would be amusing to watch. And, of course, there were the Seanchan. She and her sisters would have to do something about that quite soon.
A rap at the door interrupted her musings. Checking her mask of Illusion, she crossed the room to open it.
The young Accepted dropped a hurried curtsy. "There is a man outside who wishes to speak with you, Sundara Sedai," the girl said nervously. "He said - he said that he would not leave before seeing you." She was pale: something had frightened her. Sundara could guess what.
"Very well." So Eval thought he could follow her here, did he? "Leave him to wait for another ten minutes. Then bring him here." As the girl curtsied again and darted off, Sundara considered the problem of Eval. He was charming, of course, and she liked him. Perhaps more than liked. But he could not simply turn up at the Tower whenever he wanted. She would have to explain that to him; perhaps as a part of that 'discussion' they had yet to have on the subject of bonding.
With a smile, Sundara seated herself again to wait for Eval. It was
not long before he appeared.
"You may go," she told the Accepted, and as the door closed behind the girl, dropped her Illusion. And had the satisfaction of seeing his jaw drop: beneath the Power-woven guise she had chosen to wear white, as she often did, setting off her dark hair and eyes, and the not-quite-sheer silk drifted around her like petals blowing on the wind. He might even use that metaphor: flowery language seemed to be his strong suit.
"Well?" Her voice was soft, but he started as she spoke suddenly. Stepping closer, she looked up into his eyes - eyes like darkest sapphires, she noted distractedly - and smiled, the smile which had enchanted men when she was but a girl in Arad Doman. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"
Sundara, youngest Sister of the Dark - and what have you to say now, Eval?
Eval gazed into her dark eyes, wishing he could gaze forever. With a regretful sigh he bowed, breaking contact with those shining eyes.
"I would not have disturbed you, Sundara, but the Great Lord gave me a message to deliver to you and your sisters. He wishes that you come to Shayol Ghul. I cannot be certain, but I suspect Demandred too has been given this message."
Sundara looked thoughtful, but did not speak for a long moment. Eval took the opportunity to once again feast his eyes on her beauty, on the exquisite perfection of her features, on the slender grace of her body beneath a dress like moonlit snow. He had noticed that she wore white often. Her tilted dark eyes, studying him in return, seemed to hold all infinity in their dark depths. As foolish as it was, when he gazed into those eyes he feared he was losing his heart.
"I will come," she said finally. "But first - You will accompany me, to find my sisters."
Eval opened a gateway. "As you say, my Lady." He gestured for her to precede him, and stepping through after her, closed the gateway behind him. "Where to first?"