Ariella stepped from her chambers, gowned in elegant, flowing black silk. As was her custom, the gown was devoid of ornamentation, but today she wore an emerald necklet, along with numerous bracelets around wrists and ankles, in concession to the importance of the meeting she would attend later. As was also her custom, she was barefoot -- the better to walk softly and come upon others unnoticed...
It was time. She and all her Sisters, along with their Brother and all the various men, Chosen and otherwise, who shared their lives were to stand before her brother at the Pit of Doom. There, he would reveal to them his plan, or at least as much of it as each individual needed to know. Today, she would have to be not just Ariella, but once again Shai’ariel, the true Great Mistress of the Dark. Oddly, she felt a bit nervous. It seemed she had worn flesh for so long that some of the more annoying attributes of the form were beginning to rub off on her. Of course, the pleasures of the flesh more than made up for those small annoyances.
Thinking of those pleasures brought Moridin to mind. She felt his presence somewhere on the grounds, as she was aware of all who passed the borders of her palace grounds. Speaking softly to one of the serving girls, she learned that he’d been told of her plan to set aside rooms for him here, and that he’d gone to the gardens for a walk after that. Ari sighed. She hoped he hadn’t misconstrued her offer; she’d meant it only as a convenience since his business would often bring him here in the future. And she rather hoped that most of his time at the palace would be spent in her rooms, anyway. She went into the gardens.
Egwene and Darkhound were deep in conversation. Ari was startled to see Darkhound in manform -- he seldom did so outside her chambers. As she approached, he shot her a meaningful look, and she realized that Egwene did not know who he was. Ari laughed to herself. So, the old dog was up to his usual tricks, was he? She wished him luck... he’d likely need it with Egwene. She cleared her throat to get Egwene’s attention, and quietly mentioned that it was time to head over to Shayol Ghul. Darkhound already knew, so she didn’t have to blow his cover.
Next, she came upon Tam Al’thor skulking in the bushes, keeping an eye on Egwene. Darkhound might need even more luck than he knew, but Ari wasn’t really worried about him. Darkhound always survived. She tapped Tam on the shoulder, and he jumped halfway out of his skin. "G-g-g-reat Mistress! I was just..." "Yes, I know, little Brother. You were just keeping an eye on Egwene." Ari chuckled. "I guess someone ought to. Anyway, the family has to be at Shayol Ghul within the quarter hour. Since you do not channel, ask Egwene to take you with her and Darkhound, who will also be joining her."
She knew that Sundara and Eval were already on their way, as were Smoke and Demandred, so that left only one more person to find. Moridin. She cocked her head thoughtfully to one side, feeling for his link to her twin. Ah -- over that way...
Moridin was deep in thought when she found him, but although she made absolutely no sound as she walked along the soft grass, he raised his head as though she had called him by name. Without turning, he said "So, you have found me, Ari. What is it you wish of me?" There was a trace of irony in his voice, as though he mocked himself with the words. Ariella came to stand beside him, and brushed a strand of his brown hair out of his eyes. "You know what I wish of you, but we don’t have time for that right now," she said, teasing. "It is time to go, and I thought it appropriate that we go together."
"Appropriate?" he echoed. Then he laughed. "Yes, I suppose it would be at that. Would you like to do the honors, or shall I?" "By all means, go ahead, Moridin. After all, it’s your home we’re Traveling to, and I but a humble guest." She felt the True Power fill him, saw the saa flicker through those preternaturally blue eyes like a blizzard of ebon snowflakes, then took his hand and stepped through the rip he had made in the Pattern. They stood together on the slopes of Shayol Ghul, waiting for the others. Ariella felt the unmistakable presence of her brother, even at this distance.
In pairs, or in the case of Egwene a trio, the others arrived. "Come, my Sisters, my little Brother, my friends. We are summoned, and all your questions will be answered. Come with me, and stand before the majesty of the Great Lord of the Dark." At that, Shaidar Haran appeared, indicating that they should follow him. Ariella and Moridin went first, arm in arm, followed by Demandred with Smoke, Eval with Sundara, and finally Egwene with her pair of escorts, man and dog. The passage to the Bore was oddly stable, with none of the usual shifting ceilings. Moridin wondered at that.
At last they stood before the Pit of Doom. Ariella faced the Pit and said, "We have come, my twin," and once again dipped her hand into the flames. Even Moridin looked a bit uneasy when she pulled it back, unblemished as before.
YOU HAVE DONE WELL, MY SISTER. THOSE WHO STAND HERE TODAY ARE NOW CHIEF AMONG MY SERVANTS. YOU SHALL RULE WHEN ALL IS DONE. I HAVE INSTRUCTIONS FOR EACH OF YOU. LISTEN WELL, AND MAKE NO MISTAKE. FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION...
Each of them in turn froze as the Great Lord spoke in their minds. Ariella stood apart, observing. She had received her instructions long since, instructions regarding the society known as the Light Warriors...
Ariella, aka Shai'ariel, the Great Mistress of the Dark
Yawning, Smoke pushed herself back from the writing desk, where she was penning her latest creation. Brushing a hand across her eyes, she glanced wearily at the clock on the wall. "Morning already?" she whispered dazedly. She stood up, feeling awkward for one of the precious few times in her life. A cold shower- that's what she needed. And coffee. She needed coffee. Halfway to the shower room, she became aware of Demandred's channelling- a faint vibration in the back of her awareness. Half a second later, the world plunged into a freezing cold whiteness.
Shrieking, she channeled, weaving Air to carry away the snow that had been freshly transported from Shayol Ghul. Shooting a freezing (literally!) glare at Demandred, she dumped the snow over the balcony- a muffled shriek told her someone had been on its receiving end. Demandred's grin vanished as she channeled a flick of Air to contact solidly on his cheek. Frowning, he flopped back down onto the bed, on the verge of pouting. "Serves you right," muttered Smoke. Now she needed a hot shower. And coffee.
"Well, it's not fun having to go around feeling someone who's bone-tired in the back of my head. And it's not fun having a woman in the room who would rather write than-" he cut off, the pout turning into a faint blush. Smoke smiled sweetly as she pulled her thin dressing robe off and reached for the clinging black dress she planned to wear. His eyes followed her movements, but instead of commenting on that, he brought up something else.
"Today we go to Shayol Ghul."
She jerked around at that, and from the look in Demandred's eyes, he had gotten at least some measure of revenge. "By Shai'tan's toenails, I forgot completely. Grrrrrr...." Muttering to herself, she slipped into her dress, ran a brush through her hair, and strode out the door.
They stood in the pit of Shayol Ghul. Smoke stared straight ahead, right at the place where the Bore seemed thinnest. She kept her face straight, unemotional, but inside she was roiling with curiosity. What did Big Brother want? She glanced at Demandred, and sighed; his expression was rapturous. For the first time, the man was actually smiling- ridiculously at that. The dark eyes were alight with passion that she- Smoke allowed a bit of jealousy to creep in- had felt she couldn't inspire. She watched as each person went forward to receive instructions, trying to puzzle out what was being said. All too soon, though, it was her turn. To her surprise, she and Demandred were brought forward together.
YOUNG SMOKE ASHALEN AND THE CHOSEN DEMANDRED.
"Pipe down," Smoke muttered.
WATCH YOUR TONE WITH ME, LITTLE SISTER.
"Who are you? My mother? No..." Smoke wanted to stick her tongue out at her big brother. He was so bossy sometimes.
IF YOU WERE'NT INDISPENSABLE TO MY CAUSE, I WOULD HAVE YOU WRITHING IN THE PIT OF DOOM FOR ALL ETERNITY. YOU ALMOST WERE, YOU KNOW.
Smoke glanced at Demandred. "We don't need to talk about this anymore. What do you want?"
I WANT YOU AND DEMANDRED TO WORK TOGETHER.
"What?" shouted Demandred. "Great Lord, I-"
"What?" shouted Smoke. "Shai'tan, I-"
SHUT UP, CHOSEN. SHUT UP, SISTER. PAY ATTENTION. I NEED YOUR RESPECTIVE... TALENTS, SHALL I SAY. AND NOT TO MENTION I DON'T LIKE THE THOUGHT OF YOU TWO TRYING TO KILL EACH OTHER.
The great voice paused for breath. I WANT YOU, SMOKE AND DEMANDRED, TO FIND OUT A FEW THINGS ABOUT...
A gateway filled with blackness appeared, and out stepped a man whose eyes and mouth both smoldered with flickering flames. It had been much too long since the man once known as Elan Morin had presented himself before the pit of the Great Lord. He could see the others before him, being given their detailed instructions, listening so intently that they failed to see him at all. Of course, no one would have felt him channeling the True Power, which was so much more intoxicating in its use while in the presence of the Great Lord. Well, Ariella may have been able to sense it, but she seemed too caught up in her brother's presence to recognize it. They would be shocked when they saw him, likely they all thought him dead. Dead he may have been, for Ishamael could recall very little of what and where he was before this moment. Yet Shai'tan had summoned him and here he was. "The grave is no bar to my call," he thought, silently chuckling to himself. He couldn't help but feel amused by all this, for he understood more of the Great Lord's plan than any of the others present did at this moment. And even as their faces slowly drifted to shock as they each in turn began to notice and recognize him, Ishamael knew that they, too, would soon all rejoice after their master finished relaying his plans to them all.....
Ishy--The Betrayer of Hope returns, the world shall fall beneath the Shadow
As they approached Shayol Ghul, Darkhound turned to Egwene and pulled her to one side. When everyone had passed he spoke to her.
"An it please thee, my lady, I must wait here for thee to return, for my presence is not required. These others here shall keep thee safe and attend thy needs, my lady, be assured." She nodded her assent, a strange smile on her face, and went to join the others. When they had travelled a safe distance, Darkhound morphed into his hound shape, complete with sparkly collar, with the little diamond studs, and the bow-tie on the front. Well, it was a formal occasion, after all. Without further delay, he bounded off to catch up.
He caught up with them just as they entered Pit of Doom itself. He went and sat between the Great Mistress and Egwene, looking up to them and wagging his tail. Egwene gave him a fond smile, and patted his head. Ariella shook her head and grinned to.
There they stood, or sat, as the Great Lord spoke to each of them in their turn. Some looked ecstatic, some overawed. Darkhound laughed as he saw Smokes expression, which seemed to say "don't you take that tone with me, great lord or not" and made a mental note to keep on her good side. He'd pity the man, or woman, who crossed her! No wonder Demandred seemed so... pre-occupied lately. Tam Al'thor seemed a little overwhelmed by the occasion. Darkhound thought back to earlier to when he detected Tam slinking around in the background. He'd thought about engaging Tam in a little sword play, to impress Egwene, but he'd forgotten about their appointment. Besides, Tam looked like he knew how to use his sword, and it had been quite a few centuries since he'd resorted to conventional means of combat. And of course, he liked Tam, which was well, as they were as brothers in the eyes of dark. Suddenly, his musing was cut off abruptly.
DARKHOUND. HAVE YOU SERVED MY SISTER WELL?
"With everything I have, your darkness-ship." answered Darkhound.
THOUGH SHE CAN LOOK AFTER HERSELF, AS WELL YOU KNOW, SHE SOMETIMES IS DISTRACTED. YOU MUST BE EVER VIGILANT, DARKHOUND. YOU ARE FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE, AND THE LAST. YOU ARE THE SHARP TOOTH IN THE JAW.
"My thoughts exactly, vile-one."
SHE HAS A.... SENSITIVE SIDE TO HER SOUL, AND CAN SOMETIMES CAN BE TOO MERCIFUL.
"Well, I don't know I'd agree with that, yer evilness" Darkhound replied, remembering a number of evenings that had tested his endurance to the limits, where "mercy" had been in short supply. Remembering whom he was talking to, he gave a disarming grin. "In a manner of speaking, damned one." For possibly the first time ever, the Dark One sighed.
SHE'S RIGHT. SOMETIMES, YOU ARE IMPOSSIBLE. BUT YOU WERE FIRST TO RECOGNISE HER POWER AND STATURE. FIRST TO ACCEPT IT, AND ACKNOWLEDGE IT BEFORE ALL. AS ISHMAEL IS TO ME, SO ARE YOU TO HER. IT IS A POSITION OF HONOUR. MAKE SURE YOU CONTINUE TO BE WORTHY OF IT.
"I always have been" said Darkhound, his chin raised in pride, "And always will be."
WELL AND GOOD, THEN. AND BE NICE TO EGWENE.
AND GET ON WITH STAG PARTY.
OR I'LL SET SMOKE ON YOU.
AND IF YOU EVER TELL ANYONE MY REAL NAME AGAIN, I WILL OBLITERATE YOU. GOTTIT?
"I understand. It won't happen again. Simon."
Much later, as the party departed from the pit of doom, Darkhound loped
off ahead, and morphed back into man shape. When Egwene approached, he
stepped out onto.
the path beside her. She still wore that mysterious smile.
"It is mine hope that thou wearest such a smile because thine heart is gleeful, my lady." Darkhound had to know.
"I smile at the antics of a daft mutt who runs off to shape-change, believing that I don't know what he's up to." Egwene's smile widened. Darkhound missed a step.
"You know? How? Wait a minute, did HE say something?"
"No, I knew from the beginning. But I didn't mind. It's quite sweet really!" She reached up, and patted his head, as she had when he wore his hound shape.
"But.... But.... But.... How.... Why....."
Egwene laughed. "Oh you daft Mutt. I am a woman, and a Dark Sister besides. Who knows what we know? For all you know, we may well know EVERYTHING!" She looked at Darkhound whose mouth hung agape and was gently shaking his head. "There, there, puppy dear. I'll be gentle with you, I promise...but not too gentle!" Egwene laughed again, and at the front of the prosession, the Great Mistress of the Dark grinned broadly to.
"Nice one, sister." she murmured through her smile.
Tam felt like a fool. Stuttering in front of the Great Mistress. I need to learn to plan ahead for such situations he thought. Well it was time to go. "Egwene I know that you arn't talking to me right now but I need you to transport me to the meeting." Egwene simply nodded. The dark haired stranger looked at Tam fo a moment and smiled mischieviuosly. How dare he, Tam thought. This rogue knows something that he thinks I want to know by gum he should not better anger me.
TAM AL'THOR I HAVE IMPORTANT WORK FOR YOU AND I EXPECT NO DIVIATONS FROM THE TASK I SET BEFORE YOU.
But what if Egwene2 needs me?
THIS IS MORE IMPORTANT THEN FAMILY NOW THIS IS WHAT YOU MUST DO; GO TO THE ONE WHO LEADS THE LIGHT WARRIORS ........