The fires and candles burned low; wood disintegrated to cinders and wax dripped down delicate candleabras. Flickering light barely managed to illuminate the beautiful tapestries and hangings gracing the wall, the delicate silk brocade framing the fancifully carved mahogany of the bedposts.
That same light caught on a single, perfect tear, clearer than the teardrop of Tar Valon.
Irritably, Smoke wiped at it, and spread its crystalline perfection all over her right cheekbone. Her face, in the absence of the tear, betrayed nothing; all it held was the inner certainty and pride she displayed toward the world. Of course, it didn't help that Demandred, who sat on the bed and watched her pace, knew exactly what she was feeling through the Bond that held him to her. And it was small consolation that she could feel what he felt.
"Well, Shai'tan has instructed me to head east, and that is what I will do, burn him for a dictatorial older brother," Smoke said calmly. She briefly touched a painting, a work created by her own hand and appropriately entitled 'Shayol Ghul'. It wasn't high art; it happened to be finger painting, done when she was knee-high to a Myrdrral. Her signature, scrawled in the Old Tongue, marched across the bottom of the page.
"You know," Demandred began hesitantly,"With that Strawn fellow showing
up earlier, I never got a chance to ask you a question I've been meaning
to ask you for some time."
"If it's marriage, it comes at an awkward time..."
"No... no. Not that," he replied hurriedly. "Rather, I was wondering... where do you come from?"
Smoke laughed softly. "That, Demandred, is a secret the Creator himself could never shake out of me. Although I perhaps may have met you a time or two long ago, I suppose, in older weavings."
"Maybe. Maybe not. I've never been one to encourage hope, unless it serves my purpose. But, before I go, I ask you again not to follow me."
"Why? For the sake of the Great Lord, why can't I come with you?"
"I need you here, to keep an eye on things. And, as they say, 'absence
makes the heart grow fonder'. I hope by the time I return you will have
become sick with love." Smoke pressed what she had intended to be a quick,
affectionate kiss to his lips.
It turned into something more...
Demandred opened one eye; the dying light from the fireplace and
candles had been replaced by day. Yawning, he rolled over to gaze at--
Her side of the bed was empty.
Darkhound sat on a rock outside, watching the sunrise on a new day.
The air was crisp and fresh, and the day already seemed promising. He was
startled by his musing by the appearance of Smoke, striding purposely along.
He stood up and bowed, as was proper for a dark sister. "If you've come
to beat me, let me just say I've posted Stag Party 10, and it had a mountain
climber in it, as requested."
Smoke looked at him, and the corners of her mouth turned up somewhat.
"I know, I have seen it. Well done, I suppose." Then she grabbed Darkhound by the chin. "But you better not rest on your laurels, hound. I expect several more epsiodes ready for me when I return, which you will hand over on demand!"
"You are going away?"
"Yes, I have something to do, something important. A test, of sorts." She released his chin, pushing him backwards to sit on the rock. "Behave yourself Mutt, and don't get into too much mischief."
Darkhound gave her a grim smile. "I can't make that promise. But I'll try to keep Demandred from leaping off any cliffs, while your away." She nodded and started on her way. "I'd wish you good luck," said Darkhound, "but I don't think you'll need it somhow. Farewell for now Smoke, return as swiftly as you can."
She have a wave, and then disappeared behind a deep morning shadow, and disappeared.
Demandred stormed from Smoke's chambers like a madman, hoping to catch
her before she left. His pants were on securely, though backwards, and
he struggled with his shirt, finally discarding it when he reached Darkhound.
"Did you see her? Is she still here?" Darkhound shook his head slowly.
"Sorry, you just missed her. She looked upset when she left, if that's
what-" "Never mind," he muttered. The ungrateful girl, she left before
he could even tell her what he felt, before he could tell her goodbye.
To stop her from leaving, if possible, burn what she said. Shai'tan take
this. Shai'tan take it all... Why was the mutt laughing now?
"Your pants... Bloody ashes, can't you put them on right?" Demandred's face turned a deeper shade of red than even he thought possible. Dark eyes met burning eyes, eyes promising sure death for a certain Shadowspawn. "Listen..." A sigh escaped his lips, as his gaze dropped. So soon, and yet he missed her already. He could follow her using the Bond... No. Best get to the Great Lord's instructions. "Tell Ariella I will be late for breakfast today. There's some business I must attend to..." To the Pit of Doom with EVERYTHING!!
"No. She told me not to let you follow her - at least, her eyes did, and-"
"I won't follow her." The words sounded strained, reluctant. "The Great Lord has plans for me in Ebou Dar. With the Daughter of the Nine Moons. Best if I left now..." Darkhound nodded solemnly, but a smile touched the mutt's lips. "After I get dressed."
Ishy was a storm of rage and fire within his chambers at Shayol Ghul. How could the Great Lord be sending people away at a time like this!? The Strawn episode was finally over, and the party afterwards had been a blast. Now, when Ishy had hoped they could all get back to the business at hand, Smoke had to be sent away on some mission. And who knew what kind of shape Demandred would be in with her gone. "Damn me if I ever let love turn me into a bloody fool," Ishy muttered to himself, too upset to be amused by the irony in the fact that he was probably damned already anyway. He really wasn't mad at Smoke and Demandred at all, anyhow, because he knew what they did was all in the service of the Shadow. It was just so frustrating when he knew that the Shadow should have been close to reaching its finest moments, and full strength would have been vital; and yet here Shai'tan was, sending people away. Who would be next, and how many were left, even? It seemed like they might have to resort to a role call like some pathetic mousekateer club. The fact that recruiting was yielding nothing wasn't doing much to lift Ishamael's spirits either. Ishy almost wanted to curse the Great Lord himself for ever bringing him back, but he knew that was a line he didn't dare cross. Besides, it would accomplish nothing, when what Ishy desperately wanted was to do something productive. Maybe a conference with the Great Mistress, Ariella could produce some results. At the very least, she might convince her brother to stop sending the prominent members away on his bloody errands. So off went he who was known as the Heart of the Dark, blowing out of his chambers like a madmen. On his way, however, he began to feel lightheaded and dizzy, so much so that he had to go down to one knee for a minute to compose himself. He still had no memories of where he had been until just recently, but apparently it hadn't left his body in much of a shaped to cope with extreme amounts of stress at the current moment. After finally gathering his wits and his strength, he more calmly set off in search of the Great Mistress ....
Ishy--trying to carry the torch