The setting sun touched the slopes of Shayol Ghul, and in her room,
a young woman with hair the same colour as the sunset glanced up at the
sky with mingled nervousness and excitement. It was just about time.
Carramaena studied herself critically in the mirror. Normally she didn’t take this much care with her appearance, but she wanted to look her best. Tonight was an important night, after all. The gown she had chosen was a soft violet-gray, shot through with silver like a twilight sky, that set off her fair skin and vivid hair. She wore silver slippers on her feet, and her sketch-pad and pencils were tucked inside a pocket of her gray cloak. She was not going to leave them behind, not when she had the chance to draw a portrait of, if not the biggest, certainly the strangest family in any turn of the Wheel.
Carra wasn’t, strictly speaking, beautiful. Pretty, maybe. Striking, definitely. If her hair didn’t make sure of that, her eyes did - one was a light gray, almost silvery, the other a true deep violet. A lot of people were discomfited by her eyes, and at times, she had to admit she enjoyed their reactions. Looking herself up and down, she decided she was looking as good as she was ever going to, and grabbing her cloak went out the door.
Turn left, turn right. She had memorised the route, determined not to get lost again. Turn right, turn right, first passage on the left, second door on the right of the passage...
Carra emerged into a room full of people.
Well, on second glance, not exactly full. It was a large room, and there were only four people in it. But on third glance, Carra decided she had been right on the first glance. Ariella, Sundara, Smoke Ashalen and Egwene2 were quite capable of filling a room by themselves.
"Good evening, Dark Sisters." She curtsied slightly, and thankfully managed it without tripping over her long gown. "Ah - did you get my message?"
"Yes." Ariella’s voice was amused, and Carra blushed inwardly. Of course they had gotten it, or they wouldn’t be here. "So you want to be a Sister of the Dark? Why?"
"Well," Carra hesitated then decided to tell the truth, "you four throw the best parties, and flirt with all the men around, and drink all night without getting hangovers, and dance on the tables" she glanced at Sundara, whose innocent expression almost made Carra choke - she had been the one dancing the sa’sara after all, and wearing a good deal less than Carra - "and in general, live a hedonistic, pleasure-seeking, no-regrets sort of life. Now that sounds a lot like my own personal philosophy, so if you’ll have me, then I’d love to join you." She waited anxiously for an answer.
Carramaena L'Var, Dark Sister wannabe
Deep in thoughts Ulrike rid back to the Dark Palace. The experience in the Dragonmount had stirred her deeply. That agreement with Daylorn wasn't the reason. He hadn't need to ask, she could keep secrets to herself. But the Prophet and his prophecy was another matter. She didn't doubt that it was a real prophecy, but it was so muddled. It said almost nothing except the warning. And she was especially careful, if something seemed clear. She ended her train of thought as she reached the palace. A groom cared for the gelding and she walked through the passages looking for someone to talk to.
Unfortunately the passages were strangely empty. Finally she spotted
Darkhound. He lurked around and, seemingly casually, tried to listen on
a door. She walked silent to him. He was so intent in his curiosity that
he didn't notice her. "Something interesting?" whispered she in his ear.
Total surprised he spinned round. "Um, err, maybe... Hi, Ulrike!" He couldn't
say more to help himself out because the door burst open. Ulrike could
just jump back, but Darkhound was knocked out from behind.
"Oh, what's happened?" Surprise was in the speaker's voice.
A new Sister! Sundara smiled in delight. And one like Carramaena, too! She hadn’t dreamed, when she first announced herself as Ari’s long-lost sister, that she would eventually belong to such a big and - to put it politely - eccentric family. But the more the merrier, and it certainly seemed Carra would fit in right away.
“I can’t think of a better reason for joining,” she said aloud, and crossed the room to give Carra a warm hug. “Speaking for myself - welcome to the family, Carramaena!”
Stepping back to give the others a chance to welcome Carra, she hurried towards the door. Maybe there wasn’t time to organise a big party - she wasn’t sure whether everyone had recovered from the last one anyway - but the adoption of a new Dark Sister surely deserved celebrating. Just a family gathering, drinks and dinner, very low-key and casual. And perhaps a little dancing. You couldn’t possibly have a party without dancing. She opened the door out into the hallway, and, her mind occupied with plans, didn’t realise there were people outside until the opening door crashed into one of them.
“Oh!” Sundara stopped, startled. “What’s happened?” She wondered for
a moment if there was a problem - the Light Warriors attacking, or some
such thing - but then recognised Ulrike and Darkhound. And more importantly,
recognised the slightly guilty expression on Darkhound’s face.
“Eavesdropping, are you, Hound?” She shook her head in mock dismay. “Well, since you’ve already heard everything, you can make yourself useful. Go tell everyone there’s a new Sister of the Dark, and we’re gathering in the hall tonight so everyone can meet her.” As he left, she turned to Ulrike, who did look surprised. She must have just arrived. “Will you come, too? You’d be welcome, even though you’re not officially a Dark Sister.”
Ulrike raised an eyebrow. “Another party?”
Sundara smiled. “It’s a Dark family tradition. If we adopt a new member,
we have a party. If we defeat an enemy, we have a party. If it’s someone’s
birthday, we have a party. If anything worthy of celebrating happens, we
have a party.”
“What if there isn’t anything to celebrate?”
She shrugged. “We have a party anyway...”
Sundara, and did anyone really expect me to pass up an excuse for a party?
Pacing throughout the now-deformed Tower of Ghenjei, Asmodean waited
impatiently for the group of Intrigleemen to return. Breaking his thoughts
-break 'em, break 'em, break 'em- abruptly, the spies who had recently
raced into the Citadel of the Dragon Mount returned, panting breathlessly
for no discernible reason.
"What's up?" quizzed Asmodean, now a Questioner.
"The top of the tower," remarked Kir sarcastically.
"Getting soft on puns, man?"
"Soft? SOFT? Me? Hah!"
Asmodean weaved a pillow of Air and flung it at him -it dug a crevice into his belly, and then stayed there, "Yes, Kir. Soft."
"Now why in the Light did it do that?" pondered Kiriath. He puffed himself up, "I am not soft." As he said that statement, the pillow of Air was flung back at Asmo. "I am not soft. Although I can puff myself up."
Asmo frowned, unweaving the pillow. A different pillow, this one of Water, was flung at him - it exploded like a balloon.
"Okay, okay!" yelled Asmo, dripping wet, "Enough with the Pillow fight!"
The leader of the gleefulmaniacs laughed heartily and walked over to another Mirror, this one a Mirror of Morbid Mists, its opposite planted within Shayol Ghul itself. It was swirling, with one single Eye planted within the center of its black mists.
"Not a good sign," muttered Mazrin, "Shai'man's onto us."
"He sure will be, if you keep on calling him that. Just one modification to that term, Fain, and he'll know where we are..." reminded Asmodean, looking around worriedly, "And he would be none too glad to know that I'm still around..."
"Oh! You want me to say Shai---"
"NO!" yelled the whole squad of Intrigleemen in the Tower, feeling sheepish directly afterward.
"That was very baaad for those stooges," said the Dark One itself. "They
didn't even need to draw my attention to themselves by using the Tentative
Shaidar Haran nodded, "That noise must have been loud enough for anyone to hear. Even those 'whip'persnappers in that Dark Palace must have heard."
"At least now I know who that pesky gleeman has in his ranks. Mazrin Fain, Aurgh -hah! I knew he was one heck of a double agent ...maybe someday he'll actually end up finding that elusive Ring of T/Amyrlin. Who did you catch, Haran?"
"I'm not the skillful listener. Ask the Ear of the Dark."
"All right then," said the Dark One, turning. "Who did you pick up on, Shai, dear?"
"That's Shaidear. You know how well I catch things."
"Oh. Yes. A bit, a bit."
"Now then. There was Samirhage, a couple of those annoying Finnsters---"
"I hate the One Power Rangers. And Read A. Repulsa, and that freaky Zord Led too."
"Oh. Yes. A bit, a bit."
"Continue, please, Shai, dear."
Ignoring the Dark One's sarcasm, it continued. "And Asmodean, Verin Mathwin, Alanna Moriset---"
"Who was that first one?!"
"Asmodean!? And I thought I told my Chosen to end the lifespan of that Forsaken dolt!"
"He was killed somehow. But no one knows how, and both that and who killed him have been speculated a great deal..."
"Oh, that's easily cleared up. Shainarg dispatched him."
"Yes, I know that, One On Whose Head I Rest. What I would like to explain to you is that a new Power has been discovered, and he was brought back by it."
"What is this Power? And how many powers are there to date, now?"
"Let's see. The One Power, the True Power, the Pimpotron, the Whip, and this new one -the Eccentric Power."
"The Eccentric Power?"
"It automatically is given to anyone who steps within the Tower of Ghenjei, and has a demented mind."
"So it's no wonder that that Osan'gar doesn't seem to be around lately."
"Exactly. He's in league with the residents of the place."
"And, Shai, dear, who currently resides within the Tower?"
"Moiraine Damodred, Thom Merrilin, Asmodean..."
"No! What group -Light Warriors, the Dark Family, who, burn it?!"
"Calm down before you set yourself on fire. Remember what happened to Ishamael."
"He ended up setting his whole head on fire. I always warned him about that temper. At least Moridin's shaped him up."
Shaidear once again continued. "The Intrigleemen reside in the Tower of Ghenjei, the Light Warriors have no apparent residence known to us, the Prophet seems to have unearthed the Fortress of the Dragon Mount, and the Dark Family, as ever, has its territorial position in the Dark Palace."
"So, since we now have Ghenjei infiltrated, we now have to recruit agents to enter the Light-hearted Warriors and the Dark -actually, I'm thinking they're only an opaque shade of gray- Family. Any suggestions on who we should have join?"
"Demandred is there, but not currently active. This 'black cat' could prove useful, and Moridin seems to be ...not currently active."
The Dark One sighed. "Is the situation better for the Light Warriors?"
"He's not one of our agents."
"Ooops. He always seemed like it."
"Nah. He's just like Padan Fain. Odd and unpredictable."
"Then we don't seem to have anyone in their ranks."
The Dark One sighed again. "Are we losing our sway on this board, dear?"
Ignoring the sarcasm - it never goes away, thought the Ear of the Dark - it continued, "Taim."
"He's never been truly tame, but we can take no chances. We must take care of our forces, and be on the lookout for possible recruits. Perhaps that DayLorn."
"Perhaps," muttered the Dark One, "Perhaps a discussion with Shai'Ariel may be in order. I need something to do around here until al'Thor finally comes to have that Last Battle." Sighing yet again, he grumbled, "My Ages seem to be catching up with me."
"You're not getting old."
"I know. But I sure do feel like it."
"Of course you must. The Wheel never ends -and you're always stuck in this prison."
"At least this isn't America ---those prisons' luxuries aren't anything compared to the delights of touching the world."
"Just wait. You'll touch it again."
The Dark One pulled his ear absently, "Shai, dear, take things one step at a time. One step at a time."
"So what's your first step?"
"A baby one. But I've taken that one. Next one'll be a giant one."
The Intrigleemen had been listening to the whole conversation betwixt
the Dark One and his ear, and suddenly the connection was chopped off.
"Now to find out what that 'giant' step is," said the Kurious Kiriath.
Kiriath, still rambling in his Eccentric way....
Prophet ran. Somehow, before, all his adventures began with something pleasant. Like smiling or talking to someone or, in the worst case, pondering about the higher matters, none exept for him could understand. But not this time. Prophet sighed. Ah, you see again! He didn't like sighing. It affected the nerves far too much. Neither did he like to run after someone, or from something. And as they always said:"Running and waiting are the worst evils a mortal being could suffer". But Prophet always considered, among other things, that the best is always better than just good and, of course, the best is far more better than the worst. And so, the Prophet always chose a lesser evil. Someone might start a debate of what should we consider a lesser evil, and how can a human define a degree of evil, when he or she cannot understand evil all in all. Prophet, having been asked that kind of question, would have said that good and evil are boundless and poeple meassure evil in themselves by their own degrees and meassurements. Oh, no, now it was not a good time for a debate, however wonderful, rich and promising. There were much more urgent matters to cogitate about right now.
An ancient race of dwarves had a saying: "A wise person prepares well and goes to look for a dragon, before the dragon came looking for a wise person". And so, the Prophet went looking for a "dragon". The one thing he could not understand was why should this amasing search be accomplished by the means of Prophet's two poor, tired, soaring feet. And more to that, the search must have been carried out in a special pace, known to many of those mortal sadists and perverts as RUNNING. AGGHRR!!! But, where was nothing Prophet cuold do about it. And so, the Prophet ran. If that was a lesser evil, then... He didn't even dare to think of what a greater evil could be. Hey, here it is! He had understood one of the secrets of the universe. The Lesser Evil was the price you have to pay for avoiding the Greater Evil at any possible cost. And however high that Price might be, it would be still better than to jump headlong into the greater evil.
Prophet tried to remember, what was the reason for him to run so quickly.
Certainly that reason was not called Daylorn. Lord Daylorn was surely surprised
by that indefinite warning, no more, no less. Soon after the Prophet's
vision the Lord General of the Light Warriors left the audience-chamber,
and that was the end to that part of the story. There had to be something
else. Somethying, more important... And that very important reason for
Prophet's flight was...
Suddenly Prophet stoped dead. Wait a huge second. Tht cannot possbly happen. But Prophet just could not remmember his reason to run like a maniac through all the Light Warrior's Fortress inside of the Dragonmount. Has he gone totaly insane. No, that could not just be so. There must be something interfering here. But what? The Pattern, The Wheel of Time? It just didn't pack well in his head.
Prophet suddenly realized that he was standing in front of an entrance to some huge hall, shining with grandeur. He looked to his left, then to the right. It seemed that there were no other entrances or exits for miles in both directions. Hmmm... another coincience, or so it seemed. Prophet entered the great hall. It was completely empty. There were no other doors or windows. The walls were absolutely bare: There were no tapestries or carpets, no engravings or fretwork, no gold or silver. There were also no no lamps, fireplaces or other objects to make light. That was strange, because the room was illumined in a certain way. It was not the everlight of the Tel'aran'rhiod, but something else. The walls were of undescriptible color. Not white, and not exactly yellow; it was something like the shining of the sun. Yes, the walls seemed to shine like the sun in the midday, always changing it's color, and staying the same at the same time. Some rustle at the edge of his mind made the Prophet turn around. WHAT THE *BLEEP*? The portal, through wich he had entered the hall was gone. It was the same sun-shining, empty amd absolutely solid wall over there. Prohpet tried to touch it. The strange wall was slightly warm. And how was he going to get out? Well, he would have to find a way! Prophet started arranging his clothes. They were quite messy. He didn't care much about what he had on him, as long as it stayed on, but a little straightening would not harm.
Suddenly, one of the walls began flickering. Slow at first, with time it sped up. Soon the flickerings were so quick, that a normal eye could not detect them. The wall changed it's color from sun-shining to the color of the moonlight. Not exactly silver, but not white. A deep female voice slowly intoned: "Good day, far-traveller". Prophet turned around, for the voice came from behind him. There was nothing there. "No, no, over here, you dolt",-now it was a gruffy male voice, right from the direction of the silvery wall.
"Excuse me,- said the Prophet; he knew it was foolish, but he asked anyway.- Is that you, wall?"
"Yes, of course,- said the wall with as soft child's voice.- If it is easier for you this way..." As it spoke, large words appeared on the silvery wall, duplicating the speach. "Would you please say your name, followed by the word ENTER."
"My name? Hmmm...Prophet...ENTER...
Surprisingly Prophet didn't feel anything, as the Light enveloped him.
"Another Party!" She looked to Darkhound. He literally danced for excitement. "Yes, a party! Music, dancing, feasting, drinking..." She groaned loudly, there was no holding him. "Excuse me, Ulrike. But I have to make arragements. We will see us at the party?"
"Certainly," she said it to an empty spot. Head shaking she walked to her rooms. Member lists were to update, this Jaigar for the Light and Carramaena L'Var for the Dark. Events must be recorded, especially a prophecy. She was curious, how it would be fulfilled, if at all. A pity that the Prophet wasn't here. Though a holy man, he enjoyed parties and she hadn't a chance so far to question him about a few things. She wondered what he was doing now. Chatting with Daylorn? Surely he had shaken the poor general.
Well, she would question Darkhound, preferable before he get drunk, for research purposes of course. She grinned amused. There were some topics he should know all about.
The Great Mistress of the Dark stepped out of the hole in reality and took a deep, satisfied breath. It had been long -- far, far too long -- since she’d walked these realms, and the air was sweeter than wine. She’d been stuck in the "other" reality for so long, unable to return to this place, but now she was back. The Palace at the Edge of Midnight was fairly empty, but that was about to change.
Ariella strode down the long hall to her rooms. The double doors swung open for their Mistress of their own accord, and she went immediately over to her desk. Reports on the activities of the lands were piled high, waiting to catch her up on all the news, but what caught her eye first was a slip of pale parchment laying atop the stack, showing a masterful ink sketch of the Palace itself above a hastily scrawled note. Only one within the lands had the skill to have produced that sketch: Carramaena L’Var. Quickly reading the words, Ari gave a pleased smile. Carra was requesting an audience, and that could mean only one thing -- she wished to become a Dark Sister.
Changing quickly out of travelling clothes into her customary sable silks, Ari went to the audience chamber, where Carra and the other Dark Sisters were already assembled. Carra was nervous; inwardly, Ari smiled, but there were formalities to be observed, after all, so she made Carra go through the exercise of entreating entry. There was never any question as to the outcome, though. Dark Sisters weren’t made through a ceremony; they simply were, and Carra was.
Sunny quickly jumped at the excuse for a party, and Ari laughed at her youngest Sister’s enthusiasm. But if the truth were told, she was badly in need of a little amusement herself. Excusing herself, she returned to her rooms to get ready. At the last couple events, dress had ranged from the very formal to the very casual, but this time, the Great Mistress would appear in all her glory. It was time for the leathers again. With something akin to glee, she pulled on the sleek, sable catsuit that was her trademark, and added the stiletto-heeled boots that went with it. She felt better already...
Now then, to round up the guests. Mori was, unfortunately, unavailable, as was Nightfall, but most of the other usual suspects seemed to be around. Even the Piper had wandered back recently, so at least they could be assured of good music. Darkhound was a given at any party. But there was one guest in particular she wished to invite personally. Sending out her thought, she found the point of consciousness she sought.
Thousands of leagues away, in the very Fortress of Light, the man known to the world as Taim felt a soft breeze brush against his cheek, seemingly from nowhere. He recognized the subtle, musky perfume on it immediately: Ariella. Looking up from the journal he was writing in, he heard her voice, low and amused, whisper, "Hey Tiger-boy -- wanna dance?" Then, with a silvery little laugh, her presence was gone.
Back at the Palace, the Great Mistress went down to the ballroom and waited...
Ariella, Great Mistress of the Dark
She put her pencil away. Now the evening was coming. What should she wear? For a family gathering ? She was rather unsure. The catsuit, she had worn at the last party, wasn't appropriate this time. Her choice fell on somewhat simpler clothes. Suede trousers, a short sleeveless tunica made of gold-brown velvet. A belt, earrings and a bracelet of gold completed the look. She decided to go now, before all others came. Darkhound was ever among the first. She wanted to speak with him before he fell under a table.
When she reached the Great Hall, Ariella was already here. One glance to her outfit and Ulrike doubted her decision. But now it was to late. She greeted the Great Mistress and looked for Darkhound. There he was, supervising the last preparations at the bar and tasting samples of drinks. "Do you really want to try that beer again, my friend?" He paused, looked first to her, then at the label. Shuddering he put the bottle back on the table and ordered a servant to remove this sort. She didn't let him regain his wits, but started immediately.
"Darkhound, I have read lately an obscure book about myths and folklore of passed ages or alternative realities. It remained too little to say it exactly. One great chapter described the Wild Hunt, but there were so confusing details. What can you tell me about that? No, wait. I believe you that you know nothing about this research. But you are a darkhound, aren't you? Basically, I mean, the shapeshifting came later, or not? Well, as a darkhound you are supposed to be part of the Wild Hunt. You must know something! Tell me all! Do you really run with the Dark One on this occasion. What or who is your prey? Do you kill or capture? Why are especially crossways so dangerous? How do darkhounds leave a trail on stone, but nowhere else? By the way why there are not your footprints everywhere in this palace? Is your bite really poisonous?"
She dragged the stunned Darkhound to a niche. She intended to get her answers at all costs. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed that Ariella watched this scene definitely amused.
Time seemed to drag here in the Fortress of the Light. Nothing had happened of interest for a while, and people were disappearing quicker than an insane Asha'man tossing balefire about could manage. But there was a change on the wind, a change of seasons. Standing on a ledge, Agelmar realized what he had to do. Quickly walking through his chambers, he suited up his battle armor (not the Power-wrought one) a few other necessities that he had accumulated over the years, and finally took the Gateway ter'angreal and opened a portal to the Palace of the Great Mistress of the Dark.
Agelmar appeared outside the main doors and knocked. Inside, he came upon something unexpected. There were many others here, having a party to commemmorate the admitting of Carramaena L'Var to the Dark conclave. "How interesting," Agelmar thought. "Almost eerie." Despite seeing friendly greetings from others, Agelmar remained fixed on his objective. He sought out Ariella herself.
"Great Mistress," Agelmar began, "I humbly present myself to you in hopes that you could grant me this one small favor."
Ariella laughed. "What would you have me grant you? A full head of hair?"
Agelmar unconsciously rubbed his shaven scalp. "No, that's not it. I shave my head on purpose, you know that. No, it's something else. I've been thinking recently, and," Agelmar sighed, "I would like to also be admitted to the Dark side."
Agelmar Jagad, Former Lord General, Light Warriors (hmm...I'll have to come up with a new title...)
Ariella gave a smile of pure satisfaction. Finally, he'd seen the Light -- and rejected it. "My Lord," she purred, with a decided emphasis on the word 'my', "You know you had only to ask and it would be given. You have ever been welcome in the Dark. I have many uses for a man of your abilities..." She kissed him lightly on each cheek, and then a thought occured to her and she laughed.
At his quizzical look, she said, "You realize of course, that you will simply not be able to wear lampshades on your head at my parties any more. It was funny to see you look ridiculous when you were sworn to the Light, but we in the Dark have a reputation to maintain -- we party incessantly, but we never get drunk. Dancing on tables is okay, even nudity is fine, but absolutely no lampshades! Okay?" He grinned wryly and nodded his assent.
"Great! Now that the boring details are out of the way, shall we have a dance?"
Ariella, the Great Mistress of the Dark
Sneaking through the doors Barid Bel walked toward the impossible pair
he just saw, the Great lady of the Dark and the Lord General of the Light
Warriors. He had heard enough of what Agelmar said, and the news more than
shocked him. That THIS man would join to the Dark Side? That was
something he had to consider. Some distant part of him hoped that Ariella
was in a good mood, or Agelmar might found out that he joined the SISTERS
of the dark, and that the new title he was searching ending with 'GAR.
He seated on the floor and opened a book, that book never left his hand. No one noticed him, of course, it took very much to notice him. Gray man could enter anywhere they want, but Barid Bel prided himself in that he wasn't an ordinary gray man. Those fool gave their souls to the Dark One, Barid Bel, on the other hand, sold his soul for power too many times than he could remember, that was why he carried the book. He searched for in section "A" for Ariella and Agelmar. And as much as he suspected he sold his soul for both. Sometimes he wondered what would happen if they would know whose souls they got, he suspected that when that day would come he would be far from here, working for both sides was more than profitable enough. He heard that a long time ago a war began on his soul, between one that called himself Lews Therin and other that called himself The Great Lord of Dark. It still went on as far as he heard. Not that he cared about, wars was always good for business. And he was expert in that!
Uncovering himself he walked to ariella, "Great Lady," Barid Bel said making a bow so deep his head touch the floor, but unfortunately he didn't catch a look up Ariella's skirt. "if you would accept me as your humble servant I'm ready to serve." Of course, there was nothing wrong in trying to be the NEW Lord General of the Light Warriors, being a servant of the dark and of the light in the same time was something that entered some fun for life. "I'm willing to give you my soul, Great Lady."
He would have to capture another Trolloc soon. His Lords and Ladies NEVER inquired about the souls they ripped from him. A soul was a soul. And if the soul he gave them looked savage and cruel that was the state of most of the soul they got. Tomorrow he would be declared as the Lord General of the Light Warriors, the only thing that he regretted about was that he would have to sharpen his knifes again.
Ariella gazed steadily at the Gray Man kneeling before her, offering her a soul that tasted distinctly of Trolloc. She hated Trolloc souls -- they tasted vile. "I think you are no one's servant, least of all mine. Rise."
Warily, he obeyed. "Great Mistress, I swear..." She cut him off abruptly. "Save it. You have sworn to me a dozen times or more in the past; do you forget who I am? My memory stretches back before Time itself; I existed before your soul, your real soul, was so much as an idea in the back of the Creator's mind. Keep your stolen soul, or give it to another; it matters little to me. I may, however, have work for you..."
His gaze sharpened at the mention of "work" -- the assignments such a one as the Great Mistress might have would surely be interesting. He was about to make a reply when she spoke yet again.
"I do not talk business at parties, however. Tonight is a celebration. Go have some fun, but come to my office tomorrow noon, and we'll discuss terms..."
Ariella, The Great Mistress of the Dark, who knows a mercenary when she sees one...
A slash of light spread out through the air near the entrance to the hall. The bar rotated and spread out, revealing the same room, just as if seen through a mist. Out stepped Ceralic, dressed almost completely in dark green. His baggy pants were dark forest green, made of a thin, comfortable material. His shirt was the same. His long, sweeping cloak was the same green, covered in gold mazework. It seemed to move as he walked. As he stepped from Tel'aran'rhiod into the waking world, he nearly gasped in shock.
"Agelmar is joining us, eh?" he thought. This was a pleasant surprise, but one he had almost expected. Almost. Barid Bel was also offering himself to Ariella. A most interesting chain of events. Three new people for the dark. He could tell this was going to be a good party.
As he looked up, he saw Ulrike and Darkhound at the bar. He began chuckling, just waiting for Egwene2 to get there. That's when Darkhound's fun would really start. The gateway to the World of Dreams snapped closed as Ceralic walked over to the bar to wait until Ariella was finished with this pair.
Moridin sighed heavily. Again he regretted having to decieve most of his comrades like this, but it was only for the best. The Great Lord demanded this of him, and he could only obey. The rest would know in due time what he had to do, but for now... A burning gaze rested on the crumpled paper in his hands. Since Shaidar Haran gave him this, he had read and re-read the words so many times they were forever imprinted on his memory, but every time it still seemed new...
The paper ended short in charred ash, the area where he singed it. It wouldn't
take much effort to destroy the rest, even less to recreate this...item
of prophecy, though its validity still had to be proven. "Great Master?"
A voice like rasping leather fell upon his ears, as an eyeless gaze fell
upon the back of his cloak. "You've been studying that paper for hours.
The others have been ready for a while, now." He rose from his desk, spinning
on his heels to face his visitor.
"Tell them..." The glow of the fire seemed to make his face harder, more ominious than it truly was. "Tell them... I'll be there. Any other news?"
"Yes. Two new followers have joined the Great Mistress. A channeler has joined the Sisters, and there will be another party in her honor."
The Servant couldn't keep from smiling. "Does something about this make you happy?"
"Happier than you could believe." Excitement brimmed from his voice. "Leave me now; I'll be with you soon enough." As the Myrddraal exited the chamber, he let out an enthusiastic whoop. Five Sisters, Moghedien, and Ulrike, if he could convince Egwene or Sundara to teach her enough. He had traced her lineage far back enough to find out she had the ability, and he would not waste this knowledge. The seven females needed for the circle, right at his grasp. The circle would be formed. He would not fail the Great Lord, not now, not after so much effort...
Moridin, High Servant of the Great Lord taking a little break from World History...
Barid Bel signed heavily. He was almost tired enough to fall tobed and
sleep. But sleep was something he was denied long ago. He gave a lock in
the clock on the wall, and cursed silently. 03:51 !!! And he hadn't closed
an eyes since... he scratched his head when he understand that he didn't
remember when he slept lately. six or seven ages ago he assumed.
Clad all in black he moved between the shadows, making no more noise than the winds... he crushed against a bar with sound that could rise a three days dead horse from its grave and make it run for its life, or in that case, its death. He winced, and opened a gateway, ripping the black cloths from him, he entered his room in the fortress of light. A flow of fire burned the the the rags that left from his cloths, no one may know about the black raven on a blacker background. Under the black cloths he wore white ones, and the symbol on the left side of his breast showed an armored gloved hand crushing a raven.
He stormed out of his rooms, and shouted the servant to bring him every copy of the prophecies of te dragon. "Here it is, my lord." said a nervous servant, holding six or seven books. Barid Bel took them from the servant's hands. "Bring me something to eat." he ordered and forget the man, he opened the upper translation with trembling hands, he remembered every word from the note Moridin held. Sometimes it was useful to be a soulless. "Here it is," He mutter. His chance, at last his chance. And all he had to do is to kill someone, and to take his place. It was no problem, he was always good with illusion.
He opened a gateway to Illian, they had a new king that needed to learn how a knife felt. From the sharp side.The servant moved closer to the book, "And the light never returned to Paran Disen. And when he who destroyed will come back those who chosen will wait for him. But he who never rest will stop them. And by that he will recieve the greatest of treasure"
The servant scratch his head confusingly then truned the page, his master never seemed sleeping that was true, but then his breath caught as he read next, "And shall he found on one path, and death shall he found on the other. And the third is *censured* "
"Censured, this book talk about skinning people alive and it had been censured!!! The only thing that this could mean..." The servant sank to his knee. "My poor master, my poor master."
Egwene2 checked her appearance one last time in the mirror and nodded
in satisfaction. Her red leathers were immaculate once again, brass buttons
polished to a dull sheen. It felt good to be home again, even if it were
only for a few moments. The research she was conducting in the world beyond
this one would be finished soon and she could return and share her findings
with her friend and leader Ariella. She looked forward to that day. But
meanwhile, there was an important party to attend.
Her stilletos rapped a quick measured beat upon the stone floor as she hurried to the large room.Egwene2 paused in the doorway and scanned the room for Ariella. Noticing her deep in conversation with Agelmar, Egwene decided to catch up with Darkhound. She headed for the bar, knowing him well after all this time. She laughed remembering his party circulation trick he did at every family gathering. It was silly, but that was Darkhound, absurd one moment and then delightfully subservient the next.Ah! There he was, with Ulrike talking away at his side. Egwene2 suppressed a smile at the trapped expression on his human features.
Ignoring him for the moment, she chatted with Ulrike. Sensing that Ulrike would be complimented, she also offered to help teach her to touch Saidar in a week or so when she finally returned, if Ulrike was willing. From the corner of her eye, she noticed Darkhound quietly slipping off the chair and easing out of Ulrike's line of vision.
"Oh Darkhound, don't leave just yet! I'd like the dance you promised me ages ago! If you'll excuse us, Ulrike? I promise to bring him back to you, I know you have many more questions for him" She smiled sweetly at Darkhound and dragged him off to the floor for a quick dance before he tried to escape again. Egwene2 laughed, a wicked little chuckle, and Darkhound paled. He knew what was coming now.
"You've been a very naughty Hound while I've been gone haven't you?"
He mumbled an apology and she quickly relented, she found it difficult to stay mad at him for long. Just then the main doors opened and their newest Dark Sister entered. A burst of applause echoed around the room. Egwene2 looked forward to meeting this newest member of their family.
"Am I late?" Sundara hurried into the room, high heels tapping. She
looked around and failed to see Carramaena. "Good, I'm not." She had been
busy organising the party at late notice, but it would have been unthinkable
not to be here when her newest Sister entered. Latest fashion seemed to
be casual, with leather very much in evidence. Her own dress was more formal
than most - ruby-red, slit nearly to the hip and with relatively
little top to it. By her normal standards, it was really quite modest. At least it was opaque. She wore ruby-red sandals to match - maybe the heels were a little high, but she had never been a tall woman - and a crimson rose in her black hair. The rose had come from her birthday bouquet - remarkably long-lasting flowers, those. Across the room, she saw Egwene2 had chosen almost the identical colour. Ah well. It was a nice outfit anyway.
Oh, yes. She crossed the room to her eldest Sister. "Ari, I wanted to talk to you about this 'black cat'..." Sundara stopped as the door opened and Carra came in. "Tell you later." She picked up a glass and raised her voice. "A toast, everyone, to the fifth Sister of the Dark - Carramaena L'Var!"
Carramaena L'Var, new Dark Sister
The Wanderer slipped in after Carramaena. This was definately a party
in Shadow, with the swearing in of three new members into the Dark, and
he had dress appropriately to fit in-- as a member of the masculine gender.
Entirely in black, including moleskin gloves and a mask worthy of Zorro.
With enough lace at his throat to distinguish him from the empty blackness
of the Hall. Which was rather necessary, upon noticing the decor. The Hall
was shroudded in ebon tapestries worked with thin silver, and the the braziers
cast at stategic points throughout burned with a bluish flame, eriee to
say the least. The ceiling stretched away into black infinity-- joy of
Shayol Ghul. And in the murkiness below, ladies in dress or not-so in dress;
and it appeared that Agelmar and Barid Bel were hard pressed to keep the
dance floor alive.... Darkhound was caught in an unfortunate crossfire
(Ulrike AND Egwene2) and was staring hard at the bartender as if telepathically
trying to communicate his desire for another double or three. The Wanderer
Of course his presence couldn't go unnoticed for long with so many Dark Sisters present; Ariella shot him a direct gaze from behind Agelmar's shoulder on the floor and he knew at least one person recognized him. Never could fool that one. But few others if any would know him, and he intended to live it up.
Stepping down the stairs, he snuck up behind Sundara, waiting her turn for Barid (Ari was hogging him, and he didn't seem to mind; likewise Carramaena was keeping Agelmar busy-- that girl could flaming DANCE), and with only an instant of realization when he seized and turned her by the waist, for her to put her feet under her, spun her out, her dress fluttering open and closed again in a most satisfying manner, and after another instant snapped her back close to him. Her eyes danced another dance all their own, thrilled and curious and doubly so.
"Eval?" He shook his head. "Well, stranger, nice steps. Can I count on an introduction later?" Another shake of the head. She laughed then, low and throaty, and they swept into the thick of the dance.
The Man in Black- the battle of wits has begun...
Once again, the black cat prowled the shadows of Shayol Ghul. This time,
however, the black cat was not alone. She had brought reinforcements. Three
smaller shapes moved through the shadows alongside the black cat. They
slipped through the halls and passages on silent feet, unheard and unseen,
until they reached a dim, dusty corner of the library where even Sundara
and Haman rarely ventured. Eight pointed ears listened for footsteps, four
sets of whiskers twitched, testing the air. It seemed all was satisfactory,
for abruptly where four feline forms had crouched, four nearly-human figures
The tallest of them laughed, or was it a purr of satisfaction? She was black-haired, sleek and lithe, with slanting golden eyes that had nothing human about them. “Well now,” Cat said to her kittens, “do you think you can find this place again?”
There were murmurs, or perhaps miaows, of agreement. “Then here we’ll start out next time, and not need to go through the palace. Not that that was hard.” These Dark Sisters were wary of strangers, but here in their own halls they thought themselves safe. Safe from armies, perhaps. Safe from other channelers. But no stronghold was secure against the Black Cat and her kittens!
“Ginger.” She singled out the oldest of her litter, a girl with red-gold hair and blue eyes. “Your target is the new Dark Sister. Go follow her, and see what she does.” A kitten with red-gold fur darted away. Cat waited, and a few minutes later, her sharp ears picked up an exclamation of “Oh, what a cute kitten!”
“Silver, you go after Moridin.” That one, apparently a top candidate for Nae’blis, definitely bore watching. The silver-haired girl grinned and nodded, and a smoky silver tabby scampered off in the direction of the High Servant of the Dark. He must have been closer, for within a minute Cat heard him say “Oh, what a cute kitten!”
“And you, Blackie.” The youngest of her kits was a boy with her black hair and amber eyes. “Go find Eval. Chances are he’ll be with Sundara, so you can watch both of them at once.” The black kitten ran off, and Cat waited with bated breath. Surely someone like Eval, who had never been known to spare his words, who could ramble for hours, who rarely opened his mouth but an extravagant and long-winded compliment came out of it, would think of something more original to say than -
“Oh, what a cute kitten!”
Or maybe not.
Cat rolled her amber eyes. What was it with humans? It seemed that the moment they caught sight of any baby, human or not, they turned even sillier than they normally were. She was constantly amazed at that. Most humans were silly enough already. But that knee-jerk reaction was very useful for her purposes. After all, no one would suspect a cute, fluffy, adorable little kitten of spying on them.
Reverting to feline form, Cat padded out of the library. How had her little ruse worked with Sundara, she wondered. A few minutes exploration revealed that it had not worked at all. What had gone wrong? She hissed in frustration as she picked up the answer from a nearby mind. Sundara had found out from Tam al’Thor that Darkhound had not been near the library for her to hear him. So she had worked out that someone had been tampering with her thoughts, and...
Damn! Now Ariella knew about her!
Well, maybe all was not lost. No one knew about her kittens yet, and there were enough cats in the palace already that nothing would seem strange about three more. And - perhaps she could accomplish her purposes as well as an official ‘guest’ in the Dark palace. After all, the aim of every cat - the Black Cat not excepted - was to create chaos. And chaos could be caused in the open as well as in the shadows...
Five minutes later, the guards at the gates of the palace were surprised by the appearance of a woman all in black. She was tall and lithe, with long black hair and slanting amber eyes, and a cape of soft black fur was draped elegantly over one shoulder. “A guest,” she purred, “to see your Great Mistress.” The guards looked at one another uncertainly. “What name?” one of them dared to ask. “I have many names.” The sleek woman smiled, a smile far more feline than human. “But you can call me Cat...”
~The Black Cat
Ari was still waiting for Taim's arrival at the party when one of her
personal guard slipped into the ballroom and whispered a hasty message
in her ear. "Very well," she replied. "I shall come see for myself..."
She followed the guard back to the entrance hall where she saw the mysterious
visitor that had sent him running to find her. "So, you are The Cat, are
you?" Ari inquired of her unexpected guest with a sly smile. "Your arrival
is fortuitous -- I am entertaining quite a few guests right now, to celebrate
the creation of a new Sister. But, of course, you would know that already,
having been my houseguest for some time now. You really should have brought
yourself to my attention sooner, my dear, and I'd have seen to it you had
The two women sized each other up for a long moment, and then Ari broke the silence once again. "We can always talk business later, Cat. I'm sure you'll get around to telling me what you want of me eventually, anyway. For now, however, why don't you come join the party?"
Ariella, the Great Mistress of the Dark
Ulrike was distracted and Darkhound used his chance to slip away. Well, there were too many surprising news at once. Egwene2 had a chat with her and offered her to teach her. Saidar! She wanted it for so long, before the day the Red Sister declared that she hadn't any potential.
"You must know, I was tested years ago. And the result was negative." The words came reluctantly. She wanted it!. Egwene2 smiled reassuring. "What an Aes Sedai believes to be the truth isn't always true. Moridin is seldom mistaken. We might as well try. Don't you think so?" Ulrike took a deep breath. "In this case I want to learn it. Next week then?"
She was so stunned she needed some time to notice what else was going on. Absent-minded she watched how Ariella accompanied an elegant black-haired woman into the hall. A new follower called Barid Bel, Agelmar has defected to the Dark! It didn't look good fot the Light. Daylorn should come up with something, or she must do a move to balance the events. But first she would learn to channel! That was something worth to celebrate!
Ariella watched the new arrival whirling about the floor with Sunny and laughed to herself. It was good to see an old friend enjoying himself, but after all, she was the Mistress here. He owed her a dance as well...
Releasing Barid to the attentions of other Sisters, she walked casually onto the dance floor and tapped Sunny gently on the shoulder. "May I ut in, Sister dear? Your mysterious partner intrigues me..."
Ariella, claiming her due as Mistress of the House...
No pain...No feeling...No emotion...Absolute emptiness...Prophet tried to smile. No, it didn't work. Smiling was not only a movement of muscle, it was a reaction on an emotion. There was no emotion here. Despair. Prophet was unable to understand that word in this place. Nothing existed here. Even thoughts ceased to exist in moments. Actually there were no moments here, for the time didn't flow in this place, but Prophet was still a part of the reality and judged everything by his own limited standarts. But he was a human too, and a mortal human that is, so restrictions were in his nature, as they were in the nature of each and everyone of his fellow comrades from his living and known world. Indeed, is there a completely limitless entity. Even the Creator and the Great Lord of the Dark were not absolutely all-mighty. Omnipotence, what a transparent thing you are! The Chosen believed they could do anything and relatively they were very powerful; but compared to what? Even those who forsook the Light could not break the limits of time, space and mortality. Oh, they had possesed extremely long lifes, but what was the price for that limited immortality of a sort? Limits, limits, limits. They were the foundation of everything that is real. And judge for yourself, had there been no restrictions from the start, then, there would have been no restrictions at all. And however enormous, huge and evergrowing cage a univerce was, it was stilla cage, and no mortal ever had crossed those boundaries. Until now...
Prophet looked around again. And again, there was nothing that could interest him. And since Prophet was in such a strange place, nover seen, or felt, by a human being before, a place where he would have considered every tiny bit of space interesting, then, logicaly, one could judge that there was nothing at all. And that was a complete, overwhelming and final truth. There was nothing. Even "nothing" was not. Only one thing was. And that was Prophet himself. There was no "up" or "down", "left" or "right". Prophet didn't see anything. He couldn't touch himself, for he had no arms. He could not move, for he had no legs or feet. He could not breathe, not having any lungs, and could not live, having no heart. So, what was he? The answer came immediately: He was nothing at all. But were was he. He tried t pronounce that statement or, at least, imagine pronounsing it: "Where am I?"
And at the same moment he answered himself: "I am in the Pit of Doom." Hey, wait a second! Just a moment age he didn't know any thing about that, he had not even considered that kind of a possibility. "Yes, you didn't know that! But I, of all, DO know that",-Prophet said to himself.
What, in the Pit of Doom, is happening to him. "Don't worry, Prophet!" "And why should not he warry",-Now, Prophet was sure he himself thought it. "Because I say so",-He could have sworn it was him and not him at the same time.
"Why are you inside of me? Who are you?"
"You are the only being here that has a soul. We could not talk normaly, Since there is no air to transfer our words and we have no bodies to speak. So, I am inside of you, and that is the only way we could communicate here, in the Pit of Doom. And as for who I am,- the voice sounded amused.-Turn on your thinking machine and remmember, who dwelles in here."
The Dark One? But cannot possibly be. Even if your logic is absolutely correct, you cannot be the lord of the Grave. And, in any case, why should I believe you; the Dark One is not called the Father of Lies for nothing."
"And may I humbly to ask you to state your thoughts on this problem. Please, tell me, why can't I be myself." That strange entity was laughing at him. Prophet didn't like that. First, bringing him here, and Prophet had no doubt about the identity of the kidnapper, then invading his body, and the worst, laughing at him. He was not going to leave it that way, Dark One or not.
"Well, everyone knows that the Dark One is the source of all evil there
is. And you, pal, don't sound evil at all. Nogood, perhaps, wicked, most
probably, but not evil."
"Hmmm...you are a fool, old man. I am not only inside of you; for some time I AM you, so I have to take part of your personality as my own. But if you want a proof..." Prophet almost saw his evil, little smile.
As the half of the moment passed, a star exploded inside of Prophet's mind. He has began seeing images. He was remmembering. A galaxy ceased to exist...A hundreds of supernovas were born at the same time. But that could not possibly be his memory. "This is MY memory"- said the Great Lord of the Dark. For a moment they had been together the one and only Great Lord, bur now they wete sepearate entities again.
"Do you still doubt me, mortal?"
"No, I do not. Not any more. Now, what do you whant of me. I shall never serve you, even if I had never opposed you, Dark One."
"Look and understand."
A mirror appeared inside of his mind. He has seen himself walking into
the secret room of the Light Warrior's Fortress. It was past. "Time has
no meaning here, since this place is beyond the Pattern." Prophet watched
as he himself finally disappeared. "What was that silvery screen in that
room. Is it your work?"
"I activated the Guardian, but you stepped here on your own free will."
Free will, indeed. Hmmpf!
"The Dragonmount and the Shayol Ghul are the most important places in
the World and they are the ONLY places where the GREAT PATTERN is thin
enough for me to touch the world."
"So, the Whitecloackes are right, when they say that Tar Valon stands in the Shadow of Shayol Ghul."
"They shall all serve me, in time, willingly or unwillingly, that does not matter. Even you would come to me, Prophet."
As the Prophet watched, the visions of past and present appeared. So, Agelmar Jagad and Barid Bel has joined the Dark side. And there is a new Dark Sister. The Dark One read his thoughts: "I have such a large family, haven't you noticed!" Ah, there was a party at the Dark Palace. It was such a shame that he could not attend to it.
"Oh, you can, you can. Let me just open a portal for you."
"What, you are letting me go?"
"Of course! Why should I keep you here. This place is too small for the both of us... And, by the way, you would not mind bringing a message to My Sister, would you!"
"Hmmm...All right, I shall do it. So, what should I tell her?"
Moments later, Prophet stepped through the gateway to the Great Hall of the Dark-Lit Palace.
As much as one might regret seeing Sundara turn to her next partner, her memory faded swiftly enough when the Great Mistress herself appeared. She smiled and almost spoke, but she was whirled into the dance and ended up laughing. Once her partner slowed, however, she managed to speak. "You aren't fooling me in that get-up," the echoes of her laugh barely concealed. Like so many things about her. He felt the weaves of his disguise gently tugged at by the Power. One or True, it was impossible to tell, though he could hazard a guess.
Smiling back, he said, "I only assumed you would see right through me. Allow me to ask, how do you manage to get into that thing? Not that we aren't appreciative..."
She grinned wickedly, as all Dark Sisters are so terribly good at, and answered, "maybe I'll show you sometime. Why, is that a blush?" More laughter under her words.
"You always seem to be a step ahead of me, when it comes to trumping a compliment. Now it's MY turn to lead." And they danced.
From another place, another time, a hole appeared and Darkhound leapt through. Well, fell through, actually. Rule one of gateways: Don't make the bugger to high. Rushing to his room, he picked up his sturdy poker, and opened the wardrobe, thrashing at the many tentacled undescribable beast that lived in their. Eventually, it grudgingly gave ground, and he was able to retrieve the leopardskin suit....
Several hours later, the party rolled on relentlessly. Ulrike had found him first, as she often seemed to do, but sure enough Egwene2 had decided that he was best controlled with two women. Strangely, he thought she might be right....
To one side, the Great Mistress danced with a man in black, and Agelmar seemed to be waiting attentively nearby. Darkhound swallowed a laugh - so, she had captured the former leader of the Light Warrirors? That was too funny! He no longer felt bad for falling at her feet so long ago - many had done since. At least he knew it was more her charms than his weakness, now. If she could wrap Agelmar up without effort, what chance had anyone?
Egwene2's stiletto heel on his foot bought him back to the present. "What are you giggling at, you stupid Mutt? I am the giggler around here!" He wanted to answer back, but oddly, when she wore red leather, his tongue seemed to unravel to the floor. Instead he signalled in the direction of the Great Mistress. Egwene2 looked, and giggled. "Oh yes, I see. About time too, if you ask me. Agelmar was far too nice to waste his years in the light. Why are you crying Darkhound?" Mutely, he pointed at the floor, and mouthed "foot". Egwene2 looked down and giggled. "Oops, how careless of me!" To her credit, she only took two minutes to move her foot. Well, she was a dark sister after all.
When the tears had dried, Darkhound detected a definite shift in the ambience. The party was winding downwards! This was not acceptable! Muttering his excuses, he made his way to the stage.....
No one saw him pick up the microphone....
No one saw him whisper to the band...
Everyone heard him when he yelled "IF you want my body, AND you think I'm sexy, COME ON BABY let me know...." Rod Stewart would have been proud...
DH, back, but in a rush
Murmuring apologies to Carramaena, Agelmar headed towards the bar, saying that he needed something to wet his throat. Actually, he needed a rest. "Damn but that woman can dance," he thought, nursing sore feet. Agelmar was out of shape and he knew it. Weeks of sitting around in the Light Fortress doing paperwork, poring over ancient tomes of lore, and sleeping (yes, definately sleeping) had taken their toll on the aging Shienaran. Hoping no-one would really notice, he downed the rest of his drink and stealthily made his way out of the room.
Once in the hallways, Agelmar let his mind wander, as his feet seemed to know where he was headed. He thought about what his actions tonight had done to the balance of power. Peace, but he had never thought that so much rested on him. That mountain he discarded loomed so much bigger now. But Agelmar was not worried. There were still many capable hands in the ranks of the Light; they would know what to do. Then he thought about his new "Family." It might have been the drink, but he almost thought that he could sense them, each one with a faint but distinct feel. "It has to be my imagination," Agelmar quietly said to himself. "It has to be my imagination." He then found himself standing in front of a door, and he knew that this room was meant for him.
Inside, the room was sparsely furnished, with a rack for his armor and weapons, a high-backed chair in front of a large stone fireplace, and an intricately woven rug in front of a bed. He sat down on the bed then immediately sprang back up. Throwing back the blankets, he saw that there was no mattress but instead several rows of upended nails covering the length of the bed. Agelmar shrugged, kicked off his boots, slowly laid himself down on the bed and fell asleep.
(In process of finding a new title)
Nightfall, his bones more weary than any other time in his life. It has been a long, exhausting trek, over the Waste and into lands that he had only read about. Still, it had been a trip to remembers. Strange fellows they were, always looking at rocks and cliffs, commenting on the age of such things. Very scholar, but the guides were not the brightest to be found. Still, with some thing, either the Great Mistress blessing him on this endevour or just plain good luck, he came back to Shayol Ghul and found to not totally to his suprise a party going on. Quickly he when to his chambers to prepare. Tonight they would see Nightfall at his finest.
Nightfall, in a hurry but glad to be back among the living
As the gateway snapped shut behind her, Cerise carefully replaced her poodle skirt, and fixed her left bobby sock. She didn't mind coming to the party in her costume that she wore in her show. She quickly fixed the scarf in her hair, and wandered into the Palace.
The words that she felt in everyone's thoughts & in thier so-called hushed conversations; she bit her lip. Maybe she had stayed away too long. Or maybe it's a rampant rumor. No, she thought, Agelmar going over to the Dark could be true. However, it was very... sad. Cerise noticed that several other so-called Light Warriors were in absence yet. (And she thought her appearance was late.) Where's Daylorn, Mordeth, or Taim, she thought... perhaps she really had been gone too long from her Family of the Light. She sighed.
Cerise watched Agelmar leave the party, so she followed him, at a distance. She couldn't be irrational or insensitive. Cerise watched Agelmar pause in front of a door, open it, and look into the room. Agelmar quietly walked into it, and promptly shut the door. Quietly, Cerise wandered over towards the door, and opened it slightly. Agelmar laid on the nail bed, softly snoring at that. Even quieter, Cerise tip-toed into the room, and sat in the high-back chair, waiting patiently for Agelmar to hopefully awaken and speak with her.
As Cerise watched the logs in the fireplace burn for quite some time, Cerise's eyes grew heavy. She hadn't slept much lately. Perhaps a little nap wouldn't hurt, and she promptly fell asleep.
Cat tilted her head, amusement in those amber eyes. "Want? Why, nothing at all. I was just in the neighbourhood and thought I'd drop by." She smiled inwardly at that absurd statement. No one would just be wandering in the 'neighbourhood' - i.e. the Blasted Lands - around Shayol Ghul. Not unless they had something else in mind.
She shrugged out of her cape and fell into step beside Ariella. "So, a new Sister for you, hmm? And another pair of recruits too." Including the leader - the former leader - of the Light Warriors. And a so-called Soulless whose oaths to various powers she had already lost track of. "An interesting trio. But I hope you don't expect me to follow suit?" Her sly smile was identical to the other woman's.
"I doubt you'd want me, anyway. Dogs may be loyal servants" - a flash of contempt showed on her half-human face - "but cats are not. We go where, and when, it suits us, and we don't take orders. Invitations, however, are another thing. Since you’ve invited me to your party, I’d be delighted to attend.”
They reached the large room where the party was being held. Cat recognised several of her ‘old acquaintances,’ there. Darkhound, for example, being played like a puppet on a string by Egwene2 and Ulrike. A pretty image. Cats, too, always preferred to play with their prey. Sundara, looking nothing like an Aes Sedai in low-cut scarlet. Carramaena, trailed by a red-gold kitten. Cat laughed inside her mind. Just as she’d thought, no one was paying attention to Ginger save for the occasional “What a cute kitten!” Moridin and Eval, though, didn’t seem to be down yet.
Plucking a glass from a passing tray, she strolled - or perhaps prowled - across the room to the nearest group...
~The Black Cat
Eval woke up.
It was well past midnight, he saw by the clock. Whatever they had given him to stop him rambling, it had knocked him out for nearly a day. Maybe he really did need to control his rambling - was there such a thing as 'Ramblers Anonymous'? He decided to ask Kiriath. Meanwhile, the sounds of celebration downstairs were calling him...
He sat up, and caught sight of a small black kitten solemnly watching him with amber eyes. "Hello, cat. Are you looking for something?" The kitten continued regarding him, head on one side, and Eval laughed out loud. Of course the cat couldn't understand him. All that rambling must be doing something to his brain if he thought cats could talk. "Well, whatever." He pulled on a black velvet tunic and breeches, and buckled on his sword-belt. "I'm going down to the party. You can come if you like." Eval left the room and ventured downstairs, the black kitten padding along at his heels.
Downstairs was a riot of music, laughter, dancing and general chaos. Light Warriors, Shadowsworn and random neutrals were all scattered around. Spotting Sundara among the dancers - a vision in crimson silk with one of his roses in her hair - he caught her hand and spun her away from her previous partner into his arms. "Scarlet O'Hara, I presume?"
Sundara laughed. "So it is you this time," she commented somewhat cryptically. "Nice to see you at last. I was starting to get worried."
"The anti-rambler took a while to wear off. What are we celebrating?"
"New members." She turned in his arms to point out a copper-haired girl in the middle of the dance, as well as a fellow who looked somewhat - ordinary. "Carramaena L'Var, now the fifth official Dark Sister. And Barid Bel, a Gray Man. Of sorts, anyway." She was still looking around. "Agelmar was here, too, but he seems to have vanished."
What she was saying took a while to sink in. "Agelmar? Agelmar, as in the leader of the Light Warriors?"
"Yes, that Agelmar. I admit, I was surprised too when -" She cut off, startled. "What's that kitten doing, Eval?"
"Hmm?" He looked down at his feet. Sure enough, there was the black kitten. "He followed me down here. Cute little thing, isn't he?"
"I'm not sure." She was frowning. "I seem to remember something about a cat..."
They both looked around as Ariella came in, accompanied by a woman all in black. A woman with slanting, catlike amber eyes. A woman who looked very much like a cat.
"Light and Shadow!" Eval swore, looking from the kitten to the woman. "If I didn't know it was impossible..."
Lord of Darkness, and unrepentant rambler
The message that the Wolf-kin were now needed to combat the growing influence of the Dark-sisters having been spread throughout the realm, Elrys decided to join the party. Afterall, sometimes the greatest allies can be found in the strongholds of the enemy (well, they might not be an Enemy, but the Dark-Sisters were growing too powerful and their growth had to be checked in some way).
Elrys willed himself into the wolf-dream and with a single step, travelled thousands of miles to Shayol Ghul. Leaving the wolf-dream Elrys materialized in front of the Dark-sisters place. Entering the sprawling, lightly-darkened Palace, Elrys noticed few familiar faces among the masses. he made his way towards the hostess of this magnificent party, Ariella, and informed her of his presence at her party. He then disappeared into the crowd to mingle and to get a feel for who was working for which side. The results were clear on all but a few. In particular, the woman dressed all in black distressed him. She had a way of looking at you as if she knew your every thought, and acted as if she was amused by them. Of all the people in the room she was the only one who he could not discern the side on which they truely stood. Every time he came close to her he kept on getting the feeling that he wasn't talking to a woman, but that he was talking to a cat, and a dangerous one at that as every time she came near the hackles on the back of his neck would stand. Perhaps it was her eerie, cat-like eyes, or just the way she acted, or maybe just his nerves? Another thing he noticed was that wherever Darkhound was, she was not. It must be coincidence...
"I don't know." Sundara was still staring at the woman. "After all, if Darkhound can change shape, it stands to reason others might be able to. And your kitten -" She considered the little cat, which regarded her with wide, innocent-seeming golden eyes. "Keep an eye on it. In the meantime, perhaps we should introduce ourselves to this stranger?" Although if her guess was correct, the cat-woman knew her, at least, very well already... They walked over to where the new guest stood.
Sundara smiled sweetly at the black-clad woman. "I hope you're enjoying yourself?" She glanced at the goblet of wine in the woman's hand. With her most innocent expression, she added "Perhaps you'd prefer milk?"
As the pointer of the great clock in the Grand Hall of the Darkly-Lit Palace passed the mark of the midnight, the tension of passions rose to the incredible hight. New guests were arriving constantly, and those who had been here for a while strenghtened their own positions. Old friends met. Old enemies met. New friends met the old enemies of their friends and, strangely enough, befriended them. The Great Daes Dae'mar was at it's highest peak. The Best players of the Game of Houses gathered here tonight. The One Power, the True Power boiled today, here and there. Something hanged in the air. And no, he didn't mean those incredible lamps, which floated above the immence ceiling of the great hall, illumining everything and everyone.
The Dark Sisters must be taking the arrangements of all those parties very seriously, for each and every single one of them have not been too tired to astonish him with their grandeur, with their creativity, with all the funn one could get at those parties; and at the same time with all the seriousness of the matter for which the partie was gathered. And indeed, the reason for todays partie was serious enuogh. the new Dark Sister has come into the light. Or should I say, into the Darkness. Ah, yes, this night was a series of blows for the poor Light Warriors. Nowadays far too many believed that the Great Lord of the Dark would win. And, naturly, they tried to ally themselves with the Dark Family. But he always believed in stability, in the Order, in Balance. Who knows what does the Lord General of the Light Warriors have in mind? The answer was- only the Lord General himself! Perhaps he has left quite a formidable ace in the sleeve, just waiting for the Dark Sisters to weaken their defences, waiting for the Right moment. Who knows what has Daylord been doing for the last few days?
Prophet stood up. The todays party was outstanding, of course. There was a lot of feasting, dancing, drinking, chatting and the like.. He turned to the nearest guest and asked: "Pardon me, do you know what's hanging today in the air?" The perplexed face was his answer. Prophet walked away, laughing out loud. That person must have thought he was completely nuts. Not that he was wrong, but...there was no need to exaggerate the situation with Prophet's mind. His stare fell at the newcomer, the Black Cat. A misterious person indeed, but not completely. What was her purpose in this game they all have played was yet to be discovered.
He looked at Ariella, the Great Mistress of the Dark, again. He had not yet brought her the message from her brother, the Great Lord of the Dark. Prophet was waiting till she would come to him herself. Ariella was said to be all-knowing, well, it was time for Prophet to see, weather the rumour of Ariella's omniscience was true.
Serafelle found out that there was some sort of party going on at the Dark Sisters' place. "Well, I haven't been invited. It might not be...safe...to gate-crash a Darkfamily party. On the other hand, I am thinking of joining them. And after all, perhaps it's not exclusive. I might as well see if the bouncer, or gatekeeper, or whatever, will let me in." So she kicked some books aside (she really needed to find a Warder to carry some of these books back to the library) and went to her closet. She dug through the clothes desperately. Serafelle held up a long black dress, one of her favorites. "Nah. Then I'd be taken for a Black for sure." She put it back into the closet regretfully. Then she began to dig again. This time she held up a long, flowing maroon dress. "Just the color of blood, I think. Perfect." She put it on quickly, hoping that the bouncer would let her in. She adjusted the off-the-shoulder neckline and rearranged the long skirts. Her figure wasn't perfect, but for once she looked nice. She took off her glasses and replaced them with contacts so that people could see her nice hazel eyes. Then she put her makeup on (not too much-sometimes it smeared, and then she'd look like the epitome of the unselfconscious Brown), choosing a lipstick in a color identical to that of the dress. She swept her long hair up into a loose bun, a few stubborn dark brown tendrils escaping (as they always did). She took a few deep breaths- after all, she'd never been to one of these things before. Serafelle didn't get nervous often, but this was one of those times. "Well," she thought determinedly, "here I go." She made a gateway to the party and stepped through.
Sister of the Brown Ajah
Tam entered the room, this time he was prepared. In his right hand he had his cased sliverplated bach bass trombone, in his left he had a welcome gift; the feather of a bird known as a harpie. It was supposed to bring luck. He stared toward the stage when he saw Algemar. Well, Tam thought I should go to see my new brother.
"Welcome to the family, AL," he said,"how do you like it so far? "Great." said AL. "Hey, AL, what are you drinking?" inqured Tam. "Shinerian brandy. Want some?" (sorry pressed for time have to change format)
Tam: No, I don't drink
AL: Oh, come on, losen up, have some fun.
Tam: Well maby a little.
Al: There's a lad.
Tam: cough! sputer! agk! this burns.
Al: Don't be such a whiner.
Tam: Whiner! I'll so you whos a whiner. Bartender! Bring another round.
some time later
Tam: Weee im sthe king ofs sthe world. hey youse ya you there ya want a fight. NO! what youse sthinks your better sthen me? hic! Isss can't shtill fight im snot drunk.
AL: Maybe you should leave, Tam. You're not acting rationaly.
Tam: Shut up, Al, you're not my momma, you don't know me.I'll cut you AL. I'll......
Tam passed out
Tam al'Thor, not been drunk before
"Okay," Agelmar thought drunkenly, "now how did I do thish to meself? I thunk I wuz sleepin nice and painfullike, but here I is drinkin with a passed out Tam over there, no, over there, no well it's one of those two." Blearily peering into his empty glass, he made a small gesture to the bartender to fill his glass, which to the untrained eye might seem like he was jumping up and down hollering for more booze. Saluting some unseen entity, Agelmar resumed his debauchery.
He was sitting, now; Ari had danced him down, and was still going strong. The disguise couldn't keep his legs from the low ache, the dull throb in his side. He supposed the Power might play a part in keeping her and her sisters going, but who was he to say?
Directly in front of him, a gateway opened and a new Aes Sedai stepped through. She was dressed conservatively as far as this party was concerned, but her bearing and her wry grin as she stepped through captivated him. He rose and offered her his arm through. "You would be the cynic Serafelle, now." Not a question, but a statement.
With hardly a pause, she answered in the affirmative. "And who, dare I ask, might you be?"
The Wanderer could only smile; "I am no one to be trifled with, that is all you ever need know."
"Are you with the Shadow, then?" Her eyes searched his mask, but unnecessarily. His face grew hard.
"Madam, I serve no man, nor woman, nor other sentience but myself. Unless I am behind the bar, of course. Then I serve everyone including myself. I DO have some ideals, but they remain hidden to keep my true identity under wraps."
"Like Prophet, then? Well, I can see the advantages.... maybe I'll stay neutral for a time, test the waters, you know?"
"I've been testing the waters since I got here. And I'm older than you think. But enough of this, since it's no fun baiting someone who would otherwise recognize me anyway. Much more fun to dance! Shall we?"
Letting down her guard a trifle, she accepted his arm and found herself swept onto the expanse of dancefloor. I am going to regret this, said the Wanderer's legs. But his mind argued the point to stalemate. And they danced.
The Man in Black
It was a waltz, a dance Serafelle actually knew how to do. She was pleased, he was a very good dancer. She said again, "Who are you?" The Man in Black tilted his head to the side and answered (as he had before), "I am no one to be trifled with." They danced in silence for a moment, and then she said, "I know who you are. Your cruelty reveals everything. You're the Dread Pirate Roberts, admit it!" They stopped dancing, and he bowed. "With pride! What can I do for you?" She replied without thinking. "You can die slowly, cut into a thousand pieces." Then she suddenly realized what she'd said. Her eyebrows rose as she said "Oh, no! I didn't mean...I mean..." His own expression was puzzled. "What was that?" he asked incredulously.
Serafelle answered hesitantly. "I...I think I've seen this before. You know those pockets of evil people have been encountering lately? The ones that sort of...bubble...to the surface?" He nodded. "Well," she said, "this was a pocket...or bubble of...Quote. I've heard rumors about these...Quote Bubbles...before. They're harmless. Just ignore it." Other people stopped dancing as well, and they all looked similarly confused. She smiled. Serafelle and the mysterious Man in Black began to waltz again.
Sister of the Brown Ajah