Posted on September 18-20, 1998 on Pages of Prophecy
Category: WoT Third Age

A Return

Well since everyone seems to be submitting a bit of writing to the bbs I thought I would too. Being of the sensitive sort and rather self conscious of my work I am only going to put up the first part. Actually the only part written. If you take a liking to it then let me know and I will continue. After all nothinis more fragile than an author's ego.

Please note that this work is a sequel to the short story New Spring. As such it contains material that might give away something of that story if you have yet to read it.

Moiraine reined her horse before the Alindrelle Gates. The gates were an incredible monument to the glory and power that Tar Valon had once possessed. The gates had been raised at the orders of Alind Dyfelle. An Amyrlin raised from the Gray Ajah long before the Trolloc Wars, Alind had made the rulers of the Ten Nations tremble at the merest hint of her displeasure. In Alind's time every King or Queen sent their children to the Tower for instruction. Now only the Queens of Andor did so and not a one realized that the practice predated Ishara's oath to the Tower.

From the corner of her eye she could see Lan calmly sitting on his horse, his face as impassive as the statues that guarded the banks of the Arinelle River. It had been more than four years since she had last looked upon the Tar Valon and the White Tower. Four years spent searching the Borderlands, Arad Doman and the Almoth Plain. Four years of traveling on to Tarabon and then sailing to Illian. It had been in Illian that she had gotten word of Sierin Vayu's death. Moraine could not help but feel a chill.

That Sierin Vayu had not died four years ago was troubling to say the least. Moiraine almost trembled at what that must mean. At the very best Sierin had been the unwitting dupe of the Black Ajah. At worst she had been raised to the Stole from their vile ranks. And now she was dead. Murdered perhaps. Siuan certainly thought so. But had no real evidence, nor even a motive. Certainly the Black Ajah would not kill one of their own that they had managed to place in the High Seat.

Lan's mount shook his head in impatience. His harness ringing softly. Moiraine sighed. She was not looking forward to her return. Four years away from the Tower. Always headstrong, even as a novice; Moiraine knew that it would be hard to conform to the Tower's rhythms. Clucking softly to her horse, she urged her forward. Sitting here any longer would only make it all that harder to face. And face it she must.

Siuan fought to keep calm. 'Marith Jaen. I cannot believe they mean to raise Marith Jaen!' Leane just smiled that calm smile that Domani women seemed to be born with and nodded.
"If you had been present yourself, Siuan, you might have been able to do something. Only Lelaine stands your equal in strength among the Blues and I think Lelaine was not to pleased at Marith being chosen either."

Siuan bit back an oath. "Of course Lelaine was not happy, she dreams of the day she should wear the stole herself." she snapped.

Siuan clamed herself, taking a deep breath. Leane must not suspect. As casually as possible she asked "So which Sister put Marith's name forward?"

Leane gazed a moment at Siuan. Her face expressionless. Siuan matched her stare; it would not do to show anything but pure curiosity. Even her friend could not suspect her motives for asking. Even Leane, one of her greatest friends since she had entered the Tower could be Black Ajah. She barely succeeded in keeping her hands from clenching at the thought.

Leane raised a brow sardonically. "It was Anaiya who proposed her. And Sheriam close behind. Strange -" Leane gave a laugh.

"What? Siuan asked quickly. Maybe too quickly.

But Leane did not seem to notice. "Both looked a bit shocked. I don't think that either Anaiya or Sheriam had a clue as to the other's intent. Of course that could be what they wanted to rest of us to see." Leane shrugged again. Not for the last time did Siuan envy her friend the effortless grace with which every action was performed.

Leane suddenly clapped her hands together. "You'll never guess what I also learned?" Grinning like a novice who had just played a prank on one of the Accepted. Siuan hated it when Leane got like this. Cetalia was growing rather old and Siuan for all intents and purposes ran the Blue Network. But Leane somehow was able to know things even before she did. Of course Leane was Blue and no Blue lived but had at least a half dozen agents by a year from her raising.

"What?!" Siuan barked. She was not in the mood for Leane's games. Not now.

Leane just laughed throatily. Not for the last time did Siuan wonder at her friend's choice of Ajah. If ever she had picked one destined for the Green it had been Leane Sharif. But Leane had chosen the Blue, beside her and Moiraine.

"Moiraine Damodred has returned." Leane said. Siuan sat down hard. The shock of hearing her name coursed through her. Siuan stared at Leane. She dreaded what her fellow sister might be able to read on her face. But Leane just smiled softly; pleased at catching her friend off guard.

"So her high and mightiness has returned to the Tower?" Siuan managed to spit out. Leane looked at her in question. Siuan belatedly realized that she had overplayed it. After all Leane remembered that the two had almost been closer than a Green and her warder.

"Well I guess with Sierin dead, Moiraine figures it is safe to return. After all Sierin demanded her return more than once did she not?"

"Yes, but every message was always a day late. Moiraine never had to actually obey those orders as she never received them herself." Siuan replied caustically.

" Well I imagine that Lelaine and Anaiya will be rather curious to know where she has been these years. And up to. It seems she has been quite busy." Leane laughed.

Something about the note of Leane's voice and laugh warned her. It was the same laugh she used when referring to Anjen her warder.

"It seems that Moiraine has bonded a warder. Now there is the last one I ever expected to bond. Though considering how long she has been out and about I guess it is a good thing."

"Moiraine is a Blue, Leane. Not a White."

"True. Maybe it was who she bonded that makes it rather a shock."

Siuan could not help but stare in amazement at Leane. Moiraine could hardly have had time to ride through the White Tower's Gates and already Leane had information that she doubted even the Commander of the Tower Guard had as of yet.

"Who?! Light blast you Leane, stop playing games with me!

Four years ago Moiraine had ridden off after some Malkieri. And had not returned save to leave a curt message that said she was going to finish the search in the Borderlands before returning to the Tower. Four years and a half dozen messages; all seemingly innocuous. Sent through the Blues Eyes and Ears network in such a way that only Siuan had been able to know the real message imparted. Not even Cetalia had realized that Moiraine and Siuan were able to communicate with one another. Not without risk though. Twice a misstep by one of their agents had brought Moraine within a whisker of being picked up by Sisters sent by Sierin Vayu. Moraine had played a dangerous game, always managing to stay ahead of Sierin's summons back to the Tower. Siuan did not doubt for minute that among the sisters sent to retrieve the errant young sister, were those of the Black Ajah.

And now Moraine had returned. And Sierin Vayu was dead; another Amyrlin to be raised in only five years. Another dead Amyrlin, that Siuan would wager her ability to channel had not died of nature's accord. And Moiraine had returned. With a Warder no less.

Merana frowned at Temaile Kinderode. The woman had interupted her yet a third time. Clearly she did not know her place. As chief negotiator for the Grays, Merana stood only a step below the Head of her Ajah and the Sitters. Temaile might have been an advisor to one of the rulers. A status that did grant prestige within the Gray. But the fact that she had counseled Laman was hardly something to elevate Temaile in any way.

Besides, even one who currently held the postion of royal advisor did not stand above the chief negotiator unless age and strength surpassed by a wide margin. And Temaile did not even come close to Merana. But the rest of her fellow grays seemed not to notice Temaile's infraction.

"And I say that if the Blues can have two of their own raised to the stole in a row then so can we!" Temaile's narrow face,much like a fox was flushed with passion. Since the death of Sierin, Temaile had been most forceful in attempting to have another raised from the Gray.

"And you say that the Whites will stand behind us, Temaile?"

Merana turned to the sister that had spoken. She had been surprised to find Annoura Larisen here in the Tower. True, the raising of an Amyrlin was something that drew sisters back to the Tower from as far as the Aryth Ocean and the Sea of Storms. But Annoura had been sent by Sierin herself as advisor to the First of Mayenne and tutor to the young heir. For her to absent herself from her post so soon was hardly the action Merana would have condoned. But Merana was not the head of the Gray Ajah.

She turned once again to the person who held that honor. Andaya sat on on the edge of her seat, like a bird ready to take flight. But her timid loks were quite deceiving as many a ruler and even fellow sister had discovered. But so far Andaya had left it up to her fellow members of the Grays inner circle to debate just who the Grays would throw their support behind.

Unlike the other Ajahs, the Grays tended to vote as a block. The Greens and Whites had long held with the Blues on most matters. But Sitters, especially those who stood among the highest ranks of strength tended to vote the way they saw fit; not how their Ajah did.

But the currently no Gray of considerable strength sat in the Hall. Janya Frende was the oldest of the Grays. And one of the oldest Sisters. But Janya did not stand that much higher than Merana. And certainly Delana Mosalaine stood enough below Merana that there was no room for any doubt who was the stronger.

Of course Delaina being raised as a Sitter had been a bit of a scandal. But with the Amyrlin herself throwing her support behind Delana her former Ajah had been more than happy to accede. For Sierin Vayu had possessed a temper that could burn the thatch off a roof when in full flame. Merana still shuddered when she recalled Sierin's raising to the stole. The Tower had practically shaken when she had exiled Marya Somares from the Tower. An Amyrlin did not usually demand that a Sitter step down and remove herself from the Tower for one full year. Let alone one from that Amyrlin's former Ajah.

While it had been no secret that Marya and Sierin had hated one another and that Marya had been angling for the Seat herself made no difference. Even before Jarna Malari's tragic death, the Grays had been riven by the power struggle between Marya And Sierin. It had only ended when Jarna had declared her support for Sierin. Support that not only garnered Sierin the backing of the Gray Ajah, but the support of more than half the Hall. Even the Reds.

And Sierin had immediately demanded the resignation and exile of her rival. Marya had gone for the full year; returning a quiet and drained woman who had gone into voluntary retirement after Jarna's death.

So now the Gray was guided by the likes of Andaya, Delana and Janya Frende. Who seemed not to mind that certain forms were no followed. Temaile's rudeness and presumption. The fact that Annoura and Niande Mooryn had deserted their posts to return to the Tower.

A loud knock broke through Merana's reverie. Anday nodded at Beonin who stood and openned the door. Evanellein glided in past Beonin. The two did not even glance at one another. There is friction between those two. Merana thought with surprise. But all other thougths were chased away by Evanellein's address to Andaya.

"Moiraine Damodred has returned. She just entered throught the Alindrelle Gates. And it seems she has a Warder."

This last bit was deliverd with a bit of a smirk. Merana had always thought that Evanellein would have made a better Green. Merana noticed the confusion among the other sisters present. After all most knew who Moiraine was. Not every novice entered the Tower and rose to full sister in the time she had. Nor was a daughter of the Damodreds the type of novice the tower usually admitted either. But the return of a sister out side of the gray, even one as strong as Moiraine was hardly news of the import Evanellein obviously considered it to be.

But among the confused looks on her fellow Grays faces at Evanellein's news, Merana noted a few exceptions. Delana's face showed nothing. Not even surprise. For while it was hardly news that would normally be delivered to the Gray Council while it deliberated, Merana thought it odd that Delana showed nothing. After all Delana had been an Accpeted with Moiraine if she recalled correctly. Merana expected at least curiousty.

Berylla and Beonin seemed to exchange a look, but from the angle she was not certain. But it was the look on the gray that sat next to her that was the most puzzling. She would not have noticed it had Annoura and Temaile both shot sharp glances at her. In fact Merana had at first thought they were directed at her. But then out of the corner of her eye, she caught the look on Larelle's face. As pale as if she had suddenly seen a Darkhound burst through the door, the expression on Larelle's face could only be called fear.


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