Posted on Serafelle's Society of Scholars on October 20-27, 1998
Category: WoT Alternate Reality

And A Gray Cat

From the shadows, Nightfall emerged with his usual grace and now slightly weatherworn face on his usual pale skin. Dressed usual garb of deep lavender, which was also matched with the sash of crimson around his middle, Nightfall could feel a change was in the air and change was something that he lived for. Quickly though, Nightfall took in the site of both the White Tower and the now present members of a once very merry band. "Too long. Definitely been away too long, by the Great Mistress." Suppressing the urge to sigh, Nightfall quickly gather his small bundle of stuff, most of his more prized possessions he had stored else were, as he then wandering to the these new halls and places of import. He could feel that Sunny and Carra were close by but no sign of any of the others of the Dark Family.

A small smile trickled over his face as he realized opportunity was now knocking at his door. Nightfall was never one to not open a door, even it did occasional crash down on him. Brushing back the curly strands of dark brown hair, Nightfall then continued onward. New quarters were definitely in order as his orderly mind took quick pace of what was needed to be done now that he was one of the few survivors left of the Dark Family. Finding any place at all might prove difficult for most men. Nightfall though, relying on his very unique powers and abilities, quickly found a tavern with a very comfortable room and bed. After some haggling and double-dealing by both men, Nightfall bought the place and put out a new sign, "Flock of Ravens" with the little note reading "All are welcome. Dark Sisters get the first five rounds free and anything else is compliments of the house." As Nightfall pulled out his old harp and began to play some old tune that he had picked up in his travel, the sudden odd though crossed his mind "It was good to be back in business." Laughing softly to himself, Nightfall continued to play on. Yes indeed Nightfall was back in business and even more deadly than any would realize.

The new yet still old Nightfall, now Lord of the Night and some other older titles but save those for later.

Finally the moment had come.

They had all gathered together: Sundara, Carra, Kiriath and Blackthorne to unite the rods together at last. Blackthorne had told none of the others her reason for needing the rods; she assumed that they thought she was in it for the possible power.

The ties that had bound her were weakening. The seals? Her mind was confused; that thought was not hers. Never had the entity been that strong, that present in her mind. Suddenly fear pricked her spine. Was She, Blackthorne was certain it was a she, was She trying to take complete control of her?

The rods floated in the room and the others were studying them, apparently seeing or feeling nothing of what Blackthorne was experiencing. Maybe Sundara was; she was frowning. To her own eyes, the rods were pulsing against the rhythm of the Wheel, slowly digging discord into the Pattern. It was making a bore, not the Bore, but another. A bore to free She who lived within Blackthorne.

Blackthorne herself was paralyzed; She wouldn't let her stop. Suddenly, she saw at the corner of her eyes the shape of a greyman, the shape of Barid Bel. With a sigh of relief, she watched him take the rods. The others didn't notice until he was long gone.

"What?" Carra almost shrieked. "Where are they? Blackthorne, is this your doing?!" She looked ready to beat the truth out of her. Dark Sisters didn't like mysteries.
Gathering her courage, she went to speak and...couldn't. However, She had something to say.

"So you don't recognize me, Carramaena?" She laughed a throaty husky laugh. "That's all right; i don't recognize myself in this body anyway." She walked around as the puzzled group watched.

"I was bound by one of your intrigleemen, Kiriath." He jumped at that. "Bound like my boring brother. But it was different from his...I could touch the Pattern, manipulate threads." She laughed again. "It was so much fun, but i figured that i should return. You can't have a real party at the Dark Palace without a Great Mistress and a Darkhound...Where is he, anyway?"

Carra looked a little awed. "I haven't seen him for a long time." "Oh." She sounded a little sad. "I would have at least thought that he would stay and wait for my return."

"So Ari, how did you end up this way? Why the new body?" Sundara asked, arms crossed.
"The rods were the only way to make a bore and free me. I used her to get the rods, gave her special powers and taught her how to use them. Unfortunately, Barid disrupted it and left me half-unsealed. I can talk to you using Blackthorne's body, use her body as mine, but that's all."

Blackthorne was amazed. Ariella, the Great Mistress herself, was She? Her powers were not her own, but given to her by Ari? All her life she had been of the Dark. That was a life changing revelation.

She found that Ari had allowed her to speak again. "Then I have only one thing to say. Can i be a Dark Sister? I feel that i'm already one by Ariella's gifts; I was born one."

Sundara looked at Carra. Carra looked at Sundara. They seemed to have a mental conversation. Finally, Sundara stepped forward. "A sister of Ari is a sister of mine. Welcome home, Ari." She hugged Blackthorne and Carra joined in too. Kiriath stayed to the side, observing the scene with interest.

"Carra, if you will do the honours, there's going to be a party at Nightfall's tavern. Free drinks for all Dark Sisters." She added in a murmur. "I always did like the word 'free'".


Barid didn't like it. Didn't like it at all. After rescuing Ulrike, and running away before she will regain enough coherancy, to skin him. And then stop being nice. And after he hided the rods in the safest place he could think of. Not even the Dark One himself, had he been completely free, could take the rods. This is, if he knew where they are.
Ariella, and in another body. It was more than disturbing. The gray man left the Dark Palace.
Unable to decide what he had to do.
He couldn't handle this by his own. Sighing, he went to the only place in the world he feared more than the Pit of Doom. Tel'aran'rhiod was a strange place to those who lack a soul. But he was heading to a stranger place. The crack between the waking world and Tel'aran'rhiod. Vast blackness. Fill with lights. As soon as he appeared, dozen lights float at him. And he fled. Old enemies.
He had few who still lived. He was glad Ulrike wasn't asleep yet. He had no idea what she will do.
But he was sure he would rather no be present when she will leash at someone. Him prefered.
He found the dream he was looking for. And, with a shiver, entered. He had more than reson enough ot fear this.

~Barid Bel

Kiriath snickered softly to himself. He had suspected this all along; the sheer pun in the Rods of "Dominion" just suited the Great Mistress a way, he was glad to have her back. In a way, he was just as frightened as everyone else. Now that she was back, the Rods were no longer needed. Or were they? Kiriath's rambling mind worked as quickly as it ever had; his Rings had both been found in the White Tower, on opposite ends, one residing within the Amyrlin's chambers. If the Rods returned the Mistress to the Dark, what could the Rings do? Bring the original Lews Therin back, at least a copy?
Kiriath fingered his Rings carefully, grinning and taking care to not happen to make any ..wrong.. motions in the process.

And, over all, there was the question of the Intrigleeman that had captured Ari and sent her within the Less-Boring. He had thought of the term before; it must have been a spinoff version of an "eckni," the noise that had recently appeared when a steadyning was discovered. Apparently, realized Kiriath, the whole basis of the Intrigleemen rambled just as intently as he did. A scary thought in itself. Especially considering that Carra still had that double agent ...perhaps she had imprisoned the Great Mistress, hoping to increase her rank?
Peering over at the group, he rubbed his hands together dangerously. It was a good thing that Ariella was back, he thought, smiling. Somehow, the Dark Family could be set against themselves. Even omniscient Mistresses weren't totally omniscient. Hopefully, at least.
He began to fade away, slowly, in the style of a Cheshire Cat, his whirly eyes remaining last. Gray Men thought they had it good ---hah. Even they didn't know how to Stare your way out of a game, while still Eyeballing your opponent.
As he faded out of the Pattern, and back into his vacuole, he grinned, removing the whip from a Stone he had taken off, placing a thorn upon its center. Ariella and Blackthorne, working together. He stared at the board cautiously and checked the cuckoo clock upon the vacuole's wall. 13:13. Perfect time for a party. Not to mention that the clock always had a soft cuckoo, and was always at the same time.
All in all, a grand time to be the Grand High Rambler. And a wonderful time to be a plotting spy. Before fading out, he placed one more piece next to the cluster of whips, this one with a blond whip, and smaller than most. Semirhage would be the perfect fellow to observe the Dark Sisters. Fain could wander to and fro; those plans to turn the Blight could still be used. Now if Notumar would return from his Seanchan ...habits... all would be perfectly fitting. Sheer insanity could be just as useful as rambling, at the right times.

Kiriath, Undercover Intrigleeman
Care for ...wait, you're already in my game of Stones.

Barid exit the dream as fast as he could, and exit the gap between the worlds even faster. No one wanted to remain in the CREATOR's dreams even a heartbeat more than it was absulotely needed. The dreams of the creator created the wheel. And one who know what he was doing could change the dream. Only slightly, but the term slightly was relative. What the creator saw as slightly...
He did it, that was the important thing. Now he had to find a mirror. Strange things tend to happen to those who visited the dreams of the creator. Once he waked up and had five eyes. He had fix this. But returning to the creaor's dreams often was deadly.
HE looked at the mirror, save the slight change he needed. A simple twist in the world. So the rods were all in his possesion. All of them, together with something else. Almost as high priced.
He looked at the mirror, yes, the same face he saw everyday. Wait!
Green eyes?! With such strange pupil?
He winced, he let himself think about that bloody cat.
His leash with his tail. HIS TAIL!? He hadn't had to look at his hands to see that they had nails that could seemingly disappear.
"Bloody cats! And bloody creator as well!" He murmured.

~Barid Bel

There was a laugh from behind Barid Bel. A sleek black cat jumped from the windowsill, shimmered, and changed into a lithe, black-haired woman with slanted, tawny feline eyes. "Why, Barid Bel! You seem to have gotten yourself into some trouble!" Cat looked him up and down and started laughing. "But then, it serves you right for what you did to my cousin at Serafelle's party - she really doesn't like you, you know..." She started laughing again.

Barid Bel glared through his newly catlike eyes. And lashed his tail, which only made Cat laugh harder. "Oh, you look so handsome, Barid Bel. Wait until I tell the Dark Sisters, they'll have to have a party especially to celebrate..." With a last laugh, she went feline again, sprang, and vanished in mid-air, leaving only a grin behind. "The Black Cat is back..."

~The Black Cat~

One, two, three, and four daggers were sented at the cat, as fast as thought. It/She, he wasn't sure what to use moved even faster.
"Tsk! Tsk!" She said. "Not nice."
Barid leashed with his tail around and wonder what the hell he was about to do?

~Barid Bel

Meanwhile, back at the Dark Palace, Blackthorne and the other Dark Sisters were getting ready to party. She had spoken with Nightfall and everything would be purr-fect. The invitations were sent, the food was being prepared, the bar at Nightfall's tavern was loaded with the free liquor that Nightfall had advertised with. Too bad he had forgotten that they had long abolished drunkness and hangovers. Oh well, his loss, my gain.

She had decided to make this party informal as possible, more of a gathering of old friends and enemies, a place for the hatching of old plots and the laying of new ones. Of course, Blackthorne couldn't be informally dressed; she had to stand out like a supernova in the night sky.

Pursing her lips, an unconscious habit of hers, but perhaps it was Ariella's habit, she looked through Ari's closet. It was hers now, as was eveything in Ari's rooms. Sundara and Carra seemed to take her like a Dragon Reborn, the same person, just that she had forgotten who she was. They saw it as their duty to instruct her on how a Dark Sister behaves. Not that it was very different from how she normally was, just interesting to watch someone try to teach you how to walk like a Dark Sister. Ari just hovered there in her mind, just laughing the whole time.

That was the way Ari was. She had not once since that first time taken control of her body again. Blackthorne guessed that she found it more fun to watch than to do, like watching a funny teevee show, a come-midi.

Finally, she found something that would do. A pair of skin-tight blue jeans, cut low to show her figure went on the bed, followed by a purple 'hootchie-mama' tank top and a green blouse to hang open seductively. She could feel Ari's approval. Evidently, since she had a new young body, she figured it should be shown off. Blackthorne sighed; the duty of being a Dark Sister.

Finally, she was ready to go, when a cat entered the room. It wasn't the furry kind you oohed and ahhed at the window of a pet store; it was a cat in human form.

"Ah, so you're the Great Mistress now." The cat eyed her up and down. "I'm the Black Cat." She stuck out a paw/hand. Blackthorne shook it with dignity. That was one of the first things she had learned: do everything with dignity.
"Yes, I am Blackthorne, Ariella Reborn. So are you going to the party?"
She blinked. "Which party? There's so many."
Blackthorne smiled inside; she was quick on her feet. A useful friend, no ally to have.
"We are having a party at Nightfall's tavern. You know where that is right?" Black Cat nodded impatiently. "So come. There's going to be good food, good music and good company. Oh, and it's informal too."
The Black Cat made a pretense of thinking. "Okay, I'll come." She turned to leave. "Oh, by the way, Barid played with the Creator's dreams. He's got the rods, but the price was now he's quite cat-like." Black Cat smiled. "Kind of handsome, if you're into grays." She then stately walked out with the same catlike dignity she walked in with.

Blackthorne first goggled; he had done what? then smiled. Every party needed a Great Mistress and a Darkhound, the saying went. A Great Mistress and a Cat would be just as good. Smiling, she put on her make-up and perfume guranteed to drive any male of any species wild. She only paused to pick up a whip at the door. There was going to be a Great Hunt tonight...

Ariella Reborn

Barid had to admit their were SOME advantages to his condition.
Seeing in nearly darkness, for instance. And he would never lose his weapons. He will always have the nails in his fingers. Of course, a cat as tall as he was a strange sight. On the other hand, maybe Ulrike wouldn't recognize him that way. A small chance, but he could hope. The fur might be a problem. And the tail, of course. With a little training, he might be able to use it like monkeys. Dogs would be more than a problem now. Even more than before. But at least no cat would try to attack another that is more than fifty times it size.
Sighing, he opened a gateway. To the dark palace. His tail wrapped about him. He felt like lashing it. Every eyes turned at him as enter. His claws was out. He had seen a mouse.

~Barid Bel

A black cat appeared in mid-air, landed on all four feet, and turned into the Black Cat, wearing a catsuit - what else? - of black velvet. "Hello again, Barid-Cat! Would you like a nice juicy mouse?" Barid hissed and spat. Cat turned herself into a huge black panther and hissed back. "No, I'm not going to leave you alone," she said, changing back to human form. "Cats love taunting. Real cats anyway. Speaking of which, I suggest you steer clear of Darkhound."

She sauntered away, pausing to mention to Ulrike that Barid Bel had 'gotten himself into some trouble.' A loud argument started up as she left. There were places to go, people to see, prey to play with.
Chaos was a wonderful thing.

~The Black Cat

For a moment, Barid considerred going after her, taunting him! But he had seen cats fighting, he could match the speed. But he had a skin, a fur, to keep as whole as he could.
"BARID BE-" Ulrike stepped thourhg the gateway behind him. Fury turned into shock. Well, at least she wasn't going to skin him right away. On the other hand... He had seen cats jumping ten times their height, it was a time to see if he can do this too, he thouhgt.
Before Ulrike get over the shock.

~Barid Bel

After her two-hour lecture to Jani al’Koski, Serafelle had been tired. She went back to her study to relax for a while, but now, she was out-of-touch. She wasn’t sure anymore of what was going on. Where to find out? It seemed she’d completely missed Barid Bel’s Grey Party. The Dark Palace ususally knew what was going on in the world, so the Aes Sedai decided to go there to get the news. Those Rods of Dominion… Well, it was an idea.

She stepped into the closet, thinking about what to wear to the Dark Palace. The Dark Palace… That gave her an idea. Yes, she thought. That just might be interesting…. Suddenly, the dark form of a cat streaked by her feet. It was Nemesis, soaking wet, and apparently, she was not happy. She yowled furiously, and Serafelle, now rummaging around in the hangers, replied absently. “Barid Bel? Itching powder? Really? How ingenious! I wouldn’t have thought of it myself.” Nemesis made angry, scratching motions in the air as she meowed. “No, no. You won’t get another chance at Barid. Fun is fun, but damaging friends is something else again, I’m afraid. I will not allow you to hurt him again, so if you can find a way to avenge yourself on him without physically harming him, be my guest. Let’s dry you off, shall we?” Using saidar, she whisked the water off the cat.

She removed a dress from a hanger, and tried it on. Going to the mirror, she saw that it fit rather well. Accessories…. She dug them out, and put them on, and looked in the mirror. It was an interesting effect; the sheer, silvery white dress matched perfectly with the white shoes, jewelry, nail lacquer (the only Seanchan custom worth keeping), and concealed ivory daggers. The white lipstick and eyeshadow looked good, but something was missing…. Her hair abruptly turned a silvery white. She nodded briskly at the mirror, and turned to Nemesis. “Would you mind?” The cat performed the feline equivalent of a shrug. A moment, and Nemesis was pure white as well.

Serafelle picked up the cat, and Gated to the Dark Palace. Upon arrival, she ran into Barid Bel- literally. The cat struggled a bit in her arms, but she admonished her sharply. And turned to Barid Bel.

Raising an eyebrow, she commented, “Well, you certainly have changed.”


Blackthorne thought it was time to make an appearance, as she walked down the halls. Ariella yelled at her sharply; the party was only starting! Wait until it's in full swing! Make an entrance! But she was bored and very curious to see Barid's new...changes. Hopefully it had taught him that there was a price for everything. Anything was possible, as long as you were willing to pay for it. That was a lesson Blackthorne had learned a long time ago. Not through Ari; a long time before she had randomnly ended up here. She hushed Ari to a whisper. She would make an entrance, just not in the way Ari expected.

Another turn, right then left. She was almost there. She could have Traveled directly to the hall where the party was taking place, but this allowed her time to think. She knew who was here and who was not. What would be an incredible way of impressing all of them at once?

There was a picture on one of the hallway walls. The Dark Palace was so close to Shayol Ghul that it did change almost overnight. Even Ariella in her height had never known exactly what would appear, and Blackthorne had just only begun to learn her duties as Great Mistress. It was a heavy title to bear. One of her duties was to host parties like these, each one grander than the one before it. It was hard living up to their expectations.

The picture was of a maze made of bushes, a labrynith, if she remembered correctly. In the middle was an ornate fountain. The night sky with thousands of stars shone above the leafy maze below. Blackthorne remembered a story with a labyrinth in it with a monster and a hero and a ball of wool...She grinned; an idea formed in her head.

Suddenly, reality switched gears in the hall where the party was to take place. A thick maze of bushes reaching higher than anyone's head grew out of the paved ground. The vaulted ceiling became a perfect night sky, and a light summer breeze played softly with the leaves. In the middle of the labyrinth, a large fountain sprung up, water gushing forth like a geyser. Small goldfish with puffy checks swam peacefully around stars reflected in the water. At the entrance by the doors, three balls of wool, one gold, another silver and the other black sat lined up, ready to begin their task. Blackthorne studied her handiwork with a critical eye, but she couldn't find a fault. All paths would lead to the bar and the bathrooms and if someone was desprate to leave, they could make a gateway. Just as long as they didn't clip the hedge.

She quickly changed her clothes into something that silly Forsaken Lanfear would have worn, a long white dress and silver moon and star accessories that turned her into a moon goddess. Ari laughed in her mind: You are the Mistress of the Night, at least reborn. She sounded proud. That almost made tears come to her eyes. Putting silver and gold dust into her hair, she was ready to welcome the guests.

They filed in slowly as she channeled open the doors, Serafelle and Nemesis, Barid and Ulrike and the Black Cat. She had to smile when she saw Barid; he looked so silly! Ulrike looked like she was about to kill him! Oh well this was a party, not a battle ground, although it sometimes was that too at times. Strange, the Light and Shadow fought with words and wine. What a strange world this was.

Blackthorne addressed them with a calm and clear voice. "This is the Labrynith of Night Dreams, a maze where the danger is made from your own mind, your own dreams, so to speak. There are three paths you can take." She gestured to the balls of wool behind her. "These balls of wool will guide you to your goal. What is the goal? This." She held open her right hand. To everyone, it would appear differently. To Barid, it might be the cure for his cat-shape. To Ulrike or Serafelle, the rods perhaps. To the Black Cat, Ariella only knew and she wasn't talking. To Blackthorne herself, it was a shining star, glowing with the white light of potnetial. It was a wish, simply that. Anyone got the wish they wanted the most in the deepest recesses of their heart. Of course, it wouldn't work on Blackthorne or Ariella or the Dark Sisters; they were too powerful and too smart to believe in children's stories. But the rest had small crack in their minds where they believed that dreams could come true. That could be excellent or deadly. They would learn with time.

All of there attention was on the wish. "And one last thing," she smiled. "The bar is to the right most side of the maze, the bathrooms to the left. I will met you at the middle, where there is room to converse and dance. Let the games begin."

The music started up and Blackthorne faded out of sight to reappear at the edge of the fountain. Patience was hard virtue to keep, but well worth it in the greater scheme of things. Ariella agreed with that thought wholly, a smile curving her lips as mischief abounded...

The Great Mistress of the Dark (Reborn) etc.

It was strange, Barid thought, was she thinking that he would be ready to enter a place where his dreams would come true? For a rat?
"I'm not going to move through it." Blackcat announced. She lick her lips and jumped, maybe twenty feet in the air, to the wall of the maze. "Are you coming, Barid? There is no faster way."
He hadn't had to look at Ulrike to decide. He doubt if he could jump this high - before he ended the thought he was already half way in the air. And he had barely time to gape before he found himself near Blackcat.
"Barid!" Ulrike called from below, and he wasted no time. He and Blackcat began to run on the walls of the maze. Heading toward the center room with huge jumps.
They were there first, even Blackthrone hadn't arrive yet.
"Well," Blackcat said, "what is going on now? I want that mouse."

~Barid Bel

Strolling through the maze quickly --no maze could stall a rambler for long; a rambling mind is as twisted as any maze he traverses-- and, of course, ended up near the bars and bathrooms. Not that he cared, really; his wish had been a cluster of words piled up atop one another, all strewn together in such a way that he himself could not tell what it was. Part of it could be seen, most of it, though, was clouded by his rambling mind.

Kiriath bowed courteously to each guest in his path ...oddly, the party seemed to be a bit quiet; probably due to the fact that there weren't as many guests as usual. No matter, though, all the more chance to converse. Even if Carra wasn't anywhere nearby, he could, at least, walk over and introduce himself to the respun Ariella.

"Greetings, Blackthorne," he smiled, bowing in his own courteous way. "Greetings," she replied. Kiriath inwardly smiled; he could picture Ariella from within Blackthorne. Either she was watching him with genuine humour, or she was scrutinizing him carefully. However it was, she knew about the Intrigleeman. Careful.

"How is Ariella doing?" he asked, grinning. The result could be two things, and Blackthorne combined them. She simply said, "Fine. I hope the party is as splendid for you as it is for me." Typical Ariella. Eloquent, yet still no signs of temporary takeover. Curious.

"It certainly is," he replied, whirly eyes spinning with cheerfulness. "Glad to hear so," agreed Blackthorne, or Ariella, whichever it was. "For now, though, Kiriath, others need my attention. We can't let the bar get *too* rowdy, can we?" Typical Ariella again. If it was truly Blackthorne responding, she was learning. All too quickly.

Kiriath made his way to the bar, mind rambling as always. However Blackthorne went, she was obviously Ariella's avatar, and a good choice. Unless, of course, those statements were simply Ariella herself. If that was the case, nearly nothing had been discovered. He took a swig of his bottomless mug. However it went, parties always were good for a mug and a chat.

Kiriath, Undercover Intrigleeman
Swig, swig, swig...

"You're learning, Barid," Cat mocked him. "But really, a mouse? Is that all you can think of?" She looked around the centre of the maze. "Pretty. You know, I think I'll invite a few friends along. See-ya-later, Gray Cat." She crouched to spring. "Can you jump this high?" With a sudden movement she leaped high into the air, and just as suddenly vanished.
Barid blinked and looked up. There was a grin hanging in the air above him.

~The Black Cat

Sundara stepped out of the shadows as Blackthorne vanished and the guests wandered, or leaped, off. She looked a trifle sadly at the glowing wish. Dreams could come true, oh yes, and no one knew that better than a dreamwalker. But a star in a maze was just a pretty metaphor. Dark Sisters were too smart to believe in children’s stories, and it was a bittersweet irony that all the people who had just wandered off in search of their wishes were years older than she was. There was nothing like being the Dark One’s little sister to make a girl grow up too soon.

“Dreams and moonshine,” she said scornfully, and walked down the centre path to the dancing floor.

Sundara, Sister of the Dark

Barid leaned back. At least his fur melt with the walls. No one would see him, and this time, he didn't ever tried to fade. He channeled, carefully. What he did had to be done with great caution.
Saidin flow in him, and out of him. It was a matter of balance the power. Or Balancing on the power. He finished.
A fine Illussion. He thought.
Just as Ulrike entered, an illusion meant for her. He was FAR away as far as she was concerned. And even if she would see him, she would still think him as a stranger.
She was still angry about him, probably. And he avoided angry women, as much as he avoided... he couldn't think about anything else he avoided as angry women.
"Pst! Kitty! Come here. I got some milk for you!" Barid turned back. He would skin every that would talk to him like this.

~Barid Bel

Jani al'Koski had spent a week tyring to figure out what to do. Serafelle had given him so much to think about. Could he really be going insane? Wouldn't that mean that he should be able to channel? Jani was sure that he couln't. Surely there was a way to find out.

Then it struck him. Of course! Serafelle had talked about a lot of things during her lecture and the Black Tower had come up. Apparently there was a way to test possible channelers. All he had to do was to find a man who could perform the test.

He couldn't go to the Black Tower, though. Serafelle had made it sound like a horrible place. And Tar Valon was out of the question, there was no knowing what the sisters would do to him. If they found out about his suspicions, they would give him to the Red Ajah instantly.

That only left the Dark Palace. Jani had been there once and met men who could channel. They would help him, he was certain of that.

The Palace was as he remembered. A feeling of awe overcame anyone who came there and Jani was no exception. It was like a magnificient work of art, shrouded in mystery. Noises that sounded like a party rose from within and Jani opened the great double doors that lead into the Palace. And was shocked by what he saw inside...

Jani al'Koski

The Flock of Ravens stood open, the scents of strong drink and succulent food seem to linger in both shadows and the dim light. Nightfall, newly named proprietor stood outside admiring his handiwork. The former two level building had been upgraded by at least another two stories. The stables enlarged to allow more than just one or two horses. In fact the stables themselves were almost as large as the former common room. The facade had been remodeled into more suitable style in Nightfall’s mine. The stone and wooden thatch had given way to a tiled roof colored black. The newly named tavern now had more of shadowy and mysterious appearance with additions of. It had been a taxing event on Nightfall. Certainly though well worth the effort in his mind. “Nothing is too much for my guests and certainly this would be more fun than some other ventures I’ve tried” Nightfall open the broad black oak door to revel in the atmosphere of his tavern that whispered and hinted to the outside world of the wonders inside. The bar room was not quite brightly light but less than shadowy, gave the tavern a cozy feeling to all the patrons. Beside the stone mantle that was littered with silver platters and daggers for those of the knife throwing persuasion, a nice fire was burning merrily, giving the room much warmth. The main bar room itself was an intersection for the two main common rooms Nightfall had constructed, each about ten to twelve hand high and wider than some barns. One had the label, “Men” and the other “Women” on each side opening to the rooms. The tables were spacious and wide, each had a horn brimmed filled with fresh food and bread just now cooling. The staff itself was something that Nightfall himself was especially proud of. Hand picked to be more than suitable, his barmaids were of a wide variety each suited to his patrons taste. Not that all his serving people were women. Nightfall knew well the tastes of the Dark Sisters and had taken special care to see their needs would be well satisfied. His men, fine strapping lads were all well versed at both serving and other needs his patrons might need. Some were bright, others a little dense, all very loyal and more than handsome. Nightfall had taken care to have a wide variety and hoped that the Sisters would enjoy each and everyone.

Suddenly Nightfall felt a familiar pull on his consciousness. A broad smile crossed his features as he turned his thoughts inward. A party was being given at the Dark Palace. Though he had moved most of his treasures and other things of value of his old chambers, Nightfall was certainly not one to miss a party. Especially this one though why Nightfall was not certain. Quickly climbing the stairs to his very private rooms Nightfall changed with much efficiency and thought, as time would allow. Switching from his more rustic garb of velvet and lavender doublet and black leggings, Nightfall was soon decked out in a deep crimson shirt with a black surcoat that matched well with his dark hair and deep brown eyes. His thigh length boots were a murky brown only highlighted with his sigil embroidered on both sides. Finally to top it all off he then wore his medallion and light cloak the inside a light purple. In all he was a sight to be sure. Nightfall just hope it would be enough to guise his intents for now.

Quickly Nightfall walked into the shadows, merging with them and then transferring himself right near the main doors. His cursory observation indeed indicated much had changed. The maze was some thing that even he had not expected. Suddenly he felt a slightly familiar presence walk up behind him but some reason differently too. Turning around he face a woman he didn’t know but yet the eyes reminded him very much of the one woman or at least person he had hoped to avoid for some time. His astonishment drove most rational thought from Nightfall’s mind “Great Mistress?” A deep throaty chuckle came from the woman but even Nightfall could now tell this was not the Great Mistress. “No, dear Nightfall, not quite though you are not far from the mark. I am Blackthorne, Ariella Reborn and it was I that summoned everyone here. Ariella tells me you are quite the party man. I hope to see that…talent exercised soon.” The coy smile told Nightfall all he needed to know. This was woman was indeed a Dark Sister yet more. Certainly she was not quite the Great Mistress but no mere novice to the intricacies of the Dark and the Light. Gathering his wits and charm, he bowed “I’m honored, Great Mistress that you wish to see more of my talents. I assure you that I, Nightfall, will always be ready to serve the Dark and the Great Mistress as best I can.” “Nightfall, first thing of to prove your service is to call me Blackthorne.” “As you wish, Gr…I mean Blackthorne. So maybe I’ll get a dance in some time soon then” Her eyes sparkled in darkly familiar way “Soon Nightfall I promise. For now I want you to enjoy my little maze.” “Indeed it is some thing of a marvel, Blackthorne.” Her ready laughter indicted to Nightfall there was more to his maze than any one would dare believe. “Well if you will excuse me Blackthorne, I’ll see what delights and wonders this maze may or may not bring one such as myself.” With another dramatic flourish and kissing the newly Reborn Great Mistress’ hand, Nightfall wandered down a small passage. “Well out of the frying pan and into the fire…Familiar territory though. Just hope it doesn’t end with me losing my head” With those thoughts and prayer to find the bar and quickly Nightfall strolled in a world where the stuff of dreams and nightmares are made of…

Nightfall, Lord of the Night, Owner of the Flock of Ravens, and partier extraordinaire.

Carenna strode purposefully through the maze, and stopped suddenly. "That's not the right way." She whirled around to face the one who had spoken, but there was no one there. There never was. The voice had been in her head now for a long time. Since Blackthorne, Carenna's seeming doppelganger, had revealed herself to be Ariella Reborn. The Voice had a strange accent, and at times almost seemed... mad. Without a doubt, it was a female voice.

She was tired of being pushed around, and especially, by an intangible voice. She began to walk again, but changed the direction as the voice had said. Carenna thought sharply, "Go away. You're not real, anyway. And why would you help me even if you were?"

A laugh resonated in her head, and the Voice replied, "Oh, it would mean a lot to me if you could get that wish. Believe me. Let's just say I have a... personal stake in it. Carenna, my wish is your wish. To get me out of your head."

"That's true," she fumed, "but I want my wish to mean something. I want to know my past."

The Voice laughed again. "I can give you that. But you must set me free first. You need to have that wish. I can give you your past."

Carenna stopped again. "How do I know you're telling the truth? And that you're real? And how can you help me get that wish?"

The Voice was no longer amused. "I will lead you straight to the center of the maze if you can tell me that you will give me the wish. And after you do give me the wish, I will tell you about your past."

"You haven't answered my question. How do I know you're telling the truth?"

The woman's voice laughed. "I took the Oath with you when you held the Rod. I don't know why, but it's binding. I hope I can null its effects soon. It's... uncomfortable for a person like me to be constrained into telling the truth."

Carenna sighed, and made up her mind. "Very well. I will give you the wish. Take me to it."

The Voice sounded excited, now, as she gave Carenna instructions. "Left. Now right. Keep going straight. Turn here."

Soon Carenna was in the center of the maze, staring at the wish. It was so beautiful; all those colors shimmered as she reached out for it...

As she touched the wish, there was a great peal of thunder, and Carenna fell to the ground. She was unconscious only for an instant, and woke to the sound of peal after peal of laughter, that sounded like the Voice. But it wasn't in her head anymore. Carenna stared at the feet in front of her.

She backed away from them in a daze. The feet in their stilleto heels were attached to a pair of very long legs wearing a short skirt, which seemed to belong to a tall, elegant woman. Who was laughing almost hysterically, with the Voice. Her voice. The same voice.

The woman stopped laughing, with difficulty, and lent Carenna a hand off the floor. She stepped back, and stifled another laugh. Carenna swallowed. "What...Who are you?" she stammered. "Are you the voice in my head?"

"The voice in your head?" the woman laughed. "I am so much more than a voice in your head. Your head, you poor, innnocent, little fool! Your pretty little head was made for no other purpose then to hold me within it! Who am I?" She laughed, and Carenna again had the impression that the woman wasn't quite... all there. "Under other conditions, I would have been the Great Mistress. But the Threads of the Pattern have crossed, and so, I am not what I was to be. Little fool, you have changed your own destiny and mine in one strike. I was to be the Dark One's Sister, in your body. But now, I'm my own woman. I am Mashiara. So, I think I'll be a wild card here. I will not ally myself with the Sisters; not yet, at any rate. I will dedicate myself to the spreading of true Chaos. But what shall I do with you?"

Carenna tried to swallow, but her mouth had gone dry. Mashiara stood, one finger in her mouth, thinking. Then she spoke again, "I'll leave you with the keys to your past, as I promised. Your entire life was constructed so that, one day, you would become me. You are free of that now. I wonder what you'll do with it?" With that, the tall woman called Mashiara Gated out, leaving Carenna standing there dazed, with her mouth open, gulping for air like a landed fish.

A crowd of people was standing in a circle around her, staring.

Carenna ay'Irella
Sister of the Green Ajah

Blackthorne took in the people who had arrived so far from her perch at the star-lit fountain. There was Kiriath and Sunny arguing over something or another and Serafelle and Nemesis kicking up to the tunes and the festive mood. Ulrike seemed a little worried, but that was understandable; nobody expected their Warder to become a cat. Black Cat had left to bring more felines. She clicked her tongue in annoyance; Black Cat hadn't even said farewell to the host. Ari responded that she shouldn't invited next time, but Blackthorne seriously doubted that the Black Cat could be kept away if she really wanted to attend.

And then Nightfall showed up. He was the last of the male channelers that had lived in the Dark Palace when Ari was still around. He seemed wonderfully knowledgable to Blackthorne, and Ari had to keep jumping in to cover Blackthorne's amazement. He was very beautiful. And he had wonderful hands, just like a musician's hands. He was the perfect replacement for Darkhound. Ari and Blackthorne both agreed on that. But how would she make him accept the position?
Nevermind, while there was a will, there exists a way. And she doubted that Nightfall would be very disappointed with her...offer.

Then Jani al'Koski crept into the hall, his eyes amazed by what he saw. She didn't know much about Jani herself, but she knew a confused male Aes Sedai when she saw one. So she decided to approach him. After all, a hostess must greet all her guests.

"Jani al'Koski?"
He whirled to look at her, awe attacking him from within. "Yes?" He managed to say.
"Hello. I'm Blackthorne," she waited for recognition, but there was none.
"The Great Mistress of the Dark Reborn," she added. That shook him.
"You are..." He looked around, then abruptly turned to her. "I need help."
"What sort of help?" She quizzed patiently. People did not come to the Dark Palace for help. People left the Palace for help.
"I..can channel. I need a teacher. A male teacher...The taint." That's all he managed to say until Blackthorne took him by the arm and lead him to where Nightfall was sitting at the bar. Perhaps the ranks of the Shadowsworn male Aes Sedai would grow beyond one...

Great Mistress of the Dark (Reborn)
A Woman with Many Plans

He was a part of the shadow, fading into them until nothing could make the difference. He listened, more often than talked. And for now, he made no action.
Mashiara's apearance was a shock. He had heard about the woman, even met her, once. Thought he doubted if she would remember him, for some reason, he thought with amusement, people tend to forget him. Now he watched Blackthrone, and another man that his name he couldn't remember. Jani al'Koski, according to Blackthrone.
And suggesting to join the Dark Family! This can not be allowed.
He moved then, the gateway opened behind Jani, a man with a fur cat and eyes. And with the speed of a cat. Blackthrone didn't even saw what was happening. He was faded, and quick. One moment Jani stood in front of her. The other, he was gone. And the gateway already closed behind him.
"Now, you want to channel..." he said, before realizing it's useless. The impact sent Jani to the soft blackness of sleep.

~Barid Bel

Kiriath peered inside the Gateway just long enough to understand that Jani would end up asleep, exhausted or simply tired. Out of curiosity, Kiriath entered Tel'aran'rhiod, a seldom thing for him, considering that this, for one thing, was the Dark Palace, and vacuoles suited his purpose well enough. This time, however, was utterly different. A task he was not sure he was ready for, but needed to perform.
"Greetings, Jani," he said. Lucky stroke that Jani was in the Dream World also, staring at Kir wide-eyed. "You are in Tel'aran'rhiod."
"I think I can tell that ..of sorts..." said Jani, manipulating his surroundings with his mind, not even knowing. Good thing Kir had stacked a warding around his Dreams; they enveloped Jani, too, protecting them from the intrusions of the Dark.
"I came here to mention one thing to you," smiled Kiriath.
"What thing?" asked Jani, suspicious.
"I listen to the Sisters consistently, faking over-consumption of Gargle Blasters." A sudden twist of his mind, and one appeared. He swigged and motioned to Jani, who shook his head. Kir shrugged and downed some more, vanishing it with his mind anew. "I know you can channel, or, at least, are willing to learn. I would like to be your teacher. Admittedly, I am new to the job, but I hope I could help."
Jani stood there, absorbing the exposition from Kiriath. "You can help?"
"I can help in more ways than you think," grinned Kiriath slyly. "I may seem it, but I've got just as many tricks as ole Thom Merrilin. At least as many."
"Interesting," said Jani, "I'll have to think it over."
Kiriath nodded. Enough for now. "I'm sorry for intruding upon your dreams, but it was too important to leave be. Think it over well; I've had years of channeling experience."
As Kiriath Gated out of the Dream World, he panted softly. It had been a very long time since he had been there, and he was glad. The sheer subtleties of that place were perfect for a spy, yet the worst place, from the sheer amount of wardings.
He sighed and gulped his wine down again. It was nice having the Eccentric Power; illusions were handy. While he had been in Tel'aran'rhiod, it seemed to others as though he had been drinking. Which he had, if only for a short time. Anyhow, it was time to get back to drinking. And gleaming the useful tidbits from ordinary conversation. The true tactic of a spy.

Kiriath, Undercover Intrigleeman
A possible teacher? It could be exciting...

Tel'aran'rhiod... The name sounded familiar somehow, although Jani couldn't recall where he had heard it before. The whole place felt a little unreal. An eerie light seemed to be coming from everywhere at once and there were little shifts in reality here and there.

As fascinating as everything was, all Jani wished for was to get back to the Dark Palace. How did Kiriath leave? Jani had been considering his words when he disappeared. There had to be a way out. And what did Kiriath mean by dreams? Was he asleep?

Well if he was asleep, he should be able to affect his surroundings. Concentrating on an image of his estates in Andor Jani closed his eyes and felt something move. When he opened his eyes Jani found himself standing in front of the house he grew up in. It was exactly as he remembered it, except everything was quiet.

Not a soul was in sight so Jani entered the main building. It felt good coming home after traveling for so long, even if this place didn't feel like home. Jani walked up the stairs to his room and opened the door. Everything was in place. The first thing that stood out when you entered the room were the bookcases. There were only two of them, but they covered half the room. The rest had only room enough for a bed and a desk. Not much in the way of furniture, but that was the way he liked it.

For a moment it looked like the chair in front of the desk had moved, but when Jani looked again it was back where it had been. Going through the books on the shelves Jani tried to find the book about dreams that he knew he had and after a while he found it. A Dreamers Companion it was called, an old book that had belonged to the family for centuries.

As Jani opened the book, the strangest thing happened. Suddenly the book was no longer in his hand. It had reappeared on the shelf where he had picked it up and when Jani tried again the same thing happened all over again. This was certainly weird. He must be dreaming, nothing else could explain this place.

Since Jani was dreaming, there had to be a way to wake up. If only he could figure it out... Suddenly someone seemed to call out to him and reality shattered.

"Hey wake up, pal!" he heard someone yell and as Jani opened his eyes he saw a man, or at least he thought it was a man. Jani couldn't be sure cause the person looked more like a cat than a man.

Jani al'Koski
Man, I seem to be spending a lot of time unconscious or sleeeping... *g*

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