The young man stumbled out on the ground. Turning around with tears in his eyes, he saw the opening in the air disappear. All he could do now, was to investigate this new place. There were high walls around him, made of bushes, and he immediately realized that he was inside a big maze. Following the labyrinth he reached a crossing of three corridors, where none of the other ways lay closer than any of other two. He went left and then left once again. The corridor opened into a clearing, where he saw people dance and chat. In the middle, there was a fountain, sending water high up toward the night sky. A woman, dressed in white, came up to him.
“Good evening,” she said. “I don’t remember seeing you before? My name is Blackthorne.” There was a question, though they both knew the answer.
“Good evening, my name is TrueDescender.” he replied, and bowed.
Blackthorne heard Ariella gasp, but she couldn’t understand why.
“Ah…, TrueDescender… That’s a strange name and you have a strange accent. You are not from here?”
“No…” TD paused. His brother had given him that name and he choose to use it here and now. That could be the only thing he had left from his brother, except for that stone ring. TD felt that it was still in his pocket. “No, I’m not from here, wherever this place is.”
Blackthorne seemed to accept that answer and she started introducing him to the other guests. TD learned that this place was inside the Dark Palace and that it lay close to Shayol Ghul. She also said that some guests were out in the maze, looking for their wishes, and that even more guests were to come.
“So what does it mean that you are Dark Sisters?” For a moment TD glanced at the low neckline of Blackthorne’s white dress.
“It means that we don’t trust anyone,” she said smiling, “and that we deal with men in a way you’re not used to.” Still smiling but with angry eyes, she slapped his face. Or tried to. TD just bent his head back a few inches, and her heavy stroke missed. She must have put too much strength into that stroke, because she lost her balance. TD grabbed her arm and helped her up. Furiously she pushed him away and this time she used saidar. TD flew through the air, but not onto the ground. Up in the air! He saw above the walls of the maze, and far away he saw two cats running on a wall. Suddenly he felt her grip loosen and he fell down. With a big “splash”, he landed in the fountain.
When TD came up out of the fountain pool, he saw Blackthorne smiling with her whole face.
“See you in the bar!” she shouted to him, before turning around and disappearing down a corridor.
“So, that’s a Dark Sister!?” he murmured to himself. “Hmm… I wonder what the sisters in the Light are like.”
Ulrike watched Blackthorne’s show from over her goblet. Or was it Ariella acting? Ulrike had never seen any of them loose their wits like that. “Step very carefully when that new man is around.” she told herself firmly, and sipped of the red wine.
“Excuse me, TrueDescender,” said a woman’s voice from behind, “but I couldn’t avoid hearing what you just said.” TD turned around and found himself eye to eye with a silvery woman. “I mean, that about sisters of the Dark and the Light.” she added.
“Oh, nice to meet you Serafelle!” TD remembered her as one of the not so many sisters of the Light.
“Do you walk in the Light, TrueDescender?”
“Well, I’ve never really thought of joining the Dark side, but the Light seems to be a loosing way…” TD shrugged his shoulders, as if it didn’t bother him so much if he decided to join the Dark.
“No, no…” Serafelle said, “we’re perhaps not as many as them, but we are strong.” Serafelle hesitated a moment, but TD said nothing, forcing Serafelle to go on. “And if you joined the Light, we would become strong enough to equal them perhaps.”
“So, what is then the gift to me, for joining your way? The Dark way is actually quite attractive…” He left it hanging there. He was almost sure where he would go, but he wanted to see what she had to offer.
“Ehh… well… I don’t…. This is just a decision you have to make.” she finally said, “If you choose the Dark side, there is no hope for you and the only gift you can get, by joining us, is the salvation of the Light.” She was quite intelligent and wouldn’t give anything away freely.
“Ok…” he said, “as long as rule over myself, I’ll stay in the Light.”
TD heard her relieved sigh and a short prayer to the Creator.
“So, why don’t you tell me your background story,” she asked, “There are many rumors circulating already.”
TD started telling her his story, and the memories crushed down upon him.
“I ran through the city. People were out in the streets, but none of them shared the agony in my heart. The sweat glistened on my face and my legs hurt, but I would never give up to anything like that. The Ayyad women were on their way to get Mosk, my brother.
I had seen when Mosk started developing his channeling ability, but I had never feared my brother. Instead, we had kept it as a secret between ourselves. And I would do anything in my power, to let him be a free man. That, because I knew what it would mean to him, if they caught him. Death. Mosk was only 20 years old, but he knew how to channel and that would lead to immediate death.
I shouldn’t know such things, but I was a curious, young man and I had learnt as much as I could, about my country, the land you call Shara. Besides, Mosk had used his… homebrew weaves… to learn more. My knowledge and my intriguing qualities, combined with an extremely big portion of luck, made the wife of the current Sh’botay interested in me, and at that time, I was quite sure she would choose me as her husband, when she became Sh’boan. The current Sh’botay hadn’t many days left, before he would disappear, by the Will of the Pattern.
So, running for my brother’s life, I turned around a corner and the sight I got was not pleasant. Mosk was tied with a heavy rope behind his back, his arms to his legs. He lay in a carriage that was soon starting to move. All around the carriage lay bodies, exploded so that blood filled the street. I counted to seven Ayyad women still alive, and there lay even more on the ground. They seemed to be arguing with each other. They were from different villages, so probably some of them had come after the problems appeared, because seeing so many Ayyad women together was rare even in the capital.
I ran as fast as I could but the women were already in the carriage and it was moving away from me, going in the direction of the Southern Gate. Suddenly I saw the women unsheating knives, starting to cut in Mosk. I screamed in frustation and ran faster. I would not let him die! Why did they torture him? He had done no hurt to anybody, until these Ayyad women showed up! Why!!!
I saw the carriage beginning to turn around the corner, onto the main street. When they got there I would never be able to hold the speed up to see where they went, and Mosk would probably be dead before I reached the Southern Gate. NOOO!!! My hope disappeared and I felt the world collapse. The air in front of me started swirling around, and the world collapsed inwards. My anger filled me, made me warmer than the sun, but the lost of hope froze my heart. There was nothing I could do, but to force my anger into the swirling air. The world collapsed, falling inwards, but when the carriage was out of sight, lightning came out of the air. It went after the carriage and struck the Ayyad women in the back. A great thunder filled my ears and the lightning blinded me. I fell to the ground and my vision went black.”
“So you channeled!” Serafelle gasped. “What happened? Did your brother survive?”
“I don’t remember much after that. I felt very ill. When I finally had the energy to walk out onto the main street, everything was taken away already. I neither knew if Mosk was alive nor if the Ayyad women had been killed. Not even a trace of the carriage was there.”
“So, have you ever met your brother again?”
“Yes…” Pain filled TrueDescender’s voice but he continued.
“Nobody discovered that I had done that… thing… with the One Power. I have tried to do the small things, that my brother did in the beginning, but it has never worked. So I’m not so sure any longer that I did that myself. Perhaps… well, I don’t know.
So later, the Sh’botay died and the new Sh’botan chose to marry me. I lived and I could have been happy, but I missed Mosk. And during this year, I learned more about the power in Shara. I strongly suspected that the real power lay in the hands of those Ayyad servants.
So today, this morning, a man came into my room. He looked very shaggy, and I couldn’t understand how he could have passed the guards. It didn’t take me long, though, to recognize him as my brother. He hurried into the room and seemed to be worried as if the Dark One came behind. And for him it probably was.
I hugged him and cried for my lost brother who had come back. I couldn’t believe it was true. He was alive! My dead brother was alive! He told me briefly that all the Ayyad women had been killed by what I had created, and then he had been able to escape. But he had lived for almost one year, fleeing for his life. Nowadays he felt rather safe, but he was always wary.
The peace, though, reigned for a few moments only. Quickly he told me that he had found secrets about the Ayyad. He told me that there was no Will of the Pattern. The Ayyad women ruled the country, not in the way the Sh’botan said but in their own way. And they were the ones killing the Sh’botan or the Sh’botay when the seven years had passed, or earlier if he or she didn’t please them. That was a fact that I had hardly thought of, but now it all fit so well. Now I understood the structure of the society.
I asked him of any way for me to survive, but steps outside in the corridor interrupted me. Suddenly a vertical light appeared in mid air, and it rotated and became a gateway to a place somewhere else. I was stunned but I didn’t have much time to think. Mosk told me that I had to go through the gateway immediately. There was no way for me to stay in Shara. Well, I had noticed that the Ayyad women didn’t like me interfering in their plans. Besides, they knew that I had knowledge about them that I shouldn’t have.
We heard the steps outside soon reaching the door. To my despair, Mosk told me that he had to stay. There were still matters to take care of and now he could move quite freely. I made protests against that, of course, but he just told me that he promised to come after me, when he was ready. Finally he gave me a… a… a hug and pushed me through the gateway. With tears in my eyes, I turned around but he and the opening to my world was gone.”
“And now you’re here…” Serafelle said and nodded to herself. “Perhaps you need an Aes Sedai to make you happy…” She didn’t really think of what she said, just tried to comfort him.
“Yes, that wouldn’t be too bad.” TD answered.
Suddenly there was a big thunder. They threw themselves to the ground.
When the dust had cleared, they slowly raised and then they saw a confused Carenna on the other side of the fountain. All people around had their attention on her. A gateway just closed, to the side of Carenna. She didn’t look determined at all, but she started walking in a direction, probably toward the bar.
Blackthorne came back from the bar right then. She was still thinking of what Nightfall would say, but he was drinking ale with Kiriath right now. Instead, she could explore what this Mashiara-woman was. But, when realizing she was gone, she went back toward the bar.
Suddenly, there was a scream from somewhere in the maze. TD was already through the first corridor, turning right, though the scream came from the left. He knew where he was going. He rounded a corner and stopped abruptly. A fog was rising from the ground and TD saw a dark man with burning eyes. He couldn’t feel any heat though, and started being suspicious.
“Hmm… this must be Blackthorne’s new Ishy-projector. It looks quite real though.”
TD ran through the image in the fog, and continued toward the place from where he had heard the scream.
As he turned left, the last time, he saw her. The Green sister had stopped screaming and was slowly approached by the pale-skinned dragkhar. Death was not far away.
“For Mosk!” TD shouted, and threw himself at the dragkhar. There was no use for his sword, since the Green sister was so close to the dragkhar. He just hoped that he didn’t come too late.
Time slowed itself as he came nearer. TD had, though, forgotten that his shoes still were wet. He jumped up toward the draghkar, but he slipped and struck heavily into both of them. They all lay there in a heap.
The Aes Sedai was the first to wake up. But the other two slowly came to their feet too. Now the sister had gotten control over herself again. She opened herself for saidar, and balefired the draghkar out of existence.
“Nice shot, Carenna” TD said as he brushed the dust off his fine silk coat. Carenna didn’t answer immediately, as if she was deciding whether she was to be grateful or angry. Who knows what an Aes Sedai might do. But Carenna just eyed him up and down, straightened her skirts, and suddenly she blushed.
“Thanks for saving me!” she said, looking up at him through long, dark eyelashes. Then she turned away, this time leaving TD there with his mouth open…
“Well, Blackthorne told me that even I would find my deepest wish here.” TD muttered. He slowly started walking the same way she had gone.
“Bottom up, Kiriath!”
“Sure, Nightfall!” he replied and lifted his bottomless mug to his mouth. He really liked that man.
Suddenly they both looked at each other. They were men and they had something in common. They both could feel the smell of danger. But looking around they saw nothing that could possess a treat to them.
As on a given command, they both threw themselves to the ground. Carenna’s balefire passed over the bar, making all barrels of beer being ripped out from the Pattern.
“I knew that Nightfall could drink a bit too much, but Kiriath!?” Blackthorne gasped, as she approached the bar. She only saw the two men lying on the ground, probably seeing to many stars on the sky. “And they didn’t even leave a single barrel for the other guests!!! Oh, my poor little Darkhound …”
Former husband of the Sh’boan of Shara
TrueDescender started walking back to the bar. In the wall, though, he saw a hole with so smooth sides, that any gardener would have envied it. And there was a hole in the wall behind too, and then another hole… He followed the holes and came to the bar, where there was quite many people now. He immediately saw that Carenna was nowhere to be seen. She was probably in the bathroom.
TD walked up to Kiriath and Nightfall, who was defending themselves from Blackthorne’s sharp comments about drinking.
“That’s enough arguing, both of you!” she said and turned toward TD. “Greetings TrueDescender, was the water in the pool warm enough?”
“Hrmpft…” he answered. “Well, do you know of any male channeling teacher? Not that I need it, but I just want to know, if I ever can channel again.”
“Ehh…” Kiriath said and coughed. Noone else knew what he had done, while lying on the ground. Kiriath looked at TD, seeing the royalty in his face and his steady eyes. “Ehh… I think that I’m the man to teach you then.”
“But I’m also a good teacher...” Nightfall said. He lifted his arm, as if to offer TD the Dark side’s possibilities. Blackthorne absently streaked Nightfall’s hair. “No, my Nightfall,” she said and put her hand on his arm. “I think that TrueDescender wants to stay in the Light, and then Kiriath is better as a teacher.” She smiled and looked at TD with an unexpected sadness in her eyes.
Barid Bel’s left Jani al’Koski lying as he heard Nightfall offer. But as the gateway opened he realized that Blackthorne now had come to her senses. No one easily entered that Dark family. Turning back he saw that Jani already were running away.
Without turning around, TD saw Carenna entering the room. TD had such a Talent, to sense an aura of goodness around people. He had heard that many of the Ayyad women had the ability to sense when Shadowspawn was near. But TD had the opposite ability. And Carenna certainly had a bright shining aura…
Whose name is NOT a video game...
Carenna strode into the room as energetically as she could manage, which wasn't all that convincing. She looked like she felt: tired, and a little confused. A part of her was now missing, and she had to get used to it. Light, but she hoped she'd get used to it.
The slight shakiness she'd been feeling since the Draghkar's attack was finally beginning to dissipate. She needed to find TrueDescender to thank him properly for saving her life. What was left of her life. The old habit of fingering the locket when she was upset had returned, with a vengeance. Would she ever find the truth? Not that Mashiara hadn't been telling the truth; but she certainly hadn't told all of it. Too many shocks tonight; that was it.
As she stepped into the doorway, she ran into another man. It was Jami al'Koski; she wasn't sure how she knew this, but she was absolutely sure that that was his name. A wave of uncertainty struck her. Now, why would she think his name started with an "O", and sounded like her own? It was a foolish trick of the imagination, and Carenna had finally had it with her mind's tricks. She backed away from al'Koski.
"Oh, I'm dreadfully sorry. I wasn't looking where I was going. Wait. I know who you are..."
Her green eyes looked through him, through the walls, and seemed to gaze at nothing. "You're looking for a teacher, aren't you? I have some advice for you. Don't trust anyone. Not the Dark, not the Light, and not even Elrys, who is probably the person here most loyal to the Light. Everyone here has a hidden agenda. You may trust Serafelle, but she too has her own schemes, though they are all for the Light. She is half-Cairhienin, and her father taught her well." Suddenly Carenna's mind went blank again, and she stopped suddenly. She blinked. "What was I saying? Oh. I'm sorry I ran into you."
The man gaped at her, and continued out the door. Carenna tapped TrueDescender on the shoulder, and began to talk, very quickly, "You too are looking for a teacher, aren't you? The Dark turned you away, and so you went to Kiriath. Be wary of him, for he is the leader of a secret organization that has its own plans. You may trust him, as long as you know his motives. They are reasonably pure, but with a secret organization, you simply never know. I advise you to exercise caution." The Green stopped talking, and wondered what she'd said.
"I'm sorry, TrueDescender. I meant... I don't know what I meant. I'm not even sure what I said. Never mind. I just wanted to thank you for saving my soul, and my life."
Sister of the Green Ajah