Added on November 13, 1998
Winner of the Dragon's Library Fiction Contest 1998
Category: WoT Humor, Ages of Future and Past

The Dragon Recycled

Okay, this story was originally thought up during the summer on a local BBS in my hometown. I had this idea of a massive chain post, where everyone would add 5 lines to the post above. Unfortunately, there were only two of us who played the game. So this story, idea wise is 80% Blackthorne and 20% Mulder, a friend and ex of mine. I'm doing this from memory...

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Fudge (named by the Crate'tor when he made them; he said, "Oh, fudge." When he saw what he did). The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.
The wind swirled lazily down the mountains to the city of Rafo. Through the streets it wandered, looking for the perfect victim to blow off their hat or if it was lucky, blow up a dress. It found the perfect target; a man on a street corner wearing a trenchcoat. With glee, it plummeted from the sky to strike the man dead on. Then it saw who the man was and ran away yelping in terror. That wind was never seen again in the world. Some say it went mad and hid in the Ways. Others think it fled to Cuba for amnesty. Believe what you will, for this tale is not about that wimpy piece of wind, but the man who oozed with danger.

The man stood on the corner, scanning the street eagle-eyed, looking deep into the alleys nearby. He was looking for something, someone. He himself did not know why; only that it must be done. A slight movement on the ground caught his attention. He whirled to face the movement, his long black trenchcoat flaring with his turn. It was a woman, crawling on the glassy pavement among the refuse. There was something familiar about her face, something about her that tugged the man's memory.

He walked towards the woman, a disregard for caution in his large strides. Ah. He saw her face more clearly now. An Aes Sedai. There was no calmness now, in the tears and blood that ran down her ageless cheeks. Her eyes pinned themselves on his. "Please..." She struggled for words. "You must help me..." He knelt down to the Aes Sedai's mangled body. "'Must' is not a word you should use too often now, Sister." He chided her as he looked through her scarce belongings. Finally, he found what he was searching for. He held the medallion so that she could see it, but her eyes were already glazed over. He made a sound of impatience. Now he had no idea where she had received the token from, or if she was one of the members herself. She had probably taken poison before he found her; Lightfriends were like that, doing anything to avoid being questioned.

Turning the metal around and around in his palm as he walked back into the street, he thought about the past. The ancient enemy, the Flame of Tarvalon seemed to burn in his hand. He thought about the rebels, those who denied the Great Lord's power, the last living shards of the Light. He thought about in particular one of those fools. He shook his head; no use worrying about something you can't change. She never changed her mind once she had it made. That was something he had learned long ago.

Suddenly, a car came speed down the street. Towards him. He jumped quickly to the side, but he knew it was too late to avoid it. His eyes shut themselves as the car collided. Pain. He opened his eyes. Nothing broken, only blood and scratches. The car had stopped down the road. A silhouette of a woman with long hair yelled out the window. "Are you alright?" He took a quick breath. It could not be...But he was sure it was... "Celeste?" He called out to the woman. "Is that you?" As he walked past an alleyway identical to the one he had left, an arm with a heavy board lashed out and struck him unconscious.

As he slowly and painful recovered from his unnatural sleep, he found he was bound in a chair. The room was empty of all furniture except for him and the chair. Funny; why was that unusual? Why was there supposed to be furniture in this room? Where had he seen it before? A small dint in the wall near the floor gave him the answer. This was his room when he was a child, living at his parents' house. He remember the kick that had lead to the mark, which he had done miracles to conceal from his parents. They had little tolerance for such irrational behaviour.
A kick to open the door revealed his captor. Tall, red haired and shamelessly beautiful, this was the Celeste Larouge he remembered. Her smile as she walked towards him showed that she hadn't forgotten him either. "Isn't this an unusual way to say hello to an old friend?"
She stopped at hand away from him, still smiling.
"This isn't a hello, dear."
She was wearing nothing but a white fur coat and long heels that added to her over-abundant sensuality. He tried his best to concentrate on the hair, just the lovely long hair that he still had fond memories of brushing out while sitting on her bed, before... He put an end to that line of thought.
"Then what is this, pray tell."
"This is a ... retraining session." Her smile grew wider, if that was possible. "You will serve the Light."
He shook his head involuntarily. Celeste had always been one to bend the rules, but this was crazy.
"Celeste, listen to me. It's not too late. You can return with me to the company. Boss will get you into a training program and in no time we'll be working together like we were before." Her eyes were fixed on his lips, as if she didn't understand the words he was saying. "I miss you. We all miss you. You were one of the best Hounds in the Pack." He couldn't take out the pain he felt in his voice. He truly did miss her; some days he even thought he might love her!, but she was always too greedy, wanting more than what the Great Lord gave.
For a small beautiful moment, she seemed to consider his offer. Then a slap rebounded in his head.
"How dare you make me even think about joining the Shadow! The Great...Crate'tor take you!"
A knife appeared in her hand. It shone too white for the light that shined in golden through the dust motes in the air. Fear ran up his spine. He had to distract her.
"Celeste, what did you do to my parents?" He thought he already knew; the Great Lord burn her! The smile reappeared.
"They were not willing to let me borrow their house. I had to introduce them to my little knife here." She smile turned cruel. "Do you want to see them? I haven't had the time to bury them yet. They're in the basement."
That struck home. With great rage, he leapt out of the chair. He tried to at least; the bonds still held him tight. But the One Power flickered just beyond his reach. He embraced the Source and held it with no emotion on his face. She knew as well as he did how to read body language. He knew that it was dangerous to channel without training, but killing her...would be worth the risk. Undoing a mistake he made long ago.
She laughed, oblivious to the certainty of her doom.
"Oh, you have not changed, Randle Thorn Reborn. I know you." Her smile turned cat-like. " I see you."
This was crazy. She had to be insane. Randle Thorn was the man who had released the Great Lord, bringing forth the Shadow to consume the world. He had also sealed his companions with the Crate'tor at the crater at Shayol Ghul, before falling to the madness that existed on saidin. He had channeled too much before receiving the Great Lord's gift.
"You're insane, Celeste. I'm no Dragon Recycled. The Dragon Recycled is just a myth."
According to the myth, the Dragon, in fact all Taverens were like beer cans: bought, used up, then crushed and thrown into the Blue Box for the Wheel to make new beer cans and more beer. Apparently, the more Taverens there were in the world, the more the Pattern swayed drunkenly in the wind. It did make sense in its own crooked way, but he was no Dragon Recycled.
"Am I?" She smiled as if she had had more than one, beer can during the day. He prepared the weaves he knew were necessary for a shield. It looked like this was going to be done the hard way. Suddenly, a knock sounded from the front door.
Celeste made a noise.
"Stay there, darling, until I return. Remember, I'm the one who sees with her heart."
With those words that surely indicated the sickened state of mind she was in, she left, the dagger concealed somewhere in that fur coat. He shivered; time to make his escape. He was still angry about his parents' deaths, but he did not dare to stop and mourn them yet. Survival was the first lesson a person learned in this world.
As easy as pie, he was free, Healed and moving his muscles, cramped from the abuse. He heard the unmistakable sound of heels on the floor, near his room. With haste, he made a gateway to Travel. Somewhere, anywhere far from this strange creature. It winked out of existence as Celeste and another woman walked in.
Celeste stood, mouth open as she saw the cut ropes and no body.
"Madam X, I cannot explain this! He was here, until you knocked..."
"Silence, child." The other woman used her voice like another would use a whip.
"You have failed us miserably. You will be punished." The woman smiled. "I will enjoy this, although I doubt you will."
It was now time for Celeste's turn to shiver.

A few hours later, a fly flew in through a cracked window. The room was empty except for a chair, a white fur coat and a medallion with the ancient symbol of the female Aes Sedai of Tarvalon engraved on it. Empty of everything except the blood the fly could sense in the cracks of the floorboards. It flew out of the room. A woman absent-mindedly swatted at it. She frowned and a small flow of Air crushed it. She would find this young man and make him see the Light if it was the last thing that she did. Or she would crush him like an insect. She laughed as she opened a gateway, the Crate'tor would be free soon and immortality hers.

When the man awoke from his mad flight, he found himself in a valley, scorned with the marks of the Great Lord's Freedom. The sun was just rising over the hilltops. It felt like the Northlands; the air was cooler here. Another fact: he wasn't alone. He felt someone watching him, heard a slightly audible step. He turned quickly to face this new possible threat, saidin ready to crush whoever and whatever it was. The woman was as surprised as he was and the ... person with her showed no reaction. Its face was concealed with a black cloak. Only the hands showed, pale as new snow. The woman, on the other hand, was beautiful. She had delicate features, her skin bronze and without a blemish. He hair was dark brown and hung neatly in a thick braid. She was short, only to his chest. But those golden eyes made up for the height with a glare.
"So you're finally awake? We've been waiting."
"Yes." He eyed her warily. "And where am I exactly? If I may ask, Mistress."
"This is the Field of Broken Blades." She spoke in calm, crisp sentences. "The place where the Light of the world was broken." The other just stood there. He had the feeling of hidden eyes watching him through the cowl of the cloak.
"Yes. I remember my history books." He lounged deliberately, showing his comfort around them. The woman sputtered with anger.
"Is that all it is to you? History in a book? I remember…" The touch of the other figure stopped her with a touch of her hand.
The feminine voice went straight into his brain like a hypodermic needle.
"Who are you two? Are you a bunch of Lightfriends? I'm no bloody Dragon Recycled!"
"Watch your mouth." The woman replied. "My name is Perrine, daughter of Nynaeve, Lady of the Lakes and Perrin Goldeneyes, a Wasteland child born of their lust and yearning for their respectable mates."
The other simply pushed back her? cloak and showed her face. It was the eyeless face of a Fain.
He only realized that he had spoken his words aloud and had his hand on his dagger. He put his hand to his side.
"Why do you say that I am the Dragon Recycled?" He had heard about Fains before; they could lie like a rug and had a strange fixation for daggers with a large red ruby on them. He could almost believe that the Fain was telling the truth, certainly they were as legendary in his home of Rafo as the Wastelands themselves.
She took his hand and pulled up the right arm's sleeve to reveal a tattoo of a black dragon curled around his bicep. Perrine gasped as she saw it. Evidently, she had not believed as much as Fain had.
"I always knew that this Cracker Jack tattoo would get me in trouble one day." He muttered. Suddenly, his nerves tingled with the feel of the One Power, the weaves of a search net. So, he had been finally discovered. But a search net the size this had to be was beyond Celeste's abilities, even with the rare angreal and s'angreal that existed in the world. The tools themselves did noting but boost the user's self-esteem that he or she could do anything. Celeste had never believed that; that was why she was so weak, but the strong…They knew as he knew, the truth of the manner. But this weave … had to be Celeste's superior, who ever that was. And he or she was strong.
"Very well. I will accompany you to obtain The Sword That Isn't A Sword. But for now, I am not the Dragon Recycled." He firmly told them. "Until I have some proof beside visions of the future."
The Fain nodded in understanding. Perrine just scowled.
"So where is this Sword?" He had to leave soon; the weaves were starting to center on him.
"The Sword is in a cave by the Thousand and Eleven Lakes. Fain can take us there instantly."
He frowned. "The Thousand and One Lakes? Where is that? I am not familiar with northern geography, I'm afraid." He did not ask about how the Fain was going to take them there; he had a sinking feeling that he knew.
Perrine gave him a loud snort. "You definitely are ignorated of the world. Long ago, they were called the Thousand Lakes, but then someone counted them and found there is actually thousand and eleven lakes."
The Fain seemed to be looking southward, her forehead wrinkled in worry.
They stood beside her as the Fain's cloak seemed to swirl into darkness beyond shadow around her. Suddenly, the trio disappeared from the now-sunlit valley.

She stepped out of the gateway and surveyed the valley with a calm eye. There was no trace of the man's whereabouts, only bent grass in the morning's dew to say that anyone had been here. And tracks of two other people. The boy had found companions, but for what goal? The woman paused; weighing the consequences. No; she would wait and see. If he was the one, then he would make the right decision. She prayed to the last remaining shards of Light that he would. Sighing, she made a gateway to go home. There were other threads to tend to, some to weave and others to cut. The work of the Light was never done.

When they reappeared into the world, they were in a cave with crystalline blue icicles on the walls and ceiling. It glowed with unseen light. A wonder of another Age? He thought to himself, or a wonder of nature? It did not matter to him at all. It was still beautiful and a thing to be admired.

Perrine led the group down into the depths of the earth. She claimed that her Mother had told her the way. It was insane to actually speak about your parents being not only one great warrior of the Last Battle, but two, and then the two most annoying of the Light's soldiers… With Perrine's temperament and her golden eyes, however, he did not question her claim to them as parents. That last battle between the Light and the Shadow had been so many years ago that her being a child of them was impossible, but maybe not. Channeling did slow down aging. If she was truly Nynaeve's daughter, then she would be quite strong in the Power.

Slowly, they snaked there way down into the earth. The air was actually starting to feel warmer and the air thinner, it seemed to him. None of the women said anything during the time in the cave. The Fain just walked on, face without any emotion, as Perrine kept a nervous watch as she guided them downwards.
The walls then opened up into a large chamber. A woman sat on a throne-like chair and a man sat on the floor at her feet, his eyes looking at the doorway into the chamber, as if he was scrutinizing everyone who entered like a local corner store when you had stolen something when you were nine, and the man still held it against after Crate'tor-knows, how-many years. It was that kind of look. Both were frozen as living ice statues. They had probably been here in this place for so long that the cold in their bones had finally taken over them. Perrine eyed them both with a look of reverence and more than a little fear. The Fain stood as she/it always had. It just stood there.
The woman's eyes were closed and a calmness that went beyond the crystalline ice seemed to project from her smooth, ageless face. She wore clothing that was so outlandish that she could not have lived in this Age and she wore a single light blue stone that hung on her brow. The man seemed to be carved from the very ice and rock of this cave. His clothing too was peculiar, yet there was a feeling of kingliness that resided within, a hint of glory yet to be revealed. Strangely, sadness washed over him, as if he knew these people, that they were his friends. He shook his head, but the feeling didn't want to wash away.And there sat across the woman's lap was the object that they had sought: The Sword That Isn't A Sword.
"That isn't a sword!" He exclaimed.
Perrine looked at him as is he had sprouted wings. "Of course not! It's The Sword That Isn't A Sword!" She emphasized the capital of the relic's title.
The Fain added a cautious word.

It was a large axe, about half his height and richly decorated with golden and red enameled Dragons coiled around the fine weapon. He could tell from this distance that the blade was sharp too, probably Aes Sedai work from the Last Battle, although he couldn't see Randle Thorn wielding this murderous weapon. If that was so then this man and woman was…
"Moira and Allen." Perrine spoke softly.

The hairs on his neck rose as he heard those names spoke in this strange place. According to legend, Moira and Allen had been Aes Sedai and Warder, bound together to battle the Great Lord of Darkness forever. But Nynaeve, the Lady of the Lakes, had tried to separate them. She seduced Allen, but Allen remained faithful to his beloved Moira, who he discovered was his true lost love. Reunited at last as lovers, they had traveled to the Wastelands and supposedly the Wheel evaporated them with pure One Power where they stood, so they could be reborn again and again together. It was one of those incredible stories that you grew out of as soon as you realized that there was no Santa Claws, Fester Bunny and A'dam Fairy. But this was true. This was real life.

He was reluctant to approach the dead heroine and hero, but the women both had no-nonsense looks on their faces. With an inner cringe, he slowly pried the axe from Moira's lap. The sound of fabric disintegrating and ice breaking sounded loudly in the chamber. He half-expected the heroes to wake, but their bodies sat silently as they had before. Waiting for the Dragon Recycled to come. Waiting for him.
For now he was sure that he was the one. He had always been special; lucky in life and strong in the Power. He had tattoos from childhood of Dragons that had never come off, no matter how hard he scrubbed with soap and hot water. And all the women around him did seem to be all breath-taking beautiful. That was the definite sign of being the Dragon Recycled. It was him, no doubt about it.

Turning with the axe in his hands towards the ladies to leave, he saw a large shadow spread across the walls leading to the pathway they had taken down. He quickly signaled with his hands for them to come and stand by him. Puzzled, they agreed, walking much slower than desired.
"I saw a shadow on the wall. A large shadow." He questioned Perrine softly, his eyes not moving from the entrance to the chamber. "Is there anything here that might try to stop us from leaving?"
"No." She whispered back. "Nothing I know of, except…"
She didn't need to answer. A large creature walked in. It had the lower half of a centipede with thousands of tiny legs, the top half of only something that looked vaguely human. Its skin oozed green puss from thousands of unhealed gashes, the fingers were misshapen. The face was sunken in, as was her breasts. The lips were slightly full and a few tufts of golden hair sat on its head. Perrine gasped, even the Fain looked shocked. He was as well. He did not think that he had ever seen anything that ugly before.
"There's someone here, isn't there?" Its head turned around, searching. It had a strangely pleasant voice of a woman. It also was a voice that was used to be giving commands and being obeyed.
He obeyed.
"I am here, with my companions." Perrine tugged at his sleeve, but he couldn't stop. "And you are?"
"A man?" The head turned his direction; it was then he noticed that it was blind. He refused to think of this creature as a woman. It was unimaginable. "I once loved a man. And look what he gave me." The voice now held too many tears to ever be shed.
He chose his words carefully.
"My companions and I wish to leave this cavern now. Will you guide us to the entrance to the outside?"
The head leaned side-wise, seeming to examine his words. Finally it seemed to come to a decision.
"No. I'm sorry, but I can't let you leave. Rand will come back here. He will come looking for the sword. I want to make Rand pay for what he did to me."
"Um…Why do you want to make Rand pay?" Maybe if he distracted her enough to let the women escape…
Fain's voice roared in his brain, interrupting all other thoughts in his head.
He nodded slightly and the Fain turned to the shadow of the throne, doing whatever it was she did in order to travel through shadow like she did.
"I loved him. I'm sure he loved me too." The voice was wistful. "When he turned to the Shadow, was turned to the Shadow, I was caught too. Look what the Dark One did to me to make Rand turn to the Shadow…" The voice turned to a sob.
Perrine tugged on his arm. The Fain's shadow gateway was ready. He felt sorry for the creature, so bitter and twisted by the past. He felt guilty too for some reason. Maybe it was all his ex-girlfriends sneaking up on him. He turned to leave.
"Wait! Don't leave me! Please? Oh, Rand, don't leave me! Rand!"
Its cries seemed to dig into his spine. He was spellbound; he couldn't move. Her tears and desperate shouts seemed to have frozen him. Perrine and Fain each took one of his arms and lead him to and through the shadow gate. It seemed to him as he was walked through the gateway that a voice in his soul screamed back at her a single word. Elayne.

They emerged on a charred landscape. Ashes blanketed the ground from the trees of the mythical Great Blight that had spanned around the world before the Great Lord had been released. Nynaeve, in her rage had summoned a Firestorm that had burned the entire Blight until only the smallest of ashes had remained. Rage against the Great Lord or against Moira and Allen, no one knew.

That was one topic that Perrine never asked her Mother about. Mother still lurked around the world, still fought the Shadow in her own way, but not as zealous as she had back in those days. She had never been close to Mother; she was a cold woman prone to sudden rages, but she was her mother. Her father had been sealed by Randle Thorn before she had been born. She only knew the scant information that Mother had told her; Mother was not proud of her actions that resulted with Perrine. But maybe that would change. Maybe she could soon meet her father, if this strange man, this Dragon Recycled chose to free the Crate'tor.
She did not want to pressure the man. Mother talked on and on about Randle Thorn; she called him Rand though, and how stubborn he was and everything else she blamed all men of being. She decided that it would be best if she let him make up his own mind. If he was the Dragon Recycled truly, then he knew what his job was.

The place that one was called the Great Blight was now called the Wastelands. It was her birthplace and home. People who felt like they didn't fit in the Great Lord's world lived here. Every ten years or so, an army was sent to clear out the squatters and they left for a year or two, sometimes only six months, and returned to their old haunting and hunting grounds. It was an excellent arrangement that fit everyone well.
"Come. She called to them. "This is the Wastelands."
Her voice held a hint of excitement. It was exciting to be part of an adventure without being cold, wet or hungry. She lead them northward to where the Crate'tor was sealed, almost trembling with anticipation and worry. What if he made the wrong choice? What would happen then? The two followed, one silent by nature, the other silent by choice.

Two days later, they were at the foot of the mountain Shayol Ghul. It would be a hard climb to the top, where the Bore was. Good thing that Fain had remembered to bring some state-of-the-art rock-climbing equipment.

Perrine wasn't sure why the Fain, a creature she called a friend, had suggested joining Perrine on this trip. Maybe she was telling the truth of seeing the future and she just wanted to see history in the making. Personally, Perrine would rather be back home right now, watching The Price Is Right on her tee'vee, flicking back and forth from "The High Questioner's Talk Show" to the "How To Make A Meal With A Carrot And A Human" cooking show. After that was the timeless "I Love Lews Therin" and the corny "The Adventures of Arthur Hawking", whose main highlight was the delicious pieces of ass there was on Arthur and his Heroes of the Trumpet gang, who wore…
She shook her head to erase the thought of missing this week's episode. It looked so good on the ad; 'Arthur's Quest To Save Elaida'. Elaida was his beautiful queen, seduced and stolen by the evil Matrim, Horned God of Lucky Men. It sounded like one to remember. But the Dragon Recycled… Now this was a living pay-per-view event.

As Fain prepared their hiking gear, she took the opportunity to watch the man. He had not spoken a word since leaving the cave with The Sword That Isn't A Sword. At first, she had thought that the shock of seeing a creature like that …thing had gotten to him, but now…He seemed to be looking for answers within himself. He was tall and wide-shouldered, brown eyed and brown haired, his hair slightly curling at the nape of his neck. He wore all black, but whether it was his uniform or he wore black by choice, she didn't know. He was silent when it came to his past. All she knew about him was the pin on his trenchcoat, a darkhound, the symbol of the Hounds of the Pack, the elite spymasters of the Great Lord. He was a man of many secrets; she didn't need the pin to tell her that.
He was handsome, in a dark and mysterious way. He was of those men that you chased and chased and chased until he was running away from you, just for the thrill of it.
Mother had always said that she liked to hunt too much; the old Blight was in her veins. He liked her; she had seen earlier his eyes wander over to her when he thought she wasn't looking. She found herself preening herself under his eyes, wearing skin-hugging clothes and trying out new hairstyles. She was playing around with the idea with buying hair blonde hair dye and cutting her hair short before she noticed it. Fool man, stealing her wits! She blushed when she realized how like Mother that sounded.
AHEM. Fain coughed in her thoughts. IT IS TIME TO GO.
She blushed twice as much as she had before. Fain had noticed!
A snort rose in her head. ANYONE WHO ISN'T BLIND WOULD SEE YOUR FEELINGS. REMEMBER WHO HE IS. The voice dug harshly in her head. REMEMBER THAT.
"I will do that." She grumbled to Fain. "That's all that I can."
Fain did not answer her. Perrine wasn't sure whether she should be happy or sad. The Crate'tor help her, she was in love!

After a hard day of climbing the steep mountainside, they stood on weary legs at the summit. Ahead of them was a deep valley. In the middle of the valley would the Bore and the seal of the Great Lord. Anxiety tore at Perrine's guts. He had still not spoken a word; just followed them, like a lost puppy dog, be it a darkhound puppy or not. She was wearing the most skin-tight pants she owned, and he did even notice a thing! She felt so ashamed to have that thought. Surely Mother had not been that bad, mooning and moaning over a man that much. Then again, listening to the legends about Mother, she just might have been.

As they walked down into the valley, he seemed to be becoming more alert, looking around and seeming to mentally argue with someone. She shivered; that reminded her too much of Mother's tales of Randle Thorn. Finally, she could see a large object in the middle of the valley, growing ever and ever closer and larger. The closer they got to it, the more agitated he became. Worry etched lines on both Perrine's and Fain's faces. What would he do? Which stroke of The Sword That Isn't A Sword slays? Which stroke saves? No one knew the answer, not even the man, the Dragon Recycled himself.

Since leaving the cave, he had known what he had to do. He needed to correct the wrong that his former self, Randle Thorn had done. The Wheel needed both Crate'tor and Great Lord. The Crate'tor had to be freed.

He noticed the way Perrine's eyes ran up him whenever she thought he wasn't looking. She was beautiful in her own exotic way, a real tigress. Maybe later…If there was a later, he would ask her to go see a show with him, something good like 'The Prophet's Mobs That Burned New Tear'. On the horizon, he could see a cubic shape. As he walked closer and closer, his skin began to crawl. It was a large box made out of a material that he couldn't begin to guess cut into long planks. Weird beams of light escaped from the cracks between planks and it seemed like there was something, more than just one something moving in there. There was also the hint of a sound barely audible, like elevator music in an expensive hotel.

He barely noticed that the Fain and Perrine stopped walking with him, that the Fain had held Perrine back with a shake of her head. He only saw the box, the light and the nails that lay popped out on the ground, pushed out by the power within the cosmic box.

Slowly, he raised The Sword That Isn't A Sword. He hesitated; memories and stories of the feared Light flickered in his mind. By freeing the Crate'tor from the box, as well as Randle Thorn's companions, he may be dooming the world, the world as he knew it for certain. Nothing would ever be the same again for him. And that is true, no matter what you decide to do, the voice whispered in his head. He had first heard that voice when they had left the cave. He had learned to trust that voice, the voice of Randle Thorn himself. He could just as easily hammer in the nails with The Sword That Isn't A Sword. Balance, it whispered. Balance is the key. He nodded. He agreed. Hoisting The Sword That Isn't A Sword over his head, he slammed it down on the box, severing and letting loose the last Hope of the Light into the world.

Light burned everywhere. Pure white light. It overwhelmed his eyes. He could make out two cloudy figures in the glare. One was darker than the other; black and white it appeared to him. They seemed to be arguing. Then the white one jumped on the black one and they swirled. That swirl reminded him of something, but he could say what.
He wanted to touch saidin, but he thought if he tried right now, the fire of the One Power would surely burn him out, if not burn him in the physical sense. With a cry of YOU BASTARD!, the white one pushed the black one into the Bore. There was a scream of great rage and despair, then all went blank.

Mmmm. Warmth. The sound of the wind. The feel of the grass beneath his body. The sun playing on his closed eyes. The faint smell of a rose. A rose? He opened his eyes. He was lying under a large tree in a beautiful clearing. The grass was of a colour so rich it was beyond his words to explain it, the tree so healthy looking, the sun seemed brighter and the wind more peaceful and pleasant. Everything felt greater, almost as great as when he was holding the One Power. It was like he had been blind all his life and now could finally see.
"Ah. You're awake finally."
Perrine's voice spoke from above him and she moved into his view. She never looked so beautiful as she did then, nor was he so grateful for her presence. For a moment there, he thought he was dead.
He forced himself to get up; lying there was so nice. He stumbled a little, but soon he was fine. He waved off her hand.
"Where's the axe?" He fumbled at his side. She shook her head.
"I don't know. After you did what you did…" She searched for a word, but failing, skipped over it. "I blanked out and found us here."
He didn't ask the obvious question. He only wished the best for the Fain, the last of her species. She had been a brief but excellent companion.
"Where are we?" He gestured with his hand. "I've never seen a place like this before."
She took a deep breath before answering. "It's the Wastelands. At least, it used to be."
He could only stare at her in amazement. She nodded.
"I recognize the general shape of the land. You freed the Crate'tor. Now she's making all thing new again."
She looked at him as if he was speaking another language.
"Of course! Do you think a man could make flowers? What are you doing? Stop laughing!"
He couldn't stop; it was so funny and so good. So perfect. She eventually gave up arguing and joined him in mirth. Finally, he could speak again.
"So what else has changed in the world?"
"I don't know. I didn't want to leave you alone to go exploring."
"Then let's explore together."
He looked her straight in the eye. At any other time, he would not have dared to say this but the pure joy of living was pumping through his veins. Let her think him a fool if she wished. At least it would cause a smile to appear on her lips.
"There is no other person that I wish discover this new world, to live in this new Age with." She looked at him, seeming to be caught in his eyes. Suddenly, she turned, a rosy colour tinting her cheeks slightly.
"I don't know what you're saying." She mumbled.
He couldn't find the right words to say, so he said it in actions. He cupped her chin in the hands that had done so many crimes in the past in the name of the Great Lord-Dark One, he amended quickly and kissed her lightly on those lovely lips of hers. When they parted, the confusion was gone from her eyes. They walked out of the clearing together, hand in hand and a light shone around them, a light that was called love. The Crate'tor saw this and was pleased.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Fourth Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose among the newly-flowering trees in the city of Rafo.
The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

The wind saw the people of the city, whistling and greeting each other as friends. It saw the flowers in their hair and on the walls of the buildings. It saw the Shadow over the land fading. It was happy and ran home quickly to tell the Crate'tor. Because it was young and eager to make a good impression with the reinstated Crate'tor, it missed the entrance of the man and the woman, walking with the tranquility that seemed to be unique to this Age, the Golden Age, the one your parents always seemed to be teenagers in.

The Crate'tor, however, did see their entrance because everyone knows he uses robins and sparrows as Her eyes and ears, and a robin just happened to be sitting on a branch near the city gate. She smiled and thought warm wishs to the newlyweds or were they still just a couple? Nevermind. It didn't matter anyway. She eased Herself into Her lazy-throne and flicked the teevee on. Good; She got out just in time to check Her lottery ticket for the trip to Club Med. Light, She needed a vacation after arranging Her freedom from the Crate and Bore.

The garbage in Her living room was terrible. Old, half-drunken and one-drop-left cans of beer lay thrown around everywhere. When that kid, what's-his-name, Randle Thorn had been born, She had thrown a big party and released way too many taverens at once. She had deserved being sealed for that. The Wheel had nearly died in the morning.
She gathered them up, poured out the last remaining drops down the drain, crumpled the cans and threw then into the Blue Box for Recycling. No one liked to pollute the environment and waste perfectly good and useable Heroes, especially not the Crate'tor. She got up and pulled out a couple of new cans from the basement. She opened one labeled 'Madame X' and downed the can's liquid contents with the haste of one who has really missed her beer brand.
She grinned lop-sided. He walked and sat down on a chair across from Her. He held up a number of beers.
She smiled and cleaned the table, leaving two large glasses for Them. She played because She knew something that He didn't know; She could always outdrink him into a stupor. And she never got hangovers. She poured out her beer into a glass.

~ Blackthorne and Mulder

© 1998-1999 Dragon's Library & Ulrike Großmann