Posted on Serafelle's Society of Scholars on December 14-31, 1998
Category: Alternate Reality

End Of Shapeshifting, End Of The Year

Nightfall looked around the Dark Palace and the vast realms that Serafelle had helped to form as his own senses told him something was more than a might amiss in this world. Nightfall read quickly over the writings and saw again the working of a small mind and even shallower gene pool. It wasn't hard to recognize this. It was much like dealing Strawn, only at least Strawn's diatribes were semi-intelligent and usually more along the lines of blood and gore. "Bloody fool thinks I'll fear him, got another thing coming. I KNOW the others won't. DH and the others will take of him. Of that I have little doubt. If they don't...well I do have my own methods of dealing with human excrement like this. Didn't get to the First Servant of the Great Mistress cause I'm pretty, that for bloody well sure."

With grim satisfaction and the knowledge the this Ishamael wannabe soon would find out how true the phrase, "just hanging by a thread" can be in the right hands, Nightfall then wandered back to his shadowy domains and also to find one of those damn Rod of Dominion. Replaying the scene again in his mind, Nightfall knew he'd better act fast in remedying this situation before attending to the annoying biteme.

The shock of having Sunny figure it out was only secondary to the appearance of Blackthorne, hands firmly on her hips and the look of displeasure radiating from her eyes. The Hound too was trailing close to her side and his eyes flashed a shade of carmine that would give chills to anyone else. However, Nightfall was more concerned by the looks given and the heat of the gaze from the Great Mistress as well as by Sunny. Nightfall knew he'd better give a very good spin on this very bad situation. "Well Great Mistress. It's like this…."

The frown and the crease in Blackthorne's forehead only deepen as Nightfall, smiling as best he could and making sure to distance himself from all the blame, finished up his tale, keeping his eyes on the Great Mistress as well as eye for the exit just in case. "And so Mistress, he just wants to go home. I'd glad send him in cartload of manure and shove it through a Gateway or Portal Stone if at all possible. But from what he tells me, this is one of those few worlds of What If not linked to a Portal Stone. So …if I could maybe just like two minutes borrow one…?"

Nightfall watched beads of sweat forming on his neck as Blackthorne paused, pursing her lips in deep thought. Finally she sighed "Well if it's the only way to get some peace around here, yes Nightfall you may. However I no longer have the Rods. Ariella took them with her when she departed…though I seem to remember that Kirith had one. You might want try to wrangle one away from him. I also suggest that you inform…Strawn that if he's to make any other appearance to keep them down to a minimum and certainly as far from the Dark Place AND ME as possible. We are clear on that?"

The question was more like a command to Nightfall, nodding and smiling once more. "Of course Mistress. As I said, I live only to serve at your pleasure and to please you, mind, body and soul."

"Good." With out pause, the Great Mistress strolled elegantly out, her power much more undeniable than ever.

"Which is all for the good. Just wish I didn't have to earn her displeasure this way. Guess I'll have to make it up to her." A roguish grin crossed his lips before Nightfall batted the thought away. "Later best get moving"

Thus came round to where his present situation was now, finding Kirith and…persuading Kirith to give him.

"Needles inside the bodies of decaying fades would be a more pleasant and easier task. But I'd best do find it now or I'm surely headed for the oven."

Suddenly Nightfall felt a tingle and then that ole smile of his spread out over his face like cream over oatmeal. "Gottcha!"

Nightfall, Lord of the Night, Man that can handle the Spam(er) and also one to never leave a thread unfinished


Ben twisted around her neck uneasily. "Don't do that. I told you before, it tickles!" His head bobbed, in a reptilian nod, and his grip on her neck eased. "Don't worry, I'll borrow the Rod back as soon as we find your things. I'm sure they're in the laundry room." Mashiara strode purposefully down the hallway, and around the corner. It was the laundry, all right. A bit of steam wafted through the open door, and Mashiara went in.

Ethel screamed, and tried to run, but Mashiara caught her with one hand in the maid's hair. "Where are the things you picked up in the hallway?"

Ethel gasped and squirmed, as Ben began to slither across Mashiara's hand into her hair. "Don't let the monster get me!!! It's in that basket over there! Let me go!" The boa retreated wisely, and Mashy pushed her away. She went to check the basket, and, sure enough, the clothes were there, including the cape. Picking them up, she made a Gate to the Clash Chamber, and stepped through, Ben on her shoulders.

He stuck out his tongue regularly now, and she was wondering if that indicated that he was actually becoming a snake. It would be unpleasant to be strangled by someone so nonthreatening.

They settled down to wait for Kiriath. Ben stayed near her; it was too cold on the ground for cold-blooded creatures. He would not remember a thing about all this (hopefully) when it was over; at a minimum, she'd have to Compulse him to forget about the Intragleeman. Easy as pie. She hoped.

Mashiara Shaidar,
Lady Chaos


Ben moved, slightly, re-wrapping himself around Mashiara. He didn't seem to notice when his tongue flicked out to taste the air, except for the one time he accidently flicked her ear. She hadn't said anything, but he had felt her head turn to the side.

It was too cold here, where ever here was... Earlier, he had been in a nice warm room, where the air had been pleasantly humid. It had tasted slightly of soap, though.

He needed to find some way of communicating with them. He had to tell them about..... something. He couldn't remember, but he could feel the shape of it in his mind. Was it that he was hungry? That didn't seem to fit, but it would work. He was starting to get hungry. Where had he seen food? He made a low hissing sound. Food....

Ben T-Gaidin
Just Another Snake


Mashiara felt Ben twist around her neck again. This time it took a bit more effort to get him to loosen up. Strange. Perhaps he was losing his humanity after all? Or maybe he was just hungry...

*****

Mr. A. Mouse went into his little hole, and gazed approvingly at his growing family. This was, what, the tenth generation he'd fathered? Child support was a real *itch. Oh well. The kids were worth it. He put the crumb on the table, and Mrs. Mouse snatched it up for the kiddies. Good thing he'd already had a bit himself, or the little brats'd eat it all. Kids these days had no respect for their elders; he was the crumbwinner around the hole, after all! The Darksisters had CATS, for the Great Lord's sake!*

A. Mouse sighed, and his wife began to harangue him, her nasal, high-pitched squeak echoing in his sensitive ears. He ignored her, as always, and began to read the paper. Hmm. Feline Murderer Strikes Again! made a lovely headline, but it had been the same headline as the one from yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. A. Mouse sighed again, and decided to go for a walk rather than reading. It was the only mistake he made all day.

*****

Mashiara waited, and then decided to find Ben a snack. There was a mousehole by that wall...

**(time elapse)**

She stepped on its tail lightly with her shoe, and picked it up. Nasty little thing. She was sure that it was cursing at her in Mousish. What it actually said was, "Squeeeeak! Squeak, squeak, SQUEEEEEEEEEEAK!!!!!"** Then she fed Ben the mouse, very carefully. Boas were fastidious eaters, and she watched him unhinge his jaw and gulp the mouse down whole. Not a pretty sight, but everyone has to eat. She sat down again, to wait for Kiriath...

Mashiara Shaidar
Lady Chaos


Ben swallowed again, and felt the mouse crush tighter together, and pass further down. That would hold him, for a little while. He wasn't full, not yet, but it wasn't so urgent that he could no longer think.

That had been scary, now that it was over. He hadn't been able to think, at least not as Ben. It was interesting how much differently he felt, being a snake. Still, he wanted to get back to being human, before he forgot himself entirely.

Ben shifted his head. He could remember now what he had wanted to ask. Mashiara had rescued his cloths. They were in a basket beside them, along with other cloths that had been sent to wash. He hadn't seen his sword, though. Was it in there? Why would someone was his sword? Perhaps he had better check.

Ben slithered off the back of the chair, and across Mashiara's lap, towards the basket. She watched him curiously, not sure what he was doing. He continued onward, reaching out until he reached the pile of laundry. He couldn't see his sword, but it might be under the clothes.

He moved forwards, sinking into and under the pile of laundry. It was warm in here! The heat from the laundry room must be trapped in the clothes. Ben quickly pulled the rest of his body into the basket, and moved around, looking for his sword.

A short while later, he looked out of the basket. His head was stuck through a pair of black under-shorts, with little red hearts on them. However, his sword was nowhere to be found. He turned his head around, and hissed at Mashiara. Somehow, he needed to tell her that they were missing something.

Ben T-Gaidin
Just Another Snake


Eval picked up a pen, considering what to write. After all, this was an important occasion.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Sisters of the Dark and Knights of the Light, dear friends and esteemed enemies, you are hereby invited to a party.
Where: at Shayol Ghul, in the Palace of the Dark. When: beginning tonight, and lasting until everyone is tired of dancing. Why: that, I will tell you when we are all assembled. And who: yours truly, Eval Ramman.”

He signed it, sealed it, and sent a herald out with the proclamation. If he knew the BBS community, this would be a _long_ party. He’d never yet seen a Dark Sister get tired of dancing.

As the herald started his recital outside, Eval made his way up spiralling stairs to one of the silver-roofed turrets that soared above the Dark Palace. “The invitations are issued,” he told the occupant of the tower.

“I know,” Sundara replied calmly. She was sitting on the railing of the balcony, watching the clouds pass. “I was listening. Aren’t you even going to tell me what the party’s about?”

“No.” He smiled at her. Light and Shadow, she was beautiful. It was lucky she too followed the Dark, or he would have thrown his oaths over for her without a second thought. And the Great Lord would not have liked that. “I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise. But I promise you’ll enjoy it.”

“Of course I will. It’s a party, isn’t it?” She smiled back, and Eval felt his bones turn to water. Amusement and anticipation came through the bond. “Go get ready, then. I’m not waiting long.”

“Your wish is my command, O fairest of women.”

Down in the Great Hall of the palace, Eval looked around in satisfaction. Candlelight glittered from every surface. The doors were wide open, and more lights gleamed in the trees outside. Serving men and women waited with trays, and unseen musicians played softly. It was all ready - and just then, the first guests started to arrive...

Eval Ramman,
Lord of Darkness


Sathinar took the boiled water off the stove. He added it to his Top Rammen, which he then ate. Then, a card sliped out of a gateway. He wove a flow of spirit and air at it, and rought it over to him. He opened it, and was surprised to see an invitation to a party. And who should sign it but Eval Rammen? Whoever he was. Well, how could he not trust him, with such a good name like "Rammen". Of course, he could not eat the host. Well, Rammen was the food of the gods, as well as hungery students.

OOC: Sorry, but this was too good to pass up. And you really do have a cool name...

Sathinar


Mashiara wondered what Ben was doing in that heap of clothes. It couldn't be that warm in there; there was no source of heat other than himself, and snakes generally required more than that.

Ben stuck his head out from the basket and hissed. He blinked a few times, and Mashiara wondered if his eyesight had gotten any better when he'd changed into a snake. He slithered over to her, and began to crawl onto the table. It was a tricky climb, but she let him do it himself. No use patronising the man... Er, boa. The snake stared into her eyes determinedly for a few minutes, and she stared right back.

"It won't work, you know. Snakes don't really hypnotise birds. Or are you trying to tell me something?" He nodded gravely, and kept looking at her.

"Well, I don't know what you want. I have an idea! I'll go through letters of the alphabet, and you nod when you want me to stop." He nodded. Snakes don't nod with their heads; they nod with their upper backs, because most of a snake is its back.

"A...B...C..." He nodded at S, and she ascertained that that was the letter he meant. The letters turned out to be: "S...W...O...R...D... Sword. What about a... Oh. Where is your sword? I don't know. You're right. It must still be in that laudry room... Here. Sit on my shoulders again, it's too cold for you on the floor." She picked him up carefully, and the mouse-bulge (not even snakes digest things that quickly) gently rubbed around the back of her neck. "Ow. That's my hair!" He turned and gazed apologetically at her as she opened a Gate back to the Dark Palace Laundry Room.

Mashiara looked around, and spotted a huge bin on the far side of the room. It was labeled quite clearly, "Stuff". Prying the top open with her fingers, the woman saw an incredible assortment of junk in a heap inside. "How odd..." she mused, and removed a ter'angreal shaped like the one she'd ah... borrowed. And Ben slithered into the bin and curled around a sword. She shooed him out of the way and let him back onto her shoulders, and picked up the sword. It balanced perfectly.

Mashiara turned around, and was confronted by the ugliest old hag she'd ever seen.

re now, wot you doin't wit our stoof?" she growled, and Mashiara nodded calmly.

"We are doing WoT with your stuff. Goodbye!" A Gate appeared in the air as she wove, and they stepped through to the Waiting Room.Mashiara dumped the sword, scabbard, and belt into the laundry basket, and examined the Rod of Dominion.

What would it do if she Channeled into it?

Mashiara was a curious person.

She found out.

Ben saw the expression on her face and started for the door, but a very tall woman can easily catch up with an inexperienced snake, and she leveled the Rod and pointed it at him...

Mashiara Shaidar,
Lady Chaos


Ben turned into a unicorn.

Mashiara cautiously approached him, as he ran into the door, having gained too much momentum as a snake to stop as a unicorn. He didn't, however, disappear. She supposed that madness counted as innocence, and giggled, as Ben put his horn through the door, and turned around to stare accusingly at her. "Don't worry. We'll get you back to normal. Or as normal as you were before." She giggled again, and Channeled into the Rod...

This time, she almost got it right. He glared stonily and said, "Well, I guess you got it half right." He stomped his hoof on the ground in frustration, a fine figure of a centaur.

Mashiara Shaidar,
Lady Chaos


Ben looked down. He could still here the echo of his thoughts a second ago...

Mashiara continued to look at him. "Oh, you can speak, now. I don't know if that's an improvement." She sniffed.

"Excuse me for a second." Ben said, as he walked over to the basket of clothes, sorting out those that were his. A minute later, he turned back to Mashiara, once again wearing his shirt and fancloak, though it drapped across his back. His sword belt was buckled around his waist, or at least where he merged into his horse half. His pants were folded up, and placed in a pouch along his belt. "There we go, that's much better." He said, as he walked back to Mashiara. "Tell me, how much do you know about that Rod," he said, pointing.

Mashiara looked at him, then down at the rod. "This? Oh, I just found it. I'm not really sure how it works, but...." She looked up at Ben, as he reached out and took the Rod from her hands.

"You know, I really don't feel comfortable with you pointing that at me. In fact, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with you having anything that you can't control. I think I'm going to try to find someone who knows how to work these things." With that, he stepped away, and into the corridor.

Mashiara quickly followed, but by the time she got out of the room, Ben was gone. "But I was going to give that to Kiriath. I wonder where he's gone, now."

Ben T-Gaidin
Centaur, huh?


Ben trotted into the halls of the Dark Palace once again. He had intended to go back to the White Tower, and see if anyone there knew how to work that Rod properly. But Serafelle had been busy, and probably hadn't yet heard that he was back. And he didn't trust many of the other Aes Sedai to try something. He still had unpleasent memories of the taste of that mouse, now that he was no longer a snake.

Ben looked around. The place did look set for a party, now. He stopped by one of the servers, and picked up some food off a tray. Whatever had gone into changing his shape, it hadn't changed what he had eaten. One mouse...(Ben shuddered) definately wasn't enough to ease his hunger, now that he was the size of a horse. At least the servers didn't stare at him as much as they had at the White Tower. It had made getting through the crowds easier, but the stableman who had offered to put him up in a stall for the night had been the last straw.

Ben continued walking down towards the Great Hall. It would be interesting, he didn't know if centaurs could dance, or not, but it would be worth it to find out. Besides, the people were what made it interesting. He'd just have to try to avoid Mashiara. She would not be pleased that he had taken the Rod away from her. At least it would be safe, where he had left it. He wasn't willing to risk it among this crowd. There were always schemings going on.

Ben slowed to a walk as he entered the Great Hall, his fancloak drifting slightly on the breeze. All would turn out well, and besides, there was no us getting worried about it here. Now, it was time to party.

Ben T-Gaidin
Half-Warder, perhaps?


Parties were a wonderful thing, Sundara thought idly as she watched the clouds drifting by, the sun low in the west. It was almost sunset, and as everyone knew, when the sun set the night came alive. Just like fine wine, celebrations always developed best in the Dark.

And this was that rare thing, a party where the Dark Sisters didn’t have to do anything but attend. Eval was taking over as host tonight, and she was looking forward to the surprise she had been promised. Although, it was probably time to start getting ready before the party started without her.

She swung her legs over the railing and back onto the balcony. Going through into her rooms, she reached for the shimmering silk lying over the bed. “Let’s see how Eval likes this dress...”

A few minutes later she was dressed, and smiled at herself in the mirror. The gown was simple, a length of sheer silk that wrapped around her body and fastened with a diamond brooch over one shoulder. Tiny shards of crystal, however, had been woven into the white silk so that it caught the light and glittered with every movement. Her dark hair tumbled loose to her waist. Oh yes, Eval would like this all right! Barefoot, Sundara ran lightly down the stairs to the Great Hall.

Slowing as she reached it, she looked around with amazement. A fairyland of lights sparkled all around her. Her Warder had certainly done a spectacular job of setting up the party. She smiled at the other guests in the Hall. Including a - centaur? Wearing a Warder's cloak? "That can't be your normal shape, can it?" she asked curiously. "It doesn't look very good for dancing in, either. I can change you back, if you like."

Sundara, Sister of the Dark and various other titles


Mashiara went back to the Dark Palace, because she wasn't quite sure what she should do next. She had to get that Rod back for Kiriath; it was important. But she didn't think that Ben would let her try until she knew how to use it. So she borrowed a book from the Darkfamily's library, making sure to return it to its place when she was done. The kind of fine the Librarians of the Dark extracted tended to be... steep, to say the least. Mashiara liked having a soul.

Now where on earth was Ben? And where was that music coming from? Sometimes she heard music that no one else heard, but the librarians were looking irritated as well, so this time it wasn't a figment. She left the library and pursued the sound to the Main Hall.

Ah. A party.

Mashiara spied a centaur across the room, and since she'd never heard of another centaur living around the Palace, she assumed it was Ben. He was talking to a woman wearing a really fabulous dress. Mashiara snuck up on him so that he wouldn't notice she was there until she was, er, there, and tapped him on the shoulder.

He jumped about a mile when he saw who it was, and that strained look that the lizard, the T-Rex, the boa, and the unicorn had shown around the eyes appeared. Interesting. "I want to make a deal. I found that Rod, and I would like it back. I know how to change you back now; I looked it up in the library. There's a very definite trick to it that no one would try unless they'd read the particular book I did. And that book hasn't been touched for a thousand years, according to the Librarians. I'll turn you back if you return that Rod to me afterwards. Is it a deal?"

Ben's eyes narrowed in suspicion. Not a fool, that man. "All right. But if this doesn't work, I'm going to make sure that you won't ever use that Rod again. Somehow." He gathered the cloak around him, because he still wasn't wearing anything besides that and a long shirt. The pants he had folded over his arm. And the change did not take clothes into account. He handed Mashy the Rod, and secretly crossed his fingers with one hand. He held the cloak tightly.

Mashiara stared at the Rod, and levelled it at Ben, yet again. Then she stopped and turned it around so that the wrong end faced him, and Channeled. She wove a touch of Compulsion in as well, and he forgot that she had ever mentioned Intragleemen. He also forgot where he'd left his purple and green striped socks that he'd last worn when he was five.

This time, Ben turned into.... Himself. And left immediately for the bathroom, to put on his pants.

Mashiara left the Palace as well, to wait for Kiriath in the Waiting room, Rod in hand. She sat down and began to read a magazine...

Mashiara Shaidar,
Lady Chaos

I can SO fix my mistakes!


Ben stood looking at Mashiara, tapping one hoof on the ground. He wasn't sure he trusted her to get it right, this time, no matter what books she had read... Especially after that scare she had given him. "Let me see that book, first," he said, addressing Mashiara. "If you'll excuse me for a minute, Sundara?"

Turning, he walked after Mashiara to the library, where he looked at the book she said she had found the information in. "This? What does midnight, and pumpkins have anything to do with my problem?" he said, then "Oh, there it is," as she pointed out the correct section.

Ben quickly read it over, then looked up at Mashiara. "Ok, I'll let you try again, on one condition," he said, pointing at Mashiara. "If this doesn't work, I'm taking that Rod, and finding someone who will use it on you." Mashiara nodded. She didn't look a bit troubled by the threat. He supposed she wouldn't be, but he had to trust someone. If only it didn't have to be her. "Very well, then. Wait here, and I'll be right back." Ben reached out with his mind towards the lights on the wall, and twisted. In the blink of an eye, he was someplace else.

Ben stood in a small room. The room seemed almost barren, with only a small chest, and a carved chair against the wall. With him in it, as well, the room was almost filled. A single door stood on the opposite wall. Ben stepped over to the chest, and removed what looked like an engraved wooden rod, then walked over to the chair. Kneeling down in front of it, he turned it upside down and lay it on the floor, tapping his hand softly several times on the back of the chair. Then, when it was loose enough, he grabbed the top, and popped it of. Ben reached out and gently twisted one of the carved supports out of it's hole, and replaced it with the rod he had removed from the chest.

He quickly reassembled the chair, then turned towards the window. Stepping towards it, he tapped the Rod in his hands, so that the two wooden caps fell loose. Before they hit the ground, Ben was gone.

He reappeared in the library, and flicked his tail to brush off a sheet of paper that had fallen on his back. Mashiara, seeing him back with the Rod, reached out eagerly. "Now remember, this had better work," he said, handing her the Rod. He flinched, inwardly, as she aimed the Rod at him once more. There was a familiar mental popping sound, but it seemed to have an echo, unlike the others. Perhaps it was just because it finally worked, this time.

Ben looked down, as his sword belt, and everything on it, dropped to the ground. He blushed slightly. "Umm... Excuse me for a minute?" He bent over carefully, to pick up his stuff, with one hand holding his fancloak about himself. Mashiara stood there laughing, while one of the librarians glared in disapproval. He swiftly straightened, and looked around for a toilet.

Ben walked back into the library, fully dressed this time. The librarian still looked at him funny, but he really wasn't that worried. Mashiara, however, was no where to be seen. Oh, well. He really wasn't sure he wanted to see her, in any case.

He turned, to walk back down to the party, still stumbling a bit. His body seemed to be trying to slither on four legs. It still averaged out to two legs, but it didn't quite work that way. Also, at times, he still felt as if he had a tail, and at others, as if he was all tail. Hopefully it would settle down soon.

His memories felt funny, as well. As a centaur, he had been close enough to human that he could think as one, and he hadn’t had any problem remembering things as a human. But all that he could remember for the experience now was the vague as a snake (along with the other animals). Still, it wasn't that important. If it was, he'd remember it, one way or another.

Ben walked back into the party with one thought on his mind. He had been forced to return the Rod that time. After all, she had found it. But if he ever found a way to get this hands on it again, he was going to take it, and put it somewhere safe. And it wouldn't be safe until it was hidden away where no one else would be able to find it.

Ben T-Gaidin
Warder again!!


Listening to Kiriath with one ear, Carra cocked the other at the sound of music from the Dark Palace. "It's a party!" she exclaimed, cutting Kiriath off. She leaned out the window to look. (Was there a window there, by the way? If not, I just drew one.) "C'mon, Intrigleemaniac, we've got a party to go to." Grabbing his hand, she pulled him through the gateway that had just appeared into the Dark Palace.

She smoothed down the black silk dress she was wearing, and looked around. Sundara was there, in a spectacular version of her customary white, and a couple of other guests. Eval seemed to be the host this time - was there a strict order, she wondered, and if so when was it her turn?

Whatever. Nothing seemed to be happening, so she turned back to Kiriath. "Would you care to Dance?" she asked him, knowing he heard the capital. His eyes started whirling in time with the music as they spun out onto the dance floor.

Carramaena, Mistress of Dance Dae'mar


The Intrigleeman smiled, his eyes truly with a mix of the Eccentric power and sheer insanity induced by the Christmas Vacation he felt was coming in his Real Life counterpart's world. A sweet thing, which meant that he would be around in the Virtual World considerably more in the week to come.

"You certainly are talented," he said, answering the question he had not had time to in the DarkMount. "Am I?"

Carramaena chuckled, as the Dance whirled them around in its natural flows. "Undoubtedly," she replied simply. Kiriath felt a sudden anticipation for that Tinker dance ...the tigranza, if he remembered correctly.

"I thank you," answered the gleeman. A compliment both for his spy nature and musician side. The thought of his spy side suddenly reminded him of something ---Mashiara! She had mentioned a thing of utter importance, and ...where was she?

Kiriath, Undercover Intrigleeman
Come, Mashiara. Add to the chaos!


Abruptly the music cut off, and the guests - sadly few of them so far - stopped dancing and looked up in surprise. Eval strode out onto the stage, a cape of black velvet billowing behind him for dramatic effect. “Ladies, gentlemen, Dark Sisters, Intrigleemen, welcome to the party!”

Cheers.

“Long, long ago,” Eval continued, “in the Age before the Age of Legends, there was an ancient festival celebrated every year, at which it was customary to feast and to give and receive presents. After some calculation, I estimate that the traditional date for that festival should be about now. So welcome again, and I would like to wish everybody here a very Merry Christmas!”

Behind him, a curtain lifted to reveal an evergreen tree decked with candles and glittering baubles, colourfully wrapped parcels heaped high around its base. “Beneath this tree is a gift for each of you. What does it contain? Whatever one thing you would like it to! I was never very good at choosing presents, so choose your own and accept it with my best wishes.” The music started again as he stepped down from the stage.

Crossing the room to Sundara, he grinned. “Well, how do you like the surprise? And may I say, my lady, that you look absolutely ravishing tonight.” He took a carved, velvet-lined box from beneath his arm. “I made one exception and chose a gift for you. A mere trinket, of course, when compared to your beauty, but it is my hope that it may bring you some small pleasure.” He proffered it with a bow. “For you.”

She took the box with a smile of anticipation, for all the world like a child on Bel Tine rather than the sophisticated, worldly woman she seemed. Well, she was only seventeen; strange, how things turned out. He would never have believed he would fall head over heels for a girl of seventeen, even one as lovely as Sundara. The Wheel weaved as the Wheel willed, and sometimes it weaved in the strangest of ways.

Unwrapping the box, she lifted the lid and gasped. Diamonds sparkled amidst a tracery of silver wrought fine as cobwebs, the whole dancing and glittering like starlight on snow. By the light of the hundreds of lamps and candles in the room, it shone like fire.

“I found it in a stasis box,” Eval said casually, “and I thought of you.” The necklace had been a treasure beyond price in the Age of Legends; he was fortunate to have found it, for nothing its like had been created since. “Will you wear it for me, Sundara?”

~Eval Ramman


The new building before her gleamed dimly in the moonlight, the details still hidden in the night. But she knew them, there was no need to see. There was no unnessecary ornaments, only a simple but elegant style with large windows providing light and connecting the new library with the surrounding nature. She entered it. Granite plastered the four main passages. The rest had the polished wooden floors she preferred to the cold stone. Bookshelves, comfortable armchairs and writing places filled the rooms.

A dream had come true for her. The best of it, in her opinion, was the little park in the center. It seemed to be a picture of untouched nature, a brook between forest trees, wild roses and other flowers. Nothing betrayed that this place was artificial created. Alcair had surprising talents, she had never expected a dragon gardener. Hidden among the bushes, but with enough room to grow, there was a tiny tree. Her friend Flame had brought it, though Ulrike couldn't imagine in her life why the Aiel gave her this precious gift, a little chora tree.

In a part of the building she could still light through the windows. Alcair sorted in the last books. All of them were new-categorized, it had been more work as they thought. Truth to tell, it hadn't helped that they were tempted to read the books completely again instead to simply list them. But finally they came to the end. In the corners of the park stood a sort of portal stones. As soon as they were activated they would transport everyone who wanted to be here.

But for now she wanted to see that her other friends were doing. A gateway brought her to the Dark Palace and straight into a party. The right thing I need now, she thought with a smile and mingled among the cheerful people.

~Ulrike


Sundara and Eval danced slowly, to the strains of an old, old song. There were sadly few others on the dance floor; everyone seemed to be busy or committed to something else around this time. But no matter, that was their loss. She touched the diamonds and silver at her throat, smiling. A trinket indeed. There was an old story that she had unearthed in her research, that one of the very first wielders of the Power had created just such a necklace for his wife, said to have been the loveliest woman in the world. Perhaps it was the same. If so, it certainly had a history.

She had heard of this ‘Christmas’ festival, although little information on it survived. But then, Eval Ramman had been a historian back in the Age of Legends, hadn’t he? And specializing in vanished cultures, if she remembered correctly. One of these days she would have to ask him about that. Her library was sadly deficient in some subjects. Not right now, though. Now was a time for celebration.

“Wine,” she called to a servitor as the song ended. Gesturing for him to fill everyone’s goblets, she raised her own high. “A toast, friends. To Christmas past, present and future!”

Sundara


The Intrigleeman smiled pleasantly, raising his bottomless Gargle Blaster with a weave of Air. "Ah, Christmas," he mused. He had recently wandered Ulrike's library in search of facts about the holiday; apparently, it had been Eval who he had seen within also.

Presently, pun intended, his counterpart was back in Virtual Reality, Christmas slowly calming down. A new year was about to begin, also, but that was no distraction; a new year was a new year. Now that both entities were virtually combined, the gleeman knew he was forgetting something.

The Intrigleeman peered at Carramaena, a gleam appearing in his rapidly whirling eyes. "I'm back," he whispered. She returned the gaze smoothly, and he continued. "Seeing as how the Christmas season is, would be, or was, here, and presents are given ...and received..."

Still, she looked at him, seemingly unfazed. Did nothing take away that glance that even Aes Sedai had a difficult time matching? "I wish you a merry belated Christmas," he said softly. "And a happy be-earlied new year." A slight smile at them both. "Not to mention a hope that you'll appreciate the present I have for you..."

Eyebrows raised at this, her mouth still tweaked in a slight smile, almost akin to Demandred's. A few weaves nevertheless, and Kiriath formed an illusionary stones board next to them both. "I offer you a game of stones, Carra, and maybe more if you enjoy it enough. We play our espionage so much that we overlook the original games themselves; the offer's open for any time that we both are."

Kiriath, Undercover Intrigleeman
A cheap present, but a grand one, if played properly...


"Ah, you play?" Carra murmured as if surprised. "Well, I suppose I could venture a game. A short one. Since we don't have anything better to do." She gave him a sudden grin. "But just a moment, first. I think the music needs changing."
She snapped her fingers, and the romantic songs that had been playing faded away, to be replaced in a second with a new one booming out.

"We're going to party, like it's Nineteen Ninety-Nine..."

"Appropriate," and she sat down gracefully on the chair that had just appeared. "There's no time like the present, and Sundara and Eval are having their party just fine without us. I take the black stones, of course." Delicately, she reached across the board and placed one.
r move."

Carramaena, Spymistress of the Dark



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