Added on May 15, 1999
Category: WoT Third Age
Authors: Barid Bel Medar, Alanna Sedai, Selinthia Avenchesca

Towers of Midnight:
Cuttings Of Hope

There was no soft awakening for Mierin, not this time. One moment she was deep inside a dream, the other, she was fully awake. The recent events crushed into her, and she sat, rigid, shaking. Moridin, Lews Therin, Narishma. Names, events, memories crossed her mind. Nothing I can do about it, she thought, surprisingly, the thought wasn't grim. She escaped one prison to find herself in another. It could've been worse, she told herself seriously, I could have died, or Moridin could have crushed the mind trap. She didn't know what would be worse. She had no intention finding out. "Dying is not something that should happen twice in a woman's life." She murmur, rising from the bed. For a moment she glanced down at herself, constantly surprised to find a body that was different from her own. She had her shift on, but not the dress. Maybe it was for the good, she began to develop a true hate for black and red. On the other hand, it had to be Narishma that undressed her, and the thought send her cheeks aflame.

Shaking her head and telling herself how silly she was behaving, why should she care if a man undressed her, before the War of Power, before she was sealed inside the Gre - Dark One's prison, she had more men than other women had dresses. She looked around, searching for something to wear. The bond had something to do with her newfound modesty, she was sure of it, but she had to find something to wear. She might die of blushing alone. She had no intention of dying in the near future - or the far future - from blushing or from any other reason. The dress she wore upon coming to Lews Therin was gone, for good, she hoped. She stared at the wardrobe, or at least at what she hoped was the wardrobe, it was too much to hope that the man remembered that she needed something to wear.

There was nothing in the wardrobe save few clothes, all in black, twisting her mouth in disgust, she noted to herself that she would have to talk with Narishma about it. There were other colors in the world. And he was about to have some of them.

It has been ages since she wore a man's clothes, literally, and Narishma's clothes were huge on her. Not to mention that she saw no mirrors in the room. Saidar took care of the first problem problems, thought not the second. The black breeches and shirt were still too big, but at least they would not trip her feet. She didn't bother with a coat. Properly covered, if not properly clothed, she went through the door near the wardrobe, she passed a room that was entirly empty. Another things she will have to talk with Narishma about, no one could live like this.

The thought stopped her on her track, when did she begin to think that she would share her life with Narishma? It wasn't only what he mentioned casually about her being his wife, what she wasn't and had no wish to be. She remembered him saying something about Tuning and sleeping the worst of it. How much had she slept, for that matter? Angry, she made her way to Narishma.

His sight stop her, he was lying in a chair that seemed to be planned to be as uncomfortable as possible. His head lied slump on the chair's back, and he was soundly asleep. Well, maybe not that much soundly, but certainly sleeping. Mierin considered her options for a moment, she could try waking him, but save using the Power, she saw no way of doing something, anything, that would wake him. She could feel his tiredness, maybe not even icy water would wake him now. And for some reason she didn't like the idea of using the One Power against him. She could send herself to sleep and find his dreams, very often it was a task that could easily take days. With Narishma's bond, she doubted if it would take her more than ten heartbeats to find him. She took a chair next to him and close her eyes before the realization hit her. She was on her feet and on the other side of the room before she stopped herself. Finding one's dreams was one thing, enterring them was something else entirely. What did she feel to Narishma? She rather not think about the only possible answer. Whatever it was, it was strong, very strong. And if Narishma felt for her half what she felt for him, she would be trapped in his dreams. Such incidents had to avoided, she told herself, shuddering. Such incidents could be extremly pleasant, or equally unpleasant, when emotion in such degrees were involved.

What are you so afraid of? A tiny voice inside mocked her, Narishma wishes you no harm. The thought was almost enough to make her enter his dreams, almost. She didn't want to know, she told herself. Strangely, it was the modesty she hadn't felt for so long that helped her now. She couldn't stay here, not with Narishma, not now, the temptation was too great. Then why are you avoiding it? That tiny voice asked her. She didn't know why, she didn't want to know why, all she knew was that she couldn't do it.

Her curiosity always got her into trouble, it was second to Lews Therin alone in that manner, but she never seemed to learn. Opening the black wooden door, Mierin went out into the caves deep inside the Dragonmount. There was much to explore, and for the first time in her memory, she wasn't bothered by her obsession for Lews Therin.

Almost two hours later, Mierin wanted to scream in frustration, the place made no sense, as far as she saw so far, those caves were big enough to contain a large city - the size of the cities from her own time. There were enough room there for hundreds thousands of people! Enough caves, all lighten by angry fire made of saidin, to hide an army the size that have not seen since the War of Shadow! Yet she saw no one there! Why have something so big when you had no need of it? She knew Lews Therin, he wouldn't have allow such thing unless he had some purpose. He wasn't the kind of man to enjoy such grands.

The feeling of wrongness was something she became used to, it was a part of who she was for time longer than she once believed possible, she could almost ignore it.

Shadowspawn! Her first thought was, what could shadowspawn do inside the Dragonmount? How could they reach inside the mountain?

Myrdraals! A part of her mind screamed, and then, a thought that brought a sweat of cold terror, Shaidar Haran! If it was Shaidar Haran, she wouldn't give herself up, life was precious, no one could know more than she herself how precious life was. But she wouldn't be something worse than a slave again.I wouldn't leave Narishma. She was too frighten even to consider that thought, so unlike herself.

She filled herself with saidar to bursting, few could fight her and hope to live, fewer could hope to win, most of those few died already. Lews Therin was the only one that had ever defeated her, in the War of Power, when she foolishly stepped into a trap and barely escaped with her life.

Moiraine Aes Sedai! The name flashed in her mind, the very first thing she had done after... returning was to learn everything she could about the woman who had killed her. No, she had to discount Moiraine, the woman had taken her by surprise, she wasn't about to let anyone do this again.

Thanking the Light wordlessly that she found no shoes in Narishma's rooms, luckily, the floor in all those caves was smooth as mild water, she walked on bare feet, without making a sound, following the sense of corruption. She readied a considerable number of the more nastiest weaves she knew. She could run, she could be on the other side of the world in less than an hour, and that only because she didn't know the place and had to use skimming. She could... but she couldn't. She would skin Narishma for making her like this. She had never had any trouble in fleeing from a threat.

It became even stranger when she reached a door much the same she saw almost everywhere here, but this door was different, for once, she was far from the populated areas of the mountain, if a little more than two dozens people could be called population, second, of course, was the fact that a considerable number of shadowspawn were hidden behind the door. She took a deep breath, Light, Shaidar Haran could be behind this door. She knew the creature could cut her off the True Source whatever she was touching it or not, as easily as she could kill a Trolloc. And she had no idea how the Hand of the Shadow did it. Maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with the bond that once tied her to the Dark One. She prayed silently that it was, if not, she was doomed. When she returned to the Light, for that matter? Skinning wouldn't be enough, for sure, she would have to think of something else. Later, she was going to take her time with this.

She opened the door, behind it, she saw a man, clad in black, too short to be Shaidar Haran, her reliefed sigh made him turn to her. He wasn't happy, not happy at all. For some reason, Mierin found herself smiling, this was going to be interesting. Closing the door behind her with a flow of Air, she struck with the female half of the True Source.

It is always dark, in the beginning. But where, for anyone, does the beginning begin? Philosophers have puzzled over such questions for countless turnings of the Wheel, and the woman was in no condition to ponder the nature of existence at the moment. Groggy, confused, nearly panicking, she turned her head sharply to the side as she tumbled from her prison, as she stared up at the tall, youthful looking man who stood above her sprawled form.

"You are awake," the man said, reasonably enough, but she narrowed her eyes, elemental suspicion springing into her senses immediately. Something about this man was wrong. She shouldn't be here. He shouldn't be here. Who was he? Who was she, for that matter? "I see you're rather confused," the man said. "It is to be expected," he nodded to himself. "Indeed, it is truly to be expected."

"Who are you?" she demanded, voice hoarse from so long a time without speech. When had she last spoken, come to think of it? A miniscule wrinkle appeared between her eyes as she attempted to puzzle this out.

"Ah, that is a question," the man said. What question did he answered for? "And many would truly like to know the answer. I will tell you this much. I am called Moridin."

Called? It wasn't his name? What was his name, or her own? "You caught that?" he sounded amused. Had he read her thoughts? No, that was ludicrous. No one, not even... who?... could read thoughts. Who had she been about to think of? He was more than others, that was she sure about.

"Very good. He'll be shocked, you know. He'll be torn apart."

"Who?" she asked aloud.

"You'll see," he smiled enigmatically. "You will indeed see, Ilyena Sunhair. You will indeed..."

Ilyena Sunhair, she stopped listenning That was her name, she realized with a start. And she remembered now. Like the name was a key to the door that locked her memories, she remembered her name, and all the rest. She remembered, and she wanted to cry, she understood why she forgot, there was a comfort in the absence of memories.

She knew who the he that Moridin was speaking of was. The same man she was thinking about, the man she was always thinking about.Her eyes blinked rapid tears, and her heart fired rapid shock and betrayal, and her mind blanked.

Lews Therin! The name was the center of her world for so long she couldn't imagine her life without him.

My husband! He was a great man, she knew it from the start, everyone could see it. That was why he was envied and hated. Rarely people could look at one that symboled all that they wanted without envy or hate or both.

My friend! It was Lews Therin whom she trusted with secrets and hopes and fears she couldn't tell her dearest friend.

My love! The Light burn her soul, but she loved the man more than her own life.

My murderer! She remembered dying, remembered all the pain involved. But more than all, she remembered the betrayel.

Moridin gazed down into her eyes, and, knowing she remembered, threw back his head, and laughed. "What do you mean to do?" she inquired, voice low, a dangerous glint suddenly appearing in her eyes, drying her tears. She refused to show weakness in front of this man. She would not! Lews Therin was the only one that knew all her weaknesses. The only one allowed.

"I mean to complete what I have begun," he said, his laughter halting, dark amusement shown in his eyes. "I mean to set you free."

She laughed bitterly, mirthlessly. "A Shadowsworn to set me free? With no strings? Me?" she assumed he was a Shadowsworn, in any case, and he did nothing to to deny it.

"I never said that," he smiled, almost mischievously, the sternness of his face marred by the glee in his eyes. "Everything holds a string of some sort, Ilyena Therin Dalisar. Everything! But I ask nothing of you, your very existance is a message to the Dragon, you are free to go." He gestured her forward, and though she loathed the fact that he was in charge of the situation, she still wanted out. Glancing over her shoulder once revealed the thing which had been her prison. Vaguely, she recalled the name of it. Stasis Box.

It's function to preserve an object, to shield it unaffected by the ravages of time or damage. An object, not a living being, it had... strange reactions when human were trapped in it. How long had she been imprisoned? How much time had passed? "You you really expect me to believe it?" She snorted.

Moridin closed the door the room where the box was contained, he didn't answer, and she couldn't see his face. The room they immerged into was large and tastefully appointed, though simply dressed. She smiled despite herself, feeling comfort radiate all around her. She trusted this room. Moridin smiled again, nastily. "Does it seem familiar?" he asked.

"Yes," she blurted, and then inwardly cursed herself for speaking. She would give him nothing! "It's a replica of the room you died in. You were walking into the hallway, and Lews Therin had just Traveled into the Palace. You were the first to die. The tremors shook you into the hall, but this place ... it remained all but unaffected, for more time you would have believed." he directed a wry look at her.

Ilyena clenched her teeth, glaring at him, "I may be your prisoner, but I will not dance to your tune," her voice was ice, even Lews Therin backed away from her when she used that tone.

"You are stubborn, you've always been" he nodded, "But no one can avoid dancing to all tunes."

"You'll excuse me if I try," she replied sarcastically. "I was never interested in what everyone could do."

"Of course I excuse you," he replied casually, "Because you will fail, and the struggle only makes it interesting. Now, your clothing is in the trunk over there," he gestured to a carved wooden luggage, "Along with some personal items and such. You are, of course, perfectly capable of taking care of yourself, so I did not include any weapons. The Aes Sedai of this Age are pathetic, half-trained girl who think highly of themselves. And against those Asha'man that can hurt you, no weapon would do." Justice's Guardians? What the man was talking about? Aes Sedai not properly trained? But it was a single word in the torrent of speak hit Ilyena Sunhair in the guts.

"This age?"

"Ah, did I forget?" he smiled in a manner that made her sure that he had bad news to tell her, and that he enjoyed it, "You have been sleeping for close to thirty four hundred years, give or take one hundred. The Age is ended, and the next almost finished. The Last Battle between the Great Lord, and his nemesis is approaching. Lews Therin has been Reborn."

"Reborn?" the room was spinning, and Ilyena was feeling distinctly ill.

"Didn't I mentioned that he died? After he killed you, Ishamael came to him, and healed him of his madness. He was offered the highest standing in the Great Lord's regard. The Great Lord would have resurrected you, and your children. But he refused, and destroyed himself. A mountain, called Dragonmount, marks his grave. The Hall of Servants prophecised his Rebirth, the life in which he would fight his last battle with the Dark One, the battle which will decide the fate of the Wheel. He is remembering, Sunhair. He did not want to, but he is. He remembers the end, and he remembers you."

"I will not be manipulated! You seek to turn me in the directions you wish, but I will not be manipulated!" her voice was a deadly hiss, at the moment, she was ready to attack him with her bare hands.

"His name is Rand al'Thor now, a sheepherder. He particularly dislikes being referred to as Lews Therin. But... I'm sure he'd make an exception with you. I'm quite sure." There was a glint of wry amusement in Moridin's eyes, "I truly hope you like the smell of sheeps, Ilyena." A shimmer marked the air, a darkness twisted the air, and he disappeared.

That was wrong. There should have been a gate of some sort. That was like no Talent she had ever heard of. She glared at the spot where he had gone from for a long minute, and then sighed. What good would glaring do? Walking over to the chest, she opened it, and eyed the strange garments incredulously. Their making and style were completely foreign to any clothing she had ever seen. Scowling, she slammed the trunk shut, and sat down on it, bringing long, slender legs into a crossed position. What was she doing? Contemplating clothing when the most devastating news she had ever known had just been delivered to her. Of course, he could have been lying, there was no logical reason to believe him ... except...

She had been waiting for him for what seemed like years, seating on a chair and worrying about him. If all goes well, she wouldn't have to worry about him anymore. If all goes well... What if he dies? She asked herself, or fails? The questions were meaningless, they had no other way. She agreed with Lews Therin on this. Although she still though it would be wiser if she could go with him. He won that arguement, but she hadn't agree to leave. She wouldn't leave her home and flee!

There was a flash of light, and the air seemed to turn, as a gateway opened. Lews Therin stepped through, his cloths were torn and dirty, stained with blood, he was never so beautiful. She jumped from the chair and run to him, laughing. It went well, he lived, and everything would be as it should be again.

Something lifted her off the ground, and she smashed against a wall. She couldn't understand what it was, she tried to shout, to warn Lews Therin. Never she doubted that he would protect her. She watched, eyes opened, fighting for breath. Refusing to believe her own eyes, when he rose his hands and lightning flashed from him. She forced her eyes open, even when the lightning became blinding. Sending tendrils of pain into her eyes. She heard distant screaming, her children! "Why?" She tried to whisper, how many died? How many of her children died? How many of Lews Therin's children?

She didn't take her eyes from him, not when terror filled her, not even when she died.

It had happened so quickly that she had not even the slightest chance of raising a shield, or do anything to prevent her husband's actions. And since when had she needed to raise a shield against Lews Therin? Then pain, brilliant pain for a single instant ... and darkness.

Moridin was not lying about that. Why would he lie about the rest? There could be a reason, but his words had rung of truth, of absolute, malicious honesty. Thirty four hundred years? How had she survived after death? How had this man, Moridin, come to hold her in his possession? And what was she to do now?

Rand Al'Thor. Her husband's new name. Slender, elegant hands twisted into knots as she shook her head. She would go to him. Sooner or later, she would. She would not be able to resist it. She had to find out what had happened, why he had killed her, and what had taken place at Shayol Ghul.

And who was he now? Another life. Would he accept her?

Standing, her face determined, Ilyena Sunhair turned towards the door as it opened. Two men stood there, servants by the look of them.

"Lady, we are to transport your chest of clothes to your horse," the taller man nodded towards the wooded container.

Horse? she frowned. Why would they use such primitive means of transportation? No one used horses save for sport. But if it was all they had here... perhaps the place was in remote location? But even that didn't completely explain it. There was always at least a jo-car, whenever people lived.

Enough, she berated herself. Figure that out later. For now, just make use of what you have.

"Indeed, sirs," she spoke coldly. She did not know the character of these men, and better safe than sorry, "You may do that, then."

The two men nodded, and moved to the large trunk, hoisting it up, moving toward the door again. She followed, wondering as to her composure. The clothes she was wearing at the moment were neat, cool, and as foreign as those in the trunk, she noticed now, knowing that the only reason she had not before was the shock of the entire situation. Soft yellow skirts, divided strangely, fell about her form, and her upper torso was clad in a tapered, silver embroidered, matching yellow tunic. Her jewelry was also tasteful, elegant silver. She frowned. Someone else wore silver, but not with yellow.

White gowns invaded her mind. White gowns, a beautiful face, and a hated identity. A womancalled Mierin. Mierin Eronaile! She remembered now. Full lips curled back in hate, and herdeep blue eyes glittered. Mierin! The woman who had once been Lews Therin's lover, the woman who had repeatedly attempted to take him back. Lews Therin never paid heed to the whore, of course, but it stoked Ilyena's own fires, directed her own anger. And the woman had turned to the Shadow, and called herself Lanfear, released the Dark One upon a world that had surpressed the instincts of war for long milleniums.

Never was it very far from the surface, however, she thought bleakly. Those skills came to us so very easily. Came to Lews Therin, whom the people called Dragon. Light, how he hated that name.

They had arrived in a stable, she saw. The horses, dead black fine stallions, were unnaturally quiet as one of them men saddled one of the equines, and the other lashed the trunk on. "Lady," the man who had spoken previously said, "Have you any further need of us?"

"I do not. You may go," she gestured them away, and a moment later, they were gone.

Approaching the horse she wondered how she would manage it. She'd never ridden a horse in her life. "Well, there's only one way to find out," she said out loud, she needed the comfort in hearing a human being, even if it was only her own. She led the horse outside of the stable, only to find herself blinded by a brilliant flash of light, and a feeling of vertigo. She had been transported somewhere, she knew it. Looking down, she found the perfect view of a city that seemed incredibly archaic in it's make. It was several miles to go, and not a vehicle in sight. Sighing, she glanced at the horse.

"Here's that time to find out," Ilyena muttered as she found a rock and clumsily mounted the horse, wondering why it had not yet panicked. Animals rarely took well to instant transportation. And that was another thing. What weaves had been used to make that gateway? It must be male work, she had not seen the weaves. Nonetheless, it was another talent she had not heard of. Perhaps they had made advances in this Age? But Moridin had called the Aes Sedai of the day "half-trained children." Another mystery to solve.

As she dug her heels into the horse's flanks, and felt it do not a thing at all, save for to shift and glance at her as though she were an idiot, she decided that the most important mystery before her at the moment was how to ride this bloody animal.

That came even before finding where to go.

Five minutes later, and Ilyena was ready to pull out her legendary golden hair in frustration. Or better yet, use it to strangle this cursed horse. Horses! How she longed for a true means of transportation. It was easy to understand why the people of her own time never made horses common mean of tranportation.

"I don't like you," she announced to the horse, leaning forward and around to look into it's placid eyes, "And you don't like me. But I'll tell you this much: I intend to win. And that's all there is to it. So you can be as stubborn as you like, but you're only delaying the inevitable."

The horse glanced back at her, and seemed to roll it's eyes. That was another thing about this animal. It seemed to have a personality all to itself. And there was nothing pleasant about it. It's main purpose seemed to concern her own percieved idiocy. It was not impressed with her speech.

Ilyena sighed and jerked on the reins again, kicking the horse once with her heels. The horse shifted and took several steps forward. Delighted, Ilyena repeated the process, and the horse took several more steps forward. It is working! The horse kept moving, with a little encouragement now and again, moving at a lethargic pace. She frowned; this was not nearly quick enough. Sharply, she kicked into the horse's sides, and it trotted forward several steps before slowing down once more. Resisting the urge to scream, the Aes Sedai grimaced. She could, theoretically, just Travel to the city, but she did not know her starting point, and it would take longer to map it out than it would to ride. And she had no where to skim to.

Besides, she had taken up the challenge, she was not going to back down from the stubborn stallion now. Jerking the reins to the left, she felt the horse move to the side. Now, one pointed kick, and the horse began to move again. Triumph flared within her, and she once more directed the horse forward, kicking after several seconds passed. Perhaps this would work after all.

Sleep gone like mist, slwoly, refusing to fade. Narishma yawned and try to seat on the bed, he remembered he hadn't slept in his bed, and the reason for this, half way to the floor. Cursing silently, and rubbing his side, he stood slowly. Mierin is not here! The thought sent him to saidin before he finished it. The sword that fell from his hands before flew to him. In less than a heartbeat he was ready to fight. All this just because she is not were you can keep an eye on her? He asked himself. It was terror that woke him, enough fear to wake him from a sleep as deep as he slept.

"Calm down, Narishma, there is no need to sulk." Mierin said, stepping through a black hole that appeared in the air. There was something behind her, but he ignored it, focusing on her, she wore man's clothes, his, for that matter, she even had the silver pin of a dedicated on her collar and the dragon of the Asha'man too. His clothes should be huge on her, but she somehow made the neccessary changes. They were still too big on her, but somehow, she looked stunningly beautiful even so. Silverlike hair and night black cloths only made her more exotic. The contrast made his eyes focus on her face.

"The bond," He answered her, only half of his mind could think on an answer. Well, quarter, at least! The rest was too busy admiring her. "Don't you dare simply disappear on me like this again," He fought to keep his voice calm. "You've no idea how much you've worried me!"

"I worried you!" She snapped, "You slept like a baby when I left, what was I suppose to do? I simply went for a little walk, not even a stone head like you can say anything wrong about it!" She was barefoot, he noticed, he couldn't remember where he put her clothes after he put her in his bed. She can be dangerous, he reminded himself, be careful. "And if this is not enough for you, Jahar Narishma," Her tone was molten ice, frozen fire. For some reason she remind him of saidin. In order to control the male half of the True Source you've to fight it for every heartbeat you were full of life and corruption. He wasn't fool enough to try fighting with her, he had the devastating feeling that she would always win. And wouldn't even breath hard doing it. A soldier had to learn what fight one had to avoid. "I've found shadowspawn in this so-called safest of all places!"

Narishma looked at her for twenty heartbeats before coming back to himself, for the first time, he look beyond her, and groaned in desperation. He wanted to strangle her, "Let him go, Mierin." He said, saidin flowed in him, as much as he could take, ecstasy so strong it became almost pain. He accepted the struggle gladly, the harder he had to fight saidin, the better. He didn't want to think about Flinn, hanging in the air, mouth gagged, eyes glaring.

"Have you heard me, Asha'man Narishma?" The woman made his tamper flared faster and stronger than it ever did. "He was hiding shadowspawn in-"

"I've heard you, woman." He snapped at her, Flinn's glare promised death at best, or something worse. How did you force your will on a warder? Something to with your own will, as far as he heard. He had no intention to take a warder until the Last Battle, at least. It wasn't fair to take a woman as your warder when you might die a day after tomorrow, or even during the next hour. Now he cursed his lack of interest in the subject, "Mierin," he said, he tried to... push the knot of emotions in the back of his head, push it with his will alone, "let Flinn go."

Pushing wasn't quite what he did, but words were often useless, if it came to describing what one did when one used the One Power. He should have choosed his words more carefully. So he discovered, Mierin appearantly simply withdraw her flows. She held Flinn three feet about the floor, and the graying Asha'man crushed into the floor as soon as Mierin complied the order. He discovered one more thing, forcing his order was extremely unpleasant, for himself, not for her. What he felt for it was only true and deep distaste, he had no idea whatever this particular emotion resulted from the bond, or whatever it was something that belonged entirely to him. Sending a hard glance to Mierin, she seemed to be unaffected by what had just done.

Flinn, however, was affected. And not for the good side of it.

"This is your warder, Asha'man?" He asked in a hard voice. And saidin filled him to bursting. The man was strong, how could Mierin capture him?

"Hardly, and not of my choice." He answered, Lanfear is second to Ishmael alone. The thought troubled him, and for a good reason. "What has she done?" Mierin opened her mouth, he enjoyed very much gaping it with air. He could feel her glare on his back, but she did nothing. She did held saidar, he could fill the tingling on his arms. But all she did was glaring at him.

Flinn nearly shock with anger, "That... That...."

"However I'd her, Ahsa'man Flinn," He said, before he would have to do anything beyond saying, "She is still my warder."

"I want my Trollocs back, Narishma. She burned them all." Flinn said angrily, Narishma thought that was the first time the Asha'man lost his temper.

His flows were torn apart, and he grunted in surprise, staring at his warder, she gave his the tiniest smile possible, "What have you done with those Trollocs?" Mierin asked. "What could anyone do with Trollocs save-"

"I will make sure you'll have your trollocs back by this time tomorrow." Narishma said, "Mierin simply made a mistake, I... will have a talk with her about it." And just to clear the point, he wove Traveling, and a gateway resolved into Flinn's room. The man chose to live in the part of the Dragonmount that was empty of people, not that there was a part that didn't. Staring into the man's rooms, Narishma did his best not to shiver. The man took Healing all too seriously. The man insisted on studying everything he could about Healing, everything.

Flinn had nothing to say, apperantly, or too much to, but Narishma nearly collapsed when the man only muttered something about men and boys that Narishma pretended not to hear. "Make sure she will not do such thing ever again, Asha'man." Flinn said aloud, in a very cold voice.

"I've no intention of allowing it," Narishma murmured, half to himself, half to Flinn and Mierin.

"Is there any explanation to why he kept shadowspawns in here?" Mierin asked as soon the gateway began to turn and disolve. "And what make you even think that I will allow you to-"

"I think we need to talk, before both of us will say things that we might regret saying." He cut her off, Light, I'm too tired to do anything but sleeping. Certainly too tired to have such an important conversation. But he saw no way of delaying it.

Her mood was lightning quick, she took a chair, the most comfortable one in the room, not that it meant something, and motioned him to seat, as it it wasn't his rooms they were in. "You've spoke about something called Tuning, Narishma, what was that?" She began.

Narishma took the chair, one thing was clear, he will never be bored with her, for some reason, he couldn't recall what was so bad in being bored. "Tuning is..." He began, then stopped, not sure how to define something he wasn't really sure he understood himself. "When an Asha'man bonds a woman as a warder, the weave needs to... change her, and him, so to speak. It doesn't really change who you are, it..." He signed, forcing down a yawn. "It make sure that the Asha'man and the warder would be able to live together without killing each other. It has something to do with changing the way you feel for certain things, such as the Dark One, or the Asha'man. As far as I understand, it's not recommended to stay awake while it take place, your behaviour varries, and there is no limit to what you may do." He smile was wry, the turrent of life and curraption was the only thing that kept him awake. "I don't really know much about it, I never planned to marry."

She froze to his words, "We are not married." She said, she sounded like a queen.

"There is no difference, Mierin." He explained, "In the Black Tower, your warder is your wife, and the bond is equal to marriage." This time, he couldn't hide the yawn.

"Really?" Her tone was dangerous, but he was simply too tired to care. He let saidin go, and nearly collapsed when the walls saidin created, the walls that barred his emotion and body, collapsed. He nearly collapsed himself.

"Bah!" Mierin snort in disgust, "You're too tired even to think!" Her tone changed, "Can you carry yourself to bed?" He was too tired to understand the new emotion he could feel through her.

"Mierin," that was the last he said, everything seemed to crush on him, he hadn't slept enough, and was too tired to fight sleep. Surrender was something alien to those who held saidin, but this time, Narishma had no choice. He had to make one last effort before he give up to sleep, and to dreams. "Don't do anything... drastic." With that his energy ended, and he could sleep.

Mierin looked at the man that claimed to be her husband for a long time. Every part of his body would ache if he would continue to sleep like this. She saw no reason that it should bother her. No reason at all. He sounded barely coherent, talking about Tuning emotions and marriage as if he was sleeping already. "I've seen more men dying that I can count." She muttered to herself when she wove Air. "I've killed and tortured more times that I want to think about," That was true, her actions during the time she named herself Lanfear made her stomach uneasy. "Why should I care if a man already half mad wouldn't sleep well?"

On the other hand, if what he said was right, she was also married to Lews Therin, married for less than a day. "That is what happened when you let a man kiss you," She grumbled, releasing her weave and letting Narishma drop to bed. "Troubles!"

For some reason, the idea of being married to Lews Therin hadn't its affect on her. "I hate this!" She murmured, seating on the edge of the bed. "I really hate it, and you too, Narishma!" She hated not being sure what she felt. Not being sure where she was heading to.

"Death, probably." She murmured, "Again!" She didn't like the thoughtabout dying, not when she knew what was expecting her. She didn't like the thought about her own death even when she had no idea what death truly mean. But her course was set, "To run from one prison, just to find myself in another. And no way to flee or even to twist the bars!" Her laugh was hollow even to her own ears. "That is just the thing you would have gotten youself into before the War, Mierin. But not it's not a game, woman. And you can't leave, not now, not forever."

"Burn all men!" She grumbled, tucking her legs beneath her, and seating more comfortably so she could stare at Narishma with unhidden hate. She hated him! "And let saidin burn with them!" If only she could see the weave used to bind her, if only... The last time you tried doing such thing, Mierin, you set the Dark One free. Said a small voice inside her, What can not be altered must be accepted, the voice continued, sounding so reasonable that she wanted to throw something at it. Are you a-? She muted the voice hastily. And pictured herself stumping on it, just for good measures.

"Who am I? What I've become?" She asked the air aloud. She was used to control the world around her, and despite it when she couldn't. Before, she always back away before everything crushed on her. Now... "Can I escape you, mia'cova'asham'man?" Mia'cova'asham'man, the Asha'man who is my owner.

Her mind reversed the questioned, Can you escape me, mia'da'covale'asha'man? Mia'da'covale'asha'man, the Asha'man who is owned by me. A small smile twisted her lips, a satisfied grin. Here was a man that could never leave her, who couldn't even consider the option of leaving her for another woman. And somehow, she didn't think the prison she was in now was so horrible now, not when she thought about it fully. Not when the bars held Narishma as well as herself.

"So I'm to be your wife?" Her voice chimed. "I wonder who will win the bargain, Narishma. You see, I've no intention of losing."

The first gateway she wove was into a room that was placed almost half way around the world from where she was. The second were to the lands beyond the Aiel waste, a land called Shara, and two or three dozens names beside. The third were to Tar Valon, the forth, to the Blight.

Riber shifted his feet, sighing as he glanced at the sky. Guard duty. How incredibly boring it was. Just what had he been thinking when he'd signed up to the city watch? Of course, considering that his only options had been the Watch, or taking over his Father's inn, he'd chosen the Watch. This bit of recollection, however, did nothing to alleviate his boredom.

A moment more, and he would have sighed again, but glancing out of the open gates, he saw, approaching, a fine black stallion being very clumsily ridden by a tall, slender, finely dressed woman.

Light, this woman looked like she'd never been on a horse in her life. Considering how she was dressed, Riber assumed that she was either a merchant or a noblewoman, her poise cried out Queen. Of course, that was ludicrous, but the guard smiled at the notion nonetheless. Golden haired, clumsy Queen. As he observed, the woman stopped some fifteen feet from the gates, leaned over the stallion's side and slowly slid down, further showing her lack of riding experience. As soon as the woman began to walk, however, all thoughts of clumsiness were banished from the man's mind. Her every movement was grace, flowing like water over a fall. Riber snorted at his own overblown romanticism, knowing the mental poetry was unskilled and clumsy itself.

The woman had reached the gates, though, and no matter how infatuated he was with her appearance, he was still obligated to question her.

Ilyena frowned at the man who held out a hand to stop her. He seemed puzzled that she did not automatically do so, truth to tell. She had seen the wall, and wondered as to it's appearance. Walls did no good, with the power she could topple down any wall, unless made of heart stone, and the ideas of so much cuandilar was ridicules. And the dangers of a city came as often from within as from without. Still, the wall seemed to fit into this whole strange scenario, this almost dreamlike situation. Or it would have been dreamlike if she hadn't been required to work so hard to move but a few spare miles. For some reason, the stories seemed to ignore such things.

The man began to speak then. Ilyena blinked. He seemed to be speaking an incredibly primitive language, a butchered and maimed version of the Common World tongue. Her confusion must have shown because he soon halted and stared at her. He then began to speak in the slow, incredibly irritating manner that people tend to take when speaking to a foreign citizen, emphasizing every syllable. Grimacing once more, Ilyena reached into herself, and embraced saidar, weaving with Spirit to form the solution. It was an almost forgotten weave, something she had learned long ago and all but forgot, there was never a need for the weave before.

The woman must be a foreigner, but what foreigner did not speak Common? Everyone spoke Common, thought the guard matter of factly. And then suddenly, the woman smiled to herself and spoke.

"Guardsman," she nodded her head slightly. Now that was even stranger. She had not understood what he was saying but a moment ago, Riber was sure. The incomprehension had been in her lovely blue eyes, brilliant there. And now she seemed to understand perfectly. He almost shuddered. What if this woman was an Aes Sedai? Aes Sedai could do all sorts of strange things, and in these troubled times, when the Dragon himself walked again, and the Dark One was breaking free, anything was possible.

Rumors of Aes Sedai all around, as well as, terrifyingly, an order of male channelers who followed the Dragon - as if that cursed man had not broken the world once with male channelers! Was he so determined to do it again? - one woman approaching a gate being Aes Sedai was not all that unlikely. Not after he had seen one of those black cloths, and black soul, Asha'man enterring the Sun Palace as if he owned it. Still, Riber felt so regretful as he watched her. She was so very beautiful.

It really was a shame. Of course, it wasn't a fact that she was Aes Sedai, but he saw vividly that sudden, magical comprehension in her eyes, and felt that it was true.

Ilyena gazed upon the man, carefully, seeing the sudden light and - regret? - in his eyes. What had he to be regretful for? It put her on her guard, and she inwardly tensed, ready to use upon saidar at the slightest provocation.

"What is you name, Lady?" the man inquired curtly, all business, not making a move toward her. Inwardly, she frowned. This was all very puzzling.

"Ilyena Therin Dalisar," she said.

The man nodded, and then paused for a moment, frowing at her and giving brief shake of his head. "What mother can be so cruel to give her own daughter such a name?" he muttered under his breath. Too low for her to hear if she wasn't holding saidar.

Ilyena frowned once more. Slightly angry, there was nothing wrong with her name, and any way, no one here would recognize it anyway. An Age had passed, and thus she had used it without fear of persecution should the man turn out to be a Friend of the Dark. What was so strange about it?

The man must have noticed her frowning, for he tensed once more, and said, "And you are from?"

Ilyena blinked and said, "Shal Tera." What else could she say? It was the city that the Palace she had lived in with Lews Therin had bordered. She knew not the names of any modern city, and so was counting upon the lack of recognition to perhaps convince the man she came from a city far too small or remote to be recognized.

He frowned once more at her, deeply, and said "I don't recognize that name. What country is it in?"

Light burn it all but she had no answers to that. Why was she answering his questions at all. She was Aes Sedai! But if what Moridin said was true, and it very much looked to be so, then she was stranded in a time she knew nothing of, and thus needed to learn their ways. Still, enough was enough. The man was a common guard and customs official. She knew of those, and there was nothing to learn there. Quickly, Ilyena drew upon the Source, weaving skillfully, and draping a blanket upon the man's senses, smothering his awareness. A moment later, and both she and her horse, whom she had, during the ride, decided to call Halec, after an old folk tale about the proverbial "Most Stubborn Man in the World," were through the gates. Of course, the tale was very old, those who composed it never knew Lews Therin.

Merchants hawked their wares, women gossiped with neighbors, Men strode boldly in to taverns, and children played in the streets. Some things never change. Ilyena led Halec along the main street, eyes wide as she inspected the beings all around her. Some things never change, but Ilyena felt a sinking feeling in her heart as she realized that many other things did, and in very significant manners. It hit her then that the time she was stranded within seemed to have regressed, rather than progressed, that something must have happened to completely set back development. That brought her thoughts back to another matter. The Aes Sedai of the Age.

Had they regressed as well? Is that why Moridin had called them "half-trained children?" But that was ludicrous. The Hall would never allow such a thing to happen. Ilyena inwardly sneered. If the man had lied about nothing else, he had lied about that. The Hall took it's responsibilities very seriously, and protected it's secrets closely. But then, how could the Hall have allowed the world itself to regress?

This was all meaningless speculation; she could not make any conclutions without more extensive information. Perhaps when she found Lews Therin, he would tell her. But, would Lews Therin accept her? Would she accept him, would she ever be able to forgive him? She could not decieve herself, and think that all was well, that she was not angry with him. She kept it buried deep, but she was angry. It threatened to bubble over in a rush of rage, but she surpressed it, forcing it down in her chest, chocking on it's tendrils. Her own death was not something she could forget, how many others had he killed? All their children were in the palace, every friend she or he had in the world. Lews Therin had gathered them all, to make sure they would be safe, how many had he killed before he stopped? Or had been stopped?

No, this was not the time to confront these issues. Before that happened, she must first find him. And how was she to do that when she knew nothing now of the world? Confront that issue first, Ilyena thought to herself.

Leading her horse to a fruit stand, she smiled at the merchant in chanrge. The man blushed furiously, and rubbed his hand across the back of his neck, eyes flickering from her to the apples in his stand, and then back to her. Ilyena knew her own attractiveness, but this man's reaction was rather overstated. Perhaps he was simply shy.

"Hello, sir," Ilyena said, she hated this new language, how could they abandon the more civilized tongue?

"Mistress," the man bobbed his head at her.

"Sir, can you tell me the name of this city?" Ilyena asked, putting on her prettiest smile.

The man's face went blank, gapping shock. "You don't know, Mistress?"

"I've rarely been away from my home," she said.

"Yes, yes," the man said, "You do have a strange accent. Pardon me, mistress. Hope you don't take no offense."

"None taken."

"Right mistress. Hope you don't take it wrong, but you looked like you're worried about something, when I saw you to begin with, if you know what I mean. Don't know as I agree with a young lady like yourself running away from her home, but perhaps you have good reason," he bobbed his head again, but Ilyena had frozen in shock. Young? The last she'd seen her own face, she had the face of a woman in her late twenties, the way the man said it made her feel like a girl that shouldn't have left her mother's skirts.

"The city?" she whispered, shocked.

"Cairhien," the man said. "I know it's a crazy place to be just to sell apples, but these are crazy times, if you know what I mean." Ilyena, though she was hardly in the know of current happenings, nodded. It was certainly crazy for her.

"Thank you, sir. I appreciate your assisstance," Ilyena acknowledged.

"You're welcome, Mistress," the man nodded after her, head bobbing all the while.

Ilyena, caught up in her own thoughts as she led Halec away, did not noticed as the man scuttled off from his stand, an intent look upon his face.

The apple merchant bowed before the lord, staring up in greed and trepidation. "You have something for me?" the lord demanded, rather petulantly. It was time for his bath, and his extra-marital companion would be annoyed should he be late for their session at her estate.

"Yes, Lord Vernhar," the merchant said, bobbing his head. "There's a woman, a foreigner and nobelwoman, it looks like. She was dressed in a finely cut yellow riding suit, and she wore all fine and pretty silver jewlery. Real items. She was young, around twenty five. She had long gold hair and blue eyes, slender. One of the prettiest girl I've ever seen in my life," the man smiled as he said it.

Vernhar glanced down with annoyance, "Stop drooling, you old lech. Now, take your gold and go," he tossed the bag of gold he held in his hand toward the old merchant, who caught it with greedy paws. However attractive the woman was to him, the gold of her hair apparently could not compete with the gold of coinage.

A foreign young noblewoman, Mikel Vernhar mused, What is she here for?

One thing was certain. Whatever it was, Vernhar meant to find out.

It was the cold that woke him, or so he thought, a flash of freezing wind, that somehow took all his tiredness as it touch him. When he opened his eyes, the very first thing he noticed was Mierin, his warder and wife, moving away from him. "It's about time you'll wake." She said seirously, there was no hint of mockery in her, and the foolishness she wore as a mask before was gone. "I took care of the exhaustion, but I wouldn't reccomend it for you to tired yourself, you're simply unaware of your body exhaustion."

"What happened to you?" He asked, rising from the bed, he had to take a bath, and change his cloths, he noticed. The room wasn't his own, that was another thing he noticed. He clapsed his teeth hard, he wasn't about to ask questions, and she could burn if she thought he would dance to her will. Where was he? The rooms were black and white and silver, pleasant to the eye, but not in any design he could recognize.

She blinked to his words, "What do you mean?" She truly sound as if she had no idea what he was talking about.

Another thought came to him, horrifing, "How much time I've slept?" He asked, his voice cold and hard. The Lord bloody Dragon set the time for the cleansing of saidin. If he had slept for more than a day... He couldn't let himself miss the most important event in the entire age.

"Four or five hours," She replayed. "There is still a full day before Lews Therin means to cleanse saidin." She tilted her head slightly, "I still don't understand how he is about to do so."

Apperantly, bath would have to wait. He didn't smell that bad! Rising from the bed, he scanned the room quickly, hoping to do it without being noticed. The bed was made of black wood, but the blanket and the mattress were pure white. The bed posts each had a silver thread running throught them in a complex pattern. The floor of the room had a carpet, black and white, with silver sinuous line separating the two halves of the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai.

The walls were utter black that returned no light. The only source of light were a small globe. White and silver spot that seemed to struggled and moved around each other. He could see silvers lines in the wall, pointing him to a wardrobe. They were in his rooms. She simply changed them, in the space of four hours? He wondered, how could she...? He let the question drop, he doubt if there was something she couldn't do.

"You decorated this room?" He asked, as if there was any other option.

She incline her head, "Don't you like it?" She asked, she sound almost... hesitated. "I think that I would have like it better if it would have been silver and white alone. But since you're Asha'man, I thought you would like me to add some black colors too." She changed her cloths, he noticed. To a dress in the white and silver she seemed to be so fond of. The dress made her pretty, but he didn't like her in white, she looked... pale.

"White doesn't fit you," he noted before he thought. He winced inside, waiting for the explosion. He had no more choice but to carry on. "You have pale colors, and white only make you..." He cut off when he glanced at her face.

"I see," That was all she said. He found himself wishing for any other responce.

"I didn't mean to insult you, Mierin."

"Do I deserve the name?" She asked sharply, "I gave it up long ago, Narishma. I doubt if I can simply gain it back. I was named Cyndane, that seemed to fit." She laughed bitterly, mirthlessly. "It fit very well."

Last chance? The betrayer Dashiva insisted to teach him some of the Old Tongue. "Dark colors will fit you better, Mierin." He continued, if he was about to walk over the cliff, he might as well do his best to make a good show the way down. "They would make a lovely constract to your hair and face."

She bit her bottom lip and turned her back to him. His skin tingled. "I wish I could hurt you, Narishma." He almost missed her whisper. He could tears in her eyes, "I don't like you, I don't like what happened. By now, the hounds had been sent. Myradraals, Darghkar, the Chosen, Shaidar Haran," There was so much fear in the name she spat that his hands closed to fists before he was aware of it. If he would ever have half a chance, this Shaidar Haran was as good as death, just because The Hand of the Dark made Mierin afraid.

"The Lord Dragon delayed the cleansing because of you, Mierin." He said, "I think we have about one more day before it will all start. Meantime, why don't you let me explain everything to you." It wasn't a matter of choice, with the bond, his mind knew it, everything that would try to harm Mierin would have to pass through him. The bond changed emotions, pattern of thinking, even when you were aware of its affects. It seemed to be his own idea, to protect her against everything in his power.

He would first have to learn what made her so afraid, he had no intestion to let her stay that way.

Half an hour later, he found that he enjoyed her company. It was a pleasant surprise, "You see, it's not that the bond force me to love you, or the other way around." He answered a question she had just asked him, "What the bond does force is loyality, the impulse to protect, to preserve. I will never truly feel relaxed unless I'll have you in my sight. You are more important to me than my own life."

"That is not something a soldier can afford himself," Mierin noted, and he nodded.

"Yes, it isn't. But in certain circumstances, I can put your life in danger, even sacrifice you, if there is a need of it."

"Oh?" She said, "And what are those circumstances?"

"I must have your permission, not the words, just knowing that you are ready to give up your life in this particular course of events. That you value the cause of my actions, where it put you in risk, more than you value the danger to your skin."

She began to laugh, "It make no sense, Narishma." She said, "No sense at all."

He smiled at her, wonderring if she knew how beautiful she looked, smiling, laughing. "I told you before, I don't know much about the bond." Waiting for her laugh to die, he stared at pale eyes, "Now you're ready to answer my questions? I've certainly answered enough of yours."

"I think," She suggested, "that for every question you ask, I'll ask one too. I think that is the only way in which both of us can be satisfied."

"Why are you so afraid of Shaidar Haran?" He asked immediatly.

"Why do you obey Lews Therin?" She shot back. If he couldn't feel her emotions, he would have never known about that cold wave of terror that threaten to drowned her. "That is why I'm afraid of Shaidar Haran! He can make the source vanish, even when you're holding it. He had done as much to me! I've seen it happen to others!" She rose from the chair and faced him, her eyes lighten with anger. "Only a fool fears nothing, Jahar Narishma!" She hissed at him, "And it take a greater fool to face what I've and not afraid the results of my actions."

"And what exactly have you faced?" He kept his voice calm, and his head too. But he, too, rose from the chair.

Pale face became paler, and she sat down in her chair, face calm, her eyes regarded him with a ilent warning. "Why all this space? No one live in here anyway, why wasting so much of the One Power making it?"

He wasn't ready to let her get away of it. But he let it go, for now, at least, he would find out the truth from her one way or the other. "We've all done it, a circle including all of us, fourteen Aes Sedai and four Asha'man, led by Rand al'Thor. A safe place, maybe the last of them, so the Lord Dragon call this place. This is to be the last resource before the end." Narishma didn't like to think about it. There was a slight difference between preferring for the worst and heading this way. "This place could easily contain more than one million people in abslute safety." The smile on his face was wry, he wasn't aware of it. "It can hold off a another breaking."

"Million people, and no source of food." Mierin said. She pointed a slender finger at him, "What are they suppose to eat, or to drink?"

"There are water enough about a mile below us," he said, "as for food," it was then when he realize why she asked that question, "We get our food from the Sun Palace's kitchen." He embraced saidin, life and death and so much sweatness he thought he might begin crying. The gateway opened into a small corner in the kitchen in the Sun Palace in Cairhien. A corner that none of the kitchen's workers would even look at. He was hungry, Mierin was starved.

He glanced at the widnows of the kitchen for a moment, it was evening, it was very easy to forget time entirely where you lived in a place where you never seen the sun.

"My Lord Asha'man," a tall man, and almost as fat as he was tall, bowed to him, "How can I serve you?" Narishma looked at him, that was new. He wondered who was responsible for this. A word from an Asha'man lips meant more to commoner than a speach of the High Lords of Tear. And no wonder about it.

If this continue, Narishma thought grimly, at the end they will crown one of us! Did Cairhienin never thought about talking with someone, instead of bowing to him? "Some food if all I need." He answered quietly. It heartbeat, so it seemed, he had a tray full of food in his hands, more than any five men could eat together. Mierin peeked through the gateway, and send him a grin that took the breath right from his throat.

"Thanks you," He said, there was no need to be rude. Smiling, he went back to his quarters, just seeing the look on the man's face was worth it all. Mierin took a a piece of bread from the tray before he took three steps. Until he put the tray on the single table he owned it seemed that at least half of the tray was gone.

"Have you used saidar?" He said, clear blue eyes stared at him, his skin tingle, she held an apple in one hand and some kind of a cookie in the other. She nodded, calmly.

For himself, he used more... traditional methods and used a spoon. "Now," He said, she finished the apple already. "You're going to tell me all the things you've avoided." She opened her mouth, but he wasn't ready to have it, not any more. Stabbing the air in her direction with a spoon he said, "I can have it with your will or mine, Mierin, the choice is yours."

It took a little more than an hour, with Mierin's eyes stared at his face, her face and voice held no warmth, her eyes were a raging storm, blue fire. The food lied abandoned, he doubt if he could eat ever again. Now he began to wonder if he really needed to know half what she told him. He wanted to cry, not for himself, but for her.

He remembered dying, he knew he was mad. But he couldn't make himself care about it. Ilyena, the thought sent shivers of pain in Lews Therin's mind. A pain stronger than any of the body. Today was the day. The day his action will be erased, maybe some of the guilt he carried would be eased after today. He didn't thought so, but he could always hope. Hope is all I've. All I've left for the world. He said, or thought, the other man, another reflection of himself, ignored him. I've seen hope die too many times to believe it could exist anymore. Sammael destroyed hope, Ishmael betrayed it. I alone had killed the last remants the shadow left. Hope died that day in Shayol Ghul. Hope died in the Breaking. Those who survived envied the dead, but even death hold no peace for the dragon. Not even death halts fate. How many died for my pride? How many have died for yours? How many will die?

The man ignored him, tried to mute him, Lews Therin could break the walls of the prison, but it would take too much effort. He watched through eyes that weren't his own, but still were his. Logain, Leane, Toveine and Halima. It wasn't his mind that recalled the names. Words were exchanged, Lews Therin ignored them, nothing could matter this day, nothing save saidin. He wasn't the one control the flow of the male half of the True Source that washed him in life. That rotten his very soul. But he could feel it as if he was the one who struggled against the source, when the slightest mistake meant death, when you danced with saidin on the razor edge on bare feet. With saidin flowing through him, he could do anything, he had done anything. Death is lighter than a feather. Again, it wasn't him who qouted the saying.

Others arrived, fourteen women that called themselves Aes Sedai, girls messing with powers they knew nothing about. It could have been almost amusing, if he could ignore the memories of what had been done to him by them. Today, the urge to kill, to destory, had to be muted, they were needed, later... it might not be necessary. Lews Therin abandoned hope long ago, all he had left was the urge to revenge. He couldn't believe anything would result this day's deed, save death. This is how the world die, he said in a soft voice, you are trying very hard to destroy the world, my name awakes nightmares in every soul alive. You will leave none for the nightmares.

Ilyena, he could save her, if only he could trust Mierin's words. She hadn't lied to him, but the idea was ridiculous. If only he could forget duty, if only for a little while, that small time needed to travel to Shayol Ghul. If only the other side of him, a reflection of him that still believed there might be a victory without a price beyond his worst nightmares, would've been ready to give up. He gain control on the body, not on saidin, and that was what mattered.

Aes Sedai's gift? Lews Therin refused to answer, it was hard, when the other could read his thoughts. Always a price that is lower than you could ever wish, always a price beyond your wildest dream. But can I allow myself not pay that price? Can I allow myself be other than the Dragon Reborn?

Answer me, Lews Therin! Light burn your soul! Answer me! The other demanded. But Lews Therin cloud himself in silence, griefing his long dead Ilyena.

Ilyena Sunhair swallowed in near-fear as she gazed upon her own image, reflected back in the small, ornately decorated mirror that hung from the stand where various trinkets and small furniture were displayed. She had wandered deeper into the market place after leaving the apple stand, searching with a singleminded determination for a surface in which to see her own reflected image. She had found it. The mirror before her was small and the glass itself was crudly crafted, but it reflected clearly the image of a young woman in her twenty, creme skin smooth and clear, blue eyes large and bright, lips dark red, golden hair shining brilliantly without a touch of grey. The face were right, maybe younger than she remembered, but... all the rest, the body language mainly, were of a young woman. Only the eyes remain unchanged, as she remembered them, deep blue that hides many secrets.

Light' she thought, for the first time truly understanding what happened to her. She pushed it away before, not wanting to realize what happened. It was too painful to think about, but now she had to. Light help me, what has happened to me? I was dead! How did they ressurect my body? Death cannot be Healed, who did this? And How? Light, why didn't I think of this before? Was I just too overwhelmed? What? I'm young again? Young and lost more thouroughly than I could ever have in my world. It may be the same planet, but this truly is a different world. Primitive fools! They don't know what was lost! How was it lost?!

Despair rose within her, and for the first time, she truly realized that she was alone. Alone. Except for her horse. Turning to Halec, she clumsily scrambled upon the saddle, reaching forward to firmly pat his neck. At least she had no need in a rock this time.

"Stubborn male," she thought, and realized that her musings of the horse were fond. "Perhaps you'll make a friend yet, Halec. You'll take me to Lews Therin, won't you?"

The horse wickered softly, and a woman walking past gasped in horror as she overheard Ilyena's question. She glared fiercly at the Aes Sedai and hissed, "Darkfriend!" before hurrying on, pale face.

Darkfriend? A Friend of the Dark? What had she done to warrent such an accusation? What had she said? Absently, she kicked at Halec's sides with her heels. The horse glanced over his shoulder at her, eyes stubborn, and she realized that no matter her fondness, he was still going to make her learn proper riding method, even if he had to drag her kicking and screaming.

Ilyena slid down from the horse once more, sighing as she wondered what to do. She had no coin; she could not procure a room in any inn. Where their Aes Sedai who might take her in, upon honouring their Order? Perhaps so.

She hated to depend upon charity, but a wise woman knew when to surrender her pride. It would soon be dark, and she did not want to spend the night out in a cold, unfamiliar city. Drawing a deep breath, Ilyena embraced saidar, and sent out probing tendrils of Power, searching for a trained Aes Sedai presence. Over the city in sweeping motions until finally she found a being filled with saidar. Someone was embracing the Source, but it was so rough, so crass, so very clumsy. How could anyone save an ignorant fool wield the Source in this manner? Perhaps this one had not yet come to know her gift; there were parties searching and testing and training a those with the potential at all times, but no one was found instantly. There was always the chance that this girl had not been found yet. But something disturbed Ilyena, as she continued to search. Two more beings she found, in similar condition. One was possible, but three in the same city, unaware of their gift? It was not possible. And there were no trained Aes Sedai around her. Still... perhaps if she found one of these girls she could tell them of their gift, and thus gain hospitality for the night. Those who found they could channel were usually ecstatic. Course decided, Ilyena once more tested the waters, as it were, searching for the strongest presence. There it was. Now she had a destination.

She had come to a small, seemingly private home far from the hassle and bustle of the inner city. It was painstakingly neat looking, prim and proper. Ilyena dismounted from Halec, and tied the reigns to the tree which decorated the yard. Meeting the stallion's dark eyes, Ilyena said, "Stay here, please," she said, voice firm.

The horse shifted, and titled it's head in a most curious manner, seeming to acquiesce. Ilyena smiled in exasperation, turning away to mount the stairs of the little house. Without warning, the door flew open, and a woman, hard looking, ageless, and yet still managing to project age, glided out. Her eyes were sharp, intimidating, and presumptuous. Ilyena despised her on sight.

"What are you doing with that horse on my lawn, girl?" the woman asked calmly.

"Stopping so that I may being myself in to contact with you, girl," Ilyena replied with equal calm, hiding her distaste skilfully. The face told the entire story, a criminal, only a criminal would have to bind using a binder. And there was no use talking to a criminal that could barely touch saidar at will.

"You're arrogant enough," the woman said, more to herself than to Ilyena. "What do you intend to do?" Inwardly, Ilyena snorted. This woman, able to channel or no, and she most certainly was one, and no young girl, was ignorant. She'd no right to speak to an Aes Sedai in such a manner.

"I will thank you to speak to treat me with respect, woman," Ilyena said curtly, imperiously, summoning every inch of Aes Sedai aura she could possibly project.

The woman narrowed her eyes, seeming taken aback for a moment, as though seeing Ilyena in a new light, and then said, "What cause have I to show you respect, girl? I was ordering queens when you were in swaddles, no doubt about that. Respect isn't the due of arrogant girls who haven't learned any lessons on how to speak to their elders. I'm Aes Sedai, girl."

Aes Sedai? Oh that was laughable. Ilyena knew what she was speaking to now. One of those idiot fools who found they could channel, and pretended to be Aes Sedai, lording it over the hapless fools around them who didn't know better, who would cower away from one who could channel when they abused it. Such things were rare in her own age, only once in her own life time, and twice in the millenia before. Anger bubbled up within Ilyena, and her face froze, a statue now carved of ice. Frozen flames of azure her eyes became as she took three steps forward, until she was but a foot from the woman.

"Whatever your name may be, you have slandered the name of the Hall. You know nothing of what it means to be Aes Sedai. You are a fool blundering in the dark, a fool flirting with doom. I suggest that you cease immediately, stop this nonsense, and perhaps you will have a chance of surviving the punishments of true Aes Sedai," her voice was hard as stone.

"I am Cadsuane, girl," the woman whispered, soft and deadly, as though it should mean something, "I am true Aes Sedai, as true as they come."

"You are an untrained, ignorant child who's manage some rudimentary control, and used the Power enough to reach some Slowing. That is all. You are no Aes Sedai. Perhaps had you gone to the Hall when you were younger, you may have been. Perhaps. You haven't much talent, and your face speak for your crime." she noted. The woman had been the strongest presence in the city, but hardly strong for that.

"What Hall, girl?" the woman demanded, then, "The White Tower's it dancing on tip toes around me more time that I can remember. Or do you mean the Hall of Servants? It's lie ruin only three thousands years, no wonder you've not heard about it. You've heard two many stories from the Age of Legends, I think, too many stories, caught up in gleeman's tales too many times. The Hall of Servants is gone, girl!"

Ilyena froze, breath quickening.The Hall of Servants. Gone. Replaced by something called the White Tower? What was that? Where was the Hall?

"Where is the Hall?" she asked aloud. "Where is the Hall? Fool, he didn't lie to me. He said you were all half-trained children now, and he was right. Three beings in the city, rough and ignorant control. You fools. You've desecrated the name of Aes Sedai."

The woman was talking again, arrogant, horribly confident. How dare they? How dare they call themselves Aes Sedai? She realized then that she had shrieked it aloud. Why was she doing this? It was the horror. The whole world was not her own, but the Hall should still be a constant. The Hall should still be there!

"Oh, Light," she whispered, walking over to Halec, ignoring the woman's imperious speaking, "Oh Light, why?"

Vernhar regarded the man before him with a frowning expression. "You are certain?" he inquired, voice deliberately bored.

"I am certain, Lord. She went to the Aes Sedai's housing. She stopped on the lawn, and the Aes Sedai came out. They shouted on each other, but I could not get close, lest I be noticed."

"Did she leave?"

"Eventually. She led her horse away. Neither of them appeared pleased. She or the Aes Sedai, that is."

"Do you know why she was there?" Vernhar asked, his tone deliberatly bored.

"No, Lord. I couldn't get close enough."The man shift his legs nevously.

"Indeed. Approach her. Attempt to gain her confidence. I am curious about this girl," the nobleman mused.

"Approach her?!" the other man gasped, shocked. Never before had his employer requested such a thing.

"Yes. Have you troubles with that?" Rising an eyebrow, he added, "Or with your hearing?"

"She associates with Aes Sedai! For all we know, she could be Aes Sedai!"

"Nonsense. From all descriptions, she's too young. And if she's been arguing with Aes Sedai, she is not on good terms with them. Now go."

"Yes, Lord," the other man spat through gritted teeth.

Ilyena had wandered the city in a daze after she departed from Cadsuane's abode. The woman had been most displeased with her departure, attempting to hold her with flows of Air. They had been pitifully easy to block. At the end, she came close to lose her temper more than once with the woman who claimed to have a title she didn't deserved.

She rode in the street for a little while and finally, she had decided to approach an inn, offering to clear it of rats for a night's rest and a stall for Halec. Considering the primitive state of the world, she had suspected that most places would have a rat problem. She had been right. The innkeeper was most distrusting, eyeing her with outright hate, but he had accepted. Mutters of 'Damn Aes Sedai' had followed her as she took to her room for the night.

Apparently, Ilyena thought to herself as she stared up at the ceiling from her bed, what passed for Aes Sedai now were not well liked by the world. What had happened to bring the world to this state? Briefly, she considered the idea that perhaps the Dark One had won the War, but were that so, the world would be destroyed or overrun by the Shadow's ravages. Even the state of things currently were far better than they would be should that happen. She was ready to scream in frustration. What had happened!?

It was too early to sleep, she noted, and stood from where she flung herself, fully dressed, upon the scratchy blanket. She left her room, and walked downstairs into the common room. There were men and women both, talking, drinking, eating, complaining. She started over to the bar for a glass of water, and then remembered that she had no coin. Frustrated, she stopped, turning about to eye the room once more. Another problem, was the weary thought that rang through her mind. She should have included food and drink into the bargain, but shelter for the night had been upon her mind.

A strand of conversation caught her ear. "I hear the Lord Dragon's not been seen in months," a man said to a friend over a tankard of ale.

"Good riddance to him," his companion muttered.

"No! I don't like him any more than any one else, but if the Last Battle's going to be won, we've no choice but have him. I mean, at first everyone thought he was just another bloody False one, but he's fulfilled too many of the damn bloody prophecies to doubt that he's the bloody Kinslayer come again."

"He's going to Break the World again," the other man muttered, "What's better about that than having the Dark One rule us?"

The other man shrugged and said, "I don't know, but maybe it will be."

"Maybes isn't good enough. I think the Aes Sedai should gentle him, Dragon or no. No man should be able to to touch the Source. Not since Lews Therin." Ilyena rose an eyebrow in surprise, hearing her husband's name. Why would they think that... she could think about it later. Now she listened.

"Well, they didn't, and I think he's grown too powerful to stop. We'll just have to ride out the storm." The two men proceeded to look extremely dejected. Ilyena gaped in shock and swiftly walked over to them.

"You are speaking of Lews Therin?" she demanded of them in excitement. The two men glared up, looks turning considering when they saw her.

"What do you want to know about him, little girl?" the second man asked. He was slightly drunk, she saw now.

"Where is he?"That was the most importnat question.

"No one knows that. Lots of people want to know, but they don't," he chuckled.

"He is called Rand Al'Thor?" she asked.

"Where have you been the last two years, girl? I hear he's an Aiel, surrounded by damn bloody veiled Aiel, hair red as theirs and just as tall. He was here, rule's in all but the crown, of course, but like I say, he hasn't been seen for months. Everyone knows it, honey."

"I am not your honey," she said, suddenly cold. Surrounded by Aiel? No man should channel? Breaking the World? Kinslayer? That one was all too easy to figure out, but what of the others? What did they mean?

The man scowled, "You're the one who came over uninvited. If you're not honey," he said, leering suddenly, "I can show you some," he gestured pointedly.

Ilyena's lips curled into a disgusted sneer, "I think not," she said coldly, turning to leave the table. The man reached out then, hands groping. Ilyena readied a wall of Air for placement when another man suddenly appeared, imposing himself between her and the drunkard.

"The lady said no," the strange man said coldly.

The drunkard snorted and said, "She came over here to begin with."

"To talk," the other said, "Now she's finished." A staring match occurred between the two.

For a moment, Ilyena was sure that the drunk man was going to attack the other, but he eventually settled back in his seat and mutter, "Get away from me, then."He and his silent companion went back to moodily swilling ale.

The strange, intervening man turned to Ilyena then and said, "Hello, my Lady. What is your name?"

"Ilyena-" she started to say Therin, and suddenly realized that the man she had talked to had recognized Lews Therin's name, and so had that woman in the streets, and so had the guard at the gates. It added up. Another Age or no, Lews Therin was known. "Sunhair," she completed. How he felt about it? Even in another age he was known, hated.

"How fitting," the man said, smiling as though he had not noticed the pause. "My name is Der Cal."

"Greetings to you, then," she said, "And thank you for coming to my aid." It really had not been necessary, she thought, but the man had meant well enough.

"I'm surprised to see a noblewoman down in this section of the city," the man said curiously.

"I am not a noblewoman," Ilyena said, "I am Aes Sedai," she did not think to hide it. The state of the world or no, she was what she was, and that was all. If this man could not accept that, he could leave.

Surprise flashed across Der's features. "Aes Sedai? You seem far too young to be Aes Sedai," he noted.

"I have been born very long ago, boy, very long ago." she said, somewhat coldly, she was tired of those games, it wasn't that hard to see how old she was, but no one seemed to guess it.

"Really? I've always wondered what it would be like to live as long as an Aes Sedai. Of course, no man can know that," he said. "I suppose the old Age of Legends Aes Sedai did, but well, that's the whole matter with the Dragon of course, and why am I talking about this. Everyone knows it," he nodded to himself in contemplation. Ilyena stared at him in deep curiosity. Deciding to take a stab in the dark she said, "The man said that the Dragon was Aiel now?"

"Yes," the man snorted, "Imagine that, the Dragon being reborn as a bloody black veiled Aiel. I suppose it's fitting, really, what with all the murders they've commited." Aiel, killing? What a ludicrous notion. Still, the man seemed to take that as a matter of fact. Could even that have changed? Well, if the Hall was gone, why not the vows? She needed to find a Library. Usually, all the answers she needed could be found in a library.

"Where are the Libraries in this city?" she asked.

"Are you sure you're Aes Sedai?" the man inquired, giving her a look as she had asked what colour grass was.

"I am sure," her voice was once more cold.

"Well, there's the Palace Library, of course. Most can't access that, but I'm sure you could. Most are terrified of Aes Sedai, especially now. Just look out for the nobles. They're so deep into the Game of Houses they'll have a dozen hooks and plots into you by the time you take a single step into the Palace. I'm surprised they haven't contacted you, yet. You look like a noblewoman, and that's the truth, whether you are or not. Of course, the last time a man looking like a foreign noble turned up, it was the bloody Dragon Reborn. Turned the whole damn capital inside out with civil war, it did. Perhaps it injected a bit of wariness into them. Then again, this is Cairhien. After all." Ilyena eyed him incredulously, but realized what he was saying, nonetheless. Apparently, this city had a reputation for scheming, but nothing could equal what happened in the Hall of Servants, and worse, in the War of Power. Schemes didn't worried her.

"What is the Dragon Reborn doing?" she asked, curious.

"Well, I'm the type of man whom he share his secret with, but as far as I can see, he's taking over the world. I once heard that he said he's bring peace to the world to face the Dark One when the time came, even if he had to enforce it with an iron fist. Personally, I think it's the only way it'll ever come. The nations are always squabbling with each other," the man said, and then glanced about, "Would you like to take to a table, Ilyena Sedai?"

"Indeed, that would be nice," she said, leading the way to a vacant table nearby. Taking a seat, Der continued, "Anyway, like I said, I don't know much, but he's taken Tear, Andor, Cairhien, Illian, and Tarabon and Arad Doman are all but his. Sure, there's lots of other places, but he's taken all of those in less than two years. Two years! Unbelievable," the man shook his head.

"You seem rather shocked," Ilyena said.

"Well, of course. And interested. It's a popular topic these days. If not a healthy one around nobility. After all, it had taken Arthur Hawkwings ten years just reaching where the Dragon Reborn is now."

"I would imagine so," So, Lews Therin meant to direct an iron fist at Shaol Ghul? That sounded very like him. Did he learn nothing? Endeavours such as he was making now often fell right down upon their makers. What was he thinking? And the answer came to her then. Duty. He was thinking of duty, as he always had, as he always would, for as long as his soul existed. Suddenly, the woman felt very weary, very old. How old must Lews Therin feel? Der had stopped talking, she noticed. He was eyeing her strangely.

"Is there something wrong, Aes Sedai?" he asked solicitously.

"Nothing wrong, Der Cal. Nothing," she whispered, And everything, came the silent rejoinder. "Once more, I thank you for coming to my assistance, and for providing me with this information. I truly appreciate it. Now, I wish to sleep." She stood, and so did Der.

"You're welcome. I can show you to the Library, tomorrow, if you like?" She eyed him strangely. Aiding a woman in a sticky situation was one thing, but offering to show her around a city was quite another. What were the man intentions?

"I mean no offense, My Lady," the said, noticing her look, "It's just that, Aes Sedai or no, the way you ask questions, anyone can tell you're not from here, if you know what I mean."

"I do indeed," she said, lips curling up in a slight smile. "Very well, Der Cal. You will meet me here tomorrow at four hours after the sunrise."

"Deal!" the man exclaimed. He bowed before her then, and swept away, cloak fluttering behind him as he exited the inn.

Ilyena shook her head in amusement and irritation before turning to mount the stairs. Her bed, scratchy blanket and all, awaited.

It would do no good, shouting at Lews Therin, but Rand felt he was about to lose his temper any moment. Alanna's eyes had something to do with it. And Lews Therin taking control, the man wanted to kill Aviendha, planned to kill her, pictured her death. The thought itself tied Rand's stomach in knots of fear and desperation.

Maybe today would change it, maybe. Rand couldn't let himself abandon hope, when that might all he had left. Days of planning, hours of testing weaves with Nynaeve, Logain, Flinn, Narishma, and every last men or women in the Dragonmount that could channel, he couldn't fail now.

He already lost to Lews Therin in one battle, if the taint would continue to sip into him, how long would pass when he wouldn't care anymore? He could never hurt Elayne, Min or Aviendha, the bond took care of that, but the entire world would suffer if he was fated to go mad. No, Lews Therin was mistaken, and if he was right, there was no other choice. None at all.

Alanna moved closer to him, and stopped, looking at Elayne. He didn't knew the fair woman could wear such an expression of frozen dignity. According to Elayne, by tower law, what was done to him was equal to a rape, by tower's custom if not laws. And she made it clear that she wanted Alanna to stay away from him. He would have given much to hear the conversation that Elayne and Alanna had. All he knew was that Alanna looked like scowling child, and Elayne like she was about to burst. But neither one of the women was ready to tell him what they have talked about. Min couldn't look at Alanna without blushing. Rand hadn't consider that part in the nature of the bond. Impatient, he stood, waiting for the rest of the Asha'man to arrive, waiting to the beginning of what might be the end, of the wheel of time and the pattern itself.

Elayne was glad Rand couldn't see his own face, he didn't know that they looked like a stone wall. With cold blue gray eyes. He was... impassive. And only the bond told her he was impatient. She scowled at Alanna, but it seemed to have no affect on the Aes Sedai. It was Rand's stare that stopped the Green sister. Cold and hard and slightly angry. He looked like he would enjoy destroying something now. By what she could feel, he would enjoy it.

Aviendha clutched her skirts so hard her knuckles were white. And Elayne found herself arranging skirt already neat three or four dozens times the last few hours. Today was the day, if they would succeed... she couldn't believe it, they would be free, no more fear that Rand might go mad, no more memorizing of every heartbeat with him, because it might be the last.

If they fails... it was useless to think about it, not when they didn't have a choice. If they fail the world was doomed. I will break the world again before letting the Dark One have it. That was what Rand said, and she didn't doubt that he would do exactly so, use all the power they would draw in order to clean saidin and turn it against the world. If they would fail, there would be no world for the Dark One to rule. If they fail... But they wouldn't, the price was too heavey to fail.

Logain stared at the people gathered in the room, he noted glances sent to him from the Aes Sedai's direction. He couldn't decide what was in them. Fear? Hate? Curiosity? He was a man that could channel, a reason for fear by itself, but they were here today to change that. He had proclaimed himself the Dragon Reborn, but that was dealt with already. He was captured and gentled. Even now, the thought itself sent him to saidin, even the curraption was comforting for a man that had been away from saidin for more than two years. His debt to Nynaeve will never be fully repaid.

He grinned at the Aes Sedai, and chuckled silently to their reaction. He kept Halima on his side, it wasn't that he didn't trust her, the bond forced trust, on her as well as on him. It was al'Thor he didn't trust. Reports, eyes and ears, spies. That was the task given to his warders, Logain knew nothing about that matter, he only hope al'Thor's demand wasn't an open invitation to disaster. But even the worried to Halima, to Leane, and to Toviene couldn't make his mind focus on them for more than few moments. Today was the day, he dreamed about this day from the very first moment he had realize he was touching saidin. It didn't mattered to him whatever they would fail or succeed, whatever the result of the day will be, he will not feel the taint anymore.

The bond would have banned any action that would have risked Leane, Halima and Toveine. Unless he had their approval to this. It was the same as harming them. It wasn't he who decide what may harm them, the bond, in a way no one puzzled so far, banned any action that the warder thought harmful to themselves. An Asha'man's judgement may be clouded due to the taint. And the main purpose of the bond was to stop that.

One could go mad simply trying to understand all the affects the bond had.

Today was the day, and whatever the course that the wheal will weave into the pattern. It will be a day forever remembered in history.

Or the day history will end in.

She could never care less what Narishma thought about her, so Mierin assured herself. But the facts were that she did, very much. He was right, she had to admit, although nothing would convince her to say it aloud. He still had to pay for blackmailing her to tell him her darkest fears. White didn't go well with her new body, in black, however, she was far more attractive. She refused to give up the silver jewelry she was so fond of. Luckily, Narishma made no notes about them. Save the bond there was nothing between her and Narishma. And he could claim that they were married for as long as he want, she would believe him the day the Semirhage would cry for all the hurts she had caused. In other words, never!

Unless she will be bonded. Mierin thought, only half amused. Bonding was simply another cour'souvra. And, at least for herself, the term fit literaly. Lews Therin had to use the bond to gain her soul back, but it wasn't hers. She would have to study it further. But, if half what she heard was true. Her soul, at least the greater part of it, were in Narishma's possesion. And his was hers.

She smiled as she walked the corridors of the Dragonmount, side by side with Narishma. His face were fixed in a mix of grim determination and expectation. Fear and hope battled inside him. For the very first time in her life, in this age and the one before, she could trust a man never to leave her. What did it mattered that the chain that tied him to her tied her too. And she doubt if she was the one whom the ties held more strongly.

Narishma explained the best he could what they were about to do today, and Mierin could hardly look forward to this. Confronting the Dark One not even a week after she forsook him. The plan was risky, but most of Lews Therin's scheming were, and they had a tendecy to work more often than not. It was a gamble, but not one they had any choice in. She wouldn't have Narishma going mad. But still... if Lews Therin had a weekness, it was his pride.

"Lews Therin were always too proud of himself," Mierin said absently, half to herself, as they approched a large black door.

"He does have a tendacy to be overproud," Narishma ageed, "still, it's to be expected from the Dragon Reborn."

She sniffed at him, "Rand al'Thor's pride is nothing compared to Lews Theirn's, he had learned. Yet I fear he hadn't learned enough." Narishma considered the options several times before, When you gamble with the Dark One, he thought, there is no meaning to loosing, nothing will remain if we fail.

It left him wonderring, there were true worry in her voice, and he could make his mind whom she was worried about. She was also quite pleased with herself, and that troubled him too. Saidin, the thought itself pushed worried and troubles aside, despite the taint, despite the power trying to destroy you were you stood, when you were filled with the One Power, you knew that life without it would be as empty as a world without color, or taste, or smell. With saidin, he could smell the corridor they were walking in, it smelled empty. He could smell Mierin, and liked the smell too much to think about it. At least he could control his eyes, and they were focused on the door they faced. If he would look at her... Black dress woven with silver, blue eyes and silvery cascade. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

He opened the door, and he could feel every eye that stared at him, and at Mierin. There was a saying in Arafel, dancing is sweater on the edge of the sword. He thought he understood its meaning, but it wasn't until he first touched saidin that the saying's true meaning really touched him. Now, he didn't doubt that he would have to dance on the razor edge every day of his life, with saidin. With his wife, he didn't doubt he would enjoy it. He wasn't aware of squaring his shoulders, he put one hand on Mierin's shoulder, the very first time he touched his wife when she was awake. It was something he noted before, something he was eager to feel again. When he could feel his hand on her shoulder in two ways, as he always felt his hand, and through the bond. It wasn't unpleasant feeling. He met every man's eyes in the room, al'Thor's included. The way he stood, the way he stared at them, it all declared, she is mine.

Narishma was the only one not aware of his own actions, the others, including Mierin, knew very well what he was doing.

The sun was streaming through the window, vaguely registering upon the edges of the Aes Sedai's consciousness. Groggily, she opened her eyes, turning to stare at the window. The position of the sun shocked her. It had to be a but a half hour before Der Cal was to meet her! Scrambling out of bed, Ilyena dusted off her clothing, which she had fallen into bed with. Moving towards the chest of clothes that she had been provided with, she unlatching the buckles that were attached to the wood. Flipping back the lid, she regarded the contents. In the far corner was a bag of powers and creams that she assumed were some form of primitive cosmetics. Under that were assorted, strange undergarments. And then there was various dresses and so forth, neatly folded. She wondered who had gathered them to begin with. Somehow, she just didn't think that Moridin was the type to go shopping for female apparel. Stripping the yellow riding clothes off, Ilyena turned to the wash basin on the far counter. It had been filled the night previous, but the water was still fresh enough. Taking up the soft cloth next to the bowl, the Aes Sedai washed herself, using the water in a careful yet generous manner. Five minutes later, she used the second cloth to wipe the excess water from herself. In truth, she had been extremely disappointed when she had learned there were no automatic washing facilities such as she knew, but in such cases, you made due with what you had. Moving back to the trunk, she took up the undergarments, trying to make foot or tail of them, but they were so very archaic and complicated.

Who would have believed that such garments could have included so many strings! Frustrated, Ilyena clenched her teeth, feverently wishing that there was a Talent thatallowed for understanding of foreign clothing! Trying to remember how the garments had been on before she'd taken the old ones off, Ilyena twisted the new ones here and there, before finally simply stuffing herself in them. Irritably, she tugged the strings tight, scowling as she felt pulls and twists that had most certainly not been there in the last set. Looking down at the trunk of clothes, she quickly picked a tastefully shaded red riding suit. Thankfully, that went on easier. The silver jewelry went back on then. Rooting through the cosmetics bag, Ilyena made to search for anything she knew. They certainly looked nothing like anything she'd ever used before. Natural dyes and plant substances .... There was something that looked like an under eye lining substance, but in a freeform, rather than a joined, soft stick. There was a application swab of sorts with it, which she quickly picked up. And of course, after this, there would be her long, inconvenient hair to pile up.

Sighing, Ilyena shifted, pushing one of the strings of her undergarments irritably back, trying to grasp it through her tunic. Some days, the Aes Sedai thought, it just didn't do to get out of bed.

Forty minutes later, she was hardly in a better mood. The make-up had went on fine, and her hair looked presentable, but Der had arrived and was impatiently waiting in the common room, down the stairs. He had called up twice already, and Ilyena was becoming annoyed. She wanted to arrive at the Library far more than he did, but she must be ready first. Finally, though, she was. Walking down the stairs, lips compressed tight, blue eyes narrowed in irritability, red suit brilliantly highlighting the flush in her cheeks, she presented a furious picture to Der Cal, who waited below. His eyebrows shot up, and he tentatively asked, "Sleep well?"

"Quite fine," she said. That, at least, was the truth. She had slept well. It was after she awoke that the problems had began. Clearly, though, from the man's sceptical look, he didn't believe her. She did not make an effort to convince him, however. It would take far more patience and effort that she was currently willing to expend. "You are taking me to the Library," she commanded as she reached his side.

The man looked at her and said, "That was the idea." Her look, completely intolerant of any attempt at humour, would have been enough to stagger most men. This man was not an exception. "I suppose you really are an Aes Sedai," he muttered as they moved out of the inn. Infuriating. He hadn't thought she was before!

"I am sorry, Aes Sedai, I truly am, it's just that you didn't show your Great Serpent ring, and I thought that you might be an impersonator. Not that many would ever dare, Aes Sedai, but these are troubled times," the servant said, grovelling for all she was worth. Her male companion, hurrying in a stiff butler's uniform alongside the woman, was outwardly calm at first glance, but looking into his eyes, the man was clearly terrified.

When Ilyena had first arrived with her so very helpful guide, she had flat out been denied admittance to the Palace. Apparently, the doormen wished to see the presence of a "Great Serpent ring," apparently a symbol of 'Aes Sedai' in these times. Ilyena had almost sneered. In her day, an Aes Sedai hadn't needed such things to identify. In the midst of an argument, the two servants had arrived. Ilyena, fed up with the entire matter, had tied up the men guarding the main Palace entrance with flows of Air.

She had then walked inside, the two servants upon her heels, apologizing profusely for the misunderstanding. For the most part, Ilyena had ignored them, save to ask the location of the Palace Library. Der, walking at Ilyena's other side, had not, apparently, ever come farther than the entrance, and thus was unaware of how to reach the Library.

"We are here, Aes Sedai," the male servant gestured toward the wide, open, elaborately carved doors, which lead into a room lined floor to ceiling with books. The announcement, therefor, seemed necessary. But the man did seem rather formal. Certainly better trained than the maid was.

"Leave me now," the Aes Sedai said, "Should you alert the guards, they will be dealt with as easily as the others. I suggest you do not," her eyes pierced into them, blue lightening.

"Of course not, Aes Sedai," the two spoke as one before turning and hurrying away.

"They won't tattle unless they think they can get away with it, with someone able to protect them from an Aes Sedai," Der said quietly.

"I am aware of that," Ilyena answered, eyes roaming. There it was. Walking swiftly, she reached the cataloguing box. Twenty steps and she reached it, fingers eagerly searching through the cards. Thankfully, the technique that she used to understand the language spoken here, could be tied off and forgotten completely, as she did now, worked just as well on the read word as the spoken. It didn't work for writing yourself, though. That seemed to require an intergrade understanding of the language itself. But she was not intent upon writing anything, so it did not matter at the moment. What did she have to research? Searching her memory, Ilyena listed the topics. Breaking of the World, Aiel, Dragon Prophecies, the White Tower, men channeling, the Dark One. Anything else? She frowned to herself. Well, that would have to do for now. Quickly, she took up the location cards, and moved to find the books.

Der followed her, eventually speaking, "I'm going over the sitting section," he pointed a floor section of the room lined with rich decor, thick carpeting, and smooth furniture.

"Go on," she said absently, picking out a book. The man snorted irritably, muttering something about women under his breath. Ilyena found herself smiling, men never seemed to change, moving to the next topic. Under 'Dragon' she found old, musty tomes and painstakingly copied newer books. There seemed to be quite a few open gaps on the shelf, however. Apparently, the Dragon was a popular research, as well as gossip, topic in these troubled times She picked out several. And one more, Ilyena noted, moving on to another shelf. The White Tower.

There were few indeed detailing that topic, and no gaps in the book row. Apparently, that was not a popular topic.

Finally, however, she settled in at a long table with an armload of books. It would take a while, she contemplated, but she needed answers. Ilyena Therin opened up a book sporting the title in modern language: The Prophecies of the Dragon, and began to read.

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