Dharuk el' Morian frowned. For three weeks they had travelled, he and his retainers. Nobody had suspected a thing... 'pah!' he thought. Those mainlanders were more stupid than he had envisioned.
"What did you say, brother?" His sister, on a large black stallion to the side of him, piped up in a high voice that Dharuk had grown to be annoyed by even more in the past few weeks. "You were saying something about the mainlanders, I think?" He realized that he had been grumbling aloud... argh!
He frowned again. He was so glad that he had been born 24 summers ago, 2 summers older than his sister. If she had been eldest, his country of Qaim would have been governed by an utter twit. "I was just saying how utterly moronic that these people are. Hmph! They thought I was just some minor lord." Anger flaring again at the airheadedness of his sister, he decided he'd better not talk to her anymore, lest he accidentally hurt someone again. The power could be an unpredictable thing, sometimes, especially when you were angry.
"Sir! Sir! We've reached the city of Caemlyn, sir." The young handmaiden was yelling and pushing her mare up to meet the king. "The walls are in sight. There is a gate straight ahead..."
Dharuk's anger once again flared. "I know that, Dempa! What do you think I am, a blind man? Augh! Why did I even bring you along!" he was shouting, now.
"Ooh, ooh, I know that one!" Dharuk turned around and shot a glare at his sister. "Its because she's strong in the power, brother." Raeselle had apparently deemed herself smarter than her brother, seeing as how she had enlightened him so. Dharuk grunted in exasperation. "You brought all of these people along for their strength in the One Power. Six men, sixty women. Yes, that's it." Raeselle positively beamed for her supposed intelligence above her brother. Dharuk used every ounce of strength that he had to keep himself from tearing his hair out with rage. He managed to hold his temper down for the rest of the short journey to the gate.
When they reached the gate, even Dharuk had to admit he was impressed. The workings of the iron lattice were comparative to that of the finest to be seen in Qaim. The gatekeepers waved them in, apparently taking them as a merchant caravan. Which only infuriated Dharuk more. As they entered the city, they drew breath at the view the hill they were standing on gave them. They could see the web of streets and alleys and roads and... oh, it was just too much for Dharuk to handle. They would never get to the palace by sundown. "The Light burn it!" All of his companions within earshot simply cowed at the fury of their king. Exhaling softly, he muttered that he would find a way, even if he had to pay these mainlanders for their answers.
He set his retainers to finding a map that would lead them to the palace, then he and his sister sat down on a bench to wait for their return. In character, of course, Raeselle annoyingly became restless and got up to get something to eat. People on the street passed wide as they saw that the man on the bench was on a slow simmer. "I will find you, Randall Tore, and I will be a great help to you and your cause."
Elayne sat down, and looked about her throne room. It was, granted, a very nice throne room, but there was something missing. Something she always felt that the room was lacking. She could never put her finger on it. 'Oh well,' she thought, 'maybe tearing Rand's banners down will get his attention and he'll come to me.' She still felt a twinge of guilt for doing so, but she had been forced to. No one had any idea where Rand was at any particular moment, and she didn't know any of the locations where Rand was supposedly residing. Unconciuosly, she sighed. Vaguely, she heard footsteps echoing in the hall. 'It's probably Dyelin, giving me the status of the realm again.' She pondered what to do about Dyelin. The woman had supported her and her mother, but still there were many that would see Dyelin Taravin raised Queen instead of she.
To her surprise, Aviendha entered. The woman seemed even more on guard than usual, and that was saying something! "A strange party has entered Caemlyn, near-sister." She looked... worried! Aviendha looked worried! Elayne knew that something was horribly wrong. "The Aes Sedai have told me that a small caravan has entered the city. The only problem is, that all the women seen with them could channel, and most of them quite strongly."
Trying to remain calm and barely suppressing a frown, she worried over it herself. "That is news. Did the Kin say anything to you? Or the Windfinders?" Oh, what she wouldn't give to rid herself of that lot. The Kin made everything twice as complicated, and the Windfinders managed to triple the trouble caused by the Kin!
Aviendha walked forward, setting herself squarely in front of Elayne on the red carpet that led to her throne. "The Kin, as usual, are slinking, trying to avoid the Aes Sedai. The Windfinders won't talk to me. They think I'm some sort of savage." A slight grin passed on her face. Elayne barely suppressed a smile. 'A bull is always a bull, no matter how you think it's changed' mused Lini in the back of her mind. That's it... she is one of things that's missing. "Either way, it seems it would be wise if we were to deal with them as soon as possible. Its been a while since I've fought any Shadowrunners..." the woman fingered her belt knife even more.
Elayne sighed. "Alright, I think that I'll ask Bera and Kiruna to confront one of these women. Those two seem sure of themselves." Aviendha nodded.
Dempa walked forward through the midday throng on the streets of Caemlyn. Grumbling, she turned to the peddler standing beeside her. "Do you have any maps?" She demanded angrily. Stunned at her own temper, she realized that the King's hotheadedness had been catching. She looked up and saw the merchant with a sheepish look painted across his pudgy face. "Well, do you?" she softened her tone. "Please. It's very important to my master and I. We need a map of the city."
The merchant hesitantly reached for one of the rolled up pieces of paper in the back of his cart. Apparently, he was confused by the sudden change in Dempa's nature. "Uh, yes madam, we do. That will be 2 silver crowns..." Dempa's hand slapped down onto the wooden table, making a metal clacking sound as it hit. She removed it, and the peddler smiled defensively, fear painting his pudgy face. "Here you are, mistress." He placed the scroll in front of her.
Breathing a sigh of relief and snatching up the parchment, she turned to head back to that spot where her master would be waiting. It had been hours since he had charged them to find a map; he would probably be nearing the point of rage. She walked forward, noting the friendliness of most people in the street. She liked this... Andor? She never found it important to learn the mainlander countries names, but she knew that she liked how open and friendly they were.
As she rounded the corner of one of the buildings, two ageless women with graying hair stopped her. A look of shock painted their faces, and abruptly she realized her surprise as well. These two women could channel the One Power quite well. These must be the Aes Sedai that drunk in Ghealdan had been rambling about.
One of the women turned to whisper something into the others' ear. Rolling her eyes at the distraction, she pushed through the middle of them. If the King had to wait any longer, even the person who finally brought the map would receive harsh words. She heard a loud sniff behind her, but she put it out of her mind. Right now, she had to concentrate on finding her way back to that spot.
Without her noticing, the two women had caught up to her and had flanked her on both sides. She frowned distractedly. She started to talk, but didn't let her pace slacken a step. "Yes?" she inquired, angrily of the ageless ones.
One of them seemed to be fuming. The other one had kept her wits, it seemed, and was wearing a look of cool serenity. "Hello, my name is Bera, an Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah. This is my sister, Kiruna, also an Aes Sedai." She certainly had an air of arrogance about her. "We were wondering if you knew what a special gift you had?"
"What do you mean? My channeling?" She kept walking, much to the chagrin of the angry sister. "Yes, I am, thank you, and I was taught to use it by one of the most gifted weavers on the whole island of Qaim." She tried not to sound too arrogant, but it was hard when you had so much that would honor yourself. "I suppose you two are these... Aes Sedai?... I've heard about. Are there many others in your club?"
The enraged sister spoke again. "Who do you think you are, girl? You have no right to speak to Aes Sedai in such a disrespectful matter." Her voice climbed higher and higher with each note. "Why, Bera and I should stuff you in a sack and haul you off to Salidar right now!" Salidar? What was this woman talking about? "And that is such a ridiculous story... Qaim... ha! My senile grandmother who once said she killed a legion of trollocs with nothing more than a slingshot can concoct better stories than you! And to think, someone referring to Aes Sedai as a 'club'!" She sniffed, very strongly, to the point where it made Dempa wonder why she didn't inhale the dust that seemed to be floating around.
They had reached a fork in the road. Dempa frowned. "Excuse me, but could you please shut up so that I can try and concentrate? Let's see, I took a left there, and a right there, so I need to reverse it..." she glanced at the enraged sister. Her face was red. Glancing at the other, she realized that the calmer one was starting to get angry as well, holding onto her cool serenity by a hair. "Yes, left I believe." As she turned to go left, the angry one stepped right in front of her. She began to open her mouth, but Dempa just pushed her out of the way. Glancing at ...Bera, the calm one?... she noticed that a mixed expression of anger and shock painted her face. No matter, she had no time to deal with nosy women who thought they were better than she because they can channel.
She saw the King in view, sitting on a bench with his sister. She could hear Raeselle prattling on. Dharuk didn't seem to be listening. Instead he was giving these poor friendly Andorans looks that made them quicken their step and walk past without the usual smile they proffered to all.
"Finally! At first I thought you were a complete moron, Dempa, but now I know that you're only half idiot." Dempa curtsied to the King, then scurried off to one of the food wagons.
'What a jerk,' she thought idly to herself. 'I just wish he wasn't so handsome...' After she had bought one of the odd sticks that had bits of meat and vegetables on it, she leaned against the post of the cart and watched the man she secretly had a girlish crush on. He fit in quite well here, in Andor, with his fair skin and sparkling blue eyes. She couldn't help but use her vision to travel the length of his body, from his good calves and strong legs, displayed well by tight black breeches, on up. She traveled to his torso... he had a nice body, under his bulky brown coat. She had seen him shirtless many times when he was changing for audiences and such. Up to his shoulders... they were nice and broad, and starting out the long, strong arms that led to surprisingly soft hands... and then to his face, his short, yellow hair concealing nothing of his beautiful features... but he was the king, and she only a humble servant. She sighed, and slid a piece of meat of the end of the stick, chewing it slowly.
She idly tugged her braid at the group of people around her. Her husband, Lan, was there, Light! 'He is a beatiful man,' she thought to herself, with the barest hint of a smile on her face. Sweeping her gaze across the room, she took in Elayne, Aviendha, and Birgitte. Opposite them were Bera, Kiruna, and Sareitha. She barely restrained herself from sniffing at the most un-Aes Sedai behavior she had ever seen of them. Kiruna was so furious, she very nearly beat one of the servants, and Bera had lost all of the serenity that she was usually one of the best at holding.
"Oh, what an impertinent young woman! She seemed to know nothing of Aes Sedai, but was strong in the power. Not as strong as my sister or I," Bera was still complaining about the rather comical incident that had taken place this afternoon. Nynaeve would have given anything to see the angry look on Kiruna's face. "She called us a 'club', said she had no time for us, and even told us to shut up! The nerve!" Sareitha sniffed loudly next to them. She seemed to believe that young girls should always respect Aes Sedai. Truth was, this 'girl' was actually probably just as old as she.
Looking over to Elayne, their eyes met, and she shrugged helplessly. "Well, it didn't hurt you, did it? You'll be fine." Kiruna looked ready to argue, but Nynaeve put her hand up, and she swiftly closed her mouth
"Did she appear to be a Darkfriend?" Elayne had taken a regal voice, something Nynaeve had been hearing her perfect since the time she had gotten here. "Do you think she was involved with the shadow?"
Kiruna took a small step forward. "How were we supposed to tell? She didn't really seem like a Darkfriend, but you can't really be sure." Everyone in the room nodded agreement.
There was a knock at the door, and Reanne Corly entered, curtseying in every direction to every Aes Sedai in the room. Nynaeve tugged her braid irritably, exasperated that she was one of those who had not yet developed a backbone. "This group of channelers you warned us about, Elayne Sedai. We have talked to them." Nynaeve snorted haughtily. 'That oughtta take Bera and Kiruna down a notch,' she thought to herself. "Apparently they're from Qaim, one of the isles south of the Mainland. They've come to meet with Radal Tor, that's at least what they told us."
Nynaeve glanced at the Aes Sedai. Sareitha was looking quite indignant; Bera and Kiruna were trying a mix of shame and anger that made them look downright silly. She barely suppressed a laugh at the hilarious expressions of the two sisters. Elayne and that lot were looking puzzled. Lan, as always, just stood in the corner, ready to strike. "Who in the Light is Radal Tor?" Elayne's expression was simple puzzlement. Birgitte shook her head, as if the question had been passed to her secretly. Oh, the bond. 'You're turning into a woolhead, Nynaeve!' she chided herself. That reminded her, she was going to have to beat the light out of Myrelle and get Lan's bond. That would be a task she would enjoy, she thought, knuckling her right hand.
Aviendha spoke next. "It certainly is a mystery, but I'm sure we can dig it out of them." Ominously she fingered her knife again. The Aes Sedai flinched, and Nynaeve rolled her eyes in exasperation. That woman did not have to keep up the dangerous aiel act! She idly tugged her braid again.
Her wonderful husband Lan's deep voice answered. "However it turns out, we will know in time, and only time will tell." Nynaeve frowned. He had been hanging around with Moiraine too long. Moiraine. Another task she would enjoy. She almost wished she had a belt knife to finger under her green silk dress. She would get revenge for her doing this to all of them.
As they came upon the castle gates, they were greeted by a woman with an ageless face. "Welcome to the Palace of Caemlyn, may I..." she stopped dead in the middle of her speech. She seemed to be staring, wide-eyed, at his sister. "Um, wait here, please!" The woman scurried off into the palace.
Grunting, Dharuk surged forward, but the guards stopped him, barely. "Augh! Even more delay! Please, you cheese-eating numb-skulled woolheads!" That was a word he had heard when he was traveling through the south of Andor. They seemed to take offense at hearing it. "I must speak to Randall Tore immediately!"
One of the guards, with a grizzled face, step forward. "Who's Randall Tore? There aren't no Randall Tore in this here palace, see?"
This just confirmed Dharuk's theory that all people on the mainland had their brains rotted away from breathing this dry air. "You will let me in. We," he gestured to the rest of his group, who were all assembled behind him, "have more than enough power to destroy the entire city of Caemlyn. You will let us in. Now!"
The grizzled guard burst out laughing, the other one was rolling on the floor. Dharuk could almost feel his own anger rising through his body. He grabbed a hold of saidin, and the blinding heat and the freezing cold poured into him. It was only his anger that gave him the strength to fight off the blasted taint. He quickly wove flows of Air, wrapping around both the guards, and lifting them high in the air. Deftly tying them off, he felt his skin prickle as his sister embraced the source and stuffed gags of Air into their mouths.
"Thank you, we will show ourselves in." Raeselle managed a completely innocent tone. Dharuk grudgingly admitted to himself that when it came to matters of the One Power, his sister was the best you could possibly ask for. He and the twit trotted on ahead of their companions, right to the palace doors. When they got there, the woman had returned with two others, all looking very regal woman. Two of them had an ageless look, that belied their graying hair. The other was a pretty young blonde, yet she had reached the same level of serenity and arrogance that the other two had. It was the same level as that of a queen on her throne, with her army behind her, and an arrow aimed for your head. Dharuk glowered angrily at them. Some of these mainlanders certainly thought they were better than they actually were. "Brother, brother!" Raeselle was tapping him on the shoulder furiously. "These women can channel! They're not near as strong as me, but they certainly are powerful!"
"I am Bera, an Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah, this is my sister, Kiruna, also of the green, and young Sareitha over there is of the brown. We invite you to... you!" She stopped herself in the middle of her speech pointing behind him. She turned to say something to the young one. The other ageless face looked furious. He turned to see his sister arguing with one of the young women behind him.
"I had a run-in with the two older ones. They had quite an impressive pair of egos!" She too, was scowling at the Aes Sedai. What an odd name... in the Old Tongue it meant 'Servants of All'. These women were no servants, they were empresses! "They tried to keep me from getting the map to my king." She looked his way, and a slight smile passed on her face, but it was gone in an instant. He turned, angrily, towards the women.
The angry one flounced up to Dempa. Dharuk turned around, to witness the spectacle. He felt his skin prickle, and the woman had a determined look on her face. Dempa's face contorted in surprise - a shame, she had a pretty face - and the Aes Sedai had actually picked up the smaller woman.
"What do you think you're doing?" Dharuk's skin felt goosebumps as his sister grasped the source. Now, it was the ageless face that contorted in surprise, and she unceremoniously dropped Dempa on the ground. "You do not shield one of my liegewomen without good reason! I have a good mind to pick you up and drag you to the Dome of Shame!" The Aes Sedai's face still wore a look of shock. The older Aes Sedai had apparently retreated into the palace, and the young one was standing on the steps with her hands on her hips. Dharuk rolled his eyes. This was not a good way to be introduced.
Bera walked through the halls of the palace. "The light burn my sister!" Servants hurrying by jumped at an Aes Sedai, using oaths. She wished that she had a little more self-control. Sometimes Bera wondered if she herself should have chosen gray.
If she had known she was going to be treated this way in Andor, she would have just stayed with Al'Thor and those horrid Wise Ones, but the boy had granted her leave to return to her home country of Andor. She supposed that she was also there to spy on Elayne, though she hadn't received word from him yet. She just knew that she had to take a walk in the garden every night at midnight. She yawned; that gave her less sleep than she was accustomed to in the White Tower. Well, she had to get to Nynaeve and tell her about this strange group. She quickened her pace.
As she opened the door to the young Accepted's... she was an Aes Sedai now, apparently. She had a hard time swallowing that, but she supposed if she was going to support the Amyrlin, she might as well honor her decrees. Sighing, she opened the door to the lavish room. Nynaeve was with her husband. The young woman had grabbed the side of her dress and was twirling around in front of Lan. Apparently, she was showing off a new dress.
"Excuse me, Nynaeve, but..." the girl stopped twirling, and looked abashed for a second, but quickly regained her composure, forming her face into a scowl. "That party is here. It appears they," she gulped nervously, "they have men who can channel along with them." It was Bera's turn to scowl.
Nynaeve gathered up her skirts, and beckoned for Lan to follow. "We'll gather together all the Aes Sedai, Kin, and as many Windfinders as possible, and deal with these people."