[This story was written in 1998.]
This is another story of mine, it tells about what happened after Crown of Sword. And although it talks about events that happens in Path of Dagger, it has no relationship to my story titled "My PoD's Prologue", although this is also is good story. This story is probably the best I've ever written so far. Even it's my opinion only. Enjoy it.
Rand was sitting on his throne, the council of nine had taken almost all his time. Min had a hard time hiding a scowl, it wasn't Rand's fault. And she knew from the beginning that he would be busy with affairs of state most of his time. But it didn't mean that she had to like it. Rand might look as if he was made of rock, but she could see the signs on him. The way he moved, the way he tilted his head. He was tired to death, not the tiredness that sleep could heel. He needed to go away for a time. Somewhere where he could be only Rand al'Thor. Someplace where he could just rest. But she knew it was useless, Rand wouldn't allow himself a rest before he collapsed, and he came closer everyday. Those wounds he had on his side hadn't healed, and she knew he was in pain from them. But he continued, as if he thought that if he would just rest everything would collapse on him.
She had tried to talk about it with Cadsuane, just talking to the woman required from her to gather all her courage. And she convinced Cadsuane to talk with Rand, convinced wasn't the right word. It wasn't that the woman tried to be rude, it just seemed that she was unable to let her finish her sentences. Before she got more than a word or two the woman patted her shoulder and told her that she would make sure that Rand would rest. But Min already knew it was useless. Rand may be ready to hear Cadsuane, but he wouldn't do what she want. Whatever Cadsuane thought.
She was right of course, Rand told Cadsuane bluntly that this wasn't her business at all. And when she tried to press him... Rand could be just as overbearing as Cadsuane, maybe more. The look on the Aes Sedai's face when he refused was of utter surprise. Min thought that nobody had refused the woman in so long a time that she had forgotten how it felt.
She glared at Alanna, standing behind the throne, for some reason the woman supported Rand. Although she refused to answer her why. For that matter, Rand only said that he can trust Alanna more than any other Aes Sedai. She was so angry then that she asked him if he thought that he can trust Alanna more than Elayne. She made a point not mentioning Elayne, or that Aviendha woman, near him. As long as they weren't near him he was only hers and she didn't want him even to think of them unless he had too. Rand had gone quite for few moments and then answered he does trust Alanna more than Elayne! He refused to answer why. And Alanna merely ignored her questions about this, although she was friendly enough when she didn't tried to dig why Rand trusted her so much, friendly for Aes Sedai, that is.
She was shaken out of her thoughts by Rand's sudden jump, he made a strange move with his hand, as if he was trying to swift something off, all the eight members of the council of the nine, they were still arguing about who needed to be the new member, had flown straight at the wall. Min jumped on her feet with her knees trembling so badly she almost sank back to the chair. Fear crushing in her, threatening to overwhelm her.
"What under the light do you think you're do-!" Alanna started in a shaken voice. Rand merely pointed at the place where the eight men had stood only seconds ago. His face looked like a storm, it took another minute before the gateway started to open, and Min sank back with relief, not madness. She swallowed hard, and found that she want to swallow again. Not the madness, thank the light. Not yet, that thought came bitterly. How long doe we have? She wondered, there was nothing idle in the thought. How long before I lose him? How long before the madness has him?
A man stepped through the not fully open gateway. Clad in the Asha'man's dead black. He had a silver pin on one side of his collar, but the other side was black. Rand had explained this to her. A Dedicated. But even mere soldiers could overcome any Aes Sedai. The Asha'man looked worn out, there were stains of blood on his coat, and he limped slightly. One of the Asha'man, Flinn, moved to his side. They were so quiet she forgot entirely about them. The Dedicated's limp was gone after Flinn sent a hand to touch his forehead. With a grateful nod, the Dedicated turned his face to Rand. He touched his heart with a fist, a thing that Min considered as the Asha'man's version for a bow. "My Lord Dragon, the Black Tower was attacked by Aes Sedai not an hour ago." The look he gave Alanna was grim and full of scorn and hate. Something flushed over his head, and Min suddenly knew that there was something even worse coming. "They attacked under Elaida's orders, My Lord Dragon. Fifty Aes Sedai and some of the White Tower guards. And the M'hael was gone in the attack, we didn't find his body, so we can't be sure, but..." The Asha'man's voice faded under Rand's glare. If,before, his face looked like a storm now it was about to break. The council of nine, near the wall, was very quiet. They didn't want to attract Rand's attention now.
"This is more than I will take." Rand said quietly. Min would have preferred him to scream or shout. The dry, icy tone Rand used made her heart cringe. "How many dead or wounded?"
"The M'hael is the only one we didn't find, we had about sixty men wounded, all the Aes Sedai save one were killed. The guards ran before we could deal with them, but we sent some of us to chase them." The Asha'man's words made Min wince, she expected an explosion from Rand. Something, anything. But he just nodded.
"Dashiva, you and him," he pointed at the Dedicated, "are going to the Black Tower, gather every last Asha'man and bring them to me." He seem to be thinking for a moment. "Take them to the top of the dragonmount." A twisted grin appear on his face, "That's ought to fit."
The warder was drowning in grief, waves of sorrow and grief tore his mind to shreds. Seren was dead, his Aes Sedai, his bond holder and his wife. The tearing of the bond was bad enough, but to lose the one he loved, that was even worse. He tried to kill the black clad man that had killed her, but the man simply knocked him down with the Power. There was no pain greater than the one that tore at his heart now. They took him to the court of traitors, him and every other Aes Sedai, Warder, Novice or Accepted that they caught. For three thousands years the tower had stood. The shadow's army had tried to destroyed it in the Trollocs Wars, and had suffered its worse defeat, Arthur Hawkwings had tried to break the power of the tower and put siege for twenty years of it. But the tower survived it. The tower survived countless disasters, but this young man had destroyed it.
The warder knew the prophecies of the dragon, "and the unstained tower would be broken by its name." But he never thought that something worse than the breaking of the Tower could happen. Only now it did. And the warder wanted revenge. They tied him and took his sword, but he had a dagger in his sleeve, he could be free in heartbeats. He might be able to take one of those men before they would kill him, everything in him longed for death, for the release from the pain that torture him. Every shred of his mind longed to Seren, he could end it, he can join her in the silent death. But he held it in. He didn't want to kill the weapon, he wanted the man who wielded it. He wanted his dagger in the Dragon Reborn's heart. Maybe it would destroy the world, maybe it would let the Dark One win. The warder couldn't make himself care. He wanted the man dead. But he wasn't here, not yet, at least. The man would come here one way or another. To savor his victory, to savor Seren's death. And then it would be the time, the time to join Seren.
He scanned the crowd, nearly two hundred women sitting on the floor, none of them could ignore the place where they were chosen to be held in. The court of traitors had only three functions, executions, stilling and gentling. There would be no gentling today. But each sister would go to the headsman gladly to avoid being stilled. He could almost smell their fear. Every Aes Sedai was a strong woman, but they never faced such a threat. The red sisters looked sick, they had no doubts about their fate. Some of those black clad man, Asha'man, that was how they called themselves, "guardian of justice" in the Old Tongue, had made some comments that made absolutely clear what they meant to do to the reds. Some of the red had fainted, some of them cried. Few sat quietly and tried to maintain their dignity. Elaida was one, though her face was pale as snow. One of them, a man that had an andorian accent, the one who was in command, told the other to guard her with their life. And made extremely clear why. The Amyrlin Seat was to be kept for the Dragon Reborn. As far as he could understand, the Dragon was here earlier, but went to bring some women. At least that was what the Asha'man thought.
Elaida's jaw was locked tight, she seemed to be trying to convince herself that this is not happening. Seren always said that Elaida was never really ready to admit that she can be wrong. Or that something bad can happen to her. The sisters of the other ajahs say quietly, some of the green sobbed, they had lost their warders. The others looked straight through the Asha'man, as if by ignoring their presence they could make them go away. He saw some sisters that seemed to be praying. His gaze went to another group near him, maybe six or seven Asha'man, all staring at a single Aes Sedai, they looked like hawks staring at a rabbit. The warder didn't knew her name, a brown sister that came to Elaida's call. He had seen her killing two Asha'man before she was taken down. Every Asha'man near her had two pins on his collar, one shaped like a silver sword, the second a red and gold dragon. He thought it somehow connected to rank. The Aes Sedai stared at them, sometimes one of the Asha'man said something to her. One time they all started to laugh, and her cheeks redden in fury.
The warder understood none of it, the Asha'man was obviously shielding the Aes Sedai, but all it took was one man for two and sometimes three sisters, five or six when it were Accepteds or Novices that he was shielding. Why so many just for one Aes Sedai?
The warder look at the rest of the gaidin, they were tensed but they didn't move, their gaze sliding over the court, observing, searching. They would do nothing unless they thought that they had a chance, some of them, like him, had lost their Aes Sedai. They search for a time to attack, were they can kill one of the Asha'man. Some must be also waiting for the Dragon Reborn, waiting to kill him.
It was as if his thought summon the man, a tall man, almost a hand taller than the warder, with dark reddish hair. The warder suspected that women might find his handsome. He wore black, like the Asha'man, but his collar was blank, on the left side of his chest there was a sign, a dragon circling the ancient symbol of Aes Sedai. A sword hanged to his side, and his hand ran over its hilt. He was moving in a way the warder knew well, Leopard in High Grass, used when there was enemies all around you. Two women stepped few feet behind him, one tall and dark, in green riding dress, the warder knew her, Alanna. He gritted his teeth in fury, to think that an Aes Sedai from the same ajah as Seren had cooperated with this man. One glance at al'Thor and Alanna said that he was the one in control. The other woman was also familiar, a girl in boy's cloths, thought the last time he had seen her she was wearing rough cloths. Now her cloths were made of silk, in pale rose. He searched for a name for her, Min he thought she called herself.
Al'Thor turned back for a moment and said something to the women, Alanna merely nodded. But Min seemed to be arguing with him. Finally she nodded too, thought it was clear she didn't like it. When al'Thor moved on both women were left behind, Alanna touched Min's arm, who was frowning at al'Thor's back. They began to talk in quiet voices.
The warder ignored them, his eyes were fixed on al'Thor, as were everyone's else. The Aes Sedai tensed as soon as they saw him enterring the court of traitors. But he ignored every last one of them, his stare was directed straight at Elaida, and he trotted toward her, by his face, he would have been walking strait through anything that would have been on his way. Elaida looked like she was about to throw up.
"Elaida," al'Thor said in a quiet voice, just enough so the warder could hear him. "it's so good to see you again. I was afraid some of the Asha'man might harm you." There was no emotion in his voice. The comment rose many heads in the Aes Sedai. If al'Thor had met Elaida before, then all the rumors about reds rising false dragons may be true after all. The warder cared nothing one way or another.
"What do you want from me, you filth?" Elaida snapped, the worst response that the warder could think of, didn't she understand that she was in his hands? That he could decide to kill or still her just for this? Elaida tried to rise to her feet, a hard task, her hands were bound. Al'Thor bent down and grabbed her by the beck, raising her easily. Elaida face became slowly purple, al'Thor held her a foot above ground, her eyes straight with his.
After a moment or two of observing her he opened his mouth, "I was afraid that we will not have time for the long conversation I plan to have with you, Elaida. Very long conversation. After all, how could I resist your invitation to visit the Tower." He let her drop, and she collapsed on the ground, gasping for air. "I suggest that you will learn some manners in the meantime. Or else I'll make sure you will." The treat was obvious, the warder had no idea why the man had such hate toward Elaida, but he held no pity for her. Seren was green, and Elaida humiliated every green in the tower. He saw Min staring at the man, her face pained. Then her gaze slid toward Elaida, and her face become stone. She touched her sleeve lightly, the warder could see the shape of a dagger there. Elaida ought to fear the woman more than al'Thor.
Al'Thor turned to the rest of the Aes Sedai, under his gaze many shifted their positions, almost all the Aes Sedai became pale. There was no emotion in the look, only ice. "You call yourself Aes Sedai." He said, "and you don't even know what it meant to be an Aes Sedai." His words made many of the Aes Sedai wince. "But under the light, and my hope to rebirth and salvation I swear that I will teach every last one of you what it means to be a servant to all." Some Aes Sedai fainted, such an oath couldn't be broken. And his tone of speaking made it extremely clear how he was going to teach them it.
Al'Thor's gaze swept over the Aes Sedai, it reached to the group of Asha'man guarding the brown sister. And for the first time there was emotion clear on his face, surprise, and shock. He all but run to the woman.
"My Lord Dragon," Said one of the black-clad men near the brown sister. "she is stronger than any other Aes Sedai here. Almost as strong as one of us, we thought it's better to-" al'Thor only nodded.
You were right, more than right." He looked at the woman with the faintest smile. "It good to see you again, Saine Tarasind. Though this is the last place I would have ever expected to see you ." The warder tensed, the dagger in his sleeve sliding to his hand, he had taken it from a Gray Man's body. It burned it's way through almost anything. The cords that tied his hands were gone. Everyone's attention was directed to al'Thor and the sister. It was almost the time, all he needed was another small distraction.
The woman become rigid, al'Thor's hand touched her chin, rising her eyes to meet his. She seemed to become blurred for a moment, then the same woman stood in front of al'Thor. Without the Aes Sedai agelessness. The warder estimated her age at late twenties. She was also trying very hard to hide her fear, and failing in it. "Lews Therin," The woman said in a pleasant voice. It was hard detecting the fear in her voice, yet the warder heard it. "I'm surprised to see you here, I never thought you would come here by your own will." She bit her tongue suddenly, fear blazing in her eyes.
Al'Thor smiled unpleasantly. "I thought that Elaida couldn't make such plan by herself, you were the one behind it." Behind him Elaida jumped, kicking with her feet at the floor and thrashing around, trying to escape something. Her mouth were open, but no sound came out of it. Then she fell down, her body still. Dead. Al'Thor didn't even stop talking, "I made a promised so long ago, Mesaana. I hope you remember it. I truly hope you do. Because now it's time for you to pay for all what you've done." The woman, the warder couldn't believe her to be Mesaana, al'Thor was mad, must be mad, had fainted. The Asha'man had strange expression on their face. But none moved to stop her fall. p>"Is she really-" On of the Asha'man started to ask, but that was the moment the warder chose to move, he jumped to his feet, and throw himself at al'Thor. He was close, not twenty feet away, and nobody was looking at his direction. He kept his mouth shut, no need to warn the man about his death coming. All around him warders jumped to their feet, covering him. They understood, they knew, and if he would succeed then their Aes Sedai might break the shield. Might break free. The warders attacked the Asha'man that was near. Most had daggers in hand, the Asha'man didn't botherto search them for weapons other than their swords.
The warder raced toward al'Thor, and, as always in battle, the world seem to slow down. Only he moved in normal speed. al'Thor tried to turn back, but his movement was so slow, fifteen feet. He saw a graying warder throw its dagger strait at one of the Asha'man.
At ten feet it struck, sinking in the Asha'man's shoulder. Fire blazed around the graying warder, and took the life of two other warders too. Al'Thor almost finished his turn. The Aes Sedai were scrambling to their feet, some seemed to be able to touch the True Source.
At seven feet something passed near him, a ball of fire that moved through the chest of a warder and burned the hand of another before exploding on a wall. Al'Thor's eyes widened slightly at the sight of him, running at him with a dagger in his hand.
At six feet the world stopped existing. Only he and his target. Only he and the man who ordered Seren's death. The pain that soon will be end, the grief that would be done. Seren that waited for him in the death.
Five, four and three feet passed, al'Thor suddenly seemed to be moving as fast as he did. Not in the slow motion that everyone else seemed to. Al'Thor slid at him, there was no time to draw his sword, and he has a dagger in his hand. Al'Thor would be dead, all will be over with.
At two feet he struck with the dagger, straight to the man's heart. But al'Thor twisted at body around it. Too late to stop his direction. He crushed at al'Thor. Carrying him with his motion, his dagger rose again to stab, it left a red trail on the other man's cheek. And another on his shoulder.
The warder never saw the hand that crushed against his throat, crushing it. He couldn't have stopped her if he would have seen it, if he could make himself care about his own death. All he knew was that suddenly he couldn't strike again, that the pain inside him was fading. He still tried to hit at the man with all his strength. But his arms hadn't the power needed to crush a butterfly. "Seren." He tried to whispered, but his throat was ruined, her face, her smile was the last thing he could think about before his heart stop beating.
Rand pushed away the corpse from him, his face hurt, and he could barely move his left arm. He rise his eyes to look for Min, Alanna was ordered to keep her safe with her life. He sighed with relief when he saw her safe. Alanna was standing in front of her, not doubt holding the power. It was Alanna's sudden fear that made him turn around. He looked over the hall, the court of traitors they call it,a fitting name. The Asha'man had already took control for everything. As he watch he saw the last shield being placed on an Aes Sedai that stared at a man's corpse and cried. He spotted out three black clad figure on the floor, with saidin in him he could see that all of them was breathing, thought weakly. A soldier and two dedicated ran to them, and helped them sit straight, their wounds gone. Other Asha'man, those who weren't wounded, moved and healed any black clad man with even the slightest sign of wound. One of them came close and touched his forehead with both hands, the pain on his shoulder and face gone, thought the Old Wound and the new one were throbbing.
The Asha'man that healed him continued on without a word, there were too many wounded to stop even by the Dragon Reborn. Min was watching him, and from the look on her face he was going to hear very sharp wards from her as soon as they would be alone. She nodded toward Elaida's body. And he understood. He didn't kill the woman, only put her to sleep. Deep sleep, so she hardly breathed. He had to prove those Aes Sedai he meant what he said. But he couldn't kill a defenseless woman, even if it was Elaida. Mesaana was another matter, he could easily recall too many of her crimes. And there were too many murders in her past than he could ignore. He would pry any last scrap of information out of her before he would kill her. And even this thought, the thought of killing a Forsaken that killed thousands, the thought of killing the Forsaken that had planned his kidnapped, made his stomach cringe. Elaida he already had a plan for, shielding her and sending her to the same farm he meant to send Colaevare to, and this time he meant to make sure that the woman wouldn't kill herself, he couldn't think of any other punishment that he could have done to her that was worse, not one he could do, anyway.
There were bodies of warders all around them, the Asha'man had no time to be gentle. And even an Aiel was less dangerous than an Asha'man full of the power. Even while most of them had time for hand and knees only.
The sight disgusted him, he touched Dashiva's shoulder, "Have the bodies buried, and tied those shields. There must be dungeons somewhere in the Tower. Find them, the Aes Sedai could be kept there for a time. The warders must be held elsewhere. Mesaana would be kept in the Tower, with at least three Asha'man near her all the time. I want it to be Asha'man only. No Dedicated or Soldiers." Dashiva nodded and start giving orders to the Asha'man.
Rand had all but ran out of the room. With Min and Alanna joining him as soon as he passed near them. His stomach was turning, it was easy to guess why that man came at him so. I never want it, never asked for it, never wished for it to happened, he cried in his mind. Suddenly he wished for Lews Therin, wished to hear the other man. A man that might have seen enough for this not to touch him. You never see enough to ignore this, it was something he said, so long ago. He remembered it. On a city that he took away from the shadow. The gateway opened into the utter darkness outside the pattern. He waited only for Min and Alanna to step on it before it was closed. They said nothing, one could feel what he felt, the second could understand. They knew, they understood. There was no need in talking. He didn't know where he was going, only that he needed to go away. To run away from a revenge that became bitter.