December 01-31, 2000
Category: Wheel of Time Alternate reality
Author: various
[Disclaimer]

Rescue

Flame shook her head before the barrage of questions.

"I can't answer this, Melissande Sedai. We arrived here by accident, I believe. A'cair", she looked at the almost catatonic dragon, "says he was at such a place before he came to the library, and he is scared to the bone by it."

Next to her Dune whined pitifully.

"We all are scared, Melissande Sedai." It hurt to admit it, but truth must be spoken. "We do not know how to leave. This isn't like tel'aran'rhiod."

Melissande grumbled something under her breath, clearly more irritated than afraid. She started to speak when Dune suddenly yipped a warning.

"Behind you!"

Melissande whirled around as seemingly from nothing a golden shimmering ball streaked toward her...

~ Flame,
Catch it, Melissande, by the Light, catch it!


"What in the flaming name of the Light -" Melissande snapped her mouth shut, realizing how inappropriate that particular oath was now, and snatched for the gold thing as it flew past her instead. She thought she had missed it for a moment, but it seemed to turn in midair and smacked into her hand.

She was holding what looked to be a glittering ball of thread, with one end trailing off into nothingness. No doubt this was all immensely significant in one way or another. She wished she knew how.

Then the ball shifted in her hand. Someone had just tugged on the other end.

"Well," she said aloud. "As I see it, we have two choices. We can follow this back to whoever sent it, who may be on your side, my side or neither." She also wished she could channel. Saidar had vanished as soon as the gateway had closed behind her. She did not like being defenseless, particularly given that the person on the other end was probably not. "Or we can stay here until something else happens - which may be forever."

She sighed, then tugged once on the thread and started winding it in, floating through the nothingness around her as she did so. "Coming?"

Melissande Amaline Isten
Aes Sedai of the Medium Blue Ajah
President of Elaida Haters Worldwide


"One moment, please."

Dune didn't need encouragement. She slunk eagerly over to Melissande, but rousing the dragon was another matter.

"Melissande, we need a hand here." Flame was rather desperate. "Come on, Al'cair, we have to leave."

~Flame


"Yes, warrior society. The Aiel have quite a few. There are the Far Dareis Mai - Maidens of the Spear - or the Stone Dogs who are usually the rearguard and..."

They talked in great length, Ares seemed to want to know everything about every existing army or general, about battle history, weapons existing in the Age of Legends and so on. Ulrike didn't mind, the talk took her mind away from the worry about her friends, though she never ceased to watch the thread.

Suddenly she jerked up. Had the silver thread vibriated stronger than before?

~ Ulrike


She felt a tug on the second thread, and smiled. Paying out the silver ball while at the same time reeling in the gold one, she moved swiftly through Chaos.

And laughed.

"Melissande!" she said with amusement. "I suppose I should have recognised you. However did you get here? I thought you were in Salidar?"

Sundara


"I stepped through a flaming Gateway and ended up here," Melissande snapped, obscurely annoyed. The thread-spinner had turned out to be on her side, technically speaking, but Sundara was almost as unpredictable as - well, as her older brother, and she looked distinctly amused at their predicament. "How did you get here?"

Melissande Amaline Isten
Aes Sedai of the Medium Blue Ajah
President of Elaida Haters Worldwide


Ares nodded, quite satisfied with the information Ulrike had given him. He was particularly impressed how a society which had known only peace for so many years produced generals who were so talented in leading armies and such. He was about to say something when he sensed another presence in this World of Dreams. He could only wonder who was joining them now.

~ Ares


"Why, sister dear, I came to rescue these three. I didn't really expect you, but I suppose I might as well take you back as well."

Even as she bantered with Melissande, though, Sundara was more than disturbed. If Chaos had grown so much as to warp a gateway - even a gateway woven by a Dark Sister - it was spreading beyond her ability to control it.

"And leaving aside the obligatory insults for a moment, I think I should do so immediately. Stand close to me, all of you - " She looked at the golden dragon, frowning. "Al'cair? Al'cair!" There was no response. "Flame, do you know what's the matter? I can Heal him if necessary, but I'm not exactly familiar with the illnesses of dragons."

Sundara


"I don't think it can simply be healed, Sundara. He's in shock, scared to the bone."

Flame petted soothingly the dragon's neck.

"Maybe.. Can you suppress his fear? Then it should be easier to get him to respond."

She continued to pet and stroke Al'cair while she murmured encouragement. Sundara and Melissande had come to his other side and did the same. Flame couldn't say if one of them used the One Power or not, but finally Al'cair stirred.

"Come, let us leave this place, Al'cair."

"I do not want to be here, I do not want to see this place either."

"You don't need to open your eyes if you don't want to. We will lead you, but you must walk yourself, Al'cair. You are too heavy and too big to be carried by us."

Slowly the dragon uncurled and came uncertainly onto his four claws. He kept his eyes firmly shut. Flame grabbed one of his wings, Melissande the other while Sundara took the lead with Dune closely following at her heels.

It was a slow trek and Flame's worry about her friend's state of mind overshadowed her relief that they were being rescued.

~ Flame


The gleeman rammed headlong into Chaos. A good way to get information overload, fried mind, and other delicacies, but he wandered into the mind-warping fabric of that other-world against all sanity.

It was not for his own purposes.
It was for that loyalty, that ...Bond...

Since Arie had Bonded him, it felt as though her mind were IN his head, talking to him, conversing in a not-there sense. It was better and worse than the usual, he figured; the Psycho Music undoubtedly was an Eccentric configuration, her voice having just a wee bit more substance than the usual.

Kiriath laid bets on this last; together the two had decided to call the new bond a Machin, as the voices were chittering akin to the Ways' wind.

If her voice was more substantial, her voice could possible be IN his body, substituting for the lack of body it itself had.

His tactic was to rush into Chaos, and let the chittering voice that was Arie claim a body of its own.

The only problem, of course, was the Ares bit. And the escape from Chaos.

Not that he wanted to escape.
He in all nonsense intended to return.
It'd make for one nice vacuole.

Sir Kiriath Machin Ni
The Foretold Chaos brings its own.


If she had eyes, Arie's would have widened at Kiriath's plan.
Of course, there was no other way to do this.

How exactly did they plan on rushing headlong into Chaos?
A thought came to her.
The next thing she knew, her senses were being almost painfully bombarded.
Well, this is certainly......chaotic, she thought drily. She would never have expected it to be quite like this, though she supposed that no one really could imagine Chaos.

She shrugged.
And noticed that she shrugged. Now what, she asked herself, is this?

Being without a body as I am, what just happened is quite impossible.
The Chaos must have gone to my....
never mind.

She shook her head and caught herself doing it.

There! I knew I had done something!

Finally, she had the bright idea to look down at herself.
Shock! gasp! there was something there!
She was dressed all in blue, and she could feel a cloak hanging from her shoulders. Blue, she guessed. Even her ankle boots were blue.

Now that's odd. I always wear black ankle boots.

A chuckling thought darted through Chaos to her
Blame it on Chaos
She laughed aloud at her machinwarder.
Blame it on Chaos indeed.

About this time, she thought that a mirror would be helpful. A very short moment later, one appeared in front of her. This, she scolded herself, really should not surprise you.
Dark hair cascaded down her back, and dark eyes stared back at her out of a creamy complexioned *wow, is that even a word?* face. She nodded, satisfied that she looked more or less like her old self. It was only then that she noticed five small, gold rings, one on each finger of her left hand.

First they mess up my shoes, then they give me these.

Not even bothering to wonder who "they" were, Arie idly twirled one of her rings, waiting for Kiriath to appear.

Arie'Nerys


"Hi."
Chaos shimmered as brightly as a very bright shimmering thing, and Carra stepped through into it. "Kir. Arie. Nice to see you two again." Dressed in sleek black and silver, she appeared totally composed. With a whimsical smile she added, apparently to no one. "That wasn't nice of you, making me babble on like that. But it worked, at least. It's a shame I had to trick Eval, but if he'd known my going to sleep was more than another eccentric little thing to do... Never mind." She turned back to the visible people.

"Don't stare at me like that. No, I'm not a dreamwalker, and I've never been here before. But with Sundara here I could use her as a beacon to find my way. Getting back might be a bit more of a problem, though. And that reminds me." She cocked her head.

"Kiriath, from what I know of you your sympathies are rather - Chaotic. So are mine, of course... If someone attempted to close the Chaos Gate, would you try to stop them?"

Carramaena in mysterious mode


As Flame started to answer, Sundara hissed in sudden shock. The latest presence to enter Chaos was one she did recognise.

"What in the name of the Shadow? Carra!"

Sundara
wondering what her sister is up to


"She's here as well?" Melissande demanded, then realised that she too could sense - something - that had a strong resemblance to the mad Dark Sister. She didn't know what to make of it, but Sundara was frowning as if it was very bad news.

"What are we flaming supposed to do, then? Do you suppose you could possibly explain what this Light-forsaken - this Shadow-forsaken - this bloody place is?"

Melissande Amaline Isten
Aes Sedai of the Medium Blue Ajah
President of Elaida Haters Worldwide


"Do you suppose you could possibly stop swearing?" Sundara retorted, irritated. Was she the only Dark Sister with some measure of self-control? "Yes, Carra is here, no, I don't know how, yes, I am going to do something about it."

A sneaking suspicion started to dawn on her. Was that what Carra was up to? Taking the golden thread from Melissande, she started to tie the two together.

"Flame, if you follow the silver thread back, you'll eventually get back to the Dream. Ulrike and her friend are waiting there. Don't, under any circumstances, let go of the thread until you see them. Do you understand? I may not be able to find you a second time."

She tugged on the gold thread to make sure it was secure, then turned to Melissande.

"You, on the other hand, had better stay close to me. I suspect that the Dark Sisters are all needed for whatever has to happen next. Needed in Chaos, that is." She stared straight at the Aes Sedai, who she still doubted was fully on their side. "But if you were thinking of causing me any trouble, please remember that I am the only one who can take you out of Chaos. Understand? Good."

She threw the gold thread again. This time she knew who would catch it.

Sundara
Threadkeeper


Flame didn't pay attention to the Dark sisters' discussion - bickering, thought a part of her uncharitable. She worried about Al'cair. Hopefully they would reach a steady reality soon. She herself was sick of this Chaos. It seemed to have a strange influence on the Dark Sisters and she couldn't say if she was affected herself or not.

~ Flame


Oh no, not again.

Bubbles of visions before hit Kiriath's mind, a long ramble that could never be due to an unfortunate lapse in the board of time's mechanism. Or perhaps the board itself.

Part of Kiriath was lost, never to be reclaimed anew.

What did remain was a split-second realisation of elegance.

He did realise he could go on, though; seasonal feelings cheered him up and beyond the cheery point.

Indeed, the gleeman was now hyper and ready to ramble.

"I've been thinking the same. Someone's going to get sick of the near-death experiences around here - and when they do, shut goes the Door. I don't want that - I don't think either of you do, either. Too much knowledge, too much ramble. Too much power, if you will.

So my proposal, in case someone gets the bright idea?

Rather simple.

Shut it just far enough for the others to live, to avoid premature death - but keep it open far enough to slip on in. Keep the Door to Chaos ajar, if you will.

Even if it does shut completely, we can go through the rigmarole again. The Rings, remember," he winked. "And Arie's got a few of her own; don't ask me how they fit in, not this early."

"If someone tries to shut it, we'll know. There's no doubting that. Chaos is ...well... it's best to keep Notumar away from it. Let's put it that way."

Sir Kiriath Machin Ni
Half-Cairhienin, half-Ghealdanin. Go figure.


Sighing, Eval leaned back in his seat as he continued to watch Carra. Curled up like a cat on the sun-warmed ground, she was fast asleep and looked to stay that way for a while.

He rose, and started pacing back and forth. In the back of his head, he could feel Sundara's annoyance. With what, he couldn't guess. But he supposed it was a good sign that feeling hadn't yet progressed past annoyance.

His eyes fell on the sleeping Dark Sister again. She hadn't moved, and he frowned. She'd been curled in that same position for nearly an hour now. Even peaceful sleepers tossed and turned at least a little, if they were sleeping normally. Granted Carra was hardly normal, but still...

He crouched down beside her, looking intently at her sleeping face. "Carra." There was no response. "Carra -" He reached out to shake her shoulders, with no more success.

Eval growled under his breath. Living with a dreamwalker, he'd learned to recognise certain signs. The copper-haired girl was no dreamwalker, and the fit of her clothes made it all but guaranteed there were no hidden ter'angreal among them. He couldn't imagine how she'd gotten that way, but Carra was in a dream-trance, sure enough.

"Carra!" He shook her again, hard enough to rattle her teeth, but she never stirred. He muttered a curse, then stood, picked her up and opened a gateway back to the Dark Palace. If he had to stand guard over one dreamer, he might as well guard them both.

Carrying the girl into Sundara's turret, he set her down beside her sister. Then, taking another chair for himself, he settled down for a long wait.

Eval Ramman
lord of darkness


She grew weary of waiting and worrying. Her conversation with Ares had dried up. The man was certainly knowledgeable in the field of war, but so absolutely single-minded about it, it was... was... tiring. Yes, that was the word: tiring.

She was tired. Her thread of saidar wriggled and she almost lost her hold on it. If she wasn't careful she would fall back into the waking world and what could she do then?

What could she do here?

Her mind wandered. Time flowed differently in tel'aran'rhiod. When they returned the preparations for the New Years party would begin. Knowing the Dark Sisters it would be a great feast without peer anywhere on the world. Or had New Year already passed? She couldn't say. Sometimes she thought that this Age must be already over and gone, the waiting was so long, like eternity.

Suddenly the thread jerked.

A movement in the far. Mists parted and revealed a stumbling group of beings.

Ares had taken a defensive stance. But Ulrike laughed in joy when she saw a flash of gold-bronce scales and read hair. Al'cair and Flame, and there was Dune!

But her joy gave way to renewed worry when the sorry state of her friends became apparent. And then...

"Where is Sundara?"

~Ulrike


Ares jumped up. He had fallen asleep because, well, he wasn't much of a conversationalist. He had tried to think of other things to say, but all dealt with war or Arie's whereabouts. And he doubted that either of those things were foremost in Ulrike's mind.

Through wisps of fog, he could see three unfamiliar figures step into Sundara's dreamscape.
One was a large...what was the word? coppery dragon, one was a wolf, and the last was a red-haired woman. Al'cair, Dune, and Flame, he guessed.

He could see that Dune and Flame were both eyeing him warily. The dragon seemed to be injured or ill. He spread his hands disarmingly and stepped out of the stance in which he had been standing. He would have spoken, to tell them who he was and that he was no enemy, when Ulrike asked, nervously (in his mind) about Sundara. He sat down and let them have their conversation.

Sundara had brought them all here, so hopefully she knew where she was. Ares pondered for a moment that it could not be pleasant to be lost in the Dream. Feeling unusually sympathetic, and trying to ignore a growing worry for Arie, Ares approached the four carefully. "My name is Ares; don't worry, Ulrike knows me... a little... and I was wondering if you needed any help." He didn't think that they were used to accepting help, but these were certainly odd circumstances.

~ Ares


What had happened to Sundara? And to them?

With dismay Ulrike noticed the dragon's responselessness, the slumped shoulders of her friends.

Though tired Flame continued to watch the strange wetlander from the corner of her eyes and Dune looked also on her guard as she answered Ulrike.

"Sundara and Melissande Sedai, we met her in the Chaos, were diverted by Carra's presence there."

She gestured to the mists. They seemed closer now, somehow.

"They want to find her. We three followed Sundara's silver thread. Al'cair'rahien is ill, Ulrike. Shock, fear... I don't want to experience this Chaos again. One's mind can get lost there."

"Light protect us." Ulrike suppressed her fear. "I think Ares and I should wait for the Sisters then. But you are in tel'aran'rhiod now, Flame. If you awake now..."

She trailed of when the Maiden shook vehemently her head.

"Something is different. We are not in Chaos anymore, but this place still feels different than the tel'aran'rhiod I know. We can't awake."

Sudden realization hit Ulrike.

"Of course, you were physically pulled in the Chaos. Now you are here in the Flesh. That is it! Now if I can open a Gate..."

It took almost more effort than she muster. It was a struggle to form the necessary weaves, but after a time the gate opened and Flame quickly led the dragon right after the wolf into the waking world.

As soon as they were through Ulrike let the weave unravel. But in her exhaustion she lost the spirit thread that powered the dream ter'angreal too. Without warning she vanished from tel'aran'rhiod.

~ Ulrike


"The Door to Chaos cannot be closed," Carra quoted herself. "But it can, maybe, be blocked. And the way to do so- "
She reached out without looking, and her hand closed around the ball of thread.
"Dara should be here before long, and with any luck, she picked up Lissa on the way." She grinned as she automatically shortened Melissande's name. Carra, Lissa and Dara, what a trio they made. "Then our Threadkeeper can take charge. By now I think she's guessed what needs to be done."
"Yes," a woman's voice said from behind her, "I think I have."

(Have you, Dara?)

Carramaena


"And I also think, sister, that I would like to know just what you've been up to. Obviously you know a lot more about this than you've led us to believe. But we'll deal with that later."

She raised her hands, and between them another length of thread glimmered. This one had no colour, or perhaps every colour. "Cat's cradle, anyone?"

"That comment is both a bad joke and inappropriately appropriate." A tawny-eyed woman came strolling seemingly out of nowhere. "Welcome at last to my realm, dear Dark Sisters. I trust you're enjoying yourselves?"

"And how are you, mischief-maker?" Sundara asked, unsurprised.

"Passing well, smallest of kittens. But your latest activities have been an entertaining diversion." The Black Cat smiled, showing sharp teeth. "I shall of course be at your New Year party."

She turned and strolled away again, shimmering into cat-form and then into invisibility before she was more than a few steps away.

Sundara turned back to the other four. "As I was saying. I hope you all know how to weave? As my dear sister Carra has Foretold, there's only one way to catch fish."

And there was only one way to confine Chaos. The way it had been done originally.

Her hands moved swiftly, and the thread spun into an intricate web. But there were several loose ends.

"Take an end, ladies and Kiriath. We're going to weave ourselves a net."

(First footnote: Carra; the Pattern as a net to hold in Chaos, am I right? If not - too bad, that's the way I'm headed.)

(Second footnote: I have no idea who guessed and who didn't guess at the identity of the Cat, but now you all know. I am the Black Cat and the Black Cat is me. *curtsies* Aren't alter egos fun?)

Sundara
Dreamwalker, dreamweaver, Pattern-weaver...


"What in whatever are you talking about, Dara?" Melissande asked, then wondered where she'd picked up that name for her sister. Then she wondered why she'd thought of the woman as her sister at all. Well, sisters didn't always agree. "A net? How does that - oh." An understanding of what Sundara meant to do fell in on her.

"Are you mad, sister? You're not the Creator."

Sundara shrugged. "A very small Pattern," she said as though that meant something. "Take an end, Lissa. It's the only way you'll get out of here."

Swearing under her breath, Melissande reached out for an end of the net and vaguely noticed the others doing the same.

"You'll have to control it, then, I haven't the slightest idea how. Get on with it, girl," she added impatiently, and received only an eyebrow raise in return.

Sundara did - something. Carramaena did - something else. Kiriath and the other woman were doing things she couldn't even begin to comprehend. And then Melissande realised there was something for her to do, too, although she didn't know how she knew how to do it...

The world began to spin.

Melissande Amaline Isten
Aes Sedai of the Medium Blue Ajah
President of Elaida Haters Worldwide


Carra spun with it.

"For now, we are all Creators. Or perhaps we are Dark Ones? More appropriate, in some cases." She wove her part of the web swiftly, her eyes flashing colours back and forth faster then ever as the EP flowed through her.

"For the Shadow's sake, Dara, hurry! We can't hold it for long."

Sundara snatched at the threads. "Get out of here!" she ordered, tying the final metaphorical knots.

"Gladly, if I knew how!"

The jolt that hit her was the equivalent of a sharp kick, as the dreamwalker threw them all out of Chaos. Carra blinked as she found herself in the middle of a snowscape. Melissande, Kiriath and Arie were standing around looking equally bemused, and moments later Sundara reappeared, coiling up the silver thread in one hand.

"Done," her sister announced in a tone of infuriating smugness.

"What in the flaming, bloody -"

Carra interrupted before Melissande could think of any new swearwords. "Fine, but can you get us out of here now? It's New Year!"

Carramaena, ready to party


© 2000 Dragon's Library & Ulrike Großmann