"In truth, I hath studied every aspect of this. There is simply no way to retrieve that ter'angreal with Tel J... without bringing Sammael's armies down upon on our heads."
"I realize the danger that he presenteth, brother, but I still believeth that thy plan is much too rash....."
The Hall of Servants was torn. The women sided with Latra Posae Decume Aes Sedai, also known as Shadar Nor (Cutter of the Shadow), and the men sided with their Tamyrlin, Lews Therin Telamon Aes Sedai. Well, most of the men did.
The struggle was one that would literally decide the fate of the world, depending on which side prevailed. Latra Posae Sedai's original plan had been to use two ter'angreal which would allow a channeler to safely draw the One Power through one of two huge sa'angreal. By themselves, the sa'angreal would burn out anyone who tried to use them. But, the hiding place of the ter'angreal was in territory now under the Shadow's control, though the ter'angreal themselves were safely hidden.
The Tamyrlin had a different plan that was indeed, in Direk Secar Jillon Aes Sedai's mind, much too risky. He wanted to march to Shayol Ghul itself, a fair paradise turned foul by the Dark One's touch. When he and his companions arrived, he claimed, they would reseal the Dark One's prison, using seven unbreakable cuendillar seals as focal points. What bothered Direk about the plan was that the slightest miscalculation could tear the Bore wide open, letting the Dark One totally free of prison wrought so long ago by the Creator himself.
All this flashed through Direk's mind as he heard the tense voices argue as they did so often now. He wondered if the conflict would ever be resolved or if the Shadow would consume the world first. He suppressed a shudder at the thought.
Direk was going to the library of the Hall to research the same thing for which he had been desperately searching for what seemed like years. Perhaps it had been years. The library at the Hall was almost nothing compared to the great center as the Collam Daan, but it was the only place Direk had to study peacefully and safely. The librarians had nearly an entire shelf of manuscripts about the Sharom. Many of them Direk had gathered himself from the Collam Daan and other centers like it. He was in the library most of the day and nights until the words started to blur in from of his eyes. He had even begun taking meals in there despite strict rules against bringing food and drink near the precious writings. For awhile, he had stopped eating during the day, but he discovered that skipping meals brought weariness on not long after dark and that eating, on the other hand, kept him awake for hours after the the last librarian left. He had long taken to closing the heavy glace doors in the early hours of the morning and occasionally opening them as well.
So far, he hadn't found much that was helpful, and he was nearly through all the material. Many dealt with discoveries made at the Sharom, few with its actual design and properties. Still, Direk continued his research, for the chance of the Tamyrlin's plan going awry and freeing the Dark One forever was much too high. The fact that there would likely be no women added to his objection; the most magnificent, not to mention longest-lasting, works of the age had been formed by men and women wielding the problem together.
So Direk worked alone, night and day, feverishly trying to find an alternative to a solution which could turn out to be worse than its problem.
It was during one of his moments of clarity that Direk remembered this and thought wryly to himself that maybe it had been for the best that the women had stayed behind. Their stubborness might have saved the world from total destruction. Suddenly, he grew angry. His 'stubborness' hadn't spared him from the madness, though. All his efforts had been for nothing, and likely his notes were being destroyed right now, by some other insane male Aes Sedai. What little notes had had, that is. He had found much less than he had hoped, and he was quite a pessimist at times. There had been something in the design which he thought could be used to reseal the Dark One, but by the time he had discovered this, the Fateful Concord had been signed and the Hundred Companions, as they called themselves, were gone and remaining Aes Sedai furious, offering him only a cold glare and even colder words when he tried to present his idea. He had refused to let himself seem upset, but the incident had infuriated him. These were logical people, people he had known for years and who had known him, and they simply would not listen. They didn't listen! He could have saved them all, but they didn't listen! Didn't... could have... why... oh Light, not again...
In the distance, trees fell and a great rent tore the earth, and fire spurted from the gaping hole...
Direk still hadn't given up, even after poring through all the texts available several times. he knew that there had to be something else out there, something he could use, for the information he located was too incomplete for the nearly obsessive record keepers of the Hall. The question was how to find it. He pondered this for a few days when the figurative glowbulb appeared. Not a brave, wise, or even terribly legal thought, but it was a thought nonetheless.
Latra Posae Decume had been doing a similar thing with her advisors, he knew, searching for an alternative to their first plan. It was possible that somehow they had gained access to a document not unavailable to the public. Unfortunately, there was no one with whom he could share his secret design; the men scorned him for siding with the women, and no women, he was postive, would help him, in spite of their common objective. He had briefly entertained the thought of asking the Amyrlin, but he swiftly abandoned that idea after seeing the frosty look she had reserved for men. It was his own personal opinion that this whole gender war was ridiculous and exactly what the Shadow's forces were hoping for. The men were too proud of their plan, and he was sure the failure of the women's, to ask for their sisters' help, and the women were too stubborn and set against the men to offer any help. True, the plan was insane, but with a few changes, Direk predicted that something could be worked out.
Between studying his notes and unsuccessfully looking for more, the Aes Sedai worked out a way to slip, hopefully unnoticed, into Latra Posae's chambers and search for anything useful. He felt very young again, plotting a late-night venture away from home or retrieving something that had been taken from him.
Direk stared at the rough valley which he was certain had not been there when he came to this quiet country. Well, it had been quiet. He cautiously stepped onto the broken ground and quickly hopped back. It felt like fire! A memory of mountain-high flames and fountaining earth pulled at his brain. Had he done this?! No, it was impossible. Why would he ruin such a beautiful place? And, possibly more important, how? Only a madman would draw enough saidin to... a madman... the words repeated themselves. Am I a madman? he wondered. No, such thinking was silly and not very useful. Then... where was he? And why was here here? Silence. How had he gotten here? He reached back into his memories as far as he could. His commencement... the day he had become Aes Sedai... news of a new source of power... unexpected consequences... Shadow's forces overunning territory held by soldiers for the Light... Lews Therin's dangerous plan... it all came back slowly. The Tamrylin's plan had saved the world, he admitted to himself, but it had doomed him and every male Aes Sedai. And, he realized, all male channelers yet to come.
The same day that he found something which could have saved them all, news arrived that would seal Direk Sedai's future, though no one knew it at the time. Lews Therin Telamon, wearer of the Rings of the Tamyrlin and holder of the Nine Rods of Dominion, had gathered a hundred or so of the strongest male Aes Sedai, ready to leave for Shayol Ghul at any moment. The Fateful Concord had been signed, and the Companions had certainly reacted to it. They had begun the march to Shayol Ghul.
The Hall was in an uproar and Direk hastily retreated to his rooms. He sat on his couch for a very long time, eyes closed, alternately praying to the Light for a miracle and cursing those who he was sure had damned them all. A few hours later, there was a sharp, persistant rapping at his door, and, without waiting for an answer, Latra Posae, the Amyrlin herself, and about a dozen or so other Aes Sedai burst though the door. "What didst thou knowest of this?" the Amyrlin had demanded, "Why didst thou not informest me of this as soon as thou heardst of it? Thy friends may very well have just damned us all!"
Noting dryly to himself that he had been contemplating the exact same issue, Direk answered calmly, "I know naught of this. The men, they have not confided in me since I told them that I would not cooperate with their scheme. My sister, thou hast known my position for a long time indeed. Why now these questions and mistrust?"
The Amyrlin disregarded his statement. "And dost thou expect me to believe that thou art ignorant of these happenings? I can not credit it. No longer shall I call thee brother, for thou hast betrayed my trust."
Direk could barely keep his rage in check as he responded, "I see that argument art fruitless in this matter, for thou and thy..." he nearly said "companions" but decided that any mention of the incident would not help him, "...thy sisters are determined not to hear me and therefore, not to know the truth. I am truly sorry, for I have discovered a wonderous thing that may be our only hope. But if thou can not trust thine own brother, I think that thou hast also doomed us."
The Amyrlin's jaw hardened, and again, she ignored his peaceful words, "Then thou wilt not answer truly. Only thy long and, until this moment, faithful service to Paaren Disen spares thee from harsh punishment. I have only this to tell thee; thou shouldst have gone with thy male brethren, for thou art no longer welcome here. Thou hast this night and two suns to depart this place." Casting an eye around the room, she impatiently herded the others out the door and slammed it shut behind her.
Direk rested his head in his hand and sighed. It had finally happened. Their emotions had totally taken over, and there world would pay.
Even through the the cloud lying over his mind, Direk felt the sadness overwhelm him again, as if it had happened yesterday. Some of the women had been close friends of his. Thankfully, his intended had not been present as the... dismissal. He had left his notes at the base of her mirror, and the the morning he left, Direk found a tearful letter from here. She would have come to see him, it had read, but no one was to speak with him, and he was being constantly watched. Indeed, he had noticed that the halls were never quite empty, even at the early hours when he had been used to taking solitary walks in the grove. A precaution reserved for traitors within the Hall, he thought bitterly. He could still see the closing of the letter: Please remember, my love, that my heart is eternally thine, and thy ring will always be with me. Thine forever, Kinra Secar Merloes.
When he had first read it, he nearly wept. She had taken his name, as if they were already wed. Another thing he would never know because of Latra Posae's childish obstinancy and Lews Therin's overconfidence, and his own timing.
Direk Secar Jillon, officially stripped of his title of Aes Sedai in a ceremony he had been forbidden to attend, slowly gathered the last of his belongings and carefully folded the letter he had found that morning into his sky-blue outer robe. In its place, he left a note of his own, addressed to the entire Hall:
My dearest sisters,
I know that the Hall hast stricken my name from the Servants, but all of ye hath been, and wilt remain in my heart, as dear to me as sisters ever could be. I know well that repeating myself against the charges levelled at me is useless, so I shall not. All I wish to say is that thought the Amyrlin hast dismissed me in anger, I wilt not so leave. Please remember me for what I hath been, not what ye believeth of me. That is how I shall think of ye.
Love and Light eternal, Direk Secar Jiilon
He left it unfolded on a small table, hoping it would catch someone's eye. He knew that it would not reach the entire Hall, but he hoped that one person would think better of him after reading it. He had done his best to keep his anger from the paper because he knew that he had done nothing wrong and that if he began defending himself, he would never stop until the pen ran dry.
Though the note belied none of this, Direk was furious at the remaining Aes Sedai at Paaren Disen. What right, he asked himself repeatedly, did they have to do this to him? What scrap of evidence did they have that implicated him as a traitor? What had been his crime, other than being male? He nearly tore up the note he had written earlier and wrote exactly those questions. The only thing that stopped him was the memory of a saying he had heard many years ago. Furies stoketh rage and art blind to it. It meant that throwing his anger at theirs, righteous or not, would only increase theirs and that words spoken in fury never persuaded infuriated people, no matter how logical the words. He knew he was innocent, Kinra knew he was innocent, and that would have to be enough.
So, with one last sigh, Direk shouldered his bags, gritted his teeth, and, for the last time, shut the pale wood door behind him, and walked out of the sunlit corridors that had been quiet witnesses to his solitary wanderings for so long. Well aware that he would never see these halls again, he stared straight ahead and tried not to let emotion overwhelm him. He had already seen what good that did. Thankfully, the halls were strangely empty at this time of day, and he passed through them without seeing anyone he knew. He had decided against trying to take a jo'car and had made up his mind to leave on foot.
As he left the Collam Daan, he found that the general public considered Lews Therin to be a hero. Direk admitted to himself that it was possible that his fool-hardy plan would work, but he also knew what could happen if they should make the tiniest miscalculation. Of course, what did result was nothing Direk had ever imagined.
It was about this time, Direk remembered, that he had started feeling... strange. Saidin, also, started feeling strange at this same time. When he tried to reach it, he felt as if he was reaching through a thin but ever present layer of filth that seeped into him every moment he held the One Power. At first, he had thought that the stress of what had just happened to him had started to affect his sanity, but he soon began to hear rumors that contradicted this. Rumors that terrified him.
Supposedly, Lews Therin Telamon and his Hundred Companions had all gone horribly mad after the Dark One's last defense against the sealing. His... counterstroke, they called it, had tainted saidin, and that taint was causing those men to lose their sanity. There were reports of male Aes Sedai channeling huge amounts of the One Power and destroying everything in their paths and beyond.
Direk had hoped that perhaps this effect was limited to those men who had actually helped Lews Therin seal the Bore or those who had been at or near Shayol Ghul at all. His hope, however, did not last long. Taint was the perfect word for what he felt when he seized saidin, and it was not long before he could feel his sanity slipping. He had heard that the Ogiers were offering sanctuary to the half-mad male Aes Sedai. If this was true... he could wait inside one for however many years it took for the saidin to cleanse itself.
Immediately, he saw three flaws with his plan. The first was that this might not even be factual, and if this was true... he did not want to think about what he would do if it was false. Secondly, he would have to find a stedding while he was still sane enough to do so. Thirdly, and the flaw he feared would ruin him in the end, he did not know whether he could live with the One Power long enough to outlast the taint.
Direk Secar Jillon, former Aes Sedai, hastily glanced at a map, looked up, and nodded. He found a small, nearly overgrown path that led into a deep green forest. He followed it, with the expression of a starving man who knows that there is a feast waiting for him somewhere. Desperately searching. Though the scenery didn't change, in one step he felt refreshed, like the great weight he'd had was gone. But with that sensation there was a sense of loss. He sat down and for the first time in weeks, relaxed.
He lived in the forest for nearly three months, visiting the Ogier who lived nearby and sleeping on the soft green grass. After that, the feeling of loss grew too strong to be ignored. He wept in his sleep, knowing what would happen, and worse, that he wanted it to happen. So, one bright sunny day, he left. And as soon as he stepped past the wild blueberry bush he'd eaten from so often, he felt it again. Saidin. It had always been like a clear warm light, waiting for him to reach up and feel it. It was still a light, but now he had to reach through slime to touch it. He couldn't help himself... the warmth... the light... Oh Light please! it filled him... burned him... he channeled it, and the ground fountained up a hundred feet in front of him... Light, no! He stretched to hold more of it, hold it all... burning, burning.
After those three months, which were foggy enough in Direk's mind, he could remember nothing except flashes of lucidity which were gone too quickly. If he concentrated hard, he could vaguely recall the horrified faces of men and Ogier alike as he seared their land. Their anger enraged him, and soon enough, the faces were gone. Their deaths did not bother him in the least. They thought they should be angry?? What about him?! He was the one doomed to live out his life insane, killing everything and everyone he met, with no hope of redeeming himself. They had no reason to be angry, as he did. It was the faces of those who pitied him, who did not hate him... their deaths that hurt him. He never meant to kill them, to erase those people, but somehow he always felt saidin fill him, and if he did nothing with it, it would incinerate him to cold, black ash.
Sometimes, he reflected that it would be better to be dead. At least it would all be over. He could not bring himself to suicide, however, and continued wandering the land, leaving ruin and death in his wake. Wandering for eternity, it seemed, an eternity of fire and madness, of filth and saidin, which he could no longer control.
He never felt it when he finally let go of life. He never felt saidin leave him along with his last breath. The final testament to his life was a deep, jagged canyon, carved by the One Power. The very ground from under his feet had been vaporized in an instant and and hundred foot drop had opened up below him. Even if he did make it through the inferno, no one could have survived a fall from that height. The power that he had cursed for so long, that had damned him to this fate, finally relieved him from its grip even as it destroyed him.