This is just something I came up with after Winter’s Heart, I didn’t upload it right away since I know Robert Jordan doesn’t like fanfics. But I can just as easily stop creating stories in my head as an Aes Sedai could give up channeling, and I wanted to share it anyhow. The Wheel of Time universe belongs to Robert Jordan, I just play here!
"You sent for me, Lord Dragon?" Narishma said as he entered the room. He was wearing that blue coat again. It made Rand uneasy, a reminder the sisters had bonded the Asha'man. When asked, Alanna said they had all accepted the bond voluntarily, but Rand could not happen to wonder what the alternatives had been. How often had he found himself making choices when really there were no other options at all? Especially soon after he had left the Two Rivers he had tried to work free of Aes Sedai, but there always was something else that needed to be done, another reason to go where he was pointed to. He suspected the Asha'man had found themselves with 'choices' that had left as few alternatives. But no time to dwell on that now.
"I want you to go to Egwene's army at Tar Valon," he said.
Narishma looked apprehensive. "Tar Valon?" he asked.
Rand could understand the man's unhappiness. A whole camp full of Aes Sedai -and when the siege was successful and Egwene took the Tower, there would be Reds too. But he had been out of touch with her too long, he needed someone there before she was only the Amyrlin Seat and no longer Egwene from the Two Rivers. If it was not too late already. "Now that the taint is cleansed there is no reason for the White Tower to hunt us down any more. Egwene has no Reds in her camp. I want you to go there and be my liaison to the White Tower."
"I am a soldier, you have better negotiators among your people," Narishma said.
Rand sighed. He did not like to argue his point, but Narishma had a right to know why he wanted him to go to the very heart of the Aes Sedai power. Not that there weren't enough Aes Sedai around here, lately. "I can't send any of the Aes Sedai because I can't trust them to remember which side they are on," he said. "I can not send one of the nobles because someone who can not channel does not stand a chance among that many Aes Sedai. The Wise Ones and the Windfinders are likely to put anything I ask them second to their own plans. That leaves the Asha'man. And I need someone I can trust, and that means either you or Flinn. I picked you."
Narishma nodded reluctantly. "Yes, Lord Dragon."
"You will go as soon as you are done packing. Egwene has asked me to show you a copse of trees about half a mile outside her camp to Travel to; there are so many people moving in the camps themselves that she does not want to risk any Gateways opening in the camps where people could get hurt," Rand said. "Oh, and wear your Asha'man coat. Merise can go -she will insist I am sure- but there will be no doubt she comes along with you and not the other way around." He walked to the table and pulled out the map of Tar Valon.
Not long afterward, Narishma saluted and left the room to pack.
Jahar stepped through the Gateway following Merise, leading his horse. Nethan and Bassane had gone through first, and were scanning the horizon to get their bearings. He let the Gateway close and released the Power when he felt Saidin being channeled behind them. He threw himself to the side, letting go of his horse. He grabbed a hold of the Power again and threw up a shield of Air, all in one motion, as he yelled a warning. But he was too late. Merise, who of course could not feel Saidin, had no time to react as a fireball slammed into her, knocking her to the ground. Jahar almost let go of the Source again when he felt the burning in his head. "Merise!" he yelled, but he had no time to look at her as he felt a rain of fire batter at his shield. A horse screamed, but he did not know whose or what had hit it. He scrambled up, striking fire and lightning of his own even before he saw the woman standing just a brief distance away. Light, a woman? Daigian, Nesune and Beldeine had told everyone of the woman who killed Eben, but it was still a shock to see a woman channeling Saidin.
The woman easily cut his flows, making the fire dissipate harmlessly well away from her body. She threw another barrage of fire and lightning in return, and he had to respond quickly to ward off the attack. They threw fire and lightning at each other, cutting off the incoming attacks while trying to get through the other's defences. Light, but she was strong! He was not by far the weakest in the Black Tower, but he had not felt anyone hold this much power except for the Lord Dragon and the M'Hael. She had to be one of the Forsaken, to be channeling this much Power unaided. He tried to make the earth erupt under her, but she stood calmly amongst the rocks that bounced off her shield of Air. The next moment he had to jump aside as she used his own weaves against him and the earth underneath his feet burst upward. The woman was still standing in the same place where she had been when he first saw her. He was sweating now, despite the cold. What he'd give to hold Callandor now! He'd take his chances with its flaw. Merise's burning agony in his head alternately distracted him and fed his determination. He wove Saidin, cutting the flows coming at him and sending his own toward her.
How long could he hold out against her, by himself? He had not seen a glimpse of either of Merise’s other Warders, and he had no time to look if they were still alive. They had to be down or they would have tried to help. Someone at the camp might see the lightning, and come to investigate, but would they dare to Travel straight into a battle? He couldn't rely on any help to arrive, and he could not match this woman in strength. Then his eye caught the tree behind her. It was a tall, thick tree with a huge crown, and she was standing just a short distance from it. It was a chance. He channeled a razor-sharp blade of fire and swung at the trunk, at the same time channeling tendrils of air to pull the tree in the right direction. The woman saw his blade swing past her, and the wild tendrils up above, but she did not bother to cut the flows. She even smiled a little, clearly thinking he was faltering to swing wide like that. She did not even have time to change her expression as the tree crashed down on her, and the flows of Saidin broke off.
In the silence that followed he could feel Merise's burns worse than before. He wanted to rush to her, but it would do no good to be attacked from behind if the woman had only been knocked down momentarily. Cautiously, holding Saidin ready, Jahar started toward the tree. He had barely made two steps when the solid knot of pain in his head seemed to expand to encompass every nerve in his body, then implode into emptiness. He screamed, grabbed his head, then fell in the snow as he passed out.
Sheriam was with the Amyrlin and Siuan when the messenger came in from the soldier's camp. A young soldier, he was tall, thin and eager. He bowed to the Amyrlin. "Mother, I have an urgent message."
The Amyrlin nodded. "Speak."
"One of the scouts just reported a brief battle fought with the Power," the boy reported. "They were only three and had no Aes Sedai with them so they returned here. Lord Bryne sent me to tell you he is on his way to check it out."
Sheriam frowned. Few people outside this room knew about the Asha’man coming, but it could have something to do with him. Would somehow the word have slipped out and would some sister have taken it on herself to eliminate him? She did not think any one among them would do so, however uneasy a man channeling made them feel. Nor could she think who else would know about him. Delana had not visited her for several days, thank the Light.
The Amyrlin thanked the messenger and grabbed her heavy cloak. "I will come," she said. Sheriam grabbed her Keeper's stole and her own cloak and followed. Siuan was not far behind.
As they came outside, they could still see the horses ride out. A small group of about fifty soldiers rode west, with several Aes Sedai among them.
The horses rode slowly out of sight; Bryne was one of the few people who knew about Narishma, and that Rand trusted the Asha'man, but he would not be rushing into a battle fought with the Power. The air was cold and the snow on the ground slowly soaked her shoes that were not meant for walking outside the cleared paths within the camp. She did not know why, but she did not feel like going back into the tents to wait for them to return.
She was not sure how much time had passed before she saw the group approach. The horses came slowly still, but up near the front were five horses being led. Four carried a body across the saddle; Sheriam was sure they were bodies because the horses walked alone on the lead, no one looking at them. The third horse was flanked by Dagdara and Therva carried a shape in a black coat, and Sheriam knew Narishma had at least survived whatever it was that had happened. But what could be so serious that two of the stronger Yellows in the camp could not Heal it and have him ride?
As the horses came closer, the soldiers split off with the other three Aes Sedai. Gareth Bryne led the three horses with their burden toward the Amyrlin.
"Mother," he greeted her as he dismounted with a bow. Egwene briefly acknowledged him, but her attention was on what the horses carried. Bryne did not waste any more time with formalities. "The Asha'man is alive, although the Yellow sisters say they can not get him to wake. The dead are Merise, two Warders, and Halima." His voice raised into a question as he spoke the last name. It was easy to see Lord Bryne was baffled about what Halima could have to do with this. "From the looks of it, the pattern of the melted snow and scorched ground, it seems the Asha'man and Merise fought someone who was with Halima," he reported.
Two servants had rushed forward and lifted Narishma off the horse under close eye of the two Yellow sisters. The Amyrlin pointed toward the large tent where she held her audiences. The servants carried him in, and the Yellows, Egwene, Sheriam and Siuan followed.
"What happened to him?" the Amyrlin asked Dagdara.
"He had only small injuries -some cuts and bruises, and hypothermia from laying in the snow, Mother," Dagdara said. "But.." she swallowed. "He was bonded to Merise." Sheriam and Siuan winced. They had both seen Warders die from shock when their Aes Sedai died.
Egwene also started. "He was her Warder?"
Dagdara nodded. Egwene frowned. It puzzled Sheriam as well. The sisters with Rand had been bonding the Asha'man? She was one of the few Aes Sedai who knew about Alanna bonding Rand without his consent, and it left a bad taste in her mouth. Would Merise have done the same with Narishma? She didn't think Merise would do something like that, but then she had not expected it from Alanna, either.
She looked at the Asha'man. The servants had laid him on the large table in the middle of the tent, then bowed and left. She reached out and carefully delved him. She flinched, hissing between her teeth.
Dagdara looked at her and nodded, not commenting on her delving with two Yellows present. Some things just could not be described in words. "Merise did not die easily. I am surprised he lived at all," she said. "But he will not wake on his own. Mother, you must send for Myrelle."
Sheriam hesitated. Myrelle was somewhere in one of the camps on the other side of Tar Valon, she did not know where exactly. She could be in Luagde, Daghain, or Osenrein and even Travelling it might take some time to find her, and from what she had just felt, she didn't think the Asha'man had a lot of time left. Also, Sheriam did not like the way Myrelle treated her Warders. Blues saw their Warders as someone who protected them, of course, but also as a respected partner whose ideas and opinions were valid. Within reason, of course. But Greens.. Greens often treated their Warders like part merchant’s guard and part servant, ordering them around while missing out on any other qualities their Warders might have. Well, most other qualities. She snorted. Add to that, Myrelle was Ebou Dari, and from what Sheriam had seen she kept her Warders on a tight rein even for a Green. She just did not think that would sit well with an Asha'man. She made her decision.
"We don't know where Myrelle is or how long it will take to find her. By your leave, Mother, I ask permission to bond him as my Warder."
The others looked at her in surprise. "You?" Siuan asked. "You are not a Green," Dagdara stated. Therva did not speak but looked as if she saw water burn. The Amyrlin merely looked thoughtful. Siuan had been teaching Egwene as much as she could about Tower laws and customs, but she had not yet grown to see them as unshakeable as those who had worn the Shawl for much longer.
"There is no reason why only a Green could bond a surviving Warder. They most often do because they can hold more than one bond, and Myrelle has saved Warders before, but if we wait an hour, or two, to find her, I do not think there is anything she can do anymore, whatever her Ajah. Besides..." Sheriam broke off. She couldn't say she how much she owed him for killing Halima, without giving away about... "I just believe I should," she finished. A lame argument but she put as much conviction in her voice as she could manage.
"He might still die. Consider well the risk you are taking," Dagdara cautioned. Sheriam nodded. Of course she knew, it had only been weeks since she had lost Arinvar, one of the few casualties when they had Travelled to Tar Valon and laid the siege. The pain of that loss had barely faded. Perhaps they could help each other, but if he did die… Well, these weren’t times for playing it safe. "I will take the risk," she said. She turned to the Amyrlin. "By your leave, Mother?"
The Amyrlin studied all of them. Dagdara and Therva looked blank, neither approving nor disapproving. But Siuan nodded slightly, so little that Sheriam would have missed it if she had not, by now, been watching for the almost unnoticeable signals between Siuan and the Amyrlin. "Do it," she said softly.
"Thank you Mother," Sheriam said. Then she turned toward Narishma and reached out for Saidar. She braced herself as she laid her hands on the unconscious Asha'man. Light, he did feel.. empty. She hoped she was not too late. Carefully, she wove the flows that formed the bond. Then she stepped back and released the Source.
Dagdara stepped forward. "May I?" she asked. Sheriam nodded, but she did not really need the Yellow's words. "He will wake."
Late that night Sheriam sat in her tent, trying to read a book. She sat on her cot; the only chair had been taken away by the servants who had brought in the second cot. Even without it, there was barely room in her tiny tent to walk between the beds. Not for the first time she leaned over to check on her new Warder. She did not need to look, of course. She would know the moment he woke up. He had been sleeping, a deep, dreamless sleep that was common after Healing. The nightmares would come later. She shifted, trying to find a comfortable way to sit, finally pulling one leg up under her like she remembered doing when she was a novice and had often sat on the bed when visiting one of her friends. She went back to reading.
She had barely read more than half a page when she felt the change in Narishma. She threw her book down, got up and then sat on the edge of her cot as he came awake.
"Where..", he blinked, then closed his eyes and choked. "Light, Merise!" Pain coursed through the link. His eyes snapped open again and focused on her. "Who are you?"
Sheriam laid a hand on his arm. "I'm sorry, Jahar. Merise is dead. I am Sheriam." He looked at her blankly. "I do not approve of bonding a Warder without permission, but there was no choice. You were dying from the shock of losing your bond with Merise." His expression did not change, but she thought she felt a hint of acceptance. Or was it resignation? It was gone as soon as she noticed it, anyhow, and replaced by pure horror. He shot straight up in bed as he remembered. "The woman -is she dead?"
As Sheriam nodded, a wave of relief washed through him. "She channeled Saidin. A woman!"
Sheriam's eyes grew wide. "Saidin? Are you sure? -No, sorry, of course you are sure," she added before she even felt his indignation. "But a woman..."
Jahar visibly struggled to keep his voice from choking as he told her. "There was a woman who channeled Saidin at Shaidar Logoth when the Lord Dragon cleansed the Taint," he said. "She killed Eben -Eben Hopwill, another Asha'man- but he did have time to warn the sisters he was linked with. They managed to fight her off, but they did not kill her. No sign was found of her afterward. It must have been her! And.. Light!" he gasped as a wave of hurt flowed into Sheriam through the bond.
She almost gasped, too. She had had a Warder before, she had felt him get hurt, and she knew it would be stronger this time. But so much! It was almost a physical shock.
She embraced Saidar to lift the tray of food that was sitting in the small table in the corner of the tent, and channeled briefly to warm the thick stew and the spiced wine. "The woman is dead. She won't hurt anyone ever again," Sheriam said fiercely. She noticed a brief flash of surprise at her fierce tone of voice shoot across the bond. Just as quick, it was gone again, and Jahar made no comment, but even that small flash made her hopeful. It was a good sign that he noticed anything about her -or anything else for that matter- this soon after waking.
She pushed the bowl of stew in his hands. "Here, eat. Your injuries were not serious but Healing always takes a lot out of the body." She felt no hunger through the bond, the hurt being too strong to allow for it, but she knew his body needed food, even if he did not realise it. "You can tell me what happened after you have eaten, if you can." He ate mechanically, staring into the bowl or at the tent wall in front of him every few spoonfuls. In the meantime, Sheriam mulled over what he had told her. Halima channeled Saidin? Light!
When Jahar had eaten little over half the bowl, he put it aside. Sheriam looked at it unhappily, knowing normally a grown man who had been Healed would have eaten two bowls that size. But under the circumstances, she knew she should be glad he had eaten anything at all.
"How did I get here?" he asked her as he put down the bowl.
Sheriam took a cup of spiced wine and made him take it. Then she said, "A scouting party saw a battle -lightning flashes, mostly. They had no Aes Sedai with them, so they went back to the camp for reinforcements before investigating. When they got to the copse of trees, they found you."
"And.. Merise," Jahar said.
"And Merise," Sheriam confirmed. "As well as her other two Warders. And Halima -that is the name of the woman-, she was found underneath a toppled tree. Her neck was broken."
Satisfaction along the bond replaced hurt for just an instant, then was replaced by a fierce anger. "She ambushed us! Merise never had a chance!"
Faltering, his emotions raging wildly from anger to pain and back again, Jahar told her what had happened. As he finally ended his story, Sheriam sat down behind him, on the edge of his cot, and held him in her arms. She did not know how long she sat there, but she remained there long after he drifted off to sleep again. This time it was not the deep, easy sleep from Healing. These nightmares were too strong to be held off by his Warder bond, and even someone who could not feel his emotions would know by the restless twisting and muttering that his sleep was plagued by bad dreams. But it was sleep of a kind.
Sheriam finally left the tent at dawn. She was not surprised to find the Amyrlin and Siuan in the tent they called the Amyrlin's Study even at that early hour. There was so much to be done every day that no one got to sleep in.
"How is he?" the Amyrlin asked.
"About as good as can be expected, Mother," Sheriam said carefully. "He woke up late last night and told me what happened. Halima did not have anyone with her, she channeled herself. And she used Saidin."
The Amyrlin's eyes opened wide.
"Halima!?!" Siuan gasped.
"Jahar thinks she was one of the Forsaken. Between her strength and the fact that a woman channeling Saidin was part of the attack on the Dragon when he removed the Taint," Sheriam added.
"Light,” Siuan muttered. "Light."
The Amyrlin looked white as wax and uneasily rubbed her shoulders, where Halima had often massaged her. "A Forsaken.. You should have told us last night, Sheriam," she said.
"She is dead," Sheriam answered. "Even the Forsaken can not raise from the dead." How could she explain she would not have left Jahar last night unless she had been sure a Forsaken was about to attack right then?
Siuan studied her face and sighed. "I guess they can not, at that. But we never knew they could channel Saidin as a woman, either."
The Amyrlin shuddered, then got up and poured herself a cup of hot tea from a can in the corner of the tent. "Tell us what he told you," she told Sheriam. "And when he wakes up, bring him in."
Sheriam nodded and started to tell them everything.
When Jahar woke up, he was alone in the tent. A tray with breakfast was sitting on the small table, and his clothes were folded up on a chest next to it. Someone had retrieved his saddlebags from the site of the battle; he could not even remember how he had let go of his horse, or when. Probably when he felt that first surge of Saidin behind him. The moment that.. Light! He closed his eyes again for a moment, clenching his teeth. But he did not relish going to sleep again. He did not remember any of the dreams he had had, but he knew they had not been pleasant. As he reopened his eyes, Sheriam was there handing him the breakfast tray. "I know you are not hungry but you must eat," she said gently. "Then when you are done, if you are up to it, the Amyrlin wants to see you." She left the tent, promising "I will be back soon."
He picked at the food -eggs, ham, rolls and butter- but he did not manage to eat much. He soon pushed the tray away, swung his legs out of the cot, and went over to the pitcher of wash water in the other corner of the tent. The water was cold but he did not bother to channel it warmer. One of his braids was coming undone, he saw, and he shrugged. He grabbed his coat and pulled it on, noticing and ignoring the small tear in one of the arms. He had another coat in his saddlebags, but what did any of it matter?
Suddenly Sheriam was there again. She looked him over. "I do not know whether your M'Hael cares if you show up like that, but you can not do that here," she said firmly. She handed him a hairbrush and while he brushed his hair and re-braided it, she got his spare coat from is packs. But however firmly she spoke, he felt no irritation from her, only concern. It wasn't like he was going to lie down and die, it was just easier not to think of.. he shrugged as he took the clean coat and put it on.
"Are you ready?" Sheriam asked. He nodded. She seemed to hesitate a moment but then led the way out of the tent. He followed.
Sheriam ducked into another tent nearby and Jahar was right behind her. Much larger, this tent held a table and several chairs. Two women were present, both looking very young. Sheriam announced him to the Amyrlin, and introduced the other woman as Siuan Sedai. He noticed that neither had the ageless look of the Aes Sedai, but he did not really see what it mattered, either. Siuan poured tea for all of them as the Amyrlin offered them a seat.
"Take a seat," she said, studying him. "Sheriam told us most of what happened, but we have a few questions yet."
Jahar nodded. "Yes, Mother."
Siuan handed him a cup and she frowned at him. What was it now, he thought, and shrugged inwardly. The Amyrlin and Siuan went over everything he had told Sheriam, and this time he answered quietly as he told his story. He still felt Sheriam's concern through the bond, but he ignored it.
As he finished his account, the Amyrlin started her questions. "You feel Halima was a Forsaken, who might she have been? How strong do you think she was?"
"Stronger than any of the Asha'man, probably stronger than the M'Hael. She had no trouble warding off anything I threw at her," Jahar reported blandly. "Men can not feel exactly how strong another man is unless they draw all they can hold, or feel the ability in someone who does not hold the Power."
The Amyrlin looked thoughtful, fingering the multicoloured stole she wore. "So even if you were to make the rounds through the camp, you could not detect a woman like Halima until she channeled."
Jahar nodded. "That is so."
"And by then it would be too late..." the Amyrlin mused. She spoke slowly as if she was thinking for herself, and of course she was right, too -but Jahar lost it. He jumped up, spilling tea from his cup over the table.
"Light, woman, after yesterday we all know that! It's just that way for us!" he yelled. Then he clenched his teeth so hard it hurt.
The Amyrlin started, Siuan Sedai looked shocked, but Sheriam only took his arm and said, "Jahar." She gently urged him to sit down again. Strangely enough, at his outburst her concern changed to relief.
The Amyrlin recovered from her shock. "I am sorry," she said. "I was only thinking aloud, but it was thoughtless of me to say it like that. No one blames you for not doing the impossible."
"Thank you, Mother," Jahar said carefully. "I am sorry for my outburst, it is just that.." he broke off and gritted his teeth trying not to lose control again. He was still seething mad -at the Amyrlin for stating the obvious, at Halima for ambushing them, at the Lord Dragon for sending him on a mission he had not been comfortable with from the start and that had almost cost him his life -for the second time. Light, he was mad at the Pattern for being like it was, so Merise had had no warning and no chance to avoid what hit her. But blowing up did not change anything.
The Amyrlin nodded thoughtfully again. Then the wet papers on her desk suddenly shifted slightly as they dried, and he felt a prickle in his skin that told him she had channeled. "Well," she said. "It is unlikely there is another Forsaken hiding as a woman among us. We will see later if we can puzzle out how it was done. Sheriam, have the Yellows check out the body in any way they can, but keep the reasons as quiet as possible. We do not want a panic or a witch hunt in the camp."
Sheriam nodded. "As you wish, Mother."
"We should also continue to find any accomplices Halima had," Siuan said.
"Delana," the Amyrlin said. Jahar felt a stab of fear and hatred coming from Sheriam at the mention of that name. But she said nothing.
"She stated in front of the whole Hall she had no idea what her secretary was up to, and that she was in no way a Darkfriend. She said so literally, she can't lie," Siuan said.
"She could if she was Black Ajah, we know they are not held by the Oaths," the Amyrlin shot back.
"That is so," Siuan sighed. "But we can not question a Sitter any further. Light, we can not! The Greys would be furious. What do you think, Sheriam?"
"We can not do anything but watch her. As you said, the whole Grey Ajah would be up in arms," Sheriam showed no emotion in her face but fear just surged through the bond as she spoke. "By your leave, Mother, I will talk to the Yellows now. The sooner they get to it, the better."
The Amyrlin seemed slightly surprised at her fervour but she did not comment. "You are free to go, Sheriam." Sheriam got up quickly, motioned for Jahar to follow her, and left the tent.
Jahar went with her as she took several Yellow sisters apart and spoke to them. Two, Dagdara and Therva, took an interest in him especially. He let it all happen, feelings rapidly changing from anger, to irritation, to hurt at the many reminders of the day before. If he sometimes answered the many questions he got a bit briefly, well, there were a lot of them too, enough to irritate under any circumstances. Not to mention all the Yellow sisters wanted to delve him and check on him. But he did keep himself from any outbursts as severe as the one he had this morning.
As they were almost back to their tent, he suddenly felt that same stab of fear and hate through the bond he had felt earlier, and stronger now. As they were now out in the open, he was immediately alert, looked around, and readied himself to grab the Source. But Sheriam did not act afraid, and all he saw was the usual people going about their business. Or -the Aes Sedai who had just emerged from the tent that was used as the meeting place of the Hall wore a grey-fringed shawl. Jahar was sure it was Delana, but Sheriam did not stop and went straight for her tent.
Inside, she relaxed, but he did not. "What is it with Delana?" he asked her.
She jumped. "Nothing I can tell you."
"Nothing, don't give me that. You jumped out of your skin when her name was mentioned and just now when we saw her -that was her wasn't it?- you were scared to death," he said.
Sheriam tensed visibly, now. "That was her. But.. I just can not tell you. Please believe me."
He nodded reluctantly. He thought she meant it literally, that she could not tell him, even though he did not know why. But he would find out. "I am your Warder now, Sheriam. I will watch her." And I will not fail again, he added silently to himself.
That night, Sheriam waited until Jahar had fallen asleep. She hoped he would not notice her now, or would think it a part of one of his dreams and not wake up if he did. For a moment, when she learned who Halima had been, she had hoped she would be released from the weaves that kept her from speaking about Delana as strongly as if she had sworn on the Oath Rod. But the Lock was still there, Delana had woven it and she was still alive. Sheriam now knew who had taught her the weaves but she could not break through any more than she could before. She held her hands in front of her face and cried silently.
As Jahar woke on his second morning in the camp, it was still early. Even so, Sheriam was up before him and already out. He ate little more than he had the day before, but he did channel briefly to warm the icy water in the pitcher. It was the first time he had channeled since.. well, the first time, and he almost lost the Source again. When filled with Saidin everything seemed more pronounced, not just sights and sounds but other things as well. He gritted his teeth and he made himself hold on to Saidin after he heated the water, and channeled a few times to move the breakfast tray and to straighten the bedclothes. He would have to Travel to Cairhien later today and it would do not good to mess up then. He felt tired from a night of bad dreams. Slowly and methodically he dressed and braided his hair.
As he was done, Sheriam came in with another Aes Sedai. "Jahar, this is Myrelle, she is a green," she said. She felt concerned again, he noticed.
He greeted Myrelle, but she all but ignored his greeting and looked him over from head to toe. He sighed and simply waited for whatever she would say or do. For a while Myrelle kept looking at him, then she laid her hands on him and he felt the tingle of her channeling. He frowned slightly as she had still barely acknowledged him -the Yellows the day before had at least said 'may I?' before delving, even though some had not waited for an answer. But he did not comment. Next, she looked over the tent. Her eye fell on the breakfast tray with still quite a bit of food left over. She turned to Sheriam. "He should be eating more," she said.
Al right, that was enough of that. "You could speak to me, you know," he snapped at the Green. She blinked and she looked at him with slight disapproval. But Sheriam smiled and her concern was gone again. He couldn't quite figure out what was up with that. He would ask her later, after this Myrelle was gone.
"Well?" he asked. Myrelle frowned.
"Yes, an Asha'man would be headstrong," she muttered. Then she did finally address him. "But you should eat more even so. Wielding the Power does not mean your body needs any less food after being Healed."
He shrugged irritatingly. "I feel fine."
Sheriam reflected his sense of irritation now, although she still acted pleasant enough. Fortunately, Myrelle soon said she had other duties and left.
Jahar glared at the tent flap as she disappeared, and Sheriam's irritation slowly dissipated. "Myrelle has bonded Warders before, after their Aes Sedai died," she offered as explanation.
Jahar grunted. "She looked at me as if I was a horse she wanted to buy, then spoke like I was not in the room."
"She is Ebou Dari," Sheriam replied, "But she has saved more Warders than any other Aes Sedai.", she added meaningfully.
Jahar grimaced. "I guess that means I have to eat more?" he said.
"It is important to eat after being Healed, but I told you that and I think you knew already," she answered. "I can not make you eat more but it would be good if you did."
He nodded. Well, he would see. He told himself he did eat, he just did not finish those huge servings she had been giving him. Then he thought of what he had wanted to ask earlier. "When I burst out in anger you feel relieved, not angry. I do not understand, why?"
Sheriam blinked, then nodded as if she thought of something she had not before. "Of course, you have not been a Warder long, I should have explained more to you. When an Aes Sedai dies, the danger lies in two places. The initial shock is the worst. If I had not bonded you, you would never have woken up. But most Warders who live through that simply give up the will to live. No Warder has ever died of anger, or even hurt, as long as they allow themselves to feel it -but when you feel so indifferent and empty, I worry."
"I am not going to lie down and die just yet," he said flatly.
Sheriam studied him for a moment. "No, I guess you are not," she said, and he could tell she felt reassured. Yet even so, each time he got one of his indifferent moods, he would feel her concern again.
It was late afternoon when he wove the Gateway to Cairhien. He stood in the roped-off area in between the tents, and now that he knew the camp he would also return directly here. It was only when Travelling to an unknown place that it was risky to open the Gateway in a populated place, since it was difficult to pinpoint an exact spot just looking at a map. But after weaving one Gateway here, he could open another one returning and he would be surprised if he were a tenth of an inch off.
He stepped through into the palace in Cairhien, and let the Gateway close. Immediately he felt his bond change to a distance presence. Sheriam had not come along, since he would be returning the same evening and she was with the Hall in a meeting. If he concentrated, he could still feel her clearly, and he knew he could point exactly to the camp. But it felt fuzzy in a way, distant, and strange. He had never Travelled far from Merise in the brief time he had been with her. He flinched at the reminder -there was no change in how strong he felt the effects of the broken bond.
The Aiel maidens who had apparently taken up their task of guarding the Lord Dragon again showed him into the rooms. Apart from the Lord Dragon, Min and Cadsuane were also present. He saluted, but before he had a chance to speak, Cadsuane asked, "Isn't Merise with you?"
Jahar bit back a snarl. He took a deep breath and answered her question, but he directed his words at the Lord Dragon. "Merise is dead. So is the woman who channeled Saidin at Shadar Logoth."
His words came as a shock to everyone in the room. The Lord Dragon dropped his hands on the arms of his chair and muttered to himself. Min's eyes opened wide as she said "I'm sorry." But Cadsuane responded as if stung. She veered up and tried to lay her hands on him in a flash. He stepped back, avoiding her.
"Sheriam holds my bond now," he said, and his tone of voice left no doubt that he would not let Cadsuane get her hands on him.
The grey-haired Aes Sedai stood frozen for a second, with her hands half-raised. Then she stepped backwards, turned and went back to her seat. "Well, tell us what happened," she said.
Jahar told his story for the third time, again trying to address the Lord Dragon more than Cadsuane, but she kept asking questions while he did his account. "The woman must have been the one who killed Eben at Shadar Logoth," he said as he finished relating the events of his battle. "She went by the name of Halima and was a secretary to one of the Grey Sitters. None of the Yellows can figure out how she managed to channel Saidin."
Cadsuane had a flood more questions about that, but finally she seemed satisfied he had told everything he knew. The only thing he kept quiet about was Sheriam's reaction to Delana.
"If there is nothing else, I would like to return to Tar Valon tonight," Jahar said. The Lord Dragon nodded, then suddenly said, "Wait." He got up and rummaged through some drawers in the back of the room. He returned holding something small. "Narishma, you are hereby promoted to full Asha'man," he said as he pinned the dragon on Jahar's coat. "The light knows you earned it," he added softly.
Jahar was not sure what he felt. Of course, he had wanted the dragon's pin since the Lord Dragon first announced the ranks he had instituted. He had worked hard. But the price had been higher than he could ever have thought that day when he saw the M'Hael being named as the first full Asha'man. It was an effort to keep his back straight and his voice steady. "Thank you, Lord Dragon." He saluted as the Lord Dragon stepped back. Then, he turned around and left to Travel back to Tar Valon.
He felt Sheriam's presence nearby as he stepped through the Gateway, and naturally she felt him returning as well. She emerged from the Amyrlin's tent as soon as he closed the Gateway and let go of Saidin. He briefly told her about his meeting, mentioning Cadsuane and her questioning. He could not quite make out the emotions Sheriam felt when he named her; a mixture of irritation, uneasiness but also awe. Well, Cadsuane had a formidable personality, even among other Aes Sedai. She did feel proud as he told her of his promotion. She looked at the Dragon pin, then studied his face.
"Yes, the price was high," she said. "But you earned it." She looked at him intensely for a few more moments, then frowned. "You have not eaten yet." She turned around towards the cooking fires. "Come." He followed her.
As they were almost at the nearest table where several of the cooks were handing out big bowls of stew, Delana emerged from a tent and walked briskly toward the tent of the Hall. Jahar felt Sheriam's fear and hatred before he even saw the Grey sister. Sheriam did not show any emotion anyone else could see, and he knew it was useless to ask again, but he would find out what was happening.
Jahar awoke early every morning, but even so Sheriam was gone each day before him, already in conference with the Amyrlin or Lord Bryne or one of the Sitters. He heard little of the siege efforts. He was not there to fight, but to set up some communication between the Lord Dragon and the Amyrlin. And the Amyrlin did not want the Lord Dragon to get directly involved in the taking of Tower.
His nights were restless, his dreams bad, and he always woke in an empty mood, the indifference being easier than feeling the pain in his sleep. But he was determined that he would go on. Once awake, he would grit his teeth and fill the emptiness with anything he could think of. He started to channel again when washing, dressing, and making his bed. Also during the day he would use the Power rather than lift or carry anything by hand.
Soon Sheriam noticed he used the Power as often as he did. “You should not channel so often,” she said, and he could feel she was apprehensive. “The Power is dangerous when used too much, it is addictive to hold the Source and harder to let go all the time. That is why we don’t do our chores with the Power.”
During his weeks with Merise he had stopped channeling for minor chores as he had learned in the Black Tower. She had said the same thing Sheriam just told him. He had tried to argue, but Merise had gone to get Cadsuane and no one argued with her. He thought even the Lord Dragon usually listened to Cadsuane. But Sheriam was different. She did listen to what he said. She had even apologised to him a couple times, and he had never heard any Aes Sedai do that before, not to anyone who was not Aes Sedai as well. So he tried.
“At the Black Tower, we use Saidin for everything. It is good practice.”
“So is playing it safe,” Sheriam retorted.
“We have no time to play it safe. First there was the taint, and we did not think we would have years to learn regardless of outside events. But that is not all. I have channeled for eight months, and in that time I have fought the Shaido at Dumai’s Wells, the Seanchan in Altara, the Forsaken at Shadar Logoth. What could I have done if we played it safe at the Black Tower? Juggle balls of light at them?” Jahar explained.
Sheriam nodded reluctantly. “I guess you are right,” she sighed. “Use your judgement and do what you have to do. But I don’t like it.”
“I have no desire to burn myself out,” Jahar told her, conviction clear in his voice.
“Just make sure you don’t,” Sheriam replied quietly. She still felt apprehensive but she did not mention his channeling again.
For days he had looked for Delana. He had briefly considered speaking to the Amyrlin about Sheriam's reaction to the Grey, but he had dismissed that idea. From what he had heard, the Amyrlin could not question a Sitter without definite proof, and she would first want to know more from Sheriam. He was not sure what would happen if she were pressed into talking, but he did not think it would be pleasant. Instead, he decided he would confront Delana himself. Unfortunately, that turned out to be difficult. Delana shared her tent with one of the other Grey sitters, Kwamesa, who spent almost all her time in the tent, reading. He had looked into their tent once, pretending to look for Verilin, the third Grey sitter, and Kwamesa's half of the tent would not have miss-stood a Brown. Books, scrolls and papers were all over the place. He briefly wondered if she was up to something, too, but Sheriam never showed any reaction to the younger Grey. It was probably just his bad luck that she was doing some serious research that kept her in the tent almost all the time, except when the Hall met -but at those times Delana was away, too.
He often walked around the camp now, on any errand he could think of. Sheriam was a little surprised at his activity but she felt mostly pleased. No doubt she was happy he was not pining away.
Finally, one morning after the Hall had met and he had followed Delana at a distance, he got the chance he had been waiting for. Kwasema, who had walked with Delana on the way back from the Hall, ducked into the tent only to emerge again immediately with two thick books and a big stack of papers. She walked off to where the Browns had pitched their tents. Looking at the items in her hands, Jahar expected she would be gone for a while. And Sheriam was on the other end of the camp, discussing something with Lord Bryne. She would not be close enough to notice what tent he was in. He seized Saidin.
He had considered simply to confront the Grey. Even if she did try to channel he would feel the tingling in his skin, and he was sure he could shield almost any sister in the camp with little effort, even after they already held the Source. But he did not dare take any chances. Halima had been Delana's secretary and she might well have tricks up her sleeve he could not handle. As he ducked into the tent, she stood with her back towards him, sorting through some notes of some kind, and he slammed a shield into place around her. He also wove a ward around the inside of the whole tent, keeping all sound inside. "Delana," he said.
Delana jumped and turned toward him angrily. "What is this?" she demanded. Only a split second later her expression turned to horror, then right back to anger again. Of course, she had not been able to feel the shield until she tried to embrace Saidar, but her reaction told him she had found it now. "Are you mad? Release me immediately!" she raged.
"First tell me what you have done to Sheriam," Jahar said calmly.
"What? I have done nothing, I don't know what you are talking about. Now I don't know what goes on in this Black Tower of yours," she spat the words, "but here we have certain standards. You can not barge in and shield a Sitter of the Hall! Release me right now!"
"I think you know exactly what I am talking about," Jahar said. "Sheriam is scared half to death every time she sees you, and I am not releasing this shield until I know why. And put a stop to it." He saw her eyes dart to the tent flap before she moved. Delana's dash for the door was cut short at a single step as he caught her in flows of Air. "Nice try."
She frantically shook her head as she struggled, visibly afraid now. Still she tried to appear indignant. "I told you I have done nothing! I am Aes Sedai, I can not lie."
Jahar slowly shook his head. This is what he had been afraid of, that she would deny everything. He had no time to argue or question her for any length of time. Kwamesa would return, and others might come in to talk to a Sitter of the Hall. But before he had left the Black Tower to join the Dragon, several of the Asha'man who were married had figured out a type of bond. A few of the more possessive among them had then added another weave, which made them able to control the women they bonded. He did not relish bonding Delana -light, he did not even want to touch her- but he thought he could adapt those second weaves to be used by themselves. He channeled Spirit and wove a net into the Grey.
Delana's eyes opened wide. "What are you doing?" she asked anxiously. He did not answer her question, concentrating on his weaves. There!
"What have you done to Sheriam?" he asked again.
"I made her sp.." Delana started, then broke off. She was sweating now, but she had gotten a determined look in her eye. Carefully, Jahar pulled his web of Spirit a little tighter. "I made her spy on the Amyrlin for Halima," she said before he could even repeat his question.
"How?" Jahar asked.
"Sometimes I used compulsion, or I beat her with the Power," Delana replied.
Jahar snarled. "And what did you do so she can not talk about it?"
"I put a Lock on her. Halima told me how to do it. She can not say or do anything to betray me." Delana almost fell over her words answering him.
"Release this Lock. Now," Jahar demanded.
"I can't!" Delana answered, anguish in her voice as she could not do as he said. "I would have to see her, and I would have to channel."
Jahar swore. "Who was Halima?" he asked.
"She was also called Aran'gar," Delana said. "I do not know what other name she had, but she was one of the Chosen."
"And why were you helping her?" Jahar asked next.
"To serve the Great Lord and the Chosen."
Jahar heard a gasp and a thump from behind him and he jumped. He turned, holding Saidin ready, to see Kwamesa and Janya, a Brown Sitter, standing just inside the tent. One of the books Kwamesa had carried lay on the ground where she had dropped it. Light, he had been concentrating so hard on his web of Spirit -touching someone's mind with the Power was very tricky and he had after all never done this before- that he had not noticed the sisters entering. Careless, but no helping that now.
Kwamesa slowly took a couple steps toward Delana, shock on her face. "What Ajah are you?" she asked Delana.
Delana shook her head, wordlessly.
"Answer her," Jahar commanded.
"I am Black Ajah.,” Delana said.
Kwamesa gaped at her for a moment, open mouthed, then suddenly flew at her, hitting the bound sister with the book she was still holding. "You trolloc spawn, I will kill you!"
Jahar took her by the arm and pulled her back. He did not use the Power. He was much stronger than she was, and he did not want to scare her.
"Don't kill her. We need to get more information from her," he said. Kwamesa nodded slowly, her initial shock ebbing away, and he let go of her arm.
Janya now came up to them. "What did you do to her, how did you find out?" she wanted to know.
Jahar told her what weaves he had used. She frowned. "Compulsion is an ugly thing, but her confession is valid. If she were not Black she could not have lied and said she was, and if she were able to tell a lie then that, too, would be proof of her alliance. Now, why were you here, how did you know?"
"That is something I would answer to the Amyrlin only," Jahar said. He was afraid Janya and Kwamesa would hear more than he would have liked them to, already.
Janya frowned, then straightened. "We will have to inform her immediately anyhow. Can you make her come along without making trouble? It will attract unwanted attention if the Amyrlin has to come here."
Jahar looked at Delana. "You will come along and not try to escape, nor attract notice in any way," he instructed her. She nodded eagerly. He released the flows of Air that held her, and she slowly moved, testing if she really could. Then Janya led the way out of the tent.
In the Amyrlin's tent, the Amyrlin was leaning over the table pointing at something on a map to Siuan next to her. They looked up as the four of them came in. "Mother, we have something important to tell you," Janya said. Even though Jahar held the shield and the web of compulsion, Janya had taken charge. "If you will excuse us," she added to Siuan.
Siuan nodded and stood up, grabbing her cloak. “'Please ask Sheriam to come here," Jahar told her. Siuan looked startled at being asked such a thing by him, but she nodded. As soon as she was gone, he felt the tingle of someone channeling. Of course, one of the sisters had woven a ward like he had used earlier.
"Mother, this... this filth here is Black Ajah," Janya spat out.
The Amyrlin looked startled, but not surprised. "How did you find out?" she asked.
"He did," Janya answered, pointing at Jahar. "His methods are not really according to custom, but they are effective."
The Amyrlin looked at him questioningly.
"I used a form of compulsion on her," he explained.
"The compulsion does not change the validity of her confession, Mother," Janya said, explaining as she had before.
"So you are a Black,” the Amyrlin said to Delana. The woman glared at her defiantly.
"Answer her," Jahar said. "Answer all questions any of us ask you," he added, pre-empting any further attempts at being stubborn.
"Yes, I am a Black," Delana said.
"I can not say I am surprised, but I had no proof,” the Amyrlin said. Then, to Jahar, “Thank you for doing what we could not. However unconventional.” He simply nodded in acknowledgement.
The Amyrlin went back to questioning Delana. "Who else is a Black?"
Delana once again looked anxious as she said, "No one I know. Halima -Aran'gar- was my only contact after the Tower split." The Amyrlin sniffed. "In the Tower I knew Asne and Joiya before they left. I don't know any others, believe me!"
The Amyrlin looked disgusted. "Just our luck, no trail to follow." She turned back to Jahar. “How did you know about her?"
He shifted uncomfortably. "She has been extorting information from Sheriam. And she put something she calls a Lock on her so she could not talk about it or show anything. But I could feel it through the bond," he explained. "She says Sheriam has to be in the room with her for her to remove this Lock, and she must be unshielded."
The Amyrlin and Kwamesa looked worried at that. He turned to Delana. "You will undo the Lock when I let go of the shield. You will release the Source as soon as you are done. You will not try anything else or even think of anything else," he instructed her. Delana nodded vehemently.
"We will hold ourselves ready and keep an eye on her, but she will do as you say," Janya said.
It was not much later Jahar felt Sheriam approaching. She entered the tent and stopped dead as she saw Delana and took in the scene. He felt a physical pain from her at the shock of being confronted suddenly, and yet not being able to show any outward signs of fear. He was next to her in a flash, steadying her. "We know, and she is going to remove this Lock," he told her quietly.
The Amyrlin looked at Janya and Kwamesa, then nodded at him. "Go ahead."
Jahar released the shield and felt Saidar being channeled. The Black sister had a look of concentration on her face for a brief moment, then he felt the change in Sheriam before any of the others reacted.
"She is done," Janya announced, and Jahar re-shielded the Black.
Sheriam blinked, looking as if she probed for something. Then she ran to the Amyrlin, pulling away from him, and dropped to her knees. "Mother, I am sorry, I spied on you. She caught me unawares, and I could not stop her. Light, I am sworn to you but I had no choice, believe me," she stumbled over her words.
The Amyrlin looked startled at her reaction, then reached out a hand and laid it on Sheriam's arm. "I know, and I also know you could not help it." She glanced at Kwamesa who was looking at Sheriam with a frown. "And I will not have any other comments unless anyone here thinks they would have done better," she added. Kwamesa looked taken aback. "Get up, Sheriam. Delana and her 'secretary' have been able to get close to more than one of us," the Amyrlin continued.
Jahar had taken a step forward when Sheriam shook loose, but then kept back. Now, as Sheriam slowly got up he steadied her again. The Amyrlin looked from them to Delana and back. "We must question her further, but we all need a moment to ourselves. I also want Siuan to be here, and we will have to bring her up to speed. Can you re-do this compulsion at any time?"
Jahar nodded. "Yes, Mother." He was not even sure the weaves would dissipate immediately if he let them go. "Then if Kwamesa and Janya can hold her shield, and bind her on that chair over there," she pointed, "You two be back here in an hour."
Delana sat on the chair without protest. Jahar felt the Aes Sedai channel, and Janya said, “We have her.” Jahar nodded, released his weaves and went with Sheriam to their tent.
Once inside, Sheriam sank down on the edge of her cot. She put her head in her hands, then looked up at Jahar. “Thank you,” she said, her voice trembling.
“I am your Warder now,” Jahar answered.
He walked over to the table, poured a cup of wine, and brought it to Sheriam. She accepted it thankfully. Then she started to tell him how Delana had shielded her when she came to see her on her rounds of all the Sitters. This time it was his turn to hold her as she falteringly told her story.
After an hour Sheriam looked composed as they went back to the Amyrlin’s tent. All the others were already present, and someone had placed a couple full pitchers of wine and water on a tray in the corner. Siuan looked at her thoughtfully, but not accusingly. Of course she would have been told everything by now but she did not judge people easily, thank the Light. Sheriam sat down, but Jahar remained standing.
“If you would assume the shield and web again,” the Amyrlin asked him.
“Yes Mother,” Jahar answered.
Sheriam could not see him channel, of course, but she did feel his brief concentration as he used the weaves he had just learned this morning. Then Jahar nodded to Janya and the shield Sheriam could see winked out.
The Amyrlin started to question Delana –who she knew, what she had done, how long she had been with the Black. Often Siuan would ask a question as well, but Sheriam just observed. Most of the answers were useless, or only of academic interest, and Delana seemed to know very little. Sheriam was certain she was not holding back; the woman fell all over herself to answer and she almost cried when she felt her answer was not satisfactory. This was just sick, Sheriam thought after listening for a while to Delana’s over-zealous answers. The woman had done this, and worse, to her, but Light! She still felt uneasy about doing it herself. Compulsion was a filthy thing, even when necessary.
Suddenly she thought of something. “Delana, did you have any others... like me?” she asked.
Delana shook her head. “I did not. Halima did,” she said.
The Amyrlin looked startled, Siuan annoyed at not having thought of that question before. “Who?” Siuan shot back before anyone else could.
“I only know one by name. A soldier under Lord Bryne from Shienar, Ragan. She had others I think, all in the soldier’s camp, but that is the only name I know.”
“Would he be released now she is dead?” the Amyrlin asked.
“I don’t think so, the weaves are tied,” Delana said. “I doubt they would dissipate over time, not Halima’s.”
The Amyrlin frowned. “Kwamesa, go find Ragan and get him in here.”
Kwamesa nodded, got up and left.
“Could Jahar undo the Lock?” she asked Delana next.
“Maybe. It is hard to see once it is woven. Maybe Halima did not hide her weaves so well with no male channeler around. I will explain how it works as well as I can,” the Black replied.
The Amyrlin looked at Jahar questioningly, but he shrugged. “I won’t know until I see him.”
“Yes, of course,” the Amyrlin said.
“I will have to be able to concentrate,” Jahar said. “If Janya would take over the shield again? If I tie the other web, it will remain in place long enough before it dissipates.”
The Amyrlin gave a brief nod toward Janya. “Do it,” she said, and Janya channeled Saidar around the Black sister.
Soon after, Kwamesa entered with Ragan, who looked absolutely terrified. “You wanted to see me, Mother?” he asked. Sheriam could imagine the man’s terror; no doubt he knew exactly why he was here, or had a good notion, but he just could not say or do anything about it. “We know about Halima and we know you can not talk about it. We will not make you. Jahar here will try to undo this Lock, as we call it.”
Ragan looked from her to Jahar and back again. “He will?” he started. Of course, many still were uneasy about a man channeling. “But,” he tried, and choked as of course he could not say anything else.
Jahar stepped over in front of him. “Do not try to speak of it. Just hold still and I will do everything that is needed.” He looked over his shoulder at Delana.
“Look for something like a string, a circlet, with three knots in it. From what I understand it looks like that because of the anatomy of the subject, so it should look similar when woven with Saidin,” Delana explained.
Jahar probed carefully with flows of Spirit. Twice he went over the man from head to toe, but he did not see any weaves, string, knots or anything else for that matter. Then, finally, one of his probes touched something. But however he tried, he still could not see the weaves. He was sure it was Saidin, but… Light, she must have inverted the weaves! He had unravelled inverted weaves once before, in the Stone when he had retrieved Callandor, but you had to know exactly at what point the weaves were held when the inverting was done to reverse it. Or at least, that was how he had done it that time, with precise instructions from the Lord Dragon. Jahar was not sure how to make the weaves visible again without first knowing how or where they had been tied.
“The flows are inverted, where do I hold them to undo that?” he asked.
Delana shook her head. “I don’t know, Halima never taught me that.”
“We take a hold of the weave and kind of flip a flow of Air around it, inside out, then when we have to undo it there is a little tag left we can search for,” the Amyrlin explained. “But I do not know if it is the same for you.”
“You know how to invert weaves?” Janya asked incredulously, looking at the Amyrlin.
The Amyrlin wove her hand in dismissal. “Later,” she told Janya, without looking at her. “Is that any help?”
He shrugged. For Callandor, the weaves had been mostly Spirit and Fire, not Air. Once again the difference between Saidar and Saidin was too great. He carefully probed the knot, found the tendril that formed the string, and the next knot… The weaves were easy enough to feel once you knew they were there, but there was nothing that felt familiar. He went over the whole circle again, but no luck. Hm, wait a minute… who said he would have to see the weaves to untie them? It was quite possible to untie knots on a saddlebag or other rope in the dark, just by touch. Sure, it was easier when you could see what you were doing, but it was possible. He would have to try a similar thing here. He probed the first knot again, carefully, weaving Saidin in thin strands that poked at the invisible knot. He closed his eyes and moved his hands as if he really were feeling for rope in the dark. Of course, he knew none of that was necessary, but it seemed easier that way. There, at one point it the knot felt different. He pushed the strand of Spirit into the invisible weaves and wiggled it a little. The knot seemed to give. Slowly, he worked a little more flows in the opening he had made. The knot loosened further, and suddenly it came loose easily. One down, two to go. He followed the invisible strand to the next.
Without warning, Ragan turned and tried to run. Jahar grabbed him by the arm, but the man was strong. He did not think he could divide his flows right now. The next instant Ragan stopped fighting him.
“Got him,” Sheriam said. “I’m sorry, I should have expected something like that from a man who did not know what was going to happen to him.”
“I still have the flows,” Jahar replied, then went on picking at the knots.
Now he had the first one untied, the others were easier. A little easier. He could follow the long tendril in and work from there. Soon he had the second one untied, and the third. He stepped back and let go of Saidin.
“Done,” he announced. He stepped back, and Sheriam came forward.
“You can talk now. We know what Halima did and you are not the only one. We do not blame you for what you could not help. But we do want to know how she got to you, and if there are any others you know about. Do you think you can sit down and answer our questions?”
Ragan still looked ready to run, but he answered “Yes Aes Sedai.” Sheriam released him and he sat down heavily on the nearest chair.
“It was back in Salidar, during the festivities after the Amyrlin was raised. She danced with everyone but when I invited her to my tent she accepted immediately,” he started with trembling voice. “Light, I did make it easy for her. She just smiled and did something –she must have channeled, and suddenly I was telling her all kinds of things about Uno, the strength of the army, I just could not help it. Then when she finally left I tried to run to Uno to tell him and I found I could not do that, either.”
“We know she had others, do you know who?” the Amyrlin asked him next.
“Yes Mother,” Ragan said. “She mentioned Edo and Mertyn often enough, I think she enjoyed telling me she had others like me.”
“Edo the quarter master?” Siuan asked. “And Mertyn, he is the Yellow Sitter’s servant?”
Ragan nodded. “That is them.”
“Go get them,” the Amyrlin ordered. Kwamesa had already stood up as Ragan mentioned the names and left immediately. “Can you handle two more?” she asked Jahar.
“Yes, Mother,” he replied. Truth to tell he was getting a little tired. He had been channeling most of the day, and difficult weaves at that. He was glad he had channeled frequently again for the past week. He would manage a little more.
“Janya, you go with Ragan and find out what else he knows,” the Amyrlin said. She looked at Delana. “I will take her shield. We should get more out of her too, but it is getting late. Siuan, would you get Myrelle and Nisao in here? We will give her over to Myrelle and Kwamesa for further questioning and I guess Kwamesa will want Varilin to be involved in that as well, and Nisao can take care of Mertyn.”
Siuan grabbed her cloak and went out, and Janya left with Ragan. “There is one man who will not fall for a pretty wench for a long time,” the Amyrlin said as they had gone. “How did she get you?” she asked Sheriam.
Jahar tensed and started to object, but Sheriam stopped him. “It is all right, Jahar. She has a right to know.”
“I went to all the Sitters to talk about the meeting with the Andoran nobles as we had agreed on,” Sheriam started. “As I came to her tent, she was with Halima. She actually looked surprised, I wonder if she had been looking for an opportunity to catch me alone. “ She glanced at the Black who nodded. “Well, I made that easy for you,” Sheriam snapped, then continued. “I saw her grab the Power of course, but I had no idea what she intended and before I knew it she shielded me and held me in flows of Air. Then she started to weave this Lock. I did not know what it was at the time, but she was having a hard time with it. She almost let the shield slip but she noticed it just before I could break through. Halima just watched. I guess she would have caught me even if I had been able to break though Delana’s shield. She then compelled me to tell what I knew of you, and instructed me to report to her regularly about your plans. When she let me go I found I could not tell you or anyone else. I tried to leave as many duties as I could to Siuan, what I did not know I could not give away.” She shuddered. “Then Delana thought I was holding back, as if her compulsion left me any choice but to tell everything I could not avoid hearing. She tried to beat the information out of me.”
Jahar had heard it all before, that morning after Delana had undone the Lock. But he still snarled softly and glared at the Black sister, who tried to shrink back but was still held by the flows of Air.
The Amyrlin flinched in sympathy, and she glared at Delana as well. “Light, her and Halima really had their dirty hands on all of us.” She looked as if she wanted to say more, but broke off as Kwamesa entered with the two men she had been sent to get.
This time, Sheriam held the two of them right from the start. It was a little easier to untie the invisible weaves now that he had done so before, but it still took Jahar some time to work the knots loose. He first undid the Lock on Edo, the quartermaster, and the Amyrlin sent him off with Siuan, who had by that time returned to the tent. Myrelle and Nisao were loudly demanding to know what was happening, and the Amyrlin and Kwamesa were explaining, but he paid little attention at what was going on around him as he removed the Lock from Mertyn. When he was done, Nisao took the man with her. He let go of Saidin thankfully. Those last two had been a strain, and he leaned on a chair in front of him.
Myrelle stood next to Delana, Kwamesa behind her. “If he,” she gestured to Jahar, “holds the compulsion on her, then he should come with us for her interrogation.”
“Not tonight,” Sheriam told her. “The web is tied off and she is still quite responsive. If it does dissipate, you will just have to use other methods until tomorrow.”
Jahar almost started to say he could check the weaves before they left, but he was not sure he could do even that. He tried not to show how tired he was, especially in front of Myrelle, but Sheriam of course knew. “And you are going to get some rest,” she told him. She laid her hands on him and he felt a brief tingle through his body, erasing the small strains in his arms and hands from the brief struggles he had had, but the weariness did not go away. “It does not do much for the weariness caused by channeling,” she said. “Go now.” He inclined his head and left.
Several hours later, Sheriam woke him with food. “You feel almost as tired as I am,” he remarked.
“I am,” Sheriam said. “But it is not from channeling, I can keep going.”
Jahar frowned. “I should learn that thing you did earlier,” he said. Sheriam blinked in surprise, she clearly had not thought of that. “It is no substitute for sleep, but yes, that would be a good idea. Later,” she added firmly, as if he could possibly have tried a new weave at this time.
The next morning Jahar woke before Sheriam. He felt rested again and after a quick breakfast he went out to the practice yard. Back at the Black Tower, many of the Asha’man had grumbled about the sword lessons, but he was from the Borderlands. His father was a woodworker and not a soldier, but he knew how to use a sword and he had taught Jahar and his brother as soon as they were old enough to hold one. Nor had his dad’s sword lessons been an exception in Shol Arbela, not that close to the Blight. His father used to say he could hold the alley behind the shop against twenty trollocs, if it came to that. He should send a letter some time, he had not send a word since the note he had left on the table when he had gone with the recruiters from the Black Tower. All he had said was that he was going to fight for the Dragon; he had not even known at the time he could learn to channel, but he had still slipped away without telling anyone directly. And afterwards.. well, how could he have told his family he was a man who could channel? Perhaps now that the taint was gone, at least, he would send a message home. But he doubted he would be welcome there. Too many people still feared men who channeled, even in the Borderlands where people were not easily scared. For now, coming from Shol Arbela just meant he could practice his sword with the other Warders without embarrassment.
He noticed Myrelle as she approached the practice yard. She snapped her fingers. He ignored her. The woman knew his name, she could use it. Strange, less than two weeks ago snapping fingers and pointing had seemed perfectly acceptable. Of course, Merise had been his Aes Sedai, and she had not tried to order other Warders around like that. Well, not often anyway.
“Jahar,” Myrelle called then. He stopped his forms, sheathed his sword and came over.
“Yes Myrelle Sedai?” he asked.
“Sheriam said you were here. Come with..” she broke off. “Would you come with me and check the weaves on Delana?” she asked, sounding exasperated.
“Of course, Myrelle Sedai,” he answered. He certainly did not mind following the Aes Sedai’s orders, as long as she was reasonable about it. He quickly went with her and looked at the Black sister. To his surprise, the weaves were still as good as the day before. He had not left anything tied for so long and he really was not sure how long it would last.
After he left the tent where Delana was held, Jahar went to Sheriam and he remained with her most of that day and the next, with the Amyrlin and on all the numerous runs around the camp to the Hall and elsewhere. He had no more need to think of errands to run. Thus he was also with her in the Amyrlin’s Study that next afternoon. Sheriam and the Amyrlin were going over long lists of supplies, soldier’s wages, and other paperwork. He sat in the back of the tent playing around with some simple weaves, trying to figure out the way to inverse them. Unsuccessfully, so far.
Suddenly, Lord Bryne entered with an Aes Sedai under guard. “Mother, this is Sylviana Sedai, she comes as an envoy from Elaida,” he announced.
The Amyrlin nodded. “What brings you here, daughter?” she asked.
“I have been sent by the Hall under Elaida,” Sylviana started. “Last night, Elaida has killed herself and Alviarin has fled the Tower. The Hall surrenders itself to you.” The Amyrlin blinked in surprise as Sylviana continued. “If you would ride to the Tower, the Hall will formally relinquish control of Tar Valon to you.”
The Amyrlin looked at Lord Bryne, who shrugged. “They would not run out of supplies for some time yet. It could be a trap.”
Sylviana looked indignant. “I am Aes Sedai, I can not lie.” Sheriam merely sniffed at that.
Jahar stood up. “We could Travel onto the Tower grounds directly, Mother,” he suggested. “Avoid the town until you have the Tower secured.” Lord Bryne nodded in agreement.
Sylviana however now first noticed him. Her eyes widened in shock as she took in his black coat and the pins on his collar. “He’s.. he’s..” she stammered. Jahar felt something push at Saidin, but before he could react it was gone again, and Sylviana was thrown to the floor as if hit by something invisible. He did not have to look to know it was Sheriam, fury coursed through the bond.
“How dare you!” she snapped. “You are an envoy from the enemy camp, you will not channel in the presence of the Amyrlin or anywhere else in this camp without permission. And you will never, ever, channel at my Warder again. Apologise at once.”
If Sylviana had been shocked before, it was nothing compared to the look of utter dismay she had on her face now. She scrambled up to a half-sitting position, keeping her eyes locked on Jahar. “But.. he’s.. you bonded a man who can channel?” she managed.
“Even in the Tower you must have heard the Taint is gone,” Sheriam told her. “But quite apart from that, to channel at anyone here, in your position –there is no excuse to lose control like that, even for a Red. Light, woman, can you get a hold of yourself or did they lower the standards for my former position that much?”
Sylviana got up slowly, still looking at Jahar as if he were a dangerous viper about to strike. “I am sorry I channeled,” she said with an effort, and without making it clear who she addressed.
Jahar looked at Sylviana with some apprehension of his own. Not that he was worried about anything she would do directly. He had barely felt her channeling, holding Saidin as he was, and from the way Sheriam had handled her he was sure she was much stronger than the Red sister as well. Nor did her stares bother him. He had grown used to people avoiding him, looking at him as if he were a dangerous animal. The taint being gone only made a small difference, as life-long fears took a long time to overcome. But no one had reacted as strongly as this. No other Aes Sedai, however wary some looked, had ever struck out at him. If this was what he could expect from the Red Ajah… how many Reds were there in the Tower, anyhow?
The Amyrlin regarded Sylviana thoughtfully and sighed. “You and your Red sisters will have to get used to some changes.” Then she looked around at all of them and added, “And the sooner I can get to the Tower, the better. I do believe it would be important to ride in, to show the people of Tar Valon our arrival. It will make it easier to take charge of the city afterwards.” Sheriam nodded in agreement to that.
“With all due respect, Mother,” Lord Bryne put in. “I agree with Jahar. Even if she,” he indicated Sylviana, “is telling the truth about the intentions of Elaida’s Hall, there is always the risk of disgruntled individuals taking matters into their own hands.”
“Being Amyrlin is hardly a safe position in the best of times,” the Amyrlin said. “I have to rule this city and I want the people to know that I am there, and Elaida is no longer.”
“You can not rule a city if you do not make it to the Tower,” Lord Bryne argued. “And if I remember right, you promised to take my advise on military matters. “
“Until the taking of the Tower,” the Amyrlin noted. “Which could be interpreted as being until about a quarter of an hour ago.”
Lord Bryne threw up his hands. “Do all Aes Sedai make their words jump through hoops?” he asked, looking exasperated.
Jahar frowned. He did not like the thought of riding through Tar Valon, but he did not think it would be of any use arguing with the Amyrlin when she had her mind made up. Or with Sheriam. He did not doubt they would ride through Tar Valon. But they did not have to ride unprotected.
“What about a dome?” he asked.
“A dome?” the Amyrlin asked, but Sheriam nodded. In just two busy weeks there had not been a lot of opportunity for talk, but he had told her bits and pieces of his experiences as an Asha’man.
“A dome of Air, all around the column of horses. It will stop anything, whether it is an arrow or the One Power,” he explained. “Similar to a shield but tunnel shaped, and all the separate pieces connected.”
“Our shields are always flat, round and of one piece, but I see no reason why they have to be other than that is the way we have been taught,” Sheriam said. “It is just Air, it could be done.”
The Amyrlin looked thoughtful. “So the people of Tar Valon could see us ride in, and yet we would be protected against any traps. Yes, I think that would be a good idea,” She nodded briefly as she took her decision. “Lord Bryne, see what you can find out from your scouts and if there is nothing to indicate Sylviana’s claims are false, we will ride in the morning. Sheriam, get the Sitters to join me in the Hall right away. Jahar, find Myrelle, Carlinya, Morvrin, Nisao, Faolain and Theodrin, and see if they can figure out the Saidar version of this dome. Then make sure they teach every other Aes Sedai who can learn. And whoever can find Siuan, get her in here.”
“Yes Mother,” Jahar acknowledged, as the others did the same, and he left the tent to find the Aes Sedai.
Jahar found all the Aes Sedai and took them to a field outside the camp. He was a little surprised they had followed him with little comment, but then he did have direct orders from the Amyrlin. He explained the plan for the next morning. Only Myrelle muttered something about birds teaching fish to fly.
“I know I can not teach you the weave,” he said. “But I can explain what the dome should do and I am sure you can figure out how to make it. It is like a shield of Air but shaped differently, and each one is connected to the others.”
“Once we know how to work a weave, it is almost impossible to re-learn it another way,” Myrelle pointed out.
Nisao snorted. “Then don’t think of it as a shield, think of it as a dome. He is only explaining what it should look like.”
Jahar felt the prickle telling him she channeled, and he nodded thanks to her. Nisao had come by to see him several times, especially the first week. The Yellow sister made no secret that she was interested in how he coped with Merise’s death, and her manner had been abrupt and business-like, just like it was now.
He could feel the others also channeled, and wove tendrils of Air of his own to probe for the domes he could not see.
The sisters spoke among themselves as they tried various methods and weaves. “I can’t get it to bend around to form a tunnel,” Theodrin complained. “Mine remains flat, as with a shield,” Myrelle cursed. “Yes I’m trying to stop thinking of it as a shield,” she added, cutting off any replies.
Still it was not long until everyone held a tunnel-shaped dome, as far as he could tell from his probes. “Now what, do we just overlap them to form one big one?” Nisao asked.
“You have to fasten them together,” Jahar replied. “It would work without for a stationary dome but if we are going to move, there would be gaps falling all over if they are not connected. Now what we do is fray the edges into a coarse weave so that the different parts hook into each other like a thistle burr in a rough piece of cloth. But that does not sound like something that would work with Saidar.” He had felt Saidar through the link with Merise and Elza at Shadar Logoth, and it had been very, very different. Definitely not like something you would stick together like thistle burrs.
From the looks the Aes Sedai gave him they fully agreed. Morvrin even blinked and said, “Fray threads and hook them into each other? You really must tell me more about the way you do things with the Power. We know so little about men channeling.” Of course, she was a Brown.
“Later,” he grunted noncommittally, and she nodded thoughtfully. Great, another Aes Sedai who saw him as ‘an interesting case’.
“Can we get on with it?” Nisao asked. “Theodrin, try blending the edge of your flows with mine as if we are getting ready to pass the weaves across,” she told the young Brown.
Blend the flows? Light, Saidar was a lot different, he would never have thought to suggest that. But it seemed to work, the Aes Sedai nodded and looked pleased. He probed the invisible dome again and could find no gaps. For him, it was not even possible to find where the seams ran.
“Is that it?” Carlinya asked. She had been busy with two other Whites and had been less than pleased to be disturbed. Well, she would just have to wait a little longer before going back to her business.
“I want to test the dome. Lift it up and put it there at the far end of the field, right over the fence,” Jahar directed.
“Test it how, why?” Morvrin asked, but from the look on her face and the way she followed the stare of the others, they were all moving their part of the dome.
“It does not do us any good if it will buckle under the first attack. I want to throw some things at it,” Jahar explained.
Morvrin frowned, but soon said, “It is there.”
He channeled Air again, feeling for the dome’s exact location, then picked up a large boulder using Saidin. He hurled it at the dome, channeling Fire and Earth, and it exploded into a million pieces. Most of it fell harmlessly outside the invisible barrier, but at one point some of the last shards of rock fell through. Faolain colored red.
“I could not hold it,” she said, looking abashed.
“No harm done,” Jahar told her. “That is why I wanted to test it. Make your part of the dome smaller. There will be enough of you that it is not necessary to over-reach.”
This time the dome held. He threw another rock missile at it, then flooded it with a wave of rolling flames, and he even tried to erupt the ground up beneath it, but not a pebble made it through.
As he finished his test, he saw the Aes Sedai looking at him with wide eyes. As they noticed him looking at them, all but Theodrin managed to look calm again, but he was sure Theodrin had not been the only one who was startled by his display. Well, he was not going to hold back. If anyone were to try an attack tomorrow, it was unlikely they would be holding back either.
“Now there is one thing left, and that is moving with the dome,” he told them. “Now you can just walk around in circles but it will be easier if you simply hold your own small dome while you go around the camp, while you find others to take here and show them the weave.”
“We do not usually practice channeling all through the camp,” Carlinya remarked. “And I had hoped to be able to return to my tent after getting this done.”
“I know what you usually do, and that is fine when you have the time, just fine,” Jahar snapped, starting to lose his patience. “But we are riding into Tar Valon with that dome tomorrow, and you better be able to hold it and manoeuvre with it. There are a lot of obstacles on a city street and I hope that is all we run into. And unless you think you can fit the whole camp under that,” he indicated the dome the six of them had made, “you will have to show a number of others how to work the weave. Now, hold the dome, walk around with it as you look for the others, then link it up to theirs while I test it. Hold it, work with it, as long as you can so you’ll still be fit tomorrow, and make sure any you teach do the same.”
Faolain and Theodrin were the first to nod a quick consent and disappear into the camp, concentrating as they moved their part of the dome along with them. Nisao followed, too practical to dispute the facts he had summed up. Morvrin went with her, frowning thoughtfully. Carlinya and Myrelle hesitated, looking for a moment like they wanted to argue, then decided against it and left as well.
Jahar sat down to rest for a moment until the first of the Aes Sedai would be returning. This time it was not the channeling he had done that made him tired. Sure, they were strong weaves and it looked impressive, but he had learned them a long time ago and he could keep it up all day with little effort. It was the Aes Sedai with their rigid conventions that caused his weariness. Light, they had split from the Tower, been outcasts in Salidar, made their way with their army all the way back here, and they still held on to their customs, acting like the world would wait until they were good and well ready.
Of course, he doubted many of the Aes Sedai had ever seen a real battle. He knew there had been some skirmishes at the bridge towns when the army had arrived, but most of that had been taken care of by Lord Bryne’s soldiers, and he was sure it had been nothing like the Wells, or Altara, or Illian. Judging by the look on her face when he had channeled at the dome, even Myrelle had never seen a real battle fought with the Power, and she was a Green. The ‘Battle Ajah’, holding themselves ready for the Last Battle. Yeah, right. He thought most of the Greens would have a tough time if they would ever have to face the Seanchan damane. They had no Oaths against using the Power as a weapon, and he had seen them use things even the M’Hael in the Black Tower had not thought of. That wave of rolling flames was something he had first seen a damane do, then Eben had discovered how to do something similar using Saidin.
And the Seanchan would make a move for the Tower eventually, he was sure of that. Alivia had been astonished they had not done so yet, never mind how far inland Tar Valon was located, when she learned how many Aes Sedai -marath’damane to the Seanchan- the Tower held. He decided that once they were in the Tower he would speak with Sheriam about his concerns.
Soon the sisters returned, each with several others, and Jahar spent the rest of the day testing the domes the new Aes Sedai put up. Faolain and Theodrin seemed to have a hard time making the sisters listen to anything they tried to tell them, the older sisters resenting being taught by them. But Nisao, once she had made up her mind and accepted that it was necessary, helped the young Aes Sedai out when they needed it. And Myrelle even scolded some other sisters who protested at having to practice while going around the camp. They would have a working dome tomorrow.
The next morning the camp was as busy as it had ever been. Everywhere, people were packing up, running around with items or messages, and saddling horses. Jahar had finished Wing, Sheriam’s mare, first, and was now saddling his own horse. After the Wells, he could have picked one of the flashy horses the Aes Sedai had ridden, and most of the other Asha’man had done just that. Not Jahar. A red roan gelding with dark mane, a big head and a thick neck, Freckles was strong, but certainly not pretty. And in that last exchange with Halima most of his tail had been singed off, which made the horse look positively ratty. Not that Jahar would want to ride another horse today. Fancy horses were fine at a Tairen horse show, or on the Silver Circuit in Ebou Dar, but Jahar had looked for a horse he could depend on in a battle. And he had picked well; the only time Freckles had lost his nerve was when a damane had brought the whole hillside down and they had suddenly found themselves a good ten feet down the slope in a shower of rocks and dirt. Even then the gelding had been quick to settle down once the ground stopped moving. Jahar pulled the cinch tight, mounted and rode to the tent where Sheriam was waiting, leading Wing.
Lord Bryne’s scouts had not found any sign that Sylviana was less than sincere, and messengers had been sent to the White Tower to let them know the Amyrlin was to be arriving. They would ride with all Aes Sedai, Warders, and a good number of the Accepted and novices. The servants would follow later with the pack horses, and while Lord Bryne would ride with the Amyrlin, most of their protection would come from the One Power.
It took a while for everyone to get organised, the sisters holding the dome with the Warders riding beside them, the Ajah’s spread evenly along the column at Lord Bryne’s insistence so no one Ajah would be vulnerable, just in case something would go wrong after all.
Finally they rode across the Alindaer bridge. Jahar held his dome carefully overlapping with the Sitters’ weaves behind him, since it had not seemed possible to attach those together. The wide street they rode on had been mostly cleared by the Tower guard, but people thronged in the side streets and along the edges of any square they crossed.. He scanned the crowds as they rode, his senses heightened by Saidin flooding through him.
The white walls of the city blinked in the sun, more so now that the city was covered in snow and even the roofs were white. The Ogier-built city was certainly beautiful, more beautiful than Caemlyn or any other city he had been in, but he paid it little attention except for as far as potential hiding places for attacks or ambushes were concerned. The other Warders all scanned everywhere as well, and while the Aes Sedai all appeared calm on the outside, he doubted Sheriam was the only one who felt anxious.
The crowds watched and cheered. Everyone in Tar Valon was used to seeing Aes Sedai, but few would ever have seen a display like the one they made today. Every Aes Sedai wore her shawl, and even Jahar wore a Warder cloak over his black coat for their ride into the city.
They were close to their destination, the Tower already rearing up high in front of them, when several sisters called out a warning. “Someone’s channeling!” “Tendrils of Air and Spirit.” He did not look around who had spoken but almost immediately he felt a soft touch on the dome he held. Someone was probing the dome, but they were not doing anything else just yet. A moment later it was gone again.
Sheriam glanced at him and he reached out, linking with her. Even the Aes Sedai’s domes could hold almost anything and he did not really expect to need it, but pride and overconfidence could be deadly.
The Aes Sedai around him were looking around, scanning the crowds where the weaves had come from.
“She is in one of those buildings,” Malind said, as the Green Sitter pointed to two tall merchant’s houses that loomed over a whole block of lower buildings in front of it.
“Could be Alviarin,” Janya said.
“Do you want us to go after her?” Myrelle asked.
The Amyrlin looked at the side streets, particularly narrow at this point, packed with people, stalls, and wagons. Most other streets had been wider, and only these were full of stalls, a small market being held on this block. “No, not now. You can not ride through there with a dome, nor do I want to risk a battle in a crowded street like that. First we get to the Tower in one piece and then we will find out who it was. And if it was Alviarin, we will find her.” She threw one more look at the crowded streets and the tall buildings, then rode on.
“Whoever it was, she has picked the one place where we can not easily get at her,” Siuan remarked. “Not that that is meaningful, every sister knows the city.”
Jahar rode holding more of the Power than both he or Sheriam could have held on their own. He understood the Amyrlin’s decision. In these streets, between the many buildings and among the crowds, you might never get close enough to someone to take them. Not to mention the carnage that would be the result of a battle fought with the Power. Sure, the Wells and Altara had been bad, but at least the battlefield had been far away from any towns, the casualties soldiers and fighting men. Or Aiel Maidens, but they were fighters like any of the men. The damane made him feel a little more uncomfortable, since he had learned they were leashed and had about the same choice to be there as the horses did, but free choice or not they were hardly innocent bystanders. And even in Illian most of the fighting had taken place outside the town. The Light willing he would never have to fight in a city like this, amidst the crowds.
Then they were at the Tower grounds, the wide gates open for the Amyrlin and her long column of Aes Sedai. As they rode through the gates onto the actual Tower grounds, Jahar let go of the dome as the Amyrlin had insisted upon. He felt the Aes Sedai around him releasing the Power as the prickle in his skin eased, and Sheriam, too, let go of the Source as they broke the link. But he did hold onto Saidin. None of the Tower Aes Sedai would be able to tell, and for once that worked to his advantage. He would hold ready until they were all the way inside.
The main courtyard of the Tower was huge, cobble stones covering an area larger than most city squares. It was lined with benches and pillars and a big, graceful fountain in the middle. At the back of the courtyard, steps led up into the Tower itself. In front of those steps stood Elaida’s Sitters, who had knelt as the Amyrlin rode in.
Big as it was, the courtyard quickly filled up. Jahar dismounted and reached for Wing’s reins, but Sheriam shook her head. “Hand your horse to one of the other Warders and stay close,” she told him. He nodded and motioned for Ger, one of Samalin’s Warders, to take Freckles, then followed Sheriam.
Sheriam stepped out in front of the Amyrlin and formally announced her, using the Power to make her voice ring out over all the noise the many people and horses in the courtyard were making.
As she finished speaking, one of the Aes Sedai, wearing a grey shawl, stood, took a couple steps toward the Amyrlin and knelt again. “We formally surrender the White Tower to you, Mother, and we submit ourselves to your judgement,” she said.
The Amyrlin nodded, then addressed her own Sitters. “The Hall of the Tower will convene immediately. You,” she turned back to Elaida’s sisters, “Will be there to hear your fate.”
Several of Elaida’s Aes Sedai gasped and they all knelt even deeper as the Amyrlin swept past them, into the Tower. Sheriam followed with all the Sitters, and Jahar did the same.
In the Hall, the Amyrlin sat on a heavily worked chair on a small dais. Sheriam stood next to her, holding the carved staff of the Keeper. The Sitters sat in rows facing the Amyrlin, and those who had followed Elaida knelt off to the side. Jahar kept back, standing in the corner behind the Amyrlin and Sheriam, keeping his eyes on the sisters on the floor. It was not usual for Warders to be in the Hall, but no one commented on his presence.
The Amyrlin scanned the kneeling sisters. “I am missing some of your number,” she said. “Does anyone care to explain?”
The same sister who had come forward in the courtyard –Andaya, Sheriam had told Jahar- spoke up. “Javrindha has fled the Tower, Mother, as well as eight other Red sisters. And Talene,” she swallowed. “Talene was.. she is a Black, she has been stilled and she is held in the cells.”
Every Aes Sedai started at that, the Greens looking especially taken aback. Talene had been a member of their Ajah, at least she had pretended to be.
The Amyrlin merely frowned. “I want to hear everything, how you discovered her, what you found out from her, immediately after this meeting. Every detail.”
Andaya nodded eagerly. “Yes Mother, of course.”
“Now, for you who are here,” the Amyrlin started. The sisters shifted nervously. “I could have you all birched, stilled and cast out of the Tower. But stilling can be Healed now, and as to putting any of you out…” the Amyrlin sighed. “There are still the Seanchan, the Shaido, and even Elaida could not deny the Last Battle is coming. You would deserve it, all of it, but I need every woman who can channel. So instead, you will stand the very lowest of your Ajah, as if you could barely channel at all, for at least a year and a day, and you will do penance for that time. After that, it will be up to your Ajah if and when you can make your way up again.”
Several of the sisters gasped at that, shooting glances from the Amyrlin to the Sitters and back. Jahar had not been there the previous afternoon when the Amyrlin had spoken with the Sitters, as he had been out on the field with the sisters working on the dome, but from what Sheriam had told him later that night most of Elaida’s sisters would be looking at a lot more time than just a year and a day in their new position. The Ajahs were not easy on any of their own who had stepped out of line.
“In addition to that,” the Amyrlin continued, “No one of you will ever hold an official position in the Tower again, as a Sitter, head of your Ajah, or anything else. Immediately after this meeting, you will report to the Sitters of your Ajah and you will bring them up to date on everything your Ajah has done here under Elaida, as well as everything you know about her. The Reds will report to the Blue sisters.” She looked at the sisters expectantly, who quickly assured her they would do just that.
“As far as the Reds are concerned, your duties are revoked. The Taint is gone and there will be no more need for your former tasks. Your Ajah is now disbanded and you will be without an Ajah until you can convince any other to let you in,” the Amyrlin said next, looking specifically at the Red sisters.
One of the two, plump and short, merely sighed deeply as if she had expected something like this, and bowed her head. The other gasped in disbelief, then started to stammer. “You can’t.. Mother, I’m sorry, you can not believe that?” Most of the non-red sisters were also shaking their heads as if in denial. The Sitters frowned disapproval at the Red.
“I don’t just believe it, I know it’s true,” the Amyrlin said sharply. “But if you really will not believe what your Amyrlin tells you, perhaps you can ask Sheriam or Jahar here.”
Jahar shifted a little. The ex-sitters had so far looked only at the Amyrlin and the Sitters, and none had looked further than his Warder cloak. Now, they finally noticed the coat he wore underneath. Most turned dead white. Strangely enough, the short Red just studied him quietly. The other Red scooted back from where she had knelt, fell backwards and then sat there, shaking her head and gaping at him. Oh Light, and there were how many Reds in the Tower? At least she had not channeled at him, but he hardly looked forward to going through this with every single one of them. The others of Elaida’s bunch were not much better, for that matter, staring and looking ready to run. He sighed.
Sheriam looked at the wide-eyed sisters without any attempt to hide her irritation or disgust. Her green eyes flashed. “Anyone who doubts the Amyrlin can come see me or Tiana. Your choice. I recommend neither,” she said coldly.
The sisters now looked down at the floor and everywhere else to avoid her stare, except for the stoical Red who had not moved at all.
“Now that that is taken care of, go make your reports to the Sitters,” the Amyrlin said. “Dismissed.”
Jahar went to his new rooms when he left the Hall. Most Warders were in a different part of the Tower, but as Sheriam’s Warder his quarters were right next to her Keeper’s rooms. They were also much bigger than any he had had, even in Cairhien, but since he still had only the saddlebags he had taken from Cairhien he was done unpacking in just a few minutes.
Many of the Warders were by now helping the servants, carrying the many items through the Gateways some sisters held, and off the wagons that were now riding in through the city. But the servants and soldiers were doing most of the labor and he felt better staying close to Sheriam.
Sheriam was in the Amyrlin’s study and he did not disturb her, instead taking a chair and sitting down in the anteroom that was now hers. It was a large room, large enough for any number of people who would be waiting to see the Amyrlin to stand or sit on one of the chairs lining the far wall. A wide writing table held stacks of paper that had the slightly disorderly look of being rifled through by someone who did not know what was in there.
Jahar did not channel like he had been doing the previous day when Sylviana had come in. He was not really tired but with everything that had happened in the meantime, he did not think he could concentrate to figure out a new weave. Doing so was hard enough under any circumstances. Instead, he sat back, resting and thinking.
He had not been in the anteroom for long when a rapid knock sounded and the door opened further. Sheriam had left it ajar and so had he when he had come in. Lyrelle rushed into the room, pulling the Red who had been so shaken in the Hall along with her by the arm. The Blue sitter threw a hurried glance around the room.
“Sheriam is with the Amyrlin,” Jahar told her.
“Anyone with her?” Lyrelle asked.
“I don’t believe so,” Jahar answered. Siuan was hearing the first report on Talene from Saerin, Seaine, Yukiri, Doeselle and Pevara, he had heard just before he had gone to his rooms, and he had not seen anyone since he had come here.
Lyrelle barely took the time to nod at him as she dragged the Red toward the inner door and knocked on it.
Sheriam opened it, but she did not get the chance to say anything. “Duhara here has just told me something the Amyrlin must know immediately,” Lyrelle burst out.
Sheriam stepped back as she nodded. “Come in and let’s hear it.”
Strangely enough for as great a hurry she had been in, Lyrelle hesitated and glanced back at Jahar for a brief moment before she turned and hauled the Red into the Amyrlin’s Study.
Only moments later Sheriam opened the door again. “Jahar, would you join us please?” she asked. She sounded calm but she did not feel it.
He quickly got up and went in. The Amyrlin’s Study was an ornate room but it held few furnishings. The Amyrlin sat behind her desk, Sheriam taking her place beside her after closing the door. Lyrelle stood with the Red –Duhara- in front of the desk.
“Tell him what you just told us,” the Amyrlin ordered Duhara.
The Red’s eyes widened as she looked at him. She took a deep breath before starting. “Elaida sent a Red sister with fifty others and two hundred of the Tower Guard to take the Black Tower.”
Jahar looked at her, stunned. He didn’t know whether to be angry or laugh. “Fifty-one sisters?” he asked incredulously.
The Red nodded.
“And two hundred Tower Guard.”
She nodded again.
“Against the whole Black Tower.”
Again a nod.
Jahar shook his head. “Light, Elaida might as well have sent a novice and a stable boy to take the Lord Dragon,” he said.
“Elaida said..” Duhara began. “She thought.. there can not be more than a few men there who can actually channel?” she finished, her tone making it sound as if she, too, did not believe.
“There were over two hundred of us when I last was the Black Tower and that is months ago, there are about five hundred now,” Jahar told her harshly.
Duhara gulped at that, but she still stammered, “But, but.. Even if there are.. that many. Channeling for only months or weeks, surely they can’t.. fifty full Aes Sedai… I mean..” She was still shaking her head.
Jahar had had enough. “Shield me. Now,” he snapped at her.
The Red just stared at him, wide-eyed.
“I am not holding Saidin. I started to channel last summer. You were a Sitter. Well?” he asked coldly.
This time Duhara’s eyes darted away from him, to Sheriam and the Amyrlin.
Sheriam’s flat stare reflected his anger, and the Amyrlin did not say a word either, but Jahar thought he saw the corner of her mouth twitch as if hiding a smile.
Duhara swallowed hard. Jahar felt the tell-tale prickle, grabbed Saidin, and sliced through her flows in one heartbeat. The Red gasped as the severed flows snapped back at her and she staggered, but he shielded her and wrapped her in Air before she could fall. He only held her for a few moments, then released her. She stumbled and caught herself on the Amyrlin’s desk, then stood slumped over it, holding herself up with both hands. “Light, they’re all gone. Light, they’re all dead. Light,” she muttered.
The Amyrlin glared at the Duhara with disdain but she did look slightly worried as well.
“They won’t have been killed,” Jahar said. The M’Hael might have killed Aes Sedai attacking the Black Tower if it were all up to him, but Jahar had a good idea how the Lord Dragon thought about killing women. Even in the south the Lord Dragon had ordered the damane taken alive, if at all possible. “I don’t know how they are held, and they might be stilled, but the Lord Dragon would not allow them to be killed.”
Lyrelle, who had otherwise kept back, gasped at the mention of stilling and he felt apprehension from Sheriam as well. Even though stilling could be Healed now, no one who had been an Aes Sedai for long while it was still irreversible could talk about it comfortably. Duhara still leaned heavily on the Amyrlin’s desk, looking ready to fall over any minute.
Only the Amyrlin had not flinched at the words, nodding instead. Of course, she was from the same village as the Lord Dragon and no doubt knew him better than anyone else in Tar Valon. She now looked at the Red holding herself up. “Oh, do sit down before we have to pick you off the floor,” she said, contemptuously.
Duhara stumbled back and sat down heavily on one of the chairs in front of the Amyrlin’s desk.
Lyrelle remarked, “It is still strange there is no report of any fighting, no matter how small, from Caemlyn.”
“There wouldn’t have been any,” Jahar said flatly. “Not if these sisters were expecting what she told us,” he indicated Duhara.
“I guess not,” the Amyrlin replied grimly. “When you Travel to Cairhien this afternoon, find out where these sisters are held. They may be Elaida’s and utterly clueless but they are Aes Sedai and I want them back here.”
Jahar nodded. “I will.”
“Is there anything else related to this you have not told us?” the Amyrlin asked Duhara, who shook her head slowly, looking down at the floor.
“No Mother, that is all I know, and that nothing was heard from any of them, or any of the guards.”
The Amyrlin snorted. “Then finish reporting any other business to Lyrelle and after that I am sure she can find something for you to do.”
The Red stood up, still so shaken she almost fell as she curtsied, and breathed “Yes, Mother,” then followed Lyrelle out of the room so closely she almost stepped on the Blue’s skirts.
“If there are no other new developments, I will Travel to Cairhien now,” Jahar said.
“The Light only knows what the other sisters will have to report,” the Amyrlin sighed. “But yes, go now. I want to know how they are.”
“Yes Mother,” Jahar said, and with a brief nod and a glance at Sheriam he left the room.
Jahar paced the anteroom while he waited for the Lord Dragon to see him. The room was large but stark, Cairhien style, with dark wood and severe lines. A great contrast with the light and ornate rooms of the Tower. Two Maidens were playing cat’s cradle, ignoring him after they had let him into the anteroom.
He felt Sheriam through the bond, fuzzed by distance. An unpleasant feeling, to be so far apart. He could still make out she was switching rapidly between anger, frustration and pure astonishment. She would still be hearing reports from the Sitters and going though Elaida’s papers. What other crazy schemes had that woman been up to?
Finally a small group of Cairhien nobles came out of the throne room, throwing him a brief startled look before strutting out of the room as if they had not started at all. Jahar paid no attention to them, long used to that kind of reactions from non-channeling people, and it certainly paled by the reactions of the Reds.
Then the Maidens told him he could go in, and he saluted as he entered the throne room.
Min and Cadsuane were with the Lord Dragon again. Jahar didn’t mind Min, but Cadsuane made him uneasy. She studied him closely as he told the Lord Dragon first about the taking of the Tower, then about the Reds. The Lord Dragon was of course pleased to hear the Amyrlin held the Tower, but the news of the Aes Sedai disturbed him.
“I knew I should have visited the Black Tower more often,” he said, getting up and pacing through the room. “I do not know what has happened with these Aes Sedai, but I will find out. This afternoon I have to meet with the a few of the Wise Ones and Dobraine has been waiting for a chance to talk to me all day, but tomorrow I will Travel to Andor first thing in the morning. Tell Egw.. tell the Amyrlin I will send word by noon.”
“Yes Lord Dragon,” Jahar said, then added. “There is another thing I wanted to ask.” And he explained about the inverted weaves, the removing of tiredness, and how he had run into these.
“I do not know how to remove anyone’s weariness, but it would be a useful thing. I think it is more up Damer’s street to figure that one out, I will get him working on it,” the Lord Dragon said. “Now for as far as inverted weaves are concerned, I do not think there is a way to undo them when you do not know how they were held, but I did not know there was such a ‘tab’ for the Saidar version of it either. Perhaps there is such a thing for us as well. I will teach you how to invert the weaves on two conditions. Do not teach anyone else –I do not know who I can trust apart from you and Damer- and find out if there is such a tab or other trick for us to find and undo another person’s inverted weaves.”
“I understand, Lord Dragon,” Jahar acknowledged.
He felt the Lord Dragon grab Saidin and looked closely as he channeled the flows. In just two tries Jahar held a simple inverted weave.
“You are quick,” the Lord Dragon remarked.
“Thank you Lord Dragon. I have had a lot of practice lately,” Jahar replied.
Cadsuane sniffed from where she was sitting, but Jahar tried to ignore her. The grey-haired Aes Sedai was a difficult person to ignore though, and he felt uncomfortable under her stare even though he knew he was right about his channeling. The event of the past weeks had only reinforced that certainty; much he could not have done had he learned to channel playing it safe as the Aes Sedai did.
He had linked with Cadsuane once, right after the cleansing of the Taint, when she had wanted to feel for herself if it was gone. While almost all Aes Sedai appeared self-possessed and cool to outsiders, Jahar had long found out most of them were as emotional as anyone, among each other and to themselves. They just hid it from those who could not channel. But Cadsuane… Cadsuane had really felt collected and in control, through the link, even there on that hilltop after everything that had happened.
The Lord Dragon hardly seemed to notice her presence. He had sat down again, leafing through some maps.
“The Seanchan have been reported in Amadicia, and some rumors even put them in Ghealdan,” he said. “Damer and Corele have Travelled there to gather information on the strength of their army, the number of damane, the number of those raken and whatever else they can find out. After Altara, I had hoped we had slowed them down but it seems they hardly noticed the setback. I want you to tell the Amyrlin to be on her guard. I will hold them from Andor and Cairhien, but if any of the damane discovers how to Travel, or if they capture anyone who can, they could move straight on Tar Valon.”
“Yes Lord Dragon,” Jahar said grimly. He had worried about the Seanchan but he had also hoped they would have been hit harder in Ebou Dar.
The Lord Dragon got up again, walked to a writing desk, and wrote a few words on a piece of paper. He pushed the letter in an envelop and sealed it.
“I want you to go by Caemlyn on your way back,” he told Jahar when he was done. “Tell the Lady Elayne that I will go to the Black Tower tomorrow, and I will visit her when I am done there. And give her this letter.”
Jahar took the letter and saluted. “As you wish, Lord Dragon.”
He left the throne room and Travelled to the palace in Caemlyn.
Jahar had not been to Caemlyn often, but when he had first gone with the Lord Dragon, after the Wells, they had all learned a place to Travel from in every city the Lord Dragon held. He would be able to open a gateway from the Caemlyn courtyard at any time, even years from now, unless the Lady Elayne completely rebuilt the castle.
He had to wait again as Lady Elayne was meeting with a small group of Windfinders, but before long the Sea Folk women left the throne room and the Lady Elayne’s guards showed him in.
It did not take long to give her the message, and the envelop. She did not open the letter but instead smiled and put it away, no doubt to read it later in private.
She walked him back to the courtyard from where he would Travel to Tar Valon, hearing him out about the Lord Dragon. He had not much to tell since he had only been in Cairhien for a short while.
As he was about to open his Gateway, a young woman shot out from beneath the pillars that lined the walls. One of the Sea Folk, she was wearing dark, baggy pants and a light blouse. She was barefoot even out here in the snow.
“Asha’man?” she asked breathlessly.
“Yes?” Jahar said.
“I am Talaan. I heard you were in the castle. Are you going back to Tar Valon? Can you take me with you? I want to become a novice,” she said all in one breath.
Jahar looked at her, surprised by the girl’s request. “Why?” he asked.
“My mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, her sister and my aunt are all Windfinders to the Wavemistresses of a Clan. I have to live up to the expectations of my family, but it is more than that. Among us, among the Sea Folk, there can never be a hint or suspicion that I would be favored because of my family, so I have to work ten times as hard as anyone else and still get punished for mistakes I do not make. I do not want to be the apprentice from my Mother’s family any longer, I just want to be myself, and to be judged for who I am,” she rattled off.
“Can you not go to the Tower by yourself?” Jahar asked reasonably.
Talaan shook her head. “I do not know well enough where the Tower is to Travel there. I tried to look at a map, but I don’t understand the way you shorebound measure your distances and directions. And if I tried to go by the roads, my mother would find me and haul me back before I got two miles from the palace.”
Light, this young girl could Travel? No doubt Sheriam would want her in the Tower right away, but the girl was asking him and he would make his own decision for his own reasons. As he considered for a moment, Elayne cut in. “Talaan, I can not let you go. Your mother and your aunt would be furious.”
Talaan looked at her, startled but indignant. “You can not stop me. You are not my mother, not my family, you are not even Sea Folk. I am asking him.”
Elayne blinked. Jahar thought not many people would speak like that to the daughter-heir who claimed the throne of Andor. But she neither agreed nor disagreed. It would be up to him.
Talaan addressed him again. “Please let me come. I could always tell my mother I slipped through the Gateway without asking.”
Jahar had made his decision. “There will be no need for that. If my father had known where I was going, what I would become, he would have tied me up and locked me in the attic and I would still be there. It is hardly my place to deny your request,” he told her, and glanced at the very small bundle she held in one hand. “Do you need to pack anything?”
“Oh, thank you, thank you!” Talaan burst out. “No, I just grabbed my brush and a few small items. I did not dare walk through the palace with a bigger pack or cloak.”
Jahar nodded. “Well, come along then,” he said as he opened the Gateway.
They stepped through and Jahar let go of the weaves as he looked around the Tower courtyard. Sarin, Nisao’s Warder, goggled at Talaan. “Where did you pick her up, Jahar?” he called.
“She wants to be a novice,” he called back. “You wouldn’t know where Tiana is by any chance?” Then for Talaan’s benefit he added, “Tiana Sedai is the Mistress of the Novices. She will see you settled in.”
Sarin still stared at the slender girl in her Sea Folk clothes. “Well just when I thought I’d seen everything,” he muttered, then got a hold of himself and answered. “I think Tiana is over by that huge new building Elaida started on, looking to see if it can be made into novice’s quarters.”
Jahar nodded thanks and motioned for Talaan to follow him. The Sea Folk girl looked around with big eyes as they walked through the Tower grounds. The cold did not seem to touch her any more than it did him. Either the Sea Folk had their own methods of dealing with cold, or she was simply too excited to notice. As they rounded the corner of the Tower itself, and he started to cross the open area in between it and the half-finished building, the Mistress of the Novices came out and started to turn the other way. “Tiana!” he called.
Tiana stopped and started as she saw him with Talaan. She quickly walked over, taking in the girl from head to toe. “And what is a Sea Folk girl doing here, child?” the Grey asked her.
“I am Talaan, and I want to be a novice, Tiana Sedai,” Talaan answered. She was fairly jumping up and down from excitement, but her voice was clear and steady.
Tiana blinked at that, studied the girl, then suddenly her eyes widened. “Light, child, you are strong. And not completely untrained either, unless I am mistaken.”
“I was trained as a Windfinder apprentice, Tiana Sedai,” Talaan replied.
Tiana blinked at that too, then recovered and looked thoughtful. “For hundreds of years we only get three sisters from the Sea Folk, none strong and none happy to be away from their ships, then suddenly you show up, as strong as any Aes Sedai, and you actually want to become a novice. Also, from what the Amyrlin has mentioned, I am surprised the Sea Folk let anyone with any training come here.”
Talaan coloured suddenly, and clammed up as she shifted her bare feet nervously in the snow. Jahar answered for her. “Her mother does not know she is here, and certainly would not approve. That is why she asked to come with me.”
Tiana started as if she had forgotten he was there. “Well, that at least is hardly unusual,” she muttered, then turned to Talaan. “How old are you, child?”
Talaan found her voice again. “I am nineteen, Tiana Sedai.”
“Then you are old enough to decide for yourself. If you are sure you want to be a novice, I will write your name in the Novice Book and if your mother has anything to say about it she can come see me,” Tiana said.
Talaan lightened up in relief and excitement. “Thank you, oh thank you! I am sure, Aes Sedai. Absolutely sure.”
“Good. Come with me child, and I will find you some more appropriate clothing to wear. For the Tower and for the weather.” Tiana turned and started toward the novice’s quarters.
Talaan started after her, then stopped and turned back toward Jahar. ”Thank you for letting me come with you,” she said sincerely, then ran off after the Mistress of the Novices.
Her eagerness reminded him of his younger sister, and Jahar smiled as he watched her go. Then he suddenly frowned as he realised it was the first time he had smiled since Merise’s death. Come to think of it, he had not smiled so often before that, either. Battles, taint and madness were no laughing matter. But that was then and this was now, and this afternoon he had at least helped make one person happy. He smiled again as he walked to the Tower and up to the Amyrlin’s Study.
When he came in to the anteroom Sheriam was at her own desk, sorting through the stacks of papers, parchments and scrolls with help of Siuan. She smiled when he came in, but underneath he could still feel the same frustration and confusion from earlier.
“I take it your news is good, anyhow,” she said.
“Some of it,” he replied.
Sheriam dropped the papers she had been holding on the desk and went to the inner door leading to the Amyrlin’s Study. “That’s better than none,” she said as she briefly knocked and opened the door. “Let’s hear it.”
Jahar followed her, and so did Siuan. Sheriam frowned at her but the Amyrlin did not say anything so neither did she.
Jahar briefly told them about the Lord Dragon’s plan to check on the Black Tower in the morning, about the reports on the Seanchan, and also about Talaan. And mixed as the news was, so mixed were the reactions. The Amyrlin snorted at having to wait until the morning for further news about the sisters, and she looked worried at the news of the Seanchan’s continued advances. She was quite pleased to hear about the Windfinder’s apprentice, especially when she heard the girl was strong and already in training.
“It did not go well here,” Jahar said when she had spoken.
“No. I already knew that Elaida was power hungry, an egomaniac, and blind for anything that did not fit her view of the world, but she has been doing things none of us can understand. She has set up all the Ajah’s against each other. She has made decrees and then recalled them. I can not make heads or tails out of it,” Sheriam answered.
“Talene was convinced Elaida was a Black,” Siuan said. “But the Sitters who discovered Talene are convinced she was not. One of them had been ordered to find the Black Ajah by Elaida herself.”
Sheriam nodded. “I do not believe Elaida was a Black, either. She would not have contradicted herself so often, or punished some of those who were her supporters, if she were.”
The Amyrlin looked thoughtful. “What if Alviarin is a Black?” she said. “As Keeper she had access to everything Talene says the Black Ajah knew about, and she might have put pressure on Elaida, controlling her to do as she wanted. As the Black Ajah wanted.”
Sheriam nodded slowly. “The Black would have reason to destroy the Tower, create animosity between the Ajah’s… it all fits. It would also explain why she took the Oath Rod.” That had been another report to create a stir, the sisters who had found Talene had reported the Oath Rod had disappeared with Alviarin. The general consensus was that the White intended to set up a Tower in exile, as they had done, or at least lessen the authority of the Amyrlin, but of course if she were a Black she would have far more reason to get the Oath Rod out of the Tower. “That makes it even more important we find her. We must tell Myrelle and her group,” she added. The Green would be leading the search for Elaida’s Keeper.
“It would explain what we found here, but if we are wrong, the Whites will be furious,” Siuan said.
“Oh, we have been through that before,” Jahar threw in. “Your suspicions were right that time.”
“It is not an accusation that is lightly made,” Siuan noted.
“No, it is not. And Myrelle is hardly the kind of person to approach Alviarin without precautions even if she thinks she is only a renegade White. But a Black would be far more dangerous and withholding such information could easily get people killed,” Jahar argued.
“I will not make the same mistake Elaida made. We will tell Myrelle,” the Amyrlin decided. “Jahar, if you would go find her?”
“Yes Mother,” Jahar replied and he left to look for the Green.
The following morning Jahar was once again in the anteroom, while Sheriam and the Amyrlin were hearing a report from Takima.
A knock on the door announced Rubinde, one of the ex-Sitters, who curtsied deeply as she announced the Soldier who followed her in. “Sed Avin to see the Amyrlin with a message from the Lord Dragon,” she said.
Jahar looked at her. Light, Elaida’s Sitters ran errands like the novices now? Of course, it was one way of showing every visitor to the White Tower that Elaida’s followers were firmly taken down a few pegs. No doubt Sed, and any others who might have been present in the large reception hall downstairs, would have learned exactly who Rubinde had been.
“The Amyrlin and the Keeper are with one of the Sitters, but she will want to see you as soon as she is done,” he told Sed. He had not seen him before but of course he had been gone from the Black Tower for a long time. “You can go,” he added to Rubinde. The Aes Sedai curtsied and left, jumping faster than any novice.
“I do not think she will be long, you can take a seat if you wish,” Jahar told the Soldier, who sat down and looked around the room. He was a tall with short, blond hair, a boyish face, and Jahar would be surprised if he was older than sixteen.
“You are Jahar Narishma?” the boy asked after a short while.
Jahar nodded. “Yes, I am.”
“Until the Lord Dragon came to the Black Tower this morning, the M’Hael had you written up as a deserter,” the boy remarked. “You and Damer and Eben. The Lord Dragon was not happy when he learned about that.”
Jahar muttered something unintelligible. He had been worried about going back to the Black Tower, and so had Damer and Eben, but it was hardly something he cared to discuss with this young Soldier. Fortunately, the boy did not go on about it.
“It was the first time I even saw the Lord Dragon,” he said instead, awe in his voice. “Were you really there when he cleansed the Taint?”
“I was,” Jahar said, and added. “It is not something easily described in words.”
“I guess not,” the boy answered, but he looked disappointed.
Then the door to the Amyrlin’s Study opened and Sheriam came out with Takima. She quickly let the Brown out as the Soldier got up.
“This is Sed Avin, from the Black Tower, Sheriam,” Jahar said. “Rubinde brought him in just a short while ago.”
“Good, we had been waiting for you,” Sheriam said to the boy. “Come in.” Her glance included Jahar, as he had known, and they all went into the inner room.
Sheriam announced Sed and the boy bowed gracefully.
“You bring news about the Aes Sedai Elaida sent against the Black Tower?” the Amyrlin asked.
Sed nodded. “The Aes Sedai are all in the Black Tower. The Dedicated and some of the Asha’man have bonded them. They are treated well.”
“Bonded them?” the Amyrlin asked startled, but Jahar knew what the boy meant.
“Our bond can include.. something extra,” he said. “That is where I got the weaves I used on Delana, as I have told you.”
The Amyrlin frowned. “You used compulsion on them? On all of them?” she asked Sed.
“We do not call it that, but I guess so. They obey those they are bonded to, they do not try to escape, they do not attack anyone,” Sed answered.
The Amyrlin looked shocked and Sheriam felt uncomfortable as well. “Can we get them back?” the Amyrlin asked.
The Soldier shook his head. “They are not leaving the Black Tower,” he said. “They came to attack us, we took them prisoner. Those of the Tower Guard who were taken can be released, but not the Aes Sedai. They will not be returned to the White Tower.”
The Amyrlin frowned hard at that announcement. “They were sent by Elaida. Elaida does no longer run the White Tower. I do. I can guarantee you they will not try to make any move against the Black Tower or any man who can channel again.”
“They will not do that now,” Sed remarked dryly. “They wanted to take us, and gentle us. That they did not succeed does not negate their intentions. They stay.”
The Amyrlin sighed. “I can understand your anger, I certainly do not support their plans. But they are Aes Sedai and I want them back. I would like to see the M’Hael himself.”
“The M’Hael will not come here,” Sed answered. “But he will receive you at the Black Tower.”
“I would send a Grey to negotiate, but with fifty-one Aes Sedai bonded I doubt anyone will be impressed by just any sister. I wish I could go myself but I really can not leave the Tower now,” the Amyrlin sighed. She looked at Sheriam.
“I will go,” she said, looking at Jahar in turn. He nodded silently.
“Tell the M’Hael my Keeper will be coming to see him this afternoon,” the Amyrlin said. She reached into the box of papers on her desk and pulled out a sealed scroll which she handed to the Soldier. “Also, take this with you. It is a copy of the proclamation concerning the Red Ajah. A copy is underway by regular messenger but it will take more time to get to the Black Tower. That is all.”
“Yes, Amyrlin,” Sed said as he bowed again.
Sheriam showed him out, then returned.
“Will there be any trouble?” she asked.
Jahar considered carefully before answering. “No. The Lord Dragon would not stand for it if anyone touched an Aes Sedai who came to negotiate.”
The Amyrlin nodded agreement “Get some lunch and then leave. And good luck.”
“Thank you. We might need it,” Sheriam replied, then left. Jahar followed her.
A little over an hour later Jahar and Sheriam stepped through the Gateway onto the Black Tower grounds. Jahar was impressed. The village –no, more like a small town- that had sprouted up while he was gone was larger than he had expected, even though he had known the plans.
Another young Soldier Jahar did not know introduced himself as Valen Tapera and showed them to the main farm house where the M’Hael had his rooms and office. The farm house itself had changed too, into a sprawling building with almost as many rooms as all the buildings together would have had just months ago. Valen led them into a large room and after a brief while the M’Hael came in.
“Well, until this morning I did not think you would be returning here,” the M’Hael remarked dryly to Jahar as he entered, ignoring Sheriam.
“I have remained with the Lord Dragon. Unlike some others,” Jahar replied flatly.
“Hm, well,” the M’Hael said. “I guess Dashiva got to them somehow, I always thought he was a strange type.”
Jahar frowned a little. He had talked with Damer and Eben, after Cairhien, and again with Damer after Dashiva had shown up and was killed at Shadar Logoth. None of them could recall even the slightest hint that Dashiva was testing the waters, sounding them out on their loyalty to the Lord Dragon. And Gedwyn, Rochaid, Torval and Kisman had been the M’Hael’s men before Dumai’s Wells. But he could hardly go into that now. “I guess so,” he muttered noncommittally. “But we are here to see about the Aes Sedai.”
The M’Hael nodded. “You will have to see Logain, he handles the captured Aes Sedai.”
“Logain?” Sheriam asked, startled.
“Ah, of course you know him,” the M’Hael said. “He has told me of the group of Aes Sedai he was with, and who Healed him. He might be inclined to listen to your request, then. Valen!”
The Soldier came running in again.
“Show the Keeper and Jahar where Logain lives,” the M’Hael ordered.
The Soldier saluted. “Yes Sir! Please follow me,” he then added to Jahar and Sheriam and led the way.
Outside, Sheriam threw him a questioning glance. Jahar knew she had been puzzled by his exchange with the M’Hael, but he could not answer anything here. “Later,” he said and she nodded.
They walked quite a ways along a wide, packed dirt road. First through a whole village that looked like any other, with craftsmen working wood, making clothing and shoes, and doing everything that people in a village did. Then, a little down the road, stood a row of large barracks. Some still being built on, others finished. Behind that, another part of the village with many wooden houses.
Valen led them up a wide street, where a group of Dedicated were gathered around a single Asha’man in front of a simple two-story house. Sheriam clearly recognised Logain as they approached.
“Logain,” Valen called. “An Aes Sedai here to see you about the bonded ones.” The Asha’man looked up and clearly recognised Sheriam in turn.
“You’re all dismissed,” he told the men around him, who quickly saluted and left. “You too, Valen,” he added.
He waited for the men to be out of sight before saying anything else.
“We meet again,” he said to Sheriam, who nodded in greeting.
“And you must be Jahar Narishma,” Logain turned to him. “Until this morning the M’Hael had you listed as a deserter. A mistake that could’ve got you killed,” he added meaningfully, but then immediately turned back to Sheriam again.
Jahar frowned again. Was Logain also suspicious of the M’Hael? He would keep his eyes and ears open.
“You came to see about the Aes Sedai,” Logain said to Sheriam. He made no move to let them inside, instead remaining where he had addressed the Dedicated.
“I realise they came to take the Black Tower and any men here, but they were under orders of Elaida. Elaida is dead, and the Red Ajah is no more. Egwene Al’Vere sits on the Amyrlin Seat now,” Sheriam told him.
“Yes, we have all heard the proclamation Sed brought back from the White Tower an hour ago,” Logain said. He quoted, “The White Tower proclaims that the Taint on Saidin, the Male half of the True Source, has been cleansed. The White Tower proclaims that the Red Ajah, whose task it was to track down and gentle any men channeling before the madness caused by the Taint could take them, has been disbanded. The White Tower proclaims that no Aes Sedai of any Ajah will hunt down and gentle a man for his ability to channel, or for his ability to learn to channel. Signed by Egwene Al'Vere, Watcher of the Seals, Flame of Tar Valon, The Amyrlin Seat.” Then as an afterthought, “That created a stir among the Aes Sedai, especially the Reds.”
“The Amyrlin is sincere. No Aes Sedai will bother you or any others again,” Sheriam said.
“Oh, I do not doubt that,” Logain said. “I have found the Amyrlin a woman of her word. But that does not change what was done under her predecessor. The Aes Sedai here are all treated well, but they are staying. You can see them if you want.” And without waiting for her answer, he called, “Toveine, Gabrelle, come out here!”
The red door behind him opened and two Aes Sedai came out. Both looked shocked when they saw Sheriam, especially the short, copper skinned woman.
“Tell the Keeper here how you are treated. Speak freely,” Logain instructed them.
“They bonded us, they put their filthy bond on us, men who can channel! We can not even channel without their leave!” the short Aes Sedai started, stumbling over her words so she was nearly incoherent.
“Oh get a hold of yourself, Toveine,” the other Aes Sedai snapped at her. “No one has been hurt or beaten by an Asha’man. We have food, clothing, housing and everything that we need. I wish I had never left the White Tower but we are not miss-treated.”
“Elaida’s or not, they are still Aes Sedai, they are part of the White Tower,” Sheriam said.
“Are they?” Logain said, his eyes narrowing. “They do not seem to hold to its laws.”
Toveine turned dead white. “No, no, don’t…” she breathed.
Sheriam looked from her to Logain and back.
“Is there something we were not told about?” she asked darkly.
“You were not told because no one else knows. Toveine carried orders from Elaida to gentle and hang every man right here on the spot,” Logain told her.
Toveine hid her face in her hands and slowly shook her head as if in denial, but Sheriam clearly did not question the tall man’s words. Jahar could tell she was astonished and furious, but he felt no doubt through the bond. She stared at the Red sister with wide eyes.
Gabrelle was the first to react. “She set ‘harsh conditions’? You were not kidding! Light, they could have killed us all and they would have been within their right to do so!” she shrieked, almost hysterical, and she gripped her skirt with both hands, looking as if she wanted to lunge at the other sister.
No one was nearby, but her voice carried and a few people further down the street looked up. Jahar felt Logain reach for Saidin and saw him weave a ward around them.
Sheriam recovered from her shocked silence as her astonishment was replaced by rage. “How could you? What you intended goes directly against Tower Law, a Law you broke and for which you spent twenty years in exile. And now you would have committed the same crime five hundred times over. You are lucky to be alive. Did anyone else know of this?” Her green eyes shot fire and her voice was cold enough to make the day seem warm.
Toveine was sobbing now. She shook her head. “No. Only Elaida. Some of the Reds.. must have suspected. But no one knew,” she brought out between sobs. “I had planned.. I wanted to tell the other Red sisters once we were here, take care of things. Then afterwards.. the other Ajahs would have accepted that the end justified the means.”
“If you believe that you are out of your mind,” Gabrelle snapped, no longer screaming but still gripping her skirt tightly, her knuckles white. “The best you can hope for is that you never see the White Tower again. I just wish you had not dragged the rest of us down with you.”
“Under the circumstances, I understand and accept your claim on Toveine, and perhaps the other Reds, but I would like you to consider releasing the others,” Sheriam said grimly, turning back to Logain.
Logain frowned for a moment, thinking. He looked at Toveine, who had started to sob harder as Sheriam spoke, and Gabrielle who looked hopeful. “You two get inside,” Logain told them. “Make sure she doesn’t hurt herself,” he added to Gabrelle. He did not check to see if the two sisters did as he told them; he did not have to. Again, he was silent for a long time.
Finally he spoke again. “No one here knows how to release the bond itself, but I could order the men to let them go in every other way. They won’t like it, but they would accept it if they were compensated somehow.”
“How?” Sheriam asked.
“Healing,” Logain answered. “What Nynaeve did for me. With as hard as we push here, accidents do happen. Damer was here this morning with the Lord Dragon, and he Healed one Soldier who was burned out a while back, but he couldn’t Heal him to his full strength. Now he’s Healed some sisters at the Lord Dragon’s camp and they are back like they were, and so am I. It seems only a woman can fully Heal a man and a man can fully Heal a woman, but the sisters here don’t know the weave and can’t figure it out. Get us Healing when we need it, and you can take the sisters from the other Ajahs with you.”
“And their Warders,” Sheriam bargained.
“And their Warders,” Logain replied.
“That is acceptable,” Sheriam said. “I can have two of the Yellow here first thing tomorrow morning, they can Heal whoever needs to, and after you can either call on us or send those who need to the White Tower.”
“I will speak to the men tonight,” Logain said.
Sheriam and Logain shook hands.
“I would like to see the Red sisters before I go,” Sheriam said. “No matter what they did, they are still Aes Sedai.”
Logain nodded. “I will show you around to where they live,” he answered, and he let the ward vanish as he led the way.
Jahar stayed back as Sheriam spoke briefly with most of the bonded sisters. He knew many of the Asha’man Dedicated who held the bonds, and he exchanged greetings while others looked at him curiously. He noticed everyone in this part of the Black Tower deferred to Logain, and he thought it was not just because Logain was the only full Asha’man in sight. The tall man carried himself as if he owned this part of the Black Tower.
He could tell Sheriam was unsettled by the bonded Aes Sedai, but the most prominent emotions from her were anger and a grim resignation. From the looks she gave those who had been Reds, it was not difficult to tell who she was angry with.
The Red sisters were clearly having a hard time adjusting to life in the Black Tower. They jumped when they saw Sheriam, then did not seem to know whether to beg her to take them with her, or to jump at a word from her as hard as they did from the men. Of course, the Amyrlin’s proclamation had made it clear they would not get a warm welcome in the White Tower, but Jahar thought most would have gone to the pit of doom as long as none of the men would come along.
“That is everyone, except for Beyaelle, she’s out with Gheral,” Logain said after a while. “They won’t be back until tonight.” He hesitated for a moment as if he wanted to say something else, then didn’t.
“Out?” Sheriam asked. “She is not here?”
“They are in Godan today. Gheral is one of the recruiters, he’s been taking her along every day since the Taint is gone,” Logain explained.
Sheriam blinked in surprise, then grinned slightly. “She’s never been like the other Reds,” she said. “I kept half and half expecting her to show up in Salidar, no matter what her Ajah.”
Logain hesitated again, then said, “She will be here in the morning, you can see her then.”
Jahar thought he had wanted to say something else, but Sheriam did not press him on it.
It was still very early the next morning when they returned to the Black Tower, this time with Dagdara and Nisao. But no matter what the hour, the stable yard was already teeming with people. Aes Sedai, Warders and Asha’man were everywhere, many leading horses and carrying packs. Sheriam looked over the crowd. Hannah’s two Warders walked by leading three horses, and a little further Krystah, a Brown, stood hugging her Warder, Clem, crying in his arms, oblivious to the people around her. Desandre turned away quickly as she spotted the two Yellows, turning red, and many others still looked embarrassed when they saw her and the other Tar Valon sisters, but relief and excitement had the upper hand. In the middle of the crowd stood Beyaelle with Sjani, a Green, two Asha’man and a young girl Sheriam did not know. The Red was speaking to the girl, who nodded eagerly. The girl was carrying a pack of her own, and Sheriam wondered where she fit in all of this. But she did not get the opportunity to ask, as Logain arrived with Gabrelle, Toveine, and four men she had not seen before. The men looked eager, and Sheriam did not need to be told they were here for Healing, but they were well-disciplined and waited quietly behind Logain, their eyes shining with hope. Gabrelle was less constrained, laughing aloud and fidgeting. Toveine kept back, avoiding everyone’s eye, more composed than she had been the previous day but clearly extremely uneasy still. She and Beyaelle were the only Reds, the others who would not be coming to the Tower had not come here this morning.
Logain greeted Sheriam, Jahar and the two Yellows. “These are the men who need Healing,” he motioned. “There are several others who have left, they did not want to stay here at the Tower. Some men are looking for them and I’ve sent word out, I mean to find every one of them.”
“I hope you do. We will Heal them as you find them,” Sheriam replied. She nodded at Dagdara and Nisao, who each approached one of the men, embracing Saidar. The Healing itself was a matter of no time at all, and soon the four men were cheering out loud, their discipline broken as they hollered and one of them gave Dagdara a big hug. Grins broke out all around the stable yard, even most of those who were still uncomfortable with the Asha’man glad at the Healing. Stilling made most Aes Sedai more uncomfortable than a man channeling, now. Only Toveine drew back further.
Logain had not joined in the cheering and laughing, but he did look satisfied. He surveyed the milling people and turned to Gabrelle. “Go get your horse,” he told her, then turned to Sheriam. “They can go.”
They walked to the middle of the Travelling field and Jahar opened a Gateway. Logain opened one as well, and the Aes Sedai and Warders quickly filed through.
“Who is she?” Sheriam asked as the young girl she had noticed earlier stepped through, following Sjani and her Warder. The girl did not look older than fifteen or sixteen and Sheriam had certainly never seen her before, but she held Saidar and carried her pack next to her in flows of Air.
“That’s Genet,” Logain answered. “Gheral and Beyaelle found her, she’d started to channel by herself and was badly suffering from channeling sickness. Sjani and Hannah have been teaching her here, we could not let her go to Tar Valon any sooner, of course.”
“How long ago did she get here?” Sheriam asked. The girl was already pretty strong and she had held her pack at her side without looking at it.
“Two weeks –no, a few days more, it was a midweek,” Logain replied.
Sheriam started. That meant she had to have pushed hard to be holding Saidar that easily. And for a novice to use the Power to carry a pack! But that was hardly Logain’s concern, she would talk to Sjani about it later.
“There is one more thing,” Logain said. “The bond is still there, and it is as strong as the Warder bond. Stronger in some ways.”
Sheriam nodded slowly, she thought she knew what he was getting at.
“Any sister from Tar Valon may come and go freely, as long as they use the Travelling field and stay in the areas of the Black Tower that have been open to them,” Logain said.
“I understand,” Sheriam answered. “The Asha’man are welcome at the White Tower using our Travelling area and under the same rules as any visitor to the Tower.”
“Of course,” Logain replied.
After a moment of hesitation, Logain addressed Jahar. “I would like to speak to you for a moment, alone.”
Jahar frowned and looked at Sheriam.
“I do want you to be at the debriefing,” she said.
“It will not take long,” Logain assured them.
“I will join you as soon as I can,” Jahar told Sheriam, who nodded and stepped through the Gateway. Jahar let it vanish. Logain had let his close as the last of the Aes Sedai had gone through.
Now there was hardly anyone left on the Travelling field and in the stable yards. The Dedicated had gone as their Aes Sedai left. Gheral and Beyaelle had gone into the stables as soon as the crowd was gone, and they now rode past with a brief greeting, on through a Gateway of their own. The four Healed Asha’man were also gone, back to their own quarters or perhaps to the Training Grounds now that they could channel again. Two Soldiers started to clean out the stables left open by the departing sisters and Warders, leading in horses from the picket lines underneath the temporary shelter that had been build up against the side of the building. Only Toveine was left here with them, standing slightly back.
Logain turned around with a sudden look of irritation on his face. “Go do something. Go help them,” he said, gesturing to the Soldiers.
Toveine’s eyes opened wide. “In the stables?” she asked incredulously, even though she was already starting to move that way.
“Yes, in the stables,” Logain said tiredly. “You may channel like they do.”
Toveine started and a looked more shocked at that.
“Light, woman, doing some chores is not going to kill you. Just don’t stand here and stare!” Logain snapped.
Toveine jumped again and almost ran into the stables.
Logain turned back to Jahar. “I’m sorry about that. Sometimes she can really get under my skin,” he sighed. “Gabrelle did not like being held here, but Toveine, no matter what I do, Toveine still acts like I’m a Trolloc. Have you met a lot of Reds in Tar Valon?”
“I’ve met a few,” Jahar said grimly, thinking of Duhara and Sylviana. “I don’t envy you carrying her Bond.”
Logain looked at him thoughtfully. “Some day you have to tell me how you ended up with Sheriam, but that is not what I wanted to talk to you about.” He led the way off the Travelling field and wove a ward around them
“You must have known Gedwyn, Rochaid, Kisman and Torval,” Logain started then.
Jahar shrugged. “As much as anyone knew them, those four stuck together most of the time.”
“And Dashiva?” Logain asked, frowning.
“Dashiva was a loner, he didn’t speak much with anyone,” Jahar replied. “He was mad, too.”
“The Taint?” Logain asked.
Jahar shook his head. “I don’t know, I don’t think that’s what it was. What I’ve seen, most of the time when the Madness got someone, from the time it showed to the end it went pretty quick. Dashiva acted strange when he came here and he stayed pretty much the same all those months. I think he was just crazy.”
Logain nodded slowly. He hesitated, glancing around uneasily. “The M’Hael claims Dashiva must have been the one to talk the other four into their treachery,” he said when he spoke again.
“You don’t believe him,” Jahar said.
“I would like to know what you think,” Logain said carefully.
Now it was Jahar’s turn to hesitate. He had only met Logain the previous day. He thought the tall man could be trusted, and Sheriam had taken the man’s word in their negotiations, but he was well aware of where he was. And that decided him. If Taim was prepared to kill him, he hardly needed to set him up first. “It is what the M’Hael told me, too, yesterday, but I do not think they were approached by Dashiva, not after they left here. Damer and Eben and I have spoken about it after what happened in Cairhien, but Dashiva has never approached any of us. There was never a hint that he was trying to win anyone over, never a sign he was probing us for our loyalty. And Dashiva did not speak to those four any more than to us, not that any of us could recall, even afterwards when we knew. He may have given them orders, that would not take much contact, but I doubt he could have brought them around so easily.” Jahar paused. “Not unless he used compulsion.”
Logain frowned, studying Jahar. “Do you think he might have used compulsion?”
“It is a possibility,” Jahar replied cautiously. “But it doesn’t seem likely. Not without anyone noticing any sudden changes about them, even on looking back. And if Dashiva was that good, he could have gotten us all. It is more likely that those four got organised here, with or without Dashiva.” He had still avoided saying anything about the M’Hael directly, and so had Logain, both uneasy about trusting the other completely, but there was no getting around it for ever. “They were the M’Hael’s men,” he added.
“That is one of the things that made me suspicious,” Logain answered. “It is not the only thing, there are many things that do not seem right, but I can not prove a thing. I still can’t, but even so you have filled in some gaps.”
“I have not trusted Taim since what happened at Cairhien,” Jahar finally said. “Nor does Damer. We did not dare return after that, fearing Taim would want us out of the way since we could tell exactly what I just told you.”
“A feeling that turned out to be correct,” Logain noted. “If you had returned here you, Damer and Eben would have been executed as deserters.”
“Yes, and no matter what he might say about misunderstanding the Lord Dragon’s orders, I for one believe he made that ‘error’ on purpose,” Jahar agreed. He added grimly, “I do not particularly like people trying to kill me, and quite apart from that he is in too important a position to ignore. I will do what I can to help you expose him.”
Logain nodded. “It will be difficult, he knows I do not trust him and he is careful. Some of the Dedicated have tried to get into his favor but with little success. And he certainly does not trust anyone with a sister.”
“Watch your back,” Jahar cautioned.
“He can hardly move against me without giving himself away,” Logain said with a snort. “But I intend to be careful just the same.”
Jahar nodded in turn, and they broke up. He opened a Gateway to Tar Valon again and stepped through.
It was late afternoon that same day. The briefing of that morning had been relatively uneventful, especially compared to everything else that had happened lately. Jahar sat at Sheriam’s desk in the anteroom, trying to make sense of a stack of papers and documents that were supposedly Elaida’s budget and plans for the castle she had been building. He had offered his help earlier that day when Sheriam had felt about ready to climb the walls, and now he was getting pretty close to that point himself. Light, Elaida had been crazy, how the woman had ever made it to the Amyrlin Seat was beyond him.
He leaned back with a sigh, reaching for his cup of spiced wine. It had grown cold, and he channeled to warm it. After a few sips, he put the goblet down and reached for the papers again, when a knock on the door interrupted him.
“Come,” he called and opened the door from where he sat, lacking the energy to actually get up.
He immediately recognised the short, plump Aes Sedai who entered, although he had not yet spoken to her. She had been one of Elaida’s Red Sitters in the Hall, the one who had taken their arrival and the Amyrlin’s subsequent announcements in a stoic manner. Sheriam had identified her as Pevara. Now, too, she looked at him perhaps a little hesitant, but with nothing like the open shock the other Reds had displayed when he met them. She wore a simple, dark dress and a shawl with the fringes cut off. He had seen a few other of those who had been Reds with a shawl like that. It was yet another way of the sisters to make clear to everyone the Red Ajah was truly gone. And not in the least to those who had been Reds, of course.
“The Amyrlin and the Keeper are in conference with some of the Sitters, it will be a while before they can see you,” he told her.
For just a moment she did look nervous. Her dark eyes flitted at the ground for an instant, but then she looked straight at him, unblinking. “I did not come for them. I came to see you.”
“Me?” Jahar asked, caught off-guard. “Why?”
“I’m Pevara, but you probably already know that.”
He nodded silently.
“I just want to speak to you, but well,” she hesitated a moment. “I’ve heard how some of the Reds have treated you and if you want me to leave, I understand.”
Jahar looked at her intently. Everyone in the Tower knew about Duhara. He knew Sheriam and the Amyrlin had not spoken about it, but Lyrelle had not let the chance slide to talk about the ex-Sitter’s naïve foolishness for all to hear. Sheriam had been the source of the account of Sylviana’s impulsive reaction. It had infuriated her and she’d had no reservations making Elaida’s Mistress of the Novices an example. But Pevara showed none of this extreme reactions of the others, addressing him as a normal person. He would do her the same courtesy.
“There will be no need for that,” he said. “What do you want to see me about?”
“I have never been like most Reds,” Pevara explained. “Oh, I don’t ask for any special treatment, I got myself into this for mindlessly supporting Elaida no matter what she did.” She fingered her shawl with a rueful laugh. “But I do not hate men like most of the others do, and I am glad the Taint is gone. I am just trying to understand, for all my life I have never met a man who wanted to channel. And now there are hundreds of you. Why did you start to learn?”
Jahar couldn’t help but laugh and Pevara started back.
“I know I shouldn’t have asked,” she began.
Jahar held up his hand, interrupting her. “That’s not it. It’s just that for me, there wouldn’t have been a choice. I would have channeled either way. I was just lucky that there was a place to learn. But I think I can still answer your question for I came to the Black Tower before I had started to channel, before I knew. Most of us are recruited for the Dragon’s army, that’s what they say at first, and it’s true enough, but they do not say anything about channeling when they visit the towns and villages. Then coming to the Black Tower, and before the test, I think most really don’t think they will be able to learn. I certainly didn’t, neither did those who were with me or those I saw later when I helped test some of the new arrivals. It is the temptation of being able to do great things but it seems unlikely enough to actually make it through the test that few seriously worried about the Taint or anything else. And then, when we’ve actually felt Saidin, even the least bit, there’s no way back.” He looked at Pevara. “Could you have stopped channeling after even the first time you had felt the One Power, even if you knew it would make you mad?”
Pevara started to speak, then stopped. After a brief silence she said, “I guess not. But still, doesn’t anyone stop from taking the test?”
“Some do, but not many. Don’t forget that those of us who came with the recruiters had already decided to join the Dragon’s army, even if we thought we would be fighting with swords. That is hardly a safe profession. I would rather face the Last Battle with the One Power than with only a sword, even before the Taint was gone.”
Pevara nodded slowly. Jahar wasn’t sure how much she understood, but she seemed sincere in her attempt.
“Why did you chose the Red?” he asked her in turn. “You certainly aren’t like the other Reds I’ve met.”
“Because of the Taint,” she answered. “I am from Kandor, a town in the north near the Blight. When I was young my whole family was killed by Darkfriends, and I came here. The Taint and the Madness was a thing of the Dark One, so it seemed right to fight it.”
“You know what it did to us,” Jahar said flatly.
“You must have seen what the Madness can do,” Pevara countered.
“Yes… Most of the time we would be able to get to them in time, when the Madness got someone,” Jahar told her. “There was one time soon after I had come to the Black Tower that Steph lost it on the Training Grounds. He tore down the baker’s house before anyone could stop him, killing the baker and his apprentice, even though there were many of us right there. I can imagine what would happen if no one who can channel is around. But even so, I can not pretend I like it that I was condemned just for being born this way.”
“I did what I had to do, there was no way to stop the Taint,” Pevara said.
Jahar frowned. “I think what bothers me is that you stopped looking,” he said slowly. “No, I doubt anyone could have done what the Lord Dragon did at Shadar Logoth, I’m not sure even a full circle could have done that, but the point is for two thousand years no one tried, no one even thought to try because everyone knew it was impossible. Well, things change. Stilling was impossible to Heal, too, but now Nynaeve and Damer have both figured it out, because they refused to believe it was impossible. What is done is done, and it might not have worked, but I can’t help but wonder if the Taint could have been cleansed before if everyone had not been so bloody sure it was impossible for all that time.”
“We have never been good at looking at the new,” Pevara admitted quietly. “None of the Ajahs are. But I realise that is a sorry excuse for those who were taken.”
“Yes it is,” Jahar said curtly, but he did not really feel angry with the short Aes Sedai. The past was over, it could not be changed, and he would let it go. “What are you going to do now that the Red is no more?” he asked her.
She shook her head glumly. “It will be so many years before I will be allowed into any of the Ajahs again, I do not even think of that.”
At that moment the gong rang for Dinner and she jumped. “Light, I must go, Moria will have my skin,” Pevara gasped. She looked panicky as if she wanted to rush off but did not want to leave without his permission. Of course, like all of Elaida’s Sitters she would be made to work hard all day, and the Blue was unlikely to be gentle with her if she was late for any of her chores.
“Then go,” he urged her, not unkindly. She rushed out the door as he watched her leave.
Sheriam was alone at her desk when Tiana came in, looking upset.
“I have to see the Amyrlin,” the Grey said.
“What do you need to see her about?” Sheriam inquired, although she had a pretty good idea.
“Sjani has been teaching that new girl, Genet, some things not even all Aes Sedai should learn, and she absolutely refuses to listen to reason,” Tiana answered.
“I see,” Sheriam got up and walked to the inner room to announce Tiana to the Amyrlin. She had told the Amyrlin about Genet and her training at the Black Tower, and ever since the Amyrlin had forbidden her from intervening right away, she had known a visit from Tiana was inevitable. The only thing that surprised her was that it had taken the Mistress of the Novices almost a week to show up.
The Amyrlin sighed when she announced Tiana but of course she, too, had been expecting this. “All right, show her in.”
Tiana barely waited for the door to the Amyrlin’s Study to close behind her before starting off. Sheriam looked at her disapprovingly but the Grey did not even notice. “Mother, you have to do something about Sjani! I have a novice who thinks it is perfectly acceptable to use the One Power to sweep the floor or to heat the water, and whose idea of novice exercises includes blowing up large rocks. Then when I put a stop to it, Sjani goes on teaching her regardless and tries to give me all kinds of rubbish about the Last Battle.”
“Rubbish?”, the Amyrlin asked calmly.
Tiana was clearly caught unawares by the Amyrlin’s reaction, and she looked at Sheriam, who also looked as calmly as ever. “You knew,” she said accusingly.
“Not in all detail, but I had a general idea,” the Amyrlin said.
“Other novices are trying to pick up her habits at chore time, and are asking her to show them the weaves, you have to put a stop to this!” Tiana exclaimed.
The Amyrlin sighed. “Daughter, I have heard those words a lot this past week, and most of it has to do with those coming from the Black Tower. Asha’man are coming and going all day long, and most sisters who are strong enough to learn are Travelling the other way so much I could as well open a Gateway and tie it off. Mikhael has for all practical purposes moved into the Green’s quarters, Gabrelle can never be found, and then Beyaelle drops in just long enough to announce she is moving out and starts packing her things. Do you have any idea how many of those who were Reds were in here then, demanding I stop her from leaving? I do not know what reasons I could give to hold a full Aes Sedai in the Tower against her will, but they demanded I stop her just the same. At least she had the sense to come alone, without her Asha’man, or there would have been a riot.” She let out another sigh. “I am not fully comfortable with everything that has been happening either, but things are changing. I could put a stop to some of these, but I am not sure if I should, for I can not stop the Wheel from turning.”
“All of these are full Aes Sedai and, and those men,” Tiana sounded exasperated, then glanced quickly at Sheriam, who did not react. “But Sjani is directly interfering with my authority. You can not allow that to continue.”
“I will speak to Sjani and tell her to not go against your authority again,” the Amyrlin promised.
Tiana opened her mouth to thank her, then halted as she clearly felt a major ‘but’ coming.
“But the lessons will continue and the channeling for chores will be allowed. For all novices,” the Amyrlin went on.
Tiana stared at her in shock. “You can not be serious, you can not do that.”
“I can and I will,” the Amyrlin replied. “If anything, I have waited too long with this already.”
The Grey gasped. “What Sjani does is totally irresponsible, it is dangerous to push anyone so hard.”
“I was pushed as hard,” the Amyrlin said. “The Wheel will not wait until we are good and ready, there is not much time left until the Last Battle and the more channelers I have who can handle themselves in a battle, the better.”
“Has Sjani spoken with you?” Tiana asked.
“No, she has not,” the Amyrlin answered truthfully.
In fact, it had been Lord Bryne, now Captain General of the Tower Guard, who had pressed for all of those who could handle enough of the One Power to learn offensive and defensive weaves, whether Aes Sedai, Accepted or novice, and Jahar had supported him. Gareth Bryne often spoke with Jahar since he was the only one who had actually been in a battle where both sides fought with the Power, at the Wells, and in Altara against the Seanchan. In the siege at the Tower they had Travelled in, and used the One Power to block off the harbours, but only a little Saidar had been used in actual combat. Furthermore, there had been disturbing reports earlier that week when Jahar had gone to Cairhien. Damer and Corele had Travelled extensively across the south, in Altara, Amadicia, Tarabon and even as far north as Murandy and Ghealdan. The Seanchan were spread far and wide, and while they had not been able to get actually into any Seanchan camps, there seemed to be a great number of damane just about everywhere.
“There will be several measures taken to ensure the safety of the Tower in case of a Seanchan attack and in the Last Battle,” Sheriam said smoothly. She wasn’t any happier about it, and a year ago she, too, would have tried to hold on to the old ways. But the events since then had taught her that it ignoring or denying those things she did not like did not make them go away.
“If the situation is that dire, then I have no choice but to follow your orders, Mother,” Tiana said reluctantly. “But I do not like it.”
“Noted, daughter, noted,” the Amyrlin replied.
Sheriam had her own reasons for being uneasy about the sisters and Asha’man Travelling between the Towers. Their involuntary bond reminded her of what she would have to do. It had only been a very short time since she had bonded Jahar, but in those weeks she had come to depend on him more than she could ever have thought. Even though it had been such a brief time, she no longer felt the emptiness in him. Sometimes there were brief flashes of hurt or anger, but nothing like it had been at first, and the most dangerous spells of indifference were completely gone. Perhaps it was because he could channel that he had been able to get over Merise’s death so quickly, and also he had been bonded to her for such a short while.
Myrelle had explained she believed the bond grew over time. Of course, the initial waves formed the bond itself, and the effects would be felt from that very moment on if the bond was broken, but she believed the normal feelings and emotions that any two people who lived and worked close together built up between them were somehow intertwined into the bond itself, the result being much more than just the sum of bond and non-Power relationship. One of her two Warders she had saved, Nuhel, had been bonded for only two years, and he had been much quicker to adjust than Avar, who had been with his first sister for nearly eighteen. Sheriam herself had had a Warder before, but she had never before been so deeply aware of the workings of the bond itself.
Whatever the reasons, the fact remained that Jahar no longer needed her bond to survive, and while she’d had no other choice at the time she had still bonded him without being able to ask. Soon she would have to make him an offer she hoped with all her heart he would refuse.
She finally spoke to him the evening after Tiana’s visit.
“Jahar, I have to talk to you about something,” she started.
He looked at her, concerned, feeling her uneasiness. Light, he would not need the bond to notice she was nervous, she knew she sounded it. “What is wrong?” he asked softly.
“Nothing is wrong,” she said carefully. “In fact, quite the opposite.” She still fidgeted, trying to find the right words. Of course she thought she knew what his answer would be, but hope could play tricks on the mind, even as an Aes Sedai, and besides she would have to ask no matter what.
“When you came here, I had to bond you. Several sisters wanted to get a Green, but I never regretted taking your bond myself, and I never will. I’ve come to depend on you more than I would care to admit to anyone else,” she continued. “But I could not ask you at the time, and no matter what the circumstances I do not approve of bonding without permission. You no longer need my bond to survive, I can ask you now. If you want me to, I will release you of your bond.” There, she had said it.
Jahar looked at her silently for what seemed like forever but probably was only a few moments. “Thank you, it means a lot to me that you give me the choice,” he replied seriously. “But I am your Warder now, Sheriam, I will not leave you.”
Sheriam had not known she was holding her breath until she let it out then. She laughed a relieved smile and saw her happiness reflected in his dark eyes. “You don’t know how much I had hoped you would say that,” she said sincerely, relief flooding through her. As he returned her smile she thought she could actually feel the bond change as their feelings of trust and mutual respect settled into the weaves itself.
The next morning, just after High, Nynaeve came charging into the anteroom. She would have rushed straight on into the Amyrlin’s room if Sheriam had not stepped calmly in between her and the door. Outwardly calm, that is. Jahar respected Nynaeve for her part in cleansing the Taint, but the way she still acted around the Amyrlin like they were in their Two Rivers village always put Sheriam on edge.
Nynaeve stopped smoothly, as if she had never intended to go right on in. “I must see the Amyrlin,” she announced.
“I will tell her you are here,” Sheriam replied just as smoothly.
Of course, the Amyrlin did tell her to show Nynaeve in, and Sheriam went in as well. As Lan followed Nynaeve, Jahar slipped in after Sheriam. Nynaeve frowned but did not say anything.
“Egwene, it’s Alivia,” she addressed the Amyrlin instead. “She wants to go after the Seanchan and I do not think I can hold her back much longer. We need people to go there and report on them, but if I let her go alone she will do something stupid the first time she runs into a sul’dam who has held her leash. I’ve been trying to find someone to go with her, but I do not know who. Any one of the Kin or the Sea Folk I do not trust to stay hidden if they see one of theirs wearing a leash, and those sisters who are in Caemlyn I can not order to go on a mission like this. I hoped you would have someone you could send along with her.”
“Do you think anyone will be able to hold her back?”, the Amyrlin wondered.
Nynaeve nodded. “She has half a head of sense, she knows she can do more by scouting for us than the little bit she could do in an attack by herself. But she was leashed for a long time, and she hates the sul’dam, I do not dare send her alone.”
The Amyrlin frowned, nodding slowly. “I understand. Does she know how to weave the Mirror of Mists?”, she asked. Sheriam gasped in surprise, started to say something, but the Amyrlin and Nynaeve ignored her reaction.
“Not yet, if I taught her that she would be gone in a flash. The only thing that is holding her back so far is the fear she will be recognised and re-captured,” Nynaeve replied.
“If she were disguised and hid her ability to channel, with her knowledge of the Seanchan she could gather a wealth of information for us. Damer and Corele have Travelled in the Seanchan held areas but they do not know the Seanchan well enough to pass for them, to risk getting too close. But yes, I can understand you do not dare send her alone.” The Amyrlin paused. “Even using the Mirror of Mists it will be dangerous because of the consequences of getting caught. I am not sure if I could order anyone to take that risk.” She looked uncomfortable, and unconsciously raised one hand to her neck. “I can ask for volunteers, but I am not sure who would go among the Seanchan with a Seanchan damane.”
Sheriam frowned as the Amyrlin looked at her, questioningly, but she too did not come up with any suggestions.
“Pevara,” Jahar said, as he suddenly thought of the short ex-sitter.
The Amyrlin looked startled. “I know she was a Red, but…” she started and trailed off as she saw Sheriam nodding thoughtfully.
“I’ve only spoken with her once but she seemed the type who will do what has to be done. She’s been a Sitter, she should be able to hold Alivia back when needed, and she will jump at the chance to go if she is allowed to leave here,” Jahar said.
The Amyrlin looked at Sheriam, questioningly.
“The Reds mingled little with anyone outside their Ajah even in the best of times, but I do believe she will be a good choice. She’s.. different from the other Reds,” Sheriam replied.
“And she is strong enough to Travel,” the Amyrlin said. “She should be able to learn the other weaves.”
Sheriam frowned again, and this time the Amyrlin did respond to her silent question. “It was necessary to keep some weaves from becoming public knowledge. It still is. The Mirror of Mists and hiding the ability to channel can be miss-used quite easily, but those who go among the Seanchan will have to learn.”
“If you say so, Mother,” Sheriam answered, but she was clearly irritated she had not been told before.
“I will teach you, and those who need to know. Some time when everything is over I will tell you why I could not show you before,” the Amyrlin promised, and for some reason Nynaeve threw her a shocked glance at that. “But I can not tell you now. Would you get Pevara in here?”
Sheriam nodded and left, Jahar followed her.
Pevara was surprised when Sheriam came for her, and even more so when she heard what for. She was extremely correct in every way, bowing deeply as she entered and listening quietly as the Amyrlin told her what would be expected of her. Yet she could not hide her eagerness, at being able to do something useful again and at being able to leave the White Tower and her unhappy position here. She glanced briefly at Jahar out of the corner of her eye, and he gave her a nod, just as briefly.
As the Amyrlin and Nynaeve started to show Pevara the Mirror of Mists, and Jahar saw what it did –at the Black Tower, few weaves were known by their original names as none of the men knew what anything used to be called- and idea began to form. If they could do something similar, that would be the answer to getting into Taim’s palace. Taim had servants and all kinds of other non-channelers in there all the time. Of course, the weaves were complicated and there was not even a guarantee a similar thing could be done with Saidin. Most things seemed to have a male and a female equivalent, but there were exceptions, and more than a few things they had simply not been able to figure out yet. Either way, he would speak to Logain about it.
When Jahar got to the Black Tower, Gabrelle was there with Logain.
“She is in on it,” Logain said as Jahar asked. “And Toveine is in the Crafts Town. What do you have?”
Jahar explained what he had learned. “If we could figure out that Mirror of Mists, someone could go in. Servants are always in and out of the place,” he said.
“It is a good plan,” Logain agreed. “I will have to get some people working on those weaves.”
“I could channel it, if Jahar can get Sheriam to teach me,” Gabrelle put in. “In fact, I should be the one to go into Taim’s palace.”
Logain looked at her in surprise. “You?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “A man could get in, no doubt, but men are always doing the carrying and heavy chores. I could serve Taim and his visitors his wine, go through his papers while cleaning the room, check his pockets while brushing his coats.”
Logain raised an eyebrow at her. “Did you do that here too?” he asked, but he grinned as he spoke.
Gabrelle smiled back. “I tried at first,” she admitted. “But Taim won’t convince me to stop it like you did.” She grinned at him again.
“Could you do it with your Oaths?” Logain asked her, turning serious. “Taim knows Aes Sedai, something as simple as him asking your name could be dangerous. He won’t fall for any of that ‘you can call me’ business.”
“I could call myself Aby,” Gabrelle said.
“Aby?” Logain grinned.
Gabrelle blushed a little at his grin “It’s what my little brother called me when he was still too little to pronounce my name. My family picked it up long enough I could give it as my name without lying. I could get around just about anything else he would ask me, too. No one speaks much with a servant anyhow. I am also the only one who would not be missed, anyone wondering would assume I’m in Tar Valon, and anyone wondering there would assume I am here.”
“All right. Jahar, would Sheriam show Gabrelle the weaves?” Logain inquired.
“She will if I explain her why,” Jahar replied.
“Let’s do it,” Logain decided.
Gabrelle left with Jahar to Travel to Tar Valon. Sheriam was not too happy to teach those weaves to anyone, but as he explained the situation she did admit it was necessary. Before the evening, Gabrelle returned to the Black Tower.
Sheriam walked down the corridors with Jahar, heading for their quarters. She felt hesitant about speaking to him again, but this time it was not his answer she feared. She knew what his answer would be, she had felt his desire clearly since their talk last week, feeding on her own eagerness through the bond. But she also knew he would not bring it up, not as long as he still felt her uneasiness.
What she was worried had nothing to do with him, but with herself and her position in the Tower. Of course, as Keeper she had privileges, but she also was more closely watched by all in the Tower than anyone else. Her position carried the need to hold to certain proprieties. She was not a Green! Also, while most of the sisters -outside the Red of course- were getting used to Jahar being in the Tower, she was well aware that old habits and life-long distrust took a long time to disappear altogether. No, it would be better if she just forgot about it and left it as it was.
The problem was that no amount of rational thinking could stop the way she felt. It had been a long time since she had felt this strong for any man. Most men kept their distance from Aes Sedai and even those few who did not would usually be overawed by the Power. And of course there were Warders like those of the Greens, who would do anything –anything- at a word from their sister and who would never speak up or argue, but that was not her style. She wanted a man to be strong enough to be a match for her, and with her being Aes Sedai, the last time she had found a man who really held her interest had been as a novice.
Light, but that was a long time ago. As an Aes Sedai she was used to not think in the same years other people did, no one ever spoke about their age, yet that did not mean she was not aware of the time passing. That young man from back then would be old now, if he still lived. But for an Aes Sedai she was far from old yet, certainly not old enough to be above feelings of passion and desire. Silently, she asked herself if those objections she had in her mind were really that important. And decided they weren’t.
When they reached their rooms, she turned at her door. “Jahar, would you come with me tonight?” she asked breathlessly.
“You know I want to, more than anything, I was only waiting for you to ask,” he replied softly, following her into her room and taking her into his arms without hesitation.
As they wove a ward around the room Sheriam knew she would not regret her choice, and whatever happened she would just have to deal with it in the morning. After that, she did not think of the rest of the Tower at all.
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