Disclaimer: The Wheel of Time universe belongs to Robert Jordan.
I just write some short stories for fun.
Beyaelle rode next to Wende, the only other Red in her small group, through the deep snow. Behind her, Ayako, Akoure and Nenya rode together, a White, a Grey and a Green. Nenya’s Warder, the only one she had, rode with the twenty Tower Guard in the rear. It was a cold day, and even though Beyaelle could usually ignore the cold, it started to creep up on her after a long day of riding. She pulled the hood of her cloak over her long, brown hair, wiggled her toes in her boots, and played with the reins in her fingers to keep them from getting stiff. Would they reach their meeting point the next day? She thought they would, even in this snow. Then they would have to wait on the other parties to join them, most would come behind them still. But at least they wouldn’t have to ride through this mess. She had seen plenty of snow of course, growing up in a small village not too far from where they rode now, just south of Caemlyn on the road to Far Madding. But no one travelled in this weather, not if it could be helped. And at this time of the year the snow should be gone already. Then, the winter had been so late to arrive, perhaps it would last all spring. What would have been spring.
“Riders!” Nenya’s Warder called out, and Beyaelle started out of her musings. She looked up to see several men riding out of the forest around them. Light, they wore black coats like Toveine had described to them! Somehow the Black Tower had learned of their arrival. But surely they could not channel, Toveine had been sure only a few men really could hold the Source, if that. Beyaelle herself had seen only a handful in her sixty years in the Tower. She reached for Saidar and gasped as she found she could not.
“Surrender and no one will get hurt,” a man with grey in his hair called out, riding forward.
“I am shielded,” Beyaelle said softly to Wende, trying to remain calm. Wende, who was the leader of their small group until they would join with Toveine, choked. “I am too.”
“So am I,” they heard from behind them, three times. Apparently they all were held.
Wende looked at the men around them. “Light, there’s twenty of them. But they can’t all be able to channel. I am certain it is just that man in front of us.” She glanced back toward the Tower Guard. “At my command, we rein our horses to the side, you attack him. He can not possibly divide his flows so much with all of us shielded, I am sure you can get through to him. As soon as he lets go of the shields, we will take care of the rest.”
Beyaelle had also studied the men in the black coats. She thought every one of them sat his horse with great confidence, watching them with an intense look. “Wende, I don’t think…” she started, but Wende reined her horse aside as she ordered, “Take him!”
Beyaelle had to turn Dancer aside too, as the Tower Guards and Nenya’s Warder spurred their horses and came rushing by. She tried to yell at them to stop, to wait, but they were already past her and her throat clenched as she watched, frozen in horror, holding her horse there at the side of the road. The Tower Guard never made it more than a few horse lengths before the earth burst up beneath them and fire burst out among them. She heard Nenya scream. Then suddenly Ayako rode past her, whipping her horse with her reins. “Ride, ride, we got to get out of here!” the White yelled. Beyaelle finally pulled Dancer around, kicking him hard in the ribs and the gelding took off, sliding in the snow as he tried to gain speed.
After only a few steps, the horse stopped so suddenly that she would have been pitched over his head into the snow if she, too, had not been held firmly in place by something. Saidin, it had to be. She felt a cold that had nothing to do with the weather that had bothered her earlier.
A man rode up to her, slowly walking his horse through the snow. He was a big man, with wide shoulders and thick, muscled arms. His face was weathered but he did not look much older than his thirties. A sword pin shone on his collar.
“There do be no need to run. I will no hurt you,” he said, his Illianer accent heavy. He brought his horse up close to hers and then, out of all things, he kissed her!
Warmth flooded through her, a sweet kind of warmth, boiling through her veins and saturating every nerve in her body. Then suddenly it shattered, as if a thousand tiny shards of thin glass burst out from inside her. She gasped.
“I be sorry about that, I do no usually kiss a woman I do not know. But it do be our way,” the man said. “Now, do not attack anyone in a black coat, do not try to escape, and do not touch Saidar unless I do give you permission. I be called Gheral Novad, what be your name?”
“Beyaelle Tamossi, sir,” she answered, surprising herself that she could even bring out the words. She felt totally dumbfound, overwhelmed by everything.
“Just Gheral, no of this sir business. I be no lord,” the man said and she nodded quietly.
“I will release you now. Do be careful, your horse he may spook when he can move again,” Gheral told her.
Beyaelle nodded again, and moments later the bonds that held her were gone. Her horse snorted, stumbling and sliding in the snow as he frisked, but she settled him down with a pat on his neck. Her shield was gone too, she noticed. Strangely enough, she felt no desire to channel or to run again.
Gheral looked satisfied as she settled Dancer, then turned his horse around. “Follow me and stay close,” he said as he rode off without even looking if she did indeed follow. She booted her horse, quickly catching up as she tried to make sense of what had just happened. Gheral rode his horse down the road to where a few other men were waiting, together with Akoure and Wende. Most of the guardsmen stood, without their horses, off to the side, stiffly so that she was sure they were held by the Power. She spotted Ayako riding next to another man when she turned around, and yet another came riding out from the trees with Nenya behind him on his horse. The big Illianer still seemed satisfied… Light! She gasped again as she realised she could feel he was satisfied. Hesitantly, she focused on the feelings that were his. As a Red, she had never felt a bond but of course she had heard it described. This man had bonded her? And compelled her through the bond, there was no doubt of that, although she had never heard of compulsion being so strong. He had not even looked if she had followed!
“All Aes Sedai do be accounted for, Canler,” Gheral reported to the older man who had approached them first.
“Those of you with a sister, take them to the Tower,” the man addressed as Canler ordered. “Kurin, Genhald, take the captured guardsmen in. The rest of you round up any stray horses and remove all traces of anything happening here.”
A chorus of “Yes Canler,” and “Will do,” and similar acknowledgements answered him.
Gheral rode off with those who held the other Aes Sedai and she followed. Akoure and Ayako rode silently, as she did, but staring down at their hands as if they could not bear to look up. Wende was crying softly, shaking her head from side to side, as if to deny everything that had happened. And Nenya was sobbing against the back of the man she rode behind, holding him like a child sobbing against her father’s back. Beyaelle looked around for her warder, then remembered he had been among the first to charge past her. Light! She felt her heart catch in her throat, poor Nenya. She wanted to ride up to the sobbing sister but she could not leave her place at Gheral’s side.
As they rode into a clearing, Gheral stopped his horse and suddenly a slash of light appeared in the snow in front of them. It rotated into a large opening, large enough for two people to ride side by side. At the Asha’man’s command everyone rode through, Wende flinching as she rode as if afraid it would close on her, Nenya not even noticing the Gateway. Beyaelle stared at it open-mouthed, hardly noticing that everyone else had gone through until Gheral spoke to her. “Go through, then wait for me. I do hold it, I go last.”
Hurriedly, she booted her horse through the gap. Of course, now she knew there really were that many men who could channel, that vague rumor about Travelling being true did not surprise her. What did surprise her was the size of the village she rode into. She looked around in amazement as Gheral rode through the Gateway and let it close, then as they rode a short distance over a hard-packed, broad street toward a long row of stables. Gheral dismounted and she did the same. He handed her the reins.
“Storm do go in the third stall to the left. Find any empty stall for your own horse, there do be enough open yet. Take care of them both and do come out with your saddlebags when you be finished,” he instructed her.
She blinked for a moment, were they to be treated as servants? Then they had not had any servants along on this ride. She had been taking care of her own horse for weeks, and it was not as if she had any choice in the matter. She did not hesitate as she led the horses inside, unsaddled them and rubbed them down. His first, but she did not neglect her own, checking the gelding’s legs for any damage he might have taken when he had stumbled after Gheral had let them lose.
Besides her, only Akoure and Ayako were unsaddling their own horses, and those of the men who had captured them. They moved methodically, their faces blank, yet jumping at every sound, especially every time a man spoke. Beyaelle did not know what to say to them so she kept silent as she worked.
Several of the other men who had been out on the road unsaddled their own horses, and she gasped again as she noticed they used the Power for all their chores. Of course she could not see the flows, but she saw the saddles lift off by themselves, the buckets of water float through the air. These men must be holding Saidin all day long, no wonder they had learned to channel so much of the Power in the brief time since Al’Thor’s amnesty had been declared! She had to haul her buckets by hand. Not that she would have used Saidar for something like that at any other time, but it did make her flinch to realise she could not have touched Saidar if she tried.
The men who had brought their own horses in floated their tack to a small room in the back of the stable, so she carried the saddles there as well. As she walked past the stalls she noticed a tall grey and her breath caught. She was sure that was Gabrelle’s mare. Gabrelle had been in the only group that had been in front of them; eight other small groups would follow. She had a sinking feeling she knew what they were about to run into and she only hoped the sisters who led the other groups would be more careful than Wende had been before ordering a charge. Wende was of her own Ajah, and a casual friend, but it was her denial of what had been plain to see that had cost Nenya her Warder, and got some of the guardsmen killed as well, she was sure of that. Ordering them to attack men who could channel while the five of them were all shielded, Light!
Then she was done with the horses and she walked out of the stable, where Gheral stood talking to a few other men. He saw her coming out and broke off his conversation. He indicated for her to follow him and he led her though the village.
“You be sleeping here, with the other Aes Sedai,” he said as he showed her a large building with many small rooms canvassed off. “Breakfast do be every morning at first hour in the barrack next to this one. After breakfast you come to my place and I do tell you what to do that day.”
Beyaelle nodded as she dropped her saddlebags on a cot.
“You can unpack later. And do leave your ring here, or carry it with you where none be able to see, but do no wear it. No one who be no part of the Black Tower need see who you are. Now do come with me,” Gheral instructed and he walked her to another part of the village after she had dropped her ring in her belt pouch. Many wooden houses lined the streets here and it looked almost normal. Women walked the streets, and even a few kids ran around playing.
“Some of us do have families,” Gheral commented as he noticed her look of surprise.
“Do you?” Beyaelle asked, just to say something.
Gheral shook his head. “Not me,” he answered.
They came to a mid-sized, two story house and Gheral opened the door. “This be where I live,” he said. She followed him in and he closed the door. They were in a plain living room that contained a bench, a couple of chairs, some shelves and a small desk. A fire was burning in a large, stone fireplace, a door led off to what Beyaelle thought would be the kitchen, and a steep ladder led up to the second floor.
“You can put your cloak on a peg,” Gheral indicated a short row of pegs next to the door, hanging his own coat on one. Then he reached down and pulled off his boots. “You do know any Healing?” he asked.
Beyaelle blinked, then nodded.
“Good, do see about my blisters. I be a sailor for twenty years and those things they do no agree with me,” Gheral said, kicking the boots into a corner with a heartfelt curse.
Beyaelle reached out for Saidar tentatively, not knowing what to expect, but she found she could embrace the Source as easily as ever. She laid her hands on him and channeled briefly, then let go of Saidar. Again she felt a mild surprise at how completely he trusted the bond, letting her channel on him. Then, what was she going to do here, in the middle of this Black Tower, even if she could have channeled at will?
Gheral stretched and wiggled his toes on the bare wooden floor. “Better,” he stated. Then he walked through the door into what cooking smells confirmed was indeed the kitchen. “You be hungry?” he called.
Beyaelle did not immediately know what to answer. It had been hours since their last stop, but her stomach still felt queasy. “A little I guess,” she replied and entered the kitchen as well.
Almost as large as the front room had been, the kitchen held a large table in the middle of the floor, a stove for cooking and an oven, and a good number of cabinets along the wall. A pot of stew hung near the fire where it would remain warm but not boil over.
“Sora Grady be the one who made this, she do be cooking for many of us. Can you cook?” he asked her.
“Yes, I.. I may be out of practice,” Beyaelle answered. Every village girl of seventeen knew the basics of cooking and baking, of course, and her mother had taught her well, but she had not used those skills even once since she had gone to the White Tower.
“No matter, you will pick up again I be sure,” he said while he reached into one of the cabinets and took out two wooden bowls, handing one to her. “Help yourself.”
She took some stew and ate slowly. As she finished, he looked up and said, “Rinse your bowl and go to the dormitory. Do get some sleep, you be feeling tired. Be back here tomorrow after you break your fast.”
“Yes Gheral,” she answered, then did as he had ordered. She was no longer surprised he let her walk out the door and to the dormitory by herself.
But what she found in the dormitory was hardly something that made for an easy nights’ sleep. As she had known when she had seen Gabrelle’s horse, all five sisters from the first small group had also been captured. Gabrelle herself sat on one of the long benches that lined the broad hallway, looking silently at her lap. Nenya was crying on the shoulder of Hannah, another Green who had been with Gabrelle’s team. At least Hannah looked like her two Warders had been taken alive. Beyaelle did not even consider the possibility they had escaped; not after what she had seen today. Ayako and Akoure stood each on one side of the hallway and glared at her as she entered. Then they turned back to glaring even harder at Wende, who sat on a bench by herself still shaking her head, oblivious to anything around her.
Beyaelle quickly walked through to the small room where she had dropped her bags earlier that day. She did not feel she would be able to speak to Wende right now, knowing she was bitter for the woman’s blunder earlier today. She doubted it made any difference in her own situation but it had cost lives, but Wende knew that as well as she did. She certainly did not need to hear it from someone of her own Ajah. Ayako and Akoure looked like they blamed her as a Red almost as much as they blamed Wende, and she did not think Gabrelle or any of the others would hold a different opinion. She closed the flap of canvas that was her door and stripped to her shift. As she tried to go to sleep she finally wept, feeling very much alone even though the other sisters were right there in the small rooms next to her.
After a restless night, Beyaelle woke early. It was barely light out but she did not think she would be able to sleep again so she got up. She shivered. The building was not heated, and the air was certainly not warmer than when she had complained about the snow the previous day.
The water in the pitcher on the wash stand was frozen. She cracked the ice with an effort and poured a little ice cold water in the bowl. Shivering, she wondered if Gheral would let her channel to heat the water if she asked. Even though no one else was around, and she certainly had no other intentions than to get warm, she found could not even start to reach for Saidar. Quickly she put on her dress and grabbed her cloak, then went to the adjacent building where she had been told to get breakfast.
Despite the hour, Hannah, Akoure and Carniele were already sitting at the long table that ran almost the full length of this hall. A table on the far end held cheese, rolls, butter and some ham. She helped herself and sat down with the others. None of them spoke more than a brief greeting, her fellow sisters chewing desolately on their food.
Beyaelle did not remain long, unable to bear the silence and unwilling to face those who would still be getting up later. She walked over to Gheral’s house. She was far from comfortable there, but she was not afraid of a man who could channel, not in the way all of the others were.
She knocked on the door and Gheral immediately called for her to come in.
“You be early, but I expected that from the way you did sleep,” he said. “I must ride out today, I do want you to remain in the Tower and cook for tonight. Sora can show you where there be shops that sell food and other needs. Her place do be the house across the street with the green shutters, and there be coin in the pouch on the kitchen table. When you be done you can stay here or go to the dormitory, but do not go through anything in this room or my room upstairs. You may go around the village here and the Crafts Town –you be needing to go there for your shopping- but no further in any of the other parts of the Tower.”
“I understand,” Beyaelle said quietly. Her breath had caught when he said he would ride out today. She suddenly thought that no one had asked whether there would be any other parties and, with a sinking feeling, realised they already knew.
Soon Gheral left and Beyaelle went into the kitchen. Doing a quick inventory she tried to remember any of the cooking her mother had taught her. There was plenty of food in the pantry for her to cook one meal, maybe two, without ever leaving the house, but she wanted to go out and look around. She would find Sora right away and have her show her around town. Not that she had any hope she would suddenly find herself free to actually do anything. The large block of sharp kitchen knives that sat on the counter, open and easy for anyone to get at, was another reminder of how complete his compulsion was.
She walked across the street and easily found the house with the green shutters. She knocked and an older woman opened the door. “Ah, the Aes Sedai. Gheral said you would be coming over. What is your name again? I’m Sora, but I figure he’s told you that already,” the grey-haired woman said gruffly .
“I am Beyaelle,” she answered.
“Ah, yes, that was it. Well, come in and have yourself a cup of tea. I’m not so young any longer and with the cold my knee is bothering me. I just have to take my time in the morning,” the woman told her as she stepped back letting Beyaelle in. “Come into the kitchen and help yourself.”
Beyaelle went in, hung her cloak on the cloak rack, followed Sora into the kitchen and poured herself a cup of tea from a large tea kettle on the table.
“I wish the boy had thought to tell some of the others to go along. Next I know I’ll be showing every one of you around town all by your lonesome self and I do not think my legs will hold up to that. I don’t suppose you could go ask any of them to come along? No, I guess not,” Sora said.
Beyaelle was momentarily confused when Sora referred to Gheral as the boy –he was not that young- but then she realised Sora was easily old enough to be his mother. “If I may ask, why are you here?” she asked.
Sora looked at her from head to toe, as if thinking over what to answer. “Ah, it ain’t no secret. The husband is an Asha’man, I came here with him. He was the first to be tested, and he is full Asha’man,” Sora said with pride in her voice.
“Where is he now?” Beyaelle asked.
“Oh, to the south somewhere,” Sora answered. “Not too far, it is cold where he’s at. Somewhere in Murandy I would think.”
Beyaelle blinked and looked at her with wide eyes. “You are bonded too?” she asked.
Sora laughed shortly at that. “Not in the way you are,” she said. “Oh, I know about that. It started out with a simple bond, letting us know where the husband is when he’s out away from the Tower, and letting them know we who stay back here are all right. Then this Benji Merenis comes up with a different version, that will not only let him know where his Vina is, but also allows him to control her everything she does. I don’t think he was right to treat her like that, she was just scared of what he was becoming and wanted to leave, but it does come in handy now.”
Beyaelle gave Sora a puzzled look, wondering how much the woman knew, and Sora noticed.
“Ah, I know what you and your sisters came here for. I was none too happy when my Jur tested true. But he is who he is, my Jur and these other boys, and I do not hold with anyone trying to force them to change. Especially not knowing what that’d do to them,” Sora said sharply.
“I understand,” Beyaelle said. She would not try to explain this woman about the Taint. She certainly knew already, and rubbing it in would not do her husband or Sora any good. Or herself, for that matter, since she had to spend a good part of the morning with the woman.
“Hrmpf, I doubt that you do or you would not have come here. But if the boys say to treat you right it is not up to me to say different, it’s them you were after,” Sora snorted. “Come on, we may as well get going or we’ll sit here all day.”
Beyaelle finished the last of her tea in one gulp and grabbed her cloak, following the old woman out.
For most of the morning, she followed Sora through the village, the part in which the men lived as well as the part that was called the Crafts Town and held all the shops and workshops.
Sora talked a lot as they walked the streets. Beyaelle learned only one full Asha’man lived in their village, and she was shocked when she heard his name. Logain had been Healed by the rebel Aes Sedai? “But that’s impossible!” she had blurted out, and Sora had shrugged. “That’s what most of ‘m here thought, but someone did it and the Asha’man are now trying to figure it out as well. I’ll bet they’re gonna catch on to it some time soon, too. They keep coming up with new things all the time.”
Sora may have been unhappy when she first found out her husband could channel, but now Beyaelle thought the woman played mother or grandmother to half the village and was as proud as if they were her own.
“In a way it’s a good thing there’ll be some of you to take care of the boys,” she babbled on. “With all the new ones that came in from that Two Rivers place lately, well, they really are boys, hardly any of them old enough to have been with a girl. I’m doing the cooking for a good lot of the boys now, but when all of them kids come into the village I can sure use some help.”
Beyaelle nodded distractedly. Most of her sisters would be beside themselves if they would be pressed into a role as a cook by this old woman, and she certainly did not like it, but she was far more disturbed by the news of the Two Rivers’ boys. What were these men thinking, taking in youngsters like that? Even the White Tower did not take girls under fifteen, not unless they had the spark inborn and started to channel already. And Saidar did not have the Taint.
Eventually, close to noon, Sora remarked it was time they returned for the midday meal. Beyaelle agreed readily. She had learned a lot from the woman that might be useful, but she had also heard many things that distressed her.
As they walked back she could catch a glimpse down a side street of a couple horses and her heart caught in her throat. Yet another one of their groups had been captured! She had only seen Desandre before the houses in between made it impossible to see more, but she was sure the others would be caught, too.
At Gheral’s house, she unpacked the bags of vegetables, fresh meat and spices she had bought. Then she started a stew on the fire that she finally managed to get going. Starting a fire was another thing she had not done without channeling for many years and it took her some time before the wood caught. When the stew was simmering she made sure it had plenty of liquid and she finally did go back to the dormitory.
Here all hell had broken loose. Five other groups had been captured, confirming Beyaelle’s dread that the Asha’man knew exactly where everyone would be. Perhaps they had questioned one of the sisters they had captured first. Sisters walked around in a daze, others sat and cried, and Nenya had finally come out of her despair enough to stand over Wende and loudly blame her for ordering the fatal attack. Wende tried to defend herself claiming that no one could have known all the men could actually channel, but two other Greens were also frowning at the Red sister. At any Reds, Beyaelle noticed as she got many dirty looks from the other Ajahs. She soon fled back to the kitchen in Gheral’s house where she sat silently, thinking back of everything that had happened these past two days, and of events much longer ago.
When Gheral returned she felt him approach before the door opened. He kicked off his boots before he even took off his coat, but he had no new blisters.
“Everyone do be here,” he said. “I thought you would want to know.”
“Everyone?” Beyaelle asked breathlessly.
“Toveine and her bunch be the last. She did try to run, too.”
“She would,” Beyaelle snorted before she could stop herself. Gheral looked at her curiously, but as he did not order her, she did not elaborate. She could not keep all her emotions in check but neither would she openly say some of her fellow Red sisters had a blind spot big enough to hide an army –or the whole Black Tower as the case might be. Besides, he had seen Wende, he could reason it out for himself. She took a deep breath and got a hold of herself again.
Gheral went into the kitchen, and she felt his approval as he looked around. He took a bowl of stew and motioned with another bowl to her. “Have some for yourself,” he said. “And sit down. I did say before I be no lord, me sitting and you be standing in the corner like a servant. I do no think that role do fit you anyhow.”
Beyaelle wondered what she was supposed to be, she had even less choice than a servant about following his commands, but she complied and sat down on the other end of the table with her own dinner. After a brief while she felt Gheral studying her. She tried to ignore his look after a few more bites she gave up and looked straight back at him. “What is it?” she asked.
“I do be curious,” Gheral said. “All day I see the other Aes Sedai and they be scared, jumping at every man they do see. Especially the Reds. You do be a Red, no?”
Beyaelle nodded silently.
“But you, you do no feel scared. Apprehensive, yes, and bewildered, and irritated, and a dozen other things, but no fear for me or any of the other Asha’man, not even when you touch me. Do you be so much braver than the rest?” he asked.
Beyaelle looked briefly down to the tabletop, taking a deep breath. “Well, Reds –all Aes Sedai, really- never face a man who can channel unless they are holding the Source. It is… was rare to find a man who can actually wield Saidin, and then we would link if necessary. To be among men who can channel and not even being able to reach for Saidar is.. unnerving,” she started.
Gheral looked at her quietly, waiting for her to continue.
“But men who can channel do not scare me,” she added then. “The Taint scares me, the Taint and the Madness. But not a man simply because he can hold the Source.” She fell silent and stared at the table again, not wanting to elaborate further.
“How come?” Gheral prompted.
Beyaelle swallowed hard. After all this time it still hurt to talk about it and now she had to tell another man who could channel himself! She took another deep breath. “My brother could channel. My older brother. He started to channel when he was seventeen, then the Taint got to him a year later. He killed four people in the village before the Aes Sedai could stop him. His girl, her da, our little niece and our neighbor who’d just had her fourth,” she threw out. She blinked, trying to keep her tears from showing but then gave up when she realised he could feel how upset she was either way.
“So that be why you chose the Red,” he said softly.
She nodded miserably, her fears bubbling up within her as if speaking aloud about her brother had opened up something inside her. Not a fear for Gheral or any of the other Asha’man. She had met cruel, evil men, but she had met cruel, evil women as well, and being able to channel certainly had never seemed to be a requirement for either. She thought Gheral and the others she had met were no worse than ordinary men –perhaps better than some. After all he had not hurt her or taken advantage of her, and she had met more men than she cared to count who would have, if they had held her so she could not refuse. No, it was not a fear for who he was. It was a fear for who he could become, who he would become if he kept channeling Saidin. A fear for what had happened before, and what would inevitably happen over and over again. And she would not be able to do a thing about it.
She had not spoken any of her thoughts aloud, but of course he felt her anxiety.
“When it do happen here, there always be others around to stop it. We do be careful,” he tried to reassure her.
“And what about Steph, did you tell the baker and his apprentice it would be safe, too?” she snapped, then was sorry she had spoken so harshly when she felt his hurt.
“How do you.. oh, Sora. The woman do talk too much. But that did happen a long time ago, and it be one reason the Crafts Town is no next to the Training Grounds now,” he said, his voice low.
Beyaelle sighed sadly. She wished she could make herself believe in his reassurances, but she thought of how many men were in the tower, and how often they channeled, and her blood ran cold. Perhaps there were enough of them now to deal with those who succumbed to the Madness, but what would happen six months from now? A year? The only thing that could avert disaster would be if the Taint were gone. No! She shook her head. That was wistful thinking. She had asked, as a novice and later as an Accepted. So often in fact that eventually, Janya, one of the Brown sisters she had persistently queried, took her to the library, showed her every note and report that remained about the attempts that had been made to cleanse the Taint, and told her to write a detailed paper on everything that had been tried, and failed. She had started with all the naive enthusiasm of a twenty year old girl who thought with Saidar everything was possible, optimistically convinced she would find something the Aes Sedai so long ago had overlooked. Four months later, she had handed in her report to Janya with a sad resignation, forced to admit defeat. She had found an unhappy compromise in the Red Ajah; unhappy because she knew what gentling did to a man. Her brother had lasted just two months after he had been taken to the Tower and she had seen him waste away. But it was better than the alternative, better than more people killed, better than more families torn apart.
Beyaelle did not express any of these thoughts out loud. While the stubborn denial of some of her fellow sisters disgusted her, she did not believe it was necessary to bring up unpleasant facts that could not be changed whatever she did. She quietly stared at the table, tracing the patterns of the wood with her finger and hoping Gheral would not ask anything else.
She could feel him looking at her for what seemed a very long time, until he finally said, “I be sorry, I should no have asked you what you did no want to tell, not with you no be able to refuse,” he said. “If you do want to leave you may go to the dormitory now. Do be back here tomorrow after breakfast.”
She nodded a silent thanks, got up, and fled the house without another word. If only he were not so bloody nice, she could just hate him, like her fellow sisters hated all men who could channel. She ran through the streets, not caring about the looks some of the Asha’man gave her. No one tried to stop her; they all knew that if she ran, she did so because she was allowed to. And that made her almost mad enough to drive away the hurt she felt inside.
The dormitory was worse than it had been that afternoon. Beyaelle came in to find all other Aes Sedai were in the large building, most hanging out in the wide hallway. Some sat on the benches staring at their hands or crying, others walked around aimlessly. Several sisters jumped at everything, jumped when she had come in and jumped again at every loud noise. Only Krystah seemed to do anything purposeful; the Brown was writing furiously on some papers. Akoure sat talking with another Grey, eyes nervously scanning the building after every few words, and Ayako stood alone now, the only one of her Ajah to ride to Andor.
Beyaelle tried to speak to a few of her sisters, but few seemed willing to talk. Wende held off any attempt at a conversation, Jenare muttered low, one-word answers to anything Beyaelle asked. No she was not hurt, yes they had tried to run, yes she was supposed to report after breakfast too. Jillion was crying softly in her hands but turned away when Beyaelle tried to comfort her. Toveine was already the center of a small group of Aes Sedai, some arguing in low voices. The sisters of the other Ajah’s were worse, as this afternoon many gave her a dirty look before she even came close.
Soon she ducked through the canvas door into her small room. Beside the narrow cot she had slept on, and the wash stand, it contained a cloak stand and a plain wooden chest for her clothes. She had not unpacked her saddle bags the previous night. Not that she had truly believed any of the other parties would escape, let alone be able to rescue them… but she had left her things unpacked even so. Now, with everyone here, it seemed pointless to put it off any longer and she quickly transferred her dresses, shifts and the few other items she carried to the chest sitting against the far wall. She was almost done when she heard the hubbub behind her turn into shouts, and she quickly turned around and pushed the canvas flap aside.
Nenya had confronted Toveine and stood across from her. “It’s your fault!” she yelled in a high pitched voice. “You were so sure there was only a few men who could channel, you sent us all here into this mess. You got Amar killed! It’s all your fault!”
“No one could have believed there were this many. Light, in the last fifty years we have only found…” Toveine started.
“Who cares how many were found in the last fifty years? They are here, and so are we all. Bonded and held!” the Green spat. “It was your mission, you were our leader and you might as well have led us right into the Pit of Doom!”
Every other sister had stopped what they were doing and stared at the two in the middle of the hallway. Toveine held up her hands, “Wende also believed a handful at most could channel,” she tried to defend herself.
“Because you convinced me there would be no more!” Wende yelled, stepping up next to the Green. “You were so sure they could not channel, they could not Travel, there would only be a few of them.”
Several other sisters slowly converged on the Red who had been their leader. “We are all here and in one piece, perhaps we still can…” Toveine started, and suddenly Nenya flew at her, punching, kicking and screaming. “In one piece!” was all anyone could make out before she simply shrieked wordlessly.
Others surge forward too, yelling their own accusations over and on top of each other so Beyaelle could not make anything out. Another Green punched Toveine, Desandre grabbed a handful of her long, dark hair and pulled hard, twisting. Akoure was next to the Yellow, kicking, and so was Hannah, but it were not only those of other Ajahs who attacked the Red. Wende was there in the midst of it, yelling and punching and kicking as hard as anyone, likely glad to be able to put the blame on someone else’s shoulders. Lemai took off her belt and held it by the end, hitting Toveine with the buckle. Toveine quickly went down under the assault, and Beyaelle could no longer even see her on the floor as most of the Aes Sedai pressed around trying to get their revenge.
Only a few stood back. Ayako, white faced, backed slowly away from the fighting jumble. Krystah still sat on her bench, her papers fallen on the floor, twisting her pen in her hand. Beyaelle herself stood frozen, clenching the canvas door flap in cold fingers. They were Aes Sedai, how could they turn into a lynch mob like this? But she could not speak or make herself move.
Suddenly the door burst open and Logain was there. Beyaelle had not been among those who had taken him and had met him only in the White Tower after he had been shielded and later gentled. The Asha’man who now stood in the dormitory bore little resemblance to the desolate man she had seen before, but even so, she recognised him immediately. His dark hair was long enough to reach his shoulders and his eyes shone with anger.
“Stop that!” he called out. His voice, amplified by the Power, was easily heard above the din.
The sisters immediately backed away from Toveine, falling dead silent as they stood back, staring at Logain or looking down at the floor. The only noise that could be heard was a brief snap as Krystah broke the pen she had been holding, and Toveine’s sobs as she laid on the ground, curled up in a ball, arms covering her head.
Logain walked forward until he stood over Toveine. He scanned the Aes Sedai’s faces around him, then his eyes locked on Carniele. “You. Heal her,” he commanded.
Carniele jumped at his voice, but she bowed her head, knelt next to Toveine and quickly Healed the bruises and angry red welts that the fighting sisters had left. Toveine gasped at the Healing but she relaxed only slightly, remaining huddled up on the floor, weeping, after Carniele stepped back.
Logain’s gaze swept around the hallway, lingering in particular on those who had been in the middle of the riot but including everyone. “I seriously doubt this is acceptable behavior at the White Tower, and it certainly is not acceptable here. Have you all gone mad? I will have none of this. None of you will hurt Toveine, or each other, again. Gabrelle, help her to her cot,” he scolded them as if he addressed a group of novices.
The sisters turned dark red, most trying to avoid Logain’s eyes but afraid to look away. Even Beyaelle felt ashamed though she had not moved from her place in the doorway. They had behaved like a bunch of novices, losing control like that! She was relieved when Gabrelle helped Toveine up and into one of the small rooms across from hers. Logain turned around and without saying another word stalked out of the building, the door closing with a dull thud that seemed loud in the silence. For a few more moments everyone stood frozen, then some sisters started to move again. Some just muttered to themselves, others, especially those who had been on the outside of the circle, made wry comments to those who had been among the first to attack. But the fight had been taken out of everyone and most sisters withdrew into their rooms. Beyaelle too drew back, her fingers aching as she let go of the canvas, so tightly had she clung to it.
It was an effort to make herself finish putting the last items from her saddle bags into the chest, and she sat on her cot staring at nothing for some time before she finally undressed and tried to sleep.
The next morning Beyaelle woke early again. She got up, then cursed as she discovered she had forgotten to ask Gheral permission to channel for heating her water. Shivering, she washed herself quickly and went out. A few sisters were already in the hallway, speaking softly together. At the breakfast table, there were even more. Here, too, everyone spoke softly, but no one mentioned the previous night. Several sisters looked at their hands or stroked the finger where they usually wore their ring, then jumped when they noticed anyone else looking at them. Toveine was sitting at the far end of the table, alone, and many threw her a quick, hateful glance, but no one spoke a word to her directly. With her present, Beyaelle and the other Reds did not get as many dirty looks, and from the way Wende and Lemai glared at Toveine, they were all too happy to have someone to take the blame.
Even without the stares from the other Ajahs, Beyaelle still felt uneasy and she ate quickly. When she came to Gheral’s house she worried briefly if he would know about last night, but he never mentioned it. She asked him if she would be allowed to channel to heat her wash water in the morning and he laughed.
“I did feel you shiver this morning. Yes you may channel to heat the water.”
“Thank you,” she answered demurely. It was still unnerving to know he could feel everything she felt.
“I be gone all day again,” Gheral told her. “Do clean up some in the house, and cook for tonight. When you be done the day be your own, same restrictions as yesterday.”
Beyaelle nodded, and soon she was left alone. After a short while she suddenly felt the bond dull, and after a moment’s confusion she realised Gheral must have Travelled somewhere. A place noticeably further away than where he had caught up with the other sisters the day before, but she still could tell exactly in which direction he had gone. North, somewhere. She tried not to give it too much thought, but it kept distracting her, perhaps more than when he had been near.
She did not need to buy anything for dinner so she started to clean up in the kitchen. It was well kept, so she quickly moved on to the larger front room. She was startled to find she could do little here but sweep, as the previous day she had been told not to go through anything here. She wondered what would happen if Gheral gave her two conflicting commands. This time it had not been serious, there was enough she could do, sweeping and cleaning in the kitchen, to suffice as ‘some’, but it still worried her.
She started another meal and went out, not sure what she would do with the rest of the day. Since she had not been able to do much it was early yet, but even so several other Aes Sedai were sitting in the dormitory. She wanted to ask them how they fared, how they were treated, especially Wende and Jenare who were casual friends, but everyone avoided any mention of their situation. Jenare did talk about some of the things the men did. Apparently the Arafellin who had bonded her had taken her to the training grounds earlier that morning, but she did not say a word about the man himself, refusing to even mention his name.
The dormitory was both oppressive and cold, but Beyaelle did not want to close herself off completely. She made herself stay until it was time to finish dinner.
In the kitchen she was soon warmed up again, and it was not long before she felt Gheral return to the Black Tower.
When he came into the house a short while later, she told him about her earlier failure to clean anything in the front room and her concerns, and she could feel he was disturbed by it.
“Light, I be sorry, I need be more careful with that. I be hardly used to this either,” Gheral apologised. He glanced around the room. “Just do no read the papers on the desk, you may touch anything else you do need,” he added.
Then he went into the kitchen and they ate, not speaking much.
The following morning Gheral told her not to start dinner. He left again and this time he went somewhere to the south. Not having to cook left her with a lot of time again, and she spent some of it at the dormitory again. But the atmosphere there was no better than the day before, with most who were there avoiding each other’s eyes and certainly no talk about anything important.
Despite the cold she took a walk through the village and on her way back met up with Sora, who came down the street carrying a couple heavy shopping bags. Beyaelle took one from her and walked her to her home, as much to help the old woman as to hear more news.
Sora was more than happy to talk, but what she had to say almost made Beyaelle wish she had turned away, pretending to be busy. “The Taint got one of the Soldiers this morning,” Sora said curtly, then immediately went on with other news she’d picked up in the Crafts Town, but Beyaelle missed most of what the woman said. How many men had the Taint killed before, that Sora could mention it so briefly? Even if it had not been one of the boys she knew?
She was distracted the rest of the afternoon, and relieved when she felt Gheral return. He came to the house carrying a large basket and, after kicking off his boots, went straight on to the kitchen.
“Do you know how to prepare red-stripe?” he asked, laying several round fish with reddish stripes on the table.
Beyaelle shook her head. She had heard of the fish from the Sea of Storms but in her own village there was not even a stream to catch fish, all the water coming from wells.
“No matter, I do show you,” Gheral said. “Illian do have better fishing boats than Tear does, but it did be good to look at the sea again.”
Beyaelle could feel he was happy, but his light-heartedness did not diminish her own feelings of apprehension. She tried to push it aside as she watched him skilfully clean the fish and clumsily tried one of her own, but she was not very successful. After a while she asked, “Why did you come here? If you miss the sea why did you ever come here to learn to channel?”
“Missing the sea after months on dry land does no mean I want to spend all my life as a sailor,” he shrugged.
“There had to be other things you could do if you wanted a change,” Beyaelle said. “Other things but channel, without…” she trailed off.
He stopped cleaning the fish and looked at her. “Without the Taint you mean,” he finished for her, then studied her closely. “Did the Madness get someone again today? Who did it be?”
“I don’t know his name, a Soldier,” Beyaelle replied abruptly, trying to avoid his eye and grimly cutting the fish she was cleaning.
“I do no intend to go mad just yet,” Gheral said softly, trying to reassure her, but Beyaelle whirled around.
“Do you think my brother meant to? Or anyone? That’s the problem, no one means to, it just happens,” she shouted bitterly, then regretted her outburst as she felt him cringe. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” she added.
“No, you do be right. It be no thing I can stop, and I do worry sometimes. I think we all do. But I do no regret coming here and I do no regret I can channel. The Last Battle can no be too far, I hope to hold out til then and if there be anything to worry about after...” he shrugged.
Beyaelle shivered despite the heat in the kitchen. Light, how could anyone talk about the Madness, and the Last Battle, like that? But she felt a determination from him she had not felt before. He really did mean what he said, she realised, he would do what he felt had to be done. Even Elaida had not denied the Last Battle was getting close. She felt a cold wave of fear inside her, then firmly pressed it down. She thought she understood him better now, he did not deny what was coming, but it did not help if she talked about it either. She tried harder to push her fear away and changed the subject.
“What kind of ship did you sail on?” she asked.
Gheral looked at her in surprise for a moment, then understood her change of subject and told her about the ship and Illian. He did not ask her about her life either in the Tower or before then, nor did he speak of anything at the Black Tower, and as they prepared and ate the fish, Beyaelle started to relax for the first time since she was captured.
The weather had been threatening all afternoon, and while they were eating a storm had risen. Beyaelle had felt the gusts of wind shake the house, even though inside it was warm. When she looked out, she saw it was also snowing hard, flurries of white making it difficult to make out the house across the street.
“If you do want to you may stay here, there do be a small spare room upstairs,” Gheral offered.
She gave him a startled look.
“It be no order. I will no use the bond to make you stay in the house. It be your choice. But it do be warmer here,” he said.
Beyaelle blinked for a moment, then made up her mind. “Thank you, I will stay.”
She didn’t go back to the dormitory much after that. In the two and a half weeks that followed, the dormitory and the other Aes Sedai seeming more and more unpleasant to her. Even back at the White Tower there had been a lot of tension between the Ajahs. For the first week, after that night Nenya, followed by most of the others, had attacked Toveine, the lines between the Ajahs had blurred. Most of the time they had avoided any close contact and there had not been much talk, but the only open hostility was directed towards Toveine. Then slowly, that had worn off and two camps had formed. The Greens, Browns, Yellows and Greys –and Ayako- still spoke together, had drawn together more closely than they had for a long time back in Tar Valon. But they had also remembered who had send them here. Elaida was a Red, Toveine was a Red, Nenya had remembered again who had given the order for that fatal attack, and the end result was that the other Ajahs turned on the Red like that first day.
A few sisters tried to bridge the gap, most noticeably Gabrielle and Toveine, but while Gabrielle’s efforts united the other Ajahs, the distance between them and the Red grew with the day. It did not help that while some of the non-Red sisters were getting more used to their bond with the Asha’man, the Reds still hung on to their initial shame and loathing. And that, of course, was what made it so difficult for Beyaelle.
The day after she had stayed at the house all of the Red had given her glowering look. No doubt some of them thought she had slept with Gheral, but even after she’d remarked she had been in a room of her own the uneasy glares from the others did not cease. No other Red would have willingly spend the night under the same roof of any of these men. And it had not gone unnoticed how much time she spent away in the village during the day, either. The other Reds withdrew from her, treating her as if she were a stranger or worse.
She’d tried to approach some of the sisters from the other Ajahs, but they glared at her as they did at any Red, still uncomfortable enough in their own situation that they had no room to be open to hers.
So she stayed in the village. In the morning she would do the little work Gheral asked of her, and most days she went over to Sora after she was done. The grandmotherly woman still cooked for many of the Dedicated. Not all had bonded an Aes Sedai, and even among those who had, many did never actually make them do any work. A few others had tried but given up after they discovered that no amount of compulsion could make those sisters, who had grown up with servants to cook for them and had never made more than a cup of tea in their lives, cook a meal that was actually edible.
Beyaelle did not envy those who did not have any chores. It gave her something to do and none of the work was particularly hard. She was rarely tired in the evening, even when she had helped Sora with her cooking in the afternoons. She also met several other women and Asha’man. While Gheral was gone every day, recruiting as he had told her when she asked, most Asha’man remained in the Black Tower practising and teaching the Soldiers. They would often drop in on Sora for a cup of tea and a few words. At first Beyaelle felt uncomfortable when anyone else was there, and she thought they did too, but over time it faded.
Of course here, too, she drew notice by her different behavior. “You are a strange one for a Red,” Sora had finally commented one afternoon when she came in. “You are a Red, aren’t you?”
“The others who bonded a Red are all having difficulties. Welyn says Jenare still avoids even looking at him unless he commands her and then she feels so uneasy he doesn’t like to do that,” Sora said.
Welyn Kajima was about ten years older than Gheral, a clerk from Arafel before he came to the Black Tower. He lived across from Sora and Beyaelle had seen him often. He would come in for a cup of tea every day, always greeting Sora with a smile, but he smiled less now than when Beyaelle had first met him.
“I am just different,” she answered, avoiding a real answer. Sora threw her a questioning look, and she had added, “It’s not anything that would make a difference for anyone.”
“Ah, I guess you have your reasons,” Sora sighed. “But I sure wish the others would come around. It is hard on everyone this way.”
Beyaelle merely nodded and changed the subject.
Then one morning almost three weeks after that ride in the snow, Beyaelle suddenly felt Saidar being channeled. She had just come over to Sora’s house and they were having a cup of tea at the old woman’s kitchen table. Even with fifty-one sisters in the camp, feeling anyone channeling Saidar was rare, with their restrictions on touching the Source, and even at the very first moment Beyaelle briefly wondered who was channeling so much she could feel it. That only lasted for a second though; then her eyes opened wide in shock. She put her cup on the table without looking down and stood up.
“What is wrong?” Sora asked, but Beyaelle ignored her, leaving the kitchen and stepping out in the street without stopping to get her cloak. She stared toward the sky in the west, open-mouthed, expecting to see flows of Saidar all over but there was nothing there. She blinked, then stared wide-eyed as she mentally adjusted the distance where the channeling was being done. Light, if it were that far off then the amount of the Power being channeled must also be far greater than she had at first assumed. What was happening?
“What’s happening?” she heard close to her, and she jumped. For the first time she became aware of anything around her. Sora had followed her out, looking puzzled and worried. Welyn and Jenare stood just next to her, both looking toward the west looking as astonished as Beyaelle felt. Light, there must be Saidin in there too, from the look on the Asha’man’s face. She concentrated on the bond. Gheral was near Cairhien, perhaps as far to the north-east as these unknown channelers were to the west, but she could feel puzzlement and alarm from him, too.
“Go to the dormitory and stay there until this is over,” Welyn said. He addressed Jenare, but when he noticed Beyaelle he included her. “You, too,” he told her, knowing Gheral was not around.
Beyaelle nodded, and Welyn took off at a dead run down the street, the bells on his braids jingling.
Jenare turned towards the other end of the village where the dormitory was, and Beyaelle started after her when Sora pressed her cloak in her hands. “Don’t forget your cloak, it’s cold even if you can all ignore it,” she said. “What is happening?”
Beyaelle realised no one had replied when Sora had asked before. “I don’t know,” she answered truthfully. “I better go.”
Sora nodded and Beyaelle hurried after Jenare. Before they were in the dormitory, she felt Gheral return to the Black Tower, and just for a moment she wanted to go find him, but she immediately dismissed the thought. She would only be in the way, not even able to channel if anything happened, and she was sure he would tell her the same thing Welyn had told her.
At the dormitory almost all sisters were already present, the others coming in soon after. Wild speculations about the channeling flew back and forth, but even the excitement did not do anything to bridge the gap between the Reds and the other Ajahs. The Reds bunched together in the front half of the building, the others in the back.
Speculation ceased as midday came and they ran out of theories, the long afternoon wore on. Beyaelle was on edge, as was everybody else. Nothing much seemed to change and that, of course, was cause for more worry. Who could channel so much of the Power, and for so long?
Finally, late in the afternoon, the channeling stopped. Beyaelle looked around, the absence of Saidar being channeled after so long confusing her almost as much as its presence had this morning. Then, suddenly, pure astonishment coursed through the bond, followed almost instantly by a feeling of happiness so clear she smiled before she even realised it. Shouts came from outside, but it was impossible to make out the words. Then Desandre got up and opened the door a crack to look out.
Beyaelle could now make out the cheers and yells that echoed through the village. “It’s clean!” she heard, “The Taint is gone!” and other excited shouts all running together. For just an instant thoughts flashed through her head. It couldn’t be, she as no other knew everything had been tried, and everything had failed. But Gheral did not doubt it was clean, Beyaelle felt his elation and his wonder, but no doubt. Without a second thought she threw her studies out the window in face of the evidence she felt flooding through the bond. She smiled again, almost laughing aloud.
“You can’t believe it’s really gone!” Wende asked, staring at her. “It has to be some sort of trick.”
Beyaelle blinked, she had forgotten about the others. “Can’t you feel it? Can’t you read the bond?” she asked in turn, slowly shaking her head. How could they not feel it? “That isn’t.. That is not a trick. It can’t be.”
“But we all know Saidin can’t be cleansed,” Wende replied, and many others nodded in agreement.
“They believe it,” Beyaelle argued, motioning toward the door. Desandre had closed it and gone back to the other sisters in the back, but muffled shouts could still be heard. “There’s no reason to trick us and no way that channeling could have been faked.”
Now a few sisters nodded. Jenare, Jillion, and Amasi seemed to consider. Toveine cocked her head as if listening to something, likely feeling out the bond.
“Light, say it is clean, there will be so many more men wanting to learn to channel!” Lemai said with a shudder.
“And think of what will happen after the Last Battle. Without the Taint there could be as many of them left as of us,” Toveine added.
Once again most of the Reds chimed in, agreeing and nodding, adding their own comments of dismay. Beyaelle did not hear them all. She stood up and backed a couple steps away from the sisters.
How could they talk like that? The Taint was what made Saidin dangerous. The Taint was the whole reason for their Ajah to exist. Of course she knew many of the Reds disliked men in general, but she was still shocked by the display in front of her. They acted like men who could channel were all monsters!
She thought of the men who channeled she had known. Her brother certainly had not been a monster, he’d been.. well, just her bro. Then there had been the farm hand in Altara who had set the barn on fire and had begged her to stop it before he hurt or killed anyone. He’d just been a simple boy, barely eighteen and scared to death. And the Andoran lad who had held off the Madness for a long time, and who had taught himself a remarkable amount of control. He would help the villagers, those who let him, until finally one got scared and had sent a message to the Tower. He wasn’t showing much of the Taint when she and her fellow sisters had taken him to Tar Valon, and he had begged and pleaded to let him go. He had even claimed his uncle knew the Queen –as if the Queen would have let him go, she herself was Tower trained and knew the necessity of the Red’s work. Then there had been the young Domani who was so far out of it by the time she found him he rarely spoke a coherent sentence. It was only luck he had not lashed out with the Power, merely turning himself into a pitiful scrap of humanity, like a senile old man.
As always when she thought of those she had taken –had to take, she felt the sadness take a hold of her, as if a cold band tightened itself around her heart. Her fellow Reds who had remained seated were still contemplating what would become of the men. She wanted to scream at them, yell at them that men who could channel were no monsters, but she knew it would be useless. With a sudden flash of insight she thought, perhaps they had to believe all men were monsters to protect themselves from the sadness and the hurt when their actions caused those they gentled to give up and inevitably die. That might explain their hatred, but it did not justify it.
With a last look of disgust she tore herself away from where the other Reds were sitting. She threw a quick glance towards the back of the dormitory. The sisters of the other Ajahs did believe, she could see. Sjani was talking excitedly with Hannah and Ayako, and Nenya was laughing the first time that Beyaelle had seen, since the death of her Warder. But she also noticed the glares that were thrown towards the Reds, the brief glances and the open stares. She didn’t think it would be a good time to test if anyone had noticed she, too, had been disgusted by the reactions of the others of her Ajah.
Then suddenly she thought, Welyn had told them to stay here until it was over, right? The channeling had stopped, it was over. She turned away, rushing towards the door and running out, not caring about the startled looks she got from her fellow sisters. She ran through the village towards the Travelling grounds and the stables, where she knew Gheral would be. She felt strangely free as she left the dormitory behind, and she grinned wildly as she realised she was out of a job and, for all practical purposes, out of an Ajah. Laughing, she raced through the streets feeling happier than she had been in sixty years.
Gheral stood out front of the stables with a few other Dedicated and Soldiers. He felt her coming and he turned towards her. “It be clean!” he called out, his creased face beaming happiness. “Saidin be clean!”
She ran towards him and he picked her up and swung her around, laughing and cheering, and she hugged him back, heedless of the others who were present.
A Soldier came running from the direction of Taim’s palace, stopping in the middle of the stable yards, panting from exertion and exhilaration. “The M’Hael says to do the essential chores, food and the animals, and the rest of the night is a feast night,” he announced, then took off running again to spread his message to the next group of people.
“Well, since we do be here, want to give a hand feeding them horses?” he said, still grinning widely.
“You bet,” Beyaelle replied with a laugh.
They hurried into the stables with a few others, Donalo and Evin and a few Soldiers she did not know, and quickly fed and watered the horses. Dancer whinnied as she threw him his hay, and she briefly scratched his neck, then she rushed on. It didn’t take long to finish with as many people as they were, and soon they were on the way to the house.
The evening fell and people were celebrating all over town. Because of the weather, and since there were no really big indoor rooms as in the White Tower or a large estate or castle, the feast was held all over town, like a Winternight celebration. People went from house to house, talking and singing and eating and drinking. In some of the larger houses and buildings there was music, those who could play an instrument providing entertainment for the others.
The only thing that marred the celebration were the other Reds, who walked through the feasting throngs as much on edge as they had been. Many of the other sisters were also still ill at ease, laughing at one moment, then suddenly frowning the next as if they regretted letting their emotions show.
Gheral watched as Lemai shifted uneasy near the far end of the cleared workshop they were in, backed up against the wall and shaking her head either in denial or disbelief as her eyes darted from one Asha’man to the next. Carniele had been talking and laughing, then abruptly turned red and fell silent as Desandre entered the room.
“Will they ever stop hating us, stop fearing us?” he asked quietly.
Beyaelle looked at the other Aes Sedai for a while, considering. “It will take time. There’s a lifetime of the Taint and the Madness to overcome, and many don’t even really believe the Taint is gone yet.”
“You believed,” Gheral said, suddenly turning towards her. “I did no feel doubt from you this afternoon.”
“I never thought it would have been possible. But when I felt how sure you were, I couldn’t not believe,” Beyaelle explained.
Gheral looked at her for a long moment, silently. Beyaelle calmly looked back, waiting for him to speak. Finally, Gheral spoke again. “I can no let you leave the Black Tower, it be no in my power to do that. But you may go where you do want within the Tower, you be free to channel when you do want to, and I will no use the bond any more than I be ordered in turn,” he told her.
Beyaelle blinked in surprise. Whatever he had been thinking about, she had not expected this. “Thank you, but…why?” she said breathlessly.
Gheral shrugged. “Trust need start somewhere,” he replied.
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