Brief Hiatus

I try to publish regularly every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 8 pm Eastern time. These next few week are going to be on the hectic side, and I won’t be able to post regularly. Therefore, I will take a short break, and resume posting mid April.

Thank you for understanding.

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The Trial of Sakan Gaidin (Part 4)

9. Tale of Youth

Written by: Sakan al’Galrodan
Edited by: Matthew Garland

 

Sakan looked down at Chrys, shivering in her blanket. He could feel the cold of the bare stone through his boots; her feet must be like ice. Her face still had a red flush, even though the feverish tinge washed away when Marion Healed her. He wanted to comfort this young girl, young in years, old in experience. She had not been raised as a warrior, and the dark deeds of her past haunted her. He had been raised as a warrior, and although his past still haunted him, warriors expected to have to do dark deeds. Taking the life of another man, no matter what the cause, was a dark stain on creation. What haunted him more were the things that he had not done. Those were times he had felt lost, and only time had healed those wounds.

He glanced at Marion, unsure of what to say. Then he steeled himself. “As far as we, or anyone else, is concerned, you said nothing. No one will kill us, no need to worry. Especially you.” He laughed mirthlessly. “The purpose of this inquest is to determine whether or not I put you in unnecessary danger. No one is going to risk your life before it’s necessary.”

Chrys stared at him, barely comprehending, when her teeth gave a small clack before she could clamp her jaw down hard.

Marion reached across and touched Chrys’ cheek. “Your feet are blue, Chrys. You’re freezing!” She made a small gesture with her right hand, a motion that Sakan noticed her do when she channeled, and he felt a small swirl of warm air.

“Come,” he said, putting a hand on Chrys’ shoulders, “Let’s get you back to the infirmary. They’ll have some hot food for you, a nice, warm bed, and you’ll rest. You’ll feel better in the morning.”

“No,” she said, setting her jaw. “I’m going to my room, to change, and go to dinner.”

“No, you’re not,” he said firmly. “You’re going to the infirmary.”

“No, I’m AAAH! PUT ME DOWN!” He reached over and grabbed one wrist, and effortlessly flung her over his shoulder. He could feel the warmth of whatever Marion had done seeping through his coat. Her hair hung down, and she beat her hands against his back. “PUT ME DOWN, SAKAN GAIDIN! I’M GOING TO MY ROOM!”

He grunted. “Unless you want me to join you in the infirmary, please stop hitting my kidneys. You’re stronger than you think.”

“Put me down!” she screamed, and they started towards the door. Marion appeared to be stifling a smile. He leveled her a flat look, and she raised an eyebrow at him and shrugged.

“It’s no use, Chrys,” Sakan replied calmly. “I’m not going to put you down unless you promise to go to the infirmary. You need to be taken care of. Shouting and hitting me isn’t going to help you.”

“I NEED, to GO, to my ROOM! And it’ll make you fall down and drop me.”

“So I’ll fall down the stairs, and you’ll land on your head.”

Chrys stopped hitting him and let her body go limp. “Sakan Gaidin,” she said, in a small voice. “Can you please take me back to my room? I’m really tired.”

“You’ll get rest, Chrys. Don’t worry.”

Minutes later, he lifted his foot to push open the infirmary door, when Marion coughed behind him, and the door swung open by itself. He called back over his shoulder, “thank you.”

Marion swept past him into the large, well lit antechamber and addressed a Yellow Sister. “Julhienye, we have someone who needs a warm bed and a hot meal.”

“Thank you, Marion and Sakan,” Julhienye replied. “I don’t know how she slipped out of here, but whoever was on duty must have been careless. We’ll make sure she is well fed and rested before she leaves again.”

Julhienye waved Sakan towards one of the small rooms off the antechamber. There were six along the back wall, and two corridors leading from either end, dotted with doors on both walls and stand lamps in between each door. Sometimes visitors came to the Aes Sedai to be Healed, and they needed a place to stay. Some Healings took more of the patient’s strength than others, and they’d stay in an infirmary room until they were strong enough to be moved to the Visitor’s Quarters. If the patient was a Tower resident, well, the Gaidin had their own rooms for recovery, but the Yellows didn’t like that much. Once they got you in the infirmary, you were there until they said you could leave.

Marion smiled as she helped Chrys into bed. Almost immediately, a servant brought a tray laden with a tureen of thick broth, freshly baked bread, a pile of steaming meat next to a bowl of gravy, and some fruit. Chrys was propped up against a pile of pillows, looking very worn out, but very relaxed.

“Am I in my room, Sakan Gaidin?” she asked sleepily.

“Soon,” he answered. “Eat, now.”

Chrys obediently broke of a chunk of bread and chewed mechanically. Sakan ladled her some broth. He looked at Marion, then shrugged, ladled a bowl for her, and took some himself. They sat on the ladder back chairs next to her bed.

They ate in silence for a few minutes. After cleaning his bowl with a crust of bread, Sakan said, “Chrys, I would like to tell you a story.”

“Mmm,” she smiled, through half-lidded eyes. “That’ll be nice.”

“A story,” he continued, “of a young man, many years ago. He had two close friends, and they were always together…”

***

Three young men stood atop a large stone wall fifty feet above the top of the steep slope down to the dry moat and the empty fields beyond, shirtless in the hot summer sun. They were above the gatehouse, an area nearly ten paces wide, holding bundles of wooden lathes. One of them, tall and lithe with broad shoulders, stood relaxed as the other two advanced on him from either side. One, a head shorter and twice as wide, held a practice sword in each hand, and the other, a hand shorter and thin as a rail held a single bundle of lathes in both hands, like the tall one. In that slim build, however, was a wiry strength that most people underestimated. The tall young man knew his friend’s strength, and was not going to underestimate it. Again. They were trying to corner him, block off any possible escape route by which he could evade their attacks, because of the three, he was easily the best fighter. His shoulder length brown hair, tied back from his face with a leather band, was covered in sweat.

***

“Is the tall one you, Sakan Gaidin?” Chrys asked drowsily.

“Yes,” he answered. “Hush.”

***

Suddenly, both attackers darted forward, swinging. With Arc of the Moon from one direction and both Dandelions on the Wind and Swallow Takes Flight – a difficult two sword combination, but effective – coming from the other, it seemed inevitable that he would take a wound. He flipped himself towards the tall, thin attacker, sailing over Dandelions on the Wind, and countered Arc of the Moon with Kingfisher Circles the Pond. The attacker staggered under the force of the blow, and Sakan broke out of the small corner he had backed into. He lifted his knee and stomped backwards, his boot landing directly on his friend’s ribs, and he heard a loud grunt.

Sakan raised his bundle of lathes over his head, preparing to attack with Lightning of Three Prongs, when he stopped. His friend lay on the ground, writhing. He looked at his other friend, and they dropped their lathes and rushed over, dropping to the ground next to the thin young man.

“What’s wrong?” Sakan asked quickly. His eyes widened. He couldn’t breathe. “Bennam, why isn’t he answering? What’s wrong with him?”

His large friend slapped him across the face, and he stopped. “Get a hold of yourself! You’ve never lost your head under pressure, now’s not the time to start! I don’t know what’s wrong. Valen, what happened?”

The thin young man opened his mouth, and blood trickled out.

Sakan jumped up. “Oh, Light! He’s dying! Light, Valen’s dying!” He rushed over to the edge of the gatehouse, and yelled down to the guards, “HELP! Valen’s dying!”

Bennam picked up Valen, gently, and grunted, “Get over here, you sheep brained idiot, and help me carry him to the sick room!”

Sakan’s boots thundered as he ran over and took hold, and together they carried Valen to the infirmary.

As they waited outside, a young woman with long, black hair came over to Sakan. “What’s wrong? I heard that Valen is dying, everyone is talking about it.”

Sakan looked at her with sorrowful eyes and said, “I kicked him when we were sparring, Talia. I think I killed him.”

With wide eyes, she gasped quietly, and gently touched his arm.

 

10. More Tale of Youth

Written by: Marion al’Kalimar
Edited by: Matthew Garland

 

Marion looked up at her Warder, who had paused. She could feel the sharp pain of the fading memory come to the surface across the bond. No matter how he tried to deceive himself, he still blamed himself and he still hurt. Oh, he’d deny it. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel Wills, Marion, he would say, cold and distant as he was when he’d go to his mental Void. Death is lighter than a feather. But she knew.

She kept her hands clasped on her lap, and with a neutral tone, she broke the silence. “Perhaps I should continue from here. My sister told me a lot about what happened next.”

Sakan’s eyes were cold and guarded, but he nodded.

***

Talia gently touched his arm. She was his carneira, and he was in pain. She could see it in his eyes. “Are you okay?”

Sakan stood like a statue, staring unmoving at the door of the infirmary. “I don’t know what happened,” he said. “We were sparring, me and Valen and Bennam. We always spar in the afternoons, on top of the gatehouse. There’s a lot of room up there, we don’t have to worry about the battlements crowding us in. I just… I kicked him. I didn’t mean to hurt him. Light, we were just sparring!”

Talia squeezed his arm. “It’s not your fault, Sakan.”

“Yes, it is! I KICKED HIM!” he almost yelled, and turned away from her. She was shocked at how close he came to violating custom. If Sakan was anything, it was bound to duty, and that meant upholding custom. Even customs from a dead land and dying culture. Even if he was one of a handful of people left in the world to whom it mattered. It was his duty.  She was head and shoulders shorter than he, and petite as well. She knew he would never raise a finger against her physically, but she felt hurt at the wall he was building around himself – with her on the outside. He wasn’t supposed to do that.

She turned to Bennam, and whispered, “What happened? Why is he taking this so hard? He never loses his head, Bennam.”

Bennam shook his head, and the bells on the ends of the two long braids that fell down his back jingled. He whispered back, “I don’t know, Talia. I thought you might. You know him better than anyone, except Master Ogelban. Frankly, he’s scaring me.”

The door of the room suddenly opened, and an old, wizened man stepped out, with a grave look on his face.

“Master?” Sakan asked hopefully, almost begging. “Is he…?”

Master Ogelban dropped his head slightly, and replied, “I’m sorry, Sakan. Valen is dead. It is time for him to accept the Mother’s last embrace.”

A strange look appeared on Sakan’s face, and everyone froze for a brief second. Talia was shocked. Valen was her friend, too. That morning, over breakfast, he had teased her about not using Sakan’s daori enough, and she had replied that the daori wasn’t meant to be used in public. She had also stolen one of his breakfast rolls, and he had just smiled and told her that if she was that hungry, she should take it. She had thrown it back at his head. She burst into quiet tears. 

The eerie silence was broken by a cry from Sakan, “NO!” He ran off down the hallway, as fast as he could.

Talia’s tears fell faster, and she called after him, anguished. “Sakan! Come back! Wait!”

Bennam, his face wet, put his arm around her shoulders. She looked defeated, and turned to Master Ogelban. “What happened, Lord Ogelban?”

Blademaster Ogelban turned to Talia and smiled regretfully. “Sakan killed one of his closest friends. That is a pain he will feel to his final hour.”

A look of horror spread across her face. “Oh, no! What is he going to do?”

Master Ogelban sighed. “I do not know. He did react as I would have expected. He has fought before, and he has killed before, but never by accident, and never a friend. That is going to be hard for him. He is going to take this very, very hard.”

“He’s going to do something drastic!” Tali said through her tears. “I can feel it. We have to find him!”

“And how do we do that, my dear?” Master Ogelban asked calmly. “Sakan knows the Keep like the back of his hand, and there are hundreds of places to hide. In the past, when something has bothered him, he has come to the training hall, to meditate and wait for me. Then we would discuss the matter. I fear he does not want to discuss this.”

“No, he doesn’t. He’s going to do something!” Talia began to shake. Sakan’s erratic behave frightened her.

Master Ogelban stared at her for a long minute, and finally said quietly, “A man’s carneira knows him better than he himself, so I would be wise to listen to you in this matter. Where do we look?”

“I know,” Bennam spoke up. “We used to play a hiding game, and there’s one place that Sakan always liked to hide.”

“No,” Talia said, suddenly. “Where did Valen like to hide?”

A small smile of understanding appeared on Master Ogelban’s face. “Yes,” he agreed. “Take us there. But first, you need to get something from your room.”

***

Sakan stood atop a crenellation at the top of the northern tower, on the edge of the battlement, and looked far out into the north, towards the Blight. Towards a place that he would have called home, had he been born fifty – even thirty – years before. The tower rose thirty feet above the outer wall of the Keep, which rose fifty feet above the hill on which it was built. The steep slopes of the hill dropped down another eighty feet or so to the dry moat that circled Fal Dashar. Ten paces deep and twenty paces wide and filled with sharpened logs. Like most fortresses in Shienar, Fal Dashar would not fall easily. He felt the wind rush by him, buffeting him as he strove to keep his balance. Somewhere out there, Valen was being prepared by the Wheel of Time to be woven back in to the Pattern. “May your shelter in the palm of the Creator’s hand, and may last embrace of the mother welcome you home,” he said, through a lump in his throat, as tears streaked his face. He had killed his friend. Why should his friend have died, while he lived?

“Stop, Sakan!” Talia’s voice carried to him on the wind. “Come back here, please.”

Sakan turned his head. “Why should I?” he shouted. “Valen is dead because of me.”

Talia stepped towards him and held up a well oiled braided cord of hair. His hair. When she chose him to be his carneira, she had cut his hair to his shoulders, and he had braided it for her. She did not take full advantage of the customs that bound a man to his first love, but every once in a while she made him oil it and sing to her, just to remind him. “This is why,” she shouted to be heard over the wind.

Master Ogelban’s strong voice called out. “No one blames you, boy. It was not your doing. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.”

“Please come down from there,” Talia begged him, as she crossed the tower. She stood below him, looking up. “Please?”

“Sakan,” Bennam called, in a shaky voice. “I don’t want to lose both of my best friends on the same day.”

Suddenly, something in him snapped. His carneira had given him a command, and even though a part of him protested, he had to obey. Tears that had been dripping began flowing, and his tense muscles started to relax as he tried to step down from the battlement. A gust of wind rose up, and pushed him backwards.

“Sakan!” Talia shrieked, and she jumped forward and grabbed his hand. He dangled over the side of the tower, a hundred and fifty feet in the air, holding onto Talia’s hand. Through tears, her frantic eyes caught his cold and distant eyes, and something passed between them. Bennam rushed forward, and they hauled him up, and over the edge.

***

Marion looked at Sakan. “You really scared her. She was convinced you were going to jump.”

He held in a grimace. “A part of me wanted to. All the physical pain I had ever endured up to that point was like a candle next to a bonfire compared to the emotional pain of killing Valen.”

Marion nodded and turned to Chrys. “Chrys, there are times when we do things that we regret. Sometimes they are accidental, and sometimes by design. We just have to keep them close, but move on.”

“What happened to Talia?” Chrys asked.

A painful looked crossed Marion’s face. “I will tell you later. For now, get some rest.”

Interlude – Podcast

I’m making this brief interlude here to mention a podcast I have been thoroughly enjoying – the Wheel of Time Spoilers podcast.

I found them on Twitter when I started looking for fellow Wheel of Time fans. I didn’t listen at first, because I’ve re-read the series 10 times on my own, why would I want to listen to spoilers? But something, I forget what, spurred me to listen to the first episode, and I was immediately hooked.

Seth and Patrick are two friends who both love the Whee of Time, and this is like a book club podcast between them. They read a chapter and discuss thoughts, and take listener feedback. They’re great fun to listen to. It’s really validating to hear other people seeing the same things you saw and thinking the same things you did. And it’s interesting to hear new opinions when they differ from yours.

I started and the beginning and am binging to catch up. I just finished the Eye of the World; and they’re probably 2/3 done The Great Hunt.

If you love the Whee of Time, you’ll love this podcast. Go check it out; you won’t be disappointed.

The Trial of Sakan Gaidin (Part 3)

6. Dismissed

Written by: Sakan al’Galrodan
Edited by: Matthew Garland

 

For the second time, Sakan bowed formally to the Amyrlin Seat who loomed imperiously, standing almost two heads shorter than he. Marion was in the back of his head, a knot of blazing fury. Fury at him, fury at the Amyrlin. Only the anger flowed through the bond, but he knew the source for truth. Knuckling the floor, he saw out of the corner of his eye that Na’cueran was doing the same, and he said, “As you command, Mother, so I obey.”

Marion spun on her heels and strode from the room, seeming to glide across the floor. Sakan and the asha’man rose and followed her. The large oaken doors slammed shut behind them. He was unsure if that was the work of the asha’man or of someone in the room. They walked down the halls in silence, until finally Na’cueran spoke.

“I was trying to help you.”

Sakan stopped. “I know. I am grateful. But…Na’cueran, have you ever heard of Daes Dae’mar?”

“The Great Game? The Game of Houses? Of course!”

“Na’cueran, the Aes Sedai invented that game. I have become involved in a very heavy issue. You have now, too, by virtue of association. So has Chrys. I made the right decision under the circumstances, and I will never plead gross negligence, regardless of what that may bring me. But they do not see it that way. They see an old man taking a potential Gaidin into danger. You must understand that to Aes Sedai, we Gaidin are servants – protectors. We are meant to serve and obey. Unless I can convince them that this was Chrys’ duty as well, they will find me guilty of endangering the life of a Cadre. Trying to remove guilt from me by saying that you brought me there says nothing, to them.”

“So what would you have me do?” Na’cueran clenched his fists.

“I’m not sure,” Sakan admitted. “But I will come up with something. It’s getting late now, you should go eat.”

“What about you?”

“I have to think,” the gaidin replied. He looked over to Marion, who stood impassively beside him. “And talk.”

 

7. So, so high

Written by: Marion al’Kalimar
Edited by: Matthew Garland

 

Marion wrapped herself in the mental image of a flower bud blossoming. She had never been one to anger quickly or greatly, even as a child in Fal Dashar, but now she found that only a firm hold on her calming Novice exercises kept her from bursting into open flame. She had been annoyed with Na’cueran for not giving Sakan the twenty minutes he would have needed to notify her and prepare properly. Sakan had faced a difficult choice – leave immediately with the weapons he had at hand, or decline to assist in the rescue of an Aes Sedai. Based on his report, if he hadn’t taken Chrys, they might not have survived.

Striding from the room with Sakan and the asha’man in tow, she focused her anger on its source – the Amyrlin Seat. Why was Lila Sedai making this such a big deal? Why was she treating Sakan like a murderer, instead of a gaidin who took great risk to save an Aes Sedai? Above all, why did Lila discuss the situation at all without her present? Sakan is MY gaidin, for the Light’s sake, Marion seethed inside, while calming her face. She wasn’t sure if she felt more protective of him because he was her bondmate, or because of sisterly feelings towards him.

When Sakan finished trying to explain the Great Game to Na’cueran, Marion smiled thinly at him. “Please, Na’cueran, go get yourself something to eat. I need to speak with my gaidin.”

Na’cueran inclined his head in a gesture of haughty respect, and she and Sakan watched him walk away.

Marion turned to Sakan and look up at him. “We will go check on Chrys, and then you will speak with Shaye and I will search through the library for other instances like this. I don’t know why the Amyrlin is doing this, but I will not stand for it!”

Sakan nodded his assent and bowed at the waist. “As you command, Marion Sedai.”

Marion reached up and put a hand on his elbow. “Sakan, we will fix this.”

He looked up, meeting her eyes. “Marion, I’m sorry.”

***

The sun was halfway below the horizon. The winter evening was crisp, and her breath steamed in front of her face as she stood next to the thick stone wall that surrounded the top of the White Tower, and watched the sun paint the sky as it set. Sakan stood next to her, seeming to be carved from the same marble as the Tower. From their vantage point, nothing was moving in the sky. Bright reds and oranges slowly melted into pale blues as they drew eastward, all the way behind them where dark blues and deep purples encroached, heralding the night. It was so peaceful. Far below, the hustle and bustle of the city looked tiny, like small insects moving about their daily business. Lights were beginning to flicker on, like fireflies buzzing around.

Slow, quiet footsteps approached them from behind. Marion turned her head slightly, to see Chrys out of the corner of her eye. Sakan didn’t move a muscle. Moments later, Chrys stood next to them, watching the sun set.

Marion looked at her, acknowledging her presence, and they both looked back to the sky. Sakan and Chrys had the mentor-disciple relationship; she would let him lead the conversation.

After a few minutes of silence, Sakan said, “There was a book, told to Master Ogelban by a great scholar. Older than any he had seen before, he saw it in the Great Library, in Cairhien. This book was a relic from the Age of Legends, with teachings so abstract, so unconventional, most people couldn’t grasp it. One of the teachings in this book is that the sky is blue because of how the light from the sun hits it. When the sun starts to set, its light hits the sky at a different angle, and that makes the sky orange, and red.”

After a moment, Chrys said, “Wow. There must have been so much knowledge lost in the Breaking.”

Sakan nodded. After a few more minutes of silence, he continued. “I seem to have a precedent with the top of the Tower and bad news.”

Chrys looked from Sakan to Marion and back again, with a confused look on her face. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“Many years ago, in my first year here as a Gaidin in Training, I received a letter from Master Ogelban. I had a bad feeling about the letter, so I came up here, where I could open it in peace and quiet.”

“And?” Chrys prompted.

“It was a letter from my uncle, Master Ogelban’s son, telling me that he had been killed in a trolloc raid on Fal Dashar. Now,  I am not to leave the Tower grounds, nor teach any fighting lessons, until the Hall of Sitters has determined whether or not I am guilty of negligence for putting a Cadre into danger.”

Chrys’ face showed a look of shock. “What? How can they do that? They…”

Marion put a hand on Chrys’ shoulder. She spoke gently. “They are the Amyrlin Seat, the Head Gaidin, and the Hall of Sitters. Together they make up the most powerful people in the world. They can do what they want.”

“But it’s not fair!” Her look of surprise turned into a scowl. “It’s all Wintrow’s fault! He was upset about this from the start. He probably…”

“Chrys, I reported the matter myself,” Sakan quietly interrupted her.

Chrys looked amazed. “You what? Why did you do that? Do you want to get in trouble?”

“It was my duty,” he said, “I had to report the matter. As for now, when I stand before the Hall, I will just have to convince them to see it from my point of view, that’s all. As Master Ogelban said, ‘There is one rule, above all, to be a man. Whatever comes, face it on your feet’.” He grinned mirthlessly. “We will show them how a Gaidin stands.”

Marion gave Sakan a look that Chrys didn’t understand, and then turned back to Chrys. In the same gentle voice, she said, “Do not fear, Chrys al’Mear. All will be well.”

 

8. Clear mind and unsound judgement

Written by: Chrys Almear Cadre
Edited by: Matthew Garland

 

Chrys stood trembling with cold, anger, and fatigue. She had a blanket from the infirmary wrapped around herself, and a white woolen gown under that. The nightgown bore horrible memories with it, ones that sent her to sleep with nightmares. She looked forward to when she could get to her barracks and change. Sakan had poked his head into her room in the infirmary and said, “Rooftop, ten minutes,” and was gone before she could blink. If she hadn’t known better, she would have thought she’d imagined him.

She peeked out into the hallway. No one was coming. She darted across. She looked around again, and her eyes went up several flights of a wide, open, sweeping staircase. Sakan and Marion Sedai. Marion looked like an Aes Sedai. That is, calm and completely in control. Sakan’s eyes were flat and emotionless, his face showed no expression.

The cold blasted though the blanket that she pulled tighter around herself as she entered the top of the tower. Her breath formed around her mouth in little puffs of air. Yet Chrys didn’t really notice those things. The sun was setting, and had lit the sky with a fire that took all her focus. She walked silently towards the Aes Sedai and her Warder – Chrys’ mentor. She saw Marion Sedai turn her head ever so slightly to watch her, but Sakan merely stood like a stone gargoyle. He must have heard her and recognized her footsteps. She stood by Sakan, silent, out of respect for the Creator’s handiwork.

A few moments had past, Chrys forgot to shake, and forgot about the dress she was wearing, and the anger and fear it brought on. The silence was tangible, like an old friend coming for a visit. But it wasn’t awkward when Sakan broke the silence.

“There was a book, told to Master Ogelban by a great scholar. Older than any he had seen before, he saw it in the Great Library, in Cairhien. This book was a relic from the Age of Legends, with teachings so abstract, so unconventional, most people couldn’t grasp it.”

Chrys nodded, wondering where he was going with this story, expecting that there was something to learn from it.

Sakan continued, “One of the teachings in this book is that the sky is blue because of how the light from the sun hits it. When the sun starts to set, its light hits the sky at a different angle, and that makes the sky orange, and red.”

Chrys managed to sort though the revelation and said, “Wow. There must have been so much knowledge lost in the Breaking.”

Sakan nodded. After a few more minutes of silence, he continued. “I seem to have a precedent with the top of the Tower and bad news.”

Chrys didn’t understand. She furrowed her brow, looking to Marion Sedai for an explanation. When none came, she looked back at Sakan and asked. “What do you mean?”

He looked at her. “Many years ago, in my first year here as a Gaidin in Training, I received a letter from Master Ogelban. I had a bad feeling about the letter, so I came up here, where I could open it in peace and quiet.”

“And?” Chrys prompted.

Sakan explained, “It was a letter from my uncle, Master Ogelban’s son, telling me that he had been killed in a trolloc raid on Fal Dashar. Now,  I am not to leave the Tower grounds, nor teach any fighting lessons, until the Hall of Sitters has determined whether or not I am guilty of negligence for putting a Cadre into danger.”

Chrys’ face showed a look of shock. It just registered with her that SHE was that Cadre that he had taken into danger. “What? How can they do that? They…”

Marion Sedai put a hand on her shoulder, and interrupted in a gentle voice. “They are the Amyrlin Seat, the Head Gaidin, and the Hall of Sitters. Together they make up the most powerful people in the world. They can do what they want.”

“But it’s not fair!” Chrys’ face contorted in anger, she searched to find someone to blame for this. In her mind she knew it wasn’t true, but her heart pointed its finger at the man who had just hurt her to the core. “It’s all Wintrow’s fault! He was upset about this from the start. He probably…”

“Chrys, I reported the matter myself,” Sakan quietly interupted her.

Chrys grew silent as she looked at Sakan’s face. He wasn’t lying or kidding. She couldn’t believe it. “You what? Why did you do that? Do you want to get in trouble?”

“It was my duty,” Sakan looked at her, “I had to report the matter. As for now, when I stand before the Hall, I will just have to convince them to see it from my point of view, that’s all. As Master Ogelban said, ‘There is one rule, above all, to be a man. Whatever comes, face it on your feet’.” He grinned mirthlessly. “We will show them how a Gaidin stands.”

Chrys saw Marion Sedai give Sakan a look. Then she turned back to Chrys. In the same gentle voice, she said, “Do not fear, Chrys al’Mear. All will be well.”

Chrys slumped back against the wall. “It’s all my fault. If I hadn’t gone…”

Sakan shook his head. “Chrys if you hadn’t gone there is no telling if Krynn, Na’curean and I would have gotten out alive or not. Taking you was my decision, and it was the right decision. I will stand by that, no matter what.”

Chrys nodded. She felt so tired. She shouldn’t have gotten out of the bed. “If I had listened to you and stayed in the room, but no, that was not an option for me. He was going to stab you in the back. I had to help. Now you are paying for it.”

Marion Sedai looked at her sharply, seeming to see her body’s exhaustion. She rested her hands on Chrys’ head. Chrys felt a cold, soothing sensation flow through her, and her body felt less achey. “Chrys, you should go lie down. You shouldn’t be out of the infirmary, especially barefoot. You won’t feel as tired and sore, but your body will need rest, and food, for a few days yet.”

Chrys wriggled her toes and pulled the blanket tighter about her. “I know it sounds silly, but I had to get out of there. I need to get something from my room.”

Sakan asked, “What is that important?”

“Clothes.” She said. Her cheeks stained red as she looked down. She heard Sakan choke a bit.

“Tell me you have something on under that blanket,” he said flatly.

“Yes!” She spat, anger and fear returning in one swoop. Marion Sedai had washed away her fatigue, but Chrys’ mind was still dull, and edged with hunger she had a hard time fighting against the feelings of a time long gone. “I have on a white dress under this blanket, and if they try to hang me again, I will take a few more with me as I go.”

“What are you talking about?” Sakan took a hold of her shoulders and turned her to face him.

She turned her eyes down. “They made me wear a white dress when they hanged me. He was going to kill me because I told him no. I didn’t know he was a lord, all I knew is that he found out I was a girl and decided he could have me if he wanted. I killed him. The women’s counsel took me, bound my hands, found me guilty of murder and took me to the ice house. It was cold, like today. They stripped me, beat me and shoved me in a white dress. One lady said that I’d at least die looking like what the Creator made me.” She stood, shaking violently. “They strung me up, kicked the block out from under my feet and the world went dark. I struggled to breathe, and the next thing I knew I was laying on the ground. Somehow the rope had snapped, and I rolled under a table. I met a man outside the city, he had my clothes and an ointment that made the pain go away. There is only a little scar now.” She pulled the blanket down and showed him the small red line that ringed her neck.

Sakan and Marion were silent for a moment, exchanging a glance that they thought she didn’t see. When he spoke, his eyes were softer than she had ever seen before. “Chrys, I’m sorry. Was that the first person you killed?”

Chrys knew she shouldn’t be talking this much, but couldn’t stop herself. “No, there were two before that. A man who my father decided to sell me to, so he could pay off his debt. And my father. I killed them both. One directly, the other indirectly. Sakan Gaidin, you should run as far and as fast as you can away from me. I don’t do anything but hurt people, and get them killed. Now you are going before a trial, and they are gonna kill us both.”

“Chrys,” Marion Sedai stepped forward and wrapped her arms around the tired and worn Cadre. Chrys collapsed into the Aes Sedai’s arms, resting her head on the woman’s shoulder. She had never noticed before that Marion Sedai was the same height as her. Marion Sedai whispered, “Chrys, all will be well.”

Chrys looked up at her mentor, her gray eyes misted in hurt and unshed tears. She was afraid, and alone. She didn’t know what to do, nor what to say. She had never told someone her past. Dimly, she noticed that Marion hadn’t said that they weren’t going to be killed. “Sakan Gaidin, can we just forget everything I just said? I’m tired, not thinking straight. I’ve never talked about any of this before. Oh light, please, I never meant to kill any of them.”

The Trial of Sakan Gaidin (Part 2)

3. Political Maneuvering

Written by: Lila Sedai, Amyrlin
Edited by: Matthew Garland

 

Slowly, Lila Sedai rose from the great chair. Sunlight bathed the two men standing in front of her, and she studied them. Sakan was stony-faced, all plains and angles. The Asha’man was angry, barely containing his rage. She had heard that many Asha’man were often angry. The two men towered over her physically, but she still looked down to them. Her voice was buttery, devoid of the expected edge from Na’cueran’s intrusion.”What is your name, Asha’man? I find it easier to address someone when I know their name.”

Na’cueran blinked twice and regained himself easily. He would not be distracted by Aes Sedai! He replied through gritted teeth, “I am called Na’cueran.”

Lila crossed one hand over the other, her great Serpent Ring showing clearly. She appeared not to notice the man’s hostility. “I am Lila Sedai, but you may call me Mother.”

She walked toward him, her eyes never wavering from the Asha’man. Eyes as clear blue as the sea and as intense as lightning ready to strike. She stared at him a moment. She spoke out clearly, but softly and accentuated her words sternly. “It does you honor that you wish to take the burden of punishment away from Sakan Gaidin, but hear me well Asha’man. You have no ties to the White Tower. The agreement between the Black Tower and the White Tower holds firm, but there are no ties, no bond. This Gaidin has accountability along with his title. His duty is to this Tower and all who reside within it’s walls. His duty is to me! His duty, heavier than a mountain, is only relieved in death!” Lila paused a moment.

Out of the corner of her eye she could see Fleh, Wintrow and Leorn nodding to themselves. “Sakan Gaidin exercised poor judgment that nearly cost a trainee her life. You did not. Even if he allowed you to take the brunt of his impudent actions – and I can’t imagine for a second that he would – doing so would dishonor himself and everyone he has associated himself with.” Sakan stared straight ahead, but his mouth tightened slightly. Marion’s eyes were thunderclouds behind her serene face.

Lils continued. “It would be impossible to explain all that is expected of Gaidin, and I would not attempt to even if we had days to talk. The Hall will learn of this meeting soon and will call session. If you wish to help Sakan, stand with him and tell the truth of what happened. Do not try again to assume his blame for yourself. It will only make issues worse and will appear that you are protecting Sakan. The Hall will believe the attack on the Fortress was an act of retribution and premeditation. Lenience will come if Sakan pleas gross negligence.”

Sakan’s jaws clenched. She was really pushing him, but his outward composure never cracked. Na’cueran looked as if he were ready to jump out of his skin. Lila turned dismissively and walked back to the great chair, and sat down. She was unused to the mannerisms of the Black Tower. They all trained unleashed and wild with erratic disciplines. He could stay or leave whenever he wished, but by the look of him, she believed the collar on his coat was getting tight.

Lila smiled beneath her serene exterior. “You may leave me now. Marion, we will speak later.”

 

4. Must it go to the Hall?

Written by: Leorn Gaidin
Edited by: Matthew Garland

 

The Blue Aes Sedai – one of the only Malkieri Aes Sedai in the whole Tower – spun gracefully and glided from the room. Only another Aes Sedai, or a Gaidin, who was familiar with Aes Sedai, could have noticed the pure fury she had masked. Marion was angry that her Warder was being treated like a criminal, and Leorn didn’t blame her. Sakan followed Marion, and a heartbeat later Na’cueran followed, leaving the small room occupied only by the most powerful people in Tar Valon, possibly the known world. Lila Aes Sedai, the Amyrlin Seat, sat in the center of the semi-circle with Cerise Sedai to her right.

The sun shone through the large bay windows that backed the large ornate chairs with satin cushions. The places that the two men had just occupied seemed burned into Leorn’s vision. The dust could still be seen swirling in the light where the men’s boots had disturbed it by their passage. As soon as the door was shut behind them, Lila Sedai rose from her position to approach one of the windows.

While gazing into the Tower grounds below, the Amyrlin spoke, “The Hall will hear of this little meeting soon enough. I had hoped I would have had more time to craft an appropriate notice and speak to a few Sitters in advance, but with the meddling of that Asha’man, word of this will spread like wild fire. Cerise, I…”

Leorn rose from his seat and spoke, “Forgive me Mother, but might I speak?”

Lila nodded her assent.

He took a breath and began. “Do we want this to be a trial, Mother? Sakan Gaidin may have used bad judgment when he allowed Chrys Almear to join him on his way to the Fortress of Light, but that fact remains that regardless of what went on in the Fortress, she is alive. All a trial will accomplish now is to discredit a living legend among the Gaidin ranks. What if we were to keep this as a small tribunal and mete out a private punishment, if punishment is indeed deserved. I am not convinced that Sakan’s actions were innately wrong, and the reputation of all Gaidin is at stake here, not just a single Gaidin. If you let the Hall put Sakan on display for something he thought was right, because he wouldn’t have done it otherwise, then at best you will break the spirit of one of the best men to have ever lived under that barracks roof, and at worst you will make training impossible.”

“Are you finished?” Cerise asked him, a slight frown creasing her otherwise attractive face. A slight nod bobbed from the Arafellin’s head as he sat back down. I don’t know the Game, I’m afloat in uncharted waters, he thought to himself. Sakan, why did you take her? All you had to do was wait another day and get word to us. But if he had waited another day, Krynn Sedai would most likely be dead.

“Leorn, your concern for your Brother does you honor.” said the Amyrlin.

“Thank you Mother,” he stood and placed his right fist over his heart and bent at the waist while his left hand stayed at his side. Had he worn his blade, he would have been gripping its hilt.

She continued. “But you do not understand the severity of the actions he took. There are repercussions that you cannot even begin to speculate on. The Hall will sit on this matter, but they will sit when I ask them to. Do not fear that Sakan will be treated unfairly.” She finally turned from her place at the window to return to her seat within the circle. “And what of the girl, Chrys? How is her recovery coming?”

“It seems to be proceeding very well, Mother,” Flehrad Gaidin said. His features hadn’t changed position since Sakan had left, they hadn’t changed when Sakan had walked in for that matter. “She’s up and about. I believe she’s participating in your lesson on the bow, Leorn. Is that right?”

He nodded. “She is. And she’s got an incredible eye for it. She could very well rival Birgitte, if she keeps on shooting the way she does.”

“I’ve seen her shooting myself,” said Garin, while Wintrow nodded to himself, “She is a natural with that thing in her hand.”

“None of that matters right now,” broke in Lila Sedai, “We will question the girl later; now, I suggest we break for the evening meal.”

Four men stood from the chairs and saluted as one; four men echoed, “By your leave, Mother,” and left the Amyrlin and her Keeper to talk in private.

 

5. No rest for the weary

Written by: Lila Sedai, Amyrlin Seat
Edited by: Matthew Garland

As the doors closed behind the four men, Lila relaxed a bit in the chair. She rubbed her temples and closed her eyes.

“Mother, do you wish me to get Ailoreen Sedai for healing?” Cerise asked in a concerned tone.

Lila frowned and shook her head. “The Hall will believe I was plotting for Ailoreen’s vote.”

Cerise raised an eyebrow. “I would think you would not need to plot for Ailoreen’s vote. She has always been loyal to you. Or has that changed?”

“Ailoreen’s vote is her own. It has always been that way.” Lila waved her hand.

Cerise nodded knowingly and looked around. She understood that there could always be an unseen ear about. Only Lila’s personal chambers could be warded with no suspicion. “Let us go back to your office. No doubt there is much to do before the Hall is called to Session.” Cerise played along. She knew the Game as well as Lila. She had to. She walked along the side of Lila and began her doting routine. ”Mother, you really should take care. You push yourself so hard sometimes.” She clicked her tongue convincingly.

Lila played along, “Oh Cerise, you do worry too much. I am as fit as I have ever been! All I need is a hot cup of tea and a good meal.”

They continued so all could hear as they passed bobbing curtsies and whispered remarks of praise. “May the Light illumine you, Mother.”

It was important for all to believe that the Amyrlin was a force to be reckoned with and that no rumors arose that her prickly personality was becoming soft. Cerise too kept her reputation in check. She glared at a Novice or two, making them squeak in the middle of their curtsy. Cerise was seen as a stern Red whose only smooth side came to her duty to the Amyrlin Seat.

When Lila chose Cerise, she had done what no other Amyrlin had done in the history of the Tower – as a former Green, she appointed a Red to Keeper. It was unprecedented and scandalous, but when the dust had settled, she had firmly cemented the Reds to the Greens and in turn, to herself to strengthen her hold on the Amyrlin’s stole. She had also protected the pact made with the Black Tower. She had done that to show good faith to Ironia al’Notre, the Blue Sitter who initiated the meetings with the Black Tower and thereby sealed the Blue Ajah to her as well. Yes, Lila knew the Game well and Cerise caught up to her quickly.

Ironia made this situation even stickier. Ironia had bonded Sakan more than two decades ago, after he demonstrated with his Borderlander training that the Gaidin training could add little to his skill. She had passed the bond to Sairi de’Seyen before… the incident… and she had been content to allow Sakan to go his own way , and even to allow Marion to bond him afterwards. But she still held a deep respect, even affection, perhaps, for the Gaidin.

The two women entered the Amyrlin’s offices. Cerise grabbed a Novice by the ear, “Go to the Mistress of Kitchens and tell her that the Amyrlin is in need of nourishment. Be quick. Do not make me come for you.” The Novices eyes bulged out of her head, and she ran off down the stairs toward the kitchens clutching her reddened ear.

Cerise shut the door and warded the room. Lila chuckled. “You are so mean, Cerise! If only I had gotten you as a roommate when we were in Novice White. You would be a different woman.”

Cerise snorted softly, but smiled. “I hardly think so! From what I’ve heard, you were in more trouble with Cadsuane then any other Novice in the Tower as a whole.”

Lila pursed her lips. Many knew Lila’s history, but few dared to bring it up. “True, I was difficult at times.”

The Red scoffed a boisterous laugh. “How did you ever talk your way back into the Tower after you left?” Cerise shook her head in amazement. “Any other Novice would have been turned out. Cadsuane herself wanted you turned out.”

Lila shrugged. “She knew I had refused the Arches twice. She took a calculated but weighty risk that I would refuse again and it would not be her vote to put me out. The Law would do it on it’s own. She was wrong, of course.Very wrong. The Wheel weaves as it will. It was her own weakness that she knew I had the seed of the Dreamer in me. I Dreamed that she would have the Stole. She did not know that I would take it from her.”

“So, that was it! I always wondered.” Cerise smiled.

A knock came at the door.

Lila called, “come!”

The door opened and a Novice entered balancing a tray in one hand as she struggled with the heavy door.

Cerise channeled and took the tray from the Novice with threads of Air. The Novice grimaced and then curtsied deeply. “What is your name?”

The Novice took a deep breath and gulped, “Seraphina, Cerise Sedai. Novice Seraphina.”

“Very well, Novice Seraphina. I will be sure to notify Hannah Sedai that you have completed a chore for the Amyrlin Seat and that she is pleased. You may attend to your Lessons, Child.”

The Novice blinked in surprised and then curtsied again. “Thank you, Aes Sedai.”

Cerise shut the door and took the tray over to Lila who was looking at her with raised eyebrows. She feigned innocent surprise. “What?! How else am I to recruit any to our Ajah?”

Lila chuckled and began to pour the tea for them both. They had much to talk about.

The Trial of Sakan Gaidin (Part 1)

1.  An Unexpected Twist

Written by: Sakan al’Galrodan
Edited by: Matthew Garland

 

Sakan lay on the bare cot in his old room in the gaidin barracks, arms folded behind his head. His muscles felt watery even through the Void, a testament to the intense action and no sleep for the past few days. Marion was up in her rooms, a bundle of tightly masked annoyance in the back of his head. She knew he’d had no choice, and that she would have only been a hindrance in the Fortress of Light, but she was still upset that he had gone without her. Chrys was still in the infirmary regaining her strength, and hopefully her vigor as well. She had become withdrawn and pessimistic between the time that he had left her in the capable hands of the Aes Sedai of the Yellow Ajah and the time that he had returned from reporting the matter to Flehrad de’Morgan, the Head Gaidin, to inquire about her state of health. He had taken the time to wash and shave. He felt much better in clean clothes. A soft, finely woven linen shirt of dark green, with another hunter green shirt of wool atop it, and a royal blue coat, done up to the band collar, with slight embroidery along the forearms were nice and warm. The shutters to his window were tied slightly open, allowing a gentle breeze through the room.

A knock came at the door.

“Enter,” Sakan called out. In the Void he could feel his sword in its sheath lying on the pallet next to his bed, ready to be drawn in a heartbeat if necessary. He left his hands where they were, but he was ready. A small thought crossed the Void, wondering why he felt the need to be ready in his room in the gaidin barracks.

“Message for Sakan Gaidin,” a muffled voice came from outside. The door opened, and a Page entered. “The Head Gaidin requests your presence immediately in the Small Council Room.”

I wonder why, Sakan thought. “Thank you,” he said, sitting up. “I will follow you. Has word been sent to Marion Sedai?”

The page turned back to him. “I don’t know, Sakan Gaidin.”

Sakan paused for a moment, then tugged his coat straight and buckled his sword on, grabbing his fancloth cloak as he swept out of his room behind the Page. As they walked through the Gaidin barracks, Sakan clasped the cloak at his neck, and let it hang about his shoulders. He sent a feeling through the bond, curiosity and determination, hopefully that would get Marion’s attention. It was late afternoon and the halls were empty, most of the trainees were out in the yards. He and the Page left the barracks and crossed a large courtyard with elegant shrubs, many of which were mangled or ripped out of the ground from the battle. All of the masons and carpenters had been working overtime, even the Ogiers, the few who had responded to the call, but much damage had been done. It would be years before all traces of the battle would disappear completely.

As they reached the room, Sakan nodded to the Page, who pushed open the large oaken doors and announced, “Sakan al’Galrodan Gaidin has arrived, at the order of Flehrad de’Morgan, Head Gaidin.”

Sakan drew himself up at the formal announcement, and marched into the room. Then he stopped in his tracks.

Sitting in large chairs, in a semi-circle near the center of the room, were some of the most powerful people in the White Tower. The room itself was circular, with large windows letting in streams of light on the far half of the room. The late afternoon sun shone directly on him, as he quickly surveyed the room. It was completely devoid of all furnishing, save for six chairs with their backs to the windows. The person standing in front of the chairs was intended to be illuminated by the sun and blinded by it at the same time. Six pairs of eyes watched him as he paused, ignoring the stinging in his eyes from the sun, and glanced around. The Amyrlin Seat, Lila Sedai, sat in the largest chair, directly opposite him. Her chair seemed to glow in the setting sun. To her right was Cerise Sedai, the Keeper of Chronicles, her red stole around her neck. Flehrad de’Morgan, the Head Gaidin, sat to her left, and a halo surrounding  his chair as well. Leorn Gaidin, the Master of Arms, sat to his left, and Wintrow Gaidin and Garin Gaidin, the Sergeants of Arms, sat at the ends, closest to the door. Their faces were all stern, when they showed any emotion.

After the brief second, Sakan strode to the middle of the room, where he faced Flehrad de’Morgan, and kneeled down on his right knee. Left knee in front, left hand on his sword hilt, right fist on the floor, his head bowed.

“As you called me, so have I come, Head Gaidin,” Sakan announced, clearly and formally.

“Rise, Sakan,” Lila’s firm voice reached him. “It was actually I who called you here.”

Sakan stood up gracefully. “You, Mother? The Page said…”

“It was at the orders of the Amyrlin Seat that I asked the Page to call you here,” the Head Gaidin, once Sakan’s disciple, replied in his deep voice.

The Amyrlin Seat studied Sakan. He stood tall, his hands clasped, waiting to hear whatever whoever had to say. He could not make out her facial features, or expressions, because the chair shadowed her. He felt the eyes of six people boring into him.

“Sakan, Flehrad has told me of your report,” the Amyrlin Seat began. He remained silent as she paused. “This matter concerns me greatly. I do not like to hear of any trainees placed in grave danger. We have lost many at the hands of the Whitecloaks, and there are precious few here who are training to become Gaidin as it is, that we can afford to lose any of them.” She paused again, and then asked sharply, “Gaidin, what is your duty?”

“To fight the Shadow, Mother,” he replied without hesitating.

She nodded. “Certainly. More specifically, what is your duty as a Gaidin?”

“To protect Aes Sedai, Mother,” he replied, again without hesitating.

“You are correct,” she said, her voice smooth. “And if a Gaidin dies, that is one less person to protect an Aes Sedai. If a trainee, or a Cadre dies, that is one less person who will be able to fulfill his or her duty.”

Sakan bowed his head. “With all due respect, Mother, if an Aes Sedai dies because a Cadre didn’t take action, then her training would have been for nought.”

The Amyrlin Seat ignored him. “Sakan, you have been called here because you committed a grievous error, by taking a Cadre into the Fortress of Light itself. Do you have anything to say about this matter?”

Sakan looked up. “Mother, as you know, I went to the Fortress of Light to save the life of an Aes Sedai who had been captured, Krynn al’Kern. I left in the middle of the night without time to notify anyone, even Marion. Chrys al’Mear was with me when the opportunity presented itself, and she asked to join me. I made the assessment that she is skilled enough to have been able to help rescue Krynn Sedai, and in fact, without Chrys, it is possible that we would not have been successful.”

The Amyrlin Seat looked around the room to the others seated.

Flehrad spoke quietly, “With all respect, Mother, I must decline. Sakan was my mentor, I can not be impartial in this.”

Leorn spoke up. “How could you know that Chrys would be instrumental in saving the Aes Sedai. There is a reason why she is not a Gaidar yet, were she ready, she would have been raised. It seems to me that you jeopardized the life of a Cadre on a snap decision.”

Sakan turned his head, as Garin said, “I don’t think so. I think that he was doing his duty, which is to save an Aes Sedai’s life.”

Sakan looked at Wintrow, who looked back at him with emotionless eyes. Yet, the Sergeant of Arms said nothing.

“I think that this matter is a serious one,” said the Keeper, in a thoughtful tone. “Perhaps it would be best to consult the Hall on this matter.”

“Yes,” mused the Amyrlin. “It must be kept quiet, of course, until we reach a conclusion, and the other parties involved will be questioned, as well, to determine the truth of this matter. Sakan,” she announced to him, “this matter will be brought before the Hall of Sitters, and we will determine whether or not your actions are deserving of chastisement. Until that time, you will not leave the Tower grounds, nor will you be permitted to teach any of the trainees or Cadre anything related to fighting. You can be assured that we will do our utmost to discover the truth as soon as possible.”

Sakan’s mouth went dry. Where was Marion? No teaching? I can’t even leave the grounds?  He felt a ball of anger flare, suddenly appear behind him. I am being punished like a trainee, for doing what I thought was right, he thought to himself. A small voice in the back of his head said, Obey authority, you know you must. It is your duty to obey. He knelt back down in front of the Amyrlin Seat, but before he could speak, the doors behind him flew open with such force that they smashed into the walls and rebounded, stopped from rebounding only by what must have been a flow of Air. He didn’t move, but he heard six heads look up behind him.

“Mother,” Marion stormed into the room, her eyes blazing with fire. She passed Sakan without a glance and approached the Amyrlin Seat, curtsying and kissing the ring that Lila Sedai extended to her. In a tightly reined voice, she asked, “What is the meaning of this? Why did you permit this meeting with my Gaidin to begin without me?”

The Amyrlin Seat looked coolly at Marion before replying. “Your Warder committed a grievous transgression in his duties as instructor to the next generation of Gaidin. Your presence was not necessary for his discipline, Marion.”

“He is my Gaidin, Mother,” Marion’s voice was ice. “Custom as strong as law dictates that I should be informed, if not consulted, of matters relating to Sakan.”

Lila Sedai looked at Marion. “Very well, Marion. Sakan’s actions can not be judged by the Gaidin leadership because of his reputation and direct mentor relationship with them. Therefore, his actions will be deliberated by the Hall of the Sitters. Until then -”

Marion interrupted, her calm voice belying her incredulity. “The Hall of the Sitters? You’re going to try him like a murderer?”

Lila replied, “His actions nearly took the life of a Cadre, Marion. It is the only way. Until then, he is confined the Tower Grounds, and not allowed to teach trainees.”

Marion opened her mouth to object, and from his place, kneeling on the floor, Sakan raised his voice, “As you have commanded, so shall I obey, Mother.” Wrapped in the Void, his voice was cold and emotionless.

The Amyrlin Seat nodded, and Marion spun around. The Amyrlin would have expected no less from anyone. “You are dismissed, Sakan.”

He stood up, bowed slightly to each person seated around him, and turned to walk out of the room.

 

2. Imperial Eruption

Written by: Asha’man Na’cueran
Edited by: Matthew Garland

 

The Flame and the Void was all that kept a deep scowl from Na’cueran’s face. Worry was a mole hill beside the mountain of anger he felt. He must be calm, burn his fury, if he was to meet with some of the most powerful men in the White Tower. Dedicated Aegius, still occupying his chambers in the White Tower almost as he left him, had been very valuable all along. Their dark deeds formed a tie between the two, which Na’cueran never hesitated to use for his own benefits.

He had heard of the messenger bringing Sakan to meet with the Head Gaidin, and he had heard that the Master of Arms and Sergeants of Arms were with him. It sounded like men who would sit in judgment, not have a friendly chat. Na’cueran was greatly concerned. Aegius had eyes on the Keeper, and had reported that she and the Amyrlin were also meeting with the Head Gain. Na’cueran did not know much of the Tower ways, but one thing he knew; no one wished to be questioned by Aes Sedai, much less the Amyrlin Seat. He felt a responsibility to the Gaidin. He had picked up Sakan and the girl, Chrys. He had asked them to help him, and he had been the one to Travel them there. Perhaps Chrys was Sakan’s responsibility after all, but surely the Gaidin was his. That much he knew. How could these flaming Aes Sedai blame Sakan?

“Burn them,” he growled to himself, just as his black coated arm flung open large, oaken doors to a circular hall, and he walked in to face eight people, leaving the servants behind gaping.

Almost stumbling into Sakan near the doorway, he halted, and Sakan stared at him. His cold eyes and tight jaw told Na’cueran that he had just missed the questioning. It did not matter, though. He was an Asha’man now. Not bound to the White Tower, and almost free from duties of the Black Tower. He will no longer tolerate things he felt unjust.

“Stop, Sakan Gaidin,” he called.

The graceful man did not move, of course. An almost invisible shake of his head warned the Asha’man not to do what he was about to do, but it was too late to back down.

He tore his gaze from the Warder and scanned the room with a flat expression, finding matching stares on the six people seated. A woman stood in front of the largest chair appeared completely calm, aside from a fire in her eyes. The woman – the Amyrlin Seat, judging by the seven colored stole around her neck – sitting in the largest chair seemed to  reflect the light from the sun that surrounded her chair in a blinding halo. Only one more Aes Sedai was sitting beside the Amyrlin Seat. The Keeper of Chronicles. Four men flanked them, two on each side. He was unfamiliar with the badges of rank, but he could guess their hierarchy by where they sat. The Head Gaidin next to the Amyrlin, the Master of Arms next to the Keeper. The Sergeants at Arms on the outer seats. Na’cueran passed Sakan and took position in front of the Amyrlin Seat. She opened her mouth to speak, but the words faded as the Asha’man knelt and paid the respect she deserved, lying a hand on the hilt and another on the marble tiles.

“What makes you think you have the right to burst in here like this?” Exclaimed the Keeper of the Chronicles, Cerise Sedai.

He rose to both feet, never letting his eyes from the Amyrlin, towering over all of the seating. “The right I have to walk in here is the same that allows you to seat here.” From the corner of his eyes he caught glimpses of raised eyebrows, the equivalent of the Gaidin gaping in surprise. He pressed on. “The issue that brings me here is the one you discussed with Sakan al’Galrodan. I should have been invited. Since I was not, forgive me, but I invited myself.”

“How did you find of this meeting?” demanded the Head Gaidin, sitting to the left of the Amyrlin.

“Allow me to state at first that the blame for both Sakan and Chrys should be on me.” He ignored the man, earning another furious gaze. “Late one night, I had been searching for Shar Val, Mar al’Kern’s tiger, and ended up in the Tower grounds. I crossed paths with Sakan and Chrys as the finished up a nighttime training. I told them of my intention to Travel to the Fortress of Light to rescue Mar and his wife, Krynn, an Aes Sedai, and asked them to join me. The Wheel weaved, and they did. The mission was successful, although we have lost Mar al’Kern, a great loss for the Light, I can assure you.” Pausing, he jerked a fist, though not long enough for the others to break in. “The presence of the two was fatally vital.”

Finally the Amyrlin Seat spoke, her chin high and her eyes boring through his skull. Her voice rang with an authority that would make kings jump. “This is not the issue concerned, Asha’man. I do not doubt their indispensability, but on the contrary, it was already said that Sakan al’Galrodan,” She slyly paused, omitting the title, “could have done the trip by his own, leaving Chrys for safety in Tar Valon.”

“There was a blademaster and a dreadlord present while the events took place in the Fortress. All Sakan had to confront them was half-dead Mar, an earlier-tortured Aes Sedai, his trainee, and myself. All while a steady stream of Whitecloaks banging at the door with only two swords to hold their path. I, myself, am trained with the blade, and knows well to determine that a single blade, no matter how trained, could not block hordes of Whitecloaks. I can’t be certain that either of us would have been in this room today unless the extra hand Chrys offered.”

Na’cueran did not see changes in the faces before him, but quietly he paced back and aligned with Sakan. After all the words had been blurted out, he was calm. The White Tower could not harm him in any way.

The Golden Helm: Epilogue

“By your leave, Marion Sedai,” Sakan bowed formally. “The Watch is not done.”

Marion nodded, almost absently, as Sakan rose gracefully and silently strode from her rooms, a wolf stalking its prey. Likely he was headed to the gaidin barracks to train, or to the roof of the Tower to stare at Dragonmount and brood. Even if the tightly bundled knot of his emotions that nestled in the back of her mind hadn’t told her that he was distraught, his formal bow did. He was only formal with her when he was angry with her or trying to bury emotions that disturbed him. She would go to him and be his friend, not his Aes Sedai, but first he needed space.

Sakan had told her about finding Chrys to give her the ni’ashandarei. It was good; he had needed to do that, for closure. Chrys was like a daughter to him. He told her about joining Chrys and Aegius to search for a ter’angreal, the Golden Helm of Garand. She’d been busy in the Tower with some research in the libraries and hadn’t needed him, so she didn’t mind the weeks of his absence. He’d told her about traveling with Tovan, which made her happy. Sakan’s old friend was one of the few who could make him relax and laugh, something that he desperately needed. She needed it, too, come to think of it. But not nearly as much as he did.

He told her about Tili. She had known bits and pieces, of how her Sitter, Ironia al’Notre, had passed the bond to Sairi de’Seyen for a task, and how their party was ambushed and Sairi killed, along with everyone else. Everyone except for Sakan, who was unconscious and left for dead. How the Tinkers found him, and Tili drew him out and coaxed him back to life from the brink of death and the desire to die. How he had killed men who threatened Tili’s life and had been exiled from the Tuatha’an. But Marion hadn’t been prepared to learn that Tili had been his lover, and that he still loved her. And she him. Yet, it was Tili who gave him the strength to go on, and she must be grateful for that.

Marion stood up. The caravan had left the party outside of Cairhien and turned north. They’d likely circle around Tar Valon. Sakan had mentioned that when he left them all those years ago, they traveled through southern Kandor. Tinkers often traveled along familiar routes, so that was probably where they were headed back to.

She channeled, and a bright sliver of light appeared in front of her, twisting to open up into a doorway that led to grasslands a league north of Tar Valon. She could see the Tar Valon road in the distance; no sign of the Tinkers. She channeled again, and a doorway opened up into grayness. She stepped in onto a small platform, tiled in the middle with a rose surrounded by seven droplets of water, the sigil of House al’Kalimar. The doorway snapped shut behind her and the platform began to move. A few moments later, another doorway opened, and she stepped out onto the plains a few leagues north of where she had Traveled to. Skimming was less efficient than Traveling, but it saved her from having to learn the area.

It took several Skimmings, each time jumping a few leagues, until she saw a caravan in the distance. Even that far away, with Power enhanced vision she could make out the eye jarring colors of the wagons. Marion didn’t know how many Tuatha’an caravans there were, but she offered a small prayer to the Creator that this was the right one.

She walked the last distance to the caravans. Giant mastiffs ran out to greet her, barking madly and growling. She didn’t care too much for dogs, either, but they wouldn’t harm her. She kept walking, towards a portly, graying man.

“Atol Pinter?” she asked, as they drew near.

“Yes,” the man seemed taken aback, not only at a woman in fine, embroidered wool traveling alone on foot, but that she knew his name. She smiled briefly as his eyes widened when he noticed her great serpent ring and bowed respectfully. “Aes Sedai, you are welcome to our fires. Do you know the song?”

Marion replied solemnly. “Your welcome warms my spirit, as your fires warm my flesh, but I do not know the song.”

Atol intoned, “Then we still seek. As it was, so shall it be, if we but remember, seek, and find. What brings you to our fires, Aes Sedai?”

As Atol straightened up, Marion inclined her head to him. “I’m looking for a woman in your camp. Her name is Tili.”

He looked at her quizzically. “Tili?”

Marion nodded. “Yes. I need to speak with her.”

A tall woman in a bright red vest, her long, black hair held back by a blue and yellow kerchief, stepped forward. “I am Tili,” she said.

Marion looked at her for a minute before responding. “Yes, yes you are. Please, may we speak?”

“Come with me, Aes Sedai,” Tili gestured, and the two of them walked away from the small crowd that had gathered. Marion could hear Atol shooing people away, and the music and dancing resumed.

When they reached a small thicket right outside the circle of wagons, Tili turned to Marion. “You’re Marion Sedai.”

Marion didn’t show her surprise. “How did you know?”

Tili smiled. “Sakan told me all about you, and some of what you two have done over the past ten years.”

Marion smiled back. “I should have guessed.”

There was a pause, a moment of uncomfortable silence where Marion realized she hadn’t thought how she would approach this. Tili looked at her expectantly.

“What did you want to speak with me about, Marion Sedai?”

Marion shook her head imperceptibly. “I came here to thank you.”

A confused look crossed Tili’s face. “Thank me? For what?”

“For saving Sakan,” Marion explained. “All those years ago. How much do you know of his situation before you found him and nursed him back to health.”

“Bits and pieces,” Tili admitted. “He would sometimes get in dark moods. I never wanted to press him for details.”

“That sounds like Sakan,” Marion replied drily. “When you found him, he had been warder to Sairi de’Seyen and they walked into an ambush. Sairi was killed, which snapped his warder-Aes Sedai bond.”

“I knew that,” Tili said.

“Did you know that when an Aes Sedai dies, her warder’s mind snaps and he goes berserk? He actively seeks death. Sakan likely fought dozens if not scores of trollocs until he was cut down and left for dead. Your care and love for him, and his love for you, healed his mind. He accepted my bond several years later, and I have you to thank for all the times he has kept me alive.”

Tili looked intently at Marion. “I’d say you’re welcome, Marion Sedai, but love is not a favor, even if other people benefit from it. But I get this feeling that’s not the only reason you came here.”

“It’s not,” Marion replied simply. She paused for a moment, and in her mind a rosebud appeared, sunlight hitting it, petals opening and stretching to reach more sunlight. She smiled. “My sister, Talia, was Sakan’s carneira. In Malkieri tradition, she’s a man’s first love, a woman who commands his heart until he marries. Usually a man doesn’t marry his carneira, but Sakan and Talia had something… special. We lost Talia in a trolloc raid when they were sixteen, and no one ever thought Sakan would learn to love again. He is like a brother to me, so I… I had to meet the woman who had won his heart.”

Tili stepped forward and embraced Marion. “Thank you,” she whispered. She stepped back, clasping Marion’s hands. “Thank you for coming to me, thank you for telling me. Sakan and I could never be together, but it makes me feel better to know who’s side he fights by. Take care of him, please.”

Marion smiled and squeezed Tili’s hands, and channeled a Gateway back to her rooms in the Tower. The familiar bright sliver of light flashed and twisted open. She bid Tili a farewell, and returned to Tar Valon. Sakan had been brooding for long enough, it was time to get him from the roof.

***

Marion stepped through the door onto the wide, flat, gleaming white surface fifteen hundred paces above the ground. With a view of the lands for miles around, and massive Dragonmount far to the north, clouds partially obscuring its smoking peak, this was the most magnificent place in the most magnificent city in the world. She approached her Warder, kneeling in silent meditation, and sat down next to him.

“I met Tili,” was all she said.

He said nothing.

“You don’t seem surprised,” she commented, although she knew he could have felt her Traveling along the bond.

“I felt you jumping around to the north. I knew where you were going without me,” he replied calmly. He looked up at her. “And?”

She smiled at him and put her hand on his arm. “I am grateful for many things in my life. Join me for dinner, we have a long road ahead of us.”