"Why are you here?"
The day began as it usually did, in the darkness of a winter's morning. A door in Elia Darrow's apartments creaked upon slowly as two figures slipped silently into the main living area. It was a large room, cold without the sun out, with tiled flooring in shades of white and indigo. Bare feet scampered across the ground, moving towards the main bedroom adjoining the living area. Within, the First Seeker slept alone on a bed made for two. Curled up in thick blankets, she was unaware of the intrusion. She faced into the centre of the bed, her blackened arm outstretched towards the man who hadn't been there for months. Despite that, she slept soundly and deeply. Elia had learnt how to live without Dax.
The bedroom door opened soundlessly on its hinges. Two faces appeared in the gap, teeth bared in wide, triumphant smiles. When the gap was large enough for them to slip through, they stalked around to either side of the bed. Looking into the whites of one another's eyes, the two figures nodded to commence their silent countdown. As a singular unit, they struck. Elia screamed.
Reaching out with both hands, the Aes Sedai gripped onto each of her assailants. The adrenaline from her abrupt awakening gave her the strength she needed to grapple each of them, as she hoisted both figures onto the bed beside her. "I've got you!" she cried out.
"Morning mummy!" Thea and Tomas cried in unison, once they realised they were both pinned. Elia released them as they hurriedly scampered under the duvets away from the cold. Freezing hands and feets pressed against her side as they got themselves settled, and she returned playful jabs in retaliation for their ambush.
"What are you doing awake at this hour?" Elia inquired as Thea settled in beside her brother.
"Bored," bemoaned Tomas as Thea groaned, "Hungry."
"If you're hungry, you can get dressed and go down to the kitchens," Elia replied evenly. "And how are you bored, Tomas? Have you no books to read?"
"Read them," he replied.
"All of them?"
"Ah-ha," he nodded.
"Really? You've read all of the books in the Library?"
"Mm-hm." A cheeky grin started to appear on his boyish face.
"Mm-hm," Elia concluded, looking at her son with a less-than-convinced frown. "Well then, why don't you accompany your sister? See if the Mistress of the Kitchens can find you something to do."
It took a bit of convincing, but eventually, the twins Darrow left their mother to peace whilst they got dressed and headed down towards the kitchens... or at least to the nearest servant. Now awake, Elia decided to get up herself. Messy, the Darrows' black cat, prowled around as Elia transformed into the First Seeker. It was more than just choosing the right clothes to wear; it was a mental state, and one more easily achieved when she didn't have her kids running around.
There was a knock at the door. Elia paused for a moment, listening for giggling or some other noise to indicate it was the twins. Satisfied that it wasn't them, Elia smoothed out her amber and silver dress on her way to answer. On the other side of the entrance way was Bora Sedai of the Greys, shadowed by her omnipresent Warder. "You are summoned to the Hall of the Tower," Bora stated.
Elia merely nodded. "Of course."
- - -
"What do you seek?"
Neither Bora nor Keri Gaidin spoke as the three women transversed the corridors and staircases towards the Hall. Elia followed behind the other two, contented by her own thoughts. Far more interesting than Bora's latest discovery about Tower Law. The only thing that Elia found remarkable about the Grey Sitter was how she swayed her hips like a Domani wench. The woman was Aes Sedai and a Kandori! Borderlanders didn't have time to learn how to wiggle their behinds with the Blight ever present. Elia wrinkled her nose before casting off thoughts of Bora.
The kids would be fine when they got back from the kitchens. Elia was busy, and the twins were used to their mother's comings and goings. Tomas knew how to find people to help them when required, and Thea had enough wisdom to keep pranks from getting out of hand. They were also surrounded by Indigos, who easily ranked as the smartest of the nine Ajahs.
Elia winced. Eight Ajahs. Despite everything that had occurred, the Grey Tower did not recognise the Black Ajah. It was the worst sort of open secret, but it aided Elia and her allies in their extracurricular affairs. Without a public declaration proclaiming the Black Ajah enemies of the Light, the Grey Tower was hamstrung in their operations to purge the Shadow from Hama Valon. Plus, they're too busy with the corruption that was in the White Tower.
The White Tower... Elia balled her good hand into a fist. If it hadn't been for the White Tower... She wasn't prone to regrets, but letting Dax go to the White Tower was one. "Letting him go". It's not like he asked. If he had, she wasn't even sure if she'd have stopped him. He was - is - a Blademaster, and a survivor beyond that. Dax should have returned with the rest of them. Instead, she was left without Dax, without a body to mourn, and without any answers. Was he dead? Injured? Captured by White Tower Aes Sedai during their flight from Tar Valon? Those questions weren't even the worst. It was: "Where's Daddy?"
- - -
"How would you serve?"
The Hall of Sitters: home to the twenty-four Sitters of the eight Ajahs. It was the heart of power in Hama Valon, the authority that governed the Grey Tower and its inhabitants. As Bora opened the door (with Keri joining the other Gaidin outside), Elia quickly discerned the reason behind her summons. There were only Aes Sedai present. No Triumvirate, no Keepers, and no onlookers in the wings.
Elia had been in this room before with only women present. It only occurred for a single reason, yet Elia had never been the subject of such a gathering. Shock and surprise, carefully hidden behind her still face, transmogrified into elation. Was it finally happening?
It very much seemed like it was. As Bora joined the other Sitters, Miahala took a step forward. As the eldest Aes Sedai, she had the ceremonial duty of asking Elia questions. Four very specific questions.
"Why are you here?" Elia's sister-in-law asked.
"I was summoned by the Hall of the Tower."
"What do you seek?"
"To serve the Grey Tower, nothing more and nothing less."
"How would you serve?"
Despite the ceremony and fixed nature of both the questions and the answers, Elia paused momentarily to weigh up her response. "With my heart and my soul and my life, in the Light. Without fear or favour, in the Light."
Mia nodded before asking the final question. "Where would you serve?"
- - -
"Where would you serve?"
The air within the Amyrlin's chamber seemed different. Was it something to do with the decisions that had been made within these walls, or maybe the ghosts of those Amyrlins who had come before? Some of those ghosts still stalked the Grey Tower's corridors, whereas others had somehow managed to escape. Ninya Evoneigh cast a long shadow, and for all the wrong reasons.
Casting out those troubling thoughts, Elia adjusted the multicoloured shawl around her shoulders out of habit before turning back to her visitor. Ravak sat on the opposite side of the desk, looking determined. The elder Darrow raised an eyebrow in impatience. "Out with it. You clearly have something to say, and we're both presumably busy people." Ravak continued to avoid her gaze, looking instead at his clenched fist resting on the arm of his chair. He'd been staring at it since he entered the room, frowning at it as if it weren't his own hand.
A long moment of silence passed. Elia started to drum a rhythm on the top of her desk with her fingernails.
"I'm the Watcher of the Seals, not the Watcher of my Mute Brother. You've thirty seconds until--
"I've decided to step aside." The words came with a gesture. Reaching forward, Ravak opened his hand up over Elia's desk, dropping a golden pin onto the surface. It was his badge of office, as poignant as the stole around her shoulders.
The Amyrlin's breath became caught in her throat. Soon she was shaking her head before any words came forth. "No Ravak, please. Together we can lead the Grey Tower. Don't leave me with him."
Ravak snorted, but at least he looked up towards her. "He's not that bad. He's just very Cairhienin and very Grey. Besides, my leadership thus far can be summed up as questionable at best."
"So you're abandoning me? Just like..." Her breath caught again.
The former Master of Arms grimaced. "We don't know what happened with Dax, El. And I'm not abandoning you. I'm just--"
"Abandoning me," Elia reaffirmed. She waved him away, already scornful at whatever lies were about to roll off his tongue. "Then go. I'll inform the M'Hael and the Gaidin can again seek a new leader. Hopefully someone with more backbone."
Ravak's chair slid back with a screech. He rose, planting his fists on the edge of her desk. "Don't push me away, El. I'm doing this for my family, and you are family." A pause. "Be a better leader than I was, Mother."
The offices of the M'hael, Amyrlin Seat, Master of Arms, Keeper and the MoNSTers
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- Posts: 2613
- Joined: November 20th, 2015, 10:29 am
- PC: Ravak t'Sha'hal Darrow
- SC: Elia Darrow
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- Location: Scotland
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