The Path of Daggers: Prologue
From Tar Valon Library
Author: Atarah al'Norahn
Chapter Icon: Wheel and Serpent
Ethenielle's Point of View:
Setting: The Black Hills
Ethenielle, the queen of Kandor, is riding through the Black Hills with fifty of her best men. She asks her First Councilor, Serailla, if she has made the right choice. She thinks to herself that if the White Tower would not or could not do what must be done, then someone must, and that it is no use to guard the Blight while the world crumbles behind her. Riding at her other side is Lord Baldhere, her Swordbearer. She asks if he has any qualms, and he replies that he does not like having to hide who he is.
Ethenielle, Serailla and Baldhere meet with Paitar Nachiman and Easar Togita, the kings of Arafel and Shienar. Each has with him two attendants; Paitar has brought Ishigari Terasian and Kyril Shianri, and Easar has brought Agelmar Jagad and Alesune Chulin. Ethenielle asks if they have managed to come this far without detection, and Easar replies, "If we've been see, Ethenielle, then we might as well turn back now."
The fourth Borderland ruler, Tenobia Kazadi of Saldaea informs them that she will not turn back until Davram Bashere and Rand al'Thor learn exactly who rules Saldaea. She has only one attendant with her, Kalyan Ramsin, who is one of her uncles. Easar and Paitar assure Tenobia that they, too, do not mean to turn back while Ethenielle ponders on the strange nature of Saldaeans. She thinks to herself that Tenobia is young, with a temper like a wildfire. She thinks that Tenobia needs to be married, though she doubts that this will ever happen.
Ethenielle tunes back into the conversation when she hears mentions of Aes Sedai. Ethenielle is immediately alarmed, thinking to herself that, "if Aes Sedai had gained a hint of their plan...well, Aes Sedai always had plans of their own." It seems that Paitar has brought his Aes Sedai advisor, Coladara. Not only that, but Coladara had seven visiting Aes Sedai that she brought with her. Paitar says that he thought it prudent, under the circumstances, to bring them. Ethenielle is quite aghast, thinking that if there are eight Aes Sedai with them, then surely the White Tower knows every move they intend. As if that were not bad enough, Tenobia announces that she has also brought five Aes Sedai whom she ran into before leaving Saldaea. Ethenielle tells them that all any of the thirteen Aes Sedai need to do is find a way to send a short message to the Tower, and asks if any of them can stop the Aes Sedai. Paitar replies that the dice are out of the cup. Easar adds that, further south, it may be well to have Aes Sedai with them.
Tenobia invites the other three to dine with her that night, and adds to Ethenielle that her uncle, Kalyan, would be honored to sit beside her. For a moment, Ethenielle is outraged at the idea of Tenobia trying to set her up with her uncle. She looks at Kalyan and sees something that she has not seen for a long time - a man looking at a woman, not a queen.
They slash their left palms and grip them together, swearing that they are one to the death. Ethenielle thinks that now, all they have to do is find Rand al'Thor and do what must be done, whatever the price.
Verin's Point of View:
Verin is sitting in a tent with Turanna, an Aes Sedai of the White Ajah who was captured by the Asha'man at Dumai's Wells. Verin speaks briefly outside the tent to Coram and Mendan, the two Aiel men who have been set to "guide" her. She thinks of the size of the camp, the Aes Sedai who have been named "da'tsang", and the Aes Sedai such as Kiruna, who haven't.
Verin asks Coram to tell Colinda, one of the Wise Ones, that she is done with Turanna and would like to see Katerine Alruddin. While she waits, she sees Irgain, one of the Aes Sedai who was stilled by Rand. Feeling sick, Verin returns to her tent and tries absentmindedly to comfort Turanna.
Two Wise Ones, Daviena and Losaine, enter the tent. They link and assume Turanna's shield before leading her from the tent. Aeron, another Wise One, arrives. She flips through Verin's notebook, but sees nothing about the questions that Verin is supposed to be asking the other Aes Sedai. Verin replies that they all pretty much say the same thing; "The Car'a'carn was to be housed in the Tower until the Last Battle. His...um...mistreatment...began because of an escape attempt. But you know that already, of course. Never fear though; I'm sure I will learn more."
Two Maidens enter with Beldeine Nyram, an Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah. Verin is slightly alarmed, since she asked for Katerine Alruddin; she thinks that what she has been doing and intends to do is very tiring, and she doesn't think that she can do it if any of the Aes Sedai that she "questions" have Warders. Luckily, Beldeine has none. Tialin, the Wise One that entered with the Maidens and Beldeine, replies that Katerine Alruddin has escaped. Verin is instructed by Aeron not to tell Rand. After she and Beldeine are alone, Verin begins to speak with her. Beldeine is angry that Verin could have so easily sworn an oath of fealty to Rand. Verin very clearly reminds Beldeine of her position as "da'tsang", and Beldeine looses her vehemence.
Verin offers Beldeine Healing, and she accepts. Verin Heals her, and then while Beldeine is still vulnerable, begins another weave, using an angreal that she has had for many years. The weave is very intricate, using all of the Five Powers, especially Spirit. Beldeine drowsily asks what Verin is doing, and Verin replies that what she is doing will not harm Beldeine. Verin then thinks to herself that this is true; the weave itself will not harm Beldeine, but she might die as a result of it in the years to come.
So as not to make anyone who might be listening suspicious, Verin begins to ask Beldeine a few questions about Rand. While Beldeine talks, Verin continues to think to herself. Many of the wilders who go to the Tower have their own little tricks that tend to fall under two categories: A way to listen in on other people's conversations, or a way of making people do as they wanted. The Tower cares little about the first, but more about the second, since it is akin to Compulsion. Verin has questioned these girls over the years and slowly pieced their stories together, even though the Tower forbids anything like it.
Finally, Verin is done. She pulls on two of four weaves of Spirit, and the whole, intricate weave partially collapses. She then gives Beldeine instructions, and pulls on the remaining two weaves of Spirit, causing the weave to settle in to Beldeine. What Verin has done is not "true" Compulsion as the ancient texts describe it. It is a very slow and painful process, and also requires trust on the part of the object of the weave. Beldeine, who began to convulse as the weave collapsed, finally quietens. Verin lets her believe that she fainted, and then tells Coram and Mendan, that she is done. Even though there are still several hours left in the day, Verin is exhausted. However, she thinks that she can handle one more and asks that Irgain be brought to her. She tells herself that she has to keep Rand alive until it is time for him to die.
Moridin's Point of View:
Moridin is in a doorless, windowless room that might have belonged in a grand palace. He occasionally strokes one of the two mindtraps that hang on cords around his neck. His attention is on a game board that is before him. There are thirty-three red pieces, and thirty-three green pieces, arrayed across a playing surface of thirteen squares by thirteen. It is a recreation of a once-famous game named sha'rah that only nine living people even remember; he had been a master of it. The first object of the game is to capture the Fisher, which is the most important piece. Only then does the game really begin. The Fisher on Moridin's board is still in its starting position.
A servant with dead black eyes approaches and offers Moridin wine. He takes it, but does not drink. His attention is held by the Fisher. It is the only piece in the game whose attributes alter according to where it stands. If the Fisher is on a white square, it is weak in attack, yet agile and far-ranging in escape. If it is on a black square, it is strong in attack, yet slow and vulnerable. When the game is played by masters, the Fisher will change sides many times throughout the game. There is a green-and-red goal-row that surrounds the playing surface; only the Fisher can move onto it, but it is not safe even there. The Fisher is never safe. The easiest way to victory is to move the Fisher to a square of your color behind your opponent's end of the board. When your opponent has the Fisher, you try to leave him no choice but to move the Fisher onto a square of your color. Holding the Fisher can be more dangerous than not. Another way to victory is by the complete annihilation of your enemy. Moridin has tried this way once, but it failed painfully.
Moridin is suddenly filled with fury. He reaches for the True Power. His hand closes around the two mindtraps, and he nearly crushes the Fisher to dust with the True Power. His goblet shatters, and he nearly crushes the mindtraps. He thinks about how the Fisher is always worked as a man with a bandage around his eyes and a few drops of blood dripping through his fingers. The reason for this has been lost, and Moridin is often enraged about the knowledge that might be lost in the turnings of the Wheel, knowledge that he needs and to which he has a right.
He sets the Fisher back on the board and releases the mindtraps. There is no need for destruction yet. He thinks that perhaps the Fisher comes from a dim memory of Rand al'Thor. He realizes that he is laughing, but does not attempt to stop. On his board, the Fisher is waiting to be moved, but in the greater game, al'Thor is already moving to his wishes. Moridin thinks how it is very hard to lose a game when you played both sides of the board. He is now laughing so hard that there are tears rolling down his face.