The Tower Mystery - Episode 1
Author: Elyss Koh'inor, July 2016
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Leora picked up the skirts of her color-banded dress as she climbed the terrace steps outside of the White Tower. It was midsummer, and a festival was prepared to last into the night.
For Leora, the most exciting part of the festivities lay with the fireworks. Before coming to the Tower she had been raised in a family of Illuminators. When she heard there would be fireworks during the evening festival she knew she would have to watch the workers set them up.
Finally she reached the top of the terrace, overlooking one of the larger gardens of the White Tower. Workers were putting the finishing touches on a wooden platform below. The Amyrlin was going to give a speech later that evening, mounting the pedestal so all of the inhabitants of the Tower could see her.
Leora caught a whiff of the chemicals used in fireworks. The smell drew her back from the edge of the terrace, into the bustle of firework preparation.
Aduiavas Sedai stood off to one side, supervising the workers.
An Illuminator stood in the middle of the controlled chaos, yelling at apprentices and making minor adjustments to the firework tubes. The precise angles were accomplished and loaded with carefully measured charges. Leora was taken back several years, when she last worked with a group of Illuminators.
Not all of the workmen were Illuminators of course. Leora recognized Nebka, a Citizen of Tar Valon who had grown up with Illuminators as well. A few Tower servants did menial jobs, moving tubes, unwinding the fuses, that sort of thing. Leora even saw one or two white Novice dresses.
“You there!” The head Illuminator yelled.
Leora jumped, he was pointing to her.
“Don’t just stand there! You here to run messages?”
“No, I…” Leora began
“Just here to ogle the machinery then?”
“Well, I was…”
The Illuminator started to turn as red as one of the fireworks. “There’s too many people running about as it is, we don’t need gawkers.”
Leora glanced to the side. Aduiavas Sedai was looking in her direction. She nodded once.
“Yes sir.” Leora murmured, turning around to start down the terrace steps. She almost bumped into Chaelca Trevelyan, another Accepted. The scroll in the woman’s hand indicated she was running messages.
Leora passed her and continued down the terrace steps.
Later that evening, Leora was standing in the crowd of Accepted and Novices. The Amyrlin, Rhed al’Tere, would appear soon to give her speech. The sun was going down, painting the few clouds a brilliant red-orange. The bonfires would be lit soon, and the fireworks would be let off soon after that.
Leora was standing next to her friend Sarramy, who was standing on tiptoe to try to see if the Amyrlin was coming.
The fireworks still took up Leora’s thoughts. Would they use small charges at first to get people’s attention? There were a lot of tubes up there, it seemed like enough to do the whole show without reloading. Unless they did a larger show than normal of course. Not surprising, since it was midsummer and the Amyrlin was giving a speech.
She looked back towards the terrace, where the tubes stood in the ready.
Leora frowned. Something was odd. The tubes had changed slightly, even the ones that had been set in place when she had gone up earlier that afternoon.
She tugged on Sarramy’s sleeve. “I’m going to check the fireworks.”
“What?” Sarramy said, “You’re going to miss the Amyrlin.”
“There’s something odd. I just want to check it out.”
Sarramy shrugged, “Be quick I guess. I’ll say you’ve gone to get something from your room.”
Leora smiled, then began weaving her way through the crowd of white dresses.
When she broke through the crowd she was already at the bottom of the terrace stairs. Hiking up her skirts, she began running up the steps.
She heard a hush spread over the crowd gathered in the garden below. The Amyrlin must have come.
Leora kept climbing, her breath coming in short puffs.
Someone, probably the Keeper, was announcing the Amyrlin. She would be mounting the platform soon. Leora reached a wider landing and stopped climbing for a moment to take a break.
She was closer to the tubes, could see their orientations more clearly. Leora followed the trajectory lines with her eyes.
All of the tubes had been changed to focus on one point.
The wooden platform.
There was cheering as Rhed al’Tere mounted the high structure, to be seen by all the inhabitants of the White Tower.
Leora looked at the tubes again. They were large, heavy-charge tubes. They wouldn’t have fallen over by accident.
There was a light whiff of smoke. Leora recognized the smell from her time working as an Illuminator. It was the smell of burning fuses.
“Look out!” She yelled, screamed even. Her high vantage point carried her voice, and the Amyrlin turned around. The crowd strained to see her.
“The fireworks!” Leora started to scream.
Her voice was drowned out by the sound of the explosions.
She saw six brightly colored balls of fire streak out of the tube, aimed for the Amyrlin’s platform. Her warning hadn’t come a moment too soon.
Leora ran up the stairs. Maybe she could prevent any other fireworks from going off.
She had enough time to glance over her shoulder. Part of the wooden platform was on fire, but the Amyrlin had reacted in time to put up a shield. Other Aes Sedai seemed to be converging on the flaming side of the platform, getting a group of Novices and Recruits away and weaving Water to douse the flames.
Leora reached the fireworks platforms. It was a smoking wreck of the top of the terrace. The charges had been large, too large for the tubes to hold completely.
No other fuses seemed to be burning, but Leora channeled and threw globs of water over most of the tubes. She found the buckets of sand left by the Illuminators next, throwing them over the machinery to make sure any flames were efficiently smothered.
When she was done she saw a group of Aes Sedai and Gaidin rushing up the terrace steps. There was chaos in the garden below, Accepted and Soldiers trying to direct the Novices and Recruits back to their quarters.
“You raised the alarm?”
Leora turned. It was Theolyn Maryash, Mistress of Novices and Recruits. Leora had become familiar with this Aes Sedai’s slippers during her time as a Novice.
Leora curtsied. “Yes Theolyn Sedai.”
Inanna Landred, Aes Sedai of the Yellow Ajah, moved around the rubble, looking for anyone with injuries. A figure in the uniform of a male Accepted trailed after her. It was well known Mychael Ritoryn was planning on joining the Yellow.
A flash of a banded dress caught Leora’s eye. Elanda Tonil slipped around the corner, away from the others inspecting the site of the blasts.
Theolyn Sedai twitched the red shawl draped over her shoulders, drawing Leora’s attention back to where she was.
“You were not supposed to leave the group in the gardens below,” The Mistress of Novices and Recruits said.
Leora bowed her head and was about to attempt an explanation when another Aes Sedai joined them.
“The Amyrlin would like to see Leora Maltana. I heard she was the one to raise the alarm.”
Theolyn Sedai turned Alora Sionn’s gaze to the Accepted. “I’ll leave her in your hands then.”
Alora Sedai nodded to herself, face an impassable mask. “Follow me.”
Leora didn’t hesitate. She followed the Aes Sedai down the terrace steps. Soon they were joined by Alora’s Warder. Padron Kerenmosa was the Master of Accepted and Soldiers, and as an Accepted, Leora reported directly to him.
Leora was full of excitement and dread. She was going to meet with the Amyrlin.
She hadn’t been chosen to serve in the Amyrlin’s chambers yet. Leora had barely seen Rhed al’Tere more than once. Now she was to have an audience, on the night of a sabotage attempt.
Leora was sure there had been no accident. The tubes were too precisely oriented, and the charges had been too large. No, this was an attempt on the life of the Amyrlin.
Padron Gaidin opened the doors to the chamber. Leora stepped through, coming closer to the Amyrlin.
Several Heads of Ajahs and were arranged around the Amyrlin’s desk. Leora spotted Luna Morn, Kyla Sterling, Marivea al’Corriyl, and Roheryn Galghandhrei. Moving as one, they bowed their heads to the Amyrlin and glided from the room.
Leora felt Alora Sedai nudge her towards the center of the room. She moved, almost numb to her own actions.
“You saw something was wrong earlier this evening,” the Amyrlin said. She sat composed behind her desk, the seven-striped stole around her shoulders.
Leora nodded. She wasn’t sure if she was supposed to speak or not.
“How did you know?”
“I was raised by Illuminators, Mother,” Leora said. “I know how the tubes work.”
The Amyrlin nodded. “And you recognized they were out of alignment from below the terrace?”
Leora blushed. “I had gone up while the Illuminators were setting the tubes so I could watch.”
Alora Sedai and Padron Gaidin nodded in confirmation. They had obviously spoken to Aduiavas Sedai to learn about Leora’s whereabouts earlier that afternoon.
“Hmmm,” the Amyrlin said. “Thank you for your timely observation. You may go.”
Alora Sedai moved to guide the Accepted out of the room but Leora stayed in place. “If I may Mother,” she hesitated. The Amyrlin could be intimidating at times. “The charges fired out of the tubes were too large. No Illuminator would have made that mistake.”
The Amyrlin raised an eyebrow. “You’re saying someone purposefully changed the charges and the orientations of the tubes?”
With her finger tapping her lips thoughtfully the Amyrlin leant back in her chair. Leora felt sweat roll down her back, unnerved by the silence.
“Are your observation skills usually this keen?” she finally asked.
Leora swallowed. “I seem to notice things others don’t, Mother.”
The Amyrlin nodded. “I agree that what happened tonight was no accident. Without warning, that blast would have killed me, my Keeper, and a group of Novices and Recruits. I want you to look into it.”
Leora blinked. “Look into it, Mother?”
“Investigate,” the Amyrlin said, turning to her table and writing something on a piece of paper. “Try to find who or what caused the sabotage.”
“Mother,” Padron Gaidin stepped forward, “Leora is just an Accepted. I hesitate to put her at this level of risk.”
Leora pinched her lips together, looking between the Amyrlin and the Master of Accepted and Soldiers.
The Amyrlin finished writing. “Your hesitation is noted Padron.”
She handed Leora the piece of paper. It was a signed letter of permission for Leora Maltana, Accepted of the White Tower, to conduct investigations concerning the events on Midsummer’s Eve.
Leora curtsied deeply. “I’ll do my best Mother.”
The Amyrlin nodded. “I have my own investigator on the case already, but I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket, do you understand?”
“You may go.”
The Accepted left with another curtsy, putting the slip of paper into a pocket of her banded dress. The Amyrlin had asked her to investigate a sabotage attempt.
When she exited the Keeper stood in front of her. “Get some rest,” she said.
Leora curtsied and went off towards the Accepted quarters. Tonight she would rest. Tomorrow she would begin making inquiries.
Thanks for reading the first episode! Episode 2 will appear in next month's issue.