Fanfic:Closure/Part IV (a)

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Closure/Part IV (a)
  • Bella
  • Jack
  • Kenneth Edberg
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A New Gathering, A New Goal

It was another morning and another assembling of force, only two weeks following the last occasion. This time, though, the goal was much larger and the danger even more pronounced, and even more personal. Little time had been wasted, but the night had been afforded to make arrangements and make sure messages had gotten out to all of the relevant people in this matter.

Come dawn, they gathered at the Traveling area, horses in tow. Miahala had not much slept the night before. Every muscle was thrumming with a tuneless melody of tension.

"Mother," Ryne said, coming up behind her. Mia turned to see her eldest son walking with Thea Sedai. The Aes Sedai seemed to blend into any surroundings she was in, quiet and unassuming as she was. (This made her something of a contrast to the Blue soon en route in the form of Mia's oldest daughter.) Thea said nothing but inclined her head respectfully to the rank of the Green, and mother of her bondmate.

"Thank you," Mia said simply. There wasn't really any need to say anything more.

Her son gave a small smile. He was economical with his words and gestures as always. He simply said, "She's my sister." Even though their fathers were different, her children had always loved one another and she felt quite blessed that they had not suffered any ill will towards one another for their slightly different parentages. The same had proved true even later on with Haeden's birth - though he was safely in the care of a fellow Aes Sedai, who would watch him while his parents went about this business. (Much as Kassyna and Jerid's grandchildren would be tended to.)

Caden was en route now, having to attend to some minor business before they set out.

With a mordant stride, Caden was leaving the Yards behind.

He had spent the early morning - more like late night - ensuring that the administration of the Warder Hall would not be hindered by his absence. This involved scheduling activities and waking messengers to deliver information pertaining those to the corresponding Instructors and Officers. Furthermore, issues of the Executive Council had to be postponed or solved through post-haste execution, and the Privy Council (as well as the Council of Youth) was informed about his immediate leave of absence. For last, he had documented the vague outline of the excursion to the Master of Spies, so that Garren Brighteyes Gaidin learned just enough to ensure that the forces of the Light were updated about the fated activities.

As Caden entered the Traveling area, he was bedecked with his full armour - black scaled plates strengthened with greaves, gauntlets and pauldrons besides melted fancloak and boiled leather. He smelled of the vinegar used to protect the steel from rust, and his bastard sabre hung by his side. Winterbourne, also armoured with black plating, was awaiting him at his destination - along with the beacon of his bondmate and wife - Miahala Ives.

The Freak and Reaper of the Yards was grim in facing this mission undertaken - since it was one of no little importance or hazard. His unmasked and two-sided face was equal in its austere composure - a singularity of purpose.

The low level of impatience and tension residing in the very back of Mia's mind kept her seemingly more impassive than usual, not being able to spare energy to much, but she gave Caden a small smile as he approached.

Coming to a stand between Winterbourne and his wife, Caden met Miahala's eyes with a small nod and a faint crease to his unburned eye. He looked over those gathered with his left hand resting on the pommel of his weapon. "A morrow of why and wherefore," he commented in his grating rumble, "and one of abeyance."

"It will always be a question of why," Mia said quietly, a little distractedly. "At least we do have this small bit of luck, it seems."

"Aye," he rasped in answer and looked back to his Aes Sedai. "Lest we be too late, we should have an element of surprise that shall shield your own from harm - both those you bring, and those you mean to protect."

Sadira and Scerai were next to arrive.

It wasn't clear to anyone, of course, but Scerai could feel anxiety painted very plainly through his bondmate, and lover. She had been worried for her sister and extended family since the news had reached them. The Gaidin noted a tense set to Sadira's mother as well, and he could understand it. By current information, they would have time to forestall any danger, although he knew they must all linger doubts to the reliability of their informant.

Scerai was a pragmatic man, however, and he knew that they could not discount the information and what else did they have? They had to trust it this much and at least move on it.

The Blue and her warder greeted Miahala and Caden with a nod, a shared glance, before they went over to stand with Ryne and Thea to await the arrival of the rest of those they were expecting. A quick calculation put the group to half strength, presently.

For the second time in as many weeks, Jerid found himself walking toward the stables, dressed in hunter greens. The only difference was that he wore not one but several long knives, two at the hip and others bedecking a baldric strapped to his chest. In hand was an ashandarei, a weapon he held some familiarity with, and one he would likely need if an army did indeed loom in the offing. He led Aisalyn with reins in the other hand.

Like Lysira, the Indigo approached silently, noting all those present. Jerid was only vaguely familiar with much of Miahala's family; only Ryne bore than a passing familiarity and only because he and his Aes Sedai had watched his grandchildren on occasion. Nonetheless, he knew everyone here was more than capable. "Sisters, Gaidin," he murmured emotionlessly, echoing his Gaidar's silent greeting.

Jerid knew the stakes involved for the majority gathered here. Miahala's family faced danger from an Aes Sedai that both Lysira and he had a personal interest vested in. But more so was something he shared with the Captain-General: family. Caden and she had risked life and limb to aide him in the Caralain, and he would do the same now. More than anything else, it was something he felt most passionately about, a fact that Lysira was all too aware of.

Following Jerid as the silent shadow she was, Lysira's eyes were everywhere at once. She took note of those who were present and there was a brief realization that she was likely to be the youngest representative of this assembly, and yet she didn't feel it. Her life experience seemed to put her to a mental age considerably ahead of her years and she felt like she fit right in with this peerage.

Aes Sedai, Gaidin, she signed with a deep nod and a polite though suitably reserved expression. Only a fortnight and here they were again.

For the diminutive Gaidar, there was less sense of urgency - simply because she did not know the rest of Miahala Sedai's family - and yet she understood the sense when it came to family in general, and this Lonisa Jenkai she did have a personal investment in. The memories of the village in Cairhien - the terror and insanity she had been enmeshed in, even for a relatively short time - was fresh in her mind... and the Shadow must be stopped whenever it was found. Whenever you could do something about it.

If nothing else, this was a point of view well shared here.

"The Wheel has a strange sense of timing," Benar was saying, meanwhile, as he and his wife walked. They were not yet in earshot of the others and there had not been many words passed between them, although they were - as usual - of the same mind on matters.

"It does indeed," Selenirra replied. "Yet it is not surprising for the vast interconnection of all things in the Pattern."

Silence came between them then, for what else was there to say? They realized they were towards the latter half of the arrivals, noting Miahala and Caden, Ryne Gaidin and Thea Sedai, Sadira and Scerai Gaidin, Jerid and their daughter already present. So the second Blue and her Warder made their greetings brief and moved into the positioning that was apparently and subconsciously forming.

Dressed in his Atha'an Miere attire - with black breeches, red sash and white threadbare coat - Lucan din Nicander Riven Sail entered the Traveling area with a gait akin to those strolling the decks of the sea. Yet up in the adamant and still Yellow Ajah halls, he had set the undercurrents of the Tower in motion before leaving his quarters behind.

Ever since he got the missive from the Captain General and the Master of Arms, he had locked himself up and dictated the future of the Shadow's devotees in the Tower by written word alone. Given the nature of the mission, and what it pertained for his own agendas, he had ensured that his absence was secured through the right channels. He was not the imbecile to foolishly risk his own life and limb for a purpose not fully his own unless certain guarantees had been made.

He now entered the gathering with his new bondmate in tow; the steel transformed - a Gaidin of his own design. Molded into the shape of his wishes - yet with a stubborn will of his own - the Fiery Serpent's Warder was leading both their mounts by the reins.

Darrik al'Kall had only grown quieter and more serious in the time since the bond. Yet the change felt natural. He cared little for what anyone else might think. Not any more, and he had Lucan to thank for that.

He only gave dutiful nods of greeting to most, letting the Yellow do any of the talking. The younger Gaidin's eyes caught Mouse's and they lingered there for a long moment. Nothing and yet so much was said, since he had not seen or spoken with her in a while and had not told her of his bond. Why should he bother? She kept her secrets, after all, so why shouldn't he be given the same courtesy... and the dark satisfaction of knowing he'd done it to her. A small sort of revenge, and a feeling hidden from all but Lucan.

Lucan spotted Thea Sedai of his own Light-blinded Ajah and inclined his head to his "Sister" before recognising the presence of the others with his sweeping glance. He did not look at Lysira Viathene or Jerid Walker while his own Warder was granted the opportunity of lesser retribution - the awls of a glance betraying so much more. In a way, Lucan felt proud of Darrik's evolvement. He turned to the Freak and his mate. Before addressing the two traitors of his heart, he turned to the individuals championing the undertaking.

"Whatever I can provide to this cause, I shall, Lady Miahala Sedai and Lord Ives Gaidin." The Fiery Serpent's deep voice was serious, and he carefully hid his smile while he bowed to the renowned Light-blinded fools - dark wings of hair falling forward to frame his jaw.

Sometimes, such gestures were lost on Miahala... who even as an Aes Sedai of her years standing was always caught off guard by the more formal instances such as this. It happened now, but was so distant in her mind that it only barely showed up in her consciousness. "Thank you for coming, Brother," she said quietly and with her own slight bow of her head in recognition for the man that had led the way to save her child, and the one who would now work to help her save the elder ones of her near family.

"Thank you, Healer," rasped Caden and inclined his head, "we are both grateful that you - again - go out of your way to protect the lives of those dear to us." The Freak knew little about the circumstances that led to Lysira bonding the knifeman instead of the resourceful Healer that she had shared a past with during the Battle of Lights, but neither was it his business to involve himself with the circumstances pertaining the choice of a bondmate. Such a choice was up to each fully raised Warder or Channeler to make - and did not involve the Master of Arms. The choice of the knifeman was a sound one, but merely surprising given the known background.

"What kind of Healer would I be if I did not safeguard the lives of innocents?" Lucan shrugged with a small smile, whilst thinking: What kind of murderer would I be unless I appeared to care for the lives of innocents?

Word had been passed to all of who was to assemble, so Lucan's arrival did not surprise Lysira like it had when they had gathered to go to Cairhien. The presence of Darrik, on the other hand, did surprise her. It was also very obvious to her by the way he walked that he was serving as Lucan's Warder, and yet... she'd had no idea, and he'd said nothing of it in the brief times they had seen one another recently.

Lysira kept her reaction inward for her and Jerid alone, with only a slight tilt of her head - like a creature encountering something new and strange - to betray her.

And, of course, the extended look her gave her was a clue to the fact that he knew just what had happened. What he'd done. Neither of them stopped being the stone-expressional Gaidin and Gaidar that they had been trained to be, but much passed in that look between two who had once been very close... and Lysira wondered if she knew him at all anymore.

Jerid had noted Lucan's arrival but with a nod of his head, a brief but respectful greeting to a Yellow immensely respected in the Infirmary. But old feelings and tensions remained, at least for the Indigo, and he would not forget nor forgive such things. If the Yellow knew anything about Jerid, it was that he remembered everything.

And it was no surprise that Lucan would be present. The man was a capable warrior and one of the Tower's most powerful Healers, a rival even to Aden Cole. But what surprised him was Darrik's presence alongside the Yellow. Granted he was only vaguely acquainted with the Gaidin, but it was still an oddity. But the connection was almost instantaneous for Jerid. Lucan and Darrik were bonded, a strange pairing but not completely uncommon. The former was a respected Asha'man, a hero of the Battle of Lights and the latter an honorable man.

But there was suspicion underneath, hidden below even the most remote of thoughts. Jerid was an observer of character, could pick up on a person's nature in moments. What he suspected about Darrik and what he knew of Lucan's... diverse attractions allowed questions to formulate inside the Indigo's mind.

But that was overridden as Lysira's emotions flooded the bond. He shifted slightly, looking between the two Warders. Anything that Lysira might consider a threat, he considered a threat as well. Especially when seemed personal to his Gaidar. But he hoped it was a momentary phase, for he liked the Gaidin. Such things were rare for the Master of Soldiers, as he had long accrued a reputation for a very reclusive nature even among his own Ajah.

"Greetings Darrik Gaidin," he murmured. "And to you too Brother Lucan. If circumstances were not so dire, it would otherwise be good to see you again."

"Likewise, Brother," said Lucan with a small smile - chin raised. "Regardless of the circumstances, its good to see capable people joined for a task as dire as this. Now, the jellyfishes and storm-blinded have due reason to shiver in their riggings."

Jerid's eyes shifted back to the Gaidin. "If you are amenable, and your Asha'man willing to spare your company, I would invite you to dine with my Warder and me one night, once this menace has been dealt with." He hoped Lysira would at least trust this offer, but at the moment he did not feel so inclined to divulge the invitation. Jerid did nothing without a reason, something all present were at least vaguely aware of.

Lysira was surprised and a little taken back by Jerid's offer, but she made no show of it and restrained it to her own psyche as best she could. Jerid must have a reason, but what that was... she couldn't presently fathom.

Likewise Darrik was also surprised. Still, it would serve to be polite. "It would be an honor, Asha'man," Darrik said with an inclination of his head, "should such a suited time be found," and this was paired with a flicker of a glance towards his bondmate, although it was one of those complex sorts of moments. Darrik was not sure he wanted to have such a meal, but he knew it could be beneficial. And it wasn't like he was chained to Lucan's side, but he would wonder as to the Yellow's thoughts on it... but later. "Thank you," he concluded simply.

Oh, what is this now? Thought Lucan as he was already stepping away from the Indigo and his slattern Gaidar, you seek to deny me company yet again, Brother? Luckily, the brain-washing of Darrik al'Kall was such a fundamental one that no manner of idle dinner conversation - treacherous or not - would turn the Gaidin back to the cattle of Light-blinded. Lucan remained indifferent to the development, and should have been discerned as such through the bond.

Rather, Lucan was confident in Darrik to know what to look for during such a meeting; to find means of leverage against the Master of Soldiers. Perhaps, this was the key to the social and influential undoing of Jerid Walker.

"Thank you all for agreeing to come together so swiftly," Miahala began, seeing that everyone was together. "I know that not all of you have the same personal connections to this, such as I and my family, but such things cannot be allowed to happen when one can move to stop it." She paused and took a quick, quiet breath. "We have information that says a small yet formidable army of Shadowspawn and Shadowsworn are being gathered a day's ride north of my daughter's farm in Saldaea.

"It is being led by a rogue Aes Sedai of the White Tower named Lonisa Jenkai. Some of you have encountered her before," she continued with significant looks to the relevant people in their group. "She was behind the statue and illness there, but also she associated with other events that took place around the same time, including the appearance of a son of Darien Jolstraer. From this man, named Adaegor, I have learned of this army."

A deep voice from the back announced Ryne's thoughts. "Wouldn't trust him so far as one could throw him," he commented.

Mia nodded. "Neither would I, normally, but I have reason to believe he's telling the truth." She simply didn't expand on what those reasons were. "It also matches with a piece of intelligence I've recently received from the Borderlands, which would correspond with the time line. He says they plan to march in a week's time upon the farms of my family as well as many other places in Saldaea. An organization of force that the Borderlands rarely have to face."

While Lucan listened, he stood a step a head of his Gaidin, his arms folded behind his back. The question he had was one he knew the answer to, yet that he should not know in the innocent guise he wore. "What is the cause of this illness? Or rather, what is the connection between your family and this Lonisa Jenkai?"

"Adaegor didn't know anything past that she has some deep loathing of Darien." Mia paused. "Since Darien is dead, she has chosen to take this anger out on anything that is or was connected to him. The Grey Tower. Saldaea. Shienar... and his family. The farm we travel to now belongs to my second daughter by Darien, Tianna." It was as much as she wished to say with the singing tension growing any worse.

"I see..." Lucan tilted his head in thought, while the beasts inside laughed at seeing the woman so strung with worry. Oh, don't fret, Captain General... for my ambitions mirror your own - for once. He looked up, face solemn. "Then there is no other treatment than the removal of the corrupted limb."

The Master of Arms glanced towards the Healer before speaking up. "Aught else necessitating a clarification?" His mismatched stare swept the faces arrayed before him and his Aes Sedai. Each moment lost was one gained by the disease, as the Yellow might have put it. Everything comes too late for those who only wait.

With explanations only needed to be brief, Miahala exchanged a look with Caden and then she nodded. "We travel first to my daughter's farm to assure of her safety and to warn her, and then we travel North."

~ Arrival at the Farm ~

The Gateway opened in a field just outside the forest that surrounded the entry into the Ferria farm. Six Warders - Gaidin and Gaidar all - came through first, moving with all the fluidity of a river's path. Heartbeats and breaths were counted and then the Channelers - most warriors in their own right anyways - followed into the pasture land, which was strangely quiet, at first.

With careful listening, there were sounds... but their identity was hard to know.

Miahala looked around and felt the same familiar sensation rise up in her whenever she set foot on Borderland soil and more so when it was Saldaea. It had always sung to her, and she knew it always would. The reason for their visit on intensified it, mixed with the passionate electricity that was a mother protecting her young; the taut emotions born of the matter of time.

They all then moved forward to the broad pathway through the forests that would lead them up to the farm. It was long and curving enough that you could not see the farm from the start, but would not take long for their horses to cross the distance. All the same, there was no reason to linger and so they moved forward once again in silence, setting to the path that led between the trees.

As they drew nearer, the sounds grew more pronounced and the smell of smoke drifted towards them on the wind. It was strong. Stronger than it should have been.

If it was only a sense of tension to begin with, the feeling of the moment sprung to greater life in becoming urgency. Desperation and fear lingered around the edges, but Miahala restrained herself from feeling it... too much, at least.

They moved more quickly now.

Directing Winterbourne with his knees and with one hand on the reins, the Freak scanned the terrain with his stark scrutiny and later tried to ignore the rising trepidation hidden beyond the other end of the bond. The smoke betrayed events unfolding quite differently than initially suspected or perhaps merely denied in actuality.

Lucan hated the saddle, but he suffered it since he suspected the ride would be short. He rejoined Darrik on the other side of the Gateway, both riding abreast and equal in their knowledge what might await. Lucan betrayed nothing but a Healers professional detachment, while his Warder was the raised blood-letting knife.

As they crested around the final corner and broke free of the tree line, the scene of the farm was plain and gruesome. It brought them all to a swift halt. For one very brief instant, no coherent thought would piece together in Miahala's mind as she tried to comprehend what was before her.

Infant fires were climbing their way out of the house and the shed, newly throwing their sickly black smoke to the air. The red and orange glow that could be seen added a hellish glow to the early morning light that otherwise filled the air. Corpses littered the ground, although some were in such a state that it could not be told whether they were human or animal, and there was neither rhyme nor reason to where they lay - stretched in ragged lines between house, stable and both in and out of the pasture.

On the far side, Shadowspawn infested the shadows of the buildings and further trees. It was clear what many of them were, but some were bent over things upon the ground so they were only dark outlines. All the horses began dancing with the sense of danger before them. Instinct was the plainest tell of all.

Miahala had seen many things in her life... but nothing would ever compare.

"Light," she heard a woman breathe behind her. Dimly she registered the voice of her daughter. "Tianna..." This was from Ryne. If anything else was said, she did not know what and could not think on it. Her vision had suddenly narrowed to a woman on the far side of things and yet at the very forefront. She was the only thing still moving there that noticed the arrival of those from the Grey Tower.

Even at a distance, her agelessness was plain. As was the smile she gave as she rose from what she'd been kneeling over. There was a dagger in her hand, just to be made out, and blood on her pale colored gown. A look was passed of such... pleasure in the slaughter, and such hatred for the one her eyes fell on...

It could only be Lonisa Jenkai.

Yet Lucan - even more so than the Master of Soldiers and Lysira - could identify the woman easily. Evil knows evil, came an errant thought to the Fiery Serpent as he saw the Aes Sedai, even though he did not truly consider himself in the Shadow's ranks. Oh, he remembered her as a skillful actor from the village cursed with the ter'angreal statue, and how she had portrayed reason in the chaos. Lucan knew her name, knew her from before, and the Light-blinded even knew he should. "It's her," he confirmed loudly enough for the gathering on the crest to hear - trailing his words to portray some manner of impact from the sight ahead, "she is the woman named."

The time had come to protect his own interests.

Jerid's reaction was mostly internal. And very harsh. As his eyes settled upon the devastation, a cold anger swept through the Indigo, an emotion unlike any even the Seanchan ever had known. It was the emotion of a father who had known loss, of one who could understand whatever Miahala might have suffered.

Bodies lay strewn across the fields, the buildings ablaze and Shadowspawn in the shadows as if looking for other living things they could butcher and add to their cooking pots. If Jerid's heart could have hardened any more, it would be like the stone of the Mountains of Mist.

His eyes followed all others to the horizon and he gripped his dagger hilt tightly. He knew that face very well. He could not forget the events surrounding his seeing it. His soul howled to bring down lightning and fire from the sky and raze the spot she stood upon, to wipe her and that grin from the Pattern.

But the demon that resided within the Master of Soldiers silenced such desires, knowing her life was not his to end. It belonged to Miahala and Caden. Whatever else was his for the taking.

A Shadowsworn had assaulted a child of the Tower, a child of a good friend, and in the Indigo's mind it was an assault on his own kin. It was grounds for retribution, and few here could reap such fields as the demon of Ebou Dar.

Caden Ives bared his teeth at the sight, his frost-coated heart aching on behalf of Miahala and her family. The sight would linger with them, but also in his own dreams. This was the personification of the Freak's calling - the exact need for him to stay true to his course in life. The carnage that justified his own right for murder - why he had chosen to become a weapon in the flesh.

It was time; right then or never in this life. "The element of surprise is ours, we must act immediately."

Miahala heard the words and knew their truth. Suddenly deadened inside - as this was the only way she could survive this - she held up her hand. It was a simple signal to agree and to move forward. It took only a moment, but the Aes Sedai on the other side mimicked it. Only a breath passed and something strange began to happen inside Miahala's mind and just like that, she was over-taken.

The Green's body wavered and fell to the ground, feet having been pulled from stirrups in preparation to dismount, and she collapsed in a small heap.

Cor Sorei sensed the danger and the sudden drop of his rider. He spun and dropped his head, dancing around her as though he would use his own body to shield her from any danger.

It had happened too quickly for Caden to react - the point of time passing when the bond fell silent before he could voice a warning - anything. The Reaper could not say how he had left Winterbourne's saddle, only that he was covering the distance that Sorei had created between his mistress and the other animals.

The warhorse had dictated a perimeter of certain death to anyone who drew near, yet Caden did not care. His mind was empty in the silence of the bond - thoughts roaring through it like the fire of his nightmares.

"Be still," he shouted numbly, eyes locked upon the fallen woman that was the only sane point in his life. He did not look at Sorei, merely stumbled forward with his open hand held out to the mount. Somehow, vaguely, he realised that his other hand held the hilt of his sabre, and he kept it away for the horse to realise he meant Miahala no harm in his approach. "Still, I say!" Since he was not looking, he took it that Sorei had heeded him finally and let him pass within the protective circle by the point he actually reached her.

"Mia," he heard someone say - a grating whisper as he took her into his armoured arms - mismatched eyes raking her slack features. "Mia!" His calls were enough to alert the shadowspawn below - even if the Black Ajah witch was pointing straight at them - her smile lingering like a foul aftertaste of obscene victory.

From behind, silence was the hardest.

A small strangled noise came from Sadira as she saw her mother fall and the panic rose amongst the woman's children. Each one all began to move forward, but the crowding of horse and man - the emotion emanating from Caden as he hunched over his wife - and the sense of Shadowspawn all around them halted each. Precariously, they balanced on razor edge to do something for their mother... and yet do something for them all.

The fight was nearly upon them, and yet... Miahala.

"Mother," Ryne whispered.

Alarm flashed in Jerid's mind as he saw Miahala fall from her steed, and for an instant he didn't blink or dare move for concern that others would soon fall prey. The second passed and all too soon his concern focused on the Captain-General.

Surely no weave that the Dreadlord possessed could be so powerful nor reach such a distance. But then Jerid had all gave into the fact that the Black Ajah was capable of anything. Yet his concern for Mia went far beyond the practical concern. It was a rare emotional failing of Jerid, albeit internal, and worry railed against the Void.

Jerid threw himself off Aisalyn in a heartbeat, taking one step toward the Green before he saw Caden already moving. He paused, knowing that with mindset the Warder must have possessed at the moment and aware of the man's bearing, it would be better to stay back.

Besides, there was the underlying worry that she was far beyond his ability to do anything to help.

There was not one in this group not connected to the others by some emotional binding, in one way or another. In the case of two, at least, it was... not a pleasant one, but for the Viathenes and their daughter, it was an affectionate one - one of gratitude, from parents to parents. Each watched the Green fall and were possessed to do as they others, but bound not as closely, they were able to step back instead of forward.

Defenses had to be seen to, no matter how much they might hurt to know what in the Light had just happened.

Lucan had a mind to curse at Lonisa's ploy - to incapacitate both the Captain General and the Master of Arms in one clever stroke. And as he saw the shadowspawn gaining the hill, he decided he could not let it work. He needed the Freak at his best so that he did not have to compromise himself. Furthermore, he wished to know if he could count on Miahala Ives to aid in the fight or not.

"Gaidin," he snapped and turned his pale eyes to Darrik, "let nothing come near me or the Reaper as I see to his wife." He did not linger to make sure Darrik had heard him over the roaring fires, he merely sprinted towards the couple in the grass - his torn coat billowing behind him. He did not come far... since the bloody animal of the Aes Sedai's got in his way. He skidded to an abrupt halt as the animal reared in front of him. Lucan did not like horses, yet fully respected one angered.

Though he did not show his trepidation - merely scowled darkly against the animal's towering bulk.

Barely a shadow slipping from his own horse, practically on Lucan's heels, Darrik was every bit the Warder he'd been trained to be. Although the threat here was one that his heart, since he did still have one despite the change in his life's course, went out to, he was still a Warder. He was also, fortunately for Lucan, a farm boy... ultimately... raised in the rural places of Andor. His skill with calming of beasts had proven more apt than his skill with most humans.

Darrik stepped quickly around his bondmate. Sorei was a trained warhorse and this was no simple matter. The front hooves flexed out in a demonstration of just how well the Captain General had trained him - which was a problem to her saving in this instance - but nothing to be done. As the rein dropped down, Darrik's hand was about it. He didn't try to pull Sorei down, that would be foolish - the beast was far larger than he - but he spoke swiftly, steadily. Soothing.

The whites of Sorei's eyes still flashed, but a soothing presence was enough to tame him... for the moment, at least... and bring him away from the arena of treatment...

Lucan's focused scowl lingered even after the path was cleared, and he turned his head only to see Thea Sedai being forced to weave whatever manner of defence she could against the approaching horde of base minions. The Gaidin named Ryne was there too. Lucan would not get a second opinion on his diagnosis. It did not matter. He reached the Reaper and his wife, sliding the last yards across the grass - only to find a large calloused hand around his neck. His forward momentum was brought to a jarring halt.

"If you can't do anything," Lucan heard a rasping voice pronounce, "then so it shall remain."

The Fiery Serpent opened his pallid eyes to meet those of the maddened Freak's. It was like the Three Arches all over again - feeling those fingers around his throat. "Know your place Warder," he hissed through his contracted larynx, "since I know mine! I'm your woman's only hope, so treat me accordingly!"

Jerid's eyes glittered sharply as he saw Caden's hand wrap around the Yellow's throat and for once the Indigo chose to speak his mind. Much against his personal emotions, the cold logic overruled anything and everything.

"Caden!" he said sharply. "Do as Lucan Asha'man says. Know your place and do what is best for your Aes Sedai." His eyes were hard and cold, a reminder that he knew more than all those present what a bond meant. But neither words nor gaze were meant for the Gaidin alone. "And know your place, Brother. Do what you can but do not question that man's authority. If I were in his place, your life would be forfeit as your throat would be opened instead of crushed."

As soon as the bloody Gadin let go, Lucan coughed into the bend of his arm and laid his free hand against the Captain General's forehead. Saidin roared to life in the abyss inside, all the while the onset of the battle raged. He wanted to use all five Powers against the impertinent Walker, but knew that ignoring the man would serve him better. Vaguely, Lucan could feel Darrik being right there - his own meat shield of defiance. How ironic they had to defend against those considered their own lot. Yet Lucan could not afford any thought about the queer situation, only clawing the storm of Power into his submission and usage.

"Unconscious," he announced, his other tattooed hand joining the first around Miahala's skull. He closed his eyes briefly as he sent a jolt of Healing through the woman. No effect, merely a heavy spasm. Again. Nothing. "She... she is trapped in her state. She cannot be awakened. Not now... Something is keeping her there, yet she is unscathed."

"Are you certain, Healer?" Caden Ives' glare might have made any murderer confess his crimes.

"Yes! Listen to me!" Lucan surged to his feet, wanting to kick the man in his ugly mug. "You are needed elsewhere! Look below! Where be our leader, when we need one the most? I know naught of tactics, so guide me! Guide us! Your woman will live!"

A shiver passed through Caden as he turned his head away - seeing how the Healer was right. Dire seconds passed while he once more ascertained his own grasp of reality. "Asha'man," he grated as he lifted Miahala up. He passed her body into the bare chest and instinctual hold of the Channeler's arms. "Hide her. Raise Wards, anything to shield her from sight and harm. Then come back, for I need everyone at hand."

Raking his fingers through Mia's hair one final time... Caden spun away before the remaining battlements of his soul crumbled away. He picked up his sabre and stalked down the slope like he threaded through the Training Yards. "Viathenes!" he roared to the couple below, "Towards the house and the sheds! Claim the walls as your rear cover! Ryne Gaidin, protect Thea Sedai while she treats the wounded! Scerai Gaidin, make the pasture your own - and let Sadira Sedai gain free sight across the farm! Knifeman! She cannot sense your channeling, so bring the heavens down upon her! Make it towards the stables while Mouse Gaidar keeps the jaws from closing around you!"

The word was given.

Adrenaline began to surge even harder than it had been to begin with and suddenly it was the burst of action to follow the orders of one man no one should deny, lest they want to live to see the moment there after... yet even without that, each would have moved onward. They knew their places and they had known before this moment the grave importance of it all, this was just a very heavy underlining to the matter.

Saidar had, until that moment, been a low level glow to the Channelers of the group - heightened with the harried defenses - but now it rose like a beacon to the sky.

Shadowspawn were nearly upon them, but like a flurry of knives being thrown in great succession, the Tower forces moved forward. The horses were all dismounted and retreated to the trees, but instinctively remaining as a herd and not far from their masters. Those among them known to battle would not be victims, and this allowed the human allies to make their way into the battle. All tried, all tested, all true. This was not a gathering that would be denied.

Perhaps the youngest and by far the smallest of the group, Lysira was not to be underestimated. She had faced death in a gauntlet of faces and had emerged. Her slight yet strong frame rose to its height as her feet took to the ground like the roots of a tree to give her leverage with her bow. Arrows sprouted from the eye slots and ill-fitted joints between pieces of foul plate armor.

Lysira sensed Jerid near her and knew that her task was simple (and equally complex). Wrapped in the Void, she would not allow herself to think of her parents and friends... of Miahala Sedai... of the vengeance she wished for. Her task was to protect Jerid while he rained hell upon the Black Ajah witch.

It was her best way to help in all these things.

Saidin flooded Jerid like an avenging demon howling to be unleashed. He drew in enough to rival even the Tower's most powerful channelers, augmented by the jade angreal he wore. He held with iron will even as a dozen deadly battleweaves flashed into his mind. They were enough to wreak damage upon fields and the ranks twice over.

Aside from Miahala, the Indigo was likely the most battle-hardened channeler in the party; he would have to do her proud in this matter. And thus he needed to be one of the most careful. Turning on his heels, the Asha'man's eyes turned towards the stable. He didn't need to look at Lysira to know what lay before her.

A long knife appeared in either hand, the weapons ready to be used in case any foul creature attempted to make it past Lysira. Yet he had a feeling that he would not need it. His eyes set on the stables, and what Shadowsworn and Shadowspawn lurked there. A calm emptiness entered his mind as the Void took over, followed by a simple feeling.

With a weaving of Air and Fire, Jerid snapped the flows together with savage efficiency. Lightning fell to the earth like a massive javelin, striking as true as one of Lysira's arrows. Shrill cries could be heard even as debris was sent outward and the first of the fires began. A second and third followed a heartbeat later, striking true. The flows soon split and weaves came crashing down upon Lonsia like the fury of the Creator himself had been provoked.

He moved slowly at first before picking up pace, allowing his Warder merely enough space ahead to guard him. All too soon the lightning stopped, followed by something that the Indigo knew better. The Seanchan had whispered to their children of the demon who had brought fire from the sky.

The first of the fire blasts appeared ahead of Lysira and he, flashing down and toward the remains of the stables. Already the Trollocs that had resided there surged from the shell of the now burning stables.

And he then his mind was on the rushing advance of Shadowsworn, aware that Lysira was already meeting them. With whatever remained of the stable, nothing inside could have survived the assault within unless wards protected them. That did not stop a last barrage of fire and lightning from crashing down upon the ranks of Shadowspwan just beyond Lysira, and down upon the Dreadlord as well.

And the Master of Soldiers continued to advance.

Sadira - for all that she resembled the one and acted like the other - was neither her mother nor her father when it came to the One Power. She was a Channeler, yes, but she by far did not have their strength in it. Thus she'd had to compensate for it with other skills - inheriting the sword work from Darien.

Not quite back to back, but as close as one could come, Sadira and Scerai moved towards the pasture in a blur of swinging steel. Trollocs were now flooding their way around them all and there was no time to spare a thought for anyone or anything else but the success of this moment. Life was a series of moments and only the failure or success of each instant mattered to anything. You could not waste too much time on what had come before or what could come ahead, outside the moment on either side.

Saidar made its presence known inside the Blue. While she could not wield it with the force of many others, she did not forsake it. As shadowspawn fell to the blade, others inhaled the flame of collective ire - literally and figuratively. Not being a Green, it had not the effectiveness of electrocution... but it came close.

If Sadie could not do anything else for her mother, she could do what she was able to in winning the day.

Benar was the shield that slammed away any foe that would descend upon his Aes Sedai. His wife. Hiding at the edges of the Void was the awareness of what Caden must have at his own edges... what he would be like, were it to happen to him. He was not thinking on it, no. It was simply an awareness; an understanding. If anything, it simply fueled the energy and silent, stony rage with which he moved ahead.

Before them, Trollocs were falling into pieces on the ground. Benar's blade shorn them from the face of existence as surely as one's hair is cut by scissors. Behind and just to one side, Sel was sending Air ahead of her. What she lacked in power, she made up for in dexterity and was able to pull a shearing wire through the important parts of a Trolloc body till they tumbled to pieces.

The muted rage was universal for the Tower forces.

Pulling his sword out of Ribbon in the Air, the disemboweled Trolloc fell at his feet. The heat could be felt even as high up as his hands. Benar's head lifted in time to see a shadow splitting from the enemy forces near the open space the Master of Arms thundered through. If he felt anything through the Void, it would've been a cold breeze in but a split second, but he didn't. That was for later.

"Caden! Beside you!" Benar shouted across the expanse between the Warders as he caught a Trolloc from his peripheral vision and spun to meet a falling axe.

The Freak was still walking across the burning battlefield with his heron-marked sabre by his side. Courage is fear when it has said its prayers. When the Fade came for him, he blurred into movement - knees bending before the collision. Five consecutive strikes of raking steel edges, and the exchange ended with a headless black body thrashing on the ground - trapped in its own cloak. A collective cry of dismantled trollocs pierced the air.

"Jenkai!" called Caden through the mayhem - both sides of his face distorted. "Your foul soul is mine!"

The delay had been fortuitous and expected, but the Light-blinded had recovered quicker than Lonisa had expected them to.

Raging across the field came the scarred one. She did not have the time to look at him too greatly as the sky was falling down upon her head. The weaves were not clear to her eye, so it must have been coming from one of the blasted male Channelers. She was no Red, but she hated them all the same. The Asha'man had taken from her the one thing her life had ever wanted, before revenge, so what use had she for them now?

Lonisa cut blindly at the weaves as she physically moved out of their way as best she could. The Trollocs - panicking such as they were - provided useful shields for her. They were taller and broader, taking the brunt of the flames and the lightning. It grew hotter now and with each moment wasted to evade these things, the freak grew nearer.

To fall so far, Miahala, the dark voice of vengeance turned madness whispered. You once had the one worth having, stole him just to possess him, and once I took him back, this was what you fell to?

She narrowly avoided death yet one more time, sacrificing what near her she could... but he was almost upon her... Lonisa at least had one consolation in this mayhem:

Miahala Sha'hal would be trapped in Dreams forever. No being on this world could break her free now.

Yet in Caden's ruptured heart lived the hope of Light's salvation - at least that the Light was somehow, from somewhere, directing his path through the battlefield. He was cutting straight across the farm, the Void the only thing keeping his intent cold and calculating. A feeble grasp, which was harder than he remembered to ever maintain. His bloodied blade swung with his stride, yet his eyes were firmly latched on to the Dreadlord woman.

From behind the house and sheds came obstacles - manifested in the form of a dozen shadowspawn.

There was no time between detection and collision.

The Freak crouched down, making the first one tumble across him. As he then surged to his feet, he slashed the throat of the second. The third and fourth fell to Lizard in the Thornbush. The fifth was run through - steel shrieking itself past the black chain-mail upon the chest. Pivoting, he freed his weapon straight into the extended spear of the sixth - followed with a high kick above the lowered shaft. When the sixth's head rebounded against the ground, Caden had already torn the long weapon free and secured the butt-cap against the ground. The seventh trolloc skewered itself upon the long shaft before the black wood broke in two. Roaring, the Freak struck the fist-guard of his sabre into the fangs of the dying shadowspawn - stopping its forward momentum.

The remaining five had already rushed past him - coming down upon Benar and Selenirra.

Yet Caden could not afford to turn around and aid the Viathenes. In his soulless mind, his target was set. His dreadful eyes, along with his pace, returned to Lonisa Jenkai.

With an angry shriek, another death at the hand of the Grey Tower was narrowly avoided. Lonisa knew she wouldn't have too many more moments of such luck, but she would stretch them for all they were worth. Trollocs, wonderfully multiplicative, continued to seemingly just appear in time to lend her more fodder for the fire and lightning. In turn, she was at least able to launch a little more of her own offensive.

Lonisa held her hand out and fire flew. She ignored the appearance of blood and burnt skin on the back of her hand... when had that happened? ...and instead focused all her energy on trying to kill the advancing opponent.

Knowing she could only depend on the rest of her forces to take the channeler, she focused on he who focused on her. Perhaps it was a part of her inner goal as well, less realized than the rest, but this freak obviously meant something to Miahala. (The Dark Lord only knew for what reason.) If she could kill him, then all the better... and yet he seemed to have the same idea as she.

The brute managed to use one of the Trolloc casualties as a sort of shield... and thus ruin the window of the moment, for the Black Ajah Channeler was forced to duck another assault...

Blood burned its way down Scerai's cheek from a claw-like gash that had grazed his face. It was not slowing him down. He and Sadie had cut their path to the pasture. He had felt her steel determination and knew its source was complex. It was the same as them all, and yet for the Blue, she was stalwartly avoiding looking at any of the bodies. He knew her well enough to recognize it. If she looked, her resolve would crack upon seeing the broken bodies of her family.

Scerai knew that this was not something that he could protect her from.

"Benar!" Sel cried out when she felt his injury, though it was only a moment before the impact and evasive attempt sent him flying back a step. He collided with his Aes Sedai and the ground, slick with blood, sent them both down. The Gaidin made sure he covered Sel, holding the sword in one hand and raising it to ward off a blow that he saw incoming...

...and yet it was not needed, for he was not alone.

The animal face of the Trolloc gave a squawk of indignant pain. Falling to the side, there was a wet tearing noise as the body fell off Ryne Gaidin's blade. The elder warder remained watchful but he helped his Brother regain his footing on the wash of gore while Thea Sedai was helping Selenirra up. Benar could sense, radiating around the edges of the bond and the Void, there was an injury to his Aes Sedai but not a fatal one.

Benar and Ryne formed the wall while the Yellow tended to Selenirra's injured arm so that they could rejoin the battle, as the numbers were dwindling. It may have been an uneven scale, with a kidney shot in the first moments, but the power the Tower had brought to bear on this field, and the great wealth of rage, created cornered animals who had the training, the strength and the will to make the numbers count for nothing.

Near the fence, Lysira was proving her father proud.

By now, even the stupidest of the animalistic horde knew what a threat her bond mate was. The tempest of Saidin within him was so strong that even the diminutive Gaidar fed off the edges of the power as the beasts came for them. She had moved from bow to dagger, since the quarters had swiftly been closed, but the Trollocs were hulking things. Built for destruction, but blunt weapons. Lysira's small frame made her a dancer with these creatures of shadow and rage.

She ducked inside clumsy guards, pushing her daggers true to the kill spots - reverse grip stabs to the throat, and forward grip thrusts between chest armor - slipping through thick ribs. Not unscathed, but no wound was enough to stop her... and she had no intention to give them the chance to land one that would.

The entire scene was reminiscent of the battle for Hama Valon, only here the battlefield was more open and the enemy easier to spot. But it was no less dangerous.

Yet Jerid was much more capable than he had been those years ago. And less willing to restrain himself and trusting the Oaths to do that for him, the Indigo had also become more fearsome in his capacity. So when the Trollocs surged forth to neutralize the evident threat, they were met by a sudden barrage of lightning.

Four bolts fell from the heavens at once, raking the ground and crashing into the Trollocs like rag dolls. Soil and dead Trollocs flew every which way in front of Lysira, and that drew even more attention. But such an assault paled in comparison to the one that rained upon the Jenkai woman's position. Where lightning rained down upon Trollocs, both that and floods of fire assaulted whatever defenses she held.

The first of the Trollocs escaped Lysira's defense and rushed toward the Indigo like the barbaric creations they were. A goat-headed Trolloc swung its scythe sword at its prey and Jerid spun to the side, letting the force of the creature's swing carry it forward and stumbling to its knees. A knife sank into the flesh in the small gap between the creature's helmet and mail. The Trolloc fell to earth without a sound, the knife still embedded.

The next Trolloc fell to the ground in a ball of flames as Jerid drew closer to his ultimate prey. He had been vaguely aware of Caden's own advance toward the Dreadlord's position, but his main objective was to render the woman defenseless so one of the Tower's soldiers could end her life.

Only that endeavor was thwarted as soon as Lysira passed the shadow of some old structure. Something formed, took shape and Jerid was all too keen on what it was. And it was nearly a second too late before Jerid could react as the thing moved toward him. The Fade's black blade was a hair from shearing the Indigo in twain.

Thick nets of Air wrapped around the thing, stopping it before the deadly blade could touch the channeler. Jerid stared at the thing like a curiosity, cocooned in both the Void and Saidin, that the Fade's eyeless stare was ineffective.

"Goodbye, Fetch." The words were hollow, as if spoken by a ghost. Thin red filaments formed and suddenly wrapped around the creature and with a snap of the Indigo's mind, tightened. They cut through the Shadowspawn's armor and flesh like butter, reducing it to pieces and spilling what could be called innards onto the earth.

Jerid walked past without a second thought. Not one emotion touched him, not even outside the Void. The world could break asunder and the only thing that would concern the Asha'man was the protection of his own and bringing his prey to the ground. And all the while he was oblivious as what Trollocs remained from the Tower force's assault started to howl in pain.

Breaking the neck of a wildcat trolloc that was caught in the fold of his arm, Caden shielded his mismatched eyes with the other.

From his point of view, he could not judge which Channeler it was that ruptured the battlefield with fire and lighting - not beyond the tactical placement of the havoc. Right then, as the cries of shadowspawn in multitude screamed to the skies, the Freak could not see much of anything, but he knew the terrain already. The Oneness was his guide, as he entered the thick density of gravel and smoke - vanishing from the path that led to the fence and Lonisa Jenkai.

Yet as the Reaper vanished in the mayhem, the Serpent slithered its way into the fray.

The stables - now empty - were torn apart in a cloud of smoke and fireflies. The debris momentarily blinded those present, but through the fires walked Lucan din Nicander Riven Sail - tentacles of Air smothering the flames before him - having retreated from the tearing of walls and roof. Darrik was behind him, a wall of steel against trolloc flesh. Lucan's hair cascading about his face, he mastered the ground with a gait set straight for Lonisa. The Healer drew ahead of all Light-blinded, until his face was only seen by the Dreadlord woman. Then...

...He smiled to her, as she recognised him. She knew the Fiery Serpent by face and name, yet now it was too late.

Chaos was building into a blinding crescendo all around them... and yet the strangest moments could still take place.

The fires had scorched her, as even Lonisa was not skilled enough to avoid them all. The fact that she was alive at all was a testament to her cunning... yet it wasn't perfect. She was injured and wearing thin, exhausted. Enough that a single moment could catch her and time could halt for that instant. Her gaze caught the dark-haired Asha'man. She knew his name. His smile, seen in that frozen instant, was enough to know that knowledge was now sealing her death warrant.

I knew you. It was small consolation for the instant, waiting to see what face death would be wearing... but she had gained her greater victory. She did not smile, but did not give him fear.

Lucan sent his tentacles ahead, meaning to tear down her invisible barriers by brutal force alone - to grant everyone passage to her tender female flesh. You erred the minute you confessed your knowledge of my real name. You showed your hand prematurely.

From everywhere else the rest of the fights had been peeled off like petals off a flower. Crimson.

Suddenly, the fight converged from the vast distance of justice. Of vengeance. Steel and flame descended into the only remaining focal point. Between cascading weaves of Saidin and Saidar alike, no one could really say whose flames it was that snuck up from the ground to seal Lonisa to place.

And it didn't really matter.

Seeing how the flames began to eat at her dress, Caden emerged from somewhere, nowhere, and covered the distance like the reaper grim. His fancloak whirling as the strike began, the Freak locked eyes with the woman through the passing holes of the melted garment. Whatever she saw, Caden would never know, but he saw her sheer terror in the last fractions of her final moment.

The strike completed, he skewered the delicate neck. A strangled sound. Caden whipped his blade aside, thus making the head loll down behind her back before the legs gave in. The Freak watched, his blade dripping blood while held wide out to the side, as the flames consumed her fully.

There was no thought. Only execution. Caden lowered his blade - with no soul to contemplate the act.

As the group stood in silent contemplation of the event once it had ended - even for the small moment it was - an apparition appeared on the other side of the field. A silent spectre drifting out of the smoke and haze that was the arena of a battle laid to rest. No one could notice her at first. Flames crackled too loudly to hear her silent steps. The stench of death was over-whelming to every sense. A living ghost, rendered such by grief.

One would sense her coming, however. Sense her awareness in the wake of the fight's conclusion. This was the one she had been led back to, by the one who'd come before.