While she maintained apt attention to the book, Sorsha couldn't help but remain continuously vigilant. An impoverished childhood, leading to petty thefts for mere survival, her instincts were always on high alert. While the island of Tar Valon was now home, dangers always seemed to lurk for the unwary. A flicker of yellow caught Sorsha's peripheral vision, quickly drawing the eye.
Sorsha stood quickly and dropped into a now well-practiced curtsy at the arrival of an Aes Sedai of the Yellow Ajah; immediately recognizing the ageless features as those of Caelophlyn t'Aleal Sedai. While Sorsha's first impression of Caelophlyn hadn't been the most flattering, a silent streak of guilt always accompanied her arrival after several itching powder pranks had...somehow...befallen this particular Aes Sedai in Sorsha's earlier years as a Novice.
Sorsha had since come to admire Caelophlyn's tenacity and high expectations. For a Yellow Sedai, every action is to improve upon life, for everyone plays their part, and everyone is of import.
Caelophlyn acknowledged the honorific gesture with a nod, but remained as stone faced as any Warder. Sorsha's silent guilt raged internally as a slight blush touched her features. She had long worried that the Aes Sedai knew, though she never came to admission.
"Accepted, I'm in need of some errands to be completed...if you would accompany me? Even someone like... you... may learn something from this...experience?"
Avoiding eye contact, Sorsha quietly nods while straightening. She falls in one step behind the cold-eyed Aes Sedai, noticing a vibrant aura ignite around Caelophlyn. Intricate yet rope-thick elemental weaves intertwine in ways that Sorsha had never seen before, yet seemed to somehow resemble her recent training in the traveling weave. The air rippled in front of them as a wire-thin line of light expanded horizontally, rotating and expanding vertically. Staring at the complicated mess of elements interwoven as discreetly as possible while keeping stride with the Aes Sedai, Sorsha knew such weaves were not be be taught to Accepted. Still, such new weaves were an obsession to her. The treasure of knowledge and potential to learn was what drove her to the White Tower afterall. It simply was in her nature.
The pair strode through the gateway into the bustling city of Cairhien. The stark contrast in cityscape design and the milling populace's fashion choices were jarring to the eye; as if staring at a beautifully sculpted statue for days, only to suddenly switch to a dark canvas of guarded figures.
Not waiting or wasting a moment, the Aes Sedai led the way through the hustle and bustle of the quiet inner city. Her striking and fine yellow fabric glared even more brightly in contrast to the dark dresses and coats, only relieved by the small slashes of color signifying houses and allegiances. This brought more than a few stares.
Time being relative, seemed to stretch on for hours as they continued their way through the city. The spacious streets of Tar Valon had spoiled Sorsha's perception of personal space and the throng pressed in on her frequently, but always seeming to give just enough space for the noble figure in the lead. The stop came abruptly as Sorsha was lost in thought, almost colliding with Caelophlyn, but the Aes Sedai turned towards a small manor that appeared well kept.
Without knocking, the door was opened and the Aes Sedai never hesitated in striding through.
The manor was well kept and but was in need of dusting. Fine tapestries and rugs ran throughout the smaller home, giving an impression of luxurious comfort and the attempts to live above one's means. The home would have given the feeling of formal welcoming had it not been for the smell. The air laid heavily with the scent of sickness. A living rot permeated throughout the house, and only increased in putrid essence the deeper they traveled into the home.
Entering the bedroom was like walking into an invisible wall of decay; several unknown fluids specked parts of the polished hardwood floors. A nobleman lay on the nearby bed drenched in sweat with a pallid complexion. The maids and hired help had abandoned the home in fear that whatever destroyed the health of this young man could potentially be catching.
A brief exchange between Caelophlyn and the nobleman gave the story of his travels from Mayene and his encounters with insects while passing through the swamps. Caelophlyn eyed Sorsha, whether to ensure she was paying attention or to see her reaction to the gut-retching situation, Sorsha was unsure. She stared at the sickness, knowing full well that the Yellow Ajah would never be her calling, but the chance to learn and solve this riddle kept her attention as strongly as any blacksmith's puzzle would.
Sorsha began reciting the symptoms to Caelophlyn, making sure nothing was overlooked. Caelophlyn nodded, seemingly satisfied with whatever she was looking for, then began giving the task to Sorsha. Mid-sentence the nobleman rolled to his side and vomited blood across the floor. Stepping back in unison, the women knew that time was of extreme importance. The Yellow stepped around the pool of spreading bile and blood and placed a hand upon the forehead of the nobleman, healing to the best of her abilities to keep him in this world.
"Accepted...in order to understand what inflicted him with these ailments, I must study a sample of the insects that inflicted him. If they're a common issue in that part of the world, perhaps the locals have some herbal remedies that may also help with his symptoms. I'm not sure he can physically handle a complete healing from the True Source."
Taking a moment to notate the requirements was a mistake on Sorsha's part.
"I SAID GO!" screamed the Aes Sedai. The first break in composure the Accepted had ever seen from this woman.
Sorsha quickly embraced the Source, hastily running through her mental exercises for her recent training in the traveling weave. She felt the pattern for a familiar object. A forge... every city had at least one...would be a good compass for her destination. She had never traveled far, but Sorsha was now determined to rush the process. The elemental weaves flowed from her naturally, and snapped into place. Her world was turned white as the weaves inverted and converged around her, sending her across the world; skimming across the pattern itself... but something twisted. Something was suddenly wrong. The light turned to darkness.
Sorsha winked back into existence, every fiber of her being seemed to ache. Embraced in Saidar as she was, every fine detail of her environment came crashing in with extreme clarity all at once. Flashes of lightning struck the ground outside, near deafening. The bone-chilling cold crept through the air from a nearby window, cutting through the fine layers of cloth, leaving her skin tight. A sharp contrasting heat radiated from a forge at the edge of the room, confusing her body's natural reactions to hot and cold. The acrid smell of sulfur burned the back of her throat. The dim glow within the spacious room lit a horrific scene; strewn and broken human corpses were heaped in the corner and a sole woman laying limply in the middle of the floor, staring with a glossed and lifeless expression, though her chest rose and fell evenly. She was in shock, but had enough of her senses about her to react to Sorsha's arrival. New rivulets of tears appeared under the woman's eyes, softly begging for help. She crawled towards Sorsha on shaking and weak arms, her legs not seeming to want to cooperate.Lord of Chaos, Chapter 1 - Robert Jordan wrote: Demandred stepped onto the black slopes of Shayol Ghul, and the gate-way, a hole in reality's fabric, winked out of existence. [...]
In what was now called the Age of Legends, this had been an idyllic island in a cool sea, a favorite of those who enjoyed the rustic. Despite the steam it was bitter cold, now; he did not allow himself to feel it, but instinct made him pull his fur-lined velvet cloak closer. Feathery mist marked his breath, barely visible before the air drank it. A few hundred leagues north the world was pure ice, but Thakan'dar was always dry as any desert, though always wrapped in winter.
There was water, of a sort, an inky rivulet oozing down the rocky slope beside a gray-roofed forge. Hammers rang inside, and with every ring, white light flared in the cramped windows. A ragged woman crouched in a hopeless heap against the forge's rough stone wall, clutching a babe in her arms, and a spindly girl buried her face in the woman's skirts. Prisoners from a raid down into the Borderlands, no doubt. But so few; the Myrddraal must be gnashing their teeth. Their blades failed after a time and had to be replaced, no matter that raids into the Borderlands had been curtailed.
One of the Forgers emerged, a thick slow-moving man shape that seemed hacked out of the mountain. The forgers were not truly alive; carried any distance from Shayol Ghul, they turned to stone, or dust. Nor were they smiths as such; they made nothing but the swords. This one's two hands held a sword blade in long tongs, a blade already quenched, pale like moonlit snow. Alive or not, the forger took care as it dipped the gleaming metal into the dark stream. Whatever semblance of life it had could be ended by the touch of that water. When the metal came out again, it was dead black.
But the making was not done yet. The forger shuffled back inside, and suddenly a man's voice raised in a desperate shout.
"No? No! NO!" He shrieked then, the sound dwindling away without losing intensity, as though the screamer had been yanked into unimaginably far distance. Now the blade was done.
Once more the forger appeared = perhaps the same, perhaps another - and hauled the woman to her feet. Woman, babe and child began to wail, but the infant was pulled away and shoved into the girl's arms. At last the woman found a scrap of resistance. Weeping, she kicked wildly, clawed at the forger. it paid no more mind than stone would have. The woman's cries vanished as soon as she was inside. The hammers began ringing again, drowning the sobs of the children.
One blade made, one making, and two to come. Demanded had never before seen fewer than fifty prisoners waiting to give their mite to the Great Lord of the Dark. The myrddraal must be gnashing their teeth, indeed.[...] Demanded turned to acknowledge the tall fade, losing his interest in the landscape.
Sorsha fled from the Source more than releasing it, just to escape her heightened senses. It was a corruption upon the bliss of Saidar, where even the sweet breath of life could not compare to the taint. The immediate silence was both welcomed and haunting as the lightning ceased with the release of Saidar; the only sound was the crackling fire of the forge and the weakened beggings of this unknown woman. As the ringing in her ears continued to dwindle, the soft sobs of children could be heard on the other side of the wall.
Approaching the woman, she quickly embraces once more, bracing herself for the attack on her senses, and laid a hand upon the woman's forearm. Thunder and Lightning once again erupted outside. Not sensing any grievous wounds within the woman, a trickle of elements was weaved to give her a brief refreshment. This had an obvious impact upon the woman, but whatever ailed the woman was now more of the mind more than of a weakened body... and Sorsha was simply not qualified to correct this. Again, releasing her embrace of the source quickly, Sorsha helped the woman to her feet, her eyes still glossed over with a bewildered and lifeless expression. Sorsha began to question her.
"Where the bloody Light is this?!"
"Why are you here?!"
Panic began to creep into Sorsha's voice. It was as if she had traveled to the underworld itself.
The woman just continued to stare blankly.
A full-armed slap across the unnamed woman's face at least garnered a reaction. So...not all could be lost for this woman if she could still muster some life.
The renewed cries of children outside held hints of blinding terror, which began to mirror the feelings Sorsha wrestled with internally. Turning towards the sound of the children, her heart broke at the thought of those younglings' fate in joining the pile of bodies. One step in the direction of those sounds, with near dragging the woman with her, the latch on the door groaned as it was opened. A hulking animated boulder slowly shuffled through the door. A dull gleaming black blade held in tongs before it. Its soulless black eyes, like a doll's eyes, took in the two woman and comprehension drifted across its rough-cut slab of a face. Its jaw opening at an impossible angle, a reverberating loud roar resounded through the room, the sound of an avalanche falling. Dropping the blade, it began a lurched pace towards them.
A fleeting reminiscence dawned within Sorsha in recognizing this creature from the book of Aginor's creations. A forger. Near indestructible and impossibly strong. Not intelligent and not fast.
Fear fought reason internally, where a silent compromise was struck within a second: Fight and Flight. Retreating further in to the room to get as much maneuverability as possible, Sorsha threw every weave should could recall from training. Blows of air, gouts of flame, and shards of ice pummled the Forger, but nothing slowed its steady lurch. Weaves of pure air, solidified into a wall, slammed into place between the juggernaut and its intended victims, buy seconds of time as one step was lost in the effort to push through. Lightning rained down outside as the weaves were thrown in desperation.
The Forger was upon them then, with their backs to the pile of broken bodies. The nameless woman had awoken, but the overpowering terror held her firmly. Grabbing her arm, they dodged the Forger's swings and attempts to grab. Tools became projectiles and obstacles, glowing coals from the forge spilled onto the floor, barrels of black blades spilled and bent under the crushing weight of the Forger's arms, flailing to catch the women as they carefully danced among the turmoil of the forger's ruinous trade. Having somehow evaded the onslaught, the pair were finally between the Forger and the door, panting from the effort. Fear now had a firm grip on Sorsha, and Flight had overpowered her will to Fight. She all but dragged the woman towards the door, careful to sidestep the gleaming blade and tongs at the exit.
Finally making their escape, the world shifted from one chaos to another. The continued lightning was blinding and deafening, earth was churned with the impacts of power, each strike landing closer and closer in rapid succession to the Accepted. Her primary sight was burned from the impacts, but she could still hear the frantic screams of children. Dragging the woman in their direction and tripped over the legs of a young girl holding a babe.
Knowing that she was nearing the end of her endurance, Sorsha wove by instinct. The complicated elements she witnessed from Caelophlyn began to form before her, though her knowledge was only of the one example. A small gateway began to form, but faltered and failed. The lightning continued to grow ever closer, and the door to the building exploded outwards into fragments and the lurching stone abomination shambled ever closer.
Again, the weaves formed, knotting and coiling into a complicated mix and then...locked into place. A gate slashed through the air, as the four humans tumbled through into a lush forest, rolling down a short slope at an unexpected drop.
In mid-drop, thick stone arm caught Sorsha by the hair, dangling her several feet above the green carpeted forest floor, jarring her neck with excruciating pain and a scream escaped her throat, which felt ready to tear as her own body weight tried to separate her head from her neck. The arm protruded from the gateway, and was dragging her back up towards her life's final destination.
The gateway again began to falter, her strength in The Source having suffered from forcing rather than embracing, and the lines began to waver. Snapping shut, the stone arm fell to dust before ever reaching the grassed matting.
Sorsha collapsed to the ground, panting and reeling. "THIS is what the Green Ajah did for a living?!? They must all be as insane as men!" she yelled to herself, her voice hoarse and painful in her throat.
She lay with her eyes closed... simply embracing the fact that she was alive. The children's cries were muffled, but coupled now with the woman's. A different sound this time, not of pure terror, but with traces of relief and sheer overwhelming emotions.
With Time again being relative, Sorsha forced herself up onto shaking legs with a dawning recognition that she appeared very much like the woman when she had first seen her. She moved after what only seemed like moments, though the sun had plainly moved within the thick canopy.Sorsha recognized this forest. This was near one of the Steddings, and an ideal location for this broken family to recover. A place of peace to help heal the mind.
*** Hours Later ***
Having located the boundary of the Stedding, it was a quick process to then find its residents. The mixed colony of Forresters and Ogier were quick to react to their plights, and tried hard to make Sorsha stay to rest...but as weary and bruised as she felt, she knew that the Cairhienan Nobleman was likely much worse off.
Determined, she still had much to grown and even more to learn. She was not the sort to fail, and never the sort to give up. Embracing the source once again, she began her weaves for the Tairen country...