blue_ajah: (Default)
The Wheel of Time turns, and ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again.

In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the mountains north of Arafel. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time.

But it was a beginning.


* * * * * * *

The wind blows steadily onward, sweeping down from the highest peaks and over the barren, stony surface of the lower mountainside. As it passes, a brightly-colored wisp of thread tumbles ahead of it, driven haphazardly over the ground by each uneven gust.

For all of its brightness, it is a ragged piece of thread, barely more than a loosely-gathered tangle of fibers; and yet, strangely, nothing seems to impede its passage. Once, as it fetches up against a boulder for a few seconds, the strands shimmer and seem to form into the near-translucent figure of a woman-- a shape lost to sight in the next instant as the wind gusts harder and tears the thread free.
blue_ajah: (dancing with fire)
She had carefully prepared herself before opening the door, knowing that she would have a mere instant at most in which to act. As Moiraine crossed through from Milliways into the Royal Palace of Caemlyn, she embraced saidar and channeled a second gateway into existence, so close beside the first that her single step carried her through both at once.

It had been a risk, certainly, and enough of one for her to have grown cold at the thought when she had first considered it, but in the end she had been right-- whatever strange powers the Milliways portals had of rendering themselves unseen by others had this time shielded the residue of her weave from detection as well. Thus protected, she had passed through unobserved, emerging beside a small, familiar thicket in the woods a few days' ride outside the city, well away from the Sunrise Gate. A sigh of relief escapes her at finding the hidden cache still undisturbed beneath the brush. Not long afterward, wrapped in a merchant woman's sensible brown dress and shapeless cloak, with her few belongings in a neat bundle slung at her hip, the disguised Aes Sedai walks briskly up the Erinin Road toward Aringill.

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Matters in Aringill are tense; anyone can see that. Then again, matters are much the same everywhere as Tarmon Gai'don approaches; it is not as though she had expected anything different. A few careful inquiries are enough to assure her that there is no immediate danger. Despite the years she has spent in Milliways since last returning to her world, days only have passed here, if even that. Moiraine had suspected that would be the case; she had noticed before the slowing of time itself as the Dark One's strength continues to grow. Even Lews Therin himself had remarked upon it, once.

"How can one hope to preserve time when it is endlessly slipping away?"

Moiraine could not answer him then, but she has the answer now, or so she hopes. She knows what must be done, and she is willing to attempt it. Indeed, given Min's past visions and her own experiences in Rhuidean, the Tower of Ghenjei, and Milliways-- it may well be that she is the only one who can.

A few more inquiries lead her to a stable with a horse for sale, and to a shopkeeper with a stock of travel supplies and a good sense of discretion. Well before midday, Moiraine is on her way north.

****************************************************************


The route she chooses leads from Andor to Cairhien, then across Cairhien and into the Borderlands-- first Shienar, then to Arafel, and finally into the mountains beyond. It is the most direct path she can take that does not draw too near either the battles along the Spine of the World or those at Tar Valon. Likewise, although the journey on horseback will be long, she dares not risk detection by weaving another gateway, nor can she chance passing through Tel'aran'rhiod-- especially as it is evident from the news Nynaeve had brought that the Forsaken now walk the World of Dreams largely unhindered.

As the days pass, her growing sense of urgency drives her to ride from the first light of dawn until deep into the encroaching dusk. She would push herself even harder, save that she knows that it will all be for nothing if she is exhausted when she arrives at her destination. At night, Moiraine takes care to conceal her camp, using every trick and technique that she has learned during twenty years of partnership with Lan-- who even in his absence guards her still, it seems, as much as he can.

****************************************************************


The mountains north of Arafel are cold, desolate, and deadly. Despite that, Moiraine chooses the steepest, most dangerous, least-used path; it will give her the best chance to cross unseen, she knows. When the horse snorts and balks at the trail, wild-eyed, she cannot help but laugh. "You are clearly no fool; very well, let it be so. Our ways would have parted soon enough in any case." She strips it of tack, which she conceals under a pile of rocks, and turns it loose. As it wanders back down toward the lowlands, the Aes Sedai begins the climb on foot.

The going is painfully slow. At one point, she spends the better part of an hour lying flat in the dirt behind a narrow ridge a short distance above the trail, waiting for a fist of Trollocs to move past. It would have been longer, she knows, save that they are desperate to descend from the mountains before they themselves become prey to some of the things that hunt the heights. Moiraine decides that it is good fortune, of a sort-- the more so in that their stench and the noise they are making in their hurry will draw attention away from her, or so she hopes.

Evidently it works, as she reaches the top of the pass without further difficulty. As she starts down the far side, she keeps a sharp watch out for what she needs -- and all in all, it is not long before she finds a group of boulders that will serve. The Aes Sedai creeps carefully past them, hiding herself out of view from the trail. She sets her back against the stone for what protection it might offer, and looks out across the land to the north.

She has no trouble spotting it; there is, after all, very little remaining in the Blasted Lands that could block this sight. As Moiraine looks out at Shayol Ghul, the Dark One's prison, even all her years of training are not enough for her to repress a shudder.

One moment is all she allows herself, however; there is no point in hesitating, not when it has taken so long to reach this place to begin with and certainly not when every second brings more danger of discovery. She has come this far, and she will not be stopped-- not before doing what she must. The Aes Sedai takes a single breath, allows herself one last fleeting thought--

(--falter, fail, and all is lost -- oh Light, help me--)

--and then saidar explodes through her in a storm of power.

It had been Lews Therin Telamon, the Dragon himself, with the aid of the Hundred Companions, who had managed to patch the Bore drilled through the Pattern and into the Dark One's prison with a series of seven seals, ending the last War of the Shadow. Even had she anything approaching such strength, the backlash of power then had led to the tainting of saidin, the like of which no one can afford now. What is more, the seals are failing; she does not know how many remain intact, but with each one that breaks, the Dark One comes closer to reaching the surface of the world. It cannot happen; not yet, not before Rand is ready -- maybe not ever, truth be told, but how to stop it?

She had first seen the possibility in the futures shown to her in Rhuidean, although she had not truly been able to encompass its meaning then. It had become clearer to her during her time with the Aelfinn and Eelfinn in the Tower of Ghenjei, as she had observed how they were able to view details in the folds of the Pattern itself, but it had not been until Milliways that she had learned how to work with such complicated threads.

As she starts to channel, the ground begins to shake and the sky to darken. A furious snarl of Shadowspawn pours out of Thak'andar and toward the mountains, racing toward her; it is clear that she will not have long. She opens herself fully to the True Source, drawing saidar to the point where it is nearly unbearable -- and then even beyond that, further outward, demanding more. Sparks seem to shimmer at her fingertips as she struggles, reaching for something on the very edge of possibility.

Were she to have told anyone of her plan, the very idea would have seemed madness. The Bore is a hole in the Pattern, and the Pattern is composed of the threads of human lives. While it can be sealed with power drawn from the True Source, as Lews Therin had done, to truly mend such a tear would require new "cloth" to be woven. Such a thing is beyond her, of course, perhaps beyond any mortal effort; but after long years of study, there is finally one thing she can do -- and as she grasps her own thread in the nearest Mirror of the Wheel and begins to work it free, the world around her trembles.

"From place to place run the lines of If," she had once explained, "between all the worlds that might be." Every one of those possible worlds is her focus now -- or rather, the existence that she might have had in each. Using the trick of sight gleaned from the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn, as well as the skills painstakingly learned from Raven, Moiraine finds and pulls thread after thread from world after world, but drawing only a single one -- hers -- from each. She works with frantic speed, taking her own life over and over again and weaving each multicolored thread into a single shining patch for the Pattern itself.

It will not hold forever, she knows. Still, if they are all lucky, it will last -- she will last -- long enough. Enough for Rand to have the time he needs, for them all to have a chance -- for the world to, perhaps, survive. Long enough.

Minutes pass with agonizing slowness, until there is only one thread remaining. Moiraine does not hesitate; she sets her hands to the only life she has ever known and begins to twist, using her own future to fasten the patch into place. As she works, her form begins to blur, her appearance growing hollow and near-transparent, becoming insubstantial. She does not seem to notice, or to care.

She ties the weave and watches as it settles into place and remains intact, the patch held fast and secure. Smiling in triumph, Moiraine lets out a soft, relieved sigh and collapses to the earth. The last tiny wisp of thread escapes her fingertips and is carried away on the wind.

Instants later, her body dissolves into dust.
blue_ajah: (downcast glance with falling hair)
The study is a barren place, as compared to its appearance in days past. No books remain on the shelves, nor is there any other indication of her years-long residence.

(A locked wooden trunk rests now in the quarters she had long ago been given in the House of Arch. She had quietly seen to its placement days before, without mentioning it to anyone.)

Moiraine stands in the middle of the floor, a bright corona of light shining around her and a faint line creasing her forehead as she concentrates. It is delicate work, and slow, yet within the space of minutes all the layered wards and weaves that she has placed on the room over the years have unraveled and dissipated harmlessly under her direction.

She sighs, releasing saidar, and the golden aura winks out.

"It is done," she murmurs. "And now it is time."

The Aes Sedai picks up a bundle of letters from her desk, then glides smoothly across the room and out the door, closing it behind her.

For the first time in several years, it is left unlocked.
blue_ajah: (Default)
"Everything is tangled."

She murmurs it, bracing her hand against the wall of the (Tower of Ghenjei) castle for support-- and then flinching violently away from it again as her fingers sink into phantom (shining steel) stone. Shivering, Moiraine wraps her arms around herself and staggers a few steps further down the hallway before she stops, staring blankly into space.

"I cannot find my way. Where am I? I cannot see... I cannot hold, I must hold, I am lost in my own mind, sa souvraya niende misain ye..."

Days it has been, or perhaps weeks, but how many she no longer knows. Every minute has turned into a horror of uncertainty, and each careful step brings a flare of agony bursting like flame behind half-blinded eyes as she walks two places at once (tower tall or castle wall or dreaming hall) and sometimes more. Now she takes only a few at a time, groping her way toward somewhere quiet and away from others before her strength runs out.

All men dream. But I know dreams for dreams. This is reality. The words are spoken quietly from a short distance ahead of her, and her head jerks up.

"Lan? No -- you cannot be here, not if this is real-- your path lies elsewhere--" The shadow-shape of the figure before her fades and is gone, and Moiraine closes her eyes, fighting back exhausted tears. "I saw it, once. I know it, I knew it, I remember -- don't I? But I was never supposed to be here..."

You're towerpent. The rough, smoke-hardened voice is almost a whisper, coming from behind her. Moiraine does not turn around. "And you are dead, Joe Manco, and even before that you were never here."

Doesn't matter, the ghost answers, inexorably I dreamed you, remember? And mebbe now you're dreaming me. One of us isn't real, I s'pose. Anyway, if it ain't the Tower, then this must be the Castle of Madness.

"No. No." She shakes her head wildly, and runs forward around a corner before she gets control of herself. "It is not -- I am not, must not--"

"I have had enough of this nonsense." From behind her, a hand grabs her arm and jerks her around. Melfane glares at her, then pulls her into a side room and lets go, placing both hands on her hips. "You were supposed to attend the Lady Elayne two hours ago, and so I come looking for you, and what do I find? Light, Syrenne, you're delirious! Now, you will stay right here until I bring one of the Aes Sedai, or one of those Kinswomen. I don't care how stubborn you are, if I can't help you, someone else will." She stalks from the room, slamming the wooden door behind her and dropping a heavy bar into place as she goes.

"No!" It would be a scream if she had the strength for it, but instead it is a whisper. In horror, Moiraine staggers to the door, pounding on it. "No-- I cannot-- they will find out-- I am not supposed to be here--"

As she speaks, the world whirls around her, fading into a dreaming reality that shimmers with the cold cruel steel of a once-destroyed tower, and she jerks back, chanting in a high thin voice,

"Courage to strengthen, fire to blind, music to daze, iron to bind." As the vision fades, she shakes her head, then closes her eyes and forces herself to stillness with the last ounce of will.

"If a sister examines me, she will know, and all is lost. None of them can be trusted with this-- I must go back--"

Saidar rushes through her and explodes outward into a shining silver portal.

"--I was never supposed to be here--"

With a soft despairing cry, Moiraine falls forward into the gateway as it dissolves in fire.
blue_ajah: (Default)
As she crossed through the gateway from Milliways into her own world, for a single impossible moment everything had seemed to shift, stretching and coiling and folding around her in a sickeningly familiar fashion--

(the Tower this is the Tower I am in the Tower of Ghenjei)

(...but the Tower is destroyed...?)


--and then she found herself through, and the portal closed, and the moment now past.

Still dizzy from the violence of the transition, the Aes Sedai had nevertheless wasted not an instant before opening herself to saidar once again, seeking any hint of residue that might be left in this dusty, unused room from when she had departed from here to Milliways, months before as time is reckoned in the bar. I must know how long it has been, else this whole venture may be worse than a trap.

What she had found shocked her all over again. A day, or a little more, Moiraine had thought, stunned. No more than that. The distance between here and the bar continues to widen. I must be careful.

Quickly, she had unwoven all traces of her passing, destroying the telltale residues, and then "Syrenne" had left the room and hurried back to the servants' corridor.


All of this had been two days ago-- or she thinks it has been two days, at any rate. It is hard for her to tell, now; the dizziness of the crossing has not faded, this time, but continues instead to worsen. Time itself seems to stretch and slip around her, fading in and out as though she herself is but a ghost moving through a world that does not know her.

How can one hope to preserve time when it is endlessly slipping away? The whisper in her mind is spoken in Rand's voice, although they are not Rand's words -- it had been Lews Therin who had given her that warning, words of a madman spoken as advice to a woman who had not then felt as if she were going mad herself.

Still, that she remembers, that had happened--

--hadn't it?

In despair, she closes her eyes and covers them with her hands, trying to clear her mind, trying to focus on what she knows is true.

(so many paths I saw in Rhuidean - have I lost my way?)

"I am in (the Tower of Ghenjei) Caemlyn, in the palace," she murmurs, almost desperately. "Although I never imagined it, still it is real. It is."

"Woolgathering, Syrenne?" As Moiraine's head snaps up in surprise, Melfane walks all the way into the room and continues, smiling, "Or is it daydreaming? Of course you are in the palace-- why, where else did you think you would be?"

Moiraine shakes her head, saying quickly, "Oh-- perhaps it was only a daydream, at that. Sometimes it is still hard to believe that I am here, that is all."

"And where else should you be, but here and helping me look after Lady Elayne?" Melfane frowns, looking at her. "Aren't you getting any sleep at all? Are you sick? One of the Aes Sedai might help, for the Daughter-Heir's sake, if you are--"

"No!" she breaks in, and could bite her own tongue in two for the sudden sharpness of it. Light, woman, you will have the midwife suspicious of you if you are not careful! "No," Moiraine says again, "There is no need to disturb one of the Aes Sedai -- they have important things to do." Not to mention that the last thing she needs is for any sister to be examining her.

"Well, maybe you are right," Melfane admits, taking her by the arm and starting to lead her toward the kitchens as she chatters. "In that case, you will drink a full cup of my good flatwort and andilay root tea, and you can sit down for a while on the east stairs. Why, from there, you can even hear the new musicians they've hired-- not a patch on the Court Bard back in Morgase's day, I hear, but then that Merrilin had to move quickly to stay ahead of the headsman's axe when he left, Essande says--"

(my dearest Thom)

She misses a step at the sudden flash of thought (that was real this is real what is real now?), stumbling hard into the other woman. As Melfane exclaims and steadies her, Moiraine bites the inside of her lip until she tastes blood, fighting to clear her mind.

Oh, Light, what is happening to me?
blue_ajah: (Default)
They enter a large round hall, stretching into the distance and curving around as though spiraling away. The ceiling is lost in the shadows at its height. Everything in the hall is curved; there are no straight lines or angles anywhere. Spiraled yellow columns twine up the sides of the room like vines, and white and yellow stripes spiral in turn from a circle in the middle of the floor. A strange glow lights the room from a few golden globes atop spiraled metal coils, and a few windows are set into the walls; these, too, are round, and three curved silver spires can be seen outside.

To one side, a great distance away, an opening in the wall is barely visible.

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Moiraine

July 2013

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