Darkness wrapped around the Grey Tower like the arms of a lover, and activity dwindled accordingly. Sinead knew the routine all too well, and went about her evening tasks with a quick step and a slight smile. At last she returned to her room, where she and Elia readied themselves for sleep. They talked quietly for some time after the bell rang to put out their lamps; when at last Elia bid her goodnight and turned over, Sinead had a smile on her face and warmth in her heart.
The smile didn’t last long, and concern swept the warmth away. Earlier that evening Elia had told her of her brother’s relationship with Aikaterine Riatin, and the trouble in Sinead’s heart had been difficult to conceal as the other novice described what had happened so far.
Could Sinead have misunderstood what she saw in the hall the day before? Perhaps the Accepted had merely been ill. Sinead knew that as foolishness; channelers did not get sick, not like other people did. There had been nothing in the vicinity to evoke such a physical response, and she could think of precious few other plausible explanations. How does an Accepted get with child? Sinead could not imagine having the time for such a thing, let alone actually allowing it to happen. There were herbs to take to lessen the chance at the very least- how could the treekiller be so irresponsible?
More importantly… unless Ravak Darrow had managed to blow sand in his sister’s eyes for their entire life, the child could not be his. What would not be an issue in the Three-fold Land, wetlanders saw as a source of great shame. She simply could not imagine one as honorable as Elia’s brother bringing that kind of grief to a woman he loved. Did that mean, instead, that Aikaterine had done something even more shameful?
Sinead’s thoughts ran in circles trying to make sense of the puzzle, her need for an answer an ever-present pressure in the back of her head. Eventually, she drifted to sleep.
The orange rocks and yellow sands of the Three-fold Land enfolded Sinead like the arms of an old friend. She glanced around, startled. Although the sun did not shine in a familiar manner and it had been many years since she last laid eyes on this place, she knew it like she knew her own face. Her home lay only a few leagues south. In front of her, a broad stone streaked brown, red, and black lay on the ground, the top worn flat by wind and time. She glanced around and saw no one; after another moment of hesitation, she stepped up.
As her leg lifted, she realized she wore the cadin’sor, black veil and shoufa looped around her neck. She had bow and spears slung on her back, and the deadly dagger she preferred hung at her hip. She smiled, taking a moment to examine herself. She had to be dreaming. Nothing else could explain how she came to be at that rock. Dream or not, however, she could still enjoy the familiar rub of algode on her skin and the weight of her weapons on her back.
Eventually she turned her gaze to the vista that lay before her. As her eyes passed over the blasted landscape she had enjoyed viewing as a child, her thoughts wandered back to her conversation with Elia. It troubled her just as much in this odd dream as it had before she slept. That a treekiller had the power to make someone dear to her friend suffer caused feelings to spark that she had not felt in many years.
I need an answer….I need to know.
As dreams do, the world shifted.
This time she stood in a room that clearly belonged to a wetlander warrior. Objects and weapons fluttered in and out, the bed clothes shifted from straight to mussed, and a chair moved from desk to wall and back. Bits of torn paper appeared on the desk, and curious despite herself, Sinead pieced them together. Dakson Torellion, you are summoned…
Sinead knew that name. That Dakson had been raised to Gaidin had spread like wildfire through the novice quarters as her white-clad counterparts discussed who he might –or might not- choose to bond, or sighed at the fact that they would never get the chance. Sinead found such pursuits to be an absurd waste of time, and yet she could not avoid the gossip.
Why did she dream of a man she knew only as a passing annoyance? She swept the pieces off the desk, but they vanished before they reached the floor. She glanced around. Something white flickered on the edge of her vision, then disappeared. Is this how I imagine a Gaidin’s room to look? She frowned a little, then dismissed the thought. One’s unconscious mind could think of all sorts of unexpected things, why not a cell of a room with a bed and a desk and not much else?
Her thoughts shifted, once again mulling over the issue of Aikaterine’s unfortunate state, and her surroundings began to change.
One moment she stood in a small room, and the next she stood in a street in Hama Valon, the Grey Tower looming over her in the distance. She looked up and saw a sign with some kind of blue bird and the words “Blue Falcon” painted on it. She thought she saw a flash of movement inside the inn, and turned to look. It occurred to her then how peculiarly quiet it was, and felt the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Setting her apprehension aside, she pushed the door open and moved into an empty common room. Tables, chairs, dishes, and other random objects flickered in and out, moving to and fro in odd silent mimicry of what they might do had people been present.
Where were the people? She reached for her veil,and found that it and the cadin’sor had vanished and she wore novice white once more. Quelling the shameful ache in her chest she turned her attention back to the odd place she stood in. First of home, then of a strange man’s room, and now a tavern… It made no sense, but then, dreams rarely did. Elia. Ravak. Aikaterine. What had happened? Her mind churned in circles.
Abruptly everything went black, and she floated in a sea of nothingness. After a few minutes, she became aware of a vast sea of pale white globes in every direction. She felt simultaneously enormous and minuscule, and the orbs changed size gradually as if she moved among them. Despite the oddity, peace flowed over her as she drifted in the darkness, her mind once more shifting back to the puzzle presented by the Cairhienin Accepted. She did not want to believe that even a treekiller would do something so dishonorable. There had to be another explanation...didn’t there? I need to know.
One of those orbs grew as she thought, expanding to fill her entire vision with pearlescent white. She cocked her head to the side -How? I don’t have a head- and examined it. She could almost see….shapes….moving beyond it. She felt as if the slightest breath would push her against that milky wall. I’m only dreaming. It can’t hurt me. Curiosity tugged at her until finally she gave in and laid her hand against the glowing surface.
The Aielwoman stood once more in the tavern from before, only this time it overflowed with people. Dancing, laughter, music, and the reek of beer assaulted her, but then she couldn’t remember why they felt unnatural. She looked down at her dusty-blue dress and adjusted the waterfall of red curls that fell over one shoulder. Her foot tapped, her head felt light, and she nodded her head enthusiastically to the music. Perhaps one of those along the walls would be interested in a dance.
Something seemed off with that thought; she frowned, trying to puzzle it out. I am Aiel. Her head cleared and she took a step back, and then another, until the shadow of a side corridor engulfed her. The overpowering urge to join in the revelry faded, replaced by confusion and curiosity. She had entirely forgotten herself, if only for a short time. What strange dreams I have… After a moment, she peered back into the crowd, cataloguing every face and then dismissing it.
The crowd parted momentarily, and across the room she saw a man and a woman at a table. The woman she knew: Aikaterine, the object of her worry. The man looked up below tousled dark hair, and blue eyes met green. She thought she might drown in the depths of that gaze, its intensity pinning her in place. Suddenly his eyes shifted back to the Accepted and Sinead was free, mind reeling.
Faint red and gold light filled the air between Aikaterine and the stranger, growing in strength with their touch, and along a line between them from heart to heart. Their lips met, and the glow burst into waves of red light that expanded to wash the room away. Sinead tumbled backward, her sense of self bombarded by passion. Somehow, she knew the feeling came from Aikaterine.
And that man is not Ravak…
The novice couldn’t remember what she had been thinking. She stood in a desolate landscape washed with gray. Wind pulled at her skirt and hair, and rain spat on her face. The Treekiller sat on the ground, knees pulled to her chest, crying. Sinead could feel those sobs in her own heart, could see the rain intensifying as the Accepted’s distress grew.
Looking up, Sinead realized a vast chasm gaped before them, and on the other side stood a dark-haired man, facing away. A faint line stretched between them, lightning and black fog gathering along its length, arcing to strike at one or the other as dark clouds gathered above. The line itself pulsed faintly gold, that light shining through the shifting miasma. “Dax.” The Accepted whispered brokenly. “I’m sorry, Dax.”
Sinead felt tears slide down her own face as grief and terrible guilt filled her heart. The chasm darkened and widened, pushing the man far into the distance. The world surrounding them trembled and began to shift and fall, scenery changing once more.
Before it could solidify, Sinead felt herself being yanked away. She tumbled to the ground in the Three-fold Land once more, staring up at a tall woman with honey hair and sun-darkened skin. “Tiena?” The novice asked. Of all the ways she had thought this peculiar dream might go, seeing the Wise One who had summoned her to Rhuidean had certainly not been one of them.
“It seems the Grey Tower allows its initiates to run around Tel’aran’rhiod like children at a spring festival,” the older woman commented without preamble. “This cannot be allowed to continue.”
The Aielwoman woke, staring at the ceiling of her room as all she had learned tumbled around her. Her body ached from the beating Tiena had given her for entering Aikaterine’s dreams. She had not known what she was doing, but ignorance did not forgive the transgression. Tiena had told her it would still hurt when she woke, along with a series of other dire warnings about the dangers of the World of Dreams.
Afterward, the woman had summoned her back to the Three-fold Land. “If you take too long and we have to sit on your dreams like brooding chickens to keep you out of harm’s way, you will complete your training in your skin.” Sinead had no doubt the Wise One would keep her promise.
Of course, that meant that what she saw had been ‘real’, insofar as it had not been visions contrived within her own head. The Gaidin’s room, the tavern, Aikaterine’s dreams...the pieces of the puzzle moved in her head. The Treekiller had dreamed of one man only, and whispered “Dax” as if her heart were being ripped from her chest. There was only one man with a name like that in the Tower.
Sinead sighed, turning over to face Elia’s bed with a heavy heart. She knew what needed to be done.