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Puppeted
Sat Dec 30, 2006 11:42am

“Pardon me for saying so, sir, but you don’t seem like the most festive type,” Diendeiro Purales asserted, stating an observation as accurate as it was obvious.

For all the truth in the matter, Lysander was not one who took joy in the idle celebration that had accompanied Feasts of Lights of years past and Feasts of Lights for years to come. He had never really found the appeal in dancing. He enjoyed not the hedonism of drinking until one’s vision was smattered with naught but indistinguishable blurs. His contact with Arin had trickled down pathetically in the months past, really, and the sheer notion of flirting with foreign, anonymous women. . . . Again, he simply was not a festival person. He simply was not.

At the same time, though, his title invited the expectation of his attendance.

“Pardoned,” Lysander intoned, fastening the buttons on his cuffs. One couldn’t have one’s M’Hael prancing about with unbuttoned cuffs, after all. With the scrutiny he continually faced, watched and waited on and judged by a throng of unfed prairie dogs, Lysander figured the Asha’man might very well go into mutiny if their leader had unbuttoned cuffs. “I daresay that there’s more to this title than ordering executions and bartering with Borderland lords, Spymaster.” Lamentably.

“Ah.” A pause transpired. “That wouldn’t mean I have to attend, though, would it?”

Lysander smiled, but it was not one altogether too friendly. On that note, Diendeiro Purales, Track Leader of the Spies, didn’t much seem like the sort of man who enjoyed festivals, either. He was a well-read man (that trait went hand-in-hand with his area of speciality), though his mild-mannered temperament appeared to invite no room for the hodge-podge of drunken, ambiguous affairs. “It’s up to your discretion. I appointed you a picture of authority among your Spies. I attend as an act of diplomacy. It fares wells for the Black Tower that the Black Tower’s leader is present for what not only what is happening in the lives of his recruits, but in the affairs of its sister Tower and the world.”

“I suppose it would fare just as well for the Spies, then, that I, too, attend.”

“Likely.”

“Bullocks.”

No less than an hour later, Lysander was assembled, clad in his red feastday coat, with the entirety of the Black Tower trailing shortly behind. Trainees and Soldiers and Dedicated and Asha’man congregated in tidy clusters. Then, with a spectacular flare of channeled saidin, the silver-touched gateway stretched open into existence for him. Three Asha’man stood linked in a circle–one of two men and one woman–and, as they did, white filaments spun from their reaches, widening into a window that would very well have allowed four caravans abreast to pass through. Beyond the gateway, Lysander could see into the grounds of the White Tower. That far north, they were enjoying far more snow than what was found within the Black Tower’s confines, and that, indeed, was saying something.

Stepping with confident footfalls through the gateway, Lysander T’hoth was almost taken aback by the rapid shift in his bond. What was previously distant, vague–what was until just now a blind scoop of knowledge detailing some random woman in an equally random direction–could now not be clearer. He could feel her hatred for him, produced in the form of several mental augers, each tipped with fire or poison or ice, each ready to plunge into his flesh and tear into his marrow. That she hated him was obvious.

Still, Lysander made a deliberate and decided effort to take no notice of her. He would love to kill the woman, yes, but his vendetta would wait for another day. This was the Feast of Lights. The White Tower was hardly the locale to stage an assassination of a sister.

What came next, then, diverged grossly from the rigid, inflexible training regimen that the Tower so usually adopted. More or less, recruits were free to do as they wished. Lysander, however, gravitated to the pavilion that had been set aside for him and his retainers, not at all far from the canopied affair of the Amyrlin Seat (the Shadow spit upon her name) herself. Diendeiro lingered not far from him. The sun-darkened individual wore flecks of grey in his long, dark hair. He was wont to think himself too old for festivals. At the same time, Diendeiro had a wife and children (he had his condolences), and gallivanting around with strangers and harlots would be a token of disrespect.

The two men engaged in casual, festive banter, with Lysander assuming his seat. Diendeiro stood poised to his right, knowing quite well that soon would be the time when he would have to depart, sculpting the Feast of Lights for himself. As the Amyrlin’s address took place, Lysander was made aware of a peculiarity in the bond. Myrth was . . . well, he did not know how, but her sudden, quicksilver hatred for him was being replaced with fluid amusement. Happiness. He glanced at her through his peripherals, spying a solitary figure clad in purple against the contrast of pearly white snow. Was she that flighty? Or perhaps already inebriated?

Not long after, however, when the philharmonic gave way to music–the dreaded sort of music that invited thoughtless couples to dance–Myrth made her approach. She still was grinning, and though he tried to tilt his gaze from her, well, there really wasn’t all too much to assume his notice. Even Diendeiro was staring at her. The Shadow preserve him. Not today.

“Good day, M’Hael,” the tiny women said in a Cairhienin accent. “Care for a dance?”

Feral harlot.

“I’m afraid, my lady,” he began, when, without any warning in the least, his legs began to move outside of his control. Before he knew what was going on, he felt Myrth compressing and invoking coercion thought the bond, and his body acted without the realm of his jurisdiction, bringing himself out of his seat. “I’m afraid that I am not all too skilled at dance, though, for you, I will make an earnest attempt,” he scowled, though these words came on his own behalf. Diendeiro could not be any the wiser.

She beamed. “It’s all I ask.”

And so Myrth whisked him away from the sanctity of his pavilion chair, snatching his arm and all but dragging him into a spinning, leaping, twirling world of dance. She assumed position–an arm on his shoulder and another in his grip–before pulling him into a stately waltz in triple time.

“You know, M’Hael,” she breathed, weighing a sheen gaze upon him, “you’re not as bad at this as you profess.”

“I’ve had experience,” he said in muted tones, his thoughts briefly resting on Arin before returning to the gravity of the situation. “What are you doing?”

“Dancing.”

“In the big picture.”

“Dancing with you?”

She laughed, and though it was inflected with mirthful harmony, the spite the bond conveyed belied her facade. Oh, the Shadow preserve him. There was a reason he hated Aes Sedai! He was not irrational and groundless; there was a bloody reason! As such, they continued to waltz, and the partners surrounding them gave them the appropriate berth for the M’Hael and his partner. As the song came to a close, the two parted, with Myrth beaming. Beaming! At him! Spite or no, the yellow-shawled woman really was enjoying herself.

Lysander straightened, fixing his cuffs. “If that is all?”

It appeared, however, that it was not. With the strings given heavy influence, an excited minuet extended over the reaches of the dancing couples, its musical notes licking the walls of the very city, likely. This was the sort of dance that enjoyed play at village festivals, unless he was greatly mistaken, and it was a raucous affair. He could tolerate waltzes. He could. However, if she thought he was going to–

She did. They danced the minuet. He spun her around, and she laughed and cheered, snatching at her skirts and tossing them in time to the music. She was bent over, clapping hands and stamping feet and tossing inhibition into the wind. Lysander imitated her, though he did not understand the appeal. As the minuet, too, ended, Lysander attempt another earnest escape, but that was not in the stars. Another song. And another. Over the course of an hour, Lysander could not say how many dances he and Myrth shared, but it was more than he wanted. It was more than none.

Twin sheens of clean perspiration coated them both. He had assumed the Void, and it was as though the sweat clinging doggedly to him belonged to another soul. “I think,” Myrth breathed, “that it’s time for a rest.” Over the cold anonymity of ko’di, Lysander felt relief. They parted, and he was already planning on retreating silently away to the pavilion.

At that moment, however, an aura spilled over Myrth’s figure. He watched. Beside Myrth stood an apparition of none other than himself, and this aura replica of Lysander was shackled at the hands. A chain was fastened at one end to the iron manacle, and the other end . . . was held by an aura of Myrth. Myrth gave a small tug on the chain, and Lysander jumped. Myrth gave a second tug, and Lysander leapt into the air, spinning and tumbling and somersaulting all about if only for her amusement. Its meaning was obvious.

Myrth would ask of him–nay, compel of him–two favours. He did not know what they were, nor when they would be evoked, but their magnitude was made evident. The first of them would be small. A mere molehill, as it were. The second? For the second, Dragonmount failed to compare.

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