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An Unpleasant Awakening
Fri Jun 9, 2006 19:31 (XFF:

It was a lovely day. The sea was a clear, crystal blue that matched the sky almost exactly, and there was a fine, strong wind blowing. Ceto Amaya quickly scaled the rigging and just stood for a moment, high above Wind Song, just enjoying the view, the feel of the wind on her face, the smell of the sea…

"Ceto! Work, child!" Ceto Amaya hurried to comply, but was still smiling – her mother's shout had been sharp, but Demera had been smiling as well when she'd looked up at her youngest daughter. Everyone was in a good mood today, apparently. Her father, Jedek, was singing as he worked, and her older sister, Ziarre, and her older brother, Ciron, weren't even bickering amongst themselves as they usually did. Ceto Amaya hurried to re-tie a knot that was in danger of coming undone, and suddenly choked back a shriek of fright as something appeared in front of her.

Munin was sitting on the line directly in front of her face. Ceto Amaya exhaled heavily, but then remembered that she was very high up, and that even if Munin had climbed up here so suddenly, the only reasonable place for the girl to be now was on the island of Tremalking, and not in the middle of the ocean.

"You still haven't found out what happened to me," Munin said, staring at Ceto Amaya with an accusatory look in her bright blue eyes. "I died, and you forgot about me – you went galavanting off to Caemalyn! What sort of friend does that?" Munin blinked away tears. "I would have found out what happened, if it was you instead of me."

"Munin, I—" Then Ceto Amaya suddenly heard someone shout "Ambassadors!" They were calling her, she needed to go – in her haste to find the source of the shout, however, she forgot that she was high in the air and standing on a thin rope. She whipped her head around, looking for who had yelled, and lost her balance. In an instant, she was falling, plummeting towards the deck with the wind whipping her hair around her face, looking up at Munin still sitting on the line, the girl looking down at Ceto Amaya, watching her fall, looking as if Ceto Amaya had killed Munin herself—

Ceto Amaya gasped and sat up in bed, clutching at her blanket. There was a flurry of activity in the barracks around her, punctuated by the occasional shout of "Assassins!" or "Officers!" I was having a nightmare, she thought, wiping sweat and tears from her face. Munin is dead, and I'm at the Black Tower. Just a nightmare… She pulled herself out of bed and quickly pulled on her pants and black coat, and began to lace up her boots.

"What's happening, Isura?" she asked, ashamed to hear her voice break on the last syllable. Apparently, what was "just a nightmare" had affected her more than she had thought. She finished lacing her boots, stood up, and quickly braided her hair, coiling the braid around into a bun. She kept telling herself that her hair needed to be cut, but she just… hadn't gotten around to it.

"I don't know!" Isura said, looking tired and harried. Her head whipped around as a small female Asha'man appeared at the door to the barracks and shouted, "Spies!"

"I need to go!" Isura yelped, raking her fingers through her short, dark hair. "You have to go as well; they've called Ambassadors twice now! That way!" She grabbed Ceto Amaya by the shoulders and shoved her in the direction indicated before hurrying off. Ceto Amaya stumbled, still trying to gather her wits – she realized now that it was very early, even earlier than when she usually woke up, and she was still disoriented from her nightmare. Glancing around, she spotted a tall, sandy-haired man with the dragon pin on his collar heading from the barracks, accompanied by a group of Soldiers and Dedicated that she knew to be on the same Track as her.

"Blood and ashes," she sighed, and hurried to catch up. Whatever was going on, it certainly wasn't good.

The Asha'man's news was frightening: the Armies of the Night were planning an invasion. Ceto Amaya knew of the Seanchan, and had known of them even before she came to the mainland. Everyone she had known had feared them, and many had assumed that they lived under the Shadow. She had known – well, not known personally, but known of – a ship that had fallen victim to the leashed women that they called damane. The ship… he had been a beautiful ship, and the damane had utterly destroyed him. The entire crew had died, but the body of the Windfinder had never been found; some suspected that she had not been killed, but instead leashed by the Seanchan.

As they walked to the Traveling Yards to leave, Ceto Amaya found herself becoming lost in thought. She personally was relieved to hear that the Ambassadors would not have a direct part in the fighting; she could fight and defend herself both with and without the One Power, as was expected of a recruit in the Black Tower, but in truth, she was still afraid of an actual battle. Sparring wasn't a problem for her, but in a battle, who knew what would happen?

I don't want to die, she thought. I've sworn to serve the Coramoor, but if I'm not willing to die for him, do I truly belong here?

It was not a question of belonging – whether she belonged here or not, she was here to stay. Desertion was not well tolerated at the Black Tower… not if the Traitor's Tree was any indication, at any rate.

Her thoughts began to stray back to her nightmare. As much as she knew that it had been only a dream, and nothing more – Munin is dead, and I am at the Black Tower – it had made her feel deeply unsettled. She'd first come to the Black Tower to find out what had happened to Munin, and to all the Amayar. The Black Tower hadn't even been her first choice; she'd meant to go to Tar Valon and ask the Aes Sedai.

If I had gone to Tar Valon instead of stopping here, would I have ended up staying there instead? Would I be wearing a white dress right now? She felt so fickle, all of the sudden – her entire life as of now was centered around one split-second decision.

And how could I forget about Munin? Munin's face as it had been in the dream was stuck in her head, shoulder-length blonde hair framing tear-filled blue eyes that looked at Ceto Amaya as if she had done something irredeemably awful. But I didn't do anything, Ceto Amaya thought, I didn't—and then her thoughts were interrupted by dream-Munin's voice playing back in her head. "I died, and you forgot about me! What sort of friend does that?"

Ceto Amaya sighed. She still hadn't found out for sure what had happened to Munin, but from rumors, and from asking around, she had gathered an answer that she thought was most likely correct. From what she'd heard, the Amayar had committed mass suicide when their Time of Illusion ended. When the great statue, what Ceto Amaya now knew to be part of the Choeden Kal, had melted, they had seen it as a sign of the Time of Illusions ending, and had subsequently ended their own lives.

I left because I wanted to find answers, and I found them, Ceto Amaya thought, along with, apparently, a new life. Perhaps I did forget about her. But she killed herself… what sort of friend does that?

They had Traveled to Andor, and were currently gathered at a large inn in the middle of the city. The other patrons gave the black-clad group odd, sidelong looks over mugs of ale or plates of food, and for the most part seemed a bit disturbed by this many Black Tower folk in their presence. Ceto Amaya noticed that she seemed to be attracting a few more looks than normal; she recalled now the tendency of people to ogle Atha'an Miere. An Atha'an Miere Soldier… well, that almost required that people stare.

The Asha'man – Sedric, she now recalled his name as being – looked around the common room, shook his head, and then walked up to the innkeeper, asking if she had a private room that they could use. The innkeeper, a fairly unflappable-looking woman who gave the whole group of them no more than a raised eyebrow, called for a young man who appeared in the blink of an eye. "Follow me… sir," he said after a pause, apparently fixating on Sedric as the figure of authority.

They followed him down a hallway, a black-clad parade, and into a medium-sized room. The man unlocked it and opened the door, bowed, and then hurried away.

When they'd all gathered in the room – many of them having to stand against the walls again – Sedric began to speak quickly. "We really don't have a lot of time to do this. We need to get these nobles' support as soon as possible. Form a line, and I'll give you each the name of a High Seat. You'll go to that High Seat immediately, and begin trying to convince him or her that they should send reinforcements to Molvaine Gap. After I tell you the High Seat's name, go ahead and leave – you'll need to arrange your own transportation. Good luck."

In line, Ceto Amaya found herself jammed between two tall young men, to her slight annoyance. She was not of any exceptional height, and she disliked having her view blocked off by people taller than she. As she was wondering if she was missing anything, the man behind her stuck his head over her shoulder and asked, "Worried?" He was somewhat attractive, though thin enough that he appeared rather gawky.

"No," Ceto Amaya said, smiling politely, "but thank you for your concern." She hoped that he wouldn't somehow turn this into a suggestion that they should "get to know each other", as so many men tended to do with her. A friend had told Ceto Amaya that she was far too nice to these sorts of men, and that if she were not so polite, that they wouldn't take such liberties. But Ceto Amaya didn't ever mind terribly – she hated to feel alone, and with men always wanting to talk to her… and sometimes more than that… she never had to be alone when she didn't want to be.

The young man patted her on the shoulder – something that also always seemed to happen to Ceto Amaya, but not to her friends; another friend had said that this was because Ceto Amaya was just not very threatening – and was silent. Ceto Amaya wondered if she did in fact look worried. If she did, it was because of the nightmare; despite her attempts to think about other things, it was still there, lurking in the back of her mind. Not a pleasant way to wake up, or to go through the day.

"Name and rank?" Sedric asked. Ceto Amaya blinked, realizing that she'd come to the front of the line.

"Soldier Ceto Amaya din Marin, Asha'man," she said quickly. Light, she couldn't have the Asha'man thinking that she was slow in the head.

Sedric scanned a long roll of vellum he held. "You'll take Lord Moran, High Seat of House Amaris."

Ceto Amaya nodded, and left the room. She knew nothing of the man – she knew of almost no figures of authority within this city, aside from Queen Elayne herself. This lack of knowledge would be a disadvantage, she knew, but she would work around it… somehow.

As much as Ceto Amaya hated to admit it, she knew that her best choice of transportation would be horseback – it would make a better impression on the High Seat than arriving on foot. The problem was that she had no skill in riding, and an even greater problem than that was that she had no horse.

"Excuse me," she said to the innkeeper, trying her best to sound extremely polite, "would you happen to have a horse that I could borrow? I would need it for a few days, but I can pay for the inconvenience." She had brought a fair amount of money with her – not a ridiculously large sum, but enough to get by. This would likely take a sizeable chunk out of that, but she would live with it.

"I do," the innkeeper said, appearing to size Ceto Amaya up, no doubt wondering why under the Light a Sea Folk girl was asking for a horse. "Follow Jeir; he will take you to the stable."

The same young man who had showed them to the room appeared again. He gave Ceto Amaya a look that was almost as apprehensive as the look he had given Sedric, and then said, "Follow me, please." Ceto Amaya complied, following him out to the stable. When they reached it, he ordered a horse to be saddled for her, and when the animal was brought out, Ceto Amaya gave him the requested amount of coin – it was a fairly large sum, but not quite as bad as she had expected. Jeir took the money and walked quickly off, leaving her alone in the stable with the horse's reins in her hand.

"Wait!" she called after Jeir, suddenly remembering that she didn't know the way to where she was supposed to go. "Could you please tell me how to get to House Amaris?"

Jeir turned and quickly spouted out a string of directions that Ceto Amaya didn't entirely comprehend before heading off again. Ceto Amaya nevertheless tried to keep in mind what he'd said, but as she'd never actually traveled around the city before, most of what he'd said was meaningless.

She looked up at the horse apprehensively. What a large animal he was. The horse snorted, as if he could read her thoughts, and then pawed at the stable floor with a hoof that was as large as the rest of him. Ceto Amaya patted him gingerly on the neck and led him out of the stable.

Mounting was a trial. Eventually, she managed to get one foot in a stirrup and haul herself up into the saddle, but she didn't even want to think about how ungainly she looked doing it. She tried to remember what she was supposed to do, from the last time she'd ridden – if she was going to make a good impression on this Lord Moran, she couldn't arrive and then promptly fall off her horse. He'd never take her seriously if she did that; she'd have enough trouble as it was, being young, pretty, and female. After a moment, she cautiously tapped her heels against the horse's flanks, yelping as the horse suddenly set off at a brisk walk.

Thankfully, she managed to stay on the horse for the entire duration of the ride. She did not, however, succeed in finding her way to House Amaris on her first try; she forgot portions of Jeir's directions and had to stop and ask for further guidance multiple times. Being a young Sea Folk girl in a Soldier's uniform seated, very precariously, atop a horse, she understandably got some odd looks, but for the most part, people were fairly polite.

At long last, she reached House Amaris. She clutched the reins tightly as she rode up, wondering what was in store for her here. She had to do well in this – not only was it important to the battle, but if she could manage this, she could prove to herself that coming to the Black Tower hadn't been a ridiculous mistake.

  • Words: Tool of the AmbassadorAsha'man Sedric, MuC, Wed Jun 7 15:16
    "Sedric, stop playing with your hair," Eolyn said irritably. "It's rather unmanly, and it makes you look nervous besides." Moving very purposefully, Sedric tied the band holding his sandy hair in a... more
    • An Unpleasant Awakening — Soldier Ceto Amaya din Marin, Fri Jun 9 19:31
      • Inconvenient ReminiscingSoldier Ceto Amaya din Marin, Thu Jun 15 22:37
        "They're certainly expanding the ranks of the Black Tower of late." Lord Moran was a large man – not heavyset, just large – with dark hair and odd green eyes that appeared almost translucent. He'd... more
        • Unwanted EnlightenmentSoldier Ceto Amaya din Marin, Mon Jun 19 01:28
          Of course, it was only after she'd stalked out of the room in such a determined fashion that she had realized that she didn't know her way around this place, not in the slightest. Now she was left to ... more
          • An Incomplete ConclusionSoldier Ceto Amaya din Marin, Fri Jun 23 21:17
            "Lord Moran, you have to do something!" Ceto Amaya grimaced; she had no business telling High Seats what they had to do. "I have to do nothing, girl," Moran said, raising both eyebrows in a look of... more
            • An Undesirable ExpedientSoldier Ceto Amaya din Marin, Tue Jun 27 00:56
              "Back already?" the groom asked, raising an eyebrow at the perfectly saddled horse. "Yes," said Ceto Amaya, giving him the reins. Her mind had already fabricated several quite thorough lies that... more
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