Demetri Sedai, Keeper of the Chornicles
A History in Canluum
Tue Oct 3, 2006 08:21 (XFF:

Balene entered the dining room the next morning; there were bags under her eyes but a smiling curve to her lips as she was followed by Clyseen. Both looked tired and exhausted, but from sitting up long hours of the night saying their goodbyes. As Demetri's guests, Balene enjoyed a morning meal of crisp bacon, fluffy eggs and toast that had been browned to perfection while Clyseen seemed so eager and nervous she barely touched her food. The Saldaean woman gave a laugh. "Better eat, Clyseen, this is going to be the last good meal you get until you're Aes Sedai."

Demetri laughed her agreement and they spent the rest of the meal talking over Accepted and Aes Sedai they knew mutually. Balene had been there during a brief window after Ariana's death and rebirth into Demetri and so she hadn't known Balene in any sense during that time. Laurian and Dai shared stories with Clyssen about the White Tower, even if she didn't need to be put at ease about going.

As the meal wrapped up, however, it was time for Demetri to weave the Gateway. It sliced open a neat hole in the dining room small enough that it wouldn't hurt any of the furniture but still large enough for Clyseen to pass through easily. With a final hug to her mother, the girl stepped through and waved, walking away with an excited bounce to her step. Releasing the Source, Deme turned back to Balene, the woman's eyes shining with proud and sad tears, a shaky smile on her lips.

"Demetri Sedai, I would be proud to continue serving as your agent." Balene dabbed at her eyes with handkerchief. "And not because of what you've done for my daughter, but because of who you are. You're a good woman and I know that my reports will be used wisely."

"Thank you." Demetri smiled.

"Where are we heading now? East, obviously, but where?"

Dai's words broke into her reverie as they passed out of the gates into the plains beyond. "Canluum. I've reestablished ties in Chachin, but Canluum is nearly as important." She looked to Daigonyt and assessed the situation. "I'd like to avoid Lord Marcasiev at all costs, if possible."

The Shienarin looked at her with curiosity. "Why?"

Laurian barked a laugh. "When Demetri was only one or two years into her Shawl—what was it? Right after the Tremalking affair? She was sent on an assignment to track down an Aes Sedai who had gone missing, Tristana of the Green Ajah. It turned out that it was a relatively simple yet widespread scheme to try and overtake the market with Kandori tabac and push out Andoran. Lord Marcasiev's cousin was heavily involved, the mastermind of it if I remember right, and he committed suicide rather than be caught by the White Tower."

"I wrote the report to Lord Marcasieve informing him of his cousin's involvement and death and his response was—terse, to say the least." She shrugged. "It wasn't his fault that Toreon was corrupt, nor was it our fault, but he holds me personally responsible for Toreon's death. Not the Tower, me."

The Gaidin's face went dark. "Has he done anything about it?"

"No." She responded emphatically. "And I don't think he would, but I would rather not show up at his doorstep, flaunting it in his face, even if it has been nearly eight years."

"So you avoid the northern end of the city," Laurian suggested. "And we bring your agents to you to speak to them. The less we use your name, the better because I'm sure that he has ears inside the city."

Demetri smiled. "Don't you remember our last visit, Laurian?"

"Yeah," Dai said softly, his baritone voice rumbling. "They sign you in at the gates. He's going to know she's here if she uses her real name."

Demetri looked at her Gaidin with a bright expression and laughed when confusion flickered along the bond like a tickle to her ribs. "You're under the impression that I'll give my real, full name, Dai. When the guard asks for it, you'll provide him with the false name and then I'll be careful around Canluum when I get in contact with another four of my agents."

A grin flashed at her, warm and brilliant. "That was all I needed to know. And here you said that things would be far easier here in the Borderlands! You want to make a Gatway and I can grab the cart real quick?"

Canluum was a large city in the south of Kandor, nestled into a set of hills and surrounded by a moat that had been dry for more years than Demetri had been alive. In a city made completely of stone and brick, the layout was overlooked by a castle occupied by the very man she didn't want to see. Her reports of Canluum suggested that she stay at The Gates of Heaven, an inn that was notorious for housing Aes Sedai and keeping things comfortable for them, but Demetri didn't want to meet with any of her other Sisters or Brothers, not on purpose and not by serendipity.

The Gateway she's created had opened about a league out from the city and Laurian had woven Illusions over their faces in order to conceal, at least for a time, their rank as Aes Sedai. Daigonyt traded in his fancloth for a serviceable green wool cloak and led them toward the east gate. As the passed over one of the five bridges in Canluum into the eastern portion of the city, Demetri listened to Daigonyt give their names with amusement. He gave his own name as Dai no Drysthan, guard to Master and Mistress al'Sabatino.

Laurian's expression was smooth but she could feel his irritation at the Gaidin at the presumption. Laying a hand on his arm, she leaned over, kissing his cheek a loving wife might and whispered, "Let it go, Laurian, it's nothing." Although he nodded, she could still feel his irritation and tried not to become irritated about it.

After a short conversation with the guardsman, Dai returned to them. "He suggested we stay at The Golden Hind, saying it's good food and clean beds without making our purses too light." Nodding her approval, they followed the Guards directions into the southern portion of the city. With a little encouragement, Demetri had Laurian drop their Illusions—she didn't want to have to worry about them at the inn—nor did she want to run into a Sister who thought she'd happened upon an incredibly strong wilder to harass back to the Tower.

They rode in silence for a short time, Demetri recalling the sounds and sights of Canluum, remembering what had brought her here last time. It brought her full circle back to the thoughts she'd been having about being Keeper—how the higher she rose in rank, the more her hands seemed tied. Sighing, Demetri tried to push away the dreary thoughts, but they were elusive and slippery, always gliding around her intentions to come back and taunt her.

"Hey, what's on your mind?" It wasn't Laurian who asked the question—the Brown Brother had ridden forward slightly, his mind occupied by something fascinating; she was glad for the distraction,

Flashing her Warder a quick smile, Demetri wanted to shake her head but instead she heaved a sigh. "I miss my old life."

"Ariana?" He frowned in confusion.

"No, not Ariana, Light no!" She laughed. "When I chose the Green Ajah, it was something I did entirely without ambition. I worked as a Field Assigned Sister, going out, doing good, affecting the world directly. And then I managed to go and get myself a desk job as a General."

"And then you moved up to Keeper." His head bobbed in understanding. "And the further up you went, the less you felt you were affecting the world directly. The higher you were raised, the more you had to move pieces—something that you used to be, and enjoyed." Demetri's eyes widened and she provided him with a shrug and tight grin. "Is that why you're doing this personally? Coming out here and talking to your people personally? Because you want to be back out in the world?"

She remained silent for a long time, trying to find the truth to her answer. "I don't think so. When all of these people decided to report to the Keeper, they were approached first by whichever Keeper it was. Having agents in your network is a personal thing, you choose these people and they choose to serve through personal reasons. I'm trying to make my network personal so that my reports not only come regularly, but from people who are aligned with my thoughts and actions."

"I can see that." He nodded. "But…?"

Laughing, "There's always a but, isn't there? I guess I want to be the first Keeper that does more than sits on the right hand of the Amyrlin and is nothing more than a puppet. If she can't be out in the world doing what she can for the Tower, then shouldn't I? Shouldn't I be the one touching the world personally in her name and in the name of the Tower? She chose me to serve with her, to work with her, and for someone like me—this is how I know how to serve, how to help."

"A noble thing." Laurian murmured, letting his horse drop back as they approached the inn. "And different. In the past, Amyrlins always had Keepers who remained on the sidelines, in the shadows. They helped with unseen hands. I think I'd like to see what you'll do with this, given your experience and temperament. Ah, no, just straw for mine, she doesn't like hay." The stablehand bowed low as they dismounted.

When her feet were on the ground, Laurian looked her full in the face and she was only dimly aware that Dai had retreated to help curry the horses. "What?"

He smiled and then raised her hands to his face, kissing her palms. "I wondered when you were going to stop pitying yourself and realize what you could do."

Winding her arm through Laurian's, Demetri gave a smile and felt something lift from her shoulders as they entered The Golden Hind.

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