Becoming Daughter of the Night
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 comes again. In one age, called the Age of Legends by some, an Age yet to come, an a Age long past, a wind rose in the great city called V’saine. 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.
North and west it blew, cool in the first rays of the morning sun. Each day, the winter chill waned as the warmth of spring brought the promise of a warmer tomorrow. Jo-cars rested along wide streets beside high buildings filled with men and women beginning to rise. To the human eye, the tall buildings were a monolithic testament to the story of a city never to be forgotten.
Streets of cobblestones appeared before the wind, twined the subtle hills of V’saine, and ran toward the university called Collam Daan. Few roads still used cobble stones, but Collam Daan was the oldest and greatest center for research in the world. The blue and gray stones leading up to the domed buildings had been well maintained. Its preservation was a tribute to the countless others who had taken this same path to the university over the ages.
The silvery buildings had been built to accommodate the rolling hills and natural gardens instead of the other way around. Chlora trees, grown with the One Power, were spaced so the large trefoil leaves could provide ample shade for those walking the path.
Streams of light glinted off the oblong sphere that hovered above the center of the silver domes, making patterns across the cobblestones. To the observer walking up the path toward the university, the Sharom looked like a giant pearl suspended by nothing but air.
Mierin Eronaile stepped into the clearing and stared at the colossal sphere in the sky. Reaching the building required use of the lift far below the Sharom or by the One Power. Mierin could have Traveled to her lab directly from the Travel Chamber in her home to that of the Sharom, but the morning walk always helped to clear her thoughts. Besides, seeing the building from the outside gave reminders of her purpose.
Some thought the elevation of a building to be a frivolous waste of the One Power, but there were other benefits to having a research facility out of reach. In truth, the Sharom housed the most prized innovations in all the lands. Not all of the citizens or indeed the Hall of Servants would approve of some of the research projects taking place inside the sphere. But they were necessary. Sometimes, maintaining the good for all required unconventional methods.
While the Reformists held control of the Hall, Mierin would be free to continue her work unimpeded. However, if the Conventionalists gained control at the end of Bel Tine, she and many of her associates would lose status amongst the people when their most recent project came to light. Her status provided her the comfortable life of an academic. She would not lose status.
Mierin took a deep breath.
It would never come to that. Lews Therin Telamon held the High Seat. So long as he was First Among Servants, she could continue her research. After all, Lews Therin was also Aes Sedai. He understood the necessity of the Bore. Consensus amongst the researchers had concluded a high probability that such exploration was safe. Seismic readings suggested the New Power to be stable. It had likely been there since creation; a nugget left by the Light at creation to improve mankind.
In any event, the Pattern had given the world a new source of power. Such power needed to be explored.
Only a few disagreed. And of those, only one opinion mattered to Mierin. Before retiring from her lecturer position to design ter’angreal, Nemiane Goannder Faradim had been Mierin’s mentor. Though Nemiane had laid the foundations for Mierin’s current research on the Power, Nemiane had the fool notion of creating a ter’angreal capable of allowing anyone to channel. Sure, some of the ter’angreal could be used by anyone, but only Aes Sedai could touch the True Source.
Even if such a creation was possible, it was madness to think that just anyone should have the abilities of Aes Sedai. Perhaps Mierin’s own trepidations for Nemiane’s research had fueled her mentor’s opposition to the Bore. But then, in her one hundred years of working for Nemiane, Mierin had never seen her mentor show bias for or against any project without good reason.
“I will be careful,” she told the empty air.
If research gave evidence that the energy coming from the Bore could be unstable, she would stop the dig and cover the hole. Simple. If not, Mierin Eronaile would be the one to unlock the Bore’s secrets. Perhaps, she would finally earn enough prestige to be given her third name and get the attention of Lews Therin.
A cool breeze rustled the hem of her white gown and Mierin pulled her streith coat tighter in an attempt to suppress the shiver making its way up her spine. She noticed the streith cloth had changed from white to a pinkish hue. The cloth had been manufactured to reflect the mood of the wearer. Pink reflected mild irritation. At her mentor.
She forced her mind to relax. It was the same simple exercise required for surrendering to saidar, and it always calmed her to feel the Source within her reach. When the pink faded from her coat, she gave a satisfied nod and continued her walk toward the Sharom. A woman needed to control her emotions. Volatile thoughts led to irrational actions. Such things belonged in the hands of men. Not women.
Moving beneath the Sharom, Mierin stepped into the circular platform below its center. She touched her smooth access-stone to the dais at the circle’s middle, and a moment later, the lift began to move beneath her feet. As she neared, the door above opened, and the first level of the Sharom came into view.
The entry wasn’t much to see. The round foyer gave way to a silver hallway, split to provide two entries to the check point. She always took the one on the right. Following it to the end, she met a round-faced young man, who sat behind a desk. His dark eyes lit up when he noticed her.
He bowed his head and said, “ Good morning, Mierin Sedai.”
“Good morning, Brenen. Has anyone else arrived?”
“None of the Travel Sensors have been triggered, but I believe your assistant is still here from yesterday.”
He touched the screen on his desk to turn the panel on and began tapping the screen. “Arionelle is lying on the couch in the lounge.”
“Thank you,” she said and walked past the desk. Left or right would take her around to the lift leading to the upper levels. She went right.
“Have a nice day, Mierin Sedai.”
“And you,” She said on reflex.
She felt a spike of anticipation rise within her, and she increased her step.
The latest readings from the researchers at the Bore must have arrived at some point during the night. Why else would Arionelle have stayed through the night, if not to be ready to go upon Mierin’s arrival? If the New Power appeared stable, then they could move onto phase two.
Mierin took the last few steps to the lift at a hurried walk and pressed the button with the “19” until the platform began to ascend. By the time Mierin noticed her coat had shifted colors, it had become a deep violet. The color of ambition and restfulness.
Once more, she took a breath and calmed her mind.
As the lift came to a stop, the last remnants of purple faded from her sleeves. When she stepped off the lift, the glow bulbs on the ceiling came alive with her passing. The antechamber opened to a wide hallway branching off into several paths. Mierin went left toward the lounge. The door opened at her touch, bathing the room in light.
Arionelle sat up from the couch. The red cushions were of Shayol fashion with large, fluffy pillows. It was quite easy to sleep on. Mierin had done so herself many times.
Arionelle’s eyes squinted in Mierin’s direction. “Oh. Uh. I…,” she stood from the couch rubbing her eyes. When she looked back at Mierin, Arionelle jumped as if goosed. “Oh. Mierin. The readings!”
Mierin forced her breathing to remain calm. “What news from the Bore?”
“It is still stable,” Arionelle said taking a step forward.
“Ha!” Mierin said. “One hundred twenty days of stable readings. Not even the Conventionalists can fault us for going forward to phase two.” She smiled. “Not that they will know until we have already discovered the New Power’s potential.”
“When do we leave?” Arionelle asked.
“As soon as the Travel Chamber in Shayol Ghul is cleared, we will depart.”
Besides, she thought to herself, Beidomon discovered the Bore and engineered the drills. If I want any prestige from this project, I need to be the first to study the New Power.
“Should we not inform the Hall that we plan to move forward?”
“Of course,” Mierin said. “But, I need to arrive before Beidomon to make the necessary assessments. I do not want to inform them prematurely.”
Arionelle glanced down at her crumpled dress and moved her lips as if debating to herself. Finally, she nodded and said, “Let me just refreshen myself in the washroom.”
The glow of saidar surrounded the other woman as she walked past Mierin toward the washroom. Flows of Air, Fire, and Water pressed the wrinkles from Arionelle’s dress.
Mierin went back through the antechamber to the Travel Chamber on the other side of the lift. She touched the on-screen panel and penned in a request for the Travel Queue. A moment later a message returned, Approximate wait time: Two minutes.
Mierin blinked. That was the minimum time to ready a Travel Chamber to receive Travelers. No one else would be ahead of them.
That’s odd, she thought. The moment the Travel Chamber had been erected to Shayol Ghul, the traffic had seen a steady flow. She had never seen less than an hour wait, day or night. Mierin glanced to the end of the hall, where sounds of running water escaped the washroom.
“Two minutes,” She called to Arionelle.
The sound of running water ceased, and Arionelle’s heavy footsteps preceded her down the hall.
“What was that?” she asked, confusion clear in her voice. “I thought you said two minutes.”
“Yes,” she replied. “One minute now. Are you ready?”
Arionelle hurried over. “I thought we would have time for breakfast first.”
“I, as well,” Mierin said, “but I won’t argue with our luck.”
The door to the Travel Chamber opened and a chime resonated down the hall. She stepped into the cylinder, and Arionelle followed, still pressing on her dress even though the green silks no longer had any sign of having been slept-in. It was a subtle sign of the other woman’s excitement. Mierin understood. It took every effort she could muster not to dance and fidget herself. After all this time, they would finally get to pierce into the Bore.
Once the doors closed behind them, a voice spoke from the panel, “Authorization required for travel to the Bore.”
Mierin placed her thumb on the oval beside the panel and channeled Spirit into the ser’angreal at the top.
The voice spoke again, “Welcome Mierin Sedai. You may open your Gateway when ready.”
Mierin opened herself to the True Source and the One Power filled her. The air tasted sweeter and the excitement she felt for going to the Bore seemed magnified tenfold. Would the New Power feel like this? Her eagerness grew as she channeled the intricate flows to make a Gateway to Shayol Ghul.
A thin light appeared in the air and cut open a hole to another silver room much like this one. Mierin signaled to Arionelle to step through and followed after her. Once they cleared the opening, she let the Gateway collapse and released the power.
When the outer doors of the Travel Chamber opened, only silent darkness greeted them.
“That’s strange,” Arionelle said. “Where is everyone? Have they gone to the city?”
“No,” she replied. “The monitors are never to be left unattended. Lab assistants would be here, if not the entire team, readying for phase two. And at the very least, the Da’shain Aiel should be here to attend us.”
“What if—” Arionelle’s breath caught. She inhaled quickly before continuing. “What if they began phase two without us or by accident? What if they dug too deeply and penetrated the Bore ahead of schedule? Cracking the outer layer could have made the Bore destabilize. What if—”
The overhead voice made Mierin jump, “Please exit the Travel Chamber.”
“The Light save me,” Arionelle said with a laugh. “The automaton startled me.”
“Come on,” Mierin said. “They are probably deeper in making preparations.”
Mierin stepped from the Travel Chamber and took a few steps into the cavern. The doors of the Travel Chamber closed, covering them in darkness.
Mierin channeled a globe of light into existence above her outstretched palm. Though the cavern walls had been made smooth with the power, shadows danced in every crevice and moved with the motion of light. Only, the light wasn’t moving. Mierin blinked at the moving shadows and rubbed at her eyes with her free hand.
Arionelle stepped closer to Mierin, a look of fear on her face. “The shadows… They’re moving.”
“Nonsense,” Mierin said with more conviction than she felt. “Get ahold of yourself, Arionelle Sedai. You are no novice in white.”
Arionelle’s back stiffened and red spots appeared on her cheeks. She opened her mouth as if to respond, but her mouth snapped shut.
“Come,” Mierin said. “We should meet up with the others. Surely, they are deeper in.”
Not waiting for a reply, Mierin walked into the cavern. The wall narrowed to a checkpoint, much like the one at the Sharom, but both chairs were empty. One was overturned.
“Is this foolishness as well” Arionelle said with an air of satisfaction, “or is it safe at this point to assume something has happened.” It wasn’t a question.
In the corner of her eye, Mierin saw a shadow flicker. But, when she turned her head, she saw an empty hallway. A whisper, almost too faint to make out the words, said Mierin’s name. The feel of it sent shivers through her body.
“Did you hear that?” Mierin said.
“We should send for the Hall of Servants,” Arionelle said.
Mierin looked down the long hallway leading deeper into the Bore. The edge of her light touched the darkness. Beyond was a blackness too deep for her eyes to penetrate. Still, it seemed if something, no someone was there just out of sight. She needed to go deeper. Something wondrous waited for her at the Bore. She couldn’t say how she knew, but she couldn’t deny the truth of it.
“Mierin? Did you hear me. We should inform the Hall.”
A thought occurred to Mierin. What if someone had betrayed their research to the Conventionalists? And why was Arionelle so insistent about informing the Hall? Best to be sure before making accusations.
“Yes,” Mierin said. “Maybe you should go, but someone could be in need. I’ll go deeper.”
She move ahead, walking down the sloped corridor and heard Arionelle’s steps behind her.
A foreign sensation overcame Mierin’s thoughts. She didn’t have a name for the word. An intense feeling against Arionelle overwhelmed her. The scuffs behind her became loud in her ears. What was wrong with that cursed woman? Did she have to walk with such force?
“Are you sure that is the best idea? We should both return.” Arionelle’s voice had become shrill to Mierin’s ears.
She stopped to regard the other woman. Arionelle’s eyebrows had risen to the middle of her ample forehead. The woman should have been eager to go deeper into the Bore. This was what they had planned for all this time. Unless, of course, Arionelle was giving information to the Conventionalists.
Was that fear or guilt in the other woman’s dark eyes? Perhaps, she could provoke the woman into revealing the truth out of her.
A laugh bubbled up from Mierin’s throat, and she said, “Are you afraid of the dark, Arionelle?”
The other woman’s cheeks reddened. “I … No. I think caution is necessary. There is a reason the others have broken protocol. The Hall should know what is going on here.”
“You mean,” Mieren said keeping her voice neutral, “the Conventionalists need to know what is going on here.”
“What?” Arionelle’s face paled. “That isn’t what I meant at all. I would never—”
“Then why are you so eager to leave? Our names will go into history as those who would give a New Power to the world. This is what we have worked for these last months.”
“Yes,” Arionelle said, “but where are the others? Perhaps, others should be here to aid us.”
In that moment, all of the pieces seemed to fit. Mierin turned from the other woman abruptly and resumed her descent through the narrow caverns.
“Mierin,” the other woman called, desperation clear in her voice. “Wait!”
There was only one reason the other woman could be so desperate. Arionelle had betrayed her to the Conventionalists. That was why everyone was gone. They had been recalled from the project. How long had Arionelle been working against her?
The woman wanted to steal Mierin’s credit for favor with the Conventionalists. Revealing the Bore project too early would be catastrophic for Mierin and Beidomon. She would have to give up her position at the university.
Arionelle had caught up with her. “Mierin, look around. There is something wrong here.” Desperation still betrayed the woman’s intentions, but Mierin wouldn’t be fooled. She would not give credit for her accomplishments to such light-burned fools.
“Mierin, the streith cloth,” Arionelle said, her voice now shaking.
She glanced over to see Arionelle staring at Mierin’s coat. That’s when she realized she had been mumbling. Mierin followed the woman’s gaze down to see the color had turned a hue of red so crimson it could have been blood. Mierin flinched. She had never seen streith cloth turn such a color. What did it even mean? More importantly, what had gotten into her?
Arionelle was her assistant and friend. Surely, the woman hadn’t betrayed her. The woman had labored over readings and helped to calculate projected safe levels of energy from the Bore. Could Arionelle be speaking the truth?
She looked down the narrow walk.
The corridor opened to the antechamber of the Bore. Blank monitors rested on pedestals at the other end of the room. Had someone turned them off? Why had they abandoned the monitors?
Mierin had been right. Someone had pulled them away. Her project had been abandoned.
Someone would lose status over this. Mierin would see to it, personally. No. Losing status was not enough. They would need to be shamed. Only that punishment wouldn’t do for such a crime. She would remove them. She would…
“Mierin,” Arionelle said, “Are you feeling alright?”
“I’m fine,” she said in a terse voice. “Come.”
“But, we should…”
Ignoring the woman’s protests, Mierin walked around the monitors, through the abandoned security checkpoint. The narrow passage led to a platform. She walked up the steps two at a time.
Not a soul stood at the Bore.
Tools and handheld monitors were strewn with haphazard abandon. The wide cylindrical haft of the drill did not vibrate, which meant the drill no longer sought the Bore.
Anger flared up in her once more, and she stepped up to the edge. The light of her globe did not reach far into the darkness of the deep hole in the earth. She could not pull her eyes away from the depths. The shadows at the edge of her light seemed to undulate against the globe. The patterns swirled with a beauty unlike any she could recall.
Come to me, the voice seemed to whisper.
A chill covered her body, and she wanted to walk forward. One step and she would fall into the beautiful depth.
Somewhere behind her, she began to hear a fly buzzing. A tug on her arm pulled her eyes away from the Bore. As she turned to regard the other woman, the loss she felt from looking away was immediate.
“Did you hear me? We need to summon the Hall. Something is wrong here. The New Power feels different than it did before. More… potent.”
“We need to get the current readings,” Mirien said in a kurt voice. “Our entire point of being here is to gather assessments for the Hall. Get the handheld reader. I’ll wait here. We will need to include the readings in our report.”
Arionelle hesitated. When she opened her mouth to speak, Mirien cut her off. “Go. There is one next to the table by the monitors.”
“Yes Mirien,” Arionelle said with a hint of anger, “as you say.”
The woman walked away with a stiff back. Her assistant had betrayed her. This whole time, Arionelle’s fear had been feigned. What had the Conventionalists promised her?
A whisper tickled the back of her mind. Mirien, the True Power can be yours.
She turned back to the Bore. A warmth settled on her, causing goose-prickles to cover her skin.
“How?” She heard herself say. The voice seemed distant, as if in a well.
The New Power was sentient. No one had predicted this. And she would be the first to study it firsthand. The glory would be hers. Arionelle’s betrayal ensured that Mierin alone would hold the prestige for this great find.
“I will serve,” she said.
Her breath caught when she felt access to the power granted to her. She could sense it now as if a conduit had been extended to her.
“Who are you talking to?” Arionelle said from behind her.
Ignoring the traitor, Mierin opened herself to the New Power. When it filled her, she felt as if a river of warmth filled every inch of her. But, it was more than physical. It was as if the Light had touched Mierin and breathed life into her for the first time. She felt something within her stir. A desire entered her. She couldn’t place a name to it. The feeling became more intense as she attempted to understand what it was. Her heart beat as if she had labored for an hour. The New Power needed to be channeled.
“What is it?” Arionelle asked.
“He didn’t reveal himself to you,” Mierin said. “He chose me and not you.”
Arionelle’s eyes widened. “He? What are you talking about? Chose you for what?”
Mierin smiled, “The New Power is sentient. He has spoken to me and not you. Because you are a traitor to us.”
The traitor’s eyes widened as she looked at the Bore. “I have not betrayed you, Mierin. Don’t you see? The New Power is wrong.”
The need to channel became stronger. She felt hungry with the power raging through her, but nothing seemed as if it would sate her. Then, the answer came to her.
End the traitor’s life.
Mierin smiled at Arionelle, knowing the words to be true. The weaves came to her as if she was born to channel them. The New Power felt much like channeling the One Power. She wove Fire, Air, and Spirit and let them settle on the other woman. Arionelle’s eyes widened in shock, as her skin began to boil and flake away. Screams echoed through the caverns for several moments after the woman’s body fell to the ground, her face no longer recognizable.
Mierin was surprised to see her strieth coat turn a shade of green, the color of calm satisfaction.
A deep voice filled the cave. “Obedience will be rewarded with power. You are the first of my Chosen.”
“Who are you?” Mierin could hear the awe in her voice.
She could feel heat on her neck as the voice spoke, “I am Shai’tan. Bow before me.”
Mierin’s knees dropped to the cavern, and she bowed her head.
“How can I serve you, Great Lord?”