Gnawing at the roots

A Wheel of Time fic by Gigi.

Disclaimer: I only own one copy of each Robert Jordan's (R.I.P.) published Wheel of Time books. No more.

Chapter 1: Fueling the Fire

A/N: Okay, so this story picks up where Chapter 24 in the Knife of Dreams left off. Egwene has just won the respect of the novices and is continuing her battle for the White Tower.

Egwene couldn't help smiling to herself as she walked back her room, thinking of her triumph with the novices. It had been a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

Images filled her mind of all the novices—all one hundred of them, just a fraction of the number Egwene had gathered—in the dining hall standing up for her as she entered. One novice darted to the kitchen to retrieve Egwene's food and returned with a tray with an extra roll beside the dish of stew and crumbly cheese. A cushion rested on the hard wooden bench for her, but Egwene moved it and sat down, welcoming the fire in her bottom, drinking in the pain.

She had won over the novices, one hundred girls with varying ranges of Talents. Alvistere and a few other novices were at the point in their training where they would be tested for Accepted soon, and if they passed into Acceptance, it would be yet another victory for Egwene. She would have Accepted on her side, who would help her win over the other Accepted.

It was a long, arduous journey to winning over the Aes Sedai, but one slow, steady step at a time was much more effective than several careless steps all at once. Elaida had made that mistake, and Egwene was determined to show the Tower just how monstrous a mistake it was.

"Mother?" Beonin was at Egwene's door. She looked a little apprehensive when Egwene's calm gaze rested on her face. Beonin stood next to Egwene's door, her hands folded in front of her skirt as if to keep them from grabbing fistfuls of cloth. "Mother, may I please speak with you?"

Egwene's eyebrow arched. She was Mother again, was she? "Of course, Daughter," she granted, motioning for the Aes Sedai to precede her into the novice room.

As soon as Egwene closed the door behind her, Beonin abandoned all Aes Sedai serenity—and the dignity that came with it—and hugged Egwene's knees, begging forgiveness. "Mother, please forgive me for my betrayal," she gushed. "I am wracked with guilt that I even thought of letting Elaida in on any of the discoveries you made, more so that I actually followed through on that thought. I beg that you administer me a penance. I must repay for my treason."

Egwene placed a gentle hand on the woman's head, signaling her silence. "Treason is such an unforgiving word," she finally said. "It says that a woman has committed a crime for which there can be no repentance." Egwene knelt down to look Beonin in the eye. "I do not see such a woman in this room." Relief flooded into Beonin's watery eyes. "Have you warned the sisters?" The Aes Sedai nodded. "Then I have two sets of instructions for you."

"Anything, Mother," Beonin nodded fervently.

"First, every day after supper, you are to go to Silviana and ask for a private penance," Egwene began, and when she saw the look of disappointment in the woman's eyes, added, "You did not think you would go unpunished for your...lapse in judgement?"

"No, Mother," Beonin answered meekly.

"Good. You are not to give any straight answer when Silviana asks for the reason for the penance. Simply say your mother asked that you take this for a disappointment you served her." Egwene winced at herself. She was getting as good at mincing words as any Aes Sedai. No word of what she told Beonin to say was untrue. "Secondly, you need to start planting some seeds within the Aes Sedai in the Tower."

Beonin's head snapped up. "What do you mean, Mother?"

"I need you to subtly bring other Aes Sedai around to see what destruction Elaida has brought to the Tower. They need to see that the only way to repair such a broken Tower is to unseat the usurper to the Amyrlin Seat and seat a woman who knows what she is about," Egwene instructed. "Do not, on any terms, mention my name. If they think I am behind this, they will put their backs up faster than if I went up to them and spat in their faces. And, quite frankly, I want it to be the Tower's decision of who will be the next suitable Amyrlin, and if that is not me, then so be it." Beonin looked fearful. No doubt she was thinking, What if someone finds out what I'm doing? "Am I understood?"

"Yes, Mother," Beonin gulped.

"Good," Egwene said, standing up. "I would like nightly updates on your progress on both those instructions, Beonin." The other woman got to her feet slowly, surreptitiously wiping the tear tracks off her red face while mumbling out a "Yes, Mother." "You best be going. It is almost time for supper, and you'll need your strength for both your missions."

As Beonin left, Egwene sat down on her pallet. Beonin had become more of a victory than she had imagined. Suddenly it occurred to her that she should go tell Leane of the news. When she opened the door to the hallway, she was surprised to see that it was empty. Where were her Red bodyguards?

Realization hit Egwene square in the forehead. Her eyes widened, and she started running as hard as she could for the open cells.

As Egwene made her way down to the basement, she heard a noticeable lack of sound. A lack of talking. A lack of movement. A lack of breathing.

Egwene embraced the Source, taking all precautions – shielding her ability, shielding herself from view and inverting her weaves so nobody but her could see them – as she tiptoed into the cells.

Protected as she was, nothing could shield her from the gruesome sights that greeted her just beyond the cell door. Crimson droplets ran down the walls, leaving bars of blood akin to the bars of the open cells on the stone walls. The trails of blood stemmed from the body of an Aes Sedai, dismembered and nailed to where the wall met the ceiling. Egwene's stomach heaved. She was one of the Aes Sedai who were supposed to be guarding her. Katerine.

Katerine's eyes were wide with horror, and one of the disembodied hands grasped a note – no doubt a note meant for one of the prisoners for her to be down there in the first place – a note that someone did not wish to reach the intended recipient.

Channeling, Egwene brought the note from the dead woman's hand to her own. She warded it and kept it in her belt pouch. No need for anyone else to know there had been a motive for such a vicious murder.

She cast her eyes elsewhere. Felaana Bevaine, the Brown, lay on the floor, her eyes gazing unseeingly above a slit throat. Her leather-bound notebook was nowhere to be seen. Egwene braced herself for the worst as she stepped over Felaana's immobile body to look into Leane's cell. The lock seemed undisturbed, which in itself disturbed Egwene. Why would whichever Black sister who committed such a crime leave a witness behind?

Egwene channeled through the lock and pushed open the iron latticework gate. Apparently the Black sister hadn't needed to worry about leaving a witness behind, because Leane was draped over the washstand, the bubbled mirror shattered on the floor around her. Shards of the mirror were splattered with blood, and Leane hardly moved. No matter how "Talented" this Black sister was, there was no way she could have done that from outside the cell. This was self-inflicted.

Egwene had to keep the tightest rein on herself of her life to keep from screaming at the top of her lungs.

A/N: Dun, dun, DUN!!! It's a nice way to start off a fic, don't you think? This is my first Wheel of Time fic, and I've never written a fic about a book before, so please be understanding in your reviews if my writing style is not akin to Robert Jordan's. Which brings me to my last point: REVIEW!!!