I do not own the Wheel of Time, nor any of the main characters. They belong to TOR, and are the product of the genius Robert Jordan. I am simply one who was dissatisfied with the ending given in A Memory of Light, and the lack of questions answered, so I decided to answer some of the burning questions myself.
A special thanks to kitkitmaria for agreeing to be my Beta Reader. You found so much that I missed! I appreciate your skills!
Chapter One:A Proposal
Fortuona Athaem Kore Paendrag stood looking out the window, of the Tarasin palace, watching the practice down below, while absently rubbing her swollen stomach. She enjoyed watching Knotai go through practice drills with the Deathwatch Guards. It was so soothing to watch him go through the drills, watching the sweat cling to his shirt, during the practice runs. He was rather handsome, even missing one eye. He had been far too pretty before, but now with the scars he had earned, and the missing eye, he was just perfect. He never ceased to amaze those around him; his style, his grace, the way he battled. His leadership and battle style had been instrumental in the Last Battle. She would never admit it to anyone, but she needed him. The time was near, to reclaim Seanchan, to take back the Crystal Throne, and Knotai would be the one that brought that about. Her Doomseer had seen the omens, and she knew. If she was to regain the Crystal Throne, she would only do it with the help of her husband. It was so nice that he had finally started growing into his position, as Prince of the Ravens. Her people, especially the Deathwatch Guards, had taken to him immediately, and would follow his order without question. That was going to be important in the next few months.
"Pardon, your Excellency, but the Amyrlin has agreed to meet you via gateway, as you requested." Selucia said, looking behind Fortuona, relaying the message that the servant had brought.
"Excellent"she thought to herself, and turned to Selucia wiggling her fingers. As she turned, the baby started kicking, almost doubling her over. Being in the ending stages of her pregnancy made things awkward for her, especially since she was so petite. She knew that it was only a matter of days until she would deliver the heir to her throne. Her midwife had warned her that the pregnancy might be more difficult, as she was so small, but Darbinda had seen that the babe would be born healthy and strong. She trusted her Doomseer more than some old foolish midwife.
An arm was suddenly around her waist, helping her to upright herself, before she could harm herself, or worse the babe. As foolish as she felt, for almost falling on her face, she was grateful that Selucia never left her side.
"Excellent, we'll open a gateway in the throne room. We need her to feel awed and want to give their cooperation." Fortuona said through the finger wiggles.
Selucia raised an eyebrow at the command, but said nothing, and immediately issued the command to prepare the throne room. Selucia knew what needed to be done, and would see that her Deathwatch Guards were there, as well as all of the pairs of Sul'dam and damane. She was no fool; she would not leave herself unprotected.
"Ask Knotai to join us, Selucia. Ask, don't order. You know how it puts his back up." She said, in a low enough voice so that the servants could not hear, as she carefully turned back to look down at the practice yard below. The baby kicked again, but this time not so hard.
Yes, soon it would be time to give birth; not only to the heir of the Crystal Throne, but to give birth to a new era in Seanchan history. Today would see it start.
As Fortuona walked into the throne room, flanked by two pair of Sul'dam and damane and the Deathwatch guards, she felt a sense of awe. The windows, in the throne room, faced her personal gardens. The land had changed so much in the past nine months, since the Last Battle. Rand al'Thor had indeed put the Dark One back in his prison, sealing it away for all time, and the land sung his praises ever since. The trees bloomed, giving forth their fruits, the grass grew green, and flowers that hadn't bloomed in years, were showcasing their petals. But all those things weren't why she was in awe. Her garden had been sung to by the Dragon Reborn himself. The peach blossoms were finally turned into peaches, and insects buzzed nearby collecting the pollen. It was the trees that stood, tall and proud, that was the real life of the garden, and was the most impressive part of it. She still remembered the shock and horror as she watched a shielded Dragon begin to make the dead things grow. It was remarkable.
She made her way to her throne; her retinue of attendants picking her up and seating her, so that the satin wouldn't be mussed and arranging the train to cover the steps down from the throne. Waving a hand, Selucia ordered two Sul'dam and two damane to stand beside her, making sure that one of the damane was the one that had claimed to be the Amyrlin seat. Suffa was her name. She no longer wept at every moment; Fortuona had taken over her training herself, ever since the remarkable talent for gateways she had displayed. She was very good at showing the other damane how to make gateways, and had a knack for many other weaves. Her hard eyes looked lovingly at Fortuona, and she afforded herself the luxury of patting Suffa's head. She had turned out to be a very good damane, and had the talent for foretelling as well. Yes, a remarkable damane. If only she had more like her, but that was not what this meeting was about. She was in need of these Aes Sedai.
Waving her hand again she let Sulucia know that it was time to begin, and had Melitene have Suffa open a gateway, which opened to the Hall of the Tower and army of channelers on the other side. At the head of the group sat an older woman, with golden ornaments in her hair. Her demeanor spoke of hundreds of years of experience, but her face told Fortuona nothing about her age. A seven striped stole lay across her shoulders, and she sat on a seat painted with the Flame of Tar Valon. . She recognized Nynaeve at her right, from a previous meeting, and the Queen of Andor and Cairhien, Elayne Trakand. She was no longer pregnant, as she had been the last time Fortuona had seen her, but that was the only change. There were no fewer than fifty other Aes Sedai standing on the Amyrlin's right hand side. On her left stood Logain Ablar along with twenty other Asha'man. Light, over seventy marath'damane, just sitting there waiting to be collared! But, no, this was not the purpose of this meeting. She had asked them for this meeting, agreeing to a weave placed over the gateway that would prevent any weaves coming from her side into the gateway. She wasn't sure how that was possible; it seemed the marath'damane had many tricks up their sleeves.
At the side, she heard a damane gasp in surprise. Without turning, she knew that it must have been Suffa. She had wanted this damane to be present during the talks, as she was hoping that her presence would help influence the Amyrlin to help Fortuona.
"Thank you for agreeing to this meeting." Selucia Voiced, for Fortuona. It would not do to be rude, or to put this woman's back up. To the side, she saw Knotai walk up. Good, he had changed into proper clothing, befitting his station. He really did look majestic in his black and dark green robes.
"Nynaeve, Elayne, Logain! Light, it's good to see you!" Knotai said, a huge smile breaking across his face. In the following months, he hadn't had much time to see his old friends. His smile betrayed how much he had missed them. If only she had her Doomseer with her, to tell her the omens that she saw, this would go so much easier. But, Darbinda had asked for a holiday, to visit a cousin of sorts, for a few days. Odd fellow he was, with his dark hair and the odd shaped mark in his eye. She would have to ask Darbinda about it when she returned.
"Mat, what under the light have you gotten yourself into?" Nynaeve said, with a smile herself. "You look almost respectable in those clothes!"
"We'll talk about that later, Nynaeve." Knotai said, looking a bit sheepish, and pulling at his clothes, "You're here because the Empress, may she live forever, has need of you."
Fortuona fought a smile, as her heart soared. He was really learning and growing into a fine Prince of the Ravens.
"As you well know, according to the Dragon's Peace, we are not allowed to collar any marath'damane in any of the lands that we do not control. We have complied with that request, and in exchange the Dragon agreed to allow us to keep the damane that we do control, and collar any woman that crosses into our borders." Selucia started, after Fortuona wiggling her fingers at her. Light, this was going to be sticky, and might make her give up more then she wanted. Those men and women should not be allowed to roam free, but she needed them. Would allowing them to remain free be the best for the Empire?
"You've kept your part of the bargain," Cadsuane said, with a tone that implied she was lecturing a child, "but you still keep Aes Sedai collared. The fact that you have Elaida Sedai beside you is proof of that. What could you possibly want, when you refuse to free the Aes Sedai you hold captive?"
Perceptive, this Amyrlin. Not that the old Amyrlin was not perceptive, but this one didn't beat around the bush. She was still rather upset that Egwene had died before she had a chance to place the collar around her neck again. It would have been a joy to break her. She had made Fortuona look ignorant in front of the Blood. That was unforgivable.
"That was not part of the Dragon's Peace. The Dragon's Peace stated that we could keep the damane that we had, but would no longer attempt to collar the Aes Sedai who remain marath'damane." Selucia said, knowing exactly what Fortuona wanted her to Voice.
"Then why the reason for this 'visit' if not to parade your captive Aes Sedai in front of us, to taunt us?" Nynaeve blurted out.
These marath'damane, no not that, these Aes Sedai were to used to just speaking up whenever they felt like it. How did they live their lives without order? It made no sense.
"The Empress, may she live forever, has need of the large gateways you can make, using a circle." Selucia voiced.
That made her stomach curdle to hear. That she would need these Aes Sedai to do something for her. But, she did need them. It would take hours to move all the soldiers, Sul'dam and damane, and the supplies through the small gateways that only one damane could make, even if they had ever damane making a gateway. Then, while the damane waited for everyone to move, they would be unable to be used as weapon to help retake Seanchan. They needed to have the element of surprise on their side. They needed to be able to have them all move through at one time, squashing their enemies in one swoop.
It They had learned, after the Last Battle, that the damane and Sul'dam couldn't form a circle. Oh, they had watched, with eager eyes, as they saw the Aes Sedai link into groups of thirteen, and even add men into the circle, but they couldn't make it work. She had even asked her Suffa and Mylen how to make the circles, and they had told her how, but could not make it work. Perhaps the a'dam had something to do with it?
At the mention of the need for a circle, Cadsuane's eyebrows arched. She was surprised. Well, better to get it all out at once.
"Her Eminence knows that this was not something that was covered in the Dragon's Peace contract. And as such, the Throne is willing to make a trade of sorts, for your services." Selucia added. This was not going to be easy.
Cadsuane just looked at her, face unreadable. Behind Cadsuane, the group of women began to whisper to each other, looking alarmed. Elayne looked intrigued, and who knew what the Asha'man were thinking. She tried not to look at the men. They made her skin crawl.
" We are in the process of getting ready to launch a massive assault on Seanchan, to regain the Crystal Throne. The Empire is in chaos. It is a blood bath; with people killing one another for the throne." Knotai said, stepping in before Cadsuane could get a word in.
"That sounds like quite the problem, boy, but I fail to see how it involves the White and Black Tower. Surely you have enough damane to go and retake the Throne, and you know that the Tower never gets involved in disputes like this." Cadsuane said.
"And why would we help you, anyway?" Nynaeve said, adding a belated, "Your Majesty"
" I do not need you to fight with us," Fortuona replied, speaking for herself. She heard a soft gasp from the Blood, standing around the throne. It was rare for her to speak for herself, but some things had to be managed personally. It had been bad enough to watch this women and men channel, in the Last Battle, without being properly leashed. Who knows what they would do without the Dragon keeping them in check? She didn't want them anywhere near her! "We have discovered a problem; our damane cannot form a circle, and thus cannot make gateways large enough for the armies and wagons to move through at the necessary speed."
"Yes, I can see how the a'dam would prohibit the women from making a circle." Elayne said, her eyes getting a far off look, as if trying to see how to fix a problem.
Fortuona had heard that this remarkable marath'damane had the talent for making angreal and ter'angreal. What she wouldn't give to have her as a damane!
"That's all fascinating," Nynaeve broke in, "but I fail to see how that's our problem. The Tower is not something that you can just decide you need, when it suits you, especially when you flaunt leashed Aes Sedai leashed by your side like a pet dog!"
Taking a deep breath, Fortuona bit back the words that she wanted to lash out at this insolent woman. It would do no good to lose her control here.
"We of course would not ask this favor of you, if we weren't prepared to give something large in return." Fortuona said, in a soft, even voice.
" Your Majesty, unless you are willing to let the damane go, I doubt you have anything that we would want." Cadsuane said, sounding for the entire world like a mother, chastising her child.
Taking a deep breath, Fortuona continued, "I am prepared to release five damane, to the control of the White Tower, in exchange for the use of the gateway. You may choose any that you wish, but the damane must want to go with you. You will not take any damane who wish to stay with us
It was a galling idea, but Knotai had assured her that it would be the only thing that the Aes Sedai would accept. As the words left her mouth, the throne room started to buzz with whispers, and the Aes Sedai standing beside Cadsuane were no better. The murmur of voices was beginning to become loud. She had known that this proposal would cause this reaction.
"An interesting proposal." Cadsuane said, her fingers making a steeple in front of her mouth. "But, I'm afraid that this is not a decision that I can make for the White Tower, alone. The Hall will have to convene, and think over your proposal. I would ask you to submit your proposal in writing, and we will look over it and get back to you on the morrow."
How in the world did these people lead? Why would you need to have others make the decision for you, if you're going to claim to be their leader? It was always wise to ask for council, to have advice, but in the end the decision was hers. The White Tower really should be under Fortuona's rule. If those Aes Sedai were leashed properly, then they wouldn't have need of any of this foolishness.
Waving her hand at Selucia, Fortuona decided that she should not say anything else, lest it make the Aes Sedai not want to come to her aid.
"You will have the written proposal in one hour. It will be delivered, by a messenger, to Tar Valon." Selucia Voices in reply.
The gateway winked out, and the room grew quiet. She knew that she would have to explain her actions, to put her people at ease, but it was not something that she was looking forward to.
"The time has come, for us to retake the lands of our birth. Seanchan is in chaos. There must be order restored. I know that this war will see the loss of many people, but know that those who fall will not fall in vain. We will retake Seanchan, and see our Empire built even stronger. It will require sacrifices on our part, and I know that they will make us stretch ourselves to the point of breaking. I know that the declaration of releasing some damane to the White Tower has you shocked, and it was not a decision that I came to lightly. Know that what I do, I do for the greater good, for the good of the Empire. I ask, that in the days ahead, that you do not waiver in your devotion to the Throne, but know that every decision is being made for your good, and to build a stronger Empire."
At the end of her words, the she saw the looks on the faces of the blood. Courage had been renewed, and resolve has been strengthened. It would be a strange way of dealing with the war, but if the Aes Sedai accepted, it would be a fast means to securing Seanchan and bringing peace.