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.
Thank you Kitkitmaria and Dean9909 for invaluable edits.
Chapter Eighteen: Imfarel
*All of my stories are rated T for teen and up. This one is as well, but had death, blood, and some gory scenes to it. Just a warning, before you go on reading*
Banner General Elbacu Sather sat watching the once damane, now marath'damane once again, walk through the hole in the air that one of the Asha'man had made. He felt sick watching those women walk away unleashed, but the Empress, may she live forever, had commanded it. She obviously knew what she was doing and he had no reason to question her.
Beside Elbacu sat his captain, Sirek Lildoc. Sirek was in charge of the two hundred Standardbearers, and they were in charge of the one hundred thousand soldiers that stood behind him. They all knew their orders, and had not been pleased when Prince Knotai had commanded that they not wear their normal armor and not take their horses. It was their uniform, and having a uniform made the men feel safer. There had been wisdom in the Prince of the Raven's advice, however. He had suggested that this campaign should instead move under the cover of darkness and slaughter as many of the enemy that they could before being discovered. It made sense to not wear their normal armor to reduce the amount of noise. Knowing the reasoning and agreeing with it didn't make him feel any more comfortable. He felt like he was going in naked.
He had volunteered for this campaign personally when he had heard what was going on in Seanchan. His eyes had been lowered when he had found out what his brother had been doing. It shamed him to his core to know that Cicu had betrayed the Empress, may she live forever, by trying to steal the throne and her soldiers. The only thing that would restore his honor was to kill his brother himself.
His brother had always thought highly of himself, even as a child. Ever since Elbacu could remember, Cicu had always been able to manage to get his way-even if his parents couldn't afford it. Cicu was the youngest child, after his mother had suffered many miscarriages. As such, his parents had gladly given in to Cicu's demands. When their parents had died, Cicu had decided that he wanted glory and honor. So, he had joined the Imperial Army. He had risen in the ranks fast, mostly because he could sweet talk anyone, and get them to do as he wished. It really wasn't a surprise that he had fallen this far, though. The fact that he had been able to manipulate the Imperial Army and most of the Ever Victorious Army that had remained in Seanchan into joining him spoke volumes to Elbacu. No doubt he had promised wealth and glory to the men that helped him attain the Crystal Throne. Cicu was very persuasive, and Elbacu was sure that the Cicu had them eating right out of his hands. But to fall this far, to throw away all honor and betray the very person he had sworn to defend. He was glad that his parents weren't alive any longer to bear witness to the shame that Cicu had laid on his family.
He and Lildoc had gone over the battle plan hundreds of times with Prince Knotai. It never ceased to amaze Elbacu how intelligent Prince Knotai was. The man had so much knowledge about battle tactics, such clear direction, that Elbacu could have sworn that he was one of the Great Captains. Elbacu had commanded many campaigns, been in many wars-including the Last Battle- and in all his years of experience, he had never met someone like the Prince of the Ravens.
The breeze began to pick up slightly, as the sun grew higher. It was almost noon, and it would time to leave soon. Timing was everything for this battle tactic to work. Seanchan had just reached nightfall, being twelve hours ahead of this land. The element of surprise would be on their side, they would work under the cover of darkness and slaughter the enemy's forces. He had full faith in his men's abilities to carry this out, but he ordered that they leave Cicu for him. He would restore honor to his family's name and remove the blemish that was his kin.
Up in front he watched as the Empress, may she live forever, Prince Knotai, and the Asha'man poured over the maps.
The map of Seanchan was quiet detailed; it must have been made by a master mapmaker. Androl would have been impressed, if he wasn't been so offended by the Empress' words. She had actually tried to convince him to allow them to collar him? He had heard how the black a'dam worked by leaving a man unable to move or speak without permission. She had tried to make it sound like something he would want! The Seanchan were deluded if they thought anyone would want to live as an animal. He tried to push his revulsion to the side and concentrate on his task. He really wished he had more guards around him, though. Who knew if the Seanchan were going to decide that it wasn't worth it, and collar him anyway?
The plan was simple; he was going to make three gateways at the same time at different locations. He had to learn this area first, which was why he hadn't made the gateways yet. That and they wanted it to be done at midnight, Seanchan time. Androl had to give it to Prince Knotai; the man was a brilliant general. He really seemed to care about those under his charge, wanting as few casualties as possible. The first gateway would only need to be large enough for one hundred thousand soldiers and fifty Sul'dam and damane pairs to walk through. It would open into the very heart of Imfarel, where there was a large square. The square was a large brick area, where the town's people gathered for announcements, celebrations, executions and more. It would be the perfect spot for the small campaign to walk into; the enemy forces would be at the wall looking out for an attack. They would never suspect this-they didn't know that Traveling existed.
The second gateway was to be a very small one, just large enough for the Empress and her retinue to fit through. It would be on top of a mountain that overlooked Seandar. That would be simple enough, even if he didn't agree with it. It was foolish to have the Empress watch the battle, where the enemy could see her-even if it was on top of a mountain.
The third and final gateway would be opened onto a large beach that was near Seandar. With no ships in sight, the Seanchan would be confused and frightened as over one hundred thousand soldiers, three hundred pairs of Sul'dam and damane, and thousands of exotics and their handlers suddenly appeared. It would be a terrifying scene for the Seanchan, especially those who didn't know that Travelling existed. Prince Knotai wanted Androl to make the largest gateway he could, so the entire army could walk through in a long, single line-shoulder to shoulder. That many people would fill up the entire beach, and give a greater illusion to numbers. The Prince knew that he was grossly outnumbered, and needed every advantage he could get.
The sun was high in the sky, about noon, and Androl knew it was time to begin. To his left was the group to go to Imfarel, in the center was the Empress and her entourage, and the right was the group to surround Seandar. Prince Knotai wanted every group to go at the same time, so that no one could give any warning to the other faction.
He looked one last time at the maps, and cleared his mind. Even with the overwhelming flow from the circle, he still needed to clear his mind for the task. He had opened small gateways over each of the destinations, to ensure that was where the Prince wanted him to make the gateways, but now it was time to make three gateways at once; two of them being extremely large ones.
"I'm ready, your Majesty, if your troops are prepared." Androl said, as he started to feel a bit nervous.
Prince Knotai nodded at Androl and galloped his horse to each section, making sure that they were ready to march.
"Be ready to march, and retake Seanchan for your Empress, may she live forever!" At the Prince's words, the soldiers erupted in shouts of joy and promises of glory for the Empress. Prince Knotai trotted his horse over to his force, and nodded his assent for Androl to make the gateways.
Taking a deep breath, Androl wove a massive flow of Spirit, and split it into three unequal sections. Then he took each flow of Saidin and Saidar, each varying in intensity, and bore a hole in the Pattern, making it open up over each area , each one a different size. The largest was over three miles long, and the smallest was a few feet. He felt so alive as the torrent of Power raced through him, making him feel like could level a mountain. The three different divisions looked at the different sized gateways with nothing less than pure shock on their faces. The shock didn't last long, as each Banner General lifted a hand and moved it forward to usher their troops to march forward.
As quietly as an army over two hundred thousand could march, they moved swiftly through the massive gateways and through to Seanchan. The last of the campaign into Imfarel moved through the gateway, and suddenly there was no one left in the field. In less than ten minutes every Seanchan had been moved through the gateways-as had been promised. He allowed the gateways to wink shut and stood in awe. They had had no idea that he had been linked, they assumed it had been his own work all along. He wasn't sure how he liked that, but he wasn't about to let the Seanchan know that there had been helpless Aes Sedai and Asha'man back in Remel. He held onto the massive flow of Saidin and Saidar flowing through him for one more moment- then reluctantly released the circle. As he had suspected, it was depressing to be back to his weak self.
"You did well, Shan'asha'man Androl" said Asha'man Pater.
"Thank you all for watching my back. For a moment there, I thought the Empress was going to decide the Dragon's Peace wasn't worth it, and collar me right there! I think having you there beside me kept her from making a foolish decision."
Asha'man Joel opened a gateway, leading back to the inn in Remel. The Seanchan were gone, leaving a small retinue of soldiers in Ebou Dar to keep the peace in the lands they held. Light knew how long the Seanchan would be over there, fighting for their country, but he wondered if it might be prudent to sneak as many women and men out of Ebou Dar, and the surrounding countries, that could channel. It might break the Dragon's Peace, but he would approach the subject with Tai'm'hael Logain,
Wearily, he walked through the gateway and back towards the inn, where he knew that Pevara would be waiting.
The clouds hid the full moon, making the square pitch black. The only light that shone was from the torches made a perimeter around the twenty foot tall wall. Those torches would destroy the night vision of any soldier trying to see out in the darkness, looking for an assault. It would also make it so that they didn't see his men moving in the shadows. Elbacu quickly pulled out an eye patch, and put it on, to maintain the night vision in at least one of his eyes. He heard the quiet shuffles of his men doing the same. He had up one finger and pointed north and towards the stables. Two fingers came next, and he pointed those east and towards a group of houses. He heard a quarter of his men leave with the fifty standardbearers, and quietly move north, in the shadows. Another quarter moved with another fifty standardbearers east. They had all left their horses with the remaining army, who had taken them with them to Seandar. Horses would not be needed here for this. They would be too noisy, and would prohibit the men from moving silently. His men were not here to wage war; they were here to bring these men to justice- to execute the traitors.
He silently looked around again, and held up three fingers which pointed south towards some more huts and shops. A quarter of the men slipped into the night, moving in that direction. The rest remained with Elbacu. Towards the west of Imfarel was where the richer homes were - those saved for the Lords. He knew that his brother would never sleep with his men, in the huts and stables. He would be in one of those homes, perhaps one that had belonged to the High Lord of Imfarel.
As he and his men moved silently through the streets, towards the manors, he saw the Sul'dam and damane moving silently through each alley way, making their way through the streets. They had their orders to stop as many hearts as they could, focusing on finding the Sul'dam and damane that Cicu had in his employ first. The Sul'dam understood their orders; they were to kill the Sul'dam and if they could-take the damane for the Empress. It always made him feel slightly ill to look at the damane and know what they could do with the One Power. It made him downright sick to look at the marath'damane and know that they were uncontrolled. He saw another Sul'dam, this time with two damane leashed to her. The Sul'dam were good at handling those damane; the one that had just been taken never even uttered a sound.
Some of his men split off, searching the nearby houses. Some would come back, their swords damp with blood. There was never a sound-never a cry made to warn anyone. His men were doing their jobs seamlessly. He could see the slain bodies of soldiers on the wall; smell the blood in the air. This was not his preferred way of dealing justice; he preferred to kill his enemy out in the open, in the field of war. As much as he didn't like the idea, he had to admit that Prince Knotai's plan was working flawlessly-so far. If the Light shone on them, they would be able to be able to join The Ever Victorious Army on the field of battle in Seandar within a few hours.
A large manor house stood where he knew it would be, standing on top of a small hill, looking down on the city. Several of his men moved around another building, and snuck onto the grounds. He waited by a large house that was empty. His men had done a very good job executing their orders; he hadn't seen anyone. He waited until he heard a blue jay's call. That was the signal that all was clear around the manor house. He walked towards the house, and froze as a bell began to peal in the night.
Three times the bell struck, with cries being called from the watchtower, and suddenly they were silenced. Elbacu cursed to himself silently, and started running towards the manor house, not caring if he was seen. Even if Cicu had been dead asleep, the guards inside the manor house would have woken him up when the alarm was rung. Behind him he heard steel clash on steel, as the soldiers who had not been slain awoke from their slumber ready to fight.
The door to the manor house was already wide open, and he could hear the sounds of fighting inside. He ran inside, the rest of his men behind him, and had to immediately go into The Falling Leaf form. His attacker was not as skilled as Elbacu would have thought, and he was easily able to move into the River Undercuts the Bank, cutting into the man's middle. The soldier immediately fell dead.
He ran up the staircase, which held majestic rugs depicting scenes of flowers and vines. There were dead men strewn all over the stairs, some his own. Twice he ran into enemy soldiers, but both times Stones Falling from the Mountain saved him from the enemy's sword and ended their lives at the same time. He knew his vain brother had to be up here, hiding in his apartments while his men died for him.
At the end of the upper hall, he saw a door being guarded by five men. He knew that this had to be where Cicu was hiding. He heard the fighting being quelled by his men downstairs, and felt two of his men come to stand beside him. Their breathing slowed to match his, as they started at the guards in front of them.
"How did you get past our guards and into the city?" one of the men asked, unsheathing his sword and holding it ready to strike at them.
"Does it matter? I'm here to kill the traitor, and you as well." And without another word, he rushed at the leader of the guards. Twisting the Wind was met by the Cyclone Rages. Elbacu quickly moved into the Courtier Taps His Fan, which was met by the Grapevine Twine-locking their blades together overhead. He struggled to move, but his opponent was evenly matched, strength for strength. He could feel his arms strain and his legs throb as he fought to gain an advantage. He looked his opponent in the eyes, and saw resolve. He knew that if he wanted to kill Cicu, he had to end this fight now, before all his strength and energy was gone. He braced himself, and saw his opponent do the same, obviously waiting for Elbacu to change forms. Instead, Elbacu quickly moved into Black Lance's Last Strike. The move was a risky one, putting him in harm's way if he missed. It was not a move that his opponent was anticipating, and Elbacu's blade found its target- slicing right into the man's neck. Blood came pooling out, and the man dropped to the floor.
He stopped to look around for a brief moment, and noticed that more of his men had come from downstairs to kill the remaining guards. He didn't stop to help- his brother should be in the other room waiting.
He walked to the massive oak door, and kicked it open with one stride. He hadn't bothered to try the handle; he wanted Cicu on the defensive, knowing that his time had come. The traitor would die.
As he had suspected, the apartments were lavish enough for the Empress, may she live forever. The sitting room had elaborately sung wooden chairs surrounding a magnificent marble fireplace. The fire was cold, but the ornate sconces were lit giving him a good view of the room. The round table, against the corner, held maps that he could only surmise were of Seandar. He walked carefully into the room, and froze as Cicu walked in from the bedchamber.
His brother looked nothing like he had, when Elbacu had last seen him. He had gained weight, putting on at least one hundred pounds, and looked tired. His clothes were nothing like his brother had worn in the past, being replaced by lavish red velvet and lace at the collar and cuffs. At his hip was a golden sword, showcased in a gold and red scabbard. The whole outfit looked ridiculous on him; those plump fingers would have a hard time keeping a hold of that ridiculously ornate sword. A part of him felt sorry for his brother- this would be too easy.
"Elbacu? Is that really you?" Cicu said, his eyes squinting in the light. "Have you finally come to take your place and join me?"
"Join you? No, my brother, I've come to kill you."
A look of shock and anger came across Cicu's face, and he reached to unsheathe his sword.
"You're working with Thethoc! That viper would use my own brother against me!" he spat, the rage causing his fat cheeks to turn red.
"Not him. I come from the true Empress, may she live forever, to deal justice in her name." He began to walk slowly towards his brother, trying to give his words more weight. Could Cicu not see the shame he had brought on his family, especially Elbacu, who was a Banner General in the Empress' guard?
"You can stop the lies, Elbacu. Everyone knows that the Empress has abandoned Seanchan. She is over the Aryth Ocean, busy ruling over there. It will take her months to return, and by then I will have gained the Crystal Throne for myself!" A hint of madness was plain in Cicu's eyes, and he was beginning to suck in air at a faster rate.
"There are many things that you do not understand, Cicu, but I will make you privy to one before I kill you. The Empress has returned to Seanchan. She just returned this very night to reclaim what is rightfully hers. This morning I awoke in the reclaimed eastern lands, and arrived in this town not an hour past. The marath'damane have many tricks over there."
"You woke up over there and you're here now? That's… impossible." Cicu exclaimed, and Elbacu took the moment to strike as the shock sunk in. He quickly moved into Kingfisher Takes a Silverback and was surprised when Cicu quickly defended by using Parting the Silk. Elbacu cursed silently as Cicu's blade knicked his left forearm. He had misjudged his brother.
They moved from stance to stance, blades moving against each other; each trying to find flesh. River of Light was met by Watered Silk. The Viper Flicks Its Tongue was met by the River Undercuts the Bank. On and on it went, both gaining small cuts in their flesh as they fought.
"Perhaps it would have been better if you had decided to join me, brother, instead of kill me. Think of what we could accomplish together? You and I, ruling Seanchan together? We'd be unstoppable!" Cicu puffed out, trying to catch his breath.
"I would not join you, Cicu. I am loyal to the Crystal Throne and the Empress, may she live forever. You think that I would choose to stand by you -you who rebelled against your rightful ruler? You have brought nothing but shame on your family. I'm glad that our father and mother are no longer alive to bear the shame of what you've done."
He watched the sweat pour from Cicu's face, as he felt the blood pool around his boot. Cicu's velvet shirt was sticking to him, showing the lumps and bumps that he had gained. Elbacu knew that he would have to end this soon. As much as Cicu had dishonored the family by his actions, he did not deserve to die a slow and painful death from the cuts he was enduring. It was cruel to keep him going like this .
Cicu tried to stand straighter, and Elbacu knew what form he would take up next. It was Cicu's signature move- the one that had always meant a victory for him when he had been in the Imperial Army. His golden sword lashed out in Tower of Morning, quickly changing to The Courtier Taps His Fan. The move would have been enough to end Elbacu, if he hadn't known what was coming. He countered with Kissing the Adder, while Cicu's blade was up high trying for his head. Cicu's sweating hands lost their grip on the sword, and Elbacu's sword found its mark- straight into his brother's heart. Blood began to pour out of Cicu's mouth, as he fell down and off of Elbacu's sword.
"I am sorry, my brother. I wish this could have ended differently. I wish you would have remembered your place and who you are." He found himself saying, as Cicu's legs thrashed weakly- his lungs struggling for air. Elbacu stood, watching his brother die. He felt that he at least owed his family that. His brother may have been misguided, and a traitor, but he was still his brother.
After less than five minutes, Cicu had stopped moving and breathing. No doubt his extra weight made the process faster. Elbacu kneeled down, and closed his brother's eye, murmuring a prayer for his soul. He stood and looked around. The sounds of fighting were gone, as far as he could tell. The blood was still oozing from his leg, and he knew that he would have to have a damane heal him, or he would pass out from blood loss He sheathed his sword and walked out of the room, leaving the body of his brother for others to attend to.
He was greeted by his captain, Sirek Lildoc, who saluted fist to heart at the sight of Elbacu.
"The town is secure, and all the reports are in. Over one hundred thousand of the enemy soldiers have been counted as dead. Fifty enemy Sul'dam have been killed and five damane were killed in the fighting. Forty damane were taken by our Sul'dam. Ten thousand of our own men were killed, once the alarms began to ring. The archers were equally as good firing close up as they were far off. Over two hundred are wounded including yourself, and the damane are seeing to those who will agree to this new healing. The rest that refuse healing are being tended to by the field healer. I have the men that are able to gathering what weapons and supplies they can find for our return to Seandar. I have sent a small force of fifty thousand to make sure that the Tower of Ravens is secured and all traitors killed. If all goes according to plan, we should be able to have the damane make a gateway within the hour." He held in his hands a ledger that no doubt contained the entirety of what he had just detailed.
"Send for one of the damane, please. I have a few wounds that need healing before we go to Seandar. Also, I'll need a scribe to write out my account. The Prince will want a detailed account of everything that happened." If they had had more time to go to Seandar, he would have preferred the field healer to the damane using the Power on him. As it was, he would need to be at his full capacity when they went to Seandar to help in the fighting.
"Also, let the men know that if they refuse the healing from the damane, then they will be sitting out of the fighting at Seandar. I will not have a man die simply because he sustained a wound here and was too weak. We need our men to be at their best and strongest."
Captain Lildoc saluted again, and walked down the hall and then stairs to see that his orders were carried out. Elbacu stood, watching. He had done what he had come for; he had restored his family's honor. He had killed the traitor that had sought the throne for himself. So why did he feel so guilty? He reached into his rations bag, and pulled out a hard biscuit. He felt hungry as he bit off a chunk and started to chew. He had done what he had come for, he had restored the honor to his family, but part of him was heartbroken over the loss of his only brother. He was surprised to find tears starting to fall down his cheeks as he chewed. Maybe it would be alright to mourn the loss of his brother, for the loss of honor and a friend-no matter how misguided.