The Two Rivers. Light, but the place had blown up in the past few years. Buildings of more than a few types had been erected in a less-than organized fashion and the once simple village of Edmonds Field was no longer. Thatched roofs, tiled roofs of all manner of colors had been erected on wooden and white-washed walls up and down roads that were wide enough to let more than four wagons (and steam-powered wagons) through at any given time.
The place, as a whole, rarely slept. Even in the late hours of the night, light and sounds of merry making would be found pooling out of open doors of warm, cozy inns where men could be found drinking ale and dicing. The denizens, overall, were happy. Men worked, men lazed, and compromised in all manners in between. It was peaceful. Busy, but peaceful. One could not pass down a road without seeing at least a few children running freely, without much worry.
Good times had come, since the Dark One was banished once more—trapped by the Dragon Reborn and sealed away in his prison a little over ten years ago. Of course, the lands were not without it's smaller squabbles. But it all seemed incredibly minute in comparison. Besides, peace did not come without at least some cost. The place was by no means, an easy place to run.
There was paperwork. Light, there was paperwork; paperwork on food distribution, commerce, property ownership, marriages, births, deaths, and all manner of things that the officially labeled Lord of the Two Rivers, Perrin t'Bashere Aybara could hardly keep a mind of—even after ten years. There was enough paperwork to make a man grow grey hairs, and a stiff backside. Not to mention, of course, the meetings, the politics, and keeping the peace amongst his citizens.
However, Perrin found peace in the Wolf Dream each night, escaping the dull monotony of day to day things by running freely with his brothers on fresh green and through thick, thriving forestry. He stepped into the Wolf Dream this night drawing a deep breath and letting his boots disappear so as to sink his toes into the grass below him. A soft breeze crept over him as he stood on the grounds of his (too large for his taste) home. The bloody thing was three stories tall. Three! Perrin had wanted something more to his tastes—simple—but his beloved Faile would have none of it.
A few clouds dotted the skies above him, and constellations twinkled in and out of focus. The moon, overhead, was not full. But it was bright. The land, at any rate, seemed to be bathed in an unearthly light—as if each individual blade of grass was a tiny, extraordinarily dim light itself. It was neither too cold, nor too warm. Ideal. Perrin made his boots appear on his feet once more, but made his finely embroidered shirt seem of thinner material.
His brothers, distantly, called to him. Sending him scents and images of freedom.
'Run, Young Bull!' They sent. The call was tempting. However, tonight he was not entirely without responsibility.
While his wife, his son, and his youngest daughter slept peacefully in cozy beds in his home, his eldest daughter, Arryne (Faile insisted on the name) was gallivanting her way towards White Ridge with a trading caravan led by Tam Al'Thor (who was well past the years a man should be travelling about the country-side—but the man was as sturdy as ever) after pleading for weeks to be let off of her mother's apron strings for a few weeks.
And weeks it had indeed taken to wear her parents down enough to let her go. Half way to Caemlyn she'd go, travelling (on her best behavior, no doubt) under the watchful and trusted eyes of the late Dragon Reborn's father. Perrin would have stomped the fool idea out of her head if he'd been able (he'd probably filled her head with all sorts of nonsense of tales from the Last Battle) but his wife had coaxed him into letting her go. She was still very young, yet, only reaching her tenth year as of a few weeks ago. Too young, in Perrin's opinion, to be let out of the watchful eye of either her parents.
She would travel with Tam, and a handful of his Wolf Guard, a few Cha'Faile to Whitebridge, then sent by gateway straight home so that little Arryne could brag of her adventures to her younger siblings.
There was, in all truth, little danger these days. Very few bandits were active anymore, and under such a tight supervision… She'd be fine. Right?
He let out a sigh, stepping beyond his property and leaping (in a few great strides) to where he suspected Tam's camp would be set up for the eve. Forests, roads, and rivers blurred around him as he shifted through the dream, merely by willing it. Certainly, no one thought that he would leave his daughter completely unattended, did they?
Going over the schedule that himself and Tam had gone over (numerous times) in his mind, he stepped to a clearing that he suspected they'd be sure to have camped in. However, there were little signs that anyone had been there at all. He waited for a few moments, reassuring himself that it might take a few moments for the wagons and tents to flicker in and out of the dream—nothing that was not permanent or had been there for quite some time ever stayed soundly here.
The area was calm, set back in a nook of tree-cover that would have made excellent camping ground. A clearing of low grasses swayed with an uneasy breeze. Leaves brushed against each other under a clear sky. No lanterns appeared or disappeared, or fire pits. No tent flaps or wagons, either.
Suddenly, something seemed very, very wrong. Worry crept into his mind, and sent a cold shiver down his spine. Where were they?
Perrin kept those feelings at bay, reaching out to wolves, anyone who would listen, in inquiry. He sent images of his daughter, and had a hard time keeping the scent of fear that was beginning to settle upon him from them. They knew of her already (the day she was born—his first born, he had led a hunt in celebration of his first pup. Howls of pride, and a feeling that to this day he couldn't possibly have described had filled the air, both in the dream, and out). He paced, tense. Perhaps he was just worrying too much. This was his daughter's first time out of the Two Rivers since she'd been born. She was okay. Tam would protect her.
'You seek your cub, Young Bull,' a dappled wolf sent, not too far away. 'They passed here long before you.' She sent images of the caravan, safe and sound passing. Others, further away passed along that the caravan had been seen a few days north of here.
It took him only a few seconds to shift to the area indicated, and to begin scouring the land in great leaps and bounds. Through the loping plains of the Caralain Grasses, to the river Ive, and in between. He passed the Tower of Ghenjei, cold and stark—like a spear thrust into the ground, a permanent reminder, in a fury of bolting legs. Wolves, who had felt his concern had joined him in his search. He shifted again and again, in small bursts and in great strides.
'Here, Young Bull,' came a message.
He was there in a blink, barely taking time to register where it was he was going.
The caravan, not at all far from the base of the Tower of Ghenjei, flickered in and out of the dream. Silently, he cursed himself for being so hasty. His worry had been for naught. It was fine. The caravan was fine. His daughter would be well taken care of. He hefted a heavy sigh of relief, running a hand through hair that had seen a few greys recently.
Why were they so far north?
He peeked in and around the campsite, though nothing remained for long. Nothing seemed amiss. Bedrolls came and went, as did various tools. A tin cup here, a spare wheel there. Everything was calm. The question rolled in his mind though, and he tossed the idea around of returning in the physical form to demand, in person, what the change in course had been for. The cold feeling in his spine did not dissipate.
He settled on his idea, deciding to awake and travel first thing in the morning. He'd bring his daughter home by the ears if he had to. Knowing her, she'd convinced them to take a longer route so as to expand her time away from home. Arryne was an independent one. Always asking why, and investigating the world around her. Perrin was fond of that in her. She was bright, and he suspected that as she grew older that knack of information gathering would prove useful as a lord. Her ideas of adventure though… Like all youths, she thought that it meant glory.
Something rustled in the grass behind him.
Without thinking, Perrin shifted from where the noise came from, hammer appearing in his hand. His teeth bared, on instinct, and he prepared a swing-
At a fox, and a snake.
He lowered his weapon, but remained tense. It wasn't unusual to see other animals in the Wolf Dream, as this was a dream shared by many. However, something… There was something unnatural about the way they were.
The snake rested at the fox's paws, unmoving—and oddity on its own. They were facing him, seemingly not worried at all by his presence. The air seemed to move around the two animals, and their smell… It wasn't natural. They were not of this world, or Perrin's. For mere animals alone, their eyes were too keen. Too intelligent. The air seemed to bend like heat-waves around them. His first instinct was to strike, and he raised his hammer until—
"A bargain to be made," the snake hissed.
Perrin nearly dropped his hammer.
"A price must be set," the fox whispered, voice low, and sultry.
Neither of the two beings' mouths moved. Not one little bit. But Perrin knew, he knew that they were talking to him. Something tickled at the back of his brain. Something about this…
"Price? Bargain?" Perrin demanded, his tone sharp and dangerous.
"We hold that which you seek, Young Bull," the sultry voice continued, not acknowledging that Perrin had spoke at all.
A sense of dread dropped into Perrin's stomach like a pile of stones. Arryne. He unconsciously glanced towards the tower; metallic, and shimmering in the clear moonlight. No. NO. He was struck, as if punched, by a realization. Mat had dealt with these creatures before—on their terms. Mat had walked away missing an eye.
"Give her back," he growled. Why had they left their tower? How had they left their tower? –Their world?! How in the bloody ashes had they gotten a hold of her? How?!
"A bargain to be made," the low voice hissed.
"A price has been set. Her life, for time."
"Six of your years."
"Safely she will pass."
"Six of your years."
"She is ours."
"No. NO," Perrin snarled. "You bring her back. Whatever the cost you bring her back! I will come for her."
"A break in the bargain."
"Her life, for your security, then?"
"Six of your years."
"She is ours."
Then they were no more. Vanished. The ripple in the air where they had been remained for but a second, before fading. Perrin tried, desperately, to trace their scents—to follow them. But it was as if he were a cub in the dream once more, and they had never been there at all. In a rage, he threw his hammer down, sinking it deep into the earth, and cried out. His cry melded into a wail, then into a howl. In the distance, others joined in his grieving.
The Aelfinn and Eelfinn had his daughter, and would kill her if he tried to rescue her.