Mai Johan. Age 15
Blue-green eyes regarded the massive structure that lay in front of her with utter amazement and fear at the same time. The White Tower was more than an awe-inspiring sight to behold, even without the knowledge that it was home to the sometimes infamous Aes Sedai embedded in one’s mind. However, to Mai Elizabeth Johan, it was more than breathtaking. Ever since she was a little girl, she had heard stories of Tar Valon’s crowning jewel, yet none of them seem to do justice when one saw it with their own two eyes. Standing at a height that seemingly challenged the Dargonmount, just outside the city, it was hard to believe that anyone could have built it with his or her hands. The ivory bricks that subjugated the construction shone with an unworldly glow against the morning light making it seem more consecrated than it actually was. At its peak, the crest of Tar Valon—called the Flame of Tar Valon, which also doubled as the sigil of the Aes Sedai and the Amyrlin Seat—wavered proudly against the gentle breeze for all to see. Maybe a few ways down was the Amyrlin Seat’s study, marked by another banner depicting the Flame of Tar Valon, swaying to and fro from the windowpane. Going further down to the base of the Tower, other one-floor buildings connected to it filled the grounds. Men and women walked the courtyards, the men that wear christened Warders wore strange cloaks that shifted from color to color making it seem as if they were there one look and gone at the other, the multitude of women wore pure white dresses with rainbow bands around their waist marked them as Novices or Accepted. Most were leaving or entering the side buildings that were probably classrooms or the fabled Warder’s barracks or possibly the grandiose library that Mai had been told about. It was said that it had every book every published within its walls. The young girl wasn’t sure if it was true, but she truly hoped it was. Reading was one of her favorite things to do in her spare time, learning of other cultures or going on fictional adventures with the likes of Otuwhiner and the Seven Soldiers or the many voyages of Fastrider was something that appealed greatly to the Tairen.
Sitting back down in her seat on the large wagon that she had been on for the last three weeks, Mai tried to fight down the smile that she knew was spread wide across her face. The other girls that accompanied her from lands as far as Saldaea and Mayene had the same expressions of wonder and giddiness about them. The two Aes Sedai that sat at the head of the wagon—which were the first Aes Sedai that Mai had ever seen before in her life—regarded all of them with serene faces, devoid of any emotion whatsoever. Valene Darren Aes Sedai, a Green Sister she said she was—whatever that meant—was the one that found Mai on that… particular night. Her light brown eyes always held a somewhat devious look to them, like she always had a plan for you. She gave an almost smile to the young Tairen that gave both warmth and deviousness at the same time. A strange combination if there were ever one. Beside her sat Anna Ni Dolman Aes Sedai, a woman that grew up in Tar Valon with short brown hair and warm brown eyes, she was hands shorter than Valene Aes Sedai, but Mai believed that to be the norm for the people of Tar Valon. The taller woman said something to her companion that gave her a start and moved her eyes to set on Mai and then on another girl that sat crosswise from the Tairen. Leilys Sahren was an Andorran from Baerlon; she was an exceptional pretty girl with the deepest red hair that Mai had ever seen on a person, falling pass her shoulders. Fair toned skin complemented her even further; it was like she was painted from the mind of the late Boryon Jahitapol. Mai had remembered seeing women like that within the Tairen Nobility. Most were snobbish at best and the few that weren’t were most likely worse. The girl looked her way, snapping out of her very own daydream it would seem, and smiled at her. There was nothing condescending about it, just a friendly smile that was returned with one just as warm, and a nod of the Tairen’s head. Perhaps she should start taking her late cousin Joiyain’s advice on not judging a book by its cover.
Abruptly the wagon halted, sending a jolt through everyone that sat in it, including the Aes Sedai who both gave the driver a grave look. The man, a Mayener calling himself Joshua, gave a nervous chortle and shrugged. The two Sisters dismissed him completely, and redirected their attention to the girls whom all were still awe struck and drooling. Mai was included in this group, but also find herself bouncing in her seat as well.
“I know that you are all anxious to finally start, however, there are certain rites and procedures that must be endured before any of you are to become Novices.” Valene Sedai said levelly. “Though for now, we wish for you to tour the Tower. Meet the many Sisters that she become your Teachers, your counsels and perhaps, if you are ever vigilant in your studies, your Sisters.”
Anna Aes Sedai nodded in agreement. “For now however, the Accepted have been given their assignments to guide you. There will be three to a group, with the exception of one group of two.” The plump woman cast her warm eyes upon Mai and smiled before moving to the red-haired girl. “Leilys, Mai, you shall be of that group. Now all of you be off.” She finished with a smile.
Abiding by the Aes Sedai’s requests—requests coming from queens—the girls were helped down the wagon by the stable-hands nearby. One, Mai noted, was a man with reddish brown hair and eyes like the grassy knolls of the Black Hills, he smiled genially at her and Mai nearly tripped off the wagon because she was staring so hard. Luckily, the man who sat her down with the others caught her. Light blind her! It was one thing to stare holes through him, but to embarrass herself in front of the Aes Sedai as well as the other girls… her face was hot with humiliation. This was a beautiful start to her Tower premier, just bloody beautiful.
"That was a nice ploy to get him to carry you.” Mai turned around to the red-haired girl who had an all-too-knowing smile. “It had to be a ploy; no one can be that clumsy. I’m Leilys Sahren, and you are?” The others looked to Mai and smiled with approval. Some whispering that they should have tried the same thing earlier.
“M-Mai… I mean… Mai Johan, of Tear.” She berated herself for stumbling over her words like some halfwit. Still, it was nice of her to pretend it was a ploy to save her a little face with the other girls. More than nice. “And thank you…”
Mai Johan. Age 19.
“Today is a very special day Child.” The plain unadorned Tower halls were cold from the bitter frost outside. Ferocious winds carried stinging snow across deep purple skies, filled the entire city with a thick coat of white, and transferred that chill to the stone floors. Slippers did little to keep the cold from seeping through. Anna Sedai looked over to Mai Johan with convivial eyes and smiled. A native of Tar Valon; the short woman had a very warm face with equally warm brown eyes. Everything about her reminded Mai of her Aunt Beatrice, even her stoutness.
“Yes, it is.” Karama Sedai agreed gleefully. The woman was always happy when it came to talking of Mai becoming an Accepted. The tall Aes Sedai was a woman that had just lost a loved one to a war in her hometown, which had been recently destroyed. Mai gave a quick prayer to the Creator for all the lives lost during the city’s destruction. However, the woman never gave any signs other than a pause that she even noticed her hometown’s destruction. If that ever happened to Tear, then the young Novice wouldn’t know what she would do.
Mai simple nodded mildly. She had other things on her mind right now, like what Alverin Sedai told her last night. She would be the most powerful Aes Sedai of the Black Ajah of her time. The Black Ajah. She had never even thought it existed until Janice Kelden kidnapped her from her quarters to bring her to the woman. A fellow novice, the girl was two years younger than Mai and came from one of the Borderlands that was threatened to be consumed by the Great Blight like Malkier, she had come into the room and clubbed her on the head. She still had the lump on the back of her head that throbbed now and again. So, she would become a servant of the Shadow… no! She refused to accept that, she would fight it, she would…! Mai nearly jumped out of her skin when Karama announced that they were here. She had to clear her head of those awful thoughts and concentrate on this. Tonight she would be Accepted.
Anna Sedai stood in front of a set of wooden doors that were so smoothly polished that they shined like glass from the light that the lanterns produced that the sisters held in their hands. Tall, wide, and unembellished, they looked to belong outside rather than inside the Tower. The Green opened one of the doors and led her into a large domed room. Three curved, hoary arches, that sat high enough to walk through, had a thick silver ring with their ends connecting were surrounded by lamps that stood on stands casting shadows away from the silver structures. The glow of saidar surrounded the three sisters that sat cross-legged by each of the arches concentrated their stares at the arches that were now filled with a glowing white light that looked more than tangible. None she recognized but all of them wore a shawl, one White, another Blue, and the final a Red.
Karama smiled at Mai and spoke softly. “It is the Law of the Tower that Novices are given three chances at the testing. You can refuse twice to enter the arches without consequence, but if you refuse to enter on your third try…” She paused as if considering the worse possible outcome. “You will be thrown from the Tower… forever.”
Maybe it was the worse possible outcome after all. Anna touched Mai on the shoulder delicately and spoke with clear reassuring confidence. “Though, that will not happen. We feel you are more than ready… everyone here believes so. Now, there are two things that I must tell you that no woman hears before they stand here. Once you begin, you must go on to the end. Refuse at any point and you will be excommunicated from the Tower just as if you refused for your third trail.” Her voice went from motherly to stern in a heartbeat. Her eyes were sharp that held no warmth in them. Mai felt like she was outside with nothing but her shift on. “Secondly, to seek, to strive, is to know danger.” The ice was still there but the words sounded almost banal like she had said this a many times before. However, her eyes had a hint of empathy in them that quickly turned back to winter in an instant. “In my years of testing I have witnessed horrible events…”
“Horrible events?” Mai said with more than a shudder in her voice. She didn’t want Anna to continue with her sentence but something tugged at her to learn the truth. She swallowed deeply and tried to work some moisture in her mouth before asking. “What happened Anna Sedai?”
With a deep sigh, she nodded slowly and continued. “There have been times when the women who have taken this test—well—they never came out.” The Aes Sedai finished gravely. “You may refuse now without consequence child… it will only count as your first refusal; you still have two more chances. There will be nothing to be shamed of, not many women took their first trial. Think clearly with your mind and your heart, and then make your decision.”
Indecision plagued Mai for what seemed like hours that changed to days. They never came out? What was in those eerily glowing arches that made women disappear? ‘To seek, to strive, is to know danger’, so what dangers lay in the arches? The reverberations of a thunderclap made her jump in front of the women that in turn made her cheeks into a crimson mask of embarrassment.
“She is not ready…” Karama said a bit disappointed in her statement. “It is okay child; you may try again in a month… Mai?”
Giving the Grey her clothing Mai took a deep breath and looked the Aes Sedai straight in the eyes with what she hoped was confidence. “I… I accept Karama Sedai, Anna Sedai, I’m ready.”
“Excellent! I knew you would not disappoint us!” Karama exclaimed while clapping her hands together and almost dropping her bundle of clothes on the floor. “Lara, Rinoa, Belinda, we may begin.”
Mai followed Karama without hesitation. Ignoring the beams that Anna gave her or the burning ice of the floor beneath her feet, she had to find calm and courage. She would become Accepted! The woman named Lara was a slender woman who had bright green eyes that twinkled even when she was concentrating; the glow of saidar was loudest around her. Anna turned to Mai with hardhearted eyes and spoke in an almost chant like tone. “Whom do you bring with you, Sister?”
Karama replied in a similar note. “One who comes as a candidate for Acceptance, Sister.”
“Is she ready?”
“She is ready to leave behind what she was, and, passing through her fears, gain Acceptance.”
“Does she know her fears?”
“She has never faced them, but now is willing.”
“The first time, is for what was. The way will come but once. Be steadfast.”
Mai hesitated and looked to the two Aes Sedai that had brought her to the Tower not long ago and smiled weakly before stepping through the glow. Blinding light engulfed her.
Malkier was a place of beauty, with stone buildings reaching to the skies and beyond. Cobblestone streets were filled with proud people that went on with their lives like they normally did everyday. Maybe the most prestigious of the land was the Malkier palace, with livered servants working diligently to finish their chores wearing the Golden Crane in flight, on their chest or the sides of their sleeves or on both. Pushing trays through decorated halls filled with tapestries and friezes or both. Portraits framed with gilt of the Lords and Ladies of the Houses that were in power followed up red-carpeted stairwells that lead to more adorned hallways that were darted with Great Oak doors that held the crest of the nation’s symbol like the servants wore. You would never guess that a war was raging outside the stonewalls. However, the armies that were used to this type of fighting were keeping the Great Blight back, and would as long as they could.
Mai sat in her well-lit chambers with her Ladies in Waiting preparing her for today. Her very special day. Today she would be married and become Mai ni Johan t’Mandragoran Queen of Malkier. No, Mai Mandragoran will suffice. She blushed at the thought in spite of herself.
The way will come but once. Be steadfast.
Mai blinked and looked over to Yulee Linton, her best friend and her first Lady in Waiting. “Did you say something Yulee?”
The blue-eyed woman shook her head slowly with a giggle. “Don’t tell me you have the jitters already Mai!” The woman said in between her mirth that caused Mai to blush even more. “I didn’t think Aes Sedai got nervous.”
Aes Sedai? Yes. She was Sitter of the Blue Ajah for thirty years, so why couldn’t she convince herself that? She must be more nervous than she realized. “Yes Aes Sedai get nervous, we just don’t let it show, even one that wears her emotions on her sleeves.” She kidded back. That was the one thing that she never learn to do, hiding her feelings was so trivial to her. She wanted her subjects to know she was human and could relate to her, of course that would leave her open to enemies but who would dare attack a nation with the White Tower backing it? “I do hope that Torell is well today.”
“Of course he is milady!” Saundra said reassuringly as she brushed her hair. She was from a small village near were Manetheren once stood. She was distraught when news of its demise came to her, so much that she wouldn’t eat very much and now was a sinewy version of her once beautiful self. Mai did worry about her, but she was doing better.
“Thank you Saundra…” Mai was interrupted by a series of knocks at the door that made her jump. She never jumped at a knock before, but for some reason she thought she did. “Come.”
The ornately decorated door opened admitting a tall young man with long brown hair that was held back by a thin braid that wrapped around his forehead. Torell Mandragoran looked to be craved from stone but still had a thing of beauty to him. Mai quickly rose from her seat and turned around so the man wouldn’t see her, a little anger and irritation prickling her face. “My Lord, we are not supposed to see each other until the wedding ceremony.” She said more calmly than she felt.
“I know my heart, but it is imperative that I speak to you.” His voice was soft with a no nonsense edge to it, a strange combination.
Torell hesitated for a moment as if thinking better than to say what he was going to in front of her Ladies in Waiting. “In private please.” He final said.
“Mistress?” Yulee and Saundra questioned at the same time. Mai nodded thoughtfully and waited as all the women gave their curtsies and left closing the door softly behind the last woman. Mai turned around to her betrothed forcing down a smile that came anyway.
“What did you want to say that my ladies couldn’t hear, my Lord?”
Taking a place on the bed, he took off his riding gauntlets and motioned her to come and join him, which she did grudgingly. Happy memories were on this bed and she did not wish them to be spoiled by any argument that they would likely have. She knew him well enough to know when something was plaguing his thoughts. “Do—I can’t believe I’m asking this—do you love me Mai Johan?” she looked at him askew. What would bring this up? “I must know… I must know if you’re only marrying me for the crown.”
That was why. He had doubts of her love for him. Mai rose from her bed—their bed—and looked down on him with anger plain on her face. Why would such thoughts even cross his mind? Smoothing out her features she placed the face of Aes Sedai tranquility. “Torell, remember when my uncle arranged our marriage three years ago?” He gave a smirk but nodded eventually. “I hated you and challenged your every decision when I could. I thought you were arrogant, pigheaded, and selfish. I didn’t want anything to do with you or your kingdom, no matter if I was of Malkier blood. Light, we had separate rooms all but a few months ago.”
“I fail to see your point Mai. The question I asked…”
“Do not interrupt.” She would not hear him until she was finished. “In retaliation of my own stubbornness not to bend to your will you ordered my uncle to be beheaded. You didn’t care that I was an Aes Sedai and that you would have to deal with the White Tower, as long as you had me, willing or not. Then when I came to set you straight, I saw my uncle playing stones with you. He told me that it was his plan to send out the decree and you wouldn’t go along with it until he begged you. You said that you wanted to win my heart, not force me to give it to you.” She paused to let the memory sink in, more for herself than anything else; it was one of her favorites. “It was then when I realized that I had misjudged you. That exterior was just a frontage to seem strong to your people, inside you were—are—a compassionate person. That was when you had my heart and you still have it, Torell.”
The way will come but once. Be steadfast. Again that detached voice rang from somewhere. It may have been her thoughts but she doubted that.
“I see… Light, forgive me…” He said with a tone full of sorrow, like he was about to do something he would later regret.
“What is wrong Torell? Forgive you for…?” The arrow gleamed in the light that the lanterns of the room gave. It sat, cocked back, on the dull wood of the crossbow in Torell’s trembling hand. His eyes screamed fear but quickly changed to threatening determination. “Torell, what are you doing?”
“Forgive me, but I am the King before I am your heart… For Malkier!” Streams of Air and Fire shot out at speeds that would make a sister’s head spin, caught the arrow in midair and burned it to white ash. Saidar flowed like ocean currents in her, threatening to whisk her away into eternity. A few more flows of Air shackled him to the wall on the other side of the room, with one last manacle around his neck.
“What is the meaning of this Torell?” Rivers of tears ran down from her eyes. Tears of fear, anger, and most of all heartache, the man that she loved just tried to kill her! Why? She would find out, she would ring the life…
Suddenly, a silver arch appeared in the reflection of the mirror beside her. Blazing white light subjugated the middle and almost seemed to call her. “Light. Mai, I’m so sorry… they… they made me!”
The way will come but once. Be steadfast.
Light! Why now? “Torell, why? I loved you! I… Light why?” She couldn’t contain her pain and frustration. She could feel blood trickle from her clinched fists.
“I love… you… too Mai, please! They would… have taken… Light…!” The snap was loud and crisp almost like the crunching of leaves.
The light started to waver then fade… What had she done? “I—I love you Torell… I…” Light shattered her existence.
The pain and frustration didn’t leave her when she stepped through the arch and back into the cold chamber holding the five Aes Sedai. It actually stung harder, if that was even possible. Torell tried to kill her, and she didn’t know why, what would make him forsake his heart so? What made her kill him? Was it the fact that he tried to take her life? Or was it the hurt in her heart? Cold water washed over her from a silver chalice that Anna poured over her head.
“You are washed clean, of what sin you may have done, and those done against you.” Somehow, Anna’s words didn’t bring any comfort to Mai. Of course, what kind of comfort could be found in knowing that the man you loved tried to kill you and instead, you killed him? She wished the arrow did pierce through her heart. “You are washed clean of what crime you may have committed, and, and of those committed against you.” Then why did she feel so filthy? “You come to us washed clean and pure, in heart and soul.”
Never. The Light burn her! She’ll never be pure!
Karama helped her to the second arch, face filled with worry. Mai was about to tell her what happened but she quickly shook her head. “What happened is to be kept to you, child. But I can see that it was hard, but you must continue your resolve, no matter what. Are you ready for your second trial?”
Mai swallowed hard and tried to put Torell out of her mind… out of her heart, with little success. “Yes.”
“The second time is for what is.” The woman called Rinoa chanted. “The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
“Light, let me be…”
'Mai Johan. Age 57.'
“Please wake up Mai. I know you are stronger than this.” A familiar voice called placidly in Mai’s ear. Her head throbbed so wildly it was hard to tell what the voice actually said but it was enough to make her open her eyes to the handsome face of a man that owned the greenest eyes she had ever seen. His brow was furrowed with worry but softened considerably as he saw that she had finally awakened. His smile was like the coming of the dawn and she felt its warmth. It was the greatest feeling she had ever felt. “I knew you would awaken soon. You were always a fighter Mai.”
She smiled weakly as his hand caressed her cheek and waited for her eyes to finally refocus before trying to comprehend where she was. Her eyes darted to the left side of the room to a cobblestone fireplace with a roaring fire warming the air around them, little miniatures sat on the mantle along with a small clock that ticked rhythmically in the background. A portrait of the man and her holding a child in the forefront and another girl no older than seven winters standing flanking to her hung right above it, framed in a gilt-worked frame that was sculpted to look like a fagot. That sight alone caused her to glow inside. They were her two little girls. Hope was the eldest and Chastity was the baby she was holding. The two gems of her life and the man was her husband, Shawn Keldrin. The painting was a bit outdated however; Hope was now twelve winters and Chastity just celebrated her fifth Naming Day. Both hale and hearty and already showing the willingness to become Aes Sedai, just like their mother. Only, she was no longer Aes Sedai.
The right held an open threshold that lead to the living room filled with antique furnishings that must have been handed down to them. Shawn’s mother and father had given those items to him before they died. It was her choice to keep them here instead of filling the house with her things. She didn’t wish to see anything that would remind her of her past life—yet, why could she not bear to part with her golden Great Serpent Ring? The past didn’t matter, only the present and the future. Another fireplace was fixed into the wall with a second fire smoldering in the hearth. A large crock-pot sat in the flames, heating what must have been mutton from the smell. The ladle sat on the dinning room table with a small cloth under it to absorb the moisture of the juices of the soup. Portraits hung in that room also, but she didn’t need to see them to know where she was now; she was home with her family, where she wanted to be. Where she needed to be.
“What happened?” She whispered still feeling like her head had been beaten like a drum in a Fool’s Day Festival. Placing her fingers on her temples, she was surprised to find blood when she moved them from her brow. “Why am I bleeding?” Shawn’s face suddenly became darker, harder; it didn’t fit his usually peaceful facade. “Shawn, what’s the matter?”
He licked his lips before answering in a grave tone, “They attacked you. Those bloody bastards attacked you while you where returning from your uncle’s funeral in Tear”—Yes, she lived in Cairhien now with her husband. She had met him while searching for something to fill the hole that saidar had left when it was cut from her by the Shadow. She had found that something in her family and that was the only thing that was keeping her from ending her life—“they stoned you three miles outside the town. If not for Orin and Abram, you wouldn’t be here right now. Thank the Light that you are. I swear I’ll kill the bastards for this, that I will!”
“No.” She said with the certainty that only an Aes Sedai could possess. Even if it were from a former Aes Sedai. “You’re a passive man who would never turn to conflict as a first resort. That is one of the reasons why I love you. There is no more need for bloodshed.” She had seen more than enough of that in her lifetime. She had shed more than enough herself, but no more. She no longer fought Darkfriends in the streets of Malkier or ventured to push Trollocs back into the Blight. Shawn made to argue but Mai placed a finger softly on his lips. “Where are our children?”
“In the next room. They were upset when they saw their mother hurt.” He said with a bit if that bitter edge still in his voice. “I’ll go get them and tell them you’re all right.” Mai nodded happily and watched as he left the room after a quick departing kiss.
Mai breathed a vexing sigh. Why was she the target of an attack near her own town? She could understand Tear where their trust for Aes Sedai was rapidly declining, but here in Cairhien? That really didn’t make any sense. She had no enemies—she couldn’t think of ever having any adversaries in her past or making them in the near future. So, who would think of doing her harm?
“Mommy?” Mai blinked and looked to the open doorway that lead to the living room and smiled deeply at the sight of an auburn haired girl with green eyes standing in the threshold holding a tray with soup, bread, and cheese. Chastity took more after her mother than Hope, who came to the doorsill next. Raven-haired like her father, the only thing that she shared with the former Aes Sedai were her blue-green eyes that lit with mischief. She echoed her smaller sister but with a more formal air of “Mother!”
They both ran over—Chastity setting the tray down first—to the recovering woman and latched on to her with bear grips. Mai held them just as tightly, never wanting to let them go, yet she somehow belayed that temptation and pushed them back a little. If Shawn’s smile was like daylight, then theirs were like the stars that decorated the night skyline. “Where you two good while I was away?” The two nodded enthusiastically but Hope’s eyes were still glinting with playful mischief. “Hope, did you follow my wishes and watched your sister.”
“Yes mommy.” She answered tenderly. “I kept her from talking to the Bad Man.”
“I was not talking to the Bad Man!” Chastity protested.
“You were going to!” Hope shot back.
Mai frowned uneasily, cupped her oldest daughter’s chin in her hands, and turned her head to look in her eyes. “Hope, what Bad Man?” Shawn entered the room once more before Hope could answer yet he never looked to the three. That was when Mai saw it, a blade protruding out of his torso drenched with his blood. His glazed over gaze and paling skin named him dead already. “Shawn!” Was all she could get out before five men entered the room with crude armor and swords in their hands. The man that was holding her dead husband on his sword drew back his blade and glanced over at the three with a grim look in his eyes. Mai clutched her children tighter to her. Their cries muffled in her bosom. “Who are you?!”
“We are messengers of the Light!” The sun bleached man barked with a heavy Lugarder accent. The blind fervor in his eyes could shame a Whitecloak. “This man refused to bow to the will of He Who Comes With the Dawn, the Dragon Reborn! For this audacious act he was slain, just as you have to be.”
She looked at Shawn’s unmoving body, anger, and eternal sadness boiling within her and poured down her face in the form of tears. Instinctively she tried to embrace saidar in an attempt to protect her children, but found the task impossible. She had been cut off from the One Power, cut off from part of her very soul. Yet she did not panic, she still owned the agelessness that came with years of using the Power and she still wore the Great Serpent ring that marked her as receiving training in the White Tower in Tar Valon that lay next to her wedding band. Perhaps she could bluff these murderous louts into running out from her children. She had already lost her husband this night; she would not lose her reasons for being also.
“What you have done here is unforgivable.” She said with icy calm, but her eyes were smoldering with anger. “I swear to you that you will not live pass this night and your ‘Lord Dragon’ will be captured and gentled by the week’s end by the Tower. Once they learn that you have killed an Aes Sedai!” The men didn’t even flinch, but the grip on the hilt of their swords tightened visibly. It was working; they were beginning to find fear. However, when the large man from Lugard spoke again, he showed no signs of fear. Perhaps more convincing was needed. “Look onto my face, into my eyes and know what I speak is true. I am Mai Elizabeth Johan of the Blue Ajah and if you make any attempts to harm my children, I will kill you without hesitation.”
Perturbed silence followed after her stand before the Lugarder spoke again. His eyes gleamed more fanaticism than before until they seemed to burn like hot brown coals. “If you were indeed Aes Sedai then you would bend knee to the Dragon Reborn at this moment! If you were Aes Sedai then you would not be affiliated with this Darkfriend!”
“Enough!” She snapped with distant authority, the Great Serpent ring gleamed brightly from the fireplace’s light. “If that is what must be done to save the rest of my family, then I will bend knee to the Lord Dragon Reborn right at this moment.”
“Mommy?” Chastity sobbed softly. Her eyes were red and puffy, she had been crying for some time now. She would protect them, even if she had to die doing it.
“Shhh…” She cooed warmly. “Do not worry, mommy will be all right. Hope. Hope?” The other girl looked at her with a detached gaze. The sight of her father being murder had placed her in shock. Mai felt as if she were going to cry from that look that should never be in a child’s eyes. “Hope, you must listen to me carefully. Watch over your sister, do not let anything come between you two, do you understand?” She didn’t seem to hear her.
“Now Aes Sedai! Swear your allegiance to the Dragon!” A man with a more musical Shienarian voice growled and grabbed the Malkieri woman by her hair to the floor. The two children screamed but were quickly silenced by a quick backhand from the Lugarder. Mai clenched her fist and gritted her teeth in anger. She would make him pay for that. Why was this happening to her and her family? Hadn’t she done nothing but good as Aes Sedai? Hadn’t she served the Light well? Yes, she had, she had given up the Power for the Light, and this is how she was repaid? “Swear!”
Swallowing hard she rose herself up halfway with her arms to cast her blazing eyes on the Shienarian. She took them all in turn with her gaze, memorizing their features. Somehow, someway she would give each of them what they deserved for taking Shawn away from her. “By the Light and my hope of salvation and rebirth, I swear to serve the Lord Dragon Reborn in any way he wishes until I breathe my last days.” The words came forced, but they were still spoken and irrevocable. The men seemed satisfied enough, all except the hard faced Lugarder.
“Good.” He mumbled blatantly. “We will set you to work soon Aes Sedai; however, the Lord Dragon has no need for children. Lauric, kill them.”
Mai’s eyes grew wide in horror. “No! You swore you wouldn’t hurt them!”
“We swore nothing witch! Lauric kill them now.” The man nodded tightly before producing a large belt knife from his boot and moved for her kids with an evil intent in his eyes.
Mai stepped in front of him with her arms wide and a daring look on her face. She would not move unless they killed her and probably not after that. The man named Lauric must have had that in mind however, as his knife met with her stomach while still in stride. She gasped in shock as she was thrown to the side as if she were nothing more than a drapery in the way. In many ways, she was just that. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as she watched on the floor, unable to move but still cursed with the capability of hearing and seeing. The man rose the knife above Hope and Chastity’s crying heads and drove it down, cutting their screams short. She wanted to scream, she wanted to get up and tear their throats out, but she couldn’t. She simply watched with glazed over eyes as the last bit of life drained from Hope’s face. The child’s still innocent eyes met hers on the floor along with her sister’s.
I love you… They’ll pay for this… I swear they will… The world went black around her as thoughts of revenge echoed throughout her mind. She would make them pay; she would make them all pay.
Mai Johan. Age 75.
The monastery in Falme wasn’t like any other that she had visited before. Its immaculate whitewashed walls and pillars had been Ogier built, delineated with religious appearing idols of the Creator constructing the world as well as the heavens and locking away the Dark One before creating his children and gifting some with the power of saidar or saidin. He was depicted giving the Ogier their Steddings and tools to build the wonders that sparsely littered this world. The Creator exalting Artur Hawking and his kingdom that almost encompassed the entire continent at one point and even Manetheren and the Second Covenant. The ceiling was the interior of a dome made of pure gold, which was probably engraved with beautifications also. Designs even flooded the glasslike marble floor tiles with beautiful reefs that looked bullion worked. Brownwood bleachers were cushioned with red coverings that matched the long red carpet that led to the chancel. The incorporation of colors that shone through the many stain glass windows gaze those same bleachers a new color scheme at the ends, showing likely religious idols within its frame. The altarpiece that hung in the background was a painting of a clouded sky being broken by rays of white-yellow light. If there were a priest standing in the forefront it would look as if he were calling those very rays to shine on the congregation. However, today it was just her within this supposedly hallowed house of the Light.
Mai looked upon the many martyrs that lay on the table across from the multitude of books that the men of the faith used to preach the Word of the Light as seen by the teachings of Lothair Mantelar with her blue-green eyes. That man was the founder of the now infamous Children of the Light and this place was one of the last temples that still housed those who went by those old teachings instead of the twisted faith that it had turned into. Many of the small statuettes were normal marble or limestone figurines yet others were much too smooth to be simple sacred collectibles. She was sure some were ter’angreals, angreals, and possibly sa’angreals. So even here, she could not escape the Tower or her ties to it. Nonetheless, she didn’t come to this place to run from a Tower that no longer needed—nor would tolerate—her presence, the Malkieri woman came here for answers. Answers that she deserved to have after all she had been through these past thirty years.
She had lost the ability to touch saidar and her family all in that short span of years. She was then forced to become a servant to a false Dragon for a decade. The man was captured and Gentled by the White Tower of course, but the look of pity on those Red’s faces pierced harder than anything that repulsive man had done to her. In the end, Mai still didn’t understand why she was still alive. Women who were cut off from the Source usually were left with nothing to live for and died a few years later. She had found a family and escaped the fate of death for over fourteen years, but once they were unrightfully taken away from her she was left with nothing. So why was she still alive? What was driving her to these churches and spiritual leaders?
“May I help you child?” a man’s soothing voice asked from behind her. Mai turned to the man with a cold stare. Taller than she, he wore a brown hooded robe and a rope ‘round his waist. His warm eyes were brown and fit his handsome face too well; long hair was tied back yet little strands lied across his face. He looked to be no older than what Hope would be now. Still he looked a monk of the Light.
“I am not your child, Boy.” She said distantly. “Are you the Head Cleric of this place?”
He chuckled softly, not showing any signs of anger but instead his eyes looked to be more inviting. She hated those eyes. “We are all children in the Creator’s eyes Mistress. Still, to answer your question, no, I am but a lowly monk. My name is Quinton Harris; Father Michael is attending to some business outside of the monastery currently. How may I be of service to you…?”
Mai sniffed loudly. There was nothing some wet-nosed adolescent could tell. She more than doubled his age. What could he possibly know? However, perhaps she could humor him until a real cleric could come. “My name is Mai Johan, boy.”
“A beautiful name Aes Sedai.” He said with a smile as she blinked in surprise. “I know a little more than you may think I do, Mistress Johan.”
“I am not Aes Sedai… not anymore.” The last came out with a tone of sadness, no it was more than sadness, it was full of despair.
“Truly? What happened?”
“That is of no consequence to you, child.” She spat vehemently. When she finally found calm again, the boy was giving her an all-knowing look. “What?”
“Nothing. Please, tell me what troubles you Aes Sedai or shall I call you Mistress Johan?”
“Mistress will do fine for you boy. And I doubt that you could even start to comprehend my troubles.” She turned to leave after that. It was a mistake to even come here. None of them could answer her questions. Their answers were all biased dribbled that she had heard thousands upon thousands of times before. Their faith was dangling on a puppeteer’s thread to a ridiculous divinity. She, however, lost that when she lost her Hope and Chastity.
“You want to find answers for your being here. For your loss of faith.” He called to her before she left through the door. “I cannot give the answers, but perhaps I am able to help you find comfort.”
Clenched fist shook with unknown fury that Mai could not stop. Stalking back up the aisle, she met the monk’s chaste gaze with one full of odium and malice. It took all the willpower she had not to hit this boy with all her strength, even if it did little, the principal would be more than enough. At first, words failed her, but soon the rage partially subsided and she was able to find her voice again.
“Comfort? You wish to try to help me find comfort? You know nothing of my life or my tribulations and you dare tell me to find solace?” She could feel the tears starting to well up in her eyes, but she refused to shed them. Not in front of this fool man. Not ever again.
She had cried long enough in her service to the thugs that took her life away from her. All in the name of their bloody false Dragon. After that night when she was stabbed, they took her and nursed her back to health instead of blissfully leaving her for dead. Once she became strong enough, they put her to work as something lower than a servant. It only became worse when they realized that she was not Aes Sedai. She wasn’t even treated as human after that, more on the lines of property. When the false Dragon was finally killed and his followers put to trial, she was punished and sentenced to live as a refugee to wander the world until she died. She took the condemnation with open arms; she had nothing left to live for. Well, at least, that was what she thought. She roamed the continent for decades and was only left with questions. She could not die without knowing why. Why did the Light take her children away from her? After stripping everything away and then giving her the blessings of two daughters and a husband, what right did the Creator have to take it away? Why did he allow those men to take away her humanity? She wanted those answers. She deserved those answers.
“No Mistress, I dare to try and help you.” He said with a bit of an edge in his voice. It quickly vanished however, and was replaced with a sympathetic sigh. “I am sorry Mistress Johan, but when I see a beautiful woman such as yourself with so much bitterness in her heart… it makes me forget myself at times.”
Mai sniffed loudly. “I am not your pity case! I am not some damsel in distress in a story that you had your mother read to you!”
“I understand that Mistress Johan,” Quinton started respectfully. “And I apologize if I have offended you, but I only wish to help. As an Aes Sedai, you have aided many people but no one has ever been there to help you. Or so you feel. Allow me to help you to the best of my abilities.”
“You can’t help… no one can.”
“Then why did you come here?” She made to argue, to shout at this boy for questioning her motives. However, she couldn’t. She couldn’t bring herself to berate him because she herself didn’t know why she came here. She didn’t know why she was still alive. Quinton slowly made his way over to Mai and knelt down to look her in the eye. Genuinely, she had no idea she was on her knees. His eyes shone with unadulterated kindheartedness. “Allow me to try then.”
Mai stood up with the helping hand of the monk. Sullied rags that were left of her clothing swayed stiffly as she stood. The dirt and grim that marred the cloth had been there for days, no months, no years; ever since her exile into the cold world. Auburn locks that were as grimy as her skirts, clung to the sides of her head and over her sunken, dulled blue-green eyes. Tiredness flowed through ever pour of her body, but she fought it. She was always a fighter. But now, she was tired of fighting, tired of searching for answers that she knew she could not get answers to. “Why had the Light abandoned her?” She no longer cared for the answer. Looking up, she noticed Quinton was speaking, but not to her, to someone else. It took a moment to realize that he was praying. Praying to his Creator. She could not hear him either way. Not because she wasn’t able to, but because she didn’t want to. Her family was gone, killed for no reason. Yet, she lived on, and no matter what she wanted, she could not, no, would not accept death. Not until she knew why.
“How will you help?” she finally asked after a gauche silence.
“The best way I can.” He said warmly. Taking her to one of the many bleachers, he awaited her to take a seat and gather herself together before speaking once more. “I know that you have seen very hard times Mistress Johan, but what could instill such darkness in your heart?”
There it was. The question that she was all too familiar with, the question that many other priests and holy men asked. They were in different forms, but in the end, they all lead to the same answer. She took a deep breath before answering. “My family was murdered, right in front of my eyes…” she went on to tell the entire story and awaited the inevitable answer that Quinton would give. When there was none, she rose from the bench with a forlorn look taking her face. “I see then. Not even you can help with the answers that I seek.”
“I’m sorry Mai…”
“I’m sorry too.” Again, she went to the door to leave this place and continue her dejected existence, but a hand stopped her from proceeding and when she turned she looked into Quinton’s understanding eyes once again.
“You didn’t let me finish. I’m sorry that you had to witness such a barbaric act of violence. No words that I can speak can help you absolve them for what they did. Do you understand what I am saying?”
Mai understood. She understood all too well. This was a waste of her time, a waste of her patience, a waste of her faith. If this man could not give her what she needed then the next would have to, although, she knew that statement to be false. No one could help her; there were no answers, only soul wrenching questions. “Thank you for wasting my and your time, Quinton.” She retorted. “If you will excuse me I am ready to leave.”
“No. Sit. It seems you do not understand what I am saying. There is nothing that I can nor will I say to help you absolve them. There is, however, things I can say or do to help you avenge their deaths.” Those last nonchalant words rang with a dark odium that she never knew a man with those eyes could produce. How could a priest say such things?
The answer came along with fear that overtook Mai’s entire body. The words that she wanted to say—that she wanted to scream—wouldn’t come to her lips. She knew what he was or she thought she did. Finally, the word came out in a whisper. “Darkfriend.”
Quinton looked at her like a man that was unfamiliar with the word. He even went as far as to spread his hands in a failed attempt at innocence, but a devout follower of the Light would never say or even think such a thing. “Yes. And what of my allegiances? Does it matter which omnipotent force I worship if I can grant you the chance to avenge your family’s deaths?”
Avenge my family…? The thought was distant, as distant as saidar was to her now. That course of action never even crossed her mind. She wasn’t a killer; she wasn’t a Darkfriend, no matter that her faith in the Light was fading. She couldn’t… could she? No! I am not a murderer; I’m not a Darkfriend! “I’m not a Darkfriend! I’m not evil!”
“Evil? Is making sure that those barbarians can never do what they did to you to anyone else evil or is that justice? They would be killed by any other person for their crimes, why not by your hand instead of theirs?” His voice was calm and cold now. There was more than odium in his tone, there was a pleasurable impiety to it. Worst of all, there was truth behind his questions. “You vowed revenge against your captors when they massacred your children in front of you, do you forsake that vow? Will you forsake your children?”
Her Chastity. Her Hope. Her husband Shawn. The only things in her life that made any sense or that could bring her any happiness. Her wedding vows, her vows to always be there for her children, her vow of vengeance. Would she forsake them all? “… What would you have me to do?”
“Take vengeance upon those who have wronged you of course. Make them pay for what they did to you and your life. Do on to them as they did on to you!”
“You want me to take their lives?” She asked more shocked that she would even listen to anymore of this than anything else. “I can’t do that… I won’t!”
The laugh Quinton barked was both haunting and sounded of a man that was running thin on patience. He turned from Mai and made his way to the table, running his hands across the many artifacts that lay there. “You are weak, afraid of what you may become if you go through with your vows. It’s understandable, but not forgivable.”
“Do you think that your husband Shawn would hesitate to avenge your murder if given the chance?”
Mai’s eyes widened. “How do you know my husband’s name? I never told you any of their names!”
He simply shrugged and went on like he didn’t even hear her. “Chastity and Hope would not want their…”
She had had enough of this man. Forcefully, she turned him to face her and with eyes that held a fire in them that hadn’t been there in over sixty years. Yet, it was not of ambition or even determination. This was a fire of pure hatred. “You! It was you who did this to me! To my family!” But how? He was so young and that had happened over thirty years ago. When she asked him this, that same haunting laugh filled her ears.
“I had nothing to do with your precious family. But I know who did and to exact justice upon them, you must have that conviction in your eyes. The burning hatred you feel now is the tool you need. And this…” He took her trembling hand gently and placed a small statuette in it before closing it in her hand. Mai looked up at hem, confusion marred with anger and pain subjected her face. His smile returned to that of the warm monk that she had thought him to be and he kissed her forehead. Whispering a small prayer to his Dark Lord before turning and leaving.
She made to follow him, but stopped short and looked to the small figurine he gave her in the palm of her hand. It was a spider…
Mai Johan. Age 200.
Staring past the stars in the cloudless sky of Kandor, Mai Johan sighed contentedly wrapped in the warmth of her comforter. The city was swathed in frost as was the usual for the city. Small streetlamps dotted the roads, some still burning oil and illuminating the houses that paralleled them, however, most had been snuffed out from the earlier snowfall. The streets were empty for the night, with only nightly patrollers walking the roads in the search for cutpurses and other scoundrels that preyed on the week. Allowing the chill of the night to touch her for a moment, Mai enjoyed the feeling of being alive. Her bare skin shivered slightly under the blanket and she instinctively began to rub her arms to generate warmth. It was a good feeling. One that she hadn’t had in a very long time. Not since… No. She wouldn’t ruin this moment with thoughts of the past. Not tonight. It was selfish she knew, but she buried the memory down in her mind anyway. She was happy, for the first time in years, she was finally happy again. And it was all because of the strong touch that caressed her shoulders before wrapping their arms around her tightly. Lovingly.
“You’ll catch death if you stand out here all night.” His deep voice still felt like honey in her ear. She could feel her knees weakening as she felt his breath on her neck. “What are you doing?”
“I thought you would still be asleep.” She said after a time.
“I was. Now I am not. Stop avoiding the question.”
“I’m not avoiding anything you oaf. It’s just, after that… tussle. I thought that… Will you stop doing that? You know what that… does…” The last was drowned in a soft moan and then a kiss, followed by another, and then another. Turning around, she rested her head on his chest and smiled. Caressing his many scars that subjugated most of his body. She had asked about them once, but the only reply she received was that he fought many battles in the Blight. Nothing more, nothing less. “It’s just, it feels good to… to feel the wind in my hair. To feel the snow falling at my feet… to feel… to feel human again. You wouldn’t understand.”
The man, standing well over her by far, gently lifted Mai’s head up to look at him with his fingers. She stared at those grey eyes for what felt like centuries. His raven hair still matted his forehead and the rest fell to either side of his head. He was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. He smirked warmly at her and whispered, “To feel things that you thought were forgotten or that you took for granted. Things that were once covered in ice or stone. I understand what you mean by it all too well flower. What I don‘t understand is how it came that you would encase your heart like that?”
She bit her bottom lip and looked away from him for a moment. Chastising herself on saying too much around him. What was she thinking? Now he was curious and he knew that she didn’t mean the Aes Sedai trick of ignoring the cold from her reaction and the fact that she wasn‘t Aes Sedai--not anymore. The thought of lying to him came to mind but was quickly rebuffed. She didn’t want to lie to him, not if she could help it. However, if she didn’t answer soon he would think that he had said something wrong, which he didn’t. It was just that she wasn’t ready to relive those memories with him just yet. She didn’t think she would ever be ready actually. Pushing him away and turning to face the half moon she gathered her courage and spoke. It never came.
“Not yet. But soon… I promise. I just need more time.”
She could feel his disappointed gaze on the back of her neck. This wasn’t the first time he inquired into her past and she withheld it from him. It was a subject that hurt too much to relive. She could already feel the tears rolling down her face. One for her Hope. One for her beautiful Chastity. One for her husband Shawn. Mai forced herself to stop, but it was to no avail. She had avenged them, right? Then why did it still hurt so much? Why afterwards did she keep shedding more blood and taking more and more pleasure in the acts? Was she truly become such a monster? Would this man still love her if he knew what she had done? Too many questions came with her past, too many regrets. It was best to leave it buried a little while longer. However, they both held secrets from one another. She could feel him holding back things unsaid just as she to him. It was what she feared would drive them apart in the end. And then she would be alone once again. However, what he said next surprised her and comforted her too. It gave her hope for their future together.
“Our pasts define us, but we cannot let it rule our lives. If we do, the sins that we bear on our shoulders will crush us. Whatever happened then isn’t now so to live in the past is foolish.”
“I can’t help but look back. I can’t forget… I won’t forgive… I can’t.”
“Then I’ll help you bear that pain until you can find your way.”
“You really will?”
“Yes,” he answered. Holding her closer to him. “I love you Mai, and I’ll do anything to keep you with me.”
Tears filled her eyes once more and she rested her head on his chest once more. “Jardam…”
Mai Johan. Age 247.
The orphanage was quiet tonight. The last of the patrons had left a few hours ago and the remaining bits of clean up was just being done. A small pile of toys, a few small books and other things still littered the oak floorboards here and there, but Mai consoled herself in that it was suitable for now. The rest could be handle in the morning before first light touched the hilltops. That is, if anyone still had the energy to get up in the morning. The children had already been tucked in for the night. Most dreaming their way to the morrow while the others snickered and whispered to each other of the day past. They had been extremely jovial this day, almost too much to handle in some ways. Today marked the last night that three of the children would be at the orphanage, and a party was held in celebration of that. There were games and cake and presents for everyone then when the evening came those who knew who were educated, wrote letters to the departing children, promising to stay in touch. Afterwards there was singing and dancing and a story time before bed. Maybe that was why it seemed so still now when compared with the carefree bedlam that was before. It was a nice change, but at the same time, the silence was truly unnerving. The feeling couldn’t be helped, it seemed. But still, she felt a sudden surge of loneliness and almost called out for one of the children. If only to stay with her for but a moment, but she resisted the inclination, closing the door to the children’s room after a time. The small click of the door catching was the only sound that echoed in the foyer. Quiet, unperturbed stillness was all that was left to her as she made her way down the hall.
"We all know she’s dangerous. But we cannot deny that she’s still an asset. An asset that can still be used."
The study was allayed as well, though the flames of the few burning candles still danced to an unheard tune randomly on their wicks. Shadows licked the many books lined on the walls, dulling the colors of the spines that would usually showcase brilliance in the day’s light. A few spines cold be read in the dimness, Marin Dalian’s Seafolk story Sophia Zeal and the Trading Winds, Josef Were’s masterpiece Several Days of Night and even a book written by the Blue sister Arica about the mindsets of Darkfriends where only five copies existed within the world, was there. The walls held many paintings of On the desk, several paper’s lay neatly placed, awaiting for two more signatures before they were made legally binding. One being her signature and the other being one of the new parents. Just as the few playthings that still littered the playroom, they could wait for tomorrow also. Signing away the children was an uneasy task and she couldn’t do it without the new parents there, reassuring her that they were right for the children. It was strange. She had only been here for a few months and already she could feel herself getting attached. Past the desk, only a few steps away, was a door lightly decorated with small engravings and a small golden plaque that read “Mistress of Services”. Creaking it open slowly, it revealed a small plain bedroom. No trappings or glamorous bed sheets, only a cot, a dresser, and a wash basin with a mirror seated on the wall. This was the way she wanted it. Nothing that reminded her of what she left behind. All the memories that her belongings held and the life she lived were dead to her. She would try to start over one last time. She was no longer bound to the Shadow nor was she entrapped in the Light. She was simply there, in the moment. If she wasn’t so afraid to utter the words vocally, she would call this happiness.
"Asset or no, she cannot be trusted. How much innocent blood has she drawn? Can we truthfully entertain allowing a murderer like her back within our fold? In clear conscious?"
Small trickles of water fell from her face as she looked into the mirror without a sense of what she was looking for. Before coming here, her eyes burned with an unending hatred for everything. She had lost so much during her time in this life she didn’t know why she was still around. At first it was for revenge. That one human notion that was so simple yet could encompass and destroy lives with too much ease. It had ruined several of hers and after she finally dealt out that revenge to everyone who had ever wronged her; she was left feeling… empty. Mai supposed that she knew it would happen. Revenge never rectified any past deeds. Still she thought it would… that maybe… she didn’t realy know what would happen. She was just as aimless, just as lost as she was over a hundred years ago. That was when she came here to the orphanage and found something that was akin to a purpose. Something to finally live for in the form of these children whom were like her. Who had their family‘s taken from them. Something that had happened to her time and time again. But now she had a new life here. She made family’s whole instead of tearing them apart by bloodshed or manipulations. She was doing what she thought was right and even though she had other reasons for being here, it felt right. It felt good. However, she knew it wouldn’t last. It never did.
"We will not turn a blind eye towards her transgressions… but the fact still remains that in times such as these, her knowledge of the Shadow is invaluable. And let us not forget her strength."
“How did you find me?” Mai asked still looking in the mirror. She didn’t need to see the man behind her to know he was there.
“Not easily. Though, I should have known you‘d still be here.”
“Truly? So what is it that you want Fillip?” There was no need for the inquiry, she knew what was coming.
“They’re coming for you, you know. “
“Are they now?”
“Is there any reason you don’t want them to find you?”
“Not anything that you’d need to concern yourself with, Fillip, I assure you. “
“What will you do?”
She paused and glared at herself in the mirror, trying to figure out her next move, before answering. After a few moments, she spoke, “I’ll be lost before the dawn. You‘ll never hear from me again.”
“I guessed as much. Still, it’s such a waste. I have a mare ready for you outside. There isn’t much in the way of food and other supplies, but it should keep you until you reach one of the nearby towns.”
“I’m sure I’ll manage.”
“I suppose you will.“ There was another pause, like neither of them wanted to discuss the Trolloc in the corner with them. However, the questioned had to be ask. “What will I tell them? I mean, many of the children look to you as a mother figure.”
…Mother? “Tell them whatever you will.” She knew that that came out cold. But she couldn’t help it. This would kill them just as much as it killed her. She thought she had more time than this. Damnit, she thought…
“So be it. But you know Elizabeth, you can’t run forever.”
“I know Fillip. But for now, that‘s all I can do.”
- Editor's Note: It has holes in the time line for a reason.*
Name: Mai ni Johan t’Keldrin-Dellence
Occupation: Former Priestess, Former Teacher, Former Seamstress, Former Member of the Darkfriend High Council, Former Aes Sedai/Sitter of the Blue(Wilder)/Former Member of the Black Ajah, Caretaker of the Hope Orphanage in Kandor
Other Aliases: Mai Elizabeth Johan, Elizabeth
Warders: Brandon Halan (Former Gaidin), Nayndeaine Asan (Former Gaidar), Telric Zeal (Former Gaidin)
Place of Birth: Malkier (Though was raised in Tear)
Relatives: Harriet Johan (Mother/Deceased), Benson Johan III (Father/Deceased), Benson Johan IV (Brother/Deceased) Derrick Wales (Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Nephew), Shawn Keldrin (Husband/Deceased), Hope Keldrin (Daughter/Deceased), Chastity Keldrin (Daughter/Deceased), Leilys Sahren (Adoptive Sister/Aes Sedai), Atlan Dellence (Son/Asha‘man), Orin Dellence (Son/Asha‘man)
Hair Color: Jet Black, originally brown (She dyes her hair)
Eye Color: Bluish-green
Weight: 135 Lbs.
Strength in the One Power: Unstable (Base Strength: 11.7)
Attributes in the Power:
Known Weaves: Lightning, Raise Fog, Bond Warder, Compulsion, Pass Bond, Arms of Air, Create Ice, Freezing the Wind, Harden Air, Tool of Air, Move Water, Delve (Mind), Heal (Very Weak), Eavesdropping, Traveling, Skimming, Circle of Silence, Voice of Power, Rend, Repulse, Dry, Ward Against the One Power, Mind Link, Harness the Wind, Shielding, Trace, Slicing, Shield of Pain, False Trail, Current, Illusion (Very Weak)
Gained Shawl: Age 26 (Lost at age 35)
Years Spent as Novice and Accepted: Novice: 4 years
Accepted: 6 years
Skills: Mai is an above average tactician and strategist being in many conflicts as an undercover agent and studying stratagem over the years. When she was younger she was taught horseback ridding by her uncle in Tear and is very adept in it. During her short tenure as an Aes Sedai, she was taught diplomacy as well as several other skills that all Aes Sedai possess such as; etiquette, national customs, etc. making her well versed in many of the mores of many nations and able to blend in. Mai also has two Talents that are rare within the Tower, she has the ability to copy--within her skills--or remember anything she sees--as in a photographic memory--and rapid weaving. She also loves to sew and read.
Weaknesses: As a Wilder, Mai developed a block when she was younger, one that she still possesses today. She loses control of weaves and the One Power when enraged causing random effects within her vicinity. Following the events that led to the restoration of her memories as well as her full strength in the One Power, it has become lethal to her as she has become connected to all of her counterparts within the Wheel of Time. She has lost all of her fine-motor-control over the Power as it often ebbs and flows out of control. This makes it almost impossible for her to use any weaves. As when most channelers glow when using the One Power, Mai’s aura crackles and sparks wildly and is almost blinding. For this reason, she refrains from channeling at all unless the situation proves dire.
Base of Operations: Hope Orphanage in Kandor, Formerly White Tower Affiliates: Lesebane Itrif, Telric Zeal, The Assassins’ Guild, Formerly the White Tower, Formerly the Black Ajah, Leilys Sahren, Jo'taro De'kal
Appearance: Mai’s hair was originally brown, but dyes it black honoring her daughter Chastity and usually wears it flowing down like her daughter Hope. She is fond of the Tairen fashions since she was raised there. She has calculating bluish-green eyes, and is considered beautiful to some but to those who take a closer look she is more on the side of handsome than anything else. Medium height and a bit slim. Of all the Malkier customs, she shows none but instead edges more to Tear’s mores. She has several scars, one on her stomach where she was stabbed and two more on her leg and back. She usually uses makeup to hide them.
Personality: Mai is above all else, a manipulator. She doesn’t care about the well being of her dupes, as long as they meet her ends, loyalty is just a meaningless sound to her. Her heart has been turned into stone encased in ice from the hardships she faced in her life. She usually refers to anyone and everyone as "Child" or "Girl"/"Boy" as a means of belittling them and to acknowledge that she is years, if not centuries, their senior. It is strange to think that this woman started out as a shy and reserved Novice whose meekness was only rivaled by her obedience. These faults make her hard to work with and impossible to command. However, most of Mai's behavior is simply a front, to hide her true fragile self from others. The part of her that knows she cannot take another heartache. She often wishes for death and seems to suffer acute depression at times.
Personal History: Mai’s story is one filled with sorrow and pain and proof that terrible things happen to good people. The younger of two, Mai lived a life of prosperity. Her father, Benson Johan, was a member of the Royal Guard as well as captain of the Blight Patrol. Harriet, her mother, was a Tairen noblewoman and a seamstress of the highest caliber. To help her learn humility at a young age, Mai was sent to live with her merchant uncle in Tear at the age of seven. There she spent eight and a half years until her ability to channel was discovered by several Aes Sedai in the city. Taken to the Tower, she quickly garnered attention for her unusually high strength in the One Power and her uncanny ability to retain and copy almost anything she saw within her skills. After gaining the shawl, under questionable circumstances, she was given the opportunity to help the Tower by going undercover as a Darkfriend to better aid her sisters in their endeavors of revealing the Black Ajah within the ranks. Therefore, the Three Oaths, the very thing that make Aes Sedai what they are, were never placed on her, to better suit the mission. However, this undertaking also gave Mai her first taste of darkness. To keep her cover she was forced to take measures that included Stilling, injuring, and even killing several of her Sisters. In retaliation for these deeds, one of the dying sisters Stilled Mai. Returning to the Tower where she thought she could receive help for her condition, she was instead excommunicated.
Feeling betrayed and without a purpose to live without the Power, Mai roamed the countryside for several decades before meeting and marrying her first husband, Shawn Keldrin. The two were happy for years and even birthing two children, Chastity and Hope. She had found peace. But just as many instances within Mai’s life, it would not last. After returning home from her uncle’s funeral, a raiding party under the command of a false Dragon broke into Mai’s home and slaughtered her family in front of her. Being wounded herself, she was powerless to stop them. On the verge of death, the men took her in and nursed her back to health. She was then made a slave for several years. When the Tower finally came and rescued her she became a key witness to putting the false Dragon to death. Leaving the Tower once again, Mai scoured the country again, this time from town to town looking for answers on why she was allowed to live while her family perished. This obsession with fatalism made manipulating her all the more easier for the Darkfriend Quinton Harris who was disguised as a pious man. He convinced her that vengeance would give her purpose in life.
So the “Seven Years of Terror” began with the former Aes Sedai killing her torturers and their families and in several instances, their entire village with the help of Darkfriends. However, after the ordeal was over and the last blood was spilled, Mai was left feeling emptier than before and horrified at the deeds she had done. These events caused her to have a mental and emotional breakdown which only led to more violence, self loathing, and in some cases self mutilation. It wasn’t until she met a man named Jardam Dellence that she began to return to her former self. With Jardam she found peace and love again, but things would soon turn for the worse. Jardam was only interested in the prospect of Mai birthing his new weapons. In a series of manipulations--one such tactic included the promise that the Dark One would resurrect her dead children--he convinced her to seek out the Eelflins to regain her ability to Channel. Though granting this wish, her strength was greatly diminished. After this, he placed her back in the Tower, killing those who still remained that knew of Mai. She then joined the Black Ajah and adopted a new attitude fed by her acceptance that the Creator never cared about her. Becoming the cold and calculating woman that she is known as today. After decades of serving the Shadow faithfully, she birthed Jardam’s first son, Atlan. With this birth trouble came for the two as Mai developed mistrust for her lover. These feelings grew as she discovered his plans for their child.
Outraged, Mai attacked Jardam even though knowing that she was no match for the centuries old evil and though she fought with every ounce of strength, ultimately she lost and as punishment, had the child taken from her with the stipulation that if she served faithfully, the child would be returned to her. Once again shattered she served the Shadow faithfully and blindly. Or so it seemed. Seeing the betrayal, Mai began to plot against Shadarmael, hoping to find a weakness to exact her revenge. Some time later Mai gave birth to another child by Jardam, named Orin. She did not raise this one but instead put him in a foster home, away from herself as she was told to do.
After this Mai took on an even more malicious attitude towards everyone and everything and became more self destructive. This was caused by extreme bouts of depression mixed with her survivor’s guilt that had been growing since her first family’s deaths. Taking a mission that she knew was a suicidal one, Mai ventured into the lost City of Light and did battle with Jeriana Mikion Sedai, nearly losing her life. Shadarmael noticed this reckless behavior and out of either compassion or perhaps as punishment, rescued her from death and had the Hailene Shadar member Gorem wipe her mind once again and given new memories and constructed a persona that was much akin to how she was before being Stilled. Placed in Tear, this “Elizabeth” was given a fresh start, but it did not last for long. The Darkfriend High Council wanted her back to take the place of one of their fallen members. Orchestrating a series of events that echoed the time of the “Seven Years of Terror”, the Mai persona became dominant once more but with the unforeseen side-effects of her memories merging with the implanted ones and many of her real memories being lost deep within her subconscious. This “new” Mai--filled with doubts, confusion, anger and a growing insanity--went on to kill the Sitter of the Blue Ajah in hopes to take her place, gain clout over the Assassins Guild, and rejoined the Black Ajah. Years passed and her more aggressive endeavors lead to her banishment form the High Council and the leadership of the Black Ajah. In retaliation, she killed her own Heart and three members of the Council.
Years later, a woman named Liandra visited Mai and told her that she could give her all her real memories back and her sanity, in exchange for a favor. Agreeing, Mai entered the Three Arches for a second time, transporting her to the Eeflins again. Using her last two wishes, her memories and power were restored… with a catch. She gained every memory she had ever lost but also the memories of every other Mai that existed within the Wheel of Time as well as being connected to them making her a living conduit for the One Power. Returning from the Arches and quite mad, Mai destroyed parts of the Tower and killed seven Sisters, one with Balefire, before creating a Gateway and escaping. Staying in the Aiel Waste for several weeks, she slowly began to regain some of her sanity. However, touching the True Source became lethal for her, almost killing her when she tried to return to the Mainland via Gateway. Once again, Liandra appeared calling in her favor. For Mai to kill the entire Darkfriend Council. After completing her mission, and destroying a small town in the process, she went into hiding to escape Liandra, Shadarmael, the Tower, and the Shadow.
Now Mai runs an orphanage in Kandor using her middle name as cover. She refuses to touch the One Power in fear that it may kill her and that those she is hiding from will find her again. However, she knows in her heart that it will be only a matter of time before that comes to fruition.
Key Stories: For the Light, For the Dragon! (First Appearance), For the Light for the Dragon! II: Preparation, Blue Requiem, Decalogue, Back From the Beginning, New Era (Alternate Universe), Penumbra: Age of the Broken Wheel (Alternate Universe), The Price of Life, The Day After