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On Matters of Succession
1000 N.E.
Third Age
Sometime Between Winter and Spring

[Image: merdyn_3.jpg]

                Merdyn Gilyard woke with a start. His bed sheets were damp and sweat beaded his brow. This had become routine since he had fled the Black Tower. Nightmares plagued his sleep, visions of men in high collared black coats and those eyeless Myrrdraal chasing after him as the M’Hael laughed maniacally. Last night had been different though. His night terrors had been replaced with a strange dream of a young man using the Power to play, what Merdyn assumed were, instruments atop a stage.

                The man had artfully plucked at something resembling a lute and then, of all things, he had hammered away at a harpsichord with his toes… At least Merdyn thought it was a harpsichord. It sure looked like one, but it sounded different. Both things had sounded different, yet similar to the instruments they had resembled. The stranger sang about a man ‘selling the world.’ Was the song about the Lord Dragon? Strange indeed. There was something familiar about the man, but Merdyn couldn’t figure out why. He surely had never seen the man, nor instruments such as he had played. It was all…  oddly comforting.

                Shoving the silken sheets and duvet from his naked body, Merdyn shrugged off the dream. It meant nothing. Clearly, just one of those random scenarios one’s mind had concocted to soothe the soul after so many rough nights. He didn’t care what he saw in his dreams so long as it wasn’t that horrific nightmare.

                Light, man, get ahold of yourself. You’re safe now, Merdyn thought to himself as he raked a hand through damp hair. He needed a bath.

                Rising from the gilded bed, Merdyn strode over to a heavy set of maroon curtains set over the western wall of his chambers. Both of his hands made a grand flourish as he parted the embroidered drapings, revealing two large windows set with thick glass casements. One of the Palace’s many gardens could be seen below, although it had seen far better days part in thanks to the Dark One… At least that’s what Merdyn had assumed. He had heard at least a few Aes Sedai whispering about it here in the Palace, thus validating such thoughts.

                Tarmon Gai’don was on the horizon. There was no other explanation for it.

                Oddly, that thought brought another sense of comfort to Merdyn. That had to have been the reason the Black Tower had become a hornet’s nest. It had not been that way in the beginning. It couldn’t have been. That place had been a refuge for Merdyn, it had helped him overcome heartache and defeat; it had served to shape Merdyn into the man he was today. Oh, he had only been there a year, such a short time when one really considered it, but so much had happened. All of it good… How had the Shadow come to grip the Tower in its hand?

                A bath. That was what he needed. A nice hot one with scented oils and floral soaps.

                The sky above the Inner City city was a warm tone of magenta that bled into the amethyst shades of night. Sparse, dark clouds trailed across the heavens as dawn began to break upon the world. Much of the city would soon be waking along with Merdyn, although residents of the palace would still be dozing in their own chambers. The servants would be up, however, gliding in at any moment with steaming buckets of water. Merdyn had awoken with the sun every day since coming to the Palace, and he had consistently needed a bath immediately upon waking. The nightmares and sweats had come every night without fail. He would not spend more than an hour covered in his own filth.

                Especially not today.

                A crimson robe lined in black fur lay across a luxurious chaise which sat before the marble fireplace. Yellow flames blazed across the logs within the hearth, the servants no doubt tending it in the night. Merdyn slipped the soft fabric across his form and inhaled deeply. It smelled like the burning logs, he loved that scent, and the robe was just as warm as the flames. He knew the Aes Sedai trick of ignoring temperatures, but the bestowed warmth of the hearth felt too good to cast aside. The Palace wasn’t exactly frigid, but there was a draft about the Ogier worked structure… At least in his own chambers.

                Merdyn hadn’t expected the Daughter-Heir to give him the finest rooms in the Palace, he had come to her after all. In truth, he had thought she would turn him away, much less house him while he sorted through the affairs at hand… But then again, why should her favor surprise him? She needed him and his House’s support in the Succession. She put on a good front, a strong woman with a fierce determination, but he could see that she was desperate to bring together as many High Seats as possible. There was no other way to take the Lion Throne.

                The Daughter-Heir seemed to be a younger doppelganger of her late mother, a mighty woman in her own right. Despite the late Queen’s strange fall from grace, her reign was a great one. With the world thrown into chaos, Andor would need that special kind of leadership only a Trakand could offer. Merdyn had kept an eye on his homeland’s political maneuverings while he trained at the Black Tower. True, he had cast away all ties and claims once joining the Tower, but that hadn’t meant he couldn’t observe from a distance. A good thing that was, considering his present circumstances.

                The door to his modest sitting room opened slowly and a young, liveried servant gave a start at seeing Merdyn awake, seated on the chaise. He waved the servant in with a kind look. The boy must have been new to give such a reaction, no matter how minor.

                “It’s all right. The tub is in the dressing room just over there,” Merdyn said with a gesture to the large door opposite the servant.

                He was a cute one, offering a quick ‘yes, my lord’ with a clumsy bow, scuttling off into the dressing room with a pole across his shoulders, two large buckets swinging from ropes attached to the wooden rod.

                I wonder if he’ll be scrubbing my back, Merdyn thought wryly to himself. Although enticing, he would never insult the Daughter-heir by bedding one of the Palace’s staff. It would be in poor manners, especially considering that he needed her just as she needed him… Well, maybe he needed her more, but that was up for debate so far as he was concerned. Besides. There were plenty of Pleasure Houses in the Outer City should he find his urges to be insatiable. They weren’t. Merdyn was in control of his mind and body.

                Except for that first night in Camelyn. He needed a release. There was no shame in that.

                Since then it was strictly business. Still, Merdyn could tell a few of the servants that attended his daily baths had stolen a few peaks at his body. He didn’t mind. He liked the attention. Hard muscle and a sizable frame, this body was something he had worked hard for. It was a crime not to show it off every now and then.

                Another Servant silently glided in, a familiar face to Merdyn after a week in the Palace, a tray balanced effortlessly on her left hand. She gave a small smile to Merdyn, certainly not in line with decorum, but he had quickly made it known to the servants that they could be at ease around him. The older members of the Palace staff sniffed dismissively at the suggestion, but the younger ones had taken to it eagerly after a day or two. Merdyn wasn’t like other nobles… He wasn’t even a noble anymore, he was disowned by his father, the High Seat of House Gilyard, before joining the Black Tower.

                The events had lined up conveniently. It was easy to dismiss his father’s actions as a result of Merdyn seeking to become an Asha’man. Merdyn had strongly considered presenting that to the Daughter-heir when he came to her, but the truth would come out eventually. It wouldn’t do to deceive the future Queen of Andor. Not when he needed her help. Still. He had considered it. Merdyn was desperate.

                The High Seat of House Taravin no doubt knew the truth of it. She seemed to be acting as an advisor to the Daughter-heir, so any possibility of Merdyn lying to the Daughter-heir was completely obliterated before he had even come to the Palace gates. A good thing. The truth behind his Father’s actions was much more heartbreaking, enough to sway the Daughter-heir at least.

                “Thank you, Tamela,” Merdyn spoke smoothly to the servant as she sat her tray down atop a gilded side table beside the chaise. The rope-worked tray held a steaming pitcher of Tremalking black accompanied by a set of porcelain cups and a large dish of honey. The tea was spoiled, no doubt, that was to be expected. Food stores across the country were going rotten. Thank the Light that the honey was keeping. Merdyn filled his cup almost halfway with the sweet stuff to cover the inevitably disappointing Tremalking black.

                Tamela dipped a suitable curtsy and made her way from the room, no doubt going to fetch Merdyn’s breakfast. It would arrive after his bath, once he was suitably dressed for the stresses of the day.

                Vivienne Sedai, a Blue Sister that had attached herself to the Daughter-Heir of Camelyn, was scheduled to visit Merdyn at some point during the day. When? He couldn’t say. In true Aes Sedai fashion, the woman would come to him when she saw fit. If he wished to keep the Daughter-Heir’s favor, he would just have to lurk around his chambers until the Sister decided to call upon him. The Sister only came at the Daughter-heir’s behest, the why of it was unknown to Merdyn. He just assumed that it had to do with his plans regarding the Gilyard Estates.

                What else could it have been about?

                Merdyn sipped quietly at his spoiled tea as he watched the younger serving man lug pails of steaming hot water back and forth. He had drunk half the pitcher before the tub had finally been filled. The servant bowed to him and announced in a stutter that he had been assigned the duty of attending Merdyn and his bath.

                New indeed, Merdyn thought to himself, It’ll be fun teasing him.

                Merdyn rose from the chaise, setting his cup on the rope-worked tray, and dropped his robe unceremoniously to the ground. He stood before the handsome, nervous servant, wearing only a mischievous smile. The young man quickly turned a dark shade of red, half sputtering before covering it with a bow. Merdyn noted that the servant stole a look before retreating back into the dressing room, no doubt waiting dutifully by the tub with a sponge and brush in hand.


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Messages In This Thread
On Matters of Succession - by Aiden Finnegan - 12-19-2018, 06:32 AM
RE: On Matters of Succession - by Rowan Finnegan - 12-19-2018, 06:39 AM
RE: On Matters of Succession - by Siobhan West - 12-20-2018, 01:42 AM
RE: On Matters of Succession - by Aiden Finnegan - 01-05-2019, 10:39 PM
RE: On Matters of Succession - by Rowan Finnegan - 02-02-2019, 07:32 AM
RE: On Matters of Succession - by Siobhan West - 02-12-2019, 04:37 AM

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