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On Matters of Succession
#1
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.

                “Excellent.”

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#2
[Image: viviane_1.png]



                Vivienne Accylon strode purposefully down the hallways of the Royal Palace of Camelyn, her Warder trailing a suitable distance behind. Many Sisters she had come across were scandalized at her behavior. It was not customary to Bond another woman, indeed, many scorned Vivienne because of it. That was all poppycock.

                Letto could match any man in combat, she had a sharp wit, keen senses, a level head, and she was a ‘Wolf-sister.’ The woman was more than qualified for the job, what should it matter that she was of the same gender? True, there were certain unforeseen side-effects in bonding a person of the same sex, but that only added to the mystique surrounding the Warder Bond, it made it more special.

                Not to mention that the Daughter-Heir had approved of such a Bond, indeed the woman had done the very same thing. It was a comfort that she too had been met with such opposition from the other Sisters. Why should it even matter what the other Sisters thought? The Tower was divided and Tarmon Gai’don was headed their way. Those were the real problems that the other Aes Sedai should be focusing on, not matters of propriety. Hadn’t the Dragon been reborn? Now was a time of change. The others would get used to the idea of Bonding other women, and Vivienne expected that a few of the others, probably some Greens, would eventually do as she had.

                That commonality had served as a bridge between Vivienne and the Daughter-Heir, that and the fact that Vivienne was a Blue, an Ajah that one of the two current Amyrlins had tried to disband. It had been five years since Vivienne was last in the White Tower, so the news of the split had come as a great shock. Being of the Blue, she supported the ‘rebels’ by default. True, she had tried to remain neutral, but her pride had won out in the end. If the Tower was ever mended, her entire identity could be shattered depending on which side won out over the schism. The rebels had to win, but that didn’t mean that Vivienne had to assist in such a fight. Her place was here, in Andor. Although the White Tower was her home, this nation had birthed her. Vivienne would always hold Andor close to her heart.

                Letto picked up her stride, coming to Vivienne’s side. The Warder kept her eyes forward and her hand on her sword, she spoke calmly, true to what the Bond projected.

                “Are you sure this is worth our time?” Leto asked quietly.

                The woman knew better than to be so frank in the halls, especially around servants scuttling about, but Vivienne was confident in the Daughter-Heir and her requests. Let the others carry whispers that Vivienne’s Warder questioned the direction they had been given. She would do as the Daughter-Heir asked, so long as it helped the woman secure the Lion Throne. The nation had been in shambles for too long. Vivienne still wasn’t sure what had come over the late Queen in her final days, but it had left Andor lost and confused. Despite all of that, she still trusted in the Trakand line, if only because the other contenders for the throne were far from capable. True, Vivienne had hoped that the High Seat of Taravin made a bid for the throne, but that was before the Daughter-Heir came back home. That changed everything, especially when the High Seat of Taravin threw her lot in with the young woman. The High Seat had been the only other option and if she didn’t want the throne…

                Vivienne kept her eyes forward and her pace even.

                “Letto. We went over this already. The Daughter-Heir condemns the actions of the High Seat of Gilyard. There is nothing else for it. We must assist his son, despite the man’s previous associations.”

                “You are no longer of this nation, Viv. You are of the White Tower, as am I. We should be focusing on what we set out to do. Why do you care so much about the Trakand woman?”

                “The stability of the nations is of interest to the White Tower. The ‘Trakand woman’ is the only woman suitable to lead Andor. Do you not wish for stability? This is incredibly pertinent to ‘what we set out to do.’”

                “I really don’t see how. You’ve never gotten involved with Tower politics before, much less the workings of nations, especially now, when the Tower is divided. We should be bringing in grain for the poor through your Gateways, you should be healing the sick, and I should be assisting with the patrols throughout the streets. We are supposed to be helping the common man, not assisting the nobles in weaving their intricate webs. You’re better than this pettiness, Viv.”

                Vivienne stopped in the middle of the hall, servants quickly scurrying away as she fixed each with a glare. She fussed at her blue fringed shawl before rounded on her Warder, fixing the woman with a hard eye. Embracing the Power, Vivienne wove a ward around the pair of them to prevent any lingering Help from eavesdropping.

                This all should have been brought up in the morning before they left their apartments, in private. Letto knew better than to behave in such a fashion. The Bond told Vivienne that her Warder was feeling restless and annoyed. That fed back into Vivienne’s own frustrations at her Warder’s public dissent. Her voice came out harsher than she had intended.

                “I am Aes Sedai and you are my Warder. That should be enough. Can’t you see that things in the world aren’t right? Surely your wild dogs have told you that things are amiss.”

                Letto’s brow furrowed and anger poured from her and into Vivienne through the Bond.

                Easy, Vivienne thought to herself as she sought serenity.

                “I apologize, Letto. I spoke hastily. Please. I did not mean that. You know I value you and your connection with the wolves. I respect that connection. It’s just… You don’t think I am restless and frustrated as well? The Dragon has been reborn, the Dark One touches the Pattern, the Nations are in chaos, there is a foreign empire invading the continent with the intent of enslaving every woman that can touch the Source, and the Tower is divided! Oh, how I wish I could fix this all with a weave, but I cannot. The commoners need our attention, true, but they also need a Queen that will care for them. By assisting the Daughter-Heir, we are assisting the people. Do you disagree?”

                Letto still felt tense, but the anger subsided. Mostly. The woman’s jaw tightened before responding.

                “Of course, Vivienne Sedai,” Letto pronounced the honorific in a half-mock tone, “It is just that I fail to see how helping some ex-noble steal his Father’s claims is going to serve the greater good.”

                Vivienne ignored the mockery, “Our future queen must show a strong sense of justice.”

                “But is it her place?”

                It was Vivienne’s turn to furrow a brow, she let her mask of serenity slip around Letto. They were in the hallways though, behind a ward. Not in their apartments. Vivienne quickly schooled her expression at the thought. She was not some flighty Novice. She was in control.

                “Yes, but the Daughter-Heir is still a High Seat in her own right, the rest of the Houses are wrapped up in the Succession. In light of the charges, the High Seat of Gilyard is a stain on Andor. He must be removed. By dispensing justice on a peer, in absence of a Queen, the Daughter-Heir is showing the other High Seats that she is not afraid to dispense justice and, also, display her own strength. Andor needs a strong queen, Letto.”

                The Warder considered it thoughtfully. She raised a finger and responded more evenly than she had before.

                “I still don’t like it. We’re supposed to spy on the ex-Asha’man and make sure he doesn’t ‘unjustly’ murder his father. Sounds like a lot of games to me, Viv,” Letto said as she folded her arms under her breasts. The woman cocked an eyebrow at Vivienne and tilted her head slightly, inviting a verbal challenge.

                “Well, keep a wary eye out if your worried, Letto, but by the Light, we are assisting Merdyn Gilyard and we shall do whatever we must to assist the Daughter-Heir in securing the Throne. For the people of Andor and for the Tower.”

                Letto groaned and Vivienne dispelled the ward, glaring back at her Warder.

                The two women proceeded down the hall, twisting and winding about the Palace in forced silence. Vivienne’s face was calm and smooth, but inside she roiled at her Warder. The woman had clearly done it to goad her, hoping to push her towards abandoning the mission out of morals, going back to the New City to work amongst the people. Vivienne wouldn’t be budged. She really did believe that the High Seat of Trakand was the best of the contenders for the Lion Throne. Vivienne had talked to the High Seat about the people of the realm, and she had proved to be a humanitarian. She wanted to care for them, feed them, protect them, harden them. The late Queen would be proud of her daughter. Not to mention that the young Trakand had held the Dragon’s favor.

                She was no fool. Vivienne knew that the Dragon Reborn would shake the land and was key to winning the Last Battle. The Blue would throw her lot in with him and his associates any day, especially with the Tower suffering a schism. She only hoped that he fulfilled the Prophecies and brought the people of the land a victory against the Shadow.



                After a time, the two women came to Lord Gilyard’s chamber door. The slender, blonde Warder shifted in her leather armor and Vivienne smoothed her silken blue skirts, taking care to tuck away loose strands of flaming red hair. She raised a hand to knock upon the door, but faltered and looked back to her Warder.

                “We should probably assert a little authority, huh?”

                Letto shrugged, barely hiding a smirk.

                Vivienne channeled flows of air and pushed the door open, striding in with a smooth face and straight back. Letto followed closely behind with wolf-like grace, Warder cloak shifting on her shoulders in a sicking shifting of colors. The hopeful-Lord Gilyard sat upon a chaise lounge, taking his morning meal with a young man in red livery attending him. The ex-Asha’man smirked and opened his mouth, but Vivienne spoke first.

                “Lord Gilyard, I presume? You may call me Vivienne Sedai. Have you any wine?”

"The power Voodoo. Hoodoo? You do! Do what!?"
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#3
[Image: 3rdage_9.jpg?w=500&ssl=1]



                Letto entered the would-be Lord’s chambers after her Aes Sedai. She had planned on going in before Vivienne, but the woman charged through the doors after forcing them open with the Power. They came into a small sitting room paneled in dark varnished wood, a small hearth set into the north wall of the room and thick curtains concealed glass casements, an immense bookcase between the curtains and above the hearth, contained a variety of tomes and a few antiques scattered amongst its shelves. Mirrored stand lamps sat in each corner adding to the light cast by the fireplace. A few tasteful paintings and tapestries covered the bare spots on the walls and three satin chaise lounges crowded around the hearth. Lord Merdyn sat on the one closest to a door set in the western wall, no doubt to his bedchamber, a young serving man stood by the fire.

                Vivienne moved into the room, introducing herself and Letto. Lord Merdyn had the young serving man pour wine for the Aes Sedai, and he lounged upon the chaise considering Vivienne. She returned the gesture on the opposite couch. Letto moved next to the door they had just entered from, folding her arms under her bosom and watching, listening for anything that might threaten her charge.

                Lord Merdyn and Vivienne Sedai watched each other in silence. Letto could feel nervousness through the bond, although Vivienne didn’t display anything on her face other than utter calm. The Aes Sedai cocked an eyebrow at the man before looking into her wine, sipping thoughtfully. Letto looked from them to the serving man. He was dressed in fine, Camelyn livery with the lion of Andor sewn across his breast. The young man had a pretty face, but only had eyes for his lord. Curious. Surely this man was of the Daughter-Heir’s employ. Why had he looked upon the would-be lord with such reverence?

                “A fine day to you, Vivienne Sedai,” Lord Merdyn finally broke the silence in a smooth tone.

                “As to you, Merdyn Gilyard,” Vivienne replied simply.

                The man furrowed his brow for a brief second before sipping at his wine again. The silence stretched on for another moment before he intoned once more.

                “To what do I owe the pleasure? Surely you have far more important duties to be attending to for the Daughter-Heir.”

                “Which is why I have called upon you, Gilyard.”

                “Oh? Then am I right in assuming this has to do with my claim upon my Father’s house?”

                “Indeed.”

                Letto sat there, smug as a cat with crème. She loved it when Vivienne acted a proper Sister, speaking simply and letting the other person sweat a little. They were of the White Tower. The authority of Amrylin Seat hovered over every action they performed, every word spoken or unspoken. This ex-Asha’man knew that, surely. Let him stew a little and plead for their help. Letto didn’t like it, but if they had to do it, the least he could do was beg. Her lips tightened into a satisfied grin, Vivienne affected no notice of it or Letto’s emotions.

                “Have you been briefed on the matter?”

                “Indeed I have, Gilyard.”

                The manservant topped off the goblets that Merdyn and Vivienne held. Merdyn looked into his own cup before finding the right words to go on with.

                “And what do you think? I suspect you’re either here to chide me or assist me. Which is it?”

                Vivienne snorted and sipped at her glass. She spoke slowly.

                “That depends, Gilyard. Are you here to assist in the Succession or are you merely an opportunity seeker? What of your connections to the Black Tower?”

                Merdyn’s eyes flashed hot pokers at Vivienne.

                “My loyalties lie with Andor. They always have.”

                “But as an initiate of the Black Tower, you renounced such ties. What is your game, man?”

                Letto couldn’t help but chuckle at that. Vivienne ignored her, but she felt the frustration through the bond. The Aes Sedai would be giving her an ear-boxing after this meeting, there was no doubt about that. Still, Letto’s little laugh didn’t do much to derail the upper hand that Vivienne held. Merdyn needed them. He couldn’t very well storm a stronghold on his own, no matter his strength in the Power.

                The two of them, Vivienne and Letto, had been briefed on the young Lordling’s past and his predicament. Daddy caught him fooling around with a farmhand and went down a dark path. The man’s father killed the farmhand and his entire family for the presumed ‘shame’ that Merdyn had brought on their house. Not only that, but apparently the Father had a plot in motion to wed his son to the Daughter-Heir. She had laughed it all off, but the ploy had run deep and for all intents and efforts, it had appeared that Merdyn opposed the plan. Lucky for him. The Daughter-Heir would never take a dandy puff as a consort. No offense to him, but by the way that servant was gazing upon him, Letto would assume that the pair had engaged in relations before the meeting.

                How very improper.

                Couldn’t Vivienne see that this man was a piece of slime? Not to mention doomed. He was a man that could touch the Source. Clearly, Vivienne didn’t want to work with him for his own gain. Didn’t she? Letto didn’t, and she had made that known. They had set out to care for those that couldn’t defend themselves. When did they get caught up in politics? Sure. Many Blues sought out the webs woven by Lords and Ladies, but Viv was different. Why was she doing this? It was maddening, and no explanation she had given was satisfactory.

                Letto groaned internally and watched on as the Lord Merdyn made a fool of himself.

                They’d be back in the New City in a day or two. Vivienne wouldn’t help this man. No matter what the Daughter-Heir said.



"We are the sisters of the Moon." - Siobhan's hit single, 'Silver Skans'
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#4
Merdyn sipped thoughtfully at his wine, taking a moment to gaze in at his cup as he found the right response; one of a few Aes Sedai mannerisms he had picked up during his life. The way the Sisters handled social interactions would give any noble pause, it had served him well during his last few months in residence at the Black Tower.

                Father had never put much stock into the Aes Sedai, although Merdyn would bet his left stone that Father would have pushed him into the White Tower had he been born female. Anything to gain power and influence. Were he a more progressive sort, he might even have liked to see how high Merdyn had climbed within the Black Tower… When it came to Channeling, Asha’men were more powerful than Aes Sedai; although a wise man would point out that strength wasn’t everything.

                It had been in Merdyn’s case.

 
                A broken bond, eyeless faces, a cacophony of discordant laughter, panicked Gateways.

 
                Merdyn shook himself.

                “My game, Vivienne Sedai?” Merdyn pursed his lips. This wasn’t the Daughter-Heir he was speaking to, nor another Noble. There was no need to play the Game of Houses with her, no matter how much the Blue Sisters enjoyed their word games. This woman was his equal, as far as he was concerned. He would speak plainly with her, and by the Light, he would get her to speak plainly with him as well. Perhaps if she saw that he put no walls up, that he was willing to be honest with her? Perhaps.

                “I was groomed to succeed my Father as High Seat, he had no other heirs despite plenty of attempts… Or so my ‘ears’ tell me. The man disowned me for unfounded reasons, I joined the Black Tower and proved adept at the role prescribed to me, I am now labeled a deserter for even more unfounded reasons, and so I return to my home, praying the Daughter-Heir will aid me in recovering some semblance of dignity and security. Is that what you wanted to hear, Vivienne Sedai?”

                The Blue Sister gave no sign of reaction, yet the female Warder visibly bristled at his words.

                Such a strange thing, a female Warder. The Daughter-Heir had her own Bonded female, but the Trakand woman was royalty… Not to mention the fact that Merdyn needed her. If she wanted an entire harem of Warders, who was he to judge… But this Aes Sedai taking a female? The White Tower was notorious for their obsessions with tradition and propriety, but then again the Dragon Reborn did walk the land once more. Strange tales were being told across the Nations every single day, what was one more oddity to toss on the pile?

                The female Warder regained her calm and glared daggers at Merdyn. What had he done to gain such a look? It’s not like he was holding the Power, not that she would have known. Besides, he was the closest thing a man could get to becoming Aes Sedai, this woman should have shown at least a sliver of respect when regarding him. At the bare minimum some decorum… Honestly.

                He didn’t like the woman, she made him unsettled. That piercing gaze and that distrustful aura that permeated the Warder… If the talks failed today it would be her fault, Merdyn had no doubt she would be chittering in the Blue’s ear.

                The Aes Sedai sipped at her own goblet before responding.

                “A fair answer, if not anything I didn’t know,” The Blue set the cup down, “My question stands, Gilyard. What is your game?”

                Guess I was wrong on that gamble, Merdyn thought to himself, She still finds me suspicious. Clever girl. He smirked openly, gazing directly into the Aes Sedai’s eyes. She didn’t so much as flinch, although the cup was back in her hands within moments.

                “The Daughter-Heir is not an ignorant woman, neither are you I suspect. Would you care to hear it from my own lips then? I want my birthright. I won’t waste words lying to you or dancing around the truth, Vivienne Sedai, I am a man of my word. To be restored to my proper place in Andoran society is my only wish.”

                The Warder sniffed.

                “So an opportunist?”

                “If you want to call me that, then go right on ahead, Vivienne Sedai. My House has always thrown their lot in with House Trakand. I am shocked my Father has not proclaimed his support of the late-Queen’s daughter… Instead taking House Marne’s side…” Merdyn spat to the side, earning another harsh look from the Warder. Vivienne Sedai's faced remained passive.

                “It is no secret that Arymilla is a ninny. She must have bribed my Father to gain his backing, perhaps promising to forgive his crimes against those he has killed. As a High Seat, it is his duty to protect his people, and he has done the opposite. The Daughter-Heir knows this, Vivienne Sedai. I respected her Mother. I see a lot of the late-Queen in her. A strong, just woman. Andor needs leadership like that, especially in the days where Tarmon Gai’don looms on the horizon.”

                Vivienne Sedai nodded at that, sipping at her wine again.

                Light! What would it take to get this woman to open her mouth? Merdyn had all but begun to babble at her in hopes of prying something out, convince her to put her guards down. But no. If anything, he had accomplished the opposite. Why would she have need to speak if he insisted on filling every gap of silence with his own voice?

                And that Warder just staring at him.

                Merdyn shook his head to himself.

                You’re the ninny, Merdyn Gilyard, he thought.

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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