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The Wheel Turns
#11
TAR VALON, The White Tower

The kid wobbled a bit as she pulled out of the stance, but then the broom was a poorly weighted substitute, and Keio was small even for her age. “And that,” she said knowingly, “is The Heron Spreads Its Wings.” She tucked the tool back in its place, and snuck a quick look beyond them as though afraid someone might have seen. “Mama says that if I break another broom she’ll send me to wait on Kekura Sedai.”

“Ah, I see.” Araya’s hands slunk in the pockets of breeches, today the green of spring fresh leaves. It was warm enough to have dispensed with a jacket, but a scarf still looped and knotted at his throat; the deep orange of rust, edged in pale yellow. He leaned in the storeroom’s doorway, caught in a sliver of warm light cast from the great arching windows of the hallway beyond. Two sets of white-clad girls scurried past, giving him curiously glances and chattering in fast whispers as they went, but otherwise it was quiet. The Tower hummed along much as it always did; nothing seemed amiss.

Keio peered out a little guiltily and began mindlessly sorting through piles of clean laundry, after first wiping her hands down on her black livery. “I heard she eats novices for her breakfast, so I don’t know what she might do with servants. She’s from the Sea Folk, Araya, with tattoos on her hands! I have never seen her smile, not once.”

“If she does I’m sure it’s only the naughty ones, and you’re very fast. She’d never catch you.”

Keio snickered and blew at the curls escaped from the kerchief keeping her tangled hair back from her face. He noticed there was a suspicious stripe of what he could only imagine was dirt on the top of one of her cheekbones. When he’d called the Tower home she had always been running out and about on the grounds, up the trees as often as not, much to the despair of her parents. 

Araya shifted a little, wondering how best to broach the subject, but he rarely danced words -- even with children. “Do you happen to know a sister called Nythadri, Keio?” He didn’t know her Ajah; Hana had never thought to ask, and apparently the woman had never volunteered it during her last visit. He didn’t even know her family name.

Keio shrugged a little. “You can ask in the main hall, someone will take you to her if she’s here. Or maybe find another Sister who can help. You know that Araya.” She laughed a little, but her bright brown eyes were suddenly paying attention. Probably because he did know that.

He looked down at her, paused a moment; wondering if he should just do that and see what he was told. An Asha’man, even one who did not dress in the black, was a far different creature from the civilian petitioner Hana would have presented as. It was only because of her suggestion to ask the servants, he realised, that he had come here first. For a moment he pondered it, but it seemed reasonable to assume by the note itself that the Aes Sedai wasn’t in residence, and likely that was all he would be told of whatever business took her away. He wanted something to alleviate Hana’s fears. Araya rubbed at his smooth jaw, and offered honesty. “I think she might be in trouble.”

Keio didn’t miss a beat. “Does she have a Warder? That’s what they do, you know, keep the Sisters safe. Akari Miyakawa is the Amyrlin’s Warder, which means that she is the safest woman in the whole world. So I don’t expect you have to worry if she does.”

“I don’t know, Keio. I don’t think so.”

“Hmm. Well, do you know what Ajah she is? Merry knows all the Yellows. I got Healed by Talin Sedai last month when I uh… well, anyway, have you ever been Healed, Araya? It’s like a bucket full of ice dumped right on your head. Nico says that’s not what the stories say, but that IS what it felt like.”

“I’m not sure about that either. She was an Accepted last time I saw her.”

The small girl made a face like he was being particularly unhelpful as she bundled a great armful of the clean linens. “Well, I can at least find out that for you. Maybe one of her Ajah Sisters can help you get in touch.” She tottered back at little. “I gotta get these to the infirmary. Will you be in the common room later? I can show you how to do Kingfisher Circles the Pond. It’s a really hard one though.”

He laughed, not unkindly, and moved out of the way of the exit, flourishing a small bow for her to pass. “Of course. It will be good to see Mistress Mandragon and the others. Thank you for your help, Keio.”

She bounced past with a grin of her own, just visible above the precarious tower of cloth in her arms. Keen eyes checked to make sure the corridor was deserted, and then she took off at a mad run. “You ARE funny you know, Araya,” she called out behind her. “I will see you later!”
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