â€œDo you realize what you have done here, girl?â€ said Mallah, glancing back at the Shienaran warrior, who was continuing to brush the dust off of his fine clothing. He seemed to have mostly recovered from his hard landing in the street and brief battle with the Aiel. â€œYou are in need of training. You are a serious danger to yourself and others until you are taught control, girl. Your amateur handling of this situation is more than enough evidence of that. The White Tower will provide you with everything you need, and more. Some time in novice white would be a good start for you, I am sure that if you do well enough to become worthy of being an Aes Sedai, you will eventually become a valuable asset of the White Tower.â€
The Domani named Cueraina seemed to loose her timidness and grow more and more indignant with each word that Mallah said. Cueraina straightened up under the fierce gaze of the Aes Sedai and her Warder, and even thrust her jaw out a little in defiance. The Domani seemed prepared to refute anything the Aes Sedai said, and determined to hold her own ground. Her copper-toned skin was turning a deep red, accentuating her features against her pale white dress. Amahra could see that Cueraina was very beautiful, and had probably gotten used to getting her way in life. She wondered if the Domani had developed any Wilder tricksâ€¦
Mallah continued on in a lecturing tone to Cueraina, who continued to silently grow more indignant. The other warriors in the alley remained quite and still, seeming to be glad to not have the attention of the Aes Sedai. Only Quahlen seemed to retain any ability to move, keeping watch on the three warriors, Mallah, the Domani, and yet still finding time to examine the bodies of the fallen thugs. Something had caught his attention, but whatever it was, Amahra was in no position to see. She began furtively moving into the alleyway, attempting to see what Quahlen was looking at without drawing anyoneâ€™s attention.
Mallah had also taken her attention from Cueraina to peer intently at the body that Quahlen was looking at. Somehow, Quahlen had managed to get his Aes Sedaiâ€™s attention without speaking a word. Amahra suspected that it was through the bond; rumor had it that an Aes Sedai and her Warder could just about communicate anything through the bond, if they had been bonded for long enough of a time. Amahra wasnâ€™t certain how long Mallah and Quahlen had been Aes Sedai and Warder, but she knew that it had been for longer than she had been at the White Tower. Judging from Quahlenâ€™s white hair and weathered features, it had been a very long time, indeed. Despite the white hair, Amahra suspected that Quahlen was the most fearsome warrior of the four men in that alley. â€œWhat is it, Quahlen?â€ said Mallah.
Quahlen raised up the arm of one of the thugs by the wrist and pointed to the inside of the thugâ€™s forearm. â€œThis.â€
Mallah bent down to examine the offered arm closer, even as Quahlen rose up to keep the others in the alleyway in better view. Mallah peered intently at the thugs arm for a moment before rising up and turning to Amahra. â€œTake a look at this, child, and see if it looks like anything you know.â€
Amahra quickly obeyed, moving alongside the Aes Sedai to examine the thugs arm. She kneeled down, taking care to not get her dress too dirty, and began scrutinizing the arm. The man had been freshly branded on the inside of his arm, probably not a month previously. The wound was still healing, the marks still angry, infected, and swollen. The brand was of a single mark, one word in the Trolloc script. She had seen the word before, but never as a brand, and never on a human. There was no direct translation, but Amahra knew that Mallah would want to know the closest possible meaning. It was fascinating that a human would bear such a mark, such an occurrence was worthy of study. Perhaps if Mallah Sedai...
â€œWell, child? Do you know the meaning of this Trolloc mark?â€ Said Mallah, interrupting Amahraâ€™s contemplation of the possible implications of the brand.
â€œYes, Mallah Sedai.â€ Said Amahra, flushing slightly. â€œThe mark has no direct meaning, but it essentially would mean â€œSworn to obeyâ€ in our language. I have never seen this brand on a human before.â€
Mallah straightened up, pursing her lips and staring off into the distance. A look of grim concentration marked her features. Amahra once again tried to second-guess at what conclusions Mallah was drawing. It was readily apparent that these men were Darkfriends, but even Darkfriends didnâ€™t brand themselves in this manner. This was something much bigger than a group of thugs attacking in an alley, but Amahra wasnâ€™t certain what it could be. She needed more information.
Mallah had apparently drawn the same conclusion. She spun about and looked at the Andorman. â€œYouâ€¦ what is your name?â€
The Andorman stirred as if waking from a dream and answered â€œTorran Halle, formerly of the Queenâ€™s Guard of Caemlyn, Aes Sedai.â€ He then bowed deeply, and deliberately grounded the point of his blade.
â€œGood, if you have been with the Queenâ€™s Guard, then you will be somewhat familiar with this kind of situation. Begin searching the bodies for anything that would give us information as to why this happened. I want to know anything that has the slightest chance of being relevant. Be quick about it. I want to know what information these bodies may provide before your former compatriots arrive. While you do thatâ€¦â€ She turned on her heel to face the Aielman and the Shienaran. â€œI want to know your names, and why you are here.â€
The Shienaran stepped forward and favored the three women with a sweeping bow and a charming smile. He had apparently recovered from his earlier fight, and while his clothes were still bedraggled, he still looked quite impressive. â€œMy name, most honored Aes Sedai, is Lord Jagar Do â€˜Quinn of Camron Caan in Shienar. I am here on family business, but while there are Darkfriends that threaten lovely ladies such as these, my life is yours.â€ He indicated both Cueraina and herself, and favored them with another bow. The Domani favored him with a sultry smile, but Amahra was dubious, and reserved herself to an arched eyebrow. Obviously this one thought he was special. She had heard of the Do â€˜Quinn family before, but had never met any of them. She came from Ankor Dail in the eastern part of Shienar, and had never traveled that far west to where the city of Camron Caan was located. The only thing she really knew of the Do â€˜Quinn family was that they were reputed to be superb warriors, and were also reputed to be superb spenders, being one of the few Shienaran families to actually throw parties as lavish as many of the southern kingdoms. Amahra disapproved; Shienar was no place for excesses like that.
The Shienaran stepped back and looked over at the Aiel, who stood his ground impassively, unblinkingly watching Mallah and the others. He was not longer veiled, but his face showed no emotion whatsoever. The moments of silence stretched uncomfortably, making Amahra wonder if he could speak at all. His eyes flicked from Mallah to Cueraina to Quahlen to herself and back again, never stopping, never resting. He seemed ready for battle at any given second.
â€œYour name, Aielman?â€ Said Quahlen quietly. The hint of a growl was in his voice, as he stood protectively near Mallah. He once again rested his hand on his sword.
The Aielman regarded Quahlen silently, with no hint of fear or worry at the veiled threat the Warder had issued. â€œKoreauras of Shende Hold, Jarra Charren, of the Shaâ€™mad Conde.â€ Amahra was familiar enough with the Aiel culture to understand that he had just said his name and where he was from, but some of the words had no meaning beyond that. She recognized that he had used a few words from the Old Tongue, but she hadnâ€™t studied the language, choosing instead to pursue other subjects, such as terâ€™angreal and the vile language of the Shadowspawn.
â€œâ€¦And your business here, Aielman?â€ said Jagar, also with a hint of menace in his voice. The Aiel turned to look at him, but said nothing. His features remained devoid of any expression. He looked at Jagar with the same emotion as he would a rock. Jagarâ€™s eyes narrowed as he watched the Aiel named Koreauras closely. His hand was firmly on the handle of his sword, ready to draw in a heartbeat.
Mallah suddenly defused the situation by turning around abruptly and walking back to where Torran was searching bodies. Her action was simple, yet effective, as all eyes turned to follow her. Torran was still searching the thugâ€™s corpses, checking pockets and shoes. He had apparently found a couple pieces of paper and a few coins, but was coming up with little else. Mallah took the papers from him and pursed her lips while she examined them. Whatever was written on those scraps, she didnâ€™t like.
â€œThe Queenâ€™s Guard will be here shortly, I am sure. It is time for us to go. There is no reason to remain here; all of you will follow me. Especially you.â€ She said, indicating Cueraina.
Torran looked around at the bodies, and looked as though he wanted to protest her decision, but one look at her face seemed to still any protests that he might want to issue. He looked at the Aielman named Koreauras and shrugged. Amahra was already committed to following Mallah, so she felt none of the reluctance that she suspected that the others felt. Mallah tucked the papers into a pouch and led the way out of the alley, with the odd group in tow. Amahra looked them all over; A willful Domani Wilder named Cueraina, a stoic and enigmatic Algai Dâ€™ Siswai named Koreauras, a former Queenâ€™s Guard named Torran, and a Shienaran Lord named Jagar Do â€˜Quinn. It was certainly a strange group, one fit for a gleemanâ€™s tale. She shuddered, and brushed the hair out of her eyes. Somehow, it felt like pieces of a puzzle were being fit together, pieces comprised of each of their lives. She knew this was no random encounter; this meeting in the alley was the beginning of something beyond any of them. The Wheel had woven as it had willed, and now was the time for them to meet their destiny.