The Unlucky Mirror
The unluckiest of the many man-sized mirrors hit the cobblestone floor as the stone wall shook from the fury that pounded its opposite side. Aldus really didn't care if hiding behind it was behavior befitting a future Gaidin at the moment - he had to stay alive long enough to find Adriana Sedai again and be sure she escaped this place to bring more Sisters!
Clearly this had all gone far further than Mother had intended. As a burning rat scurried past in agony, Aldus decided it had the right idea and swept away before the mad male channeler could find him. Again.
Disbelief colored his memory of the first escape he'd made from Lord Relenihan's wrath when he discovered Adriana was an Aes Sedai sent to gather information on the rumors that one of his house's sons was a channeler. Naturally, the rumors were gross distortions - it was the Lord himself that was the Taint-riddled madman!
Unless one of the sons had the ability to touch saidin too, Aldus realized. Shuddering at the thought, he pressed himself into a dark alcove and brought his mind into focus with the breathing exercises his mentor had been teaching him.
Mother had insisted he come along as cover for Adriana Sedai - he was supposed to be "Lady Caldazi's" guard, which allowed him some latitude in the palace with carrying weapons. He had agreed instantly, of course - argue with the Amyrlin Seat? He wasn't the madman here.
Adriana Sedai had put forth respectful objections to the idea. That is to say, she was VERY against it, but also held the Amyrlin in respect. No Red sister needed protection, she insisted. Aldus' face duplicated the blush he felt rise in his cheeks as he had stood there, listening to the calm debate that poorly concealed the inferno of wills.
The seeming eternity took only a minute, of course, with Adriana in the end having to "yes, Mother" the idea. Besides, Aldus knew Mother had been right - it would have been very odd to find a Lady traveling along anywhere, much less here in his native Cairhien.
That familiarity was shattered by a voice made impossibly loud by some Power-tainted trick, echoing against the halls, "I'LL FIND YOU, WARDER! YOUR BLOOD WILL PAINT THE TOMB OF YOUR LIGHT-FORSAKEN AES SEDAI!"
Light, if Adriana Sedai heard that - and if she still lived, how could she not have? - he'd never live it down! His clenched teeth hurt from the pressure of his terror, lessened slightly by worry over whether Adriana would be upset over the insinuation that he was bonded to her - a Red Sister! - or that she'd find ways to make sure the whole Barracks knew.
A blast of horrible flame over his head reminded him how optimistic that concern was. Dashing into the closest shadow, he tried to keep out of clear sight of the mad Lord Relenihan. Pensively watching the many-striped front of the ornately garbed plump man stagger past, he was deeply grateful that the madness seemed to keep the Lord's ability to see what was partially concealed at bay.
Waiting the full count of three to be sure Lord Relenihan had passed far enough from view, Aldus readied his bow, taking an arrow with unsinged fletchings out of his quiver, and nocked it - and immediately threw himself to the floor as a terrible gout of green flame bore into the wall behind where he had been standing just a moment before!
"I knew it would come to this!" flew from the Lord's mouth with a slight spray of spittle as he gathered himself to deliver the last thing Aldus would ever see, the recruit was certain. The violently strained hands clenched as the burning eyes focused on him, and then they widened in shock!
The stripes that marked Lord Relenihan's high rank amongst the nobility in Cairhien swirled as he spun to face Adriana Sedai. "NOOO!!" he bellowed as he staggered to one knee, fighting a battle against something Aldus could not see.
"I'm trying to shield him, you fool! DO something!" echoed from Adriana Sedai into Aldus' legs, virtually commanding him to scramble to his feet. Even as his fingers steadied onto his bowstring, he could swear he detected a tremble in Adriana's stance. Then a tremendously loud blast of SOMETHING blew him off his feet, carrying him down the corridor and slamming him onto the stones.
His head swum as it slowly rose, checking with unevenly open eyes to see if the silence was genuine or just the result of his having gone deaf. He was astounded to see both the Lord and Adriana flat on their backs. Groaning involuntarily, he rose despite the ignored growls that his joints seemed obsessed with making, scanning and patting himself for damage. An uncomfortable feeling settled into the top of his skull, and he followed it by raising his gaze up into the face of Lord Relenihan, standing not three feet from him.
"Burn me, maybe I did go a little deaf," Aldus muttered ruefully into the moment of silence before fire of virtually every color began to sprout from the noble's open palms. Shielding his eyes from the dazzling glare, Aldus did his best to make a mad dash into the doorway behind him. Roars of burning power followed him, and caught the end of his cloak as he rolled just out of harm.
He didn't hesitate to run as fast as he could down this new corridor, turning recklessly at each intersection he came to. His face burned with embarrassment - how could he ever become a Gaidin if he was no help at all to Adriana in this situation?
His rapid evasion was brought up short as he rounded a corner right into Adriana Sedai, landing them both in a heap. "Get off me, you oaf!" she ordered as he made every effort to do just that. "Listen carefully, if you want to live through this - I can't shield him completely by myself," her face twisted sourly as she continued, "he's just too strong for me to do that alone. We can't leave him to go get help - you saw how he went over the edge the moment he found out what I was. We have to kill him."
Aldus’ muttering of "Ah, yes, that's all" was sharply cut off by Adriana's pointed finger at his face. "Listen, boy, this is serious! He'll destroy this whole city if he's not brought down now! We have to-"
"THERE YOU ARE!!!"
The shriek barely resembled a man's voice, and Adriana didn't hesitate to shove Aldus through the doorway as a bolt of fire ran up against an unseen barrier just in front of Adrianna. "Get to safety, boy! You're useless against the Power!" she called after him.
Face burning in chagrin, Aldus bolted quickly down the corridor, glancing a moment at his reflection in several of the ever-present mirrors, the burned parts of his cloak flapping in tatters behind him. "Xy is going to be mad - she gave me this cloak..." He stopped dead in his tracks, skidding to a halt. "That's it!" he hissed, and immediately doubled back to the last doorway he saw. Without hesitation, he ducked through it.
He let his ears lead him to the sounds of fire and explosions until he saw flashes of light slapping the inside of the archway before him. Carefully, he readied his bow, nocking the arrow and drawing it most of the way. Then he waited, his one hand holding the arrow mostly ready as his other grabbed a small utility blade from his belt pouch - too small to use in any real fight.
Just then, Lord Relenihan backed up from an unseen blow Adriana delivered, and stood framed perfectly by the doorway. Aldus quickly tossed his knife right behind the madman, hitting the bottom of the doorway opposite him, the impromptu projectile coming to rest at the base of another giant mirror.
The mad Lord swiveled his head, following the noise to see Aldus standing there. As he squared his shoulders and bellowed in insane rage, fire blasted out towards the focus of his fury. His raging shuddered as Aldus' arrow thrust through the channeler's back. Lord Relenihan slumped as the life drained from him, facing a molten mirror that had only a moment before carried a very authentic reflection of the recruit.
Aldus tried to relax his grip only a little, but that was all it took for the bow to clatter to the floor as the stress that kept him upright washed clean from him. He sank to his knees only to hear Adriana Sedai call out "Aldus, his hand!"
Aldus only had time to glance, as, drawing on the last breath in him, a burst of light erupted in Lord Relenihan's hand, and Aldus’ world exploded in a flash of searing pain before melting into the dark.