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Default The Black Hills, and the Borderlanders

The Black Hills have been mentioned several times throughout the series, in connection to important people in the series. What first brought them to my attention was three mentions of a farm in the Black Hills (supposedly all three are different farms, and one might well be fictitious):

Quote:
Originally Posted by RJ
TITLE - A Crown of Swords
CHAPTER: 2 - The Butcher's Yard

(Perrin POV)

"I think the Lord Dragon is too busy for teaching," Taim replied smoothly, yet the anger smell rose again. "Too important. Take men who need the least of it. I can choose the furthest along—"
"One," Rand cut in. "And I will choose." Taim smiled, spreading his hands in acquiescence, but the scent of frustration nearly overwhelmed anger. Again Rand pointed without looking. "Him." This time, he seemed surprised to find he was pointing directly at a man in his middle years sitting atop an upturned cask on the other side of the wagon circle, paying no attention to the gathering around Rand. Instead, elbow on his knee and chin propped on his hand, he was frowning at the Aes Sedai prisoners. The sword and Dragon glittered on the high collar of his black coat. "What is his name, Taim?"

"Dashiva," Taim said slowly, studying Rand. He smelled even more surprised than Rand did, and irritated, too. "Corlan Dashiva. From a farm in the Black Hills."

"He will do," Rand said, but he did not sound sure himself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RJ
TITLE - The Path of Daggers
CHAPTER: 26 - The Extra Bit


Toveine Gazal, once a Sitter for the Red, would go into the histories as the woman who destroyed this 'Black' Tower.

She was sure Elaida thought her grateful for the chance, called back from exile and disgrace, given the opportunity for redemption. She sneered, and if a wolf had been looking into the deep hood of her cloak, it might have quailed. What had been done twenty years ago was necessary, and the Light burn all those who muttered that the Black Ajah must have been involved. It had been necessary and right, but Toveine Gazal had been driven from her chair in the Hall, and forced to howl for mercy under the birch, with the assembled sisters watching, and even novices and Accepted witnessing that Sitters, too, lay beneath the law, though they were not told what law. And then she had been sent to work these last twenty years on the isolated Black Hills farm of Mistress Jara Doweel, a woman who considered an Aes Sedai serving penance in exile no different from any other hand laboring in sun and snow. Toveine’s hands shifted on her reins; she could feel the calluses. Mistress Doweel—even now, she could not think of the woman without the honorific she had demanded—Mistress Doweel believed in hard work. And discipline as tight as any novice faced! She had no mercy on anyone who tried to shirk the backbreaking labor that she herself shared, and less than none for a woman who sneaked away to comfort herself with a pretty boy. That had been Toveine’s life these past twenty years. And Elaida had slipped through the cracks uncaught, danced her way to the Amyrlin Seat that Toveine had once dreamed of for herself. No, she was not grateful. But she had learned to wait her chance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RJ
TITLE - Winter's Heart
CHAPTER: 34 - The Hummingbird's Secret


Cadsuane sighed. A ragtag army she had assembled, but even a makeshift army needed discipline. Especially with the battle just ahead. It would have been worse had she not forced the Sea Folk women to remain behind. "I can do this without either of you, if need be," she said firmly. "No; don't say anything, Nynaeve. Merise or Corele can wear that belt as well as you. So if you children do not stop whining, I will have Alivia take you back to the Heights and give you something to whine about." That was the only reason she had brought the strange wilder. Alivia had a tendency to become very mild-mannered around those she could not stare down, but she stared very fiercely at those two chattering magpies.

Their heads swiveled toward the golden-haired woman as one, and the magpies fell blessedly silent. Silent, yet hardly accepting. Min could grind her teeth all she wanted, but Nynaeve's sullen glower irritated Cadsuane. The girl had good material in her, but her training had been cut far too short. Her ability with Healing was little short of miraculous, her ability with almost anything else dismal. And she had not been put through the lessons that what must be endured, could be endured. In truth, Cadsuane sympathized with her. Somewhat. It was a lesson not everyone could learn in the Tower. She herself, full of pride in her new shawl and her own strength, had been taught by a near toothless wilder at a farm in the heart of the Black Hills. Oh, it was a very ragtag little army she had gathered to try standing Far Madding on its head.
So, three farms in the Black Hills: the one that Dashiva was ostensibly from, the one where Toveine was exiled, and the one where Cadsuane earned her ornaments.

Other notable events in the Black Hills...

1. The escape of Mazrim Taim:

Quote:
Originally Posted by RJ
TITLE - The Shadow Rising
CHAPTER: 17 - Deceptions

Leane pulled the door open to reveal a dark novice who flinched at Siuan's continuing tirade, then dropped a deep curtsy. "Messages for the Amyrlin, Aes Sedai," the girl squeaked. "Two pigeons arrived at the loft." She was one of those who had told Min she was beautiful, and she tried to stare past the Keeper with wide eyes.

"This does not concern you, child," Leane said briskly, taking the tiny cylinders of bone out of the girl's hand. "Back to the loft with you." Before the novice finished rising, Leane shut the door, then leaned against it with a sigh. "I have jumped at every unexpected sound since you told me . . ." Straightening, she came back to the table. "Two more messages, Mother. Shall I . . . ?"

"Yes. Open them," the Amyrlin said. "No doubt Morgase has decided to invade Cairhien after all. Or Trollocs have overrun the Borderlands. It would be of a piece with everything else." Min kept her seat; Siuan had sounded all too realistic with some of those threats.

Leane examined the red wax seal on the end of one of the small cylinders, no larger than her own finger joint, then broke it open with a thumbnail when she was satisfied it had not been tampered with. The rolled paper inside she extracted with a slim ivory pick. "Nearly as bad as Trollocs, Mother," she said almost as soon as she began reading. "Mazrim Taim has escaped."

"Light!" Siuan barked. "How?"

"This only says he was taken away by stealth in the night, Mother. Two sisters are dead."

"The Light illumine their souls. But we've little time to mourn the dead while the likes of Taim are alive and ungentled. Where, Leane?"

"Denhuir, Mother. A village east of the Black Hills on the Maradon Road, above the headwaters of the Antaeo and the Luan." [map - it's small writing, but the river running up the east side of the Black Hills is the Luan, and the Antaeo is probably the small river that joins the Luan east of the southern hills]

"It had to be some of his followers. Fools. Why won't they know when they are beaten? Choose out a dozen reliable sisters, Leane . . ." The Amyrlin grimaced. "Reliable," she muttered. "If I knew who was more reliable than a silverpike, I'd not have the problems I do. Do the best you can, Leane. A dozen sisters. And five hundred of the guards. No, a full thousand."

"Mother," the Keeper said worriedly. "The Whitecloaks—"

"—would not try to cross the bridges if I left them unwatched entirely. They would be afraid of a trap. There is no telling what is going on up there, Leane. I want whoever I send to be ready for anything. And Leane . . . Mazrim Taim is to be gentled as soon as he is taken again."

Leane's eyes opened wide with shock. "The law."

"I know the law as well as you, but I will not risk having him freed again ungentled. I'll not risk another Guaire Amalasan, not on top of every thing else."

"Yes, Mother," Leane said faintly.
The second pigeon told of the shepherd holding the sword, and Siuan called for the Hall to sit immediately, giving Elaida the impetus to go forward with her plans. This order to send sisters to recapture Taim was probably one of the last that Siuan gave; she was deposed sixteen days later (probably long enough to have managed to send out those sisters to recapture Taim).

2. Careane, the Black that killed Ispan, Adeleas, Reanne, and others, seemed to know a great deal about places in the Black Hills (and she is Domani):

Quote:
Originally Posted by RJ
TITLE - A Crown of Swords
CHAPTER: 39 - Promises to Keep

"I think I have just made a bargain with a ta’veren," she said in that cool, deep voice. The woman could teach Aes Sedai how to pull themselves together quickly. "But one day, Master Cauthon, if it pleases the Light, I think you will walk a rope for me."
He did not know what that meant, except that she made it sound unpleasant. He made his best leg. "All things are possible, if it pleases the Light," he murmured. Courtesy paid, after all. But her smile was disturbingly hopeful.

When he turned back to the rest of the room, you would have thought he had horns and wings, for the stares. "Is there any further argument?" he asked in a wry tone, and did not wait for answers. "I thought not. In that case, I suggest you pick out some spot well away from here, and we can be on our way as soon as you bundle up your belongings."

They made a show of discussion. Elayne mentioned Caemlyn, sounding at least half-serious, and Careane suggested several remote villages in the Black Hills, all easily reached by gateway. Light, anywhere was easily reached by gateway. Vandene spoke of Arafel, and Aviendha suggested Rhuidean, in the Aiel Waste, with the Sea Folk women growing glummer the farther from the sea were the places named. All a show. To Mat, at least, that was clear by Nynaeve’s impatient fiddling with her braid despite the suggestions coming hot and fast.

"If I may speak, Aes Sedai?" Reanne said timidly at last. She even raised her hand. "The Kin maintain a farm on the other side of the river, a few miles north. Everyone knows it is a retreat for women who need contemplation and quiet, but no one connects it to us. The buildings are large and quite comfortable, if there’s any need to stay long, and—"

"Yes," Nynaeve broke in. "Yes, I think that sounds just the thing. What do you say, Elayne?"

"I think it sounds wonderful, Nynaeve. I know Renaile will appreciate staying close to the sea." The other five sisters practically piled on top of her saying how agreeable it sounded, how superior to any other suggestion.

3. The Borderlander rulers meet in the Black Hills. A great deal of general info is given about the Black Hills, and I will include all of it, and also the info on the Aes Sedai that are with them (it could be relevant, seeing as how the visiting Aes Sedai match the number that Siuan sent to capture Taim, in the above quote from The Shadow Rising):


Quote:
Originally Posted by RJ
TITLE - The Path of Daggers
PROLOGUE - Deceptive Appearances

Ethenielle had seen mountains lower than these misnamed Black Hills, great lopsided heaps of half-buried boulders, webbed with steep twisting passes. A number of those passes would have given a goat pause. You could travel three days through drought-withered forests and brown-grassed meadows without seeing a single sign of human habitation, then suddenly find yourself within half a day of seven or eight tiny villages, all ignorant of the world. The Black Hills were a rugged place for farmers, away from the trade routes, and harsher now than usual. A gaunt leopard that should have vanished at the sight of men watched from a steep slope, not forty paces away, as she rode past with her armored escort. Westward, vultures wheeled patient circles like an omen. Not a cloud marred the blood-red sun, yet there were clouds of a sort. When the warm wind blew, it raised walls of dust.

...

Frowning, she considered the luck that had let her come this far without having to kill anyone, avoiding those flyspeck villages even when it meant days added to the journey. The few Ogier stedding presented no problem—Ogier paid little heed to what happened among humans, most times, and less than usual of late, it seemed—but the villages . . . They were too small to hold eyes-and-ears for the White Tower, or for this fellow who claimed to be the Dragon Reborn—perhaps he was; she could not decide which way would be worse—too small, yet peddlers did pass through, eventually. Peddlers carried as much gossip as trade goods, and they spoke to people who spoke to other people, rumor flowing like an ever-branching river, through the Black Hills and into the world outside. With a few words, a single shepherd who had escaped notice could light a signal fire seen five hundred leagues off.

...

Beyond Lomas the pass opened into a shallow bowl almost too small to be named a valley, with trees too widely spaced to be called a thicket. Leatherleaf and blue fir and three-needle pine held to some green along with a few oaks, but the rest were sheathed in brown if not bare-branched. To the south, however, lay what had made this spot a good choice for meeting. A slender spire like a column of gleaming golden lace lay slanting and partly buried in the bare hillside, a good seventy paces of it showing above the treetops. Every child in the Black Hills old enough to run off leading strings knew of it, but there was not a village inside four days’ travel, nor would anyone come within ten miles willingly. The stories of this place spoke of mad visions, of the dead walking, and death at touching the spire.

Ethenielle did not consider herself fanciful, yet she shivered slightly. Nianh said the spire was a fragment from the Age of Legends, and harmless. With luck, the Aes Sedai had no reason to recall that conversation of years ago. A pity the dead could not be made to walk, here. Legend said Kirukan had beheaded a false Dragon with her own hands, and borne two sons by another man who could channel. Or maybe the same one. She might have known how to go about their purpose and survive.

...

A word caught Ethenielle’s ear and jerked her upright in her saddle. She should have been paying attention; too much was at stake. "Aes Sedai?" she said sharply. "What about Aes Sedai?" Save for Paitar’s, their White Tower advisors had all left at news of the troubles in the Tower, her own Nianh and Easar’s Aisling vanishing without a trace. If Aes Sedai had gained a hint of their plans . . . Well, Aes Sedai always had plans of their own. Always. She would dislike discovering that she was putting her hands into two hornet nests, not just one.

Paitar shrugged, looking a trifle embarrassed. That was no small trick for him; he, like Serailla, let nothing upset him. "You hardly expected me to leave Coladara behind, Ethenielle," he said in soothing tones, "even if I could have kept the preparations from her." She had not; his favorite sister was Aes Sedai, and Kiruna had given him a deep fondness for the Tower. Ethenielle had not expected it, but she had hoped. "Coladara had visitors," he continued. "Seven of them. Bringing them along seemed prudent, under the circumstances. Fortunately, they require little convincing. None, in truth."

"The Light illumine and preserve our souls," Ethenielle breathed, and heard near echoes from Serailla and Baldhere. "Eight sisters, Paitar? Eight?" The White Tower surely knew every move they intended, now.

"And I have five more," Tenobia put in as if announcing she had a new pair of slippers. "They found me just before I left Saldaea. By chance, I’m sure; they appeared as surprised as I was. Once they learned what I was doing—I still don’t know how they did, but they did—once they learned, I was sure they’d go scurrying to find Memara." Her brows furrowed in a momentary glare. Elaida had miscalculated badly in sending a sister to try bullying Tenobia. "Instead," she finished, "Illeisien and the rest were more intent on secrecy than I."

"Even so," Ethenielle insisted. "Thirteen sisters. All that is needed is for one of them to find some way to send a message. A few lines. A soldier or a maid intimidated. Does any of you think you can stop them?"

"The dice are out of the cup," Paitar said simply. What was done, was done. Arafellin were almost as odd as Saldaeans, in Ethenielle’s book.

"Further south," Easar added, "it may be well to have thirteen Aes Sedai with us." That brought a silence while the implications hung in the air. No one wanted to voice them. This was far different from facing the Blight.

Tenobia gave a sudden, shocking laugh. Her gelding tried to dance, but she settled him. "I mean to press south as fast as I can, but I invite you all to dine with me in my camp tonight. You can speak with Illeisien and her friends, and see whether your judgment matches mine. Perhaps tomorrow night we can all gather in Paitar’s camp and question his Coladara’s friends." The suggestion was so sensible, so obviously necessary, that it brought instant agreement.
Aisling Noon (who is, incidentally, a Tinker) and Nianh have not been seen in the Tower so far as we know. Why would they vanish without a trace? Were they removed by the Black Ajah? Is Tenobia's advisor suspect because she did not vanish without a trace? Why would Tenobia not suspect when Memara was sent rather than her own advisor, and when the other advisors did not return?

Other random info about the Black Hills: there are three stedding there, only one of which is mentioned by name outside the BWB (Jentoine, where Elaida sent a summons for masons, which was politely refused).

All of this connects nicely with the mystery of what, exactly, the Borderlanders are up to, and I feel like RJ was using the Black Hills to draw attention to the situation. The Borderlanders met there. Mazrim Taim escaped there. Careane and Osan'gar are both mentioned in connection, and Mistress Doweel herself is suspicious. The Aes Sedai that Siuan and Leane sent to capture Taim might be the ones with the Borderland rulers, since the numbers match up exactly. Or were they sent by Alviarin?

There are some more interesting parallels here.

In the passage where Taim's escape in the Black Hills was mentioned, Siuan's second pigeon was Moiraine's coded message: 'The sling has been used. The shepherd holds the sword.' In the prologue of A Crown of Swords, where Elaida mentions the summons to Jentoine for masons in the Black Hills, she holds in her hands a coded message from Galina: 'The ring has been placed in the bull's nose.'

Elaida had the opening point of view in the prologue of A Crown of Swords, and she had the opening point of view in one other prologue in the series, in The Fires of Heaven, where Mazrim Taim's escape is addressed, and also the Borderlands, particularly Tenobia:

Quote:
Originally Posted by RJ
TITLE - The Fires of Heaven
PROLOGUE - The First Sparks Fall

"There is apparently something happening in Shienar." That was Danelle, slight and often seemingly lost in a dream, the only Brown sister present. Green and Yellow also had only one sister apiece, and none of the three Ajahs was pleased about that. There were no Blues. Now Danelle's big blue eyes looked thoughtfully inward; an unnoticed ink stain smudge stained her cheek, and her dark gray wool dress was rumpled. "There are rumors of skirmishes. Not with Trollocs, and not Aiel, though raids through the Niamh Passes appear to have increased. Between Shienarans. Unusual for the Borderlands. They rarely fight each other."

"If they intend to have a civil war, they have chosen the proper time for it," Alviarin said coolly. Tall and slim and all in white silk, she was the only one without a shawl. The stole of the Keeper around her shoulders was white also, to show she had been raised from the White Ajah. Not Red, Elaida's former Ajah, as tradition held. Whites were always cool. "The Trollocs might as well have vanished. The entire Blight seems quiet enough for two farmers and a novice to guard."

Teslyn's bony fingers shuffled papers on her lap, though she did not look at them. One of four Red sisters there—more than any other Ajah—she ran Elaida a close second for severity, though no one had ever thought her beautiful. "Better perhaps if it did not be so quiet," Teslyn said, her Illianer accent strong. "I did receive a message this morning that the Marshal-General of Saldaea does have an army on the move. No toward the Blight, but in the opposite direction. South and east. He would no ever have done that if the Blight did no seem to be asleep."

"Then word of Mazrim Taim is seeping out." Alviarin could have been discussing the weather or the price of carpets instead of a potential disaster. Much effort had gone into capturing Taim, and as much into hiding his escape. No good to the Tower if the world learned they could not hold on to a false Dragon once he was taken. "And it seems that Queen Tenobia, or Davram Bashere, or both, thinks we cannot be trusted to deal with him again."

Dead quiet fell at the mention of Taim. The man could channel—he had been on his way to Tar Valon to be stilled, cut off from the One Power forever, when he was broken free—yet that was not what curbed tongues. Once the existence of a man able to channel the One Power had been the deepest anathema; hunting such men down was the main reason of existence for the Red, and every Ajah helped as it could. But now most of the women beyond the table shifted on their stools, refusing to meet each other's eyes, because speaking of Taim brought them too close to another subject they did not want to speak aloud. Even Elaida felt bile rise in her stomach.

Apparently Alviarin experienced no such reluctance. One corner of her mouth quirked momentarily in what might have been smile or grimace. "I will redouble our efforts to retake Taim. And I suggest that a sister be dispatched to counsel Tenobia. Someone used to overcoming the sort of resistance that young woman will put up." Others rushed to help fill the silence.

Joline shifted her green-fringed shawl on slender shoulders and smiled, though it seemed a bit forced. "Yes. She needs an Aes Sedai at her shoulder. Someone able to handle Bashere. He has excessive influence with Tenobia. He must move his army back where it can be used if the Blight wakes up." Too much bosom showed in the gap of her shawl, and her pale green silk was too snug, too clinging. And she smiled too much for Elaida's liking. Especially at men. Greens always did.

"The last thing we need now is another army on the march," Shemerin, the Yellow sister, said quickly. A slightly plump woman, she had somehow never really managed the outward calm of Aes Sedai; there was often a strain of anxiety around her eyes, and more so of late.

"And someone to Shienar," added Javindrha, another Red. Despite smooth cheeks, her angular face was hard enough to hammer nails. Her voice was harsh. "I don't like trouble of this sort in the Borderlands. The last thing we need is Shienar weakening itself to the point where a Trolloc army could break through."

"Perhaps." Alviarin nodded, considering. "But there are agents in Shienar—Red, I am sure, and perhaps others? —" The four Red sisters nodded tightly, reluctantly; no one else did. "—who can warn us if these small clashes become anything to worry us."

It was an open secret that every Ajah except the White, devoted to logic and philosophy as it was, had watchers and listeners scattered through the nations to varying degrees, though the Yellow network was believed to be a pitiful thing. There was nothing of sickness or Healing they could learn from those who could not channel. Some individual sisters had their own eyes-and-ears, though perhaps even more closely guarded than agents of the Ajahs. The Blues had had the most extensive, both Ajah and personal.

"As for Tenobia and Davram Bashere," Alviarin went on, "are we agreed that they must be dealt with by sisters?" She hardly waited for heads to nod. "Good. It is done. Memara will do nicely; she will take no nonsense from Tenobia, while never letting her see the leash. Now. Does anyone have fresh word out of Arad Doman or Tarabon? If we do not do something there soon, we may find that Pedron Niall and the Whitecloaks have sway from Bandar Eban to the Shadow Coast. Evanellein, you have something?" Arad Doman and Tarabon were racked by civil wars, and worse.

There was no order anywhere. Elaida was surprised they would bring it up.

"Only a rumor," the Gray sister replied. Her silk dress, matching the fringe on her shawl, was finely cut and scooped low at the neck. Often Elaida thought the woman should have been Green, so concerned was she with her looks and clothes. "Almost everyone in those poor lands is a refugee, including those who might send news. The Panarch Amathera has apparently vanished, and it seems an Aes Sedai may have been involved . . ."

Elaida's hand tightened on her stole. Nothing touched her face, but her eyes smoldered. The matter of the Saldaean army was done. At least Memara was Red; that was a surprise. But they had not even asked her opinion. It was done. The startling possibility that an Aes Sedai was involved in the disappearance of the Panarch – if this was not another of the thousand improbable tales that drifted from the western coast – could not take Elaida's mind from that. There were Aes Sedai scattered from the Aryth Ocean to the Spine of the World, and the Blues at least might do anything. Less than two months since they had all knelt to swear fealty to her as the embodiment of the White Tower, and now the decision was made without so much as a glance in her direction.

It happened too often, this slighting. Worst—most bitter of all, perhaps—they usurped her authority without even thinking of it. They knew how she had come to the stole, knew their aid had put it on her shoulders. She herself had been too much aware of that. But they presumed too far. It would soon be time to do something about that. But not quite yet.

...

"Is there any news of Elayne?" Andaya asked diffidently. A thin, birdlike little woman, outwardly timid despite Aes Sedai features, the second Gray looked an unlikely mediator, but was in fact one of the best. There were still faint traces of Tarabon in her voice. "Or Galad? If Morgase discovers that we have lost her stepson, she may begin to ask more questions concerning the whereabouts of her daughter, yes? And if she learns we have lost the Daughter-Heir, Andor may become as closed to us as Amadicia."

A few women shook their heads—there was no news, and Javindhra said, "A Red sister is in place in the Royal Palace. Newly raised, so she can easily pass for other than Aes Sedai." She meant that the woman had not yet taken on the agelessness that came with long use of the Power. Someone trying to guess the age of any woman in the study would have fumbled over a range of twenty years, and in some cases would be off by twice that. "She is well trained, though, quite strong, and a good observer. Morgase is absorbed in putting forward her claim to the Cairhienin throne." Several women shifted on their stools, and as if realizing she had stepped close to dangerous ground, Javindhra hurried on. "And her new lover, Lord Gaebril, seems to be keeping her occupied otherwise." Her thin mouth narrowed even further. "She is completely besotted with the man."

"He keeps her concentrated on Cairhien," Alviarin said. "The situation there is nearly as bad as in Tarabon and Arad Doman, with every House contending for the Sun Throne, and famine everywhere. Morgase will reestablish order, but it will take time for her to have the throne secure. Until that is done, she will have little energy left to worry about other matters, even the Daughter-Heir. And I set a clerk the task of sending occasional letters; the woman does a good imitation of Elayne's hand. Morgase will keep until we can secure proper control of her again."

"At least we still have her son in hand." Joline smiled.

"Gawyn do hardly be in hand," Teslyn said sharply. "Those Younglings of his do skirmish with Whitecloaks on both sides of the river. He does act on his own as much as at our direction."

"He will be brought under control," Alviarin said. Elaida was beginning to find that constant cool composure hateful.

"Speaking of the Whitecloaks," Danelle put in, "it appears that Pedron Niall is conducting secret negotiations, trying to convince Altara and Murandy to cede land to Illian, and thus keep the Council of Nine from invading one or both."

Safely back from the precipice, the women on the other side of the table nattered on, deciding whether the Lord Captain Commander's negotiations might gain too much influence for the Children of the Light. Perhaps they should be disrupted so the Tower could step in and replace him.

Elaida's mouth twisted. The Tower had often in its history been cautious of necessity—too many feared them, too many distrusted them—but it had never feared anything or anyone. Now, it feared.

...

"We are done, then," Alviarin said, rising smoothly from her stool. The others copied her, adjusting skirts and shawls in preparation for leaving. "In three days, I will expect —"

"Have I given you leave to go, daughters?" Those were the first words Elaida had spoken since telling them to be seated. They looked at her in surprise. Surprise!
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