agony and darkness and the beckoning edges of oblivion shatter into wakefulness a world the same but broken a mountain rising once more into pain tearing at self at memory a void gaping into the endlessness of time he has no eyes he cannot look away awoken again to a world changed he whispers and trollocs flood south he whispers and none hear as he is silenced again by the veil of darkness he cannot embrace pain he wakes and whispers again and the others sleep oblivious as silence and endless sleep stretch before him but elude him and—
II & III. Aginor & Balthamel
They stumble together into waking and see in each other's ruined faces the cruelty of oblivion without preservation. An eternity passed of which they knew nothing, yet ravaged them in its passing. Is this immortality? Ruined by time they cannot remember, tossed out into a world they no longer know, nothing left to them but to obey and endure and pray for power? The others sleep still, they are assured. The others sleep deeper, sleep where time does not touch them. A bitter victory, but a chance for more. Should they succeed, those sleepers need never wake. Should they succeed...
The Daughter of Night awakens from a night over which she held no dominion; she who claims the world of dreams awakens from a vast endless darkness marked only by their absence. But now those paths open before her once more, dreams and worlds and the weave of the Pattern unfolding, and none alive to match her power, none alive to challenge her love. She follows the threads and knows he is waiting, himself barely awoken and still unaware, hers to claim. And so she dons sliver and steps into dreams, dreams she has been denied for three thousand years.
It seems at first a world without beauty, despite the assurances he was given upon waking. Where is the power in overgrown forests? Where is the grace in sheepfolds and thatched villages? Frustration boils as he passes through a world abandoned by grandeur. Is this all he will rule? Farms and sheep and serving girls, dirty taverns and useless armies. East, he was told, and so eastward he travels, opening gateway after gateway in contempt. Until he comes to the walls of Caemlyn and looks upon the gleaming palace, hears on every street the name of a beautiful golden queen.
He takes his freedom quietly and unobtrusively; better to face the others from a position of concentrated strength, and there are rich nations free for the taking. He establishes himself as all but a ruler before many of the others have even stirred. He does not know their whereabouts, of course, but most are too bold not to leave traces, and the others too cautious to act so soon. But he will move swiftly, unnoticed and inexorable; he amasses power and weaves his nets while they are only beginning to plan, and the sword glitters in his dreams, illuminating eternity.
Moghedien slips from darkness to dream, unable to resist the urge to shape around her all that is now lost, in a world that responds to her every whim and wish. But the bright, cold echo of Lanfear’s power clings to the world of dreams, and Moghedien hides herself deeper as she lets the past unmake itself, allows this world to reflect once more the truth to which she has awoken. She, and others. All leave traces here, to those who can read them, like insects crossing a spider’s web. And so she finds the centre, and watches, and waits.
He awakens to a name made infamous in a world that has forgotten his music. Legends echo like song, but what is immortality in memory when only horror is remembered? He turns his ear instead to primitive wooden flutes and surprisingly graceful harps. Anything to fill the silence that stretches endless in memory — no. To learn their stories, that he may gain their trust. When Lanfear brings him a harp and a patched cloak and a plan, he tells himself his acceptance is simply eagerness to serve. And plays the harp long into the night, filling the darkness with mourning.
The world he awakens to is weak, its people primitive and crying out to be ruled. War is child's play now, and claiming a nation is almost too easy; he longs for a true fight, longs for the day when this child Lews Therin has become fails before him. Soon, he is promised. There is little time, but he is ready; he has been ready since waking. Ready since before oblivion took him, for it has not erased his fury. Let the others play their games and plot their intrigues, and weep when it is he who slays the Dragon.
Graendal wakes screaming, recoils at the stinging in her ears and the tearing in her throat and the light burning through her eyes, wave after wave of sense overwhelming her mind before consciousness floods what had moments before been simply a vessel for the cacophony of the world. The world. The screaming ceases, the pain dims, her eyes adjust though her thoughts take longer, but she holds herself in control. Always, despite what the others might believe, she holds herself in control. For only then can she impose her will on the world, to bring lush order from sordid chaos
He watches the others stumble, lost in this new world. He hears them wish for times past, for conveniences lost, and all the while notes their weaknesses. They look back, but that world is gone and this one is not so different as they might believe, in their blindness to strategy and greater games. The land shifted, weapons altered, but he is a general and it is only the shape of battle, not the manner, that truly concerns him. His enemy is ever the same. Battle has changed, but war? War will remain constant so long as the Wheel turns.
Sensation comes suddenly, and her first thought is that it should be gradual. Her second is to seek in her mind for memories, for anything that would describe that absence. The complete absence of feeling, of consciousness, even of pain. A curious thing, she thinks, cloaking fear in clinical detachment until it vanishes. Could she reproduce the effect? Absence that could evoke terror, when it should be a balm? Fear without pain. What effect would that induce in a patient? What did the others feel? But she does not ask; that is a question to save and to savour.
No doubt some of the others protested their assignments and orders, but Mesaana almost laughs as she steps inside the White Tower, the pride and power of this new world. Aes Sedai? These are untaught children playing at power, and already on the brink of collapse, riddled with those who would once have been her choice pupils. All would seek her teaching, if they but knew, but instead she walks among them unknown; they are hers to study, a grand experiment such an institution now forgotten once tried to deny her. But they are now ash, while she is awoken.
So that was oblivion, he thinks as he is dragged from nothingness. For a moment he fights to hold on to it, to let it hold on to him, this absence that embraced the others but eluded him for millennia. But the mere knowing of it is its undoing; the moment he is aware enough to remember the lack of memory, the lack of consciousness or time or self, it is gone. The world waits, the world and time and battle, and so he turns from endless emptiness to endless endurance, and watches this last game arrange itself before him.