Eventually we regained control of the valley, one dead Dreadlord at a time. I made my way back safely underground. One of Ishamael’s staff walked over, a specter in black and red. “He will see you now, Castellan,” she said in a quiet voice. With the Great Lord suddenly absent, there was only one “He” left.
 

“Ishamael then?” I asked quietly. She answered with a whisper, “No, Baalzamon.” Well, that part had happened as planned, perhaps there was some hope left. Nonetheless, if it seemed that the Heart of the Dark and the Castellan of Shayol Ghul would have to decide together how to best lose the war.

 

From The Shadow Knows, Part 5

 

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Part 6: The Day the Music Died
 
She led me to the Court of Air and Darkness, which is our version of the Hall of the Servants. It was only created in mockery of the real Hall. Since we are not remotely a democracy, it was never used for its intended purpose. Trysts happened here, so did melodramatically “secret” meetings, and the occasional murder. Naturally, Kyranna decided to join us. I was reasonably sure that she wasn’t invited, but it isn’t like anyone could stop her. It would be suicide to even try.
 
He was waiting for me alone. His normally unrelieved black was heavily powdered with what looked to be stone. That would also account for the shrapnel-like wounds all over his body. As was his right, he had the place of prominence. He had not stopped even for healing and respected me enough not to bother with a mask of mirrors. The saa was gone from his eyes. I wasn’t sure if he was blocked from using it now that the bore was sealed, or he was too exhausted to keep holding it.
 
I too had not bothered with healing. As a result, my mangled left arm was in a sling. For that matter, what remained of my finery was nothing but rags. So much for dignity befitting the office. He told me what happened. How he went after Lews Therin alone and found him in the ruins of his former home surrounded by the dead. Apparently, the conversation was not to the Dragon’s liking because at the end of it, he took his own life. Only Lews Therin would go so far and crush himself under an actual mountain.
 
We had so many questions, many of them only answered recently. How had Lews Therin patched the Bore? How long would it last? Could we drill another hole? We nominally needed Lanfear for that, but we might have to try. The male Aes Sedai that attacked had gone mad. Would the others? How long would it take? Neither of us foresaw the Breaking of the World and the end of an Age.
 
Ba’alzamon said that the other Chosen present were locked away in the Pit of Doom. He said that he hadn’t gotten fully away either but could not explain what that meant to me in any meaningful way. When we were done speculating, it was time for the hard choices to really begin. There is no point going into details, we are well past the longest reaching of those decisions.
 
When we were done, Ba’alzamon had instructed me to talk to the servants of the other twelve. The plan was to promote one member of each party as a sort of regent. That way they could continue to see after their mistress’ or master’s interest for however long the Chosen were locked away.
 
Aginor’s party were unilaterally slain. Graendal’s carnival was decimated but some of them had survived. They were so confused without someone to direct them that they just sort of wandered around the battlefield. I was going to have to take them in hand myself.
 
Lanfear had no one to carry on for her. Asmodean’s people were whittled down to four. I asked Kyranna to quietly kill the rest. Asmodean was so worthless it would be better to appoint new people to his staff than trust his very flawed judgement.
 
Demandred, Sammael, and Be’lal all had competent and dedicated officer corps. Once they had been made aware of the plan, they needed little prompting. Good soldiers, one and all. They were spread a little thin however, because they also had to cover Mesaana, and Moghedien.
 
Balthamel and Rhavin had come with playthings. I couldn’t really tell who among them was competent so I went with whoever looked to be most attractive and put them in charge. If the two of them valued beauty above all else that seemed the most appropriate trait to use when choosing stewards. I doubted it would work out well in either case.
 
I was going to have to do something about the former Aes Sedai who had escorted Semirhage. I walked over to the most prominent among them. “I know you.” Which, I absolutely did. Everyone knew all twenty of her trophies. That was the point. “You are Reneth Lanalda. You are the Dreadlord of the Last Wall. I saw you kill three of the Hundred Companions in single combat. In recognition of your valor, I name you seneschal for the Lady of Pain until she returns.”
 
You could have heard a pin drop. I had just promoted a slave to the rank of Dreadlord. If there were any doubts about the limits of my authority, they were at an end. I watched her expression change as the praise took hold. She suddenly stood up straight and just for a second, I saw the ghost of a smile. She helped her fellows up from their knees, but was wise enough to wait to be dismissed.
 
That left only the good Captain, and the tattered remains of his command. We do not have medals. The most recognition anyone could ever get, sans a formal promotion, was to be mentioned in a dispatch. Even that honor had never been accorded to a Myrddraal. I on the other hand believed even then that they all deserved better. I proclaimed that Captain Bacahr was now Bacahr the Hero, and his fellows I named Champions of Thakandar. I added that they bow first to no one, save the Chosen.
 
Now that might be going too far for some of the attendees. Shadowspawn were, and are still, not considered to be people. The idea of equality with a Fade, much less exalting them was anathema. I could feel the change in the mood and intended to step on it before it got out of hand. I casually rested my right hand on the hilt of my broadsword. Kyranna, stepped beside me, pausing only to roll her shoulders and pop the bones in her neck. A neat trick, she doesn’t even have bones.
 
But the best part was feeling Renth Lanalda of all people embrace the source. I almost laughed. Well, that was a quick turnaround. I knew the type. She had been hurt, and longed to revisit those agonies on others. She might just get her chance. I didn’t let anyone else so much as touch the Power. Instead of warmth and light they found only an impossibly high glass wall.
 
We were in the holdfast proper at that point. I had no power above, but here was another matter. We did not plan to repulse open assault but there were contingency plans for treachery, insurrection, and rebellion. While few people know it, no one can channel within these walls without permission when the fortress is in lock down. I looked around the room and offered a slow smile. A mirthless twist of the lips that didn’t even come close to my eyes.
 
It had the intended effect. People who can kill with the Power do not think much of swords, but if you cannot access the Power then suddenly swords are a major concern. Be’lal’s people were a potential problem but they just stood there impassively waiting for the scene to play out. When things failed to escalate, they stood down. So, it seemed those titles would be respected after all.
 
As for myself, I’ve never held a field command, or played much of a role to the South. I was remade to stand vigil here and I hold to that duty very carefully. The Great Lord was absent for so very long, but orders authenticating from the holdfast are treated as coming from the highest possibility authority. That is unless Ba’alzamon is out and about. Then those orders come from him.
 
My days are filled with all of the things that cannot be trusted to others. I serve as the clearing house for our shared eyes and ears. I am still effectively Chief of Staff. I raise armies, and insure they have all that they need to function. I also make sure that the smiths have the materials they need to make our signature blades. All of that is every bit as tedious as it sounds but essential nonetheless. The Trolloc Wars didn’t run themselves.
 
While we are down to making war on only one continent, command and control is still centered here in Shayol Ghul. But today my staff is made up of more Myrddraal than Darkfriends. You see, public Darkfriends are not a thing anymore. The useful ones are all infiltrators. The ones who end up here have either been found out or are too unstable to be of any practical use. They make for very poor company. The populace of the town isn’t much better.
 
Sometimes I sneak into Shienar just to get my ration of common humanity. Kyranna still spends most of her time here, but she goes out every other decade or so. She misses her siblings. Maybe with recent events she will finally find them. That more or less covers the normal run of things. My next entry will go back to a discussion of topics relevant to the Third Age as a whole.
 
Next, Part 7: Chasing the Dragon.
 

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The Shadow Knows is an ongoing series about things Dark as seen by a mysterious, Friend of the Night. As such, they are written from a certain point of view and cannot be taken as the absolute truth. These articles are intended to be entertaining, and at times might contradict accepted canon. Viewer discretion is advised.

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