|Long Live Insanity #7: Daes Dae'mar
The sun rises over Cairhien.
It begins with a pale glow in the east, then brightens as the sun lifts itself into the sky and over the hill. The first rays of light gleam down on the sleeping city.
“Isn’t it ugly?” Shani comments.
Sycho comes to look. “How can anyone build a city all straight lines?”
“It’s something in the Cairhienin character. They plan every little detail before doing anything.”
“How incredibly -” Sycho pauses, looking for a strong enough insult.
“Something like that.”
“Stupid city,” a deep voice growls from behind them.
Shani pats the new arrival on the shaggy shoulder. “I always said you had good taste, Snarg. Did you keep watch like I said last night?”
“I thought he would.” Shani grins.
“Where did he go?” Shaiel comes across to join them.
“He went to the Black Tower,” Shani explains. “To visit his friends, and cause a little incidental chaos. He’ll catch us up later. C’mon, let’s go.”
“Someone’s still asleep,” Shaiel tells her.
“Wake him up, then.”
“He won’t wake up.” The gold-haired girl looks exasperated. “I shook him, shouted at him, I even dumped a bucket of water on him. He’s still snoring.”
“No one sleeps that hard,” Sycho scoffs.
“You try, then.”
“Wake up, Someone!” Sycho yells at the top of his voice. There is no interruption in Someone’s snoring.
“WAKE UP, STUPID OGIER!” Snarg’s voice shakes the leaves from a few nearby trees, but there is still no reaction from Someone.
“Someone,” Shani says very softly, “if you don’t wake up I’ll throw your books in the fire.”
The Ogier sits up suddenly, blinking and grabbing for his books. “What? What? What’s happening?”
“And that is how you wake up an Ogier,” Shani tells the other three, before turning back to Someone. “We’re heading into Cairhien. Coming?”
“Cairhien? The Royal Library?” Someone pushes blankets aside and starts packing his books. “Certainly I’m coming.”
“I thought so.”
A few minutes later, the five walk through the gates, ignored by the guards (even without an Asha’man in the party, there’s a limit what people’s minds are prepared to take in) and into Cairhien.
“All right,” Sycho says, “what now?”
“We find an inn. We get settled in. Then we play Daes Dae’mar.”
“Uh - what are the rules?”
Shani gives him an amused look. “You’ve never been in Cairhien, have you?”
“That’s what I thought. There are no rules.”
At the inn, the five sit around a table by the fire for a lesson in Daes Dae’mar. “The idea is to confuse,” Shani explains. “Whatever you do, a thousand people are going to put different interpretations on it. Even if you don’t do anything.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Sycho protests.
“Of course it doesn’t,” Shaiel says in an irritatingly superior tone. “It isn’t supposed to make sense.”
“Just follow our lead,” Shani advises him.
He glares. “How do you know so much about this, anyway?”
“Because she’s Aes Sedai,” Shaiel tells him, rolling her eyes. “It’s the first thing novices learn. How to confuse people.”
“So how do you know?”
“Because she’s Aiel,” Shani tells him in exactly the same tone and rolling her eyes in the exact same way.
“If you can understand ji’e’toh, Daes Dae’mar is child’s play.”
“Yes, but -”
Someone interrupts the argument. “Here comes Shadar.”
The lean Asha’man saunters across the common room and sprawls out in a chair. “What’s happening?”
“Talk Daes Dae’mar.”
“Ah. And what do you think of the Great Game, Snarg?”
“You’ve corrupted him,” Sycho groans, sinking back into his chair and closing his eyes.
Shani and Shaiel grin at each other over his head. “So what happened at the Black Tower?” Shani enquires.
“Chaos.” Shadar’s expression is unbearably smug.
“Care to be more specific?”
“The number of insane Asha’man has approximately doubled. Beyond that, no. You can go and look for yourself if you’re really interested. Oh, and by the way,” Shadar pulls a folded parchment from his pocket, “you have an invitation. For tonight, it looks like.”
“Tonight?” And Shani smiles. “Let the Great Game begin...”
“Are you sure about this?” Sycho tugs at his cloak.
“Of course I’m sure.” Shani smooths down her dress, which is an evening version of her usual one. That is to say, even lower-cut and less opaque. “It’s a costume ball, isn’t it?”
“But we’re wearing the same clothes as always.”
“Exactly. Now be quiet and let me handle this.” Shani takes a deep breath, causing every male eye in the vicinity to focus on her, and glides up the stairs. “I am Shani Aes Sedai,” she announces regally. “These are my guests.”
The guards look at the party of one Aes Sedai, one man in a black coat, another in a white cloak, one woman in cadin’sor, an Ogier and an apparent Trolloc. “Of course, Aes Sedai, my Lords, my Lady.” One bows. “Follow me, if you please. Splendid costumes, if I may say so.”
“Why, thank you.” Shani smiles sweetly and leads the party in.
“An honour to meet you, Aes Sedai,” a wary-eyed Cairhienin lord says, bowing, glancing at Sycho and Shadar. “An honour. Your Warders, I presume?”
“My Warders,” Shani agrees serenely. “Very perceptive of you.”
“You lied!” Sycho hisses once they are out of earshot. “What happened to the First Oath?”
Shani shrugs, looking amused. “The First Oath stops me from speaking any word that is false, and every word in that sentence, taken individually, is true. Only the sentence itself was a lie, and the Oath doesn’t prevent that.”
“That’s sheer sophistry, Shani.”
“Oh, you noticed?”
“Worthy of the White Ajah,” Shadar compliments her. “Shall we dance?”
Shaiel, for her part, has just politely refused an invitation to dance by a young and rather pompous nobleman. Dancing with wetlanders is no fun. She never loses. “Ah, a shame. A fine costume, by the way. Very realistic. These Aiel savages, they are everywhere nowadays.” The man scowls.
“They are indeed,” Shaiel agrees, reconsidering her refusal to dance.
“I am writing a book,” Someone announces to a group of fascinated nobles. “All about - well, about -”
“The ramifications of insanity on an overly serious world,” another ten-foot tall figure supplies, joining the group, “and the potential methods for actuating such insanity. The research is quite fascinating.”
The nobles laugh and clap. Someone blinks. Shadar and Shani, pausing in their dance, look puzzled.
“Snarg,” Shadar murmurs, “do you realize you’re talking like a book?”
Snarg blinks, then mutters under his breath. “Too much listen stupid Ogier!”
“Keep going. You’re doing great.” Shani pats him on the shoulder as the two dance away.
“No,” Sycho tells a pair of insistent lords, “I am not playing the Great Game. I don’t even know the rules of the Great Game.”
The two lords nod and smile, and wonder just what he meant by that.
Shaiel is now the focus of attention of a small crowd of young Cairhienin men. “Are you sure you won’t dance?”
“You’re tempting me.” Shaiel’s hand strays to her belt knife.
Someone has started planning a new book. “Teaching Trollocs To Talk...”
“I said, I’m not playing Daes Dae’mar!” Sycho stalks away from a cluster of Cairhienin noblewomen. “And I don’t care where your husbands are!”
“Insanity, after all,” Snarg expounds to the group, “is known to be beneficial in small amounts. In large doses, of course, it can have undesirable consequences, but if care is taken...”
Someone busily takes notes.
“An odd costume to choose,” someone (not Someone) comments to Shadar. “I doubt Mazrim Taim would be pleased at seeing you.”
“Probably not,” Shadar agrees blandly, remembering the expression on Taim’s face when seeing him at the Black Tower earlier.
Shani laughs and joins Sycho. “How are you enjoying yourself?”
“It’s crazy!” Sycho flings up his hands. “I’ve told everyone that I’m not playing the Great Game, but they still think I’m up to something!”
“You told them you’re not playing?” Shani stares at him. “That’s the first rule of Daes Dae’mar! Don’t ever say you’re not in it!”
“You said there weren’t any rules!”
“So when was the Game ever consistent?” Shani sighs. “Shadar! Get over here. We’re leaving.”
“Sycho just told everyone he’s not playing Daes Dae’mar.” Shani disappears in search of the others.
Shadar shakes his head. “Bad move. You can get away with almost everything in Cairhien, but not that. I’d say trouble’s brewing.”
“What could possibly happen?” Sycho demands as the rest of the party join them.
“Last person who tried caused a civil war.”
“Really?” Shaiel looks back. “Maybe I should dance, then.”
“Enough’s enough.” Shadar offers Shani his arm, and the pair lead the way out of the palace. “Chaos in Cairhien. Mission accomplished. Now we leave. There are places to go, people to see...”
“And drive insane...”
“That too. Let’s go!”
And all Cairhien breathes a sigh of relief as they leave. All except one man.
“Not again!” the drunk outside groans in an Amadician accent, and tips his ale out onto the ground. “No more drinking for me! I’m sick and tired of seeing pink elephants!”