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View Full Version : A Different Wheel - Ch.1


st122
07-20-2011, 12:23 PM
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

Born below the ever cloud-capped peaks that gave the mountains their name, the wind blew east, out across the Sand Hills, once the shore of a great ocean, before the Breaking of the World. Down it flailed into the Two Rivers, into the tangled forest called the Westwood.

Moving through the town of Emond’s field the gust tugged at the cloaks of men and woman bustling about. It circled about the town center before whipping the hem of a golden haired woman’s dress around her legs. She rubbed at her arms while thinking what most thought, Spring should have been here.

The gust died down and slowly morphed into a much more benign breeze. Tigraine stood leaning against the door of the Winespring Inn. She’d only been in town a few hours and only becuase it was Winternight, the day before the Bel Tine festival. Being the town’s only event of the year made her promise Rand that they could stay the night at the Winespring inn.

Emond’s Field was a small town, especially when compared to the city in which she had spent her youth – Caemlyn. She smiled at distant memories. The palace itself covered more land than the village around her. Despite her noble upbringing she had to admit to a certain charm about the festival.

The much calmer, but cool morning air blew through the town and ruffled her golden hair. Her nose wrinkled at the smell it carried. There was a foulness to it. Still the people bustled about with an unusual eagerness. Preparations needed to made and the men and women of the Two Rivers attacked the work with their usual persistence. These people were not considered stubborn nor hard working for no reason.

Her attention did not remain on the cold or the people. Instead she studied her son, a young man barely twenty. He stood tall and proud like his father, with hair tinted red. Using her imagination she could imagine some of her own gold within them. Strong muscles were attenuated by his broad chest. Despite his size, he moved lightly on his feet.

At the moment, however, he displayed none of his more mature talents. Matrim Cauthon, the notorious town troublemaker, and Perrin Aybara, a hard working smith’s apprentice, held his attention. They were good boys, if a bit impetuous and mischievous. This became especially true when they were together.

Tigraine sighed, not one of anger, more one of contentment. With all the troubles she had growing up and the suffering she went through to get away from Caemlyn, it felt rewarding to see one of her sons so care free and happy.

Her eyes glanced across the square to a girl she knew she’d see. Egwene al’Vera, the mayor’s daughter, watched Rand intently. When he wandered about in town the girl was never far away. This was expected, seeing as they were sort of promised to each other. Tigraine smiled at the childish antics of her son and Egwene. The girl had never been able to figure out if she actually loved Rand or just found him attractive. Despite all the attempts of the girl’s mother, Tigraine had a feeling the pair would never make their vows to one another.

Like Egwene, Rand just never seemed comfortable enough around her. Something inside Tigraine also balked against the idea, she hated arranged marriages. Emond’s Field might not be the courts of Caemlyn and Cairhien, but the union of Rand and Egwene would be akin to a royal marriage in a city or at least that of a two noble families. Despite her worries she had admitted long ago that they really would be best for each other. If they stayed in Emond’s Field this is.

She stared away and into the distance. The outline of the forests to the east caught her attention. Beyond the tall trees lay Caemlyn, another world with thousands of other young women. Could there be someone out there who would be better for her son? She believed there to be. However, their home was down the road on a small farm.

Thankfully her wondering mind was saved. Tam Al’Thor entered the village. His cart, heavily weighed down with cider made the journey difficult for Bella, their horse. His progress through the town seemed slow, but he had arrived at least. Earlier she’d been afraid he might not come, but it was Bel Tine after all and the towns people needed their cider.

“Rand, go help your father!” She needed to shout for him to hear her. Rand, looking first at her and then down the street, ran to help. The boy loved the man as a father. Rand of course knew they were not related, but Tam had raised the boy as his own. Kari, Tam’s deceased wife, helped foster such feelings. It had been a sad day when she passed away. She’d been a good friend to Tigraine and the only person who had known Tigraine’s secret. Kari had taken that with her to the grave.

“Rand Al’Thor,” Tigraine sighed softly. “Perhaps Rand of the Taardad Aiel, like your father,” she said even softer. Then her lips moved without uttering a single sound. “No, you are Lord Rand of House Mantear.”

A cloud of dust followed him as he ran before coming to a halt after eventually reached the cart and took over the reins from Tam. The man relaxed while enjoying his adopted sons company for last few minutes of his journey. Tigraine saw it again in the way Rand looked up to him. He saw Tam as a father, a mentor. Her heart warmed each time they interacted.

In the Two Rivers, so far away from Andor’s ruling hand, her son learned the value of love and family. Something, unfortunately, lacking from her own childhood. In the courts of Andor, people only cared for one another and little else. Her parents had barely made the time to talk.

As Rand walked back, she noticed the sword hilt sticking out over his shoulder. He wore the sword proudly. Tam had only given it to him the day before. His friends scoffed and laughed calling him all kinds of things, mostly something along the lines of Warder Rand. He ignored their quips. Like a true Andoran prince, he refused to be mocked. Royal blood mixed with his Aiel heritage coupled with the stubbornness learnt only in the harsh farming conditions of the Two Rivers made for a strong personality. Perhaps inhumanly so.

Still the sword bothered her. He deserved it, she knew as much, but the herons on it would be not go unnoticed by certain people. Tigraine had urged Tam to give Rand the other sword. The old man had refused and Tigraine let it the matter drop. Perhaps the decision would prove mistaken. Light willing no one would ever notice. At least Rand would be capable and strong enough to defend his right to the sword. Maybe, some of his strength came from his father. Tigraine, seldom thought of him. “Janduin,” she whispered. It was too painful a memory and she said or thought no more of the man.

“Elayne, did you hear me?” A voice spoke from behind.

Tigraine stood slightly straighter. Despite the years she still forgot her name. It was chosen quickly, the first name that came to mind. Her friend, Morgase, had always wanted a daughter named Elayne. Tigraine clenched her fist. Queen Morgase had gotten her wish. She had gotten her daughter, but did the girl have to come from Tigraine’s ex-husband. Taringail, she almost spat out in disgust. At least he got his due at the hands of some assassin. She would dearly like to thank the man someday and the person who sent him.

“Sorry, Marin. I was lost in thought.” She stared out at her son, while trying to regain some composure. “You know, seeing Rand with Tam always makes me so grateful for the man. Taking us in all those years ago.”

“He is a remarkable man, that Tam. Kari was a lucky woman on the day she married him.” Marin al’Vere said. “But, I actually wanted to ask if you knew of the Lady and her friend who came into town yesterday.”

Tigraine shook her head. Her senses, nevertheless, sharpened. Being the Daughter-Heir of Andor had taught her how to be wary. If the woman happenend to be a real lady then she might also recognise Tigraine. Two decades changed a woman’s appearance, but perhaps not enough. Her fingers stroked through the long tendrils of recognasible golden hair. She needed to get out of the village. Tigraine studied the various narrow roads leading towards the village centre. While looking, she began plotting a route out.

“I heard stories of a Gleeman staying in the inn,” Tigraine said hoping to change the topic. Men were much safer territory than herself.

“Yes,” she said with a huff of annoyance. Tigraine turned towards the woman with a smile. “Oh, there’s nothing wrong with the man. He just banged on our door late last night. Then he went all nobleman on us and threatened to leave on account of the poor reception.” Marin laughed. “Then he grumbled about being misled about the distance to Emond’s Field.”

The sound of footsteps came from inside. “I was merely, introducing myself as the master story teller that I am, my dear.” With a flurry of a multi-coloured patched cloak the man walked past them and out into the sunlight. “I am here to entertain and already I have my stories on the lips of the most venerable women of the town.”

His white hair and dropping moustache marked him as an old, but he moved much too nimbly. The cloak, though appearing worn and patched was actually in fine condition. “A pleasure to meet you, Gleeman,” Tigraine said with a smile.

His eyes, blue like a Borderlander’s, met hers for the first time. They widened for a fraction before dimming. “The honour is all mine,” he replied finally with a bow. “It is indeed rare to find a woman with hair of such colour and beauty in these secluded lands.”

“As it is to see a Gleeman with the gaze of a Borderlander,” she retorted quickly with a wry smile.

He seemed surprised, but then he laughed. “Ah, a well-travelled woman with beauty and intelligence,” his voice boomed like any true master of the tales.

With his cloak moving at his every whim, he bowed deeply again. “I would dearly love to talk, but…” His arms swept out over the town as he rose dramaticallu. “The people await and as a humble gleeman I must entertain.”

He left, making her feel uncomfortable. A man so widely travelled could cause problems for her and Rand.

“You really have a way with some people,” Marin spoke from where she stood. The unasked question hung in the air. Who was Elayne Al’Thor? No one knew, and so it would remain.

The gleeman’s final bow and Marin’s desire for answers made Tigraine decide that it was indeed time to leave the village. Bel Tine would need to be skipped this year. Rand would be devastated, but he would understand.

As the wheel willed it, the moment she made to call Rand, the Lady and her companion arrived. Tigraine held her tongue. Her knuckles white, clutched the wooden frame beside her. The woman moved straight towards the three boys. Rand turned away from his friends and spoke to the woman. Mat and Perrin appeared eager to join the conversation as well. Still they remained slightly distant. The tall red haired boy was the leader. She smiled nervously. He’d always been.

The short dark haired woman wore a fine dark blue dress – Cairhien colours and fashion. Tigraine became aware of the stout Two Rivers woollens she wore. They chaffed at her arms and neck. Despite her fears, fond memories of years gone by came back to her, some long suppressed. She had worn fine expensive gowns, made of silk and other exotic materials. They had been dyed colours that dazzled eyes and drew the stares of men. She felt her cheeks redden at the thoughts that had gone through the mind of a young girl in her late teens.

This brought darker memories. The Daughter Heir was and still is the most prized trophy for any noblemen. More so to one man – Taringail Damodred. His voice had been smooth and his features inhumanly perfect. Dashing barely began to describe Taringail. She’d been a fool in love. She should have known it for the act it was.

Tears threatened to fall, not for him, nor her broken heart. They were for the young boy she’d left behind. Galad, for years he had been tormenting her. Both Rand and Tam knew of her other son. She could see it in their eyes the mornings after she’d dreamed of Galad. They felt more like nightmares. Thankfully they never asked, perhaps they thought him dead.

Rand was still spoke to the Cairhien noblewoman when Tigraine’s thoughts returned. He was a good man, and she knew he would turn out to alright. She’d taught him well over the years. He had an air about him, a grace and elegance not common for people in these parts. Though, the sword training she’d urged Tam to teach him had done much for her son’s posture. Being of noble blood, she knew he needed to be able to handle a sword and be fully cognisant of courtly manners.

This woman before her was the reason why. One day, like today, someone of high birth was bound to enter the town. The secret of who Tigraine was could leave with them. Then who knew what would happen, but Rand would be prepared. At least as ready as she could make him in such a small village.

Her attention had been so fixed on her past and the noblewoman that Tigraine had not spared a glance at the man accompanying her. Tigraine’s blood froze. Despite it being little more than two decades since she last saw one, a Warder could not be mistaken. They were men so different from others. She glanced back at the dark dress. Then she took in the face, an ageless face. Aes Sedai always stood out to people who knew what to look for; a face too smooth, strides almost too elegant, dignity and total outward calm that could only be honed by years of training in the White Tower.

The Warder had a rock hard face with eyes never ceasing to study. His feet stood firm, balancing a body perfectly poised to strike in any direction or defend against unseen foes. He seemed a better Warder than she an Aes Sedai. The thought only made the Aes Sedai a greater threat.

As Daughter Heir she had studied fighting men. They often fought mock duels to impress. This man needed no fight to display his talents. The realisation uneased Tigraine even more. These two were not average. That brought with it an uncomfortable realisation. What were they doing in Emond’s Field?

Tigraine spun on her heal. “Perhaps it would be best if I left,” she spoke, trying to get into the inn.

“I’m afraid I can’t have that,” her friend chuckled. “You have to meet this fine woman,” al’Vere said leading the way out into the open square. “I’ve told her all about you and how well educated you are compared to the rest of us.”

“Oh, that was not necessary,” Tigraine answered trying very hard not to hate the mayor’s wife.

“Think nothing of it, dear,” She waved with her free hand. “I am certain you would’ve wanted to talk to someone other than us old town folk.”

Tigraine thought of running, but that would only make a greater scene. She took a calming breath as they approached. It had been years since her disappearance, there was little chance of the woman knowing her. Fortunately, the Aes Sedai was too busy handing coins over to the three boys to pay much attention to her and Marin.

The Warder, however, eyed her with the same suspicion he would a darkfriend. When she neared, Mat and Perrin began to walk away discussing what they would do with the money. Rand, the ever protective son, stayed behind as his mother approached. His grey eyes seemed curious.

The moment her eyes met the Aes Sedai’s gaze Tigraine knew their fates to be sealed. Moiraine Damodred, she had been at Tigraine’s wedding. She’d been a bridesmaid and was half-sister of her ex-husband. She was her son’s aunt to some degree, though not by blood. More telling, however, she’d been a friend.

Marin broke the silence between the pair. “Elayne, this is Moiraine Damodred. Moiraine, this is Elayne al’Thor.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Elayne.” The name was spoken calmly. No audible hint was given that she recognised Tigraine. Moiraine’s dark eyes, however, shone with excitement. Tigraine’s heart sank.

“The pleasure is all mine,” Tigraine said firmly. She was on thin ice and she hoped Moiraine would not give her away. Acting too ignorant would only cause trouble. “It is indeed an honour to have a member of House Damodred in our small village.”

The Aes Sedai’s eyes flickered in mock surprise. Next to her Marin almost squealed with excitement. Tigraine wanted to roll her eyes at the antics of rural people. “You are well informed for someone of such a small village.”

Tigraine had been to the White Tower, all Daughter Heirs went for training. She had, however, never sworn the three oaths. She could lie and so she did. “Indeed, my Lady. I am not from these parts. I was born on the outskirts of Caemlyn. It was there where I spent most of my youth.” The Aes Sedai gave the faintest of nods, one for Tigraine alone. She relaxed. The woman knew the secret and would play along. “I only came to this village after the birth of my son, Rand.”

The moment the words left her mouth, she got the uneasy feeling that she had said something wrong. The Warder tensed fractionally and the Aes Sedai’s eyes flickered to Rand every few moments. It was all done casually. Egwene’s mother, though close, seemed oblivious to the sudden change in the conversation. Court intrigue taught Tigraine to listen and watch for minute gestures.

“Your story and that of your son must be very interesting. I would love to hear a full account of your journeys.” Moiraine said lightly. For a moment the woman almost seemed to grow brighter and Tigraine’s head tingled.

With a shake of her head she said, “Perhaps another time. I think it best that Rand and myself return to the farm. Tam will be needing all the help he can get tonight.”

“But mother!” Rand cried out. “You promised we could stay in town tonight.”

She turned to Rand and spoke with her most naturally charming voice. One that rarely failed to get her what she wanted. “I’m sorry, son. It’s just, I saw how Tam was struggling with the cart earlier. The journey back is hard and there’s a lot that still needs to be done on the farm today.”

Rand sighed, but being the hard working man that he was, he nodded in agreement. He really did hate leaving too much for Tam to do. “I’ll just go tell the others that I won’t be here this afternoon.” He turned to Moiraine and Lan. “By your leave, Lady, sir,” Rand said with a slight bow in the fashion Tigraine had taught him. It was the perfect bow for a person whom you respected, but unsure of their exact rank.

Moiraine nodded faintly in return. The Warder, however, remained still. His hand seemed very close to his sword. His eyes stared relentlessly at the Heron marked blade. Rand waited a few breaths before he turned to stride away to find his friends.

The Aes Sedai glanced at Marin. The woman was hopelessly oblivious. “It’s a shame that we won’t be able to talk today,” Moiraine said as soon as Rand was out of earshot.

“Perhaps tomorrow.” Tigraine smiled warmly, knowing full well that she would not be returning to town till the woman and her warder had left. There still existed some hope that she did not know.

“Till tomorrow then,” Moiraine replied. “Come Lan, it is best that we leave these fine people to their duties.” The way the woman spoke implied she would talk to Tigraine.

Tigraine noticed a gold signet ring around the Warder’s neck. The ring meant nothing by itself, coupled with the name it spoke volumes. She wanted to ask, but years of training kept her silent. Could the man really be the uncrowned king of Malkier? It seemed preposterous that he would be a Warder. Still the name was not common and the sword he wore was of fine quality. Her eyes scanned his clothing and fingers for any other signs of his heritage. She found none. Despite not seeing more, she knew.

“An honour to have met you, Lan.” With her words she gave a slightly more formal bow to him. This did not go unnoticed by the pair. Tigraine hated herself, but she had too much respect for the man to not give him a more proper farewell.

The Aes Sedai gave a surprised smile. Tigraine made no reply and the pair walked away in a quiet urgent conversation. Moiraine knew, and now so did al’Lan Mandrogaron.

“Elayne, you really are full of surprises aren’t you.” Marin said with a confused shake of her head. “I’m sure I missed half of what went on in that conversation.”

Tigraine nodded thoughtfully to her words while studying Moiraine. “If you managed to understand half of what was said then you did well. If you garnered a tenth of what was implied then I will cook meals in your inn for the next year.”

Marin laughed before turning to go back inside. “Elayne, you really are full of stories. I think that is why I like you so much.” She shook her head, chuckling, as she walked back to the inn.

//**//

A few hours later Rand and Tigraine walking back to the farm. The icy wind pierced at his skin and warmth came only from the thick wool he wore and the cloak wrapped around her shoulders. Still he walked upright, with eyes constantly scanning the surrounding forest. His one hand gripped a Two Rivers longbow firmly. The other held an arrow ready to be drawn.

The thought of seeing a dark form on horseback and the fear he’d felt during those moments still had him on edge. His mother had laughed away his comment, but he’d something in her eyes.

“Mother,” he began. “I noticed you giving Lan a more formal bow than Moiraine. Why was that?”

She strides did not shorten nor slow. In fact she might have increased the tempp slightly. “He is a king, well an uncrowned king really.” The reply was curt.

Rand laughed heartily despite her tone. It felt good to be laughing, something he did not allow himself to do often enough.

She gave him a hard look, but a smile graced her lips. “Laugh if you want, but it’s the truth.”

“Honestly, mother, I have to agree with some people in town. You really are full of stories.” He continued to laugh. “Next you’ll be calling yourself the queen of Andor!”

She blushed and bit back a retort. “No, I wouldn’t go as far as that.”

Rand bumped his shoulder against her playfully and she finally managed a chuckle.

It felt good to get some of the tension out his chest. His mother had always been good at making him forget about his own worries. His joyfulness vanished slightly when he glanced at her again. Her face was set in concentration, perhaps worry, despite laughter they’d shared.

“Are you still worried about the man?” Rand asked thinking of the hooded horseman.

“Lan means no harm, I think,” she responded as she pulled her cloak tight around herself.

Rand made no reply. She’d misunderstood, but he now knew where her troubled mind lay. A dark form on a horse played second fiddle to the pair they had just met in Emond’s Field, a lady and her guard. No wonder she had been in such a hurry to leave.

For the first time in years, or perhaps ever, Rand truly began to wonder who his mother really was before she moved to this village.

//**//

The rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning the house and preparing supper. Times like these still made her wish for all the servants and cooks that had been at her disposal back in Caemlyn. Still it had been many years since she left her position as Daughter Heir due to the words of a single Aes Sedai. Even the hard years as a Maiden of the Spear seemed a lifetime ago.

Despite all the sacrifices made she still did not feel like any portion of her life had been a waste. Rand was a well-educated young man, not only in reading and writing, but also in the arts of war. Tam, a blademaster, had taught him the various sword froms as well as most instructors at the palace as far as she could remember. His methods different and he lacked knowledge of some forms, but what he did know came from the fighting on frontlines of battles. Some of them were even against the Aiel.

Rand never questioned where she learned etiquette. Her answers were always cryptic and he accepted it like the son he was. Friends were never told of what she taught even though he begged her to let them in on the lessons. She remained adamant. There was something special about Rand. Everything leading up to his birth and his life since was confirmation.

A Daughter Heir who ran away only to give birth to a boy on the slopes of Dragonmount… Her mind froze. She had never thought about where he had been born. She had known of course, but her conscious thoughts had never explicitly stated it to herself. She hurried to the window, rubbing her hands clean on the rag hanging over her shoulder.

Outside, Rand chopped wood with strong accurate strokes. His red hair blazed in the son and his broad chest glistened with sweat as he worked. She leaned against the frame.

Tigraine heard Tam enter the room. “What are you thinking, Elayne?” He asked from behind. Even he did not know her true name.

The question took some consideration. She had always tried to be as truthful as possible to Tam. His kindness deserved as much from her. “I was looking at my son and thinking how grown up he’s become.”

Feet crossed the room and a hand came to rest on her shoulder. “He’s been a blessing to this farm and to Kari and myself.”

“That he has,” she agreed. The amount of work her son had done on the farm was staggering. This was not what bothered her. Rand also stood out amongst the children of Emond’s Field. Not only because of his height, hair and eye colour, but also by the way he carried himself. People followed Rand. Mat and Perrin always seemed a step or two behind, though Mat had a habit of getting them all in trouble. Even a queen would have trouble taming Matrim Cauthon.

Egwene on the other hand couldn’t keep her eyes off Rand, but Tigraine was sure it more a matter of status, perhaps infatuation, but not love. Marin al’Vera would want the most eligible husband for her daughter and Egwene would stop at nothing to have what she thought was best.

She gave a soft chuckle. Like the Daughter Heir of the Lion Throne, Rand was the boy every young girl wanted. What was it about him?

The sun began to set. Before complete darkness settled around them they were seated round a table eating. The meal passed in silence, she could not help but be troubled by what she saw in Rand. It could not be. Maybe he was just ta’veren.

//**//

Rand chewed slowly on the lamb stew. The hard work of the day had all been to keep himself busy. He had not wanted to think about the dark rider he’d seen. The fear he’d felt did not seem natural. There was no logical reason to fear a man on the roads. Especially not a fear almost ingrained into his very chest. Men, though not often, passed through the village on their way towards the wilderness. The fear still lingered in his chest. Despite knowing his worries to be unfounded the strange sword Tam had given him remained close at hand.

He chewed a few more times, before staring up at his mother. Her own dark eyes were distant. She did not seem to notice him looking at her. That was one of her oddities, one of many. Rand, like Tam had never been able to learn more about her past. The one thing, apart from knowing she loved him, was that he knew her to be his mother. The resemblance between them was too striking.

Elayne appeared troubled, but that was nothing new either. Often at night she would cry herself to sleep. Each time words would be muttered about a son left behind. The words tore at Rand, but he had never found the courage to talk about her haunted past. If the subject pained her, then he would not force her to talk. Perhaps one day she would open up to him.

For the moment he did what he could and so he reached out a hand and took hers in his. She glanced up at him and smiled slightly. A smile was one thing he did know how to get out of her. “Thank you, Rand,” she whispered.

Tam stood and began to clear the plates away. Despite Rand wanting to help, the old man always pushed him back down. The farmer was growing older and Rand did most of the work out on the farm. His mother prepared the food and kept the house in order while also tending the animals. Cleaning after dinner was Tam’s way of providing some extra help.

“Are you alright, mother?” Rand asked worriedly as Tam cleaned.

She laughed his question away as if to divert some attention. “There is nothing the matter with me.” Her voice, usually even, broke slightly at the end. Rand instinctively glanced at Tam, worried about the man. Her expression, however, made Rand believe something about him troubled her.

“Has Egwene’s mother set a date for Egwene and myself to be married?” He asked. The surprise and tone of his reply must have made his feelings known. “I mean, I like Egwene as a friend. But, mother!” He exclaimed. “You must know that she sees me only as…”

His mouth went dry. What was he going to say? A weird word formed in his mind, ‘Tamyrlin’. He saw a ring, almost felt it on his finger. He shook it off.

“As the most eligible young man in town.” His mother finished for him thankfully. “I know. I got the same impression. Her mother is the same. She earmarked you years ago as the young man who would go furthest in the Town Council.” She laughed mirthlessly. “They’ll have you mayor before you’re thirty.”

Rand paled at her words. He did not want any more responsibilities. He liked working on the farm and fooling around with Mat and Perrin every few weeks.

“Mother! You… they can’t be serious.”

Her expression changed and her bearing became more regal. To him it appeared so, but he did not really know what regal looked like. Still, she appeared like a queen or one from the stories he’d read. “I would be surprised if it took you that long to become mayor.”

Her expression darkened. Her mouth began to move silently and he slipped into what he called the void. A technique he had honed while practising archery and swordsmanship with Tam. It always amazed him the way his senses seemed to come alive.

“Perhaps the world within years.”

Stunned, the void vanished and he leaned back against his chair. His mother was beginning to worry him. She tried to smile, but it was not genuine. “Don’t worry, son. I won’t allow that woman to get her claws into you.” She gave him a thoughtful smile. “A princess would be much better suited to you.” Her eyes glinted and then she chuckled. “Or would you rather settle for a nice girl from another town?”

Rand shook his head, grunting in annoyance at his mother. He stood to leave.

“What about and Aiel girl? I hear they are rather feisty.” She laughed.

Rand shook his head and decided to not acknowledge her.

//**//

Rand left the table after dinner and disappeared to his room.

Tam sat on his chair reading. The thought of a farmer reading still amused her. She sat with needle in hand fixing a small patch in her dress. Fortunately, Tam insisted on each person fixing their own clothing, so she only had her own tears to mend. As luck would have it, Tigraine was also the person least likely to ruin a dress. Rand on the other hand had a nasty habit of destroying clothing.

He had none to fix tonight, which was almost an oddity. Instead he returned from sulking in his room over her jokes with the Heron marked blade to in stand in the centre of room. There was a large clearing round him. With sword in hand, he moved effortlessly through a number of sword forms.

Tigraine was no expert, but she knew enough from what she’d seen from the palace guards to know that he was very good with a blade. There were of course things that Tam did not know and Tigraine could recall there being a few more movements, but she had never used a sword and so was unable to help.

Her Aiel training had at least helped to improve his general fitness, strength and balance. His quarter staff fighting was also greatly improved. This was all done with subtle suggestions and comments to Tam. The product was a man none around could touch with a quarterstaff, and many would be surprised if they dared attack him with a knife. The final notch on the list of his training was the Two Rivers Longbow. With his broad shoulders, Rand could draw a bow much larger than most men. The only exception being Perrin. The boy’s large blacksmith chest gave him almost limitless strength.

Rand settled down, and the night became quiet – almost too silent. Tigraine placed her needle and cloth down on her lap and listened. She heard nothing. There were always animals making a noise on the farm. Why were they so quiet?

Something pounded on the door. She jumped. Mere seconds later the door crashed open and dark form stumbled inisde. Rand still warm from his training stood and steadied himself in a defensive form. A tall dark beast, illuminated by the weak light of a few candles stood just inside the door. It was a horrid creature with horns, hair and the arms and legs of a man. Yet they were not of man. Rand flowed and his sword moved in a rapid blur. The gleaming silver glistened with a dark liquid. The beast looked bewildered, and then it staggered backwards in shock, before toppling to the ground.

Rand made to leap out the door. His pale grey eyes burned with an anger she had never seen before. She wanted to shout, knowing her son would run head first and alone into the a hundred Trollocs if given the chance.

“Rand!” Tam bellowed, throwing the boy backwards. “Get a grip boy!”

Tigraine had barely noticed Tam moving and still he had managed to get hold of his sword. She had a knife in hand. It had been instinctive to grab. Together the three stood and waited.

“Back window, now!” Tam ordered and they obeyed. He was the veteran solder. Tigraine had been trained by Aiel, but she had not fought since giving birth. Even then she had taken part in only a few planned ambushes, but she herself had never been trapped. She was once again thankful for having the protection of Tam.

Even as they began to move, Trollocs poured through door. Rand and Tam both struck out. This time Tigraine thanked herself for having the wisdom to purchase another sword. It felt right at the time. There was little point in having a blademaster and his apprentice in a house with only one sword. The second blade saved their lives.

A few seconds later she clambered through the open window into the cool evening air. The sound of ringing metal followed. The two blades struck relentlessly. She waited. Eventually Rand emerged followed closely by Tam. Nothing moved within the house.

They made to move. In the stillness of the night the only sound came from Tam who groaned softly. He limped slightly. Seeing the pain, Rand lifted Tam from the ground and together they ran towards the dark forest bordering the farm. Within its shroud she hoped they would find peace. Crossing the open field was a gamble, but there was little else to be done. She prayed none of Trollocs remained.

The Light favoured them. Hidden by the forest they were able to rest for the first time.

The haunted, frightened eyes, of her son stared up at her. Tam was clutched tightly in his arms. “What were those, mother?” Rand asked still trying to catch his breath.

“Trollocs,” she answered. She had wanted to lie, but there was little point in misleading him. “But how they got this far from the Borderlands the Light alone knows.”

Rand stared at her in shock. “Trollocs? But… they are tales from books.” Gently, he placed Tam on the soft moist ground. His breathing was heavy.

“No,” She replied shaking her head. “Trollocs are as real as you and I.”

“But you never said as much,” Rand protested heatedly. “If you knew why not say so?”

“Would you have believed me? Would your friends have? Or even the Wisdom, Nynaeve?”

Rand took a moment to consider. “No, they would’ve mocked me for believing childish fantasies.”

“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. I should have told you more of what I know.”

A groan came from where Tam lay. Rand dropped onto his knees to tend the wound. Tigraine followed. Blood covered the old man’s leg. Working hurriedly, Rand tore away the cloth. Despite the amount of blood, he found little more than a scratch.

“That can’t be all,” Rand said in surprise. He stared at the man. Tam’s eyes were closed and his breathing sounded even more laboured.

//**//

Rand was growing tired. Tam was a heavy burden despite him being able to walk slightly. Each passing minute saw them man losing ever greater strength. His mother had gone quiet more than an hour ago. The silence surrounding them did not help Rand’s mood. The sound of their feet sliding along the soft forest floor was his only companion for the long journey through the night. Tam moaned about finding Rand and Elayne in the snow. He ignored the comments, he knew the story well. The more pressing problem was Tam’s voice and the way it travelled on the cold morning air.

Time held little meaning as they stuggled towards Emond’s Field. But now with the sun beginning to rise he finally got to terms with the time. The arriving light took with it most of his worries. Those beasts would not dare approach them during the day and not this close to the village. At least he hoped so.

The smell of burning fires and morning meals began to reach them. It was only when he crested the last rise before the town that his heart sank. The smoke lay thick. The lack of fog this morning made him even more wary of what lay behind the veil of smoke.

“Rand?” His mother spoke up questioningly.

He studied her. She was a strong woman, one use to taking command. Now of all times she looked to him for answers.

“I’m sure all will be well, mother,” Rand spoke with more confidence than he felt. Looking for something to draw courage from he felt for the sword hanging from his hips. The feel of the hilt and the weight that came with the it helped to settle some of his fears.

With a grunt he took more of Tam’s weight upon himself. Thankfully the small town lay just below them.

Each stride he took increased his concerns. Were any of the people still alive? What had happened to Egwene, Perrin and Mat? Was the Wisdom alive to tend the wounded? He could not voice his worries.

“Do you think Trollocs attacked the town?” His mother asked

He did not answer. He did not know the answer and he feared giving his opinion. Instead he steeled himself and continued to walk ahead. Strangely, his mother’s insecurity gave him some strength. She had always been calm, in control, and seemingly all knowing. Her acting more human made him feel normal. His fears were natural and if they were natural then he could overcome.

His strides lengthened and some of the weariness left him. Then everything changed. Noise began to filter through the fog. Peoples voices, the sound of carts and other normal sounds became more distinct. Still something felt wrong. It was Bel Tine, people should be laughing and the mood should have been festive. What they heard were the loud pounding of men working on roofs and woman fixing houses. There were no children laughing. More telling, no music wafted through the air.

A few strides later the first house came into view. Elayne gasped, it was burnt and stones littered the floor that had once been part of the wall. Some of the hope dwindled. Glancing at his mother he knew he needed to remain strong.

“There are still people. I can hear them.” He gave a half smile. “I’m sure it is not as bad as we think.”

“I hope you’re right, son,” she said softly in reply. “Light, I hope this is not too serious.”

“Whatever happened, we need to find the Wisdom.” Saying the word made him really take notice of Tam since he’d left the farm. The man was boiling hot and his face had grown ashen. Rand frowned. Such a small cut should not have hurt a man like him. Tam has shrugged off worse cuts while working on the farm.

A soot covered girl walked past. “Egwene!” his mother called out.

The tired dishevelled girl stopped. Only then did Rand see her for who she was. “Rand!” She cried out before throwing her arms around his neck to give him a hug. “I’ve been so worried, but the people…” She mumbled a few words. “… been helping Nynaeve all night.”

“Where is the wisdom?” Elayne asked. She did not seem so concerned about their little reunion.

“Oh, yes, she is in the house over there,” Egwene replied pointing to an intact bulding. “I’ll take you to her.” She began to walk.

Rand, exhausted from a long night, trudged behind. Tam was grew very heavy in his arms. Rand’s shoulders were sore and his back burned from the effort of carrying Tam’s weight

They stumbled tiredly into the home the wisdom used to tend the wounded. There were surprisingly few people considering the carnage outside. They waited for what felt like an eternity before Nynaeve emerged. She looked even more exhausted than Egwene and her one hand clutched at her long braid in open anger.

“What happened to him?” She asked curtly. Rand ignored the lack of greeting.

“Tr… Trolloc cut him,” Rand managed to say.

The Wisdom knelt to look at the wound. She looked confused, and then her shoulders sagged. “There is nothing I can do for him, Rand.”

He made no reply.

“There must be something you can do!” His mother cried out from behind.

Nynaeve shook her head, the braid swung about. “I wish I could do more, but…” she said no more.

Rand could see her distraught face as she stood to leave. She cared, but she had told the truth. “Thank you, Wisdom,” he said to her retreating back.

“I guess we better take him to the Winespring Inn then,” his mother said, taking control of the situation for the first time.

He nodded in resigned agreement, unsure how being at the inn would help. Still he saw some hope in her eyes. Where could she find hope at a time like this?

“Just put him in one of the rooms,” she said once they were outside the inn. “I will be back shortly.”

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“There is one last throw of the dice,” she smiled. “We have an Aes Sedai in town.”

Rand gasped. “Mother! Are you sure what you’ve told me is the really the truth?” He still did not know what to believe about Aes Sedai. Most people made them out as darkfriends. His mother just preached caution as they try to use people.

She nodded. “Mostly lies and stories coming from people who do not understand.”

He stared and felt some hope. Tam nearly slipped out of his hold. Staring down at the dying man, Rand knew his option to be limited.

“I will be waiting for you,” he said.

//**//

In the Winespring inn Moiraine sighed tiredly as she removed her hand from Tam’s face. He looked a bit brighter, but considering the taint from the blade he would be pale for a few days to come.

“He’ll live,” she spoke slowly “All he needs is some rest.”

She pushed herself up from where she had knelt beside the bed. Her hands instinctively smoothed out her dress. Tigraine took the time to study Moiraine for the first time. Ash stains still marked her cheeks and her dark hair, perfect the day before, was ruffled. The small blue stone, slightly skew, dangled from her forehead.

“Thank you, Moiraine,” Tigraine whispered to the Aes Sedai. Her dark eyes met Tigraine’s, and held them. She knew the healing came at a price. In her case the payment would be answers.

Rand, stood from where he had been sittig next to Lan. “Thank you, Aes Sedai.” Rand said kneeling alongside Tam to hold his hand. “Whatever the price, I’ll pay.”

“Let us not talk about prices,” Moiraine answered, her gaze never wavering from Tigraine. “I’m sure you won’t need to owe me anything.” Her eyes flicked slightly to the side. Then she left.

“Excuse me, Rand,” Tigraine said, placing a hand on her son’s shoulder. “I would like to go thank her.”

“Oh, sure,” Rand replied hardly looking in her direction. “I’ll stay here with him.”

She patted his shoulder and made for the door. Lan still sat there, his face displaying nothing. A shiver ran up her spine. Warders had always unnerved her. As she reached the door he bowed his head slightly. She stopped and met his gaze. For the first time she saw something in his expression, understanding. A smile formed on her face and she made a slight bow. His face grew grim, before stretching in a tight smile. Yes, she thought, definite understanding. Both of them were raised for a purpose and neither became what they were supposed to be.

Moiraine sat in the deserted kitchen. Tigraine entered and sat down primly, bringing to fore her queenly grace.

“Is Galad well?” The words tumbled out of her mouth and her eyes were unable to meet Moiraine’s.

“He is doing as well as one could hope of a boy without father or mother.” She answered. A tear dripped down Tigraine’s cheek. She did not see her sister-in-law move, but the warmth of her hand on her own helped. “How have you been, Tigraine?” Moiraine asked.

It felt odd to hear someone speak her name. Not since the day she ran away had anyone called her by that name. “I am well,” she answered. “Tam has been good for us.”

“I am glad,” Moiraine replied. Her voice sounded earnest. Then again as an Aes Sedai she could not lie.

“So you were raised?” Tigraine asked. “You were always the strong one in the family. I missed you these years.”

It was the truth. The youngest daughter, Moiraine, had always been different. The darker side of her family never touched her. Somehow it had made the young girl more determined to do good in the world.

She felt her hand being squeezed. “Light burn you!” Moiraine almost shouted, but the words were barely audible. “I looked up to you. You were always kind to me, talked to me, understood me.” Her voice trailed off, and Tigraine only felt shame. “You should’ve been Queen. I could have been Queen. Together…” She left the last part unsaid.

“I know, but I had to leave Andor. I had a duty greater than Andor.”

Moiraine seemed to sit straighter at these words, but shenodded before saying. “I was given a task, one that led me far from home. And away from the throne.” The kitchen was silent as Tigraine listened. “The White Tower tried very hard to make me queen. Together with the Aiel, they almost succeeded.”

Tigraine laughed and so did Moiraine.

“I assume no one knows of you,” Moiraine said, her hand tenderly stroked through Tigraine’s hair. “These locks should have given you away years ago.”

She shook her head. “It’s best no one know. Think what would happen to Andor if word were to spread of my survival.” Moiraine said nothing, but she understood. Even here news arrived, and to the knowing mind of Tigraine much could be pieced together. Caemlyn was divided. Morgase’s rule was tenuous at best. If Tigraine arrived, the true Daughter Heir, Andor would be turned on its head.

“Enough of that,” Moiraine said suddenly. “We need to leave Emond’s Field tonight.”

“Why? Because of me? Surely no one knows about me.”

Moiraine shook her head. “I’m afraid it is to do with your son and his friends.”

Tigraine paled. Were Gitaro Morosa’s words only coming to fruition now?

“You seem shocked, but not surprised.”

“A long story and one, considering your haste that is best told once we are on the road.”

“Good, then we need to round up Mat and Perrin before the night arrives. They must come with us.”

“I will come if you don’t mind.” Moiraine gave her a sharp look. “I’ve been trained by the Aiel.” The Aes Sedai’s eyebrow rose in surprise and respect.

“That explains the boy.”

Tigraine had the decency to blush. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for leaving you and you’re brother, but it was never meant to be.”

“Oh, that is one thing you do not have to convince me about. I guess it is one reason why I spent so much time with you. I felt sorry for you. Your marriage to my brother had always been political.” She did not have to say more. The moment Tigraine had left he had gone and married the next in line to the throne, Morgase. Then there had always the mistresses as well.

“Enough of the past.” Tigraine stood. “I think you mentioned leaving.”

//**//

As darkness descended Rand and his mother made their way to the stable. Inside they found Lan and Moiraine busy saddling horses. There were six. The tall Warder stood beside a large threatening black horse. Moiraine, in contrast, was busy fastening the last items onto what he assumed to be her horse. Unlike Lan’s, her’s was smaller and almost white.

Moiraine let the last strap fall. “Still coming along, Elayne?”

“Yes, Aes Sedai,” his mother replied firmly. “I will not let you run off with my son.”

Rand felt his cheeks tinge in embarrassment. A twenty year old man did not need a mother hanging over his shoulder. He wanted to object, to send her home. He could not, he needed her.

Perrin arrived a few minutes later. The cloak he wore hid arms and legs and his movements appeared stiff.

“Hello, Rand,” he said.

“Ready?” Rand asked, still eyeing his friend with suspicion. Perrin nodded, but he remained silent thereafter. The only source of noise being Lan as he tied packs to each horse.

A head poked through the door. “Mat!” Rand called out.

The skulking figure of the third boy came into full view. “I don’t know what I’m doing here,” he grumbled. Suspicious eyes glanced at the Warder and Aes Sedai. “Light, Rand,” he whispered. “What’s that lady getting us into?”

Rand shrugged, barely glancing to the far side of the stable. Moiraine’s head was cocked to the side, her attention not on the pack before her. Rand felt sure she was eavesdropping.

“You can’t go without me!” A new voice proclaimed.

Rand stood upright stepping away from Mat and Perrin and stared at the persob who had come to join them.

“Egwene,” his mother spoke. “By the Light, what are you doing here?”

“I am coming along!” She said angrily. “Why can’t I go on this adventure?”

“Because, it will be dangerous, and nothing like an adventure in some book,” the Aes Sedai replied.

Egwene did not seem perturbed. Her hard gaze and set jaw said as much.

Elayne turned to Moiraine and then the Aes Sedai sighed. “I guess, since she is here then she should come along. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.”

Egwene relaxed and her eyes began to shine.

“Well,” a deep voice said from above. “I think I’d like to join this party.” A figure in a multi-coloured cloak landed on the ground.

Lan drew his sword. A raised hand from Moiraine had him pause midway towards the man. “Gleeman,” Moiraine whispered in a cold calm voice. “What are you doing in the stables?”

His cloak moved about with his body while he spoke. “I am merely a humble story teller, Aes Sedai. The town, the people, they are looking for a cause. Being a foreigner I might be seen as a reason for the Trollocs.”

She eyed him through a passive face. Lan, tense, stood poised to strike if she deemed it necessary. Rand glanced at the Gleeman. He appeared less impressive than he did the day before and Rand could see his an underlying apprehension. Moiraine waved her hand again and the Warder relaxed, sheathing his sword. The Gleeman exhaled.

“We will need another two horses then.”

“I have my own,” the Gleeman said.

Lan gave Egwene one of his glares. Rand began to think that the man knew nothing else. Then he spotted Bela, their horse.

“She can ride, Bela!” Rand said pointing at the horse in the last stall.

His mother turned and then gasped. “How?”

Rand shrugged. “I… she’s here and so is Egwene,” he said angrily. Why did he want Egwene to come along, she’d only frustrate him, he thought.

“That horse will never keep up with the rest,” Lan said harshly at Moiraine.

The Aes Sedai did not seem concerned. “If the horse fails to keep up then she will have to fend for herself.”

“Moiraine! You know what will be following us.”

“What?” Egwene demanded.

Moiraine turned serenely to face the girl. “Trollocs and other creatures far more vile.”

Egwene paled, and so did the others. Elayne and the Gleeman alone seemed untroubled. Rand studied the Gleeman again. Which people had those light eyes? He could remember his mother telling him, but she’d taught him so much. Too much in fact.

“Bela will keep up with us!” Rand bellowed from where he busied himself preparing the horse.

Before long they rode out into the night.

---
Ok, this is the first part of a longer story. The first four chapters flow quickly and then it slows down once they get to Caemlyn.

Abbaaddon
01-31-2012, 09:48 AM
Okay, I must say that making a fan fiction of WoT is bold, but seriousely you're doing great job.
Even though there are few typing errors, which is normal for a text that long.