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View Full Version : A Different Wheel - Ch.3


st122
08-01-2011, 10:50 AM
A/N This chapter moves the story along very quickly! So it is not the most descriptive of chapters. Things begin to slow down and change considerably in ch4.

The sun eventually rose before them as they rode east from Baerlon. If his sore backside was anything to go by they had been riding for at least three hours. During those hours Rand had nearly fallen off his horse twice he’d been so tired. The bright morning light brought with it some lucidity to his thoughts.

He glanced about after a deep yawn. Everyone rode in silence, their heads hanging, eyes drooping. Except Lan. This was one of the few times the Warder actually rode with them. Usually he was ahead to mark the route or behind ensuring they were not being followed. Rand could not begin to fathom how Lan managed to travel twice as far as any of them each day and still look fresher than them all.

With the sun illuminating the group, Rand noticed an absence – Min. His head slumped. He had known she was not with them, but a small part had hoped she might be lingering near the back. What had he been thinking? Did he honestly suspect she would drop her life in Baerlon to follow them? Did she even know that they had left? Did she understand that she was not the reason for him leaving?

The one absence he might have enjoyed was that of Nynaeve. The Wisdom was almost as bad as Moiraine and his mother with giving annoying glares.

Trying not to dwell on Nynaeve, he studied Egwene. No matter how long he stared, he could never get himself to feel more for her. In a way he reacted in much the same way to her as he did to Min. He had known he should not be with Egwene, did that mean he was not going to love Min? He sighed.

The sun reached some distance into the morning sky before Moiraine halted her small mare and turned to face them. “We’ll wait here for a few hours. Sleep if you must, but I think we can all do with some rest.”

Rand nearly fell from his horse. Muscles ached in places he never knew he had. Despite growing up on a farm, riding a horse for days did not sit well with his body. The soft earth and cool grass proved a welcome relief from the hard leather saddle.

“That feels good,” he sighed as he lay beside the road. With an effort he tried to clear his mind of Min and Egwene. It proved a futile effort.

A shadow fell across his face. Blinking, he looked up at his mother. “How are you, Rand?” she asked coming to sit beside him.

He pushed himself up onto his elbows. “I’m fine, just tired from all the riding,” he tried to answer casually. She gave him a knowing look, one that only mothers had the ability to give. He had spoken to nonchalantly.

“Egwene?” She asked. “I can see the talk between the two of you did good.” She stared intently at him. “So what is bothering you?” He looked away. “Another girl then?”

He did not want to answer, but why lie. “It’s Min,” Rand breathed out almost inaudibly. “I’m worried I’ll never see her again.”

An arm came round his shoulder and she pulled him into an embrace. “I’m sure we will be seeing her again. Moiraine left word for her to follow.”

“She did?” Rand sat straighter. “Why not have her travel with us?”

His mother smiled warmly and then laughed. “The girl needs at least a day to get her things in order. Besides, I’m sure she will be safer away from us.”

She closed her eyes after the last comment. “What is bothering you, mother? The Trollocs and darkfriends are far away by now.”

“Just the concern of a mother. If what troubles you is a woman, then my heart his much relieved.”

It was a lie, but he did not have the heart to push her further. Her whole life was more or less a mystery to him. More than once he had thought her of noble birth. The line of thought did not make sense. Why would a lady give up a life of pleasure for one on a farm.

The ease with which she talked with Moiraine made him begin to wonder again. Who was Elayne al’Thor? All he knew was that she was not al’Thor.

“We will make it through this mother,” Rand whispered. No reply was made Instead she stood and walked away, her arms wrapped around her waist.

However much he wanted to discuss her problems, he was just too tired. He fell back onto the grass and promptly fell asleep.

//**//

Tigraine stood moments before her son dozed off and walked away. She felt like taking a nap herself, but she could not. Instead her gaze fell upon Moiraine. The youngest Damodred and probably the only good one of the lot. She shook her head. Galad was a Damodred, had his father’s family gotten to him?

She made her way across to Moiraine. Thom, ever present and suspicious studied Tigraine as she walked. His eyes unnerved her with their knowing look. As a result she spent most her time as far from him as possible. A discerning man like him might be able to pick up on her heritage. Perhaps he had already.

“Moiraine,” She spoke softly.

“Yes, Tigraine.” The woman did not turn, but there was a tightness to her words.

“Worried about Lan?”

She nodded. “He is coming quickly from behind.” Instinctively, Tigraine turned in the direction Moiraine motioned to.

“I hope it’s not trouble.” If the Warder was making haste then he had to have urgent news.

Moiraine faced Tigraine and her features softened a fraction. “Did you want to ask something?”

“I wanted to ask about Galad.” Tigraine opened and closed her fists a few times. “Did he… was he raised in Cairhien or Caemlyn?”

“Is he a Damodred or a Mantear?” Moiraine mused. Tigraine held her breath. “Neither.” Came the eventual answer. “As you might have heard, both your father and Luc have passed away.”

“What!” Tigraine cried out. Thom’s head jerked around. Moiraine made no gesture.

Moiraine aged as she whispered. “Luc never returned from the Blight.”

Tigraine closed her eyes as she sank down onto the grass.

“I’m sorry to be the one to tell you,” Moiraine said as she knelt beside her.

“I should’ve known as much.”

“Galad was raised by his mother-in-law, Queen Morgase, like a son,” Moiraine continued. Tigraine lifted her face to the Aes Sedai, “She’s been good for him. Though he goes by his father’s name he is his own man. He is neither Damodred nor Mantear, just like he is not a Trakand.”

“I would like to thank Morgase.” Tigraine made to stand. “It appears like she turned out to be a better woman than I thought.”

“Well in your day, she was next in line to the throne. She had a right, I guess, to be slightly against you.” Moiraine glanced away. “She is not all good, but she has held her own over the years.”

“I suppose. Though we did have some fun together in the White Tower.”

Moiraine smiled at a distant memory. “Like seeing who could channel the least.”

Tigraine gave her a flat look, but the corners of her mouth twitched into a smile. “Something along those lines.” They stood side by side watching the horizon for signs of Lan. “At least Galad turned out well.”

“I worry about him sometimes, but he is a good man at heart.”

Tigraine stared wistfully out over the countryside. “He used to be such a trouble maker, I loved him for it.”

//**//

Galad walked alone through the palace gardens, something he did often. Gawyn was busy and thankfully Elayne had seen fit to ignore him. He loved her, but she had a way to work on his nerves. At times he wished they were not related.

He found a bench beneath one of the larger trees in the Palace garden. The shade helped to keep the sun from him. In the middle of crowded city, he felt abandoned, forgotten. All he had was honour and the sword on his hip. His father’s family had practically disowned him years ago. The only Damodred to ever show any kindness was his aunt, Moiraine. Still she rarely came to Caemlyn and he had not seen her in a few years.

The woman never showed her face for more than a day. Elaida would be in a terrible rage each time she heard Moiraine had been within a day’s ride from Caemlyn. Still, Moiraine always made an effort to come see him. Her Warder, Lan, would take his time to work on Galad’s sword forms. Those few stolen hours with the Warder did more for his technique than the years with Garyth Bryne and his sword trainers.

The only problem with Moiraine was that she reminded him of what he did not have, a mother. His mother, Tigraine Mantear, had run away when he was but a young boy. The fateful day still burned vividly in his mind.

He had been playing in garden. The morning had passed with him stealing food from the kitchens and tripping a guard or two with concealed strings. The fun lay in the thought of being caught. No one ever did, but somehow his mother always knew what he had done. He can still remember her eyes staring down at him as he sat on her lap. They had held only love.

Galad fought to keep his emotions under control as a passing group of soldiers brought him back from the memory.

Why had she left? If it were not for the words of Gitaro Sedai, Galad would have hated his mother. Her words spoke of a greater duty. If there was one thing he knew about, it was duty. If what the Aes Sedai said was true and his mother’s departure had to do with saving the world from the Dark One then he would bare his life as best he could, while keeping a memory of her within his heart.

If her life meant upholding her duty then he would uphold his. To this day he had kept his word. He would not do anything that was not right. Elayne despised him for what he became, often calling him the most imaginative words. He did not mind, she was young girl, one day she would grow up. He would not deny that the words did not hurt him, but they were what defined him.

He was Galad. Neither Mantear, Damodred nor Trakand.

Still, he wished things to be different. He needed something or someone to break him. He thought back to his mother’s disappearance, he had not cried since that day. He had been close to it, like now, but the tears never came. That was not right; a man could not hold so much grief within himself. Yet, he had.

In order to save himself, he stood and did what he always did. He went to the guards and practised sparring.

//**//

It felt like hours since the hunt began. Not that they were the hunters, instead they were the prey. A fist of Trollocs hounded them. The incessant sound of horns drove them towards the unknown.

The movements of the Trollocs seemed too coordinated. Something felt wrong. Memories of battles poured into his mind and he almost toppled from his horse. Movements of men and horses. It all made sense, they were being herded.

“They are leading pushing us somewhere!” Rand shouted at Moiraine. With an effort he cleared his mind from its confusing thoughts.

Lan slowed down to face him. “What makes you say that, Sheepherder?”

“It’s all too precise, to perfect. They could’ve closed in on us before now, but they have not despite knowing us to be very weak.”

As if in reply to his words, trumpet calls came from before them. Lan studied Rand’s face and then pulled on his reign. “Halt!” he shouted.

Everyone, even Moiraine, came to an abrupt halt. “Rand says they are herding us. I tend to agree. Especially with the new trumpet call ahead.”

Moiraine eyed Rand shrewdly. “Why would you think them so coordinated?”

“I just know,” Rand replied harshly and Lan gave him a hard look of irritation. Rand did not know why he had spoken so to the Aes Sedai. “My apologies Aes Sedai, I am merely tired.”

She gave an imperceptible nod. “I cannot see how, but I agree.” She stood slightly in her saddle and studied the surrounding countryside.

“We need to go there,” Lan told her in a low voice. “There are no more routes open to us.”

She sat down in her saddle. Moiraine looked troubled, but she relented to his demand. “Everyone!” She said loudly. “Crowd around me as closely as you can.”

They complied. It was difficulty to get Perrin’s bulky body closer and Mat grumbled the entire time. Eventually Aes Sedai was satisfied that they were close enough together. Rand shivered as the Aes Sedai raised her staff and began twirling it above their heads. A distant memory of a woman floating a goblet of wine towards him flashed through his mind. Despite the warmth in the memory he could remember the slight tingle on his skin. She had channelled as well. He clutched his forehead and let his head drop as Moiraine pointed her staff away from them.

He glanced up in time to see a gust of wind traveling of in the direction the woman had pointed. He cared little for small tricks of the Power. He had much more troubling things to think about.

//**//

“We must be quick,” Moiraine said hurriedly. She led them off in a gallop across the uneven countryside. The direction opposite to the path of the gust of wind. Their pace was near suicide on the rough terrain, but it was death if they slowed down.

Despite riding their horses hard it still took an hour to reach what had to be their destination. Massive overgrown walls came into few. “Shadar Logoth!” Tigraine spoke trembling. She’d only heard stories of this place and she had never thought them true.

Moiraine gave her a sharp look. Thankfully none of the others overheard. Strangely, Thom did not know the place or he was doing a very good job of hiding his knowledge. Despite his impressive stories, he spoke even less about his past than Tigraine and Moiraine.

Moiraine galloped right up to the wall before slowing down. From the gate they moved carefully. Each stride into the city made the group more uneasy. Glancing to the side she noticed Rand shaking his head and muttering a bit. Lan’s sword was drawn held menacingly in his hand. A few minutes later, Rand began to look slightly better. He gave Lan a single glance then drew his own sword.

Perrin had axe in hand and Mat’s bow was strung and arrow notched, he did not draw. The boy was trained enough to know that he would never be able to hold the bow drawn for long.

Moiraine did not stop until she found a certain building. It looked similar to the countless ones they had passed. None asked any questions. Perhaps she chose this one thinking it deep enough within the city to make it safe. Dismounting, Moiraine led her horse into the structure.

Lan like always rode away to scout the surroundings. Nynaeve paused for a few moments to watch until the Warder disappeared around a corner. Tigraine passed closed by the younger woman. “He’ll be fine.”

Nynaeve made no reply, instead she entered the building.

“We should be safe in here tonight,” Moiraine said aloud once they were all inside.

“Scouting?” Tigraine asked Moiraine.

The Aes Sedai looked up from where she sat, looking tired. “Yes.”

“How do you do it?” Tigraine asked. From the corner of her eye, she could see Nynaeve trying very hard to look disinterested while she cocked her head slightly to better listen into the conversation.

“Live with Lan?” She sighed, before speaking in too low a voice for anyone else to overhear. “He is his own man and I fear that the bond is beginning to chafe.”

Moiraine did not need to look at Nynaeve for Tigraine to understand. “I’ve seen the way he looks at her, Moiraine. Perhaps the time has come to let go.”

“Perhaps,” the Aes Sedai agreed. “But there is still so much that needs to be done.”

“Just be careful,” Tigraine whispered. “I wouldn’t like to see you hurt.”

Moiraine’s dark eyes looked into Tigraine’s. “I must do what’s best for the world.” Regret tinged her voice. “If that means maintaining a leash then so be it.” Though her words were harsh, she could not hide the uncertainty in them.

She wanted to say that perhaps the leash was too tight, but now was not the time.

“Where are the boys?” Moiraine asked suddenly, destroying any hope of talking further.

Egwene stood and strode into the room where they were supposed to be tending to the horses. Thom, who had lit a pipe, made no attempt to find them. All he ever did was tell stories. Despite what the man said he was too proud to be a simple gleeman. His stories were too refined, his words too grand. He had been something.

“They’re gone.” Egwene said running back into the room a few moments later.

“Those fool boys!” Nynaeve, Tigraine and Moiraine shouted at the same time.

Lan arrived mere minutes later. “What’s happening?” He demanded.

“The trio has wondered of into the city,” Nynaeve replied before Moiraine could say anything.

The Warder turned towards the Wisdom. “That is…” his words stumbled. “I will go,” he said and began to leave.

“Be careful,” Nynaeve said softly from behind. Tigraine watched in amusement as the gracious Lan almost stumbled. He grumbled under his breath and then left.

After he left Moiraine sat brooding in the corner. There was no visible sign of irritation, but Tigraine knew the woman. It was not difficult to know what irritated the Aes Sedai. She had not spoken nor given Lan a command, and then he obeyed the Wisdom.

“He is his own man, Moiraine. You said as much yourself.”

“I know,” the Aes Sedai replied in a voice barely audible. “It is just hard seeing someone else affect him so, when…”

“Oh, Moiraine,” Tigraine said taking her friends hand. Then she did not know what to say. “I’m sure there is someone for you, waiting.”

Moiraine shook her head despondently. “It is not that I ever saw him like that. It’s just… After twenty years of being alone together something should have happened between us.” Moiraine looked up at her sadly. “I am such a vile person, that Lan would never have tried anything?”

“No, dear,” Tigraine said.

“It doesn’t matter.” Moiraine’s dark eyes looked forlorn. “I know the face of the man I’m to marry just as well as Nynaeve.”

“Is that so?” Tigraine asked in surprise. “You’ve been holding out on me Moiraine.” She continued to speak in an effort to pry information out of the Aes Sedai. Tigraine had no success. She did not mind, the mindless talking had only one use. It kept her mind from worrying about Rand and the other two boys.

The sun continued to sink. Lan was still out there somewhere searching for her son and his friends.

The sound of shouting and running feet echoed up the street. Then three figures burst into the building. Perrin and Mat were ashen, Rand was merely out of breath, though he did look a bit frightened.

“What happened?” Tigraine demanded before the Wisdom or Aes Sedai could speak.

“Treasure…” Mat huffed out first and then Perrin joined him. “Man…” Their words a jumble. “Expanded and disappeared…”

Rand who had said nothing until they were finished uttered a single name. “Mordeth.” Tigraine did not know it.

“Mordeth!” Moiraine said with sudden wide eyes. “Did he give you anything?” She asked.

“No,” Rand said stepping forward to take charge. Having gathered himself he stood tall and straight again. His eyes defiant as he talked to Moiraine. “When we were in trouble we ran. He gave us nothing and we took nothing from the room.”

The Aes Sedai relaxed. “That is good.” She did not look eager to continue the conversation. “Go to sleep. We will have a hard journey tomorrow.”

Lan returned just before dark. Even Tigraine could see the worry in his expression. The low whispers between him and Moiraine told much.

“We must leave,” Moiraine said facing the room. “The Trollocs have entered the city.”

“What!” Thom’s voice bellowed out deeply, while he clutched his unlit pipe. “I thought you said they feared this place.”

“Apparently they fear what’s driving them more than they do the evil in here.”

The group remained silent. They had to do what the Aes Sedai wanted. They were, as always, at her mercy. Chaos reigned and by the time the sun rose above the distant horizon, Tigraine was all alone.

She gathered herself quickly. The training of a Daughter Heir helped to keep her mind open to her options. She had been trained to remain calm. She took a deep breath. She was not alone. The others had to be nearby and if they were then they could be tracked.

Tigraine smiled. She was also Shaiel, an Aiel Maiden of the Spear. A few Trollocs had met unexpected ends at the end of her knife and their blood stained the front of her dress. Despite keeping her alive in a fight, the training taught the basics of tracking people and beasts.

Those skills, first taught by the Aiel, were refined on the farm with Tam on hunting trips. The poor man could never understand her willingness to go nor her apparent skill at tracking animals.

With that in mind she began a careful study of the land. It took barely twenty minutes before she came across the markings of a human foot. From there it proved relatively easy to follow the trail. A broken branch here, something removed from its proper place there. It soon became apparent that she was following a group of two who were busy being tracked by a single person.

Tigraine grinned. The size and shape of the trailing feet meant Nynaeve was busy tracking Lan and Moiraine.

Her belief was confirmed when she reached a small clearing. Moiraine and Nynaeve stood mere inches from each other. Their hard stares would crack a rock. Wisely, Tigraine decided to wait and see what happened. The two women needed to discuss their problems. Tigraine shook her head in worry for her old friend. Would Moiraine never be able to let go of her Warder.

Lan returned a few minutes later with Nynaeve’s horse. He looked smug, and Nyneave shot him an angry het respectful stare. His eyes found Tigraine.

“You can come out now, Elayne,” he called. Both Moiraine and Nynaeve jumped when he announced her presence.

Nynaeve’s cheeks were slightly tinged and had Moiraine not been an Aes Sedai she would have grown scarlet as well. Probably more so than Nynaeve since the Aes Sedai knew she was being childish.

“Where are the boy’s and Egwene?” Tigraine didn’t really care much for the gleeman.

Moiraine looked ashamed, but not enough for the Wisdom to have noticed. “Two of them were going downstream until they vanished. The other is on the far side of the river moving away from us.”

“Egwene?” Nynaeve asked again.

“I do not know,” she said. “I hope that she is with one of the two groups.”

“Let’s hope she is.” Tigraine tried to say in an upbeat voice.

“Would the two of you stop talking as if I’m not here!” Nynaeve almost shouted.

Tigraine gave her a hard look and the young Wisdom recoiled slightly. She’d never before shown the Daughter Heir side of herself. It was hard and brooked no room for argument.

“Elayne,” Moiraine spoke. “Leave the girl.”

Nynaeve tugged at her braid.

//**//

The two women were just ignoring her like they always did. Her hands whitened as she clutched at her braid.

“Ignore them,” a gentle voice spoke from behind. “Those two…”

“What?” Nynaeve asked her eyes wide as she turned to face the Warder. It was the first time she’d actually been this close to him away from his Aes Sedai. Her heart beat slightly faster and she could feel the familiar warmth in her cheeks from his presence.

For the first time ever she noticed a slight unease in his nature. His eyes glanced towards the pair still talking behind Nynaeve. He sighed and shook his head. As he turned to leave Nynaeve reacted. Her hand moved and took hold of his arm.

“Stay,” she whispered.

He did not face her. “I am not worth the effort, Nynaeve.”

Her chest felt tight. “Is it an effort to be with me?”

“You don’t even know who I am,” he said sharply.

“Look at me,” she whispered back. He twitched slightly. “Please.”

His blue eyes finally looked at her. “You are a man, and I am a woman.”

There was pain in his expression. “Don’t hurt yourself on me.” He said again and then left.

Her hand dropped to her side. Tears threatened to fall.

A gentle hand touched her shoulder. “He’ll come round,” Elayne said.

“Will he?” Nynaeve asked, her anger gone. She needed someone to say that. “Why is he like… like that?”

“Perhaps we should sit for a while,” Elayne replied, pushing Nynaeve to a dry piece of grass.

She sniffed, feeling guilty. “Here I am crying over a man while your son is out there.”

“Rand will be fine. Tam has taught him well,” Elayne said with confidence.

“How can you be so confident?”

“Honestly, I am not. I am more frightened than I’ve ever been.”

Nynaeve looked at her wide eyed. “How?”

“Experience, the years have taught me not to let my fears rule my actions. I cannot do anything to bring Rand to me so I must keep a clear head so that I can find him.”

Nynaeve hung her head slightly.

“But enough of me,” Elayne said. “Lan is a special man.”

“A Warder,” Nynaeve said the word almost like a curse. “A fool man bonded to an Aes Sedai.”

“Ah, that would be where you are wrong, Nynaeve.” Elayne replied.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Beside her, Elayne took a deep breath. She seemed to be making a decision. “Lan Mandragoran.”

The way she said the name made Nynaeve feel as if the name meant much.

“You know of the Borderlands?” Elayne asked.

“Of course,” Nynaeve answered feeling insulted.

“And have you ever heard of Malkier?” She continued.

Nynaeve thought hard. “No, I can’t remember having heard the name.”

“I’m not surprised. The country was overrun by the blight years ago. It was terrible, my mother used to discuss the events for hours with me.”

While she spoke, Nynaeve studied her. The Wisdom had never seen this side of Elayne.

“Lan is of Malkier,” Elayne added. Again it sounded as if Nynaeve should have known something. The woman laughed. “Ask him about it sometime.”

Nynaeve did not know what the woman meant by all this. The long braid hanging across her shoulder was the only thing bringing normality and a sense of home to the world around her. Her fingers encircled her hair. The familiar gesture helped to settle her somewhat. The rest of the group moved about as if in a blur, and she did not look up. What good would it do her?

Then they mounted. She did the same.

She could not remember how long they had been riding before she realised she did not know where they were going or why. “Where are we going?” She asked. With Lan away she felt more confident. He tended to tie her tongue.

“Whitebridge,” Moiraine answered.

Nynaeve wanted to ask why, but Elayne elaborated. “Whitebridge is the first town down river. If two of the boys are on the river, probably on a boat, then they will disembark once they get to the town. If they don’t then we will decided where to go from there.”

“Oh,” Nynaeve replied.

Elayne rode forward, her head held high, back straight. How could she appear more regal than the Aes Sedai. Nynaeve fumed with envy. Would she need to be like them to please Lan? The two women were so similar it infuriated her even more.

It was a long journey to Whitebridge. By the time they reached the large town, Nynaeve had finally managed to get over her anger. Once there, they left quickly. Apparently two of the boys and a gleeman had been in town. From the description they were relatively sure the two had to be Rand and Mat.

Moiraine had not even blinked at the news of the gleeman being dead. She merely stated that it would take much more than the townsman described to kill Thom. Even Lan seemed to doubt her words, but he said nothing to contradict her.

Outside Whitebridge they began traveling along the Queens road. It was well within the safety of the Queens Army and the road was relatively busy. The constant movement of people brought some measure of safety.

For Nynaeve it brought only pain in the form of a Warder. Lan had ridden with them since leaving the town as he considered it safer to be near them. Up until then she had managed to distance her thoughts from him. Now his large form bent her will towards him.

Every time she wanted to talk to him he either moved away or she lost her courage. Two nights from Whitebridge, Nynaeve finally gritted her teeth and asked Lan about Malkier.

“Lan,” she spoke up softly. Elayne and Moiraine were once again deep in conversation. “Elayne told me that you are from a place called Malkier.”

He shifted slightly, a sign of considerable discomfort coming from him. “Did she?” he did not seem impressed and Nynaeve hated herself for going through with what Elayne said. Before she could leave, Lan placed a hand on her arm. “It’s alright, Nynaeve. What she told you is not a secret.”

“It isn’t?” She asked, sensing the lack of anger in his voice. The warmth of his hand on her arm was comforting.

“I should have told you sooner. Now, this close to the heart of Andor my past will catch up with me again.”

“You are making this sound like your some escaped criminal.” She laughed.

In the faint light of the dying fire she could see him smile. They were rare and she cherished each time she’d made him grin.

“Escaped, yes. Criminal, no.” The hint of a smile faded and he sounded pained.

Instinctively she reached out a hand to his. He did not pull way. In fact his palm actually turned to hold her fingers in his. Hard calloused fingers stroked her soft skin.

“In a way I am Malkier,” Lan whispered, turning to face Nynaeve. “Do you want to bind yourself to my countries fate and mine?”

“If it is the only way to have you,” she replied surprising herself with the forwardness of the words

“I…” He coughed. “I am Lord of the Seven Towers, I am the uncrowned king of Malkier.”

Her grip tightened around his hand. To her credit she did not say anything to make her sound like some young fool girl. Instead she reached out a hand and touched his face. “You are still, Lan.” Her voice was low. Even in the near dark she could see the glint of desire in his eyes.

Her hand dropped away and back into his. Neither said another word. The presence of Lan was enough for her. They sat beside each other in silence for the rest of the evening.

//**//

Tigraine studied the pair sitting across from the dying embers of the fire.

“They deserve one another.” Tigraine was surprised when Moiraine spoke the words. “How can I continue to be so selfish? Tigraine, how did I turn into this?”

“You are wed to your cause, as Lan is to his.” Tigraine answered. “Perhaps the time has finally come to pursue those goals differently.”

“But to lose him,” Moiraine said in horror. “To not have his comforting presence in my chest whenever I feel afraid.”

“Do you love him, Moiraine?” Tigraine asked.

Moiraine nodded. “I do, but not in the same way as the Wisdom. I love him as a brother, a friend. If she loves him a tenth of what I feel when he looks at her…” She let her words trail off.

“Moiraine,” Tigraine said placing a comforting arm around her friend. “You know what you will need to do.”

The Aes Sedai nodded. “I need time, but I will do it.”

“You are a good person.” Tigraine held her tight.

“But,” Moiraine spoke again. “Light help that girl if she ever breaks the heart beating in that man’s chest.”

“She is in love,” Tigraine said. “I’ve known her since birth. This is the first time she’s even looked at a man.” She studied the Wisdom as she gripped the Warders hand after Lan said something. “I can see it in everything she does.”

“I know,” Moiraine smiled. “Despite myself, it’s good to see him so in love.”

//**//

Moiraine rode beside Lan the next day.

“I know you love her,” Moiraine said breaking the silence. There was no reply. “Do you want to marry her?”

The lack of an answer was confirmation. Had he not wanted to then he would have been adamant in his refusal. She took a deep breath, stealing herself for what she was about to say. “Your bond will be my gift to the girl.”

“Moiraine!” He said in astonishment. The emotions washing over her were a jumbled mix.

“I want to do this for you, Lan,” she said softly. “You have been faithful to me for years. You have done nothing but give yourself for my cause. It is time that I return the favour.”

“I… thank you, Moiraine Sedai,” he said with more respect than he had ever when addressing her. “Know that even after the bond is passed. I will always be there to serve you.”

“I know, Lan, just remember to keep your wife before me.”

They rode in stillness for a time. She could feel his emotions shift. Then she felt joy radiating from him.

“Why the sudden change?” He asked.

“Tigraine,” Moiraine replied. “She made some things clear to me.”

“Remind me to thank her.”

//**//

Lan was scouting the town they had chosen to stop at. Moiraine, tired and withdrawn the whole day was up in her room sleeping. Elayne sat across from Nynaeve in their room. The only light came from a single candle flickering in the slight draft through the room.

“Do you think Lan cares for me?” Nynaeve asked, feeling foolish and childish for asking such a question of Elayne. Nynaeve’s long braid rested on her lap and she fought the urge to grab hold of it. That was another childlike trait she’d need to unlearn.

Elayne smiled knowingly. “I think he is far beyond caring for you Nynaeve.”

“What do you mean?” She asked. Instinctively her hand went to the braid. With agonising slowness her hand let go of her hair. Instead they straightened her dress.

“Nynaeve,” Elayne began. “Moiraine told me how much Lan loves you.”

“Loves me,” she whispered in a brittle, yet eager voice.

“I don’t need a Warder’s bond to know that the two of you love each other.” Elayne continued. “Not sure how it happened, but love is strange at the best of times.”

Nynaeve had no reply. Instead she found herself wondering about Elayne. The woman was a never ending enigma. “Why are you so close to Moiraine?” Elayne glanced away and her face fell into shadow. “I doubt these past few days were your first encounter.” Still no response. “I studied the two of you when you first met in the town square. I heard what you said and now after travelling with you for a few days I’m sure you knew each other.”

Elayne turned back eventually. “I guess I might as well tell you. It will take a load of my shoulders.”

Nynaeve sat straighter. Every person in Emond’s Field had wanted to hear the true story behind Elayne.

Before more could be said, a soft knock at the door interrupted them. “Are you sleeping?” Moiraine’s voice asked.

“You can come in,” Elayne replied.

The door opened and in strode an exhausted looking Aes Sedai. Her eyes went wide for the briefest of seconds when she saw Nynaeve.

Elayne appeared concerned. “Sit Moiraine, you seem a bit ill.”

“I have been better, but I’m not ill.” Moiraine sat on the one bed, seeing as there were no more chairs in the room.

“I was about to tell Nynaeve about my past.”

Moiraine made no external gesture of surprise. She merely asked. “Is that wise?”

“I think she deserves the truth. If there’s one woman I trust in Emond’s Field, it is Nynaeve.”

The Aes Sedai nodded, despite mostly disagreeing with Nynaeve.

“Moiraine is my sister-in-law.”

Nynaeve’s mouth dropped open.

“I am half-sister to her first husband.” Moiraine clarified.

“You were married to a Damodred?” Nynaeve said in shock.

“Taringail Damodred, to be precise.” Elayne added.

“The previous husband of Queen Morgase?” Nynaeve asked unbelievingly.

“Yes,” Moiraine answered. Aes Sedai could not lie, Nynaeve had seen and heard as much over the past few years. “Elayne is not her real name. Rather, she is Tigraine Mantear, the former Daughter Heir of Andor.”

Nynaeve had no reply. She alternated stares between Tigraine and Moiraine, waiting for them to burst out laughing.

“You know of Galad Damodred?” Moiraine asked and Nynaeve nodded. “He is Tigraine’s oldest son and half-brother to Rand.”

This proved too much for Nynaeve and she fled the room. Outside she ran straight into a solid wall that was Lan.

“Are you alright?” He asked in concern.

She dug her face into his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. “They said that Elayne is…” she could not finish the sentence.

“Tigraine, the former Daughter Heir. I know.”

She pulled away slightly. “You knew and you did not tell me?”

He smiled, pulling her closer again. “It was not my secret to tell.”

She stopped fighting. Instead choosing to hold onto his warm body. It felt nice to be near him, to be held by him.

“I love you, Nynaeve.” The words were followed by a kiss to her forehead.

She looked up. His face had never been so soft nor fragile before. In that moment she held the power to destroy him. “I love you.” She laughed. “I don’t know why or how, but I do love you, Lan.”

His powerful arms wrapped around her small body and with seeming ease he lifted her from the ground. Then they were kissing. It was her first kiss. His rough lips against hers sent waves of pleasure coursing through her body. How had she lived without him?

//**//

The next day Tigraine rode beside alongside Moiraine. The Warder and the Wisdom were in a world of their own.

“How far are we from one of the boys?” Tigraine asked Moiraine.

Moiraine made no outward sign, but she was thinking or rather feeling at something. “He is a few leagues from the road. We should reach him by nightfall.”

“Shouldn’t we be hurrying? He could be in danger.”

“He could be in danger.” Moiraine agreed. “And if he is and we ride harder our horses may be too tired to ride us out of danger.”

Tigraine understood. “And the other two?”

“They moved along this road. A day, maybe two, before us.”

“Caemlyn,” Tigraine thought aloud. “If Rand were one of the two then he would head straight for Caemlyn.”

“Lan,” Moiraine called. The Warder came closer.

“Yes, Moiraine,” he asked.

“We should be reaching the first boy by nightfall. Be sure to not over exert us, there might be trouble at the end.”

As they began to turn off the road, Tigraine’s gaze lingered on the route to Caemlyn. She knew Rand was there.

“I must leave you, Moiraine.” Tigraine said.

With a shout and kick her horse sped away before anyone could reply. She wanted to and needed to find Rand. Her heart was pounding in her chest. She could feel him needing her.

She had barely galloped a mile when Nynaeve’s horse pulled up next to her.

“Fool woman!” The Wisdom grumbled.

Tigraine did not relent. She wanted to reach Caemlyn before the end of the day. “I must find Rand!” She called out over the loud thumping hooves.

Eventually they needed to slow down. A horse could not gallop for long. Easing to a trot they finally managed to speak.

“I’m sorry, Nynaeve,” Tigraine spoke in a low voice.

The Wisdom did not acknowledge her apology. “You better hope Lan and Moiraine return.” There was definite longing in her voice.

“I’m sure they will be alright,” Tigraine replied. “They have been looking after each other for years.” The words did not help settle the younger woman’s agitation.

“So is any of this land yours?” Nynaeve asked, still looking straight ahead.

“I’m not sure anymore,” Tigraine sighed. Her hand pointed to a small hill in the distance. “That used to belong to my family. I can still remember running around under the trees, hiding from my brother, Luc.”

Nynaeve turned at the mention of a brother. “He saved me amongst those same trees.” Tigraine laughed without mirth. “I was fool enough to race my horse against the wind.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Had he not caught up with me I would’ve fallen to my death.”

“Is he still here?”

“No, Moiraine told me that he never returned from an expedition to the Blight.” A tear formed and slipped down her cheek. “Light willing, he is only hiding in the Borderlands. Luc was never one for being in the public eye.”

“Any other members of your family still alive?”

“A few uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces but no one closer.” Tigraine replied. She did not need to mention Galad. “But there are better things to discuss than my past.”

“Like what?” Nynaeve grumbled.

“Oh, the budding romance between Warder and Wisdom.” Tigraine said airily. To her surprise the Wisdom blushed, something very unlike her.

“You already know everything there is to know.”

“Do I?” Tigraine asked with a raised eyebrow. “Is he a good kisser?”

“What?” Nynaeve shouted shaking her head.

“I’ll take it that he is lousy then.”

“No!” the Wisdom defended.

“Oh,” Tigraine laughed. “So he is quite the man then.”

Nynaeve’s cheeks went even redder. “He is more than adequate.”

Tigraine did not push her. “He seems to be rather serious about you.”

“He is,” Nynaeve agreed.

“I think he loves you more than you can imagine, considering…” Tigraine bit off her next sentence.

“Considering what?”

“I guess Moiraine would have told you at some point before you reached Tar Valon. Nynaeve, you can wield the One Power.”

There was a stunned silence. Then a laugh. “Don’t you think I would have noticed if I could channel.”

“No, not necessarily.”

Nynaeve pulled on her reigns, halting her horse. “This is not really something to joke about Tigraine.”

“It’s no joke. Haven’t you ever wondered why some of your herbs work so well? Sometime you heal with the One Power and not just herbs.”

Nynaeve stared at Tigraine, but the Wisdom was not seeing her. Instead her eyes were distant, seeing back into the past. “Surely not,” she whispered.

“I can channel as well,” Tigraine laughed and Nynaeve’s eyes went wide in shock. “Barely a trickle, but there is some ability.”

“Light! Am I surrounded by anybody who can’t channel?”

“Well the men around you can’t.”

Nynaeve snorted. “Considering my luck, at least one of them can.”

Tigraine hesitated and her retort never came. Could one of them really channel? If one of them could, then the most obvious would be her son. “No, I’m sure none of them can.”

“By the Light, I hope you’re right, Tigraine.”

The rode on in silence. Both of their minds were occupied. Tigraine’s with images of Rand going mad. Nynaeve, no doubt, was thinking of Lan.

“Will he still love me knowing that I can channel?”

“He already knows,” Tigraine answered.

The Wisdom grabbed hold of her reigns tightly. The leather giving her braid a rest from being tugged. “When I get my hands on that lying…” her voice grew inaudible as she rapidly mumbled what she would do to him.

Tigraine raised an eyebrow, some of younger woman’s ideas were rather creative. Thankfully, Tigraine was not at the receiving end of her anger. She, like Nynaeve, knew it was Moiraine who was to blame.

“Don’t blame Moiraine too much. She was only trying to protect you.”

She stopped mumbling to herself. “I don’t need protecting.”

“I know,” Tigraine replied leaning over to place a hand on the woman’s shoulder. “Humour an older woman who thinks she knows best.”

“She does make a habit of being right,” Nynaeve grumbled.

“That she does. The woman has had that annoying ability before she even became an Aes Sedai.”

They continued to ride hard and as night began to fall, they rode into Caemlyn.

Tigraine smiled, she was home. Little had changed since her last being in town.

“I hope you know where you are going?” The Wisdom asked.

Tigraine’s eyes widened at the sight of men and woman with red and white pieces of cloth. Had things gotten this bad? Something began to burn inside her.

“I think I can find my family home,” Tigraine answered fiercely before starting to race her horse through the streets of Ceamlyn.

//**//

Nynaeve glanced up at a shield atop the door. “Where are we?”

“House Mantear,” the older woman replied.

The Wisdom gulped nervously. Tigraine had no such reservations. She appeared to be in her element, despite the worn clothes. Without a care in the world the woman walked to the door and knocked. It took only a few moments for a liveried servant to open it. He was an old man, nearing his sixtieth year, with grey hair.

“Avin,” Tigraine greeted in surprise.

The man blinked a few times, almost like he saw something familiar, but could not place it.

“Pardon, madame, do I know you?”

“Light, Avin! Don’t you recognise the Lady of the House. I am Tigraine.”

The man’s eyes went wider at her proclamation and wider still as he recognised her features.

“It is you,” he whispered in a voice that did not want to believe what it was saying. “Come in, my Lady.”

Tigraine glided into the house and Nynaeve found herself shuffling in behind her.

“This is Nynaeve al’Meara a very close friend of mine,” Tigraine announced. “I trust you will take care of all her needs.”

“As you command, my Lady,” the man bowed deeply.

“Who is in residence?” She asked.

“No one, my Lady. They are all out at the country estate.”

Tigraine spun round to look at him sternly. “That is strange. With all the political undercurrents I sensed in the city shouldn’t they be here to further our House position?”

The man bowed apologetically. “House Mantear is strong, my Lady. The fact remains that we have no lady eligible for the thrown. It was deemed unwise for the House to be caught in a power struggle in which there was no gain to be had.” His eyes sparkled suddenly.

Tigraine hid her own smirk. “Send out riders. I’ve returned.”

The man gave an even deeper bow. “Thank you, my Lady.” He straightened and left.

“What is going on, Tigraine?” Nynaeve asked nervously. “What are you planning?”

“I am doing what I was born to do. I am going to take back what is ours.” Tigraine inhaled deeply. Her posture showed nothing but supreme confidence. “Morgase was never meant for the Lion Throne.”

“You are going to start civil war?” Nynaeve said angrily.

“War?” Tigraine shook her head. “No.” She walked towards a window and motioned for Nynaeve to join her. “Look out the window and tell me what you see.”

She did as told, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. “I see people walking about.”

“Does anything appear strange?”

She studied the people. Everyone walked about attending to their business. Then it struck her. “They are wearing either red or white.”

“Exactly,” Tigraine whispered. “The age old custom of Caemlyn. Morgase’s rule is tenuous at best and the people are beginning to choose sides.” She moved away from the window as servants began to pile nervously into the room. “I am merely going to use that flame to secure the city and find my sons.”

“My Lady,” an older woman said loudly from behind. Tears of joy were running down her face. “Awin said, but I…” she could hardly speak as she bowed before Tigraine.

“Please, Maigen, rise,” Tigraine said. “You’ve known me since a babe. There is no need for such things.”

The woman stood and the younger girls shuffled about, dropping curtsies.

A few minutes later, Nynaeve was in a large room. A beautiful dress lay on the bed and everything else a young lady would need was placed neatly about the room.

What had Tigraine called her as the servants asked after Nynaeve Tigraine’s words still floated through her mind. “She is a dear friend, Lady Nynaeve al’Meara.”

Just like that, she had become nobility.

“Excuse me, my Lady,” a soft voice asked from behind. Nynaeve jumped in surprise. “Sorry to bother, my Lady. Would you be needing anything else?”

She wanted to say no. Instead she said, “A hot bath would be nice.”

“As you please, my Lady,” the girl curtsied with a smile and left the room quietly.

Walking towards the bed, Nynaeve tried to take in the room. It was larger than her entire home. Reaching the bed, her fingers trailed over the silk dress. The material probably cost more than a few years’ wages as Wisdom. The Woman’s Circle was rather stingy about giving. Then again, Emond’s Field was poor.

She picked up the dress and held it up before her. It was beautiful, and in what she assumed was the strictest Andoran fashion. She hugged it close to her chest and imagined what Lan would think of her in the dress.

“Lan would approve of the dress,” Tigraine’s voice spoke from the door. For the second time, Nynaeve jumped and let the dress fall back onto the bed.

“I was… you know…”

“Admiring the dress. If you do not like it, your maid can find you another one.”

“My… my maid.” Nynaeve stuttered.

“Of course, if you’re going to be staying here as a close friend of the family then you will need a maid.” Nynaeve had no reply. “It is of course temporary. As soon as you go to the White Tower then all of this will become redundant.”

“White Tower?”

“You can channel, remember. That means Moiraine will ensure you go to the Tower to train.”

“That woman!” Nynaeve shouted, grabbing her braid.

“I do tend to agree with her.” Tigraine took a step closer and her voice became soft and motherly. “The White Tower is a place where you will learn much. You love healing do you not.” She nodded. “Do you know about the Yellow Ajah?” Nynaeve shook her head. “The Yellow Ajah pride themselves on healing. Among them you can learn great things, perhaps you can even teach them a thing or two.”

Despite her anger, she still nodded in wonder. A place where she could be among women like herself, people who wanted to help and heal others.

“It’s a difficult road. You will need to enrol as a Novice then work your way up to an Accepted and only after a few years will they raise you to an Aes Sedai.”

“What of the boys, how will they get back to Emond’s Field?”

Tigraine exhaled and walked away. “I doubt any of them will return to Emond’s Field. You perhaps least of all. Well, to stay at least.”

“I will go back.” Nynaeve replied forcefully.

“Will you? Would you not rather spend your time with Lan?”

Tigraine spoke the truth. Her words made Nynaeve sink down onto the bed.

Eventually she glanced up to find her room empty. She almost sighed in relief, but the young girl, her maid, entered the room.

“Your bath is ready, my Lady.”

“What is your name?” Nynaeve asked. “And please call me Nynaeve.”

The girl frowned. “I am Estelle, my Lady.” She glanced at her feet.

Nynaeve grumbled. She did, however, enjoy her bath.

When Nynaeve finally managed to climb into bed Estelle entered again. “The Lady Tigraine has asked me to tell that you will be leaving for the Palace tomorrow morning.”

Nynaeve stared wide-eyed at the girl. She did manage a nod before the girl disappeared.

A/N Thank you for reading. Comments and suggestions are appreciated as always. Honestly, I don’t really like this chapter that much, but it is a means to get the characters to Caemlyn where the story can begin to change.