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View Full Version : A Different Wheel - Ch.5


st122
08-03-2011, 02:52 PM
A/N I hope you enjoy this instalment.

Rand sat on the cold floor with his head leaning back against the stone wall. The trickle of light, which had been coming through a single small opening all day was beginning to fade. Dusk had arrived and it grew eversteadily colder within the damp confines of the dungeon. The stone floor and walls did little to maintain any heat. Was this what had awaited Rand’s departure from Emond’s Field, an adventure straight to the gallows?

Galad sat motionless with his back against the opposite wall. His eyes were closed as they had been for the last hour. Rand could not be sure how long as time held little meaning. The only movement came from the shallow rise and falls of arms beneath Galad’s black cloak as he breathed. Rand could not tell if Galad slept or if he was as deep in thought as he himself was.

Sleep eluded Rand. His mind kept going through the few random memories floating in his mind. Despite trying to remember more, he still only saw a few brief flashes of a woman with red hair. For little more than hour he had been trying to visualise her face. Though the image had grown clearer, he could still not fathom her age. She had the appearance of someone ancient and still she did not look much older than Moiraine. It made him think of Moiraine’s face, but it held no hint of agelessness common to Aes Sedai. It was more like Morgase, and perhaps his mother, age ripened beauty.

The more he considered the few short memories, the more he became certain they all came from a single man’s point of view. Rand tried pushing them away, but no matter how hard he concentrated on other things the memories would not fade.

Not for the first time since it happened, Rand wandered what had happened to him on top the ship’s mast on the journey to Whitebridge? Something had been triggered.

“You two seem to be thinking hard,” Logain said in a deep voice from the other cell. The two Red Sister’s twitched slightly at the sound even though they tried hard to remain poised and fearless.

Galad’s head lifted calmly from where he sat huddled and when he opened his dark eyes they held no drowsiness like Rand expected. They were as sharp and perceiving as always. “There is much for me to consider,” Galad replied calmly. “I’m sure a man like yourself knows what it feels like.”

Logain gave a faint nod. “That I do.” His voice was barely audible. “And you, young man?” Logain asked. He sounded weary. “What keeps a mind like yours occupied for a whole day?”

Two things had kept his mind from falling asleep. The first being a head full of memories from a strange man. Rand glanced at Galad. The second was his internal conflict over Min and Elayne. He knew the whole concept was foolish. There could be no future for him and Elayne. She was the Daughter Heir and him but a simple farmer from the Two Rivers. Then there was the fact that Darkfriends wanted to kill him. Why they wanted him he still could not fathom. Moiraine had never been very forthcoming. Aes Sedai were like that, or so his mother had always told him. In the end it all boiled down to one answer. There was no point in musing over Elayne’s red cheeks, blue eyes and golden hair. She would never be his, just like Min would never find him again. Maybe there was another woman out there who he was destined to spend his life with.

Rand coughed to clear his throat and mind. “Actually, I was thinking about a young woman I met in Baerlon a few days ago.”

Logain brightened at the mention of a woman. “Oh, do tell,” he chuckled clapping his hands together in glee. “Is she tall, dark and slender?”

Rand felt his cheeks tinge slightly. Galad was watching him intently and so were the two Aes Sedai. In the end Rand decided to answer. Talking to someone about something normal was nice, even if he happened to be a False Dragon. “She is mysterious,” Rand began slowly and he could feel every eye settle on him as they listened intently.

“Those are always the best,” Logain cut in as he nodded. Rand shot him a glare. “Sorry, I’ll keep quiet.” Despite the apology the man did not look repentant. Rand got the feeling Logain did not give way to any man or woman easily.

“He’s a strong ally,” A rough voice whispered in Rand’s head and he jerked suddenly bringing his hands up to cover his head.

“Are you alright, Rand?” Galad asked standing next to Rand. He could not remember seeing the man move.

Steadying himself against the wall with a hand, Rand indicated he was alright. “I’m fine. Really, I must’ve hit my head harder than I imagined falling into the palace grounds this morning.”

The answer satisfied Galad. He did, however, keep a wary eye on Rand.

“Where was I?” Rand said brushing his hand through his hair in a vain attempt at clearing his mind. Logain an ally? Why would a voice say something so deranged? Still, he could not help but look at Logain and imagining a man with such strength behind him. Rand shook his head. Why would he even be needing allies?

“You were saying this young woman was mysterious,” Galad replied calmly as he leaned back against the wall while crossing his arms. The pair of Aes Sedai watched him as he walked, their eyes lusted after him despite them being of the Red Ajah.

“I did? Oh yes, she is,” Rand laughed, despite all his thinking over Min he had never really thought of describing her. “She is slender and not very tall.” He sighed as their short encounter at the window came back to him. “Her hair is short and her eyes large and dark,” he spoke softly and as the memory immersed him he could almost feel Min standing before him.

The bliss faded quickly when Galad spoke. “And all the looks you were sending Elayne this morning?”

Logain moved towards the bars of his cell, completely ignoring the two Aes Sedai who now stood mere feet from him. Rand could see the pleasure the man took from the Aes Sedai shuffling away slowly. “Are you saying our young friend here,” Logain began while pointing at Rand, “is a bit of a ladies man?”

Galad did not give Rand a friendly look. “I’m nothing of the sort.” Rand defended. “Light, I met the girl from Baerlon once for only a few minutes and I’ve spoken more words to El.. the Daughter Heir than Min.”

“Oh,” Logain laughed. “We have a name for this mystery woman.”

“So do you like this Min?” Galad asked pointedly. “As much as I do disagree with my half-sister I would not like to see her heart broken.” Galad narrowed his eyes and Rand got the message. Tred lightly or else.

Rand groaned and slid down to the floor. “I’ll probably never see Min again and I do not believe it is a farmer’s position to court royalty.”

“A farmer?” Logain said in surprise and he glanced at Galad. “This man can’t just be a farmer. I mean he is dressed in rags, but he does not have the bearing of a peasant.”

Galad gave a slight sign indicating his uncertainty. “Rand says he is or rather was a farmer.” He turned to study Rand. “And you carry a Heron marked blade.” His eyes flicked over Rand’s body. “You have the build and stance of a bladesman.”

There seemed little point in keeping certain things secret. “What I told you this morning is the truth. I was raised on a farm by my mother and Tam al’Thor. He fought in many wars including the Aiel War. During one of those campaigns he defeated a blademaster in single combat and earned the right to the title and sword.” Rand inhaled, the room was silent. Even the Aes Sedai were taking in every word. He had to be careful so he twisted the story slightly. “Then a few weeks ago an Aes Sedai came to the Two Rivers. She found a girl who could channel and so had to bring her to the White Tower. Being in want of an adventure I accompanied them. Her warder trained me further on the journey to Caemlyn.”

“Does this Aes Sedai have a name?” The one woman asked. Her tone indicated her disbelief of the tale.

There was no point in lying. “Moiraine Sedai.” Rand answered.

The two women made only the slightest sign of recognition. Even such a small sign meant they were rather shocked by the name. “Do you know her?”

“She is my aunt,” Galad answered for them. “I’ve not seen her in a couple of years.”

Rand’s eyes opened wide. “Is she really?”

“She is my father’s half-sister.”

It made sense. “I guess it explains why you look more like Moiraine than any of the Andorans I’ve seen.”

“Yes,” he spoke slowly. “I’ve taken after my father, or so most people say at least. They do say I have something of my mother as well.” At the mention of his mother Galad’s eyes darkened and he withdrew into a world of his own.

“Why the sudden withdrawal?” Logain asked Rand.

“Tigraine Mantear has returned and Galad is being held hostage by Morgase.” Rand answered.

The conversation died down. The Aes Sedai were not the type to speak, especially not to men. They might want to use them in some way, but never talk to them. Galad was lost in his internal agony over his mother and desire to be away from here. Rand just wanted to go home and work quietly on the farm with Tam.

Logain studied Rand for a long time. It was unnerving, almost like he was looking at a piece of meat and trying to weigh it. Then he seemed to come to some conclusion. Still not letting his eyes waver from Rand, Logain sat on the floor and crossed his legs. Only then did he close his eyes.Then his lips began to move and he whispered seemingly to himself. Logain said nothing to anyone, but Rand got the distinct feeling the words being muttered were meant for him. The Aes Sedai watched Logain warily. Rand would have as well, a man who with the ability to channel could not be trusted.

“Be the flame, you are one with the flame,” Logain whispered. It was loud enough to carry across to Rand.

He could not help wonder what the man was up to. Had he gone mad? Was this what the taint did to men? Talking to yourself and mumbling words. Not knowing what else to do, Rand sighed and closed his own eyes while the never ceasing murmurings of Logain, the False Dragon, washed over him.

“Feel it, feel the flame, be the flame. Poor all your emotions into the flame.” The low hypnotic voice droned on in the distance.

“Not this again.” One of the Aes Sedai moaned. “Be still, Logain. Those chants won’t get saidin to you through the shield.”

Rand shivered. Was Logain trying to see if Rand could channel? Then he remembered Logain’s laughter earlier. Another, slightly hazy memory he had been suppressing, returned. The whole evening in the small town had been a rush. They had needed to escape Darkfriends, but were trapped within an inn. In desperation Mat and Rand had tried to escape through a series of iron bars blocking a window. As his panic had grown something changed within him, a feeling of… His thoughts trailed off as the memory grew confusing. They had managed to escape when a bolt of lightning struck the inn where Mat and Rand had been staying. Then they had been outside in the rain and running. A fever had gripped Rand during the following days. He had assumed it was due to the rain. Had the sickness been something else entirely? The line of thought was not comforting.

The memories of the man came to him again as the other faded. The ability to see weaves of saidin woven before him by his own hands. Complex interweaving of various threads. Some threads looked alike, but they varied. There were five different ones. He could see them clearly. Water, Fire, Earth, Air and Spirit. The names just came to him. Together they made the five elements of the One Power.

Instinctively, Rand slipped into the void. His emotions poured into the flame he could create easily within his mind. Tam’s flame and void, the mental exercise used by blademasters to perfect their skills as swordsmen. The place where all things external could not affect you. You were one with your mind.

And then he could feel it. The sensation was new, something he’d never felt before, or rather never considered to be anything. Outside the void he sensed a single presence, like something hovering around him. Tentatively he opened himself to it. In a distant memory he recalled Moiraine telling Egwene that touching saidar was like an embrace. A woman needed to surrender to the One Power.

Rand relaxed, ready to embrace saidin. It slammed into him. Life giving and pure it rammed into his every being. It took all his remaining strength not to gasp nor show any other signs of what he’d done. He gritted his teeth and fought to remain in control as it threatened to submerge him, drown him with its power. Then with agonising slowness he pushed it away. The One Power had been in him. He tried not to breathe too heavily. Saidin had flowed through his veins. He felt like letting lose a curse at Moiraine. Saidin was not something to be embraced, you needed to seize it by the scruff of the neck and dominate it.

He opened his eyes and wiped away the beads of sweet which had formed on his forehead. Logain was staring at him with wide open eyes even as he continued his chants. They held an element of awe, but mostly he looked upon Rand with fear. Rand wanted to laugh. Logain was the False Dragon and within the blink of an eye, he was frightened of Rand. Thankfully the Aes Sedai did not notice the stares between the men. The mutterings of Logain had them too upset to focus on their surroundings. Rand suspected they were concentrating on keeping their shields intact.

Even Galad stared at Rand, his gaze questioning. Then he shuffled closer so as not to be overheard. “What was that?” he questioned in a very soft voice. He was not fool enough to let the Aes Sedai hear. Especially not when discussing things a man felt that no woman had sensed.

“You felt that?” Rand asked in confusion.

“It was strange,” Galad replied. “What did the Aes Sedai do?”

Rand’s mouth moved, but he had trouble forming the words. He could channel and even now he could feel a sickly after taste. It did not take much to link the foulness with the supposed taint on saidin. The very essence which turned men insane. Despite maintaining a measure of control, Rand’s hands began to tremble slightly. He hid them beneath his cloak.

“They did nothing,” Rand began in a voice even lower than Galad’s. “I touched…” He could not speak the words. “You know, I touched…” Rand tried to explain, but his mouth went dry as realisation began to dawn on him.

Galad paled at the implication of what Rand was trying to say.Then Galad made a connection, which Rand made at the same moment. Galad had said he felt something. “I can as well, can’t I?” Galad breathed out and his one hand ran through the length of his black hair. It was the first time Rand recalled seeing the man shaken. Despite not knowing Galad for long, the man always seemed to have an aura of strength and control about him.

Logain had stopped whispering. The looks of fear and worry had receded, now he was smiling broadly. Rand could not decide which was worse, the fear or the joy.

“The world is poised.”Logain laughed out loud again.

“Would you stop this rambling, Logain!” The younger of the two Aes Sedai snapped. Apparently the mere idea of him channelling again was enough to make even Red Sisters uneasy. Rand wanted to laugh at the situation, but he was too afraid of the Sisters. What would the two women do if they knew all three men in the dungeon could channel?

//**//

Galad was still trying to get over the shock of learning he might be able to touch the One Power when a large group of Aes Sedai entered the dungeon. For the first time in years he felt a cold fear grip his body. Knowing you had the ability to channel and then be surrounded by Sisters of the Red Ajah was about as bad as having the Dark One himself breathe down your neck. Beside him, Rand tensed in a similar fashion.His hands were still hidden beneath his cloak where it proved difficult to see them shaking, but they did tremble.

“They cannot know,” Rand whispered in what was probably an attempt to settle his own nerves. The words worked on Galad and he let out a long breath he had not realised was being held.

They received a few cold stares from the woman, but it soon became apparent that they held no interest in either of them. In less time than it took to contemplate their actions, the Aes Sedai were gone and the Logain with them.

Galad’s shoulders slumped while giving a relieved chuckle. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so frightened in my life.”

“When that large woman turned her blue eyes on me I had been sure my end was near.” Rand laughed along. “Light!” Rand breathed out. “That was bloody frightening.”

Then the sickening realisation returned. “Our days have been numbered.”

“There must be a way to get around the taint. There must be.” Rand said through gritted teeth.

Galad did not feel convinced by Rand’s determination and weariness overcame him. Why now? Or was this fates last cruel hand, which would deny him any sense of satisfaction.

“There has to be something.” Rand muttered again on the far side of the cell. “Light, I’m not going to die mad.”

Galad did not reply. He only moved again when a palace guard entered with a sealed envelope. His hands trembled. It bore the seal of House Mantear. There was hope, there had to be. Galad served the Light and the Creator would shelter him in the palm of his hand.

//**//

Tigraine, dressed in Mantear blue stood in the entrance hall of her family house. Nynaeve stood behind her in a similar dress, except hers was green and less extravagant.

“You don’t have to come, Nynaeve. The court of Caemlyn is no place for you,” Tigraine said turning to the former Wisdom. She did not look troubled and her braid hung comfortably behind her. She was putting on a brave face, but there was a tension in her movements.

“Rand needs us and I am not going to let an Emond’s Field boy be locked in a dungeon for no reason?” the younger woman said in the firm voice of a Wisdom. “And if he does deserve being there then I’ll box his ears in all the way back into the cell.”

“So be it,” Tigraine said when it became apparent there was no keeping Nynaeve away from the Palace. Not pleased, but with little else to do, Tigraine handed a sealed envelope to one of the house messengers. The White Anvil on his chest declared him a servant of House Mantear. “Deliver this into the hands of Queen Morgase.” She commanded. "You are to see she reads the letter. Then you are to await a reply.” The young messenger bowed his head and ran as soon as his foot was out the door.

“What do we do now?” Nynaeve asked, this time there was a faint unease in her voice.The fears within the girl were beginning to show.

Tigraine tried to smile motherly. “We wait for a reply.” She walked around to keep busy. “Morgase will read the letter and have no choice but to send for us.” Or at least that was what she hoped for.

The younger woman did not relax much. Being the Wisdom of a small town, she was used to always being in control. Not having control over the events around her surely unnerved Nynaeve. “Are you sure you want to do this. I mean Rand is not some piece of livestock to be traded.” There was a definite note of anger in her voice.

At least the few stolen hours with Lan had done Nynaeve some good. She had been able to flaunt herself a little in the fine dress she wore. The two of them had been able to relax and talk, something the journey here had denied them. Moiraine had promised the Wisdom her bond with Lan as a wedding gift. A marriage, however, lay in the distant future. Lan was already wed to his war. He would not leave until it was over.

Even though there was a struggle underlying their relationship, Nynaeve had still glowed when she sat by the pond holding Lan’s hand. They had talked in quiet whispers. Occasionally she had scowled in the direction of Egwene or Mat when they had wandered too close.

Egwene had been envious, and tried to form part of the conversation. Mat joked about, while Perrin on the other hand had remained aloof the entire time. Tigraine wanted to go talk to the boy, but that would have ruined her ploy. Elayne al’Thor was not the same woman as Tigraine Mantear. If Morgase got wind of Rand’s true identity a lot of Tigraine’s bargaining power would be lost. Rand’s true identity remaining unknown might be crucial over the coming hours. When he was out of the palace the truth could be revealed.

Tigraine thought back to her brief discussion with Moiraine.

“How are you coping with Lan and Nynaeve?” Tigraine asked Moiraine from where they stood studying the group of Emond’s Fielders.

Moiraine did not reply immediately. “I am trying, Tigraine.”

They moved away from where they might be seen by the others. “She’ll be in the White Tower for the next few years while you are away with Lan. I’m sure in that time you’ll be able to come to terms with the promise you made Lan.”

“I hope you’re right, Tigraine,” Moiraine sighed.

Tigraine smiled and added. “Who knows, perhaps you’ll meet someone along the way.” Moiraine stiffened at the mention of another man. “Wait, you have met a man.” Tigraine added.

Moiraine moved away quickly while not letting her haste ruin her poise. “I will get it out of you, Moiraine,” Tigraine called out after her. The Aes Sedai did not reply.

Eventually the group’s short stay ended. Moiraine, Lan and the rest of the Emond’s Fielders left. It was deemed wise for them not to be seen at Tigraine’s house. Nynaeve remained behind and Moiraine told them that the Wisdom had been ordered to stay by the Lady Tigraine as she had grown attached to her company.

Nynaeve pacing about brought Tigraine out of her reverie.

“Lan enjoyed your company today.” Tigraine broke the silence. The Wisdom jumped slightly at the sudden appearance of Tigraine.

Nynaeve stopped walking and gave her a very uncertain look. “Did he? I wasn’t quite sure what he thought of me.”

“Nynaeve, you are a beautiful young woman and I daresay the dress your maid found you isn’t hindering your appearance.” She enjoyed Nynaeve’s girlish grin for the brief moment it lit her face. “Trust me when I say that Lan couldn’t keep his eyes off you.”

Even though the smile vanished, a small glimmer still shone in Nynaeve’s eyes. Despite having only ever worn stout Two River’s woollens, Tigraine got the feeling the Wisdom would soon begin to like fineries. Especially if Lan appreciated it.

“Just remember,” Tigraine interrupted the girl’s thoughts before she imagined herself in robes of gold. “Lan loves what he saw back in Emond’s Field.” Nynaeve gave Tigraine a confused look. “He loves the woman in here,” she continued while holding her hand against Nynaeve’s chest. “He sees a strong independent woman, not some foolish noblewoman.”

“But you just said he liked what he saw,” the young woman said almost incoherently.

“Of course he loved seeing you in a pretty dress. He’ll always appreciate it. I am warning you to be careful to not let these dresses change who you are.”

Before Nynaeve could reply. The messenger hurried back into the house. He was out of breath from riding through the city. Tigraine moved towards him rapidly, but still gracefully as taught.

The young man gave a slight bow and handed Tigraine a letter. “Thank you.” The man bowed respectfully again and left. Tigraine turned it over slowly in her hand, it bore the seal of Morgase Trakand. What did the quick reply mean? Was Morgase admitting she was the weaker of the two and desperate? Perhaps she thought her position firm enough to invite Tigraine to a meeting on her own terms. Tigraine’s hand turned the letter over again and again as she considered what to do. Only after the servant was gone and her mind made did she rip the seal open to read the letter.

“Nynaeve, we will be leaving for the Palace immediately.”

“What of Moiraine and the others?” Nynaeve asked.

Tigraine made no reply. Instead she lifted a hand to call one of the messengers. “Moiraine will meet us at the palace gates.” A man came hurrying towards her. She gave him a few short instructions and then he left.

A minute later a tall man came marching into the entrance hall. His shoulders were broad and strong. His angular face was framed by darkish golden hair. At his waist he wore a Heron marked blade and his every movement, like Lan, emphasised control.

“We are ready to leave, Captain Bawyn.” Tigraine said after he gave a slight bow in respect.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Lady Tigraine?” His voice was deep and had a strained quality to it. He was barely into his thirties and like his parents he served his entire life for House Mantear.

Tigraine stared into his grey eyes. His father was a Borderlander and had formed the core of Mantear’s guards. Now the boy she knew had grown up into a man who had taken his father’s responsibilities upon his own shoulders. It was a heavy burden and the lines on his face showed as much.

“I’ve thought this through, Captain.” Tigraine replied. “I am confident this will go well.”

He clamped his mouth shut and his grey eyes grew hard. “You have just arrived, caused problems and now you expect us to march right into the Queens playground?” A hint of anger laced his words. In some way he was right in admonishing her.

“I do,” Tigraine replied slowly, her eyes just as hard as his.

He steeled himself and gave another curt salute. “I will gather your honour guard.” He turned to leave.

“It will go well Bawyn.” Tigraine said when he was a few paces away. He stopped. “After today I will have a new assignment for you.” He turned towards her slowly. “It will be more exciting than watching over an old lady like myself.”

He did not look pleased at the prospect of being ordered about. “I live to serve, my Lady.” Then he left.

A half an hour later they were riding amongst a large group of twenty heavily armed horsemen wearing the colours of House Mantear. Polished breast plates shone in the afternoon sunlight. Each man was highly trained and a veteran of countless battles and even wars. Each cavalryman held a spear upright in his right hand. Their usual lances would be too long for the confined streets of Caemlyn or the gardens of the Royal Palace. On the hip of every man hung a sword and just like their spears these men knew how to handle them.The lead horseman was Captain Bawyn, beside him rode another senior guard with the House emblem – a White Anvil – on a banner.

The dense crowds of Caemlyn parted before the column without any need for shouts or commands. A group like this was not to be harassed even when the hard faces of the guardsmen were ignored. The citizens stared up at them with curious eyes and they grew more interested at Tigraine’s presence.

The Lord of House Mantear had been a small boy called Perival. Tigraine’s arrival had usurped his authority and news of the change travelled quickly through the city. Hence, Captain Bawyn’s presence. Along with his other duties he was the chief bodyguard of House Mantear.

Caemlyn, being a large city, meant the ride to the palace took longer than expected. Tigraine had forgotten the enormity of the city. In all honesty she had never been in the city much. Most of her time had been spent either in the palace or out on the family estates with her brother.

The street widened into one of Caemlyn’s wide main roads. Trees lined the middle. They rode in silence. The men beside her began to grow steadily more tense. The gleam in their eyes of earlier was beginning to fade. Their knuckles were turning white around the handles of their spears and the only comfort came from the horses hooves on the cobbled road.

Eventually they reached the crossroad which would take them to gates of the Royal Palace. Tigraine felt her stomach flutter and then they took the last turn and the large gates of the palace came into view. An overwhelming sense of being home flooded over her and tears began to form.

“Are you alright?” Nynaeve asked softly.

Tigraine barely managed a reply. “I’m fine. This, Nynaeve, was my home. The place where I spent my childhood.”

The Wisdom drew in a deep breath. It was one thing knowing Tigraine to be the Daughter Heir, it was quite another to see it.

The column of guards gathered around close to Nynaeve and Tigraine. Captain Bawyn let his hand drop to the hilt of his sword and spoke in a commanding voice. “The Lady Tigraine Mantear.”

The soldiers of the Palace Guard looked uneasy. Tigraine wanted to smile. Bawyn was just like his father. Twenty armed men under the command of his father had filled men with fear. Bawyn instilled the same amount of fear, if not more. He would be perfect for what she planned.

For the hundredth time today, Tigraine hoped what she was doing was right. Tigraine just hoped Elayne was a woman her son could love. If the trickles of information she had been receiving all day were correct then they were well on their way to forming a relationship already. Tigraine felt a tinge of regret for what she was doing to Min or some other woman who would love Rand.

The guards opened the gate reluctantly, but allowed the whole group to enter. The amount of armed men with Tigraine was a traditional amount for an honour guard. They provided enough of an escort to prove House Mantear was not weak, but not so many as to be a threat for the Queen inside the palace. The guards with Tigraine could defend her for a small time, perhaps long enough to get her out of the palace grounds if need be. They were not sufficient to overthrow the monarch.

Her horse continued to ride along the inner palace roads. Tigraine was leading the way now. She could find the throne even if blindfolded. She drew on the reigns as a young Captain approached. He stood tall and proud despite his youth. Ignoring Bawyn he came straight towards Tigraine.

“Lady Mantear,” the man bowed formally when Tigraine dismounted. He turned to Nynaeve who was standing next to her. His face betrayed a small amount of uncertainty, then he bowed a little more informally and said. “Lady al’Meara.” It was Tigraine’s turn to feel a bit surprised. Morgase’s informants were good. Well who ever said this was a one sided game.

When the man straightened she handed him a sealed letter. “This is to be handed to Galad Damodred.” The man gave a respectful nod and took the letter. Another Palace Guard approached, took the letter and disappeared in the direction of the dungeons.

“If you will follow me, Lady Tigraine, Lady al’Meara.” The captain showed them the path to the Throne Room before escorting them away from their guards.

He barely managed a pace when Moiraine and Lan arrived.

“You are being hasty today,” Moiraine said in a voice hinting at nothing.

Tigraine smiled, exuding confidence to every prying eye. “I do want to see my boys before tomorrow.” She let her voice drop. “And you want to be on your way to the White Tower as quickly as possible.”

“And if I do?” Moiraine answered.

“Honestly, do you think I would believe that you would leave Caemlyn without Rand?”

//**//

Nynaeve wanted to tug her braid. Thankfully, Moiraine had arrived before she couldgrip it. The Aes Sedai exchanged a few brief words with Tigraine before beginning to follow the Captain. Nynaeve had a feeling much was said with the mere glance Moiraine sent Tigraine after the comment about Rand.

Nynaeve felt too nervous to think further about what Tigraine had meant. Thankfully, they began to walk again. Lan followed a few paces behind the three women. She wanted to fall back and talk to him, but Bawyn strode beside him. The men looked equally imposing. Being the most powerful family in Caemlyn ensured they had some of the finest soldiers, or so common sense dictated. And Bawyn was the best of them. At least that was what her maid had said. Nynaeve shivered.

Eventually she needed some release. Turning to Tigraine she asked. “Aren’t you afraid they’ll open the letter you sent to your son?”

Tigraine shook her head. “No, the letter was sealed and given to the Captain in front of too many witnesses. He would not risk the ramifications to open a mere letter.” Nynaeve did not understand. “There are certain rules, not always logical, but we do try to abide by them.”

Moiraine added. “Besides who would be foolish enough to place compromising information in a letter.”

“Who would ever do a stupid thing like that?” Tigraine agreed sarcastically.

The comment only made Nynaeve pull her braid as she studied the pathway. She was not made for these kinds of manoeuvrings. Still thinking of the letter, she did not realise the sun disappearing above her. With a firm tug at her braid to settle her nerves she eventually looked up again and found herself inside the throne room. She gasped. Queen Morgase stood imposingly before them. She wore an elegant dress of white with golden lace. Without saying a word, she commanded the room.

Moiraine gave an elegant respectful bow. Nynaeve tried to emulate her, but it came out as a jerking movement which nearly saw her fall onto her face. She straightened. The bow had almost gone as she’d been taught earlier. Tigraine, however, did not bow formally to Morgase. Instead she merely gave a slight bow of her head. A greeting to an equal.

“Tigraine,” Morgase spoke first. If Tigraine was not going to be formal, neither was she.There was a hint of anger at the slant. A warmth, however, remained in her words and even Nynaeve could hear the hint of an old friendship in her voice.

“Morgase,” Tigraine replied in a similar tone. “I wish my return could’ve been on more agreeable terms.”

“I did not start this,” Morgase replied in a hard voice. Tigraine nodded slowly.

“I did not wish for this, Morgase.” Tigraine strode forwards.

“Of course you wanted…”

“Elayne,” Morgase silenced the young woman beside her. “You are speaking to Lady Mantear. A woman who previously held your title.”

The girl bowed slightly and Nynaeve realised she was the young girl who held a certain interest in Rand. Well she was pretty, in a slightly haughty sort of way.

“Pardon me, mother,” Elayne bowed to the Queen. She did not extend the apology to Tigraine. The girl’s cheeks were red with anger.

“What brings you here today? Do you want the throne before nightfall?” Morgase asked. “And with an Aes Sedai.”

“You know Lady Damodred, Galad’s aunt.” Tigraine said firmly in a very similar tone as Morgase’s voice. “Besides you have your own Aes Sedai advisor.” Nynaeve itched to reach for her braid. These two women were ready to trade more than words.

Nynaeve finally took in more of the hall. Guards lined the sides, at least thirty men were standing about and all of them poised to defend their Queen. A quick glance to the side showed that neither Lan nor Bawyn were any less relaxed, though they did appear much more at ease. Nynaeve studied Morgase again. Was that what made a blademaster? The ability to appear calm even when death hovered over you.

A tall woman Nynaeve had no intention of ever crossing emerged from behind a curtain. She did not say a word, instead she glared at Tigraine and Moiraine. She was not quite beautiful, but neither could she be said to be unattractive. A red shawl, matching her dress, was draped over her shoulder and her dark eyes held a sternness unmatched by any other woman or man in the room.

“I’ve come to discuss certain terms.” Tigraine began. “We both know that House Trakand is in a perilous position. You have an heir, but your family has lost much of its former strength. House Mantear has grown over the years since my exile. We only lacked a Lady to place on the thrown.”

“And now you want to take what you think is yours.” Morgase said in open resentment.

“House Mantear has more claim to the thrown than Trakand. You know this and so do the other Great Houses.”

Tigraine began to move about the room as if she owned it. The shift in power was subtle, but Tigraine was slowly chipping away at Morgase’s rule. “I have but a single offer to make. I think the terms will be agreeable.”

“Speak.” Morgase demanded. To Nynaeve she almost appeared bored at having to deal with Tigraine, but the damage had been done. The Queen was willing to listen.

Years of being the Wisdom had taught her to look for more subtle signs. Morgase was very good at what she did. If Nynaeve had not felt the tension in the room she would have thought Morgase talking about the roses in her garden.

“I do not wish the thrown for myself,” Tigraine proclaimed. “I will take it if you force me, but I have no desire to rule.” Morgase said nothing and her eyes remained fixed on Tigraine. “I would like to form an alliance between our two Great Houses.” Her eyes shone with excitement and Morgase’s held a similar gleam for the briefest of moments.

“Mother!” Elayne shouted. “You can’t…”

“Silence, Elayne,” Morgase said in a firm voice. It was not loud, but again it held a weight to it. Her eyes never wavered. “What do you propose?”

“A union between your eldest daughter and the heir to House Mantear.”

“I will not marry Perival!” Elayne shouted in hysterics. “Light, he’s nothing more than a toddler!”

Tigraine grinned. “He’s a grown man. I mean his tenth birthday must be just around the corner.” Elayne only looked at her in exasperation. “I never meant for you to marry Perival,” Tigraine said finally. “I have a son who is now heir.”

“Galad!” Elayne shouted. Her eyes were wide and her face paled. “He’s my half-brother!”

Tigraine chuckled and shook her head. “Galad is of House Damodred, not Mantear.” Elayne let out a very relieved breath. “I have another son. He is about your age, a few years older in fact.” Morgase only studied Tigraine thoughtfully. “He would be a worthy husband to any noblewomen.”

Elayne’s chest rose and fell as she breathed heavily in outrage. “Mother, you can’t allow this to happen. You said that…”

Morgase lifted a hand and moved away from her thrown. Her gaze was cool and calculating. “There is more to this than marriage.” She focused on Moiraine. “Speak the truth Aes Sedai. Does Tigraine really have another son and is this offer genuine?”

“Morgase has another son.” Moiraine agreed.“He is strong and only a couple of years Elayne’s senior. He would make a fine husband, my Lady.”

Morgase stood still as she considered her actions. “There has to be more than a mere marriage and union of our families.”

“I would demand that you relinquish your throne to your daughter on the day they are wed.”

Morgase’s face grew tense. Elayne was growing ever angrier, but she kept her tongue. Nynaeve watched the younger woman. She was strong willed if perhaps a little spoilt. Though, being the Daughter Heir meant one would be used to having everything.

//**//

“I will require a few moments to consider this offer, Tigraine,” Morgase said in a calm voice. Elayne knew her well enough to hear the strain beneath it.

Elayne’s mother turned towards her and led her into a small room outside the throne room. It was small and it held a few chairs and a large table. It was built for meetings and discussions not meant for the public ear. Mostly it was used during times of war. Large maps covered the walls, each displaying current and former borders.

“Mother, please,” Elayne begged again. “Don’t do this to me.”

When the door closed behind them Elayne opened her mouth again. “Silence!” Morgase shouted. Elayne’s next words came out as a strangled cry of outrage.

The door opened again and Gareth Bryne entered. “What is the state of House Trakand’s private arms?” Morgase asked even before the door closed. His temples appeared even more grey, his eyes worried.

“House Trakand is weak, my Queen.” The man answered. “Trakand made a lot of debt in order to gain the throne and armed men were the first to be sacrificed upon gaining the thrown, especially since there were no real threats to your reign.”

“What of the Palace Guards, their numbers are large and they are well trained?” Morgase asked hopefully.

The man sighed warily. “You know as well as I, my Queen. The palace guards will defend against a foreign invasion and if Tigraine attacks the palace directly.” He breathed in and Elayne could see her mother’s eyes smouldering. Bryne would probably not last long as her First Prince of the Sword. Elayne liked the man and she held pity for him. There really was nothing he could have done to prevent this.

“And how strong are they?” Morgase asked. Elayne wandered why she was asking these questions because she knew the answers better than Bryne. Perhaps her mother was hoping for a reason to keep him, though Elayne doubted as much. When her mother made a decision she would follow through with it.

“In terms of finance, they hold nearly thrice the land of Trakand and those lands are more profitable. We cannot stand against them for long.” Elayne winced. The look Bryne gave Morgase only emphasised his acceptance of what was happening.

Elayne knew this to be true. Her stomach dropped as the last words left the man’s lips. Not only for him this time. The lack of resistance meant her mother had no grounds on which to refuse the offer of marriage. Morgase let her head drop and the palm of her hand pressed against her forehead. She had wanted a last piece of hope. It was gone now. In a single sweep, her mother had lost her throne, the First Prince of the Sword and lover.

Eventually Morgase straightened. “You may leave us, Captain.”

“As you command, my Queen,” Gareth replied with a formal bow. When he reached the door he stopped. His mouth opened to say something. Then he shook his head and left. There was a bitterness in his eyes.

Morgase’s eyes shimmered for a few brief moments and then she gathered herself and went on as if Gareth Bryne had never been there. “Tigraine would never declare open war against us. She has never been one for conflict. She will, however, dethrone me within the year.”

“We can make it mother. We can stand against them.” Elayne said trying hard to keep her tears at bay. It was unnerving to see her mother so distraught. Everything Eleyne knew, her whole future, had changed within the space of a single day. From the teachings of Elaida, Elayne wandered if a ta’veren had walked into the city and thrown the pattern upside down.

Morgase pulled her daughter into a tight embrace. “There is only one course of action open to House Trakand.” When she pulled away there was a slight dampness in her eyes. She could not meet Elayne’s gaze. “We will agree to this marriage. The wedding shall be held.”

“But mother,” Elayne tried. “I’m not…”

“Stop interrupting,” Morgase interjected. “We will sign the paper work, but I will not abdicate until you are finished with your training at the White Tower.” Morgase tried to smile. “Elaida says you will go far. She ensures me you will become a Full Sister one day.” The words brought with them a gleam to her mother’s eyes. “How many men do you know who can stomach being wed to an Aes Sedai?”

Elayne began to smile. “A marriage on paper.” The man would want to leave her before she ever returned from the Tower. Since every house would know about the marriage House Mantear would not be able to move against House Trakand. “This will give Trakand at least a few years to prepare.”

Morgase wiped at a stray tear. “It might not work, but it is the best chance we have of ever saving our position.”

“Have the papers signed tonight,” Elayne said with firm determination. “I’m leaving for the Tower in the morning.” She did not add that she would try to drag the farm boy along.

“What of the red haired man you were eyeing this morning?” Morgase said with a tinge of mirth. “Are you going to try and take him along with you?”

“I’ve known men to have mistresses,” Elayne smiled. “Who says I can’t enjoy myself in my husband’s regrettable absence.”

“Just don’t get caught,” her mother said with a knowing grin. They both had a good laugh.

They left the confines of the small room and made their way back to the throne. Morgase did not sit, instead she strode towards Tigraine. The two women were similar and Elayne could tell they had both been trained in the Tower. Elayne wondered if this was what she was going to become. She shook her head. No she would be more like Lady Damodred who stood beside Tigraine. Imperious and unflappable, an Aes Sedai.

“I accept your offer on one condition.” Morgase proclaimed and a few murmurs broke out in the room. Tigraine made a slight gesture for Morgase to continue. “Daughter Heirs are trained in the Tower as you and I were. Elayne has yet to visit the White Tower.”

“This affects the marriage how?” Tigraine asked calmly.

“We can sign the papers this evening to confirm their marriage.” Morgase said confidently. “The condition is that I retain the throne until my daughter has finished her training in the White Tower.”

Tigraine smiled knowingly. “I had a feeling this might be the case.” She then gave Elayne a sympathetic smile. “I am sorry for doing this, Elayne Trakand. I was once married to a Damodred who never loved me. It is not something I would wish on any woman. Believe me when I say, I would not have done this had I not thought that there could be something between you and my son.”

Moiraine took a step closer. “This is being done for the good of mankind. This union will be to the profit of all.”

Elayne had wanted to scoff at Tigraine’s words, but Moiraine drove the words home. A crease formed on Elyane’s forehead. Aes Sedai could not lie so what did she mean by this.

Tigraine straightened and said in a clear voice. “I accept your offer. Let the contract be signed before Elayne leaves for the White Tower. Morgase Trakand will remain queen until her daughters training in the White Tower is finished.”

Then Tigraine Mantear gave a very low formal bow. “Under the light I swear obedience to the rightful Queen of Andor.” When she rose she was smiling.

Elayne then asked, “Where is this husband of mine?”

“He was detained and unable to make it to this meeting. He will unfortunately not be able to meet with Elayne before she leaves for the Tower, as I understand she is to leave in the morrow.” Tigraine continued after only a short pause. “House Mantear will provide escort for the journey to the White Tower, as Elayne will be Elayne Mantear.”

“Your offer of an escort will not be needed,” Morgase replied. “The Palace Guards will see to her safety.”

Tigraine gave a respectful nod. “You must have mistaken my words, my Queen. She is Elayne Mantear.” She rose only to look at Elayne. “Her house will provide an escort.”

“Thank you, my Lady,” Elayne bowed formally. There was little use in fighting and Tigraine was correct. When they sign the contract she will no longer be a Trakand. “I would appreciate an escort from my guards.”

A quick glance at the tall captain behind Tigraine and what she saw of the men escorting them they were probably much finer than the men her mother could muster. Besides, Elayne was pivotal to a clean shift of power. Tigraine could not risk any harm coming to her.

A/N Thanks for reading. Any comments or suggestions are welcome.

Abbaaddon
01-31-2012, 05:32 PM
When you wrote :
“Morgase has another son.” Moiraine agreed.“He is strong and only a couple of years Elayne’s senior. He would make a fine husband, my Lady.”
Didn't you mean Tigraine ?
If not, I'm lost ^^

Figbiscuit
02-02-2012, 05:17 PM
I have got this far. I like it, although I have to be honest, if it wasn't for the fact that it was fan fic it wouldn't grab me as a story in and of itself. I don't think that is your intention tho, so I do not think you will mind my comments.

You have an interesting take on the story tho, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes next. It's a little like reading WoT in fast forward :)