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View Full Version : A Different Wheel - Ch.6


st122
08-10-2011, 03:49 PM
Galad stood reading the letter he had received. He let it drop to the floor when he was done and he could see Rand fight the urge to retrieve the parchment. Galad might as well have given him the letter for all that it said. It only gave him some hope.

“My mother says I will be free within the hour and that Moiraine will come for you as well.” He looked up at Rand considering. “Apparently she wants to take you to the White Tower.” He reconsidered his mother’s words. They just did not make sense. “You really did grow up as a farmer in the Two Rivers.”

Rand sighed. “Yes, is it so hard for everyone to understand?”

Galad shook his head in the empty dungeon. Rand might have grown up in the Two Rivers, but something about him made Galad believe that he was no peasant. He did not say anymore, as there was no real need to speak. Both of them would be out of the confines of the cell shortly and so they sat in silence and waited for the hour to pass. Eventually it did and Moiraine entered the Dungeons. Galad stood.

“Aunt,” he said with a respectful bow. “I have missed your company.”

She gave a rare smile as she studied Galad. “It’s good to see you again, Galad.” She motioned behind her and a guard came running. Her expression became like ice when she faced Rand.

The guard’s fumbling hands barely managed to get the key into the lock. “Pardon, my Lord. I was only following orders, my Lord.” The man bowed his head so many times Galad lost count.

With the lock finally open, he strode out of the cell. “There is no need to apologise. You were doing what was right and needed to be done. For all you know I could’ve been a darkfriend.”

The man snorted then caught himself. “Beg your pardon, my Lord. But my Lord a darkfriend? I would sooner think the Queen, Light bless her, a darkfriend than my Lord.”

“You are free to go as well, Rand,” Moiraine said in a low voice, cutting off the man’s mumblings. He stepped aside. “I’ve spoken to Elaida Sedai and told her I would be escorting you to the White Tower.”

“I am,” Rand replied jumping gracefully to his feet. “I was sure Elaida would not have let me out of here unless I was stuffed into a coffin.”

“The whys are none of your concern.” Moiraine said sharply, “You are to accompany me out of the Palace tonight and to Tar Valon tomorrow.” Her eyes narrowed slightly. “She will see you hanged if you are in Caemlyn come sun set tomorrow.”

A tension hung in the air. The guard fidgeted nervously, muttered something, and then hurried out the dungeon. “Then I guess we better leave.” Rand finally laughed nervously.

“What am I supposed to do now?” Galad asked Moiraine as they made their way out. “I cannot see myself staying in the Palace.”

“You are to visit your mother tonight. She is staying at your family’s house within the city,” she replied. “Your discussion with her will probably determine what path you tread next.”

The guard came hurrying down a side passage bearing two swords. Galad reached out towards the Heron marked blade reverently, but withdrew it quickly before taking his own. Rand followed hastily and retrieved his own from the still frightened guard. Having a group of Aes Sedai, a False Dragon, a Prince, a Daughter Heir and a blademaster in your dungeon in one day would unsettle most men.

Galad felt a lot more at ease with the comforting weight of the blade on his hip. The sword was as part of him as a limb. He only ever noticed the sword when he was forced to remove it.

Moiraine stepped out into the dark night. The guards at the door stiffened, but they stood their ground. “Are you coming with me to my mother’s house?” Galad asked hopefully of Moiraine.

“I’m afraid that will not be possible now.” She glanced at Rand. “But perhaps later this evening.” They continued a few more paces before she continued. “I have other matters to attend to.” Her gaze shifted to Rand again and Galad noticed a flicker of something deeper, perhaps darker, in Moiraine’s eyes.

“Aunt,” Galad whispered placing a hand on Moiraine’s shoulder. The Aes Sedai stopped. “Is she well?”

“She is well,” Moiraine answered. “And very eager to see you.”

“Why?” He asked, not needing to say anymore.

She drew a slow deliberate breath before answering. “I am sure she will explain the story to you. Suffice to say, what she did was required.”

Galad gave a curt nod. If Moiraine said it was necessary then he believed it. He didn’t even notice that he had closed his eyes until Rand asked. “Are you alright, Galad?”

“I’m not sure,” he replied truthfully. “I will have to send you a message when I find out.”

They stopped walking when they approached five horses. A man sat on one. A Heron mark sword hung from his hip and his shirt was emblazoned with the White Anvil of House Mantear.

“Come, Rand,” Moiraine commanded. “We have to go.” She climbed gracefully onto her white mare while Rand mounted his own. Her dark eyes, so similar to Galad’s, stared down at him. “Captain Bawyn will accompany you to your mother.” And for a brief moment, he was sure her eyes glistened slightly. “It was good to see you again, Galad. I hope I will be seeing you later this evening.”

“As it was to see you again, aunt,” he replied with a casual bow of his head. “May the Light shine on your path.”

Her face hinted at a smile, though he could not see one in the fading light. “I am sure we will be seeing more of each other in the coming days.”

Galad allowed himself a grin. “I look forward to meeting with Lan again.”

“Until then,” Moiraine said beginning to guide her horse to the gate.

“I hope we will meet again, Rand al’Thor,” Galad spoke before Rand could follow.

“I have a feeling, we will,” Rand replied. “My path is linked to Moiraine and I think yours as well.”

Galad nodded holding out hand which Rand took. “Until then, Rand al’Thor”

“Until then,” Rand replied with a respectful bow of his head.

Moiraine halted as a guard came running towards them. He panted heavily when he came to a halt. “Pardon my Lord and Lady.” The man finally managed to say. “The Lady Elayne requested a meeting with a Rand al’Thor.”

Rand glanced at Moiraine and she gave a quick nod, which indicated it would be alright for him to see her. “Just remember we are leaving for Tar Valon early tomorrow morning and I we have much to do tonight. I’m sure you would also like to see your friends again.”

Rand’s eyes widened. He had not thought about the others the entire day. “Are they alright? The Trol…”

She cut him off with a hard look and he bit back the rest of his words. “They are all well and unharmed and are currently staying with Mat.”

Rand grimaced as he dismounted. “Lead the way,” he said to the guard. Moiraine sat motionless as she studied the red haired man as he walk away into the dark garden.

Galad climbed smoothly onto his dark, nearly black, horse. “Captain Bawyn,” he saluted. It had been a few years since he had met with the man who was only a few years his senior. Bawyn was nearly as good as Lan with a sword, or so rumours implied, but he was too busy to spend much time with Galad even though they had practised together numerous times before.

“Lord Damodred,” the man replied. “Are you going to become a permanent member of House Mantear now?” There was an edge to his voice. Bawyn had often voiced his desire for Galad to join him.

Galad remained silent for a few moments. “I might.” Even though he said the words, he doubted he would ever give up his father’s name.

“Good, we need a man like you.” Even as Bawyn spoke his gaze lingered on the retreating form of Rand. “He seems like a fit lad.”

Galad twisted in his saddle. “I’ve not seen him with sword in hand, but he has the look of a good swordsman.”

Bawyn snorted with disgust. “Good doesn’t deserve a blade like that.”

Galad could only nod in agreement. “Perhaps we will find out one day if he truly deserves the blade.” The Captain nodded. Despite being a soldier he was a sensible man. Together they galloped out of the Palace grounds without uttering another word. There was no point in waiting for Rand, especially not if he went on the looks the House Trakand guards were sending him.

Outside they slowed to a canter and then to a trot. The streets were already quieting down for the night and few people still walked the wide cobbled roads. Every few minutes they would pass by a loud tavern. Not even the loud music nor drunken shouts could distract Galad from thinking of his mother.

The two men rode in silence. With each stride the horse gave, an excitement rose in Galad’s chest. It was also accompanied by a growing fear. What would he think of his mother? How often had he thought of meeting her again one day and now he was going to. What would she be like? The journey was over before he really had time to settle his nerves. He might have slipped into the void, but he did not want to distance himself from the emotions he felt. They stopped outside the entrance. The large shield with the Silver Anvil proclaimed this a house belonging to Mantear.

“She is a good woman,” Bawyn said and then rode off, leading the horses to the stables.

Galad did not reply. Instead he took tentative steps towards the door. It opened before he could knock. An older servant stood inside. “She is waiting for you in the sun room, my Lord.”

“Thank you,” Galad replied before beginning the journey to the room.

When he reached the sun room he froze before looking inside. His feet were incapable of moving and his hands trembled. He had to tighten them into fists to reduce the shaking. Leaning forwards slightly, he saw the outline of a blue dress. His breath caught. His mother was standing there. He could not see her features, but he would recognise the shade of golden hair anywhere.

He leaned back against the wall and tried to settle his beating heart. Going up against a man with a sword was like breathing, it came naturally, but meeting his mother was almost impossible. He steeled himself and for a moment he let the void overcome him. Within its safety he gathered himself. Then he began to walk, while keeping his head down. Only when he was in the room did he let go of the void and look up.

She stood before him. Golden hair, just as he remembered. Bright eyes and a loving face. She was crying. Tears streamed down her face, which she frantically tried to brush aside. The motions were pointless, the torrent was too great.

Galad stood motionless. Only when the image of her grew hazy did he realise that he was crying as well. “Mother!” He whispered barely audible. It was difficult to know which one of them moved, but he was holding her in his arms. As he held her, she muttered his name and apologies over and over again while sobbing into his chest.

Her arms encircled him. Galad could not remember the last time he had been hugged. His grandmother, if he remembered correctly, right after his mother’s disappearance. He had forgotten the warmth and comfort offered by his mother. Morgase had always been like a mother to him, but this was so much more. This simple action from her made him feel at home, made him feel truly loved for the first time in over twenty years.

He let go of her and immediately he had to steady himself. His hands gripped her shoulders and he stared down into her eyes. They were red and he did not want to know how he looked. Her one hand tightened around his left forearm the other touched his chest.

Then her voice said his name. “Galad,” it was soft. “You’ve grown so tall. I can still see you as a naughty boy running around the palace wreaking havoc amongst the guards and nobles.”

He smiled at the memory. How he had loved being a trouble maker. “It’s been a few years, mother,” he replied in an equally low voice. “I’m afraid I’m no longer the boy you once knew.”

Her hand pushed slightly harder against his chest. “I think my boy is still in you,” she whispered.

They were alone in a large room, but neither wanted to break the spell around them. Eventually they moved apart slightly. They had a few years to discuss.

“I hope you won’t hold a day in the dungeons against me?” She asked tentatively.

He shook his head. “It was enjoyable actually. Spent the whole day with the most fascinating man I’ve ever met. This might sound strange, but it was almost as if I already knew him.”

For the briefest of moments her eyes shone and then they grew very dim. “Forgive me,” she whispered turning away.

His strong arms prevented her from getting away. He could not let go. “There is nothing to forgive, mother. You are back, and an arrival such as yours was bound to cause a few problems. I was just the unlucky man who got caught in the middle.”

“I guess so,” she replied, unable to meet his eyes. “But I could have handled the situation better.”

He laughed. “No offence, and the dungeon was nice, but do try to do better next time you start a civil war, mother.”

“Galad!” she chuckled. “Come, dinner is being served.”

“I do not feel up to company,” Galad said quickly, losing some of his mirth.

“I know.” She continued to walk. “That is why it is only for the two of us.”

He sighed in relief and followed her to a small table already laden with enough food for a feast.

Galad had not been seated for more than a few minutes when he asked. “Mother, I must know.”

“Know what?” she replied cautiously.

“Why did you leave all those years ago?”

She took a bite of food and chewed slowly. Only after she swallowed and took another sip of wine did she speak. “You remember my mother’s advisor?”

“Gitara Sedai,” he said slowly. “Couldn’t she foretell?”

“She had the gift of foretelling,” his mother agreed and he held his breath knowing what was coming. “You remember that your uncle, my brother, left for the Blight?” He nodded and she continued. “She told him that the outcome of Tarmon Gaidon depended on him going to the Blight.”

“You know he has not been seen since?” Galad interjected.

She grew still for a moment and he could see the pain. “Moiraine told me when I met her.”

“What did she tell you?” Galad asked when it became clear she had forgotten what she was talking about.

“Gitara came to me and told me to leave for the Three-fold Land and become a Maiden of the Spear. I was not to return until the Maidens went to Tar Valon.”

“Why?” Galad breathed out hoarsely. “Did you really become an Aiel Maiden?”

“I trained with them,” she agreed. “They nearly killed me, but I survived. I needed to survive.” She grinned and then grimaced at distant memories. “If I did not go then disaster would befall the world.”

“How could you going save the world?” he asked.

“What happened has already changed the world. Light, I only hope that it helps.”

“Have you been with the Aiel since the Aiel War and why come back now? Are you bringing another army with you?” he added the last part angrily.

She shook her head slowly. “No. Light forbid I would never bring the Aiel here. They are not bad people, they just have a different view on the world.”

“Then what was so important for you to have gone away?” he was almost pleading this time. He desperately needed an answer.

She did not eat, nor did she seem to breathe. “It is not really about me.” Her head dropped slightly. “When I was in the Aiel Waste I met a man. I thought I loved him, he might actually have loved me.” She sighed. “I’m not sure.” He did not push her. This story would apparently be told at her pace. “Despite what I felt, or he felt, I became pregnant and I carried the child with me during Aiel War.”

Galad sensed a weight to her words when she spoke now. Her eyes were distant, seeing something far away. “It was cold and snow covered the land. The fighting had been heavy that day. Many Aiel and Wetlanders lay dead and dying out on the fields outside Tar Valon. I needed to get away. I lost all track of time and distance. I kept walking. The snow was so deep and my contractions were following quickly one upon the other. I lay myself down and wept as I gave birth.”

Galad’s knuckles were white as he listened to the tale. He could almost feel the cold and pain in her words.

“I do not know how long I lay in the cold. When my consciousness returned a man was kneeling beside me. He had placed his cloak over me and a fire blazed beside us. His hands were bleeding. Later he told me it was from the effort it took to start a fire. It was only after a few minutes that I noticed the child wrapped in layers of the man’s cloak. I think I thanked him before I fell asleep again.”

Galad could not find the voice to speak and it appeared that neither could his mother. Eventually she continued. “He cared for me and my child, him and his wife that is. They loved me as a sister and together we raised my son, your brother, far away from the intrigues of Andor and Cairhien.”

“You could have come back. You would have been safe amongst our family.”

She shook her head. “No, the child could not have been risked. I felt deep within me that I needed to get as far away from Caemlyn as possible.”

“This does not make any sense, mother,” Galad said with a sudden firmness.

She smiled and touched his hand with hers. “Would it make sense if I told you where I gave birth?”

“I don’t see how,” Galad answered.

She appeared sad. “I’m not sure what to make of this myself.” Her eyes locked onto his. “I gave birth to a healthy boy on the slopes of Dragonmount.”

Galad’s hand tensed beneath his mother’s. “Are you suggesting that he is the D…” He could not utter the name.

“The Dragon Reborn? Yes,” she said in a faint voice. “He is the reason Moiraine found me. She has been looking for the Dragon Reborn since the day of his birth.”

“Are you telling me Moiraine believes this as well?”

His mother tried to smile. “She is sure he is the one.”

“Light!” Galad breathed out. “You gave birth to the Dragon Reborn,” he stated. “What is my brother’s name?”

“Rand,” she replied quietly.

“I’ve been sitting in a cell the whole day with my brother and he didn’t tell me!” There was a rising anger in his voice.

“He does not know,” she said. The fire in him was quelled by her words. “He does not know my true name. He thinks my name is Elayne al’Thor.”

“Mother!” Galad shouted. “I can understand leaving me, but to not tell your own son who you are!”

“I was going to tell him tonight, when Moiraine brings him here.”

Galad could feel his cheeks burning. “Send for them, mother. Does he even know that he is the Dragon Reborn?”

She flushed red. “How do you tell a man that he is the Dragon Reborn?”

Her voice subdued his anger. “I do not know, mother. For your sake and his, I wish I did.”

After a long pause she finally managed to look him in the eye again. “I think it best he not know yet. This is something he needs to be eased into.”

Galad did not know what to think. A part of him agreed. Another did not. “I will follow you and Moiraine.”

She waved a servant closer and told him to call for Moiraine Sedai and Rand. As she did he sat stunned by the whole conversation and his fluctuating emotions. He was always in control. He had mastered his emotions years ago. Now his mother steps into his life and he loses all self-control and discipline.

Galad stood and moved out onto one of the balconies overlooking Caemlyn. He did not feel like speaking to his mother at the moment. All he could think of was Rand sitting on the ground next to him in the dungeons. Rand could channel and so could he. It unnerved him. Now with some hindsight it made sense. If he had to guess, then Rand was ta’veren as well. Perhaps Logain had some talent, since he could not look at Rand. It would explain all the comments about the world being poised.

A gentle hand touched his shoulder. “Are you alright, son?” Tigraine asked.

“I’m fine, mother,” he answered. “I’m more worried about my brother.”

“And why would you be worried about him?” She asked.

“He touched the One Power today,” he said. The hand on his shoulder tensed and gripped him a bit tighter. “What, no cry of outrage.”

“Moiraine and I expected that he could.”

“I think I can channel as well,” he let the words leave his mouth. They needed to be said.

“Galad!” She tensed even more and then her arms were around him. He stood like a statue staring out over the houses. He could not let his emotions control him and so he stood as cold as when he fought a duel. “You don’t have to channel, just ignore it and you will be alright.”

He pushed her away slightly. “It might be too late for that.” Galad whispered. “Rand and Logain sparked something in me. I doubt I could stop from channelling now, in the same way I could not stop breathing.”

“Why?” she cried and he let her hold onto him again. “Now that I have my two sons, I’m losing both.”

“At least it will be to save the world.” He replied. “I will follow him to the ends of the earth and back again.” He gently pushed her away and then knelt before her. “By the Light I swear to always be there for him, mother.”

“Why the sudden loyalty, Galad?” she asked.

He stood and turned away. “I’m not sure mother, but if what you said is true and if I follow through with what I felt today then I know he is going to need all the support he can get.”

“He is going to Tar Valon with Moiraine tomorrow.” She said and Galad tensed at the words. He had forgotten she’d said as much to Rand. She was leading him to certain death or gentling.

“I’m going with him,” Galad spoke through clenched teeth.

A part of him feared the coming days. He was not sure what exactly created the emotion. Was it his ability to channel and the eventual madness? Was it being brother to the Dragon Reborn? Or was it the fact that Tarmon Gaidon would come in his life time?

“What frightens you so?” his mother’s voice spoke from outside the void shrouding him.

He could not remember slipping into it. He did not let go. Instead he let his thoughts dwindle and let his mind focus on a very faint something lingering in his mind. It pulsed in the distance, almost like a song playing, beckoning him to reach towards it. It could only be one thing, saidin. Taint filled saidin. He shivered and let the void go.

His eyes grew warmer. “I fear what all men fear.” Galad said simply.

His mother did not look away from some unseen object. “I’m sorry for the life you had to live.”

“I’m sorry as well, mother.” He wrapped and arm around her and she leaned her head against his shoulder. They remained standing for a long time.

They broke apart only when a servant announced. “The Lady Damodred and Rand al’Thor have arrived, my Lady.”

//**//

Rand followed the guard with trepidation. Moiraine had said it was alright for him to accompany the man to see Elayne. Still he felt uneasy. The gardens were rather dark and only a few fires blazed, none of which provided any real light. Elaida could be lurking behind any one of the numerous dark shadows that could hide a horse let alone a woman.

“I will be leaving you, my Lord,” the man said with a bow. Rand grimaced at being called a lord, but he did not have the courage to correct the man at the point. His mind was already firmly on Elayne. “She is waiting for you by the bench.”

“Bench?” Rand asked unsure of where to go.

“Just follow this path, my Lord. It will lead you straight to her.”

“Thank you,” he managed in as steady a voice he could muster.

Rand continued along the garden path on his own. The shadows appeared even more ominous in the silence around him. Thankfully, it did not take long for the small figure in a bulky dark red dress to come into view. Elayne was sitting beside a small fire. It did not provide much in the way of light, but it added a warmth to her features and emphasised her golden hair.

“My Lady,” Rand said softly when he bowed before her with more grace than he spoke. She had not looked up at his approach.

She jumped slightly at his words. “Light, you move quietly.” The reply came only after she managed to settle herself down again. “Please sit, Rand.” She glanced about nervously as she seated herself again.

“Thank you.” She shifted a bit to the side to make some room for him. Only with his face closer did he notice her tear stained cheeks and puffy red eyes. “What happened, Elayne?” he asked with concern. He wanted to reach out a hand to wipe away some of the dampness, but he refrained. How did a man act around a Daughter Heir and a crying one at that? He had never been good with the girls back in Emond’s Field.

She gave a bitter laugh. “Nothing much really happened,” her voice sarcastic. “I only got married,” she added while never once looking in his direction. Despite the attempted humour in her words, she looked forlorn.

Rand leaned back, perplexed. “Forgive me, but I did not imagine you as a bride. I mean when we met this morning.” He scratched his head. “Shouldn’t there have been some kind of celebration.” His stomach fluttered fearfully and he too glanced about fearfully. “Where is your husband? Shouldn’t he want to be with you now? Is he looking for you?” The last part came out almost frantically.

More tears leaked out of the corner of her eyes and dripped onto her dress. “I’ve never met the man and he wasn’t even here.” She leaned forwards and wrapped her arms around him as she continued to cry against his shoulder. He gulped, wide eyes studied the surroundings. His free hand checked to make sure his sword was still with him.

“I’m sure he isn’t such a bad man.” He tried to console her. “Who is he?” Rand asked trying to be conversational, even though talking was the last thing on his mind. He wanted to be with Moiraine and back at the inn with Mat, Perrin and Egwene.

He caught himself when he noticed that his hands were moving through the long tendrils of her golden hair. He swallowed again and pulled his hand away slowly.

She sniffed a few times. “I don’t even know his name.” This time she did laugh, but it held no mirth. “Politics and marriages can be so infuriating at times.” She wiped the back of her hand across her cheek.

“I can’t imagine being married to someone I’ve never met or even loved,” Rand replied.

A deep voice in his head cried out. “Illyena, how I fought your love!”

Rand clenched his teeth and tried to steady his vision by pretending to be studying the courtyard. With an effort he spoke again. “But you must know something about him.”

Despite her being a princess, and the desire to run away, he felt like he wanted her to talk. There was something warm and comforting in the way she spoke. Almost as if she were drawing him in.

“Tell her! Tell her how much you love her!” The strange voice sung in his mind and images appeared to make a married man blush.

Rand coughed, pressing his hand against his forehead. “I wish there was something I could do to help…” he paused and then spoke her name reverently, “Elayne.”

“Illyena,” a deep voice called out in his head. “Light, I’m sorry Illyena.”

Rand bit his lip and pushed harder against his head. It took a few moments and a couple of deep breaths to clear his mind again.

This time it was Elayne’s turn to ask if he was alright. He barely heard her question before answering that he was fine. She did not look convinced. “I think I hit my head a little harder than I expected,” he continued. That line seemed to be working for most people today.

“Are you sure?” she asked again. Her gaze was filled with concern and her hand reached out to stroke his hair. “You have lovely hair. I don’t think I’ve seen such a shade before.” Her gaze narrowed. “It seems familiar, but it is different.”

He almost sighed at her touch, but with an effort he asked. “You must know something about this man you’ve married. Is he as handsome as me? ” He tried for some humour.

Her hand did not pull away, and she laughed richly while her other hand came to rest on his knee. “All I know is that he is the son of Tigraine Mantear and heir to the house.” Her fingers moved up and down his leg as she seemed lost in thought.

“Galad’s brother?” Rand said in shock. “He never mentioned anything about having a brother.” He tried to shake his head. Her hand, still stroking the back of his head, blocked the movement.

“I don’t think Galad knew about his brother. Neither my mother nor I had any idea that Tigraine was alive, let alone having another son.” Egwene answered. “I’m sure this will be a shock to Galad.” She glanced away. “My half-brother might be a stuck up idiot, but I am fond of him.”

“But why the sudden marriage?” Rand asked. “I mean how can they make you marry him? Light, it’s not right!” he said loudly. Even as the words left his mouth he remembered the Women’s Circle and how they manoeuvred men and women about.

“It’s not wrong,” Elayne mumbled in obvious anger. “But it is bloody unfair.” Rand took a double take at her language. Wisely, he said nothing. “Don’t people get forced into marriages where you come from?” she asked.

A moment before he would have vehemently said no. “I used to think so, but I think they do force people into marriages. The Women’s Circle back home is at least a bit more subtle than this though.”

He glanced up at the stars. At least they were unchanging in this confusing world. He let himself relax in the slow ministrations of her fingers massaging his neck. He didn’t even remove his own hand, once he realised that it was in her long hair again.

He sighed in contentment and spoke in a gentle voice that must have sounded far away. “I still cannot see a reason for such a hasty contract.”

Elayne, who had been looking at him, now stared out into the dark garden. “I’m not exactly sure what happened. I think Tigraine was sincere when she said that she did not want the throne.”

Rand tore his gaze away from the twinkling lights in the sky. “Galad’s mother wants to be queen? I knew she was the Daughter Heir, but that was years ago.” He tried to think.

Elayne shrugged slightly. “She arrived in Caemlyn yesterday and her coming had the worst possible timing for mother. Compared to House Mantear, Trakand is very weak at the moment. And now with the civil unrest in the city, mother has no room for political manoeuvring.” Her hands moved away from him and she rested them on her own lap. “Mother tried to think of a way to secure both Trakand’s hold on the throne and my freedom.” Another tear ran down her cheek. This time Rand wiped it away gently. “In the end, my marriage was all that would allow either of us to maintain the throne.” He brushed away another tear. “If we fought then we would’ve lost everything.”

Rand placed his hand on her shoulder, for a short while until more dampness needed wiping away. “So the marriage gives you some leverage. Perhaps you will still find a way to get what you want.”

“I don’t think the marriage helps me. Going to the White Tower tomorrow will give us some time, however.”

“Are you going to be an Aes Sedai?” Rand asked tentatively. He could not imagine this warm woman beside him as a cold Aes Sedai. She did have a little of Moiraine in her, but he could see none of Elaida in Elayne.

Her true beauty blossomed when she smiled. He could not help but brighten as well. The Elayne of this morning had returned. “Elaida thinks I might be one of the most powerful Aes Sedai in the Tower one day.”

Rand tried hard to not show his discomfort. His experience with Aes Sedai was limited. Still he wanted stay clear of them. Yet, looking at Elayne, her eyes bright and her smile warm, what could there be to dislike about her being an Aes Sedai?

Her eyes were inviting and his fingers were still stroking her cheeks lightly. Light! What was he doing? He should be miles from here. His body should be in an inn sleeping. But how could he remove himself from her presence when he wanted little more than to stay by her side?

“I’m going to Tar Valon tomorrow as well,” Rand whispered. He did not know why he was telling her.

“Really!” she said with sudden enthusiasm. “What are you going to do there?”

He shrugged, not wanting to mention Trollocs and Darkfriends who might still be chasing him. “I am with Moiraine Sedai. She is taking Egwene to the White Tower to become a Novice.” He paused and pulled away his hand. “Remember? I told you earlier.” She nodded and he continued. Yet, now he could think of little more than the absence of her skin against his fingers. Her cheeks were so smooth and soft. “Well they are leaving tomorrow and so I guess I will be going along.” He did not add that he had no choice.

She glanced down at his hip where the Heron marked blade hung casually. Her gaze hinted at something and then she leaned close to him and whispered. “Perhaps you might be my Warder one day.” Her hand stroked his leg and he could feel a heat rising in his chest. Not only from her hand, but also from the warm breathe that had moved across the exposed skin of his neck.

His voice felt slightly strained. “Who knows, I might just do that.” Rand said. Then he bit down hard on his tongue. How could he keep forgetting about her marital status? “But what of your husband?”

She leaned closer to him her face mere inches from his. “I’ll be a Green Sister, then it won’t matter what he thinks.” He could not tell if the shiver running up his spine came from her voice, her words, or the idea of being Warder to a married woman.

It helped when he tried to think of a reason why being a Green Sister would change anything. He did not ponder the question for long. Her hot breath against his cool skin pushed all thoughts aside. “Elayne,” he groaned and said the first thing that came to mind. “We’re not promised, and…”

“I’m married,” she laughed softly. The sound sent chills down his back. She was not going to let him go easily. “What difference would it make if we are promised to each other or not?”

It might not matter to her, but it meant something to him. He wanted to push her away, but his body could not muster the strength to distance himself from her. “Why are you doing this?” he asked in desperation.

Her lips touched his cheek. They felt soft and comforting even though he needed a shave. “My mother and Andor have taken what they wanted from me. Now I am taking a little something that I want.”

“And that is?” His voice sounded tense as he fought his desire for Elayne.

She giggled. “To have you.” It came out with deliberate slowness.

“Moiraine is waiting for me,” he tried again. “I shouldn’t keep her waiting.”

Elayne stood and held out her hand. “This won’t take too long.” She looked away thoughtfully. “Or at least I don’t think it will. And an Aes Sedai can take care of herself.”

“I’m not sure if I can do this, Elayne,” he pushed her hand away as he tried to extricate himself from the seat. She pinned him with her body. He wanted to push harder, but then she might consider it as assault. He felt trapped. His mind wanted to be far away, but his young body yearned to be closer to Elayne.

His gaze strayed towards her red lips and rosy cheeks. He doubted it possible, but she appeared more flushed than himself. “Why?” His voice sounded hoarse.

Her bright blue eyes, mere inches from his, held his attention. They were searching. Looking deep into his very soul for something. At least that was what it felt like. She came to some conclusion and her jaw became set in determination. He recognised the look from the women of Emond’s Field.

“I don’t want to give myself to a man I never thought that I could love.” She said.

He trembled at her words. What was she talking about? Love, how could he even consider being in love with her. She was attractive and conjured feelings within his chest that made his fancies about Min seem pale in comparison, but how could she love him?

“Slow down,” Rand replied placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. She sat up. “I appreciate what you are telling me.” She seemed confused as if she expected the words to destroy his last thread of reluctance.

Her whole face fell into shadow. “I like you, Elayne. I like you a lot.” He brushed a hand through his hair. “Light! I think I could love you given time.” She brightened again. “But I’m a farmer and you are married to some Andoran noble.”

“I don’t care if I’m married to the King of Cairhien. I want something that is real.” Her eyes stared pleadingly at him. “You are real, Rand al’Thor. You aren’t some spoilt nobleman’s son come to court a princess.”

“No,” Rand tried hard not to laugh. “I’m a fool who fell off a wall and onto your lap.”

She smiled. “Don’t you think that our meeting was providential?”

His hand gripped the stone bench. “Light, Elayne, I don’t know.”

“But it might be,” she continued.

“Yes,” he agreed. “But it does not change the fact that I’m a rural peasant who if seen by Elaida would be hanged for crimes she thinks I’ll commit.”

She bit her lip nervously. “Can’t we forget about what is and what was?” She looked up at him hopefully. “Be with me tonight. No one will know.” She seemed fragile again. “I need someone to hold me.”

“I can’t give you anything, Elayne.” Rand pleaded again.

“Then give me what a man can give me,” she replied. “Give me your heart. That is a treasure more priceless than a throne.”

“I cannot give you my heart,” Rand said sadly. “I do not know if I love you yet.”

“Then give me a promise,” she moved closer.

“A promise?” Rand asked. “You’ll have to be more specific.”

“A promise that you will be my Warder.”

“I’m not sure I can promise that either, Elayne.” He said wearily. It was getting late and he very much wanted to be away from the Palace. “What if I find a woman I love only to lose her due to a promise to you?”

She bit her lip in concentration. “Promise me a few hours of love.” Elayne really looked desperate. “Love me now, be with me, and then I’ll at least have a part of you with me. I’ll have a part of a man I chose to love, even if it was only for a night.”

Rand cupped her cheek with his left hand. “I think I can promise you that.”

“Really?” she questioned.

“Promise,” he leaned towards her and let his lips touch hers. They were soft and moist against his hard sun dried lips. It deepened gradually and soon Elayne was out of breath. She pulled away, panting.

“Room,” she barely managed to say.

“What of the guards? Won’t they see us?” he question nervously.

She shook her head. “I grew up here.” Her grin grew mischievous. “I can find my room blindfolded without a guard seeing us.”

Rand felt powerless as she dragged him through the garden and into the palace proper to her room. During the entire nerve wrecking journey he could think only of one thing. How had he gotten himself into this position? Being with a woman for the first time was almost the last thing on his mind.

Elayne disappeared into a room and a single glance inside made him stop. A large bed was positioned against the far wall. He froze, unable to move.

“Hurry, before the next guard rounds the corner,” she said in a low voice.

Rand stood at the threshold of her door. Anxiously he glanced up and down the abandoned corridor. Elayne, standing inside was watching him keenly.

“Light!” he whispered. “I hope your husband doesn’t walk through this door tonight.”

Taking a deep breath, praying the whole time, he entered her room and closed the door.

A/N

So, what do you think? I kind of like the whole idea of a secret passionate hour which is totally legal and on their wedding night. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist it. This should lead to some sports when they meet again… tbc.

This is a big series and comments might help remind me of things I forgot about. Oh and they do motivate me.

Figbiscuit
02-05-2012, 02:37 PM
OK, so I didn't expect THAT!