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View Full Version : A Different Wheel - Ch.7


st122
08-21-2011, 02:18 PM
Rand, with the help of Elayne, slipped out in the garden an hour later. She was dressed again, but each time he glanced in her direction he could not help but imagine the smooth skin hidden beneath all the layers of clothes.

They stood beside the bench again. Her bright eyes stared up at him. “Thank you, Rand.” She said after giving him another kiss.

“Keep that piece of me save,” he replied. “I’ll treasure what you gave me.” He moved closer to her again and captured her lips.

“What did I give you?” she asked shyly looking up at him. “I can’t remember there being anything in the promise.”

He wanted to curse the world and the knowledge that he would probably die of madness if no solution for the taint on saidin could be found. “I felt the love of a woman for the first time.” He whispered. “I think that is something to treasure.”

Her eyes beamed up at him, and for the first time he realised how much taller he was than her. “Then keep that part of me safe.” She placed her hand on his chest. “As I’ll keep the same part of you in me.”

He kissed her one last time before leaving to find Moiraine. Glancing back he saw only shadows. Elayne had already faded into the darkness.

When Rand found Moiraine she was sitting serenely beside the Palace road. Her gaze lingered on something before her and yet far away. She did not twitch when Rand came to stand next to her. Her eyes never wavered from the object or memory she studied.

“That didn’t take too long,” the Aes Sedai said in a distant voice. Rand shuffled about awkwardly and when she turned to face him her eyes seemed amused. Hopefully she could not see the rising red on his cheeks. Elayne had been kind enough to point out that his blush extended much further than his face. Well, he smiled, hers did as well.

Rand coughed to clear his throat. “El… The Daughter Heir. She wanted to make sure I was alright. The fall and the whole afternoon in the dungeon.” Moiraine did not move nor blink. “I might have been seriously hurt,” he added. Moiraine made no sign or gesture. “Well, she’s going to Tar Valon tomorrow.” Rand said hoping to divert some of the attention away from him.

“I know.” Moiraine replied getting to her feet and in another swift motion she climbed onto the back of her horse. She seemed to be waiting. “Are you coming, or are you going to stare at the moon like some love sick child?”

“I’m not staring at the…” his voice trailed off when he realised it was exactly what he was doing. “I’m fine, and I’m not in love.” With a precise movement he was atop his horse. Even though nothing in her expression changed, he knew she did not believe a word he was saying.

Lan emerged from the shadows. His colour shifting cloak blended entirely with the dark night. Rand found the image of disembodied head to be slight disturbing. “Had a good time sheepherder?” Lan said in his usual hard manner, which hinted at less than Moiraine, as he joined them.

“What is up with all you people thinking that something happened?” Rand exploded in exasperation.

Lan gave Moiraine a quick glance and then gave Rand an unusual wry smile. “There are some things a man, or woman for that matter, cannot hide.”

“Light!” Rand almost shouted. He held himself back just before his voice grew too loud. “Does the whole bloody Palace know?”

Moiraine began towards the gate. “No, I think Elayne was quite careful.” Her voice hinted at a joke. “She would not want to upset her husband.”

Rand just shook his head and rode in silence behind them. Eventually they reached the Queens Blessing. Basil Gil the innkeeper was busy running about, serving his customers. Rand did not feel up to anything and so followed Moiraine through the crowded inn. Lan left them again, apparently to scout the surrounding streets. For the hundredth time, Rand wandered where the Warder got the energy from.

The private room was quieter and more comfortable than the front. For the first time since leaving Elayne’s room, Rand began to relax. Loial sat in the same chair as the day before. The ogier was reading from a large book, which looked miniscule in his oversized hands. He had not noticed them entering.

It felt like coming home after a hard day’s work on the farm. Egwene and Mat were busy arguing and Rand let himself be immersed in their shouts. Normal was a nice change to a very surreal day. The only unusual was Perrin. He sat in silence in the corner. His eyes were averted and downcast. Rand felt like he should go over to comfort his friend, but he really did not have the energy. His friends were alive and well. At the moment their safety was all that mattered.

Eventually his mouth caught up with his thoughts. “Egwene, Perrin!” he exclaimed.

Egwene looked up. The braid she had worn was gone and her hair hung loose like it had always been. “Oh! Rand!” she jumped to her feet and threw herself into his arms. He did not flinch at the contact and he did not feel a blush rise beneath his shirt. Elayne had apparently healed him of more than just modesty and shyness. So, Rand held onto Egwene for much longer than he would usually have. She pulled away with misty eyes. “I was so worried about you.”

“I wish Mat and I could’ve been there for you. Tell me, how did you escape from Shadar Logoth?” Rand asked Egwene.

She glanced at Perrin and her expression grew worried. “Perrin and I ended up on the far side of the bank. We walked for days, Rand, until we ended up in a Steading where we were attacked by Whitecloaks. Thankfully, Moiraine and Lan saved us from them.” Rand tried to get a word in. “It was so terrifying, this horrible man had us bound inside a tent. Then he was trying to get us to admit we were darkfriends. Darkfriends! Rand can you believe that? We...”

He only managed to shake his head before she continued talking about what happened to them. Rand stopped listening as he recalled how he struggled to undo the last few buttons on Elayne’s dress. After the third button his hands were shaking so much he could barely grip one let alone loosen it. Then the dress slipped down to pool around her smooth legs. He felt his heart beating in his ears as he remembered her stepping out of the mass of cloth.

“... And now we are here.” Rand only nodded at the end in an attempt to ensure Egwene that he had been listening.

With her voice not floating about the room he managed to glance at Perrin with worry. He had not said a word and his eyes had still not wavered from the floor. Despite having missed most of the story, he still managed to gleam one important fact. Little had been said about Perrin.

Rand moved to his old friend and slapped him on the shoulder in greeting. “Good to see you,” Rand tried to sound excited.

“I’m glad you’re safe,” Perrin mumbled. “I think I’m going to bed.”

He stood and began to leave, but Rand gripped Perrin’s broad shoulders and twisted him round. Then his eyes locked onto Perrin’s. They were gold.

The voice in his mind shouted. “Wolf Brother!” Rand didn’t blink and he made no sign of being shocked. Something deep inside told him reacting would be the worst thing he could do.

“So how did you live with Egwene for all that time?” Rand tried to lighten the mood. “I mean, had I been in your position I would’ve gone mad.” The last word left a foul after taste in his mouth. How long did he have left before the taint would begin to take its toll?

Perrin looked hesitant, but then his entire body began to relax and he let out a brief chuckle as he rubbed the few day’s stubble under his chin. “She can drive a man to insanity.” He stared at Rand in gratitude. Rand would not judge Perrin based on the colour of his eyes, even if they reminded him of wolves. Rand could only hope his friends would be there for him when they learned he could channel.

Moiraine had moved to sit by Loial and they immediately began a discussion. Rand tried to get the ogier’s attention, but he was too busy with whatever the Aes Sedai was trying to get out of him.

Rand lost interest in Loial when Mat came to stand next to them. “A few hours alone with her would be enough for me.” Mat clapped Perrin on the back. “I once had to spend...”

“Mat!” Egwene scowled and Mat faltered.

Like always, he recovered quickly. “Well, never mind.” He nudged Egwene and winked at her. Rand laughed at the outraged look on her face. She still had a long way to go before she would have the serene look of an Aes Sedai.

Egwene was blazing red with anger. Her arms were crossed and she sniffed disdainfully at them. “Like it isn’t hard for any woman to spend time with the likes of you three.” She glared at Mat and Perrin, who both flinched. When her gaze fell on Rand he only smiled. If she only knew what he had been doing less than an hour ago and with the Daughter Heir of Andor no less. “What are you smiling about?”

Rand wiped the grin from his face. Then he ran his hand through his hair. “I wasn’t really thinking, Egwene.” He began. “I think my head must’ve hit that rock harder than I thought.” He suppressed a grin while trying to make his voice a bit weak. Her scowl was quickly replaced with concern.

Moiraine glanced at him from where she was talking to Loial. She had that infuriating look on her face which implied she knew exactly what Rand was thinking even though nothing changed about her.

“Where did you fall? Are you alright? Do you need some herbs or an ointment?” Egwene asked quickly. “If only Nynaeve were not at that ladies house.” She stepped closer and sniffed the air a few times. “You smell... floral.”

He held up the other hand defensively. “I’m fine Egwene. I’ve just been out of sorts every now and then today. I think I should be getting to bed.”

“You do smell rather flowery...” Perrin paused. “And there is a hint of something else...” His golden eyes clouded over in thought. He sniffed again then shook his head. “There is something different about you,” he said at last.

Rand shifted about uncomfortably. He knew they were smelling Elayne all over him. Her flower scented bed and perfume covered body. The smell brought with it some vivid memories of her sweating body as she moved.“I’m fine, really. You are probably smelling the various ointments the woman rubbed into my skull after the fall.” He rubbed his head. “I really should be getting to bed.”

He wasn’t tired, but his mind was buzzing and he really needed to get away from his friends. His escape was blocked by the innkeeper who entered the room and told Moiraine that a messenger had arrived. She stood and followed him out.

The pause gave time for questions. “What happened to you after falling from the wall?” Mat asked the moment the Aes Sedai was gone. “I can’t put my finger on it, but you’ve changed since this morning, Rand.”

“He’s changed a lot since I last saw him,” Egwene agreed.

“I think we’ve all changed much since leaving Emond’s Field.” Perrin spoke up. They all nodded in agreement and none mentioned his yellow eyes.

“So what happened?” Mat pushed again. “Come on, Rand. They told their story.”

Rand sighed and decided to be brief. “I fell into the Palace grounds.” Egwene rolled her eyes. “The Daughter Heir tended my wounds, then the Queen sent me to prison, and I shared my cell with a prince.”

Egwene gave him a flat look. “Do honestly expect us to believe that some haughty Daughter Heir of Andor would care enough about a farmer to tend to his wounds after he fell into the Palace Grounds?”

“I don’t care if you believe me,” Rand said angrily feeling a sudden defensiveness over Elayne. “It happened and she is not some haughty spoilt princess. She is a fine woman with worries and insecurities of her own!” Rand was shouting by the end.

“Oh, of course,” Egwene muttered. “Not only did she tend your bruised ego, but she spilled her heart out as well.” She sniffed disdainfully at Rand. Turned her back on him and began to leave the room. “I’m going to bed, perhaps you can tell me a better, more believable story tomorrow on the way to escorting me to the White Tower.”

“The journey to Tar Valon will take days. I will be pleased to divulge all the details.” Rand replied harshly. Elayne had given him a part of herself. He was not going to let Egwene stomp all over something wonderful that was now in him as well. Perhaps he might even throw in what happened tonight. He would love to see her squeal about and lecture him.

Moiraine came back in and cut off Egwene’s grand retreat. The small Aes Sedai dominated the room and Two River’s girl paled in comparison. “Rand, I would like to take a walk with you.” The others stared at her. “There are things which need to be discussed.”

“Tonight?” Rand sighed. He tried to plead with eyes. “Haven’t I been through enough for one day?”

“I’m sure you got enough sleep in the dungeon.”

He shook his head, feeling confused, but followed the Aes Sedai after saying good night to his friends and Loial. The ogier at least seemed disappointed at not being able to speak with Rand. Moiraine was a woman who would not be bullied and if she said they needed to go, then he had to follow. They had barely left the room when she stopped to talk to the innkeeper.

His friends continued to talk when they thought him out of earshot. “Light, Rand can spin a good tale.” It was Mat who was laughing. “The Daughter Heir, really? He couldn’t even get that farm girl to kiss him.”

“Mat!” Egwene shouted. “I don’t want to hear about your girls.”

“What about you and that tinker boy?” Perrin said loudly. “So what happened with the farmer’s daughter?”

Mat laughed. “Actually it was all Rand could do to keep the girl off him. H...” Their voices faded against the din of the noise in the common room when Moiraine began to walk again.

“Where are we going?” Rand asked Moiraine.

She did not stop nor change her pace. “We need to go see someone.”

Lan was waiting outside with their horses with a strange eager look in his eye. Rand eyed the horse and groaned while hoisting himself up. He could hardly remember the last time he tried to mount a horse while this tired. They rode in silence, but with unusual haste. The ride did not take long and eventually Lan stopped by a large house or miniature castle. In the dark it proved difficult to judge the size of the building. Above the door a shield hung with the symbol of a White Anvil.

“Where are we?” Rand asked.

“House Mantear,” Lan answered.

“Light!” Rand cried out. He needed to get away from this place. He had survived a madman trying to knife him, a fall from a wall, the Queen, a hanging from an Aes Sedai, an afternoon in a dungeon, Elayne’s bed, Egwene’s tongue and now he was about to die at the hands of a Mantear. How had they found out so quickly that he had slept with their new daughter in-law. “Please, Moiraine Sedai, I shouldn’t be here.”

“You’ll be just fine,” she replied calmly.

“I… you know.” He said in desperation, but unable to give the reasons. “They’ll kill me.”

“I know, but you’ll be fine. Trust me, Rand.”

He gave up trying to fight. “Blood and ashes.” Was all that Rand could say as he climbed the steps to what was bound to be the end of Rand al’Thor. Well, at least he would meet the Creator before the taint took him.

//**//

As soon as Rand turned his back, Elayne was running. She could not keep from crying and she did not want him to look back and see her weep over his leaving. Why should she be so emotional? He was supposed to be something to divert her, a little fun to get one over the man she was supposed to be married to.

Then why did it hurt so much to see him walking away and maybe out of her life. All that kept her from breaking down completely was the knowledge that she might be seeing him again, perhaps even before she reached Tar Valon.

She kept running until she fell onto her bed. She could still smell him on the sheets. So different from the usual flowery scent. She inhaled deeply and tried to remember every detail of the past hour with Rand.

Then slowly her mind drifted to her future. She was a married woman now. Her husband was some wealthy lord Tigraine had kept in hiding along with herself for over twenty years. The thought brought with it frustration and anger. How could she have been bullied into a marriage with a man she’d never even laid eyes upon?

Still, the whys and the hows mattered little at the moment. The papers were signed and Elayne Trakand was now Elayne Mantear, but still the future Queen of Andor.

All these thoughts paled when her mind wandered back to what Rand and herself had done under these sheets. She let out a brief giggle before curling herself into a small ball. Tomorrow would be a long day in the saddle. Sleep did not come easily. A red haired boy with intriguing grey eyes was too much of a distraction.

//**//

Galad walked back into the sun room from the balcony where he had been talking with his mother. Two people were waiting at the entrance to the room. Rand stood beside Moiraine looking very uncomfortable. Even though fidgeting slightly, he stood tall and strong. The sword on his hip made a suitable companion. Galad would enjoy sparing with the man at some point.

“Galad?” Rand said startled. “What are you doing here?” Then his eyes glazed over as he tried to remember everything. “Right, you’re mother.”

“I think the question has more to do with why you’re here.” Galad spoke while walking towards Moiraine. Rand had yet to look at Tigraine who had followed him back into the room.

“Light, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sleep with Elayne. She forced me! Please don’t hurt me.”

That made Galad stop. He shared a stunned glance with his mother. Her eyes were wide. “Rand!” she said harshly.

“Mother!” Rand shouted. “Why are you dressed like some noblewoman?” Then his eyes bulged. “I don’t go about sleeping with woman. It was only this one time. She’s the Daughter Heir, very persuasive, especially when she…”

“Because I am one, Rand.” Tigraine answered interjecting Rand’s mad ramblings. “I am the Lady Tigraine Mantear.”

Rand’s mouth stopped moving and then he began to laugh. Whatever, Galad had expected it had not been laughter. “That’s very funny, mother. Leading me here and putting on this show.” He glanced about the room as if waiting for someone to appear. None did. “Moiraine, tell me she is joking?”

“This is not a joke, Rand. She is exactly who she said she is,” the Aes Sedai spoke calmly.

Rand alternated between staring at his mother, Moiraine, and Galad. He did not speak a word and it appeared as if his mind was working hard to come to terms with what they had just told him. “Blood and bloody ashes!” he shouted finally. “I’ve slept with my…” his words trailed off as if he were trying to remember what someone had told him. “Light, with which family members’ wife did I sleep with?”

“We’ll come to that a little later, Rand,” their mother spoke. Rand did not look any more relaxed.

Galad’s eyes narrowed. He could not figure out what Rand was referring to. Galad knew all the members of House Mantear and who they were married to and none were married to Elayne. His gaze narrowed and he wondered what his mother had been up to since arriving.

Then Rand’s grey eyes studied Galad. They were questioning. “Are we brothers?” Galad gave a single nod before he extended a hand. “It appears I misled you. My name is Rand…” He turned to their mother. “What is my name?”

“Formally, I would think you Rand Mantear,” She studied Galad, looking anxious. “Are you going to abandon your father’s name, Galad?”

Galad had not thought much on it after Bawyn had asked. “The offer is tempting, but I was the heir to my father’s titles. I’m a Damodred and will continue to wear their colours.” He wanted to laugh. The Damodreds all but ignored him and still he carried their name. He faced Moiraine. “No offence, but I never liked my father’s side of the family.”

“Do you see me joining their parties?” she replied with no hint at her thoughts. “House Damodred lost its way long ago I’m afraid.” He could do little more than nod. Galad had always felt closer to the Children of the Light than the Damodreds. “I do think, however, that you should continue wearing the colours of House Damodred.”

Galad faced his mother. She appeared somewhat pleased by his answer. “I agree, you’re are link to Cairhien. If you do not take my name upon you then you must remain loyal to House Damodred.” Galad got the uneasy feeling that they were planning something to do with him. The thought was not foreign, there were always strings to pull. Tigraine spoke up again, this time to Rand. “Then you are Rand Mantear, the heir apparent to House Mantear.” She chuckled. “Young Perival lost a lot today.”

Moiraine moved across to Tigraine and began to whisper.

Rand broke the awkward silence between them. “So I’m a Lord of some sort.”

“It would appear so,” Galad answered. “A bit strange to think I actually have a brother on my mother’s side. Gawyn, is a good man, but we never really saw eye to eye.”

“And you think I’ll be any better?” Rand asked with a raised eyebrow.

“I think we might get along.” Galad knew they would. They were connected by blood much stronger than his fathers. There was something in their mother’s veins that bonded them in a more powerful way.

“There is something between us, isn’t there?” Rand spoke, voicing Galad’s own thoughts. “I felt it when you tried to help me to my feet in the Palace grounds this morning.”

Galad nodded slowly in agreement. “And we can both channel. Not sure how many brothers can say as much.”

“Who would want to say that?” Rand mumbled. “But the dice has been thrown and we landed a pair of ones.”

Galad grinned. “You have the Dark One’s own luck.”

“That I do, that I do.” Rand agreed. “And it would seem, so do you.”

Moiraine eventually stopped talking to their mother. “Rand, Galad, we need to talk.”

“Why do I get the feeling I’m not going to like what they are going to tell me?” Rand whispered to Galad as he made his way towards the pair of women.

“Between Daughter Heirs and Aes Sedai a man never hears good news.” Galad agreed. Then he stopped Rand with a hand on his shoulder. “I am your man, Rand.” Galad said with force and continued. “By my hope of salvation and rebirth, I pledge myself to you Rand of House Mantear.” Galad froze, he did not know why he swore the oath. It was what he had told his mother earlier, but why tell Rand as much.

Moiraine was staring at him, face expressionless as always. Tigraine was little better, but her mouth hung open slightly.

“Galad,” Rand spoke finally. “By the Light, why did you just swear an oath to me?”

Galad stuttered. “I… I don’t know, but I will stand by my oath.”

Moiraine cleared her throat. “You are ta’veren Rand, a strong one.” She said no more.

Rand gave Galad another confused glance and then continued towards their mother.

“Rand,” Moiraine began. “There is more for us to tell you tonight than who your mother really is.”

“I can channel,” Rand said with a grin. None of them reacted. “Light, I was sure a comment like that would get more of reaction!” Rand tried to laugh.

“I know,” Moiraine said in a tone implying nothing, except perhaps boredom. “Galad can channel as well.” Galad stiffened. “Relax, I am not going to hand you over to a Red Sister. I have assumed for years that you can touch the One Power. You were just not born with the spark. Rand here, might have triggered it.”

Rand shook his head. “It was Logain actually. He sort of tricked me into channelling. Or at least I think he did.”

“Did he?” Moiraine said quickly, for the first time showing some surprise. “Why?”

“He knows who Rand is,” Galad answered Moiraine’s question. “I think he might have the talent to see ta’veren.”

“Why would being a Mantear give me the ability to channel?” Rand asked in confusion. “And not all ta’veren can channel. Artur Hawkwing couldn’t and he was the most powerful ta’veren since... well forever.”

“It is not because of who your mother is that you are ta’veren.”

“Has this got to do with what Elaida foretold about me?”

Moiraine made a slight gesture. “Yes, it has to do with what she said.”

“Will I really be at the centre of everything?” Galad could sense the rising panic in Rand’s voice.

Tigraine spoke up. “Rand. Before you were born Gitara Morosa, an Aes Sedai with the foretelling told me that if I did not leave Caemlyn the world would be destroyed. The Dark One would win. The outcome of my leaving Caemlyn was your birth.” She paused.

Rand stood motionless until he slumped down into a nearby seat. He did not utter a word and for a long time as he sat staring into the distance. His hand was pressed against his forehead. Moiraine looked vaguely worried and Tigraine seemed unsure of what to do. Galad felt his own hand tremble on the hilt of his sword as he wondered what Rand was thinking.

Then Rand stood slowly. “What am I supposed to do now? I’m a noble of some kind. Do I stay here?”

“No,” Moiraine replied. “We leave for Tar Valon.”

Rand eyed them critically. His jaw was set and Galad noticed a deeper strength in Rand, something he had not noticed earlier. “There is something else isn’t there. I can see it in your eyes, mother. You’ve done something else. What have you done?”

She glanced nervously at Moiraine, who looked calm as always. “You’re married, Rand.”

Galad’s eyes widened in shock. “You didn’t!” He shouted.

Rand once again did not utter a word for a long while. “Do I at least know this poor girl whose been made to marry a man who can channel. I would like to send my condolences before the funeral.” Rand said eventually. Galad could only shake his head at Rand’s complete inability to piece together who his wife is. Then again, had he gone through a day like Rand’s, his ability to think would also have been a little unreliable. In fact, all things considered his own mind was a bit slow this evening.

“You’ve met her,” Galad said angrily at his mother. “And you liked her. I dare say she likes you.”

“Elayne!” Rand gasped. “You signed a contract to have me married to the Daughter Heir.”

“She doesn’t know that it is you. They only know that her husband is the heir to House Mantear.”

“Why?” Galad asked.

Rand was laughing by now. “We thought we were…” he laughed harder. “All the secr…” he managed between a breath. “And she was my wife…” his laughter died down quickly and a look of horror crossed his face. “She’s going to kill me.”

He watched Rand until he spoke again. “It’s simple,” Rand eventually managed to say instead of his mother or Moiraine. The mirth in his voice lessoned as he spoke, and Galad could hear a note of underlying bitterness. “Our mother was the Daughter Heir. I listened to enough tales growing up to know House Mantear is strong. We only lacked a suitable daughter. There were also no eligible men to marry off to Elayne. That was until I came along.”

He stood from where he sat, grey eyes hard and unblinking as he stared down at his mother. When he spoke his voice was soft. “You did this to ally Andor to me.” He glanced at Galad and then Moiraine. “Next you’ll have one of them on the throne of Cairhien. That’s two nations who have sworn fealty to me.” His voice grew hard and cold as ice. “The only question is why?”

His eyes grew thin slits. Rand was dangerous. “Mark my words. While I appreciate what you are doing. I will not be manipulated!”

Moiraine gritted her teeth in anger. Tigraine alone calmed the situation. “Yes, Rand. We… I manoeuvred this marriage for you to benefit from the backing of a large nation. We have not decided what to do about Cairhien. There is more, however...” Tigraine paused while she straightened her dress. “There is also your father to consider.”

“My father?” Rand breathed out heavily. A man did not have to know Rand to see the underlying tension at the idea. “What about my father.”

“His name was Janduin and he was an Aiel clan chief.”

Rand’s back stiffened. “You mean to say I really am an Aielman?”

“Half Aiel, the rest is pure Andoran.” Tigraine smiled.

“How does this help me?” Rand asked.

“Being of the blood,” Tigraine almost whispered. “You have the right of passage to Rhuidean. The place where Aiel chiefs are tested.” She paused for breath. “I’ve not even told Moiraine of this, but the Aiel have a prophecy about a man called He Who Comes With the Dawn, also called the Car’a’carn or the Chief of Chiefs. I believe you to be him.”

Rand let his head drop and some of his resolve began to dwindle. “You want me to become an Aiel while also being married to Elayne?” Rand shook his head. “How can two such nations coexist?”

“The Car’a’carn is prophesied to bring change. More I do not know. The Aiel Wise Ones are very tight lipped about their prophecies.”

Rand began to pace around with his hands behind his back. “I will need time to consider my options.” In those moments Galad saw Rand as a king, a ruler who could lead men and nations. Then the moment passed. He began to leave and Moiraine hurried on behind him.

“I will be there for him, mother,” Galad said when the two had left the room.

“He will need all the guidance and support he can get. The road is going to be long and hard for him.” His mother agreed.

She looked forlorn as she stared at the door Rand had just fled through. Twenty years of living a lie was finally coming back to haunt her. “I forgive you,” Galad managed to say.

“I do not deserve your forgiveness,” she answered. “But I thank you all the same.”

“I think we might still have some dinner left,” Galad spoke trying to break the mood. “If I’m to leave tomorrow then I want to spend as much of tonight with you.”

Tigraine beamed back at him and Galad felt his heart warm at the sight. “I would dearly love to know what you’ve been doing for twenty years.”

She nodded slowly. “And I your tale.”

//**//

Rand had barely left the hall when Moiraine caught up with him. “Rand,” she called after him.

He stopped walking and turned to face her. “Why should I be listening to you?” he sounded as bitter an angry as he felt. “I should never have left the Two Rivers. Better to die than end up here being manipulated.” He spat out. “Marriages and nations. Light, Moiraine, I’m a sheepherder.”

“You are no sheepherder,” she spoke calmly, but he could see unease in the tightness of her eyes. Was she already fearing him as a man who could channel? “You bare the Heron mark blade…” Rand made to protest but she continued. “Lan has told me you have already earned the right to it. Tam al’Thor was a good instructor.”

“So what? I’m a farmer who can point a metal stick at someone.” Rand said heatedly.

“Deny as much as you want, Rand. You are the son of Tigraine Mantear. You are heir to House Mantear. You are husband to Elayne Mantear. You are of the Royal Blood of Andor. A blood line that stretches back hundreds of years.”

“Elayne and her mother are royal, not me,” Rand interjected.

“No,” she shook her head. “Trakand usurped a much older line as you know. Within you, the same as in your mother, flows an old blood.” She paused and her dark eyes bored into his own. “Within you, the same as in your father, flows an ancient blood.”

Rand stared at her in confusion. “Old blood, ancient blood, what does any of it matter?” He continued to walk.

“It means everything, Rand Mantear,” she called after him. He stopped walking. He doubted he would ever get something straight from her. Her words held a weight to them and they had to be true. He was a few paces away from her when he faced the Aes Sedai again.

It was infuriating. Her face was telling him something. Her words emphasised the importance and yet she would not come out and say what she meant.

She said nothing. Instead she gave a formal curtsy and strode passed him and out the house.

“My Lord,” a young woman bowed before him. “Would my Lord be need anything before retiring for the night?”

Rand studied her. His mind was still trying to come to terms with everything. He tried to remember what Moiraine had said. He was Rand Mantear. “I’m fine, thank you,” he spoke softly despite the bubbling anger at his mother and Moiraine. There was no point in shouting at servants.

“Would my Lord follow me to my Lord’s quarters,” she curtsied again and he saw the sparkle in her eyes.

“That would be kind,” he replied. She smiled and then began to walk. As they strode through the various corridors he could not help but notice the servants. All of them appeared pleased and they curtsied or bowed deeply as he passed.

Only when they entered his room did he ask. “Why are you all so pleased?”

“It has been a great day for House Mantear, my Lord,” she answered.

He motioned for her to continue. “Your mother has returned and we have a new and strong connection with the throne again.”

“I see,” Rand said while not understanding why it should please the house staff so much.

“Will that be all, my Lord?” she asked.

He glanced about the large room, which held more space than Tam’s whole house. Clothes were laid out on his bed for the night.

“A bath would be nice,” he said finally. That was all he needed at the moment. The woman curtsied again and scurried out the room.

It did not take long before he was in bed after a warm bath. Glancing out the window on the far side of the room, he wondered if Elayne would be able to sleep tonight.

He closed his eyes and tried to think what he was going to do when he next saw her again.

//**//

Rand’s eyes opened to a strange room. A man was seated before a blazing fire. He looked up. For the briefest of moments Rand thought he saw surprise in the man’s eyes. Whatever was there blinked away only to be replaced by calm.

“Why come here?” the man asked.

Rand glanced about the room in confusion. He had to be dreaming. “I would ask the same of you.” Rand answered. He knew this place, it seemed vaguely familiar, but yet he did not know.

A goblet appeared on the table in front of him or he thought it did. He could not remember seeing it when he first stepped into this dream or whatever it was. “Would you care for a drink?” the man asked getting to his feet. He was dressed in a strange combination of red and black. His eyes flicked towards the cup and then back at Rand.

“I’m not thirsty,” he replied ignoring the cup. He had the impression the liquid inside would not do him any good. The man frowned. “Who are you?”

The man shook his head with a false grin. “Not very polite to come into a man’s home and demand names.” They stood in stalemate. “Did the Aes Sedai promise you the Eye of the World?” The tone of his voice sounded almost conversational.

Rand tried not to look confused or sound uncertain. “They might have, but what is the Eye to you?” Rand countered.

“A source of power,” he chuckled. “It matters not.” He seemed to be coming to some conclusion. “The Eye would not serve you in any case.” There was a something in his eyes now. A burning light, almost like fire.

“What’s to stop it from serving the Light?” Rand spoke trying his best to gleam some information while fighting down his fear of the man. He could sense a power in him.

“Take it if you want,” the man muttered. “It’s but a means to an end.”

The man raised a hand and Rand began to scream. His whole body was bent taut and the world vanished to blackness.

He woke in his bed. It surprised him that he was not screaming. His whole body trembled and shivered from a sudden cold. The intense pain still lingered and it was all he could do to keep his body still.

He dared not fall asleep again, but he was too exhausted to fight his body. Hopefully Moiraine would have some answers for him. Light, he hoped she would.

A/N

Comments are appreciated as always. I would really like to get input.