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View Full Version : A Different Wheel - Ch.11


st122
02-13-2012, 11:45 PM
Nynaeve sat alone in her room weeping into her hands. She wore an Accepted’s dress. The hem of which was lined with the seven colours, one for each of the Ajahs. Her long braid hung over her shoulder, but she was could not muster the energy to grip it.

Through the tears a growing anger boiled within her. How could the Aes Sedai have done to her what they did? The testing was beyond cruel. Tired from a long few days in the saddle they had thrust her into a strange three arched object. A ter’angreal they called it. Where the thing sent her she did not know. Whether what she experienced was real she did not want to ponder. All she knew was that the experience was torture. At least she was not a Novice, whatever that truly meant.

Another angry tear slid down her cheek. Naked and trembling she had stepped through the first arch and into a strange world where a Forsaken calling himself Aginor had tried to kill her. Still feeling his hungry eyes looking over her naked body she had stepped into the second arch and into Emond’s Field. Not the village she knew, but one where a tyrant of a Wisdom ruled the people with an iron rod as she poisoned the children.

The third arch, the final test, had been the worst. Within its illusions she had seen a life with Lan. They had children and within those moments he loved her without the threat of Death’s blade looming over him.

Within each arch she had to leave. She had to ignore the pain and suffering around her. She had to break the heart of a man she loved to escape through a way out that would only come once. She cursed the Aes Sedai within that chamber with every breath she took.What did it help that they washed her clean after each trial? As if the water over her head would wash away what she had seen. Did they think that she could forget about everything?

The tears stopped flowing and she trembled in rage. Saidar flooded into her. At least she now knew what it was that she felt in these fits of anger. Had an Aes Sedai walked into the room she would not have been able to stop herself from lashing out at them. Light protect the woman if she were Moiraine.

Her head dropped. What good would it do? She was unable to do anything with the One Power but heal people.

Slowly her hands slid away from her red rimmed eyes and onto her lap. The dress she had received from Tigraine lay on the bed situated on the far side of the small room. Nynaeve would be unable to wear it until she became a Full Sister or as long as she stayed in the Tower.

Standing, she strode over to the window. She did not know in which direction she was looking. The world was still too dark outside. Yet, somewhere out there Lan rode towards the Borderlands with Moiraine. With them were the three boys from Emond’s Field. In those moments she felt a fear and she prayed that they were alright.

There was nothing else to do but prepare to go to sleep. Lying in bed exhausted, she was unable to find any rest. Sleep would not come and every few moments her mind would replay what she had done in the third Arch. How could she have turned her back on Lan? She cursed the day the Aes Sedai found the bloody tri-arched ter’angreal.

When the sun rose the following morning she had still not slept a single minute. With a grumble she dressed in her Accepted’s dress once again and fled her room. Maybe being outside and in the gardens would help clear her mind.

Once her thoughts were clear then she would need to find out what an Accepted was supposed to do in the bloody White Tower.

/\/**/\/

Perrin woke early the following morning and as soon as his eyes opened he began to feel the presence of wolves all around them. Just as the first flood of senses from them began to flow into him he pushed them aside. They would not consume him.

After blinking a few times to clear his vision Perrin sat up and glanced at the sleeping forms around the smouldering remains of the night’s fire. Galad lay peacefully bedside Lan. Even while slumbering the Warder and Rand’s brother looked deadly. Moiraine slept beside him. He could not see her features, but only the Aes Sedai could form such a small bundle beneath a blanket. Loial’s chest rose and fell beside her and his breathing rumbled softly. His gigantic form dwarfed even that of the Warders.

Rand had gone to sleep beside the ogier. Perrin stiffened. The patch of earth was barren save for the blanket under which Rand had slept. “Rand!” Perrin said loudly despite the sleeping forms around him. No reply came.

Moiraine and Lan were awake and upright before Perrin’s voice had died down. “What is it, Perrin?” Moiraine asked.

“Rand is not here,” Perrin replied. He did not look at the Aes Sedai as he spoke. Instead he turned in a slow circle while studying the surrounding area for any signs of Rand. There was no trace of the man.

“Where is Rand?” Perrin stopped his search at the sound of Galad’s voice.

“I was just having this dream about a beau…” Mat groaned, but a cold stare from Moiraine cut off his remaining words.

“Did any of you hear Rand leave last night?” she asked. Both Perrin and Mat shook their heads.

Galad and Lan, however, were already walking carefully around the perimeter of the camp. “There are no marks leading away from the camp other than those we made last night.” Lan stopped searching. “He could have left amongst the same ones, but I doubt it.”

“What’s this?” Galad voice called from the far side of camp near Rand’s blankets.

Perrin rushed to where the tall dark haired man stood. Moiraine and Lan were not far behind. Galad stood before a perfectly straight line a few paces long that had gauged a path into the sand.

Moiraine lowered herself to stare more intently at the line. “What could it be, Moiraine?” the Warder asked. He had not bent to get a closer look, but he did appear as perplexed as Perrin had ever seen the man before. He smelled slightly of unease.

The Aes Sedai on the other hand smelled alarmed despite her calm exterior. “I do not know, Lan,” she answered in a usual serene tone.

“It could just be a stupid line that Rand drew in the sand last night,” Mat tried to laugh, but he could not hide the scent of fear which accompanied his words.

“I doubt Rand could’ve drawn such a perfect line in the sand.” Galad said slowly. He smelled confused, almost as if something were bothering him. The man glanced up at Moiraine and an unspoken message passed between him and the Aes Sedai. She gave a very faint nod. It would’ve been imperceptible had Perrin not been looking for a sign from her.

She straightened and stood as tall as she could. “We must ride for Fal Dara. Our journey cannot wait.”

Perrin shared an anxious look with Mat.

/\/**/\/

Egwene had not seen Nynaeve since the day before when they left Sheriam’s room. Elayne had gone to bed early seeing as she was tired from the hard few days ride. Egwene had found sleep quickly the previous evening as well and neither had said much in the morning. Egwene for one was too awestruck and slightly overwhelmed by the White Tower and the fact that she now wore Novice white. Elayne, though not so overwhelmed, seemed to be lost in thought.

Even if she wanted to discuss things now, Egwene would not have been able to because at the moment she and Elayne were seated before a fiery Aes Sedai with long black hair and dark penetrating eyes. She wore a green shawl around her shoulders.

“I am Alanna Sedai,” the woman said calmly despite the weight to her gaze. “I will be guiding you through your first touching of saidar.”

Neither Elayne nor Egwene said anything, as both of them had already been led through the basics by either Elaida or Moiraine.

“Now close your eyes, children,” she began. “And imagine the bud of a flower.”

Egwene did as she was told and closed her eyes and tried to imagine the bud of a rose.

“That’s good,” the voice of Alanna echoed. “Empty your minds of all thoughts...” Egwene closed her eyes tighter. It proved difficult to clear her mind. Since the battle she had not been able to touch saidar again. Images of Rand fighting Trollocs kept flooding her mind. When those faded she would see Gawyn as he walked through the camp or rode with the soldiers. The handsome face of Galad cropped in as well and she had to fight the rising heat on her cheeks.

“There is only one thing in your mind,” the voice continued to say rhythmically in the distance. Slowly the images of Galad slipped away, but Gawyn refused to be moved. His eyes haunted her and in her mind they stared at her for hours.

“Imagine the bud of a flower,” the Aes Sedai’s words reverberated in her mind. Focusing on the word flower, a small bud began to form. It was shapeless and without colour. It was nothing, but yet it was there. “Only that, only the bud of the flower,” the now faraway voice kept talking.

Gawyn faded from her conscious thoughts. Rand alone burned inside her with his long Heron marked blade as he carved a smooth path through the endless ranks of Trollocs. His movements fluid and precise. Blood had sprayed his face and body. With her saidar enhanced sight she had seen every gruesome moment. Her body shivered in remembrance. How had Rand managed to stay alive? It should not have been possible.

Then she saw his grey eyes staring coldly at Moiraine. They were so distant and still she had seen a pain in them. With an agonising effort the image of Rand began to shimmer and lose focus.

The bud rotated in her mind and she began to feel its presence growing inside her with the absence of distractions. It was more than just an image. “You can smell it... You can feel it.” And Egwene could, the faint but distinct smell of the bud filled her. If she reached out, she was sure she would have been able to touch the bud. “Let the bud grow,” Alanna almost whispered.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the bud morphed and changed. Petals began to unfold, beautiful red petals of the rose blossomed. She could feel her excitement growing. “You can feel every vein... of every leaf... the curve of each individual petal.” As if an unseen hand reached out towards the lily, Egwene touched and experienced every detail of each part of her flower. It began to throb, as if life had been breathed into it. “Feel it pulsing... feel it,” Alanna continued. Egwene could barely think, her entire being was the flower.

“Know the flower... be the flower... the flower and yourself are the same. You are the flower,” the murmurings of the Aes Sedai continued. Time held no meaning. Nothing outside the rose existed as she began to be the flower in her mind.

Inside she was the rose. Red petals extended in full bloom. With everything in place and the rose in full flower, something else began to be felt. Something was pressing down on her petals, light. She, like her flower, began to turn towards that light, drinking in the presence of the light, absorbing its radiance.

The rose and the light became one, the light and Egwene became one. She reached out, she yearned for more of the light to touch her, she needed and wanted more. A heartbeat later it was all gone leaving her feeling empty and cold.

Her eyes fluttered open and she was surprised to see a very faint smile on Alanna’s lips. “That was very good, children,” the woman praised. “I think that will be all for now.”

“I…” Elayne glanced at Egwene. “We can do more, Aes Sedai.”

Alanna had already risen to her feet. “I am sorry, child. The path to being a Full Sister is long and arduous. We must be very careful in your training.” She tried to seem motherly, but her intense eyes, which held a fire, did not help. “One wrong step and you can be stilled.” She eyed the two of them. “We would not want you to be stilled or killed.”

“No, Aes Sedai,” Elayne managed with a curtsy. “Thank you, we had just imagined the lesson to have have taken more than a few minutes.”

“A few minutes?” the Aes Sedai said bemused. “Child, you have been trying to channel for almost two hours.”

Egwene’s eyes widened and then she glanced out the window only to notice that it was much brighter outside than when they first started the lesson. “Forgive us, Aes Sedai,” Egwene managed to say meekly. “We did not intend to be rude.”

“Of course you did not, child,” she said. “But an Aes Sedai must learn to always think before asking questions.”

Elayne and Egwene flushed slightly. “Yes, Aes Sedai.”

“Good,” Alanna said before striding serenely out the door.

“Two hours?” Elayne said when the Aes Sedai was gone. Then she hurried to the window. “Light, Egwene, she was right.” She pointed at the sun. “It’s midday already.”

Egwene sat down on a chair. “I honestly did not think more than a few minutes had passed.” She stared at Elayne in confusion. “Did we really take that long to touch saidar?”

Elayne sank into a chair beside Egwene. “Maybe,” she sighed. “My mind was so full of Trollocs and…” she blushed.

“And Rand,” Egwene finished for her.

The Daughter Heir nodded. “Elayne!” she cried out. “What am I going to do? Rand is driving me crazy.”

Egwene let out a relieved chuckle. It was not just her who was confused by this whole thing. “Rand has that ability. Whenever you’re around him he always leaves your mind spinning somehow.”

Elayne nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, that would make sense.”

“It does?” Egwene asked loudly while giving the girl what must have been a blank expression.

The Daughter Heir bit her lip as if she had said something she should not have. “I think I love him, Egwene.”

Egwene studied Elayne for a while before her mouth caught up with her mind. “How can you love him? You barely now him.”

The golden haired girl shrugged not looking at Egwene. “I don’t know,” she answered. “But ever since I first laid eyes on his unconscious form as he lay in the Palace grounds I knew him to be special.”

Egwene rubbed her temples in thought. How had Rand managed to get this girl to love him? “Does he know you love him?”

Elayne shook her head. “Or at least I don’t think he does. We had a fight and I haven’t spoken to him since.”

“What did you fight about?” Egwene tried to push for more.

Elayne stood and straightened her White Novice’s dress. “He is still hiding something from me, Egwene. Do you know what it might be?”

“Hiding something?” Egwene said louder than she intended. “I’m sorry, Elayne. I didn’t mean to shout.”

The girl just waved a hand dismissively. “We are equals in the Tower. You can speak to me as you please.”

Egwene nodded thoughtfully. She had not considered that. “Still I did not mean to be rude. But I cannot think what else Rand is trying to hide. I mean I didn’t know about his mother after all.”

Elayne turned back slowly to face Egwene. “I do not know, but between Moiraine and Rand they are hiding something.”

“Could it have something to do with why they are going to the Eye of the World?” Egwene ventured.

“Perhaps,” Elayne sighed tiredly. “I’m tired of trying to figure him out. Could we perhaps go take a walk in the gardens?”

“If it’s alright with you I’m going to go look at the library,” Egwene replied.

“That’s fine,” Elayne said trying to smile. “Some time alone in the gardens would do me some good I think.”

They left the room together, but Egwene left Elayne to go find the library. She really wanted to do some reading on the history of the Tower.

/\/**/\/

Min walked carefully into the grounds of the White Tower. The first letter from Moiraine, crumpled in her tense hand, had gotten her inside. The other more important letter was for the eyes of Siuan Sanche the Amyrlin Seat. Keeping her head low, Min tried to find her way as quickly as possible. Occasionally she would look around in case an Aes Sedai happened to be Moiraine.

Min missed a step and almost stumbled. An Aes Sedai had walked passed her, but instead of a calm expressionless face untouched by time Min saw a bloody mask. The woman would die a bloody death. With a shake of her head, she continued walking. Aes Sedai lived in constant danger. What was so odd about viewing the death of one of them?

She rounded a corner and found herself in one of the many gardens. Unlike most places in the world everything was perfect within these walls. The grass was tender and green and the flowers in full bloom with colours varying almost as much as in a rainbow.

What caught Min’s eye was not the perfection of the unnatural One Power maintained garden, but a golden haired girl sitting on a marble bench. She wore a plain dress of white, even her shoes were of the purest white. She had seen a few young women dressed similarly since entering the grounds. They appeared to be too arrogant to be servants, which made them only one thing, Aes Sedai in training. The faint Auras, barely visible above them, confirmed this.

This girl was different from the others. Above her head were two distinct images. The first was a crown. It glowed brightly and Min knew that it was already firmly within her grasp and that it would be hers whenever she wanted it.

The other was more intriguing. A golden lily growing steadily towards an unseen light while a strange almost lizard like creature of red and gold was wrapping itself around it protectively. The lily pushed against the creature as if it did not want the protection, but never in a manner which hurt the beast. Outside the strange beast darkness existed and it took many wounds in its defence of the lily.

The woman looked slightly forlorn and she did not notice a staring Min as she walked passed. Before she could try to view more two Aes Sedai walked between Min and the girl followed closely by a young woman in a dress with seven bands of colour on the hem of her dress and another girl in pure white.

Min inhaled sharply. Shrouding their arrogant faces were masks of blood. The two younger women and one of the Aes Sedai would all die. Colour drained from Min’s face and she knew they would all meet the Creator on the same day. She shivered and hurried towards where the first Aes Sedai she’d met had told her where to find the Amyrlin’s study.

As she hurried along the wide abandoned corridors she could only wonder what she was doing here. Was it because of the commands of Moiraine Sedai? Or was it because of the strange pull she had felt coming from Rand and to a lesser degree the two other boys, Mat and Perrin? All three of them were important in the war against the shadow. Why they were and for what reason, she did not know, but they were pivotal. The viewing of the darkness trying to submerge them was sign enough.

Perhaps that was why she had come. She needed to help the Light in whatever way she could. Even as the thought entered her mind she knew it to be nothing more than a lie. She had come to help Rand. There was just something about the man that drew her in even if she knew that he would never love her the way she wanted.

“Light curse this talent,” she mumbled under her breath to herself. “Why do I always have to know what I cannot have?”

“What was that, Child?” Min stopped and her eyes widened when she realised that she had walked straight into what appeared to be a waiting room outside the Amyrlin’s office.

“Um… nothing, Aes Sedai.” Min tried her best to curtsy. “I was just thinking aloud.”

The woman was tall and graceful with an ageless face common to all older Aes Sedai. Her coppery skin and dark eyes were intimidating. Min swallowed nervously as she fumbled for Moiraine’s letter. “I have…” she stuttered. “A letter from Moiraine Sedai that I’m to give to the Amyrlin Seat in person,” she managed to say eventually. Even as she spoke she grew angry with herself. Min Farshaw was a strong independent woman that could speak clearly for herself. Her posture straightened and became more confident, perhaps even a bit arrogant.

The Aes Sedai, probably a Domani woman, gave no real sign of anything, but Min did think her slightly amused. “I will see if the Amyrlin Seat has time to see you…” The question was left hanging in the air.”

“Min Farshaw,” she supplied.

The woman smiled indulgently. “Min Farshaw.”

It was only then that Min saw a brief flash above the woman that made sense. Everything else before had just been a random group of images common to all Aes Sedai. An image of a naked woman with only a stole to keep her clothed and even as the woman trembled that stole was ripped away and the soft glow around her began to fade.

Min shuddered and did not hear the Aes Sedai speak.

“Min Farshaw!” the voice said loudly and she jumped out of her trance.

“I’m sorry, Aes Sedai,” she muttered. “I was distracted.”

The woman stared at her coldly. “The Amyrlin Seat will see you briefly.”

Min curtsied and tried to avoid looking at the woman who would soon be losing not only her position within the Tower, but her ability to channel the One Power as well.

If she thought the end to terrible viewings had come, she was sorely mistaken. As soon as Min glanced up at Siuan Sanche an identical image of her naked and spread out across the floor appeared. Min yelped and nearly jumped. Despite the clarity of the image she did not know what it meant.

“Are you alright, child?” the woman asked.

“I think so, Mother,” Min replied with a respectful bow. It was best to get this meeting over with. “I carry a letter from Moiraine Sedai. She handed it to me and I swore to bring it straight to the Tower. Moiraine Sedai was bound for the White Tower, but since you have not mentioned as much I must assume that her path led her elsewhere.”

Min felt a pang of fear for Rand. There had been so much darkness floating around him in the Auras she viewed.

The woman held out her hand and Min crossed the near empty office to hand the letter to her. As the woman read Min gazed about. The place was sparsely decorated with images of fishing being most prominent. Siuan Sanche was apparently not a woman for fineries. That was one thing Min could like about the woman. The only expensive items seemed to be the ones that a person could not get rid of even if they tried.

Min heard the Amyrlin Seat sigh tiredly and she turned to see the letter go up in flames. Min faced the woman and waited.

“Moiraine Sedai tells me that you have a gift of Foretelling which I might find useful. She asks in this letter that you remain in the Tower so that I can make use of your talent.” Anger surfaced within Min and she barely managed to keep it under control. “Do not worry, child. I will not go about telling the Sisters of your abilities.” Min exhaled slowly. “I will however need more details.”

The woman motioned for Min to sit. Then began a long few hours during which the Aes Sedai extracted as much from Min as she could give.

During the entire session Min had only one thought of her own, Light burn Rand al’Thor.

/\/**/\/

Rand drifted off to sleep beside Loial. He had barely closed his eyes when a sudden sensation caused him to jerk awake. The feeling of wrongness did not fade. He rose slowly while his left hand took hold of his belt and sword lying beside him. Only when upright did he wrap the belt around his waist and unsheathe the blade from its scabbard.

In the darkness he could see nothing, but he knew someone was watching him. It made him uncomfortable as his body was bathed in the low light of the dying embers of the fire. The metallic blade shone with an almost unnatural orange light. With care he attempted to slip into the void, thankfully it came easily this night. It had not come to him in the Ways.

Saidin, foul as always, soaked his being, but the world grew brighter as his senses became more sensitive. There was no time to worry about the madness. Tentatively he took a step forward only to halt as a figure moved just outside the camp in the darkness.

He felt something, not a touch, but something different. It reminded Rand of when he stared at Galad after the battle against the Trollocs. He did not have time to think as the air shimmered in the distance and for a moment it appeared brighter. More importantly he could see flows wrapping around themselves in the air and around the light. Saidin! Panic bounced off the void as he instinctively duplicated the weaves and stepped forwards without hesitating. It was foolish, but something greater than his self-control tugged at him.

He strode out of the darkness and into a strange columned room where it was neither dark nor light, instead everywhere he turned the world looked the same. All thoughts of the figure in the night faded momentarily as he stood in awe while fear seeped into him despite the void. The warp in the air he had formed vanished. He had no idea how to get back to where the others were.

He swallowed nervously. There was little to be done and so he walked carefully further into the hall in search of the man who had woven saidin. With each stride he ensured his balance never wavered far from centre and saidin remained close to be used in a moment’s notice. Not that he knew what to do with saidin, but it was there. Then he trembled as his gaze fell upon an unusual object.

With care he made his way towards the centre of the hall where a single sword that was not a sword hung suspended in the air. It appeared to be made of glass, but even Rand knew what it was supposed to be – Callandor – the sword of prophecy. He wanted to reach out and touch it. Common sense dictated that it would not be so easy. Something suspended like this for thousands of years was not there for the taking even if he thought himself the Dragon Reborn.

Then the world grew dark and Rand barely had time to weave a flow he’d never imagined before in his life. Air woven with fire, earth and water formed a barrier of sorts. Time slowed and he felt his heart give a single beat.

It all happened within that heartbeat. Flames, hotter than any fire he’d ever felt, slammed into the barrier he’d managed to lift. In the distance a figure dressed in black moved and Rand raised his hands and jets of molten hot liquid flew from his fingertips. He watched in awe as his weaves tore through the air between him and the man. In those brief moments Rand knew his opponent as his weaves illuminated the man’s face. Deep within he knew the man, Elan Morin Tedronai.

“Kill him!” the voice in Rand’s head shouted in a deep voice. Then Rand was wrestling saidin as much as he was the madman in his mind who wanted to grab hold of the True Source. His hand continued to move as he followed the path of the Forsaken. Fire wreaked havoc, but as quickly as the columns were burned they were whole again. The void shuddered and almost left him. The taint was never far behind with its own attacks on his mind and body. Rand wavered slightly.

Before he could regain his composure the man vanished through a weave of some sort again. Like before Rand rewove the weaves he could see in the distance. Despite the threads of saidin the world looked the same as before him. Except it was different. Within the small rectangle he had woven the room was darker and the air different. He stepped through. It was night again wherever he was. In a way it felt more natural.

Then reality came crashing down on him. Warning bells were ringing all around him. Feet pounded against a hard stone floor in the distance. Men were shouting, some screamed. Within the confused din of human voices Rand heard the distinct noise of metal against metal. Light he had stepped into the middle of a battle.

He spun round hastily. There was no room for distractions. Ishamael had to be near. Callandor still hung in the air, but now it was brighter and something called out to him. The song felt familiar and yet more powerful than what he was used to. Saidin beckoned him.

A guard called out, but he was immediately slain by the man on the far side of the room. From here, Rand could make out his features. He was the same man as from the dream. “Ishamael!” Rand shouted loudly as he began to run. In a single smooth motion he sheathed the Heron marked blade.

A confused mass of knowledge slammed into his consciousness as he dove for Callandor. Saidin seemed to weave itself as he dove towards the sword. The intricate threads attacked the barrier around the sa’angreal and ripped the glowing protection.Yet invisible weaves between the voids of saidin held it together, if barely. Saidin rushed through his body and hacked at the voids mercilessly. They gave and his hand closed around the hilt of the curved sword that was not a sword and he pointed it at the man who stared wide eyed at Rand.

Callandor began to glow bright. Saidin, more than Rand had ever dreamt of holding crashed down onto him. He staggered and nearly cleared his stomach as the accompanying mass of filth almost submerged him. Rand gritted his teeth and weaves began to form before him. He imagined them to be fire and spirit, but he could barely think anymore.

“Help me,” the man before him called out to the sky. “Help me Great Lord.”

Rand’s weaves began to coalesce, but darkness shrouded the man and then he was running again. Rand followed. Weaves attacked him from all sides. Without thought nor reason barriers formed and blocked each attack. With each layer of protection saidin pummelled him anew with its purity while the taint bore into his bones at an ever greater rate. He wanted to let go, yet it was not an option. He needed to kill Ishamael. He had to destroy him. They continued to sprint. Rand’s muscles began to protest from the exertion. His lungs tried hard to gulp enough air to keep him going and within the void his heart sounded like a rapidly beating drum.

The man halted and tried to form another gateway of sorts or so Rand thought. Instinctively, Rand wove an intricate flow that halted the threads from forming a complete weave. The attempted gateway never grew large enough for the Forsaken to step through. Wide dark hollow eyes stared back at Rand just before he drove Callandor through Ishamael’s chest.

Those dark eyes never wavered as he stared up at Rand in shock and fear. Then his eyes closed and he slumped to the floor. Rand stood motionless. His rapidly beating heart refused to settle in his chest. Callandor, shining brightly from the amount of saidin flowing through it, lit the entire square he now found himself standing in.

Glancing up he saw hundreds of soldiers staring at him. None moved though they seemed to be in the middle of a battle. Rand faintly remembered hearing footsteps and the clash of metal earlier. He swayed slightly with the effort of commanding the Power threatening to destroy his very being.

Tall men with faces veiled stood with spears. Soldiers, probably Tairhen, stared wide eyed at Rand. None of them men stirred. Only the breeze blowing over the battlements created any movement as it disturbed the various banners visible to Rand.

Saidin continued to flood through Callandor and into him. The sword began to glow brighter. In response the taint ever filthier drenched him.

As one the soldiers dropped their weapons. The veiled men did not move to attack them, but neither did they drop their spears nor did their bodies look any less alert.

“The Dragon is reborn!” A lone man cried out. With saidin rushing through him and the taint digging into his bones he could not make out if it was a shout of joy or despair. Another voice cried out and then another. Rand tried to focus on the people. There were too many for his exhausted mind to distinguish. With closed eyes, Rand tried to gather his thoughts. Cries of, “All hail the Dragon Reborn,” made his attempts all but impossible.

Air escaped his lungs. Rand stood as if a dream as men all around began to chant. He was not ready for this. He had barely learned who he was. He opened his eyes. Tairhen soldiers were bowing before him and others had dropped to their knees. It was happening, it was all real. The Heron on his palm burned as if in reply.

Within the void he thought he saw the intense eyes of the veiled men staring as they were considering and weighing him. It took them barely a moment longer before they began rounding up the soldiers and their weapons. The Tairhen men did not protest. They merely allowed the strangely dressed men with spears to lead them away.

Still no one came near him. The blazing beacon that was Callandor, an angreal or rather sa’angreal, kept them at bay. Rand dropped the point of the sword to the ground and used it to steady himself. He did not know for how much longer he would be able to keep hold of saidin. Eventually he had no choice and the glow faded around him and with the absence darkness shrouded him again. If not for the point of the sa’angreal grounded on the stone he would have collapsed.

With an effort he forced himself to look up and around. Only then did a veiled man come towards him. A few strides away, he casually removed the veil and Rand immediately felt a familiarity. The man was tall and appeared to be in his late forties with grey eyes and a strong face. His one sleeve was torn revealing a strange tattoo of a creature wrapping itself around his arms. In his hand he held a short spear and by the stern look in his gaze he would not hesitate to use it. Another tall man came to stand beside him. He too looked much older than Rand would have thought a soldier.

Their eyes were equally hard. Rand stared back as best as he could through his weariness. Then he tried to remember things about his mother’s teachings. Who were these people? They did not fit the norm. The red hair and height of the men reminded Rand of one person, himself.

“Are you Aiel?” Rand managed to ask tiredly. Holding onto the One Power for so long had taken its toll.

“Who we are is none of your concern, Wetlander,” the first man said harshly. His hand tightened around the haft of the spear. “Who are you who holds Callandor?”

Rand clenched his teeth and stared defiantly at the man. For a long minute the two men stared at each other. They were of near equal height and separated by barely a stride. Other veiled men came closer and formed a circle around the three men.

With an effort Rand reached towards saidin. He did not blink as the void failed to form. Why could he not always grab hold of saidin when he needed it? With only a sword and a tired body to defend himself with, he relented. “I am Rand al’Thor,” he thought it best to not reveal himself as Mantear. His mother was in Caemlyn and she would be save if none linked him to her. “Rather I am the son of Shaiel and Janduin.”

The man before him grew even colder and Rand had no time to react before the back of the man’s hand connected with the side of his face. “Do not lie, Wetlander. Even though you may look like one of us you are not Aiel.”

Rand straightened. Already he could taste blood in his mouth and feel it leaking down the side of his face. “I am the son of Shaiel and Janduin,” Rand said even louder this time. “My mother was a Wetlander but she was adopted by the Maidens as one of them.”

Murmurs broke out among the surrounding Aiel. Their voices sounded oddly high pitched. Rand had no time to react as the man’s other hand connected with his face. He almost collapsed to his feet this time from the force of the blow. Rand spat out a mouthful of blood before pushing himself upright again. He was getting tired of this game.

With open defiance on his face Rand glared back at the man. This time, however, he did not see the same hardness as before. Those grey eyes were different. Confused and perhaps even a bit softer.

“Would you dishonour the name of those dead,” the man before him said slowly. “By taking their name and defiling it with lies. You have no honour Rand al’Thor.” The voice was loud and boomed over the battlements.

“I dishonour no one,” Rand tried to speak as clearly as his split lips and rapidly swelling jaw could handle. “Is there dishonour in knowing your parents?”

The man’s fist drove into Rand’s stomach. Callandor clattered to the ground and Rand dropped onto his knees. He tried hard to breath, but the pain made it near impossible. He could not give into these people. He was of the Aiel even if not raised by them. Deep down he knew he needed them. He had to show them that he was strong and had honour.

Still in pain, he got to his feet again. The Aiel around them grew silent as they watched the unfolding conflict. “My father led the Aiel against the Cairhien.” He said this with as much strength as he could muster. “My mother was with child during the war.” He would have considered the stillness of moments before as loud compared to the silence that hung over the battlements now. Only the gentle sway of a banner made any noise. “Outside Tar Valon she got separated from the Aiel and gave birth to me on the slopes of Dragonmount.”

The man actually blinked at this. It was the most Rand had seen the man’s face move during the encounter. “When she was well the Aiel were gone and so she took me to her homeland where she raised me. I do not know why she did not return to the Three Fold Land.”

Before him the man clenched his fists into tight balls. “Is Shaiel alive?” Rand was surprised at how quietly the man could speak. The question was for Rand alone.

A part of him wanted to lie. A light, almost like hope, glistened in the man’s eyes. It was not a look of hate or desire for revenge. To some degree it reminded Rand of the glint in Elayne’s eyes when she studied him.He answered as quietly, “she is alive and in Caemlyn.”

“Caemlyn,” the man repeated in a whisper. He turned slowly and only stopped when he faced what Rand assumed to be north towards the city mentioned.

“I answered you,” Rand said more loudly now. “It is your turn to tell me.”

The man slowly turned back to Rand with a calculating gaze. “I am Janduin of the Taardad Aiel.”

Rand felt his knees buckle. This time he could not keep himself from dropping to the floor. He did not even wince as his knees connected with the hard floor. He fumbled to take hold of Callandor. He did not know why. Perhaps he just wanted to hold onto something substantial.

“From a mother, to a brother and now a father,” Rand whispered so only he could hear.

He barely noticed the hands that gripped his arms as they raised him up onto his feet again. When he did, he could not help notice that they felt smaller and more fragile than what he had expected of these tall Aielmen.

He needed to blink a few times before he realised his father was standing before him again. “I swear under the Light that what I told is the truth,” Rand said quietly.

The man gave a single nod of his head and then strode away. All around the Aiel unveiled their faces and began to go about their business. They had a city to finish conquering after all. The man who had stood behind Janduin remained together with the two men holding him upright.

“I can stand, thank you,” Rand finally managed to say.

“Men always think they can handle themselves,” the one laughed. Rand jerked his head round and stared into the beautiful blue green eyes of a woman. He did an admirable job of not flinching. Despite hearing tales of the Maidens of the Spear, it was quite another to actually see one.

He grunted. “Well in this case I can.”

They let go as one and he had a hard time of keeping himself erect. The amount of channelling he did earlier had all but drained his reserves.

“I am Rhuarc,” the man said in a stern voice. “I am Clan Chief of the Taardad Aiel.”

Rand frowned. “I thought Janduin was Clan Chief.”

Rhuarc shook his head. “Janduin disappeared and as a result lost his status as Clan Chief. He is here to reclaim some of his honour. He has much toh to the Taardad Aiel.”

“Why are you here?” Rand found himself asking. “What is in Tear that the Aiel would want?”

Rhuarc studied Rand for a long while. Then he answered slowly. “The Wise Ones told me that if I were not to lead the Aiel to Tear then the Light would not defeat the Shadow.” His eyes flicked down at Callandor, then he to walked away.

At the moment Rand wanted nothing more than to sleep, but it would still take hours for the Stone of Tear to fall. More importantly he did not know if he was a prisoner or a free man.

He turned to face the two women and was surprised to find a third standing behind him as well. “Thank you for holding me,” Rand managed to say despite his exhaustion. He only hoped that it did not come out strangely.

The hands of the three women flashed quickly. ‘He is handsome.’ The one red haired girl with red hair flashed before giggling.

‘Stubborn as his father,’ the third flashed.

Rand frowned thoughtfully. It was just like the signs his mother taught him for when they were hunting or if she wanted something in a crowded room. She had made a game of it when he was younger, but she’d always sworn him to secrecy. They had not used it in years, but he could still remember her lessons clearly.

‘My mother is more stubborn,’ he flashed quickly in what he hoped was correct. He was not sure, the signs for man and stubborn were very close.

Their hands froze in place. “You know Maiden hand talk?” the second asked.

Rand shrugged. “I don’t know what you call it, but my mother taught it to me. Saved my life once actually.” They looked to be about to protest. They turned their backs and he could tell that their hands were moving furiously.

Eventually they faced him again. “You are not to use Maiden hand talk in front of anyone and you are never to teach it save to another Maiden.” They looked about to veil their faces.

Rand tried his best to not flinch. He understood, however, this was a Maiden secret. “I understand. My mother never showed this to anyone else. She had also sworn me to secrecy.” The trio relaxed visibly.

‘Who are you?’ Rand flashed with a grin. It helped seeing as his mouth was almost too sore to speak with.

“I am Chiad of the Stones River sept of the Goshien Aiel.”

“I am Aviendha of the Nine Valleys sept of the Taardad Aiel.”

“I am Bain of the Black Rock sept of the Shaarad Aiel.”

Rand tried to smile but it was too painful. “Is sept and clan heredity?”

‘Yes,’ Bain’s hand moved quickly.

“Then I am Rand of the Iron Mountain sept of the Taardad Aiel.”

Aviendha sent him a much warmer smile than the other two. She was of the Taardad as well. She really was beautiful and he had to fight to remind himself that he was married to Elayne. He really did like her, but not for the first time since he learned the news he wondered what his mother’s decision had cost him.

His body began to fight against him. The strain of the last few days, the lack of sleep in the Ways and now a fight against Ishamael and a beating from his father was more than he could take.

He barely had time to indicate, ‘help,’ before he fell unconscious.

A/N

Thanks for reading. I hope you found this chapter interesting.

final death
02-14-2012, 12:20 AM
I want to say I am your number one fan but i don't know if it is true. Any ways its still amazing and i don't know where it will go from here. The story started out with minor differences but i see how those differences would cause major divergences in in the plot.

Figbiscuit
02-14-2012, 02:17 PM
It's still getting a thumbs up from me. I'm fascinated to know where you're going to go with it!