|Letting In Letting Go
Author: TrapperII PM
"How strange, to be back in Tar Valon in these circumstances – to be relegated to the margins of power with no one seeking her out except this man." An alternate version of events after Siuan Sanche bonds Gareth Bryne as her Warder.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Fantasy - Siuan S. & Gareth Bryne - Words: 3,800 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 5 - Published: 11-07-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6460841
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's note: This story is set in The Gathering Storm following the Seanchan attack on the White Tower and after Egwene is raised as Amyrlin. It ignores any interaction between Siuan Sanche and Gareth Bryne as written in canon after the attack. This is, essentially, my version of the follow-up to Suian bonding Bryne as her Warder.
The words of the oath included in the story are not mine, and I'm not sure where they originated. I found them in only one place on the Internet. If the oaths were actually penned by Robert Jordan and you know where they can be found, I'd be very curious to know. No infringement intended.
Letting In. Letting Go.
"No doubt that I'll take a lover. But I have no time for that, either. There's no time for winking at the men when you're busy bailing the boat." – Siuan Sanche, Amyrlin Seat, to Min Farshaw (from The Shadow Rising, by Robert Jordan)
Siuan Sanche sat alone on a marble bench in the Tower gardens beneath a tall willow. Her back was straight – she had perfected that posture through her years as Aes Sedai and Amyrlin, and any other posture seemed impossible for her. Inside, however, she felt like a deboned blackfish. The previous two days had been a maelstrom, the Pattern sweeping her along in its wake without granting her a moment to get her bearings. Now that it was over – now that Elaida was gone, the rebellion ended, and the Tower taking the first vital steps toward unification – she was overcome by an indescribable sense of melancholy.
It was not that she was displeased with the outcome. Quite the contrary. She could not have asked for better than reunification of the Aes Sedai without bloodshed between the two camps. But all of her considerable will, all of her energy had been focused on this goal of late, and now that it had been achieved, she felt ... rudderless. It was not something Siuan was accustomed to, and she did not like its taste on her tongue.
And so, as Aes Sedai, Warders, soldiers, and workmen gradually trickled away from the grounds, leaving tools and carts amidst the rubble where they would surely take them up again the next day, Siuan had stayed behind, staring up at the Tower in the first moments of real contemplation she had had in Tar Valon since before she had been deposed and stilled.
The Power-fueled light of the lamps caused the walls of the tower to gleam. They had been called the Shining Walls, and they still shone, despite the charred gashes that marred them. The light from the lamps reflected from the walls to the thick layer of clouds that domed the sky, illuminating partially-erected scaffolding that attested to the Amyrlin's determination to rebuild the Tower within and without.
She was still driven. She would not rest until the Dragon had made his appearance at Tarmon Gai'don. Gareth Bryne had recognized that well. But how to involve herself was now the question, and she did not yet have an answer.
Gareth Bryne ... she felt him approach before she caught sight of him, coming across the grounds through a pool of lamplight. He looked solid and impressive as he moved, and yet he exuded a comfortably-worn air that made him seem surprisingly more rather than less distinguished. She heard the gravel on the path crunching beneath his feet as he drew nearer. She had been aware of him throughout the day – a taut presence in the back of her mind – but had not seen him since the Amyrlin's speech. He had been busy overseeing his army. Now he stood before her, casting a faint shadow across her seat.
"May I?" he asked, gesturing to the space beside her on the bench. She nodded, sensing his own need for rest, which manifested itself as a slight lull in his usually formidable fount of energy. It felt good to sit with him here. How strange, to be back in Tar Valon in these circumstances – to be relegated to the margins of power with no one seeking her out except this man. Everything had changed. She most certainly had changed.
They sat in companionable but subdued silence. She felt a harmony in their mood and was glad of it; he, at least, would not look down on her for her lapse into uncertainty and her anxiety for the future. It struck her, again, with surprising force that she was certain of him, that whatever the future held he would be there at her side.
A sudden breeze ruffled her dress and tickled her hair. As if the movement of the air had ushered in his thoughts, he spoke. "We're not very different tonight, you and I." His voice was soft and deep, reassuring. "I have an army – large and, I'd like to think, well-trained. Assembled over the course of months to retake the Tower. It has been my singular focus ... well, besides pursuing the question of a certain broken oath," he glanced at her, a slight lilt of amusement marking his tone, and she snorted softly, more out of habit than annoyance.
"Now the army sits unused," he continued. His finger absently traced a small, circular pattern on his knee, and his brows knit in thought. "The Light knows I'm happy that no one had to die. The best battles are those avoided. But now ..." He shrugged. He placed a hand on her shoulder and let it rest there. His warmth pierced through the silk of her dress and into her skin. It seemed natural, as though she had always welcomed such contact from him. "You're tired, Siuan."
She saw no reason to deny it, not when he knew. She could no longer be mysterious or unreadable to him. And did she want to be, really?
"Yes," she said simply, still looking out upon the Tower.
"I've set up headquarters in the guardsmen's barracks. I have a soft bed," he stated simply, "if you want to rest. I asked for a pallet to be made up as well. I can take that myself."
She turned her head toward him. There was plenty of room for her in the Tower, even with the influx of novices; but she did not want to be alone, and she had come to ... enjoy – though certainly not need – his solid presence in the night, the steady cadence of his breathing across the tent.
She nodded and stood, not waiting for or encouraging any gallantry on his part. Still, one large hand pressed lightly to her back until they reached the gravel path; then he let it drop to his side as they continued through the grounds toward the barracks.
As they walked, she described the events of the day: the Amyrlin's stubborn insistence on repeating the raising ceremony, her own efforts to send pigeons to her eyes and ears for the Blue, and her role in undertaking the significant task of finding the novices places in the Tower (a flaming headache on a good day but a complete disaster considering that a large portion of the novices' quarters had been inconveniently relocated by warps in the Pattern).
For his part, he recounted his efforts to relocate his men into the city. "There are, in fact, few things more tedious than the details of billeting and provisioning an army," he told her, "even if I were to spice my tale with colorful phrases ..." From the slight twitch at the corner of his mouth, she deduced he was teasing her yet again for her coarse language. Burn the man.
But he did have things to tell, details that interested her immensely. He spoke of efforts to put out the fires the Seanchan had set to cover their retreat. He recounted, with a touch of steel in his voice, all that he had seen of the city's degraded state and of what the siege, Elaida's neglect, and the Dark One's touch had wrought upon it. As he described streets overtaken by rats and filth and the people holed up in their homes like frightened animals, hot anger swelled inside her until he stopped abruptly mid-sentence.
"Forgive me," he said. "I've upset you."
Snapped from the storm of her thoughts, she turned to face him, then released a harsh exhalation of breath to deflate her tension. "Fish guts," she replied without rancor, though her temper still smoldered. "It isn't you."
"I ... " He stopped, seemed to concentrate for a moment on the corner of his mind she inhabited, and then nodded. "I know. Yes, I do know that." He rubbed the back of his head with blunt fingers. "I'm most certainly not accustomed to feeling someone else's emotions in my head."
"Maybe you didn't know quite what you were getting into." She had meant to tease him with her comment, but there was a clipped harshness to her tone that she wished she could take back even as it left her.
"Siuan," his voice was very serious as he sought her gaze, and she would almost have admitted to the frisson that travelled her spine at hearing her name on his lips in that tone. "Being bonded to you wasn't a rash decision. It's something I contemplated for a long time. The attack ... well ... it gave me an opportunity."
She looked into his eyes, saw his sincerity, found that she could say nothing in reply ... and her heartbeat quickened. When they began walking again, she vaguely wondered if it was she who had closed the distance between them by several inches.
"I do admit, though," Bryne said at last, "I thought there would be more involved in becoming a Warder."
A short bark of laughter escaped her. "More involved than risking your life and having me in your head at all times?"
He chuckled. "That's not what I meant. I thought there would be more involved in becoming a Warder. I asked, and you placed the bond on me. I assumed it would be more ... intricate."
Siuan shook her head. "The Power is all that is needed. There is a ceremony where a formal oath is given, but it isn't required, nor is it common, really. It isn't the ceremony that makes the bond, Gareth Bryne."
He considered this for a moment and then spoke. "I would like to make the oath to you."
"The bond binds more tightly than oath."
"And yet, the oath is mine. Mine to keep because I made it."
Though his request was unexpected, Siuan found that she was not surprised. Gareth Bryne was, above all, consistent. She had known before she bonded him that he was a man whose word would bind him more tightly than any weave of the Power. She knew that he took pride in that – not a foolish pride, perhaps, even if he was a man. His was not a passive character. He had requested the bond, accepted it, but he also wanted to perform it. The Power, she assumed, was something that he still sensed as alien to him. His word, on the other hand, defined him. Her Warder.
She nodded. The lines of his face eased. She could not see his eyes in the darkness, but she could sense his satisfaction. They reached the tall, arched entrance to the Guard's barracks, and as soon as they stepped inside they were met by an aide, clearly on the lookout for Bryne's arrival. The young man saluted the general and directed a slight bow to Siuan before handing Bryne a stack of papers.
Suian crossed the anteroom into Bryne's chamber, leaving him to deal with the administration of his army. The glow of the lanterns spaced in sconces around the butter-colored walls warmed her, and she watched idly through the doorway as Bryne dictated his final instructions for the night and dismissed the aide with a brief nod of acknowledgement. He entered the room then, closing the door behind him before adding the papers to an already-teetering stack on a small table in the corner.
She contemplated him for a moment, then stepped toward him. As she began to speak the words of the Warder oath, he cast her a quizzical glance, taken off guard, but understanding quickly suffused his expression. She repeated the oath three times, watching his face as he absorbed the information and committed it to memory.
"And now you kneel."
His eyebrows raised slightly, but the gravity of her expression attested that she was indeed in earnest. With a slight smile on his face, he went down on his knees before her. She placed a hand on his head. Her blue eyes, tinged with a defensive dash of exasperated impatience, prompted him to begin.
"By the Light and my hope of salvation and rebirth, I will come as you say come and go as you say go. By the Light and my hope of salvation and rebirth, I will draw as you say draw and sheathe as you say sheathe. By the Light and my hope of salvation and rebirth, I will serve you as Warder until you release me or death take me."
She held his gaze as the words fell from his lips, though it was difficult to meet his frank intensity without looking away. The defenses in her own gaze were melting, and she was afraid to reveal too much. She felt that same palpable reverence that had settled over her when she approached him to create that hasty bond the night of the Seanchan attack. A shiver diffused across her skin as she opened her mouth to complete the oath.
"By the Light and my hope of salvation and rebirth, I will listen to your counsel when offered and speak when speech is needful. By the Light and my hope of salvation and rebirth, I will place myself under the protection of your sword and follow your lead in battle. By the Light and my hope of salvation and rebirth, I will hold your bond until you ask for its release or death take me from you."
She let her hand linger on his head for several beats longer than was necessary. Her fingertips had curled slightly into his scalp, an unconscious movement on her part.
He was the first to break the silence. "I might add that the period of my oath begins now."
She felt the beginnings of a swell of indignation, but he had a look of such boyish triumph in his eyes and a hint of a smirk on his lips. She recognized the keen irony, and amusement swelled inside her instead.
How she laughed! The strain, the uncertainty, the emotional weight of unlocking herself to someone ... all poured out in a flow of mirth. He laughed with her, a deep rolling, warming timbre. Her hand descended from his head as he stood, and he took it absently in his, his shoulders still shaking with laughter. Her hands moved to rest against his forearms, her body leaning slightly into his for support as her sides heaved and tears streamed from her eyes.
At last, the hilarity waned. She found herself standing almost in his arms. He reached up and wiped a tear from her cheek. An intensity had entered his gaze, the mood in the room shifting palpably.
"I hope these are the only tears I cause you," he said.
She felt the warmth of his body, almost touching hers, the taut muscles of his arms beneath her hands. She saw flecks of light in his brown eyes. His lips were incredibly close. She sensed his hesitation. Siuan Sanche, formerly the Watcher of the Seals, the Flame of Tar Valon, the Amyrlin Seat, took a small step forward.
His lips closed gently upon hers, a soft, warm pressure moving over her mouth, contrasting with the stiff whiskers that rasped against her chin. Her hands crept upward to grip his shoulders as his arms threaded delicately around her waist, sending a tingle of sensation down her spine. Her mind, her legs, her innards ... all threatened to turn to liquid except her heart, which hammered solidly in her chest.
How long had it been since she had been embraced? She had been so young when she and Moiraine had dedicated themselves to their quest for the Dragon Reborn. Her youthful dalliances with Warder recruits, the hot flame of desire lighted and quenched in the dark of the training yard, were a distant memory. She had been so young when she had taken upon herself the yoke of the Amyrlin Seat. There had been no time for romance then and few men brave enough to dare the wake of her power. Alric had been her only close male companion. Tall, faithful, dependable, strong and steady Alric. But he had not been a lover.
Bryne's kiss was not tentative, yet it was restrained, tender ... and simply not sufficient to satisfy what thrummed in her blood. A long-buried heat had ignited and coiled inside her, and she knew with a sudden flash of self-conscious clarity how much she wanted him. All of Andor and the surrounding lands knew that Gareth Bryne was not above taking a lover. But he was also a gentleman with much-vaunted self-control. He might deposit her inelegantly in a pile of dirty laundry, but he would not compromise her "honor" without unequivocal encouragement.
And Siuan Sanche? She was not afraid of being considered a lightskirt or a trollop. Was she? But to admit desire, to be forced to give voice to her need ... . Siuan the girl might have done it. Siuan the woman? Never.
She felt a chill against her breast as he pulled back and his lips withdrew from hers, traveling upwards toward her brow in restrained conclusion. Frustration gripped her. Burn the man, he would probably insist on marrying her first. She would lie down in his feather bed alone, and he would take his place in the rough pallet across the room. A moan of annoyance escaped her, and she uttered the only protest that her addled mind seemed able to articulate: "I have never intended to marry, Gareth Bryne."
She felt the impact of her statement immediately, not just because his lips went still and cold upon her forehead, his grip around her slackening, his spine stiffening. No, she felt it as a shock of emotion in her head, a sudden numbing cessation. She felt his surprise bleed into disappointment as he pulled away from her.
"No," she gasped. She fisted her hands in the sleeves of his shirt, preventing him from withdrawing further. He looked at her again, his penetrating eyes clouded with confusion. Burn her and her awkward tongue! Her eyes blazed. Why, when she knew that he could feel what was inside her, did she struggle to speak of such things to him? Fishguts! Why couldn't he be better at interpreting her conflicted emotions?
"Gareth ... I – " Her throat seemed to close, words failing as her thoughts pitched like a ship caught in a gale. But hope blossomed in her chest as his confused gaze grew keener, no longer mistrustful but questing. Gareth Bryne was not a man to react rashly, to back down from a setback without consideration, to lock himself away.
Could he feel how with each inch he retreated her frustration and despair mounted? She fervently hoped he could as she took one last step toward him. He cupped her elbows gently, and she reached a trembling hand to stroke his cheek, feeling the coarse hairs of his neatly trimmed beard give beneath her fingertips.
"I ..." she began, then paused, inhaling deeply ... "I'm not in the habit of speaking of such things." She let her gaze slide from his, furious at this basic lack in herself. She was a milk-hearted fool.
"Siuan," he said gently, one hand slipping beneath her chin, tilting her face toward his. She took in the flecks of light reflected in his eyes, the creases fanning out from the corners of his eyes attesting to a life replete with experience and opportunities embraced. She felt the reassuring rush of his solid presence. "My darling Siuan." His other hand moved to her neck, a thumb stroking her collarbone. He watched her silently for a moment. "I am in love with you."
She could feel the conviction underlying his softly voiced declaration. A glow suffused her, so strong that she wondered it did not overwhelm her. "I know," she said, a smile blossoming across her face, and she found herself unable and unwilling to stifle it. Control be burned. Her throat felt stuffed, her head fell back slightly as her hand traveled down his chest to rest over his thudding heart. "I want that, Gareth Bryne."
He hesitated only for a moment, just long enough for his gaze to caress her once more. Then he seemed to plunge in, and she gasped at the passion she felt coursing through him, but she did not stop, only pulled him closer. He must not stop. He must not. She opened her mouth to him wider, kissing him back, willing him to know what she was feeling, what she wanted. She could not say it, and he would not expect her to. She slipped trembling hands underneath the loosened neckline of his jacket and pushed as though to force it from his shoulders. It was all she could do and all the encouragement he needed.
She was aware of shadows dancing on the walls, of a pulsating blue vein at Gareth's throat, of the red glow of torchlight through closed eyelids, of the salty tang of his skin, and of overwhelming sensation. As her hands slid inexpertly but insatiably across the planes of his back. As she felt his lips move relentlessly along her body, the bristles of his beard enticing her skin. As she felt him stronger than ever in her head, a blade of passion, not chaotic and whirling like her own, but hot, focused, polished, reigned in only slightly with a sense of control that sent a thrill through her. All combined to course through her like a wave, uncontrollable.
Oh, Light! Light Light Light Light ...
And in that moment she did the only thing she could do, the one thing she had trained for 40 years to do in the face of such a powerful rush of vibrant exhilaration – she embraced it ... and surrendered.