Any Wheel of Time fan knows that something like this will happen. This is just my take on it :)
I heart Lan/Nynaeve.
Lifted concepts and material from the actual series and WoTwiki.
The Rise of a Nation
Al'Lan Mandragoran watched the light from the dying embers of the funeral pyre glinting off the thin, silvery crown atop Nynaeve's brow. She, along with Lan, was among the handful of people who stayed behind until the very end of the cremation of the body that was once Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn.
"This sham of a funeral is a waste of time," his wife grumbled softly yet she miraculously kept her face devoid of emotion, not entirely unexpected from an Aes Sedai. Her hands twitched undoubtedly wishing that she could tug on the braid that once reached up to her waist.
"If what you suspect is true," Lan replied just as softly, his face equally impassive. "Then, we have to keep up the façade. We owe it to him to make sure that everybody believes that he is well and truly dead." Through the bond, he knew that Nynaeve was aware of why there was a need for pretense. She just needed someone to say it out loud.
Nynaeve pursed her lips and nodded impatiently. She turned to him and looked up into his blue eyes. Decades of battles fought had made them hard and chilling – even more so when his bond to Moiraine was severed. But now, his eyes only reflected inner peace coupled by relief that the Dark One has been defeated.
What could not be defended has finally been avenged, he thought of the oath he had long ago sworn, the oath that his parents swore in his name while he was but a babe in swaddling clothes. Thank you for making it so, sheepherder.
"What now?" Nynaeve asked. Her gaze darted toward Elayne, Aviendha and Min as they exchanged wordless nods and went their separate ways. Only Tam al'Thor remained in front of the bier with his head bowed and shoulders slumped.
The corners of Lan's lips curled up into a rare smile. "I serve and obey, Nynaeve Sedai." He reached for her hand and they started walking toward their tent.
"People will want to rebuild, of course," Nynaeve thought out loud. "And the White Tower cannot resist getting involved even if we need rebuilding ourselves. Something must be done to heal the Tower's rift with the Asha'man as well. Only the Light knows what Cadsuane – "
"Dai Shan! Dai Shan!" a breathless voice interrupted her musings.
Lan turned around to see who was calling him. "Peace favor your sword, Nazar." The Borderlander greeting came spontaneously. Peace, Lan thought. It was used as a greeting in the Borderlands. It was a wish… a hope. When you have never known a thing except to dream, it becomes more than a talisman. Perhaps, after today, it shall take on a new meaning.
"Peace has indeed finally favored our swords, Dai Shan," Nazar Kurenin replied. The jut-nosed Malkieri was past his seventieth year, a little more than twice Lan's age.
After Malkier fell to the Shadow, her people were scattered and absorbed by the neighboring Borderland nations of Shienar, Arafel, Kandor and Saldea. Nazar chose to live in Kandor and took up baking as a craft. His short white hair once again carried the hadori, a thin braided leather headband worn by Malkieri men symbolizing their commitment to stand against the Dark One.
Nazar was one of the first few who answered the Golden Crane's call to arms instigated by Nynaeve. He, along with Andere and Rakim, had met up with Lan and Bulen along the Plain of Lances in the hopes that Lan would raise the banner of the Golden Crane. They had stubbornly travelled in front of Lan until the Warder reluctantly accepted them into his company. Lan had wanted to tear up the Golden Crane banner that Nazar brought with him but ended up allowing the man to keep it.
"What brings you, Nazar?" Lan asked.
"You and el'Nynaeve Aes Sedai have been summoned, Dai Shan," he answered.
Lan glanced at Nynaeve. His wife had a thoughtful frown on her face. The Mistress of the Ships had married them and the Atha'an Miere had very unusual wedding vows. It took into consideration the shifting hierarchies of the Sea Folk – whoever was obeyed in public, would have to obey in private.
After several heartbeats, Nynaeve gave him a decisive nod. "Very well," Lan took a deep breath and motioned with his free hand. "Lead the way."
They wound their way up the small hill where the biggest tent in the Borderlander camp stood. There was activity everywhere, some tending to the wounded, some packing up carts and wagons. And now that the Last Battle was over, there were even children running around laughing and playing. Those who noticed the party of three stopped what they were doing and cheered or saluted.
"The Golden Crane! The Golden Crane!"
True blood of Malkier. As the only survivor of the royal line of the fallen kingdom of Malkier, Lan's story was well known by most men, especially throughout the Borderlands. That the Forsaken Demandred met his demise at the point of the Warder's sword only added to Lan's legend. He felt Nynaeve squeeze his hand. The bond was pulsing with pride.
Lan smiled at Nynaeve's startled look. "Lord Agelmar once said that if any blood can strike a fell blow at the Dark One, it would be the blood of Manetheren." He was certain that by now, everybody would have heard how Nynaeve played a pivotal part in defeating the Lord of the Grave. "And what a glorious strike it was. Don't be surprised if you make it into a gleeman's tale."
Nynaeve snorted. "I heard Loial has begun writing your part in his book."
"Anybody who reads it will have a difficult time believing as I would probably be old and decrepit when he is through," Lan chuckled. After all, Ogier were known to take their time.
They reached the tent and Nazar lifted the flap. He saluted with his hand on the hilt of his sword then moved aside so that Lan and Nynaeve may pass. "My lady Aes Sedai, Dai Shan."
Lan's eyes adjusted quickly to the lighting inside the tent. He blinked, mildly surprised that the monarchs of the Borderland nations were not alone. Prince Kaisel, grandson of the Queen Ethenielle of Kandor was in attendance. And so was Prince Kendral, grandson of King Paitar of Arafel, along with Lord Agelmar Jagad and other Borderland nobles. Perrin stood smiling behind Faile's chair. Queen Faile of Saldea, Lan amended silently.
King Paitar of Arafel stood and bowed formally. He was famed to be good looking when he was younger but now, he had a creased face and graying hair. "Peace favor your sword, King Lan Mandragoran, Lord of the Seven Towers, Defender of the Wall of First Fires, Bearer of the Sword of the Thousand Lakes, True Blade of Malkier, Slayer of the Forsaken. And the Light illumine your lady wife el'Nynaeve ti al'Meara Mandragoran Aes Sedai."
Lan frowned at the formality and the added title. "And to you and yours, Your Majesty," he replied, with a respectful nod to Queen Menuki, the king's wife. What in the Light is going on here?
King Easar of Shienar stood up as well. "Dai Shan, we honor your victory over the Forsaken Demandred. Without your bold attack and sacrifice, our forces would not have survived. The Sword of the Thousand Lakes has severed the Shadow. Tales of your bravery and courage will surely be told by generations to come."
"I am humbled," Lan answered. "The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. I am but a thread in the Pattern."
"For as far as memory serves, we of the Borderlands have always been individual nations but are as one under the oath to stand against the Shadow and defend against the Blight," Queen Ethenielle of Kandor stepped forward. "This is what we do. This is why we are. This is what unites us."
"But the Dark One has been defeated and the Blight is no more," King Paitar continued, moving to stand beside Queen Ethenielle. "We are intent on a new purpose."
"We have decided to take the responsibility to ensure that no one attempts to open the Bore ever again," King Easar revealed.
"A wise and honorable endeavor, Your Majesty," Lan agreed slowly, his eyes narrowing. "One that I'm sure the White Tower will commend and support."
Nynaeve nodded. "It will take the combined strength of the Borderlanders and Aes Sedai to guard this area."
"I'm glad you approve, Nynaeve Sedai," Faile spoke up, smiling. "But we have something bigger in mind."
The former Wisdom frowned. Lan felt caution in his bond with Nynaeve.
"Malkier and Manetheren may have fallen to the Shadow but their people continued to be a thorn in the Dark One's side," King Paitar said, his blue eyes looked from Lan to Nynaeve. "I do not think it is happenstance that you should wed one of the most powerful wielders of the One Power in this Age. It is only fitting that both of you lead us – "
Lan's eyes widened when he realized what the monarchs wanted. "No!" he interrupted, shaking his head fiercely. He felt like bolting. From the corner of his eye, he saw Nynaeve stare at King Paitar agape. "I am no ruler, Paitar!"
"And yet, you wear the crown of king," King Paitar countered smoothly.
"Only to lead the Malkieri in the Last Battle," Lan argued. "I could not deny them the right to fight alongside me but that does not mean I wish to rule over them."
"Duty is heavier than a mountain," Agelmar Jagad murmured softly but loud enough to be heard everyone.
"All here are in agreement, Dai Shan," King Easar told him. "The ground we stand upon might as well be your land. It is only right that she should rise again – here and now – with you taking your place as the rightful king."
"A king without as much to his name as even the meanest farmer's croft," Lan said wryly.
"A minor complication easily addressed," Queen Ethenielle waved her hand imperiously. The four monarchs formed a semi-circle facing Lan and Nynaeve. "You will have to sign and uphold the Dragon's Peace, though."
"That goes without saying," Lan nodded without thinking.
"Then, we are agreed," Faile said.
"No, wait! I did not say anything about – "
Faile unsheathed her dagger and drew it across her palm without so much as a grimace. She lifted her hand toward Lan. Crimson droplets fell from her palm, the ground absorbing it as the deserts would the rain.
"Under the Light and by my hope of my rebirth and salvation, I, Faile ni Bashere t'Aybara of Saldea, Shield of the North and Sword of the Blightborder, High Seat of the House Bashere, pledge my fealty and service to King Lan Mandragoran of Malkier, now and for all time, save that he chooses to release me of his own will. My lands and throne are his, and I yield them to his hand. So I do swear."
"Have you gone mad?" Lan snapped, diplomacy be damned. "The Borderland nations are sovereigns! You do not bow to anyone just like that!"
"We bow to you," King Easar decreed solemnly and unsheathed his own dagger. "You are not just anyone, Dai Shan. I, Easar Togita of Shienar…"
One by one, the remaining rulers swore fealty, holding out their bloodied hands, toward Lan. The silence inside the tent was heavy, palpable.
Lan closed his eyes, his fists shaking by his sides. He never wanted to be king, let alone become the liege lord of powerful monarchs. All he ever wanted was to fulfill his oath.
To stand against the Shadow so long as iron is hard and stone abides.
To defend the Malkieri while one drop of blood remains.
To avenge what cannot be defended.
He could feel Nynaeve's emotions mirroring his. Disbelief… Uncertainty… He had ridden toward Tarwin's Gap to attack, to meet the end with his sword raised. He only accepted his birthright because the last of the Malkieri needed their king to lead the final charge of the Golden Crane. He had not expected to survive... And yet, he did.
You knew that this was bound to happen if you lived to see beyond the Last Battle, a little voice inside him said. That may be so, Lan conceded albeit grudgingly. But I did not expect such powerful oaths. The sensations in the bond changed. It now held acceptance and determination.
"It is what it is, Lan," Nynaeve said, touching his arm.
"It is complete madness," he said in a voice tinged with resignation.
"You know what I saw during my testing," Nynaeve reminded him. She squared her shoulders, ready to take on the challenge of rebuilding a nation. "Malkier will rise again. This is part of the Pattern."
With a firm nod, Lan stepped forward and faced Faile. He drew his dagger and ran it across his palm. He took the young queen's hand in his, their blood intermingling, sealing the pact.
"Under the Light, I, Lan Mandragoran of Malkier, accept your pledge and will defend and protect you and yours through battle's wreck and winter's blast and all that time may bring. The lands and throne of Saldea, I give to you as my faithful vassal. Under the Light, I do accept."
Upon the completion of the ceremony, the four monarchs led the way out of the tent, followed by the other Borderland lords. They fanned out for Lan and Nynaeve to pass and closed in behind the couple in a show of strength and support.
All the activity in the camp had ceased; the last of the Malkieri were all lined up. Men with the hadori, women with the ki'sain. Familiar faces of those who waited for him, fought with him, fought for him. Nazar was right up there in front, with Andere to his right and Weilin Aldragoran to his left. Managan and Gorenellin. Not surprisingly, men and women from all Borderland nations were there as well. All were looking at him, battle-hardened faces wreathed in hope and expectation.
"The Last Battle has been fought and won," Lan said simply. "We have reclaimed what was ours. It is time for us to rebuild." He was never a man of many words.
"Tai'shar Malkier!" King Paitar bellowed.
Every one gathered picked up the call. Soon enough, it became a deafening roar. Duty may be heavier than a mountain but with each cheer that left the lips of his people, Lan felt the weight slowly sliding off his shoulders. My people, he stood up straighter, pumping his fist in the air.
He felt a tug on his sleeve. He looked down and saw Nynaeve smirking at him. "You do realize that I get to command in private now, right?"
Lan threw his head back in laughter. It was laughter of pure joy. It was laughter from the heart. And by the Light, it feels good, he thought. It feels right.