Vows

By Chani

Setting: "A Crown of Swords", after Lan rescues Nynaeve.

Description: We never got to see Lan and Nynaeve's wedding. Here is my version.

"If the Women's Circle saw this, they would have my head," Nynaeve muttered, staring down at her skimpy clothing.

"Why? It is proper wedding attire." Avrille—an Atha'an Miere deckhand for the Mistress of Ships, who was helping her dress for her wedding to Lan—was no help at all. The girl smiled indulgently at her. "And you look very beautiful."

She managed to smile back at the girl, though she said nothing. Beautiful? She may as well be naked! Granted, the ocean-blue silk skirt she wore did a somewhat decent job of covering the lower half of her body, but it could hardly be called a skirt at all! It was merely a piece of material twisted around her body in such a way that it appeared to be a skirt—a skirt that hugged every curve from her waist to just above her ankles, where it hung loose to allow her to walk. One small tug on the knot of material at her left hip and her "skirt" would be no more than a pile of silk on the deck! Worse, she was not allowed to wear anything under the garment—not even stockings! Uneasy, she shifted her bare feet on the floor of the cabin, receiving an impatient look from Avrille, who was trying to fix her hair.

Her thoughts continued to dwell on her clothes. Other than the skirt, she was allowed to wear a gold-chain shirt—what little there was of it. The Atha'an Miere called it something else, of course, though she could not recall what. The name really did not matter, not when you could see her bare skin through the thing! The chain around her neck held it on by a very weak-looking clasp. There was nothing more than that one thin gold chain until it reached the swell of her breasts, where it split into two separate sections of tightly woven gold chain that ended where the skirt began. She was certain the chain would move when she walked, exposing her for the whole world to see. Not that they were missing much as it was! Her arms, shoulders, sides, and back were already completely exposed; she really did not want any more of her body uncovered!

Normally, her braid would have hung down her back—which would have been comforting considering her back was exposed from the waist up—but not now. Her hair was pinned up on her head; another Sea Folk wedding rule, it seemed, was that nothing was to interfere with the garments she wore.

"Be careful with your hair," the girl told her, fussing over the tendrils of hair that hung by Nynaeve's ears. "It's only held by one hairpin, but it should hold until the second part of the ceremony as long as you're careful."

Nynaeve stared at her. "Second part? What—"

"Once the sun sets, someone will come get you," Avrille interrupted, smiling shyly. "You are not to leave your room until then, but there is someone outside your door who can get you anything you need." She giggled softly. "You should probably have some more tea in a bit; the effects only last four or five hours at a time. And you wouldn't want it to wear off at the wrong time." Nynaeve wished she knew the ingredients to the tea the Mistress of Ships had given her—being on a boat was far more pleasant when she was not heaving constantly—but so far, she had been unable to get anyone to tell her. The girl hesitated at the cabin door. "I hear it is normal to be nervous on your wedding day. If you feel you need company to soothe your nerves, you may send for me. I would be happy to sit with you, but first I must attend to my duties."

She felt like sinking to the floor when the girl pulled the door closed behind her. Her rattled nerves had nothing—well, little—to do with marrying Lan, and everything to do with how she was dressed! Light, what would Lan think when he saw her flaunting herself like some witless tart? Her hand moved up to tug the braid that was not there. I wonder what he is wearing.

By the time she heard a knock at the door, Nynaeve was so anxious her whole body was shaking. She could not be married in such distasteful clothes! She was about to say so when she noticed who had come to fetch her. Nesta din Reas Two Moons—the Mistress of Ships. The woman who would marry her and Lan. I will finally have him, she thought as she watched Nesta give orders to the man who had been guarding the door. When this night is over, he will really be mine. Her eyes drifted down to the source of her discomfort. If she wanted to marry Lan tonight, she would have to do as the Atha'an Miere said. She would never have time to find someone else to perform the ceremony. She lifted her head; nothing would stop her from marrying Lan tonight, not even clothing that showed too much skin. If she had to swim naked across the river, she would do it. He would not get away from her again.

Once she had made up her mind, she became impatient to get on with it. For some reason, however, Nesta was wasting time by asking questions about a Warder's relationship to his Aes Sedai. Of course Warders followed Aes Sedai commands! How else would it be?

After a couple more questions, she followed the woman out of the cabin, and her eyes nearly popped out of her head when she stepped up onto the deck. She knew the Sea Folk never wore shirts when they were out at sea, but this was her wedding! With the exception of the Mistress of Ships, who had donned a white shirt that was tied at her waist, not one person was covered from the waist up. Not that it mattered, however, since they were all staring at Nynaeve. She felt her cheeks redden at the attention, and for a moment, she considered jumping overboard. At least in the water, no one would be able to see me!

But then she saw Lan.

As soon as he stepped forward, his eyes were on her, and hers on him. She wanted nothing more than to drown in those two beautiful blue pools. Everything else—everyone else—ceased to exist for her.

He looked even more handsome than usual, though she never would have believed it possible. Two thick gold chains hung around his neck, though they barely reached his collarbone, much less his bare chest. Light, he's beautiful. His trousers—if you could call them that—were made from the same blue silk as her skirt, and although they appeared to fit him loosely, the knot of material on his left hip was enough proof to her that his trousers were made by twisting material around his body in a similar fashion to the way her skirt was made. What do these people have against buttons? And, for that matter, shirts?

His feet, like hers, were bare, so that did not really come as a surprise. What did surprise her, however, was his missing sword and belt. He always had that sword on his hip.

Her eyes drifted back up his body—pausing to admire the muscles in his torso and shoulders—only to catch his eyes roving her body in return. There was a spark in his eyes, contradicting the stony coldness of his face. When his gaze met hers, his eyes may as well have been blue fire for the heat they radiated. All the coldness she had seen there earlier was gone.

Nesta's voice filled the air, and had been doing so ever since everyone was in place, though Nynaeve was not listening. She could not think about anything other than the man standing in front of her. She had seen the look in his eyes once before, right before he kissed her senseless right in front of Elayne and Egwene, but there was something slightly different about it. It doesn't matter. I will be his wife soon, and I can make him happy.

Her ears caught the word "obey", but she was not certain what else Nesta din Reas Two Moons had said. That is, she was not certain what the woman had said until she began repeating the vows the Mistress of Ships gave her.

Nynaeve heard the words coming out of her own mouth, words she normally would have rather died than say, but she could not stop. There was no choice, she knew. She had insisted on wedding Lan immediately, and after Nesta learned of it, she offered—insisted—on being the one to perform the ceremony. At the time, Nynaeve felt it was the least the woman could do after their agreement that gave the Sea Folk everything they wanted. Now, however…no, nothing had changed. She would pay any price to be Lan's wife. Even this. Light, help me!

One of Lan's eyebrows raised in stunned amusement. Evidently, he could not believe what she was promising any more than she could. When he began reciting his own vows, the amusement was gone. His face was deeply serious, his eyes still burning with fire. She heard every word he said, but she did not realize he was finished until he put his fingers to her lips and said clearly, "It is agreed, under the light." She copied his actions, as well as his words, her hand shaking slightly as she reached up to touch his lips.

Lan took her hand away from his mouth and glanced at the Mistress of Ships before wordlessly scooping Nynaeve into his arms. Her breath caught in her throat. "Lan, what—"

"The…ceremony…is not quite over," he answered with an amused smile as he strode across the deck away from everyone. Once they were below deck, he passed her cabin without even pausing. "Your things have been moved to my cabin." That he answered a question she had not asked yet made her wonder if he could read her mind. After a moment, he corrected himself. "Our cabin."

That the door to their cabin was open did not seem to bother Lan at all; he carried her inside and kicked the door closed behind them. His—their—room was slightly larger than hers had been, and there were silver plates filled with finger food on the table at the end of the bed. The bed—she felt her face flush as soon as she laid eyes on it—already had the covers turned down.

She looked up at him, suddenly aware of his skin touching hers. Breathing was an effort for her—she assumed it had something to do with the thickness of the air—and required significantly more thought than should have been necessary.

"They did not tell you about the rest of the ceremony." His voice sounded strained, and she was not sure if what he said was a question or not. "The ship will not dock for hours yet. We will be left alone until then."

"Good." The word was out of her mouth before she knew it, and it brought a smile to Lan's face, if not quite his eyes. He set her on her feet in front of him and stared at her. A hungry, expectant stare. Why was he not moving? Touching her? She shifted on her feet, uncomfortable with her own thoughts. It was as if he were waiting for something, but what? Then, what he had said came back to her. The ceremony was not over yet. Instinct, rather than knowledge of Sea Folk customs, told her what to do.

Taking a deep yet unsteady breath, she reached behind her neck and released the clasp that held up her so-called shirt, waiting a few seconds before finally letting it drop to the floor. The way Lan was staring at her made her skin tingle. Why is it so hot in here? Hurriedly, she reached for the pin in her hair and removed it, letting her hair fall down over her shoulders; her hair didn't cover much, but it was better than having every bit of her skin showing! That thought made her hesitant to continue, but her trembling hands moved to the knot of material on her left hip as if they had a will of their own—it seemed she had discovered the reason that proper Atha'an Miere wedding attire was what it was. She paused for only a moment; there was no room for being timid, she knew. She had promised this, and she would deliver. One small tug and the silk fell, draping over the gold chain on the floor.

"Under the Light, I give myself to you, al'Lan Mandragoran," she said softly, repeating the vows she had said earlier. "My heart, my love, my body, my soul…are yours." She was not sure she had the words right for the rest of it—not standing naked in front of the man she loved, with the pounding of her heart drowning out her thoughts—but the sentiments were the same. "Everything that I am is yours, as is all that I have." She took another shaky breath. She meant every word she said, even what came next. "As the Light wills it, when we are alone, I am yours to command." Command. How would she ever be able to take being ordered about? "Through calm or storm, light or darkness, whatever we may encounter in this life and beyond, these things I promise you."

By the time she finished, Lan looked like a wolf ready to pounce on his prey. His hand moved to the knot on his left hip and more blue silk fell to the floor as he began repeating his own vows in a steady voice. His vows were very similar to hers, except he promised to obey in public. She swallowed hard. In private, she would be the one to obey.

As soon as the last word left his mouth, he crushed her to him and began kissing her so thoroughly it made her head spin. His kiss—his touch—was both aggressive and gentle at once. She clung to him, with her arms as well as her legs, wanting—needing—to feel closer to him. When kissing was no longer enough to satiate either of them, he laid her down on the silk sheets, careful not to put all of his weight on her until she made it clear she did not really appreciate his caution.

A long time later—though she was not certain exactly how much time had passed and did not really care—she snuggled contentedly in his arms. Their arms and legs were tangled together, and when she tried to move, he held her firmly. "You aren't going anywhere."

"But Lan, I'm starving!" She lifted her head from his chest to look at him. With a small smile, he nodded and loosened his hold on her, but when she tried to grab one of the sheets to cover herself, he snatched it away. She glared at him—as near as she could get to a glare right then, which was not at all—and tried again, only to get the same reaction from him.

He did not bother to hide his amusement. "Leave it, Nynaeve."

It was an order, not a request. The desire to argue about it was squashed by the knowledge that it would be breaking her vows, but there was nothing to stop her from making a mad dash for a plate and hurrying back to the bed so she could dive under the covers. She set the plate on the bed, feeling quite pleased with herself for finding a way around her lack of cover. Unfortunately, it only served to amuse him more. He actually laughed out loud at her!

Lifting the plate, he kicked all of the covers off the bed before setting it back down. He didn't even seem to notice her glare. The man was just being difficult! She opened her mouth to complain, but he picked up a cube of cheese and popped it in her mouth before she could form a word. He fed her several pieces, slapping her hand away when she reached for the plate herself. She shook her head at the last piece he held for her—she had had enough—and after he dropped it back onto the plate, his hand moved to her face, caressing her cheek softly.

Her eyes fluttered closed and she pressed her face further into his palm. When she opened her eyes again, she grabbed a piece of cheese and held it near his mouth. "Are you hungry, Lan?" Her own voice sounded strange to her…throaty and rich.

He let his eyes wander to the piece of cheese, then looked back into her eyes. "Yes."

She gasped when he snatched the cheese out of her hand and threw it and the plate to the floor with a loud clang, then captured her mouth in a feverish kiss. 

The knock on the door stopped him all too soon, and the low growl in his throat let her know how he felt about being interrupted. "We have ten minutes to be back on deck in front of the Mistress of Ships." He kissed her tenderly, then got up. "Wear your dress; I do not care what the customs are, I will not have you walking around Ebou Dar half dressed." He paused to pick up the pieces of blue silk and the gold-chain shirt. "But we are bringing these with us." The smile he had on his face made her certain he intended for her to wear the awful garments again. Her face reddened when she thought about what they had been doing, and she changed her mind; the Atha'an Miere wedding garments were perfectly acceptable as long as they were worn in private.

By the time they stepped off the ship, she and Lan were husband and wife. They had more than a handful of Sea Folk in tow and, much to Nynaeve's disappointment, Lan's eyes were once again as cold as they had been when he saved her earlier that day.

But she had seen the fire in them. The warmth. And, she knew somehow she could—she would—save him.