Please don't stone me! I'm sorry about the long wait, I had Asmodean haunting my dreams (Actually they were very pleasant dreams) and I had to write his out before I could continue this. But I'm back and I have new ideas bubbling to the surface.
And I also have surprise for some of you. I have this urge like I had with Asmodean to write out a fic for everyone of my favorite chars. So that means this is a great thing for you Perrin lovers. I don't care for Perrin as much as I used to. Faile annoys me to no freakin' end. But where Perrin is, there you may also find Gaul. I don't know what it is about him and Perrin, but they seem like they're pretty good friends and I don't see enough true friendship in the books so here Niani goes with another one of her comradeship and brother in arms drivel. Call me a sap, but we al need a break from mindless gore and romance.
Now, on with the story!
Taking the Fall
"I don't bloody care! You will do as I say even if I have to force you kicking and screaming." Mat glared at Tuon who looked ready to go for his throat. "No one will know it is you, blood and ashes, it is not as if I posted signs. It is only for three days, I am sure you will survive."
Tuon snarled at Mat, most unlike her normally cool self, she had combusted into a raging fire that threatened to envelop Mat. "It is not about surviving Toy. It is me performing in this-this…show! It is shameful and you would be put to death for the very thought!" Tuon started to pace in the small interior of the wagon. She new how it must have looked, but it did not matter right now. Toy was right, she really did not have a choice. That is, if she wanted to be taken back. But the question was did she? She was sure that Toy did not know what was going to happen a week from now or even what tomorrow would bring.
Well that did not matter, what he was asking was intolerable. She would not expose herself like this in front of so many who would be bowing and scraping if they knew what she really was, and that not some girl to entertain for money. But there was a very dangerous gleam in Mat's eyes that she had never seen before and Tuon did not like it one bit.
"Tuon, you will do this." Mat did not wait for another moment, with his final words he swirled around and stalked out of the wagon.
Tuon sank down onto the narrow bed and unexpectedly drove her fist into the thin mattress and growled under her breath when she bruised her knuckles. But after a moment a smile came to her lips and she began to chuckle in a way that would have made any sane man run and weep. She would do as Toy said, and let him chew on that.
Mat hoped that Tuon took his sudden leave as commanding dignity and not of barely controlled anger. Light, but the woman made his blood boil. Grinding his teeth in frustration, Mat went to see if Luca had everything ready. The Seanchan would be here on the marrow and everything had to be perfect, lest they suspect anything was amiss. Light that would certainly land them in the pot. Everyone else in the troupe was getting ready for the next day performance, all unaware that they would be acting with Seanchan sul'dam, Aes Sedai and even the Daughter of the Nine Moons herself. If Luca wanted a show with nothing anyone had ever see before, he was going to get it.
Luca avoided Mat's eyes and assured him that everything would be ready. Nodding in assent, Mat let the silence reign for a few more moments before he took his leave, returning to the wagon that the Aes Sedai and sul'dam shared. Edesina, Teslyn and Joline were dressed head to foot in black. The wore black skirts that came up to their knees with close fitting breeches underneath that were also as black as they could be dyed. Blouses and vests were also dyed black, and even masks were the color of dead night. Bethamin and Seta wore an exact replica of the outfits, although they were in a dark blue. You could not have told any of them were women, much less women who could channel.
None of the women looked happy about it, but they held their tongues, they knew they would get worse from the Seanchan if they knew what they were. Their tasks were to be stage hands in the shows. The Aes Sedai would be used for props, as it were. They would hold items that were not needed at the moment but would be used later in the show and could not be stored backstage, such as the extra daggers that a man would hurl at a beautiful woman and outline her body, no doubt attention would be drawn to her if Luca had managed to stuff her into one of those dresses, but she would be safe on the sidelines. And the sul'dam would be used for much of the same, they would be holding a banner for the shows start.
But they needed to be doing something, they would be caught for sure if they did a search of the wagons, which they would do most likely. Mat felt worn, it was not yet late afternoon and he felt as if he could sleep for weeks. His ribs ached as well, maybe he could get Thom to fix him up something. Mat left the wagon and made his way back to his own that he shared with Thom and Juilin. He shoved the door open and blinked in surprise when he found Juilin still sprawled on one of the beds and Thera cradling his head in her lap. She hunkered down as if he meant to kick her and looked up at him with wide eyes. Mat quickly shut the door and whirled around at a low chuckle from the side of the wagon.
"I do not think she will leave so long as he is there." The old gleeman sat with his back resting against a wheel. Mat sighed as found a comfortable position besides Thom. "I think you're right, she's a skittish one she is, I don't know why a man would want a wife, I certainly don't." Thom snorted so hard that his mustaches stirred, "You may be right about that my boy."
Thom fingered his pipe for a moment before getting to the subject he really wanted to discuss with Mat. He coughed into his hand for before addressing the gambler. "Mat, what did you say to the women and Luca that has them all shaking like leaves in a high wind. What are you planning boy?"
Mat's grin held no mirth as he outlined all he had in store for the women for whom he had gone through great lengths to protect. It was about time they started to dance to his tune instead of their own. Thom's bushy white eyebrows climbed higher and higher as Mat's plan hit him. Light, the boy was asking for a death wish, but if they pulled this off, he would be a hero and not quite such a fool as he seemed at the moment.
That as what Mat was afraid of, and he half wished it would not work. Burn me, but I'm trying to save my own neck as much as theirs, I'm no bloody hero. Thom dusted off his patched gleeman's cloak and offered a hand to Mat who took it gratefully. Mat's wince told Thom that the gambler was still feeling the effects of Domon's little chat and supported a bit more of Mat's weight. "The Red Arm's camp is still open to us, I'll make you a tea there."
Mat ground his teeth and leaned on the Gleeman. Bloody ribs, bloody Tuon, bloody- "Thank you Thom." He sighed and made small talk while they walked.
The Redarms were indeed glad to see Mat. They waved their welcome and made room for their general and the white haired Gleeman. By now the story had gotten around the camp and if anyone knew what was good for them they stepped lightly around Mat Cauthon and Bayle Domon. Thom fixed a tea for Mat's ribs and they settled back. The gambler outlined his plans for the last time and found an almost identical reaction to Thom's as his speech progressed.
"Light Mat," whistled Metwyn "That's a bloody fine fix you've landed yourself in."
Mat nodded ruefully and said no more. There was no need to say more, they would follow him to the ends of the earth and back if he asked, right into the pit of doom. Mat and Thom returned to the wagon several hours later and found no Juilin, he had most likely gone back to Thera's tent with her. And good riddance to the woman, how Juilin could ever stand to bed, let alone marry her was beyond his comprehension.
Thom promised to tell the thief-catcher of his part in the plans in the morning, the man would have to pay the price if he wanted to go gallivanting off. They were supposed to be on the run, not on a honeymoon. As the lamps were blown out and Thom's snore started Mat sighed and rolled over. It was a bloody fine fix.
"I'll have your hide for boot leather!," Roared Luca, swirling that ridiculous cape around. He was obviously more agitated than usual. For once, Mat could not blame the man, who would bloody want to entertain Seanchan? He himself was nervous as well. He hoped that what ever luck he had would pull through today, they would need it more than ever, he would need it.
Edesina, Teslyn and Joline were standing in the big dome tent, they stood wherever the crowd was thickest. The sul'dam were holding an elaborate sign at the entrance to the tent, their masks were ornate, but no more than anyone else's. Mat prayed there would not be any other sul'dam with the Seanchan, that would be like a fox in the henhouse. Everyone had their belongings packed just in case they had to make a quick getaway.
Mat flashed a smile to Thom and gave Juilin a doubtful glance. The thief-catcher had only just arrived a bit ago with Thera hanging on his arm. She was herded off to her place as well, Juilin had insisted that she not be hidden away, but out in the open she served no purpose. He could not be left alone to carry out duties, she huddled into a ball every time someone looked at her. Though if she was hidden they would want to know why and that would make even more of a problem. Juilin still had dark circles under his eyes, but they were sharp and no weariness shone in them.
And then it began.
Luca started off the show with the sul'dam carrying the elaborate sign and the dogs doing tricks in front of them. The first acts were Latelle's bears and then it went on from there. Mat breathed a sigh of relief when the show was nearly finished. Everything had gone smoothly so far. Mat took off his hat and fanned himself. He had been more worried than he cared to admit, even to Thom and Juilin. He slumped against a wagon side and allowed himself a small victory smile. Juilin walked past him slowly with a group of some of the Chavana brothers, their acts were over and they wanted to beat the crowd that would stream out of the tent in a moment.
Mat started to walk back to the tents, he had to see the sul'dam and the Aes Sedai safely back to their wagons. Mat stopped for a moment at the entrance to the large tent to let people pass him by. The Blood, Mat was sure that's what they were called. It seemed that not only soldiers traveled with the Seanchan army. Glancing behind him before sweeping into the tent, Mat froze. There were some of the Seanchan looking at him, and no small group. One or two put there heads down to talk for a moment then point in his direction.
Mat suddenly realized that he had his hat still in hand. Unhurriedly he put it on and yanked the brim down so that his face was covered again. You fool, you light blinded fool! Mat hiss furiously to himself. His exit was blocked before he could hasten into the tent. "A moment young master?" The slurring speech made a slow shiver run up his spine, he forced a smile. "What can I do for you my lords?"
Juilin laughed aloud, "Of course I saw it. How could you not?" He pointed to one of the Chavana's, "Nearly fell on your face, good save though." Juilin laughed and tossed a fleeting look behind him to see if any more were exiting the tents and heading back to the wagons. And his smile froze. Mat was partially encircled by a group of Seanchan, two of them who looked to be nobles stood to his right. There was another word for them he was sure, but it escaped him and hardly seemed important now. But there was also a good many soldiers who fingered their weapons meaningfully.
Juilin held up a hand, "I will join you later." The brothers nodded and scarcely paused as they went on their way, back slapping and laughing jovially. Juilin walked swiftly, the crowd around Mat did not look friendly. He knew that they would be looking for him as much as the sul'dam and Aes Sedai. Gritting him teeth, the thief-catcher hoped they were not looking for him too.
Mat's eyes widened when he saw the two Blood go down in a heap. A figure was sitting in the middle, making loud apologies and making the mess more of a tangle than it already was. When he got the chance, he looked over the soldiers heads and down into the pile of arms and legs and found…Juilin! Mat could only just keep his eyes from popping. He did not need the thief-catchers evocative stare before he quickly turned in the opposite direction and headed swiftly back to the wagons, looking for Thom as he went.
Juilin smiled as he was hauled up by two soldiers, his arms held painfully wrenched behind his back. He put on an easy smile, "No harm done my lords, my apologies." If they had not been Sheanchan, Juilin would have said they would be snarling with anger. Instead they only motioned for the soldiers to bring him along. They entered the tent and made strait for a dais in the middle where Luca still stood.
His smile fell uneasily off of his face when they drew near. He swept a bow fit for a kings court and nervously stepped down from his platform. "What is the trouble my lords? Has my high walker caused some trouble?" One of the Bloods nodded curtly. "We will be done will him after he has been punished for assaulting a Blood." Luca caught Juilin's eye before he nodded carefully, "Very well." He could find no more to say, by the warning in the thief-catchers eye, he did not want him to intervene.
Juilin tightened as he heard a sword being drawn. His arms were tied between to posts and his shirt had been removed. Drawing in breath, he readied himself as the first blow landed. The flat of the blade struck with a resounding crack. Juilin bit his lip and ducked his head, gulping in air for the second jolt. Mat had better stay clear of the Seanchan now, he was surely not going to do this second time.
Thom choked on his pipe when Mat came up from behind him, giving the old Gleeman no warning before grabbing his shoulder and swinging him around. "Light Mat, what are you thinking? You scared five years out of me, and I don't have many to spare." Mat did not say anything, his face was grim.
Thom trailed off, noticing the bleak features of his friend. "What happened. They did not discover the sul'dam or the Aes Sedai did they?" Mat gave an exasperated hiss and shook his head. "Do you think I'd be here right now if they were discovered." Snapped the gambler impatiently, he raked a hand through his hair before jerking his hat straight again and repeating the gesture. Drawing close to Thom Mat hurriedly explained the situation.
Thom made a vexed sound with his tongue after Mat finished the story. "You fool, what possessed you to take your hat off, you know they'll be looking for you too. With any luck, Juilin will make them forget seeing you." Mat winced, he was sure that was what Juilin was trying to do, he would not have tripped otherwise. Mat fiddled with the end of his black silk scarf. "Thom, will you go and get him, I can't, or I would." Thom nodded, laying a hand on Mat's shoulder. "I will. Do not worry Mat, he'll be fine."
Mat's grin did not reach his eyes, but he returned the nod. "I'll be in the wagon, bring him there." Mat turned on his heel and strode as quickly as he could without drawing notice back to the wagon. Thom watched as Mat swiftly navigated his way through the thickening crowd as he made his way back to their wagon. Mat had been lucky this time, though maybe Juilin not so much. They would not kill him, that was as much as he could be certain of. Or at least he hoped he was sure of it. Thom nearly ran into Luca as he rounded a corner. Before he could excuse himself, Luca grabbed a handful of the gleeman's cloak and pulled him close, hissing angrily, "I thought that your lot was going to make this run smooth. Juilin got himself into trouble with some of the nobles, you best go fetch him before he's in no condition to perform tomorrow. The Luca let go of Thom and stormed off, muttering angrily to himself.
Thom stared after Luca in astonishment, blinking for a moment before he walked on. Thom cursed himself as he walked, he could have asked Luca where they had taken him. But now he would have rather asked one of Latelle's bears than him.
The old Gleeman did not have to go far before be knew he was getting close. The sound of metal striking flesh was loud and resounded clearly, it had grown silent in this area. A bite off cry hit him through the silence ad Thom quickened his pace, rounding a corner and stopping so suddenly he nearly tripped over his one feet.
Juilin was held between two pole, stripped to the waist and on his knees. Angry red welts lined his back from shoulders to waist. They overlapped each other and made gruesome patterns over his exposed flesh. "That's enough!" The words blurted out of Thom before he knew he had spoken. The blade's flat struck once more before one of the Blood held up a hand to stop it. Thom took another step forward, The man's face was cold and expressionless. "Release him." If Thom had been a softer man he would have shivered, those eyes told him that it had not been himself who had stopped it, but that he did not matter, that he was merely an insect.
Thom ran forward as fast as he could manage to catch the thief-catcher as he fell when his bonds were cut. Juilin leaned against Thom and drew in ragged breaths, the white haired Gleeman felt his lean body tremble violently. The Seanchan soldiers and the Blood vanished out of sight, having no more use for either men any longer.
Thom made no move to get up, Juilin would not be able to stand. The Thief-catchers forehead rested against his shoulder, one hand gripped Thom's shirt and the other was placed on the ground to steady himself , though in truth the only thing keeping him up was Thom. Choppy breaths added to the shudders coursing through him. His words were shaky and startled Thom, "Did Mat get away?" Thom settled on hand on the tall Tairen's short cut hair, "He is safe."
Juilin relaxed the faintest bit and his breathing seemed easier, "I'll be fine in a minute Thom, just a moment." Juilin's voice was faint and growing weaker by the word. He grew limp in Thom's arms as the last of his conscious fled.
Aniki19: Yeah, Thom does seem kind of like the fatherly type to me. Forget grey hair, his hair will be so white by the end of this fic that it'll turn back to the color it once was.
Laughing dragoness: Sorry about the long wait, I had writers block on this even though I had so many ideas. I had Asmodean running my thoughts and I had to write something about him before I could go on.
Lemon freak: Your review had me grinning the entire day. I swear someone would have thought I published a book I was so happy.
Ersatz: Yeah, I think the hat needs time to mend itself now. Maybe I'll resort to punching things instead of stomping on hats. Mat's always in trouble, but you know who usually isn't? Juilin, I thinks it's his turn now. And don't you worry, Tuon will go on a raging rampage soon enough, I really want to see RJ put her in her place (and I wouldn't mind him doing the same to Faile), but if he won't I will in this fic. Yeah, I agree, TDR was a good one, Rand was a good character, but now he's so melodramatic it makes reading his parts difficult. He was so much fun, and so was Perrin, but now the only thing that makes Perrin's pov's fun is Gaul and Berelain tormenting Faile.
Cain: Sorry, I'm a really slow updater. I try, but saying that jinxes it I think. But still I'll try harder for the next chapter.
Demoness: Yeah, Thera and Juilin don't need their own scene, we can already guess what they've been up to. But let the Juilin angst reign for the next few chapters. Glad you liked my poem, I'm not sure I'll write any more, I'm not the best poem writing person. Oh yes, I see Tuon as mighty spiteful at times, but she'll be put down hard sometime during the fic. Thanks for the rope idea, it'll come in handy for later parts, I didn't realized it hurt that bad.
Frodofreak88: Here you go, sorry it's so late.