In the Shadows

(A/N: Yes I know it's been a really looooooong time coming. Sorry!)


Cormanes was beside himself with rage; he could not believe Moiraine would leave him for a general-turned-want-to-be-gleeman.

"Stop looking so glum. After all, you seemed just fine with her being gone until you found out about Aris."

"Grandmother, would you -"

"I've seen this Aris. I must say, if I was her age she'd have a bit of competition."

"Grand-"

"Very attractive young man. A touch on the thin side, but nothing a couple years of my cooking couldn't fix."

"Are you done, old woman?"

"Who you calling old, boy?"

"Cormanes bit his tongue, not out of respect, but realization. Besides her snow-white hair, his grandmother did not look her age at all. Before he could question her, she rose.

"I'm going to bed now. You be a good boy."

Pushing his grandmother out of his mind, Cormanes gathered his cloak and stalked off towards the stables. He would see this Aris himself!

His foul mood only got worse when his eyes landed on Cadsuane Sedai. The woman was constantly smiling at like a village with a secret, and when he asked why, she would simply sniff at him.

"Evening, Aes Sedai."

"Boy," Cormanes tried not to bristle, "it's a tad late to be running around."

"I like to take rides at night."

"Phaw! I would think a Cairhienin would lie better. I'd tell you to take my advice and stay away from Moiraine, but we both know you're not that smart."

"Thank you for your advice, Aes Sedai, but I must be off now." Without waiting for her response,

Cormanes continued onwards towards the stables.

The common room of the inn was only a third full and thus subdued. Cormanes could not be positive, but it seemed a few of the patrons were snickering at him. Ignoring them, he found a table in a relatively dark corner. Although the place was far from crowded, it took the innkeeper almost half an hour to approach him.

"What may I get you, my lord?"

"You mean I'm not invisible? Well, since you can see me now, I'd like your finest wine."

"I think I'll join him, Zahrit."

The owner of the voice matched the description of Aris perfectly. A quick scan of the room showed no signs of Moiraine.

"She and the children are sleeping." Aris had seated himself, and had received his wine while Cormanes was not looking; he himself was still without.

"I'll go straight to the point, seeing as I have no patience for men like you, General. Assuming you are a general and that wasn't a lie you spoke in order to see my wife in her skin. I want you out of this town. Indeed, I'd like you out of the country, but I won't be demanding. Leave my family alone."

Aris gave a great booming laugh that drew glances from the other patrons. "Leave your family alone? You haven't been a husband or father since the day your son was born. Oh, I was a general, no lie there. I won't lie and say I'd be put off seeing Moiraine in her skin, but I am not you. I value women for more than some three minute pleasure."

"How dare you speak to me that way!"

"You're right. I apologize. I did not mean three minutes, I meant two."

Fury as he had never known it engulfed Cormanes. Lacking his sword, he was unable to kill the boy, so he settled with hitting that smug smile off that too pretty face. Aris stroke back, not with fist, but with his cup. The taste of blood filled Cormanes mouth, and he found himself staring at the ceiling. His view was broken when Aris peered down at him.

"Now, I'm going to get straight to the point, since I can't stand men like you, my lord. Leave Moiraine and her children alone."

Cormanes did not remember riding home nor making it to his rooms. There were tears in his eyes and he did not know why: It was not the first fight he had lost, after all. Try as he might, he could not stop the tears from falling, and there seemed no end to them. Curling into a ball on the floor, he cried until he was exhausted and fell unconscious.

Dawn found him sore and puffy, but also painfully aware of the truth: He loved her. He had done everything in his power to push her away, gave her a multitude of reasons to hate him, yet there was no denying what he felt.

Breakfast was cold and empty as usual, but now he knew the reason. Without the children there making faces and noises, meals were utterly boring. Running the estates was a painful bore without Moiraine helping him. He even lost interest in Lelia; the girl had been fun, but now she annoyed him. It seemed his perspective changed all thanks to being hit by a wine cup. Just thinking of that night still caused Cormanes' nose to twitch in pain.

Against his better judgment, he went to the common room again, only in daylight hours this time. The moment he stepped in his eyes found her. Dear Light, she was beautiful. He had not seen her look so jubilant in years, in more years than he cared to count. The cheerfulness faded, however, when her eyes met his. In those dark pools he saw all the years of hurt, all the scars he had made, and he hated himself.

Before he could take another step closer to her, Aris appeared brandishing a sword. "I thought I told you to stay away."