It was sunset by the time Galad returned, leading his horse. She watched him move toward her through the trees, his walk the instinctive prowl of a warder. He looked dangerous, except for occasionally shaking his head, as if in disbelief. He was almost upon her when he finally looked up. "I have done as you commanded, Aes Sedai." In any other man his tone would have been sarcasm, but in him, it was pure defeat. "I await your next order."
Egwene shook her head gently. "For now, no more orders. But I expect that you will want some food, and a place to sleep. If you follow me, I will see that you are properly fed, and I will find some new clothes for you." She was going to generate raised eyebrows as it was, disappearing for over an hour, and returning with a Whitecloak.
Wordlessly he followed her as she led the way back to the village. Fortunately, not many people were about in the streets, most were inside, taking their evening meal. The few they did pass gave Galad a startled look, but deciding that this was the Amyrlin's affair, the bowed or ducked a quick curtsey before hurrying off. She motioned a passing groom to take Galad's horse, and led him back to her dwelling.
As soon as she ducked inside, she saw Siuan and Leane glance up expectantly. "Ah, mother," Siuan began. "Out," Egwene ordered tersely. "Both of you out, now. No questions." Siuan opened her mouth to argue, but then closed it, as she and Leane rose to leave. Both looked at Galad appraisingly on the way out, although Leane's glance was perhaps more approving than appraising.
Motioning Galad to sit, Egwene rang a small bell on her desk, and immediately a novice appeared. "Child, bring supper for two, and some good wine. When you have done so, you are excused for the rest of the evening. Go and practice your weaves with air; as I remember, they could use improving." The novice curtseyed and hurried off. She arrived again almost unbelievably quickly, loaded down with a heavy tray and pitcher. Her face was red from running, and she panted a brief "Thank you, mother," at Egwene's dismissal.
Glancing around, Egwene frowned. Galad was seated on one of the folding camp stools, his lithe but large form making it seem more precarious that it was. His head hung heavily, and his eyes were dull. Egwene crossed the room in quick strides, and knelt at his side. "Galad, you know I had no other option. I could not have killed you, but I had to protect my people."
He looked up, suddenly angry. 'Light, Egwene! Do you understand that that is the first time in my life that I have broken an oath? Two types of people break oaths: darkfriends and criminals, and now I have broken an oath. Light, if you will not let me return to be judged by the Questioners, can you not at least let me acknowledge my debt honorably? Let me go to the Waste, or let me turn myself in, but I cannot live like this. I no longer know who I am."
Egwene took his chin in her hand, and forced him to look into her eyes. "But Galad, you didn't break any oaths. This is what I was trying to tell you. You may never forgive me for what I have done, but you are innocent. You told your men to return to Niall under my compulsion. We cannot know what you would have done left to yourself, because I could not chance it. But we do not have to know. I compelled you to obey me, you could not have resisted had you tried. You are absolved from any and all guilt, and it is I who bear full responsibility for your actions." She drew a deep breath. "I cannot let you have full vengeance, for I am needed here, nor will I release you from your bond, not while you might go to either the Questioners or the Waste. I am truly sorry, but as time passes, perhaps you will learn to forgive me."
Galad shook his head, muttering. "And yet I forsook my oath before your compulsion touched me. For you." He looked up at her. "For you, I am an oathbreaker." From her position kneeling at his side, he wouldn't look at her. Her hair brushed his knee, where her hand rested lightly. Her touch was torture, he couldn't think, or focus…Suddenly he rose, and would have pushed his way from her presence had she not darted to the entrance to block his path.
"Galad, wait!" She looked up at him pleadingly. "I understand if you cannot forgive me, but at least do not endanger yourself by leaving my protection in Whitecloak dress. I will have new clothes for you by morning; you can sleep in an extra room tonight, but…Galad, do you remember nothing of our days at the Tower? I have not forgotten, and I…" She stopped. "I have no right to remind you, not after what I have done. I am sorry. Follow me, and I will take you to a safe chamber for the night."
He was staring at her, almost desperately. "Say again that I am no oathbreaker."
"Galad, I explained, you broke no oaths. Your actions were entirely my doing, and for…"
He interrupted her. "No oathbreaker…and what of your memories of the Tower?" His voice was harsh, and she stepped back a half pace involuntarily.
"Half the women there, Light, all the women there were in love with you, Galad. You must have sensed it. I once believed that you felt something for me, but I…"
"And you?" He interrupted her again. "Were you in love with me?"
She looked him in the eyes. "Yes, Galad."
He was on her in a heartbeat, arms encircling her completely. His lips descended roughly, and her feet dangled a pace above the floor. His hands ripped at the laces on her dress, and she felt the fabric part with a mental wince—Chesa would not be happy about the dress. With one hand, he swept the clutter off her desk, depositing her on it instead. Pulling his shirt off hastily, he bent towards her.
"Not here," she said quickly. "If someone were to enter…I have a pallet behind that partition for when I need to sleep here."
He picked her up bodily and a second later was pulling the curtain closed behind him. There was no room for speech; he succeeded in tugging the rest of her shift off, and pulled her down onto the pallet beside him. Eyes locked into his, Egwene neither resisted nor aided him. Light he's gorgeous…
Some time later, Egwene lay Galad's side, cradling his head on her breast. "…and so we march for Tar Valon in a matter of days. I would ask that you accompany me north for some time, at least as far as it takes to get you safely out of reach of the Whitecloak patrol."
He grinned ironically. "Your concern for my safety is touching, but I would rather face Niall at his worst than Elaida at her mildest. Even if I were to return, perhaps Niall would not be so displeased. My learning that the Tower is indeed split would be enough…but that is done, finished with." He chuckled grimly. "So I will be fighting the Tar Valon witches, after all. To break an oath requires a strong inducement, but once done, there is no turning back. Let me at least replace it with a new oath. My life and sword at your service, my Lady."