Disclaimers: Characters and setting are not mine, even though I wish they were.
Author's Note: Some silly plot bunny that jumped onto my desk while I was waiting for my beta to return chapters 11 and 12 of "I Will Find You". (That story will be updated sometime during the weekend.) I hope you will enjoy this as much as I did when writing it!
Thanks to faeriepuck for beta-reading! I want to dedicate this story to you!
The fire gave off a gentle, sparkling light, illuminating the spacious room. Tapestries in many colours hung on the walls next to wonderful paintings of landscapes and ancient faces.
Al'Lan Mandragoran was sitting in his favourite reading chair before the fire, slipper-covered feet propped up on a foot stool. A stack of formal documents lay in his lap, waiting for him to read and signature. Being a king certainly brought more paperwork than he had ever seen in his life, which was beginning to span quitea longtime.
His brows furrowed as he read through the latest reports from the Northern Border. It seemed a group of Trollocs had tried to break through the Gate in an attempt of invasion, or in search for food. He did not see the logic in that. Not only were they too few to make a difference, but they had no one to fight for anymore. Since their Lord's demise, the surviving Shadowspawn had been banished to the Wastelands north of Malkier and sealed off by the mountains and the thick, Ogier-built defensive walls, which was currently guarded by Malkieri soldiers.
However, despite the group's few numbers, the solemn man could not just ignore it. He immediately wrote an order to the Commander of the Border Forces to send some troops north to enforce the Gate. They could not take any chances. It was a rather large number of Shadowspawn which had been banished north.
A high squeal came as he sealed the order and laid the letter aside. Though, he doubted it had anything to do with country business. It had come from behind a door that led to the adjoining bed room; the door was slightly ajar.
The squeal was soon followed by a round of calm reprimands and a loud splash! Curious, Lan looked towards the door to see if he could peek inside from where he sat, but it was turned the other way from him. Reluctant to leave the papers in front of him, he pushed the curiosity to the back of his mind and resumed reading.
But his peace did not last for long. The sounds within the bedroom grew stronger, and he had trouble concentrating. What were they doing inside there? Again he twisted his head round to the open door, still unable to see anything but rewarded when an elderly woman stepped out, her white apron filled with wet spots.
"Your Majesty," she said simply and curtsied quickly before disappearing out the doors to his apartments, muttering something incomprehensible below her breath. Lan stared after her for a minute, nose wrinkled faintly. A quick look back at the door found it completely closed.
He turned back to the documents once more, his forehead creased in thought. They were obviously doing some sort of mysterious business, but he had no idea what. He debated a moment whether to make them reveal themselves or not, seeing as he was the master here and ought to know what was going on beneath his roof, but he quelled the interest and started reading a report from the stable manager about his horses' condition. One of the mares seemed to have mated with one of the steeds and they would soon welcome a foal into the world. When he saw the names of the mare and steed, he smiled secretly, thinking how appropriate it was. Her mare and his steed could only result in their foal.
The door opened to the apartments, and he looked up to catch two white aprons flying by and inside the bedroom. So, she had needed more help, Lan surmised. The plot thickens. He looked over, and was pleased to see they had left the door open.
A series of squeals and splashes came in a rapid succession as three female voices started speaking at the same time, one reprimanding, one comforting and one quelling her irritation. For some reason, he began to chuckle. The squeals and voices were not unrecognisable and he thought he had a clue about the happenings inside the bedroom now.
Grinning, he leant back in his chair and listened as the women struggled. The documents were momentarily forgotten and some slipped down on the rug beneath the chair. He shifted his feet comfortably, waiting for the rightmoment he would make his entry. This was becoming a routine, Lan thought to himself. A few minutes now, and they would be more than happy for him tocome in.
The time went by fast, filled with splashes and sloshes and cries together. It sounded almost like a cat's choir inside the room. He soon decided it was time, and carefully laid the papers remaining in his lap down beside the chair before standing up. His long feet crossed the floor in just four steps.
Stopping temporarily in the doorway, he examined the scene before him. As expected, the three women stood at various places in the middle of the room, almost circling the little table on which a small bathtub stood. His eyes went to the elderly woman going for assistance earlier. Her apron was now completely drenched in water while her hair was in disarray and lightening flashed in her eyes. The young maid she had brought looked much the same, but it was the sight of the third womanthat made him reveal his presence.
Lan chuckled when he saw the iron-grip around her braid and the large dark green splotches on her otherwise light green dress. Her lips were thin in her drawn face, and it was clear she was merely moments from losing her temper completely. His wife was truly beautiful when she was angry.
Nynaeve glared daggers at him at first, then as if realising why he was there, she softened the glare by a notch. The maids had discovered him too and now stood silent and apprehensively while the married couple talked.
"You!" his wife lifted a finger threateningly at him. "This is your fault! You brought this upon us!" He raised a challenging eyebrow at her statement. She ignored it, putting her hands on her hips, impatiently tapping her foot. "I am tired of going through this time and again, you deal with it!"
With that, she signalled for the maids to follow and quickly brushed past him without another word. She also made sure to bump into his thigh with her elbow and not apologise. He grimaced vaguely at the sharp stab, but said nothing.
Lan stepped forward into the room, smiling as his eyes settled on the inhabitant of the bathtub. A happy gurgle along with an additional splash came in reply.
"Are you making trouble for your Mama today?" he chuckled. The little person in the tub continued blabbering in his own language, flapping his hands as Lan approached. He did not fail to notice the pools of water on the floor, but paid them no heed as he reached one hand out to brush over Maric's dark-haired head.
He imagined his nearly one-year-old son would have his mother's features as he grew, although the height would probably come from him; the boy was growing faster than other children his age. In due time, the foal which would be born soon would be given to Maric, as tradition was in Malkier. The best riders grew up alongside their horses, and trained only with them.
Folding the sleeves of his shirt up, Lan dipped his cupped hands in the warm water and slipped it over his son's head.
"You are becoming a naughty boy, my son," he said with a smile. "This is the fifth time this week you have defied bathing and drenched your mother in water."
Maric did not seem the least bit worried; he was busy shaking the water out of his hair, ever babbling. The toes of his feet had also taken the young prince's attention, and Lan soon found himself struggling to keep the child sitting upwards and not falling back in the water.
"It is a good thing you do not mind your father doing the bathing, or you would have been quite smelly."
However, afterwards Lan would rethink his beliefs as he brought a washed and clothed boy into the master bedroom, where Nynaeve laid across the bed, reading a book. She looked up when he entered…and immediately started laughing from the bottom of her being.
His face was set in hard lines; he dropped his son in his wife's hands without as much as a mutter and retreated to the other room for a change of clothes, his slippers sloshing and splashing as he went. He had never known such a small child could empty his bathtub in such a short time by just flailing arms and legs.
Author's Note: I am starting to love these small stories... It's a nice break from the heavy-writing processof "I Will Find You". As I said earlier, chapter 12 will be posted sometime this weekend, so stay tuned (and don't nag on me, please)! But before you go, please review and make my day! This may be rubbish, but say so at least!