A/N- Hey everybody. If you hadn't known, my Account was suspended for a week over another story. So this is the update you have been waiting for.
Unfortunately, I won't have time to make continious updates like I did before. I have started my last year in school and already in the first week, I am being bogged down by hours of homework. Hopefully I'll be able to get a chapter out every week when I have some spare time on the weekeneds.
Perrin sat at Rand's beside, watching his friend draw breath through closed eyes. It was a week later and there were dozens of rumours that were spreading around Caemlyn. One person said that the Dark One had walked in the Palace and Rand had fought him. Another said that Whitecloaks had tried to kill the Daughter-Heir and Rand had saved her life, while another said that Aes Sedai had gone mad and started rumbling and shaking the palace about before Rand stopped them. It was commonly agreed that Rand had done something important and that the Queen, Light bless her name, had declared that Rand was of Royal Blood.
After the battle, Perrin had watched with a daze as several things had happened, moving so fast that even Perrin didn't understand what had happened. Rand had immediately been spirited away by Alanna, a dark haired and fiery-eyed Aes Sedai who had threatened to burn her way through anybody who tried to stop her. After several Healing attempts, the burns and blackened skin had been healed but Rand still slept. The other Aes Sedai, who went by the name of Eladia, had immediately wanted to bring Rand to Tar Valon for questioning about his usage of Saidin.
Perrin had smelt so much anger and determination pouring off both Aes Sedai that he though they would start fighting each other, before the Queen herself had stepped in and had said that since Rand was of royal blood, he was staying in Andor under her protection. One hundred men stayed awake while Rand slept, their orders to guard him from anybody who did not have permission to be there.
After Eladia had unsuccessfully finished dealing with Rand, her attentions had turned to him. Perrin was well aware of the looks he received, with his golden eyes and the lone wolf survivor named Flash (Well, the closest translation would be Oak-Tree-With-Sunbeams-Reflecting-Off-Nearby-Stream but Perrin called her Flash) that walked by his side, healed by Alanna when she had gotten time to do so. Eladia had wanted to take him to the White Tower for sure and Perrin had squirmed under her dark gaze. Fortunately, Elayne and Gawyn had stepped in and reminded Eladia that this was Caemlyn, not Tar Valon, and that she did not have power here. She was an advisor, nothing else.
So while Rand slept, Min and Elayne kept a close bedside vigil on him. For a moment Perrin had smelled jealousy and envy radiating off both girls as they stared at each other, but they had smiled and seemed to have gotten along well. Mat was content to stay with the soldiers, playing dice and cards and winning more than he lost. He already owned a new quarterstaff, made of polished steel, and a new set of clothes that would have looked fine on a Lord. Perrin mainly stayed inside the palace gardens, tending to Flash with an almost guilty conscience. But Flash seemed not to mind that the rest of her pack was dead. She had fought Shadowbrothers and had seen them die. She was content, only looking forward to getting back to the hunt.
Perrin had been surprised when Egwene and Nynaeve had appeared two days after Rand had fallen asleep. They had been furious with the boys and Perrin had lowered his gaze at Nynaeve's fierce one and had to endure her sharp tongue until he was able to manage to impress the seriousness of the situation. Rand was in the Palace infirmary, under twenty-four-hour guard, for his own protection. But not even the battle-toughened men could stop an irate Nynaeve and Egwene storming into the room. They had thrown desperate glances at Perrin, who had shrugged ruefully and followed them in.
Nynaeve had immediately placed a hand on Rand's head, feeling his temperature. Frowning, she had mixed together some kind of past and had mixed it with water, before making Rand drink it. A scowl had appeared on her face and she had slammed her hand down on Rand's chest in anger. It was at that point that Rand had gasped, and he's eyes had almost fluttered open before he had sunken back to sleep. Alanna Sedai had walked into the room at that point and had taken Nynaeve aside immediately, her eyes regarding her thoughtfully rather than scolding her. It was only with Perrin's good hearing that he was able to hear the conversation as he sat at the other end of the infirmary
"Did you know you could channel child?" Alanna asked Nynaeve, her eyes boring into Nynaeve's. "You and the other one."
"That's nonsense!" Nynaeve scoffed but Egwene had perked up, her eyes wide.
"I can channel?" She asked with a squeak.
"Oh yes," Alanna said with a smile. "You are both very powerful, you more than any Aes Sedai in a thousand years and your friend more powerful than you."
Nynaeve tugged on her braid and glared at Alanna. "Horse-spit!" She spat out. "Somebody should strap you for telling lies!
Alanna flinched and staggered back, her hand rubbing her bottom ruefully. "You just did," She murmured as she rubbed her bottom, wincing. "You are a wilder, I can tell that. Egwene is new to the power but you have channelled before."
Nynaeve looked as if she wanted to hit the Aes Sedai, indeed her hand straightened and she glared at Alanna. "What is a wilder?" She asked, despite herself.
"To understand wilders, you must understand the nature of channelers." Alanna began. "There are two types of people who can draw the One Power. There are those who can be taught but will never touch the One Power without tutelage, and there are those who are born with the power inside them, a spark if you will. When a woman with the spark is born, she will eventually channel whether she likes it or not. In these cases, three out of four women die if the White Tower does not find them. Of those who live, they only survive because they find a way to block the One Power from themselves. Sometimes the block can be emotional and sometimes it could be physical. For instance, I knew a wilder that was taken into the White Tower with a block on herself. She could not channel unless she waved her hands. You…I think that you can't channel unless you are angry."
"That's…" Nynaeve began but swallowed nervously as Alanna rounded on her.
"Think girl. Have you ever been so angry that made something happen? Something that shouldn't have been possible but it was?" Alanna asked.
Nynaeve swallowed, her mouth dry. "When…When Egwene was thirteen she had contracted a fever. It was bad…really bad in fact. We all thought she would die, and I remember myself getting so angry when the Wisdom said that there was nothing she could do, so I mixed the usual herbs up again and fed them to her. She got better and everybody said that it was a miracle."
Egwene stared at her in surprise, never having heard that story before.
"Did you feel sick afterwards?" Alanna asked gently.
Nynaeve frowned. "Actually…a week later I had a fever and chills myself. For a moment, I though I had the same illness that Egwene had but it passed after a few days."
"That's what happens when you reach for the True Source at first. Your body has to adapt to the changes, to get used to the power than runs through it." Alanna said, her arms folded into her lap. She looked pleased as Nynaeve tried to shake her head in denial but thought better of it. "Egwene, have you ever done something that could be classed as miraculous or impossible before?" Alanna asked as she eyed Egwene.
"In the Two Rivers, before we left. I made Tam al'Thor tell us where Rand was." Egwene whispered. Alanna looked up sharply at that as Egwene continued, her hands shaking. "I was sick on the trip here. I was on a boat…I though it was just seasickness but I had been on the boat for three days and that was the first time…Do…do you think I can be an Aes Sedai?"
"You have the ability," Alanna said but she frowned. "But Tar Valon is very interested in Rand at the moment. What he did…such power has not been seen for a long time, man or women. He has the ability to channel clean and untainted Saidin and Tar Valon will want him. If they find out you are from the same village as he is, they will use you to manoeuvre him where they want him to go."
"Are you sure?" Egwene whispered in horror.
Alanna nodded. "I have had the shawl for forty years…it means I have been an Aes Sedai for that long. I have seen it done before."
"Aren't you an Aes Sedai? Why are you telling us this?" Nynaeve asked, scowling at her.
Alanna hesitated and shrugged her slim shoulders. "Rand was…is my Warder. I have a commitment to him." She said but she was frowning. "I…He has a destiny. I could feel it as soon as I saw him. To learn that he was ta'veren only confirmed my thoughts. With his recent confrontations with the latest Dreadlord of this age, I am certain that he will be essential in holding back what could be the second Trolloc Wars. Already he has bound Andor and Shienar together, he has even drawn in the Aiel. Maybe Rand al'Thor will be the next Artur Hawkwing."
"Light!" Egwene breathed in.
"If you want, I will teach you some of what I know. Perhaps you will be the Aes Sedai that will stand by him as Rand fights the shadow." Alanna said thoughtfully. "Perhaps that is my place in the pattern. Imagine…an Artur Hawkwing who had allowed Aes Sedai to help him. Rand al'Thor could be very great indeed."
"I would be honoured if you would teach me, Alanna Sedai." Egwene whispered hoarsely.
Nynaeve grunted, but she nodded reluctantly. As Alanna swept through the infirmary doors, she saw Perrin at the other end of the room. His eyes were golden and wide, and Nynaeve suppressed a shiver at those knowing and wolf-like eyes and sent a dark glower back at Perrin, who shrugged it off.
Elayne had collapsed the same day in fevers and chills, her body trembling and pale as it was bought to the infirmary. Perrin was in the infirmary as Alanna had tended her quickly and relayed to Egwene and Nynaeve that she had the power-wrought illness from channelling the day of the fight, when she had shielded Rand from the fires of Slayer.
"She seems to be loyal to Rand," Alanna mused. "Maybe I should do for her what I doing for you."
"Or maybe Rand is loyal to her." Nynaeve broke in sharply. "You act if Rand is a king."
Alanna's lips curved upwards. "King Rand. I like it." She murmured and swept away, leaving a gaping Nynaeve behind.
Perrin bit back a smile, not quite used to anybody leaving Nynaeve as flummoxed as she was, and watched as she stalked from the infirmary, her hand tugging at her braid. Perrin wouldn't have been surprised if Nynaeve had started a fistfight with the Aes Sedai right there and then, almost taken aback by the amount of anger and frustration he could smell.
Three days after the battle
Min sat next to Rand, her hand squeezing his as she gazed at his face. It looked so peaceful as he slept, the lines draining from his eyes and the constant wariness that perpetrated his body nonexistent. The door creaked as it opened and Min turned her head to see a weak looking Elayne walking in. A fussy young woman had her mouth in a tight line of disapproval as she lead her in but Elayne ignored her and carefully sat down, her cheeks pale but her eyes bright.
"I have the sickness that comes from first wielding the One Power." Elayne explained, a small smile tugging her lips. "Fevers and chills really."
"Oh. Are you feeling better?" Min asked in concern.
Elayne nodded, her red-gold curls bobbing up and down and the two girls sat there, side by side at their vigil over Rand. One was twenty years old, the other sixteen.
"You don't like me, do you?" Min suddenly asked abruptly and she knew the truth when Elayne didn't say anything, but merely stared at her impassively.
Min sighed and Elayne looked up as a bustling woman with an apron bustled into the room, her motherly face showing concern as she carried in vials and powders, placing them on the table
"Come on dear, let's see if we can remove the after-effects of this fever," The woman had said and Elayne had blushed slightly, glancing at Min who pretended to look away. Inwardly, Min sighed. Elayne's dislike of her would make things hard in the future, especially when it concerned Rand.
Several Hours later
you must be Egwene," Gawyn said, smiling at the dark-haired girl.
It was her turn to watch Rand. Alanna had put Nynaeve, Egwene,
Elayne, and herself on a roster; to make sure that at least one woman
who could channel was always with Rand. The fiery Aes Sedai believed
that Eladia was plotting something, since the Red Sister had been
curiously silent the past few days.
Egwene almost gaped at the most handsome man she had ever seen. "You must be Gawyn," she said faintly.
Gawyn nodded as he cast a look at the sleeping figure of Rand, frowning. "What's wrong with him?" He asked worriedly.
"Alanna thinks it's a mixture of exhaustion and the Saidin Rand used. Since Alanna thinks that this is only the second time that he has channelled this amount of power, his body had to adapt to the changes." Egwene answered.
Gawyn nodded, a thoughtful frown on his face. "I suppose you haven't seen Galad in here, have you?"
"Galad? That's Rand's half-brother, isn't it?" Egwene asked.
Gawyn laughed softly. "He doesn't seem to think much of Rand at the moment, or how his mother could leave him here while she went off and had another child in an affair. She was married before she vanished you know. Well, I better go see if I can find him. He has been skulking around the palace ever since he was healed. He should thank the light that it was not worse."
Egwene watched as he left the room, before an unbidden blush came to her face. Not even Rand looked as handsome as Gawyn had! She sighed, then blushed and glanced around, hoping nobody had heard her act like a moon-struck fool. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on the exercises Alanna had been showing her. She couldn't embrace Saidar quite yet, but Alanna said that she was showing much promise.
Nynaeve, on the other hand, was not going quite so well. Unless she was angry at something, which wasn't quite a rare occurrence for the Wisdom, she couldn't channel.
As the feelings of calmness and peace washed over her, Egwene wondered if the stories of love on first sight were true. She certainly felt they were at that moment.
It was five days after the battle in Caemlyn palace before Rand woke up. For a minute, he stared at the white roof through half-closed eyes, but he felt refreshed and rejuvenated and he sat up, shaking his head to remove the lingering effects of sleep. He was dressed in white bedclothes and his wounds all seemed to have been healed.
Next to him, sitting in a chair, Elayne was gazing out a large window, where a clear blue sky could be seen from the bed.
"Elayne…" Rand said and Elayne swung her face to him. For a moment they stared at each, Elayne showing relief and joy and Rand frowning at her pale face and tired eyes.
"Rand!" Elayne whispered and with a cry of joy, she jumped from her seat and wrapped her arms around him. Rand stiffened in surprise but hesitantly returned the hug, placing his arms gently around her.
"Where's Slayer?" Rand asked quickly as he pulled away. "I remembering him leaving…did he come back?"
Elayne sighed softly, muttering something about men and swords, and sat back in her seat, composed and cool once again. "Slayer fled and we haven't seen him since." She replied. "Your battle left a mark on the palace, they are still trying to clean up the mess."
Rand nodded, before he caught himself. "You mean…"
"Everybody saw you channel Saidin," Elayne told him and Rand groaned, numbness filling him as he flopped back onto the pillow underneath him.
"So, how come Eladia hasn't taken me to the Tower and tried to gentle me again?" Rand asked bitterly.
Elayne smiled thinly. "Mother has forbidden it." She said. Her face suddenly went blank and she leaned forward. "Why didn't you tell me you were the son of Tigraine?"
Rand shrugged carelessly. "I didn't find out until I fought Slayer in the Eye of the World. He mentioned the name, and back in Two Rivers, when I heard that a Lord Luc had arrived, the only brother of a former Daughter-Heir named Tigraine…it wasn't to hard for me to make the conclusions."
Elayne nodded and observed Rand, a small smile curving on her lips. "Your lucky that I don't beat you silly for making me…us, all think you were dead."
Rand almost squirmed under her gaze but he managed a small grin. "In a way, I think I was. I was trapped Elayne…trapped in a whirlwind of Light…" He shuddered, the smile on his face gone. "It's something I'll never forget. Light only knows how I had managed to escape…I was in the Eye of the World for eight months."
Elayne placed a soothing hand on his shoulder. "Be calm." She said soothingly. "You are in Caemlyn now, you are safe."
"Not for long," Rand muttered. "Elayne, how long do you think it will be before Eladia managed to take me to Tar Valon? Your mother will not directly oppose the White Tower in this. To her I am a simple guard…Light; to her I could be a potential rival! Sooner or later, the Aes Sedai will capture me again."
"They will never take you as long as I have a say in it!" Elayne said sharply.
"And what happens when you no longer have a say in it?" Rand asked softly.
Elayne was silent, her brows furrowed. "I…" She started, before shaking her head. "It is customary for all Daughter-Heirs to train in Tar Valon, even if they do not have the gift. My mother has been there and so will I. If they try to take you away…I will break that tradition and ensure that no Queen of Andor ever returns to Tar Valon!" She finished strongly.
"I…Elayne…" Rand struggled to find words, before shaking his head and smiling. "Burn this! Let's worry about it later. Right now, I'm just glad to be awake. I think that every Aes Sedai in Tar Valon could walk through that door and I still wouldn't…Light! Egwene? Nynaeve?"
The two girls in question had just walked through the infirmary door, and Rand looked absolutely gob smacked before he pealed off into a round of laughter.
"Light Elayne, how long have I been asleep?" He asked, still laughing.
"Only three days," Nynaeve said crisply as she briskly made her way to Rand's side, her hands touching Rand's forehead as she felt his temperature. She frowned thoughtfully as Egwene smiled hesitantly, taking a seat next to Egwene. Her dark eyes seemed to glow, but something like anxiety floated in them and she was biting her lower lip worriedly.
"Then how did…" Rand started.
"We followed you." Egwene answered before he had finished his sentence.
"You seem fine," Nynaeve concluded. She placed a hand on Rand's chest and suddenly her face grew stony, her eyes flashing. "Light! You are a fool Rand! A total wool-headed fool! What were you thinking running off with Mister Cauthon's best horses! And raiding Mistress al'Vere's larder…you're lucky I don't strap you this very moment!"
Rand was taken aback at her sudden hostility, before goosebumps suddenly sprouted on his arms. He glanced down, just as a wave of ice swept over him. He yelped…yes, yelped in surprise and his toes curled up, as his blood was ice, rushing through him from head to feet. Suddenly it was all over and Nynaeve stepped back, a proud gleam in her eyes. Rand was still shivering and buried himself in his woollen blankets.
"Light Nynaeve!" He croaked. "Give me a flaming warning before you use that blasted Aes Sedai healing on me! Have you…" Rand suddenly went very silent as he stared at Nynaeve in total amazement. He felt as if his eyes were going to fall out of his head.
"Language Rand al'Thor. I would expect that from Mat, not you." Nynaeve reprimanded.
"Alanna Sedai is teaching us how to channel," Egwene said after a moment's silence. "She says that I'm the strongest female channeler in a thousand years! And Nynaeve is even stronger than I am!"
Nynaeve sniffed as she sat down. "So before you get a bloated head about your little tricks, know that if you better not make mischief with them back home."
Rand stared at her, before turning to Elayne. "Is this true?" He asked in shock.
"I just said it was!" Nynaeve muttered darkly as Elayne nodded.
"I can also channel, just as strongly as Egwene…though I've recently gotten pass the illness that one gets when channelling for the first time." Elayne admitted. "Alanna Sedai said she would help me learn. I suppose I could wait to go to the White Tower in a year or two, but at the moment I'm not sure if I will go at all. So it is best if I take whatever training she offers me."
Rand nodded slowly. "What illness?" He asked.
"When a female, or male," Nynaeve added. "Channels for the first time, they get sick. They recover and a few more times after that, the sickness dies away as they channel more and more from the True Source."
"The sickness is what kept you in bed for so long." Egwene added.
"I was sick? But I…" Rand stopped. When the Aes Sedai had taken him from Baerlon, he remembered feeling nauseous and feverish and he didn't know how long he had lay in the back of that caravan before he had felt better. And after the Eye of the World…his sickness had lingered on. If this illness showed up when one first started channelling, then this would explain his fevers and sickness for the better part of a month. And now…his fevers and chills had barely lasted five days.
"That makes sense." Rand said slowly.
"Of course it does." Nynaeve sniffed. "Whatever Alanna says must make sense." She finished bitterly.
Rand looked puzzled and Egwene sighed. "Rand, Nynaeve is what the Aes Sedai call a wilder. She channelled the One Power without instruction, which is dangerous. Most women who do this die, but those that do survive managed to block themselves in some way from Saidar. Nynaeve can only channel when she is angry, that is her block."
"If I wanted him to know that, I would have told him." Nynaeve grumbled, tugging her long braided hair.
"Elayne, where's my sword?" Rand asked carefully.
Elayne frowned but she reached under the bed and carefully pulled out his sword, it's heron-marked hilt poking from its long, black scabbard. Rand took the sword almost reverently and as his hand touched the hilt, light and warmth filled him as he drank eagerly from Saidin. The sword was a link to his only source of the power, and was so much more precious to him now than it was a week ago. Saidin filled him and Rand conquered it, standing in the middle of a maelstrom of chaos and power.
"Rand?" Elayne asked worriedly.
"This is the link," Rand said hollowly, a side effect from the Void. "The link to untainted Saidin."
Elayne nodded slowly, but Egwene and Nynaeve almost flinched at the mention of the notorious and hated name. They each gazed at his sword as Rand held it; his eyes glazed over before he came to his senses and slowly…and reluctantly…let Saidin go. It was like watching the world become a duller place, the smells, sights, sounds and tastes were all pale shadows of what they were when one was embraced with Saidin.
Somebody hollered from the doorway. Rand looked up sharply as Mat
entered the room, and his mouth almost dropped open again. Gone were
his plain brown woollen clothes and he now wore a set of black
trousers with silver snakes embroidered down the thighs, with a dark
blue silk shirt and a green high collared coat. Mat noticed his gaze
and he grinned his familiar mischievous smile.
"I've been lucky in the games." Mat explained as he stood by Rand's bed. "You have to see the new quarterstaff I have! And Rand…look at my purse! Twenty gold crowns! Twenty! Light, I'm the richest person in all of Two Rivers now!"
"You are also the most big-headed and foolish!" Nynaeve said haughtily and Mat blinked in surprise, as if he had just noticed that she was in the room.
"Where's Perrin?" Rand asked Mat, who grimaced.
"Probably walking around with the giant wolf of his. It never leaves his side!" Mat said, shuddering slightly.
"Wolf?" Rand asked in amusement.
"A giant thing, with drooling teeth and gleaming eyes!" Mat said dramatically, but he grinned and scratched his head. "It is a bit cute…but don't you dare tell Perrin that."
Rand could only laugh, shaking his head in amusement and Mat grinned, his eyes twinkling, before a startled look appeared on his face as he was pushed roughly from the door.
"What was that for?" He cried out, throwing his hands in the air in bewilderment as he turned to face the person who had pushed him.
"You weren't moving." Min said, a touch innocently and she glanced at him until he sighed, muttering something under his breath
Elayne stiffened at the sight of Min but Egwene managed a half-smile, rising to greet her.
"Hello sheepherder," Min said carelessly as she strode in the room. Her hair was short as usual but her clothes were different. Gone were the boy's breeches, instead she was wearing a shirt of red silk and black trousers. "No need to goggle."
Rand closed his mouth. "Is everybody trying to surprise me today?" He asked.
"It wouldn't surprise me," Mat grumbled as he sat down.
"So, what do we do now?" Rand asked from his bed.
"Are you well enough to walk?" Elayne asked him, her hand fluttering over his, and Rand nodded.
"Light, I could probably work through the sword forms right now." Rand said. He got up, leaning on the bed slightly before he let go. He wobbled for a bit, but he regained his balance quickly and grinned at his audience.
"You have new clothes in the wardrobe." Elayne said, and her cheeks went slightly pink. "We'll leave, so you can get changed in peace."
Mat nodded quickly and left the room, followed by Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve. Min stood there, a small smile gone from her lips.
"I knew you wouldn't die," She said abruptly. "You're going to fight Slayer again. I've seen your last battle, there will be rain and bodies and beast-creatures…I think they were Trollocs. You'll be about a year older than you are now, Light, it could only be months!"
Rand stared at her retreating back, before she closed the door and left him alone to ponder her words.
Five minutes later, Rand stepped out with an uncomfortable look on his face. His clothes were fine silks, red and golden vines stitched onto a pure black shirt, while his pants were made of the same material and design. The coat around his shoulders was a dark crimson, with golden spirals and crimson twirls. His sword had been strapped to his waist and it seemed like an extra arm, something that belonged in his body. The six guards on duty snapped to attention and stood, their backs straight.
"Light Rand!" Mat snorted with laughter, but grunted painfully when Elayne and Min simultaneously dug their elbows into his ribs. He muttered something again…he really was getting quite good at that, and glared balefully at both girls who stared innocently back.
Egwene eyed him up and down and looked very impressed. "Rand, you look like a Lord from the stories." She told him.
"That's because he is a Lord," Elayne said, smiling slightly. "You look very handsome in those clothes, much more handsome that a shepherd should look." She cast a side-along look at Min, who shrugged and smiled at Elayne, gesturing for her to continue. Elayne faltered for just a second before she regained her composure.
"Come," She said as she took Rand's arm. "Our food is ready for us."
She led him away from the infirmary, with the rest of the group trailing behind as she led him to the Great Hall. Inside, a long crystal chandelier hung gracefully from the roof. Rand was staring at the long table at the end of the Hall, where the Queen rose gracefully as did half a dozen other people with familiar faces. Rand couldn't help but smile as Tallanvor and Huin stood stiffly, their traditional soldiers armour gone for more appropriate clothes. They looked extremely uncomfortable, but Huin have a beaming smile at Rand and Tallanvor inclined his head.
Next to Tallanvor, Alanna was dressed in beautiful green silks that emphasised rather than showed her figure. Her dark hair was gleaming in the light and her fiery eyes radiated satisfaction. Next to her, Lord Dremenden and Jania stood there. Lord Dremenden had nothing short of awe and respect that almost touched on reverence as stared at Rand, while Rand had never seen Jania look so happy. Gawyn and Galad sat close to the Queen. Gawyn smiled at Rand, and his eyes flickered over towards Egwene and the smile deepened. Galad sat stiffly, his back straight and his expression
"I am afraid that the Aiel women that accompanied you on your quest could be not contacted." The Queen said loudly as the group approached. "Nonetheless, I am certain that you are more than pleased to see your old friends again."
"You Majesty," Rand said and bowed low, his forehead straining to touch the ground as he knelt down on one knee.
"Rise," Morgase said in a melodious voice. Rand did so, aware of Elayne, Egwene, Min curtsying, while Mat and Nynaeve fumbled slightly. Mat most likely didn't know what to do and Nynaeve was too proud to bow to anybody, but at least they had tried.
"Sit with us and eat," Morgase offered as she gestured to the half-a-dozen empty chairs at the table.
Perrin walked in the bustling town of Caemlyn, Flash faithfully at his heels. Every now and then he or the wolf would get an odd look by passers-by but Perrin ignored them, or stared at them with his gleaming golden eyes until they flinched and turned away. The Daughter-Heir's bodyguard was the topic on everybody's lips. It was almost surprising how many people didn't actually know Rand's name yet they were content to fling rumours about. So far, Perrin had heard that Rand was an Aiel Warrior, the second coming of Artur Hawkwing and a Darkfriend. Light, he had even heard that Rand was an Aes Sedai and one grizzled man who had drunk far to much ale had claimed that Rand had to be the Dragon Reborn. The silence in the bar was almost eerie until the man had burped and fell to the ground in the sleep of alcohol. Perrin had quickly left as some members of the bar looked murderous.
What the common people did know was that Rand could channel untainted Saidin, this the Queen had personally addressed to the Lord's and Ladies of Andor, who in turn told everybody they knew. A lot of people were feeling very wary at the moment; an Aes Sedai was bad enough to understand but a man who could channel who was not going to go insane? The idea was mind boggling and contradicted everything they had heard since the moment they had been born.
The roles of Perrin and Mat in the fight had been hushed down. There had been mutters of those who had heard wolf howls, before the Palace had shuddered and a window had blown with fire erupting out of it, and one woman claimed that her brother worked at the Palace and that he had dragged off several wolf bodies. But mostly, Perrin was not recognised and appeared to be a simple boy with a very large dog.
I am wolf!
Flash looked indigent, picking up on his thoughts, and Perrin laughed softly.
Other two-legs think you are dog. Perrin explained. If he hadn't known better, he would have thought that Flash had given the wolf equivalent to a sniff. Suddenly she stiffened and Perrin frowned as anxiousness came from her. They were standing not to far from the gates that let people into the Inner Wall, and Flash whined and pressed herself against the shadows of a stone building.
That was an extremely complex name that the wolves gave Aes Sedai and Perrin stiffened, flattening his back against the wall. Men and women flowed to and from the gates, laughing and chatting happily, but every single one of the, gave way to a procession of women. There were at least twenty of them and while most of them were wearing red shawls, some wore green and there was one wearing white. Perrin knew that these indicated Ajah's of the Aes Sedai and his blood went cold. Their ageless faces gave away their true nature, as well as their Great Serpent rings. Eight Men flanked the women, their clothes flickering and blending into the moving background. They were all physically different, but each of them had a face of stone, eyes of steel and a walk that would make a cat envious.
"Warders…" Perrin whispered to himself. They probably belonged to the Green Sisters; even Perrin knew that the Red Ajah did not bond warders.
The women were calm and cool, and people bowed or curtsied awkwardly as they glided past. A woman from the crowd stepped out, her clothes pinning her down as a noble. But her face…Perrin recognised the face as Eladia, the Aes Sedai who wanted to take him and Rand back to Tar Valon. Light! She had sent for more sisters!
Shadowkiller is in danger. Perrin desperately thought to Flash, who growled lowly, her fear of the Aes Sedai easily overtaken by her odd protectiveness of Rand 'Shadowkiller' al'Thor.
No. We warn pack. Perrin said and quickly and quietly, he slunk into the shadows of the backstreets of Caemlyn. He had to get to the Palace before the Aes Sedai did!
It took Perrin ten minutes to sprint back to the palace. His face, which was normally peaceful, was contorted in determination and people took one glance at him and quickly stepped aside. The wolf at his heels also encouraged those who didn't want to move by snapping and snarling at anybody who came close. The guards at the gates knew who he was and must have seen the terrible urgency on his face because they hurriedly opened the gates and Perrin didn't need to stop as he entered the Inner City. From there, it was a two-minute sprint for Perrin, who despite the urgency was enjoying himself. With Flash panting happily next to him, he entered the palace and quickly made his way to the infirmary.
Perrin moved past the startled guards and burst open the door, before groaning audibly. The bed was empty and Rand was gone! Next him, Flash sniffed and growled unsurely. With a room that had been entered and exited so many times and by so many people, scents were hard to pick up. Perrin could smell the lingering perfumes that Elayne wore, the musty smell that Min's clothing usually generated and the stale ale and smoke that must be from Mat.
"Who took him?" Perrin asked, walking out quickly and addressing the guards.
Two guards exchanged looks of confusion. "The Lady Elayne," One of them answered. "For lunch with the Queen."
"He's awake?" Perrin asked, blinking in shock. "No, no! Never mind. Listen; stop the next person who comes to this door. Pretend that Rand is still in there. No, he is in there and this lunch is just a silly rumour, right?"
The guard nodded quickly, but a worried frown was on his face. "What's going on?"
"I think there are Aes Sedai trying to kidnap him," Perrin told him bluntly. The guard flinched, while his companion stepped back warily. "They won't hurt you. Remember their oaths…they can't use the Power to harm somebody unless they're in danger. So appear non-threatening but firm."
The guards nodded cautiously as Perrin quickly hurried away.
"Rand!" Perrin hollered as he burst into the doors of the Great Hall. He ignored Nynaeve's angry stare and Egwene's frown of disapproval as he strode quickly across the length of the room.
"Perrin," Rand greeted, smiling as he stood up. "What's…"
"Rand, Eladia just met twenty or so Aes Sedai at the City Gates." Perrin spoke rapidly. He breathed in deeply, finally allowing himself to rest, and continued. "Most of them wore red shawls but there was some warders and green shawls as well. I think they're coming here to take you to Tar Valon."
Rand paled slightly and sat back down, grabbing his wine cup. He nursed it silently as Alanna stood up furiously and began to walk away from the table, her fiery eyes glinted and her back stiff. Whichever Aes Sedai she happened upon would flinch at her barbed tongue if she left and Rand sighed.
"Alanna," Rand called and Alanna stopped. "You should stay here. If those Aes Sedai find out that you're meaning to go against them, you would get into a lot of trouble."
Alanna frowned but slowly sat back down, her eyes dark and cloudy. Mat and Perrin were talking softly, while Nynaeve and Egwene seemed to be arguing with each other over something.
"Would they truly kidnap him from the Palace?" Lord Dremenden asked Queen Morgase in worry.
"They will not take him." Queen Morgase said, appearing unconcerned. "I have already spoken to Eladia about this and she knows the consequences of disobeying me."
Lord Dremenden nodded, but he hesitated. "Your Majesty, it is my experience that Aes Sedai do what they feel is in their best interests, regardless of the cost. That is to say, Eladia could very well disobey you if she thinks that Lord Rand is important enough to suffer the consequences."
Queen Morgase nodded slowly, a thoughtful look on her face. Next to Lord Dremenden, Jania leaned closer to Rand.
"What will you do if they try to take you?" She asked softly, her face filled with absolute worry and concern over him. Rand had noticed the case of hero-worship she had for him and while it made him feel embarrassed, it also felt satisfying that somebody though that he was that important.
"Run." Rand said firmly. "I can make it out of the palace by myself and easily leave. Perrin will have to come with me as well if what I was told is correct. I remember the tale of a Warder who had Perrin's talent, and the Red Sisters tried to gentle him."
Perrin shuddered and Mat frowned.
"Could they?" He asked. "Gentle him, I mean. If he can't channel, then it wouldn't work, would it?"
"Exactly." Rand said grimly. "If they are trying to sever the parts of his mind that lets a man channel and it isn't there, then what would they sever instead?"
Mat nodded reluctantly. "So, are we going to fight?"
Rand hesitated. "Maybe," He answered carefully and Mat groaned.
"Light! Fighting a Darkhound is one thing, fighting an Aes Sedai is another!" Mat muttered.
"They will recognise Egwene and Nynaeve as women who can channel." Alanna said to Rand worriedly. "And women who are not under the control of the White Tower. They will take them, with or without their permission, and there will be nothing anybody could do to stop them."
"You sound upset." Rand commented. "Aren't you an Aes Sedai? Don't you want them to go to the White Tower?"
Alanna eyed him, a stony look on her face. "I have a vested interest in keeping them away from Tar Valon. They are your friends and women you grew up with. If the White Tower learns this, and they will, then they will use them to get you."
"I think we should leave, your Majesty." Rand told the Queen, who eyed him carefully. "It's better for everybody if we aren't here when they get here. Lord Dremenden is right, the Aes Sedai might take me regardless of what your highness says."
The Queen nodded slowly and gestured for Elayne and Gawyn. "Daughter, son, go with them and make sure that they are given the fastest horses in the stables. If you require money…"
"Oh, I got enough of that." Mat said, grinning slightly as he held up a small bag that clinked every time it moved. The Queen stared at him flatly and his grin wavered, and he lowered the bag hastily as a small blush appeared on his cheeks.
Elayne and Gawyn quickly stood up, their faces serious and alert. Nynaeve and Egwene had stopped arguing and were watching expectantly.
"So, who's going?" Rand asked loudly.
"I have to." Perrin answered quietly, and the wolf by his side gave a short bark, and he grinned slowly.
"Light Rand, if I don't go with you them you won't have anybody normal to idolise." Mat grumbled. "I have my belongings in a palace room, let me go and get them and I'll meet you at the stables."
Rand nodded and Mat quickly left, just as Min stood up and wiped the back of her mouth with her sleeve.
"You really are a Woolhead if you think that I would stay behind." She said, but the affectionate look in her eyes belayed her words. "Besides, I've had enough Aes Sedai poking around at my talents to last a lifetime. If I stay, they'll start it all over again."
"Egwene and I have to come," Nynaeve spoke. She tugged her braid, more out of nervousness than anything else, and Egwene nudged her with an elbow, and Nynaeve scowled slightly. "We would like Alanna to come with us and continue our training."
Alanna smiled at the girls affectionately. "I was planning on riding with you." She said, a pleased look on her face. "Your talents are too great for them to go to waste."
Egwene looked pleased, and Rand eyed Alanna curiously.
She stared back at him mysteriously. "I once told you that you had a destiny. I intend to see you to fulfil it."
Rand shook his head at her typical Aes Sedai mysteriousness. "I suggest that will all get anything we want to take with us and meet at the stables." He said.
"I have your pack with me Rand," Min said. "I took it from the horses after the battle. I'll get it from my room when I get my one."
Rand nodded and turned to the Queen. He knelt down, his head bowed and on one knee. "Your Majesty," He intoned.
"Rise." Morgase said exasperatedly. "I knew I shouldn't have left Gareth to your training. You can be just as irritating as he is sometimes."
"Where is the Captain-General?" Rand asked curiously.
"In the Mountains of Mist, supervising the Queen's Guard and making sure that the Whitecloaks are behaving." Gawyn answered from the side. His eyes were staring anxiously at the door as if he expected it to burst open any minute. "Rand, you better hurry if you want to avoid the Aes Sedai."
Rand quickly bowed to Lord Dremenden and Jania, the girl curtsying back with a large blush, before he quickly left the table.
Elayne and Gawyn started for the doors and everybody followed as Rand fell next to Elayne.
"What will you do if we get stopped?" Rand asked her in a whisper.
Elayne had an imperious look on her face, which could have stopped the most boisterous child in the world from misbehaving and her eyes glinted. "You will see." She answered.
Just as they had almost reached the end of the Great Hall, the doors opened and Eladia walked, followed by four Aes Sedai. For a moment both groups stopped, Rand quickly placing a hand on his sword. Ageless faces stared at him, ignoring everybody else and suddenly, just as Rand embraced Saidin, goosebumps prickled on his arms. He was positive that whenever that happened, he could feel a woman channelling, and it was true because as liquid power flowed into his veins, a maelstrom and whirlwind of light and chaos that he fought against as viciously as if he had been fighting a Myrddraal, something hard and cold attempted to slide in between him and the Saidin. There were a few seconds as the block grew harder and colder, and Rand clung to Saidin by his fingertips, his mind wrapped deep within the Void. It was an eternal struggle and Rand could feel himself slipping. He lashed out with the tiniest of power, the most he could muster at the moment, but it worked and suddenly one of the Aes Sedai gave a cry of pain and crumpled to the ground. The block suddenly became weaker and Rand bought as much of the liquid light to bear as he could. Saidin raged and suddenly the block snapped and withered away, and Rand lifted his free hand.
He channelled, and flows of air suddenly snagged the arms and legs of two Aes Sedai, who fell to the ground. Rand wove something instinctively…a mixture of spirit earth and water…and Eladia and the last Sister suddenly were floating in the air upside down with their feet connected to the roof by a long glowing strand of Saidin only visible to Rand.
Still wrapped in the Void, Rand channelled two last weaves of Saidin, the avalanche of power still roaring through him. The first weave was a complicated mixture of all five powers that wrapped around all of the Aes Sedai. They all suddenly shrieked, their fingers clawing for something that wasn't there. Rand hesitated as he moved to tie the weave off, leaving it active until somebody else who could channel Saidin removed it. But he didn't, making sure that it would only last an hour or so. The second weave was something he had memorised from the book and water and spirit drove into the Aes Sedai, who all suddenly slumped as they fell asleep. He released the Void and Saidin and sagged, looking at his handiwork. It had all been over in seconds.
"That…" Alanna trailed off, staring at Rand with a troubled expression. "I had thought that Nynaeve was powerful, and she is. But you…there were five Aes Sedai trying to shield you from Saidin!"
Rand shrugged uncomfortably. "Shouldn't we be leaving now?" He asked Elayne, who nodded.
The group travelled throughout the corridors of the palace. Elayne seemed to know where every side door and servant hallway was and so far, nobody had stumbled upon them. As Elayne led them around another corner, she suddenly stopped as she came face to face with an Aes Sedai, with golden hair and blue eyes. Rand stiffened as he embraced Saidin in an instant, with weaves formed in his mind as he prepared to channel when Alanna stepped forward.
"Stop!" She commanded as she eyed the Aes Sedai down. A large well-built man stood next to the Aes Sedai, his eyes hard and eyeing Rand down, his eyes flickering over the hand Rand had on his sword.
"Alanna," The Aes Sedai said and a relieved smile came on her face.
"Estelle." Alanna greeted and smiled gently. "I hadn't thought to see you here."
"Eladia called any sister within a five days ride to Caemlyn. I was in Whitebridge when I received the pigeon." The Aes Sedai, Estelle it seemed, said. She eyed Rand up and down. "So, this is the man Eladia wants to take back to the Tower? I heard many interesting rumours in town, such as that he could channel untainted Saidin. Is this true Alanna?"
Alanna nodded. "This is Rand al'Thor," She said.
"You warder?" Estelle blinked, before a lazy smile appeared on her face. "Ah. So that's why you're defying Eladia to help him."
Alanna blushed slightly but kept her head high.
"Well, I won't stop you." Estelle said. "Drevdan and I didn't find anybody in our search, right Drevdan?"
The large warder nodded and relaxed an inch, but still looked like he was ready to pounce.
"Estelle, I want to ask a favour from you." Alanna said hurriedly. "Remember that time in Saldea, when I helped you with that little…problem…of yours."
Estelle choked, her cheeks staining with crimson. "Yes!" She exclaimed, her voice high-pitched. "I though that we had agreed never to speak of that!"
"I want you to repay the favour." Alanna said quickly. She motioned to Elayne, who blinked. "This is the Daughter-Heir of Andor. She is strong in the power, stronger than any Sister alive today. I have to leave, but I want you to see if you can be appointed the Queen's Advisor in place of Eladia and teach her all you know. There is a good chance that Morgase will be furious with the White Tower after today. See to it that you encourage her not to send Elayne to Tar Valon."
Estelle was looking slightly confused, but she mirrored her face to that of her warder. "I do not understand." She said. "But I'll do what I can. But only because you're my friend Alanna,"
Alanna nodded at Estelle and turned to Elayne. "If you want to continue from what I have started teaching you, listen to Estelle. You can trust her with anything, I trust her with my life."
Elayne nodded carefully as Alanna swung back to Estelle.
"I will send you a message later and try to explain what I am doing," Alanna promised.
"Goodbye Alanna," Estelle murmured and stepped aside. Elayne blinked and quickly led the group past the Aes Sedai.
It was a few minutes later when Rand watched the stable-hands hurry as Gawyn and Elayne barked orders, when Min and Mat returned, their hands full of bulging packs.
"Here, we have everybody's packs." Mat grumbled as he let them fall to the ground.
As everybody leant down to take his or her packs, Nynaeve and Perrin jumped up on the first two saddled horses. Alanna and Min were talking lowly and Mat was leaning on the wall, his arms crossed and sending disgruntled glares at Nynaeve.
"I bought that horse," He said loudly, throwing a dark look at the stallion she was riding.
"Mat, be quiet." Nynaeve snapped and he glared at her even harder, but sighed in defeat and got on another horse.
Elayne took Rand by the arm and led him away. Behind him, Gawyn started leading another group of the saddled horses and Egwene went to help him, blushing prettily as his hand brushed hers. Alanna took one of the horses and jumped up with well-practised ease, her skirts lifted up as she settled down in the saddle.
"Rand…there's something I have to tell you." Elayne said softly.
"What is it?" Rand asked, frowning in concern. Elayne was avoiding his eyes nervously while she chewed her bottom lip.
"I…" She started, before a loud gasp and a disapproving voice spat out.
"Egwene!" Nynaeve snapped, tugging her braid and glaring in disapproval. Egwene blushed and she and Gawyn separated from the kiss they were in. Rand blinked in surprise and turned back to Elayne, only to find a mass of golden hair under his eyes and a pair of lips clamped own on his. It was warm and inviting as Elayne wrapped her arms around him, and Rand couldn't help but kiss back. After a few seconds, Elayne let go and stepped back, her cheeks burning but her eyes bright.
"That's what I wanted to say." She said softly. Nynaeve looked on the verge of having a fit of rage, while Mat was smirking and Perrin was smiling. Elayne looked at Min but her feeling of smugness faded as she saw the girl smiling in approval and satisfaction.
"When Estelle completes my training, I want you to come back and become my Warder." Elayne whispered to Rand, who nodded slowly with a small smile of fondness on his face.
"Rand, get on your blasted horse!" Nynaeve snapped angrily. Mat opened his mouth, smirking slightly at Nynaeve, just as she swivelled her head and stopped Mat in his tracks.
Rand slowly mounted his steed and glanced down at Elayne one last time. Behind him, the doors burst open and four severe looking woman with red shawls burst into the room, just as the seven horses bolted from the stables. Rand clutched his sword in one hand and channelled. Weaves of glowing Saidin formed, fire and earth mixing and twining together and the ground in front of the Aes Sedai suddenly burst open, and a wall of flames stopped them in their tracks.
It took the Aes Sedai thirty seconds to dispel the wall of flames, but by that time Rand was gone.
End Chapter 24: Altered Destiny