a l ' L A N

The snow was thickening. Giant white flakes of it floated past the window of the First Tower of Malkier, and al'Lan Mandragoran frowned.

"I will lead an escort," he said, voicing his thoughts aloud.

"This early?" asked his wife, looking up from her sewing. "Is that necessary?"

"The drifts can be unpredictable this far north."

"Saldaeans are used to the cold, Lan."

"I know," he said, and paused. "They have children with them. It would be a courtesy to show them the quickest path." There were winds and wolves and worse in Malkier's frozen wilderness.

"I suppose you are right," she relented. "Though I doubt Elnore will thank you for quickening their journey; you know how much she dislikes the young Prince. I cannot see how, for he seems well-mannered enough to me, and Faile no doubt knocked sense into him very early on in life. She's a very level-headed woman, you know. A good choice on Perrin's part."

It was quite plain from the way she spoke of him that his wife had trouble remembering that Perrin Aybara was a King now, not the Two Rivers youth whose bottom she had switched half a hundred times, but Lan could not fault her for that. For his part, it still took a very conscious effort not to call him 'Blacksmith.' A very conscious effort, at times.

"Darrell would have made such a good match for Elnore," Nynaeve was saying. "Faile and I had hoped…"

"That they would develop a rapport, I know," he cut in as his wife's words failed. "But 'you cannot force the sun to shine', as Sharina Sedai would remind us."

"I know that, Lan Mandragoran! Do you think I want my daughter to marry someone she does not love?" His wife sighed, the kind of long-suffering sigh that only a mother was capable of. She set down her sewing; Lan noticed with some amusement that there were less than ten stitches done, and those mostly crooked. His wife never had been very patient with needle and thread.

"The Light alone knows she cannot seem to settle on any man for more than five seconds. Once I caught her in a corner with Managan's son. Managan's son! The boy is infamous! If she would just..." His wife's brow creased in frustration. "If she could… well if only… if she- oh, Light, could she not atleast fall in love with the man I want her to?"

Lan threw back his head and laughed, a gesture that turned his wife's cheeks as red as coin peppers. "That is not the way I meant it," Nynaeve said hastily, though considerably meeker this time. She shifted uncomfortably in her armchair. "I only meant… Lan, I do not want to see my daughter marry another Mat Cauthon."

"That would be a grave misfortune indeed," he said mildly. Though in truth, he supposed his daughter could do worse. General Matrim Cauthon was rather well respected nowadays.

"She is changing, my love," he told her. It was true. Elnore was no longer the little girl who once stood no higher than his belt buckle. She had long since traded her dolls for silks and perfume, her high child's voice for a young woman's dulcet tones. "Did you yourself know what you wanted at that age?"

"Of course," she said, in confused tones. "I wanted to be Wisdom."

Lan smiled at that. It is so easy to smile, with her. A sunrise, he had once called her, and she was no less than a sunrise today. Only, other things grew old as the sun rose and fell, but she stayed unchanged… her face ever young, ever beautiful.

"Lan," she said softly, "I would come with you. To lead the escort, I mean. I would, only-" She laid an absent hand on her swollen stomach, leaving her last words unspoken. She was in her final weeks of carrying the child, if not her final days.

The child had not come without a cost, of course. His wife had never been famous for temperate moods, and when the babe toyed with her emotions she could be known to send even the bravest of his Kingsguard running for Tarwin's Gap. It was common for her to flit from fury to tears, from joy to despair, in the time it might have taken him to swing a sword. The bond ever carried a melting pot of emotions.

The very fire of her might have been enough to set a lesser man on flames, but never Lan Mandragoran. After all, he had called her Lioness once too, and he loved the Lioness as surely as he loved the Sunrise.

And yet, the temper of a Lioness was the very least of their dangers. This babe will be hard on her, Sharina had warned him, in confidence. As strong as she seems, she has a small frame to carry such a weight. She must take the greatest care. And Lan intended to make sure that she did.

"I would never consent to you joining the escort in any case, Nynaeve," he told her, regarding his wife with eyes suddenly serious. "Risks cannot be tolerated in your present condition."

"Oh, my condition!" she scoffed. "I'm quite sure I could ride a horse, you know, it is only that I have not had the time to attempt it lately, what with Maric's lessons and keeping an eye on that daughter of ours."

If Nynaeve al'Meara truly wanted to ride a horse or arrange a marriage or conquer a kingdom, Lan knew that nothing less than tying her up and putting her in a sack would stop her. But before that there was Nynaeve Mandragoran, and she had sworn a vow. Whoever commands in private, must obey in public. If the Queen of Malkier was ordered to stay by the anointed King, stay she must.

But it did not follow that she had to be happy about it. Indeed, the furious words they exchanged before every leavetaking oft rendered their partings bitter, their separation longer and more trying. But the reunions far sweeter, Lan remembered fondly.

His last journey had been many months past, when the babe had only begun to bloom. Treating with King Easer had taken longer than expected, which did not please his wife.

When he returned, he had showered Nynaeve with gifts fit for a Queen. Baubles for her hair – gleaming moonstones and blazing firedrops, glittering caps with golden threads, and dresses, dresses of all styles and colours, elegant blue Taraboner gowns and green Andorian robes, all lace and embroidery.

Flowers, too. He liked to see flowers in her hair. When we wandered the groves of the Eye of the World, she wore white morningstar and pink heartsblush in her braid, he recalled. My love, you were naught but a girl, back then. Now her eyes had been subject to things that he wished they had not. And as must happen, she had grown older with them.

His stubborn tradition in giving these gifts was almost as stubborn as his wife's ritual in receiving them. More than once, he had ladled Nynaeve with baubles and dresses and flowers like a horse with saddlebags – a disgruntled horse at that – only to have her calmly place them aside and all but throw herself at him, showering him fiercely with kisses from brow to neck.

And yet he kept on. She had never wanted land, or gold. But now I can give her that, and more.

And more was less than she deserved. It still brought shame upon him to remember the first cruel promise he had made to her, the tears it had cost her. I have nothing to offer you for brideprice but widow's clothes, he had told the Wisdom, harshly, foolishly.

But as it had happened, no widows were made on that day. Only laughter, and music, and her.

Lan had gazed at her ot their wedding feast and never could have expressed what was in his heart, knowing she was from that moment made Malkieri. Years had passed, yet he could still hear her laughter, as silvery as the filigree circlet set upon her head, and see the gleam of the moonstones in her long, dark hair, tumbling unbraided and beautiful to her waist.

Looking at his wife at present, it was difficult to find any traces of that Two Rivers girl from so long ago. A Malkieri Queen sat in her place. Yet Nynaeve is still there, he knew. She will always be Nynaeve. The thought brought a smile to his lips.

"And what are you smiling at?" she asked him, too-sweetly.

Lan cleared his throat. "I would thank you not to attempt riding either. If I had my wishes, you would not stir out of these chambers."

Even before her face darkened, he could feel his wife's displeasure through the bond. "If you think I am going to sit here and rot in my chambers until the babe comes, Lan Mandragoran, you are quite mistaken. Babe or no babe, I have my duties."

She must take the greatest care, came Sharina's voice in his headHe left a tender kiss on her brow before taking his leave. "It will be dark on my return, my love," he told her. "Do not wait for me."

Yet as al'Lan Mandragoran's boots carried him down the winding steps of the First Tower, he knew that she would.

I am still her Warder, he told himself. Taking care of her is my duty. A duty he intended to adhere to. Whether with her wishes, or against.

THIS CHAPTER: My first Lan perspective… I kept it mild, nothing too challenging for me to write. Hope it turned out okay, fairly realistic for Lan.

THIS STORY: Basically, I had two Lan and Nynaeve stories in the working, sitting around on my computer and seemingly never getting finished. One was called 'The Spider' and was a small, would-be amusing look into 'a day in the life' of al'Lan and el'Nynaeve. The other was an untitled series of gap-fillers from unwritten scenes in the books. I decided to merge the material together and came up with this. According to my outline, it should be about 18 chapters long, and everyone in the Malkieri royal family will have atleast 4 chapters to themselves. Oh yes, and I'd like to add that I was inspired to write Lan and Nynaeve again after reading the fantastic 'Moonlit Walks' by EvilChani, so thanks for that!

NEXT CHAPTER: Will be a flashback from Lan, set during 'The Shadow Rising.'

DISCLAIMER: Suffice to say, all names, characters and settings of this story belong to Robert Jordan. Not me.