Before we begin, Author's Note:

These are short stand-alone stories about the characters I created for "Warders", which is a loosely knotted chronology about eight different Warders - one for each Ajah, including the Black - and their relationships to their Aes Sedai. If I were you, I would read that first, but it's not compulsory.

The short stories in here are not in chronological order. Some take place before "Warders", and some take place after. Which are where should be self-explanatory if you've read "Warders".

In any case, on with the show. Watch out for the twins. They'll stick to your brain. And watch out for Haqon. The adult Haqon. He scares me sometimes.

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To Choose a Warder

The common room in the Warders' quarters was usually a quiet place. Functional and homely, it was a place in which Warders seemed more at ease than in any other – which meant they looked much like leopards taking a rest in the shade. Some read books while stretched out on comfortable divans by the tall windows, some dozed easily in armchairs, many played dice or even cards, or sat near the fire conversing and honing blades.

In the same building lived the recruits, under the strict supervision of their tutors; a small group of youngsters whose goal in life was a bond to an Aes Sedai, and who had shown enough promise to be taken in and taught.

That morning, the furthest advanced of the recruits had been gathered in the common room, and stood straight-backed in a single orderly line, trying to emulate the stone faces of their tutors, with their hands clasped behind their backs. Their eyes betrayed them, however. Quite different from the lazily roaming alertness of the Warders, the eyes of the recruits darted back and forth in hasty glances at each other, at one instructor or another, and at the curiously observing Warders, and at the two Aes Sedai and Master of Arms, Harran.

One of those Aes Sedai was Yamela, who felt suitably important for the day. She was there on orders, accompanying newly raised Feyon Velmar as she chose her first Warder. From what she had seen, Feyon had already made her choice, but the girl strolled along the line of recruits by Harran's side, taking in his impressions of the different lads with an air of frank interest.

Feyon was a small and slightly plump girl, who wore her curly blond hair cropped short. Her dimples made her pretty when she smiled, but her tone of skin was unfortunately well suited for rosy blushing. The only thing which would ever make anyone believe her an Aes Sedai of the Green was the shawl draped across her shoulders. But the girl had a decisive streak: once she set on something, she was about as easily deterred as a rockslide. So her attentive appearance, Yamela mused, was only for show.

Yamela's own Warders stood behind and around her. She felt them more than saw them; silver-haired Anthared, calm and solid and dependable as a mountain, who valued nothing in any dream, and nothing in the waken world, higher than he did her. And her twins, Vaston and Durrak; quick of wit as well as mind, their emotions somehow in eternal synchronization, never far from laughter.

Not so today either. She could almost feel how it built up, the tension from saying nothing as they observed Feyon and Harran. She could feel the grins bubbling, just beneath their cool – well, moderately cool – Warder faces.

Feyon left Harran with the other instructors and came up to Yamela.

"Have you made a choice?" Yamela asked.

The girl's blush spoke for her, and she nodded. "Actually," she admitted softly, "I'd already made my choice. I listened to Harran for form's sake, and I haven't changed my mind."

"I suspected as much," Yamela said. She also suspected Feyon was the kind of Green who would have only a single Warder. Behind her, Vaston and Durrak were about to burst. She rolled her eyes, blinked conspiratorially at Feyon, and turned to Vaston. "Out with it. What are you thinking?"

"Oh, nothing in particular," Vaston assured her.

She raised an eyebrow.

"We just thought…" Durrak mused, with a small bow at Feyon, "that you, Feyon Sedai, are fortunate that it was our Yamela who came with you today."

"Yes," said Vaston. "Yamela doesn't make too much of a bother, as you can see. But if Doveina Sedai were here, you would end up with a Warder who matched your dress…"

Feyon shot Yamela a questioning glance, and Yamela shrugged.

Durrak mock-punched his brother's shoulder. "Doveina isn't so bad. She should be glad Old Mae didn't decide to help her –"

"Maeba Sedai," Anthared corrected in a growl.

"Maeba Sedai, true enough," said Durrak, as Vaston continued: "Last time Old Mae –"

"Maeba Sedai."

"Maeba Sedai," agreed Durrak gravely, while Vaston went on: "Last time she picked a new Warder, I hear she asked to see his teeth."

"Oh, that she did," Durrak chuckled and nodded. With a glance at Anthared he added; "But Gerro made a fine Warder all the same. Talented with the sword –"

"Dedicated –"

"Formal and proper –"

"Intelligent –"

"And he does have lovely teeth."

Anthared glared, while the twins lit up in bright grins, their Warder countenance washed clean away. Both their bonds were about to burst with amusement, and Yamela had to focus hard to avoid grinning just as broadly. It was like ignoring the sun in the middle of the desert.

That was the twins; her two suns. Her two cores of bright, burning joy.

Anthared's bond, however, was disapproving, and his face probably matched his bond. She did not see it; it was behind her. But she could well imagine.

"So… let's see," began Durrak in a manner drooping with false remorse. "We failed to title an Aes Sedai –"

"Joked around in public –"

"Babbled and gossiped –"

"And the good Anthared counts our misdeed in his head… my guess, brother Durrak, is that he will decide on seven laps."

"Seven? Seven laps around the Tower? Dear brother Vaston, I –"

"Ten," said Anthared.

The twins bowed in unison. "Ten it is!" said Durrak happily.

"And we'll be sure to think about our misdeeds as we run!" assured Vaston.

"We'll even compose a song about them –"

"And sing it!"

The two bowed again, synchronized perfectly, and ran off.

Yamela and Feyon exchanged a look, both stifling giggles.

Anthared rolled his eyes. "That, Feyon Sedai, is not proper Warder behaviour," he informed her.

"Oh, but Anthared, it is," Yamela disagreed. "They behave exactly as I want them to behave."

Anthared stared at her, and sighed heavily. "Light help me. I believe you're right."

"Cheer up," she said, and patted his arm comfortingly. "You know they act 'properly' when there's a need."

"Which is why I've let them live."

"Isn't he just wonderful?" Yamela smirked at Feyon, and fondly hugged Anthared's arm. He was just bone and corded muscle, lean to the point of scrawny, and she resolved to make sure he ate decently that evening.

"I do my best, Aes Sedai," murmured Anthared, and inclined his head to her.

"Which reminds me," Yamela said, her attention back to Feyon, "you said you've made your choice?"

Feyon nodded. "I've already known Dakeel for two years."

"Dakeel?"

"Fourth from the right."

"The Arafellin? Braids with bells and two swords across his back?"

"The same."

"Dakeel Comer," muttered Anthared into Yamela's ear, and giving the youth in question a glare which betrayed nothing. "Well. At least he can use those swords of his. But he's a dreamy lad. He needs a good leash put on him. And a good dose of reality. A few close calls to teach him, and I suppose he'll do."

Yamela felt thankful to her Warder – he had a keen eye, and could analyze the recruits better than she could. She also felt thankful that Feyon was not listening to Anthared's grumpy assessment. The newly raised Green was watching Dakeel in a way which was much less discreet than Anthared's bland glare, and much more admiring.

"He plays the harp," she revealed distantly.

Yamela sighed. "Oh, really?"

Feyon nodded – a motion designed to hide another blush. Yamela's impression that Feyon would keep to one Warder was strengthened.

Yamela sighed again. As far as she was concerned, the matter was settled. Feyon was pleased. Dakeel would likely offer no objections. More importantly, Anthared had no greater objections, and had the lad been unsuitable, Harran would never even have presented him.

"Master Harran, send over the Arafellin boy," Yamela called.

"Dakeel!" barked Harran. "You heard!"

Dakeel sprang forth, agile as a cat, and came to a halt just before Yamela and Feyon. He bowed – and came up to aim a fool's grin at Feyon. Feyon's returning smile was almost as foolish.

One single Warder, thought Yamela. There's not a doubt about it.

"You may disperse the others, Master Harran, and you have our thanks," Anthared told the Master at Arms.

Master Harran inclined his head and did as commanded.

"Aes Sedai. Shall we go somewhere less… crowded?" suggested Anthared.

Feyon nodded, and as she held out her arm Dakeel took it and escorted her towards the exit, still grinning like a fool.

Yamela trooped after, studying the two. They already had their heads together. She absently held out her own arm, and Anthared took it. Cautious yet alert, dependable as the dawn, that was her Anthared. Devoted to her like a flower that worshiped the sun, like a bird praised the winds that carried him, like a fish was devoted to the sea. She felt a sudden flash of affection for her eldest Warder. Whatever would she do without him?

His fingers were bony – she would make him eat more, Light help her.

"That went well," Yamela said softly.

"Tegaro Mardnil would have made a better choice. He has the sharpest eyes I've seen in years, and wields any weapon in his hand as if the Creator had put it there." Anthared's tone was dry as he went on; "Of course, he does not play the harp."

"She made an excellent choice," Yamela disagreed firmly. "Dakeel is a good enough swordsman, you said it yourself." He grunted affirmation. "And," Yamela went on, "more importantly; she's chosen her Warder in exactly the right way. In the only way a Warder should ever be chosen."

"And how's that?"

"How I chose you. And how I chose the twins."

He looked at her, eyebrows raised, puzzlement in his eyes.

"With my heart," said Yamela, and tiptoed to place a peck of a kiss on his cheek.

He muttered something unintelligible, which made her smirk.