I've edited (I'm not talking about a few spellings mistakes and commas) this chapter and I'm going to work my through the story before attempting to continue it.
I hope it contains fewer mistakes than before. I'm going to try smooth out the story and improve some of the dialog and relationships. I've read a lot of reviews and I'm going to try and fix some of the things that need work. A few problems came about when I shifted where I was going with the story. I also royally mucked up Lan and Nynaeve's relationship, hopefully I can fix it.
The first few chapters move very quickly as are young hero's race towards Caemlyn. There things get shaken up a bit!
I hope you enjoy.
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.
Born below the ever cloud-capped peaks that gave the mountains their name, the wind blew east, out across the Sand Hills, which before had been the shore of a great ocean, before the Breaking of the World. Down it flailed into the Two Rivers, into the tangled forest called the Westwood.
Moving through the town of Emond's field the gust tugged at the cloaks of men and woman bustling about. It circled about the town centre before whipping the hem of a golden haired woman's dress around her legs. She rubbed at her arms while thinking what most thought, Spring should have been here.
The gust died down and slowly morphed into a much more benign breeze. The golden haired woman dropped her arms as she stood leaning against the door of the local Inn. Her days were mostly spent on the farm outside town. Bel Tine, the village's yearly festival, had pulled her towards the upcoming festivities. She'd only been in town a few hours as Winternight, the day before Bel Tine, was just beginning. Being the town's only real event of the year had made her promise her son, Rand, that they could stay the night at the Winespring inn.
Emond's Field was a small town, especially when compared to the great city of Caemlyn in which she'd spent her youth. She smiled at distant memories. The palace itself covered more land than the village. Despite her noble upbringing she had to admit to a certain charm about this village and its quaint festival.
The much gentler, but cool morning air blew through the town and ruffled her golden red hair; a colour associated with the royal line of Andor. Her nose wrinkled at the odour in the air; it smelt foul. Still the people bustled about with an unusual eagerness. Preparations needed to made and the men and women of the Two Rivers attacked the work with their usual persistence. These people were not considered stubborn nor hard working for no reason.
Her attention drifted away from the cold and the villagers towards her son, a young man barely twenty. He stood tall and proud like his father, with hair far more red than hers. Those who knew her could see the hints gold within all the fiery red. Strong muscles were attenuated by a broad chest. Despite his size and great strength, he moved lightly on his feet. She smiled knowingly.
At the moment, however, he displayed none of his more mature talents. Matrim Cauthon, the notorious town troublemaker, and Perrin Aybara, a hard working smith's apprentice, held Rand's attention. They were all good boys, if a bit impetuous and mischievous. This manifested itself the most when the three were together. Beside one another sparks always seemed to fly, for better or worse.
The woman sighed, not one of anger, but of contentment. With the troubles of her youth and the suffering she went through to get away from Caemlyn, it felt rewarding to see one of her sons so care free and happy.
Her eyes glanced across the square to a girl she knew would not be far away from the action. Egwene al'Vera, the mayor's daughter, watched Rand intently. When they were into town, Egwene would be nearby. This was expected, seeing as the two were always trying to determine how they felt about the other.
The woman smiled at the childish antics of Rand and Egwene. The girl had never been able to figure out if she actually loved Rand or just found him attractive. Despite all the attempts of the girl's mother, the woman had always had a nagging feeling the pair would never make their vows to one another.
Rand never truly seemed comfortable enough around her. Egwene never firm enough in her attempts to get his attention. Something inside her balked against the idea, she hated arranged marriages. Emond's Field might not be the courts of Caemlyn and Cairhien, but the union of Rand and Egwene would be akin to a royal marriage in a city or at least that of two noble families. Despite her worries she had admitted years ago that if they remained in Emond's Field the pair would be best for each other. But if Rand ever decided to see the world a lot would change.
She stared away and into the distance. The outline of forests to the east caught her attention. Beyond the tall trees lay Caemlyn, another world with thousands of other young women. Could there be someone out there who would be better for her son? She believed there was. However, their home was down the road on a small farm and Rand would probably never see much of the world.
Her wondering mind was saved when Tam Al'Thor entered the village. His cart, heavily weighed down with cider for Bel Tine made the journey long and difficult for Bella, their horse. His progress through the town seemed slow, but he had arrived. Earlier she'd been afraid he might not come, but it was the festival of the year after all and the towns people needed their cider.
"Rand, go help your father!" She needed to shout for him to hear as Mat was busy telling a long story. Rand glanced at her and then down the street, before running to help. The boy loved the man as a father. Rand of course knew they were not related, but Tam had raised the boy as his own. Kari, Tam's deceased wife, helped foster such feelings. It had been a sad day when she passed away. Kari been a good friend to her and the only person who had known her secret. Kari had taken that with her to the grave.
"Rand Al'Thor." The woman sighed. "Perhaps Rand of the Taardad Aiel, like your father." The words even softer this time. Then her lips moved without uttering a single sound. "No, you are Lord Rand of House Mantear."
A cloud of dust followed Rand as he ran to reach the cart and take over the reins. The old man relaxed while enjoying his adopted sons company for last few minutes of his journey. The woman saw it again in the way Rand looked up to him. He saw Tam as a father, a mentor. Her heart warmed each time they interacted. Then it grew cold as she wondered what had happened to Janduin after she'd left.
In the Two Rivers, so far away from Andor's ruling hand, her son learned the value of love and family; something severly lacking in her own childhood. In the courts of Andor, people only cared for one another and little else. Her parents had barely made the time to talk.
As Rand walked back, she noticed the sword hilt sticking out over his shoulder. He wore it proudly, like a man should. Tam had given it to him the day before. His friends had scoffed earlier this morning and laughed calling him all kinds of things, mostly something along the lines of Warder Rand.
He had ignored their quips. Like a true Andoran prince, he refused to be mocked. Royal blood mixed with his Aiel heritage coupled with the stubbornness learnt only in the harsh farming conditions of the Two Rivers made for a powerfully stubborn personality; perhaps inhumanly so.
Still the sword bothered her. Rand deserved it, she knew as much, but the herons on the blade and hilt would be not go unnoticed forever. Tigraine had urged Tam to give her son the other sword. The older man had refused and she had let the matter drop despite knowing better.
Perhaps the decision would prove mistaken. Light willing no one would ever notice. The only consolation being that Rand was capable and strong enough to defend his right to the sword. Maybe, some of his strength came from his father. Tigraine, tried not to dwell on him, but today proved difficult. "Janduin," she whispered. He was too painful a memory and she said or thought no more of the man, but tomorrow his name would enter her mind again. With it there always came pain.
"Elayne, did you hear me?" A voice spoke from behind.
The woman stood slightly straighter. Despite the years she would still forget the name she'd adopted. It had been chosen quickly; the first name that had came to mind. Her childhood friend and friendly rival, Morgase, had always wanted a daughter named Elayne and so it had rolled easily off her tongue when it had come time to lie.
Tigraine clenched her fist. Queen Morgase had gotten her wish. She had gotten the daughter, but did the girl have to come from Tigraine's ex-husband? Taringail, she almost spat out in disgust. At least he got his due at the hands of some assassin. She would dearly like to thank the man someday and the person who sent him.
The thought made her pause. Taringail's death had left her other son, Galad, alone in the world. But he had always had a strength about him. Light, she prayed he was alright, but her obligations lay with Rand. There was something important about him.
"Are you alright, Elayne? It looks like you've seen a ghost."
The woman faced the woman had spoken. "Sorry, Marin. I was lost in thought." She stared out at her son, while trying to regain some composure even though she knew her outward appearance would be as calm as any Aes Sedai's. "You know, seeing Rand with Tam always makes me so grateful for the man. Taking us in all those years ago."
"Tam is remarkable. Kari was a lucky woman on the day she married him." Marin al'Vere said. "But, I actually wanted to ask if you knew of the Lady and her friend who came into town yesterday."
She shook her head in response. Her senses, nevertheless, sharpened. Being the former Daughter-Heir of Andor had taught her how to be wary. If the woman happened to be a real lady then she might also recognise her.
Two decades changed a woman's appearance, but perhaps not enough. Elayne's fingers stroked through the long tendrils of very recognisable golden red hair. She needed to get out of the village, but there were no paths other than through the village square.
"I heard stories of a Gleeman staying in the inn." She hoped to change the topic. Men were much safer territory than herself.
"Yes." The answer came out as a huff filled with annoyance. She turned towards Marin with a smile. "Oh, there's nothing wrong with the man. He just banged on our door late last night. Then he went all nobleman on us and threatened to leave on account of the poor reception." Marin laughed this time. "Then he grumbled about being misled about the distance to Emond's Field."
The sound of footsteps came from inside. "I was merely, introducing myself as the master story teller that I am, my dear." With a flurry of a multi-coloured patched cloak the man walked past them and out into the sunlight. "I am here to entertain and already I have my stories on the lips of the most venerable women of the town."
His white hair and dropping moustache marked him as old, but he nimbly. The cloak, though appearing worn and patched was actually in fine condition. "A pleasure to meet you, Gleeman," the woman said with a smile.
His eyes, blue like a Borderlander's, met hers for the first time. They widened for a fraction before dimming. "The honour is all mine," he replied finally with a bow. "It is indeed rare to find a woman with hair of such colour and beauty in these secluded lands."
"As it is to see a Gleeman with the gaze of a Borderlander," she retorted quickly with a wry smile. The words were regretted immediately.
He seemed surprised, but then he laughed, the sound deep. "Ah, a well-travelled woman with beauty and intelligence." His voice boomed like any true master of the tales.
With his cloak moving at his every whim, he bowed deeply again. "I would dearly love to talk, but…" His arms swept out over the town as he rose dramatically. "The people await and as a humble gleeman I must entertain."
He left, making her feel uncomfortable. A man so widely travelled could cause problems for her and Rand. The sword on her son's back the most obvious, if there was one thing a borderlander would not miss it was a heron marked blade.
"You really have a way with some people," Marin spoke from where she stood. The unasked question hung in the air. Who was Elayne? No one knew, and so it would remain.
The gleeman's final bow and Marin's desire for answers made Elayne decide that it was indeed time to leave the village. Bel Tine would need to be skipped this year. Rand would be devastated, but he would understand.
As the wheel willed it, the moment she made to call Rand, the Lady and her companion arrived. Tigraine held her tongue. Her knuckles went white as they clutched the wooden frame beside her. The Lady moved straight towards the three boys. Rand turned away from his friends and spoke to the woman. Mat and Perrin appeared eager to join the conversation as well. Still they remained slightly distant. The tall red haired boy was the leader. She smiled nervously. He'd always been.
The short dark haired woman wore a fine dark blue dress – Cairhien colours and fashion. Elayne became aware of the stout Two Rivers woollens she wore. They chaffed at her arms and neck. Despite her fears, fond memories of years gone by came back to her, some long suppressed. She had worn fine expensive gowns, made of silk and other exotic materials. They had been dyed colours that dazzled eyes and drew the stares of men. She felt her cheeks redden at the thoughts that had gone through the mind of a young girl in her late teens.
This brought darker memories. The Daughter-Heir was and still is the most prized trophy for any noblemen. More so to one man – Taringail Damodred. His voice had been smooth and his features inhumanly perfect. Dashing barely began to describe Taringail. She'd been a fool in love. She should have known it for the act it was.
Tears threatened to fall, not for him, nor her broken heart. They were for the boy she'd left behind. Galad, for years he had been tormenting her. Both Rand and Tam knew of her other son. She could see it in their eyes the mornings after she'd dreamed of Galad. They felt more like nightmares. Thankfully they never asked, perhaps they thought him dead.
Rand still spoke to the Cairhien noblewoman when Elayne's thoughts returned. He was a good man, and she knew he would turn out alright. She'd taught him well over the years. He had an air about him, a grace and elegance uncommon for people in these parts. The sword training she'd urged Tam to teach him had done much for her son's posture. Being of noble blood, she knew he needed to be able to handle a sword and be fully cognisant of courtly manners.
This woman before her was the reason why. One day, like today, someone of high birth was bound to enter the town. The secret of who Elayne was could leave with them. Then who knew what would happen, but Rand would be prepared. At least as ready as she could make him in such a small village.
Her attention had been so fixed on her past and the noblewoman that Elayne had not spared a glance at the man accompanying her. Tigraine's blood froze. Despite it being little more than two decades since she last saw one, a Warder could not be mistaken. They were men so different from others. She glanced back at the dark dress. Then she took in the face, an ageless face. Aes Sedai always stood out to people who knew what to look for; a face too smooth, strides almost too elegant, dignity and total outward calm that could only be honed by years of training in the White Tower.
The Warder had a rock hard face which never ceasing to study. The Hadori around his head marked him as one of the very few Malkeri alive. His feet stood firm, balancing a body perfectly poised to strike in any direction or defend against unseen foes. He seemed a better Warder than she an Aes Sedai. The thought only made the Aes Sedai a greater threat.
As Daughter-Heir she had studied fighting men. They often fought mock duels to impress. This man needed no fight to display his prowess. The realisation made Elayne even more eager to disappear. These two were not average, nor merely wandering about. It begged the question, what were they doing in Emond's Field?
Tigraine spun on her heel. "Perhaps it would be best if I left," she spoke, trying to get into the inn.
"I'm afraid I can't have that." Her old friend chuckled. "You have to meet this fine woman," Marin said leading Elayne out into the open square. "I've told her all about you and how well educated you are compared to the rest of us."
"Oh, that was not necessary," Elayne answered trying very hard not to hate the mayor's wife. Escaping seemed futile, the Aes Sedai would hunt her down.
"Think nothing of it, dear." She waved with her free hand. "I am certain you would've wanted to talk to someone other than us old town folk."
Elayne thought of running, but that would only make a greater scene. She took a calming breath as they approached. It had been years since her disappearance, there was little chance of the woman knowing her. Fortunately, the Aes Sedai was too busy handing coins over to the three boys to pay much attention to her and Marin.
The Warder, however, eyed her with the same suspicion he would a darkfriend. When she neared, Mat and Perrin began to walk away discussing what they would do with the money. Rand, the ever protective son, stayed behind as his mother approached. His grey eyes seemed curious.
The moment her eyes met the Aes Sedai's gaze Elayne knew their fates to be sealed. Moiraine Damodred, she had been at Tigraine's wedding. She'd been a bridesmaid and was half-sister of her ex-husband. She was Rand's aunt to some degree, though not by blood. More telling, however, she'd been a friend.
Marin broke the stunned silence between the pair. "Elayne, this is Moiraine Damodred. Moiraine, this is Elayne al'Thor."
"A pleasure to meet you, Elayne." The name was spoken calmly. No audible hint given that Moiraine had recognised her. Moiraine's dark eyes, however, shone with as much excitement as an Aes Sedai's could.
"The pleasure is all mine," Elayne said firmly. She was on thin ice and she hoped Moiraine would not give her away. Acting too ignorant would only cause trouble. "It is indeed an honour to have a member of House Damodred in our small village."
The Aes Sedai's eyes flickered in mock surprise. Next to her Marin almost squealed with excitement. Elayne wanted to roll her eyes at the antics of rural people. "You are well informed for someone of such a small village."
Elayne had been to the White Tower, all Daughter-Heirs went for training. She had, however, never sworn the three oaths. She could lie and so she did if only slightly. "Indeed, my Lady. I am not from these parts. I was born on the outskirts of Caemlyn. It was there where I spent most of my youth." The Aes Sedai gave the faintest of nods, one for Elayne alone. She relaxed. The woman knew the secret and would play along. "I only came to this village after the birth of my son, Rand."
The moment the words left her mouth, she got the uneasy feeling that she had said something wrong. The Warder tensed and the Aes Sedai's eyes flick to Rand every few moments. It was all done casually. Egwene's mother, though close, seemed oblivious to the sudden change in the conversation. Court intrigue had taught Elayne to listen and watch for minute gestures. Moiraine was being blatant for an Aes Sedai and Damodred.
"Your story and that of your son must be very interesting. I would love to hear a full account of your journeys," Moiraine said lightly. For a moment the woman almost seemed to grow brighter and Elayne's head tingled.
With a shake of her head she said, "Perhaps another time. I think it best that Rand and myself return to the farm. Tam will be needing all the help he can get tonight."
"But mother!" Rand cried out. "You promised we could stay in town tonight."
She turned to Rand and spoke with her most naturally charming voice. One that rarely failed to get her what she wanted. "I'm sorry, son. It's just, I saw how Tam was struggling with the cart earlier. The journey back is hard and there's a lot that still needs to be done on the farm today."
Rand sighed, but being the hardworking man that he was, he nodded in agreement. He really did hate leaving too much for Tam to do. "I'll just go tell the others that I won't be here this afternoon." He turned to Moiraine and Lan. "By your leave, Lady, sir," Rand said with a slight bow in the fashion Tigraine had taught him. It was the perfect bow for a person whom you respected, but unsure of their exact rank.
Moiraine nodded faintly in return. The Warder, however, remained still. His hand seemed very close to his sword. His eyes stared intensely at Rand and the heron marked blade. Rand waited a few breaths before he turned to stride away to find his friends.
The Aes Sedai glanced at Marin. The woman was hopelessly oblivious. "It's a shame that we won't be able to talk today," Moiraine said as soon as Rand was out of earshot.
"Perhaps tomorrow." Elayne smiled warmly, knowing full well that she would not be returning to town until Moiraine and her warder had left. There still existed some hope that she did not know. Though Elayne would be a fool if she believed herself.
"Till tomorrow then," Moiraine replied. "Come Lan, it is best that we leave these fine people to their duties." The way the woman spoke implied she would talk to Elayne before leaving.
As Warder began to turn, Elayne noticed a gold signet ring around the his neck. The ring meant nothing by itself. Coupled with the name and the Hadori it spoke volumes. She wanted to more, but this was not the time nor the place. But the question remained; could he really be the uncrowned king of Malkier? It seemed preposterous that he would be a Warder. Still the name was not common and the sword he wore was of fine quality. Her eyes scanned his clothing and fingers for any other signs. She found none. Despite not seeing more, she knew.
"An honour to have met you, Lan." With her words she gave a slightly more formal bow to him. This did not go unnoticed by the pair. Elayne hated herself, but she had too much respect for the man to not give him a more proper farewell.
The Aes Sedai gave a surprised smile. Elyane made no reply and the pair walked away in a quiet urgent conversation. Moiraine knew, and now so did al'Lan Mandrogaron.
"Elayne, you really are full of surprises aren't you." Marin said with a confused shake of her head. "I'm sure I missed half of what went on in that conversation."
Elayne nodded thoughtfully while studying Moiraine. "If you managed to understand half of what was said then you did well. If you garnered a tenth of what was implied then I will cook meals in your inn for the next year."
Marin laughed before turning to go back inside. "Elayne, you really are full of stories. I think that is why I like you so much." She shook her head, chuckling, as she walked back to the inn.
A few hours later Rand and his mother were walking back to the farm. The icy wind pierced at his skin and warmth came only from the thick wool he wore and the cloak wrapped around his shoulders. He walked upright, with eyes constantly scanning the surrounding forest. His one hand gripped a Two Rivers longbow firmly. The other an arrow ready to be drawn.
The thought of seeing a dark form on horseback and the fear he'd felt during those moments still had him on edge. His mother had laughed away his comment, but he'd seen something in her eyes.
"Mother," he began. "I noticed you giving Lan a more formal bow than Moiraine. Why was that?"
Her strides did not shorten nor slow. In fact she might have increased the tempo slightly. "He is a king, well an uncrowned king really." The words came out hastily.
Rand laughed heartily despite her tone. It felt good to be laughing, something he did not allow himself to do often enough.
She gave him a hard look, but a smile graced her lips. "Laugh if you want, but it's the truth."
"Honestly, mother, I have to agree with some people in town. You really are full of stories." He continued to laugh. "Next you'll be calling yourself the queen of Andor!"
She blushed and bit back a retort. "No, I wouldn't go as far as that."
Rand bumped his shoulder against her playfully and she finally managed a chuckle. It felt good to get some of the tension out his chest. His mother had always been good at making him forget about his own worries. His joyfulness vanished slightly when he glanced at her again. Her face was set in concentration, perhaps worry, despite the laughter they'd shared.
"Are you still worried about the man?" Rand asked thinking of the hooded horseman.
"Lan means no harm, I think," she responded as she pulled her cloak tight around herself.
Rand made no reply. She'd misunderstood, but he now knew where her troubled mind lay. A dark form on a horse played second fiddle to the pair they had just met in Emond's Field, a lady and her guard. No wonder she had been in such a hurry to leave. For the first time in years, or perhaps ever, Rand truly began to wonder who his mother really had been before she moved to this village.
The rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning the house and preparing supper. Times like these still made her wish for all the servants and cooks that had been at her disposal back in Caemlyn. Still it had been many years since she'd left her position as Daughter-Heir due to the words of a single Aes Sedai. Even the hard years as a Maiden of the Spear seemed a lifetime ago.
Despite all the sacrifices made she still did not feel like any portion of her life had been a waste. Rand was a well-educated young man, not only in reading and writing, but also in the arts of war. Tam, a blademaster, had taught him the various sword forms as well as most instructors at the palace as far as she could remember. His methods were different and he lacked knowledge of some forms, but what he did know came from fighting on frontlines. Some of them were even against Aiel. Tam al'Thor was a braver and more dangerous man than most.
Rand never questioned where she learned etiquette. Her answers were always cryptic and he accepted it like the son he was. Friends were never told of what she taught even though he begged her to let them in on the lessons. She had remained adamant. There was something special about Rand. Everything leading up to his birth and his life since was confirmation.
A Daughter-Heir who ran away only to give birth to a boy on the slopes of Dragonmount… Her mind froze. She had never thought about where he had been born. She had known of course, but her conscious thoughts had never explicitly stated it to herself. She hurried to the window, rubbing her hands clean on the rag hanging over her shoulder. Outside, Rand chopped wood with strong accurate strokes. His red hair blazed in the son and his broad chest glistened with sweat as he worked. She leaned against the frame.
She heard Tam enter the room. "What are you thinking, Elayne?" He asked from behind. Even he did not know her true name – Tigraine.
The question took some consideration. She had always tried to be as truthful as possible to Tam. His kindness deserved as much from her. "I was looking at my son and thinking how grown up he's become."
Feet crossed the room and a hand came to rest on her shoulder. "He's been a blessing to this farm and to Kari and myself."
"That he has," she agreed. The amount of work her son had done on the farm was staggering. This was not what bothered her. Rand also stood out amongst the children of Emond's Field. Not only because of his height, hair and eye colour, but also by the way he carried himself. People followed Rand. Mat and Perrin always seemed a step or two behind, though Mat had a habit of getting them all in trouble. Even a queen would have trouble taming Matrim Cauthon.
Egwene on the other hand couldn't keep her eyes off Rand, but Tigraine was sure it more a matter of status, perhaps infatuation, but not love. Marin al'Vera would want the most eligible husband for her daughter and Egwene would stop at nothing to have what she thought best.
She gave a soft chuckle. Like the Daughter-Heir of the Lion Throne, Rand was the boy every young girl wanted. What was it about him?
The sun began to set and before complete darkness could come they were seated around the table eating. The meal passed in silence, she could not help but be troubled by what she saw in Rand. It could not be. Maybe he was just ta'veren.
Rand chewed slowly on the lamb stew. The hard work of the day had all been to keep himself busy. The dark rider was the last thing he wanted to consider, yet it was all he could think about. The fear he'd felt could not have been natural. There was no logical reason to fear a man on the roads. Especially not a fear almost ingrained into his very chest. Men, though not often, passed through the village on their way towards the wilderness. The fear still lingered. Despite knowing his worries to be unfounded the sword Tam had given him remained close at hand.
He chewed a few more times, before staring up at his mother. Her own eyes were distant. She did not seem to notice him looking at her. That was one of her oddities, one of many. Rand, like Tam had never been able to learn more about her past. The one thing, apart from knowing she loved him, was that he knew her to be his mother. The resemblance between them was too striking.
She appeared troubled, but that was nothing new either. Often at night she would cry herself to sleep. Each time words would be muttered about a son left behind. The words tore at Rand, but he had never found the courage to talk about her haunted past. If the subject pained her, then he would not force her to talk. Perhaps one day she would open up to them.
For the moment he did what he could and so he reached out a hand and took hers in his. She glanced up at him and smiled slightly. A smile was one thing he did know how to get out of her. "Thank you, Rand," she whispered.
Tam stood and began to clear the plates away. Despite Rand wanting to help, the old man always pushed him back down. The farmer was growing older and Rand did most of the work out on the farm. His mother prepared the food and kept the house in order while also tending the animals. Cleaning after dinner was Tam's way of providing some extra help.
"Are you alright, mother?" Rand asked worriedly as Tam cleaned.
She laughed his question away as if to divert some attention. "There is nothing the matter with me." Her voice, usually even, broke slightly at the end. Rand instinctively glanced at Tam, worried about the man. Her expression, however, made Rand believe something about himself troubled her.
"Has Egwene's mother set a date for Egwene and myself to be married?" He asked. The surprise and tone of his reply must have made his feelings known. "I mean, I like Egwene as a friend. But, mother!" He exclaimed. "You must know that she sees me only as…" His mouth went dry.
"As the most eligible young man in town." His mother finished for him thankfully. "I know. I got the same impression. Her mother is the same. She earmarked you years ago as the young man who would go furthest in the Town Council." She laughed mirthlessly. "They'll have you mayor before you're thirty."
Rand paled at her words. He did not want any more responsibilities. He liked working on the farm and fooling around with Mat and Perrin every few weeks.
"Mother! You… they can't be serious."
Her expression changed and her bearing became more regal. To him it appeared so, but he did not really know what regal looked like. Still, she appeared like a queen or one from the stories he'd read. "I would be surprised if it took you that long to become mayor."
Her expression darkened. Her mouth began to move silently and he slipped into what he called the void. A technique he had honed while practising archery and swordsmanship with Tam. It always amazed him the way his senses seemed to come alive.
"Perhaps the world within years."
Stunned, the void vanished and he leaned back against his chair. His mother was beginning to worry him. She tried to smile, but it was not genuine. "Don't worry, son. I won't allow that woman to get her claws into you." She gave him a thoughtful smile. "A princess would be much better suited to you." Her eyes glinted and then she chuckled. "Or would you rather settle for a nice girl from another town?"
Rand shook his head and fought not to blush. Instead he grunted in annoyance at his mother and stood to leave.
"What about and Aiel girl? I hear they are rather feisty." She laughed.
Rand shook his head, refusing to look at his mother, and decided to leave.
Rand left the table after dinner and disappeared to his room.
Tam sat on his chair reading. The thought of a farmer reading still amused her. She sat with needle in hand fixing a small patch in her dress. Fortunately, Tam insisted on each person fixing their own clothing, so she only had her own tears to mend. As luck would have it, Tigraine was also the person least likely to ruin a dress. Rand on the other hand had a nasty habit of destroying clothing.
He had none to fix tonight, which was almost an oddity. Instead he returned from sulking in his room over her jokes with the Heron marked blade to in stand in the centre of room. There was a large clearing that was often used for exercise. With sword in both hands, he moved effortlessly through a number of sword forms.
Tigraine was no expert, but she knew enough from what she'd seen from the palace guards to know that he was very good with a blade. There were of course things that Tam did not know and Tigraine could recall there being a few more movements, but she had never used a sword and so was unable to help.
Her Aiel training had helped to improve Rand's fitness, strength and balance. His ability to use a quarter staff improved greatly after a few subtle suggestions and comments to Tam. The Two Rivers longbow added a depth to his skills. With his broad shoulders, Rand could draw a bow much larger than most men. The product was a man as dangerous as he was tall.
Rand settled down, and the night became quiet – almost too silent. Tigraine placed her needle and cloth down on her lap and listened. She heard nothing. There were always animals making a noise on the farm. "Is it just me or are things a bit too quiet tonight?"
Tam looked up from the book he'd been reading. He cocked his head to the side, his eyes narrowed in concentration. "Perhaps I should go look."
He had barely stood before something began to pound on the door. She jumped. Mere seconds later the door crashed open and dark form stumbled inside. Rand still warm from his training steadied himself in a defensive form. A tall dark beast, illuminated by the weak light of a few candles strode through the door. It was a horrid creature with horns, hair and the arms and legs of a man.
Rand glided past her and flowed directly into an offensive form; his sword moved in a rapid blur. The once gleaming silver blade came away dark and blood dripped from the sharp edge onto the wooden floor. The beast stunned beast staggered backwards and toppled to the ground.
Rand made to leap out the door. His pale grey eyes burned with an anger she had never seen before. She wanted to shout, knowing her son would run head first and alone into a hundred Trollocs if given the chance.
"Rand!" Tam bellowed, throwing the boy backwards with a strong arm. "Get a grip boy!"
Tigraine had barely noticed Tam moving and still he had managed to get hold of his own sword. The knife she always hid on her person was in her hand, the movement had been instinctive. Together the three stood and waited.
"Back window, now!" Tam ordered and they obeyed. He was the veteran solder. Tigraine had been trained by Aiel, but she had not fought since giving birth. Even then she had taken part in only a few planned ambushes, but she herself had never been trapped. She was once again thankful for having the protection of Tam.
Even as they began to move, Trollocs poured through open door. Rand and Tam both struck as one, moving together and apart. This time Tigraine thanked herself for having the wisdom to purchase another sword. It had felt right at the time. There was little point in having a blademaster and his apprentice in a house with only a single sword. The second blade saved their lives.
While they were doing a fine job of blocking the open door with a pile of corpses she clambered through the open window into the cool evening air. The sound of ringing metal followed. The two blades continued to strike relentlessly. She waited. Eventually Rand emerged followed closely by Tam. Nothing remained moving within the house.
They edged away from the house. In the stillness of the night the only sound came from Tam who groaned with each step. Seeing the pain and the pronounced limp, Rand lifted Tam from the ground and together they ran towards the dark forest bordering the farm. Within its shroud she hoped they would find peace. Crossing the open field was a gamble, but there was little else to be done. Light willing no Trollocs remained.
The Light favoured them. After a lengthy run they managed to hide themselves within the forest. For the first time since the door crashed open they were able to rest and gather their thoughts.
The frightened eyes of Rand stared up at her. Tam still clutched tightly in his arms. "What were those, mother?" Rand asked still trying to catch his breath. "They looked like t…"
"Trollocs," she answered for him. "But how they got this far from the Borderlands the Light alone knows."
Rand stared at her in shock then realised that he was still carrying Tam. He gently placed him on the soft moist ground. "Trollocs? But… they are supposed to be tales from books."
"No," She replied shaking her head. "Trollocs are as real as you and I."
"But you never said as much," Rand protested heatedly. "If you knew why not say so?"
"Would you have believed me? Would your friends have? Or even the Wisdom, Nynaeve?"
Rand took a moment to consider. "No, they would've mocked me for believing childish fantasies."
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry. I should have told you more of what I know."
A groan came from where Tam lay. Rand dropped to his knees and Tigraine followed. Blood covered the old man's leg. Working hurriedly, Rand tore away the cloth. Despite the amount of blood, they found little more than a scratch.
"That can't be all," Rand said in surprise. He stared at the man. Tam's eyes were closed and his breathing laboured.
Rand was growing tired. Tam was a heavy burden despite being able to walk slightly. Each passing minute saw him grow weaker. His mother had gone quiet more than an hour ago. The silence surrounding them did not help Rand's mood. The sound of their feet sliding along the soft forest floor was his only companion for the long journey through the night. Tam moaned about finding Rand and Elayne in the snow. He ignored the comments, he knew the story well. The more pressing problem was Tam's voice and the way it travelled on the cold morning air.
Time held no meaning as they struggled towards Emond's Field. But now with the sun beginning to rise he finally got to terms with how much had actually passed. The arriving light took with it most of his worries. Those beasts would not dare approach them during the day; not this close to the village. At least he hoped so.
The smell of burning fires and morning meals began to reach them. It was only when he crested the last rise before the village that his heart sank. The smoke lay thick. The lack of fog made him even more wary of what lay behind the veil of smoke.
"Rand?" His mother spoke up questioningly.
He studied her. She was a strong woman, one use to taking command. Now of all times she looked to him for answers.
"I'm sure all will be well, mother," Rand spoke with more confidence than he felt. Looking for something to draw courage from he felt for the sword hanging from his hips. The feel of the hilt and the weight that came with it helped to settle some fears. With a grunt he took more of Tam's weight upon himself. Each stride he took increased his concerns. Were any of the people still alive? What had happened to Egwene, Perrin and Mat? Was the Wisdom alive to tend the wounded? He could not voice his worries.
"Do you think Trollocs attacked the town?" His mother asked. "It looks like they did."
He did not answer. He did not know the answer and he feared giving his opinion. Instead he steeled himself and continued to walk ahead. Strangely, his mother's insecurity gave him some strength. She had always been calm, in control, and seemingly all knowing. Her acting more human made him feel normal. His fears were natural and if they were natural then he could overcome them.
His strides lengthened and some of the weariness left him. Then everything changed. Noise began to filter through the smoke. People's voices, the sound of carts and other normal sounds became more distinct. Still it was all wrong. It was Bel Tine, people should be laughing and the mood should have been festive. What he heard were the loud pounding of men working on roofs and woman fixing houses. There were no children laughing. More telling, no music wafted through the air.
A few strides later the first house came into view. His mother gasped, it was burnt and stones littered the floor that had once been part of a wall. Some of the hope dwindled. Glancing at his mother he knew he needed to remain strong.
"There are still people. I can hear them." He gave a half smile. "I'm sure it is not as bad as we think."
"I hope you're right, son," she said softly in reply. "Light, I hope this is not too serious."
"Whatever happened, we need to find the Wisdom." Saying the word made him really take notice of Tam since he'd left the farm. The man was boiling hot, his skin clammy and his face had grown ashen. Rand frowned. Such a small cut should not have hurt a man like him. Tam has shrugged off worse cuts while working on the farm.
A soot covered girl walked past. "Egwene!" his mother called out.
The tired dishevelled girl stopped. Only then did Rand see her for who she was. "Rand!" She cried out before throwing her arms around his neck to give him a hug. "I've been so worried, but the people…" She mumbled a few words. "… been helping Nynaeve all night."
"Where is the wisdom?" His mother asked. She did not seem so concerned about their little reunion.
"Oh, yes, she is in the house over there," Egwene replied pointing to an intact building. "I'll take you to her." She began to walk.
Rand, exhausted from a long night, trudged behind. Tam was very heavy in his arms. Rand's shoulders were sore and his back burned from the effort of carrying Tam's weight. They stumbled tiredly into the home the wisdom used to tend the wounded. There were surprisingly few people considering the carnage outside. They waited for what felt like an eternity before Nynaeve emerged. She looked exhausted and one hand clutched at her long braid in open fury.
"What happened to him?" She asked curtly.
Rand ignored the lack of greeting. "Tr… Trolloc cut him," Rand managed to say.
The Wisdom knelt to look at the wound. She looked confused, then her eyes narrowed in anger and concentration. A minute later her shoulders sagged. "There is nothing I can do for him, Rand."
He made no reply.
"There must be something you can do!" His mother cried out from behind.
Nynaeve shook her head, the braid swung about. "I wish I could do more, but…"
Rand could see how distraught the wisdom was as she stood to leave. Nynaeve cared, possibly more than anyone, but she had told the truth. "Thank you, Wisdom," he said to her retreating back.
"I guess we better take him to the Winespring Inn then," his mother said, taking control of the situation for the first time.
He nodded in resigned agreement, unsure how being at the inn would help. Still he saw some hope in her eyes. Where could she find hope at a time like this?
"Just put him in one of the rooms," she said once they were outside the inn. "I will be back shortly."
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"There is one last throw of the dice," she smiled. "We have an Aes Sedai in town."
Rand gasped. "Mother! Are you sure what you've told me is the really the truth?" He still did not know what to believe about Aes Sedai. Most people made them out as darkfriends. His mother just preached caution as they try to use people.
She nodded. "Mostly lies and stories coming from people who do not understand."
He stared and felt some hope. Tam nearly slipped out of his hold. Staring down at the dying man, Rand knew his options to be limited.
"We will be waiting for you," he said.
In the Winespring inn Moiraine sighed tiredly as she removed her hand from Tam's face. He looked a bit brighter, but considering the taint from the blade he would be pale for a few days to come.
"He will live," she spoke slowly. "All he needs is some rest."
She pushed herself up from where she had knelt beside the bed. Her hands instinctively smoothed out her dress. Tigraine took the time to study Moiraine. Ash stains still marked the Aes Sedai's cheeks and her dark hair, perfect the day before, was ruffled. The small blue stone, slightly askew, dangled from her forehead.
"Thank you, Moiraine," Tigraine whispered to the Aes Sedai. Her dark eyes met Tigraine's, and held them. She knew the healing came at a price. In her case the payment would be answers.
Rand, stood from where he had been sitting next to Lan. "Thank you, Aes Sedai." Rand said kneeling alongside Tam to hold his hand. "Whatever the price, I'll pay."
"Let us not talk about prices," Moiraine answered, her gaze never wavering from Tigraine. "I'm sure you won't need to owe me anything." Her eyes flicked slightly to the side. Then she left.
"Excuse me, Rand," Tigraine said, placing a hand on her son's shoulder. "I would like to go thank her."
"Oh, sure," Rand replied hardly looking in her direction. "I'll stay here with him."
She patted his shoulder and made for the door. Lan sat, his face displaying nothing. A shiver ran up her spine. Warders had always unnerved her. As she reached the door he bowed his head slightly. She stopped and met his gaze. For the first time she saw something in his expression, understanding. A smile formed on her face and she made a slight bow. His face grew grim, before stretching in a tight smile. Yes, she thought, definite understanding. Both of them were raised for a purpose and neither became what they were supposed to be.
Moiraine sat in the deserted kitchen. Tigraine entered and sat down primly, bringing to fore her queenly grace.
"Is Galad well?" The words tumbled out of her mouth and her eyes were unable to meet Moiraine's.
"He is doing as well as one could hope of a boy without father or mother." She answered. A tear dripped down Tigraine's cheek. She did not see her sister-in-law move, but the warmth of her hand on her own helped. "How have you been, Tigraine?" Moiraine asked.
It felt odd to hear someone speak her name. Not since the day she ran away had anyone called her by that name, not even Kari. "I am well," she answered. "Tam has been good for us."
"I am glad," Moiraine replied. Her voice sounded earnest. Then again an Aes Sedai she could not lie.
"So you were raised?" Tigraine asked. "You were always the strong one in the family. I missed you these years."
It was the truth. The youngest daughter, Moiraine, had always been different. The darker side of her family never touched her. Somehow it had made the young girl more determined to do good in the world.
She felt her hand being squeezed. "Light burn you!" Moiraine almost shouted, but the words were barely audible. "I looked up to you. You were always kind to me, talked to me, understood me." Her voice trailed off, and Tigraine only felt shame. "You should've been Queen. I could have been Queen. Together…" She left the last part unsaid.
"I know, but I had to leave Andor. I had a duty greater than Andor."
Moiraine seemed to sit straighter at these words, but she nodded before saying. "I was given a task, one that led me far from home. And away from the throne." The kitchen was silent as Tigraine listened. "The White Tower tried very hard to make me queen. Together with the Aiel, they almost succeeded."
Tigraine laughed and so did Moiraine.
"I assume no one knows of you," Moiraine said, her hand tenderly stroked through Tigraine's hair. "These locks should have given you away years ago."
She shook her head. "It's best no one learns of me. Think what would happen to Andor if word were to spread of my survival." Moiraine said nothing, but she understood. Even here news arrived, and to the knowing mind of Tigraine much could be pieced together. Caemlyn was divided. Morgase's rule was tenuous at best. If Tigraine arrived, the true Daughter-Heir, Andor would be turned on its head.
"Enough of that," Moiraine said suddenly. "We need to leave Emond's Field tonight."
"Why? Because of me? Surely no one knows about me."
Moiraine shook her head. "I'm afraid it is to do with your son and his friends."
Tigraine paled. Were Gitaro Morosa's words only coming to fruition now?
"You seem shocked, but not surprised."
"A long story and one, considering your haste that is best told at a later time."
Moiraine opened her mouth to ask more, but the words changed. "Good, then we need to round up Mat and Perrin before the night arrives. They must come with us."
"I will come if you don't mind." Moiraine gave her a sharp look. "I've been trained by the Aiel." The Aes Sedai's eyebrow rose in surprise, perhaps her expression even hinted at respect.
Moiraine's mouth stretched into a knowing smile. "That explains the boy."
Tigraine had the decency to blush. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry for leaving you and your brother, but it was never meant to be."
"Oh, that is one thing you do not have to convince me about. I guess it is one of the many reasons why I spent so much time with you. I felt sorry for you. Your marriage to my brother had always been political." She did not have to say more. The moment Tigraine had left he had gone and married the next in line to the throne, Morgase. Then there had always the mistresses as well.
"Enough of the past." Tigraine stood. "I think we mentioned something about leaving."
As darkness descended Rand and his mother made their way to the stable. Inside they found Lan and Moiraine busy saddling horses. There were six. The tall Warder stood beside a large threatening black horse. Moiraine, in contrast, was busy placing the last items onto what he assumed to be her horse. Unlike Lan's, hers was smaller and almost white.
Moiraine let the last strap fall. "Still coming along, Elayne?"
"Yes, Aes Sedai," his mother replied firmly. "I will not let you run off with my son."
Rand felt his cheeks tinge in embarrassment. A twenty year old man did not need a mother hanging over his shoulder. He wanted to object, to send her home. He could not, he needed her.
Perrin arrived a few minutes later. His cloak hid arms and legs and his movements appeared stiff.
"Hello, Rand," he whispered.
"Ready?" Rand asked, still eyeing his friend with suspicion. Perrin nodded, but he remained silent thereafter. The only source of noise being Lan as he tied packs to each horse.
A head poked through the door. "Mat!" Rand called out.
The skulking figure of the third boy came into full view. "I don't know what I'm doing here," he grumbled. Suspicious eyes glanced at the Warder and Aes Sedai. "Light, Rand," he whispered. "What's this lady getting us into?"
Rand shrugged, barely glancing to the far side of the stable. Moiraine's head was cocked to the side, her attention not on the pack before her. Rand rubbed at his forearms feeling sure she was eavesdropping.
"You can't go without me!" A new voice proclaimed.
Rand stood upright stepping away from Mat and Perrin and stared at the person who had hurriedly slipped into the stable.
"Egwene," his mother spoke. "By the Light, what are you doing here?"
"I am coming along!" She said angrily. "Why do they get to go on this adventure and not me?"
"Because, it will be dangerous, and nothing like an adventure in some book," the Aes Sedai replied.
Egwene did not seem perturbed. Her hard gaze and set jaw said as much. His mother turned to Moiraine who sighed. "I guess, since she is here then she should come along. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills."
Egwene relaxed and her eyes began to shine.
"Well," a deep voice said from above. "I think I'd like to join this party." A figure in a multi-coloured cloak landed on the ground.
Lan drew his sword. A raised hand from Moiraine had him pause midway. "Gleeman," Moiraine whispered in a cold calm voice. "What are you doing in the stables?"
His cloak moved about with his body while he spoke. "I am merely a humble story teller, Aes Sedai. The town, these people, they are looking for a cause. Being a foreigner I might be seen as a reason for the Trollocs."
She eyed him through a passive face. Lan, tense, stood poised to strike if she deemed it necessary. Rand glanced at the Gleeman. He appeared less impressive than he did the day before and Rand could see his underlying apprehension. Moiraine waved her hand again and the Warder relaxed, sheathing his sword. The Gleeman exhaled.
"We will need another two horses then."
"I have my own," the Gleeman said.
Lan gave Egwene what could conceivably called a glare, but it was almost impossible to tell. Then he spotted Bella, their horse.
"She can ride, Bella!" Rand said pointing at the horse in the last stall.
His mother turned and then gasped. "How?"
Rand shrugged. "I… she's here and so is Egwene," he said angrily. Why did he want Egwene to come along, she'd only frustrate him, he thought.
"That horse will never keep up with the rest," Lan said harshly at Moiraine.
The Aes Sedai did not seem concerned. "If the horse fails to keep up then she will have to fend for herself."
"Moiraine! You know what will be following us."
"What?" Egwene demanded.
Moiraine turned serenely to face the girl. "Trollocs and other creatures far more vile."
Egwene paled, and so did the others. His mother and the Gleeman alone seemed untroubled. Rand studied the Gleeman again. Which people had those light eyes? He could remember his mother telling him, but she'd taught him so much. Too much in fact.
"Bella will keep up with us!" Rand bellowed from where he busied himself preparing the horse.
Before long they rode out into the night.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter. Please leave your thoughts.