Hi, sorry for the very long wait. Will say more at the end of this chapter.
This chapter has not been beta'd as I just felt like posting it. I beleive my followers deserve to read something.
Hope you enjoy.
"Who was that Aiel woman?" Elayne asked, feeling a slight twinge of jealousy, as they left Rand's room.
He rubbed his temple. "That was Aviendha. She is from the Taardad Aiel, like myself, and thinks it's her personal duty to make my life miserable by constantly complaining that I'm doing something wrong." He laughed at something. "You'd think they would be the last people to point fingers."
"What do you mean?" She frowned as he continued to chuckle amusedly.
"Answers to questions will come once I have talked to the Aiel Wise Ones. For the moment I would prefer not to disturb their delicate nature and sensitivities." He grinned. "At least they are as stubborn as they used to be."
"Used to be?"
"You might want to say something other than a question."
She pursed her lips. "With four hundred years of lost knowledge in your head it is rather difficult to not ask questions."
He shrugged noncommittally. "Well you can't really say four hundred years of knowledge since I've forgotten more than I can remember. It would be better to say I have four hundred years of experience." His expression changed. "Do not think of me as some all-knowing creator, Elayne. The memories in my head led to the deaths of over a hundred of the best male channellers and resulted in saidin being tainted. So I am probably the biggest fool in recorded history."
She reached out to take his hand in hers. "That was not your fault."
"It was my fault, Elayne." He stopped walking. "I could have listened to the other Aes Sedai, the women. I could have waited to form a better plan. Either half of the One Power working alone has never been good. They must be balanced in all things." He gestured by swinging his arm before him. "Look at this Age. The White Tower dominates a continent."
"They keep order…"
"No, Elayne. The White Tower bullies nations." He held up a hand to stall her question. "It has done good in the past, but being able to wield the One Power does not make one more wise. It merely makes you the biggest bully in the playground."
"Playground?" She must have looked puzzled as he started to laugh.
"Um… a place where children go to play. There are swings and slides…"
"Swings and slides?"
"Perhaps another time for that."
She eyed Rand curiously, but he began to walk again. His strides lengthened making it difficult to talk. Learning to understand the depths of her husband was going to be very difficult, but Elayne did enjoy a good challenge, though she would have preferred her husband to not be one.
The pair eventually reached a large wooden door that was being guarded by four Tower guards. Their appearance made her wonder what had happened to Gawyn. He was supposed to be somewhere within the Stone, but she had not seen him at the fight earlier.
"I would like an audience with the Amyrlin Seat," Rand spoke in a clear, firm voice. The oldest of the guards bowed slightly then entered the door.
"What are we doing here, Rand?" Elayne asked.
He bent down low to whisper. "I want you raised as quickly as possible."
"That will take years. The Amyrlin has already pushed my raising to Accepted." She fidgeted slightly with her dress. The idea of getting out of this plain dress was rather enticing, however.
The door opened again and the guard who came out appeared uneasy. "The Amyrlin Seat will see you now."
"Thank you," Rand bowed his head slightly towards the guard and then led Elayne through the door.
The Amyrlin stood regally when Rand entered beside Elayne. The Aes Sedai was pretty he decided with her dark hair, blue eyes and medium height. The Paralis-Net he'd given her adorned her hair. Beside her stood Leane Sharif, the Keeper of the Chronicles. She was much more attractive with coppery skin, dark mysterious eyes and of similar height to Perrin if he were to guess. He noticed that he was rubbing his ear slightly and dropped it immediately. This was not the time for him to be admiring two women who were at least twenty years older, in body if not soul.
"Siuan, Leanne," Rand greeted with a formal bow. "I had wished to delay our meeting, but leaving items of import for later has never been for the best. This is especially true as some Forsaken are lose."
Siuan gave a single nod, but no bow. "Though you have come to discuss, I believe we both want something different from the outcome." She walked to a small table, with a few chairs around it, that stood in the centre of the room. "Would you care for some tea?"
"That would be delightful, Siuan. Thank you." He followed her to the table and took a seat. Elayne and Leanne sat as well. Siuan signalled for a servant who scurried in to pour the tea. "Perhaps you might be surprised by what I want."
The Amyrlin studied him carefully while she reached for her tea. The woman might still be in her youth, but she seemed more attuned to reading people than the Aes Sedai he remembered. Perhaps it came from a land more troubled by war and intrigue than the Age before. "What do you wish to discuss, Rand?" Siuan said after taking a sip. "You must know the position of the White Tower is to control all men who can channel." Her expression grew grim. "Especially a man who has been prophesied to break the world."
The tea was slightly bitter and warm just the way Rand liked it. He knew some people preferred it with some honey, but he'd never acquired the taste for sweet tea. "The prophecies are rather clear about the breaking. But what does it mean by break the world? Is it another time of madness or merely a statement of change?" Leanne stiffened slightly. "I have already changed the world, Leanne. And I fear I will continue to do so with or without your help."
"What would you have me do, Rand?" Siuan interjected, he could sense her determination. "The Sisters of the White Tower will not stand idly while you roam the world at your leisure. They will not allow me to hold this seat if I am not strong."
"You could ally with me. Stand by my side and with men who can wield the One Power. I have spoken with Elayne and told her that the greatest achievements were accomplished by male and female Aes Sedai working together. You know this as well. You have seen their wonders like the bridge in Whitebridge. Angreal and ter'angreal the likes you could only dream about."
"That is what the scholars say," Leanne agreed, her face had softened slightly.
Rand studied the expressionless Siuan. "You believe the taint to be cleansed."
Her eyes flickered subtly. "In all honesty I do not know, Rand. Moiraine Sedai believes it to be, but I cannot be sure." She took another small sip of tea to organise her thoughts. "You must understand that from my position you cannot provide any evidence to assert your claim."
Rand placed his cup onto the table. "I am sure that in time you will come to see. I will, however, require the White Tower to stop hunting men who can channel. They must be handed over to me so they can be trained properly."
"Do not attempt to make demands of the White Tower. Even if you could persuade me the Red Sisters will not be swayed so easily. It is their life's work to find and gentle men, Rand. Many of them have a deep rooted dislike of men in general."
Rand felt deeply troubled by this statement. Despite all his experience the inner workings of the Tower remained as much a mystery as women in general. "In that case I must go against the White Tower and find the men myself."
"Then we are at an impasse, Rand." Siuan actually sounded displeased.
Rand shook his head. "I think we are, Siuan." He sighed and decided to move things along. "I heard someone tell me that you are from Tear."
Siuan tilted her head slightly as if curious. "My father was a fisherman. I used to help him with his nets."
"My father was a sheepherder. I used to tend the flocks."
Her lips quirked upwards slightly. "I heard someone tell me that your father is an Aiel Chief."
"I am referring to Tam al'Thor, the man who raised me like a father. Jandiun might be my father by blood, but he never raised me as a son." Rand let the room fall still for a moment. "I suppose this is your first visit back to Tear since leaving for the Tower."
"Yes, but the place feels foreign to me now. I have no family left and now I am within the Stone talking to the man who controls my people." She stood then made her way to the window and Rand followed to stand beside her. To him it felt like an important moment. A man who could channel was standing beside a woman who could channel and they were talking like equals. "I used to live down there amongst the small broken fishermen's huts."
"They look…" He paused to rub a hand over his stubble. "I do not know. I have no experience with fishing."
"Perhaps I can take you out and teach you how to catch and gut a silverpike."
"Only if you show me how to cook it as well," Rand replied with a smile. "Then I'll show you how to shear a sheep and to spin some yarn."
"With or without the One Power?" she asked as the corners of her mouth quirked upwards slightly.
"Without, but I think you are more interested in some other things I might know."
"I am an experienced woman." Rand almost reacted to her overt playfulness. From behind he heard Elayne seethe slightly. "But I know what you are referring to."
"I have found some interesting items of power."
"I know," she gestured quickly to her hair. "A gift I am most grateful for, but do not think that it will gain you any ground during our talks."
"It was a gift, but what I withhold is far more valuable to the White Tower than a few angreal and ter'angreal."
He had her interest now. She did not have to face him for the burning desire in her eyes to be noticed. "I have found a seed."
"A seed?" she asked, confused.
"An item that allows you to grow an angreal."
He barely registered the tremble in her hand, but it was there. "What would you require from us for such an item?"
Rand inhaled. "Just the crowns of…"
"No," she said quickly and firmly.
Rand let out a chuckle. "I only ask that you raise Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve to Aes Sedai."
Siuan paused. "That is all you ask?"
"I am not a monster set to destroy the world, Siuan. I merely desire peace and to see the Dark One dead."
"I see." She did not sound convinced. "And if they are raised you will hand over this seed."
"Yes, and if you manage to get your hounds off men who can channel I will share more of my knowledge."
Siuan once again faced the bustling city below. "You ask much, but the least I can do is attempt to get your friends raised."
"That is all I am asking. I understand that they must undergo a test. I will not want them to be raised if it is not done properly. I to was raised by means of a test, it is of course the passage to the right to bear the name."
Siaun fell silent for a brief moment then faced the room. "There is little else for Aes Sedai to do in Tear. Leanne, we are leaving."
"Good, they will be accompanying you back to the Tower then. I will be away for a short time, but when I return I will make good on my promise." He smiled warmly at Siuan. "And when this is over and we move to the next Age. Then you can show me about that silverpike."
She actually managed a true smile. "So be it, Rand."
It had been two days since the Aes Sedai had left Tear. The journey back would be much longer than the one to Tear. He already missed Elayne, but for now the Pattern seemed to pull them apart. The Horn had been left with Sisters as well as his banner. He still did not know if that had been a mistake, but logic told him it was safest with them.
Perrin had also left Tear along with Loial and Fiale. To Perrin the journey had come to an end and Rand envied him that. It would be nice to be able to return to the Two Rivers and to live out the rest of his life on the farm. That would never be, not with Elayne as his wife and the mantle of Dragon on his shoulders. The choices that lay before him were so many and yet so few at the same time.
"What are your plans?" Moiraine asked. "Now that Perrin has left for the Two Rivers and Mat seems to be stealing the wealth of Tear with his cards and dice."
"I would first like to know how Mat happens to be so lucky." The Aes Sedai raised an eyebrow ever so slightly. He suspected she too wanted the answer to the question. He closed his eyes and considered the answers he'd received from the Foxes the evening before. "I need to go to Rhudedian in the Aiel Waste."
"Do you plan on making them your people?" she asked, sombre. "They are a nation forged into a weapon." Her face turned. "That does not sound like a plan for a man who desires peace."
Rand ground his teeth together. "I might need a spear to cut off the rotten limbs of this land before the last battle."
"I did not say I disagreed, but nations will not look favourably upon the man who brings the Aiel down upon them."
"Perhaps." The warm afternoon air brought with it the realisation that it was the last day he would be spending in Tear. "Have the Lords gathered?"
"I believe so," Moiraine replied. "You told them to be in the Throne Room at noon. The sun has just reached its zenith."
"I guess we should be going then."
"Are you sure about this?" she questioned while they walked.
"No, but can a person ever be sure of anything?"
She did not reply. Instead they strode in silence until they reached the room filled with all the nobility of Tear. Lan and Bawyn were standing guard by the door as ordered while Mat and Galad stood together near the front of room. The one stood straight and emotionless beside Berelain. The other was hunched over and chuckling. None of the Aes Sedai had remained in Tear.
Rand marched through the gathered crowd towards the front. The lords and ladies were anxious, but eager as always to serve. He cleared his throat. "I would firstly like to thank you for your hospitality over the past month. You do know how to treat a guest." The gathered people laughed and cheered a bit. "I gather you have all heard the rumours of my departure tomorrow." They nodded, most looking eager. "I shall of course need to appoint a Stewart to oversee Tear while I am not here." The High Lords nodded eagerly. "As such I proclaim Lord Galad Damodred as Stewart and High Lord of Tear." Rand almost grinned, the room had grown deathly silent. "He is my brother and if I happen to hear that his rule is not taken seriously." He let the words hang in the air. All the Lords began to sweat profusely. "Well since that is in order, I hope you enjoy your time before the last battle."
The gathered crowd scurried out the room. They had all come in the hope of being offered the Stewardship and all Rand had given them was a threat. When the room was empty he went over to Galad and Berelain. "I am sorry, Lady First. I wish I could have granted the Stewardship to you."
She smiled, but there was a hint of regret in her eyes. "I understand. The High Lords would never accept my rule. Galad is a wiser choice."
Rand smiled. "But I still regret the decision."
She bowed her head. "Mayenne will remain safe, that is the most that I could have wished for."
Rand shook his head. "Mayenne is more than safe. The High Lords know now that you hold a knife over their heads. You are in the favour of the Dragon Reborn and his Steward. Use it wisely to strengthen your country as I will have to appoint a Tairen king in the near future."
"I understand and thank you for this opportunity."
Mat swung onto the back of his horse. Rand, the fool, was already sitting atop his horse trying to look like some king. The bright red jacket with garish gold embroidery added to the foolishness. Glancing about Mat could not help but look at the Aiel running around. Their quiet footfalls and spears that were never far from being thrown made his hands itch to reach for the knives beneath the folds of his cloak.
"What are you doing here, Mat?" Rand asked forcing Mat's attention away from his imminent death.
"I could ask you the same thing," he said quickly.
Rand's lips quirked infuriatingly upwards. "These people follow me until I become their Caracarn or they kill me."
Mat leaned closer. "Then run away, use some of your fancy…" He shivered at the thought of the One Power. "Tricks."
"What good would that do?" Rand asked in his infuriatingly knowing voice. "I need them, just as much as they need me."
"Why would they bloody need you?" Mat scowled.
Rand once again got that annoying, knowing look. "Who else is going to tell them where they come from?"
Their conversation was interrupted by a beautiful Aiel woman with green eyes. "You should not be sitting so exposed, foolish wetlander!" The woman chastised Rand.
Mat edged his horse away, which might actually have moved on its own accord. The woman, he decided upon closer inspection, was definitely not beautiful. He wouldn't come within leagues of her type. Instead of a cuddle he'd get a bruised head. He let a finger brush his neck where a few maidens spears had almost shaved him a few nights ago.
Her eyes turned towards him as if she'd read his mind. "Wait," Mat croaked out.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, dangerous.
Rand spoke up. "I was wondering the same thing myself, Aviendha. So Mat?"
Mat scratched at the collar of his shirt. It wasn't frilly, but he liked the soft feel of the new cloth. "I am coming with you." His voice grew a bit more serious. "I have to come with you."
"Why?" Rand pushed.
He did not want to talk about it. Going through that ter-angreal had been one of his more foolish decisions. Not that he really made that many foolish decisions. He really liked to play things safe. "I just want to."
Rand's forehead creased a little. "All right, you can come. Just try not to get run through by an Aiel spear."
Mat unconsciously rubbed his unarmoured chest. Maybe he shouldn't have sold that piece of armour he'd won a few days ago. He shook his head, he never liked being weighed down by metal. The thought made him slouch, he'd never even worn armour before.
Galad stood looking out over Tear from the Stone. Berelain leaned against the stone wall, her gaze following his. "How long do you think your brother will be gone?"
The answer to that question was not something he knew. "I think not long. With the ability to travel he might not even be gone a day."
"And if his plan does not work?" she asked, worried.
"Then who knows." He faced her. "Make sure your guards are alert. We might need to move quickly if news of Rand's demise reaches Tear. Be those reports true or not."
She smiled, almost mockingly, at him. "My guards are always ready for action in Tear, Galad. This place is the heart of our greatest foe, is it not?"
"Of course." He bowed his head. "Forgive me. I was only thinking of your safety."
"I am not displeased, Galad," she replied. "But it would do you well to remember that I am a monarch well used to being at a disadvantage." She smirked. "Unlike monarchs from wealthier states."
Galad stiffened slightly. Monarchs from Cairhien and Andor were probably two of the most powerful in all the land. They were used to forcing their will on others. "I see."
She breathed in deeply. "It is a nice change to be allied with a party more powerful than Mayenne's enemy. Not that I am save, but it will keep the more intelligent parties from trying to harm me." She reached out and took hold of his hand.
"I am glad that we are able to offer you such comforts, Berelain."
Her cheeks grew slightly red. "So, Galad." Her voice dropped a little. "When did you become so proficient with a sword? You are much younger than any Blademaster I know of, except for the Lord Dragon, but he's different is he not."
Galad nodded. "I have been training since the day I could hold a sword, it is part of who I am." He tugged her hand slightly as they began to walk. Seen and unseen eyes followed them, he could sense it. Without thinking he slipped into the calm of the void. A place where the world became more vibrant, sounds more clear and his body more alive.
Rand raised his hand and the Aiel fell silent. Hard eyes glared at him, even now they were judging, trying to find weakness. He set his jaw, reached out to the comforts of the One Power, then glared back at them all with just as much strength. He knew the eyes that were staring at them, he had seen them in others and the mirror. They were cold, dangerous. The eyes of a man who knew about death and how to take a life. More importantly they were the eyes of a man who held power, true power. The Aiel were people who saw all that, yet they did not back down. He grinned and got the expected result, for a brief moment he sensed their fear, but it was quickly overcome.
The One Power came crashing down into him and he wrestled it into submission. A process that happened within the blink of an eye. There would have been no sign of the battle he had just fought. A breath later a gateway sprung to life. The hot, dry air of the Aiel wasted wafted through the cut in the fabric of the pattern.
"Go," he commanded. The Aiel obeyed. Aviendha was the last Aiel to remain. Her angry expression, as always, was directed at him. "Do you have a problem with me?"
"No," she said fiercely.
"Then why are you staring at me so?" He turned his horse towards the gateway and did not wait for a reply before riding through. She muttered something under her breath. He liked her, but she seemed to have some deep hatred towards him.
"This place is hot," Mat moaned the moment he joined Rand on this side of the gateway.
"It is a desert, Mat, it's supposed to be this hot."
Mat tugged at his collar. "So you've been in one of these forsaken places before." It was not really a question.
Rand did not reply. Before them a mist covered what he supposed was Rhuidean. The Aiel grouped themselves into various groups and began to run in various directions. It soon became apparent that they were hurrying towards different camps. None of them, however, ran towards a large group of tents that sat closest to the city. The only exception seemed to be the clan chiefs.
He followed them on what would become the next journey of his life.
Tuon, face hidden by a veil, stepped onto the dock of Tarabon. A few Death Watch guards were spaced around her. Their ever vigilant eyes studied every man woman and child. Now that she had arrived attempts on her life were to be expected as weak members of the High and Low blood would not be tolerated.
She breathed in deeply. The smell of filth strong after months on the open ocean. This was her land, these were her people. The omens have been read and now it was time to take back what was rightfully hers.
Again, sorry for the long wait. Just after posting the last chapter my brother-in-law passed away and it hit my wife pretty hard. I lost a lot of writing time and by the time things settled I had completely gotten out of the story. As such it has taken me awhile to get back into writing, I haven't even written other stories either.
I hope to slowly but surely get the ball rolling with this story as I do like it and want to finish it. Especially now that I have read A Memory of Light. On that topic, I think the one major person I've left out of the story had no real impact in the last book, so that's something. Robert Jordan and his red herrings… argh, got to love him.
Anyway. Thank you for the reviews during the past few months. And also thank you to the people who PM'd me to ask if everything was alright. I really appreciate it. Those messages help to motivate me to keep writing.