Welcome one and all to my latest piece. Some of you may be new to my to repertoire of literature, some not so new. For those who have read my other pieces and even wish to venture out into this: Welcome back and enjoy. For those of you who are new, well, I only have one thing to say and that is: I aim to please and hope you enjoy.
I have tried to write this so that those who aren't quite understanding of Robert Jordan's wonderful writing may hope to gain a furthered understand. I have , and will continue to, written everything in a detailed and explained point of view; as if this is the actual book. So, hopefully everyone will come away from this knowing possibly more about the book series, or just like it all that more. Furthermore, for those who have not read this book series, I insist - no, demand you read Robert Jordan's magical series. It's one of a kind. Tolkien doesn't compare, Christopher Paolini isn't even in the same league, Fiest is a lost cause in comparison, and so many other great series don't even come close. Also, if anyone mentions Harry Potter: go jump of a proverbial cliff.
Now I've kept you long enough. without further ado, other than this, of course, I present my new fanfic.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything to do with the Wheel of Time franchise, character or world, it is all owned by Robert Jordan and co. That goes for every chapter written in this fanfic, not just this one.
A Heron Amongst The Flock
In a village strewn with wooden stout wooden houses of simple design and thatched and red-tiled roofs, stalls of various trinkets and trades the chill of night settled as lights flashed and joyous sounds came forth. Flowing along the road that went straight through the middle of the village the wind whistled lightly as it mixed with the sounds of cheers, laughter, joyous cries, singing and the explosions of fireworks. It continued until it eventually found the centre of the village were the road branched out in three separate directions, one to Deven Ride, another to Watch Hill and Tarren Ferry, and lastly one that lead through the Sandy Hills and Mountains of Mist onwards to the rest of Andor. Here in the centre of the village a festivity of the season was occurring, a gathering of friends, families, loved ones and villagers. Today was Bel Tine, the coming of spring.
Bel Tine was the major event of the year. Everyone participated in the games and events, the dances and the songs, the quizzes and the tests. It was the time of year for all to be happy and all to rejoice in the turning of a season, from winter to spring, from the lifeless trees to life giving plants. It was all prepared for on Winternight, the day before Bel Tine, the Women's circle and the village council preparing accordingly. The villages men would prepare a large bonfire, as large as most houses, in the middle of town were it would be lit next day. It's fires would burn from before mid day and long into the cold night, it's embers only truly going out late next day. The women would shore a fir tree, cutting all of it's branches off, and leave it standing at ten-feet tall. Unmarried women would dance around it at midday, the unmarried men would sing to the women. No doubt a ploy by the Women's circle to start marrying them off.
The day within the village, Emonds Field it was called, had started early as people arrived and people woke up for the festivities. People walked with haste in their step, eager to let loose all their worries and just enjoy themselves, smiles on their faces and a certain air of expectation about them. The games had started early aswell, and people had rushed to start them. People wove in and around the various stalls and games, playing as many as they could. Children laughed and smiled as they acted as children do, awed and excited by this magnificent array. Men and women joined in also, one often vying for the others affections, trying to kindle a good relationship or maybe just a good night. The parents and elderly watched as the children and young adults had their fun. They talked amongst themselves, talking of times long since past, reminiscing of their childhood.
At one of these very events a large crowd currently gathered in a circled mob around two men, both facing each other with their swords drawn. Hushed murmurs and awed whispers went around. Bets were being made, favourites being chosen.
There was a palpable tension as the wind blew across the area in a low whistle, both men stared each other in the eyes trying to see who would back down first; neither did. They were both ready.
One was a man of average height, thick chested and had a lined face that was marred with small scars. His body was thick and well defined, muscles that had been honed after years of training, labour and well kept maintenance. While his build showed that of a tough and practised man, that was not what drew people's attention and hushed murmurs among the crowd. No, what did was the blade in his hand. It was a curved blade that was slightly longer than the man's arm, the hilt was a fine blue with a gold circling pattern on it that met with the golden hilt and pommel. This in itself was extraordinary to the villagers, for gold to be on a sword and with such a fine design was surely more than any could afford to buy or keep. But again that was not the full reason for the shocked and awed murmurs, instead it was the Heron. The hilt and blade had a marking on them, a legendary marking, a feared marking; that of the Heron. It was feared and awed for a simple and deadly reason, only a true blademaster wielded a Heron marked sword; an achievement only few ever achieved. A privilege only those who had truly mastered every form and component of the blade were allowed, signifying their skill and due respect across the nations; lest you which to fall to that blade.
The man lowered himself into a ready position, 'Parting The Silk', with a graceful ease. Some realised the basic sword form used for the openings of most battles, used for it's ease of manipulation into other forms and good base of balance.
His opponent, a similarly built man but with much thicker arms, as thick as most mens legs, and broader shoulders and a bold head, struck a more offensive form. 'Hummingbird Kisses The Honeyrose', used for the quick engagement of battle, perfect for the start of a flurry of more vicious and offensive forms. Although he dropped into the stance easily, he did not have the same grace and finesse about him as the other man did. No, he was more rigid, his body holding itself with undue strength, making him look slow and unpractised. Unpractised but not looking any less deadly, because although he was not as fluid as the other man, his stature and large muscles gave him a towering presence that most feared. This was the naïve view of all those unpractised in the ways of the sword: How can any man stand up to the strength of that man. They would whisper, but they did not know that the way of the sword required skill, speed, finesse and tact; not just strength.
This man was the local Blacksmith, as his large build and broad shoulders showed from years of working the forge.
"Contestants, are you ready?" a third man asked from the sides, a deep voice that bellowed across the crowds thundering whispers with practised ease; evidently a leader of men.
As expected many, if not all, quieted instantly, silent in anticipation, or fear of the man, or respect. All watched intently as the Heron bladed wielder nodded his head in consent, shortly followed by a grunt of acknowledgement from the Blacksmith.
"Then on my count you may begin, first blood wins, try not to kill each other" the voice called again, his tone serious, voice taut. After a few seconds of silence to let the words sink in, the count down began. "3..."
Both men tensed, preparing to do battle, pushing all last minute doubts away as now was the time for focus, not blunders.
"2..." the voice tolled.
They looked at each other trying to anticipate and counter anything the other had prepared, seeking weaknesses and opens in their guard. For one it was evident where the best place to strike was, the man was too tense and solid, his movements and reactions would be slow. For the other it was an impossible feat, the man before him was too calm, his posture to perfect, his stance and loose limbs all allowed for quick and ready action.
"1..." again it came.
The blacksmith had a drop of sweat run down his face, in nervousness no doubt, trickling over the matching nervous smile he wore. His blackened and scarred hand, from years of working the forge, gripped his black leathered hilt even tighter, preparing for his challenge. The other man simply loosened his body, his face went blank with a lack of emotion as he focused on the battle, his calm poise radiating the danger of a coiled snake, ready to strike at a moments notice.
Almost immediately the large blacksmith pushed forward, aggressively he lashed out from 'Hummingbird Kisses The Honeyrose' to 'The Falcon Stoops' into 'The Creeper', all quick and fluid strikes that were meant to push for a slip in the opponents guard with a quick assault, but he used it to batter the mans defences with his powerful swings. Unfortunately though, the other man deftly redirected his attacks and pushed the opposing blade back or away every time with calculated and calm reactions. Throughout the exchange the Heron-blade wielder didn't move from his spot, instead he used his opponents momentum to deflect his attack and throw him off balance allowing for a counter strike at any moment, but he held back.
Gnashing his teeth in annoyance, the blacksmith backed away and decided to see if his defence would be luckier, maybe he could wear the swordsman out instead of having to best him in skill.
"You are still just as immovable as ever, Tam" the large man grumbled in acknowledgement. He had known his attacks would not phase him, but he had to try. Now he would try for something else, for what, he did not know.
"I thank you for the praise, Haral. You have gotten better, your forms are more fluid, but you still rely upon the brute strength of a smithy." Tam said with a chiding tone as he flicked his grey hair out of his eyes. "A sword is not a hammer or axe to be used as a bludgeoning weapon, but as a blade that flows and pierces as a river does. It is a matter of skill and agility and speed, not brute force. Come again" he commanded as he went back into position, ignoring the grumbles of protest from the smithy.
Tam, no matter how nice people thought he was, was a perfectionist through and through. He had to do things how they should and needed to be done, and if he couldn't he would go away and practise until he could. After all, if a jobs worth doing, it's worth doing well, he had always said; he just didn't see the point in sloppiness as it only hurt you in the end.
The battle started again as sword met sword, a dull ring and flash of sparks signified their union, it lasted a moment more before both pulled away. Haral charged again aiming for a low strike with 'The River Undercuts The Bank', he was met with 'The Wood Grouse Dances'. He tried again, this time aiming a high feint and falling into a feint, but yet again Tam was there, calm and unyielding. The mans calmness and near indifference about the feint unnerved the blacksmith, but he tried again. And again. And yet Again, but he failed every time.
Though his myriad of strikes and powerful blows would cut men in half, he could not make Tam move more than two paces from his original space. When he could not redirect an attack he would side step it with the graceful ease of a feather flowing around the wind, when he could not dodge or redirect he would block Haral's vicious strikes with a simple block, displaying an uncanny amount of strength. And when he thought he had finally made a strike that Tam could not dodge, redirect or block, he smiled as he thought he would draw blood. A part of him frowned upon himself at the action, but he did not care as he thought he bested the unmoving man.
He suddenly froze half way through his strike, stiff as a statue, unmoving. He did not dare, the blade at his throat made him think against any form of motion. A drop of sweat rolled off his chin and fell onto the blade, splashing off of it. Haral felt the cool steel of the blade nick his skin, he felt it draw a small trickle of blood. Moving his eyes away from the blade he looked Tam in the eyes, his dark grey eyes. They lacked a sense of... well, anything. They were cold and cool, uncaring and without emotion; they only held focus.
Haral realised that he was within The Oneness, also known as The Flame And The Void, the emotionless state of the swordsman. This is the visualisation of a flame in a void; all concerns - emotions, thoughts, even the concerns of life and death - are fed into the flame. This allows the blademaster to perceive reality as it is, in the present moment. Pain and fear become merely passing phenomena. The separateness of blademaster and enemy disappear. There is only the Void. This allows the swordsman to move more fluidly, faster and with more strength. Things are seen in more clarity and are almost slowed to the human eye, allowing them to react to a much better quality. It is said that those who have mastered the blade and the Oneness can kill men with unparalleled skill, taking down twenty men on their own. They are the most feared of men to walk the earth, or so they said. And right now Haral could not deny that legend.
"You thought that because I could not dodge, block or redirect I was unable to hold off your advances." Tam said cooly, his calm voice breaking the silence. "Sometimes it is better to defend with offence, after all, if a man can't attack you don't need a defence." removing the blade from Haral's throat, Tam took a step back and performed a flicking motion, the small amount of blood that there was flew off of it, before sheathing it all in one motion.
Haral raised his left hand to his throat for a second, his calloused fingers running over the bloody cut. A second later he lowered it, shaking his head with a small chuckle. "You are right, as usual, Tam" he chuckled. He knew that none knew more about the sword than Tam, he was born with a sword in his hand.
Tam smiled, his emotions back as he left the Void. "You have improved since a few months ago, I dare say in another ten years you'll be able to fight me properly" He joked, but Haral knew it to be truth, the man never lied. Holding up a hand he took the other man's in a firm grip and shook, a friendly hand shake as they both knew the result before they had started.
Suddenly the silence was broken as a loud thundering of applause met them, or possibly just Tam. Haral held no illusion that he was that impressive when met with Tam, the man was too impressive, too good. They both turned and bowed to the crowd, smiling as they did so. They were met with smiles, looks of awe and louder applause. Two Rivers men rarely saw someone wield a blade properly, and never a master. After all, there was less than a hundred in the world; but that also left the question of why Tam was one and why he was still in Emonds Field of all places, a small village in the middle of nowhere. A question many had asked.
When both men turned they were face to face with Bran al'Vere, Mayor of Emonds Field. He had sparse grey hair and a round face, he was told he had the look of many innkeepers: wearing an apron that strained over his wide girth. Surprisingly, he walked lightly for a man of his size. He also wore a silver medallion of scales, the symbol of the office of Mayor. With a warm smile he clapped both men on the shoulder. "Well done. That was a marvellous sight. You were like a raging Trolloc, Haral, none thought a man could even stop one as powerful as you, you even showed skill to match the strength. And you Tam! By the Light" he exclaimed as he looked at Tam. "That was truly marvellous. We now know why the Heron is so truly feared. You did not even bat an eye when Haral battered you with brutal strike and slash, you were almost the image of indifference. Your skill was more than clear, by the Light you barely moved when countering him. Just a flick of your wrist here, a change in footing there and that was all it took." Shaking his head at the end of the rant, Bran chuckled. "Marvellous, truly".
Chuckling back good heartedly, Tam smiled at Haral and Bran. "It was not as easy as it looked, Haral is not a weak man. His strikes lacked finesse, but he more than made up for it with his strength. Well, I'd like to stay and chat gentlemen, but I have a son to look for" He said, smile never leaving his face.
Bran smiled again. "Yes, and I a wife. She is sure to scold me for allowing this tournament – and many other things, but it was worth it. Although, I can already hear the words 'wool-headed fool'" Shaking his head in amusement he chuckled along with Haral and Tam, they all knew what the man would go through tonight. Haral was awaiting the same treatment, although for different reasons.
"May the Creator shelter you in his hand, I'm sure you'll need it from the tongue lashing you'll get. Have a goodnight, gentlemen." Tam said as he walked off, as did Bran, leaving Haral on his own.
Haral smiled as he watched the men and crowd disperse, he had enjoyed himself tonight. There was not many times that he could enjoy himself doing something other than smithing, but this was one. For the past few months he had been enjoying the hours he would sneak in, practising the sword, it had given him something new to do in his spare time and he enjoyed the thrill of the fight. More than that though, he gained something of greater value; the ability to protect ones family. Many would call him a fool for thinking he had that need when he looked the way he did, his stature would scare any man to death, and for the fact that they lived in a secluded village: who would attack them there? But after fighting Tam once, he had realised that even if he scared people, they could still kill a man like him with ease after just two weeks training. And so he had trained, and gained what he sought. And he had gained an invaluable ability.
His smile stopped however when he looked down at his sword. Along the edges he'd used to try and cut Tam there were many cracks and chips on his blade, a blade he had forged himself. He had also seen, at the end of the fight, that Tam's blade was in perfect condition, not a single scratch. Most blacksmiths would chalk this down to shoddy work on their part, if their blades fractured so easy, but Haral knew otherwise. He was a master smith and this sword was of an amazing quality, it should not have broke no matter what. And Tam's blade was an oddity in itself, even if it shouldn't break, it should still of had a scratch on it. Yet it didn't.
Haral frowned and sheathed the sword, he would melt it down and make it again. As a smith of his quality he could just repair it, but he knew a repaired blade was always weaker where breaks were knitted back together. No, he would rebuild it stronger and better than last time.
He decided it was time he got home and decided to leave, after all he was expecting his new apprentice to show up in the morning. An eight year old boy named Perrin Ayabara, he had a good eye for smithing and would make a fine apprentice.
Tam al'Thor walked away from the make shift arena, setting off at a steady pace to look for his son. He had told Rand, his son, to wait near the games for him, but had a feeling that he hadn't. Looking round, he saw the crowd dispersing in all directions. Scanning over them with a searching eye he found couples walking arm in arm, children running round and around as they enjoyed the festival and many other people; none of whom were Rand.
Sighing, Tam resigned himself to the search of his son. He put his hands in his trouser pockets and started to walk off, the sooner he found Rand the less trouble he could get into. Especially with Matrim Chauthon, the child was a menace. A nuisance and as mischievous as they came. Legends would remain of Mat's actions far in the future, long after he was dead. Two River's devil prankster.
"Tam!" a high pitched voice called out from behind him.
Tam smiled as he turned. "Rand. Having fun yet" He asked cheerfully as he ran a hand through his slightly sweaty hair, pulling his greying fringe back away from his eyes. His smile turned fatherly, warm and soft as looked upon his son. A boy around four and a half feet tall, towering over everyone his age of eight summers. His wild and fiery hair hang in loose swathes, reaching just below his ears. He was looking up at Tam with wide eyes and a wide grin; he had watched the fight, or so Tam figured.
"That was amazing, Tam. When did you learn to do all of that?" Rand asked, his voice layered with awe and curiosity. After all, he was a young man who had just seen his first fight with blades, and like all children, he wanted that skill they all dreamed of.
His fatherly smile faltered for a second, turning into a sour grimace, he quickly regained his composure though and smiled again. The memories of his past were not ones he liked to drag up, they only held pain and suffering for him. But, here they were now, prompted by his inquisitive son. A snow covered mountain flashed into his head, the sounds of a crying child filled his ears, the cold froze his skin. He shook his head, those were things of the past, not now.
He had always wondered how his son would ask the first question of his past, he had always hoped it would be simple to answer. It wasn't. He knew this question would lead to more, as his answer would bring them. He could lie and hide the bloody and sad truth from his son, but he would not. Lying was a sin he could not condone, nor would he ever; especially to his own son. No, he would face the truth with his son when it came, the burdens he carried would not be shrugged off so easily; he had a duty to him.
Steeling his resolve, he decided to open the flood gates. "At war, Rand." He said simply as he looked into his son's eyes. "A long time ago, far from here". The words were heavy, laden with years of strife, love lost and gained, of memories best left untouched. His darkening mood, though, seemed unheard by Rand.
Rand gasped. "You've left Emonds Field? How? When? Why?" he asked in shock, his blue eyes lit with the thirst for knowledge. Like any and all young he thirsted for, craved for the lands that are among the legends, the stories of heroes and villains. The knowledge of travels such as Rogosh Eagle-eye, Birigette Silverbrow, Artur Hawkwing. But, his childish desire quenched as he replayed Tam's words. "War? You went to war?" he asked, barely a whisper it came out as. He may be young, but he understood war was not a heroes tale, more of a bloody waste of life.
"Yes, but we'll talk about that later." he said placing reassuring hand on Rand's shoulder. He smiled more brightly and waved a hand around at the various stalls."For now, let's just have some fun." Rand instantly brightened at the chance of more games, his worries forgotten.
Rand grabbed Tam's large hand, his childish smile adorning his face again. "Tam, that reminds me. I wanted to come get you for the cockfights, Mat has stole- I mean borrowed one of Wit Congars cock's for the fight. A mean old thing with a few scars from fighting the others" Rand said as he started pulling Tam off towards some other area.
Tam could only frown as he thought about the talk he was to have with Rand, he hoped Rand could handle it. He wished now that he hadn't called Haral round to fix some metal fixtures at his home, were he had seen Tam's sword. Haral had asked about it's maker and everything there after, he wanted to know everything about the finest piece of smithing he had ever seen. And afterwards, when he had realised that Tam was a blademaster, he had asked for lessons to which Tam had reluctantly agreed. And that had lead to today, the small bout between friends that held no relevance to anyone else, but to him it had opened the doors to his past and the truth about Rand. How could something so simple lead to such trouble. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, he thought.
Rand yawned tiredly as he leant his head on Tam's shoulder. Tam was currently carrying Rand on his back, as he was to tired to walk. The cool air nipped at the skin on the back of his neck sending a shiver down his spine. He leant into Tam further, trying to draw from his warmth. They had left the village very late at night, about two hours after Tam's sword fight. The rode on the back of Bela, their horse they used at the farm, and had arrived at their farm after about two hours. Rand had slept all of the way. They were now walking up the steps to their home, and after a few more steps Tam was walking through the front door.
Their home, like many others in Emonds Field, was of a stout wooden design. It had two floors, unlike some, and a red tiled roof. It was larger than most as well, spanning roughly forty-foot in width and depth. To the right were a few sheds for Tam's tools and to the left was a groove of apple trees, they also lined the walk to the house.
As the warm air of their home hit them Rand shivered again, before pushing off of his fathers back and landing on his feet. He stretched and yawned again, slowly reawakening himself. His muscles ached from the days hard play, that and tricking people with Mat.
Realising that he was alone at the entrance to the house he knew Tam had gone into the living room, if the glowing candle light was anything to go by. Walking in he found Tam stoking the flames of the fireplace, so he grabbed a chair next to the fireplace.
After the fire was going and the wood crackling under the heat, Tam sat down next to Rand. To Rand he appeared tired, more so than he had in years. Under the glow of the light produced from the fireplace Rand could see his drooping shoulders, the lines on his head stood more prominently, the bags under his eyes darker, his hair seemed to have greyed even further since earlier. Tam was looking tired and old, like the burdens of a lifetime were barring down on him. Suffocating him.
This was one of the few times Tam looked his age. What was he going to tell Rand? He could only guess and hope it wasn't to bad for him, but his hopes were belied by Tam's saddening expression. Whatever it was that Tam had promised to talk about it was going to be hard for him or Tam. Rand prepared himself for whatever was to come.
"You.." Rand started, unsure of how to start it off, swallowing his fear he continued. "You said you'd left Two Rivers before. When?" he asked, deciding to start at the beginning of the questions. He would get to the darker details in order, he might as well hear the rest of the story.
A shadow of a smile passed over Tam's face. "I was fifteen when I left Two Rivers." he stated still with a small curl of his lips, obviously enjoying the memory. "My father told me I wasn't worth a single pint of beer, I told him I was worth a thousand more as his son. He laughed and said to get out and never come back, I laughed and said I hope he died choking on his drink. I left that night and stayed at the Winespring Inn until my father calmed down, I would wait until he was no longer drunk and I would apologise."
Tam closed his eyes for a moment, his silence almost had a deafening effect. Even more effective when a tear streaked down his face, following the rigid lines of his cheek."I never got the chance. He died that night choking on his beer, the irony. I never wanted it to happen, but it did. So out of shame I packed my bags and left, not even looking back. I just wanted to run away from my sin, from the man I told to die and who did."
Rand almost couldn't understand how Tam had wished for the death of his own father, kind and soft Tam, but he knew his father had his reason. He hoped he did, the kind image of Tam was not supposed to be shattered. He never wanted Tam to be something else. But he kept listening, knowing it would get worse.
"I left Emonds Field, and from there I left Two rivers, and eventually Andor. I wandered for a while, aimlessly. I encountered many people, some for good and others not so good" he stroked a stray scar on his arm, not realising the motion, to locked in his memories. "I became a merchants guard for a while, learning the sword from another merchants guard. Cambal was his name, large Illianer and ex-Companion. I stayed with him for a year, learning the sword and acting as a guard, but eventually I left".
A smile appeared on his face, a reminiscent smile, as the shadows from the fire danced across his face. He turned to look at the dancing flames. Rand did the same. "After hearing Cambal's tales of Illian's illustrious Companions I decided to seek them out. Maybe looking for my fame and fortune, redemption that I couldn't find anywhere else, or maybe I was just seeking a way to die. To this day I'm still not sure for what reason I choose to go, but I still did and that is what matters. When I arrived I petitioned to the First-Captain at the time and asked for the right to become a companion; he accepted" His voice was still laden with sadness as he spoke his tale, weaving his memories into it's web. But he did realise the tug at the corner of Tam's lips, almost smiling as he mentioned the Companions.
"I gained a name for myself very quickly for my innate skill with blade and bow, the blade mainly, and was hailed as a genius and prodigy of the art of war." he said with a smile. "Many said I deserved the rank of one of the five captains of the Companions, I got the chance after about four years of service; The-Children-Of-The-Light War started. It started with a minor invasion, it ended in nearly three-hundred thousand dead." Tam said wearily, he seemed to shrink into his seat further. He watched the flames dance with eyes that did not see, instead, Rand thought, he was watching the previous parts of his life.
"The war eventually ended, though, and Illian survived and so did I. After that we helped with the rebuilding of Illian's armies, training troops and conscripting those that were able. During this time I was noted for my skills and raised to Second-Captain of the Companions, given command of the Second unit and named blademaster for defeating another in battle. I was content for a while, but war came again, though, this time it was with Tear. Again many died and I killed my fair share. Illian fended Tear off to a draw. Once again I was instrumental in our survival and so was awarded the Laurel Leaves and a title as Lord al'Thor".
"You were a Lord" Rand spluttered not able to keep the shock out of his voice. "And you were awarded the Laurel Leaves!?".
Rand was able to keep in his shock when Tam had said he was a Companion, one of the legendary group of defenders of Illian, was just able to keep it in when he said he was one of their captains and could only just keep from screaming when he heard he was a blademaster, but this was something else. To be given the Laurel Leaves was the greatest honour in all of Illian's lands, there was simply nothing that came close other than the Laurel Crown, the crown of the King. The Laurel Leaves was given to those who went above and beyond in their duty to Illian and done something that was considered so great that it had saved the country of Illian, and when given the wearer was instantly granted lordship. Another known fact was that the day the leaves were awarded everyone had to bow to the person who wore it, the King included.
Tam looked at Rand in surprise, as though he had forgotten Rand as there, but chuckled after a while. "Yes son, and I still am. I have never lost my lordship, which would also make you lord Rand al'Thor of Illian, you're lordship" Tam said with a large grin as he bowed in his chair.
Rand looked at his father in shock, realising what he said was true... and laughed at the humour of it. After all, how often did you find a sheep herding lord? After calming down though, he looked at Tam who was smiling down at him.
"Why? Why did you leave Illian then if you are a lord? Why become a sheepherder again?" Rand
asked questioningly, for he simply did not understand. Why leave something so great for something so small, something so insignificant.
Tam laughed again at his son's disbelief, but knew he had a good reason to wonder why. "Back then, son, there was no reason to why, just to do and die. That is how I lived; for a time at least." he said, still shaking slightly in his mirth. "But hush now, I still have a story to tell and it would be best to finish this conversation soon. Unless you want to be herding sheep in the morning with less than half a nights sleep".
Rand winced, he definitely did not want to be doing that. He nodded his head for Tam to carry on.
"Good, I thought you'd agree. Now where was I?" Tam asked to himself, frowning at losing his place.
"You had just been awarded the Laurel Leaves" Rand offered.
"Ah, yes. Thank you." he said sitting back in a thoughtful pose. "As you can imagine I was more than shocked by my elevation in social status, never in my wildest dreams did I expect such an honour, but I was still awarded it. I was given land, estates, servants, money, my personal guard, jewels and any other luxury that I wanted. And yet it was not enough, for it did not give me what I seek; redemption" his voice was barely a whisper as he finished.
Rand knew that for all that to not be enough was madness, but he felt the truth in his fathers words. No matter hat he had or was given it would not give him what he sought the most, the chance to reconcile with his father, to make amends, and most of all to be punished. He knew that his father was foolish in looking for punishment for something he had not done, but he knew his father was a driven man who never wished harm upon anyone and so he understood why Tam felt the way he did. He understood that Tam never wanted harm to befall his father, but he had said it, and when it had happened he had also felt happy in a way. That was the real reason why he felt the need for punishment, even if he wouldn't admit it, he felt guilt at the joy he took in his fathers death.
Tam then pulled a necklace of gold and silver design out from his shirt, he held it in the palm of his hand and stared at it with a content, yet sad, smile. "But even without redemption I found love, and with that love I was alleviated of my troubles. I met Kari al'Thor on a moon-less night. I was on leave at the time, seeing as Illian was not at war, and was walking the streets of Illian, I walked straight into her, or she ran into me." he chuckled as he spoke that, and smiled as he did whenever he spoke of Rand's dead mother. She was a saint to Tam and he had swore to never marry again when she died, even when the Women's Circle had tried to get him to remarry. She was his only one.
"I caught her as she fell, and I swear my heart stopped inside of it's cage, before thundering at a rapid pace, pounding on the doors. I had never seen such beauty, she was enchanting. She had red hair, like yours, that gave her a certain fierceness and grey eyes that seemed to pierce my very soul. As I held her I felt her soft skin, the tresses of her hair tickled my skin, the warmth of her breath sent a shiver down my spine. Every part of me felt like it needed to be with her, it needed to have her. So I asked her what she was doing and she said she was being chased by thugs, whom appeared at that moment. I still remember smiling as they showed up, my chance to play the hero and possibly gain the girl all in one" He chuckled once more and Rand smiled, he had always wanted to know how they met and now he knew.
"I finished them off quickly and asked her if she would like to have dinner at my estate and she agreed, to my greatest relief. We talked on the way to the estate. We asked trivial questions about each other, talked about frivolous matters, but it all made no difference as we just enjoyed the others company. We never made it to dinner, we were already taking each others clothes off before I'd fully closed the front door. And that's how I met Kari al'Thor."
Rand was infatuated with the details of his mother, as he always had been, and still wanted to know more. He liked the fact his mother had red hair like him, he felt it connected them, a connection he'd never been able to make as she had died when he was two. He wished she was still alive so that he could make those connections himself, but he knew that it could not be. So he stored every word he heard of her to memory, even though he didn't understand what taking their clothes off had to do with anything; but that was a for another day.
Tam sighed tiredly before kissing the golden locket and placing it underneath his shirt once more. "We quickly fell in love after that night, we were everything the other sought, and with her help I had relinquished my desire for punishment, I no longer wanted to waist time away from her. There after we spent most of our time together, we were inseparable, and those were the best days of my life." he said wistfully, his smile sad and happy once again, his eyes once again unfocused as they were trapped in memories of times since past. "But it once again ended as war came again, The Aiel War ".
"The Aiel War was – is considered the greatest and bloodiest war since the Hundred-Year War. It started when the King of Cairhien, Laman Damondred, cut down Avendoraldera - or The Tree Of Life. It was said that the tree was gifted to Cairhien as a peace offering from the Aiel; those who did not offer peace. This peace lasted a hundred years before Laman cut down the tree; all for his Light blasted pride. This act angered the Aiel who lived in the waste, they saw it as a sin to cut down one of the last trees of peace, and so four of their clans left the waste and invaded the Westlands. At first they were seen as a non-existent threat and savages who would be killed with minimal ease, we were wrong." Tam's eyes darken as he mentioned the events, probably thinking about what was to come. Everyone knew about the legendary war of the Aiel, all feared them for their destructive might.
"They tore through the border defences of Tear, Illian, Cairhien, Andor and other nations, all in pursuit of Laman. They battled at the gates of Cairhien and nearly torched the city in a single night; Laman fled with most of his army and sought aid from Tear. Most expected the Aiel to kill everyone in Cairhien now that Laman had taken the army, but they did not; they only wanted the blood of Laman. Tear gave some extra forces to Laman and he took it to the gates of Tar Valon, the home of the Aes Sedai, were he sought aid from the Amyrlin seat and the user's of the One Power. He gained it." Rand had to hold in a shiver at the mention of Aes Sedai, the women who could channel Saidar; the female half of The One Power.
The One Power was said to come from the True Source, the driving force of creation, the force the Creator made to turn the Wheel of Time – the seven-spoked loom that weaves the pattern of all existence, with the strings being that of a persons life. Saidin, the male half of the True Source, and Saidar, the female half, work against each other, and at the same time together to provide that force.
Many people, men more so, feared the Aes Sedai because of what the One Power had done to the world three-thousand years ago when the male channellers went mad. During the Age of Legends, three-thousand five-hundred years ago, the male and female Aes Sedai found a new source of power below the earth. The True Power, they called it. It was said to be more powerful and vast than even Saidar and Saidin combined, the male and female Aes Sedai craved this power. And so they bore a hole into this power source, only to find it was not a power source but the prison of destruction incarnate.
The Dark One, as he became known for his malicious acts against creation, was imprisoned within this power source. He was the most evil and destructive force to ever exist, so evil that the Creator sealed him away at the creation of existence. It was also said his power rivalled that of The Creator's. But with the Aes Sedai's act of boring a hole into his cage the Dark One's tainted influence was released upon the un-expecting world.
The Bore did not release the Dark One fully, but allowed him to greatly influence the world. From that moment he influenced the world by spoiling a majority of the worlds crops, poisoning water sources, creating erratic and extreme weather conditions, releasing foul monster upon the world that were created from his essence and his last great play; converting Aes Sedai to his side. And thus begun the War of Power.
The once utopian society and world degenerated into a pitched fight between the followers of the Light and the Dark. First it started with few men and women declaring their allegiance to the Dark One, then hundreds, then cities, then Kingdoms. The whole world fought for good or evil. Naturally the Aes Sedai lead the forces of light and quickly started to overcome the dark forces with their use of the One Power; that was until the Dark One swayed their minds and some of the most powerful channellers of all time joined his side; The Forsaken they were called.
Eventually the forces of light started to get pushed back, and so they decided for one last counter strike; all or nothing. Lews Therin Telamon, the leader of Aes Sedai and the forces of light, lead the One-hundred Companions, male channellers, into the Dark One's cage were they resealed him. But in his last moments of freedom the Dark One used a counter strike that would forever change the world; he tainted Saidin, the male One Power.
Saidin was fouled by the touch of the Dark One, the Taint was said to be like water with a thin slick of rancid oil floating on top. The water was still pure, but it could not be touched without touching the foulness. Only Saidar was still safe to be used, the use of Saidin would now drive the male user mad.
After the re-sealing of The Dark One by Lews Therin Telamon and his one-hundred male channellers, The Dark One cast the Taint onto the male source and drove them all mad. When this happened all men drew the One Power onto themselves in untamed and uncontrolled amounts, it essentially lead to the breaking of the world as the uncontrolled power destroyed cities with fire and lightning, countries with tornados and tsunamis, and flattened mountains with air; the twenty-four countries were scattered to the winds. Millions were killed, less than a million remained.
The once great utopia of knowledge, technology and peace was wiped from existence. The Wheel of Time turned and a new age begun. This age; The Age of Prophecy. And in this time men could no longer channel, due to the taint, lest they go mad. Any man with the ability to channel was hunted and killed or 'gentled'; the act in which they are forever blocked from the One Power.
After all these years, even if the female power was pure, none found it easy to trust the One Power again. Some openly refused channellers the right to enter their country, others called them Darkfriends – the worshipers and followers of The Dark One – because of what their male counterpart had done so long ago.
Rand snapped from his thoughts as he realised Tam was talking once more.
"We assembled the largest force since the Hundred-Year War, one-hundred and seventy thousand strong we stood. Among us were Illian and their Companions, Mayene and it's Winged Guard, Tear and their Defenders of the Stone, The Children of the Light, Andor, Sheinar, Arafal, Tar Valon, Arad Doman and it's Great General – Rodel Itrude, Cairhien, Amadicia, Ghealdan, Altara, Murandy, and lastly the king of the dead nation, al'Lan Mandragoran and the last of Malkier. This was an army that was wrote into legend." Tam said, a glint in his eyes as the sight of fire flickered in them.
Rand had to feel a great amount of awe and surprise at the number of nations and legendary army factions present. Sure he had heard that it was a very large coalition before, but that was astounding. The last of Malkier, the legendary defenders of Light, the country that was destroyed by the Dark almost forty-five years ago. The Defenders of the Stone of Tear, the only army in history to never have lost a single war or battle and legendary defenders of the Sword That Is Not A Sword. Mayene's Winged Guard, the greatest mounted contingent alive who struck so fast the dying did not even see their own deaths. This was all truly a legendary army in every aspect. A dead nation, the worlds greatest defenders, greatest horsemen, a general who had attained legendary status for his genius and a huge bolstering of men to fill the gaps.
Tam sighed heavily. "We fought hard, we bled hard, we died hard. And yet they kept coming at us. Even when we held the wolds strongest force and outnumbered them two to one, they kept coming. All to kill one man; Laman Damondred. And they did. The extraordinary thing though, was that the moment Laman fell, the Aiel retreated back to their homeland. They didn't attack a single country on their way back. Their goal was fulfilled."
"The next day I walked around the area that the Aiel had camped, scouting for any remaining traps or ambushes; there was none. But I heard something, a crying voice. Curiously I decided to see what it was, who it was. I.." Tam paused in contemplation as a frown passed over his face. "I..." Tam stopped again, once more unsure how to continue.
Tam slowly stood up and walked over to the fireplace. Crouching down in-front of it he exhaled deeply. "Tell me, Rand. Do you believe me when I say I love you with all my heart, I love you as a father?" Tam asked in a whisper so low that Rand struggled to hear it, but when he did he was surprised by the sudden question.
Rand looked at Tam questioningly. "Of course I do, Tam. And I you as a son."
Tam chuckled. "That's good to hear. That's good to hear." he said with a smile as he stood and walked back over to Rand, crouching down to eye level he placed a hand on Rand's shoulder. Rand felt a sickening sense of dread course through his body at the odd gesture. "I want you to promise me you will remember that when I tell you what I'm about to tell you, you understand. I love you Rand."
"Of course, I'll never forget it. How could I" Rand said as he nodded dumbly, not sure what to think of what was happening.
Tam looked straight into Rand's eyes, and for a moment he saw years of pain, remorse, solitude and regret pass over them, as though he was seeing the very soul of his being. It quickly changed though into something much more warm and inviting, it turned into love. The feeling warmed Rand's heart.
"I found a crying baby and a dying Aiel woman" Tam said, his hand gripping Rand's shoulder even tighter. Rand tried not to squirm under the painful pressure. "Rand, I found you".
Rand felt his breath hitch. "What? What do you mean?" he asked quickly, hoping he'd misheard.
His father sighed heavily; his shoulders sagging. "I found a dying Aiel woman; I remember they allow their women to fight beside them. She had been badly effected whilst giving birth to a baby boy. You, Rand" he said hoarsely.
No, Rand thought, it can't... He's my Father! He has to be! It just was not conceivable that Tam was not his father; the man had fed him, bathed him, clothed him, he had loved him! So, this could not be true – could it? But... But Tam wouldn't lie to him either. So, it was truth then.
Looking back at Tam he saw something that made Rand come to realise that he was speaking the truth; guilt. "I...I'm not your son" Rand whispered in a choked sob as the tears started to fall down his cheek, following the curves in his face before falling away to the ground. More joined them.
Rand felt two thick arms enclose around him, wrapping him into a strong chest. He accepted Tam's embrace. His heaving sobs wracked his body as he cried into Tam's chest; a sudden emptiness had filled him. He did not know what to do, to say, to think; he just cried at his loss. He could not describe the feelings he had. How could he? He barely understood them himself.
He had always had Tam al'Thor, his father. He had always thought – no, he knew him as his father. But to suddenly have that connection wrenched from his grasp was agonising, he felt as though he lost part of himself. He would no longer be loved, he was alone. Who was he now? He was Rand al'Thor, but now who was he? Rand The Aiel? Just Rand? He no longer knew. Who am I?
"Rand" Tam's soft voice called out to him, pulling him back to world around him. "Remember what I told you. Rand! Remember!".
And Rand Remembered. I love you like a son. I love you. Rand replayed the words in his head, forming a mantra. He held onto it with vigour, not willing to let those words go. Hope filled him as he pulled out of Tam's chest, slowly he looked back up at Tam's sad face.
"You... You still love me?" Rand asked quietly, afraid of breaking the small hope he had.
Tam smiled, a reassuring, warm smile that lifted Rand's spirit. It filled him with hope. "Yes, you wool-headed fool. You are my son, after all" he said as he wiped the tear stains from Rand's face with a calloused finger.
Rand smiled at Tam's words, happy that he was still loved. "Thank you, Tam. I love you too." he murmured happily as he hugged into Tam's chest once more. He still felt sad at the revelation of his parentage, but he was glad that Tam still loved him. At least he kept that constant.
Rand felt Tam's chest rumble as he chuckled. "That's good to hear, especially now. Just remember that some bonds are deeper than blood. Some are what they are. Like now, you are my son and that's that. Our blood be damned!" he exclaimed, the words soothing Rand's still present pains further.
"Yes they do, and I am glad. I couldn't bare to lose you, father" Rand pulled away from Tam's chest once more, and surprised Tam with his next action. He chuckled.
His father looked at him with a small smile, but he was clearly confused by the change in demeanour. "What? What's so funny" he asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Nothing. Just I thought of how you could make it up to me for never telling me" Rand said with a mischievous smile and a twinkle in his eye.
The blademaster sighed as he saw Rand's expression. "Why do I have the feeling I'm not going to like this?" he asked sourly, but his face still held an ear splitting smile.
Rand chuckled. "Because you're not, Mr Blademaster" he said and poked Tam in the chest. "you're going to teach me how to use a sword, how's that?".
Tam chuckled again. Maybe it had been a good thing to tell Rand after all. It seemed that He had taken it a lot better than had been anticipated, much better than he could have hoped. It had gone perfectly. "As you wish, my son. But know this: it will not be easy, and it will take a very long time and amount of determination. Can you meet those needs?" He asked, but he already knew the answer. After all, people did say that all Two Rivers men had a stubborn streak as long as the Lugard Road.
"I'll survive, Light willing. And if the Light doesn't will, I'll still survive" Rand said with a large grin. Truly, Two Rivers stubbornness was legendary.
Rand and Tam smiled together, both happy to have that cleared out of the way. Tomorrow they would pick their different and new Father-Son relationship up were they left off, rebuild and start again. The way of all Two Rivers men. things would be different now, they both knew that, but they would still have a good time together whilst they were at it. They were family after all.
Well, there you have it.
Like I said, I tried to make it understandable for everyone, made sure most points were clarified to the point that someone who hadn't read The Wheel Of Time series, could read this and understand.
I have tried time and time again to find a good reason for Tam to tell Rand the truth, but in the end had to settle for this, admittedly, weak reason. It may not have been profound and earth shattering in terms of ideas, but some times things just happen, so it did here. Not everything needs a quality reason to it, humans are impulsive by nature, but I still hope for better ideas from myself in the future.
Well,that's it for this one any way. From here on out I will be releasing one of these chapters every two to three weeks, splitting it with my Naruto fanfic one week and this the next.
Maunderse out, and i hope to see you next week.