I wrote the rest of this story some time ago, but never uploaded it. Since I finally uploaded my other Wheel of Time story, it makes sense for me to put this part of the story up too.
The Wheel of Time belongs to Robert Jordan, I just play here!
This part of the story takes place after _Winter’s Heart_.
The next morning started as any other. Beyaelle did not mind making breakfast, and she certainly did not want to eat her own at the dormitory. After breakfast, when Gheral was about to leave, he suddenly stopped and turned back.
“Would you come with me?” he asked.
Beyaelle started at his request. “Come with you, and recruit?” she asked incredulously.
“You do no have to come, it be just a suggestion,” he answered.
Beyaelle considered briefly. Just the previous day it would have been inconceivable, but a lot of things had changed these past weeks, these past days. Somehow, whatever had been did not mean so much anymore. She could sit here and cower from the changes like most of the others did, but that just wasn’t like her… She grinned as she grabbed her cloak.
“I’ll come,” she said.
That evening, after returning to the Black Tower, Beyaelle went to the dormitory and found Krystah.
“I have something to ask,” she told the Brown, who looked at her with interest. “How would I go about leaving my Ajah?”
Beyaelle had expected Krystah to be shocked at the question, but instead she laughed. “You want to leave the Red? You’re the only real Red here.”
Beyaelle frowned, not understanding.
“You are the only one who remembered the Red started to gentle men because of the Taint. We may have kept away from the Red yesterday, and most of the time we have been here, but we heard what was said and we saw you leave,” Krystah said, still with a short laugh. Then she looked more serious. “I can’t say I like the idea of sisters being able to leave their Ajah, but no one could have foreseen these events, and I understand your concerns. But as far as I know no one has ever left their Ajah and there is no procedure for it, and that means you would have to go before the Hall with your request. Something that is hardly feasible under the circumstances.”
Beyaelle nodded. “Thank you, I had expected something like that but I wanted to make sure.”
“I just want to know what happened, how the Taint was cleansed,” Krystah sighed. “You have not heard anything more?”
Beyaelle shook her head. “No one knows a thing,” she said. “And I would think Gabrelle would hear any information before me.”
“Logain may be sleeping with her but he doesn’t trust her like Gheral trusts you,” Krystah said. “I don’t think he would take her outside even if he did leave the grounds more often.”
Beyaelle shrugged. “If I would be inclined to do anything I’m not supposed to I wouldn’t have to freedom to do it. Maybe some of you who are used to a bond know how to fool them but I don’t. He trusts me because he knows he can.”
“We can’t fuzz this bond like we can our Warder’s,” Krystah sighed. “Thim is married and when he and his wife.. well, I’ve tried.”
Beyaelle blushed. “I never realised.”
“You get used to it,” Krystah shrugged. Then she frowned worriedly. “I just wish they’d let me see Clem. I haven’t seen him since that first day when they made me order him not to resist and I can tell it is driving him crazy not being able to do anything. I’m afraid he will do something foolhardy if this goes on much longer. My bond does not compel him,” Krystah said with a bitter laugh.
“Did you tell Thim your concern?” Beyaelle asked.
“Yes I did, but he has denied any request to see Clem, he’s afraid it will be worse if Clem sees me. He’s gone over and told him to stay put but I think that only made Clem more concerned,” Krystah replied.
“I cannot promise anything but I will try to talk to him,” Beyaelle said.
“You think you could?” Krystah asked, startled. “Yes, I guess if you can go outside you could get to the Warders, of course.“
“I will try,” Beyaelle assured the Brown.
“Thank you,” Krystah said. She looked at Beyaelle. “I can’t speak for everyone, some don’t care for you even if they did see you get up and of course the Reds don’t care for whatever else you’ve been doing, but as far as I am concerned you are no longer Red Ajah.”
Beyaelle returned to the house and relayed Krystah’s concerns to Gheral. He listened intently.
“The Warders do be a concern. Logain do no want them to see their Aes Sedai but perhaps it do help if you spoke to them. I will talk to him tomorrow,” he said.
The next morning Gheral went to see Logain, but he did not have a definite answer right away. They rode through a Gateway to a village in Saldaea and went into the local inn. Gheral was at home in any inn, as a sailor he had been in many a place along the coast of the Sea of Storms. He was a good talker and that was what had landed him the position of recruiter. But Beyaelle was Aes Sedai. She did not show it of course; she kept the hood of her cloak up and introduced herself by her name only. Yet she spoke to men of any age and while she was often at a loss what to say to her fellow sisters she had no trouble speaking convincingly to the patrons of the inns they visited. By the end of the day there were more men waiting with their pack and, if they owned one, their horse, than there had ever been. Some wives and children came along, in other cases a young man sneaked out with just a small pack, not telling anyone where he was going. Beyaelle did not speak to the very young, but word would spread and fresh-faced boys of fifteen and up would show up alone or with their older brothers.
Of course the recruiting was for ‘the Dragon’s army’; they would ride and walk out of town, then open the Gateway out of sight of the village. Gheral and the other Asha’man would test those who wanted to be tested once they were back in the Black Tower. Beyaelle had already learned during her stay in the Tower that most did take the test. And a surprising number could learn, more than she would ever had thought. Of course no one had taught or looked for those who could learn, only those with the spark inborn had been discovered and accounted for for ages, but even so it was surprising to find the ability laid dormant in so many.
Returning to the Tower that evening, Beyaelle led Dancer back to the stables. Gheral had put his horse up already while she had directed the recruits to their new accommodations. Logain met her in the stable yard.
“I owe you an apology,” he started. “I wasn’t too happy with Gheral when he told me you had been riding out with him, but when I look at the numbers you’re bringing in I should have let you go long before.”
“I wouldn’t have gone before,” Beyaelle replied.
Logain studied her. He could point out that Gheral could have ordered her, but she had stated it as a fact and she could not lie, she obviously was determined enough to believe it to be the truth. And she probably would have found a way around it. “No, I guess you wouldn’t have,” he said instead. “But that was not what I wanted to see you about. Gheral tells me you brought up a concern about the Warders.”
Beyaelle nodded. “Krystah told me last night that her Warder was getting restless. If they try anything, well, here, they could all end up dead and you know what that’ll do to the sisters. And they are Warders, they couldn’t make it out but they might well take some others with them.”
“Do you believe you could talk to him –and some others who are getting agitated, and get them to settle down?” Logain asked her.
“I do not know that much about the bond and Warders, but I am Aes Sedai, they will listen to me,” Beyaelle said, then added. “They will listen better to their own sisters.”
“I can not risk that,” Logain shook his head. “They will listen but what will they tell them, in words and through the bond? I do not want any accidents.”
“They wouldn’t ask their Warders to do anything here in the middle of the Tower,” Beyaelle said. “They would have to be crazy to try that.”
“Crazy, or desperate,” Logain replied. “Gheral trusts you. Krystah, well, she seems more sensible than most, she and Sjani and a few others. I will speak to the men who hold their bonds and see what they think. But I would rather not risk it at all, if you can tell them to settle down I will let only you see them.”
“I will do my best,” Beyaelle answered.
When Beyaelle returned to the house later that evening she was weary and tired. She plopped down on one of the kitchen chairs with a sigh.
“They be trouble?” Gheral asked.
“They will stay put, for now,” Beyaelle said. “But I don’t know for how long. They’re Warders, they are sworn to protect their Aes Sedai and they’ve been there for three weeks cooped up in that barrack. Clem wasn’t even the worst, some of the others are far more frantic. They listened to me this time, but.. if anything goes wrong, if there is an accident and a sister gets hurt, I don’t know what will happen. And none of them really liked me telling them what to do, I don’t even have a Warder of my own. It would be better if one of the others were to speak to them, perhaps a Green, their words would carry more weight.”
“Can the sisters use the bond to make sure they no make a break for it?” Gheral asked.
“Using the bond to compel can be done but there are conventions against it as strong as Tower Law. Some of the sisters may know how, but to order them to do it would create a major stir,” Beyaelle said, frowning. “And ours won’t be as absolute as yours even if some would know how to work it.”
“You do think we need let Sjani and Krystah see the Warders?” Gheral said.
Beyaelle nodded. “That for a start. And hope for Light’s sake none of the sisters slips on a patch of ice and hits her head,” she said morosely.
Two days later Beyaelle was in better spirits. She sat in the common room of a Kandori inn, finishing off a hot cup of soup. She had spoken to a good number of men that morning and she was about to get up and join another group of locals who had just entered and taken a table across the room, when Gheral came in and motioned for her to join him. She got up and followed him out into the stable yard.
“I do have a guy here, I do think you need hear what he does tell,” Gheral told her.
Out behind the inn stood a fresh-faced young man. He looked no older than eighteen or nineteen, and he was fiddling restlessly with his cap.
“This be Daren,” Gheral introduced him. “Daren, tell Beyaelle what you did tell me.”
Daren made an unsteady bow and started. “I told Gheral here, I would come to join the Dragon’s army, ‘cept for my sister is really ill. She’s been having these fevers and sometimes a bad dizzy spell. She’s had them a couple times before but it seems worse this time, I don’t know I want to leave her or I might not see her again,” he said. “Are you a healer? Our local healer’s been over but she don’t know what to do.”
“I know some things about healing. How old is your sister?” Beyaelle asked.
“She’s fifteen, Mistress. She will turn sixteen this spring,” the lad told her.
Gheral lifted a questioning eyebrow at Beyaelle, who gave a brief nod. “I won’t know for sure until I see her, but it sounds like it,” she said softly. They didn’t ever do any Healing or other channeling on these recruiting trips, but this was different. She spoke louder to the boy. “Take us to your sister, I will take a look at her.”
The young man bowed deeply. “Thank you!” he said as he eagerly led off down the street. It was not far to a small house on a side street, not in the best part of the small town. He slipped inside and Beyaelle and Gheral followed. There was only one room, both kitchen and living room sparsely furnished with a fireplace, a large table and a few rickety chairs.
“Genet’s upstairs,” he said, climbing the narrow ladder that led up into the loft.
Upstairs Daren led into a small room under the eaves. The walls were bare wood and the floor held only a thread-bare rug. There were few other furnishings, a small set of drawers, a wardrobe, a couple stools and a bed. A woman with a weathered face wearing a simple brown dress veered up from the stool beside the bed as they came in, but Beyaelle’s attention was on the flustered girl who was laying in the bed. She did not have to go any closer to feel the ability in the young woman and she gave another brief nod to Gheral confirming her findings to him. She did not yet know if she would be able to do anything. Channeling sickness was chancy at best; as with anything caused by the Power itself, it was barely receptive to Healing.
“Mother, these people are recruiters for the Dragon’s army, Master Gheral and Mistress Beyaelle. They came to see Genet,” Daren told the woman.
The woman bowed. “I am Lysa Volmar, my Lord, my Lady,” she shifted anxiously, looking back at the girl in the bed. “Are you a healer, could you do anything for my Genet?”
“We might be able to do something,” Beyaelle said. “How long has this been going on?”
“This time she came down with it late last night. It has happened before, three times before. It was late summer when she got it the first time, but it seems to be getting worse,” the mother told her, nervously plucking on her skirt.
Beyaelle frowned, she did not like the sound of that. “Could you leave us alone for a while?” she asked the woman, who immediately nodded and quickly departed with Daren, bowing and writhing her hands.
Gheral watched them go. “The room be warded,” he said after a moment.
Beyaelle stepped over to the bed. Genet had not woken up when they had come in, nor did she stir when Beyaelle laid her hands on her. The girl was hot, her dark hair matted and damp, the rough linen sheets crumpled and stained with sweat.
She channeled briefly, Delving, then wove the flows of Healing even though she knew it would do very little except for take away some of the secondary aches caused by the fitful twisting and turning of which the crumpled sheets bore evidence. The girl shivered briefly as the flows were woven into her, but she still did not wake. Then Beyaelle sat down on the edge of the bed and looked at Gheral.
“Can we take her with us?” she asked.
“You can teach her?” Gheral asked in return.
“I, or any Aes Sedai,” Beyaelle nodded. “She will be all right when her fever breaks and she is taught. But she can’t remain here or travel to Tar Valon by the roads, next time she channels by herself I don’t think she will make it. And we can’t hardly take her there either. Light, I don’t even know what we would be taking her to even if we could risk Travelling near Tar Valon.” The rumors of a battle, a siege, a rebel army, and wilder stories had not reached this small Kandori town yet, but there had been much talk in Cairhien the previous day and even the craftsmen and others in the Black Tower brought rumors from Caemlyn about a siege at the city.
“She do come with us then,” Gheral said. “Will we need a litter for her?”
“I expect her fever to break within the hour. She will be weak but she will be able to sit a horse for the short distance we have to go.”
Mistress Volmar looked up anxiously as they came down the ladder. “Will she be all right?” she asked, her voice shaking.
“I can do little here. Her fever will go down in a short while but it will return if nothing is done. She will have to come with us. There are many healers and even Aes Sedai there,” Beyaelle said blandly.
“But, you will be going tonight, will she be well enough to travel?” the mother asked worriedly.
“We will not ride far tonight,” Beyaelle assured her. “She will be fine travelling with us.”
“I will make sure she is ready, my Lady,” the woman promised.
As soon as they were outside, walking back to the inn, Gheral chuckled. “There be even Aes Sedai there? She’ll be fine travelling with us?” he echoed.
Beyaelle glanced at him. “People hear what they expect to hear,” she said apologetically.
“And you never do blink. Remind me no to play cards with you,” Gheral grinned.
For a moment Beyaelle felt awkward. Usually, it made others she was with uneasy when she twisted her words like that, but Gheral was amused. Of course, he could channel too, and then there was the bond… Whatever the reasons, she found she was glad he was not bothered by the exchange. She grinned back.
Later that afternoon Beyaelle led Dancer out of the small town, the girl sitting in the saddle. Genet had protested, saying she could not ride the horse with ‘the Lady’ walking, but Beyaelle had been firm. Genet was up and looked much better but she was still very weak, even now sitting the saddle unsteadily. She could not have walked even the short distance that they had to go. Her brother walked on the other side of the horse, looking both glad he could now come with them, and worried about his sister.
Outside the town, their method of Travelling created the usual stir –Beyaelle smiled to herself as she realised the ‘usual’ had been less than a week for her. The men and, if they had come, their wives and children, looked at the Gateway with wide eyes, goggling it even while they walked or rode through. Genet also stared.
“You are Aes Sedai?” she asked with awe.
Beyaelle nodded. “Yes. We both can channel.”
Daren glanced at her with a worried frown. “Then what is wrong with Genet that you both could not Heal? You really could not, you said so and Aes Sedai can not lie.”
“You need not worry about her,” Beyaelle told him.
He still looked uneasy, but he did not argue as he followed the others through the Gateway. Beyaelle led Dancer through last, and Gheral followed, closing the Gateway behind him. Genet slid off Dancer’s saddle, all the time looking around open-mouthed. The Travel area was teeming with people, those who had just arrived and others. Horses were led into the stables, and more were outside on picket lines with a temporary shelter of canvas and wood; there were more new people arriving every day than the construction of the stables could keep up with. But Beyaelle saw that no matter how awe-struck Genet was, she was also still shaky on her feet, leaning with one hand on Dancer’s flank.
“Go ahead and take her to the house,” Gheral told her, then raised his voice to one of the Soldiers. “Ewal! See to Beyaelle’s horse.”
A young Soldier rushed forward, one of the Two Rivers kids, Beyaelle thought. He took Dancer from her, and she turned to Genet. “Come with me and I will finally tell you why you’re here.” She looked at Daren who was still standing next to his sister. “Go along with the others, your sister will be all right,” she told him. He reluctantly nodded and walked over to where the other men from the town were gathered.
Beyaelle took Genet’s pack in a flow of Air and let it bob alongside her. She started briefly as she caught herself channeling to carry a pack, something she would never have done before. Was she unconsciously taking up the habit of channeling for everything, or was it just so good to be able to channel at will again that she found herself reaching for Saidar more than she ever had at the White Tower? She wasn’t sure but she did not release the pack to carry it by hand.
Genet goggled as she followed Beyaelle through the village. “What is this place?” she asked.
“It’s called the Black Tower, the men who can channel train and live here,” Beyaelle answered.
“But you are here too, do you live here too?” Genet asked. “I thought all Aes Sedai lived in Tar Valon.”
Beyaelle laughed shortly. “I guess I do live here now. It’s a long story and I’m sure you will hear it soon enough. We’re here, I will tell you what you need to know first.”
She went inside, put Genet’s pack down and showed her where to put her cloak. “Come along into the kitchen and sit down, it’s good and warm in here.” She channeled a kettle of water to boiling and poured two cups of hot tea, then she took a chair herself and she started to explain to Genet why she had to come here. The girl was startled and surprised, but she did not refuse to believe as some Wilders did who had gained more control, who had been channeling for a longer time and who had build strong Blocks.
“So I have to learn to channel?” Genet asked, sounding both excited and anxious.
Beyaelle nodded. “I can teach you.”
“I would rather others do teach her,” Gheral said. He had come in while they were talking. “I can no take anyone else out with me, but others do be able to teach her. Mikhael and Jorrim do be sure to allow Sjani and Hannah to channel for that if I do ask. Besides I do rather have you along than one of them Soldiers,” he added with a grin.
Beyaelle nodded, smiling back. She did enjoy their outings and she also thought Hannah and Sjani would be happy to be able to channel. It seemed for once things were working out well.
So Beyaelle saw little of Genet during the day. In the evenings she did a little teaching of her own, since she did feel responsible for the girl they’d taken here. After about a week Genet looked up from the little ball of light she was holding. It promptly vanished, but for a change she did not reach for the flows of Fire again.
“When will I learn to throw fire and lightning?”, she asked.
Beyaelle blinked. “That’s not something we learn as a novice, Genet.”
“Why not?” Genet asked. “My brother has been learning to fight with the Power. I want to learn too. I never could do anything when the Trolloc raids came, being just a girl and everything, but now I can learn. I want to join the Green and fight in the Last Battle with my bro and the others.”
Beyaelle was taken aback by the fierce tone of the girl. She could understand the desire to fight off the Trollocs, but she also had trouble reconciling the young, slender girl who was not old enough to marry yet with the image of an Aes Sedai fighting Trollocs in the Last Battle. “There are other things to do in a battle. Healing, for instance,” she tried.
“Hannah won’t allow me to practice when I’m not with her or Sjani -or you of course. And at this rate I won’t be able to Heal more than a scratch either, by the time the Last Battle comes,” Genet pointed out.
Beyaelle frowned, not sure what to say. She had started the White Tower’s regular lessons and she supposed that was also what Hannah and Sjani had done. The schedule was already a lot quicker for someone like Genet who had already channeled on her own, more than for someone who had never touched Saidar. But to let her push as much as the men, or channel alone, had never occurred to her.
“She do have a point,” Gheral commented. “The way the weather did be the past couple years, the Dragon raising his banner, the Last Battle can no be far off.”
Beyaelle shot him a look. “It’s dangerous to push too had. You know that.”
Gheral shrugged. “Yes, it be dangerous, but we do it. Besides, it do be dangerous to have no more than balls of light and flows of Air against a Trolloc, too.”
Beyaelle sighed. You’re no help, she thought silently, but she did not say so aloud. Because like it or not, she had to admit his reasoning made sense. Reluctantly, she nodded. “I can’t say I like it but you are right. I will see Hannah and Sjani in the morning,” she conceded.
She caught the two Greens at breakfast. As she explained Genet’s appeal and reasoning, Hannah looked at her with astonishment.
“You can’t be serious, we’ve never done anything like that at the White Tower,” she said.
“Actually there is precedent. During the Trolloc Wars the novices were pushed far beyond the training we do today,” Beyaelle said. “I would think the Last Battle warrants similar measures.”
Hannah sniffed. “It’s always been fast enough for us. You are taking up too many ways of the men.”
“The men are pushing to be ready for the Last Battle. Anyone else who wants to make it there will have to, as well,” Beyaelle argued.
“I will not take part in this,” Hannah said hotly. “I will teach her the things a novice should learn, but I will not teach how to use the One Power as a weapon, not to a novice or even an Accepted.” She turned abruptly and walked off.
Sjani had not yet said a word. She watched Hannah go. “Southerners,” she snorted. She was from Arafel and ‘Southerners’ could include anyone not from the Borderlands, but Hannah was from Majene, which was of course about as far from the Borderlands as you could get. “They learn the prophesies, they know about the Last Battle approaching, they even join the Green, but they don’t really believe –not really believe- until they see the Trollocs and the Halfmen flooding over the next hill,” she told Beyaelle. “I will teach Genet, and when the Trollocs and the Myrddraal come, she will be able to hold her own.”
More than a week passed quietly, or whatever passed for quietly here at the Black Tower. Gheral and Beyaelle went out every day, Travelling to villages in Cairhien, the Borderlands, Tear, and the west of Andor. They stayed away from any place in the Southwest, where the Seanchan were, and of course from Tar Valon. In the villages they visited there was little excitement and little news. One morning Genet had come by at dawn, clearing the streets of snow with two Soldiers. The Soldiers had taken her presence on the Training fields in stride, treating her like a kid sister or, in some cases, just like a sister. There were more than a few who were as young or younger than she was. Beyaelle felt a mixture of apprehension and pride when she saw the feisty girl sweep the hard-packed dirt streets with flows of Air and Fire, holding as much Saidar as most novices could not hold until they had spent several months in the White Tower. Genet had looked up, grinned, then quickly looked back to her work as the weaves had skipped over a patch of snow when her concentration had slipped.
Later, Beyaelle and Gheral were on their way to the stables. They came upon Welyn and Jenare. She was standing with her back towards where they approached, and he was speaking quietly to her. As soon as Welyn finished speaking, Jenare briskly turned away, turning straight into Beyaelle. The Red glared at her and whirled further around even faster than before, then almost ran into the house. Welyn sighed and rolled his eyes at Beyaelle, looking exasperated, then he walked off in the opposite direction towards the Training grounds.
Beyaelle frowned, considered for a moment as they walked on, then after a few steps she stopped dead. “Would you ask one of the Soldiers to get Dancer saddled for me?” she asked Gheral. “I will be there shortly.”
Gheral blinked, surprised, then he nodded. Beyaelle turned and walked back, knocking on the door. It opened slowly, then Jenare almost closed it again on her. “I have nothing to say to you,” she said flatly. But Beyaelle pushed in.
“Jenare, stop being a goose,” she told her roughly.
Jenare jumped at her tone of voice. “I’m not…” she broke off. “At least I’m not getting friendly with those men. Beyaelle, they’re men who can channel, did you completely forget what Ajah you are?”
“I remember what Ajah I was,” Beyaelle shot back. “I also remember why the Red Ajah started to seek out and gentle men who could channel.” Thank you Krystah, she thought silently. “The Taint, Jenare. We were meant to stop the Taint and the Madness. There’s no reason to keep acting as if they’re all monsters.”
“There is their filthy Bond, they treat us like, like Warders,” Jenare protested.
“Welyn treats you better than you deserve. Light, Jenare, he could order you to do anything, anything, and you’d have no choice but to obey. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t even order you to stop looking at him like he’s grown Trolloc’s horns,” Beyaelle snapped. “He’s just waiting for you to come around because he’s too bloody nice to make you do anything more against your will than he has to. Blood and ashes, it’s been weeks, weeks that we’ve been here and now three weeks that the Taint has been gone. He’s been more patient with you than anyone could ask. You should stop treating him like dirt.”
“I don’t have to listen to you. Not yet at least,” Jenare said bitterly.
“He could order you to. I think I will suggest it to him,” Beyaelle returned.
“You wouldn’t,” Jenare gasped.
“I might,” Beyaelle said. “I don’t expect you to become friendly with him or any of the other Asha’man. But you can at least treat him in a civil manner.”
“I am ci…,” Jenare started. “All right, not always,” she admitted grudgingly.
“Not always?” Beyaelle snorted. “Twisting words doesn’t work with me. You would never stand for it if anyone, high or low, would treat you like what I’ve seen you do this morning and other times as well. You’re making it hard on him and on yourself. I can not order you to change but he would listen to my suggestions. I’m not sure how far his orders would go of course,” she added off-hand. “If you were to change yourself you could certainly stay more in control.”
Jenare shifted uneasily, plucking on her skirts. “I am hardly the only one who has not… accepted the Bond as you have,” she tried. “In fact you’re the only among the Red who has.”
“I had noticed that, but you happen to be the one I decided to speak to. All of this goes for any of you, perhaps you can speak to some of the others if you happen to see them,” she said acidly. Then she spun around and walked out the door. She didn’t expect Jenare to give in directly but she’d said what she wanted to say. Let Jenare stew on it for a while.
Beyaelle strode briskly to the stables, where there were more people than was usual for this time of the morning. A group of people milled at the Travelling field. She saw the M’Hael and Logain, talking to a tall man in a bright red coat with a arrogant, regal bearing. She joined Gheral, looking at the men.
“That do be the Lord Dragon,” Gheral told her, but she did not really need his words.
She also saw an Asha’man she did not know, and to her surprise she noticed Corele stand behind the Lord Dragon, as well. A boyish young woman standing next to the Dragon completed the party, and Beyaelle was certain she had seen her before, but she could not recall where or when.
All the work at the stables had stopped, everyone standing around and looking at the Dragon and his party, so Beyaelle also stood and stared. Then suddenly Logain pointed and the Dragon looked directly at her. She felt herself flinch and she looked away at the ground under his hard glare, only glancing timidly at him and his group. The Dragon turned to the young woman at his side and asked her something. He nodded grimly at the answer and after just one more hard look he turned back toward Logain. Beyaelle let out a breath she did not know she had been holding.
Mazrim Taim always made her uncomfortable, he had a ruthlessness about him and a harsh look in his eyes that had made her wonder how much of the Taint he had absorbed, or perhaps he just was a rough man by nature. But she did not jump when she occasionally ran into the M’Hael, not like she had at the Dragon’s stare just now. He was of course the most powerful man in the world, but that wasn’t all of it. The closest thing to the look he had given her she had seen in soldiers right after a battle, it was a look of those who had seen what no one should ever have to see. Men in the Aiel war had come off the battle field with an expression like that. But then there would be a night of drinking, an evening of celebrating the victory or forgetting the defeat, and the roughness would soften, the edge would be taken off the hardness, at least until the next battle. Nothing had softened or taken the edge off the hardness in the eyes of the Dragon, and Beyaelle shivered.
She was glad when the small group broke up. The M’Hael saluted and walked off towards his Palace, Logain remained with the Dragon. He noticed everyone looking at them.
“Everybody, back to work!” Logain ordered, and Soldiers and Dedicated alike immediately broke away from their staring and turned back to their tasks.
Beyaelle went into the stables where she found Dancer saddled and hitched to the stable post. She slipped the knot loose and led the gelding out, joining Gheral in the stable yard. He had retrieved Storm as well, and she followed him to the Travelling grounds. They passed close by the Dragon’s party and she kept her eyes downcast while leading her horse. None of the men even looked at her again, but she could feel Corele stare and the girl who was with the Dragon muttered something when she passed. She couldn’t make out any of the words except for ‘a fish?’, but she was sure the girl was only muttering to herself and she did not show that she had heard.
That evening when they returned home, a Soldier at the stables came out to meet them. “Gheral, Logain wants to see you right away, his place,” he said.
Gheral frowned, then handed Storm’s reins to Beyaelle. “I will see you at the house in a bit,” he said, and Beyaelle could feel he was apprehensive. She felt worried as well. Would the Dragon have said something about their outings? Logain hadn’t been all that happy about it at first either, and he knew her. She led the horses in, then called to one of the Soldiers to take Storm. She was a little surprised when he did so without questioning her request.
“What did the Dragon do after we left, Ewal isn’t it?” she asked the boy, the same Two Rivers kid she had seen at the stables before.
“He left real soon, he wasn’t too happy with his two Asha’man being listed as deserters –seems there had been a misunderstanding after what happened in Cairhien. But he didn’t say much else, what you’ll want to know is later they came from Tar Valon, the Keeper and the other Asha’man who’s been with the Dragon,” Ewal told her.
“The Keeper?” Beyaelle asked. She couldn’t imagine Alviarin coming here with an Asha’man, or coming here at all for that matter. It had to mean the rebels had taken the Tower. She couldn’t say she was sorry to hear that. This whole expedition to the Black Tower had hardly been Elaida’s only plan that had gone wrong. She had supported Elaida at first, but long before she had left Tar Valon she’d had her doubts if doing so had been a wise decision.
“Yes, Sheriam Sedai,” Ewal confirmed her suspicions, then rattled on excitedly. “She was here most of the afternoon, she spoke with the M’Hael and Logain and she’s been all over the Tower seeing the other Aes Sedai. I don’t know what she agreed on with Logain, the Dedicated are all in the village but they’re not telling us Soldiers. They did announce the siege at Tar Valon is over, I still can’t believe Egwene al’Vere is the Amyrlin. Do you know she was the Mayor’s daughter in my village? Well of course the Lord Dragon is from Emond’s Field too, but he always was a bit different, no one was as tall as him or had red hair like that. Egwene, Light, I used to play tricks on her and everything. And she made this decree that the Red Ajah is no more.” He suddenly broke off, not sure what her reaction would be.
She gave a brief laugh. “I guess I saw that coming,” she said with a sigh. She personally was neither surprised nor regretful to hear Elaida was disposed and the Red was gone, but she knew it would create a huge stir among the others. And what would it mean for them all? She thought now that the reason Gheral was called to Logain might not have to do with the Dragon but rather with the Keeper’s visit. Either way, she was anxious to find out and she quickly finished unsaddling Dancer.
She reached the house just before Gheral. He came in, hanging his coat and kicking off his boots as always. She tried to make out what he was feeling but she felt a mixture of pleasure and apprehension, and she was not sure what that meant.
“Come sit down,” he said, leading the way into the kitchen where they usually sat. He waited for her to take a chair before sitting down across from her and continuing. “You be free to leave the Tower at any time you want. I can no release the Bond, I do no know how, but I will no use it again. You be free again.”
Beyaelle’s breath caught. Whatever she had thought of, she had not expected this. She felt warmth and relief flood through her. Not that it had been hard on her, being here, especially not these last weeks. Gheral had not used the Bond to compel her even once since the Taint was gone, and little before that. But of course she had still known she was a prisoner here at the Black Tower. She might have elected to stay within the bounds set for her voluntarily, but that did not mean she was not aware of them. And if she had ever wanted to cross them, Gheral would have called her back, would have had to call her back. She felt like a load was taken off her. A load she had not really noticed was there until now. “It feels great to be free again,” she laughed.
Gheral returned her smile. “I be happy for you,” he said. “I did no like holding you back.” He laughed at her but she could still feel his apprehension underneath.
“Ewal told me Sheriam had been here, but he did not know what she had discussed. Did she arrange this?” Beyaelle asked.
“Yes and no,” Gheral answered. “She did negotiate an exchange, Healing for those who be burned out in trade for releasing the non-Red sisters to the White Tower. But Logain did decide to let you go for your own merits, you be no part of the exchange. You did that yourself, you did earn it.”
Beyaelle smiled at him radiantly. “Thank you,” she told him sincerely, then she studied him and her expression became more serious. She still felt warm and light-hearted, but she could also feel he was troubled. He was happy for her but she felt sure he did not like to let her go. And she suddenly thought, was she all of a mind about leaving? What did she have to go to? Those of the Red at Tar Valon were hardly likely to welcome her back if she returned now, and most of the other Ajahs could not look past what she had been. She looked around the warm, familiar kitchen and then at Gheral, who had trusted her and had given her as much freedom as he could, risking Logain’s displeasure, and she realised she felt more at home here than she had anywhere for a long time.
“It is wonderful to be free,” she said softly. “But even so, I would like to remain here. If I can.”
“You be free, to go or stay as you do chose,” he replied just as softly, but he smiled broadly and she could feel his relief. “But I be very happy if you do stay.”
“Then I’m staying,” she decided, laughing again, her joy mixing with his relief through the Bond.
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