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Awareness crept upon Ashar like a drum being beaten by an enthusiastic child, without rhythm or reason save for the sheer joy of causing nearby adults to wince.  In this case the adult was a man tepidly greeting the morning with a groan from amidst stale sheets that seemed to cling to his every movement with a texture more appropriate to sandpaper than the cotton they were spun from.  Ripping them off as he blinked his eyes, Ashar peered over the side of the bed to confirm what his nose had vindictively alerted him to, the bucket that was for his waste had found it during the evening, even if it had been expelled from the high end of town.


Pushing the bucket away, it teetered dangerously as it slid across the floorboards but failed to spill into a pool of ale, potatoes and self-recrimination.  Rolling over to the other side of the bed, there was a distinct lack of grace as Ashar pulled himself onto the floor and hugged the cool floorboards, he felt far too warm and the tight breeches were not doing him any favours.  Slipping them off as far as his ankles, he took in reality as he rolled onto his back to sooth his aches.  The sun was filtering through the shutters, probably what had woken him up, or perhaps it was the sounds of commerce and and people in the streets that had caught his attention.  Now that he thought about it as he blinked blearily, the sun was unusually high, why was it so high?


Rolling over again, Ashar could see the wash basin in his dilapidated accommodations, no more than an elongated wooden bowl with water in it, but that would have to do.  He just needed to drown himself in it, maybe that would rid himself of the infernal pounding in his temple, but he doubted the wheel planned to weave his thread so short.  That and it was too shallow.  But maybe, just maybe, he could clean himself up enough that he could present himself downstairs, pay for a meal that would settle his stomach and drink enough water to drain the Andahar, if he were anywhere near civilisation like that to start with.  Sooner he got out of this place, the better.


Crawling over to the basin, Ashar frowned as he looked down.  Breeches, ankles, kicking at them one foot came free but the other one remained, where it was caught on something.  It took the better part of a minute for him to realise it was a boot.  He wasn't sure what was worse, that he'd fallen asleep with a boot on, or that as he looked around the room he could not find the other one.


It was almost enough to make him give up on the day, but Ashar didn't have it in him to quit.  He would happen to the day, the day would not happen to him.  Sighing as he girded himself for the fight ahead, he renewed his wiggle toward the wash basin with the alacrity of a worm praying that the sparrow will find it.

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The sun was an unkind mistress as Ashar leaned against the wall of a building at the edge of the marketplace.  Even under a wide brimmed hat and his bottle of water in hand, he was definitely feeling dusty.  At least he wasn't working for now, rather, he was looking for work.


A marketplace like this one in Samara was as good as any to find something.  His last contract was done and he liked to eat, people who spent coin and earned coin all came through here sooner or later.  Even a village could yield an opportunity for work, even if it was only for food and company until he reached somewhere more accommodating to a man of his skills.  Further north there'd be more liberal opportunities in Jehannah, Ghealdan wasn't the richest nation but it was at a crossroads and the merchants were nearly as powerful as the nobility.  If that didn't work, he could always strike east for Murandy.  Lugard had its own work between different factions and the country nobles occasionally launched marauding parties against their neighbours, or so he had been told.


As the hours passed, Ashar made note of the merchants who had closed their stalls early or were nearly out of stock.  They'd be the ones he'd see tonight, flush with coin and keen to keep it, one of them would find it useful to have an extra blade.  Even if they had no faith in his ability, an extra body was an extra body.  With any luck, he'd even be able to ride on a wagon, he knew how to manage the horses so someone might be keen to relax on the road knowing it wouldn't careen off into the bushes.


It was definitely going to be his day tomorrow.

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It described both the toil of placing one foot before the other in menial service and rhymed with another word that came to mind when it came to Ashar's current mode of transportation.  A large pack strapped to his back that jingle jangled like a pair of Arafellin women duelling with whips but twice as painful.  Still, it would not do to complain, the peddler Haran Sufeil who was whistling happily next to him was the only one going north and he had little interest in visiting Amadicia.  It was too peaceful for his vocation, and practising his vocation there was liable to bring some undue attention from . . . some very righteous and upstanding citizens who wore cloaks of white just to ensure everyone knew how pure they were.


Not for him.


At least Jehannah was now in sight and a welcome one at that.  Pausing for a moment to take in the sight, he could see from their vantage point the layout of the city itself, not as grand as elsewhere but still far better than Samara in the south.  Of interest was the Jehannah Road, if things did not work out in the city he could always use that to head east.  Maybe not Lugard though, Andor was peaceful but where there was enmity there'd always be someone willing to hire a sword.  That was what he was, for the right price.


"Oof."  Ashar grunted as his ribs were poked by a stick wielded by an amused Haran, his wrinkled face split with a grin that made it clear that he thoroughly enjoyed getting his attention this way, much as he had all trip.  "Money doesn't sleep and neither will you till we get there.  Come on lad, we make it before midday and maybe I'll throw something extra in."


Pit of Doom he would, Ashar knew that wasn't likely and Haran knew he knew, but he began walking again all the same.  "You sure you don't want to swap?  It wouldn't do well for the fine citizens of Jehannah to see someone else carrying your goods, they might think you are a peddler who does not trust what he sells."


"Or think me a successful peddler that I can have someone else carry for me.  Move."


Grunting at another poke, Ashar considered dropping the bag and walking.  Just for a moment, but this close now and Haran being that old . . . No, he carried his own goods normally, the appeals on the first day for aid based on age and alleged infirmity were just Haran getting the best deal.  He dismissed the idea, he'd given his word and he'd do it.  Wasn't like it was going to kill him.



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It was not the furthest west that she had traveled, however, Josanda had a sense that it was about as far as she would get on this particular journey before she had to return northwest. A pause within the Murandy borders to visit family and her grand-nieces and nephews under the illusion of a traveling relative before returning to the Tower proper. 


There were White Cloaks rumored far too close to Jehannah and while she still retained far more youth than any other Aes Sedai of her age, it was still impossible to deny that she had the air of confidence that few women who traveled did. They certainly did like to prey on those who held more confidence than their station, regardless of how many journals and quills Josanda traveled with. Complain as much as he did, she did NOT force Aeodan to carry the full weight of her journals. That was his choice and his choice alone. 


For a Guardsman, he certainly fit the cloak. There were quite a few in the Warder's Yard that learned a sense of humor and after 4 weeks she had yet to find his. It was growing a little frustrating, as a challenge was only a challenge if it were recognized for the game that it was. 


He just wanted to ensure she stayed alive.


Mentally she rolled her eyes as her stray thoughts puzzled out her travel companion. She might have been looking at him the wrong way, or they simply were far too incompatible for him to see that not all Aes Sedai had to follow every stuck-up rule of the Tower. Then again, she was a lowly Brown with middling to low abilities in the One Power and very little political tact to speak of. They could take her from the Farm but not the Farm out of her. The dirt in her skirts would never bother her the way it did many others and it was a bloody shame.


The sounds of two men broke through her thoughts, peddlers, bickering over light knew what. It was the unique wares that one of them carried that kept her attention.


"Pardon me, Peddler. Are you leaving or arriving in Jehannah? And if arriving where might I browse your wares?" Her wild hair and simple clothes were little more than a traveler's attire. Not even her hand held the telltale marks of her Aes Sedai band anymore, for how little she wore it. For all intent and purpose, she was a simple woman looking to by with unknown depths to her coin purse. Even the Murandy accent still lilted a little despite her more proper verse that the White Tower forced upon her for too many years.

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The welcoming arch of the city gates, the feeling that imminent freedom helped put a lightness in Ashar's steps that had otherwise been lacking for days.  They just needed to get to whichever inn that Haran planned to visit and then they could be done.  Each step was marked by the jab and riposte of discussions on his final pay, even though Haran had him at every turn he had to admit he respected the man, hard life making a living travelling from place to place, he was even beginning to like their banter a little.  But as amusing as the companionship had been, he had little intention of signing on as a pack mule again.  His plan was not to make a living by hauling freight, it was going to be made with a sword and spear, he would wi-


Stopping as he heard a feminine voice inquire with the peddler, Ashar turned to see a short woman with brown curly hair and an accent he couldn't quite place.  Haran was already greeting here with an expansive hand gesture while Ashar was still processing what had been said.  "We are but newly arrived here in Jehannah.  Normally I would say tomorrow in the markets bu-" Haran looked to Ashar meaningfully and he in turned cocked his head at the older man and mouthed 'don't', "-ut I would be delighted to make my wares available to you now."


There was no mistaking the emphasis on that last word, Ashar reminded himself he was still bound by the agreement as he began to lay down a blanket to the side of the path as Haran continued to speak to the woman.  "After all, it is impolite to make a lady of both beauty and discerning taste wait, wouldn't you agree, Ashar?"


Haran was not just smooth, he was plausible with a genuine enthusiasm.  Not just for the customer, but also because this would mean he'd get extra labour out of him.  He would have made a superb quartermaster in another life.  "It is as you say, yes."  The pack unrolled onto the blanket, each item secured by a strap which both made it easier to haul and reduced the noise.  It was nice to have it off for a moment, he'd had to kneel just to control it's movement it was so large.  Even if he knew deep down he was also the one who would have to pack it back up before they continued, his shoulders were able to at least drink from the sweet oasis of liberty from the fetters Haran had foisted on him for a moment before true freedom came.


Haran had also taken his smaller pack and quickly spread it upon the blanket.  Ashar's had been general goods, pots and pans, knives, nails, anything that had weight to it.  Haran's own selection were books, papers, ink, quills, a few luxury items, in case anything had gone wrong, the peddler had been certain that if he was to lose his finest goods it was only because he would be having his thread spun into the pattern once more.  Ashar took a moment to lean back against the wall and survey the street and those passing by as Haran and the woman traded.

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  • 2 weeks later...

She was charmed, as any patron of a merchant should be, and she gave him a smile. The curious part was the companion who perhaps wasn’t as subtle as he thought. Or Josanda was far too aware of sighs and eye rolling because they more often tended to be directed at herself. 


Enjoying the quick chatter, Josanda proved to be a sharp bargainer with the merchant, purchasing two handwoven journals, a bushel of quills and a unique jar of ink. It was the ink she was quite curious about and how it would react to some of her different journals. Aeodan was not going to be pleased to the added weight but then she was getting close to needing to mail courier back a few things anyway and this just made the excuse easier to lighten her pocket of the various copper and silvers she had collected and exchanged during the journey. They were not going to be as useful as the journals when they start to travel north and wares were few and far between. 


“Delightful!” She explained. “Thank you, Master Haran. I don’t suppose there are any unique items that you have come across in your travels. Things for the collector of old treasures, perhaps?” 


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"Such things are beyond a poor peddler's reach."  Haran smiled as he leaned forward conspiratorially to the woman's ear.  "Such things might be available for private viewing at the Weeping Willow this evening, depending on your taste such trinkets may indeed be treasures."


Ashar saw an exchange but could not make out the words, but Haran's manner was not that of a disappointed man.  Those that passed by glanced at their business, but otherwise they kept moving.  It would do for them to wrap up their business and continue onward, it was one thing to provide commerce to one person, but to set up shop here in the street with more people looking for goods might cause the town watch to be sharp in their reproof.  That was what marketplaces were for, and also where they took their cut.


"Perhaps we should continue on, Haran?  I imagine the guards here will be displeased if we tarry overlong in this place to do business, yes?"


Haran's smile at Ashar was genial but with it was a thoughtful nod.  "I think you are right, please roll up our gear and we shall continue on.  Then we will discuss matters further, I might like to retain your services for an extra day."


Market stall duty probably, well, that should be easy enough coin.  Jehannah was relatively peaceful.  Ashar turned his attention to the gear as he began to roll and bag it up while Haran spoke to the woman.  "It was a pleasure to meet you, hopefully our paths shall cross soon."

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The Weeping Willow, hmm? She gave the peddler a brilliant smile, far too pleased that what coin she offered paid for more than what she had hoped. More and more items were becoming commonplace and the truly unique were often located in small circles and the lucky peddler. Whether he had anything of value was still to be learned, and she did not sense anything upon his wagon, but it was always worth a few extra coppers just to stay within the inner circle of ears. 


“Of course, of course. Thank you Master Haman. I look forward to seeing your success here in Jehannah, Light be with you.” With a common bow. Another to the companion who seemed far too rushed to push the Peddler along, and for good reasons. That he had stopped at all was clearly a need for an extra coin, and the whisper of a more private view where ears would bring the coin for what he could have to offer.




Gazing at her prizes, Josanda gave a final look to the two and the direction the took before returning along her path to the Gentle Sheep where Aeodan was likely to be rather annoyed. Then again, when was he not? The surprise was that she returned to their shared room before he returned. Even he had a raised eyebrow at her fussing over her satchels when he opened the door.


”Nothing suitable? Or are you hiding from another merchant?” He said dryly.


SHe huffed a little in his direction. “Once. It happened once, and that glass peice was far too precariously placed that it was a touch of wind to knock it over. He should have been wiser in his placement of merchandise. Especially something that could snag on a passing skirt.” She had felt bad, truly. But he had asked for a completely unreasonable price for the broken piece that it was clearly a scam. Even with small parts together it was not nearly as pretty as he implied it to be.


He only gave a low hum against a frown as he leaned against the doorframe. Arms crossed and dark blue eyes piercing through her with an otherwise dark gaze. 


She gave a sigh. “I bought some ink. … and Journals. Not many. And! There is a special viewing over at the Weeping Willow tonight that is worth looking into.” 


“More journals.” The flat dry tone ever so present. 


“I figure if we can settle in for the night, maybe pass the rumor to a few select ears, we may have a decent viewing that he will pull out the more valuable peices.” She chattered away. 


“How many.”


”If there are at least 1 or two larger purses than I may be in luck. The coin is getting low and I’d rather not pull out Tar Valon crowns until we are closer to Caemlyn.”




”Sedai.” She didn’t miss a beat. “What time do would you consider ‘later’? Is that around a dinner bell time, or are we talking well after sunset and all the scandalous come out to play?”




The tone made her pause and actually look at him. He was very, deeply annoyed and if she gathered more from how he held himself there was none of the minute humor she was able to garner from him in weeks before. 


“What is it?” She asked. The youth of her personality pulled back as her more trained Aes Sedai instincts could see that he had more than just one reason to be annoyed. “And don’t make it about the journals.”


”We can’t stay. We need to leave. Tonight. Whether the rumors are about the Seanchan or the White Cloaks or something else, we can not stay. I will not risk you to what could be around the corner. Certainly not alone.”


Alone. He was not a bonded Warder, simply a Guardsman. Bannerman, nearly. Or some other rank. He was no more ready to bond himself to another for life any more than Josanda felt comfortable putting the first notch of a Warder on the long line of notches for the amount of years she had ahead of her. Still, she did not miss her meaning. 


“I can’t.. miss this opportunity.” She said. “If there is even a chance that there are items of power here, we need to collect them regardless of the cost.”


”Not at the cost of you.”


”Yes, at the cost of me.” She said stiffly. it was not the first time that they had this argument, and while she was blessedly unaware of what that cost could be it was still a risk she had to take. “Pack up what we must and have the horses prepared. I’ll even sleep before we go. But we must attend that viewing.” Wincing a little at the subtle non-promise to sleep. That rumor needed to spread. Though, if that merchant was wise he would not settle with just one egg in that nest.


”I do not like it.”


”You don’t like anything, Aeodan. At least I allow you to say ‘I told you so’.”


The hrumpgh was almost worth the guilt. At least he didn’t ask about the added weight until they were back on the road. It was the waiting game now….

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The Weeping Willow had been a welcome respite, both from the road and the grime that had come with it.  Ashar had expected a place that sold a shoebox for a silver, but he hadn't even had to pay a dime.  Haran's treat for his efforts, and also most likely to keep him on hand and feeling somewhat indebted to work a little longer.


It worked.


Ashar had stayed, washed the road from himself and even fished his nicer tunic and breeches from his own pack.  A chance to trim his beard and rinse his hair, he definitely felt more like himself afterward and a nice lunch with a few drinks to tide the afternoon over, it had been easy to have a quiet one in this place.  Tables in the centre of the floor and spacious booths for those who claimed them for the purpose of commerce, they'd spent the better part of the afternoon ensconced in one such place as Haran had several visitors come to him. 


Some came to buy, others came to sell, coin had flowed readily and by the end Haran was holding more coin than he had spent and a few trinkets in hand for the evening.  Presumably Haran had secured them on behalf of the woman who was to come tonight or, failing to sell there, to flog to nobles or merchants with more money than sense.  Still, he was able to play his part as he sat to the side with a dagger at his belt and his blade sitting next to him in it's sheathe unobtrusively.  It drew little attention as he was not the only armsman present who served the role of keeping the peace.  Their notable boredom set Ashar at ease, though that did not diminish the attention he paid for Haran's sake.


As afternoon turned to night and their dinner meals came, Ashar kept an eye on the new clientele that came for their meals and drinks.  Some merchants still kept their booths though a few used curtains to pull theirs shut.  Perhaps they would do so with the night clientele as they sought to consult with Haran, but for now they remained visible for those who would speak of finer things.

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For the past few years, Aeodan preferred the security of the barracks to the open road. It was difficult enough to control his environment with a bunch of unruly trainee’s and their shenanigans let alone the unknown intentions of those that travel from city to city. He did not miss the life he left behind at all, but it certainly never got easier after. 


He certainly did not go on this journey for the thrill of adventure, but somehow the foolish Brown thought it better to go alone than to consider safety regardless of how harmless to the world she considered herself. 


Freedom. That’s what she had declared and he scoffed. Freedom was for the poor and worthless. The ones with nothing to lose. 


Yet, here she was sneaking out with her horse, an overfilled saddle pack with enough food to last a day or two, just like an undignified Initiate. What was he suppose to do? Return to his superiors and say he did nothing? Not even follow? There was no reasoning with the Aes Sedai when they are set in mind. The best he could do was damage control. 


Which lead him to some of the more concerning news he had overheard while settling their horses for their stay in Jehannah. Their very, VERY short stay. 


If he could saddle up the horses and leave then and there he would, but the best he could get from her was that night. They were both tired, and the rest was needed. The promise of something… unique. Nothing could keep a Brown from such a mystery. No matter if it was a dead rat painted in gold while it was still stiff as stone. 


And now he was stuck at the Weeping Willow waiting for her to scratch the bloody itch.


Arms crossed, his clothing far more put together than hers, He glared at the Aes Sedai of his bane as she laughed merrily with a few other gentleman at a nearby table. A ale in hand, hair a little wild in its braid and the perfect picture of a commoner. He knew that his was frowning, and even if he tried to smooth his features, the dark thoughts lingered a little too long. Though his facial hair had well overgrown and hair too disheveled to be acceptable in any court, maybe he stood out here, maybe he didn’t. Certainly more than her. Maybe he should find a darker shadow to brood in. She certainly would call it a brooding mood. 


That thought did NOT help.

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It was early in the evening when a familiar face came to their table after another satisfied customer had departed and the curtains to their booth had opened to admit new clientele.  Easy smile and drink in hand, she was warmly welcomed by Haran who stood along with Ashar until the customer had made herself comfortable.  Looking to Haran, Ashar took note of his nod and closed the curtains to afford some level of privacy.  As he turned around to sit, Haran coughed and smiled as he pointed to the curtains.


"Really?  Is that not unnecessary, yes?"


Haran smiled as he shook his head.  "I am fairly certain I shall be safe during this time, we are already fast friends.  If you could ensure no one else enters and disrupts our business, you would honour me with such a service."


Honour?  How genteel Haran had become in the conduct of his business, far more considerate than the japes shared on the road but then, perhaps he was growing on Haran.  Lifting a hand to his temple then his heart with only a subtle hint of mockery, Ashar stepped through the curtain to allow the pair to continue their deliberations.  No doubt Haran had some prizes to offer, there had been a couple of exchanges during the day that Ashar had not witnessed so no doubt he would present something where a suitable level of discretion was advisable.  That or he was making a show of it, either way that wasn't his concern.


Ensuring the curtains were closed behind him, he yawned while he sipped from a tankard.  Water while he needed his wits and a handy item to smack a man with before they could clear a blade, he allowed his eyes to wander yet see, unfocused yet aware to try and take in the entire room while looking for things that may require focus.  The closer people were, the more they obvious they were while the further away the more they blended into the general movement and noise.


Not that he anticipated a problem, but he was being paid and money was a language that knew no borders.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Josanda was in true farm-drunk form. Laughing with the jokes, then sharing a few tall tales that she had heard along her travels in return. Happily slipping a few extra coins to the maid bringing drinks to help keep her tankard mostly filled with watered down anything instead of the heavy hindrance of the ale most partook in. While she found it deeply unpleasant, she knew that the headache that could follow along with the lecture made it worth the appearance. 


It was awful tasting.


Greeting Master Haran, she could not help the joy in her greeting, though it was unmistakable the contention between him and his hired man. Hired, perhaps? It was hard to tell if they had traveled long together. Some found easy rhythms, while others did not. She and Aeodan found a strange sibling-like companionship and it was curious if the alliance of these two men were simply fuelled by coin over loyalty. 


If that was so, did she have enough to bribe the one if she needed to outrun Aeodan's dangerous rumors? She kept the thoughts to herself and allowed herself to visibly relax a little with the curtains closing behind them. Letting herself settle with a drink before her, she waited for Master Haran to share his goods. Eager though she may be, this was one of the few things she learned quickly in her travels. Too eager and coin tended to be wasted too soon. Missing a momentary comment in a dialect she had not heard from him, she brought her attention back to the man of the evening. 


"Friends, yes. Though my horse may say otherwise for the additional burden. Nothing a few cubes of sugar can not fix." Josanda said with a chuckle. "I would say a drink to business but a drink is better after matters conclude, would you not say, Master Haran?"




That was a look Aeodan knew well, and if he did not have to manage a rogue Aes Sedai with coins to spare, he might feel bad for the sellsword.


The room was abuzz as all frivolous nights were, with coins, secrets, and new wares to brage about, he was thankful none of the rumors he had heard earlier seemed to carry enough weight to be spoken about in this kind of gathering. Anywhere there were coin purses in exchange so were whispers of potential trouble. If he wasn't as tired as he felt, Aeodan may have relaxed with that knowledge. But still.. It was impossible to gauge what that woman would carry out of that room and how much it could weigh them down. 


Yawns as contagious as they were, he followed the sellsword and tried hard not to stomp through and drag her out. Instead, he walked over leaned nearby, and offered an unusual flask of ceramic white wrapped in dark leather. The craftsmanship of the leather was shoddy at best, but the flask itself was unique. "Don't suppose you want to wager that she will barter all night in there, do you?" 


A skeptic look, Aeodan took a very visible drink without it touching his lips, and encouraged the other to it, "It's a unique brew of kaf with some kind of fermented barley or something. It packs a punch but won't make you drunk unless you upend the whole thing. Might help us stay upright for a few extra hours if you'd like."

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Nodding at the offer after having seen the other man drink from the flask, Ashar took a swig and then frowned as he clenched his throat in an attempt to not cough.  Whatever this was, it was something he hadn't come across before, but the sensation did give way to a pleasant warmth.  Handing the flask back to the other man after a cursory inspection of it, he looked about at the crowd for a brief moment before appraising the man further.  He had over half a foot on Ashar, tall and athletic and he seemed to have a casual air of confidence that seemed at odds with the woman he spoke of as if he accompanied her.


"That was new, you were right about the punch.  The way you talk of her, you are accompanying her for her safety, yes?"  Ashar gave a pointed look to the man's swordbelt and the weapon hanging from it before continuing.  "You know her better than I, but I suspect Haran will readily talk with her as long as necessary to make a sale.  He is old, but he is tenacious and he will haggle to his last breath, then haggle some more.  If his hair were aflame and he was offered a bucket of water for three Andoran crowns, he'd bargain for two and a towel out of principle."


His gaze wandering over the people enjoying their food and merriment, Ashar was blunt.  "Forgive a plain observation, but a man of your bearing seems a poor match for your companion, yes?  I thought her common, yet she has someone of your bearing to watch over her and you follow her closely.  It is not my place to pry, but should I be worried that my night may take an unexpected turn?  Jealous lover?  Jilted husband?  I was looking forward to an easy evening but something about you makes me think that perhaps my simple ambitions shall be thwarted, yes?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Aeodan gave a bit of a shrug before taking another sip of his drink. The fact the other used the word ‘tenacious’ was not a good sign. Though if she found anything of value then perhaps this all may be worth it. 


Probably not, he thought ruefully.


“Let’s just say I’m her on behalf of her family. Josie’s a bit reckless and though she does not have the same expectations on her as her Sisters, she’s still important to them.” Every word a truth, even if his pay may be higher were he here as a hired escort instead of a Vanguard. It was a tricky subject, though he looked forward to their return home.


Thinking about it, whatever adventure he would have outside of this, there was little that she had not experienced with her. Never had he thought in his youth that he would be standing in some low born barn they call a tavern drinking with a sword for hire while listening to a cackling laugh of an Aes Sedai from the other side of the curtain.


“Babysitting isn’t my favorite task in the world, but she’s worth it.” He gave a slow sigh, perhaps too tired to realize what he let slip. He was here, though no one else seem to catch when she slips past the gates.


”I suspect another hour or two? If yours has more clients mine may bow out politely. If not, she might invite him to celebrate a win or loss just to avoid leaving.” He mused. Morning was going to be hell if she stayed but he wasn’t about to cause a scene if she wanted to stay. Not unless he had to.





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Ashar chuckled as he inclined his head back to the booth as he responded.  "You believe the wheel would spin such a kind fate, yes?  Most people who wished to see Master Haran have done so, you may as well settle in if you intend to babysit closely this evening.  They must exchange pleasantries, no doubt they are still in the midst of the verbal equivalent of the Lion on the Hill and the Leaf Floating on the Breeze.  That duel could last all night, yes?  Imagine, just waiting here all that ti . . . . ."


Trailing off as he sighted new arrivals, they appeared to be travellers but something was unusual about them.  Despite their garb which was relatively non-descript, their half dozen were all armed with wandering eyes and one of them had a distinctly foreign look.  The sort of face that had been unwelcome in Tarabon for sometime now, why he and his coterie were in Ghealdan was unclear but Ashar had to force a smile as he spoke.  "This could be an interesting evening, I wonder if Haran will treat with them.  You might get your wish for an early evening after all if that is the case, yes?"


Slipping a hand behind the curtain, Ashar looked inside as he addressed the pair who seemed to be in the midst of an exchange.  "Pardon the intrusion, it appears we have new visitors that may wish to meet you, Master Haran.  They aren't wearing their wealth, but one of them appears to be Seanchan.  Should I invite them over?"


The frown on Haran's face was obvious, but he shook his head after a moment.  "All coin spends the same, regardless of the hand.  But perhaps this will be the end of our business this evening."  Directing the last at the woman, he pushed a small package across the table toward her.  "I'd rather not subject you to their scrutiny depending how imperial they are feeling this evening.  You should retire for the evening, I will go to them after you have departed . . . in fact,"


Ashar felt his hopes of a quiet evening slip away as Haran regarded him.  "You know, I believe it would be most courteous if you would escort our guest to their accommodations."


Shaking his head, Ashar asked, "is that really necessary?  She has her own companion to keep her safe."


Haran turned and smiled at the woman but to Ashar's eyes after travelling with him, it seemed a little sharp.  "Of course she does, but I would count it as a personal favour.  Never let it be said I am not without gratitude.  In fact . . ."


Haran reached to his side and tossed a small pouch that clinked to Ashar.  "They will probably be the last ones I speak with tonight, so we may consider our business concluded with this last task.  You have been a good companion Ashar, but I should not require your services any further as I plan to stay here for awhile and I know you wish to continue your travels.  Light shine on you and the wheel spin your thread kindly, until we next meet."


Well, that was unexpected.  Nodding, Ashar smiled at Haran.  "So be it.  Fortune favour you and may you be richer next time we meet."  Turning to the woman, Ashar inclined his head in acknowledgement.  "Your man is just outside the booth, when you are ready, I will accompany you to your accommodations and then with obligations discharged retire for the evening.  We shall await you outside."


At that, Ashar withdrew from the curtain and looked to Aeodan.  "Looks like I'm walking the pair of you home and then I am free for the evening.  If you are bored, I'm pretty sure we could find a bar an adventure if we set our mind to it, yes?  If your lady permits it, that is."

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