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Bitter Rivals


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The distance from Tar Valon to Caemlyn was hardly worth calling a journey, but it was a trip, and a chance to be out of those Shining Walls. It had been 2 years since Thera had seen anything but life inside Tar Valon. 6 months since she had spoken more than a handful or words to her bonded.


It had only been happenstance and chance that she found out Serena was planning a trip at all.  One of the older boys, a man really, had been asked by the Aes Sedai to fetch supplies. First thing, the boy had come to Thera.


There was a voice tickling the back of Thera’s mind that told her Serena had meant her to find out, but with all the anger and hurt that boiled inside her she would not listen. 


The sun had been just cresting the horizon when Thera saddled her horse and rode out of the gate. She waited in the square for the women she knew would arrive. She could feel Serena coming ever closer; just as her Aes Sedai could feel here.

In spite of herself a thrill rose in Thera when here caramel eyes met Serena’s blue, and for a brief most, a hairsbreadth, she thought she saw a glimmer of love in the sisters eyes. As well hope for wings to fly…


None of Thera’s disappointment or angry carried through the bond, their bond was as calm as a sheet of ice. For Serena it was that famous Aes Sedai serenity, for Thera it was the booze.  No matter the source the two women were dead inside.


Not for the first time since their relationship had hit the rocks, did Thera follow blindly. Through all their fights and all their tears one thing had never changed for Thera.. “My life before hers”… forever and always Serena’s life would mean more to Thera than her own.


Thera may have led, but it was the Aes Sedai that set the pace. Oh..Thera could have kept riding when Serena halted well before the sun set, but somehow she could never make herself venture too far.

Their camp was always silent, the only sounds to be heard were the scrapping of horses hooves on the dirt and the quiet sounds of nature in the spring.


It was two days on towards Caemlyn before the couple spoke at all. It was only the arrival of a strange group of men that forced speech from either woman. For all the previous silence, Serena listened as Thera directed them around the strange party.


Two more days heard the next words. This time it was the Aes Sedai who broke the silence. The tiny woman had walked over to Thera’s saddle bags and dipped her hands inside. When her hand emerged out came 1..2…3..4 flasks, each one with a different poison. With no more ceremony the woman walked over to the near by creek and tossed them in, flask and all. In a voice haughtier than a queen could have managed she said. “I do not tolerate drunks in MY camp”.


Oh how her blood had boiled then, Thera’s hand had twitched with the effort of not drawing her knife. Instead she had taken the higher road and simply smiled at Serena, bowed and pulled her flask out of her jacket and took a long pull.


That had cinched it. Not another word was spoken, even after they reached Caemlyn and took rooms at the Inn. Thera had vowed not to say another word that was not necessary to the impossible woman. It she wanted silence, silence she would have.


Tossing her cloak on Thera sauntered out of their room, down the stairs, and out into the crowed evening streets. She may be down to only one flask, but plenty of taverns in Caemlyn served ale.


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The morning was brisk...just the way he liked it.  Usually he would be out in the Yards practicing or sparring.  However not this morning.  He was restless..on edge and he knew it.  Everything was reminding him about her.  He swore her smell still permiated his room.


He growled at the thoughts in his head.  The past replaying in his head over and over and over again.  He had been gone from the Tower for a while.  With his orders to patrol the borderlands helping in training the troops on the edge of the blight. 


He had been gone from the walls of the Tower for to long.  They had agreed that they would wait till he returned.  When he returned though.  He found she hadn't waited.  It was enough to make him want to kill.  Instead he threw himself into training.  Testing himself to the edge of self destruction every day.  He knew there were others that thought he was riding the edge of sanity.  He lived for nothing but the fight now.  Its all he cared about.


Today he needed a drink.  He needed to get out of the walls.  Away from the looks and the concerned eyes.  He just needed to get away.  Caemlyn sounded good..it wasn't to far yet far enough away and large enough that he could lose himself for a little bit. 


He packed his gear in his saddlebags and headed out.  It took two days to get there.  He brought enough gold marks to last a good fortnight.  Most of it would be gone on alcohol.  He knew it and didn't care.  He rode up to an inn he knew well..the Crown and Lion.  He let the stable boy take his horse and he headed inside.  It was going to be a long night.



Llugh of the Strong Arm

Tower Guard

Master of Ren'Shai

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At this hour in the day with the sun just beginning to set, the sounds of music were intermixed with the everyday hum of the city. Thera walked along in search of a place where she could have a drink, listen to some music, and maybe talk some unsuspecting girl into a dance. She doubted very much about the last,


Caemlyn women were proper to their toes. Thera laughed at her own joke, and the few people that were walking near Thera gave her more room. She laughed again and kept on searching. Though it had been years since she had been home, Thera had no fear of getting lost, not in these streets.

Reaching into the pocket of her pants Thera took out her silver laced leather flask and took the last pull. With her flask finally dry she stepped into the next Inn that she saw…The Crown and Lion. She did not recall having been there before, but the fires were warm, the serving girls were pretty and the music was passable. It seemed as if she had found her haunt.


Thera offered her most winning smile to the stout old innkeeper, with just a few wisps of white hair covering his shining head. “Your best mug of ale kind sir, and keep them coming” She flicked him a gold mark and looked around for the best spot to perch. With the sun just setting Thera had her pick of seats, and she chose one towards the back of the room, close to the Inn’s only window.


A pretty young girl with her hair hanging loose brought Thera her mug of ale and offered a coy smile when Thera inquired her name. Perhaps her night would not be spent alone after all.


The music grew louder as more patrons filed in and Thera soon found herself tapping her toes and singing poorly along to the music. How long had it been since she had laughed, let alone sang? It couldn’t have been more than an hour when Thera’s good time was ruined. Out of the night cloaked street walked her petite Aes Sedai. Even as she entered the Inn Serena did not look Thera’s way. The little woman just walked up to the Innkeeper and passed him and note. The two spoke for only a moment and as soon as she had come, she was gone.


Thera was still staring, hard eyed at the door when the stout Innkeeper laid a carefully folded note in front of her with a smile. For a moment Thera just stared at it, wondering what game the woman was playing now. Then she broke the seal and read quickly, hoping to discard the note before it could ruin her good time. The page held only a few words, but they were more than enough.


I tire of the games we play, I would speak with you first thing in the morning


Unable to believe her eyes Thera stared, what could you possibly……. A single tear escaped her eyes before Thera was even aware. She couldn’t mean to dissolve their bond. With a wordless growl Thera crumpled the note and stuffed it deep in her pockets. No matter the answer, it would have to be a worry for tomorrow.


She raised her arm for another ale and when the pretty brown haired girl arrived Thera ordered to ale’s and instructed the girl to keep them coming. She had been so distracted she had not even noticed the young girls wink.

“Light why did she allow the woman to tie her in knots?”

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Llugh was drowning himself in the ale.  He started the moment he walked in the door and hadn't stopped yet.  He kept mostly to himself.  He flirted with the girls as the served his drinks but it was more of a conditioned response then anything else.  Though perhaps he might take one up on her unvoiced offer.  The nights were worse for him went spent alone and he might be able to forget and lose himself for one night at least.  He deserved that much.  There were a few young pups around giving him dirty stares due to the female attention he was getting.  He leaned back and adjusted his hadori and saw there eyes widen.  He nodded at them then paid them no mind.  No one in there right minds would want to pull a Malkieri into a fight.  True he was only half Malkieri but he had there full temper.


He heard a voice he thought he barely recognized and looked around.  oh this is just wonderful.  I wanted to get away from the Tower and not only does another Warder show up...but the Mistress of Trainees....can the day get any worse...I just want to be left alone..


He watched her....Thera he thought her name was.  They hadn't really met other then he knew she was the Mistress of Trainees.  He had no dealings with her since he trained other Tower Guards and had not as of yet been called to mentor any trainees. As he watched her he noticed she wasn't looking for anyone let alone him. She sat down and started drinking....and drinking.  He noticed a woman enter the inn and hand a letter to the innkeeper who then walked over to Thera.  He assumed it was her Sedai..though why she didn't give it to Thera herself he had no idea.


However it appeared that she was out to get roaring drunk.  Well misery loved company and his mood wasn't going to get any better and he never did like drinking alone.  He picked up his tankard and walked over to her setting down a mark on the tray as the serving girl gave Thera another drink.


"This one is on me." Looking over at Thera.  "Well Thera Gaiden it seems you are out to get as drunk as I am tonight.  The least I can do is help oblige you."  Llugh pulled up a chair to the table ignoring the dark looks she was sending his way.


"So....I'm sure there is a tale to hear about what brings the Mistress of Trainees to an inn like this to drown her thoughts.  However I'm not one to pry so I'll just drink them down with you."

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Over and over Thera drew a single tear drop and wiped it away. The puddle in front of her mug began to grow, but she paid it no mind; just as she paid no mind to the man that had approached her table.

Thera had seen to Tower Guard approach, Lluis, Lugh or something she thought his name was, but she did not do more than glower at him from beneath her curls. “Fool light blasted men! Never know when to leave well enough alone” Thera muttered to herself.


It became obvious as he took a seat that the man was going to insist on tormenting Thera with his presence. Omitting a growl Thera downed her mug of ale and reached into her belt pouch, pulling out a silver mark. With a flick of her fingers she tossed it at the Tower Guard. “Look Lugh, or whatever your name is.” Thera said as she fixed him with a level stare and a frightening smile. “As you said my story is my own, just as this table was my own and I have no desire to share either. So, why don’t you take your silver mark and your boarderland charms and find some tart to waste your night with.”


Thera’s hard caramel eyes never flinched while staring at the Malkieri man. Unlike many, for her that hard eyed gaze conjured no fear. Instinct made Thera’s hand ache to reach for the dagger at her belt, but years of hard training made her hands remain firm on the table. Angry or not she had no excuse to fight one of her own in the common room of an Inn. Light it would feel good to release this anger on someone she thought to herself as she continued to glared at the Tower Guard.


“Listen man! Let me be!” Thera growled softly just as the pretty young serving girl brought her another mug. The sweet eyed young woman squeaked when she heard Thera’s tone and backed away quickly, eyes wide. Thera tossed her fiery curls in vexation and leaned in close, to speak for his ear alone. Her voice was dead of emotion but the fire in her eyes more than made up for it. “ I told you, I want to drink alone. Now be off or I will fix it so you are training the most incompetent bumble footed trainees from now until you old and gray and even the hadori on your head no longer conjures fear.”

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Llugh merely raised an eyebrow at the verbal barrage.  He had taken more and worse then this from better people.  Even if it was the case she wanted to drown her sorrows on her own.  He knew for a fact where it would lead and some of the commoners could get hurt.  If she focused her anger on him..he could protect himself if it came down to it.


No fear showed upon his face because he felt none.  The void was around him.  He leaned in closer to her.  "Listen young pup.  It doesn't matter how loud you growl or how sharp your teeth and claws are.  I answer to the Master at Arms.  I also don't see a name carved onto this table or any of the chairs.  So frankly I can sit wherever I bloody well please."


He nodded and gave a wink to the serving wench to calm her as she set the drinks down.  It wouldn't do to get the innkeeper angry at them.


"Now you can keep ranting like a child if you want.  And you can threaten all you want.  But I've beaten sense into tougher trainees then you can imagine and your temperment doesn't frighten me."


The fire was lighting in his eyes and he knew it.  He wasn't about to back down.  Not from someone who was blatantly trying to be threatening.  This was an emotional encounter.  There was a lot of it pent up in her and he was going to get it out of her.  Explosive came to mind.  However this encounter went at least they would feel better afterwards getting it out of there systems.

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“Young Pup” Thera growled. “Just because I do not have gray in my hair and dust on my breath does not mean I do not know what I am about; as for answering to the Mater at Arms, you will have MUCH to answer too when he hears about this. Now, I am sorry that my words set fear in you, but that was not their intent.” Thera leaned back against the wall and crossed her arms beneath her chest. Most trainees went running when she assumed that pose, but she harbored no delusions that this man would; it was only to make her appear more relaxed. The two of them staring at each other like ferial cats in a sack was beginning to draw the wrong kind of attention and Thera did not think Serena nor the Amyrlin would forgive them if they tore down this Inn and started a riot.


Through gritted teeth, meant to pass as a smile Thera continued. “I will not hide that I would like to drub you six ways to Sunday, but since we are in public in this fine establishment, duty and propriety dictate that I cannot. So,” She reached forward and grasped her mug of ale, taking a long pull. “Why don’t you just mosey on over to another seat, order another mug of ale and think of who interrupted who’s evening before you begin throwing out insults.”

Thera raised her eyebrows and continued to smile. “What do you say?Hmmm..?”


Inside her blood was boiling but she allowed none of it to show on her face. She knew that with stubborn men the woman was often left to take the higher road, just as she was trying to do here. Plus if a few calm words would send him away Thera was ready to whisper sweet nothings in his ear, if only to gain some peace and quiet.


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Llugh leaned his head back and chuckled the battle fire starting to leap higher in his eyes.  "You may know what you are about with that sword but with other Guards you don't seem to have the common sense of a moth."


He leaned forward gripping his tankard of ale taking a long drink.  "Now if you are done with your silly and inane posturing trying to impress me.  You are correct that a fight would not be good here.  We both would be dragged before the Amyrlin and I don't think either of us want that. However...like I said before.  I will sit wherever I please and right now thats right where I am.  Now I respect your position...but I'm not going to cower or scrape and grovel simply because you are the Mistress of Trainees.  I've trained enough of them myself as well."


He eyed her and knew something to break the ice and tension.  It was probably not going to surprise her in any way but it would probably shock her with the sudden change of subject and where it went.


"I don't think you would blame a man either for wanting to drink with a pretty lass like yourself.  Its not everyday that a man can go drink for drink with a pretty girl and enjoy her looks and company as well as her sharp wit which isn't dulled by the drink. So...what's it going to be...friends or foes?"


He looked her straight in the eye waiting for her reply.

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Thera arched her brow again and tried hard to feed her anger into the flame, but had little success. She did not know what it was about this man, maybe it was the booze, or Serena, or the fact that he was from the Boarderlands, whatever it was; he rubbed her the wrong way. She leaned forward and rested her elbows on the table, pushing her mug out of the way.


“In case you have not noticed I do not respond well to threats or ultimatums, But..” Thera held up her hand. “ To avoid blood shed, and the wrath of the Tower I will try to play nice.” Her voice still dripped with venom, but she truly was making an effort at civility. “ As to the last, you call me lass or pretty girl again and I will cut out your tongue, I don’t care how many swords you carry.”


Finally feeling as if their confrontation was coming to some sort of an end, Thera began to relax; that is to say she released the void. Since be bonded to Serena this was as close as she could come to being relaxed.

Idly Thera began to trace circles in the ale left on the table.

“So, since you propose a friendship, will you tell me your name? It seems only fair since you already know mine.”

The danger may be past, but Thera shrugged anyway just to check the dagger that hung down her back. You never could tell with a man that carried that many swords, Tower Guard or no.


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Llugh chuckled..he could say one thing.  The woman at least could handle herself in a tight spot.  Though ultimatums was a bit far and harsh he wasn't going to argue semantics.  He put his hand out and looked her in the eye again.


"Llugh is the name.  Tower Guard and Master of the Ren'Shai discipline.  Though probably the only thing you'll hear about me from the other Guards is how much of a hard ass I am and that I don't give any quarter on the sparring fields."


He looked at her seriously.  He wasn't boasting he just pushed himself harder then most.  He had his own demons to outrun. The old haunted look returned to his eyes and he took a long draw from his tankard.  The memories swamping him for a moment as he was lost among the tides of his mind.  He blinked trying to refocus.


He looked back at her and raised an eyebrow trying to let the cocky smile return to his face.  "Though I must say I never knew a woman who was so against compliments about her looks.  If I didn't know better I'd say you felt like you had to compete so you throw away anything and disregard anything that makes you womanly. Though pardon me for saying you have faild miserably.  You are in good shape and not bad to the eye.



He knew that last bit would probably rile her a bit but perhaps it would get her to talk at least...and it never hurt to keep up the compliments even when a woman was all about refusing them.  He didn't have any hopes about this one...but then again...who knew....whatever was inside her needed to come out...one way or another...why not....


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Ren’Shai, Thera tried to think back to all she knew of them. All she could recall was that they were made to be human weapons with no weakness, more so than even most Gaidin. She eyed the four swords strapped about his body in a new way, but still felt no fear. She had meant what she said; one more “lass” and she would cut out his tongue.


Thera leaned forward and looked Llugh in the eye. “I do not know where you get off trying to analyze me or my many faults. They are after all, my own. As for not liking complements..” Thera smiled a toothy grin and made a gesture towards the pretty young serving maid. “Let’s just say that I like my complements to come from someone who looks more like her and a lot less like you.”


That was not a secret she shared too often, most of the time it got her strange looks, but she had a feeling little surprise this man.


“I suppose since you told me about you I can volunteer a little more about myself.” Thera really did not want to make friends, but it was looking as if she had not choice. So, she figured she might as well get a decent conversation out of the evening.Plus she had her daggers, and a little conversation never hurt anyone.

“My name is Thera, Thera Trakelyn and I have been bonded for more years than I care to mention to that little sprite of an Aes Sedai I am sure you saw walk in a few moments ago. Serena has made my every waking moment either a dream or the pit of doom.” She tilted back her mug and finished its contents. Maybe this time she could make amends with the pretty eyed little girl. “Take my advice Llugh of the Ren’Shai don’t let an Aes Sedai get her hands on you. Stick to the walls and protecting all the Aes Sedai. I wish I had.”


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Llugh took the knowledge of her words in stride. He had known a few warders like that that preferred there own sex.  Though it seemed to be more females then anything else.  He had been around far to long for anything like that to surprise him.


"As much as your words may sound true to you Thera Gaiden.  I think that in the beginning that you would have said differently.  As would any Guard in the Yards.  Its our duty to protect and serve no matter what happens.  Yes things get rough with the Aes Sedai but then...any relationship does.  Its all in how you handle it and what you are willing to put into it to make it work.  That goes for any relationship.


He stood up and adjusted his swords and walked over next to her.  "Its been fun Thera but I think its time I headed off."


He leaned over and kissed her fully on the lips using the shock to reach down and grab one of her daggers and raced out the door looking over his shoulder.


"You can have this back if you can catch me.  Lets see how good the Mistress of Trainees actually is...."


He was out the door vaulting onto his horse turning it around and galloping off down the street.

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Sadly the annoying Tower Guard was right. In her heart Thera knew that even if given the chance she would not sever the ties that bound her. She had been ready to reach up and shake hands with Llugh and bid him fair well, when he vision was blocked.


Lips surprisingly soft pressed to hers and Thera growled an oath that was muffled by the kiss. What right he thought he had to touch her in anyway!!! She sprang to her feet, tossing the bench backwards and causing every patron at the Inn to stare. She reached down for her dagger, ready to take him in the arm to slow him down, and her fingers grasped air. “Why that little…..” her voice trailed off and her anger boiled. Thera shouted after his retreating form. “You had better run fast Llugh of the Ren’Shai because for that kiss I am going to cut off worse than your tongue” All the music in the common room had stop and every eye was on her. Thera dug into her belt pouch and pulled out a handful of coins; shoving them at the pretty young girl as the bolted for the door. “For the trouble, buy everyone drinks until that is gone on me!”


She burst out the front door and her eyes scanned the street. To the north it was clear, but to the south she could still faintly see a trail of dust. “Blood and bloody ashes” she spat. “How in the light am I going to catch him with out a horse.” As if answering her muttering a man just appeared from a crossing street leading a lanky gelding that had the look of speed. Again Thera dug into her belt pouch this time making sure of what she retrived. Three gold marks all Andor weight. Her strong legs carried her in three strides up onto the horse. She leaned down and pressed the coins into the bewildered man’s hands. “ For your trouble and the renting of your horse. Leave your name with the innkeeper inside and I will see she is returned”


Without another word Thera booted the mare and leaned low on her neck. When she caught up to Llugh she was going to give him the beating of his life. She would make him swallow every single one of his swords and maybe the dagger too.


The mare’s hooves rang loud on the paving stones in the quiet Caemlyn streets. Twice Thera had heard the call of guards, demanding she halt, but she ignored them just as Llugh had. She had been going too fast for them to identify her anyway. Out of the city gates and into the night they raised , Llugh staying always just ahead. His horse was a warhorse and would run itself dead before it ever broke stride. Thera knew she had to stop him or have no hope of catching up. She booted the mare again and leaned down to whisper in her ear. “One last push sweet heart and then you can rest.” The slight gain in speed gave Thera the advantage she had needed. Calling the horse to a halt Thera knock an arrow and drew it to her cheek. Surrounded by the void and focused on the flame Thera released and did not wait to see if her target hit true. Immediately she booted the horse and leapt forward to take advantage of what her arrowed had gained. As she rode closer she saw her arrow had down just what she intended.  Blood poured down Llugh sleeve just below a neat slice in his sleeve; Thera rode beside him and gave him a tight smile. “How about you slow or next time I won’t aim to miss”

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