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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Secrets and Lies- From Tar Valon to Cairhien


Eqwina
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The halls were always quiet in the latest hours of night. Wrapped only in a green silk robe Eqwina padded through the Tower drawing nearer to the kitchens. In all appearance going for a glass of milk. Many did not keep personal servants and waking a maid in the middle of the night for milk would be beyond cruel. Looking both ways to see that she truly was alone Eqwina slipped her hand behind a tapestry, depositing a carefully worded note and retrieving another.

 

Sitting at the head of the Supreme Council Eqwina knew every name of every Black Sister, but her own identity was a closely guarded secret. That was why it was necessary for her to prowl the Tower at this hours gathering reports.

 

The tiny scrap of parchment did not reveal anything new. Disgusted she tossed it with the rubbish as the climbed the long stairwell back to her room. Yet another pointless venture! It seemed that she would be moving ahead as planned, with one slight change, and it had nothing to do with the nature of her visit. It was purely for her amusement.

 

Compared to the darkened hallways her own room was lit like the noon day sun. A fire roared in both hearths and several mirrored stand lamps bounced light out into the room. Much of her work occurred in the wee hours of night, but Eqwina saw no reason to sit shrouded in darkness. Pulling a crisp white piece of paper from her desk she wrote a short note, in her usual curling hand.

 

My Dearest Arath

 

I have found myself in some need of an escort, and my thoughts immediately ran to you. It should not be a long journey, only to Cairhien and back. I sincerely hope that you can see your way clear to be my sword and my protection.

 

Eqwina al’ Caupthn

Yellow Ajah

 

It might take more than just him asking to snag Arath away, so in another letter addressed to Mia, Captain of the Guard Eqwina explained her dire need of assistance and how only Arath would satisfy. Sealing them both with a dark wax imprinted with her serpent ring she laid them on the table by the door to be delivered once a servant woke. Embracing Saidar she extinguished the lamps and tucked herself into bed, dropping her robe on the floor. There was less than two hours until sunrise and Eqwina didn’t think she would sleep, but certain pretenses had to be met.

 

With the red rays of the morning sun pouring through the window Eqwina still lay awake staring up at the fabric draped above her bed. She had not been idle in that time; already she had planned how to leave Corwin behind. No easy task with the bond working against her. On well oiled hinges her door silently swung open admitting a shy eyed servant who, for some time, had refused to meet Eqwina’s eyes. “Good day Aranna. I will see to my own dressing this morning, I have two letters that need to be delivered with all haste.” The girl gathered the notes and with another deep curtsy, fled.

 

Unconcerned with her nakedness Eqwina slipped from her bed and took her time gathering her robe. Two hours past before she caught sight of her pray, but when Arath entered cautiously her eyes took on a predatory gleam.

 

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Over the past couple of weeks Arath had been settling into his duties as a Tower Guard. He had wanted to wear his cloak all the time, but was soon laughed at by other more experienced Guards. After a day or so, Arath did admit that he looked completely ridiculous walking around in full uniform all the time. The more experienced Guards were more than willing to help him out and he found that he was soon settling into life patrolling the walls. As a member of the Lion Company, he would eventually be sent out on special missions, but for now he was just learning. However, it was not the friendly people, or the uniform that was the best part- it was the pay. Arath found that he was being paid a few silver crowns a week! Light! That was more money than he had ever held at one time. At first he didn't know what to do with it all, but then he found himself buying paper and fancy pens. It wasn't until a couple days ago that he realized he shouldn't spend all of his money and instead save it.

 

Arath returned to his rooms after his patrol of the walls, and found a letter there addressed to him. Arath opened the letter curiosly and read the contents. His breath caught when he realized the implications. He read it over and over again, and then a few more times just to be sure that he wasn't dreaming. Light! She had called him her dearest... and she wanted him to guard her! Go on a trip with her all the way to Cairhien and back! Alone! Arath was about to rush off to go find the Commander and ask to be allowed to accompany Eqwina Sedai, but he was caught by a messanger first. It seems that he had been ordered by the Commander to go on his first mission... the very mission that he wanted to go on!

 

Practically dancing, Arath made his way over to the Tower. He realized that there was no way they would let him into the Tower (let alone Eqwina's rooms) if he looked like an over eager Trainee. Arath formed the Void and Continued onward with measured strides. He looked rather impressive in his cloak and armor, and the novice at the door squeaked when he asked her to show him to the Yellow rooms. Finally, when they arrived, he showed a Yellow Sister the orders that he had recieved from the Commander and asked to be shown to Eqwina's rooms. The Sister looked at him shrewedly before eventually leading him to her. Arath knocked before cautiously entering the rooms. Once he was inside, he was struck by Eqwina Sedai's beauty. Light, she was so beautiful- stunning, enthralling, and enchanting.

 

Arath stood there for a moment, the Void abandoned, and basked in her radience, before dropping to one knee. "As you commanded, I have arrived, Eqwina Sedai." It was said in a low, soft tone, as if his words were a caress. Arath looked up at her, devotion showing clearly in his eyes.

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Eqwina rose to meet Arath, the hem of her robe trailing on the ground behind her. “Thank you for being so prompt” With her hand gently cupped around his elbow she led him to two chairs by the fire. “Have a seat, we have much to discuss before we leave.” Pouring a cup of tea for him and then one for herself she took the seat across from him and crossed one slim leg over the other. The silk robe fell open and Eqwina giggled like a girl, before slowly setting it back in place.

 

With a blush covering his face Arath had never looked more like Nevin. Her eyes studied his features taking note that they were of a height and had the same dark hair and beautiful brown eyes. With a little work it seemed she could transform Arath into her perfect man. A red lacquered nail traced the outline of the small gold necklace she still wore around her neck. Eqwina did that often when thinking of Nevin, and the past. “We should not be long in Cairhien. There is a sick woman, of noble birth that is in desperate need of Aes Sedai attentions. While there are a few Sisters that could help her, the poor woman will accept only me. For many years now I’ve had..close ties.. to the family so it is only right that I come in her hour of need.” With the oaths removed there was no need for Eqwina to toy with the truth, but she had found the closer you kept your lies to reality the easier they were to maintain. There really was a woman, a noble and Eqwina was the only one who could help. Tied closely to the art of healing was the ability to manipulate the body in ways that could cause extreme pain, and even death. They needed information from this woman, and so far her Darkfriends had been able to bring nothing more than screams and pleas for her life.

 

“Since this matter is of some grave urgency I need to leave as soon as supplies can be gathered. Tell me Arath, have you ever been to Cairhien? And do you know the proper things to ready for our journey?” Eqwina smiled at him over her teacup with a twinkle in her eyes. It would seem that this trip will contain many pleasures, the least which would be making this boy her slave.

 

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Arath sat down across from Eqwina as the Aes' Sedai ordered, shivering at the slight contact with her. Arath blushed as her robe fell open, but luckily he didn't see... much. Arath saw the Yellow studying him intently, and the blush on his face grew slightly before he managed to banish it. Light! He was looking like a foolish trainee in front of her! Arath tried his best not to stare at her and look like some love sick puppy, but he thought that he might be failing. Burn him, he needed to look like a man- a warrior- in front of her so that she would want to bond him.

 

Arath couldn't keep the devotion from showing when she told him that she was going to Heal a woman. Light, was there no end to her compassions? She was so perfect... flawless in every way. She was the most physically beautiful woman he had ever seen, but beyond that she was so kind. She devoted her life to Healing people and making other's lives better. She was going out of her way to travel to another country in order to save a woman's life. Light she was everything Arath wanted to serve. He was completely devoted to her, for she was the kind of Aes' Sedai that he wanted to protect. He would protect her so that she could serve the light fully.

 

Arath snapped out of his worshiping in order to answer her question. "No, I've never been to Cairhien before, Eqwina Sedai, and I'm not sure what we would need to bring. I know what to bring for myself, but I have never travelled with a lady of your stature, Eqwina Sedai." He had once travelled with Loraine Sedai, but even she could not compare to Eqwina Sedai at all... no one could compare to her. "Tell me what we need and I'll be sure to get it with you as fast as possible!"

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The tinkling chime that was her laugh passed through her lips and she honored Arath with a smile “I think you overestimate me chi..Arath, I have traveled hard and slept rough more than once in my life; but if it is a list you want, then a list you shall have.” She hoped he had not noticed her slip, you could not expect a man to leap to obey if you called him child.

 

Walking over to the table she spoke out loud as she listed their supplies. “ I will need Nightlily saddled and all the supplies required to care for her. Enough food to last the journey and water as well. A tent, just one I think.” A small smile spread on her lips at the color she saw rise again in the boys face. “No cot, but enough blankets just in case and…” Her eyes scanned the page. “I think that is all, unless I need to add your presence to this list?” She quirked an eyebrow at him and pressed the list into his hands. “No I didn’t think I would need to make another request.” A warm and inviting smile toyed on her lips as she counted out gold and laid it in his palm. “That should cover anything that we need, and a few more besides for your rush. Please do rush Arath, I would like to leave before dark tonight. I will be here in my rooms, come get me when we are ready to leave.”

 

Turning her back to him she glided to the door that led to her bedroom, and casually dropped her robe before stepping inside. If that did not get his attention nothing will Eqwina laughed again, but this time it carried the sound of death on its notes. It would be so fun to break this boy and rebuild him to her own way

 

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Arath took the list with a reverent look in his eyes. Light! She was so kind to waste paper for a list- surely she could order him to remember! It was a waste of her time and effort, and Arath smiled graciously. Arath blushed when she asked for only one tent, but his blush was not as strong as it had been previosly; he was beginning to get used to her teasing. Arath was caught up in her radiant skin, he glossy hair, he stunning eyes, her beautiful nails, her perfect limbs, he amazing smile, and her charming dimples, but managed to tear himself away long enough to glance at the coins. Light! There was more than enough for the suplies (which were mostly free) and that left a few gold coins for himself. Arath resolved to return the extra later.

 

Arath gave Eqwina Sedai a lopsided grin before making his way out to do her bidding. After all, he had to be quick, else Eqwina Sedai wouldn't be satisfied! Arath was in such a rush that he almost missed Eqwina Sedai dropping her robe before completely entering her room. Arath's mouth hung open, and he stood at the closed door for a good five minutes, before mutely making his way out of the Tower. Light! He had seen... had seen... Arath snapped himself out of his stupor; he had a mission! Arath got Eqwina Sedai's horse prepared, as well as a pack horse. He made sure to send for supplies to last for the entire journey, and got the tent himself. It would be far too awkward to ask for only one tent. He waited (im)patiently until everything was ready, and then composed himself and made his way back to Eqwina's rooms.

 

Arath made his way through the Tower, glad for his red cloak. He was glanced at by at least six Sisters before being dismissed- he couldn't imagine what it would have been like if he didn't have solid proof that he was a Tower Guard. Still, he was glad that all of the Aes' Sedai just assumed that he had some task to take care of. Making his way through the Yellow corridor, he got strange looks from some of them, but ignored them. Arath knocked on the door before entering again, stunned by Eqwina's radiance. "Everything is ready, Eqwina Sedai," Arath said while bowing.

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Masking her bond quite deliberately Eqwina smiled knowing it would only take moments for Corwin to come running. True to form she had only just slipped her dress on her shoulders when he came barging in. With the hint of a smile she turned her back to him, revealing a gaping dress. “Just in time my warder. Can you help with my buttons?” It had taken months, but Corwin was growing used to her taunts and he obliged without a single grumble and to her dismay without any hint that he was seeing a woman. Few Aes Sedai kept quarters for their warders in their rooms, and fewer of those were Yellow, but Eqwina had been causing comment for some time by having Corwin in her bed. “I will need you to move out for a few days my sweet” Eqwina said it almost casually as she walked to pour them both wine. “I have important matters to attend to, and having you around as a distraction will never do.” Handing him the second goblet she smiled. “You know how much trouble I have concentrating with you in my head. I am sorry for the short notice, but you can live a few days without me.” Knowing that there would be times it was too dangerous to have Corwin around Eqwina had become practiced at masking the bond. She’d done it so often since they’d been bonded that Corwin hardly commented any longer. Eqwina allowed a small surge of anger through the bond before walling him off again. He was another man who would learn that she always got what her heart desired. Her anger was shot back at her and Eqwina waited for the torrent that would surely come.

 

 

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Corwin watched her and listened carefully.  WITHOUT ME?!?  Once she had clearly finished speaking, Corwin roared, What the hell are you thinking woman?  I have stood by while you're business is conducted here, business that could have us both killed, but now you want to leave and not have me there?  You can keep trying to pull my strings, but the more you do the more it wont work.  I am not you're dog, if you want to pick me up and set me down any time then release me from this bond.  You're use of be is obviously over.  Corwin was furious, and waited for her anger to finally come out.  She kept trying to send him small bits to show she wasn't pleased with him, but he didn't care.

 

Corwin

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Setting down her own goblet Eqwina faced him with a smile. “There are only two ways that you will be released from my bond.” Raising her fingers she counted off his options . “ One you can die…or two.” She took her slim dagger from her belt and held it out to him. “..You can kill me. Those are your options, now take your pick and be done. I don’t have time for your temper today.”

 

Crossing the few steps to him she turned the dagger and pointed it at her own heart; the sharp tip making a tiny nick in her skin. “Your usefulness is never in question my Gaidin and it will never end, but your lack of obedience is trying my patience. So take one of my options or go, I have to leave in a few hours and I have much left I have to do. Oh..and Corwin don’t think you can just slink away. I have my ways of making sure you are still here when I return.” Pressing the dagger a little more firmly against her chest she waited.

 

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Corwin stood there and forced himself to a calm without the Void.  He wasn't going to run from her, and not to the Void.  She was going to have to stop viewing him as a dog.  Standing there, Corwin waited, then turned to walk away slowly.  Watching her from the corner of his eye he waited for her to turn around.  Once she did he threw his dagger of her left shoulder with only a small reply, I'm no dog, once you realize that you will have a Gaidin again.

 

With that Corwin left, and made ready to travel West.  The Mountains of Mist were always a place he wanted to see.

 

Corwin

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The dagger whizzed by her ear and landed with a metallic chunk in the dark wood of her door frame. Startled Eqwina flinched and raised a hand pulling away a few hairs that had been cut. Ignoring the blood that stained her fingers she removed the dagger from the wall and placed it back in her sheath. Corwin was a trial, a more trouble than he was worth, but a small voice in Eqwina’s head shouted not to let him leave. Wiping the blood on her handkerchief she stared in the direction he’d gone. With the bond she would find him wherever he traveled, but her Gaidin was a problem for another day.

 

Eqwina was waiting out in her sitting room when Arath entered a few hours later. Since they were venturing to Cairhien she had dressed in her finest. Deep green silk that was almost black with tiny emeralds sewn around the neck, and while it was divided for riding, tiny pearls marched up the sides complemented by the moonstone that dangled on her forehead. It would take a few days to reach her destination, but she wanted to look fit for a ball from the start. Her radiant appearance would serve more than one purpose on this trip. Taking Araths hand as she stood Eqwina smiled up at him. “Thank you for being so quick, I know the family will be eternally grateful as well.”

 

Pausing only a moment to pat Nightlily and feed her a carrot she had taken from the kitchen Eqwina and Arath were mounted and across the bridge before dusk fell. Arath had many of the same foolish notions as Corwin. He spent much of their first evening scouting ahead; making sure their direction was safe.

That night Eqwina waited impatiently while Arath set up the camp, raised the tent, and cooked dinner, refusing help every time she offered. What took him a quarter hour could have been done in minutes if he’d just accepted her offers. But the one thing she had learned about men was that they had stiff necked pride and men of the Tower were men 100 times over.

 

With the stars high in the sky Eqwina undressed and slipped into the pallet on the floor. Arath had insisted on guarding their sleep, until she pointed out that she’d set wards and he could not remain awake the entire trip just to protect her sleep. “You’ll fall over dead before we even arrive.” She’d said, sending him into a fit of blushes. Still he had refused to enter the tent before Eqwina was in bed with the lantern out. So, with Saidar she extinguished the light and wrapped the covers up under her arms. The small tent allowed very little room for more than her chest of clothes and their blankets, but with Arath outside she had made sure that their was even less space available for him to lay. When he slipped into the blankets they lay with their hands touching. In the darkness Eqwina smiled and rolled over to face him, draping an arm across his chest. “Sleep well Arath” she mumbled before drifting off to sleep.

 

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Arath grinned when Eqwina told him that the family would be grateful to him for his work. He was already fulfilling his dream: he was helping an Aes' Sedai with mundane things so that she could focus on her Power. Arath rode alongside Eqwina, because she insisted that he would not ride behind her. Arath mentally cursed at the order, because it meant that he would not be able to stare at her openly. He had to look like a dignified, manly soldier in front of her (or next to her) and could not look like a love-struck teenager. But Light, it was hard not to stare at her when she was so radiant. Her beauty called out to him, like a light shining in the darkness. He wanted to draw her, to sketch her every curve, but he didn't think that he was capable of transcribing her flawlessness onto paper. He didn't think that anyone had the skill.

 

When they stopped for that night, Arath refused to let Eqwina do any of the chores. He set up camp, he made the fire, and he cooked the meal. It wasn't because of any strange sense of chivalry, it was because she was so perfect. Light, he didn't want her to have to mar her beauty with dirt and sweat. Beyond that, she was a goddess, and she should not have to lower herself from her thrown to do common chores. The mere idea of Eqwina being remotely related to the word common made Arath want to retch. She was beyond perfect, beyond beauty, beyond word. No language ever spoken by human tongue could possibly have a word to describe her. Perhaps the Creator could name something so emblazoned by the Light that it could describe her. Perhaps.

 

Arath blushed when she pointed out that he couldn't stay up all night every night, but soon his blush faded. He refused to look at her or enter the tent before she blew the lantern out. Once again, it wasn't because of a sense of chivalry, it was because he was unworthy. He was a mere mortal, a mere man blessed enough to be in the company of a goddess. The fact that he could even spend time with her was thrilling, and yet terrifying. He had never met anyone like her before- she was so wise, so knowledgeable, so powerful. He was aware that she was probably old enough to be the mother of his mother's mother, but that only added to her appeal. She was so wise in the world, and Arath had always felt like he was floundering.

 

All of his life had been a constant struggle, full of confusion. Eqwina was like a pillar to him; a pillar where doubt didn't exist and struggle was ended. She was his beacon of light- she was so old and wise and impenetrable that it amazed Arath. He didn't want to see her bared in front of him, because then he would see that she really was no more than a woman, and Arath needed her to be so much more than that. When he was with her, doubt ceased to exist- there was only Eqwina Sedai of the Yellow Ajah, so sure and knowledgeable in the ways of the world.

 

So that night, when he slipped into the tent, and Eqwina leaned into him, Arath did not think of it as holding a woman, he thought of it as holding a goddess who merely chose to stop by for a while. If she needed a place to rest in his arms, then so be it, for Arath would never let her lack anything.

 

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That night her dreams were haunted with images of Corwin and Nevin. In many they both died and in others they’d never been. Even in her fitful sleep Eqwina could not decide which was worse. She awoke the next morning with the blankets stuck to her sweat soaked body and Arath grinning down at her. Had her nightmares not made the bile rise in her throat she would have made the most of the situation, but as it was she had all she could do to keep from losing what was left of her dinner. Sending Arath out to begin breaking camp she took a moment to herself, composing her thoughts.

 

Splashing the cold water on her face she checked her reflection in the mirror; she did not look like some monster out of a fairy tale. Though she felt her face should be distorted and covered with warts; staring back at her was a fresh faced young woman with intensity behind her eyes belaying her youth, but not her beauty. Frustrated with her own good looks Eqwina raged at the mirror and sent small chunks flying with a flow of air. Few things could rankle like memories of the past, and nothing did it better than a comparison of the two loves of her life.

 

Getting up, she dressed again as if preparing for a ball, down to donning velvet slippers on her feet. Once again Arath stammered and blushed at her radiance, but this morning Eqwina was in no mood. She sent him out scouting as soon as the sun crested the rise and didn’t call halt until well after dark. Even then she refused to sleep, sitting by the fire until the coals burned down and the sun began to rise again. Once again, one man had managed to turn her world on its head.

 

In all the years that had passed,Nevin was surely dead, but she still couldn’t help but feel as if she’d been abandoned by his love. Gripping the necklace he had given her back in the days of her youth and innocence Eqwina cried for all that she’d loss when he went away. Those tears helped to bridge the gap between the past and reality; as they always did, and by the time they reached Cairhien Eqwina was herself again; wrapped in self position and confidence. 

 

Without a proper escort she could not claim guest right at the palace, but with the way word spread in the vile city it would be around within the hour that she’d arrived. It would only take another few minutes past that before invitations began arriving, and then her work could begin. Leading Arath to the Golden Arrow, Eqwina dismounted and tossed Nightlily’s reigns to Mandrin. He had been the groom at the Inn for as many years as she’d been coming, and was a faithful servant besides. Pressing a gold mark into his hand she smiled. “Take care of her Mandrin, as you always do” It did not take but a minute to acquire a room and get settled in. Sitting on the only bed, opposite of Arath, she smiled. With hours yet until she could move into the unfortunate Lady Treaine’s house, Eqwina decided this was the best time to try a hand at her game.

 

Standing up she glided around the bed to Arath and knelt at his feet. The shock was plain on his face, but the intensity of her gaze held him where he sat. “Tell me Arath, how have you liked your first tastes of being a Warder?” An innocent enough question, but enough to plant the seed if it had not already been. “ Have you ever entertained notions of what Ajah you would like your Aes Sedai to be from?” Smiling up at him through impossibly long lashes she could not help but picture Nevin’s face.

 

Perhaps this one would not run scared from what he was destined to become.

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Arath couldn't help but feel frustrated. He woke up only to find that Eqwina had already left the tent. That was resonable, he didn't expect her to stay around inside the tent waiting for him to wake up (though it would have been nice). She seemed impatient and so Arath made all haste in packing up their camp. She imediately sent him out scouting and Arath felt a little confused. Eqwina seemed kind of... angry this morning. He didn't think he had done anything wrong... No. Arath was being selfish, he had to remember that their reason for going on this trip was to save someone's life. They were just going as fast as they could in order to Heal someone. He was just fulfilling his duty and helping a Servant to serve.

 

Still, Arath was left to his own thoughts all day long and he could help but let the seeds of doubt take root. Eqwina was awefully abrupt with him. Well, maybe she would be better after he got back, maybe she had not been feeling good that morning. Arath found to his dismay that she wasn't much better- in fact she was worse. She was not mean, per say, but she was rather short with him, and didn't promote very much conversation. She just sat there thinking the whole time, and Arath tried to pretend that he didn't see the looks she occasionally shot him. When they went to sleep that night... well, the easiest way to say it was that there was no "they".

 

Arath was confused as to why his goddess was scorning him. Perhaps he had done something wrong, or maybe her favor had just worn off. Either way, Arath was going to do his best to get her forgiveness. He decided that it was because he hadn't been acting manly enough, and resolved to ignore the hurt that no real man would feel. He puffed out his chest (just enough to look larger and not ridiculous) and rode proudly. After all, he was a Tower Guard escorting an Aes' Sedai, he had no reason not to be proud. When they entered the City, Arath was suprised- no astounded- to find that he wasn't the shortest man around.

 

Barely holding in a gape, Arath saw that there were men even shorter than he was! In fact, the average man seemed to be about his size! A new burst of pride shot through his body, and he bit back a grin. Light, he had known that the Cairhiens were short, but he had grown up in Caemlyn where every man was taller than he was. By the time they got to the Inn, he was feeling pretty confident with himself, and to add onto it, his new act seemed to work. Eqwina Sedai had returned to smiling at him and praising him. His first experience as a Warder? Light! Did that mean she wanted him as her Warder? Arath wasn't brave enough to ask.

 

Answering her question, Arath was about to go off on a speach, but realized that he didn't want to act childish. Still, he couldn't keep the adoration out of his eyes. "Oh, it wasn't really that special... the travelling, that is. I suppose that it's exciting to be travelling with you. I mean..." Deciding to pretend he didn't say that last improper line, and went on to her next question. "What Ajah I want my Aes' Sedai to be from?" Arath's voice faded out. He almost said it, the words were in his head, the first sound formed on his lips. "I want you to be my Aes' Sedai." But like a coward, he backed out at the last second. "I- I suppose I haven't really thought about it." Arath looked away from Eqwina Sedai. Changing the subject, Arath inquired: "So, when are we going to go Heal that woman?"

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Reaching up she cupped his chin gently and turned his face back to her own. “Your stammer tells me otherwise, but never fear. I will not make you share the secrets of your heart…..yet.”

 

Getting to her feet she went over and began adding spices to the wine, using Saidar to reheat its contents. When they were spiced as she’d intended she sat back down on the bed, handing Arath the other glass. “It is nice to see that you worry so much for the Lady Treaine, but in Cairhien proper protocols must be met. I suspect we have several hours before we can move, or even all night.” Kicking off her slippers she laid her legs across his lap and leaned back against the wall. Eqwina could see that Arath was nervous, only making him more malleable to her plans. “Drink up, its good wine” Pressing the cup to her lips she did not drink. Only watch as Arath finished his.

 

Her beauty had already given her a great power over him, but still not nearly what she required. There was always a certain pleasure to convincing someone that your way of thinking were best. And with a man those pleasures could be many, but if her charms failed to work there were always other ways. Embracing Saidar she channeled a few flows, causing pain to knot in his back and a dull ache form behind his eyes. Setting her glass on the table by the bed she leaned forward.

 

“You seem tense Arath, is there something troubling you? Perhaps I can offer healing? My talents run strong there. ” She laughed, trying to further calm his unease.

 

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Arath bit his lip as Eqwina told him that she knew (or at least suspected) his secret answer. However, he was busy trying not to shudder at her touch and so was distracted enough not to blush. He was angry at the "protocols" of Cairhein... a woman was dying! He of course knew about the game of houses but he didn't see why anyone would bother to concern themselves with such a silly ritual. Careful words and subtle meanings didn't get anything done- action got things done!

 

Still, Arath noted that he would follow Eqwina's lead, and do his best not to embarise her. Of course, he didn't think it was possible for a goddess to be embarised, but just incase... Arath shook off the thoughts as an ache appeared behind his eyes. He must have been thinking too hard, or bottling his emotions too tight. Arath smiled at Eqwina Sedai's offer of Healing, she was so kind. Arath would like nothing more than to give in and allow her to Heal him, but a real man wouldn't let himself succumb to a mere headache.

 

He chatted with Eqwina a little, and found out that her favorite color was gold. He tucked that information away for further storage, but groaned at the mental effort. His goddess noticed his groan (she was so attentive) and offered again to Heal him (she was so kind). Arath began to protest, but was easily beaten. She seemed insistant on Healing him and to be honest Arath really wanted her to. He quickly found himself lying on his bed, with Eqwina leaning over him. She sat to the side of the bed, and was leaning over him, her hair spilling onto his face. Arath felt her smooth hands caress his temples, and the pain dissapeared.

 

"There now," Eqwina said in a throaty whisper, "Are you feeling better?" Arath couldn't speak as he felt her breath ghosting over his lips. He was mesmerized by her eyes boring into his own. He must have looked like a fool as he drank in her face- her blood red lips quivering with every word. His heart beated faster, his pulse raced and he felt a fire in his veins. His lips were parted slightly as he stared up at her- her hands were still on him, one on his face while the other had drifted to his collar bone. Arath didn't break eye contact as he slowly rose towards her... He didn't know what he was doing, he wasn't thinking- just feeling. A tiny voice in the back of his head screamed at him not to be a fool, but he was too wrapped up in adrenaline to care.

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With all the pride of a Gaidin he declined her first offer and several more after that. The healing was not necessary, strictly speaking, but it made other things easier. He would be more susceptible to other weaves, and it would help to reaffirm the affinity she had gained from healing him all those months gone.

 

Rubbing his temples gently she coaxed him into bed; laying him down so that he was forced to look up into her eyes. “Shh…..I will take all your pain away” she whispered with the compassion of a mother and a lovers intensity. Starting her fingertips at his forehead she ran them lightly down his face, gently closing his eyes. The predatory gleam returned as the Power flooded into her. A tantalizing mix of clean sweat and spices drifted to her nose and she giggled softly as the weave settled over him. "There now," Eqwina said in a throaty whisper, "Are you feeling better?"

 

Her fingers continued their slow massage of his temples working their way down towards his chest. If tension could be seen, the rapidly lessening air between her and Arath would have glowed. She may not have kissed many men in her life, but she would have been a fool not to recognize his intent. The question remained… Would allowing this kiss make her job easier? Or somehow complicate things? Deciding that she deserved a little fun amidst her work Eqwina pressed her red lips to his and kissed him until his breath began to come in short labored pants. She could feel his hands reaching for her and she pulled away, standing up and gliding a pace across the room before he could blink. “Don’t be greedy Arath, and ask for what I am not ready to give”

 

Hoping not to undo the work that she’d already done, Eqwina settled back down in a chair by the bed and gave him a sultry smile. “You may be feeling hungry, though not enough to account for the hunger I felt just now.” A bubbling laugh erupted from her lips and soon Arath joined in. Channeling to pour another goblet for each of them, she floated it over on air. It was a frivolous use of Saidar, but the heightened senses made the intricacies of her game feel more real. “You don’t seem one for conversation Arath. Tell me? Do you posses any other talents?”

 

The more they talked the easier it seemed for him to open up. She learned about his family and his life in the Tower while the details from her were few, and very vague. Two things had become abundantly clear; Arath did not know that Corwin already held her bond, and the boy was a Light lover to his core. Eqwina did not allow that to dampen her spirits, it only meant that her newly discovered weave may be of some use after all. It didn’t seem like playing fair, but it was her game and breaking the rules only made it more fun. With the sky dark outside their window Eqwina led Arath down into the common room and to a table in the back. As she’d expected several letters lay in wait. Hopefully they would contain the one that she’d need.

 

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Arath swore that his heart stopped beating the instant that he touched her cherry lips. Pure bliss seemed to seep into his mind, for he was kissing his goddess. He had never imagined that he would actually have her affections, or any semblence of them. Suddenly, acting like a man didn't matter anymore, because he knew that she seemed to care for him as he was. He also realized that even though Eqwina was a goddess, she was also a woman, and in that moment she felt so... human. Unconsciously, Arath began to reach towards her, and blinked in suprise when all of the sudden she wasn't there anymore. "I-" Arath tried to say something to appologise, obviously he had been too forward, but she sat back down without prompting.

 

Arath laughed along with Eqwina after her next words. Light, a week ago he would never dare to be so informal around her, but after their kiss, he felt so much more relaxed around her. The doubts that he had before arriving in Cairhein had disappeared. Suddenly, they seemed less like Aes' Sedai and Tower Guard, and more like just a man and woman. Suddenly he didn't need her to be a goddess, and could appreciate her as just a woman (although she was still a goddess). Arath gave her a soft smile, and worked on ridding his mind of the cloud of lust. He noted the use of Saidar but he had gotten more accustomed to it, and was not amazed anymore.

 

"Well, I have a good hand at drawing, and enjoy the hobby, but that's about it. Of course, I'm handy with a sword, but those are my only two skills." Arath found himself telling her all about his past, even the shameful parts. He found that the conversation just flowed freely, now that he saw her as more than just a goddess. His gaze was still full of devotion and desire, but now it was more stable, less like the boyish worship it had been. It was still worship, for one kiss could only do so much, but it was a little less ridiculous than it had been before.

 

They talked until the sun went down, and then went downstairs for a late dinner. On the way out the door, Arath rushed to open it, and brushed his hand against hers. They sat down at their table and began dining, Arath's eyes shone brightly as he watched Eqwina. There were a good amount of letters waiting for them, but Arath didn't really care as much as he had for helping the woman. She had been sick for a long time, surely she could wait another night? Really, there was no need to rush Eqwina out the door, her safety came before the safety of some sick woman. Arath convinced himself that the night was dangerous in Cairhien, and he was not putting the Healing off for selfish reasons. A tiny voice whispered that the longer they were in Cairhien the longer he spent with Eqwina, but he swiftly crushed that voice.

 

"So, Eqwina Sedai... what kind of man would you want to be your Warder?" The question was asked in an offhanded manner, as if he didn't care about the answer. He didn't know what was making him so brave. Perhaps it was the kiss and perhaps it was the knowledge that he wasn't the shortest man out there, but Arath felt full of a sort of confidence. It truely was a good feeling, to know that not only was he good enough to attract the beautiful Eqwina, he was also probably skilled enough with his blade to defeat most of the people in the inn. A smile adorned Arath's face as he awaited the answer.

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  • 2 weeks later...
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Artist among warriors were rare, it was not a talent she could make much use of, but still it was good to know that her puppy had more skills than just wielding a sword.  If things progressed as she hoped perhaps she would uncover more.

 

Smiling seductively at Arath for all of the patrons to see was yet another part of her game. Few who saw a woman, so obviously engrossed in a man, could think her up to much more than catching the object of her affection. Even in Cairhien few ever really managed to see past her subterfuge. Fingering the letters casually the thumbed through them until she saw the one she desired. Right on schedule and right on time, any longer and she may not be able to stop short of bedding the man. Looking up into his eyes Eqwina saw that the moment may indeed have passed.

 

"So, Eqwina Sedai... what kind of man would you want to be your Warder?"

 

The poor boy tried to appear casual, but to her shrewd eyes he fell short.  Laying her hand on top of his she smiled and held his gaze. Her voice was a gentle caress. “Why Arath..you should now by now what I desire. I need a man who is dedicated to me absolutely, ready to except my words and put their full faith in me. I desire a man who will stand by my side for the rest of his life and never wane in his desire to serve. He has to be pure of heart and be willing to put his life on the line to save my own.” Her voice painted the story so you could almost see the day that would come when only a sword would save her. “ Of course none of that would come with out my own desire for him. I will want him to know that I will always guard and protect him to my last breath. I would give my life from his as readily as I expect his to be given. ”Raising her voice to a more normal level she allowed her hand to pull away. “You can see how a man like that could be hard to find”

 

Picking up the letter she broke the seal and began to read. It would give her words time to sink in and take root. With another smile she folded the letter and tucked it into her pouch. “This was the letter we need, a few more hours and the poor woman will no longer suffer. Let’s finish up and we can go back upstairs…to pack” Eqwina glanced around the room to see who had noticed her slip. Every eye turned away as she looked, but without a doubt all had heard.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Arath stopped breathing. His pulse picked up; his heart raced! His mind was overwhelmed with images, possible futures. Eqwina's words had foreshadowed a future that Arath could only dream about. Light! To be a Warder! To be Eqwina's Warder! Before he would have called himself a fool, but not now! Time seemed to come to a hault as the words echoed through his head, causing colorful imagry to burst into existance in Arath's conscousness. Every word she spoke seemed to discribe him more and more- Arath would be willing to lay down his own life gladly for her- for she was such a beauty that Arath had never seen nor would be able to imagine. She was so right and just- her life was worth so much more than his own.

 

He barely heard Eqwina's last words and completely missed the inuendo in them. Eagerly, Arath lept up and escorted the Aes' Sedai back to their room. Unfortunately that would not help disourage the commoner's theories at all. Arath was not thinking of any of that, however, when he got ready for a trip outside the Inn. He followed Eqwina through the darkened night and stood proudly as a Tower Guard (and perhaps soon to be something more). He had his sword prepared against shadows and creatures skurrying through the darkness, but did not embarise himself by drawing.

 

Finally, they reached their destination. Arath wanted to go in with Eqwina and witness her miracles of the Light, but she refused. She explained to him that the disease the woman had was comunicable and only the One Power protected her from being infected. Arath was disapointed that he could not enter, but at the same time happy that Eqwina showed such compassion for him. He could only think of how lucky this woman was to be Healed by such a skilled Aes' Sedai.

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Eqwina was vexed that Arath had not taken her hint, she was sure that the boy would be more amendable once he’d tasted her charms, but that quest would have to be put aside for another. Gathering information was her primary goal, and the time was growing short.

 

Quickly both horses were saddled and they were riding through the dark streets of Cairhien. She went over ways to keep Arath away from the room where she’d be “working”, and always the easiest answer seemed to be keeping him from the house entirely. Even a whiff of foul play would send a Light lover like him running and that was a complication she didn’t need. Finally she settled on sending him to their rooms, surely thoughts of sharing a bed would keep him entertained.

 

At the front gate to the manor Arath dismounted and spoke with the guard and quickly they were both ushered in. Gratey, the chief servant answered the door and greeted Eqwina like a long lost friend. She welcomed him warmly before asking that Arath be shown directly to their room, Gratey blinked in shock when she made it clear they would need only one bed but was happy to oblige. There was some small argument when Arath insisted on accompanying her to the Lady Treaine’s apartments, but it was finally the idea of disease that kept him away.

 

Gliding through the halls Eqwina embraced Saidar and flung open the apartment doors in a grandiose display of her power. At the same time all the lamps in the room burst into roaring flames, sending light into even the most untouched corners. In the same over the top manner she slammed the doors and drug a chair over and carefully arranged her skirts before taking a seat. A few of her people we scattered around the room, but each one of them had fallen to their knees when she entered, and more than one was visibly shaken. A clap of her hands and a nod of her head sent them all running for the door.

 

Emilia Treaine was trussed like goose with a gag shoved into her mouth, but her eyes bulged and small grunts came out from around the gag. Eqwina only stared at the woman, having no reaction to her feeble attempts to squirm farther away. Patience was not a virtue that Eqwina possessed any great store of, but the years had damped her fuse and she’d learned what an important tool silence could be. Finally the small grunts changed in tone, to something more pleading and tears flowed from her eyes. Not wanting to touch the sweaty woman with her hands she used to Power to remove the gag. “ So..Emilia, my sweet. I hear that you have been keeping information back from my friends” Her voice was calm, but carried an edge of honey meant to sooth the woman’s tears. “You had to know that it would bring retribution and that is would make it very angry. I do not like to become angry Emilia, so do you care to tell me all that you’ve held back?”

 

The proud noble only stared at her, the tears still flowing from her eyes. “Tsk Tsk Tsk” Eqwina stood up and settled herself on bed. Gently she reached out to brush stray hairs from the child’s forehead, but she flinched away from her touch. “I can see that you are not going to make this easy on me, or on yourself” Sighing, she warded the room against eavesdropping and set to digging out the answers she wanted.

 

Dawn came and Eqwina was exhausted. Creeping back into the rooms that she was sharing she fell into bed fully clothed.

 

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Arath paced the room for what felt like the thousandth time that evening. He wanted to help Eqwina Sedai with her Healing, but he knew that there was nothing he could do. It was dangerous for him to go with her, and it would probably just distract Eqwina Sedai unnecesarily. Still, 'what ifs' nagged at the back of Arath's mind. What if Eqwina got sick and collapsed and needed him to rush her back to the Tower for Healing? What if she exhausted herself in the Healing and collapsed and hit her head and died? What if a trolloc attacked? What if an Aeil invasion came while Arath was stuck in this tiny little room!?

 

Arath growled and kicked the wall, before cursing and hopping around, cradling his bruised toes the best he could. He wanted to do something, anything, to be useful, but he was commanded quite clearly to stay in the room. He had sworn an oath to obey Aes' Sedai when he was raised a Tower Guard, and he meant to keep it. Besides, he didn't even have the slightest idea where Eqwina was! He would just go wandering off into the city, and Eqwina would get worried and come after him... what if she got attacked by robbers on the way? Arath groaned before collapsing on the bed.

 

Sleep would not come, however, and Arath passed the time by counting downwards from one thousand, and then from ten thousand. He was on one thousand seven-hundred and twenty-three when the door opened and Eqwina Sedai walked in. He meant to leap up and offer her assistance, but his limbs had fallen dead asleep while he had laid on the bed and so by the time he got over the sudden shock, Eqwina had already fallen on the bed fully clothed. He meant to interogate her about how it went, but soon recognised that she was alsleep and obviously needed her rest. And so Arath gathered her in his arms and cradled her head against his chest, and finally found oblivion.

 

The next morning, Arath was well behaved, and waited until after they had risen from bed to interogate the woman about the previous night. "How did it go? Did you reach the woman's home alright? Did you have any difficulties Healing her? Is she alright now? Do you have any further buisness in Cairhien? Are there more sick to Heal? Will the woman require further healing-" Arath was cut off from his incesant questioning by Eqwina's raised hand and waited patiently for answers to his inquiries.

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It felt as if no sooner than her head hit the pillow did Arath start his incessant nattering. With sleep still heavy on her eyelids she was bombarded with questions she had no desire to answer, but would have said anything to make the child shut up.

 

“It was a long night and tiring, she is sicker than I first imagined and even my healing might cause her death. I am doing what I can for her pain and making her as comfortable as she deserves, but until she relents I fear that I will spend many nights at her bedside” Eqwina smiled smugly into her tea, even free from the Three Oaths as she was it was a joy to be able to skirt so close to the truth and yet reveal nothing of substance. “For now I will stay in Cairhien, at least until I can leave her side.”

 

It was time to see how tight she’d tied the boy’s whits. “Of course, now that I am here there is no reason for you to stay. You saw me safe to her side as I required. I would not be upset if you wanted to return to Tar Valon.”

 

As if his decision were of no consequence Eqwina picked up another piece of fruit and popped it into her mouth. Apparently completely intent on her chewing she didn’t notice Arath shocked expression.

 

“Of course you have to know that I would love for you to stay.” 

 

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  • 1 month later...

Arath couldn't help but smile as Eqwina Sedai explained the sick woman's situation. Eqwina Sedai was so... so... self sacrificing! She was going to give up her own peace and her own sleep in order to heal a woman that meant nothing to her! This woman was not a relative of Eqwina Sedai's, and so she was sacrificing herself in order to help someone that she didn't even know, and had no attatchments to. Arath couldn't help but admire the Yellow even more, if that was possible. He was nodding at the Aes' Sedai's words, much like a puppy dumbly consented to all its owner's orders, until she spoke of him going back.

 

He was dumbfounded. Could he really leave Eqwina's presence? Could he really be sent away that easily? At first he was blinded by panic, until she smiled and asked him if he wanted to stay. "O-of course! I mean- I would love to stay... Er, you could still be in danger! A city like Cairhien is not the safest place for a woman, even a very powerful woman such as yourself. Not that I don't think that you can't take care of yourself... it's just... the Oaths..." Arath finally seemed to realize that he was floundering, and so he straitened up and spoke proudly.

 

"Eqwina Aes' Sedai, I would love to stay here with you. Protecting you, that is." Arath smiled as the rays of the early morning sun illuminated his face. Although Arath didn't know it, to someone as old and experienced as the Yellow Aes' Sedai, it must have looked ridiculous. His smile did not speak of maturity or rugged experience, but it was full of sincerity, and that would have to do. "Umm, perhaps we could order some breakfast? You must be starving from the Healing last night?" After all, Healing did take energy from the Aes' Sedai doing the Healing.

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