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Where do we go from here? (attn Corwin)


Eqwina
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As she and Nightlily descended upon the Tower, Eqwina knew that things would change for her. The sheer knowledge of Corwin being alive was potentially earth shattering. She did not want to live the rest of her life in the shadows with him. So much of how she lived day to day was secretive and “behind closed doors”; she did not want him to be the same way.  On the other hand most of the Tower knew of his death, her mourning had been fairly public, how could she explain his sudden reemergence from the grave? The only way was to admit that she’d released his bond just before he’d died, but that in itself would point her out as a liar. It was a tangled web, and not one she was going to unravel in a day.

 

Nearly three weeks passed without a word and Eqwina began to grow anxious. The even keel temper that she showed to the world began to wax and wain so that no one knew what to expect from her one moment to the next. Even her fellow Sitters began to avoid her.

 

Walking the halls of the Tower, back to her rooms in the Yellow Ajah Quarters Eqwina passed the practice yards. She had taken the long way around to make sure she’d cross. Her eyes searched, scanning for the face that would mean trouble for she and Corwin. She had not seen Liitha in some time, but that did not mean the girl was gone. Disguise Corwin as she would Liitha would always know him, and one word from her could ruin everything.

 

Every day that fourth week Eqwina ventured down to the practice yards to try and spot the troublesome child. She did not know what she intended, but she had haunting dreams that with Liitha and a few others out of the way she could bring Corwin back freely. The dreams were haunted not for the bloodshed and killing, but because she knew that, at least in Liitha’s case, those murders could never be. It was the passing of more than a month that decided Eqwina. Without a word to anyone she left a note to the other Sitters of the Yellow, saying she was going on a retreat and would return soon. A retreat implied time of quiet contemplation and important work, something no Sister would question.

 

She had no doubt that her “work” was important, but she did not think it would be quiet. In the time that had passed she’d convinced herself that the lack of fighting between she and Corwin had been a fluke…one chance in a million. Yet she held on to hope that it was something they could repeat. Perhaps with enough time the peace between them would become habit, and then a way of life, and then simply how things were.

 

It was a dream and a long shot, but after nearly one hundred years she’d found something worth believing in and she was determined not to give up.

The Black Hills lay to the West of Tar Valon, but they stretched far North and South. On a gamble she stayed as near to true West as she could manage with the curve of the land, and each night when she made camp her eyes searched the setting sun. He would not have lied. He would be there… She did not know if the thought was a prayer, it would have to have been a prayer to the Dark Lord. Which would have been foolish, everyone knows the Great Lord of the Dark doesn’t answer prayers, or if it was a chant to convince herself of its truth. Whatever it was….those words He would not lie played in her head every evening as she searched the Black Hills.

 

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Corwin sat at the top of the hill meditating and reflecting over the past month.  On clear days like today he could see the gleam of the Tower in the right light.  Every time he caught the gleam he reflected on Eqwina.  Things had changed so much so quickly.  When they both met up again, there was almost no trust between them, not on the level it was now.  It was strange, most relationships he had been in, once they passed a certain physical line, they seemed to constantly pass it, and his and Eqwina's had long since passed the line.  His deeper scratches had healed, but he wondered if that took on some kind of a deeper meaning.

 

Could it mean that their relationship had fizzled out?  They always seemed to be on or off, not much between.  Before his faked suicide, they fought like crazy, then had nights so full of passion it would make his head spin when they began fighting within a day or two and those fights would last for weeks while their passion lasted only hours.  Yet this past time seemed like it was different in some ways.  They both seemed to finally have lowered their guard to the other, at last he had lowered his, and when she gave him to cipher book, well it seemed like it was a sign of a kind that she wanted to keep things going.  Yet with his healing, was it also a sign that the passion had fizzled out like it always did?  Would he write her only to find that she had changed her mind?  In some ways that was the reason he hadn't written her yet.  This was something they needed to confront in person, yet he couldn't go see her yet.  He couldn't risk being found, not with her life on the line.  So many times he had tried to write her, but ended up becoming frustrated and giving up on it.

 

Yet they might have been another meaning.  The more he thought about it, the more he thought that it might symbolize the death of their old life.  The life of being so shallow, having the nights of passion and the seemingly endless fights.  Perhaps that night showed there was more depth to their relationship, a depth they had both not seen because to reach it, it meant taking a risk they both had to do together, it couldn't be one of them willing to do it while the other held back.  In some ways he wanted to believe this option, but was that him fooling himself?  Was it only really Eqwina manipulating the situation, she was a master manipulator....  But she had told him she wouldn't do that to him, in a way he had to told on to that with her.  She could lie, and in a lot of ways that complicated things more, but at the same time, if he would relax and stop over analyzing things, that would make things much easier too.

 

Each day ended in the same train of thought, and each next day his worries resurfaced.  This day was different though.  For some reason the thoughts didn't surface, perhaps he had finally settled the issue within his mind, or perhaps he was just tired of thinking of it day in and day out.  Either way his meditation was much more fulfilling and relaxing.  Yet again he went to try and write her once his meditation was complete.

 

Pulling out the cipher book, he searched for the right words.  Luckily, his previous attempts had resulted in only a few words that had been scribbled out.  Once again he became frustrated and gave up.  He knew what he wanted to say, but did he want to risk it?  Granted with the cipher book things were much safer, but still, opening the correspondence brought a lot of risk that they already didn't need.  Putting the parchment away, he began to head back when he saw something completely out of place.

 

The tracks on the ground at the bottom of the hill were very recent.  Cautiously he began to follow them.  From what he could tell, it was a single person or a small group.  He had never been the greatest at tracking, but if it was a group, they were being smart and doing something damn near impossible with the horses stepping in the same places the other had, but at the same time, why would only one person come to the hills?  Eqwina had said she couldn't visit much, and one month was more than likely nothing to the woman.  She had so many responsibilities she would have been pulled everywhere once she had returned.  There was no way she could have gotten away so soon.

 

As he followed the trail, he found her cleaning up camp.  In some ways he didn't believe it, but his feet carried him closer reflexively.  With his mind so distracted, he got closer that he realized and she had noticed.  With her head snapping in his direction before the recognition took place and brought her running.  She was going so quickly he had to disperse the energy of her movement with swinging her around as he brought her back around to the initial directions they were facing.

 

The woman was better than he had remembered and she quickly brought him over to camp, ensuring he followed close by locking her fingers with his.  I thought you couldn't leave to come here much.  Before it could be taken wrong he quickly added don't take me wrong, I'm happy to see you, it is the best surprise I could have, but the risk....  He could only hope that she didn't take what he had said the wrong way.  Women had the habit of doing that, and she was one of the most fickle women he knew.  Without the added strength of the bond telling him what she was feeling, he could only hope he hadn't ruined things so quickly.

 

In some ways he didn't need the bond, it would have made finding her so much easier, and he would have known she was coming the moment she had left the island, that would have been close enough to register she was becoming a growing presence in his head he hoped, and the bond would have told him much more of what to expect, but she was so much more open with her body language, the grabbing of his hand, the running to him, things she had never done before and he never dreamed he would see, well maybe dreamed, but never realistically expected.  Was he doing the same thing though?  Before all she had was reading him through his eyes, but was he expressing more?  He hoped he was in some ways, well not the nervousness of course, but in some ways he hoped the love that was there showed.

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Three days of searching had brought her nothing but frustration and anger. She was beginning to lose hope. Perhaps he had lied to her…….?

 

Her camp was small and tidy. She had a tent big enough for one, and small fire and cooking stove. It was a far cry from the luxury she lived in within the Tower, but she refused to exert more physical energy than necessary. It was silly, she’d not yet begun to grow gray hairs, but there were days where she swore she could feel the rest of the days of her life passing by in a flash. Using Saidar she gathered firewood and was bending to start her meal when she heard twigs snapping in the surrounding brush. Filled with the One Power she heard the noise long before she could see the braches part and resolve into a man. It was his eyes that she first saw….dropping the spoon she’d been holding she ran to him.

 

She felt like a girl of twenty, a young carefree woman with nothing but joy in her heart and dreams in her eyes. She never hesitated at launching into his arms, trusting that he wouldn’t let her fall.

 

When her feet were finally back on the ground she laced her fingers through his and pulled him into the camp. “I shouldn’t have left Corwin, but……” She wanted to say the words…to be vulnerable. Looking up into his eyes she took a deep breath and allowed herself to be open. “….I couldn’t be without you another hour.” Her cheeks wanted to flush, but she kept tight rein on her outward appearance. His eyes showed her shock, but the kiss he gave her was enough to take her breath away.

 

Quickly Corwin had her things gathered and they were walking hand in hand to his camp, leading her horse. Every time the path slopped or grew rough his hand seemed to offer support and once he had to catch her by the waist before she fell. Eqwina had been so caught up in staring at him in wonder, that she hadn’t been watching where she put her feet. For a moment, with his arm wrapped tight around her the world ceased to breathe. It took Nightlily’s nudge to get them moving again. Light she was acting like a love struck child

 

Back in Corwin’s camp he stored her things alongside his own, while Eqwina began a meal. It was all done in a comfortable silence, a silence that was so domestic she could scarcely breathe.

 

The stew she’d made was still simmering, but she laid the spoon on the side of the pot and walked over to slip her arms around his hard waist. She seemed to fit perfectly under his shoulder and she relished in being snuggled against his chest. “Corwin? I’ve missed you so much. Why did you not write to me?” There was a tinge of hurt in her voice that she didn’t try to disguise. Before he could answer she spilled out the rest of what she’d wanted to say. “I sometimes sit and marvel at the way things have changed with us. Perhaps, it took the reality of life without you to make me see how much you mean to me. I am still scared to drop my guard and just be myself. I…I am my true self with no one in my life, and I have not been since Nevin died when I was a girl. These changes in us, and in me are for the better and I want it to stay this way….if you do?”

 

There was more honesty in that statement than she’d spoken in the last 40 years. More honesty than she’d uttered at any time since being freed of the Three Oaths. But would he believe

 

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I shouldn’t have left Corwin, but...I couldn’t be without you another hour. He didn't know what to make of the woman now.  She had never been so open with her and more than likely his eyes were giving that away.  Over the years she had probably learned to read him, read him better than most any ever did.  But at the same time maybe she didn't.  She had the bond, and if she associated the emotions it told her to the looks he gave, she would be able to know anything she wanted about him, but did she do that?  Or did she solely rely on the bond to tell her what the emotions were and not pay attention to the rest?

 

As he led her to the camp things were just right in the world it felt like.  The hesitance that had been there over the month were so out of place and ridiculous now that he didn't think they would come back.  He had never strolled with a woman hand in hand like this before, and thought it was something new, it strangely felt right and he thought of it as something he could do with her more often.  Though if there ever came another woman, he didn't know if it would feel as right.

 

Once they got to the camp she began making a meal and though he had never thought of her as the domestic kind of woman, it still seemed so comfortable.  He wanted to offer to help but every time he began to take the first steps over to her, he got the sinking feeling that if he came too close the spoon was going to go flying toward his head.

 

After she had finished the stew she came over to the tree he was leaning against and slipped her arms around his waste while he draped his arm across her back and held onto her waste.  Corwin? I’ve missed you so much. Why did you not write to me?  I sometimes sit and marvel at the way things have changed with us. Perhaps, it took the reality of life without you to make me see how much you mean to me. I am still scared to drop my guard and just be myself. I…I am my true self with no one in my life, and I have not been since Nevin died when I was a girl. These changes in us, and in me are for the better and I want it to stay this way….if you do? He didn't know what to make of it all.  She must have been wanting word sooner than he was expecting.  Then again he wasn't expecting her to visit so soon.

 

Looking down at her he took a deep breath.  I tried a few times, but every time talked myself out of it reasoning that it was still too soon.  You had told me that we had to be cautious, and I figured a random pigeon wouldn't exactly help.  What if the person that got it happened to know the cipher?  As to us... I've sat ever day meditating and pondered it.  Your fears are demons you will have to settle yourself somehow, but I would like these changes to stay as well.  He didn't know much more of what to tell the woman really.

 

It would have been wonderful if she stayed, but how could he really bring that up?  He began pondering arguments in the back of his head and stood there holding her.  The world was right and in a way he didn't care who came and knew it, but he couldn't fully relax, if someone happened to come that shouldn't, there would be death.  He didn't care who knew it, but in a weird way did.  He couldn't let her risk more than she already was.

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Pulling back to look up in his eyes she tried to search them for any sign that he lied. Could it really be that they were both feeling the same things, at the same time…for each other? It would be a miracle as unreal as her ever turning back to the Light, and yet here they were. “Are you telling me that you have no fears about me? I know that I have not always been easy to live with, and I have done many things I regret.” Releasing his bond was the worst of those…. “The relationship we had did not bode well for building trust.”

 

While they talked she served up the meal, a thing she never did. She meant it as a sign of the changes he’d brought out in her, and hoped he say it as such. She took a seat on the ground, not caring if the dirt stained her silks. Trivial things such as that couldn’t seem to matter when one of the great loves of her life was alive and sitting next to her. Even as they discussed subjects that had brought on fights in the past, none of her former anger came. Sometimes she waited for it, expecting to grow angry when he mentioned her temper, or her fickle nature, but always she admitted her wrong and that was the end.

 

It would not be that way with any other, but for now it was that way with Corwin and she would kill to make sure it stayed that way.

 

The urge for him to return to the Tower with her grew with each passing moment, and she struggled with how to mention the deaths that would need to be. She didn’t think Corwin would blink an eye at the Death’s of the Aes Sedai that would be necessary, but what would he say when she had to suggest Liitha? Would it ruin everything they had? For now she held her silence on the subject of death.

 

When the meal was done she allowed him to do the cleaning, content to watch him work. She loved the deadly grace that he emanated even while doing chores, and the hard lines to his face made him seem only more handsome in her eyes. Three words had been running through her head since she leaped into his arms back in her camp and they tumbled unbidden out of her mouth. Corwin was bent stoking the fire, with his back half to her, and the words were a whisper, but she knew that he heard.

 

“I love you”

 

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He could only nod to what she said.  We have both done so much we regret.  But at the same time the relationship did build a trust of sorts.  When I told you where I was, I knew you wouldn't kill me, deep down.  She was changing so much.  They would never have talked so civilly about these things before.  Nor would she ever have given him food without her anger at doing it close to boiling over.

 

We had a rocky relationship on the surface I think.  But there was so much going on in the undertones of it all.  No matter how angry you got with me, and you could have killed me any time, you never did.  I think we both knew what was going on, but I think we both weren't ready for what was to be...  We both had our defenses that neither of us were willing to abandon.  Silence riddled them while she leaned her head on his shoulder.  They had both finished eating, but neither wanted to move to disrupt the conversation.  One that needed to happen, but both had been too afraid to bring up.

 

After a few moments, he decided it was time to be a man, to dig low, grab em and go if things were going to be as they should.  I know I wasn't the easiest either.  I sometimes would push the things that I knew would upset you.  I shouldn't have been so petty...  AS he continued on, he brought up the things he had done wrong, sometimes citing the specific fights it had brought, and both apologized to the other.  It was something neither of them would have ever done before, but now, with their defenses gone, the conversations they had both stopped for so long were finally happening.

 

After they had finished, he began to clean up.  She had served the meal, it was only right for him to clean up some.  Eqwina had moved to his hammock and seemed to be content watching him.  In some ways he would have given anything to know what she was thinking, but at the same time, he could ask.  With their defenses down, would she just tell him now?  As he stoked the fire heating up the water to clean the small cauldron, he heard her say it.  I love you  His back was to her, and he froze.  The small branch he had been using to poke the fire brought him out of it when it burnt his hand.  He didn't know how long he had been frozen there, but any time would have been moments risked to anger the woman if she didn't get the reaction she wanted.  But at the same time, would it be giving her what she wanted when he meant it?

 

As he rose he walked over to her and pulled her up from the hammock with his and and kissed her when she was standing.  I know.  I love you too.

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He was silent for so long that Eqwina began to worry. She fought the urge to laugh as the stick burned down and seared his flesh; her words must have thrown him for a loop to make him so distracted. For a long time after the burn he was silent, and Eqwina’s heart began to pound in her ears. She felt sweat on her palms from nerves and a sour stomach was beginning to form. After what felt like an eternity he crossed the camp and scooped her up into his arms. A kiss to melt the stars left them both breathless, but he still managed to speak. “I know, I love you too”

 

Four words to answer her three and they were the sweetest she could ever hear. In no time since she was twenty had she felt so completely free. As he picked her up and carried her to a blanket laid out by the fire a small voice crept in to the back of her mind. It taunted that this could not last, not forever, not without some changes….. That tiny voice went quiet though as his body pressed down on hers and they shared all the passion they were feeling in their hearts. Tomorrow would be time enough to worry…

 

Eqwina woke up before Corwin, though the sun was still hidden, making the sky a rapidly lightening gray. She put away what was left of her tattered silks, kicking the buttons that had been ripped off into the dying fire. Once she was dressed Corwin still had not woke, and she didn’t have the heart to wake him. The only time he looked peaceful was when he slept, and she would not disturb his peace. Idly she wondered if she looked the same?

 

Quietly as a mouse she crawled back into the blankets with him and rested his head in her lap. She thought he stirred, but he didn’t say a word so she just kept slowly running her fingers through his hair and down the sides of his face. “This will not be easy, my warrior, but I will find a way for us to be.” Her voice was a whisper, but it contained a harsh edge. Her heart may have softened for this man, but she was still the cold hearted manipulator that had ordered the deaths of many and would again. But could she do it if it meant possibly destroying them..?

 

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The night of passion was one not to be forgotten not because of the events, but because it was the second in a row that had happened without fights between them.  Perhaps their relationship truly was changing, and for the better.

 

When he woke, his head was in her lap and she was playing with his hair.  She had never played with his dreadlocks much, but maybe that was because of the fights they so often had, or because she didn't find running her hands through them very appealing.  Either way, with his shorter hair she was able to entertain herself.  It was nice to be so close without the fights that he just laid there.  Thinking of what was to be.  He had an idea, but there was no telling how she would take it.  Last night they had talked about past things that had caused fights civilly, and possibly they could talk about this, but it was a long shot.  She had her positions, she had worked hard to get them, and to ask her to give them up, well that might just be too much.  But there had to be a way to do it, all he needed was the right atmosphere to bring it up in.

 

This will not be easy, my warrior, but I will find a way for us to be.

 

Well there's no time like the present.  But is this really the right time?  Hearing the words he twisted so he could look at her while he made his proposal.  Then stay.  There is nothing to make you go back.  I'm sure the Yellow Ajah will understand you taking leave to study from the field and it would not bring suspicion.  As to the Black, well I'm sure there are ways to communicate from afar that you could lead them that way.  After all, what way to get out of the line of fire and still lead?  You could always drop in every now and then to kill one of them to make sure there is no usurper.

 

He didn't know what she would make of it all really.  He hoped she would stay, there was no other way they could really be together without a large string of deaths in the Yard, and with those deaths then his sudden reappearance, that would all lead to suspicions they didn't need.  But would she really want to give up her position for him?

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Eqwina smiled down at Corwin and lovingly stroked his cheek. She heard what he was saying to her, but it took a moment for the words to register. He wanted her to give up her life in the Tower to live in the woods? Blinking, her gentle caresses stopped and she stared into the remains of last night’s fire. Suddenly the darkened ash seemed too symbolic for her liking. Looking back into his eyes she tried to think of any other way.

 

She was the head of the Yellow Ajah, and the Black and a Sitter in the Hall. She had an established life, routine, and structure in the Tower. Could she really think to give that up for a man? His green eyes sparkled up at her and they held hope, and fear. She conjured a smile to let him know that his words had not angered her, but she still couldn’t speak. Her mind was racing. She did not enjoy her duties as Sitter, giving that up would be no hardship and a replacement would be easy, but Ajah Head was another story. That position was one she’d only recently taken it would mark her as fickle to abandon it now. The Black Ajah had other ways of dealing with failure; if she tried to step back she would surely be killed. Then again there was nothing keeping her there, she could head her Ajah from afar as easily as from Tar Valon. “But not from the woods.” It wasn’t until the look in Corwin’s eyes changed that she realized that she’d spoken the last out loud.

 

“I am sorry…….. Corwin, you are asking a lot of me. Giving up my seat in the Hall is more imposition but my positions as Ajah Head are not so easily dismissed. The Yellow Ajah needs a strong hand in the Tower, many tend to get short sited and without me to stir events who knows what could become of them. It may be that I could take some time away, but it cannot be forever. As for the darker of my Ajah’s it is not as easy. Surely I do not have to be in Tar Valon to serve or to keep an eye on events, but I cannot have any hope of keeping my position and avoiding death from the woods. You understand don’t you?” Her voice begged him to…

 

I want to be with you and to make this work, I just do not know if that is the right way.” Since he was making his case she needed to make her own. “You know, with only a little work you could return to Tar Valon. I could admit to releasing you and you could admit to faking your death to get away. It would cause a stir, but would it be so bad? Of course….” She knew she had to say this delicately or risk collapsing what they’d began to build. “There are a few deaths that would have to happen, to keep us both safe of course.I could have them taken care of, you needn’t have a hand in them?”

 

Would be balk at killing Liitha or having her killed? Would she? Could she kill his flesh and blood?

 

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With her every word he wanted to explode with anger in a way.  His idea could work, she just didn't want to do it.  But he quickly tempered his anger.  There was no reason to take it out on her.  After all, if she didn't think it would work, it wouldn't.  He couldn't hold her prisoner.  Still, there was a feeling of rejection.

 

You know the deaths are something MUCH more delicate.  I do wish to be with you, but with the deaths it's an object of time.  If they all suddenly were dead one morning, they would have to be such a freak thing that nothing could tie them in together, if they were a string of deaths it would lead too many to suspect and look for the connection.  And even after them, it would be a waiting game of staying apart for months.  Sitting up he wrapped his arms around her.  If we can barely take a month, do you really think we could take the three or four that would be needed to not rouse too much extra suspicion of my return?  He planted a kiss on the curve of her clavicle.

 

I think this is a situation much more delicate, after all, even if we went with this plan, it would be a matter of months apart before the first death could even happen.  We couldn't let you get tied in, and well... all in all I think it would be a year or so before we could see each other...  Planting another kiss he moved to her ear and whispered I think we both know that just wont do.  Far too much time.

 

As he leaned back he pulled her with him and laid there with her head on his chest and his arm draped around her shoulder with his hand moving with the rhythmic rise and fall of her gut from her breaths.  Both didn't say much since both ideas had been discarded by the other.  In some ways he wondered if she felt the same way he did when she pointed out the faults of his plan.  Running the tops of his fingernails on her midsection he figured he would break the silence.  I guess this is something we'll have to think on and work out later.  How long will you be able to stay?

 

He hoped it was for more than the night.  After all, if she took too many short trips she would fall behind on her duties, but a few extended trips....

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  • 2 weeks later...
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A small growl rumbled in Eqwina’s throat, and she closed her eyes to keep her sudden anger from erupting. She was a woman of influence and power, she could order death and give life with the same small effort, and yet she could not figure out a relationship with a man. It was a mundane problem, a farmwife’s problem and yet a solution eluded her. Curling her fingers slowly she toyed with one of the scars on his chest, and tried to think. He wanted to rip her from her center of power and live like a popper. She wanted him to condone murder of his own flesh and blood; neither could yield, at least not yet.

 

“I have some time. I let it be known that I was going into retreat, but even that can only be stretched so far.” Turning her head she began to plant soft kisses on his chest, slowly kissing her way to his lips. “At least we can both agree that even a month is too long a time without each other.” So seldom did they agree that she relished in even the small things. Overnight they had gone from bitter enemies to star crossed lovers, but the balance was precarious and they both felt it. “Had anyone told me a year ago that we would be in this place, I would have laughed in their face. To think that you and I could be so…happy together, without fighting or tears. It is out of a story.” Except in stories lovers always found a way to beat the odds and be together and she was not sure that it would be possible for them.

 

”Death’s can happen more quickly than you think, in months I could have them arranged. I could order them done from here, and that way neither of us could be tied to them.” He may have never considered how strong or how far her power reached before, but she was making him consider it now. “In the mean time we could be together here. When we returned to the Tower and heard of the news..” Her face took on a mock severity and horror “We could fake the appropriate shock and anger and none would be the wiser” It was still a risk, but one she was willing to take if it would allow her to be with Corwin.

 

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You know how much I want that to happen, but I think you know it's not that simple.  If you were gone, everyone thinks I'm dead, and people die then suddenly I am back... it wont be risk free.  We have to have the deaths, then let the tension die down before I come back.  If we take this path...  He couldn't even finish his thoughts really.  He was not a fan of the idea, but was there another option?

 

Forcing the thoughts away, he sat up.  Yes, a month is much to long.  Pulling the woman close he gave her one last kiss before pulling away.  As much as I would like to, I have to keep to my training.  This was something only his meditation would bring an answer to, could he really agree to have people die?  But could he sentence himself to a life with Eqwina only partially?  He felt so torn, it would be so easy to step across the moral line, but would he be able to live with himself if he did?  Was she worth it?

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Eqwina sighed as Corwin pulled away. For so many years now she’d been serious, logical, and dedicated to the point of forgetting what it was like to simply be. She’d been relishing in the hours spent simply feeling like a woman in love, not an Aes Sedai and Sitter and all the other titles she carried. Apparently even in love there were serious matters to discuss….

 

She was slightly taken back at his mention of training. He was the finest specimen of man she’d ever seen. He was fit and well toned, he hardly showed his age, and certainly it was not apparent in his physique. “Training? I am not sure I understand. Could you not train in the Tower as easily as you do here. I would think it would be easier with others around to try your skills.”

 

In the past Corwin would put up walls to hide what he was feeling, and for some reason she was sure there was something he was holding back now. It was the physical distance he’d made between them and just the hint of confusion in his eyes. Thinking back on what she’d said she began to wonder if he was not as comfortable with who she was as he’d been acting.

 

Her heart began to beat a little faster in her chest. Were the old rifts between them starting to show? Had they not ever been mended fully?

 

“Do you mean to stay here forever Corwin? In these woods, secluded and alone?” The word alone carried a hint of the unease she was feeling. “The first time we met you were very much a private man. I had hoped time had started to change some of that.”

 

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The man grinned and lean in to kiss her, but she pulled to the side, staring at him.  She wanted and answer and she wasn't going to be distracted.  Pulling back a few inches he looked her in the eye and asked are you still that afraid?  I am not leaving you Eqwina.  I will return and this is not about being alone.  This is about doing some thinking, my training does involve meditation after all.

 

With a sigh he pulled back some more and sat on the ground with the tree keeping him sitting erect.  We are trying something that seems like the impossible.  We are from different worlds, but trying to merge them.  It is something that I want so badly to happen, but if it will work we have to do it right.  I don't know the answers right now, but I plan to seek them out.  There hast to be some way I'm over looking.  He didn't know what more to say really.  If she was still suspicious of him, there was nothing he could do to put her at ease.  He hoped she wasn't looking to fight, this time without them was refreshing.

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Eqwina pulled away from Corwin and looked at him suspiciously. She did not fully understand his desire for meditation, but she did want to respect his wishes. At the same time she wondered what made him believe he could find a solution that she could not. She had more years behind her, and surely more knowledge. Stamping down the anger that was forming she couldn’t fully keep it from her voice. “I understand Corwin, at least I believe I do. I will allow you your time to….think.” Standing up she walked away from him without a kiss or a word of goodbye.

 

It was nothing like the fights of their past, but there was a familiar tension in the air. As if even a stir in the breeze would bring retribution. Eqwina had no intention of lashing out, it would only tear down everything she was trying to build, but neither did she intend to give up who she was for a man. She learned long ago that nothing good came from that.

 

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He had screwed up.  He didn't need the bond to tell him she was angry.  But there was nothing he could really do now.  She... was a fickle woman.  With a sigh he turned and left to go meditate.  It was restless and frustrating.  After only an hour he was fed up.  How could she be so upset with him?  She was asking him to condone her life within his.  He was ok with her life style, though he didn't agree with it, it wasn't his place to look down on her for what she chose to live.

 

Going into his sword forms he worked until he was drenched with sweat.  He worked harder than usual because of the anger and frustration, and found himself needing to meditate again.  Could he do this?  Would it turn him against the Creator if he did?  Lacking the energy to practice the forms again, he sat there and thought.  Was there any other way really?  He couldn't think of any.  The woman was right, and he didn't like to think that he would in a way be responsible for the people's deaths.  But what had to be done, had to be.

 

Toward evening he decided it was time to go back to find Eqwina.  Would she still be mad at him?  He didn't like that they had spent less than a day together without some sort of rift, but things could be mended.  This was not nearly as bad as the rifts from before.

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Eqwina did not stop walking once she was out of Corwin’s sight, she kept moving through the trees and undergrowth until she came to a tiny stream. Talking a seat near the water’s edge she closed her eyes and ran slowly through the novice exercises. They were no longer needed to help her embrace the source, but they always helped to calm her nerves in times of stress.

 

As she sat there, allowing her mind to go blank she began to realize that was she was doing was not too different from the meditation Corwin spoke of. It was in peacefulness such as this that she was able to think clearly, why would it not be the same for him?

 

Letting herself feel the cool air of the day she pondered on the choices that had led her to this place. Less than two months gone she’d thought Corwin dead, and in his death she’d discovered her true feelings for him. It was his ‘death’ that had made her realize how important he’d been. She had been given a chance that many women had begged for. A chance to make up for time lost, and to try again. So why was it still a struggle? Why was it so hard for them? The possibility that it was the life she led that was make it so hard made her cringe. Even if she wished to turn back to the Light, which she did not, The Great Lord of the Dark would not let her live a day. The secrets that filled her head were far more valuable than her life, of that she knew for certain.

 

Even in her meditative state Eqwina cringed at the images of the torture she would endure if she ever tried to forsake the Shadow.

 

The litany of new oaths she’d sworn when she joined the Black Ajah ran through her head, and when they were finally done she felt safer. It was as if even thinking of turning in a speculative way had brought her Master’s attention down on her.

 

Her eyes popped open as she heard twigs snapping in the woods behind her. Surely it had only been her imagination? When it was Corwin that emerged Eqwina resisted the urge to sigh with relief, but instead she only stood up to face him. Surprisingly or perhaps not, she no longer felt any anger. Only a thin reed of disappointment…

 

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Once he found the woman he didn't know what to say.  It was funny how that always happened, she would just look at him and his mind would go blank. Standing there for a moment, he then decided to go in for an embrace, she didn't seem upset like before, but he decided to play it safe first.  I... I think you were... are right.  I don't see another way, and I will not stop you if you wish to send the message for their deaths.  She didn't reply so he kept on.  I'm sorry I doubted your plan.  I should have known you would have given a lot of thought to it before suggesting it to me.  Do what you feel is best.

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It was only all many years as Aes Sedai that allowed her eyes to keep from falling from her head when Corwin condoned the deaths. Did he not know whose name was on that list? Looking up at him she was starting to think that he didn’t.

 

Reaching out to tangle her fingers in his she smiled. The look was so foreign on her face that she didn’t think she could even picture how she looked with a smile any longer, but Corwin returned the smile. Do he must have seen the genuineness in her eyes. “I am glad that you have come around, but there are other issues to discuss. Come.” Without looking to see if he would follow she led the way back to their camp and settled herself down by the fire.

 

“In order for this too work I can think of perhaps 4 that have to die. More would make us safer, but I could not conceal more than that. Three of those deaths are Aes Sedai, two from my Ajah and once from the Brown.” A look in his eyes said he was wondering if she meant the Yellow Ajah or the Black, but she didn’t stop to answer. “ The last is a member of the Warders and Tower Guards.” Her eyes searched his for recognition. “It may be a few that need to die, but you can tell better than I. I know that one is Liitha.”

 

It was out, it had been said. What happened next was up to him. 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

As a father he knew he should be enraged at the idea.  But at the same time, he had never been the best father, still he did feel his anger rising.  And what has she done?  I never knew you to speak to her, so what could she do to prove you wrong?  He didn't know what to make of the situation, she was his daughter, his only child, his first taken by Eqwina, and now she wanted him to willingly give his second child to be killed by the Black Ajah... like his first one was.  Could he willingly consent to her death?  If nothing else he could try to save her, he had never been much of a father to her, and it was too late to start really, but he could do what he could here.  What kind of a father would he be if he just gave up with no argument at all?

 

But was she worth keeping him away from Eqwina?  In some ways the thought horrified him.  Was he so far past feeling that he didn't care about his own family?  Was he so far past feeling that he only cared about himself and his own selfish desires?

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