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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
Miya

At the Request of an Old Friend (atn: Alin)

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Pale-pink ageless lips pressed firmly to one, and then another eyelid, tucking a heavy green quilt around the limp and (finally) peaceful sleeping form of Aaolin Ybadith.  Brushing a hand down the girl’s cheek, Miya Kiyoshi rose as smoothly as her old bones would allow, trying not to wake the soul-weary battle sister.

 

Looking down upon the soundly sleeping Green she remembered a time, not so very long ago,  when she had tucked-in this very same woman… only back then Aaolin was in a banded dress and her uncertainty was in anticipation of gaining the shawl, not of her own choices.  

 

Time for the two of them, the White Tower, and the world had brought about many painful and difficult changes that Miya had never anticipated in her dizziest daydreams.  One example of such changes was the frosty reception she’d received in the hallway today.  It seemed unthinkable that politics could ever have shifted so much within the ivory walls that a Blue would be glared at as she walked to the room of a Green Sister.  Yet, that was exactly what had occurred today and it galled her to no end.  Burn the all the green ajah for fools if they believed the Blues solely responsible for the passing of one law… a sensible law at that… did they know nothing of what was happening outside these walls!?!

 

Thankfully, it seemed that the tea Merelle Hightower had suggested too soothe the young woman had actually worked as advertised.  She would have to send the merchant woman some extra coin for the suggestion, though it was unlikely she would ever ask for such a repayment.  Successful as that woman was, Merelle might be much more so, if she were not given to random acts of kindness such as this.  Blowing out the guttering candle, the gray-haired Blue Sister made her way to the door.

 

As she closed the door to Aaolin’s room she was happy to find that the hall was empty save for herself and the old gnarled walking stick that she‘d put against the door frame upon entering.  Looking to the window at the end of the hallway she could see that it was dark outside now and most sisters had retired for the evening to their own rooms and studies.  For a moment, only a moment, she considered doing the same but she knew far too well that her work was far from done and her big mouth had landed her into a pit of mud so deep that even pigs wouldn’t dare waddle into it.

 

Filling her lungs with air and exhaling she focused on the presence of Saidar just outside her grasp, it’s warmth an old friend ever assuring her that she was stronger than her body would let her be, more commanding than her voice could ever be, and wiser than her years.  Saidar, her only companion these past twenty one years… her only real friend since the death of her last and most beloved warder Hamad.

 

Hamad had been from Saldaea in his youth but, had traveled south to make his fortune breeding horses in the plains.  He’d married (a gentle soul who’d passed on) and had a child who’d grown to manhood all before she’d met him.  His salt and peper hair was worn long and his eyes… Light but his eyes were like eagle’s eyes in color and had she been younger and given to such foolish behavior, she might have swooned.

 

Hamad had a way of making her laugh, no matter how serious things had gotten.  He’d been joking when his death found him, in fact.  He was trying to make her feel better in the face of all the death they’d seen that day … trying to console her over the fact that she could barely channel a spark and so could heal no more men even though there were still those who begged for it as far as the eye could see.  

 

In quiet moments, like this, she could almost feel his bundle of emotions still in her mind… his amusement in that final moment and then utter horror as the dying Aiel’s spear pierced his heart.  If she had ever come so close to burning herself out before that moment, Miya could not recall it.  

 

Closing her large brown eyes, Miya tried to block out the memory and return her mind to the serenity that held her together over nearly three centuries of life and when she opened them, she found herself wandering into the Warder’s yard.

 

Please Miya…  Aaolin had said, eyes drooping with the weight of her weariness from tears unshed and the pain hidden for far too long inside.

 

She sighed, her eyes scanning the remaining men and women running to and fro with the last of their day’s work and the start of evening watch.  The man wouldn’t be asleep yet, perhaps drinking with old friends but definitely not sleeping… a Gaidin wouldn’t rest well on a night his sister was so emotional.  He had to be here somewhere.  The trick now was to find him and decide how one went about something so … unorthodox as this.

 

Would he be offended?

Would he reject her?

Would he be a bull headed oaf after these past seven years and decidedly not who she would ever want to bond despite having given her word that she’d accept the passing of the bond?

 

Striding her plump, demure figure forward she tried to push the questions from her mind; even shaking her head once to the negative letting her shoulder length gray braids shake as she did… the tiny silver bells on the end of each braid tinkling softly as she did so.  Aaolin, child, what have you gotten me into?

 

“You there…”  She called out to a boy who couldn’t be many years off his mother’s apron strings.

 

“Me, Aes Sedai?”  He replied, fumbling a bow and almost stuttering with nerves so thick that she wondered how he even made it into a trainee’s uniform.

 

“Yes you boy,“  She pulled her blue shawl a bit snugger around the shoulders of her navy dyed wool dress. “I need your assistance.”

 

“Heart and soul to serve Aes Sedai.”  The boy chirped.  Shienarans… how did I not notice that his hair was long from a let down top knot?

 

“Yes, yes…”  she said, sounding more annoyed than pleased at his oath.  “I need to find a man.”

 

Burn the boy if he didn’t smile with the grin of a lad who expected to be bonded on the spot!  “Anyone Aes Sedai.”  He promptly interjected.

 

It took everything in her old bones not to roll her eyes at the over excitement of the youth.  “A dark haired southlander with a very dangerous look about him; recently returned to the tower in just the last day or so.  He goes by  the name Alin Gaidin.”  She said flatly.  “I need to immediately locate this Alan Mori’dan Warder of Aaolin Sedai of the Green Ajah.”  A part of her, a very small part, finished the statement in her mind… because I somehow have to find a way to tell him that he’s going to be my future Gaidin.

 

 

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Dipping a ladle into the bucket of water Alin dumped its contents over his head.  As he reached for a towel he shook his head vigorously from side to side, water droplets spraying wildly.  Still breathing heavily he wiped his face with the towel before running it over his torso.  Tossing the towel casually over a nearby post the Grand Master of Me'Arearth reached his hands to the sky, a few popping sounds reminding him once again that he was no longer a young man.  The number of gray hairs at his temples were still relatively few but a single one had sprouted on his chest just recently.  Frowning, he reached down and plucked the offending hair and tossed it aside.

 

Working the forms had left his muscles fatigued, but in a good way.  He felt loose, limber...alive.  Aaolian had been a budle of confused emotions all day so Alin had found his way to a small pond hidden by dogwoods that had been his favorite place to find peace back when he had been Master of Arms.  He had pushed himself hard this last hour, working out his frustration in the best way he knew how.  Some men might prefer a drink before a relaxing fire...Alin preferred an energetic workout followed by a few moments of meditation.

 

He pulled a soft cotton shirt over his head before sliding his arms through his well-oiled black leather vest.  He cinched the vest tightly before pulling matching black leather bracers over his forearms.  One did not wear heavy armor as a follower of Me'Arearth.  Quickness and agility were paramount...the object was to NOT get hit.

 

Reaching back he pulled his hair off his neck and knotted it with bit of black leather cord.  Smoothly he settled into a seated position, ankles crossed.  He was pleased to note that his knees barely protested at all.  Elbows resting on the insides of his thighs Alin touched his fingertips together lightly.  He placed his thumbs against his eyebrows and his forefingers supported his forehead.  Closing his eyes he relaxed his breathing and cleared his mind.  It occured to him that Aaolian had finally calmed down a bit...she seemed less anxious, perhaps even a bit fuzzy.  Interesting.

 

**************

 

A soft scrape of cloth against leaves alerted him to a presence.  Without lifting his head or opening his eyes Alin spoke in a measured tone.  "Can I help you?"  

 

The young boy had not truly hoped to sneak up on the Gaidin unawares but he had certainly hoped to get closer than 20 feet!  In a shaky voice he said, "Alin Gaidin, I was told that I could find you here.  An Aes Sedai requires your presence.  You are he, are you not?"

 

Opening his eyes he realised that the sun had hidden itself completely beneath the horizon.  The sky was full of stars, although not nearly as many as a man would see when on the open road, away from one of the great cities.  Rising, Alin turned to face the lad.  Aaolian appeared to be resting peacefully (for a change) so he wondered who it might be that required his attendance at such an hour.

 

Buckling his sword belt around his waist Alin motioned the boy onward.  "Lead on lad, I wouldn't want to leave this mysterious Aes Sedai waiting."

 

Emerging from the bushes Alin followed the young Trainee into the Warders Yard.  The boy seemed to be making a beeline towards a stout, gray-haired Blue Sister that he recognized.  Miya Sedai, a Sister whom Aaolian looked up to and admired.  Worry creased his brow as he contemplated why a friend of Aaolian's might wish to see him so soon upon their arrival to the Tower.

 

As he approached, he tapped the Trainee on the shoulder.  "Off with you, boy.  You did well to find me.  Now back to your chores before the Mistress of Trainees finds something for you to do."  The boy literally squeeked as he turned on his heels and sprinted off.

 

Stopping in front of the Aes Sedai, Alin bowed his head in respect.  "Peace favor you, Miya Sedai.  What do you wish of me?"

 

 

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A smile split the old sister’s face as she saw the thin gray wings the man was beginning to develop.  The look was dignified, strong, and handsome framing his face that way.  He would, if he wasn’t careful, look the part that he’d worked so long to cultivate.  Silently, she contemplated just how good with the blade he’d gotten since she last watched him spar with another man. 

 

“Light and honor,”  she responded, deciding to give over to the borderlander manner that she was born to.  “fill your life Alin Gaidin.”  Leaning on her staff slightly she moved forward to get a better look at him.  If only she were a few years younger, the journeys and adventures this man could accompany her on… Light!  If only it did not pain her to stay in the saddle so long, Miya could just imagine the good they might accomplish out on the road together.

 

“The years have been good to you.”  The discussion of one’s Sedai passing the bond simply wasn’t you dropped casually as you please on a man’s lap and hoped for the best.  Granted, it really was a discussion that almost never occurred to begin with, in truth.  Only in the most dire of cases where a Sister feared her own death did she ever consider such a thing and the fact that Aaolin had come to her about this meant nothing good… that was certain.  She’d have to watch the girl closely over the next few weeks. 

 

No doubt Alin would be troubled and want to see Aaolin straight away once he learned why she was really here or at the very least his emotions might wake her from the sleep she so desperately needed and neither was a particularly good result.  No, she had to find a way to handle this with care but honestly, clearly he wasn’t the sort of man who appreciated long winded speeches or elaborate set ups to bad news.

 

She paused only a moment before making the shift to the topic of the business at hand.  “You will accompany me to discuss some serious business but, I’d appreciate it if you’d be sure to control your emotional reactions throughout our evening together… Aaolin needs her rest and I‘ll thump you with this stick before I let you go waking her up.”  She seriously doubted that she could thump Alin unaided but she wasn’t beyond the point of paddling the man with weaves of air if he took to irrational behavior.  Not that she expected that, he was younger than her but he wasn’t inexperienced.  The man had lead these very grounds once and was one of the foremost fighters in the known world.  His reputation more than proceeded him it was the thing of legends for village children to here stories about on feast days.

 

Looking around Miya considered where would be a private enough place to speak about such a sensitive matter.  Surely the man’s pride could be wounded by this revelation, previous ranks and titles aside… he still was a man after all, and she didn’t want to add embarrassment to the load he’d bear after all was said and done.

 

“Now, it’s been a while since I’ve been on grounds myself but if memory serves me… there is a sitting room in this building over here which we can make easy use of.  I imagine at this hour it’s cleared out of petitioners, unless of course you’d enjoy some dinner?  Light knows I haven’t eaten yet and we may have a long night ahead of us.  Surely there is some nice place in town where we can get a descent meal in private?”  Time to see if the boy picks up on cues well and just how efficiently he can secure what I require when it’s implied to him that I need it.  Hmmm, I wonder if the Stone Wheel still has that delicious honey butter…

 

Oc:  Realized you use italics for speaking and I use them for inner thoughts so I decided to color my spoken words blue for clarity sake.  ... bloody typos!

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Alin was decidedly wary of the direction the conversation was going but that was often the case when talking to an Aes Sedai other than his own.  The "serious business" HAD to involve Aaolian, nothing else made sense, and that set him on edge.  Her emotions had swung wildly since her return, from anger to weeping and just about everything in between.  How much the Sisters, and this Sister in particular, were responsible for that he did not know.  Granted, Miya Sedai had shown concern for Aaolian's condition but that was no guarantee.

 

The fact that she wished to converse away from listening ears set him even more on edge but he quickly fed the emotion to the flame.  The Aes Sedai was right in one regard, it would not do for him to upset Aaolian when she so desperately needed rest.  He would do as Miya Sedai wished.

 

He dismissed the "sitting room" suggestion out of hand.  The woman had dropped an Ogier-sized hint that she wished to eat, and Alin's stomach was grumbling after the workout.  He wished that she had given him some suggestion as to where she would like to eat however.  His tastes ran plain...simple tavern food always sufficed...but he sensed that Miya Sedai's tastes were more refined.  Running quickly through the names of some of the finer dining establishments he whittled down the list to those within a short walk from the Tower.  The cane indicated that she would not be pleased with a long walk.

 

"I can think of a few establishments that might meet your needs Miya Sedai.  The Wandering Lady, The Stone Wheel..."  There...he thought he saw...something...in her eyes..."Yes, yes, The Stone Wheel should work fine I would think, with your approval."  As best he could tell his guess had not been a tragic mistake as the Aes Sedai nodded her head and motioned for him to lead on.  Hopefully this would not be his only bit of good fortune this evening.

 

*********************

 

A few coins had gotten them one of the private rooms in the back.  Alin gestured for the Aes Sedai to take her seat as he unbuckled his sword belt.  The relatively short walk had been uneventful and Miya Sedai seemed inclined to get to the point at her own pace.  Idle conversation was definitely NOT one of Alin's strong points so the silence suited him just fine.

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It was good to see he was quick enough to read her pleasure in choosing The Stone Wheel.  Of course she’d be more subtle in the future to see just how refined his skill at reading expressions really was but, at least he was not as thick as hardwood trees.  It was a good quality for anyone to possess and it was uncommon in many of the soldiers she’d met in the past.

 

Alin was a quiet man and she enjoyed that in moments like this; pointless banter often lead to mistakes and that was something that all too often lead to bigger trouble than her old heart was willing to take.  This situation had all the pleasurable qualities of a wet bee’s nest and the silence gave her time to think over her words a bit more.   

 

The inn was just as she remembered it to be upon her last visit.  The girl behind the counter surely couldn’t be Ronald’s youngest?  Light she was marriageable now!  Had it been so very long ago that she held the babe?  Closing her eyes while Alin made the arrangements for their room, she banished the ghosts of the past from her mind once more and made her way into the quiet dining area to take a seat.

 

“Milk please,”  she ordered from the pleasant serving girl who came walking up to their table.  “… and whatever stew your cooks have on hand will do; just be sure to include those rolls and honey butter.”

 

The girl immediately inclined her head and replied that she would do just as instructed, making certain to call her by her title.  Amusing as it was to note, she did miss having every person in a city immediately identify her for what she was.  There was no where you could go in Tar Valon and not be known as a Sister of the Tower… well, perhaps maybe the docks if you happened upon someone who had never been here before, but that surely was rare enough.  No, everyone here knew her to be Aes Sedai and were sure to pay her all due respect for that title.

 

Alin ordered his food and then Miya found herself in the unenviable position of staring into the eyes of a man who once lead what was, arguably, the world’s most powerful army.  Granted, she was a Sister of the White Tower and no pushover when it came to impressive men, even one such as Alin Gaidin, but he was obviously a man who cared about his Aes Sedai (as was only right) and judging by the simple meal the man ordered… one who probably did not appreciate the effort that went into an elaborate and well phrased explanation.  He wanted answers but, was at least gracious enough to wait for them.  So, if only to ensure he knew who was in charge during this discussion, she made him do just that - wait.

 

Dinner was served and for a time they ate in silence.  It was strange to have a man in the room with her again.  How long had it been?  There were a few she did visit with from time to time… merchants, eyes and ears across the whole of the land but none of them quite like this one.  It was strange to consider any man an equal when you were an Aes Sedai.  No man could ever stand in the glory of the Ivory Tower and compare to those who survived and rose above the challenges which the Sisters were asked to endure yet, warders were expected to try.  Their training and experience, in time, made them unique in all the world as they might be able to claim the honor or being compared to those they served. 

 

Miya analyzed his chiseled features as he took bite after bite, wielding the spoon as if he might know six or seven various ways to kill a man with it.  She smiled around her own spoon at that thought, mostly because she figured he just might.

 

Sitting her spoon down she folded her hands in her lap and spoke in an unwavering but conversational tone.  She knew she must come across as though there was really no discussion about this, she wouldn’t let Aaolin look incompetent just to soothe this man’s pride, but somehow she must not make him cold and indifferent to her lest the bond be a difficult thing for both of them.

 

“At the request of Aaolin I spent the afternoon in her company.  She told me a great deal about your journey and I must say that I am slightly in awe of  the tale.”  That was true enough… Light!  The girl had been busy. 

 

“It is not unusual for a young sister to take off with her warder right after gaining the shawl, nor for her to get into a fair number of difficult situations but, Aaolin may have just set the bar a bit higher for the next wet-behind the ears Sister to achieve.”  Sipping her milk calmly she took in his every subtle motion and even the way he controlled his breathing.  She’d seen men do this before, but usually they reserved this calm for the fury of battle.  Does he see our meeting as a battle or is this just his way of not disturbing Aaolin?

 

She returned his gaze from her seat across the table.  “Without breaking Aaolin’s trust, perhaps there are some things you wish to share about your travels too?”  She arches an eyebrow slightly.  “If I were willing to give my word that I would speak of it to no one but yourself or Aaolin, if she asked me directly what we spoke of tonight?”

 

Oh, yes, she’d agree not to speak of these things… Alin had been at the White Tower long enough to know that he spoke his concerns for Aaolin that it might reflect poorly on her and decrease her standing in the eyes of her fellow sisters.  No Gaidin would betray his Sister that way… at least no Gaidin she was willing to bond and she didn’t take Alin for that sort.  And so, if only to get him moving towards the conclusion that he must accept, she conceded her silence on all topics discussed from this point forward.

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“If I were willing to give my word..."

 

Ahhhh, Alin thought to himself, how like an Aes sedai.  The hint of a promise but not a promise in fact.  Was she dissembling to leave herself an out?  There was only one way to find out. He only hoped that she would not be offended.

 

"Miya Sedai, I mean no disrespect but I would find it most reassuring if you would in fact give me your word.  I knew of you as a friend and confidant to Aaolian from her days in the Tower but I do not share confidences lightly."

 

The Aes Sedai narrowed her eyes and said, "I give you my word, Alin Gaidin, that I will speak of what you tell me to no one but yourself or Aaolian.  Will that suffice?"

 

It concerned him that he might have offended her but there was nothing he could do about that.  Aaolian was his Aes Sedai, not Miya, and he would do nothing to harm her or her reputation.  He had committed to giving Miya Sedai at least some information but he would need to carefully consider what he imparted.

 

With a nod, Alin began.

 

"Thank you Miya Sedai.  I am not sure what I could tell you that Aaolian has not already.  As you say, Aaolian was quite eager to leave the Tower not long after she Bonded me.  She was destined to be a Green you might say.  She ached to see the world, to root out servants of the dark wherever they might be and unleash the fury of the Light upon them.  It certainly made the life of her Warder rather interesting I must say."

 

"We travelled the Borderlands primarily.  We would spend small amounts of time in various villages but for the most part she and I were each others only company.  Much of our time would be spent wandering the outskirts of the Blight, searching for Darkspawn.  There were more than a few times where we might have bitten off more than we could chew but Aaolian can be as feirce as any Warder I have known.  I'm not sure anyone else could have maintained her pace for as long as she did but six months ago we left Saldaea for her home in Andor."

 

Inwardly he sighed.  Aaolian had begun to change their last year in Saldaea, turning inward.  He was glad when she had decided to visit her home.  He had hoped that getting away from the Blight and seeing her family might rejuvinate her.

 

"What happened when she visited her home I cannot say as it is something she will need to speak of if she chooses.  Instead of returning to the Blight, Aaolian decided to come here to the White Tower once more.  My hope is that she is once more among friends."

 

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“Mostly.”  Miya confessed.  “I suppose in the way of things the Tower is a place united but, always divided.  You can sooner get six cats to swim in patterns than you can expect the Tower to be kind to all who come through it’s doors.”  She smirked, her eye brows rising up to nearly her hairline with amusement at the statement.  Light but it was true!

 

“You’re right to keep her confidences and you’d be wise to say no more about what she went through… to anyone.”   Taking a sip of her milk she decided it was time to start pulling the horses from the barn.  “Aaolin has decided to take some time on a farm and that can lead wagging tongues.”   Putting her cup down she leaned back in her chair, a sign she was finished with her meal, at least for the time being. 

 

“I’ll do what I can to silence any gossip mongering but, you’ve been around the Tower long enough to know that all the penance in the world won’t stop it from spreading just the same.  All we can do is prepare ourselves and bear what must be borne.”  There, she had begun to open the door to it… she could almost see his mind working through her words, muddling out that she had implied she and he would be doing something together… that he wouldn’t be on that farm ignoring the world like she would be.

 

“There is no way to make this pleasant to hear.  I won’t waste our time trying to find a sugar coating to make this tonic easier to swallow.  Aaolin called me to her today, to ask that I accept the passing of your bond.”  She wanted to wince or to look away, she didn’t want to see how he reacted… easier to kick a puppy than to tell a Warder that his Sedai didn’t want him anymore; no matter what the reason and surely Aaolin had a few for wanting to be free.  However, she had to see his reaction to learn more about him, to see the type of man he really was.  “…at least until such time as she willing to return to her duties at the Tower.”

 

Miya was almost ashamed to admit it, and she never would if put to the question later but, she embraced Saidar.

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"...decided to take some time on a farm..."

 

"...bear what must be borne..."

 

His initial suspicion that he would not be happy with the direction of this conversation was only being reinforced.  Alin knew that Aaolian had been under tremendous strain and pressure but...a farm?  Retreating from the world?  That was not the Aes Sedai that he admired and trusted.  Something wasn't quite right here.  What was this woman's game?

 

"...no way to make this pleasant to hear..."

 

He could feel himself clenching his jaw.  Something was greatly amiss.  A thought came to him and he dismissed it out of hand, feeding it to the flame.  It was not possible.  Simply not possible, and unworthy of consideration.  It had to be something else, it had to be.

 

"...ask that I accept the passing of your bond..."

 

It was as if the thought, merely singed around the edges, drifted from the flame and landed on him setting him ablaze.  Alin could see Miya Sedai's lips moving but he could hear nothing over the roar of his blood thumping through his veins.  This...could...not...be!.  His hands clenched under the table, knuckles turning white, fingernails digging deeply into his palms.  He wanted to leap to his feet, to turn the table over and send the remnants of their meal flying.  He ached to lash out at something, anything!

 

Meeting the Blue Sister's eyes he could see empathy there...as well as perhaps a bit of waryness?  Did she think him a threat?  Did she think he actually would lash out?  The mere thought brought Alin back to himself.  Shamed by his lack of control he seized his emotions once more and fed them to the flame, stoking the fire until there was nothing left to burn.  

 

He did not know how long he sat in silence.  A few seconds?  A few minutes?  But all that was left now was a cold certainty.  Pushing his chair back, Alin rose smoothly from the table.

 

"Miya Sedai, I do not question your words, you spoke them plainly.  I hope you understand that I must speak to Aaolian.  If this is truly what she wishes then I will do my duty but I must hear it from her lips.  Perhaps I do not have the right to ask this but I would like to speak with her after she rises tomorrow."

 

Maybe Aaolian only needed a good nights rest in a friendly place to clear her mind.  Perhaps the strain of returning had caused her to make a rash judgement.  Perhaps.  Or maybe the weight of the last 7 years had taken a greater toll on her than he knew.  There was only one way to find out.  And if she truly wished to rid herself of him, he would accept it, no matter how bitter a pill that would be to swallow.  He loved Aaolian as a friend and was devoted to her as her Gaidin but if he could serve her best by accepting the Bond of another then it was his duty to do so.

 

He only hoped beyond hope that it would not come to that.

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Miya rose from her seat once Alin was done speaking.  Nodding slowly she says, “Of course you need to talk to her.  If you didn’t she’d wonder why you didn’t care enough to come asking about her reasons for letting you go and she’d assume you wanted to be rid of her …but, don‘t make too much of this.  She already feels horrible about letting you go Alin.  What she does now isn’t for herself it’s for your happiness and for the good of Tower & the world.”

 

Walking over to the wall of a man she let’s Saidar slip away from her grasp.  It was never good to hold the power too long, no matter how safe and powerful it made her feel in the face of less than promising odds.  “You would serve as her friend and confident on a farm and be loyal to a fault… I have no doubt.  But we all know that your talents would wither and waste on a farm where as a few years there might serve to make her a better Aes Sedai.  You’ll grow older and slower and she… only more wise as it will be many, many long years before she’s got gray in her hair like me.”

 

In a compassionate gesture, one she usually reserved only for children and victims of injustice, she put a hand on Alin’s arm.  “You have so much yet to give the world Alin and she’s selflessly making sure you don’t squander that.  Appreciate her wisdom and concern for your comfort and happiness… love her for putting the world first just as she swore she would… because if she couldn’t then every bit of the woman we care so much for would be gone.”

 

Drawing breath she let her eyes lock on his, filled with more empathy that she’d spared for any man since Hamad. “… and promise whatever you can to help her to not question this decision because, regardless of how much it may sting both our prides that we can not reassure her enough to keep her here; forcing her to stay through guilt will only complicate and worsen matters.”  Letting her hand fall away she finishes with, “I hate it… I made every argument to urge her to stay that was logical and reasonable, but she needs this.”

 

Stepping back away from him she cleared the path to the door.  “Dinner is my treat.  Come find me tomorrow after your talk and when you’ve cleared your head enough to discuss the particulars of what must be done.  If you don’t come tomorrow, I’ll wait until the next day… and the following and the one after that if it’s necessary but - I will wait for you and I expect that eventually you will make your peace with our duty as I have.”

 

 

 

 

 

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As Alin made his way towards the Blues Quarters in the Tower he reflected on the events of the last few days.  His world had been turned upside down, of that there was no doubt, but he had come to terms with his fate.  It was not how he had envisioned his life playing out in those heady early days when Aaolian had Bonded him.  Life as the Warder of a Green, especially one as active as Aaolian, was a challenge...but one that had fulfilled his inner need for excitement and adventure.  But, he thought to himself, he supposed those days were behind him now.

 

His conversation with Aaolian had not gone as well as he had planned.  He had still held out hope that she would reconsider her position but that was sadly not to be.  He could see the pain in her eyes but also the resoluteness of her decision.  She was firm in her conviction that she needed this time in seclusion, and even moreso in her desire for Alin to do something useful rather than to, in her words, play nursemaid until he was too old to be of any good.  He still doubted that she would remain on a farm for that length of time but it was clear that if he stayed by her side it would take that much longer for her to get back to where she was.  It was that which finally made him accept her decision.  What was most important was that she find herself once again so that she could perform her duties.  He knew that she would be a great Aes Sedai some day and he would not delay her return.  Who knew, perhaps one day she might take him back...

 

Laughing ruefully he shook his head slightly to clear his mind and refocused on the task at hand.  Stopping just outside the entrance to the Blues Quarters Alin motioned for a passing Novice who seemed intent on some task or another.  At first he thought she might pretend not to see him but with an audible sigh she approached him.  Alin tilted his head slightly and raised his eyebrows as if to say "really?"  The girl suddenly found the folds in her dress quite compelling.

 

"If you would, please, I wish to speak with Miya Sedai.  Would you run and get her?"

 

He did not know if it was his own countenance, or merely the name of the Blue Sister, that caused the girl to squeek and turn tail down the hallway into the Blues Quarters.

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“Miya Sedai?”  The girl surely couldn’t be of an age to be in the books… but there she was, all in white and jabbering nervously.  Had she sent this girl on some sort of task before?  Light, but how was she expected to keep track when they all seemed so much alike?  Weak spirited, complaining, lazy young twigs of women who were barely fit for novice white let alone to aspire to a banded dress.

 

“What is it child, the day isn’t getting any earlier.”

 

“Forgive me, Aes Sedai but there is a handsome fellow asking for you at the end of the hallway.”

 

This made Miya’s eyebrows raise for two reasons… the first was the idea that Alin had finally made his peace and was ready to move forward and in less than a ten-day and the second was at the girl’s interesting choice of words to describe Alin Gaidin.  Yes, not hard on the eyes but she may have chosen any number of other descriptors for the fellow not the least of which included his proper rank.

 

“Thank you girl.”  Miya said thoughtfully.  The child tried to hide a smirk as she nodded, obviously she felt that this encounter had gone her way.  Full of herself and her abilities and fixated on men… future Green if I’ve ever met one.  “Now take yourself to the Mistress of Novices and ask her to find a way to help you better to remember the proper address for Warders and for Light’s sake stand up straight and take some pride in your position.”

 

Taking her walking stick she made her way down the hall to the ‘handsome man’ waiting for her.  “Alin Gaidin, it‘s good to see you.”  She greeted him.  “Shall we take a walk while we speak or would you be more comfortable finding a private location?”

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Alin leaned comfortably against the wall as he waited for the Blue Sister to appear.  After only a few days back he had begun to feel more and more comfortable with the sounds and rhythyms of the Tower and the Warders Yard.  The place had been his home for so many years and it seemed it would be his home for many more years to come.

 

He did not know Miya Sedai very well and he was not typically one to prejudge another based on appearance but her apparent age, not to mention the walking stick, did not engender much hope that they would see much adventure.  He hoped that he was wrong but he could not stop the thought from gnawing at him just a bit.

 

He smiled inwardly as Miya Sedai appeared down the hall with her walking stick heading towards him.  Standing up straight Alin greeted the woman with a polite nod.

 

"Alin Gaidin, it‘s good to see you" she said.  Shall we take a walk while we speak or would you be more comfortable finding a private location?”

 

Thinking again about the walking stick Alin decided on a course of action.  "Miya Sedai, perhaps it would be best if we find a place to converse where you could sit at your leisure."

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For half-a-heartbeat Miya lost her composure.  Her eyes went wide, horrified with insult, indignant at the idea that he obviously thought she couldn't handle a short walk around the court yard.

 

"My ... staff," she stressed the word "is a traditional artifact of the Blue Ajah that has been a vital part of our identity dating back nearly to the Breaking."  she first shook the stick at him as though she considered thumping him and then she motioned towards the door as if to say 'shall we?' and then began to walk.  

 

"Every Blue sister has one in some form or another though some do not carry them with the pride or frequency that I do.”  Calming she continued thoughtfully,  “I suppose it's seen by some sisters to be like the shawl.”  Seeing Alin’s thoughtful expression she decided she would explain though it was less than customary to do so.  “Wearing it too much makes one appear as new to her station as a babe to life… it‘s prideful, boasting and infantile in nature to do; but,"  she snorted, her eyes looking to her gray braids. “...with me there is little chance of that error in assumption being made, is there?"

 

Before Alin could go on about how he didn't mean any insult to her personally, she waved a hand dismissively and pushed forward.  She didn‘t care to waste time assuring him he‘d have to do a lot more than that to hurt her feelings;  though she'd walk all day just to prove to this bloody man she could do it, burn her but she would!  

 

“I want you to know that the previous evening we spent together is not typical of me.  Our circumstances puts us both into … awkward and unfamiliar territory.  Most of all, I want you to know that I don’t intend for you to confess to me anything further about your business with Aaolain.  Whatever has passed between you and she is for you and the Creator alone.  It is privileged information and sacred and only the most insulting of sisters would dare disrespect either of you in that way.  It is regrettable that I asked as much as I did of you and for that, you have my apologizes.  It’s not the foot I would have chosen to start off on with you.”  

 

“Breaking a warder much in the same way as you might a horse is no good way to bring him into your service.  Though some might say as much but, I‘d call such women witless and inexperienced.”  She wrinkled her nose with the thought of more than a few women who thought the only reason to have a warder was to have an animated sword at their side.  

 

“Personally, I prefer to simply make my expectations known from the first moment and trust my brother-in-arms to work within those boundaries using the resources and mental acuities I chose him for to begin with.  After all, if I wanted a mindless protector, then I have found myself a wolf-hound and not a partner in my quest to serve my cause.”  Let him wonder about what that means for a while, it’ll do him good to be thinking about more than just how he phrases his words while we talk.

 

“So, I suppose that‘s where we need to start our discussions.  Explanations and expectations.  I’ve always been a woman to say what’s on my mind, I suppose all Sisters are to a certain degree or another but I… more than most.”  She smiled.  You can take a woman out of Arafel but you can’t take Arafel completely out of the blood of the woman.

 

“Leaving Aaolin out of the explanation, because your care for her only clouds the facts surrounding your own personal desires; I want to know why you took up the fan cloak rather than continuing your loyal service on Tower grounds.  Obviously something in you was inspired to act and I want to be familiar with that side of you and I want to know what it is you expect as a warder of not just myself… but in general.”

 

 

 

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He had to admit that he had never heard of that particular tradition of the Blue Ajah.  Alin was chagrined that he had taken the...staff...for something that it was not.  In fact she did a rather nice impression of a Trainee with the way she waved it at him.  He supposed that it might not be best to phrase it to her in quite that way however.  He began to think that there might be more to this woman than he had thought.

 

It was reassuring to hear her say that she had no intention of wringing any more information out of him that might concern Aaolian.  What one Aes Sedai might consider insulting another might easily consider necessary and well within her rights.  Building a relationship with one's Aes Sedai based on mutual trust was in his opinion the only way to go.  He would remain on his guard until he knew her better but he was beginning to think that Miya Sedai did not have any sort of hidden agenda.  He was not nearly so naive as to think that all Aes Sedai would have treated him so fairly.

 

In fact, it was important to remember that this was not something that the Blue Sister had sought out.  Aaolian was quite explicit that Miya was doing this because she had asked.  That she had so much trust in the Blue Sister spoke volumes.  And the way Miya Sedai spoke regarding the relationship between Aes Sedai and Gaidin only reinforced that opinion.

 

When the conversation turned to his reasons for becoming a Warder Alin smiled.  "Miya Sedai, that is a complicated question, but I will do my best to answer it."

 

"I came to the Tower with the dream of some day becoming a Warder.  I enjoyed my time as a Tower Guard but I always knew that it was a means to an end.  Please don't take that to mean that I did not take my duties seriously...I take anything I do seriously...but I aspired to something that was in my mind a higher calling.  I wanted to ride at the side of an Aes Sedai as she waged battle against the forces of the Dark."  

 

"When I was chosen to take over as Master of Arms I must say that I did so with much trepidation.  While it was a great honor to be recognized by my peers I was fully cognizant of the fact that the position carried great responsibility.  Training future Tower Guards...some of whom would one day become Warders in their own right...was serious business and deserved all the attention of the man or woman who held the title.  I wondered if it might delay or even end my dream of becoming a Warder.  In the end I decided that I could do much good as Master of Arms and made peace with the idea of residing within the Tower walls for many years.  I still itched to be out where the action was but I knew that in my own way I was serving the cause of the Tower."

 

Alin knew that Miya Sedai had asked him to keep Aaolian out of his explanation but the story seemed incomplete without at least giving her a mention.  He hoped Miya would understand.

 

"I had grown accustomed to my position but I was still young and hungry for adventure.  I knew that Aaolian shared my passion in that regard and I had developed a great deal of respect and admiration for her over the years.  It seemed a natural progression that I become her Warder and try to keep her safe but if she had not offered to bond me I would have eagerly accepted it from another.  Although...a Brown...well, that might have been tough."

 

"It was hard leaving my position as Master of Arms when Aaolian decided to leave the Tower but I would not have traded the experience for anything.  I am older and wiser now but I believe in the mission of the Tower and I wish to continue serving it as a Warder.  I may not have the overexuberance of youth but I still desire to be out there making a difference.  I suppose that would be all that I might ask.  To be allowed to still make a difference."

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Miya listened to Alin's words and nodded thoughtfully.  "Making a difference is the goal of every sister and Gaidin I suppose... but the blues like to pick something and run with it more than most.  I suppose that makes us come off as pushy, meddling or nosey busy bodies but, it's not important what people think about your methods... so long as the job is completed at the end of the day."  She nodded firmly to herself, satisfied that because she could say the words, obviously they were true.

 

"It may sound crass but historians rarely dwell on the dark details of the making of peace ... instead they celebrate that it was made at all.  We Blues pick a cause and commit ourselves to it from the moment the shawl is laid on our shoulders but for most of us... I suppose we knew from the first day we came here what it was we really wanted to be doing."

 

"For myself, I've always been an advocate of Justice.  I believe that without justice - for all men and women, there can never truly be peace or enlightenment.  The Dark One's power over man thrives in any place where justice is denied ... be it in the backwater villages of Andor where a pig farmer is judged by his demeanor and not his actions or even here in Tar Valon ... the Light forbid that we should ever loose sight of the need for true justice."

 

She stops and looks Alin in the eyes, “I can’t promise you that your sword will be caked in the blood of trollocs when you are at my side Alin… but the work I do and that I will ask of you, will be equally as important if somewhat less glorious.  Does the idea of that bother you?”

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Alin could see intensity in Miya Sedais' eyes as she spoke.  He knew full well the mission of the Blues having spent so much time in the Tower but he got the impression that it was more than mere words to this woman. 

 

He had to smile at the last part however.  "Miya Sedai, I hope I have not given you the wrong impression.  I realise that there are many ways to make a difference.  Fighting Darkspawn is certainly one of them but not the only one.  Only a fool spends his life looking for a fight.  If one comes I will fight to my last breath but I must say that I do prefer breathing on the whole."

 

"A Gaidin swears to protect his or her Aes Sedai and to assist her in whatever mission she undertakes.  As long as it doesn't involve me protecting you from dust bunnies in some musty old library then I will certainly have no problem with doing what you require."  With a laugh he said, "And something tells me that I will have many opportunities to loose my sword.  You have that look about you." 

 

Her sniff in response could be taken many ways he supposed.  It would be enlightening to see how she responded to his sense of humor.

 

"I have thought long and hard on this, Miya Sedai, as anyone should.  My time as Aaolian's Warder has passed, at least for the time being.  It was her wish that you accept my Bond.  I would be honored if you would do so."

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oc:  Thank you for being SOOOO very understanding of my time away Alin.  I'll drop you a more private explaination after this post but I wanted to just give you a shout out here too.  Can't imagine that it's reassuring to consider taking up a new Sedai and then have her not be around for a while.  :)

 

ic:

 

"Well, at least you know how to laugh."  She exposed a guarded smirk. "Trust me Alin, you'll have no fear of dusty bunnies while I'm in your care.  I may not be as young and idealistic as I once was but I am not lay about either.  If you don't lose that sword of yours once in the first year at my side, I will personally take you on a journey to make certain your blade & your skill doesn't lose it's edge."  She looks down to the Great Serpant ring on her right hand, "I've made promises that I must keep, even in this late hour... and I am bound to honor them eventually."

 

Taking a deep breath and exhaling it with a smile she tried her best for some humor in return, "It's been a long time... Now let's see, is bonding done with Spirit ... or fire?"  She waited only a second and then chuckled.

 

"Rest easy my friend... my mind isn't that gone yet."  She winked at him.  "Seriously though, I know some make a very big deal about this sort of thing but, this isn't my first trip to Tar Valon, if you know what I mean.  Still perhaps we could have some drinks at a tavern with some friends and Ajah Sisters if you're up for it?"

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It was good to see that the Aes Sedai had a sense of humor, Alin thought to himself.  He valued a person's ability to engage in a bit of good natured give and take.  He firmly believed that the relationship between Aes Sedai and Warder should be a professional one but many took that to an extreme.  He would be spending, hopefully, the rest of his life with this woman.  It would be frightfully boring if he could not find some way to connect with her on a human level.

 

"Seriously though, I know some make a very big deal about this sort of thing but, this isn't my first trip to Tar Valon, if you know what I mean.  Still perhaps we could have some drinks at a tavern with some friends and Ajah Sisters if you're up for it?"

 

In truth he considered himself a relatively private person and the thought of a "celebration" made him a tad queasy.  Miya Sedai never mentioned a "celebration", just drinks with friends, but in his mind they seemed similar.  He knew that it was foolish, especially considering he was once the Master of Arms, but having the focus on him made him decidedly embarrassed.

 

In the end his sense of duty won out over his embarassment.  If his Aes Sedai wished to share Her bonding with her friends then he would most certainly accede to her wishes.  It wasn't as if she were doing something foolish to put herself in danger or anything.  In that case, well, then she'd have a disagreement on her hands.

 

"Drinks sound good, Miya Sedai.  I know very few people here anymore it seems, I have been gone a rather long time, but meeting some of your Ajah Sisters would be enjoyable.

 

 

OOC:  The drinks idea sounds fun, his reluctance is just the way he is :)

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