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James

Crimson, Interlude I - The Unknown

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Laughing, Aran handed over the bottle to Lachlan to drink from. It had been an eventful day first with their arrival, and there had been other issues as well. The man’s ‘advisors’ had certainly protested, or tried to until Lachlan had stated infront of everyone that he was making them his new guard. That and there would be a council tomorrow, which his puppetmasters were basing their plotting from what had been eavesdropped. Tonight, at least, was safe.

 

While the others hadn’t really cared to become acquainted with the male channeler, Aran found himself taking a liking to him. He didn’t seem to have a mean bone in him, and he seemed content to simply have someone to talk to he didn’t fear. So, Aran didn’t mind keeping tabs on him, in fact under different circumstances they could have been friends. Problem was that as the hours had passed and the moon had started to rise, that’s exactly what was happening.

 

Outside the tent, there was only a person or two keeping watch, the Tower Guard of course. That was their duty, and acting a role or not the Aes Sedai with them weren’t fit for it. They didn’t know how to push through the boredom like they had learned day after day for years on the wall. But they had kept things under control at least, they hadn’t drawn suspicion to themselves like Aran had feared they might.

 

“Hey hey hey, give that back, my turn for a swig.†Snatching the bottle back from Lachlan, Aran proceeded to help himself to just that before speaking. “So what did you do before all of this anyway? Scribe? Farmer?â€

 

 

Aran

Tower Guard

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Lachlan laughed. “Baker, actually. Or I was going to be. Sunrise to sunset sweltering next to the stoves. Knee deep in flour. I never thought I’d miss it . . . serves me right. Really. What of you? Always the mercenary? Adventure, the high seas, treasure; all that?â€

 

The bandit “king†had thoroughly enjoyed his day. Orders or encomiums had become the daily bread of his charade. To hold conversation? Freeing. No one looking up to him, no one looking down at him. He doubted it would happen much in the future, either way. He did not care what hour past sunset it was, he was not tired and could not have slept if he tried.

 

“Oh I’ve done things here and there, and there has been adventure to be had. But its not quite so inspiring when you spend a good deal of the time sleeping in the dirt and going for a time without a bath.†Grinning at the last, Aran handed the bottle over again. “But yes, spend most of my time earning coin with a blade. Not pretty work, but its what I’m good at. What would you give to go back to baking though?â€

 

“It wasn’t pretty work, but it is what I’m good at.†Wink. “I’m not from the cloth of leadership, probably why I was chosen, but if I’m lucky I’ll bluff my way through it long enough to find a replacement. What would I give? My sanity for a start. I know the stories; know my days are numbered. I am aware of every passing day as I am aware of the ‘taint.’"

 

“It is the hand I have been dealt, I can accept that. I will not accept that my final hours of sanity will be spent on a mock throne following orders! When this is over I shall order a feast, I think. Cook it myself. Byron always said that was that servants were for, but then, Byron is a pig.†Lachlan laughed again after realising what had been spoken aloud.

 

Laughing as he saw the look on Lachlan’s face when he realised he’d let the comment about Byron slip, Aran couldn’t help but feel sorry for Lachlan. Then again, once he was gentled he would be safe, a salve against the twinge he felt from having to mislead Lachlan so. It was for his own good, and everyone elses. “Things will be a lot better without them. And a feast would be good, been slender meals for awhile now.†Pausing, Aran continued. “More than anything I could really use a bath though, where have you been getting your water from?â€

 

“A stream, of course. I know where it is, but I’ve never been there. Byron says . . . a lot, actually. Bit of a waste though, it isn’t like we’d make it that far. They’d think of something. An urgent summons, a case in need of arbitration. I can only put them off for so long. Rotten sods.†Lachlan decided that last part was rather witty, and would have to remember it for further use.

 

Smiling, Aran said. “Do you know which direction it is?†Getting a nod, Aran got up and looking through his things found a bar of soap. Heading to the tent flap he peered outside and smirked as he saw that most people were either asleep or caught up in conversation elsewhere. They’d just have to get past their own sentries, not so difficult as they only had a couple that were more for deterrent than anything else since Lachlan’s speech had guaranteed no trouble this night. “You can be light on your feet can’t you? Quiet as a mouse?â€

 

Lachlan looked Aghast. “Good sir, to this day there is rumour of pastery pilfering spirits. Just see if you can keep up, old man.†He smiled genuinely and waited for a signal.â€

 

“Now.†Ducking outside, he led the way back around the tent and into the treeline that they had placed their camp against. Hiding behind a tree, Aran pulled Lachlan behind it as well before peering around the tree carefully. No noise, no disturbance, an absurd risk but it had paid off because as far as he could see not a soul had noticed their disappearance.

 

“Looks like we made it without notice.†Turning to Lachlan with a grin on his face, Aran nudged him with an elbow. “Well? Where is this stream? You do remember which way it is, no?â€

 

“Aye. This way.†Lachlan led Aran down a sloping incline, a shallow vale almost, pine needles softened the ground underfoot and the breeze brought a pleasant scent to the air. Slowly the trees gave way to harder ground, stone, and the crystal sounds of running water began to intrude on the edge of consciousness. “This way. It shallows out farther on. There is a path, but we won’t be using it. My ‘advisors’ are known to favour their late night indulgencies and I would not be suprised to find an attractive serving girl or two gathering water.†Lachlan’s expression turned disapproving. He did not add that most of his advisors were married with children. He knew, because most of them were older than he was.

 

They slowed, due mainly to Lachlan shortening his gait. There was no need to hurry. This was an experience to savour. Where were the advisors, the guards, the hopeful maidens? Gone. Gone. To a normal person, it would have been taken in stride, but to Lachlan it was a moment of such absolute freedom and control that he could not help but drown in it.

 

Forgetting that Aran was even present he moved through one last copse of trees and into a natural oval created by the level of the surroundings banks and the flow of the stream. The grey light of the moon illumed the area, and at that moment Lachlan had not seen anything as beautiful. He closed his eyes, lifted his head to the sky and spun about several times. It was an act so unbecoming a king, and so enjoyable for that fact. He laughed again as Aran stood alongside him.

 

“This is the last time I can remember ever being so alone. Well . . . not alone, there is you, but I can fix that!†With a skill no one would have expected him to possess, the Bandit King whipped Aran into the air and threw him into the stream. “Alone.†He called merrily. “Alone. At last . . .†his voice trailed off into laughter.

 

 

Lachlan

'Bandit King'

 

Aran

Tower Guard

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Well, Lachlan seemed happy as could be now that he had a moment away from the camp. Not only a way to bind him closer to their cause, but Aran was genuinely glad to see him happy. From what Lachlan had said, he’d had a rough time of it and it wasn’t his fault he was a male channeler, nor was he mad yet. Walking alongside him, Aran had an easy grin on his face, he’d be able to get all the grime and dirt off him and tomorrow he’d look pristi-

 

The word that he shouted as he was picked up and hurled through the air by some invisible hand would have caused children to cry and women to blush as he sailed through the air and crashed into the water a good few dozen feet into the water. Fighting to get to air quickly, he broke the surface with a huge gasp to find Lachlan laughing himself silly. He’d picked him up with the one power?

 

Well, it hadn’t been the first time he’d been manhandled with the power, and at least his crotch hadn’t been set alight in the process. Swimming back to Lachlan, as soon as he was able to get earth beneath his feet he charged at the man. “We’ll see how you like it.†Tossing the soap aside so he could use both hands to grab him, Lachlan only got a score feet away before Aran caught him.

 

Dragging him toward the waters despite his protests and his attempts to get free, Aran dragged him clothes and all in. Dunking him, he pulled him up and with a grin. “Stop? Stop?†Dunking him again quickly, Aran let go of him, which was a mistake because the moment Lachlan got his feet he came back after him.

 

Lachlan went for his head, but found only arms and hands in oppositions. He pushed. Aran pushed back. He repositioned for better leverage. So did Aran. He leaned forward and kissed Aran fiercly on the mouth. What? Lachlan froze. His vision began to darken; blood rushed to his face, his skin prickled, his pulse became louder and louder until he was alone with the sound of his wildly beating heart. Aran was as motionless as himself, Lachlan could feel through his own trembling hands.He let go suddenly, stepped back and slowly raised his fearful gaze, a fast apology on his lips.

 

What? Aran watched Lachlan, unmoving as the other man as he just figured out what had happened with the only sound being the drip drops falling from their clothes. Lachlan, he had… He had… As Lachlan opened his mouth to speak, Aran didn’t hesitate. Reaching for Lachlan, he responded in turn with a passion he had not had for a man for what seemed a long time.

 

Lachlan’s body flowed against Aran’s, locked in a strong embrace, his mouth matching Aran’s height of passion. Lachlan twined his fingers around strong shoulders, a smooth, firm back. He could feel warm skin beneath wet clothing and his fingers fumbled for the buttons on a shirt. His mouth never left Aran’s, and his movements were guided more by a feeling of right than lust.

 

Feeling fingers working at his shirt, Aran broke away as something occurred to him. “Wait.†Taking Lachlan’s hand, Aran led him back to shore where the leaves were heavy upon the earth. Pulling Lachlan down to him for another kiss, the pair found themselves lying next to one another and consummating a passion neither of them had expected.

 

 

Aran

Tower Guard

 

Lachlan

'Bandit King'

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It was awhile before they returned back to the camp, but sneaking in was something they managed easily enough. That is to say, Aran went and spoke to one of the Aes Sedai who for some reason was standing guard, Saya if here remembered correctly. A disapproving wench normally, she played her role well enough and while she was distracted, Lachlan managed to make it back into the tent without being seen. Quizzing Saya for a little bit longer to make sure she was doing what she was supposed to, not to mention give her a good needling, Aran left her to it and began to check on the others on watch.

 

Finding Daemon on watch next, it was a good few minutes with him that they spoke. Everything was the way it should be, but they also had their roles to keep up and Daemon's patrol covered their most exposed side towards the rest of the camp. Leaving him be after a bit, it was then time to find the third person on watch. Cracking a parting joke at Daemon as he walked away, he was glad they were playing their roles or it was entirely possible that Daemon might have hit him.

 

Rosheen was the third person on watch, and even from a good twenty feet away she looked entirely out of sorts. Rosheen didn't pace about like that at all, but if there had been a worry when it came to defence then she would have called for everyone to arm themselves. They weren't going to be taking any risks with Lachlan in their care, and it was rare that she was this agitated. Wandering over, she caught sight of him as he got closer and the look on her face just puzzled him more. "Whats going on? Anything to be worried about? You look just a tad tense, maybe settle down a little hmm?"

 

 

Aran

Tower Guard

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Sleep hadn’t worked out at all, and soon enough Rosheen found herself on guard duty again. While her eyes were on the surroundings, her mind wasn’t. What had Aran been thinking? That man was a male channeller, and here Aran went, cuddling up to him. That man… well, that had certainly been a surprise. “I thought he liked women.” She muttered. But what had he been thinking, endangering the entire mission like that? she had given him the command, and what did he do with it? He hooked up with a man. A channelling man. If Muirenn ever discovered that, this would have been her last command ever, she just knew it.

 

She kept pacing, angry and frustrated with the way things had been going so far. Ever since she gave Aran the command, she had been utterly helpless. Sure, she’d kept the Aes Sedai safe and she’d broken a few noses to end brawls, and she’d played her part, but… helpless, as Aran did as he liked and endangered them all. “A male channeller of all things. Couldn’t he just pick a nice soldier if he wanted to try new things?” then it occurred to her that it might not have been a new thing.

 

What if Aran had been cuddling up to men all the time? Ursana’s face appeared before her mind’s eye. Dearest, innocent Ursana, in the hands of Aran the pervert. “I’m going to kill him.” She said, balling her hands into fist. Light knew he had been loose enough with women as it was. What if he was the same with men? She turned again, and found herself facing the object of her anger. The urge not to punch him in the face right there and then was strong, but Rosheen resisted it. For the moment, at least. “Settle down?! You endanger the mission by sleeping with the bandit king, and I need to settle down?!” Aran ducked just in time to avoid her attempt to smack him in the head.

 

 

~Rosheen

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Rosheen hissing at him with the rage he felt coming off her in waves let alone heard was then to be punctuated by a punch that he thankfully saw coming. Ducking aside the blow, he felt the air ripple to the side of his head with the passage of Rosheen's fist, she hadn't pulled that blow at all. Dancing back a couple of steps even as he held his hands up before him, he was already thinking of ways to try and calm her down. That was definitely something he had not intended for Rosheen to see, and how much of it had Rosheen seen? Had she been watching the entire time? Aran never watched her!

 

"Shut up! Do you want the entire camp to know?!" Hissing back at her, he waved her to settle down. The fists lowered at least but they were still clenched. Light, Rosheen was being judgemental again. Nevermind that he didn't even get the chance to explain himself, or the fact that he was doing the mission some good and a bit for himself while he was at it. Did she dislike the fact that he actually liked men as well? Or was it just because of the timing? Only one way to find out.

 

Stepping forward slowly with his hands still in the air before him, he made his way next to Rosheen so he could speak quietly without being overheard. That and keeping an eye on her fists, and the rest of her for that matter, he had an allergy to being hit. "Well its clear you saw, could you give me a chance to explain? And blood and bloody ashes, will you relax? The last thing we need someone to see is me getting flogged by you while we've got the King in our camp. Light."

 

Aran didn't give Rosheen a chance to speak as he continued. "I saw an opportunity, I went for it. The King is bound more tightly to us now. It was more than worth the risk, he won't go off doing something stupid now. It was sort of spur of the moment as far as things go, and I definitely wasn't expecting you to see that. How long were you watching?"

 

 

Aran

Tower Guard

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“I bloody well ran the second I saw it.” Rosheen said, gritting her teeth as she did so. “Marie saw you leave the camp, you idiot, and you’re worried about me betraying your secret? What were you thinking, let’s sleep with the bloody bandit King and hope he doesn’t turn you inside out if it’s not as good as he expected? Or what if he hadn’t liked men? You coming on to him is the worst thing ever, and if Muirenn finds out she’ll have my hide for it.”

 

Frowning, Aran refrained from giving the thoughts that came to him much weight. They weren't very good things to think, especially when it came to Rosheen. And if it was going to turn into one of those arguments, he wasn't sure if he wanted to listen to it long. There were some things that they just tended to disagree about regardless, and it was going to have to be left that way. "Muirenn won't know about it, nor will anyone else for that matter. Like I said, it wasn't planned and he likes men, very much in fact. Its done, he's bound to us now and I'm quite happy with it. Instead of focusing on the what if's, look at what is."

 

What is… Lachlan liked men, and Aran liked men. They would spend a lot of time holding hands and doing whatever it was that Aran liked to do with his men, and then Lachlan would die because that’s what stilled men would do eventually. “I could have done with some warning.” Rosheen said, glaring at Aran. “I didn’t even know you liked men that way.” Ursana’s face came to mind again. She knew her little brother liked women though… then again, she’d also known that Aran liked women. “Blood and ashes. You haven’t touched Ursana, right?”

 

His eyes widenning at Rosheen's last question, it was a good thing that they were meant to be keeping their roles or he would have quite openly given her an earful. As it was, he was reduced to speaking quietly. "Not that its any of your business, no I haven't 'touched' Ursana. He's my student, that wouldn't be right." Pausing, Aran continued. "Like I said, the opportunity presented itself. I didn't have time to come back and consult with you so I just went ahead and it paid off. Thats why you picked me for this role, I can carry it off. And what if I like men? You like men."

 

“You like women.” Rosheen said, frowning at Aran. In fact, she was quite sure he liked women a lot. He liked all kinds of women, at every time of the day and night. “You like women far too much to like men.” She concluded. “I’m sure there would have been some other way for us to win Lachlan’s trust without you… doing… stuff.” She decided to let the comment about picking him for the role slide. She was starting to regret that more with every passing second. At least they’d be able to carry off Lachlan more easily now that he was in their camp. She couldn’t wait to get back to Tar Valon, where things were… sane.

 

Frowning at Rosheen, Aran wondered if his friend had even been aware that there were men who did what he did. That couldn't be right though, she wasn't exactly unworldly, maybe it was just the shock of it. It wasn't as if he waved a banner about proclaiming that he was open to persuasion. "Rosheen, I like people. Mostly women, but occasionally there is a man who catches my eye as well. Believe it or not I happen to like Lachlan a bit as well, he's just been pulled in by these other people who are using him. And no, I won't hesitate, we're doing him a favour by pulling him out of here and getting him gentled because we're giving him a chance he might not otherwise have. I'm sorry you didn't know earlier but this is exactly why. All well and good for men and women to be together, women and women together are just fine but men with men? Oh thats just disgusting." The sarcasm was obvious.

 

The punch Rosheen managed to land on Aran’s arm was just a little too hard for it to be a friendly nudge. “Don’t call me a bigot just because I’m not as promiscuous as you are.” She said, glaring at him. “I didn’t know you thought of men that way. How was I supposed to know? I only ever see you with a woman on your arm, never with a man. And it’s not as if I can smell someone’s preference on them.” She shook her head. “You know, I really thought you’d start telling me things about yourself after that time when you accidentally beat you into pulp when you didn’t tell me anything. You just keep on underestimating what I’ll accept and what I can handle. I’m disappointed.” With that said, she stalked of, leaving Aran behind.

 

~Rosheen Tahn Sakr

&

Aran

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