Dragon's Library Fiction Contest on December 14, 1998
Category: WoT Third Age

Towers of Midnight:
The Fox And The Raven

Tuon held her cup gently, not for the first time, she wished she could shorten those cursed nails. Being of the Royal family suppose to be comfortable. She thought angrily. When she will be the empress, when she will seat on the crystal throne, there will be some changes. Not even the empress can change those customs. Her mother told her once, she was only eight at the time. And her mother took the time to spend precious moments with her daughter. The first time, and the only one, she saw a human being behind the empress. She made an almost unnoticeable gesture and her so'jhin bowed and left the room. A prisoner had been capture, a very unique prisoner, so she heard. An empress can show no emotion save in the private of her mind alone. Another advice her mother gave her that time, another memory to treasure.

Tuon walked to the other side of the small room. In Seanchan she had all the comfort she wanted, here... I'm lucky to have a bed. They have became less than barbarian. Forgiving their oaths. Forgetting everything that they should have learned. Well, her task here was to remind them it. An Ashendri leaned on the wall. A rare weapon, in Seanchan. Here, it was completely unknown. The Sul'dam said it was made by the Aes Sedai in the Age of Legends. A rare weapon indeed. She doubt if there was a limit to the price the man could ask her for this alone. Those of the Blood were constantly in danger, and she had to learn the use of many weapons. How to kill with every weapon possible, from a dagger to a bow or with bare hands alone was something every one of the Blood who wished to live learned eagerly. So far she was lucky, only three assassins came close enough for her so she had to kill them herself. She liked the Ashendri, a very useful weapon. Especially against those who trusted swords or knifes.

A gentle knock on the door signed the arrival of Bolar, her so'jhin. The door open as soon as she made another gesture. And she turn to look at the man whom the servants in this palace called, Lord General Matrim Cauthon. Apparently, he commanded Aes Sedai, the thought made her chill. No man could command an Aes Sedai, they could, must be, controlled through the a'dams. No other way to limit the danger they represented. She wonder how he did it, though, even the queen's lover, the woman that had been the queen. The man was tall, a hand and a half taller than she was. With brown hair and dark eyes. He had a scar on his neck, as if he was hanged. She examined him coldly, the man was handsome, in a way. Another time, another place, had she not been who she was, and he wasn't he he was, she might have became fond of him. Now, she had to decide what to do with the man, and emotions had no place where decisions of power lied. "Kneel before the High Lady Tuon." Bolar growled at the man, and pushed him down. Tried to push him down, the man moved like a lightning, he had a dagger in his hand suddenly. Everyone in fifty feet from her should be unarmed, save the death guards, and it was Bolar responsibility to search weapons on those who came so close to her. Calmly, she watched Bolar dying for his mistake, she would have ordered his death himself, for this mistake alone. Such mistake couldn't be forgiven.

"I kneel to no one!" The man state, letting Bolar slip to the floor. The dagger was gone from his hands. His eyes slipped behind her, to the two death guards, two Ogiers twice the height of her. She could feel them holding their spears, she had seen an Ogier throwing a spear strong enough to break a stone wall. The man bowed, not to her, to her guards, "Tia avende alantin." He said, his accent perfect. He continue in the Old Tongue, "It's good to see you outside the stedding." With this, he walked to the two women kneeling on the other side of the room. They stared at him the same way a hawk watch a rabbit. At least, Derlina did, and she wouldn't allow her damane to look anything but meek. All it take was a simple gesture, and the man would be stopped, executed. As he should be, for his nerve alone. People was already given to the Seekers for less. Not the first time she came to the Towers of Ravens to listen to enemies screaming in pain, promising anything, gold, honor, their very souls, only to stop the pain. She couldn't say why she hadn't. The man took the damane's chin in his hand, rising her face to meet his eyes. She didn't even know her name. She had no need to know such things. She didn't want to, despite everything she knew about women that could channel, no less horrifying than the men that could, she couldn't help feeling pity for them, small pity.

"What are you doing?" She asked, she had troubles controlling her face, she wanted to smile. For the first time in her memory, something happened that shouldn't have. It was fun, in a way, to have something that changed.

"You should be ashamed of yourself." The man said still in the Old Tongue, maybe it was better, considering his accent, she could barely understand him. Leaving the damane, he snatched a cup and filled it with wine, taking a deep sip. One of the Ogier mumbled something. Ogier couldn't really whisper, she heard him clearly, that unschooled, insolent, wonderful man heard him too. He glared at the Ogier, saying something she hadn't understood. He sounded like he was trying to be a bird, or a beard. Tuon haven't heard about a human being able to talk in the Ogier's language, she thought it was impossible. The man returned his attention to her, as should be, she wondered what he founded. She wore an almost black blue dress, with slashes of white all across it. Her head shaven, as custom demanded. And four fingernails in each hand long and painted blue. Three for being of the Royal family, one for being the chosen heir. "How much you know of the history of your ancestors, Tuon?" He asked, suddenly angry. He looked tired, maybe he wasn't being fed. "You look very much like Amaline, Tuon." It came as a growl. "Your blood cannot be denied. But you shame it by this." He pointed at the sul'dam and the damane, most men and all the women she had met from this lands were impressed, frighten by women that can channeled being leashed. Matrim Cauthon wasn't impress the slightest, and she doubt if he knew the meaning of fear.

"Leave us." She ordered to the guard, to the sul'dam, there was no sign in the fingers' commands. A High Lady was never to be left alone. The sul'dam looked surprised, with a single furious glance at the rude man, and a deep bow for her, she left. The Guards hesitated, talking quickly among themselves in their language, she hadn't expected this. In the subject of her safety alone, they could, and would, disobey her. Matrim rose to his feet, speaking sharply. The two Ogier looked at him for a long moment.

"Let it be so, Matrim Cauthon. I have your word for this, and I will demand it from your skin, had she been harmed." Eril said, tall even to an Ogier, he was twice Matrim's height, and strong enough to tear a man with his bare hands. "He will guard you while we can't, High Lady." Eril said to her, "He promise, and he will keep his word." She wasn't sure the last was directed to her.

"Interesting," she murmured, she had never seen the Ogier like that. "You're an interesting man, Lord General Matrim Cauthon." She added the title in purpose, apparently he denied being a lord, she couldn't understand why. The servants she had questioned said he denied being a lord, despite acting as arrogant as any king.

His mouth twisted, "Am I?" He murmured, "What about yourself?" He asked suddenly. Far more rude than she had ever heard before. She thought she should be angry, it was refreshing, to have someone that didn't bowed to her or she hadn't have to bow to. He obviously hadn't expected an answer. "Arthur had many faults, too many that had been forgotten, or erased." That with a glance at her, he drank deeply of his cup. "But slavery was something he hated as much as any. But you, who claim to follow him. You take slaves as granted."



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