Leane was awoken by a slight sound, perhaps a movement that jarred the bed she had to share with Tovienne and Halima. She opened her eyes just in time to see Logain disappearing through a Gateway, a small frown alighting on her rosy lips. "That man is going to work himself to death," she muttered under her breath. "Hardly a wink did he sleep since he Bonded Halima." She gave a small sigh and climbed out from under the covers, ignoring the urge to go back to sleep. It's almost daybreak anyway, and you have a work to do, if Logain agrees to it. The corners of her lips quirked into a smile. Whether he agrees to it or not, actually. As she reached the door, she tossed a glance at the two figures still huddled in sleep. I can't help wishing I had Logain to myself again. He doesn't dare show me too much attention in front of those two, the Light burn the man,he could tell him that he can't bind me to his will through the Bond and end this, no need to hide this.. I didn't agree to the Bond for nothing. She smiled again, affectionately, a touch of sadness hovering in her eyes, and reached for a towel and a robe before opening the door.
A gust of cold air met her skin, making her shiver a little, out of instinct. She couldn't feel the cold, but she was aware of it. She pulled on the robe hastily; a shift was not suitable for this weather, even if she was witless enough to walk in the open with nothing else on. Not that there was a single soul hundred miles from here. She wove flows of Air into a shield surrounding her, a simple weave to keep away the softly falling rain, then walked the short distance to the pool she had gone to yesterday, - was it only yesterday?- with Tovienne and Halima. As she pushed open the door of the bathhouse, she released the Shield around her and stepped quickly inside. It was dark; the early hours of the morning did naught to light the inside of the chamber. Saidar pulsed in her with life, channeling, a luminescent, faintly glowing ball of light appeared above the palm of her hand. She made it bigger, brighter, then fastened into on a wall, tying off the flows. To Toviene or any other woman that could touch saidar a glowing nimbus still surrounded her, the light of saidar, but she couldn't see it, of course. No more steam rose from the water, so she wove flows of Fire to heat it, carefully maintaining the weaves. Fire was dangerous to tie off, no matter how strong you were, at least for women, Fire was something men usualy were strong at. She poured a strong perfume into the water, savoring the scent of it and shrugged off her robe and shift, releasing the weave of Fire, unable to maintain it while she was swimming as her concentration would waver, and dived cleanly into the water, with barely a ripple. The pool was just deep enough in this side. Logain chose his hiding places wisely, or had he created this place?
The water caressed her skin sensuously, swirling around her as she moved, lifting her hair as she sank deeper into the water, allowing it to cover her mouth. There was a feeling of ... contentment from Logain, dimly felt, but pleasing to her. She wanted to see him, she realized, and smiled at her folly. Moving over to the shallows, she sat down on the base of the pool. She was tall enough so that the water only touched her chin when she sat down. Crossing her arms behind her head, she leaned back against the side, and closed her eyes, letting her thoughts drift ... until she found that they always returned to Logain. She chuckled, ruefully, feeling glad that the Bond only conveyed feelings and not thoughts as well. That would be embarrassing. She concentrated on the small part of her mind that was him, that was exclusively his. Coming closer, he returned - so soon? She wouldn't have been surprised if he had been gone for the whole day - and tired, as he always was of late. Her forehead creased into a frown, that was probably caused by the visit to al'Thor with Halima yesterday, and his trying to explain to Halima about the Bond. Why couldn't Halima leave him alone for a while? Doesn't she see how tired he is? I had better make sure he is rested before I leave for the Tower again. She had to admit that Halima's questions were... interesting, troubling, she had a mind to question Logain about it herself, but later! When he was in the right condition, not now. She was worried, worried about him. She pushed those troubled thoughts of him aside, to the back of her mind, and let her tense limbs relax, floating in her private thoughts.Logain would come here, she knew it as surely as she knew her own name.
... She had still been in Salidar that night. It was late, dusk had long settled over the land. A lone candle gave out a flickering light near her, illuminating the area around her bed. She was outlined in shadow against the canvas of the tent, lying on her front, propped up on an elbow, head bent in pursuit of a book, a rare pleasure, when a large, slightly roughened hand was laid on her shoulder. Nothing had alerted her to his presence, his footsteps had been utterly silent, she turned onto her side, her eyes travelling up and up and up... "Logain!" An explosion of breath. The last time she had talked to him, his face had been devoid of purpose, drained. Now, the emptiness was filled, his eyes glittered in the light and expression gave his features life. She shrank away from his hand, the warmth of it terrifying, but letting only uncertainty show on her face. He's come back here to take his vengeance. She thought with deadly certainty. On me and Siuan, and probably others too, the Light burn him. "What are you doing here, Logain?" Her voice was the slightest bit unsteady, but clear.
He had looked at her for a while, carefully keeping his eyes away from the thin silk shift she wore, focusing on her face. Silently, he reached out a hand for her to pull her up into a sitting position. He sat on the edge of the foot of her bed, not looking at her. A bit of red stained his cheeks, she thought, or was it the light? Clearing his throat, he spoke, "I came here to... pay a debt, Leane." Despite herself, she goggled at him, but quickly rearranged her features to their cool sereneness of a few moments before. He hadn't noticed.
"Me?" More surprise than she would've liked mingled in her voice, it was almost a squeak! Light! Get a grip, woman. She told herself sternly. "Me?" She said again - it still didn't sound right - in a more normal tone. Relief coursed through her. He had not come for revenge, as she had earlier thought.
"Um, yes. Sort of," Logain raked a hand through his hair, he still hadn't quite looked at her, "To thank you. I didn't mean to startle you by appearing in your tent like that. But I couldn't very well walk in, the camp would have been awakened in a few minutes. It wouldn't be... pleasant," He stumbled over his own words, making her feel a bit better. He was just as flustered as she was, though for a different reason.
"Siuan was the one who took you from the Tower, and it was Nynaeve was the one that Healed you. Why do you thank me?" Her cool, self-possession was back, her voice decidingly neutral. It seemed to spur him to match her coolness.
Logain laughed shortly, for a moment, he looked truly amused, "Siuan took me from the Tower for a reason, to serve her own ends." He told her coolly. "Nynaeve used me to practice on, not because she pitied me, she despised me, her pride was pricked because she could not Heal those that have been Stilled. She always wanted to be able to Heal everything. Beside, I have already paid my debt to Siuan, telling everyone the Reds made me claim that I was the Dragon Reborn. And my debt to Nynaeve will be paid, but you ... even when you were stilled, you've sense of purpose was there. And you helped me through gentling. Even if you never knew it, in those last few days, before we reached Salidar, it was you who gave me te strength to carry on just the little bit that was needed, you were the one who kept me alive, who pulled me through. And it was never for anything else but to help me live through it." At the beginning of the speech, his voice had been hard, emotionless, but towards the end, he had bared his heart, and a hint of tears actually sounded in his voice.
She could only stare at him, her cool facade beginning to crumble. Her voice shook when she spoke, "I am the one who ought to thank you, Logain. You were the one that pulled me through. You were at the point of death, and yet you came back. You showed me that I could live without the Power, without that, I would have give up long before Nynaeve had a chance to ply her skills. You showed me... what strength means. What it means to be a survivor." She finished, almost sadly. She realize now that this was the first time she ever talked about the time she was stilled with anyone. The absence of saidar, the lack of life was the nightmare every Aes Sedai feared from, and Logain had survived it, somehow. "A man of honor is rarely found. And it's even rarer to find a man of such strength." After that speech, a comfortable silence fell over them. He gave a start to her words, he had not noticed it, but somehow, during their talk, she had inched closer to him, bit by bit, until she was sitting curled up by his side. Or maybe not so surprising, since he had not dared to look at her, garbed as she was.
He was certainly lecherous, she had seen him looking at women, only looking, but it was enough. More than enough, idly, she wondered how he could make a woman so aware of herself just by looking at her. Aware of him, too. It took her much more effort to do the same with men. Yet she had never seen him like he was now with a woman, never. "Tell me about the Black Tower, Logain." Her voice was sudden in that silence, chiming softly in the emptiness. "I have always wondered, what it is like. Is it alike to the White Tower?"
Emotions passed across his face, surprise, maybe a touch of anger? "How did you know I was with the Asha'man, Leane?" He asked, almost roughly.
The corners of her lips quirked up. Did he think her blind? "Where else? You have nowhere else to be, and you hadn't bothered to change, what can a man garbed all in black mean except for a man that can Channel? Beside, I have eyes and ears even in your Black Tower." She added decisively, it was almost a lie, almost. She had tried to convince someone in the Black Tower to report to her, but it was so frustrating she wanted to scream. She had tried simply everything, everything! There seemed to be no servants in the Black Tower, and those who were in the Black Tower save the Asha'man were usually tied to an Asha'man. Wives or lovers, she was stunned to hear that they let children live there too. All in all, it was very frustrating, servants talked, and they could be bought. But there was not a single servant in the Black Tower, the Black Tower held it's secrets well.
He expressed surprise, and to her shock, she understood she had said all this aloud. Relaxing visibly after her explanation, he told her about the Black Tower, their way of training, everything. Whenever he hesitated, she claimed she didn't want him to betray the Black Tower's secrets, and he would continue. He stopped several of times, refusing to answer the more innocent questions, although he answered her in details about others. Giving her precious knowledge. Egwene would be thrilled to learn that there were less than fifty Asha'man, the rest were still studying the One Power. If needed, the Black Tower could be beaten.
They talked of many other topics, through the night, and gray dawn was near when she mentioned Bonding. She asked him to be her Warder, with her heart racing to beat horses. The man gave a visible start at that. He looked at her sideways, considering, then shook his head. "It could never be, Leane." She didn't even know why she had brought the topic up, but she knew it was no jest.
When the sun came peeping over the horizon, she had dissapeared, leaving behind two notes, one for Egwene, and the other, Siuan. Warded, the notes could only be read by them, anyone else save those two would have a rather unpleasant shock. She and Logain left to the hut in Altara that he, Halima and Tovienne were in at this moment. Where she had seduced him, literally. "I have always found you attractive, Logain, you should know that. Even in the White Tower." She told him one day, it wasn't a lie. It was a day later before he had returned to the Black Tower, and she along with him, his Warder, bonded to him. Taim, The M'Hael as the Asha'man called him, was displeased about the whole affair, at best. But done was done, and Logain had refused to even chance breaking the Bond. It wasn't the one he had used to bond Halima, or Toviene, she wasn't forced to obey him, as the two other women were, but in some manners, it was just as different from the bond she knew as the one that altered to compel obedience. It was a dream that she had lived in, only for a week.
Then, she had surfaced to reality again, and had told Logain that she needed to return to the Salidar Aes Sedai camp once more. Alone, this journey, and there she had stayed, for another two months. The army was in Tar Valon, they had won the city. She had told everything to Egwene, after making her promise she would do nothing to Logain, or try to stop her. "Tell them! You are the Amyrlin Seat. Say you dispatched me to analyze worldly affairs. It will not be entirely a lie, I will send pigeons to you, from my eyesand ears. But I will stay with Logain. If you need me, at the Battle, I will be there, if sooner, send a courier, yourself, Siuan ... I do not abandon you, but I cannot abandon him either. I agreed to the Bond. I love him, Egwene, like you love Gawyn." Egwene refused her, logically, Leane had to admit the woman was right. But she didn't like it, and then he suddenly appeared in the middle of the White Tower, his face like a winter storm and, giving no reasons, took her away. And so she had returned once again to the Black Tower, to discover Tovienne Gazal also Bonded to him. That Halima was one of the Forsaken. "What do you think I am?" She had demanded bitterly. "Another toy? Will you also tell me you have ..." She choked on the words, "... taken her to ... to... A Red, Logain! One of Elaida's followers! And that is not to mention Halima, a Red wasn't enough for you, so you had choosen to Bond one of the Forsaken. Egwene was right! I should never have left the Tower for you." She could not regret it, a part of the Bond, her words were half-hearted, but the feeling was there, however small, of hurt, betrayal. For once, all sereneness, pretense at self-possession was gone, replaced by fury."Have you tired of a Domani? Now you need an uptight, weak-willed woman whom you can dominate, is that it?" She knew Tovienne was not at all weak-willed, but tears had come into her eyes, and she made herself angry to hide them, "And how can you even begin to explain bonding Halima?" finally turning away, unwilling to let him see her crying.
She could feel him, next to her, trying to explain. "It has nothing to do with us, Leane." He had insisted, trying to soothe her, wrapping arms around her, but she was angry, stiff and unyielding. "I love you. I would never do anything like that to hurt you. I Bonded them because I'd to, the Bond will force them to do whatever I say, and it is nothing like what is between us. As you said, a Red, a Darkfriend. I could not love a Red, they are the ones who ... gentled me. And it was the Dark One who tainted saidin. Or did you forget this too?" Soothed, for a time at least, she gave in, saying nothing, letting him cradle her in his arms. "But it is best if they did not know that I Bonded you differently, best if they wouldn't know there is another way." he added. She was so tired, that she let it go, instead of arguing.
True to his word, it was not like what had been between her and him, but it was also the end of letting their feelings for one another show. He did not act any differently to her in front of Tovienne and Halima, even when theywas nearby. Occasionally, they went to the hut in Altara, or somewhere far away, until all he could feel from his other two Warders was only the dim awareness of their locations. Then, and only then, did let any emotion show, not that it happened often, and it had taken yesterday's conversation to understand why. Perhaps he was afraid, afraid that the other two would find out, and he would not have any peace, perhaps. She had all but forgotten that night of anger, letting it drown in the depths of her mind, suffocated by their love.
Tovienne and Halima loved him as she did. He loved them too, after a fashion, but it was something that was created by the Bond, with her, it had been there long before. He seem very puzzled when he hadn't found that she and Tovienne and Halima weren't at each other's throat. "Why, you treat them with more warmth than you do me, I thought you would be angry at them being Bonded to me." He sounded so disgruntled that she had come very close to laughing.
"I am angry at you Bonding Toveine, she never agreed to be Bonded, she had nothing to do with it. And she is a Sister, even if she wasn't Aes Sedai, she is a woman, that is enough to make me side with her instead of you men who tangle up a woman's wits, then do exactly what you've done. Halima... is another matter." He hadn't bother to ask further.
The realization was sudden and shocked her out off her thoughts; Logain was close, very close. She opened her eyes to see him push open the door. A smile played about her lips. The light she had made went out, she hadn't bothered to tie it strongly. He knew she was there, but he couldn't see her, she realized. "Leane?" He called softly. Careful not to make any noise, she slid under the surface, moving towards where he stood, at the side. Surfacing, she grabbed hold of his legs, he looked down, realizing she was there, a split second too late before she pulled him into the water. "Still tired?" Her voice rang out, mocking. He stood up, spluttering, drenched. "What was that for!?!" He frowned at her, then hastily pulled his eyes away. He had the strangest ideas about modesty.
"For loving all three of us, for acting like the worse lecher I've ever met. For being the most wool headed man I've ever met. For acting like al'Thor and..." She replied unconcernedly, his glare sliding past her.
He raised a hand, tiredly. "Not now, Leane, I don't feel like arguing with you."
"Who said a word about arguing?" Her voice turned sultry, suddenly, throaty."It was also because you told me I needed a bath, yesterday." She affected a sniff, and scolded him in a mock-angry voice. "That was not polite, you know. Sometimes I think you will never learn manners." She shook a finger at him, climbing out of the pool. "Oh, by the way, the water is lavender-scented, you'd better get out. Or else you will smell like a flower field all day long." He stared at her, ignoring her nakedness, and scrambled out. "Lavender-scented! Blood and ashes! The Asha'man are going to... " That worked pretty well, she thought. He didn't feel troubled anymore, rather, scandalized, probably over the scent, and amused. Putting on her robe, she used a flick of the Power to dry his clothes out, squeezing them dry. Water ran in rivulets down his face to pool at his feet. She flashed a wry grin at the image he presented, damp clothes, wet hair, and smelling strongly of lavender. "There, I thought you needed a dunking to untangle your wits. If you fall dead from exhaustion, I will dig your grave myself, after killing you a second time. You'd better have a proper night sleep tonight, not exhaust yourself and expect us to tend to you. You shouldn't act like a ten year old boy, sulking over being sent to bed." Hestared at her; she was amused to no end!
"Women!" That was all he seemed able to say.
"As I said, studying women is all a man can do sometimes." She sighed languidly, and stretched, then kissed him as thoroughly as he had ever been kissed before. Shaking his head, he sat down on the edge of the pool.
"You almost made me forget what I came to find you for. I'm going to cleanse saidin with the Lord Dragon and Nynaeve tomorrow. I'm moving you, this place isn't going to be safe for long."
She sprang up. Her eyes so wide that she must have resembled an owl. "What!? What do you mean?"
"Saidin is going to be cleansed." He replied patiently, too patiently.
"I heard you, Logain Ablar. Why are you attempting such a foolhardy thing? Elayne told me this was how Rand al'Thor acted, you are catching his hard-headedness from being around him so much." She said, certainty showing in her voice. "You could get yourself killed." Seeing that talking would not convince him, she tried to cajole him out of it.
"What must be done, will be done. I follow the Dragon Reborn." He said quickly, and she signed heavily, he would walk bare in a blizzard and claim he was sweating in this mood! He was determined, she could feel it. Nothing was going to persuade him otherwise.
She sighed. "I don't know who's the bigger fool, him for going, you for following, or me for not leaving you both. Come, let us go back to Tovienne and Halima. We can talk about it there." And get Tovienne to help me talk some sense into him, hopefully. Too much to hope for Halima's help. She stood behind him as he wove a Gateway, then followed him through it to the hut. Halima and Toviene were already dressed, suprisingly, there was a bowl with water near the bed, it wasn't there when she was awake. She supressed a guilty stab quickly, she had a luxury bath, while the two women had to suffice with a quick wash. But on the other hand, they had lazed around for half the morning! Both women sat on the bed and glared at Logain, hard. "You don't need to follow me, Leane. You don't even need to be nearby. I am sending you, Halima and Tovienne to Andor." She whirled around, sparks in her eyes. "You are sending me nowhere. I am going with you when you attempt this... effort. I was strong before I was stilled, and I still have skill if not strength, not to mention this ..." She pulled out a belt buckle from the pouch on her bed, and his eyes widen as he laid his eyes on it. Halima gasped in surprise, and took a step forward. "And those... and this." She touched the rings in her ears, and the necklace snugged around her throat. "Angreals, this one for you." She held out the belt-buckle. Toviene looked eagerly at the necklace, Leane did mean to share one of the angreals but not quite yet, only when they had need of it.
"Whether you like it or not, I am opening a Gateway right now for you and Tovienne. I think my Lord Dragon wants Halima there, but he shall have to wait until after the cleansing." He said, addressing the other two women in the room as well, Halima was bloodless pale, but she nodded, weakly. She said nothing, al'Thor truly frightened her. As he reached for the buckle, she tossed the belt-buckle back into her pouch, quick as a flash. "The angreal, please?" He reached out a hand for it.
Tovienne leaped up from the bed, words already tumbling from her lips, her face angry. "If you are sending us anywhere," she said, silently signaling to Tovienne, they had planned this, though not quite in this way, not for this occasion, playing along, "Then it should be Kandor. I had a very troubling report from my eyes-and-ears there, when you dragged me here to meet Halima. Tovienne and Halima can help me." Tovienne to gather those who admire Aes Sedai, are loyal to them. It should be easy for her to impress them. Halima, those that are easily bought and she can use her considerable powers of persuasion as well. The most loyal ones, I shall have to attend to. Those that have been saved from some catastrophe, perhaps. She didn't want to admit even to herself that Halima would probably use Darkfriends as spies. Maybe she could convince Halima to kill the ones she will find. He nodded, and a Gateway opened in a corner. "Go in." He ordered, in a tone that brooked no opposition. Tovienne and Halima had to obey, but she stood her ground. "Are you forgetting something, Logain?" Her voice was dangerously soft. Tovienne and Halima were already on the other side, looking through.
"I don't think so, what?" His brow creased. "They know what to do, right? I have already told them to help you in whatever you tell them to do." She nodded. "Tovienne knows what to do. Tell Halima to listen to her. Just do what I ask, for once in your life." Nodding, and sending hard glares in her direction, he put his head into the Gateway, and told the listening two something she couldn't quite hear. "Alright. Anything else I might have forgotten? They already have money. The angreal?" The man needed a good spanking! "Yes." Raising a finely arched brow at him, she put her hands on her hips. " You can't order me around, the Bond to me doesn't work that way, remember? I don't have to do what you say." She said loudly, for the benefit of his two other Warders. They gasped, and made to walk back through, anger writ plain on their faces. She smiled. Logain groaned. The Gateway closed within a hairsbreath of their faces as they ran back through.
Good, the fool man deserved all the trouble he would get, and judging by the expression on Toviene's face, he would have all the trouble he could handle. Halima looked puzzled as well as angry, and as the Gateway closed, she heard the woman ask Tovienne, "Does he smell of flowers?"
"I thought we agreed that we wouldn't tell them?!" He whirled around, cape swirling, his expression half-angered, half-exasperated. "I have enough troubles as it is... I thought you promised me..."
"I broke my promise. It's as simple as that." She crossed her arms beneath her breasts. She didn't understand why the fool man looked so wounded, and why she felt so guilty on seeing that. When it came to men, women just naturally lacked the sense to pour water out of a boot.
"Why? Is it because of Tovienne and Halima ?"
"You have hit the nail on the head, my good man," she said with false gaiety, fingers unconsciously pulling the folds of her barely opaque red silk dress tight around her. "Don't even think for one moment that I blame them either. You were disloyal! After the vows and protestations of love, the very moment I turn my back you go chasing after other women, who didn't seem to relish the thought of this intimacy with you either! You, you, you ... I can't think of a word bad enough, you mule-brained lecher!"
He rose an eyebrow, "You forget one thing, Leane Sharif." Logain said sharply, "With Toviene and Halima both, I had no choice." Halima laughed to this, bitterly. He tilted his head and looked at her sharply, "Are you jealous?" With a few strides he had crossed the floor and folded her in his arms. He looked absurdly pleased!
"Don't even think of it!" She stamped her foot. Actually stamped it! Shegroaned inwardly at the thought of how far she had fallen since the days when she had held the position of Keeper of the Chronicles. She hadn't done such things in years! She pounded his chest with both fists, ineffectually, of course. It was so unfair that the Creator had made men so much larger physically than women. Wouldn't she have loved to give him a black eye! Well, that wasn't true. She would have given herself a black eye first rather than injure him. It disgruntled her somewhat. But she wanted to know that she could, even if she would never do this.
"You are jealous!" the incorrigible man chuckled, and kissed her till she was breathless.
"Do you think we should leave them alone? Give them some privacy?" Toviene's acid whisper could be heard in the other side of the world.
"Privacy?" Halima chuckled, "Considerring that Logain is in the back ofour heads, it would be hard for them to get any privacy whatsoever."
Leane ignored them, but she could see Logain's cheeks reddening. "You're not going to get off this easy," she warned him when she could speak properly again. The light in his eye when he looked at her said otherwise, and he was probably right. The mere pressure of his hands on her waist was making her knees knock together. "Have youever considered what the consequences of your volunteering to cleanse saidin will be?"
That stopped him for a moment. "If we succeed, it means that we will have given birth to the Age of Legends all over again! Imagine what wonders male and female Aes Sedai working together could acheive! We will have a much better chance of defeating the Dark One in Tarmon Gai'don and the Black and White Towers will be able to do everything together! And that is if you want to ignore the little matter of me not going mad, or the taste of saidin without the taint." There was a light in his eyes that made her smile, he often looked at her that way. She could feel his excitement. "If we fail...well, I am willing to risk it. Better dying quickly than rotting." Then his eyes darkened. "Do we have to talk about this now? I can think of several more pleasant ways to pass the time."
"I do not doubt it," Halima muttered, "Why do I feel suddenly feel unwanted?" This time, Leane doubted Logain even heard his warder.
She shook her head sadly. "You really have not thought of it at all, have you? Well, not that I can blame you, you have never gone through the torment that every Aes Sedai has at one time or another. Or maybe you don't even know. If... something happen to you, in the efforts of cleansing saidin or just from not being careful, we will die too. All three of us. Even if we survive the initial shock, we will be walking corpses waiting to lie down and die."
Expressions ran across the crags of his face like waves whipped by wind and his arms dropped to his side. For one moment she was terribly, achingly sorry that he no longer held her, but then the moment passed and she turned away with a small, bittersweet laugh. "I've not thought about it." He muttered, and then his eyes met hers, and slid to Toveine and Halima. "Get some rest tonight. You need your sleep for the big day tomorrow." He said quietly, "As you said, I will need to be careful. And at the moment, I think I will fall off my feet if I will not have some sleep." Yawning, he threw himself on the bed, clothed. He was asleep in less then a minute. Leane stared at him, at least she prevent him from sending her away. Halima had a small grin on her face.
"I must learn how Domani women do it," She said, "if this is their affect of men, I could find some use for the knowledge." Toviene didn't stop laughing even when Leane threw a pillow at her and stormed outside.
She was up by cockcrow the next morning. Sometime during the night Logain had rolled over on his stomach and buried his face in the pillows, pinning down the blankets with his arm, trapping her under the blanket. She had had to Channel to lift his arm off. This added inconvenience had not improved her bleak mood.
Red silk was out of the question. What she felt like wearing was a suit of armor. Instead, she pulled on a high-necked, fur-ruffed gown of fine gray wool. The water in the pitcher was cold enough to make her gasp and shiver. Nynaeve and Elayne had done their work well with the Bowl of the Winds. What she wouldn't give to have that for study now...but some heat would be welcome now. Maybe they did their work just a bit too well.
Logain jerked her out of her thoughts as he greeted her perfunctorily and began washing. No quips, no smiles. Despite his bravado, she felt his tenseness, saw the tightness around his eyes. It was the day of life or death. He did not even thank her when she smoothed his high-collared coat, pinning the dragon and the sword to his collar, fastening the angreal buckle onto his belt, but when the time came to go, he put his arm around her and held her tightly, as if glad of her presence. Halima and Toviene watched all this with expressionless faces. But Logain still muttered something to them when he weaved the gateway. Whatever it was, it made Halima blush and Toviene laugh. Logain threw his arms in the air. "Women!" The word sound like a curse.
When the Gateway opened into the subterranean-looking caverns and passages carved out of the solid rock of Dragonmount, she saw that there were two black-coated men awaiting them already. Boys, really, both young, smooth-cheeked and still without their mature bulk. They saluted Logain fist to heart as they stepped through the Gateway, and nodded curtly to her, though their eyes followed her with curiosity hidden behind the wariness. Since Logain's bonding of her and the others, the Asha'man had begun talking among themselves, and many looked with favor on the novel idea of bonding more than one woman,despite the M'Hael's objections, though most for the wrong reasons. These were no Asha'man though. Both were merely Dedicated. As far as she knew, there were only men who could channel here. For some reason, Rand did not seem to trust the vast majority of his own men, preferring that most of them wouldn't even know where he was hiding.
The walls and the roof were smooth-hewn, as if to remind anyone travelling through the passages of the Power that had been used to create them. Torches burnt in conces set in the walls, but other than that the corridors were mainly bare.
The great cavern they were led into was better furnished. Fine carpets and rugs of Kandori and Aiel make lay on the floors, and furniture of mixed styles stood about, the tables and many of the chairs groaning under the weight of large books, rolled maps and scrolls, from Cairhein, Andor and the Stone of Tear. There were hangings on the walls as well, and there was something about the place that suggested a feminine touch. No doubt Min's work. She wondered how Elmindreda Farshaw handled the Dragon Reborn. Despite denying it wholeheartedly, Min was much alike her name sake. A pang of pain came with rememberring the young woman. Her situation was by far too much like that of Min's.
Those thoughts had soon flown into the fireplace and up the chimney, for there were people in the room. A few more black-coated men ... and the Dragon Reborn himself. With Min on one side clad in very fitting rose-colored breeches and coat, and a fiercely lovely flame-haired girl in blue on the other. Aviendha, she thought, she had met the Aiel woman for a short time only. Was the Dragon Reborn trying to establish himself a harem? Was Logain, too? Logain must have sensed her rising anger and humiliation, for he turned to look at her, his eyes puzzled. She ignored him coldly.
Then the icy blue eyes of the man the world called the Dragon Reborn slashed to her. She returned his gaze with equal coolness and full serenity, but her stomach turned. She could see nothing of the Rand al'Thor she had known in this ruthlessly hard leader. Noneof the still-gawky young lion who had stalked in to seek audience with Siuan that day, wearing the gait, sword and manners of a gaidin in a touching show of bravado. That young man had hit a soft spot in her, but the man who faced her now made her want to turn away.
"Why have you brought them?" His voice was not much changed ... save for its lack of warmth. "We said nothing of it. I told you to bring Aran'gar, not the entire bloody White Tower." Just another sign of how low in his contempt Aes Sedai were now. Elayne had heard of what he had done, they met briefly when Rand had talked with Logain and Halima. Making sisters swear to him, Aes Sedai toiling in the broiling sun under Aiel guard, being whipped... She held herself ramrod-straight so as not to shudder. "They don't belong here, certainly not now, they are Aes Sedai for the love of the Light! What were you thinking?!" She almost winced from the sound of the whipcrack in his voice as it bounced off the rock walls. Aviendha laid a comforting hand on his shoulder, one hand fingering her belt-knife thoughtfully, but Min stared at her with unreadable eyes. She wondered uneasily what signs the girl saw around her this time. Signs of death?
Logain took a breath, to answer, but then Min touched Rand's sleeve. Bending close to his ear, she spoke to him for a few moments, and he listened, the silence was as thick as smoke over a bonfire. Rand settled back as Min straightened, his eyes boring into her. Logain clutched her tighter, protectively she knew, his brow creased in a frown. "They are my Warders." That was all the explanation Logain offered. Halima looked like a rabbit it the fox's mouth. Toveine eyed the man carefully. She had both hands pressed to her stomach.
"They may stay, then." It seemed the words took an eternity to fan themselvesout in the air. "They may stay and..." As his words petered off the Dragon Reborn seemed to frown, cocking his head as his eyes stared at her. There was a soft, persistent sound in the air, just too low for her to make out ... then she realized that Rand was humming, rubbing the lobe of one ear with his thumb as he looked distractedly at her. Was the man going mad already, just before cleansing saidin?! The Light forbid!
The humming snapped off abruptly as he straightened. "They might be of some use, Logain," his voice was weighted with irony, "And so will you." His eyes turned to Halima, her face was bloodless, "I think I have something you will enjoy doing, Aran'gar." Her fingers had clenched at the beginning of his sentence, but now she watched him with narrowed eyes. She licked her lips nervously. "Most Aes Sedai hold a networks of spies, Logain. And your Warder here," he pointed with one hand at Halima, "is an expert in spying. And Leane.. Leane Sharif," He turned to her. "I know that you are well practised in espionage, plotting, politics and every dirty trick the world has ever managed to create, so your talents should be put to good use."Her eyes narrowed, she already had a intricate, far-reaching network of spies throughout the known world, but all this was secret!
" I want to know everything that happens in the world, Logain Albar. And you are going to run a network of eyes-and-ears for me."
Logain looked at him wide eyes, "I know nothing about..." He began to protest.
"You can learn, and you have Aran'gar, just in case your Aes Sedai don't have at least some eyes-and-ears. She equaled Moghedien in this area, in the War of Power."
"I have a network, My Lord Dragon." Leane said, carefully, she didn't want to anger the man. "I can give you the reports they send me, but you will have to agree that I will give the report to..." she fell silent suddenly, not knowing how to continue. Fire blazed in his eyes. Logain took half a step forward, placing himself between her and the Dragon Reborn. She looked at Min and Aviendha through narrowed eyes. His weak points. A little leverage, perhaps, for the Tower.
Rand's words were delivered in a frozen tone, his eyes were ice. "I want you to run a network of spies, or eyes and ears as you call them, for me. Loyal only to me, the Dragon Reborn." She looked at him silently, considering.
"Logain, do you mind?" She touched his hand, pushing him a little away, so she could look at the other man. The anger was gone, the interruption was carefully planned. Rand was humming again, rubbing the lobe of one ear, watching her. Logain looked at her, and shook his head. She tightened the pressure of her hand.
"I already have a network of spies, as you call them." Throughout the known world, intricate, and carefully planned and guarded. She interjected scorn into the word, her face as serene as ever, the glassy surface of a pool, no matter what ripples or currents disturbed the deeper waters. ". . . who relay information to me on a regular basis, throughout the known world, except for the Aiel, but you don't need eyes and ears there, do you? And none of the Seanchan. But, they are loyal to me only, and you will have to be satisfied with that."
"But who does your loyalty stand to?" His voice was hard. "If I cannot trust you, why should I trust a network of eyes and ears loyal to you?" He looked at Logain, and something passed between them. Logain nodded to him, relieved! He had no reason to be.
She smiled. "Even if I were willing, I could not make them loyal to you. And the question of my loyalty? I know the Prophecies; I know what your destiny is. Perhaps you should question the loyalty of your Asha'man instead, I've heard about the hunting that goes now. Asha'man hunting Asha'man throughout the world. You will simply have to trust me."
"How do I know what you speak is true?" He demanded, face tightening. "The Three Oaths." She mentally thanked the fact that she was no longer bound to the Three Oaths, it made things so much easier. "The truth an Aes Sedai speaks is not always the truth you hear," he quoted and smiled, "And here is proof of it.You've been stilled, and the Oaths are fastened to the ability to Channel. You were freed from them the moment you lost touch with the Power." Shock heated her, how could he know? She could see, from the side of her eyes, Toviene straightening her back, her face aghast. There would be explanations to be done there.
"Her loyality lies with me, My Lord Dragon." Logain said, as if they talked about a cup of tea, "I trust you don't doubt my loyality."
Rand turned to Logain, his eyes warm for the first time, slightly warm. "I trust you, Logain. The Light alone know why, considering what you've done. Make sure never to betray my trust." Logain nodded curtly. But there was a small smile on his lips he tried to hide. "Good." Rand tapped a finger on his chin thoughtfully, eyes fastened on the buckle she had given to Logain. "An angreal. I can feel the ... echo." He raised his eyes to Logain's face. "What are you doing with an angreal?"
Logain opened his mouth to answer, but she cut in. "It is mine."
"Yours?" She almost flinched at the wintry coldness of his voice, but her expression showed nothing more than cool self-possession. "What would you do with an angreal attuned to men?"
She ground her teeth. "I brought it to give to him, not you. You probably have more hidden away somewhere, not to mention Callandor, you don't need his. Isn't Callandor strong enough for you?"
"Callandor is too strong," He murmured, as if thinking aloud, "I need something weaker, not stronger." His eyes sharpened suddenly, she felt like he could read her mind. "And where would you have obtained such a thing? The Tower? I don't think so; the Amyrlin would no sooner gift you an angreal attuned to men to give him, than she would marry the Lord Captain Commander of the Whitecloaks."
"Many things of the Power have been scattered, some are not known for what they are. I bought this, and this," She touched the silver hammered snowflake at her ear, he would have known soon anyway, with the girl Aviendha here. "From a thief in Tear,the angreal belonged to Stonebow, so he claimed, and was stored in Tear. He claimed that he stole it from the Stone. I always thought he lied, appearantly he didn't."
He studied her for a while. "He may keep it, then." She smiled to herself, a smile of triumph. Too soon, he gave a tight-lipped smile. "Very well then, Leane Sedai." A wealth of mocking was infused in the title. "Logain, you had better take advantage of some other... talents of your Warder. Aran'gar is extremely good as a spy. I didn't joke about wanting to know everything, you have Leane's network to start with, but you are going to widen it considerably. And fast! I expect to hear reports made, one every other day." His voice was stony hard, "Don't fail me, Logain Ablar."
Barid, Leane Sedai