Added on May 22-June 04, 1999
Category: WoT Fourth Age
Author: Barid

The Dead Alive

Part 01

The very top of the Dragonmount held no air for a man to breath in the Waking World. In tel'aran'rhiod, it mattered nothing. "What need do the dead have in breathing?" The man wondered loudly, he could, with a single thought, stop breathing, call an end to the beating of his heart, and it would matter nothing. "How can the dead die again? Or live again?" He shouted it to the wind, gashing, cold wind that tried to pull him down, to make him fall from his high stand. He laughed at the futile attempts. "I stood before the Dark One in the Pit of Doom, and in front Demandred and Moridin in the slopes of Shayol Ghul," He told the wind, where no wind should be, "You couldn't stop me."

"I didn't think so," A female voice replied, "It's good to see you again among us, Dragon." A woman appeared, young features despite long white hair, she wore a green and yellow skirt, made of thin velvet. And she walked on the air alone toward him.

The man snorted, "It can hardly be good, being dead, Selizan."

"You succeeded, so I understand, and it seemed to me that you're much... calmer than the last time you've appeared in the Unseen world." The woman told him with a twisted grin.

"Did I ever lose?" The man asked, "I search my memory, and as far as I goes, I see not a single battle lost. From the beginning of time, all the battles are won."

Selizan nodded, "That is why you're the Dragon, you know that. There is nothing else but you."

The man grimaced at her, "There is no need in such things anymore, you know that, how long before I will be called back for a new life? It would be long for sure."

"It's always so, with you," The woman said, a chair appearing behind her, "You seemed to like the long rest." She added as she sat down.

"Pawh! Long rest!" The man nearly shout in disgust, "Death, real death, has to be more interesting than... this." His hand motioned forward, not only the mountain, but this world, every part of it he knew as well as he knew himself.

"Ancient and powerful and short temper as always," Selizan said, "But I'm not here to make that kind of a conversation with you, Rand al'Thor. It had been half a year, in the waking world, since you died. And you stand here, on your grave and birth place, thinking."

"So they sent you," Rand smiled at the woman, she was his daughter once, in an age long gone, a sister in another, sometimes a mother, most often, their life were tied together. As he born, was she did, before or after, the reverse, however, was untrue. "You are no family this age."

"For the time being," She agreed, "That aiel wife of yours is about to give birth, a matter of days, the last time I checked, maybe she already did, the way time pass here." She glanced at him, he was one of the few that knew how to control the passing of time in tel'aran'rhiod. Few understood how it was to be done, fewer were capable of doing it.

"I see," His smile was nothing more than baring of teeth. "And you think that you might be born again, as my daughter, again?"

She shrugged, "We are tied together, Dragon. As you well know."

"Tied?" The man wondered, "I remember killing you, is it the tie you meant to? A spear of fire just above your eyes?"

She ignored his words, "The rest would have like to welcome you, but... consider the last time, they avoid you, until you'll search for the company."

"I wish no company, Selizan." The man who was the dragon said, "I want my life back, the Light burn my soul!"

Horror painted her face, "You can't!" She whispered, swallowing hard, "you mustn't! It will break every law, laws you have made!"

He simply shrugged, "Laws never hold me before," was all he said, "And you give me a reason for going that is strong enough for me to ignore the laws." His eyes burned, scales appeared on his face, gold and scarlet, for a long moment he simply stare at his hands, where five sharp claws replaced long, delicate fingers. "I will not let my children grow fatherlessly, nor let my wives grief a man undead!"

Selizan simply stared, "Then go, there is none here that is capable of stopping the Dragon. None will try, you know that. Remember duty, Dragon, if you will try that, you might rip your tie to the Wheel of Time, never to be reborn again, not the way we do."

He laughed, thworing his head back, "There is nothing I hope more than that, Selizan." He said, and jumped, his body changing as he think himself in another form.

Selizan stared at the cold red and black eyes of the creature, snakelike, huge, shining in the sunlight of tel'aran'rhiod, sharp teeth were shown as the creature opened his mount, snake like tongue, as wide as her leg, tasted the air. Then he was gone. Selizan was gone a heartbeat after, they would have to do something, to try to stop that, even though it would probably be futile. It would take him hours, days, maybe weeks, to reach the point where he could slip away from the world of dreams to the waking world safely.

The Dragon may not leave tel'aran'rhiod.

Part 2

Egwene walked to the waygate with a fury she didn't even try to control. "I still don't understand why you're so angry." Gawyn noted coldly on her side. "You want to get out of the White Tower, here is your chance, if only for a short time." Sometimes Egwene wished she didn't love the man so much, maybe then she would be able to strangle him.

"It's not this, Gawyn." She said through clenched teeth. "Whoever summoned the Council better have a good reason for this. The Last Battle may be done with. But there are thousands of details I need to take care for."

"Stop this," Gawyn adviced, as if he knew enough to do so, her husband or not, Gawyn was Elayne's brother, and an Asha'man beside. She trusted him, he wouldn't tell anything she ask him not to, but there were things she prefer he wouldn't know. Let Logain find it out by himself, if he could. "Logain wouldn't let you gain more power than you already have. You should thank Leane and Toveine for what you have." Egwene clenched her teath harder, she didn't like hearing this. Only Gawyn knew her enough to make her so angry. And Rand, of course, suddenly she had to blink tears from her eyes. The Council of Light was Rand's idea, Rand's creation. Seven months since the Last Battle, since that horrible battle when she was sure the Light had no chance at all. But despite all, they had won, the price was horrible, but they won. More than three millions dead, but the strategy the Council decided upon won the battle for them.

The shadow army almost completely destroyed. But that wasn't were the real battle had taken place, of course, and not where the price was harder to pay. Rand, Nynaeve and Lan, together with nearly hundred thousands soldiers, all of them dead. In a suicide attack on Shayol Ghul. All dead, worse than dead. Their souls taken by the Dark One, Egwene could only guess what the Dark One would do to Rand. Even Halma wasn't chatty about this particular subject.

As always, she hadn't notice passing through the waygate, one moment she was walking in one of the most unused corridors of the White Tower, the other she was in the Hall of the Light. Nobody knew where this place was, save Rand and maybe Logain and Halima and Elayne and Aviendha. None could travel here or from here. White walls changed into stony one, a short corridor into the Hall. "It's not this!" Egwene said, "I have to make sure that the rest of the Shadowspawn will be destroyed, that the army will be fed, to make sure the Hall will listen to me when I give them their bloody orders, even when they don't understand it. Thousand things to do, and I can do none when I called for useless chats." Halima was a part of the Council, and that was as much a reason as the other one.

"The army is for me to take care for." Gawyn said, he never lost his calm, not since returning fromt he Black Tower. "And you are angry because it's not Rand who summoned the Council. You're afraid that someone else may want to take his place. He was your friend, Egwene, there is no shame in griefing him." The Light alone know what he mean by this, she did grieve Rand, and Nynaeve, and all her friends she lost. But she couldn't afford herself to be weak now.

Now of all time the White Tower must be storng, to guide the world as it had always done, and it wasn't Rand who summoned the Council. Light, he couldn't. He is dead! Rand was the one thing uniting them. He created the Council, and the Council won the Last Battle. Rand was the one holding them together, with an iron fist indeed, but he held them together still. Egwene has no idea how sane he was near the end. The orders he gave were mad enough, but mad or not, he had pullify every last bit of the prophecies. Including dying. Egwene knew she will always have nightmares about Elayne's face, and Aviendha's and Min's, seeing that mountain of light in the north, and knowing Rand was dead. Nightmares where it was her face that took that shocked expression, disbelief and grief mixed together.

Gawyn held her shoulder tightly suddenly, she was just about to walk into a wall. "I'm sorry, Gawyn, I ... was thinking too hard." He snort in disbelief, but losened his grip. They had entered the Hall of Light, a pompous name, but that was Rand's intention. Not small room, with close to two dozens chairs, arranged around black stone table. Gawyn left her to seat on her chair, above her head the White Flame of Tar Valon shined clearly. Gawyn took his chair on the opposite side of the table. His chair was carve with as a green boar, with the Symbol of Light on the background. As the ancient sign of the Aes Sedai was now called. They were the firsts to arrive, Egwene wished she could cry, Rand was supposed to be here. As much as she hated him when he manipulated her, giving her orders he made sure she would follow, with the results of disobeying being explained to her in details. Rand wanted her to obey him, and he cared nothing about what she thought. But despite everything, she would have given close to everything just to have him again. She would even be happy to hear him threatening on her. As impossible as it sounded.

It hadn't taken long before Logain entered the Hall, as always, dressed all in black silk, with two matching pins in each side of his collar, a dragon wounding itself around a sword. He was walking the same way Gawyn did, as if he would begin to dance or fight in the next step. The woman that followed him looked as if she was design by him. Dark hair surrounding oval face and green eyes. Beautiful enough to make any man stare, as Logain, she wore her usual cloths. High collar black coat and breaches as black, two pins on her collar, a sword and a dragon. The only female Asha'man.

It didn't require thought, Egwene touched saidar and wove fire. Flame strong enough to burn stone surrounded Halima. The woman stepped out of it, smiling! The fire didn't touch her. "Egwene, how nice of you to give me such a... warm welcome." She was ready for this, Halima knew exactly how much she had hated her. She had very good reasons.

"Halima," Gawyn rose from his chair, smiling at the woman. Gawyn was her warder for a long time now. Had she noted the slightest bit of attraction to the woman she would have killed them both! But there was only fondness in his voice, in him! Fondness! "You shouldn't tease Egwene so." Was she the only one that wasn't blind to the woman? She was one of the Forsaken!

There seemed to be true warmth in Halima's smile, the woman had fooled her for a long time. No longer, but now everyone else seemed to be fooled instead. Light, Rand didn't trust her, but he gave Halima his trust fully. Halima! "One more time, Egwene." Logain said pleasantly, "and I will give you to Halima. I am sure she could cure you from your hate to her." Halima rose her head, hope visible in her eyes.

"Would you, Logain?" She asked, her voice high with sudden hope. "I can make sure she will more... open to some suggestion you would make for her." Gawyn growled something, his mouth moved, but she heard not a sound, a shield against eavesdropping! Halima looked at him and nodded slowly, Logain simply smiled.

"As you say, Asha'man Gawyn." Halima said, "But promise to tell me the next time you two will have a fight, I can convince her not to be angry with you." Egwene wished she could kill the woman, but Halima was stronger than any woman in the power. And she guarded herself twice as much as any Asha'man near any Aes Sedai. Egwene had already tried to convince Asha'man to kill her, she tried everything, from bribe to treats. Nothing convinced one of the black clad men to do anything save laugh in her face.

"Why you summoned the meeting, Logain?" She asked, maintaining a calm voice and face was the hardest thing she did in her life.

"I didn't," the man replayed slowly, "I thought you did. Where are the others?" He sounded as if he was telling the truth. So far, save twice, Rand was the only one summoning those meeting. In those two times, everything seemed to be ready to crush down on them, each time, it was Rand who saved them, barely.

"They will be here shortly, I assume. Wait!" Gawyn said, as calm as a lake in midwinter. He sat back in his chair, Logain and Halma took theirs. Halima was burned with the a big cat's face, with fangs shaped as the Dragon's tooth, a sign of evil, this days. The sign for saidin, in the Age of Legends. For once, Egwene agreed to the sign, it was Halima's choice. A fitting once. Logain's sign was a dragon wounding itself around a silver sword the same as his pin, only the sign held the Symbol of Light in the background, it was the Black Tower's sign.

None of them talked, there was nothing she had to say to Logain, and Gawyn could all but read her mind. Halima, she would give only death. Halima watched the two men with open interest. For herself, Egwene leaned back in her chair, staring at Gawyn. He had changed much since the day she had bonded him. Not just Rand finding out that he had the spark, but in other ways also. He was an Asha'man, with every meaning of the word. She pained every moment away from him while he learned to use the power, feared with every breath that he might burn himself out. Or kill himself during learning. He refused to go the Black Tower, foolishly declaring that he can refuse to touch the True Source if he doesn't wish it. Rand had his way with him, as he seemed to have with everyone. Egwene didn't understand how the Asha' man arranged rank between themselves. All she knew that it had nothing about strength in the power, or age. Gawyn held a high position in the Black Tower, that was all Egwene knew. That was all she wanted to know. She asked Gawyn once about it, he tried to explain. She couldn't even begin to understand his explanations. It had to do with saidin and the way men controlled it, but she understood nothing more.

Her eyes shifted to Logain, he leaned back in his chair, he had white in his hair, Egwene heard Halima saying once that all he needed was to be little bit taller and ten years older to look like Lews Therin's brother. He ruled the Black Tower ever since Taim... disappeared, not long after Rand and Nynaeve cleaned the taint. Rand admitted killing Taim, so Elayne said, but nothing more could be dragged out of the woman, nor from anyone else. The Black Tower held its secret well. All she knew was that more than one hundred Asha'man had disappeared after the Cleansing. It was something to wonder about, had Taim gone mad, and the others? Or had Rand simply killed the man when he learned about Logain? Either way, Rand trusted Logain, and like him. What couldn't have been said about Taim.

Halima made her angry simply by seating strait in her chair, toying with a single golden bracelet. Her only other piece of jewlery was a thin golden necklace with a emerald stone hanging down her throat. Her eyes were far off. The woman had used the power on her, used it so she agreed to anything the woman suggested. The second time she was a puppet.

She was one of the Forsakens, but Rand trusted her with his life. Rand, it all centered around Rand, or so it seemed. With him dead, she would never understand all his moves, there seemed to be no limit to the amount of things he could handle at the same time. More than once, she thought everything was about to crush, and every last time Rand had done something to save everything, often it was more than risky, as often, it was pure luck that save them all. Twice that she knew about Rand had showed cruelety that made even Halima disgusted.

Egwene wasn't sure how human Rand was at the end. He was swallowed entirely in winning the Last Battle. But it was Halima she thought about, not Rand. In a way, it was Logain who saved her, equally strong in saidin, the battle between him and Halima could old end with the death of either one of them, or both. She still remember how she tried to protect the woman, when Logain traveled into her study, while Halima played with her like a puppet. And she would make sure she would pay, sooner or later. She savored on the memory of Halima's face, heartbeats after Logain threw himself on her, kissing her. She will carry to her grave the memory of this. Asha'man bonded by a kiss, and a warder had to obey her Asha'man. Halima accepted her defeat gracefully, Egwene admitted bitterly. What she still hadn't understood was why Rand hadn't killed the woman. She knew Logain had brought her to Rand. And she knew exactly how much Rand hated any of the Forsaken. Egwene couldn't even begin to understand what was happenning between Halima and Logain. The man had two other warders save Halima. Toviene and Leane at least belonged to Light. Halima had sworn her soul to the Shadow. Only the bond kept her loyal to Logain. How could such a woman be trusted was beyond her. And why Rand allowed it was a mystery she didn't even bother thinking about. Rand did strange things more often than not.

The sound of soft steps was the only warning she had as Mat entered the Hall, quieter than the night and twice as grim, he was clad in blood red and dark green, the Band's colors. A white hand on the left side of his bearst. Tuon was a step before him, she was the one who gave her the warning. Egwene smiled at Mat, although inside she grieved for him as much as she did Rand. Mat's eyes never rested, even here, he constantly searched for danger. He was the closest thing to a warder for Tuon as can be reached without the One Power.

"Egwene," Tuon said, her voice warmless. "You were the one summoning this meeting?" Rand wanted peace in the world, and she wasn't the only one who felt the edge of Rand's sword on her throat. Tuon didn't like it one bit more than Egwene herself did, but she had no more choice. Rand gave the world a peace, The Peace Of The Sword. The Council was his way of reminding her, and others, that they had to obey. Tuon probably hated being force to obey even more than she did.

Mat simply nodded at her, he didn't return her smile. He hardly smiled at all, this days. The light of amusement in his eyes, as if he could always find a funny side in everything had faded. Mat threatened to switch her the last time she tried to question him about the problems he was neck deep in. She thought he meant it. He was the only man in the world, save the Asha'man, that could make this threat to her. She knew few things, she had only three eyes-and-ears in Sendar, but what she knew was enough to grieve Mat. There was no love between him and Tuon, why he had married the woman was a mystery to her. She thought him wiser.

"I didn't; and Logain claim he hadn't." She said, it wasn't that she hated Tuon, not exactly. But she couldn't like the woman. Mat sat down on his chair, a silver fox, with ravens on each of the fox's shoulders. More than fitting to the Empress' Hands, as he was known in Seanchan. She had only three eyes-and-ears in Sendar, but it was more than enough to know how deeply Mat had changed. It wasn't only the lack of life in his eyes, Shen an Calhar was feared worst than the Seekers in Seanchan. Close to fifty thousands soldiers, they had quelled down three rebelions, facing odds of three to one at best. Mat had never lost a battle. Rumors connected Mat to Tuon's mother's death. And to the deaths of the leaders of the rebellions. Egwene had been forced to believe this, she had no idea how Mat had done it, Seanchan's noble guarded themselves more than any king, and for good reasons. But everyone opposing Tuon had simply died, usually in their beds, their thoats slit open wide, and every last time Mat wasn't in the Court of the Nine Moons when the murders took place. Tuon ruled well, but Egwene wondered if she knew how much she owed to Mat. Being an Empress didn't make her invulnerable to knifes. Mat was the one who made sure that no noble in Seanchan would even consider disobeying Tuon. Those who did died.

Tuon took her own chair, near Mat, a raven attacking, surrounded by nine silver moons. "Then who?" Tuon demanded. "I don't like this place." Neither did Egwene.

"I suggest you would wait, Empress." Mat said, she had never heard him calling Tuon anything but Empress. He turned to Gawyn, speaking in a voice too low for her to hear, Logain rose from his chair and moved closer. The three men speaking quietly, Logain rose his head once to glare at her, before returning his attention to the conversation. Tuon stared at her husband, she had a dagger in her hands, she was toying with it. Egwene suspected that she wanted more than toy with the dagger. Mat walked on the razor's edge with Tuon. Halima was still deep in her thoughts, Egwene would have given much to know what the woman was thinking about. Something vile, no doubt.

The dagger disappeared from Tuon's hands, she leaned back in her chair, and closed her eyes. She seemed to be sleeping. It was a habit she had, she thought better that way, so she claimed. She had let her hair grow, a violation of every custom in Seanchan's nobility. Dark hair that reached her shoulder. That was the only change in her since Mat married her. For reasons Egwene couldn't understand, he didn't seem to love her. Nor she him, but he let her command him in a way that made Egwene open her mouth in astonishment, no matter how many times she had seen it. Not for the first time, she thought about asking Tuon how she had done so. If only she wasn't so arrogant.

"Egwene," The voice behind her made her jump of her chair, she gave Elayne a strong, careful hug. Gawyn left Mat and Logain, and bowed to Elayne. "Stop this, Gawyn." Elayne berated him, only faintly smiling. "We're not in the Lion Palace." Stepping back from Elayne, Egwene examined her. Elayne wore a green dress, and her pregnancy was visible. Save eyes slightly red, Elayne looked almost as she always did. Egwene couldn't imagine how it was like for her, losing Rand. How Elayne could endure such a lose? Egwene's heart cringed only thinking about losing Gawyn. Helping his sister seat, Gawyn was half overjoyed seeing Elayne. Half worried over her. Elayne chair's, of course, was carved in Andor's Lion, white on red field. Birgitte hadn't moved more than three steps away from Elayne. She hadn't since the day Rand died. Despite everything Elayne had said to her, Birgitte couldn't protect Elayne from what harmed her now. But she could give some comfort.

Her chair, the one next to Elaye, was marked with silver bow and arrows, on dark green field.

"How are you?" Gawyn asked, suddenly his face flushed, "I meant..."

Elayne touched his face fondly with one hand, "It's all right, Gawyn." But her eyes were dark, Birgitte lied a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I'll be fine." She will never be, Egwene knew. Sometimes Egwene thought that the only thing that kept Elayne from dying was having Rand's child. "Aviendha will not come, I fear. She is too busy taking care for Teadra." That was another thing to wonder, Rand had married Elayne and Aviendha and Min. Why Elayne agreed to this, how could Elayne agree to this, was something Egwene couldn't understand. Their seemed to be too much she hadn't understood. She remind herself to visit Aviendha, Light, she was just too busy being an Amyrlin to visit her friends, this would have to change. But above all that, she knew that Rand had made Elayne more happy than she was ever was. And Aviendha and Min too. It was all that she cared, in the end.

"How is Aviendha? And Teadra?" She asked, it was strange of Aviendha, giving her daughter one Birgitte's names. Or maybe it was Rand's choice. He hadn't lived to see Teadra, of course, another thing to wonder.

"Aviendha is sleeping," Birgitte replayed from her chair, she hadn't looked at her, her eyes were on Elayne, "she needs to sleep. Teadra has a good lungs, and she like to show them. The girl has to learn the meaning of the word silent." But her smile was all too wide. She was as proud in Teadra as Aviendha was. Elayne's warder was just as protective and motherly with Min's son, Rand lived to see his son, Lezan was eight months old now, or was it nine months already?

"Will Min come?" Min parted her time between her son and her books, Egwene had no idea what she loved more. Egwene hoped she would, too long since she had seen her too.

Elayne lied a hand on her stomach, groaning and muttering something barely audible. "She will," She said, Elayne was impatient to have her own baby. To stop the baby's kicking as much as for any other reason, so she claimed. No one believed her. "She wanted to finish reading a page before she would come." Not surprising, with Min. The woman loved books as much as she did Rand.

"You have only a month more to bear, sister." Gawyn said cheerfully, "I'm sure it's not that bad." Elayne's glare slide right past him, "Beside, I doubt if there is any other way to have the baby." Halima laughed softly to this.

"Wait until Egwene will have a baby, Gawyn. Then you will understand fully how bad it's. I wish I hadn't killed Osan'gar, maybe he could have planned a more comfortable way." The dark woman said. Egwene stared at her sharply, she couldn't be implying that she was... No, it was simply impossible.

Elayne nodded to herself, staring at Logain's warder, "How long?" Halima became red, her eyes lying on Logain, she said nothing.

"Did I missed something?" Min's voice was as throaty as always, but she looked even sadder than Elayne was, which took something.

Halima sprang from her chair, she was the first to reach Min. For some reason, Min liked Halima. Something that was stranger than Rand marrying three women. Logain began to move also, but stopped as soon as Halima reached Min. "Oh, Light," Min breathed, "I'm not that weak." A Trolloc's spear in her side nearly killed her, in the Last Battle, and she nearly died before she was healed. It did nothing to stop Halima. Min's chair was carved as a hawk with fierce eyes, floating over unseen winds.

Mat had watched with cold eyes, not even bothering to make a show of caring. What happened to him, to change him so much? "Only three more before we can start," He said, "When will Narishma and Mierin appear?" They were in Shara, ruling the country and the Silver Tower both. That was all she knew, the Gray Asha'man never spoke to anyone unless spoken to, and nothing made them talk about their homeland.

"I talked with Mierin few hours ago," Halima said, no wonder, both women belonged to the Shadow. Yet it seemed impossible to take down Mierin. Aes Sedai weren't allowed in Shara, and althought the blues had more than few eyes-and-ears in that distant land, the reports held more lies than truth. "She said they would come, but they might be late, there was an.. emergancy there, and Mierin seemed... eager to take care of that." What was the woman talking about?

"And that means?" Gawyn asked, as always, making her feel that her mind was entirely exposed to him.

Halima giggled! "They were held back by a group of their children, they shouldn't have adopted so much of those who were born to the women who could channel in Shara. The other Gray Asha'man could handle that."

"With the warders they have?" Logain inquired, "They have too much troubles keeping their throats whole to have time to take care for children. And the Black Tower has taken as much as it could already."

"Six thousands only, Logain." Halima replied, "We can have twice as much easily!"

"Argue later!" The man stepped out of the shadows, as dark as the woman near him was pale. Ilyena sunhair, as she was once called, Nemesis, as she named herself now. She wasn't Valir's warder, nor he was her, not as far as Egwene knew. But the two rarely seen away from one another. "Who summoned us?"

"I did," Mat replied.

"Why hadn't you told me this, Husband!" Tuon hissed.

"You never asked," His voice was cold as ice. "All we've now to do is to wait for Mierin to show up, only then I can give you the reason for this summon."

Gawyn touched her hand, "Hold on, dear. There will be here shortly."

Egwene sniffed at him arrogantly, "I do hope so!"

Part 3

"When you were named Jaem Giant-Slayer I fought by your side, as we slayed the Giant Mosk." The woman stood in front of him, her hair, and her temper, resembled very much a hot flame. "When the Dark One broke free of his prison I fought by your side, Lews Therin! I fought the Trolloc Wars, seen my land die and die with my country! I am as committed to our mission as you are, Dragon! And I will not allow you to do what you're planning."

"My name is Rand al'Thor," He said softly, coldly, the softness of a blade drawn, the coldness of a fresh grave. "What is the name you use, this days? Alsbet, the Queen of All, who battled the Giant Mosk. Or should I name you Telidar Therin Mirlil, and call you sister? Or do you go by the name Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan, and still grief lost Manetheren? Be the name you go by as it may be, you can't stop me."

"No," The man by her side agreed, "None of us can, not by ourselves, Dragon. You can best the bests, here, and in the waking world, to whom you will not return. You may not return. The law is clear. A law you have forged yourself! You are the dragon, you cannot allow yourself take the risk!"

"Indeed, Hawkwing." Rand agreed, his eyes far off, how long ago he created this law. "But there are times where not even I can abide the law. Sometimes, the price is too heavey." Artur began to open his mouth, but Rand raise a hand tiredly. "Can you truly tell me that I do not deserve it? When did I last lived a life without storms of battle and winds of war? When wasn't I directed by duty and honor and the Dark One's defeat? Don't I, too, deserve to live a life of no war, life where I will not have to guard my back, or fear for those who I dear? Don't I have the right for it? Haven't I paid enough to have it? Tell me that I do not deserve it, Artur Hawkwing. Tell me, and I will remain here. Say it loud and clear, so I know your words for true! Say it, if you can!"

"You have earned that right more than any of us here, Dragon. Tousand fold more than any of us ever had, but you still may not go. Duty bind you, Dragon. And you never disregarded it, not once in all of your life times." The woman fell silent, everything in her showed that she was sure she had won the argument.

"Then maybe it's time for me to begin," Rand said coldly, "There are times, sister. When even duty empty itself of all content. Enough is enough, I've given enough of myself, long enough, to do as I please."

"A lovely speach, Lews Therin." Another man shimmered near them, rumors flied fast, here as elsewhere. "I just wonder who you're trying to convince. Her or yourself."


"Why have you summon the council?" Gawyn asked, neither Logain nor Halima seemed even slightly suprised. Mat produced three balls of nowhere and began jugling them in the air, leaning back in his chair. "I will tell you when Mierin show up."

Elayne drew herself up, "I don't have the time to wait, Matrim Cauthon!"

"You do," Halima said calmly, "The baby wouldn't be born for at least a month, I can promise you that."

Elayne gave a start, her hand touching her stomach before her eyes turned into cold storm. "What have you done to me?"

Halima stared at her for a moment, "I did nothing, I simply checked how is the baby. Do you want to know the gender?"

"The gender?" Elayne stared at the dark woman in shocked surprise. Then she shocked her head, "No, I think I better not. I would like to be surprised."

Halima shrugged, "As you wish, although I doubt that you'll enjoy the... surprise."

Logain threw his head back and laughed, ignoring the hard glares Halima and Elayne gave him. There was nothing funny in Halima's words.

"They are coming," Gawyn said quitely, "I can hear them." Egwene heard them too, anyone could hear them, they argued in voices loud enough to be heard on Tar Valon! The subject, however, was unclear. Someone about a boy or a man named Seleamon was all she managed to hear before they fell silent. Narishma eyes, as always, seemed to penetrate into the back of her skull, reading her mind. Mierin, as well, looked just as she always did. Cold and cool, with blue eyes that revealed nothing and her hair falling back, the silvery hair making stunning constrat against the black she constantly wore now.

"Now they are here," Egwene said sharply to Mat, not letting the couple that came in to say a word. "Why are we here?"

"Very simple," Mat replied, then waited for Narishma and Mierin to seat down. Mierin was smiling haughtily at her direction. Narishma frowning. Mierin's chair had a white stars that made the from of a hawk. Narishma's chair was decorated with a gray tower on the background of the anceint symbol of Aes sedai. "I've my orders. And they were... very strict."

"Orders, husband?" Toun said with a placid voice, "Who can give you orders, save me?" The last two words weren't said aloud, yet they hand in the air nevertheless.

"Rand al'Thor." Mat answered without a moment of hesitation. Elayne gasped, tears shined in her eyes suddenly. Logain seemed tensed, Halima relaxed, she nodded to herself, half smiling, as if this was just the thing she expected. Toun kept her face calm. The others, hope and fear, mignled together. In her as well in others. Mat opened his mouth again, and repeated his words, deepenning the shock, "My orders came from Rand al'Thor, the Dragon bloody Reborn." He sound as if he hardly belived his own words, "A man dead for more than half a year."


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