|Episode #22: Mothers of the Dragon
“You should not eat your dinner so fast, Rand al’Thor.”
“You will catch cold if you do not put your coat on, Rand al’Thor.”
“Why are you groaning, Rand al’Thor? Do you not feel well?”
Rand al’Thor, the Car’a’carn, He Who Comes With The Dawn, the Dragon Reborn, seriously considers starting the Last Battle right then.
Min stifles a laugh.
“It’s all very well for you,” Rand growls. He addresses the Maidens clustered around them. “I feel fine, thank you. I’m quite warm. I won’t eat too fast. And before anyone says anything, I will remember not to stay up too late. Now will you please go away?”
The Maidens do not stifle their laughs. But they do go away. Eventually. Min is looking at him oddly.
“What?” he asks. “I wasn’t that rude. And they think it’s all a joke anyway. I don’t know where I got so many mothers from all of a sudden…”
“It’s not that.” She tilts her head, peering up at him. “I can see an aura about you like nothing else I ever saw. Something’s going to happen soon. Not bad. Just very, very strange.”
Rand sighs. “Well, not bad is a nice change anyway.”
Meanwhile, the Maidens are talking. And laughing. And listening outside the door. As soon as Rand falls silent, the door opens and a Maiden pokes her head in.
“Is everything all right, Rand al’Thor?”
The Maiden withdraws. Rand sighs. Min hides a smile.
“It’s not easy being Dragon,” Rand says, looking moodily into the distance. And winning the prize for understatement of the century. “There’s something wrong about Taim, Min. I don’t trust the man further than I can throw him.”
“With or without the Power?”
Rand might laugh, except that another Maiden chooses that moment to look around the door. “Are you sure everything is all right, Rand al’Thor?”
The Maiden withdraws. Rand sighs, again. Min hides a smile, again.
“Min, I honestly don’t know -”
“Are you absolutely positive, Rand al’Thor?”
“Yes!” Rand explodes, jumping up. “I’m fine! Everything is fine! Why do you keep asking me that? It’s just a normal, completely ordinary evening for the bloody Car’a’carn!”
“Well, that’s good,” comes the cheerful response, “because it won’t be for long.”
The door closes. Rand blinks. Min blinks.
“Did she just say -”
“Hey!” Rand shouts. “Come back in here a minute?”
The door opens. A golden-haired young Maiden looks around again. “You called, Car’a’carn?”
“Why did you say that?”
“Oh -” The girl shrugs, looking faintly amused. “No particular reason, really.”
“Rand!” Min whispers. She is staring at the Maiden wide-eyed. “She’s not part of the regular guard – and Rand, her aura is absolutely insane.”
Rand frowns. “Who are you?”
“I’m Shaiel.” Then before either Rand or Min can blink, “Not that Shaiel. She just thought it was funny.”
“Who did?” Rand is completely lost.
“Long story.” Shaiel vanishes around the door again, and Rand and Min look at each other in confusion.
“Is this the strange thing?” Rand says.
“Not exactly,” a voice comes from behind him. And as Rand spins around, reaching for saidin, from the shadows emerge…
An Asha’man. An Aes Sedai in a red shawl. Another Aes Sedai in a black shawl. A Myrddraal. A Trolloc. And, looking distinctly incongruous in the group, an Ogier even now scribbling in his notebook.
Rand’s prompt and predictable response is to launch balefire. It could have been aimed at any of them, or all of them. But it just happens to hit Shadar. The results are – well, let’s look at this point by point.
A bar of molten light leaps from his hands. This is as expected.
The bar is hot enough to make fire seem cool. This is also as expected.
It leaves a bright afterimage on the onlookers’ retinas. This is also, more or less, as expected.
It touches Shadar, and the results are – not.
The Asha’man completely fails to turn into mist, into a negative image of himself, or into motes struggling to keep their shape. Instead, the balefire bends, collecting around him, a white-hot glow like liquid light…
In the cup that Shadar just happens to be holding, the balefire continues to pool, filling the cup to the brim with a blinding glow. The black-clad man’s eyes are not so very much dimmer.
With a grin to match his toast, Shadar raises the cup and drinks the contents down.
Rand, and the rest of the onlookers, simply gape – with the sole exception of Shani, who’s never been shocked by anything in her life, and isn’t about to start.
Sharis applauds. “That was the coolest stunt I have ever seen.”
“I’ll have to see what I can do to top it,” Shani remarks. She turns to the still-gaping Rand. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Lord Dragon, and we’ll have to drop in again some time, but we really came to pick up our friend here. Ready to go, Shaiel?”
Shadar offers his arm to Shani. They disappear into the shadows.
Sneak offers his arm to Sharis. They disappear into the shadows.
Snarg, being a little too tall to do so, does not offer his arm to Shaiel. Nevertheless, the pair of them also disappear into the shadows.
Rand, Min, and the remaining Maidens continue to gape. After a moment, a Trolloc hand emerges from the shadows.
Snarg grabs the still-scribbling Someone, and they both disappear.
Rand finally manages to speak.
“Have I gone mad already, or did that really all just happen?”
“It happened.” Min looks thoughtfully after them. “And you know, I don’t think you really need to worry about Tarmon Gai’don now.”
“What? Why not?”
Min points at the shadows – which are no longer anything but shadows, but her meaning is taken. “Can the Dark One really be worse than that?”
Rand considers that for a moment, then bursts into laughter.
“You should not laugh so hard, Rand al’Thor,” a Maiden chides him, “you will make yourself tired.”
Rand just laughs even more.