Wheel of Time
“One more day”
Raimund could feel the presence of his Aes Sedai over the horizon. The sun was setting in the West and it’s last rays were turning the sky blood-red. The red light reflected off the grasslands and gave Raimund an ominous feeling. He was busy tying up the horses to a small tree while Edwing set up camp. They had crossed the river and had left the hills behind them. The land was mostly flat with meadows of long grass as far as the eyes could see. Small groups of trees dotted the terrain, some of them almost large enough to be called a forest. They had passed a few villages and farmsteads mostly occupied by sheepherders and cattle owners. They had passed the last village only an hour before and Raimund had wanted to stop at the local inn. It had been two weeks since he had slept in a decent bed and he had hoped for the chance to take a hot bath. Raimund knew he would meet up with his bonded Sister the next day and wanted to look his best. Even though he had taken a bath in the river the day before he probably smelled of his horse. Edwing had refused to stay at the inn however. His voice had been filled with paranoia.
“These are dangerous times for strangers. The locals will probably wait until we go to sleep and then rob and kill us. Murandy is a land of thieves son, never forget it.”
Raimund had heared the same stories and rumors. People from Murandy were famed for being disloyal and untrustworthy. He refused to believe that everyone here would be that way. Village folk were village folk wherever one went. Most people were friendly and decent as long as you treated them with some respect. Edwing couldn’t be convinced however so they were going to sleep outdoors once more. When the horses were tied up, unsaddled and fed Raimund walked over to the starting fire.
“I am going to see if I can’t find a little stream or a lake or something. Anything with a little water so I can freshen up a bit.”
Edwing was sitting with his back towards Raimund, said nothing but raised his hand to show him he understood. Raimund walked out of the bushes that concealed their camp, crossed the road and walked in to the meadows. In the distance he could hear dogs barking and he could see smoke from the chimneys rise up to the south. The camp was invisible from where he was standing and there was no-one else near for miles, it felt as though he had the whole world to himself. Raimund stretched his arms out as though they were wings and started to breath in and out as deep as he could. The silence reminded him of his youth. He came from a noble family with five children, four boys of which he was the youngest and one girl, his little sister Selisse. Their castle was close to Fal Dara and so it was also close to the Blight. It was always filled with the noise of hundreds of people, servants, soldiers, merchants… Every time the noise had gotten too much for Raimund he had gone to the tallest tower of the fort. There the wind suppressed the sounds from below and he could find peace. He hadn’t been to Shienar in years and even if he returned there he doubted it would feel like home. His sister now lived with her husband in Illian, his parents and two of his brothers were dead and his oldest brother, the Head of House Ka-Hal, had given in to his fears long ago. The quiet caress of the wind made him feel as if he was back there though, standing on the tallest tower. Raimund lowered his arms again and went further in to the meadow. He had only taken two steps when pain flashed through his body. His left hand went to his stomach expecting to find blood there while his right hand drew his sword from the sheathe. He turned around but realized there were no attackers. The pain he had felt wasn’t his.
In a panic Raimund turned around and started to run back to the camp. “Not again, by the light not again.” he kept repeating as he stumbled through the bushes towards his horse. Just as he reached Biter Edwing appeared next to him.
“She is in danger. She was cut I think, or stabbed. If they got that close once they can do it again. She needs me.”
Edwing’s hand pulled the reins from his and gently but firmly pushed him away from his horse. “Your imagination is getting the better of you. Think boy, think. She was hurt but she is alive yes?”
“How long ago was she attacked?”
“When I was out there, in the meadows. A few minutes ago.”
“If she was attacked that long ago and she was cut only once she is probably….”
Raimund’s muscles relaxed and a smile appeared on his face as he interrupted Edwing. “She is ok. Tired but ok. Most of the pain is gone.”
He hesitantly set himself down next to the fire. If it was up to him they would pack up their belongings and leave again right now but he knew Edwing would never agree to that. Strangely enough feeling her pain and fatigue had removed most of his. Or at least he had forgotten about them. To his surprise Edwing started to pack up most of his possessions.
“Forget about finding that lake, do your meditation and lets go to sleep. We’ll get up before dawn to get a head start. Don’t worry son, we’ll find that Aes Sedai of yours.”
Edwing woke him up an hour before dawn as promised. He had already prepared some breakfast and had saddled both horses. As Raimund ate the last of his bread and cheese Edwing mounted the black stallion.
“One more thing before we leave. I want you to focus on your charge today. Constantly try to feel how far ahead she is. When we get closer you should be able to tell. Alert me when we are about an hour away from her. I have no intent to answer any troublesome questions about who I am, what happened to me and why I have not returned to the Tower. I helped you get this far and this is all I ask in return. Promise me now or travel alone on this last part of your journey.”
Raimund didn’t know what to say. He had hoped Edwing would stay with him. Maybe the Aes Sedai would bond him too. But he had no right to refuse the man.
“I promise Edwing, I will alert you shortly before we reach her.”
They followed the road further North and started to head to the east where the road split up. They traveled a lot faster then the last two days and this time Raimund usually led the way. Edwing seemed distracted and unlike the previous days he kept to himself. The sun was already low in the west when Raimund turned to Edwing.
“She is just over the horizon. My guess is we will meet her very soon.”
Edwing nodded and dismounted. He led his horse to a nearby tree and then moved further in to the meadow. There he turned around and beckoned Raimund to him. Raimund dismounted and walked over to his travel-companion. As he approached Edwing drew his axe and weighed the weapon in his hand as if to get a feel for the weapon before a fight. Edwing’s behavior made Raimund very uncomfortable.
“it’s time boy. Time for justice.”
“I don’t understand. Justice? Are you leaving now or are you coming with me? I am sure you could find a new Sister willing to bind you. At the very least you will be rewarded for helping me.”
“I can’t come with you, I already said that. I do not want to answer the questions that are inevitable. No Aes Sedai will punish me for what I did, that right belongs to you.”
“Punish you? I want to thank you. You probably saved my life and the life of her as well.” Raimund pointed towards the road. Edwing nodded, gripped his axe more tightly and shifted his weight. He looked like a mountain-lion ready to pounce on his prey and Raimund feared he might be just that.
“I never thought this day would come. For years I expected to find Aes sedai and their Warders in my camp when I returned from the hunt. Thought I could hear them sneak up on me. But they never came. My crime remained unpunished. But you came. The Wheel turns and nobody can change the course of history, the formation of the pattern. The time has come for me to pay for my actions.”
Edwing was screaming insanely by the time he finished. Raimund thought he understood. Edwing had never recovered from losing his Aes Sedai. He still had a death wish and now he wanted Raimund to fulfill that wish.
“It wasn’t your fault Edwing. She died but it is as you said, you can still have a purpose. Return with me to Tar Valon and you will receive a second chance. You will …” Edwing didn’t allow raimund to finish. He started to laugh maniacally and he spewed out his words as if they were poison.
“You fool!. I didn’t fail in my task. I succeeded. My Master ordered me to take care of the witch that had enslaved me and I did it. She died by my hand. I remember it clearly. She was lying next to the fire, the fire she had started with the power of her taint. The voice it… I had too you see. She didn’t suffer. I made it quick. I was promised power, eternal life, wealth….. But the voice lied. I received nothing. It abandoned me as well. I was alone for years. It didn’t come back until… But now the time of justice is here.”
Raimund’s blood had frozen in his veins as he heared Edwing’s words. A cold hatred now replaced the respect he had for the man. He slowly drew his sword and positioned himself a few feet away from Edwing, prepared to spring in to action should he attack.
“Darkfriend, I so name thé. You killed your charge. You broke every vow you have ever taken. I will gladly give you the justice you deserve. I will not kill you. I will defeat you here and take you to Tar Valon alive. There we will let the Sisters decide your fate.”
A look of pure hatred twisted Edwings face as he lept at Raimund, his axe swooping down towards the neck. Raimund dodged the man’s blow and tried to strike at his arms, hoping he could make Edwing drop his weapon. His blade struck nothing but air however as Edwing had already turned right and now had a clear opening at Raimund’s back. Raimund almost dropped his sword as he could feel the axe cleave open his flesh. Blood ran freely and Raimund could immediately notice his strength waning. His distraction lasted only for a split second however. As soon as Edwing had finished his swing Raimund launched another strike, this time aimed at the man’s exposed right shoulder. He hit his target and as he pulled the blade free he gave it an extra twist to make sure Edwing would no longer be able to use that arm for long time. As the two men danced away from each other blood stained the grass between them. For a second they looked in to each other’s eyes each trying to read his opponent. Raimund attacked first. He feigned an attack at Edwing’s other arm but instead went for his legs. He only inflicted a shallow cut and knew he had left his defenses open again. This time the axe struck his ribs. Several of them snapped like dry twigs and the air was pushed out his lungs. Gasping for air he fell on his knees not even noticing he had dropped his sword right in front of him. Edwing placed his foot on the blade and looked down at the man he had guided the last few days.
“The voice said it would end this way. That the light cannot guarantee justice anymore. My Master’s power has grown too much you see. Soon the Shadow will snuff out the last remnants of hope and my Master will rule all.”
He looked at the sword lying in front of the mortally wounded man. “You got this from her didn’t you, a present. Can you even read the inscription in Old Tongue? Do you know what it says? Don’t worry son, I’ll tell you.”
Edwing sounded like himself again, like the man who had traveled with Raimund. “It says: For the true one power in my life. Peace favor your sword and the Light will favor my heart. Beautiful. I’ll send you to her now. And don’t worry about your new Sister. I will not let her suffer as we have. I will kill her as soon as I find her.”
Edwing swung back his axe, intent on severing Raimund’s head in one stroke. Raimund gathered all the strength he had left. With his legs and left hand he pushed himself upward in to Edwing’s stomach while his right hand gripped his sword, Grianne’ sword. Edwing fell back and lost his axe. He hit the ground but immediately recovered from the surprise. He too grabbed his weapon and sprang back up while at the same time swinging and aiming for Raimund’s head. Just as Edwing got back on his feet Raimund brought down the sword on his neck. Flesh was cut, muscles severed and bones broken. Edwing’s head came loose and landed a few feet away from his still standing body. As the dead muscles lost their strength the axe deviated from it’s course. It missed Raimund’s scalp but cut him deep just above the eyes. Raimund yelled as he fell to the ground, almost blind. The world turned red and became darker as more blood filled his eyes and left his body. Never had he been this injured.
Time became meaningless as he lay there. Images started to flash before his eyes and somewhere in the back of his mind he could feel a soothing presence saying everything would be alright. A strange tingling sensation spread across his body and he could feel sleep overwhelm him. He managed to open one eye and for a moment he could see, through the dark red tunnel, someone sitting over him. Just before he fell asleep he managed to say one word.