7 Méllia II

The angry shouts and curses echoed through the forest in a language that sounded like it could only express hatred and pain. Raimund could not imagine talking to another human being in the language the trolloks and their masters used. Now that he thought about it, he could not even think of the word for friend. It didn’t exist, the only thing that came close was their word for temporary ally.

The cursing stopped, which probably meant that the myrdraal had gotten loose. Raimund could hear Méllia running not far ahead of him. She was trashing through the woods, making enough noise for anyone within a square mile to find her. The shade wouldn’t come for Raimund and he knew it. The creature would recapture Méllia, knowing that Raimund would blame himself for allowing that to happen. Unless he had gotten it angry enough. In that case it would kill him first before recapturing the girl. Raimund bursted out of some bushes and could now see Méllia not far ahead. She was clearly exhausted and only the adrenaline gave her the strength to keep going. Raimund wasn’t in much better shape. He gained on her and urged her to stop.

Raimund breathed heavily while he grabbed the young girl’s arm.
“If … if it wants to catch us, it will. There is no use in trying to escape, it has strange… abilities. If it comes we will have to fight it.”

Méllia’s eyes grew wide with fear.
“Fight it? how? I don’t know how to fight, they captured me so easily last time,…”

“I’ll fight, you just run and hide. It wants me more anyway. I killed several of its trolloks and ambushed the rest. And I stole its latest prize.”
Raimund knew what he was telling was a lie, but he wanted to reassure her. The shade probably couldn’t care less about the trolloks. All it wanted now was her, even if only because she had been stolen from him. Telling her this would cause her to panic and the last thing he needed was a frantic or catatonic girl to drag along.

Raimund looked around but there was no clear sign of danger. Maybe the shade didn’t think they were worth the trouble. He had injured it after all. It was more likely however that it was taking care of its wound now and would track them down later. Raimund noticed they were walking to the south-west, back towards the trollok camp. Maybe the myrdraal wouldn’t expect that. He turned to Méllia. The girl was standing close to him, obviously humbled by all she had experienced the last couple of days. Her eyes were focused on Raimund. Apparently she had forgotten all about her earlier attempts to keep him away. She nodded eagerly as Raimund began speaking.
“We’ll keep heading this way. You’ll walk a few feet ahead of me so I can erase our tracks as well as I can and keep an eye on you. We will stop to rest when the sun comes up. Shades prefer the dark so the danger will be the greatest during the night.”

Méllia turned around and started to head out. She had only taken a few steps when she stopped to look at Raimund again.
“Thank you”.

As the first rays of light pierced the treetops Raimund signaled Méllia to stop. They had been moving through the dark forest for the past few hours, trying hard to remain undetected. Raimund was sure he had erased their tracks, only the most experienced trackers would now be able to follow their path, but some shadowspawn had abilities that allowed them to track by smell. Raimund had expected the myrdraal’s attack hours ago but for some reason the shade had not yet shown it’s face. Their walk south had been strangely uneventful.
“Maybe he is waiting for us up ahead, near his camp?”

Méllia’s voice pulled Raimund away from his thoughts. Apparently he had been staring in to the still dark part of the forest, sword drawn. She had easily picked up on his train of thoughts and had voiced his greatest fear, that the creature was simply toying with them. That it was waiting in an ambush it knew they could not escape.
“It is possible.”

He had stopped reassuring Méllia after he had seen the way she had handled their situation. Unlike Raimund had expected Méllia had started walking without any sign of fear. She had not flinched at the common but sometimes disturbing noises one could hear in the forest at night and had not complained nor asked for rest once during the entire night. He knew she was tired however, and so was he.
“We’ll rest here. I have a clear view of our surroundings here so I will be able to see him coming. Their abilities are also somewhat hampered by the light so he won’t be able to sneak up on me. We won’t be able to stay long so I suggest you try and get some sleep. I’ll wake you up when it’s time to move on.”

“How about you? Don’t you need any sleep?”

“I’ll be fine. I slept last night and I am used to skipping a few nights. Just sitting here is all the rest I need.”
To make his point Raimund sat down on the forest floor. He placed his back against a tree and beckoned Méllia next to him. Although she didn’t seem convinced she laid herself down. For a few minutes she twisted and turned before getting back up. She sat down next to Raimund and placed her head against his chest. As she looked up she met his questioning eyes and shrugged her shoulders.

“What? You picked a bad place to stop, there are roots everywhere; no-one can sleep like that. I’ll sleep sitting. Even you are softer than those roots. Bloody tree must be made of stone or something.”
Raimund let her be and soon her eyes closed and her breathing calmed down. He kept an eye on the surroundings but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. For now they were safe. He looked down at Méllia. She reminded him of Nealyn in a way. Stubborn and headstrong, proud and certain of their worth. Those qualities actually described most Aes Sedai. Being able to wield the very forces of creation themselves did not exactly encourage humility. He realized of course that he, like most warders, shared in that arrogance. The Aes Sedai protected the world and the warders protected them. He had noticed however, in both Grianne and Nealyn, that the arrogance was mostly an act to conceal their insecurities. They were still normal women who needed protection, even if they were too proud to admit it. Méllia seemed to same to him. Raised as a noble, to lead. She too had a certain arrogance that hid her real fears. Unlike the Aes Sedai he knew however she was still young enough for someone to see through her act. Raimund was certain that in a few years she would be able to meet the gaze of most Aes Sedai without flinching, something only a few people could do.
He turned his eyes back to the forest and could feel Méllia twitch. She started to whimper and Raimund could see tears flowing from her closed eyes. He was hardly surprised the girl had nightmares after what she had been through. He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer. He did not want to wake her up because they only had a short time for her to rest, but Nealyn had always told him that his presence reassured him.
She woke up anyway and slowly opened her eyes. With a weak apologetic smile she looked up at Raimund.
“Sorry, bad dream. Is it time already?”

“Not yet, we still have a few moments. Continue sleeping.” He started to move his arm.

“Leave it. Please. It kind of makes me feel less alone.”
Raimund nodded and Méllia closed her eyes again. It didn’t take her long to fall back asleep. An hour later Raimund could feel his eyelids getting heavy and sleep started to numb his mind. If he remained seated for much longer he would fall asleep himself. He woke up Méllia and told her it was time to move on. The short rest, although necessary, seemed only to have drained them both of their last reserves. Méllia and Raimund dragged themselves through the forest for hours, even Raimund hardly noticed anything in his surroundings. He snapped back to reality when they reached a small ruin. The writing on the only remaining wall was written in Old Tongue. Raimund thanked Nealyn in silence for teaching him the long dead language. He wanted to read the inscription out loud but Méllia beat him to it.

“We thank the brothers of the trees for their gift of life near our great city. The light guide their way to their home.”

She smiled as she turned to Raimund. “My uncle believes in a very classical schooling for all members of our family. He says it elevates us above the common man.”

Raimund nodded. “It’s meant as a sign of appreciation for the ogier I think. For building a city or a grove. Which means there is an entrance to the ways nearby. I figured as much when I saw the ruins near the camp. There must have been a great city with a grove here once. That could be our way to escape the shade. I don’t think it will follow us there. Shadowspawn usually don’t enter the ways unless the absolutely have to.”

“I thought the ways were dangerous. I heard people die or go crazy. It is supposed to be tainted by the Dark One or something.”

“All true. But I have used them already. If we don’t stay in there for too long we will be fine. They can take us to Cairhien in only a day or so. The entrance is probably nearby. It looks like a wall decorated with plants and vines. Help me search.”

It didn’t take long before they had found the beautiful stone door decorated with various plants. At the center of the door a large avendesora leaf seemed as though it actually grew out of the stone. The detail was incredible. Raimund showed Méllia how to open and close the waygates and explained how to navigate the many paths and bridges. When he told her about Machin Shin, the black wind, it seemed for a moment as though she would refuse to go with him but she quickly regained her courage.

As Raimund removed the avendesora leaf from the stone branch to open the waygate he could feel something was wrong. He looked around the forest to see what was worrying him. The trees were larger here with much less undergrowth, probably a sign that this had one day been a well cared for Ogier grove. There was no wind and the forest was still, quiet. Raimund cursed at his own stupidity. His fatigue had made him careless. Normally he would have noticed the unnatural silence that surrounded the waygate much sooner. He threw the stone leaf to Méllia and drew his sword. To his surprise he noticed a blue sapphire on the hilt. For some reason he had drawn Grianne’s blade. He didn’t have any time to think about it however. Méllia’s scream made Raimund look up to see the myrdraal stepping out of the shadow of a nearby tree. Raimund placed himself between the girl and the shade and called out to Méllia.
“Go. Take the leaf with you through the gate and place it on the inside. That will lock the door. I told you how to get to Cairhien. Once there seek out Nealyn Sedai and tell her what happened here. And tell her… Just go. “

Méllia eyes filled with tears and it didn’t seem she would follow Raimund’s command. When the myrdraal heard Raimund’s words he smiled. “No, don’t go. We still have some unfinished business. I’ll deal with this fool first but then you’ll have my undivided attention.”

Méllia’s face lost all color and without any further hesitation she ran through the waygate. A second later the doors began to close. Raimund relaxed. He knew he would die now but at least Méllia would make it back to Cairhien. Nealyn would still suffer but she was still young and would get over him soon enough. Owen would take over his duty as warder and she would be safe. He would follow Grianne in to death as he should have done over a year ago. Now he knew why he had drawn Grianne’s sword. He would die the way it was intended. He prepared to meet the myrdraal’s charge but the creature suddenly froze. Surprisingly quick it turned around and Raimund could see a short spear, the kind the aiel used, sticking out between its shoulders. The wound was not enough to kill the myrdraal, not even enough to slow it down. But it certainly had drawn the shade’s attention. Out from under the trees five veiled aiel warriors emerged, spears in hand. The myrdraal looked at Raimund while stepping in to a shadow.

“This isn’t over. I’ll get you and that little…”
Before it could finish, a second spear was thrust in to its body and with a scream the creature vanished.

7 Méllia II

Wheel of Time Smiling_ST