The Aes Sedai pulled her saddle strap tight as the Kandori Commander continued.
“I’ll assign an escort of ten men to see you as far as Kandor’s southern border, from there I’ll need eight to return. Two can see you the remainder of your Journey, wish that I could spare more but the raids seem to be picking up.”
“You need your men more than I commander, I can travel alone.”
The Borderguard looked relieved but pushed on. “Two for the whole of it then, for my honor.”
“Your honor rests on holding the Border, not wasting your soldiers time.”
The commander barked at a passing solder, “Lindor! Get Atlan and Marshall, tell them they ride in five.”
Lindor looked to the dark woods beyond the camps firelight. “They’re scouting sir…”
“Did I ask what they were doing? Move!”
Lindor broke into a run for the trees, snatching a torch from a comrade as he passed. The commander pulled a sealed letter from his pack and held it to the Aes Sedai. “For my Soldiers when you reach Tar Valon.”
The Aes Sedai mounted without taking the letter. “Speak plainly Commander.”
The Commander shifted his gaze over his small camp. “Most of these men won’t see through to next winter, the last embrace of the mother welcome them home. What we do here is necessary, but these two, they are meant for more. I have an old friend in Tar Valon, he will see to them once you arrive.”
Three men emerged from the woods, Lindor in the lead. The two that followed were tall, dark haired youths. Strikingly similar features marked them clearly as siblings. Despite their age they moved with the deadly grace of seasoned soldiers. They made quick work of packing their belongings and were mounted and awaiting orders within minutes.
The Aes Sedai took the letter from the Commander's hand and slipped it into the folds of her cloak. “Two it is then.”
“Thank you, Aes Sedai.” Turning he addressed the youths. “See her to the Shining Walls. Peace favor your swords.”
They nodded in unison, silently accepting the order.
The Aes Sedai spurred her mount south and the brothers followed.
Their journey proved uneventful, yet the brothers maintained discipline without fail. They rode hard through the day and at night slept in shifts, never resting their heads until the other was alert and armed. At the fireside they made easy conversation when she joined them, and left her to her devices when she didn’t.
Upon crossing a massive, beautiful bridge and stepping onto the immense island of Tar Valon she presented them with their Commander’s letter. Atlan reached for the envelope but the Aes Sedai kept it locked between her fingers.
She looked at both men, “A man’s life is his own, until he pledges it,” The White Tower dominated the sky behind her. “Remember that pledge is yours alone to make, no other may give it. Make it carefully.” She released the envelope and slipped into the bustling crowd.
The brothers found a well-kept inn, The Upriver Run, and took a table to the side of the main room. The robust innkeeper watched them disapprovingly until they ordered mugs of ale and lunch, plates of rolled ham with a radish dipping sauce.
Breaking the red wax seal of a rearing horse, Atlan spread the letter on the knotted wooden table. They leaned forward together.
I have watched both of you grow into honorable men with a sense of duty equal to any blood born Borderlander. The nation of Kandor has made an art of forging men into steel, hard and deadly like the lands we inhabit. I see in you both something more than this life will bring you.
I hope you will one day understand my motivations and realize your full potentials. While you both burn red from the fires of the Red Horse’s forge, my final order as your acting commander is that you find Hammar Gaidin and seek apprenticeship among his Gaidin. Hammar is the one man I know who can forge you stronger, among the Gaidin and the Aes Sedai you may yet become cuendillar.
You are hereby discharged from your duties to the nation of Kandor, your country and Queen thank you for your service.
Commander Hayden Rodril
The brothers looked to each other, grabbed their blades and departed the Inn. A gold crown sat on the table beside the untouched ale and ham.