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Counting Dragons (Wheel of Time/Malazan)

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 05:58 PM

Summary: Lews Therin Telamon wasn't the only connection Rand had to the Dragon, but something darker, older.<br style="margin-top: 0px;">

Here it is.

Chapter 1

It was a moment in time when epiphany hits you like a brick over the head, almost staggering in its implication. His son was different. He knew that, ever since he picked him up on that mountain so long ago. At the time, what he didn't know was just how truly special the boy really was.

As the babe started to age, Rand showed signs of intelligence that was so rare in children. It felt a waste to not nurture that brain of his, so he and his wife taught the child as much as he could. The letters and numbers, of tales of myths and legends, eventually going into the historical events of their recent paths and all the way back to the Breaking of the World. Tam felt that he and his wife's ability to teach was limited. He was no rich merchant with the coin to give his son such an incredible opportunity, but he did have influence in Emond's Field.

Besides, the people of Emond's Field loved the boy, always doting on the polite lad. Bran al'Vere, the mayor of their tiny village, lent whatever books the boy asked for. Bran would say, "Aye, but the boy is bright enough to question old Cenn Buie. He would make a fine addition to the Village Council, may the Light be willing."

For some odd reason, Tam caught the look of a tiny smile on his son, as if he was hiding some sort of mischief.

After his mother's passing, Rand grew a little more distant. It was as if the lad was seeing the world for the very first time. That could do that to any children that lost their mothers, Tam figured. It was a time when young children learn what death meant in this harsh and unfair world.

That crevice grew wider, and he found that there was a certain cold calculation on the child. It was as if the child was weighing the weight of the people on a scale to be a judge. These villagers, enamored by his charm could not see what he could see.

The thought terrified him, he knew. Patience was the answer, so he kept silent.

As the years passed, the boy learned much from him, and they drew closer as a result. The changes were gradual but important enough that Tam felt it was the time he taught him something that had been useful to Tam. He taught the boy the void and the flame.

"An interesting philosophy," Rand responded, his chubby face of ten summers concentrated into something fierce. It would have been cute, if not for the amusement dancing in those eyes. "I would like that,"

Tam smiled, but nodded as he continued to eat his food.

Rand had a mental discipline that most children lacked, a willful strength that felt all too intimidating. Some noticed the oddity surrounding the boy, that feeling of strangeness and abnormality. The children especially, but they loved him for it. Rand gave good advice, and looked after them as much as his time allowed.

The only children Rand calls his best of friends was that Perrin boy, a gentle giant learning the forges with master Luhhan, and that troublesome child Matrim. Matrim brings trouble wherever he goes, and drags Rand alongside him, inadvertently dragging along the poor boy Perrin.

Rand didn't seem to mind, he even enjoyed some of the pranks Matrim came up with.

It was during Rand's marrying age came that things started to get interesting.


Rand dreamt of dragons and darkness. It was a dream, he knew. Silanah, a dreaded winged beast roared indignantly, despairing. Eventually, she slept for a long time. Now, she awakens, seeking him. In his heart, he knew her, but not how, or why. He wasn't scared of the dragon, for the Eleint was as much a part of him as he was a part of it. Rand wished to find her, but how?

The dreams came and went, as the years passed. How did this knowledge come to him? He wondered. The lands were different then, of continents and landmasses he did not recognize today. Even the stars were different, and that dismayed him, but he did not know why.

There was power here, pure and bright as varying as the people that inhabited this world. No more, as dust that fell to the tides of time; his people no longer existed. Magic was gone, as well. A little of him died that moment when that cursed knowledge came to him. Rand did not know why, but he could not deny the resulting inevitability, for what would he do but weep for a people long dead?

All that mattered was that Silanah was still here, and he would find her.

Then, there was a voice, sometimes, of a madman. He mutters and screams, of his wife and family lost. Rand seared his very presence away from his mind, burning away the remnants that dared leech into his very soul. A corruption, that led to further corruption that lived and sung in his veins.

The power, shining and pure, dulled and drudged with an oily slickness that seeped into his very soul. The irony of ironies, Rand thought, though he could not fathom the reason. He comes to possess the very power of the Light, the antithesis of the Darkness that he so very much loved.

Is that you, Father Light? Vatha Urusander?

Come what may, he shall not turn away, for the power was the fuel that helped shape his supreme will, and burn away the taint that dared infiltrated his mind and soul.

Rand roared, not unlike a dragon, the Light pressing into the taint that encroached upon his realm. He pressed into the taint, smothering it, suffocating the strength of the Dark One. Oh, the Eldest did not like that. As if in response, the power of the taint reacted, reaching into his mind, twisting and muddying it in a relentless storm of malevolence.

There was a link between the taint and somewhere far north. He could follow it if he wished, and destroy it. Rand was not ready, or powerful enough, to contest the strength of the Dark One. That tiding shift that connected the taint to the True Power, also connected to him and his soul.

Rand would not have any of it, for whatever power and strength he knew, he felt he was owed a debt. A debt the Dark One will fulfill.

"Come, Dark One, come and play with me. My will is my own, and your debt is still owed," His mind, the sheer strength of his will shattered his connection to the taint. "Your power, Dark One, will help me save my own."

Rand may have severed the connection he had with the taint, but he did not let it go. He would not, for his Light shined through, urging, corraling the taint into a new direction. A Warren in his flesh, a creation of his own making not seen since the most ancient lands shifted and continents sunk. A warren not unlike the Eldering One. What pull and push he could feel from the taint, was a test against a titan as towering as the world itself.

The place of power sung in his arteries and veins, his heart and lungs. He could feel the tainted rush of power pushing for its influence in this new source, but he would not let it. What fuel he gained, he used, and the taint that occupying it was withered away by the will of his mind and the Light of his power, purifying it.

The new source was a Warren, filled with his power, untainted and pure. The One Power he drew his power from will always be tainted, no matter how many times he seared it away, so he created a new one. A challenge to all that may deny him. The Dark One thought to infiltrate this new source, even now, and the Eldest let Rand do with it as he wished. Now, he was denied, used up as if he were a whore.

Rand conveyed that particular thought to the Dark One, even as he burnt away whatever remnants that remained to leach from him.

"Your dept is finished, Dark One, now fall!" Rand could feel the anger of the Dark One rippling, a wave of rage, a force of a tsunami that would have shattered a lesser man. Rand was once an Ascendant, a Knight of High House Dark and the son of Mother Dark herself. He once challenged Chaos, and won. What could the Dark One bring, against the likes of him?

"Your play has yet to end, Eldest," It was not Rand that spoke this time, but something ancient, old as the mountains that rose and fell. "You will come to rue the day you tainted Burn. You challenged me, in a place you have no power over. A thing of Chaos you are, and I shall teach you to regret."

A warren was a temporary place to draw his power from, but also an everlasting one should the taint be never removed from the One Power.


Five years later

Rand awoke to the sun shining through his window. The windows were open, but not quite closed, letting in all the cool air into his room. Grumbling, Rand rose from his bed and closed the window properly, and covered the window with the curtains.

"Lad, you ready to leave for the village?" His father said, sliding the door open to stick his face in. There was a worried look in his eyes, but Rand smiled.

"Of course, let's not waste any more time, then," Rand watched him give a fatherly smile, and was gone the next.

It wasn't long before father was nudging Bela along the road. The mare pulled along the cart, filled to the brim with casks of his father's apple brandy and barrels of apple cider. Even the mighty wind had no pull against the steady Bela, a reliable horse if he ever saw one.

It has been weeks since they left for the village, and today was the day of Bel Tine, a celebration of the coming of spring. Rand couldn't wait to see Perrin and Mat, and it felt like forever since they had eaten together at the Inn, or made any sort of trouble.

Rand held his bow steady, his arrow on the other. There was no need to be wary, the danger that presented on these roads were little to none. The wolves that have been recently sighted were rare, but only looked for sheep. They knew the danger of coming near men.

Snow clung to the ground, refusing to be melted away despite the coming of spring. Winter had been bad for everyone, killing off animals and crops in its unceasing winds. His father was wary enough to carry his spear, but what good that would do against a desperate pack of wolves or starving bear was anyone's guess.

Rand sighed. He held his weapon steady, feeding all his uneasiness into the flame. The flame was a beacon in his mind. He touched Bela on the flank, feeling the steady rhythmic steps of her feet. The mare was the very incarnation of stability, comforting his dubious thoughts and bringing serenity in his heart.

The void helped steady his nerves when times made him vulnerable.

Rand smiled. It has been a long few weeks since he has made into the village and tasted some of the goodwife's cooking from the Winespring Inn.

He could almost smell the taste lingering in the back of his nostril. His father wasn't the best of cooks, leaving Rand to do all the cooking. It was a boon, in a way, allowing him to experiment a little when he had the time and the ingredients.

Rand glanced back over his shoulder. He almost froze, but kept walking backward. The horseman following them from behind twenty paces away, gleamed in the misty shadows of the background, glaring at them with such hate and anger it felt almost tangible. Rand could only find the outline a pale face hidden beneath the hood. The hood was low enough that the eyes were hidden.

It followed them, slowly, warly almost. If he were right, it was wary of him. Rand smiled ruefully.

Rand could feel the power stirring inside him, within in his Warren. He didn't pull it out. The... thing had no cause for attack, despite the hesitation that came from it. The attack might happen soon. He didn't know how, or when, but he felt it.

He turned his back on the creature and continued walked alongside Bela. Rand didn't mention any of it to his father. It would only cause him to worry unnecessarily. Ignoring it, for now, will be for the best. Seeking it out now will only make it worse, and his father was here beside him. Should anything happen to him, Rand will not forgive the creature. Besides, he had no weapon, and Rand wished he could have taken his father's blade still lying hidden within the house.

His father still didn't know Rand had found his blade so many years ago, and he had not sought out any sort of confrontation as to the meaning behind it. He might have been a soldier once, if the rumors were to be correct on the heron marked blades, so Rand will wait.

Rand couldn't wait to visit the inn. Plenty of stories to be had and troublemaking to be found.


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