Author: NYCitygurl Title: Winter's Chill Fandom: Wheel of Time Timeframe: Near the end of Eye of the World Characters: Rand and Lan Summary: The neverending winter is almost as cold as Rand's thoughts. Notes: Written for the December Write by Theme challenge. Rand shivered, clutching his cloak around him. He curled his long legs against himself tightly, but that didn’t stop the cold. Nothing would in this long, terrible winter. Beltine was weeks past, but even this close to the Blight, spring had not approached. Rand had heard farmers across Candar, including his own—Tam is my father. He IS!—complain about the effects of the frost; he had seen it himself before he’d left the Two Rivers. Ran from it. Ran from Tam, who was injured; from Egwene, who had come anyway. Ran because Moiraine said he was being hunted and had to escape to Tar Valon, home of the Aes Sedai. It wasn’t only winter’s chill that ripped through Rand. People always warned his about the Aes Sedai. The Tar Valon witches were as bad as the Dark One, some said, and here Rand was trusting one with his life and the lives of his friends. But he had no choice. He had seen the Myrddraal hunting, had killed Trollocs with his sword. The Dark One was hunting three boys from the Two Rivers, and Rand didn’t know why. Oh, the dreams told him clearly enough that someone wanted him dead, but they still didn’t make any sense. Moiraine had offered to help with him—had commanded, really, that he tell her about them—but Rand wasn’t sure he could trust her. And now they were headed toward the Blight, toward the Eye of the World, because of whispered warnings, stories told in hushed tones across Candar—stories that came from too many sources to not have a ring of truth to them. Moiraine was worried—worried enough that she changed her plans to take them to Tar Valon and safety—whatever safety the white city offered—to take them to the Eye. It was this, she said, or the end of the world, stopping of the turning of the wheel of time. Rand couldn’t stand the cold weather or his cold thoughts. He slipped to his feet, his cloak still wrapped closely around him, and paced to the edge of their camp. Lan, Moiraine’s Warder, was standing watch. He looked over as Rand came to stand beside him, but the young man knew the Warder had known he was awake the instant he came to his feet—before, probably. Rand had thought to question Lan, to ask again for reassurances that everything would turn out in the end. But Lan was a pragmatic man, and Rand knew he would get no comfort here. There was no comfort to be had for a small group marching to do battle with the Dark One himself. Instead, Rand just settled in beside the Warder and waited. Eventually, Lan said, “You won’t get much sleep tomorrow. Take it while you can.” Rand shook his head. “I can’t sleep.” Lan frowned. “It’s a warrior’s trick, to fall asleep in any situation, and it’s one you’ll need to learn.” Rand shrugged. “Why bother? We might not live through the next day.” Lan shook his head. “There’s pragmatic, sheepherder, and there’s already beaten. Of course there’s a very good chance none of us will see another sunset, but if you let that fear and defeat rule you, you won’t be able to function properly. Then you really will stand no chance of surviving. Straighten your shoulders and face the day ahead, because you have no other choice.” An interesting speech, coming from a man who went into each battle expecting to die; already planned his own death fighting the hordes in the waste. The last king of lost Malkier, fallen decades ago to the servants of the Dark One. But Rand was never going to persuade Lan of anything, ever; the man was as hard as stone. Seeing no choice, he went back to his cold bedroll. Rand lay on the ground a long time, trying to get comfortable, get to sleep. Trying not to let the dark thoughts of what lay ahead overcome him. An impossible task. And yet, when the first rays of dawn peeked over the horizon, Lan shook him awake. Rand hardly felt rested, but he had, at some point, slept for at least a little while. It would be a cold day ahead, and a dangerous one. Dark thoughts on a cold night had done little to calm Rand’s mind, but he straightened his shoulders and faced the day ahead. He had, as Lan said, no other choice.