Brynmor Brook Gaidin
A brisk wind was blowing in from the north, rushing up and over the sentry wall of the Citadel as it stood stanchion between the Blight and the rest of the Westlands.
Gareth Tomosan Asha'man
Brynmor Brook Gaidin walked the line of the ramparts, taking his turn at the watch as day moved into dusk. He wasn’t alone in sentry duty, although he was presently alone at that particular section at that particular moment. He paused, resting his hands on the great stones of the wall and looking out to the east and the west.
Of course, the fool couldn’t stop smiling. Even the ill wind of the Blightborder and the chill of impending night wasn’t enough to stop him.
It had been over a month since he had last been to the Citadel, but the very name was enough to make him think of Tia Tomosan and the night they had spent together here. They had spent more time together since, although the day-to-day duties back within the Tower walls had culled some of the time that could be spent on it.
Each time he saw her, though, he just wanted to see more of her. He knew there was infatuation with the “newness” of it, but he knew—deep down—that it was more than that. It might be quite a bit more than that, though a part of him was a little scared to look at it too deeply too soon.
He didn’t really know what about it scared him, but the depth… He knew there was depth there, and could he reach the surface again if he dove down that far?
Small, dark silhouettes against the darkening light caught his attention and tore him out of the worlds of “what if” and “how do I feel” and into the stark, black and white existence of being a Gaidin. Not just a Gaidin, but one tasked with guarding this wall. He was instantly alert, with all of his focus on those shapes below.
Bryn waited before signaling the tower archers, however, as he assessed what the little shapes were…
It wasn’t long before he could make out their details and even hear their voices floating up to him on that foul north wind. His instincts recognized panicked cry for help in advance of his mind. And at that moment of recognition was when he recognized the shapes behind them, the much larger shapes with the far more guttural sounds.
“Blood and bloody ashes!” he cursed loudly, flinging himself away from the watch and rushing for the stairs, calling the alarm for the refugees rushing toward them.
* * *
“You, you, and you, with me!” Bryn shouted, pointing at one Gaidin and two Citadel soldiers who were rotating through from the Shienaran army. As the senior Gaidin at the Citadel this night, they deferred to him. He pointed out four more soldiers and gestured for the portcullis that would lead them out to the borderland where the Trollocs were driving down upon the humans. “Open that gate and then plant yourself within it. Drop it if we are overrun, but be ready to bring in the refugees!”
Everyone acknowledged his orders sharply, rushing to their places.
He caught a handful more men and women of the Citadel on his headlong rush to the gate, just as the four he’d sent to it were cranking it open. The small force rushed through it, the gateway filled in by the four soldiers. Three held up their weapons, while the other stood poised over the gate mechanism—ready to let it drop in an instant if need be.
Bryn could see perhaps two dozen people, men and women, adults and children, all fleeing before the Trollocs. Blood coated some, and dirt covered most. They screamed with relief and terror at seeing Brynmor leading the Gaidin and soldiers as they rushed forward.
“Get to the gate!” he shouted at them as they drew near enough. He worked to make himself heard of their noise, and the noise of their pursuers. “We’ll stop them from following you! Run! Run!”
The victims parted and flowed around Brynmor and the others like a river around a large rock, until the men and women of the Citadel were not facing panicked persons but the bestial horde that had been on their heels. Brynmor roared from within the Void as he brought his sword up and met the Trolloc rush head-on.
Brynmor Brook Gaidin
A voice was hollering, accompanied by the pounding of footsteps as a young woman—who frequently spent duty shifts as a runner for the Citadel—came flying into the infirmary. She skidded to a halt and ended up with one knee on the end of a cot to avoid falling over entirely as she tried to catch her breath.
“What is the emergency, child?” Gareth rumbled, his voice tight. Normally, he’d want to let her have time to catch her breath, but the emergency was clear.
“There…are many injured…at the Citadel,” the woman panted. “Trollocs. The injured have overwhelmed the small Healer contingent already at the Citadel, alongside the refugees that they were rescuing from the beasts.”
“Do they need fighters?”
She shook her head. “They repelled the Trollocs, but paid dearly for it. Please, come swiftly!”
* * *
Gareth recognized the dark-haired Gaidin almost immediately, seeing the face of the Gaidin quite obviously enamored with the Yellow’s daughter. The realization sent a small shock of lightning through him, thinking of Tia, but it didn’t cause him to stumble or hesitate in his duties in the least.
He knelt beside the bed the other man lay upon, Gareth having been told that this was the worst of the cases. The Yellow taking her turn at the Citadel did not feel qualified to handle it after Delving Bryn.
With Saidin firmly in his grasp, Gareth swiftly but effectively Delved the Gaidin. The injuries were severe and deep, though they weren’t the biggest concern. Now Gareth better understood the Aes Sedai’s reaction. The Trolloc blades must have been poisoned, because something dire and vile flowed through Brynmor’s blood.
Gareth muttered a curse that anyone who heard him would be shocked this gentle man knew.
The poison was trying to ravage the very fibers of the Gaidin’s body, and Gareth knew that was his top priority. If he didn’t work fast, and do it now, the poison would win.
The Yellow never wanted to lose a patient but even more deeply than that, he didn’t want to tell his poor daughter that he lost this one. Thus, he was not going to lose this one. He would save Brynmor Brook, or die trying.
”This boy stole from me!” Lord Owin shouted. His face was turning a terrible shade of red as his anger mounted.
Gareth Tomosan Asha'man
Brynmor stood before him, wondering on in the Light he was doing. Was he not sworn to the service of this man? To fight for him, and to follow his orders? He was, and that was the truth of it. He had made his allegiance to Lord Owin, and he had served him well, until they should agree that his service was terminated.
But should he decide to leave Owin, he had to leave. This was not leaving. This was standing.
“This is wrong,” Bryn said simply. “This boy is young, and he is hungry. He should not be killed for that!” He gritted his teeth until it hurt.
Owin stormed up to him. “You are my dog, Brynmor. To do as I say!” The lord spat as he spoke, but Bryn didn’t flinch.
His dark brows lowered. “I am no one’s dog.”
Spinning on his heel, he hurried to the boy and drew his knife. The child flinched, but Bryn only cut his bonds. “Run,” he growled. “Run!”
The boy fled. The guards nearby were too shocked to stop him, and he escaped into the woods around their camp out on the road.
“You are no hero, Brynmor,” Owin said. His tone was suddenly lower, more dangerous. “We have done too much together for you to ever be a hero. And now you’ll take the pain for your treason. A few lashes should do the trick.” The man was suddenly at Brynmor’s ear, pouring in his poison. “Don’t you think?”
Bryn’s whole body seized and he nearly folded himself in a gasping half, but large hands and arms held him down. “Be at ease,” a deep voice rumbled. It was familiar, but Brynmor couldn’t think clearly enough to know who it was.
His body was too filled with pain, and fire, and remorse.
Gareth almost staggered back to the Grey Tower, so exhausted as he was. He knew his wife would be homing in on him in an instant, but he had another destination in mind right now and he would not let even his own fatigue prevent him from seeing it through. Having noted the hour, he assumed his girl child would be in her quarters.
He summoned what energy and strength he had remaining, and he headed to her rooms…