She had been sitting in Asha'man Simon's study when the message had arrived, brought to her by a small Novice, a girl with remarkable red hair and a smattering of freckles across her nose. She had looked nervous handing the message to Talaitha, but the sight of Asha'man Simon of the Grey behind her was enough to make the girl squeak, blush and dart away. She had smiled to herself as she thought of the man behind her, she had to admit the man was handsome, in a stern kind of way, but he was nothing compared to the man she did love. Simon had given her leave to read her letter, but the sight of the seal on the back had forestalled her hands. She knew that whatever this letter would contain would be emotional, and she had been honest with the Aes Sedai before her as she slipped the letter into her stack of notes and books. Asha'man Simon had not pressed her, but he had released her from his service a full hour early, telling her to have the rest of the day to herself. Tala had not argued, but had left barely five minutes after.
And now she was sat on her bed.
She wanted to open the letter, to see the familiar script of her Father, to see the words and hear his voice in her head as she read them. But she was nervous, her hands trembling. Tala wanted to see what words her Father were offering to her, but also scared it would be more rejection. It had taken her years to get over being branded as Lost and left behind in Arad Doman. Would he write to me to remind he how Lost I am? That was a special kind of cruelty that she did not think her Father was capable of. Taking a deep breath, and wishing that she was not alone, she lifted the letter from her lap. She was unsure how long she had sat there, simply staring at the sealed note, but soon she finally got her numb fingers to move and she broke the seal carefully and began to read what was set out on the inside.
Tala found herself reading, and rereading the note not daring to believe that they had come to Hama Valon. She felt her heart lurch inside her chest in a mixture of fear, love and nervous excitement at the possibility of seeing her Mother, Father and brother again, though the fact they had not mentioned her older brother worried her more than a little. She got to her feet, and moved from her dorm room, before darting back inside to check how she looked. Her banded dress was smooth and clean, and her hair hung loose around her shoulders to her waist held back with a silver ribbon, and she guessed it would have to be good enough. She left her room, grabbing her banded cloak and fixing it around her shoulders as she began to head down the halls. Tala made her way to the Accepted desk, and left a message saying she was leaving the Tower for a hour or two. Thank the Creator for the freedom the Accepted are given. She was trying not to run, so she moved at a brisk walk, jumping out the way of people who seemed to not want to move out of her way.Dear Talaitha
It is my fondest wish that this letter finds you in good health and happy.
It warmed my heart when we had found out that you have gone to the Grey Tower to train to be an Aes Sedai. It seems that the Creator had more in store for you than staying with us.
If your duties allow it, I would request a meeting, for both I and your Mother would like to see you again.
We are stationed on the southern side of the city of Hama Valon. We shall be here for as long as the city lets us be.
Yours in the Light
I will find the song, or another will find the song, but the song will be sung this year or in a year to come. As it once was, so shall it be again, world without end.
Breathing hard she was halfway to the Soldier halls before she realised that Dreyric would not be there. He was out of the city, on a lesson, and that meant he was unreachable. She stopped suddenly, glad there was no one walking behind her, and sighed feeling tears pricking her eyes. She wanted someone there with her, to share this moment be it for good or ill, but it seemed that was something she was not going t get. So I must face this alone. Blinking her eyes a little to stop the tears that wanted to fall, she began to make her way towards the nearest gate that lead towards the City.
Talaitha did not have to look long to find her former Band of Tuatha’an, as most of the people she passed in the city were talking about them. The city of Hama Valon was like none other that Talaitha had ever heard of, the populace being more tolerant than any other nations capital, but even they seemed to hold some prejudices’ against her people. She had expected more of them, as she walked through the bust streets, hearing the words “Tinkers” and “Thieves” coupled together in the same sentence. And on every other tongue that mentioned “Thief” there was mention of the small green by the south gate. She frowned at people as she passed them, moving out of her way once they saw the banded dress she wore, possibly fearing they may bring down the wrath of the Aes Sedai if they did not. She did not bother correcting any of them of that fact, though truly she had no authority over anyone, and that included herself.
Maybe I could pick up a gift for my Mother, but what would she like. She let her mind mull over the idea as she approached the market square, slowing her stride to look over the stalls and at what they held. She smiled to think of her Mother, seeing her dark hair, her green eyes and her bright smile. She never bothered with jewellery or silks; she was beautiful enough not to need them. She had an inner light that Talaitha had always been drawn to in her life, and had always wanted to emulate. A few Recruits claimed that she was beautiful, and that always made her blush, but compared to her Mother she knew she was but a candle next to a roaring fire. And how could she buy her something that could only subtract from her beauty. Sighing Tala continued to move through the market, some part of her knowing this was stalling going straight to her find her family. Her initial burst of excitement had turned to fear and worry deep inside her, but Tala knew she could not put it off for long.
As she passed a fruit stall she paused to see a well stacked pile of the reddest and shiniest apples she had ever seen outside the Tower. She grinned, knowing what it was she wanted to give her mother and moved towards the stall holder. A few minutes later saw Tala walking away with a small net of plump and shiny apples. She knew her Mother did love red apples, and Tala also knew that there was not much that her Mother could not do with a batch of them, when she could some across them that was. And now she has a net full of them. Smiling to herself, Tala found her excitement re-energised and moving with a purpose again.
She soon saw the ring of wagons set apart on a green by the South Gate. They colours stood out against the stark grey
+of the city and it made something inside her ache. It was an old ache, something she thought she had lost in her years in the Tower, but the sight of the brightly painted wagons almost brought tears to her eyes. She began to jog towards the caravans then, her calm Aes Sedai like calm forgotten in her haste. She began to slow as she reached the outer ring of the caravans, and paused as she heard the barking of the Camps dogs. She was flooded with memories then, her eyes moistening as she came around the side of one caravans and came face to face with a man she had seen in her dreams for a long, long time.
The man who looked down at her had dark skin, much like her own, with dark hazel eyes which were a good mixture of stern and friendly. He stared down at her for a moment, their eyes meeting and in that moment Tala felt like the entire Wheel had turned and a new age had come to pass. She did not know what to do, what to say, how to react to the man who had sent her from the Band. And yet that moment disappeared and Tala found herself in the man’s arms, the net of apples forgotten and dropped to the grass. She heard her breath hitch as his strong arms settled around her body, and soon she was sobbing onto his chest, and heard him as he cried into her hair. She had no concept of time as they stood like that, no idea how long since they had first set eyes on each other, but it felt like eternity and only like a second.
“My little Tally, my Talaitha all grown up.” She could hear the emotion in the older man’s voice, and it made her grip him all the harder. Her mouth felt dry, her throat unable to say anything back, so she continued to sob. Clutching her Fathers red shirt in her fingers.
“What is the hold up, Stephain?”
The sound of that voice brought Tala’s head up from her Fathers shirt, as both Father and daughter looked to the side and saw the woman who had asked the question. Tala’s heart leaped in her chest as she looked at the woman who had raised her. Tala saw her eyes in that woman, her smile and the small gap in her front teeth. Tala saw the woman she had wanted to grow to be, and as those green eyes went wide and that mouth opened into a O of surprise Tala found herself tearing away from her Father and swept up into the arms of her Mother.
Time did stop for her then, as she held the woman who she now shared a height with. She was laughing and crying, her head resting on her Mother’s shoulder, as her Mother rested her own on Talaitha’s. No thoughts seemed to pass through Tala’s mind then, except the feeling that she was home.