Darkness Awaits

***** North Board *****

The morning was damp with a light fog that obscured view as Matalina rode away from Tar Valon and her former life. It felt odd to be free of the bond to Raeyn. The presence in her mind was no longer there, no longer a comfort, but the duty to her had been lifted. Now there was one person who held a place in her mind, and she had pushed him away as she had most other people in her life. But leaving was for the best. She needed to control her self before she would ever be what Alex wanted of her and to be a good mother for her daughter. They could hate her for the rest of their lives but Matalina was doing this for them. It was better this way. Matalina kept telling herself that.

The sparing match with Reikan a month gone still played out in her head. She had truly wanted to kill him and there was no real reason other than he’d made her mad during their friendly spar. She had left him a note saying she was leaving and why, seeing him would probably put her in the brig or worse yet, end up dead. Matalina doubted he would ever forget her attempt on his life. And she paid dearly for the attempt, she was lucky to be a live. She never would know what really stopped him from finishing it off, but then she didn’t care. Even death would be better than betraying her secrets and Raeyn’s to the world.

Matalina had packed what she could from her room in the barracks. She brought half dozen changes of clothes with her, her fan cloak and at least two other cloaks. Most of her possessions were books or herbs in a trunk that were too heavy to bring and clearing her room out when she intended to come back would look suspicious. Only Raeyn and Alex had any clue she was never coming back to Tar Valon. In a few years time the Tower would think her dead and she’d let them believe it until the day she really did die.

Matalina needed a new path. Releasing the bond had done more damage than it had good to her already fragile mind and the Shadow was beckoning to break free at the slightest slip of control. There had to be a way to tame the beast and the craving for blood and killing. The Shadow was the main reason for her leaving. It had tried to kill Reikan because Matalina’s control had slipped. She had to get away, what if it had happened when she was angry at Fawne. Matalina would die before she let anything happen to her family. It really was better this way.

The road to the northwest was quiet at this hour and Matalina dwelled in her thoughts as she followed its path towards Maradon. She didn’t know what she was looking for, but she knew that she’d find it eventually.

*****

A week gone with little sleep and eating on the move brought Matalina to small town with an inn. The knot in the back of her mind now only spoke that Alex was well. It had stopped telling her how he felt long ago, but Matalina didn’t want to take the chances and she wanted as far away from Tar Valon as possible. This would be a good place to stop and rest for a while. Tain Cor was glad to be out and about but he was showing signs of being tired. She patted the stallion’s neck and leaned forward against it to wrap her arms around it as a child would their mothers. “We’ll stop and rest here. You’ve done well Tain.” The black stallion knickered at the praise and Matalina knew he was thankful for the rest.

The wasn’t much choice in where to stay there was only one inn – The Guiding Light. The town wasn’t well off, but it was sure to have a room to spare even if only for the night. Though Matalina knew she’d be here longer, the place gave her that feeling. Someplace where people didn’t know her and far enough away to not be taken as a Warder if she kept herself in check.

Matalina tied Tain Cor to the fence outside the inn, she would pay for room and board for them both and then take him to the stable. She didn’t want to take the time to introduce him to the stable boys, they wouldn’t be here that long. The door to the inn swung inward and the stale smell of ale wafted through the open door. Matalina kept her stomach in check as she walked back in. She’d only had a drink twice in her life and both ended up rather violently. Matalina smiled at the thought of her first encounter, even though the memories were a little vague. But they had new meaning after another well spent night with Reikan.

Reikan brought back the shadow, for some reason it despised the man now, it had brought it to the brink of death. Reikan could have killed Matalina but didn’t, and she thought that was exactly what the Shadow had hoped for. It didn’t care who died or how, it wanted death, even if it was its own. It felt gypped out of it and was angry.

Matalina closed her eyes and fought back the shadow’s desires. She needed to sleep and the shadow waking would not let that happen. The desires finally subsided and the innkeeper stood and stared at Matalina as she just stood there. Matalina smiled at the man before approaching. “I’m looking for a room for a while and board for my horse. I just need clean hay and a stall, I’ll take care of the rest. He’s rather tempermental.”

The innkeeper nodded. “I think I we can manage that, you sure you don’t want help with the horse? It’s no extra charge.”

Matalina smiled. “I’m sure, I’d hate for him to hurt your boys.”

The man nodded again and gave Matalina a price per day. “Will you be paying by day or should I run a tab.”

“Whatever is easiest for you sir, I’m just glad to be off the road for a while.”

“A tab then.” He handed Matalina a key. “Upstairs, third room on the right. It’s not much, but it’s soft and warm.”

Matalina smiled. “Thanks.”

The innkeeper called after Matalina as she was walking for the door. “What name can I put the tab under?”

Matalina turned to look at him almost in shock. It’s best now to start living a new life, you will be dead come a few years. Matalina nodded. “Cari will do.” She had no idea where the name came from, but then that was how she got her name in the first place. Her caretaker hadn’t given her a name, and when asked, Matalina came to mind. How or Why she never figured out. But then it really didn’t matter either.

*****

After a long, hot bath Matalina found herself in her room eating a hot meal of spiced meats and vegetables. There hadn’t been any other choice for the meal and Matalina hoped that the vegetables and bread would tide her over till breakfast. Even though the meat smelled good with the spices on them she still couldn’t make herself eat it. And there really was no point in it, if she didn’t get the protein she needed she would eat some of the beans and rice she’d packed with her things. It would probably be a good thing to restock her supplies while here, even though she hadn’t eaten much. Traveling would wear away at her saved money, but she needed to get away and find herself. Her thoughts were becoming redundant and Matalina knew it was time to sleep.

The sun was still well above the horizon when Matalina snuggled into the comforting blankets and soft mattress. It had a few lumps, but nothing compared to sleeping on the ground. Matalina closed her eyes and let the void drop. She was far enough away now that Alex couldn’t feel her emotions. The sudden notion of Alex brought tears to Matalina’s eyes. She didn’t sob or make a sound but she wept for her lost love. He had been everything to her, why couldn’t they make this work, especially now after she’d given him what he really wanted. The reason was because she wasn’t ready. She didn’t think she was good enough for him. Her thoughts continued down the dreary path of depression and Matalina let it. She was in control, but the emotions needed out, they’d been bottled up for nearly a year now in fear of pushing too much on to Alex.

Tears flowed steadily down Matalina’s cheeks as she tried not to think about Alex, but when she tried to think of other things, Fawne and Jeffery Kincaid came to mind. She had left her children in the care of another. Alex was more than capable of caring for Fawne, he’d done a good job of it since he’d returned. Matalina wondered if he had never returned would they be at each others throats, and would she have left them. Memories flooded her mind, and most of them were happy, even those she’d had of Alex, but that happiness came down to mere moments when compared to the dangers the shadow posed to all those that she loved and held dear. She knew she was doing the right thing, even though it didn’t feel like it now. Leaving was the best thing for all of them. Maybe one day they could be a family again. And with that thought Matalina drifted off to a dreamless sleep.

*****

The next morning Matalina woke up well after dawn, she wasn’t sure what time it was exactly. Her travels had taken a toll on her body that she wasn’t quite aware of. The bond had a lot of affects Matalina had taken for granted and now without it she had to adjust to many things and one of those was her endurance. A lot of training would have to go into her day to get it back up to her standards, and Matalina wondered if it would even matter. She had no clue where she was going or what she was looking for. But there was no point in sitting around doing nothing.

Matalina quickly washed and dressed in a plain woolen outfit of greens and browns and made her way downstairs. The common room was quiet as Matalina took a seat. “Morning, ma’am.” A young girl called. “I’ll be right with you.” Matalina nodded as she looked around the inn. It was quiet but outside there was movements. Matalina wondered what this town had to offer.

The girl came over. “Mistress Cari, correct?” Matalina looked up almost in shock, forgetting she’d given the name, then nodded. “Would you like some breakfast? We are having eggs and sausage and freshly backed biscuits.”

Matalina smiled. “All but the sausage sound good, a glass of milk too.”

The girl nodded. “I’ll have it out for you shortly.” And then she scurried into the back to place the order.

Matalina sat quietly waiting, no thoughts running through her head and she wondered why all of a sudden everything was quiet. The bond being released must have done a lot more damage than she had thought. Mummurs and voices could still be heard, but they weren’t talking to her, just an annoying buzzing in her head. This was how Kayla had started out, Matalina wondered who now would try to take over and control, which hidden personality was she blocking.

Since her realization that Marosa was actually part of herself she’d locked up long ago, after her and Reikan shared a moment of violent intimacy. It wasn’t quite as violent as their last affair had been, but still it was more than Matalina could handle at the time and she hide it away. Matalina wondered if she could get rid of the personalities, but she didn’t have time to think much on the solution as her food arrived. Matalina nodded to the girl.

The food was decent but tasted great after having that horrid stew the following night. Meat was definitely not part of Matalina’s diet. The milk was nice and cold and Matalina ordered a second class before her meal was fully finished.

Matalina got up and took her plate to the counter where the girl stood and smiled. “It was delicious.”

The innkeeper stopped and looked at Matalina, “Staying another night?” Matalina nodded. “Good, it’s nice to have customers.”

Matalina smiled. “I’ll be back in a while, I’m going to visit your little town.”

“There isn’t much to see, you’ll be back soon.”

Matalina chuckled softly. She was sure he was right, but there had to be something here of note. Matalina walked the wide streets of town looking through the windows the shops that were open, and noting which would look interesting to at least step into on the way back.

A dark alley way caught Matalina’s attention and the Shadow instantly woke up. She smiled, knowing why it had, dark alleys could lead to victims, but Matalina was firmly in control and unless someone angered her the Shadow would have to sit on the sidelines. The Shadow sulked and Matalina laughed as she turned down the alleyway.

Screams came from a partially opened door. Matalina’s protective instincts from being a Warder too long took over and her sword was drawn long before she pushed the door open. A man stood over a chair with ink pots and needles sitting on a table next to him. He stood over another man lying on his back bleeding from where the needle had pierced his skin. Matalina raised an eye brow as the two men looked at her.

The man lying on the bed spoke first, “Lookie here, we’ve got us a female warrior here to save the day.” Matalina glared at the man for his lack of belief in her own abilities.

But the man standing above the other strode to the door. “Put that away Miss…”

“Cari.”

“Put that away Miss Cari, the man here means no harm to you and he’s paying for a tattoo, and they are painful.”

Matalina sheathed her sword and nodded. “I’ll stay and watch for a while just to be sure.” Why she wanted to stay she was unsure, but it was her instinct to stay.

The man nodded and went back to work. “It won’t be pretty, it’s a bloody sight.” The thought of fresh blood being spilt made the Shadow waken even more, Matalina could feel it welling up inside her waiting, watching, wanting blood. It made her blood boil. The man screamed again. “Blood and ashes, you fool, be careful!”

The tattoo artist just chuckled and continued on with his work. The smell of the inks and the blood mingled creating a dull haze in Matalina’s mind. The screams and the smell all but drove the Shadow onward and Matalina fought to keep control. Time passed and Matalina stood there, watching. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been there, but the man on the couch was gone by the time she realized it was over.

“The name’s Mikal, you okay?”

Matalina blinked and the focused on the man in front of her. She smiled innocently. “Yeah, not sure what came over me.”

“You looked like death for a while, pale and blank. Blood and pain bother you? Why’d you stay so long?”

Matalina took a step forward and examined the man’s tools of his trade. “I don’t know why I stayed, and no, blood and pain don’t bother me.” That was an understatement; she relished both in one form or another.

“Interested in getting one?” Matalina turned around and faced Mikal. “I’ve a few that would look good on a body like yours.”

Matalina raised an eye brow and smiled at him. “Oh really?” Marosa woke at the innuendo of attraction. Mikal turned around and grabbed a book and started flipping through the pages. “Here is a small rose and symbol that would look very well on a feminine figure like yours.” Mikal flipped a few more pages and showed Matalina a few more drawings before confiding in her. “It’s not a pretty picture until after you’ve healed and it’s a painful process, as you saw earlier, even the toughest of men scream at least once.”

Matalina smiled. “Is that a challenge?”

Mikal blinked. “Actually it’s not, I’m trying to warn you of the pain involved.”

Something inside Matalina snapped. “Pain isn’t always bad.” She knew she enjoyed pain, she remembered the things she and Reikan had done months ago, some of the things she let him do to her bordered on abuse but Matalina remembered the pleasure she’d received from the rush of pain through her body. “Let’s try the first one you showed me. Where would you recommend?”

“For the first time I’d say something fleshy with little bone. Your lower back is always a good place to start. You are sure about this? You do have coin, right?”

Matalina jingled the purse inside her pocket, she had plenty of money here and if necessary she could always get more back in Tar Valon, she’d left Lila with money to care for them for a while, but Matalina didn’t think she’d run out of money at least not for a while.

“Okay, then.” With a blush, Mikal continued. “I’m going to have to ask you to remove your shirt.” Matalina smiled and winked at him. It was fun toying with a man who was obviously embarrassed about having to ask such a thing in a platonic setting. Matalina removed the shirt with little showiness. Marosa pouted but the Shadow reeled at the thought of pain and blood. She laid down on the couch and let the man do his thing.

The first needle prick brought on pain so vivid Matalina almost screamed, but she smiled when she did not, the void had blocked much of the feeling and the shadow scurried around trying to break the void. Matalina dropped it just as the ink needle entered into her skin. She didn’t scream but it rushed the pain sensations to her head and she flinched with the pain. The Shadow enjoyed the torturous pain as did Matalina, Marosa was unhappy that this pain wasn’t the direct result of intimacy; pain was no fun with out that. Matalina disagreed.

*****

The whole tattooing process was still a mystery to Matalina, but the results were rather addicting. Mikal never commented on her reactions to the pain. She thought he was slightly embarrassed to have brought that kind of reaction from his work. Matalina hadn’t been shy about her own reactions.

He gave her explict instructions on how to care for the wound, as that was exactly what it would be for several weeks. Matalina nodded knowing how things could scar if not properly cared for. It wasn’t much different than what she’d normally do for cuts. A painful experience she had actually enjoyed where as the self inflicted cuts had been to dampen the Shadow’s lusts. This killed two birds with one stone and Matalina enjoyed that fact.

The inn had picked up it’s pace as Matalina had spent most of her day with Mikal. It was actually very late when she’d made it back. The walk had been mostly pleasant, her stomach rumbled with hunger and she could have sworn it had moved. Matalina thought she was out of it still from the prior activities. Matalina dismissed the notion as she ordered the food minus the meat. She ate eagerly before heading back to her room.

Undressing to care for the tattoo Matalina noticed again that she was gaining weight when she should have been losing it for lack of eating well on the trip here. The bond was messing with her metabolism was her only explanation. The lack of the bond was something she really needed to adjust to, and adjust to soon.

*****

When the wound healed and the colors vividly shown on Matalina’s lower back she went back to see Mikal, wanting more of the same. She smiled at him and he almost blushed and Matalina played on that fact and kissed him on the check. “I want another, in a more painful place.” He blinked at her but nodded his head. “It needs to be elaborate.” Mikal shook his head and lead Matalina to the book of sketches he could easily replicate for her.

Matalina scanned through the book looking for the most detailed picture she liked. A grim character with a scythe stared back at her. She smiled. “This one.”

Mikal nodded. “Shoulder blades are painful because of the bone. You are one mighty weird woman.”

Matalina turned and smiled at him as she took off her shirt. Then laid down on the couch again. “Right side should balance it out I think.” Mikal nodded and went to work.

The grim character took more than one session to complete. The time it took for the details would bring them well past sunset and drawing in candle light was not something Mikal wished to do. He insisted on quality work. So Matalina returned the following day to finish the job.

When the job was finished and Mikal was red from the affect his work had on Matalina, she paid him in full with a generous tip and kissed him fully on the lips. His blush deepened and Matalina smiled. She enjoyed toying with men. Matalina then wondered why Marosa had not spoken up. Or why none of the others woke much as of late. The constant buzz in her head continued, she knew they were there, she could hear them but their voices weren’t as audible and distracting as they once had been. The releasing of the bond had some good side affects as well.

Matalina left Mikal to his clean up and his embarassement. Some men where were so easily toyed with.

*****

A week later Matalina woke up to movements in her stomach. She didn’t think she was hungry but something was defiantly amiss. As she got dressed Matalina looked at herself in the mirror, the weight gain, the movement in her stomach region. She closed her eyes and frowned. She was pregnant, again. Matalina sighed and an all too familiar voice rang in her head. I told you so! What it was meant for Matalina wasn’t sure, but she really didn’t care. How could she be… Matalina backtracked months to who she’d been with to think on who’s child she was going to bear this time. She hadn’t slept with Alex in nearly a year, and she wasn’t that far along. That also put Orion out of the running as that had happened around the time her and Alex broke up. Her treatment of Alex at the time made her sigh, she wondered if she’d be here now if they’d gotten back together.

Matalina quickly pushed the memories of Alex away, dwelling on him and she’d never find what she was looking for. The only one who could possibly be the father would be Reikan. Matalina sat down on her bed half dressed. She wasn’t sure whether to be in shock or to be happy that she had the chance to be a real mother this time. Matalina fell back on to the bed, she wasn’t ready to be a mother again. The pattern has a funny way of showing you what you need and what you don’t need. The Wheel weaves as it wills. Matalina scoffed at the adage and got up off the bed to finish dressing. There wasn’t much she could do about it other than take better care not to harm the baby.

*****

Matalina took time to adjust to the fact that she was pregnant. It really was not something she had expected, nor did she believe who the father was. It was one night, but that is all it took if you were fertile. Matalina sighed.

Her condition didn’t stop her from going back a third time to see Mikal. Nor did it curb her new found appetite for pain and pleasure or Marosa’s desire to seduce the man. A plan formulated in Matalina’s mind, who’s plan it was she wasn’t sure, but it formed none the less.

Mikal smiled at Matalina as he worked on another customer’s request. The man flinched when Mikal poked the ink needle into his skin, but he didn’t cry out. Matalina smiled and started flipping through the sketch book until she found a small tattoo with a heart and a symbol that would fit her plan well.

Matalina sat down in a spar chair and waited for Mikal to be finished with his current client.

She enjoyed the smell and imagined the pain the man was going through. Her body reacted to her own imagination and she enjoyed her morning. When Mikal finished and was cleaning up he spoke to Matalina. “Back again, huh?”

He turned and smiled. “What you getting this time?”

Matalina nodded towards the picture that was left open. Mikal looked and nodded. “A simple design.” He cocked his head and looked at her. “I wouldn’t have expected this after the last one.”

Matalina smiled and got up to close the half opened door to his work shop. “Small is good in this case.” Matalina removed her boots and Mikal raised an eye brow, curious to her intentions. Her pants and panties followed and Mikal stared wide eyed. Matalina only smiled and went to lay down. The couch was cold and a shiver ran through her body leaving goose bumps. Her hand rested on a spot just to the left of her pubic hair region on her left side. “Here.”

Mikal nodded and Matalina noticed he was the brightest red she’d ever seen him. But the man was more than professional despite the temptation that lay before him.

*****

The plan that had formed in Matalina’s mind had not back fired. Mikal was more than intrigued and when he was finished Matalina didn’t have much work to do to entice him into the bedroom. Both Matalina and Marosa were more than happy with the sappy love making that took place. They both agreed that it was a good change of pace from the pain and pleasure feelings of the past month.

Matalina fell asleep at Mikal’s shop but woke in the middle of the night and left him sleeping peacefully. It was time to move on. She felt bad for using him, but she didn’t want to become attached to a man so close to Tar Valon or in a small town like this. She paid her tab and made for the stables as soon as she’d gathered all her things. Tain Cor looked well rested and he knickered at Matalina, he was eager to be out on the road again. She smiled and patted him on the head as she dressed him for the trip. Thoughts of Mikal ran through her head but she wouldn’t stay to see anything come of it. It was better to move on.

Matalina left as the sun was peaking it’s first rays over the horizon and headed to Maradon.

*****

The borderlands were a reputable place for men to come from in the Yards. Many Tower Guards and Warders were from one of the four borderland nations. Saldaea was Matalina’s current location. She’d been to others over the course of the years, but she’d never really had the time to look into their military traditions. However this time was something that she had to do in order to have a plausible story. She really didn’t know what she was looking for and she had no idea when she would find it or if she ever would.

Back in the small town where Mikal had decorated her body and paid for it with abandonment Matalina had purchased two journals. She’d forgotten them in Tar Valon and had begun to write down inconspicuous information in one, this that could be interpreted as code to her Aes Sedai, but they really meant nothing. She was suppose to be out looking for information for Raeyn, and she intended to have that portion covered as well.

The second book was for her studies of other fighting styles and techniques of the places she visited. She planned to spend a few months in each major city she stopped in to take a look at how they treated the military formations and how they trained. And her first stop was the Saldaean army.

There were a lot of customs Matalina hadn’t been aware of when she entered an inn in Maradon. The first being that women were not taught the sword or anything about war, but were expected to be well versed in defense and other strategies. It was everyone’s fight in the borderlands against the Shadow and the taint from the Blight. It was ironic to her, but Matalina did remover her sword and kept it with her belongings while she stayed. She was more than adequately protected with just her daggers.

The biggest intrigue of her time had been watching the Saldaean cavalry train and show off. They could do some of the most amazing tricks imagined on horse back. Matalina watched in a state of awe as each rider tried to best the previous one. Kayla had enjoyed the show as much. Matalina didn’t think she’d ever be that agile on a horse, nor would Tain Cor actually be able to be as light on his feet. But Tain was a war horse, meant for heavy cavalry. And Matalina knew he’d be jealous if she rode any other horse than him. It was amazing to see how he reacted when he knew she was near. Tain Cor was a good horse and she was glad to have him keep her company on this journey through unknown lands alone.

***** West Board *****

Her time spent in Maradon went by quickly and Matalina was saddened to have to start traveling again, but she didn’t want to get stuck traveling in horrible weather, and it was soon nearing that time of year. She left early one morning and traveled at a decent pace, not nearly as slow as she had before, or as fast the time before. She tried to make it to an inn every night as the baby inside her continued to grow and make the ride uncomfortable. Matalina counted the months and weeks left till she thought the child would be born and it was nearing soon, it was a good thing she was nearing closer to Arad Doman and Bandar Eban it’s capital city. She wasn’t sure how long she’d be there, more than likely past the winter weather that was about to swallow the land whole.

This was the farthest Matalina had ever been from Tar Valon. It was almost a whole world apart from what she’d known growing up and later in her adult years. Matalina hadn’t traveled much, she’d been to Tear with Tari, and to Cairhein with Yveva, and the Borderlands with Alencia. She’d gone to Cairhein alone as well as to Camerlyn to train with the Rogue’s Guild for a while, not to mention the Blight for a few years. But there was always a real reason to be out and about, now Matalina was only trying to find herself. And she didn’t know where that would be.

Matalina found an inn in Bandar Eban run by an older woman named Greta. The name of the inn was illegible on the sign, only the picture on it gave hint to what it was, but Matalina didn’t care one way or the other, it mattered little. Names rarely stuck with Matalina anyway. Greta gave Matalina a room and sent a midwife to tend to her almost the miniute she had walked in the door.

“You look like you could go any minuite. Now is not the time to be traveling. Your stay for now is free; you aren’t getting out of my inn until your child is born.”

Matalina was grateful and she insisted on paying, as she was planning on staying anyway. Greta would hear none of it. A woman alone and traveling with child was not something Greta would have. So there Matalina stayed under the name of Cari.

*****

Not even a month after arriving in Bandar Eban Matalina gave birth to a son, and then a daughter. It was no wonder Matalina had grown as fast as she had and as big as she had. Greta insured that the twins were well tended until Matalina was able to do so herself.

“You’ve done this before, haven’t you? You don’t seem the mothering type if you don’t mind me prying.”

Matalina smiled. “This is my third pregnancy, and will be the third and fourth child.”

“And where are the others now?”

Matalina frowned. “They are living their lives happily. My daughter is with her father, and my son is working as a page under their father.” Matalina indicated the twins.

“Why aren’t you with them? How many fathers do these children have?” Greta was slightly confused.

Matalina laughed. “Each is fathered by a different man.” It had been a long while since she’d thought about Vanair. The man she thought she had loved more than life itself until she met Alex. Then Alex became her world, and he turned it upside down and never stopped. Reikan was just a one night stand, there was nothing there other than a drowned out friendship that probably hadn’t survived their last encounter. Matalina rubbed the scar he’d given her during that spar. Now she had two children that were his. The pattern never stopped throwing the odd at Matalina.

Matalina gave the children a first name, a last name would come when she’d had time to think on it. Right now they just needed a name – Aiden and Kate. She didn’t know where the names came from but then she couldn’t really say where Cari had come from either. But she was beginning to like the name. She would consider keeping it when she got where she was going. But now was not that time. It was time to care for her newborns with the help of Greta.

*****

Matalina and Greta became closer as the babies grew. One evening Greta took Matalina aside while the twins were fast asleep in their crib. “I’ve no daughters to pass on my knowledge, will you learn from me?”

Matalina raised an eye brow, “What would you have me learn?” Domani women were noted for many things and their dress and nature was something they passed down from mother to daughter.

“The ways of a Domani woman. There are many things I could teach you.” Greta smiled. “I don’t think you’ve a problem with men, if you’ve had three different men father children for you, but I can show you ways to please them beyond what you already know. And please women too.” The look on Matalina’s face must have indicated that her taste did not run that direction. “Trust me women can be vulnerable to a pretty face and a nice caress just as easily as a man. And it comes in handy if you need to get your way.”

Matalina agreed to learn from Greta, but was shocked by the first move the older woman had made. Greta leaned in and kissed Matalina firmly and seductively on the lips. She then whispered, “I will show you the ways, but you must be willing to learn in an unconventional way.” Then Greta leaned in again and kissed Matalina using her tongue this time. “There are many, many ways to kiss; I will show you them all.”

The night progressed in the same fashion, the woman kissed Matalina showing her the 1107 different kisses the Domani women all passed down to their daughters. After the demonstration Greta left Matalina to think on the situation. Her next visit Matalina would have to initiate each of the different kisses.

Matalina and Greta spent the next few weeks going over and over the womanly arts of kissing. Greta was pleased with Matalina attitude towards kissing another woman, and had bigger plans for her, but she didn’t let Matalina know any of that.

*****

Matalina’s nights were filled with seduction and passions she wasn’t sure were right to be feeling while being taught about those womanly arts all Domani women seemed to posses, but her days were filled with the children and with learning about the military culture of Bandar Eban. She looked around quite extensively to find something of the sort out, but the Domani were tight lipped about their military knowledge.

But she did find a few small contingents and she studied them, taking into account that they were small formations. The Domani must rely on militia if there was need, but she wasn’t sure there ever was a need for that, even though the Aramoth Plain was something of a debate with Tarabon – both nations wanting control, but never actually coming to blows. The dynamic was interesting to hear about at least.

Matalina spent a few nights in different inns listening to the tails of the Aramoth Plain and their supposed war with Tarabon over it. Matalina didn’t consider it a war, a knowledable dispute but not a war, there was no real fighting over it, at least none in many years.

All in all her studies of the Domani ways of fighting was rather dull, her most interesting learnings were that from Greta, and Matalina was beginning to enjoy the woman’s company and the training she was receiving.

*****

Several months past, the twins were growing fast and the weather was quickly getting better, winter had turned to spring and Matalina was eager to move on, but Greta had one final test for Matalina.

“I’ve a serving girl working for me who needs a little encouragement. She’s a fine girl, pretty and very knowledgeable from what her mother has told me, but she’s shy. I want you to break her of that.”

Matalina wondered what she could do about it but she didn’t have time to ask as Greta explained it for her.

“As your final test of all the things I’ve taught you, I want you to lure the girl to your bed for the night. You’ve come along way in your feelings towards using your body against other woman, a man can easily fall for the will of a woman, but another woman is the highest challenge. If you can do this I will consider your tab paid.”

Matalina agreed but sighed at having the last part of the deal sealed. She tried arguing but Greta would have none of it. Greta showed Matalina the girl she was to seduce. Her name was Rachel and she was a pretty enough girl, but Matalina wasn’t sure what to do about it.

For several days Matalina watched Rachel in the common room serving the men. She certainly moved to their liking but she never instigated anything more than a few looks and glances. Greta had told Matalina the girl was shy about her own body and she didn’t think she was pretty, so her self confidence was low and it was Matalina’s job to inspire her.

Matalina wore a shirt she might not have worn if she wasn’t trying to appeal to the men and women around her. It was made of silk and the color of the night sky just before sunset. The deep blue shimmered in the soft light of the inn and the top of the tattoo on her upper left sholder blade shown above the neck shirt. Greta had given Matalina several shirts to bring out the feminine nature of the ex-Warder. Matalina wouldn’t wear the clothes often but now was certainly the time to bring it out. It was an off the shoulder type shirt, her neck line and shoulders were bare except for the hair she left down. Matalina felt odd, but Greta insured her that it looked wonderful.

Matalina sat in the middle of the common room along Rachel’s path. It took Matalina several attempts as the girl walked by before she worked up the nerve to casually caress the woman’s behind as she stood taking the orders from the men across the way. Rachel looked back and smiled at Matalina but nothng more came of it.

Rachel finally came over and took Matalina’s order but by then the men who normally would have been vying for her attentions were all eyes on the two women. Matalina’s advances hadn’t slipped past them.

Rachel came back with Matalina’s order and sat down on her lap waiting for a tip. She was at least going to play along for the moment, she had seen her talking with Greta and her mother and Matalina wondered what they had told her. Rachel whispered into Matalina’s ear. “What are you trying to do? The men won’t touch me now.”

Matalina smiled. “That’s good for us.” And then she pulled the woman in closer for a kiss. A small noise escaped Rachels mouth as their lips pressed against one another. Matalina smiled and let her tongue dance inside of the other girls mouth. Rachel understand finally what was going on, or at least that Matalina was attracted to her. And in a weird way Matalina was, she was feeling things she’d only felt with men before, and the passions inside of her rose as she kissed Rachel.

Matalina’s hands moved along Rachel’s leg. She pulled up the skirt enough to let her hand stray underneath it. Rachel squirmed and looked a bit shocked at Matalina. “Let’s go to your room.”

Matalina shook her head. “No, the men want a show, let’s give them one. They’ve been waiting all night for you to come to me, let’s not disappoint them.” Matalina kissed Rachel’s neck and bit it softly as her hand worked her way up between Rachel’s legs.

The men would get a show, and Rachel would be the object of their desires as Matalina brought the woman to climax in front of the entire common room. When Rachel’s body cooled from the passions it had just received she hurriedly got up from Matalina’s lap in tears. Matalina sighed, but she’d done her job. She hoped Greta would be happy in the very least.

Matalina left to hoots and hollers from the men in the common room, she only smiled, she’d done her job very well; the men had enjoyed themselves as well. Greta stopped her as Matalina reached the stairs. “You did very well, I hadn’t expected you to stay here though.”

Matalina smiled. “They wanted a show.”

“Rachel will be okay, don’t’ you worry about her, her mother is explaining the situation to her.” Matalina nodded and went up to her room. She would leave in the morning.

****

Matalina was cleaning up before her long journey onward, the children were asleep soundly in their bed and Matalina stood naked in the room cleaning off the grime from the common room; she truly hated the stench of beer and tabac on her skin. A soft knock came. “Cari, it is Rachel can I come in?”

“It’s unlocked.” It was on thing Matalina couldn’t get in the habit of, locking her door.

Rachel sighed as she closed the door, when Matalina turned around the girl looked ready to cry again. “I didn’t know you were bathing.”

Matalina smiled. “It doesn’t bother me, considering what just happened in the common room.”

Rachel slowly approached Matalina and took the sponge from her hand and began to cleanse Matalina’s back. “That’s why I’m here. My mother told me she was proud of me, letting the men see me with you, reaching climax for their pleasure and my own. She’s never told me she was proud of me before. Thank you.”

Matalina smiled. “It’s no problem, Rachel. I enjoyed it as much as you.” And that was the truth. No voices echoed in her mind she had truly enjoyed being with her.

“Let me repay you with pleasure of your own.”

Matalina turned to Rachel and Rachel planted a kiss on Matalina. From there they ended up in bed pleasing each other through out the night until dawn. Neither Rachel nor Matalina felt love for one another and they parted ways easily in the morning, each having their own curiosities about what had transpired that night. But Matalina was sure of one thing, Marosa had never showed up once during their night of passion together. Was she gone? Matalina could only wonder what had happened. The voices in her mind seemed to be dimming, each one finding a way into Matalina’s conscious mind. She wondered what would happen if they all did that.

*****

Matalina bundled up the children and gathered all their belongings, the few things they’d accumulated over the six months in Bandar Eban and they were off at breakfast time. Greta kissed Matalina on the cheek as she sent her off with the twins. It would be an interesting trip with them with her. A makeshift sling had been created for each of them, and they were warm underneath Matalina’s new wool cloak. She might get hot, but it was the babies’ health she was most concerned about.

The trip to Tanchico was long as the three of them traveled at a slower pace. It was difficult to feed and change a child on horse back so Matalina needed to stop frequently. Thankfully the weather warmed as they moved on and there was little rain.

Tanchico was noted to be a dangerous place and Matalina was a bit leary about staying there for long with the children, but she wanted to insure that she took enough notes to satisfy her journey’s need.

Like Arad Doman Tanchico didn’t really have an army, they had a police force of sorts in order to maintain some safety on the dangerous streets, but because they’d never gone to war officially with Arad Doman over the Aramoth Plain there was little need for an army. Matalina took what notes she could and quickly moved on. She didn’t want to stay in a dangerous place with Aiden and Kate on her arms.

*****

Matalina stayed a month in Tanchico and gathered a bit of information for both Raeyn and for Reikan. There wasn’t a whole lot to learn there so Matalina moved on sooner than she had anticipated. Her next stop would be Amador. She wasn’t sure why she wanted to even go near the Children of the Light, but it was on her way back to Tar Valon. Not that Matalina had any intention of going back there, but she was lost as to where to go, so heading home at least looked feasible in her traveles.

At every inn along the way Matalina began showing the universal signal looking for other Darkfriends. She didn’t stay long or linger in any of them, and she found nothing that would tie her to one place or another. She didn’t want to be found our as a Darkfriend, but she needed to find something, but she didn’t know what that was but she was sure it wasn’t going to be found with Light fools.

Matalina arrived in Amador on a day that was raining so she took to the first inn that she found. She had hidden her weapons in her bed roll, there was no point brining attention to a lone woman with two children on her arms.

The military situation in Amador consisted of several things, mostly the Children of the Light, but the King also had his own army. They generally worked together, but there was a certain air between the two. Matalina wasn’t allowed to see most of the Children’s training so it was a futile effort to even try. Her stay wasn’t long but she watched as many Children of the Light out in the streets as she could taking notes of their attitudes and the air about them. It was quite different from how they acted else where.

***** South Board ******

Again Matalina’s stay in Amador wasn’t long, she had no desire to be among so many Light fools that even suspected her affilation with the Great Lord would have her head. It was a discomforting thought and Matalina moved on quickly, never finding anything she had hoped for.

Matalina only found glimpses of other Darkfriends as she traveled. She hadn’t found anything substantial and kept moving. She stopped again in Lugard, Murandy. Here there were a few Darkfriends, but Matalina didn’t find the situation to her liking and quickly decided to leave. She barely evaluated the small standing armies before the tensions in the region got to her. It was worse than trying to fight through a crowded tavern room in Tar Valon after a brawl. There was going to be civil war it was felt in the air. Civil War wasn’t something Murandy was not use to, it happened often. They were a weak nation but they had many problems internally.

Underground rumors of a Chosen residing in Lugard made Matalina leave the city. She wanted no part of a Chosen she didn’t know. It could have been the one Carmen reported to and Matalina had no desire to meet up with Carmen again. The woman was bad for business and she didn’t want her knowing about the children either. The last one was still paying for that knowledge.

*****

Matalina left quickly two weeks after her arrival in Lugard. She headed towards Camerlyn but make a quick stop in Four Kings. She flashed the Darkfriend sign and got no response from the inn keeper, she wouldn’t be staying long. She was given a room and Matalina went up stairs to it and started readying the children for a bath and then bed. They were just as eager for warmth and comforts of a bed as she was. They’d grown considerably since their birth, they were nearing a year now and they were babbling to themselves almost at a constant rate. They hadn’t said any words yet despite Matalina’s attempts at getting them to say “mama”. But they appaeared to be bright children and Matalina was proud of them.

After the children were safely tucked into the bed Matalina went down to the common room for a meal herself. The children had eaten earlier and were more then satisfied to be sleeping in the comforts of a bed. Matalina sat at a table in the corner and watched the crowd around her. The serving girl brought Matalina food with out ever taking her order. The food was laden with meats Matalina couldn’t identify and she sighed. She wouldn’t be eating much this night. Though the glass of milk was highly refreshing and she ordered a second one and another loaf of bread, at least the bread was warm and fresh.

As Matalina nibbled at the bread as a man approached …

Dragon Hunting

Published on September 30, 2015

First Public Writing

Published on September 30, 2015