Wheels upon Wheels

Chapter 5 : Rhuidean

Disclaimer : Wheel of Time belongs to Robert Jordan, and no one else. This story may not be used for profit by anybody, not even me.

The battle with the thieves' guild changed quite a few things. First, Shevat and I moved out of our room at the Queen's Blessing the very same day, taking another room at The White Queen, an inn on the opposite side of the city. Second, we restrained our moving around in case the guild wanted another rematch.

The third thing was unexpected. Two days after our moving out of the Queen's Blessing, an invitation had come for me. From a nobleman. To a game that night.

It seemed more than the thieves' guild had noticed my luck.

"Will you go ?" Shevat asked, once we were alone in our room.

"I'm still debating." And I was. Noblemen would mean more money, which was a good thing. It also meant people higher in the food chain, which might take offence at being beaten by a 'lesser being'. A definite bad thing.

"What do you think ?" I asked, hoping for a good opinion. He knew this world more than me, anyway.

He scratched the two days worth of stubble he had while thinking. "I can't see any bad come out of it. I would give you a new source of information." He replied.

Information was something I needed very much. I knew that Logain would be paraded here and I still planned on springing him out, but had no actual date on when that event would happen. Shevat was right. Nobles would be the first to know. And, as I had learned, people talked around a card game. A lot.

"Then I'll be going". And that was that.

Going, unfortunately, meant shopping first. My clothes were hardly decent for anything other than a peasant, and that was no way to be accepted in that circle. It took us two hours in four different tailor's shops to finally find something of my size that we could have today. It was a green-embroidered black coat with matching pants. It cost me a pretty penny, all right.

I ordered other clothes of the same design made by that tailor, and ended up spending half of what I owned on clothes. Which was a lot. Hopefully my luck would not choose today to run off.

For all the planning I made in my mind in preparation of meeting those nobles, the actual meeting was pretty anti-climatic. They accepted me at the gaming table in much the same way you would get in a game in a tavern. And didn't bat an eyelid at the fact that I wasn't noble.

And they talked. Boy did they talk ! What this house planned against this other house, this noble courting that lady, this person having an affair behind his wife's back. I barely remembered a few names and houses, and those were the houses of my fellow players. Yves, of House Ruen. Goerin, of House Selvar. Lorian, of House Caral. And Hijil, of House Juin. I didn't know the importance of these Houses, but I would find out.

They asked questions, too. Luckily, I had rehearsed that part well in my mind. I was born in the Borderlands, near Shienar, in a village whose name I invented. I was lowborn but rose, making money trading first in the borderlands, then in Caerhien and in the Aiel Waste. I was lucky at that point I had read the books, for they quizzed me on Aiel for the better half of the game.

I left quite happy, with an extended invitation to come whenever I could, and twice as much gold as I had spent for clothes. A good investment, then.

The next four days passed quickly, but fruitfully. I made use of my open invitation every night, and always came back with more gold than the day before. I was also starting to find my way in the mire that was Caemlyn's politics, meaning that I could remember most of the times something about the house they were talking about.

Houses weren't the only words on their tongues. The hunt for the horn was on, and that subject was the center of much speculation. I stayed with mine that it was in some place of the Age of Legends, but each had his own opinion. I nearly choked when Lorian said in was in the Blight, but luckily, they took that as surprise. No one from the Borderlands would think that the horn might be in the Blight, after all.

My days, them, were home to planning and shopping. And waiting. Each day I spent gold, each day I thought and rethought my plans, but waiting was the same. Always the same.

On his side, Shevat was looking for a Portal Stone. He went from bar to bar, asking mercenaries, farmers, and whoever might hear about a pillar engraved with symbols all over. And no result came.

So I waited.

I stepped in Yves mansion house as the sun came down, saluting the guards on the way. They were expecting me, as always, and were getting used to my presence at night. One of them guided me, as one always did, towards the gaming table. The game was already started, as it always was. As soon as I was no longer standing, however I noticed their excitation.

"What is it, Hijil ?" He was the most excited, by far. "Did Fulel have an hunting accident, and his heir gone in the night." Fulel was of House Pogammal, and a bitter rival of the lord of House Juin. And he had spoken of him hopefully having an accident at least twice the day before.

"No, though I would wish it were so." The man said, smiling. "You've not heard the news, I would venture ?"

"No, I did not." I answered, keeping my speech polite out of habit. "What news ?" I was shaking inside.

"Logain, my friend." Yves put forward, while passing out cards. "They'll be parading him in this very city, and not two weeks from now."

I pretended to be interested, and hopefully pulled it of, while I was raging inside. Logain would be here in less than 14 days, and I was far from being ready. I had to get to the waste and back. I was running out of time ! I kept playing, though, as if nothing happened.

I was barely breaking even, and my hosts talked of my luck finally waning. I didn't care. I was all I could do not to run back to my inn room, or to get in the search myself.

"He better find it soon." I muttered aloud, oblivious.

"Find what ?"

I focused back to the game, to find that all four lord were looking at me. Oops.

"Nothing much"

"Do tell. It'd be more interesting than my hand, anyway." He made a scowl at his own cards, though that didn't mean anything. The lord of House Selvar was a good bluffer, if anything.

I thought a while, than said to myself 'What the hell'. It's not like they'd kill me on the spot for mentioning it. "It's something a Caerheinnin Lord asked me for." I lied. "He said it was some kind of column, higher than any man, and covered with strangest symbols beside." They all started laughing.

"What ?"

"Why did he ask you for that ?" Yves replied, wheezing.

"He said it'd make a good statue in front of his manor." At that, they all laughed again, and harder.

"Explain." I said, tapping the table. I didn't like where this was going.

It was Goerin who stopped laughing first. "Pitar of House Morraill" he intoned "Thought the very same thing. He had found one, you see, in a village near his estates. Paid the villager whose land it was on a handsome sum for it, and then tried to move it. Tried, and tried hard. He brought hundreds of men, horses and bulls, and tried to make it budge. It didn't. They say he himself was pushing, in the end." They all started laughing again.

"Where is it ?"

"Why would you care?"

"I'd be paid for finding one, that's all" I replied, a smile on my lips. "Maybe Caerheinnin Lords are good at pushing."

They all laughed another round.

I left at the same time than usual, giving excuses that I would be able to be there for quite a while. In my pocket was a map, graciously given by my host, with the location of the Portal Stone on it.

Shevat was waiting for me in the White Queen's common room, and it was evident by his posture he hadn't found anything. I quickly motioned him towards our room.

"What ?"

"We leave tomorrow at dawn."

"Where ?"

I handed him the map. The nobles had told me it would be two days by horse, and I believed them. I went back down, intent on telling the innkeeper to have our horses ready for our departure tomorrow.

We were back on track, it seemed.

We left Caemlyn shortly after dawn, with each of us on horseback with another horse behind dragging our stuff, including all the nobleman-like attire I had. We did good time, cross-country, and we would arrive at the specified village by midday tomorrow.

We rode in silence with me thinking furiously and Shevat also lost in his thoughts. That is until...

"Why ?" Shevat asked aloud. It wasn't a question and he was more or less talking to himself, but he said it aloud.

"Why what ?"

He realized he had spoken aloud, but still maneuvered his horse closer to mine and continued. "Why do all that ? Go all this way to help the Dragon, even when he hasn't proclaimed himself. With your luck, you could be rich, could probably buy a seat of nobility, and that in the country you chose. Why all those plans ?"


He continued on without hearing me. "And how the hell do you know ? What Foretelling did you have for you to know, that surely, that it would happen the way you foretold. You predicted Logain's capture and parade, I know, but How ?"

I thought an instant, with the former thief staring at me, then decided. He had a right to know.

"Have you ever had the feeling that you weren't important, that you would die and nobody would notice your passing." He nodded. Being an orphan I expected he knew the feeling well. "Well my whole life was like that."

I had held back telling much about me, most making up stuff along the way. I didn't now. I told everything I could remember, everything I could explain about me and my world. I told him about the books, and about what I was planning. The only thing I held back was the contents of the books.

It took the rest of daylight and up until camp was ready for me to finish my tale, and Shevat was very pensive afterward. We both went to sleep in silence, lost in our thoughts.

He was up before me the following morning. I had slept badly. A day on a horse (Something I wasn't yet used to) followed by nightmares about my predicament had made me turn around for most of the night.

Shevat, though, was up and running, and I tried my best to keep up. He said nothing.

He kept silent until the specified village was in sight.

"I'm sorry."

That wasn't what I was expecting. "It's nothing." I answered. "You had a right to know." I smiled. "I was actually expecting you to be gone when I woke up this morning. For you to think I was mad."

He smiled then, his first smile I remembered since quite a while. "Mad or not, you don't get the chance I got twice. I told you." His eyes were serious now. "I'm your man." He extended his hand toward me. "Till death."

I shook that hand. "Till death." I smiled.

The Portal Stone was in a long-untended field near an abandoned farmhouse. 'It seems the lords had really told the truth about house Morraill' I thought. We made camp as close as we could of the column.

"So, now what ?"

I turned towards Shevat, with a grave expression with my face. "Now, channeling."

He shivered. I could understand that. He'd been dreading this moment since the time I told him about it, probably.

"Can you grab the source ? I mean, willingly ?"

He shuffled his feet around, looking ashamed. "... not consciously."

That led to us passing the rest of the day in front of that stone. I tried to remember and pass up every scrap of help I could remember from the books, while Shevat tried to grab the source. He didn't get any results, though.

We went to sleep early, and, this time, I rose up from sleep before him. I left him at that, intent on studying and remembering something about the Portal Stone at Rhuidean. 'The Aiel chief with Rand knew of two symbols used for Rhuidean' I thought 'Something about triangles, I think' That didn't help much. Most of the symbols on the bottom half, the half about stones of this world, had some form of triangles. Time for luck, then.

It didn't take much time for Shevat to rise, though he didn't seemed rested. After a quick breakfast, he was trying again.

It did bear fruit, though, after two hours of trying for the void. I felt it the instant he had it, even if I could see no aura like other channelers could. The feeling I had before, the feeling of power, came back suddenly. Shevat was looking at me as if he was struggling to control himself.

"Channel here !" I quickly pointed towards a symbol, one I had chosen during this very morning.

The world blinked.

Once I got back my balance, I looked around. Not Rhuidean, obviously. The climate was far too cold for that.

I managed to grab Shevat before he fell to the ground. The feeling for before was gone. I had released the Source. 'Or the Source had released him' I thought.

"Sorry." He said, panting. he was barely holding himself up.

"Why ?"

"Not... Rhuidean..."

I smiled. He thought he had made a mistake, when the mistake was all mine. "Not your fault." I replied, a hand on his shoulder. "Mine. I'm not exactly sure which symbol leads to Rhuidean. You did fine."

He seemed glad at that.

"Will you be able to try again ?"

He nodded, slowly.

"Need a rest ?"

"Can I ?"

"Go ahead."

And so it went. While Shevat slept I noted every information I could find of the location the Portal Stone on one of the pads I had from my world, right beside a copy of the symbol we had used.

The rest of the times we tried again, and each time we waited less long for Shevat to hold the Source. We managed to use the stone again before night the same day, and after that we used it more than twice each day.

The locations varied a lot. Quite a few were impossible to really identify, but the rest were. One was near Tar Valon, as we could see the White Tower from the Stone. Another was bordering a river near the Spine of the World.

We kept on.

I knew the second we appeared, even before my sight had adjusted, that we had arrived in Rhuidean. It was as if a wave of flame had consumed me. The heat was a palpable thing, here.

I could see Rhuidean, in the distance. A dome of mist in the desert. I raised my head to confirm. A city in the sky. Yup, we were there. It only took us five days.

"It's here, isn't it ?" Shevat said, standing right beside me. He didn't need my help to remain standing, not anymore, not since our fourth Portal Stone.


We gathered our stuff and went down quickly but silently. We didn't want to draw the attention of the Aiel, after all.

The sun was falling when we passed the mist barrier that covered the city. I was glad. The desert is supposed to be artic cold at night. I didn't intend to find out if that was true.

Rhuidean was a wonder, but also something like a jigsaw puzzle. There were missing pieces, uncompleted towers and the like, everywhere. The effect was as if some kind of calamity had killed all the people here at some time during the construction, but had spared everything.

I turned a corner toward the heart of the city, then suddenly, without warning, found myself flying backwards. I hit a wall roughly and found myself seeing stars for a moment.

When my head cleared, I found Shevat being beaten back by an Aiel, or what I supposed an Aiel to be. He was tall, especially for someone on the ground, and muscled like an athlete.

The fight before me was totally one-sided. Shevat had managed to get his sword out, but it availed him not. The Aiel man was beating soundly anyway.

I had to do something...

"STOP !"

Shevat stopped, and that got him a fist in the gut for his trouble. 'Great idea, dumbass' I told myself.

"I invoke the peace of Rhuidean."

'What the ?' I thought the second later.

The words were out of my mouth before I even thought them. 'How did ?' The Aiel man stopped as if frozen, his hand bare inches from the former thief's face. He struggled to calm himself while I was thinking furiously. How did I know that ? I agree that the effect was for the best, but I had completely forgotten about the Peace of Rhuidean before I said those words. I remembered, now, but ?

"Throw down your sword, Shevat."

He did so, reluctantly, mine followed quickly, both at the feet of the flame-haired man. He turned towards me, his eyes full of anger.

"What are you outlanders" he said that word like a curse. "Are doing in the land of the Jenn."

I cast my head for an answer, and spoke the first thing that came to mind. "I come in service of He Who Comes With Dawn."

"You lie." He seemed ready to spring into battle again.

"May I find no water and no shade, and may Sightblinder have my soul should I lie"

That placated the man. I noticed at that time the dragon around his forearm, the symbol of Aiel Clan Chiefs.

"What are you doing, then, in the land of the Jenn."

"I seek no harm to the Aiel traditions. Come, I will show you."

The swords stayed on the ground, forgotten.

The new Clan Chief introduced himself while we walk towards the heart. He was Ghinla of the White Sand Sept of the Nakai Aiel. We introduced ourselves too, though he didn't seem interested by where we came from.

Once we were in the center on the city, beside Avendesora, I led Shevat and Ghinla toward the field of Ter'angreal and quickly found the Redstone doorframe I was looking for.

"This is it." I said, pointing at the said door.

"This ?" Ghinla repeated. He spared a quick glance toward the road of column that, I knew, was the trial for future clan chiefs.

"Yes." I went to my packhorse and got my schoolbag off. "I'll be going first. It might take a while for me to get out." Both nodded. "Wait for me." Shevat nodded again.

I opened the door and walked through. The Aiel did not try to stop me, only watching my every move.

"A very long time."

As soon I entered, one of them came to be in front of me. I knew a little of what they were, but I didn't trust them. I kept my eyes staring straight at him.

"Do you abide by the treaties and agreements ? Do you carry iron, or instruments of music, or devices for making light ?"

I expected that question. "No"

"Then come."

The creature turned around and started leading me through a corridor. I followed, and tried not to pay attention to my surroundings. I knew that would be useless, and misleading nonetheless.

I also tried not to pay attention to how much time we were taking. I knew time was a bizarre thing here. I just focused my eyes on the creature leading me, willfully ignoring the human-leather belts he was wearing.

A certain time passed and then I found myself in front of eight of these creatures. My guide had vanished as fast as he had appeared.

"Speak," One of them said. I didn't try to find out which, but it sound somehow female. "By the ancient treaty, here is agreement made. What is your need ? Speak."

Now was the moment I feared the most. "First, what is the price of my needs ?"

I could feel their disappointment as I spoke those words. I held back, waiting for them to answer.

"What would you offer ?" That voice was male, I was sure.

I let out a breath I was holding. It might still go well. I reached in my bag, taking out a bundle that contained all schoolwork and my statistics schoolbook. "I offer these," I laid the bundle on the ground. "to pay the price. Books and knowledge from my home, for another time or world." I didn't know, for me, which was which.

'Please let it be enough !' I crossed my fingers behind my back.

"The price is paid. Now speak of what you need." A female said.

Tension flowed out of me like water. Now, whatever happened, I'd be able to walk out of this place alive and well. It might have looked like it, but I had feared for my life.

I focused back on what I had planned. These creatures were granting me three wishes. I was a munchkin. I knew how to handle wishes, and I had planned for these.

"I want..." I stopped. "I need to be a channeler as strong as the Dragon Reborn will ever be." I'd need that, to face the Forsaken.

"Done." One of the male said.

Good. That meant I could stay with my first plan. I had planned in case they couldn't grant me that wish, but it was better that way.

The second one, now. "I need to have all talents in relation to objects made of the power." That one I wanted because of the type of person I was. I was a builder, a creator, first. Building magical items was something I'd always wanted.

"Done." Female, this time.

Good. Only one left. The last, and an important one. That one I had no fear they would grant. It was something I knew they could give. "I need to have all knowledge concerning the one power from the Age of Legends."

"Done." A female one said.

"What was asked will be given." A man, now

"The price is paid." Female, that one.

They disappeared, and I found myself tumbling backwards towards the Redstone doorframe that was right behind me.

I hit the ground roughly, but didn't notice it. The second I had crossed the doorway, my wishes had been granted. And my head hurt. A lot.

It was like being hit from a hammer of memories, like I'd tried to download the Internet into my brain. It was like some had put a hose in my nose and was filling my brain with water.

I'd never wished to be back in my home world more than I had a that moment. I probably would have sold my soul for aspirin, right there.

With time, the pain faded slowly, and I started to realize the place and position I was in. I was on the ground, still in front of the doorframe. The ground was covered in tracks I had made with my face and elbows while I was gripped by the pain. I tasted dirt and rocks, which I spat out.

Shevat was talking beside me, but I couldn't understand anything more than jumbled words. "Stop !" I cried, most voice containing part of the pain I was feeling.

He looked at me strangely, as if he didn't understand. I tried to rise, but that proved to empower my aching head and I found myself back on the ground, reeling.

The Aiel was still there, looking at me like I was something unexpected.

Shevat dragged me, alone, to sit below Avendesora. That helped.

The tranquility and peace helped calm my mind, and thirty minutes later I was able to think again.

"Thanks" I said. It came out different, though. It felt right and wrong at the same time.

"What ?"

It took an instant to realize what had happened. The Old Tongue. Blurs of memories surged in my head at these words, books and texts and conversations. I focused on the present, instead.

"Thanks." I said again, this time focusing on the word.

"Why ?"

"For bringing me here, under the Tree of Life." The word flowed easily. "It helped."

"What happened ?"

"I got what I wanted." I realized then that I could feel the source, distant but present. I resisted the curiosity of reaching for it. "I didn't expect the pain that came with it. All those memories, in my head." They were still flashing, but it was manageable, now. "I just could think for while."

"And what you said ? That was ?"

"The Old Tongue." I answered. "I have to focus sometimes not to speak it. It's part of what I got from them." I pointed at the doorframe.

I noticed then that Ghinla wasn't present. "Where did he" There was no need to tell him who I was talking about. "go ?"

"He left, on the second day. I made swear not to tell a soul about us."

"How ?"

"That peace thing you did ? I told him I'd tell everyone how he'd broken it. He had, right."

I only nodded. Then, something clicked. "Second day ?"

"It's been five days since you went in."

Ouch. Two days getting to the Portal Stone, five days using it, and five days in the door. The parade was probably over, by now. I'd have to get Logain out of the Tower then... Ouch. We would have to go, quick... But first, there was something I had to do.

"Your turn." I remove my schoolbag for my back. It would probably do.

"What ?" He didn't understand what I was talking about.

"Have you ever wished you had something, even if it was impossible. Wished the world was different ?" He nodded. "Then this is the time. You can go through this door and wish for anything you want .

"What should I wish for ?" I didn't like hearing that. I wasn't going to order him to wish for anything. It was his privilege, and a reward for his loyalty.

"Whatever you want. These wishes are your own. You could stop being a channeler, or be rich. Whatever you want." I grinned. "Inside the door..."

I explained to him everything I knew about the door. I made him leave the sword again, as he had picked it back, and made him toss his flint and torch. I told him about the bag, and how he might use it to pay the price.

It saw a weird sight, seeing Shevat vanishing inside the door, my bag on his back. I could only hope it would take him less time as it did for me.

Now, I had memories to sort.