Title: Asha’man Harris
Author: Knife Hand
Feedback: Constructive feedback appreciated, flames unappreciated
Spoilers: Fifth Series of Buffy, Wheel of Time in general
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy or Wheel of Time. I would buy them but I am broke.
Summary: Xander is missing after the battle with Glory and returns several years later a changed man (Wheel of Time events)
AN: This chapter is a rewrite of the second chapter of the story because, when I looked at it again I did not like where it was going. The first version was written when I had only gotten up to book 9, I have now finished all 14 books. The events are still divergent because I want Tarmon Gai’don to be different to what was in the books, even though the books were awesome.
Logain and his senior and most trusted Asha’man stood around what he liked to call the conference table, but was actually an old dinner table, in the old farmhouse that had been the beginnings of the Black Tower. The table held nothing but a map and wine goblets. Work had been once been progressing at a pace in the construction of a black stone tower that had been planned to one day rival the White Tower, but construction had halted with Taim’s betrayal and the subsequent massive invasion in the north. Only the first five levels had been constructed, with the top one incomplete, and they were all barracks to house the Asha’man, Dedicated and Soldiers, not that there were many Asha’man left at the Black Tower, most of them being deployed in the north.
Xander, as one on Logain’s favoured, stood next to Logain staring at the map, along with the other senior Asha’man. The map painted a bleak picture. Maradon, Chachin, Shol Arbela, Fal Moran, the four capital cities of the Borderlands were all now in the Shadow’s hands, occupied by Trollocs and Myrddraal. The shattered remnants of the Borderland armies had retreated south, taking up defensive positions on the southern side of the River Erinin in the East, between the Spine of the World and the Black Hills, and the River Arinelle in the centre from the Black Hills to the Mountains of Mist. None of the Borderland Armies had retreated to the West, as the lands between the Mountains of Mist and the Aryth Ocean were now controlled by the Seanchan who had conquered the entire west coast of the continent.
Armies from Cairhien and Tear had been sent to reinforce the Erinin defences while the Illian and most of the Andorian armies had been sent to reinforce the Arinelle line. Elements of The Legion of the Dragon, the Asha’man and the Aiel loyal to the Dragon Reborn had been spread out along the defence line, with a force of Aiel in charge of ensuring the Black Hills themselves were not breached.
There was also a large force stationed at Tar Valon, made up mostly of The Tower Guard, the famous Younglings, made up of young men who had gone to the White Tower to train as Warders but had ended up fighting in the first bloody days of the now resolved Aes Sedai civil war. As for the Aes Sedai themselves, there were a number of Green and Yellow Ajah along the defensive lines but most were part of the reserve force in Tar Valon.
“This is a strategic nightmare.” Xander said as he perused the map. “Our defences are spread too thin, but we can’t commit any of the reserves in case the gate an army in somewhere and we have to respond.”
“We need a rapid response team.” Damer Flinn, and older Asha’man who was once in the Queens Guards. “The Aes Sedai have their own agenda and I don’t think we want to rely entirely on them for any Gateway incursions.”
“The Lord Dragon and Queen Elayne happen to agree.” Logain responded. “One will be set up in Cairhien to cover the eastern areas, using the Band of the Red Hand, some Cairhienen units and some of the Legion under the command of General Cauthon. We will be transferring three Asha’man, two Dedicated and six Soldiers there tomorrow.”
This got a round of nods from the men around the table. The Band were a lucky outfit, mostly because of their commander General Cauthon, and the Legion was always dependable.
“Where’s the other one to be based?” someone asked.
“Caemlyn.” Logain replied. “Queen Elayne insisted. It will be a mix of Queens Guards, some of the Legion, a small contingent of Two Rivers Bowmen, some of Lord Bashere’s Saldaeans and a bunch of barely trained volunteers. I know, I know, but we are short on manpower. Also the Queen has insisted that the training and disposition of this force, when not directly responding to an emergency, be co-ordinated with her Warder, the Captain-General of the Queens Guards. With all the demands being made by the Queen, the Lord Dragon insisted that the leader of the Caemlyn response team be an Asha’man.”
“Bet that went over well.” Flinn said. “She kick him out again?”
“No comment.” Logain replied.
“She kicked him out.” Xander said. “Of course he still has the other two.”
That caused a chuckle around the table, and one of the Asha’man to choke on his wine.
“So, who have you decided will be this sucker… I mean team leader.” Androl Genhald asked.
“Not you, Androl. Impressive as your Gateways are, we need someone with a bit more strength in charge of this.” Logain responded with a smile. “No, the one selected to lead the response team is…. Xander.”
“Bugger!” Xander replied instinctively, then his brain caught up. “I mean, it will be an honour.”
There was dead silence for a few seconds, then Logain and the other Asha’man uttered in unison a phrase they had learnt from Xander.
Birgitte was cursing Elayne’s name as she walked along the palace corridor. First the girl had made her Captain-General of the Queens Guards, despite knowing that she hated being in command, and now the girl goes and makes her liaison to a bloody Asha’man lead rapid response team. The response teams were a good idea and it had taken weeks of Birgitte telling Elayne that they needed something of the sort to get the thick headed girl to listen.
She turned the corner and entered the small courtyard where this Asha’man was waiting. As she entered he had his back to her, looking at the flowing water of the fountain in front of him. Her first thought was that she could have put an arrow in his back before he even knew she was there.
“I thought you were here to liaise, not to put an arrow in my back.” The man said, his voice playful as he turned to face her. “And no, I am not a mind reader. I heard you plant your feet for a bow shot.”
When Birgitte got a look at the man’s face she had an instant of almost recognition, like a shadow of a memory of a dream. Moonlight, stones, grass and the flash of something sharp. It flickered, there and then gone. Something similar had happened to her in the past. Walking along and recognising a face or a smell then realising it was from a life hundreds of years ago. But this feeling was different, more ancient. From a lifetime long lost to even her memories.
“Asha’man Harris?” she asked, getting a nod in return. “I am Captain-General Birgitte Trahelion. Please follow me.”
“Xander.” The Asha’man said.
“Excuse me?” Birgitte replied.
“My name is Xander.” He replied with a goofy grin. “Since apparently we are going to be working closely, I figured you’d want to know my name. Or are you one of those formal, starch in your panties types?”
Birgitte could not stop herself from laughing. In truth, from the few Asha’man she had met, she was expecting him to be aloof and condescending, and here he was semi accusing her of being the same.
Through her bond, Birgitte could feel Elayne get confused and concerned at her mirth. Not surprising, really, seeing as Her Majesty knew she was supposed to be meeting with an Asha’man and the last time she had found something this amusing had involved Mat Cauthon, two geese and some yellow paint.
“I think we are going to get along just fine.” She replied with a smile. “Come on, I’ll show you your troops.”
As she led him through the palace corridors he displayed quite a sense of humour when they were alone while maintaining the stoic mask that Asha’man showed the rest of the world when there were servants or others around. Twice he managed to shoot off one liners that almost had Birgitte breaking out laughing mere seconds before coming across a Noble delegation, forcing her to hold in her laughter or risk embarrassing Elayne by association.
When they emerged onto the mustering field near the rear of the palace both wore their professional masks. The mustering field was one of the smallest in the palace and it was not exactly overflowing. There were two squads of twenty Queens Guard heavy cavalry lined up neatly in the centre of the field. To their left were an equal number of Saldaean light cavalry. To the Queens Guard’s right were three squads of fifty Legion of the Dragon, in ranks of ten with the front two ranks holding large two-handed shields while the rear three ranks had crossbows. Off to the side in a huddle were the Two Rivers bowmen, standing much like farmers having a chat with their longbows held with a practiced ease and some kind of melee weapon at their waist balancing their full quivers.
Standing behind the professional soldiers were two hundred volunteers, all seeming to be male refugees and whose formation could only be called suitable if one was extremely drunk and had a turned eye. The volunteers did not have any kind of armour and their weapons were an eclectic mix of old, bad quality swords and axes alongside worn staffs and rusty knives.
Xander moved in front of the troops and looked them over, noting that the Two Rivers archers had spread out from their huddle to allow them all to hear him.
“Men, I am Asha’man Harris, and I have been selected to command you in a special role in the war effort.” Xander said to the troops. “We are to be on hand for quick response to any enemy activity that occurs unexpectedly on our side of the line. This role will mean we have to be ready to face the enemy in any situation wherever that may be. To this end, as of tomorrow morning, we will all begin a new training routine. I will see you all bright and early tomorrow morning. Dismissed.”
The Queens Guard, Saldaeans and the Legionaries all thumped their fists to their chest in salute. The Two Rivers men simply nodded while the rag-tag volunteers looked at each other nervously.
Xander walked back to Birgitte who was holding a message slip.
“Please tell me that is not deployment orders.” Xander said.
“No.” Birgitte replied as they headed inside. “Her Brattiness the Queen just sent a message regarding your office. Apparently we will be sharing to ‘facilitate the liaison process’.”
“Huh.” Xander replied. “So, is she just antsy because she kicked the Lord Dragon out, or what?”
Birgitte snorted with amusement as she led him the short distance to her office. The office was of reasonable size with a single writing desk covered with papers and a chair in the middle.
“Knowing the palace staff, you’ll have a desk and everything in here in the next three hours.” Birgitte said.
“Appreciated.” Xander replied. “What I am concerned about though is my command. The professionals and the Two Rivers guys look good, but those volunteers are next to useless. They will all have to be retrained from scratch and they need better weapons and some form of armour. And we need more personnel.”
“The Queen and the Lord Dragon are working on the weapons and armour but getting more men is going to be difficult.” Birgitte replied.
“Who said they had to be men?” Xander replied. “I’m sure there are a lot of women among the refuges or in the city who would want a chance to fight. The desire to protect is a natural female instinct.”
“I’ll run it by the Queen and see what I can do.” Birgitte replied.
“Ok. In the mean time, I want every map you have of the area between here and the Mountains of Mist. Towns, Cities, Villages, everything.”
Birgitte rummaged through the papers on her desk and passed him several maps of Caemlyn and eastern Andor.
“Start with those and I’ll get you some more.” She said.
Xander sat down on the floor with his back against the wall and began going through the maps.