Seated alone at the table by the fireplace, her hands toying in a nervous-seeming fashion with a now empty mug that once likely contained the cider she usually prefers, Angharad catches sight of you (and frowns just a touch) almost the moment that you step into the inn. She’s probably been glancing over at the door more than just now and then, but now she suddenly looks away, staring down into the empty mug instead.
Tugging off a pair of gloves as he steps into the common room, Valtrin’s eyes move first to the fireplace table and so he smiles at you. It’s a tentative smile however, the last . . . discussion still fresh in his mind, even a week after. He moves towards you, the fur-lined cloak he wears stirring behind him as he moves elegantly through the myriad pathways made by the other tables and patrons. He bows slightly and sits after removing the cloak and folding it over the back of his seat. “Cold out, for a Feast of Lights.”
Looking up only as you speak, it is even more tentatively that Angharad smiles in return, a distinctly worried frown lingering still. “Cold? Yes ... I suppose it would be for you.” A brief pause, and she gestures at the seat. “Please ... sit. I ... I guess you want something to drink?” she asks, then goes about waving a serving girl over, without waiting for a reply. “At least there wont be any half-naked Cairhienin running about in this weather. That is what they do, no?”
“In Cairhien? Yes,” Valtrin replies, inclining his head briefly to incline his wish for a drink yet launching quickly into talk. “Not so unpleasant a tradition, though the rabble take rather too much pleasure in the . . . license they have. Then again, Cairhienin noblewomen are utterly shameless.” A brief pause follows, and then he clears his throat to add, “During the Feast of Lights, in any case.” That addendum seems rather . . . inadequate to obscuring his true opinion of the Cairhienin ladies.
“Ah,” is all that Angharad says to that, making a faint (and curious) attempt at smile. Not her usual reaction, exactly. “I hope I didn’t tear you away from any celebrations of your own? Its not so late yet, but maybe?” she then asks, plainly hesitant and more than a little nervous. Before you can reply, however, the serving woman arrives, expectant glances going first to Angharad (until she asks for more cider, that is) and then to you.
“Wine,” Valtrin says to the woman, brusquely. His eyes remain on you as he says it, and as his hand motions to dismiss the woman. “No . . . no, not celebrating. I thank you for your concern. Ahh . . . I suppose the Tower has given the students liberty for the evening, perhaps? To take part in the celebration . . . ?”
“I ... I don’t know, actually. Well, we’re allowed to go out, but whether it is more than usual ...” Angharad shrugs, her hands nervously clenching and unclenching now that the mug is gone and they find themselves without anything at all to do. And then, rather abruptly, she says, “We need to talk. Do you mind?”
A lengthy pause, Valtrin’s dark eyes heavy upon you, searching . . . and then turning down as he nervously picks at the edge of the table, lifting up splinters and twisting them off . . . “No. No, I don’t mind . . . I was afraid that—That I had said too much, and that you didn’t . . .”
“Not ... too much, not precisely, “Angharad begins, nervously biting at her lips. “But enough for me to realize that I haven’t been as ... clear as I might have been about ... about things.” Awkward silence follows then, uneasy glances moving skittishly back and forth between you and the wooden surface of the table. It is fortunate, perhaps, that your wine and her cider arrives then, giving her a little more respite before she feels forced to go on.
“I can’t—and I don’t want to—allow you to turn things upside down for me again.”
” . . . What?”
Disbelief is mixed with anxiety and a hint—but only a hint—of anger at those words. Valtrin ignores the wine entirely, eyes resting firmly on you, waiting. And then he adds, “Upside down? What have I ever done . . . I’ve never done that to you, surely? Is ... is love so bad?”
What follows could best be described as shocked silence, and Angharad’s expression matches it well, her face paler even than her hair. And then one of those half-choked little gasps again. “Yes ... yes, it is,” she replies, almost hotly, and almost forgetting to keep her voice down at first. More silence then, as she just stares at you, the look in her eyes almost ... frantic.
“Light, Valtrin,” she manages after a little while, voice not entirely stead now, “don’t you see it? You ... you always leave, or go to someone else, sooner or later, and then you expect me to take you back, thinking it did nothing to me at all. I can’t keep on doing that. Either ... either we don’t speak again, or we agree on how it should be.”
Valtrin remembers the wine glass then, and takes a deep draught of it after a long hesitation. A few heartbeats follow in silence, and then . . . “How should it be? Do I have to cut out my heart and lay it at your feet, then?” Bitter, those words, but . . . but he almost seems ready to do such a thing, if that’s what it might take.
“Maybe if you had done that long ago I would have known you did care.” The reply is almost as bitter as the question, and with an edge of anger too. But then she sighs, and reaches for her mug to drink deeply from it, hands cradling it almost too tightly and lingering even as she sets it down on the table again. “Will you listen to me, please? I ... I don’t think I can continue the way it has been for the last—Light, is it five years, or more now?” Again Angharad sighs, and it is wearily that she goes on. “Since ... since we last spoke, I’ve been thinking a lot about things.”
A lengthy pause . . . and then Valtrin drains his glass with a second series of swallows, setting it back down before him. His face has paled too, save his cheeks are still a little red—from the cold outside, from the heat of the drink, and the drink he had drank before, and perhaps anger to. “Go on, then.”
She nods, both once and twice, but it takes a while before she finds her tongue again. “If ... if I do stay on to become an Aes Sedai, I ... I would not mind it if you would want to be my—I mean, officially too—my Warder. If you want to, that is.” Voice kept carefully low now, she glances about herself uneasily, and takes her time before continuing. “You’d ... you’d be able to do whatever you please still, as long as ... well, as long as you’re somewhat discreet. I ... I can always mute the bond, but the Tower frowns upon a Warder who doesn’t at least seem to be entirely dedicated to his Aes Sedai.”
“That’s . . . that’s it?” Valtrin seems reasonably incredulous at that, brow furrowing. “There must be som—,” he starts, questioning, looking for some trap . . . and finding it, or something near enough. “Discreet? Whatever I please? Then . . . then there’s some limit to this, isn’t there? Is this some perverse joke of yours, to finish up with ‘Lets just be friends?’” He starts reddening again, but with more than anger this time—for outrage has become a real part of it.
Your anger silences her at first, and she comes within inches of backing away—as much as one can while seated that is. But then, not unsurprisingly, that kindles a spark of temper in return. “Light! What do you expect from me? Sooner or later you _would_ go to someone else, you have shown that time after time,” Angharad hotly responds, showing the mug aside before cracking it in her hands. “And I can’t live like that, never knowing when you’ll tire of me for a time again.”
“It’s ... it’s not tiring,” Valtrin responds, voice a harsh whisper as he leans over the table towards you. “It’s ... It’s too much. That’s all. It’s too much sometimes—I ... I can’t explain it.” That sounds almost like an appeal—but then he draws himself up. “I don’t .. I don’t think this is a good idea. How much more do you want it to hurt?”
Having expected a different kind of reply, she’s silenced once more, eyes closing briefly. And then she sighs again, shaking her head. “Not at all, Valtrin. Not at all. For either of us. But I don’t know how that could be done.” Quiet again, she stares down at her fingers, a good long while passing. “I ... I thought this could work, could solve something at least. If ... if I stay, that is. If I don’t ... it is more difficult, in a way at least.” Looking up again, she fixes her eyes on you, adding, “If I end up leaving I am not sure exactly what I will be doing with myself. There’s my horses, of course. And .... home. But there’s my children as well, and I don’t think I could live with neglecting them. They would have to be a part of my life.”
Cold. Not from some open door, but from Valtrin, as everything simply . . . stops, and his face forms itself into an icy, beautiful mask. “It’s time I go,” he says, freezingly, voice so soft you must strain to hear it. And then he’s up, gathering his cloak, pulling his gloves from his belt, and beginning to turn and make his way from the inn.
Perhaps she had thought you’d do just that, because there’s no surprise on her face as you rise from the table, just a weary look. But even so, just before you turn fully, she says, “Valtrin? Please ... please give it some thought. If you think of something else ... I’ll be willing to listen.” Another sigh, and then she adds, almost too quietly for even you to hear, “Perhaps ... perhaps we could give it some time like ... like that? I couldn’t promise anything, but perhaps I’d change my mind?”