The vial of ointment was produced again. She spread it thinly across the scrapes, all of her attention apparently on rubbing it in without hurting him. A coolness spread through his hands, as if she were rubbing the torn places away.
“Most of the time they do exactly what she says,” Gawyn went on with an affectionate grin at the top of her head. “Most people. Not Mother, of course. Or Elaida. And not Lini. Lini was her nurse. You can't give orders to someone who switched you for stealing figs when you were little. And even not so little.” Elayne raised her head long enough to give him a dangerous look. He cleared his throat and carefully blanked his expression before hurrying on. “And Gareth, of course. No one gives orders to Gareth.”
“Not even Mother,” Elayne said, bending her head back over Rand's hands. “She makes suggestions, and he always does what she suggests, but I've never heard her give him a command.” She shook her head.
“I don't know why that always surprises you,” Gawyn answered her. “Even you don't try telling Gareth what to do. He's served three Queens and been CaptainGeneral, and First Prince Regent, for two. I daresay there are some think he's more a symbol of the Throne of Andor than the Queen is.”
“Mother should go ahead and marry him,” she said absently. Her attention was on Rand's hands. “She wants to; she can't hide it from me. And it would solve so many problems.”
Gawyn shook his head. “One of them must bend first. Mother cannot, and Gareth will not. ”
“If she commanded him ...”
“He would obey. I think. But she won't. You know she won't.”
Abruptly they turned to stare at Rand. He had the feeling they had forgotten he was there. “Who ... ?” He had to stop to wet his lips. “Who is your mother?”
Elayne's eyes widened in surprise, but Gawyn spoke in an ordinary tone that made his words all the more jarring. “Morgase, by the Grace of the Light, Queen of Andor, Protector of the Realm, Defender of the People, High Seat of the House Trakand.”
“The Queen,” Rand muttered, shock spreading through him in waves of numbness. For a minute he thought his head was going to begin spinning again. Don't attract any attention. Just fall into the Queen's garden and let the DaughterHeir tend your cuts like a hedgedoctor. He wanted to laugh, and knew it for the fringes of panic.
Drawing a deep breath, he scrambled hastily to his feet. He held himself tightly in rein against the urge to run, but the need to get away filled him, to get away before anyone else discovered him there.
Elayne and Gawyn watched him calmly, and when he leaped up they rose gracefully, not hurried in the least. He put up a hand to pull the scarf from his head, and Elayne seized his elbow. “Stop that. You will start the bleeding again.” Her voice was still calm, still sure that he would do as he was told.
“I have to go,” Rand said. "I'll just climb back over the wall and—“
“You really didn't know.” For the first time she seemed as startled as he was. “Do you mean you climbed up on that wall to see Logain without even knowing where you were? You could have gotten a much better view down in the streets.”
“I ... I don't like crowds,” he mumbled. He sketched a bow to each of them. “If you'll pardon me, ah ... my Lady.” In the stories, royal courts were full of people all calling one another Lord and Lady and Royal Highness and Majesty, but if he had ever heard the correct form of address for the DaughterHeir, he could not think clearly enough to remember. He could not think clearly about anything beyond the need to be far away. “If you will pardon me, I'll just leave now. Ah ... thank you for the ...” He touched the scarf around his head. “Thank you.”
“Without even telling us your name?” Gawyn said. “A poor payment for Elayne's care. I've been wondering about you. You sound like an Andorman, though not a Caemlyner, certainly, but you look like... Well, you know our names. Courtesy would suggest you give us yours.”
Looking longingly at the wall, Rand gave his right name before he thought what he was doing, and even added, “From Emond's Field, in the Two Rivers.”“From the west,” Gawyn murmured. “Very far to the west.”
Rand looked around at him sharply. There had been a note of surprise in the young man's voice, and Rand caught some of it still on his face when he turned. Gawyn replaced it with a pleasant smile so quickly, though, that he almost doubted what he had seen.
“Tabac and wool,” Gawyn said. “I have to know the principal products of every part of the Realm. Of every land, for that matter. Part of my training. Principal products and crafts, and what the people are like. Their customs, their strengths and weaknesses. It's said Two Rivers people are stubborn. They can be led, if they think you are worthy, but the harder you try to push them, the harder they dig in. Elayne ought to choose her husband from there. It'll take a man with a will like stone to keep from being trampled by her.”
Rand stared at him. Elayne was staring, too. Gawyn looked as much under control as ever, but he was babbling. Why?
All three of them jumped at the sudden voice, and spun to face it.
The young man who stood there was the handsomest man Rand had ever seen, almost too handsome for masculinity. He was tall and slender, but his movements spoke of whipcord strength and a sure confidence. Dark of hair and eye, he wore his clothes, only a little less elaborate in red and white than Gawyn's, as if they were of no importance. One hand rested on his sword hilt, and his eyes were steady on Rand.
“Stand away from him, Elayne,” the man said. “You, too, Gawyn.”
Elayne stepped in front of Rand, between him and the newcomer, head high and as confident as ever. “He is a loyal subject of our mother, and a good Queen's man. And he is under my protection, Galad.”
Rand tried to remember what he had heard from Master Kinch, and since from Master Gill. Galadedrid Damodred was Elayne's halfbrother, Elayne's and Gawyn's, if he remembered correctly; the three shared the same father. Master Kinch might not have liked Taringail Damodred too well — neither did anyone else that he had heard — but the son was well thought of by wearers of the red and the white alike, if talk in the city was any guide.
“I am aware of your fondness for strays, Elayne,” the slender man said reasonably, “but the fellow is armed, and he hardly looks reputable. In these days, we cannot be too careful. If he's a loyal Queen's man, what is he doing here where he does not belong? It is easy enough to change the wrappings on a sword, Elayne.”
“He is here as my guest, Galad, and I vouch for him. Or have you appointed yourself my nurse, to decide whom I may talk to, and when?”
Her voice was rich with scorn, but Galad seemed unmoved. “You know I make no claims for control over your actions, Elayne, but this ... guest of yours is not proper, and you know that as well as I. Gawyn, help me convince her. Our mother would — ”
“Enough!” Elayne snapped. “You are right that you have no say over my actions, nor have you any right to judge them. You may leave me. Now!”
Galad gave Gawyn a rueful look; at one and the same time it seemed to ask for help while saying that Elayne was too headstrong to be helped. Elayne's face darkened, but just as she opened her mouth again, he bowed, in all formality yet with the grace of a cat, took a step back, then turned and strode down the paved path, his long legs carrying him quickly out of sight beyond the arbor.
“I hate him,” Elayne breathed. “He is vile and full of envy.”
“There you go too far, Elayne,” Gawyn said. “Galad does not know the meaning of envy. Twice he has saved my life, with none to know if he held his hand. If he had not, he would be your First Prince of the Sword in my place.”
“Never, Gawyn. I would choose anyone before Galad. Anyone. The lowest stableboy.” Suddenly she smiled and gave her brother a mockstern look. “You say I am fond of giving orders. Well, I command you to let nothing happen to you. I command you to be my First Prince of the Sword when I take the throne — the Light send that day is far off! — and to lead the armies of Andor with the sort of honor Galad cannot dream of.”
“As you command, my Lady.” Gawyn laughed, his bow a parody of Galad's.
Elayne gave Rand a thoughtful frown. “Now we must get you out of here quickly. ”
“Galad always does the right thing,” Gawyn explained, “even when he should not. In this case, finding a stranger in the gardens, the right thing is to notify the Palace guards. Which I suspect he is on his way to do right this minute.”
“Then it's time I was back over the wall,” Rand said. A fine day for going unnoticed! I might as well carry a sign! He turned to the wall, but Elayne caught his arm.
“Not after the trouble I went to with your hands. You'll only make fresh scrapes and then let some backalley crone put the Light knows what on them. There is a small gate on the other side of the garden. It's overgrown, and no one but me even rememb