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View Full Version : Moiraine Does Some Stuff (post ToM)


jana
12-01-2010, 10:19 PM
Rand awoke with a start. It was still dark, and Min lay sleeping beside him in their tent. That had been Lanfear in his dream. She was alive. He was sure that it was not just a dream. Had she been resurrected like so many of the other Forsaken? Rand knew that he would not be able to fall asleep again. He got out of bed, careful not to disturb Min, and left the tent. Perhaps the cool air would help clear his mind.

Rand gazed out into the night. There were lights from campfires as far as the eye could see. Egwene had done exactly as he had hoped. It seemed as though every nation was represented here. Except for the Seanchan. Rand had not given up hope on them, but he did not know how he was supposed to bind them to serve him. He remembered something the Daughter of the Nine Moons had spoken to him about. They both shared something. A connection to Mat. Perhaps that—

Rand blinked as the rainbow of colors came into his vision again. He didn't make them vanish immediately this time. He needed Mat with him. Where was he? The vision showed Mat sleeping outside beside a dwindling fire. There was a white haired man with him. Was it Thom? Yes, a gleeman's cloak lay beside him. Only, it looked like there was someone under the cloak, using it as a blanket. Someone small. Rand could not see the person's face, and dispelled the image. It was impossible to figure out Mat's location in the dark. Burn him. Rand hoped Mat would reach him soon. The three ta'veren needed to be together, especially today.

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Mat stepped through Grady's gateway, as he'd done once previously that day. Moiraine had insisted on getting clothing in Whitebridge before heading to Rand. Mat couldn't blame her. He had learned from Elayne that there were going to be a lot of important people at this meeting Rand had set up. She might have drawn a few stares showing up wearing Thom's cloak.

They were on a hill overlooking the Field of Merrilor now. The valley was filled with what looked to be hundreds of thousands of tents. He heard Moiraine exhale deeply beside him. He gave her a sidelong glance. Her jaw was knitted determinedly. She had managed to convince him that he could take the time to come here first before going to Caemlyn. Somehow she always managed to get him to do what she wanted him to do, and she had not lost her touch. It was even harder to resist now, because he couldn't avoid thinking of what she'd been through. Several times in the night and in the morning she had casually mentioned that Rand needed Mat to be with him and that the consequences of his absence might be dire. Sometimes she said it to Thom, but Mat was always within earshot. Other times she gazed at Mat unblinkingly after mentioning it. He had finally given in a couple hours before Grady arrived, just to change the subject. She became signficantly more relaxed after he agreed to go. He supposed she was right. An hour or so with Rand would not hurt anything.

Moiraine set out immediately toward the tents. She appeared to glide, even though the footing was uneven—Mat had to use his ashandarei to catch his balance on several occasions. He wondered how the seamstress had managed to make a suitable dress for her on such short notice. Perhaps Moiraine had used the One Power to help her. Her dress was of a deep blue silk, and she'd even found a necklace of sapphires. Even more surprising was that she had purchased a piece of red cloth for Mat to wrap around his head and cover his wound. He had not stopped to consider how frightening the wound might look to other people. Mat had considered asking Moiraine where she had found the gold for the material and the necklace. He and Thom hadn't thought to bring any with them for after they got out of the tower.

Grady was catching them up on the details of the meeting as they walked. It was supposed to begin at any moment.

"Pardon me, Moiraine Sedai," Grady said, grimacingly slightly, as if worried how she would take his next words. Light, the man had spent less than an hour in her presence, and he already found it natural to defer to her. "But I'm not sure they're going to allow you into the pavilion. The guards were given strict instructions on who to allow in, by both the Lord Dragon and the Amyrlin. I wasn't even allowed within two hundred yards when they were setting it up, and that was yesterday."

Moiraine nodded, her face calm. "We will have to cross that path when we get to it."

"Perhaps if I talk to them I can convince them," suggested Grady, though he seemed doubtful.

Moiraine waved a hand dismissively. "I am not worried. I will see Rand when I see him." It was all Mat could do not to laugh. He would eat his hat if anyone stopped Moiraine from attending this meeting.

She must have heard him coughing, because she looked over her shoulder at him and gave him a questioning look. "It's nothing, Moiraine." Mat waved his hands in front of him and shook his head, though he couldn't keep the smile off his face. She turned around, seemingly satisfied with his answer. Thom walked beside Mat, knuckling his mustaches and trying to hide a smile. Mat was sure Thom was as amused at the idea as he was.

"Do you know what Rand is planning here, Grady?" Moiraine asked.

"He told the Amyrlin that he intends to break the seals," Grady said.

Mat blinked in surprise. Moiraine was nodding slowly in reply. Mat wished he could see her face so he could discern more of her thoughts on the matter. He did not know how he felt about it, himself. He didn't know how sane Rand was, and the idea did sound crazy. Then again, if Rand didn't know how to defeat the Dark One, who did?

They were among the tents now, walking through Perrin's camp. Perrin's wolfhead banner was on display. Moiraine glanced at it curiously.

"I haven't even thought to ask what Perrin has been up to. I'm assuming that banner has something to do with him?" she said. Grady nodded.

"It seems I have a lot of catching up to do," Moiraine said. She sighed quietly, barely loud enough for Mat to hear. He had not considered how frustrating it must be for Moiraine to have events pass her by.

The closer they got to the pavilion, the thicker the crowd became. Everyone seemed to be craning for a better view. Mat could not understand that. There was nothing to see except a large tent in the distance. Mat tugged at the red cloth around his head. It was going to take some getting used to.

It was becoming slow-going, trying to weave through the crowd. They wouldn't have made any progress at all, were it not for Grady. Most people were well aware by now what a black coat meant and made way for him. Though Mat was not entirely sure that it was just Grady. Now that he thought about it, the four of them did make an odd-looking group. An Asha'man, an Aes Sedai, a gleeman in his patchwork cloak, and Mat, who was probably a funny sight now with the piece of cloth wrapped around his head. He was beginning to sense impatience from Moiraine. She didn't crane her neck—it wouldn't have done her much good anyway as she was a head shorter than most of the people in the crowd—but she did grip her skirts frequently.

They eventually reached the clearing that surrounded the pavilion. There were several soldiers on guard. Most of them were from the Tower, with the Flame of Tar Valon on their chests, but there were others. There were a few Aiel among them, but unfortunately Mat didn't recognize any of them. Getting inside might be difficult.

Mat nodded to Thom. They had agreed that the best chance of getting in would be if it was just Mat and Moiraine. They both ducked under the rope that cordoned off the crowd from the pavilion area. They hadn't gone twenty steps before they were ringed by three soldiers demanding to know their names.

"Mat Cauthon. And this is Moiraine Sedai," Mat indicated Moiraine. He thought he should do the talking, since Moiraine's name would not be on any list they might have.

"Wait here," said one of the soldiers. He trotted toward a table several yards away while the two remaining soldiers eyed them suspiciously. They both had hands hovering over the hilts of their swords. Mat tried to look innocent. Moiraine watched calmly. She somehow made it seem as though she waited because she wanted to, and the soldiers were of no consequence. Mat would never figure out how Aes Sedai did that.

The third soldier came back with a large stack of papers and started rifling through them. He stopped on one of the pages, and peered at Mat's face. Every so often he looked down at the paper and at Mat again.

"Well?" Mat said impatiently.

"There's a Mat Cauthon on here," the soldier hesitated. "But it doesn't say anything about an eye wound. I wouldn't think that sort of detail would be left out."

"It's new," Mat said. He couldn't keep a glare from forming. "I am Mat Cauthon, and if the Dragon Reborn hears you held me out of this, he will be none too pleased."

"Alright," the soldier said. "Alright. But she stays out here. I'm sorry, Aes Sedai, but it's an order." The man nodded toward Moiraine but did not meet her eyes.

"She's with me," Mat argued. "If you won't let her in, I'll need to speak with whoever is in command here."

The man glared, and looked like he was about to reply in anger, but he suddenly dashed off toward the pavilion, muttering to himself. Mat frowned, confused. The other two soldiers looked confused too. Perhaps it was a ta'veren effect?

"This is proving more... difficult than I expected," Moiraine said.

"We'll work it out," Mat said. "Besides, I bet half the tent is filled with Aes Sedai. The bloody meeting will probably last the night and through the next week. Tarmon Gaidin will be over before they decide whether to agree to Rand's plan." Too late, he realized who he was talking to.

Moiraine looked up and gave him a flat stare. Mat smiled at her. Moiraine shook her head.

"One of these days, Mat, your tongue is going to get you into trouble."

He was about to reply to her, but saw that the soldier was returning. Another man was walking beside him. This new soldier was stout, and older. Mat greeted him respectfully.

"You're Mat Cauthon?" he asked. Mat nodded. "You look the part, from what I've heard of you. And you insist on bringing this Aes Sedai with you?" Mat nodded again and looked at Moiraine. She pursed her lips at being called 'this Aes Sedai,' but said nothing.

"Alright, walk with me," he said. "But I'll have to double check before I let you enter," he warned. He strode off toward the tent. Moiraine and Mat followed at a short distance behind.

"I believe that's Gareth Bryne," she said quietly. "But I've never actually spoken to him before, so I can't be of much help."

"There will surely be an Aes Sedai inside who recognizes you," Mat replied. "Or you can bully your way in." He smiled at her.

Moiraine gave him another flat stare. "I don't think it would do much good. Look at all of the Aes Sedai on the outside," she gestured toward the crowd. Mat looked out. There hadn't been Aes Sedai from the direction they'd come from, but in the direction she pointed there were dozens. "If 'bullying' worked, they would be inside."

"But you're Moiraine," Mat frowned at her. He couldn't think of a better way to put it. She looked at him as if wondering whether he was trying to make a joke.

"Yes Mat. That's my name," she said dryly.

"Moiraine," he said slowly, trying to find the right words. "You killed two of the Forsaken. You 'died' saving the Dragon Reborn." He lifted his hat to scratch his forehead. "Light, I keep forgetting what you've missed. You should see the other Aes Sedai when they talk about you. They act as if the Light shined out of your every—"

"Wait here," Bryne said to them. They had reached the outside of the pavilion. "I'll have to double check with Siuan if it's alright for both of you to enter."

Moiraine's eyes widening slightly. She grabbed Bryne's arm, halting him. "Did you say Siuan?"

"Yes," Bryne said. "Siuan Sedai." He frowned, looking down at Moiraine's hand. "Shall I go and get her then?" Moiraine looked up at him. She seemed to have forgotten she was holding his arm.

"Yes, go ahead," Moiraine nodded absently, releasing him. Mat frowned, wondering what that had been about. Then realization slowly dawned on him. Moiraine had only found out about the Tower splitting shortly before she had fallen through the doorway. She couldn't have known that Siuan lived. Her reaction was still odd though. Mat wondered if Siuan had been more to Moiraine than just her Amyrlin.

A few moments passed, then—

"Let's make this quick, Mat," a familiar, exasperated voice said. Siuan Sanche emerged from the other side of the pavilion. "I don't want to miss anything. Bryne tells me I'm supposed to decide whether to approve this Aes Sedai you brought with you." Siuan half glanced in Moiraine's direction. "But if she's not on the list we're not supposed to allow her in. That's all there is to it."

"Siuan—," Mat tried to get a word in.

"Just come in by yourself now and I'll see if I can get you a seat up close. The bloody Dragon Reborn will be upset if he learns we tried to keep you out."

"Siuan," Moiraine said beside him. Siuan finally looked at her straight on, and gaped. She lifted a trembling hand to her mouth, and if Mat was not mistaken, her eyes appeared to be welling up with tears.

"How are you alive Moiraine?" Siuan asked.

"I could ask the same of you," Moiraine replied, smiling. She enfolded Siuan in a hug. Her eyes were welling up too. Light! Mat busied himself by adjusting his hat, and then his neck scarf, and then the cloth tied around his head. He was starting to understand why women had to do all of that skirt smoothing. After several long moments they unfolded.

Mat cleared his throat, loudly. Both Aes Sedai turned to stare at him. He nearly flinched.

"Shouldn't this wait until later?" he implored. "We should probably be inside with Rand."

Moiraine nodded. "Yes. We can talk later Siuan. And I'll have to ask you how you managed to lose twenty years."

Mat and Moiraine turned from Siuan and entered the pavilion together. There were several hundred chairs set out for people. Each chair was occupied, and there were even people standing in the aisles. He couldn't see much of what was going on in the center of the pavilion. Well, he would just have to remedy that. He started making his way up the aisle by elbowing people out of the way, and received not a few glares in return. But those glares slipped off of people's faces as soon as they saw the red cloth covering his eye. Mat looked back to make sure Moiraine was still with him. She was. Somehow she managed to look regal even while sidling up the crowded aisle with him.

Once they had passed the first few rows of people, Mat started to hear whispers. They followed him and Moiraine up the aisle and became louder the further they got. The whispers soon turned into words that Mat could understand.

"...look."

"...Moiraine."

"...it's Moiraine."

"...she's alive."

Mat looked into the crowd. Some of the people had stood up to get a better look at them. Most of the astonished faces belonged to Aes Sedai. A few had forgotten themselves enough to point. Mat turned to look at Moiraine again. She avoided looking at the crowd and stared straight forward.

"I see what you were saying earlier, Mat," she murmured.

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"I need Aes Sedai with me this time when I go to Shayol Ghul. I tried to do it alone last time, and it led to disaster. This time needs to be different. Will no Aes Sedai go with me?" Rand said, looking along the line of Aes Sedai faces on the dais. They were all implacable, save Nynaeve. Concern etched her face. This couldn't be easy for her.

"We can't let you break the seals, Rand," said Egwene. "There has to be a better way." Rand thought he heard whispers coming from the edge of the pavilion, but ignored them.

"It's the only way, Egwene," Rand said. "I am certain of it. They will break of their own accord regardless of what I do. It needs to be done on my time."

Egwene's face hardened slightly. "Do not force us to stop you."

Rand shook his head sadly. "I won't be stopped in this Egwene. I will break the seals. Even if I have no Aes Sedai with me."

"You'll have me," said Nynaeve from her seat on the dais. Several Aes Sedai gasped. Rand felt relief. She had told him she would go, but she had spent the last month in the the White Tower. Nynaeve got up from her chair, pointedly avoiding looking at Egwene, or any of the other Aes Sedai. She stepped down from the dais and came to stand beside him.

"Thank you," he said quietly. Nynaeve smiled.

"I said I would come with you," she said simply. Again Rand heard whispers and movement in the crowd behind him, this time louder. He looked back at the crowd. It looked like someone was trying to force their way through one of the crowded aisles, but he couldn't make out who it was. Egwene's voice made him turn back around.

"Nynaeve," Egwene said firmly. "Please think about this. His so-called plan is to let the Dark One free. How can you support him in this?"

"I trust him," Nynaeve said. Rand could see Egwene's jaw clench. Nynaeve added, "I'm sorry Mother, but I have to do this. I'll serve whatever penance you require after the Last Battle is over."

"You won't be able to serve a penance if he's wrong, Nynaeve," Egwene said.

"Then I suppose my penance will be pretty harsh," Nynaeve dryly. Egwene opened her mouth to respond, but Rand cut her off.

"Will any others join us?" He tried to make eye contact with every Aes Sedai in front of him. "Or will Nynaeve and I be going alone to Shayol Ghul?"

"You won't be alone," said a clear, musical voice from the crowd. Rand felt a jolt of pain. Whoever had spoken sounded remarkably like Moiraine. Rand no longer recited the list of women in his head, but it was still extremely difficult for him to be around Caraline, who was the mirror image of Moiraine. Was he now to have a sound-alike forced upon him as well? Sighing, Rand turned to look for the source of the voice—and felt like he'd been kicked in the stomach. No. Like his stomach had dropped to his feet.

It was Moiraine. It couldn't be Moiraine. Rand had seen her die. But it was her. He couldn't mistake those brown eyes or that bearing. It seemed as though the rest of the crowd blurred and faded away until he could only see her. Maybe I'm dreaming. Dark ringlets framed her face, and her lips were upturned in a slight smile as she looked at him. The only difference he could see was that she no longer wore the blue stone that hung from a chain on her forehead. He wasn't sure that he was not dreaming until he heard Nynaeve gasp beside him. She wasn't alone. There were so many gasps from the Aes Sedai on the dais that it sounded like a gale of wind had passed through the pavilion. Rand had no recollection of crossing the intervening space between himself and Moiraine. Nor of lifting her off of her feet and hugging her to his chest. Feeling foolish, he set her down. He expected her to raise her eyebrows and give him one of her cool stares but, surprisingly, she let out a delighted laugh. He had only heard her laugh twice before.

"The Light illumine you Rand," she said, smiling. "It seems you've done well."

"That hasn't always been the case," Rand admitted. "But things are well enough now. Moiraine, I don't know how you're here, or what you've been through, but I'm sorry. I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough to stop Lanfear," his voice shook, and he felt overwhelming guilt. Guilt that he'd been trying to hold back since Moiraine had gone.

Moiraine placed a slender hand on his arm, and looked up at him with her large brown eyes. "You have nothing to be sorry for Rand. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills." Rand couldn't help but smile at hearing that again. "It happened the way it was meant to happen. If I had to make the same choice again I would."

Rand found himself nodding. What she said didn't change the fact that he should have been able to kill Lanfear... but he thought he would be able to move past it now. Nynaeve stepped up beside him and patted his arm. She smiled at Moiraine. Of all the things Rand least expected to happen today, Moiraine reappearing out of nowhere and Nynaeve being happy to see her would have topped the list. He shook his head in wonder.

"When am I going to get my hug?" Mat's voice said. Rand blinked. His friend was standing not two feet away from him and he hadn't even noticed. Mat was grinning widely. Rand burst into laughter and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Sorry Mat. I was... distracted," he said. For some reason Mat had a piece of red cloth tied around his head that covered his eye. "What happened to you Mat?" he said, indicating the cloth.

Mat hesitated, looking at Moiraine. When she looked at Mat, a look close to tenderness passed across her face so quickly that Rand was sure he imagined it. Mat looked back at him. "That's a long story, Rand. What about your hand?"

"Also a long story," Rand nodded. He did not want to talk about his hand. Perhaps Mat did not want to talk about what had happened to him either.


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Egwene sat with outward calm, looking at the small gathering in front of the dais. Most of the crowd of onlookers were beginning to look confused and uncomfortable. Rand appeared to have forgotten that he'd been in the middle of a discussion. A small part of her wanted to go to Moiraine and embrace her as Rand had. They had begun to grow close before Moiraine had fallen through the doorway with Lanfear. She was the first Aes Sedai who had started to see Egwene as an equal.

Another part of her was hurt that Moiraine's first action upon returning was to side with Rand, without so much as talking to her about it. Perhaps if they discussed it, she could change her mind. More people were moving to where Moiraine and Rand were standing now. They were soon joined by Perrin, Faile, Siuan, and Bryne. Many of the Aes Sedai sitting with Egwene seemed to want to join them too so that they could speak with Moiraine. She was considered a legend to most of the Aes Sedai. She had found the Dragon Reborn and killed two of the Forsaken. Returning from the dead would only increase that status. But many of the whispers Egwene overheard were concerning the bracelet on Moiraine's wrist. Was it an angreal? And if so, where had she gotten it? Egwene had a feeling she would be reminded several times over the next few days that angreal belong to the White Tower and are not the property of individual Aes Sedai.

Egwene decided she had given Rand enough time. She needed his attention again, but perhaps they could postpone the meeting so she could have time to talk Moiraine out of supporting him in his decision to break the seals. Egwene nodded to her Keeper.

"Rand al'Thor," Silviana announced, rapping her staff on the floor. "The Amyrlin wishes to speak with you."

Rand looked up from his conversation, appearing surprised at being addressed. Perhaps he had forgotten where he was. He looked at her expectantly.

"I think we should postpone this discussion until tomorrow," Egwene said. "It is not a decision to make lightly."

He lips turned upward. Was her smirking at her? She very nearly sniffed. "I can live with that. Tomorrow morning then," he said, turning away from her.

Now that the meeting was officially over, the nobles started to file out of the pavilion, and the Aes Sedai began to descend from the dais to where Rand and Moiraine were standing. Egwene locked eyes with Moiraine for a moment, but her face was impassive. She wondered what Moiraine thought of her being Amyrlin. It had been Moiraine who had first told her she could channel. She could still hear her voice. You may go far. Perhaps even the Amyrlin Seat, one day, if you study hard and work hard. Had the circumstances been different, she and Moiraine would probably have a friendly conversation about what had transpired since that day. But it was not to be. Moiraine was currently on a path that led to her being in direct opposition to Egwene. She hoped that she could sway her.

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Moiraine felt a small stab of regret when Egwene glanced at her briefly. Rand was her priority, but she did not enjoy having to publicly defy Egwene with her first actions upon returning. There would likely be consequences, but she would deal with them as they came.

Seeing several sisters converging on her from all sides, Moiraine decided that now would be a good time to slip out of the pavilion and find Thom. She didn't relish answering their questions. They would inevitably lead to her angreal, or worse, to her time in the Tower of Ghenjei. That was a topic she wanted to avoid. If Thom was by her side she would have the luxury of deflecting the questions onto him. She had a feeling that she would always be haunted by memories of the Tower, to one degree or another. Talking about it would only bring those memories closer to the surface. She had discussed it with Mat and Thom because they deserved an explanation.

Moiraine turned to Rand. "I'll be back in a moment," she said quietly. She looked at his face. His features had changed a great deal since her captivity. He looked as though he had aged ten years. There were stress lines that hadn't been there before, and a new wisdom in his eyes. Moiraine wondered how he had lost his hand, but she wouldn't press him on it. If he wanted to tell her about it, he would.

"Where are you—," he cut off. "Alright. But try not to be gone too long or I'll think this has all been a dream." He smiled at her.

She returned his smile and headed toward the edge of the tent. She tried to avoid looking at the Aes Sedai. Surely they would not bar her path, but she walked with some haste so as not to put it to a test. She very much wanted to look behind her to see if they were following, but that would just not do.

Finding Thom was not difficult. She had bonded him that morning, so she knew the exact direction in which to head. Most of the crowd had dissipated, and she found him still standing behind the rope. He smiled when he saw her approaching, and she returned it warmly. She was glad to see him in his gleeman's cloak again. He looked a lot better in it than she had. Making sure they were not within earshot of anyone, she told him as much.

"I do not wish to argue with you, Moiraine Sedai," he said in mock seriousness. "But you are very much mistaken."

She smiled slowly, but his facial expression remained grave for so long that she couldn't help laughing.

"The meeting's been postponed until tomorrow," she said finally, "but I think Rand would enjoy seeing you." She looked back toward the pavilion. "Hopefully I won't have trouble getting back in," she said dryly.

He bowed. "It would be an honor to accompany you, Moiraine Sedai," he said, much too formally. There was no mockery in his voice, but she could feel amusement through the bond. She pursed her lips to stop a smile.

"I'm glad you find being my warder so amusing," she said coolly. The effect was ruined when her lips twitched slightly. She sighed. "You really must stop this. No one is going to heed anything I say if—"

"Don't worry," Thom interrupted. "While we're in public I'll make sure not to say anything that might amuse you, and I will stand in the way of anyone else who attempts to do so." She sighed again.

They started making their way to the pavilion, but they didn't go far before Moiraine halted. Three Aes Sedai were striding toward them. Moiraine had assumed propriety would stop them from stalking after her, but apparently not. Lelaine Akashi was the last Aes Sedai she wanted to speak with right now, save perhaps Cadsuane. Lelaine had been a Sitter of the Blue Ajah long before Moiraine was raised to the shawl. She had always been a formidable woman, but now... Moiraine was so weak in the Power that she would be expected to jump if any Aes Sedai commanded it. She had no intention of fulfilling those expectations, but she might need to be more wary in the future.

Lelaine strode up until she was within arm's reach of Moiraine. She was tall enough that Moiraine had to tilt her head back slightly to look at her in the eyes. That was likely why she had stood so close. It was not a good sign. Maigan and Saroiya flanked her, faces impassive.

Lelaine looked Thom up and down and said "You may leave us, gleeman." Obviously dismissing him from her mind, she turned her piercing eyes back on Moiraine. Thom waited for Moiraine's nod to head toward the tent. She could feel concern through the bond. He could obviously feel her wariness.

"Walk with me," Lelaine said. It was obvious she expected to be obeyed without question. Moiraine remained where she was. She had just had months of her life taken from her. She was not going to let Lelaine take up any more of her time than absolutely necessary. She had a good notion of where the conversation was going, and saw no reason to let it drag on.

"Say what you intend to say, Lelaine," she said evenly. "We both know that you're not here to go on a friendly stroll with me."

Lelaine's eyes widened slightly, and then her face broke into a smile. It was not at all friendly. It was a smile one might give to a child who is misbehaving. Saroiya and Maigan merely looked at Moiraine. Lelaine had probably brought them along to put her more off balance. Moiraine could not understand why Siuan had ever liked the woman.

"I thought this might happen, no matter that you can barely light a candle now," she said disdainfully. Moiraine thought she saw Maigain shift uncomfortably. Strength in the One Power was not something Aes Sedai talked about. Moiraine met Lelaine's gaze calmly, but the comment about her ability stung. "As soon as you made a scene back there, I knew that you would assume you could go on acting as arrogantly as you did while Siuan was Amyrlin. Ignoring rules that don't suit you. Ignoring summons from the Hall. You still haven't served the penance you were given nearly three years ago. And now..."

Without warning, Lelaine reached down and grabbed Moiraine's left wrist. The two Aes Sedai with her gasped as one. Moiraine refused to jerk her arm back. The woman held it in a vice-like grip and pushed Moiraine's sleeve up. Lelaine twisted the angreal around, examining it. Saroiya gave Lelaine a side-long glance, and Maigan's face paled. Moiraine had not expected anything like this, even from Lelaine. It was very close to physical assault.

"Now you skirt Tower law by keeping this a secret. It appears almost strong enough to be sa'angreal." Lelaine mused. She looked at Moiraine with that penetrating gaze again and shook her head. "I think the Hall will be most interested in questioning you about this. I wonder how long you've been hiding it," she spoke more to herself than to Moiraine. "It would explain how you managed to kill two of the Forsaken. The stories never quite added up for me. I can think of a few powerful sisters, including me of course, who could put this angreal to good—"

"What are you children playing? May I see?" Moiraine nearly started at the new voice. She recognized it. She had not heard it in over twenty years, but she would never forget it. Cadsuane Melaidhrin was standing to her right, looking from her to Lelaine. Cadsuane looked exactly as she had all those years ago. She still had those ornaments hanging from her grey bun, and a gaze that brooked no nonsense. Lelaine's hand jerked back as soon as she saw Cadsuane. Her mouth opened and closed. She appeared at a loss for words.

"Lelaine was just admiring my bracelet, Cadsuane," Moiraine said coldly, pushing her sleeve back down. "I think she wishes she had one like it." Lelaine's eyes narrowed dangerously.

"I see," Cadsuane said. "I think you've had plenty of time to look at it now, Lelaine. If you're lucky you may be able to find a craftsman at one of the camps who can make you a bracelet that looks similar." That was said in a pleasant voice, but it was obviously a dismissal.

Lelaine looked as if she wanted to speak, but instead she nodded sharply to Saroiya and Maigan, turned on a heel, and headed away from the pavilion. They followed quickly after her. Cadsuane watched them go in silence. Moiraine wondered what she wanted. She hoped Cadsuane had forgotten her promise. Moiraine was relieved to see Lelaine go, but with Cadsuane here, that relief might be a tenuous thing. The silence went on for several moments longer, until Moiraine started to wonder whether she had been meant to leave as well.

"Lelaine always was overly ambitious," Cadsuane said abruptly. "With a heavy dose of self-entitlement. A bad combination. Did she try to blackmail you?" Cadsuane looked at her with nearly black eyes.

"No," Moiraine replied, more calmly than she felt. "Veiled threats only." She touched the angreal absently, until she realized what she was doing.

Cadsuane shook her head, ornaments swaying. "If she wanted to set you down, she should have had the courage to do it when you were on equal footing." Perhaps it was because she was only a day out of the Tower of Ghenjei, but these casual mentions of Moiraine's strength in the One Power were painful.

"What do you think of Rand's plan to break the seals?" she asked in order to change the subject. She was very curious to hear Cadsuane's answer, though.

Cadsuane looked at her measuringly. Moiraine returned the look. "I haven't decided yet," Cadsuane said finally. "I sincerely hope your outburst wasn't a decision you made on the fly," she added.

Moiraine nearly smiled at her tone. "It was not," she said simply.

Cadsuane pursed her lips thoughtfully. She seemed to sense that Moiraine would say no more on the matter. That measuring look returned.

"Sometimes I wonder how differently things would have turned out if you hadn't escaped from under my nose in Canluum," Cadsuane said. The statement was startling, but Moiraine managed to keep her face smooth with some difficulty. So Cadsuane had remembered her promise. That was... unfortunate.

"I would probably be long dead," she said casually. "And Merean would likely still be alive." A small change in the bond took away her attention for a moment. Thom's location had moved suddenly. Apparently he had gone through a Gateway to a different part of the camp.

"What do you mean?" Cadsuane frowned. "When she disappeared I assumed she was killed by the Black Ajah."

"When I arrived in Chachin I discovered that she was killing every lucky boy she could find," Moiraine said. It was odd, talking about this now. She'd only ever spoken to Siuan about it before. "If I had not met Lan on the way there, I wouldn't have had his help in dealing with her. I may not have even made it that far. You intended for me to travel with her."

"So you killed her." Cadsuane said, shaking her head. "Phaw! I wasted a great deal of time trying to discover what had happened to her and Larelle. That was when I started having you and the Sanche girl watched." Moiraine couldn't keep her eyes from widening at the admission. "Don't look so shocked."

"I'm not shocked that you had me watched," she said smoothly. "Only that you're telling me about it."

Cadsuane snorted. "Much good it did, anyway. I never found out much of use until you arrived in Shienar with three young boys. I had a pretty good inkling of what was going on then." Why was Cadsuane talking so openly to her? Was she just in a confiding mood or was she trying to feel her out?

Moiraine noticed movement behind Cadsuane, who turned around to see what she was looking at. Nynaeve was striding purposefully toward them. She wore the red ki'sain on her forehead. Moiraine smiled to herself. She would have to thank Myrelle the next time she saw her. Nynaeve's hair was much shorter than it had been. Moiraine hadn't expected to ever see her without a long braid.

Nynaeve glanced sideways at Cadsuane. It wasn't quite a wary look she gave her. But she did have an air of trying to decide how she should act. She pointedly turned away from Cadsuane toward Moiraine.

Cadsuane sniffed. "Well, I have more important things to do than watch the pair of you fidget," she said brusquely. "I suppose I'll be seeing you tomorrow." With that she glided toward the tents. Nynaeve watched her go with a frown.

"You wish something, Nynaeve?" Moiraine asked.

Nynaeve turned around. "Rand sent me out here looking for you like I was his errand girl," she sighed. "He said that he was heading to his tent and he'd like you to join him there if possible." Moiraine nodded.

"Thom went with him," Nynaeve added.

"I know."

"He's your warder, then?" Nynaeve asked. "He entered the pavilion not long after you left it, so I wondered..."

"He is. Am I correct to assume you have a warder now as well?" she asked.

"Yes," Nynaeve said, smiling warmly. Moiraine smiled back just as warmly.

"I have to thank you Moiraine," Nynaeve said seriously. "He would be dead without you. Myrelle ran me ragged for weeks and weeks. She started as soon as I met her. It wasn't until much later that I realized why she had latched onto me so tightly. She was trying to prepare me for having Lan's bond. That was your doing, wasn't it?"

"Yes," Moiraine admitted. "I didn't know what kind of state he would be in after the bond transferred to her."

"I can't say I approved of her methods," Nynaeve said, grimacing. "But I suppose it was the thought that counts."

"Where is Lan now?" Moiraine asked. "I didn't see him inside."

"He's at Tarwin's Gap," Nynaeve said soberly.

"Tell me he didn't go alone," she said, placing a hand on Nynaeve's arm. Lan had always wanted to go off by himself to fight the Shadow. She hadn't gone through the trouble of transferring the bond so he could fulfill his suicidal mission.

"No," Nynaeve said. "I made sure of that. But he would have if I'd left it up to him, the fool man," she muttered. Moiraine dropped her hand.

"Is Rand doing anything to help him?" she asked.

"He assures me he's going to send help, but I'm worried it will be too late," Nynaeve said. "If he doesn't send help in the next day or two I'm going to have to go there myself."

"He must have a good reason for waiting," Moiraine said.

"I don't know, Moiraine. Maybe he wanted to wait until he spoke with Egwene at this meeting, but now that's been put off until tomorrow morning." Nynaeve said. "Speaking of Egwene... I don't think she's very happy with us."

Moiraine smiled ruefully. "You are probably right. Hopefully we can temper her anger."

"We should head to Rand now," Nynaeve said. "He's probably starting to worry that he only imagined seeing you."

Nynaeve wove a Gateway, and they stepped through together. Moiraine could sense that Thom was closer now.

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Min sat in Rand's spacious tent, cross-legged on a well-cushioned chair. Thom sat in an armchair next to her, puffing contentedly on his long-stemmed pipe. She had a book in her lap, but she wasn't getting much reading done. Having Rand, Mat, and Perrin in the same room was distracting. For one thing, the same vision kept appearing above their heads. Fireflies fighting against the darkness. The light was holding its own now that they were together.

For another, the three of them seemed to have reverted back to boyishness upon laying eyes on each other. The first thing Mat had done when they'd arrived in the camp was to send a messenger to hunt for a set of dice, as if that was the most important thing on his mind. He was bent over a set of blank ones now, using a dagger to carve his own pips. Perrin and Rand were sitting on the rug across from him. Perrin was rattling a dice cup while Rand sat smoking his pipe. It was so smokey in the room, Min could hardly see her hand in front of her face. She coughed loudly to show her irritation.

Rand looked up at her with an infuriatingly innocent expression on his face. She could feel amusement through the bond. She was about to give him a piece of her mind, when the smoke started to funnel together toward the tent flap. Rand continued to look at her with his eyebrows raised. The smoke left through the doorway until the air in the tent was completely clear. Min closed her mouth and pointedly looked down at her book again. The amusement from the bond increased.

"Alright Perrin. Roll," Mat said. He hadn't seemed to notice the smoke escaping. Or perhaps he was pretending he hadn't. He did give the tent entrance a surreptitious glance. Mat had never been comfortable around the One Power.

Perrin gave the cup one last shake and let the dice fly. Min looked up from her book again.

"Perfect," Mat said excitedly. "I need a roll of less than ten to win, but I've only put fives and sixes on the blank set of dice."

Perrin frowned. "What's the point of this if you can't win, Mat?"

"That is the point. I've always wanted to try this. An impossible roll. And who knows what will happen with all three of us in here." Thom chuckled from the chair next to Min.

Mat rattled the dice together and flung his hand out toward the rug. Nothing happened. He flung his hand out again, this time more vigorously. Again nothing happened. Mat held his hand up in front of his face and looked at it with a frown.

"What is it Mat?" Rand asked, confused expression on his face.

Mat slowly turned his hand around so everyone could see. The five dice were stuck to his hand. Thom guffawed immediately, nearly choking on his pipe, and everyone else soon joined in. The bewildered look on Mat's face was priceless.

"This isn't funny!" he said, spoiling it slightly by giving a short laugh. He began furiously waving his hand around, but the dice didn't budge. He started to tug on the dice individually, but by his pained expression, that wasn't working either.

"They—won't—bloody—come—off!" he said, grimacing in pain.

"Should I try channeling, Mat?" Rand asked. Mat gave him a flat stare, which Rand returned with a laugh.

"Mat," Perrin said, scratching his beard. "Try convincing yourself that you want a losing roll."

Mat pursed his lips thoughtfully. The dice slid out of his hand and fell to the carpet. All sixes.

"Good thinking, Perrin," Mat said. A smile slowly spread across his face. "Let's try it again."

Two tosses later had Min heading out of the tent in a hurry. The first one had been harmless enough. The dice lined up in one pillar, pointed end balancing on pointed end. No matter how hard anyone shoved against them, they refused to fall over until Mat again convinced himself that he was trying for a losing roll.

The next roll was a different story. Several things happened at once as Mat tried to toss the dice. One moment Mat was flinging his hand, and the next, Min found herself staring cross-eyed at a die floating an inch in front of her nose. Whether Rand had stopped it with channeling or it was a strange ta'veren effect, she didn't know. In the chair next to her, Thom sat slack-jawed with his hand hovering in the air where he'd been holding his pipe. Apparently another die had smacked into it, because the pipe was now sitting ten feet away with its smoldering contents spilled out in a direct line from Thom. He rose, muttering something about farmboys, and walked over to pick it up. Min didn't bother to look where the other dice had landed. She plucked the one in front of her face out of the air and hurled it at Mat. Unfortunately he put his arms up in time to block it. He had the nerve to give her a reproachful look.

Min stood up, placed her book on the chair, and walked over to where Rand was searching for one of the dice.

"I'm going for a walk," she said. "I think it's safer outside."

"Okay Min," Rand said. "Just don't try to give the Maidens the slip. They'll blame it on me." Min smiled at him. She had managed on one occasion to use her Wise One-like standing with the Aiel to convince them to let her walk alone in the Stone of Tear, and he would still not let it go. On her way out of the tent she managed to catch Mat saying "You'd think the die had actually hit her."

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Mat sat back down on the rug after giving up the search for the last two dice. While Rand was still searching, he took the opportunity to snatch up his cloak and examine it. He could not understand why Rand wore the filthy thing. It was a hideous shade of brown, there were tears everywhere and the edges were frayed.

"Rand," Mat called. Rand straightened from the corner he was searching and walked over to sit down beside Mat and Perrin. "Why do you wear this thing? Don't you have access to a seamstress?" Mat held the cloak between two fingers and handed it back to him. Rand took the cloak and set it on the rug beside him.

"It just feels right," Rand said, as if that were enough of an answer.

"Couldn't you at least have the holes stitched up?" Mat asked. "You look like a vagabond."

"I have to agree with Mat," Perrin said. "If I tried to wear something like that... well, let's just say Faile would have it burned as soon as I fell asleep for the first time."

Rand looked at the cloak now, as if he'd never inspected it closely. He fingered a rip in the sleeve. "I suppose I could have it patched up. I just hadn't thought about it yet. I've had a lot on my mind," he said dryly. "And I'm not sure you have room to talk Mat. You have to do something about that headband."

"Why?" Mat asked defensively, adjusting the cloth covering his eye socket and pulling the brim of his hat lower.

"The way you keep adjusting it, it can't be comfortable." Thom said from the chair. Mat had nearly forgotten he was there. He had apparently found more tabac to replace what had dropped on the floor, because smoke was curling up from his pipe again. "Have you thought of getting a patch like Uno has?"

Mat hadn't put any thought into it at all, but Thom was right. The piece of cloth was uncomfortable.

"Maybe you could put some stitching on the patch," Perrin suggested. "But not like Uno's patch. I never did get used to looking at that unblinking eye." Mat grimaced, remembering.

"What about a red hand?" Rand said.

"Or dice?" Thom added.

"A fox?"

"A horn?"

"A pair of ravens?"

"A badger?"

"A likeness of Tuon?" Thom said, smiling mischievously. Mat glared. Did the old man have to bring that up to everyone?

"A likeness of who?" Rand asked. "Who is Tuon?"

"She's the Empress of the Seanchan," Thom said cheerily.

"Why would Mat want a likeness of the Empress of Seanchan on his eyepatch?" Rand said, frowning.

"Because he's mar—" Thom started. Mat cut him off by grabbing Rand's cloak and hefting it at his head.

"—married to her," finished Perrin.

"Are you two bloody well done?" Mat demanded. "Let's get back to talking about my patch design."

"Isn't that what we're talking about now, Mat?" Thom said in a muffled voice. He was trying to extract himself from underneath the cloak.

"Hold on a minute," Rand said slowly. "What does the Empress look like? I met one of the Seanchan several weeks back. A dark, fierce little woman. But her title was—"

"That's her," Thom interrupted with a smile. "That's Tuon."

Rand frowned. "Mat, how under the Light did you end up married to the Seanchan Empress? She told me you kidnapped her but she didn't mention anything about you being her husband."

Thom piped up before he could answer. "Now that is a tale for a gleeman. The Prince of the Ravens and the Daughter of the Nine Moons," he intoned. "An unlikely pair, to be sure. That is what people said at first. But together they fought the odds and proved the naysayers wrong. In the beginning they were divided not only by the widest of oceans, but by custom stronger than law, and a lady's maid who could—"

"Enough Thom," Mat cut in sharply. Blood and bloody ashes, he needed to have a talk with the man. Nothing seemed to please him more than making light of Mat's situation. "You met her, Rand? When?" Mat asked. It wasn't fair that Rand had seen her more recently than Mat had. "What else did she say about me? Is she well?"

"As to that..." Rand hesitated. "Our meeting didn't exactly go well."

"Why?" Mat asked. "What happened? You didn't harm her did you?" Mat did not know what he'd do if anything had happened to her.

"No, nothing like that. I was trying to get the Seanchan to agree to peace until the Last Battle is over, but this woman, Tuon, was unbending. She seemed convinced that I should kneel to her." Rand frowned. "I'd almost be willing now, if she could agree to certain things. But I definitely wasn't in the right frame of mind when I talked to her. I wonder... what if we met with her again Mat? Could you convince her? Maybe if all three of us ta'veren were there it would work out."

Mat grimaced. "I don't know Rand. She can be... set in her ways." That was a huge understatement. He could hear Thom laughing softly from the chair.

"There has to be a reason you of all people ended up marrying the Empress of the Seanchan," Rand said thoughtfully. "It must be the will of the Pattern."

"Light Rand, you sound just like Moiraine now," Mat said. "I'll do what I can with Tuon, but I don't even know of a way to contact her right now."

"Alright. Perhaps I can send someone to Ebou Dar early tomorrow morning," Rand said. "In the meantime, we need to work on your eyepatch. There are a bunch of maps over on the table in the corner. I could sketch some designs on the back of one," he said, getting up.

"Since when can you draw, Rand?" Perrin asked.

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As Moiraine and Nynaeve made their way from the Travelling ground to Rand's tent, the younger woman tried to update Moiraine on everything she had missed. Unfortunately there was a lot of information to cover. It saddened her to hear of some of the things Rand had been forced to endure. Hearing what Elaida had done to him made her stomach turn. She should have done something about the vile woman years ago. Perhaps she and Siuan should have put poisonous snakes in her bed instead of mice. But that was over and done with now; Elaida had been captured or killed by the Seanchan. Nynaeve was about to tell Moiraine how some of the Forsaken had been dealt with, when they both noticed someone walking briskly toward them.

It was Min, with two Maidens following her. Min broke into a smile and ran the last several yards toward them. As soon as Moiraine ascertained Min's intent she tried to brace herself, but she was still nearly knocked over as the taller woman wrapped her in a crushing hug. Moiraine tried to hug back, but she could barely move her arms.

Min spoke to her shoulder. "Thank the Light you're alive. Rand and Thom told me, but I had to see for myself. He hasn't felt this happy in...well, ever." Min released Moiraine and stepped back.

"It's good to see you too, Min," Moiraine said, trying to get her breath back. Min had changed a lot since Moiraine had sent her to the White Tower. She still wore trousers, but they were silk instead of wool, and embroidered down the sides from waist to ankles. Her hair was also in ringlets now. "Did you say 'felt'? Are you and Rand bonded somehow?"

Min nodded. "So are Elayne and Aviendha." Moiraine smiled. A movement from Nynaeve caught her eye. The woman reached a hand up toward her head, then, apparently realizing she had nothing to tug on, dropped it. She obviously did not approve of Rand being bonded to three women.

"We should head off to Rand now." Min said. "He's been looking at the tentflap every few minutes to check for your arrival." They only managed to take two steps when something fell out of the sky and hit one of the Maidens squarely on top of the head. Moiraine embraced saidar and felt Nynaeve do the same, but the Maidens were just as quick. They both veiled in an instant and attempted to look in every direction at once.

Moiraine saw an object laying in the grass a few feet away and bent to pick it up. It was a die with imprecise pips carved into the sides. Min saw it in her hand and made a noise in her throat.

"Fool woolheads," she said. "That was Rand and Mat and Perrin's doing. When I left the tent there were two dice unaccounted for."

"I'd think they'd have their minds on more important things than dicing," Nynaeve muttered. With that she strode off in the direction of Rand's tent. It was not much further to walk and they arrived in a matter of minutes.

When they entered the tent, Thom and the three boys were bent over a table in one corner, having an animated discussion. Thom looked over his shoulder and smiled at Moiraine as she entered, but it went unnoticed by the other three. For some reason there was a thin trail of ashes on the floor.

"I just think this one represents him better overall," Perrin said. "He doesn't want to be frightening people constantly."

"But his survival is the priority," Rand said. He had a pen behind his ear. "Imagine if he's alone facing an opponent. Intimidation could be the difference between life and death and this one would definitely be better."

"Why doesn't he just use all of them?" Thom asked. "He could switch it whenever he wants."

"That's it Thom," Mat said emphatically. "Why should I be limited to one all of the time? That would be like wearing the same coat every day."

"That's settled then," Rand said. "I'll have someone make these as soon as I can."

"Remember to give them your cloak so they can make adjustments," Mat added.

"What is this about?" Nynaeve asked as she reached the table. Min said nothing, but had a long-suffering look on her face.

Mat appeared startled at first but quickly recovered. He hastily folded up a paper that had been laying on the table. "It's nothing Nynaeve. Just some planning. Men's business."

Nynaeve sniffed. "Men? Is that what you're calling yourselves these days?" She was eyeing the paper in Mat's hand.

Rand turned as soon as Moiraine walked up to the table and smiled at her. "Would you like to talk?" he asked quietly. "Maybe I can escape some of Nynaeve's ire."

"Of course," Moiraine said.

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Rand pulled his chair closer to Moiraine's so they could talk quietly. For a few moments Rand just sat taking in the sight of her, alive and well and sitting beside him. It was still hard to believe. She sat with one leg crossed over the other, slender arms on the armrests of her chair. There was more a warmth to her expression when she looked at him than he remembered there ever being before. Despite the warmth she still managed to make her chair look like a throne. He was fairly certain she did that without thought. Rand realized with a start that he was grinning like a dolt and quickly smoothed his features. Moiraine made no comment but he thought he could detect the barest of smiles on her lips. He was still half worried that if he turned around she would disappear again.

"Nynaeve has been telling me about some of your miracles, Rand," Moiraine said.

"Miracles?" Rand said, turning to look at Nynaeve. She was scowling from Mat to Perrin to Thom and back. Min was putting on a show of disapproval, but Rand could feel mirth through the bond. Nynaeve had somehow managed to take the paper with the drawings away from Mat, and was now pointing it at his face. "I think she may have exaggerated," he said, turning back to Moiraine.

Moiraine smiled. "I was not aware that the feat of cleansing the taint could be exaggerated," she said.

"I suppose that qualifies," Rand said. "But Nynaeve did most of the work there. Nynaeve and Cadsuane. I didn't even think to bring people to guard my back."

"I've also heard that you put too much blame on your shoulders," Moiraine continued. "If you are going to take responsibility for your mistakes, should you not also accept responsibility for your successes?"

Rand nearly laughed. "Light, Moiraine. I think that's what I missed the most. There aren't many who could say something like that and be taken seriously, but when you say it, it just sounds right." She arched an eyebrow at him. This past month he had done a lot better at not taking blame for things he couldn't prevent, but it still wasn't easy. He wished she had come back to him sooner.

"I'm not certain how to respond to that," she said dryly.

"Sorry," he said, feeling somewhat abashed that he'd said that out loud. Rand noticed for the first time that Moiraine was wearing a bracelet. It didn't look like the type of jewelry Moiraine would normally wear. He vaguely recalled seeing it somewhere before, but he couldn't place where.

"Have you always had that bracelet?" he asked, frowning. "I think I've seen it before but I can't remember where."

She opened her mouth, but hesitated a moment before replying. "I'd rather not talk about that just now Rand," she said gently. It seemed a peculiar thing to be circumspect about, but Rand nodded.

"What of my plan to break the seals?" Rand said. "What do you think of it?" He was eager to hear her opinion.

"If you say they must be broken then I trust that is the right choice," she said. "You've made it this far mostly on your own instinct. If it had been up to me, I would have had you attacking Illian from Tear, and I don't like to think what disasters that would have led to. You would have no Aiel with you, for one thing. It would have saved a lot of trouble if I had made that oath to you much earlier."

"No," Rand said firmly. "I'm sorry you ever felt the need to make it. I don't know if you're still beholden to it, but if so I abolish it now. I wasted so much time and energy trying to keep you at arm's length that I didn't realize you were just trying to help me." Rand smiled. "I admit it got annoying being told how foolish my plans were, but I should have been able to tolerate it and taken advice on other things."

"Let us just say we both made mistakes and leave it at that," Moiraine said.

Rand nodded. "Let's keep that between the two of us though," he said. "I think I like admitting I'm wrong almost as much as you do." Moiraine raised an eyebrow, but smiled.

"I have to ask," Rand said. "What happened to your kesiera? It's strange seeing you without it."

Again she hesitated before answering. Rand was beginning to wonder why she was being so secretive about her jewelry. For an instant he thought he saw a wince appear on her face, but it was gone so quickly he was sure it had never been there. "I lost it," she replied finally. She pressed a hand lightly to her forehead. "It does feel a bit strange not wearing it."

"You lost it?" Rand asked, incredulous. "I thought that thing was attached to you." Before Moiraine could reply, Nandera entered. All seven of the tent's current occupants looked toward her.

"An Aes Sedai is on her way here, Rand al'Thor. She will be here shortly," she said. "I do not know what she wants."

"Send her in when she arrives," Rand said.

Once Nandera left, Mat said "I suppose I better be off. It's getting kind of late. I need to see how many of the Band arrived with Elayne." Rand smiled inwardly. Mat likely just wanted to leave before the mysterious Aes Sedai arrived. Perrin left at the same time, mentioning something about Faile waiting for him.

Several minutes later, Egwene's Keeper of the Chronicles entered through the tentflap. She was tall and stocky with a dark bun, and wasted no time on formalities. "The Amyrlin requires your presence, Moiraine Sedai." She left the tent without a backward glance, clearly expecting to be followed.

Thom walked across the room to meet Moiraine. "Should I come with you?" he asked.

"No," Moiraine said. "You would just end up having to wait outside." He didn't look pleased, but nodded.

"I will come back here when I'm done," she said to Rand.

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Mat stepped from the Borderlander Travelling ground to Elayne's camp at the Field of Merrilor. It seemed a bit lazy using gateways to get everywhere within the same general area, but the camps were spread out enough that it might have taken him an hour to walk. He asked the first person he saw to point him in the direction of the Band's camp. He had left Rand's tent when he did so he could check in on the Band and try to find Pips before dark. Not because there had been another Aes Sedai about to join them. Definitely not.

He doubted they had brought his horse here with them. Talmanes expected him to return to Caemlyn. But it was better to make sure now than get to Caemlyn and find out that Pips was still north of Tar Valon. He intended on returning to the city as soon as tomorrow morning's meeting was over so he could see to the dragons.

As he made his way toward where he assumed he'd find the horses, Mat acknowledged several greetings and cheers from his men. It made the going somewhat slow, but it was worth it if it raised their spirits to see him. The red cloth tied around his head received quite a few stares, but none of the men questioned him about it. When he arrived at the picket lines he found what he had expected; Pips had not been brought here with the other horses.

That done, he headed toward the command tent. He needed to see if they had set up a place for him to sleep. His arrival at the pavilion hadn't exactly been quiet, so they probably had. Movement caught his eye as he walked. A man was galloping through the camp, heading toward the same tent as Mat. He didn't seem concerned with whether anyone got out of his way. When the man's head swivelled in Mat's direction, he saw that there was blood on the side of his face. It was Harnan. Mat recognized the hawk tattoo, even from this distance. Cursing, Mat set off at a run.

"Lord Mat!" Harnan half gasped as he dismounted. He looked exhausted. "Thank the Light!"

"Light, man! What's happened to you?" Mat looked at Harnan's chest in alarm. Blood stained the front of it. A lot of blood.

"It's not my blood. Most if it isn't," Harnan replied in a rush. "It doesn't matter. Caemlyn is under attack, Lord Mat. There are trollocs swarming all over the New City and Low Caemlyn. The whole place is ablaze." Mat felt the blood drain from his face as Harnan went on. "The few of us who were in the city when they started appearing are helping defend the Inner City, but they just keep coming. We don't know which direction they're coming from. There is no end to it."

"The dragons?" Mat heard himself saying. As soon as it came out of his mouth he hated himself. Olver was there. Thousands of people were probably already dead and more were dying, and all he could think about were the dragons. But if they fell into the wrong hands... that would mean countless more deaths.

If Harnan found the question callous, it didn't show on his face. "We haven't been able to reach them yet. We've tried, but every time there are more trollocs barring our path. Listen, we need to get some of these Aes Sedai up here to help us. If not to fight, at least to Travel the rest of the Band there."

Mat nodded. "Has Elayne been informed?"

"Yes, Lord Mat," Harnan said. "The Kin who brought me here should be with her now."

Mat nodded firmly and thought furiously. This might be the most dire situation they would face until the Dark One himself broke free. If Rand got his way that might be tomorrow, but Mat did not want to think what would happen if those dragons fell into the Shadow's hands. He came to a decision.

"Alright. I'll go talk to the Amyrlin," Mat said. "You go find Daerid. Tell him everything you told me. Tell him he's to be in charge of defending the Inner City until Talmanes reaches him." Light send Talmanes would be able to reach him. If the city was filled with Trollocs it might be impossible for him to make it to the center.

Harnan frowned. "Why Daerid?" Harnan asked, his voice rising. "Aren't you going to be with us, Lord Mat?"

"I will be," Mat told him firmly. "But I might be late."


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Egwene sat in her tent at the Field of Merrilor, looking through the papers in front of her. Perhaps it was more accurate to say that she was making the motions of looking through the papers. The meeting tomorrow morning was vitally important. The fate of the world likely rested on it. Moiraine would be on her way now. Egwene wasn't completely sure yet what she would say to her.

Things would be so much simpler if Moiraine had come to talk to her first. She'd likely spent the past few hours with Rand. The Light knew what type of hold he had on her now. She didn't think he caught people up on purpose, but he was strongly ta'veren. Most people could not withstand it. Moiraine was Moiraine though. If anyone could be around him for a long time and not be effected, it was her. The oath she had made so long ago to obey Rand had been a shock to Egwene, but Moiraine's explanation at the time had made sense. If Moiraine sided with Rand, it was likely her own choice, as difficult as it was for Egwene to admit. But that might make it easier for Egwene to sway her.

A knock came on the post, and she replied for the visitor to enter. Her Keeper entered, then stepped to the side. Moiraine glided in after her, all grace and serenity, even as she curtsied to Egwene and kissed her ring. The blue stone that normally hung from her forehead was conspicuously absent. When her eyes touched Egwene's stole briefly, her lips pressed together into the slightest of smiles. Egwene thought she detected a hint of pride, or perhaps confirmation, in that look.

"As you called me, Mother, so have I come," Moiraine said in a musical voice. Egwene looked at Silviana out of the corner of her eye. Her features were difficult to judge, but Egwene noticed an air of disapproval about her. Silviana's only major flaw was her lingering Red Ajah prejucides. Those included by default a dislike of men and Blue sisters, and Moiraine epitomized what they disliked about the latter. She considered letting Silviana stay to put Moiraine off guard, but decided against it.

"Will you leave us, Silviana?" Egwene said.

She pursed her lips but nodded. "Yes Mother." She took a moment on her way out to frown at the back of Moiraine's head. Egwene smiled inwardly. Usually the woman was unflappable.

"Have a seat," she said, after Silviana left.

"Yes, Mother," Moiraine replied, sitting down in one of the chairs before Egwene's desk and folding her hands in her lap. Egwene considered what to say next. Perhaps if she changed the tone of the conversation from the start.

"Call me Egwene," she said, smiling. The smile was sincere. She greatly admired Moiraine. Maybe if she turned the conversation into one between friends, Moiraine would be more likely to take her words to heart. She wasn't sure if she and Moiraine were that. Friends. Moiraine had often been cool and even cold to her, in the beginning. She treated everyone that way though. Egwene had certainly become closer to her during their time in the Waste, but then Moiraine had disappeared.

"As you say, Egwene," Moiraine nodded. She didn't say more. She likely suspected the reasons why Egwene had made the discussion informal. For the first time, Egwene noticed that Moiraine's strength in the One Power was reduced significantly. She was even weaker than Siuan now. Egwene was deeply curious to know why that was, but she couldn't ask.

Instead she said, "I'm glad you're alright, Moiraine. Rand was devastated when you went through the doorway, though he tried to hide it." She continued more coolly. "I wish that you had spoken to me before you made that pronouncement, though. Rand's plan needs careful consideration."

"It's unlikely any amount of talking would have changed my decision," Moiraine said calmly. "Though it wasn't my intention to cause such a stir."

Egwene blinked. The statement was incredibly blunt for Moiraine. She had basically just said that there was no point to their conversation. Egwene decided to be equally direct.

"Why Moiraine?" Egwene asked. She kept her face smooth, but she could hear a touch of incredulity in her own voice. "Why are you okay with him breaking the seals?"

"I trust Rand, Egwene," Moiraine said. Egwene opened her mouth to respond, but Moiraine raised a hand to halt her. A slight look of regret passed across her face, as if she was just realizing that she'd silenced the Amyrlin with a wave of her hand. Egwene might have taken issue, but she had been the one who'd made the conversation informal. Moiraine continued calmly. "Most of my time with Rand was spent telling him what he was doing wrong, telling him where he should go and what he should do. Every time he did the opposite of what I intended him to do, and every time it turned out that he was right. He's the Dragon Reborn. It took a long time, but I eventually realized that he probably knows better what needs to be done than any of us, and he has my full support."

"I know how terrifying it sounds, the idea of breaking the seals, but I am giving him the benefit of the doubt."

Everything Moiraine had said made sense. There wasn't any one particular part that Egwene could argue with. But the last thing she'd said... what if this final plan of Rand's was the one that went wrong? If it did go wrong, it meant the Dark One winning. Could she put enough faith in Rand to chance that? Trying to stop him might be just as bad. It would mean war between the people gathered here. The Dark One might very well win if it came to that. Before she could reply, she heard loud sounds of protest outside her tent.

Five people came crashing through the entrance at once. Egwene could barely make out who they were through the swirl of skirts. She and Moiraine stood up, both embracing saidar. One of the women was Silviana. The four women seemed to be holding onto Mat Cauthon for dear life. His hat was partially askew. He was practically snarling. Egwene sighed and let go of the source. Mat was lucky that none of these women had Warders. She glanced toward the door of her tent and noticed that there was a gathering forming outside.

"Mother," Silviana said breathlessly, "when we told him you were having an audience and you would see about him later, he just tried to barge right in here. We tried to stop him with the One Power, but," Silviana looked deeply disturbed, "nothing worked. All of our weaves just fell right off him."

Egwene frowned at Mat. There was nothing jocular about his demeanor or expression, and she didn't think it was only to do with being held by the Aes Sedai.

"I told you it was urgent," Mat said roughly. It was nearly a shout. He glared openly at Silviana with his remaining eye. That made Egwene wince. She wondered how he'd lost the other one. "Quit wasting my bloody time." It was definitely a shout this time. This was rude behavior, even for Mat. Something was seriously wrong. Moiraine looked concerned too. She seemed to sense the same thing.

"Let him go and leave us," Egwene said to the four Aes Sedai holding him. They gave her identical looks of shock.

"Are you sure Mother?" Silviana said, eyeing Mat suspiciously.

"Yes," Egwene replied impatiently, ushering them out.

As soon as they left she turned to Mat. "What is it?"

"One of my men just informed me that Caemlyn is overrun with trollocs," he said in a rush. "Elayne knows. I don't know what she's doing about it. I haven't talked to her." Egwene exchanged looks with Moiraine.

Mat continued. "You need to do something," he said firmly. "The Band needs help Travelling there. I don't know how effective Aes Sedai would be fighting in the middle of a city when the trollocs aren't all clumped together in a line, but at least do something. You could send some to the Caemlyn Travelling ground to Heal people."

Any other time, Egwene would have berated him for his tone, but the situation was dire. Caemlyn overrun. She couldn't wrap her head around it. Even more disturbing was the fact that the trollocs had attacked so far south. Were they in the other cities too?

"We will help Mat," Egwene said. She moved toward the tent entrance to send for some people so she could start organizing, but he halted her.

"There's one more thing," he said. "I need the Horn."

Egwene stared at him blankly. She hadn't thought of the Horn in ages. Last time she'd seen it, Verin was carrying it into the White Tower. Verin had said nothing of it in the book she'd given Egwene.

"Do either of you know where it is?" he said, looking from Moiraine to Egwene.

"Siuan would have had it hidden somewhere in the Tower. Probably the basement," Moiraine said.

"She would have told me where it was by now," Egwene said, frowning. Siuan certainly would have considered that important enough to share. "I think only Verin knew," she said slowly.

"Okay. Hurry and send for Verin then so she can tell me," Mat said impatiently.

"Verin's dead, Mat," Egwene said.

"Really?" Mat said. To her surprise, his shoulders sunk. "I liked her. As far as Aes Sedai go." Slowly, they all came to the same realization. The only person who knew where the Horn was had died, and the place it was probably left was the White Tower basement, and the Tower basement was a very large place to search.

Mat's head came up. His expression was grim. She had seldom seen this look on his face, but she knew what it meant. It almost looked menacing with one eye. She braced herself for the litany.

"So," he said. "Let me make sure I've got this straight. Feel free to chime in if I miss anything. The first part is hazy—because of the dagger. I'm assuming you both remember the dagger. But from what I've been told, we trudged across The Ways on a diet of bread and cheese, nearly had our souls sucked out before escaping, got attacked by giant worms and worse, and found the Horn. Then—and this part is mostly from my own memory—we chased Fain halfway across the bloody continent after he stole it. Actually, it wasn't halfway across the bloody continent. It was the entire way across the bloody continent. The only way it could have been further is if he'd taken it to Tanchico. Then, we finally get the Horn after confronting the bloody Seanchan. We bring it to the Tower where it is given to the Aes Sedai for safekeeping. It would have been a happy ending, but in their infinite wisdom, they decide to leave the knowledge of its' location with a single person. Did I get all of that right?"

Egwene sighed loudly when he finished.

"Mat," Moiraine said. She had humored the tirade calmly. "I think we could still find it quickly. I think you could find it the same way you found—" for some reason she cut off and glanced at Egwene. "You could find it by doing the same thing you did yesterday."

"We?" Mat said.

"You need a gateway there and back," Moiraine said. "I will remain if you want to ask one of the other Sisters, but I couldn't help noticing that you don't have much of a rapport with them."

Mat smiled, but said "I don't want you in danger. Thom would strangle me with his mustaches." Egwene frowned. Why would Thom be worried if Moiraine was in danger?

Moiraine raised an eyebrow at Mat. "Did I say I would go without him?"

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Mat, Thom, and Moiraine entered a large storeroom in the White Tower directly through a gateway. Egwene had told them they should check here first. The room was dark until Moiraine created a globe of light. It was filled floor to ceiling with boxes and chests, hundreds of them.

"You should start looking through the other rooms, Mat," Moiraine said. "Thom and I can search here."

Mat nodded. That was fine by him. He wanted nothing to do with wading through a bunch of objects of the One Power. He went to open the door, but it wouldn't budge. He looked toward Moiraine, who was already peering into one of the dust-covered boxes. "Could I get some help?" he asked.

She gave him a questioning look, then nodded at seeing him beside the door. "I had forgotten about the wards, entering this way." She glided over and placed her hand flat on the door, careless of the dust. Her eyes closed, and Mat felt the foxhead medallion cool slightly on his chest. He shifted uncomfortably. She stood there unmoving for so long that he started to wonder if she was alright. Finally her eyes snapped open, focusing on him before looking toward the door. Light, but she had eyes to rival Tuon's. "I believe that was the last..." she murmured, and sure enough the door groaned open when she tugged on the latch.

He headed out to the hallway and discovered another dilemma. None of the torches were lit. Sighing, he grabbed one from a bracket and re-entered the storeroom. Moiraine and Thom were peering into chests on either side of the room now.

"Yes?" Moiraine asked when she noticed him. He held the unlit torch up wordlessly. She gave him a small smile and lit it.

Thom laughed. "For someone who doesn't like to be around the One Power, you sure do seem to rely on it often." Mat left the room without replying.

Mat walked quickly down the hall, sticking his head through several doorways before deciding to pick randomly. The direction he was pointed in was back the way he had come from, to a room he had already checked. He entered it and looked again, just in case. It was completely bare. He stepped into the center and spun around, and still this was the room his luck indicated to him. How could this be it? There was nothing here but dust. Except... Mat held his torch out toward one of the corners of the room. There was a large square spot on the floor where the stones were perfectly clean.

Mat walked to the corner and knelt down, holding his torch close to the patch of clean floor. The torch bumped into something invisible and whatever it was burst suddenly into flame. He jumped back, cursing loudly.

It was a book! Hastily he took off his coat and threw it, patting it down over the book until the fire was extinguished. He lifted his coat and examined it. There were some singes, but most of the damage was on the lining and not visible on the outside. It would still be serviceable.

Mat looked down at the book. It was an enormous tome. Bigger than any he had ever seen. A foot deep and much wider. How anyone could possibly hope to ever read the whole thing, he couldn't guess. He prayed that he wouldn't need to read any of it to find the location of the Horn. Opening the cover, he frowned. The first page was blank. So were the second and third. He picked a page in the center of the book and flipped it open. He grinned widely and shook his head, thinking fondly of Verin.

He lifted the leather sack out of the book, knowing what was held inside it. The inner portion of the book had been hollowed out so it could fit inside. He peaked into the sack just to make sure, and indeed it was the Horn of Valere. Verin likely had never taken it out from the time they'd left Falme to the time she'd hidden it. He wondered if she had intended on giving it to him at some point or always knew that he would be able to find it.

Mat's thoughts were interrupted by a distant shout. He thought it was his name. If he had been much further away he wouldn't have heard it. He snatched up the leather sack and took off at a run.


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Thom pulled another box from the top shelf and opened it. It didn't have what he was looking for, so he put it back up. He doubted they would find it in this room, but Mat didn't really need their help in his search anyway. He glanced sideways down the row of shelves at Moiraine as he pulled another box down. Not for the first time he counted himself an extremely fortunate man. She was the strongest woman he had ever known. Strongest person, he amended. He had first seen it on the day when the Trollocs attacked the Two Rivers. She had impressed more on each day of the journey that followed until they'd been separated at Shadar Logoth.

Now she stood in good spirits a day after escaping a place where she'd been tortured for nearly a year. Determination and purpose were always the strongest emotions he felt from the bond, but there was contentment too. And love, especially when she looked at him. She turned her head toward him.

"I do not think it is in there, Thom," she said in amused tones, looking back at the shelves.

"What?" he asked.

"The Horn," she said. "You have been holding that same box for about five minutes now." He looked down at the box and laughed. So he had. He put it back up and grabbed the next one. He had no luck with that or any of the next few boxes.

The next time he looked at her, his eyes widened.

She looked up, feeling his alarm through the bond. "What is it?" she asked, concern on her face. Only one second had passed. Knives came into his hands in a heartbeat, and he threw one toward her. It missed her neck by an inch, to bury itself into the wrist of the woman standing next to her.

The sul'dam screamed and clutched her wrist above where Thom's knife now protruded. The silver collar that had been about to snap around Moiraine's neck clattered to the floor. Moiraine stepped back toward him fluidly. Thom heard a distant cry of "marath'damane." Several Seanchan were pouring out of a large gateway in the back of the room, no longer trying to stay silent. Thom was not sure how he hadn't noticed the gateway before the sul'dam had gotten so close. Or why Moiraine hadn't been shielded while they still had a chance at surprise. Perhaps the sul'dam had just been overeager. None of it mattered.

Thom shouted loudly for Mat. If Moiraine could remain unshielded long enough, maybe they could make a gateway out of the Tower. She had a look of concentration on her face. Even now he felt little fear from her. The flow of soldiers through the gateway stopped abruptly. They pressed against an invisible force. Thom wasted no time. He threw three knives, one after the other. One of them met the neck of a sul'dam who crumpled immediately. The damane she was linked to huddled over her and began howling.

Four damane had managed to make it through the gateway before the barrier had been placed. Thom's other two knives had been stopped in midair and fallen before reaching their targets. Twice more he tried, with the same result. Despite stopping his knives, the damane were all focused intently on Moiraine. Somehow, she was not shielded yet. The soldiers were circling around the edges of the room now, cutting them off from escaping through the doorway. They were keeping their hands free from their swords. All Thom could do was continue to try to find targets. For some reason the soldiers were looking at him instead of Moiraine.

"I cannot divide my flows much further," Moiraine whispered in frustration at his side. "Once they attack—"

As if in response, the soldiers unsheathed their swords at once and lunged toward him. Before he could react, they were all tossed backwards into the shelves lining the walls. Thom felt a terrible pain on his side and collapsed to the floor. It didn't make any sense. None of them had gotten close enough... He felt at the wound and touched the shaft of an arrow. From the stone floor he looked toward the gateway and discovered what had happened. On the other side a bowman stood, nocking another arrow. Moiraine had been forced to let the barrier down, and the bowman had been ready.

She shouted his name and fell to her knees beside him. Fear flooded the bond now. A soldier who had been dashed against the wall stepped up behind her. The hair at his forehead was blood-matted. Thom tried to speak but it came out as a gasp. Moiraine turned her head just as the man brought the hilt of his sword down. She toppled forward over Thom's chest. Hatred surged in him, and he let go of his side to fumble for one of his knives, but his hand was too slick with blood to grasp it.

He heard more footsteps coming from the gateway. Danger averted, soldiers and damane pairs started running through the doorway to scout the hallway. He recognized two of the newcomers. One of those who had run past was the der'sul'dam, Melitene. The other...

"Find places to set up the other gateways," Musenge ordered in a drawl, surveying the room. Moiraine had wounded several of the men. "The marath'damane we captured in the raid said that the basement would be empty, so hopefully we won't have any more incidents before we move up through the Tower. Hopefully they aren't already alerted to our presence."

"What should we do with this one, Captain Musenge?" the soldier who had hit Moiraine asked. "He killed one of the sul'dam."

Musenge looked down at him and frowned in recognition. "Bring him back through. We should start hauling all of these objects out too." Thom prayed to the Light that Mat would enter the room before they were brought to Ebou Dar. As darkness took him, he clutched Moiraine more closely to his chest, in what he knew was a foolish attempt to prevent them from taking her.

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As Mat ran down the hallway he heard a terrible crashing noise from the direction he was heading. He was becoming afraid of what he might find when he arrived there. Shortly after, he heard dozens of footfalls from the same direction. He slipped into the nearest room as quietly as possible. As much as he was in a hurry to find out what had happened, he thought it would be best if he discovered what he was up against before running headlong into the storeroom. He left the door open just wide enough to peer out of.

Mat cursed under his breath as the first soldiers in their overlapping plate armor and insect helmets marched by. He wondered where his luck had gone. His timing could not have been worse. The Seanchan, in the White Tower. What was Tuon thinking, attacking now when the Last Battle could start at any moment? He had to have a talk with her. He had to get warning to Egwene. He had to get to Caemlyn. He had to... Mat fought down the urge to swear out loud.

Moiraine and Thom first. If they had managed to capture her... Mat couldn't bear thinking about it. He had to think quickly. Unfortunately the door flew open before he had the chance.

It was gray-haired Melitene, Tuon's der'sul'dam. Perhaps Mat's luck was still intact, after all. Most Seanchan would have killed him on sight. The one who'd found him first knew who he was. "Highness?" her surprised voice said. She frowned as she peered at him, looking at the cloth around his head and the leather sack under his arm. In all of her inspecting she was very careful not to look into his eyes. Or eye, rather. That was going to take some getting used to. Apparently satisfied that it really was him, she said "What under the Light are you doing here?"

Seeing Melitene was confirmation enough that Moiraine was captured or worse. If he had to play the noble to get her out of this, he would do it. He just wished he had taken the time to figure out what he could actually do as the Prince of the Ravens. He decided he would try to act like Elayne would and hope that was enough to intimidate them.

Mat tilted his chin up in what he hoped was a good impression of Elayne. "That isn't for you to know." He said curtly. "Show me the room you found to open the first gateway."

Melitene's eyes widened, apparently in surprise at his knowledge. Anyone with half a brain would have figured out that if they were coming through the basement they had arrived by Travelling, but hopefully she wouldn't think too much on it.

"Yes, Highness," she said, nodding deferentially. There was suspicion in the look she gave him, but she led him out into the hall. He tried to remember his talks with Leilwin. He seemed to recall that the der'sul'dam was fairly high up in Seanchan hierarchy. Not quite as high as the Blood, but close. If she was acting deferentially toward him it was a good sign. Even if there was suspicion to go with it.

As they neared the storeroom, Mat started to worry again about what might have happened. Some of the soldiers who marched by them appeared to have fresh wounds. He was worried about the rest of the Tower, too, but there was nothing he could do about it. He put the thought out of his mind, or tried to. Egwene had probably brought everyone with her in any case. He had seen several novices and Accepted on his way to her tent earlier. She was trying to pressure Rand, and would have wanted numbers for that. The thought helped to ease his mind, but not much. He still needed to find a way to warn them that the White Tower was crawling with Seanchan. They had reached the door. He let Melitene enter first, and braced himself for what he might find.

It looked like a tornado had swept through the room. Several of the shelves that used to line the walls had collapsed, and a few of the soldiers were being tended to by damane. Much more disturbing, though, was the absence of Thom and Moiraine. Mat's fear increased tenfold. He waved a hand at Melitene absently, barely noticing that she'd asked his permission to go back out into the hall.

There were dozens of soldiers filing in and out of the room through a large gateway. Some were moving boxes of One Power items out of the room. Others were leaving through the doorway to move deeper into the Tower. Captain Musenge was standing in the center of the room, ordering people about. Mat strode up to him.

"Highness," Musenge drawled, bowing slightly. "I thought there was a chance we might find you here, after seeing Thom Merrilin and the marath'damane." Mat frowned for an instant before remembering. Of course Musenge would remember Thom, even if Melitene didn't. Musenge had been there to help him fight the Seanchan who were trying to murder Tuon. After Karede's speech about Thom being a general, Mat was sure the Deathwatch Guard all knew who he was by now.

"Do you know where he went?" Mat asked with feigned casualness. "He told me he was going to wait here."

"He took an injury," Musenge said calmly. "We brought him through the gateway so one of the damane could heal him." Mat couldn't keep a frown from appearing. Why had it been necessary to bring Thom through the gatway to be healed when there were damane on this side healing the soldiers? Musenge would not look Mat in the eye. He kept staring at Mat's nose.

"Take me to him then," Mat said. "And I suppose I should see my wife, too, if this gateway goes to Altara."

"Yes, Highness. Just outside Ebou Dar. I'll see about setting up a meeting with the Empress, may she live forever." Musenge would "see about" setting up a "meeting" with his wife? That made him want to laugh, and not in amusement.


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Thom gasped and shook. He felt as though he had been plunged into an ice cold bath. He knocked the hands away from his face. He had never been awakened in a more displeasing fashion. He shook his head and looked around. He was outside. It was dark save for the lights that the damane were making. A gateway was open a short distance away, and he could see the inside of the storeroom through it. So, they were in Altara now. A damane was kneeling beside him. Thom felt at his side. The wound was gone, but there was still dried blood on his coat. Moiraine. He looked in the direction where he knew her to be. By the feel of the bond, she was still unconscious.

Ignoring the protests of the sul'dam next to him, Thom stood and staggered, barely catching his balance to keep from falling back down. He stumbled toward where Moiraine was laying. The sight of the silver collar around her neck made his blood boil. He felt the need to sick up. The sul'dam who held her leash sat beside her, looking at her possessively.

"You need to go and get out of sight," she said in a stern drawl as he approached. "It will make things much easier on her. A clean break is always best." To Thom's horror, she brushed a curl of Moiraine's hair from her face. If he had not known how the a'dam worked, he would have strangled the sul'dam right then and there. Even knowing, it was difficult to stop himself.

"Don't touch her," he said roughly. He sat down beside Moiraine.

The sul'dam pursed her lips. She placed a hand on Moiraine's shoulder as if to dare him to try stopping her. "You will leave, one way or another."

Motion from the still open gateway stopped him from putting it to the test. It was Mat, walking through with stocky Musenge. He was carrying a brown leather sack under his arm. Apparently he had found the Horn. Mat had a haughty air about him that looked completely unnatural, at least to someone who knew him. Musenge was acting very deferentially toward him, so perhaps it was working. Maybe Mat would be able to talk them out of this mess by putting his Prince of the Ravens title to good use.

Their conversation paused briefly when Mat looked at Moiraine. A few moments later he held up a hand to Musenge, who bowed to him and stood watching as Mat strode to where Thom was sitting. Mat pulled him aside and spoke in a hushed voice.

"Are you alright Thom?" Mat looked down at the bloodstain on his coat.

"Yes. It was just a scratch," he said, smiling mildly. He couldn't put much humor in it though. "How did you talk your way through the gateway?"

"I didn't. Not really." Mat whispered, looking back at Musenge. "It seems my title sets me above the High Blood. I think they have to do what I say, as long as it isn't completely ridiculous or in direct opposition of something Tuon has ordered. Musenge's going to set up a 'meeting' for me with her. Why I need to schedule a flaming meeting to see my wife, I don't know. Anyway, none of that's important." Mat glanced at Moiraine on the ground and grimaced slightly. "The two of you need to get out of here. I think I've already stretched Tuon's tolerance for smuggling Aes Sedai. She probably wouldn't be able to find an excuse not to behead me this time if it's obvious I'm directly involved. Take this," he said, pulling the foxhead medallion from around his neck and thrusting it into Thom's palm.

"Are you sure Mat?" Thom asked, slipping the medallion up a sleeve.

"Yes. Just make sure you tell Moiraine that it's a loan. As soon as she wakes up and is clear-headed enough to channel, have her weave a gateway and jump through it. It's all I can come up with. With the medallion they won't be able to shield her."

Thom nodded. It might just work. Unfortunately, it wouldn't stop the soldiers from stabbing them, so they would have to be quick.

"Have her open it straight to Egwene so you can get warning to her about the Tower," Mat added.

"It won't be easy, Mat. That sul'dam is already giving me trouble. She threatened to have me moved if I didn't leave Moiraine's side. I think you came through the gateway just as that was going to happen."

Mat looked toward Moiraine and the sul'dam again. "I will have a talk with her on the way to the palace. I think I can convince Musenge to let both of you accompany me there. The man won't even look me in the eye. I'm going to have to start paying more attention when I shave now, or he'll have my number of nose hairs memorized by the time I see him next."

If Thom hadn't known Mat better, he would have been worried about how seriously he was taking the situation.


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Mat had hoped he would be able to make his way to Tuon without more company than Musenge and the sul'dam, but Musenge was too smart for that. They took the longest possible path through the palace, and by the time they got near Tuon's rooms they had dozens of hangers-on. Mostly Deathwatch Guards, with a few sul'dam and damane. An honor guard, Musenge had called it, but Mat knew better. Musenge knew his history with marath'damane and probably assumed he would try to free Moiraine at the first opportunity.

Thom walked beside him, looking worried. Tired as he was from the healing, he had insisted on carrying Moiraine himself. It made for an odd looking procession. Mat hoped she would wake soon. He would have preferred getting the collar off before she found out it had ever been there, but that didn't seem possible. Hopefully they would be able to get word to Egwene, in case he was unable to convince Tuon to delay the attack on the White Tower. He had a few ideas on how to do that.

When they made it to Tuon's anteroom, Musenge entered and motioned for Mat to wait outside. He might have insisted on entering himself, but he needed to give one last warning to Thom. The gleeman was sitting with his back against a wall. Mat knelt beside him and stared pointedly at the sul'dam until she moved as far away as the leash would allow. The others were keeping a polite distance away.

"Thom," Mat whispered. The gleeman looked up. He had been glaring at the sul'dam every chance he could get, and that made Mat worried. "Try not to harm anyone on the way out. This is going to be difficult enough to talk my way out of as it is." The door opened before he could say more.

"The Empress, may she live forever, will see you now, Highness," Musenge said.

He nodded and entered the anteroom by himself. It was much more lavish than Tylin's bedroom had been. It made Elayne's rooms look like a stable. The carpet, of a Seanchan style unless he missed his guess, was so lush that he feared to step on it. It was likely worth more than he could make in a year of steady gambling, and that was a lot. He knocked on the door to Tuon's rooms.

Several minutes passed before the door finally opened. It was Selucia, opening it just a crack. Mat couldn't keep a grin from spreading across his face. He was fairly certain that Selucia hated him, but she was never far from Tuon so it was hard not to be happy at the sight of her. She responded to his smile by frowning.

"I will check if she can see you now, Highness," she drawled. Her mouth twisted around that last word like she'd bitten into a lemon.

"I thought we already established—" he tried to say, but she slammed the door in his face while his mouth was still open.

Several more minutes passed before she finally opened the door again. She was glaring openly now. She ushered him in without a word and went into the anteroom, shutting the door loudly.

As he entered he set the leather sack on a table next to the door. He didn't want to bring it up right away. The dice started spinning in his head as he did. That had not happened in a long while. The room was large enough that he had to search before he found Tuon. There were several stand-lamps lit, casting a warm glow in the room. She stood on one of the balconies with her back facing him. Her head was completely shaved again, as it had been when he'd first met her. She started speaking as he approached, without turning around.

"So Selucia finally let you in," she drawled mildly. She must have memorized what his footsteps sounded like, to know it was him. "If she had delayed you one more time I would have been forced to order her punished. She still does not approve." She turned with that last statement and smiled at him. He had longed to see her smile since they had parted. But it didn't last long. Her smile slipped and turned into a frown as soon as she saw the cloth over his eye.

"What have you done to yourself, Matrim?" she said sternly as she glided toward him. "You have to be more careful now that you're Prince of the Ravens. You cannot put yourself in needless danger anymore."

"It's nothing Tuon. I'm alright," he said, hoping his smile would ease her worry. He took a couple steps back, but her approach was relentless. As much as he enjoyed being close to her, he would have preferred if the smile had stayed on her face awhile longer. He was not complaining though. As she reached up toward his head, he tried to fend her off, but she was as quick-handed now as she had been on the night he had kidnapped her. She pulled his hat off and tossed it aside. He had to frown at that. As she pulled the piece of cloth from his head, her breath caught.

"Matrim..." she said. It was said in a whisper. Mat knew that he should have more important things on his mind, but with her eyes so full of concern for him, she looked more beautiful than he had ever seen her before. "How did this happen?" She lifted a hand as if to touch his face, but he grabbed it gently and pulled it back down.

"It's okay Tuon," he said quietly, letting go of her hand reluctantly. "It's gone now. It's over and done with. Besides, I can manage fine with just the one." He smiled again.

She sighed and shook her head, likely because of his casual tone. "Have you not been near someone who could heal you since you took the injury? At least to close it up? The wound shouldn't be left like that. It could get infected," she said, looking at it with a grimace. "Even one of those marath'damane you have such a weakness for should have been able to heal it."

"It was offered," he said wearily. He did not like the direction this was headed.

"You must rid yourself of this irrational fear of the One Power, Matrim," she said in a lecturing tone. "There is no reason to be afraid of it, when it's properly harnessed."

He had heard much the same from her before, when he'd been stabbed outside of the hell in Maderin. As if she had room to bloody talk about fear of the One Power. What he said was "I will try, Tuon." He gave her another smile.

She gave him a flat look, obviously not believing him. But instead of continuing on about it she said, "You mustn't call me that. I took a new name when I became Empress. My name is Fortuona now. You cannot refer to me by name in front of others of course, but—" Tuon cut off as he snorted.

He quickly tried to cover it by coughing into his hand. Fortuona? Light, he would never be able to say that with a straight face."No," he said firmly. The startled look on her face nearly made him laugh again.

"No?" she said, pursing her lips and frowning. She looked as though she were weighing the word in her mouth. He doubted she had heard it often.

"No," he repeated. "I'm not going to call you that. Your name was Tuon when I met you, and as far as I'm concerned it still is."

Surprisingly, she smiled. "Very well, Matrim," she said dryly. "We will see how long this lasts."

Mat frowned. How long what lasts? He was never going to call her by that ridiculous name. He considered asking her if she'd come up with it by herself, but thought better of it.

"Why did you come now?" she asked. "I have been hoping that you would, but why now?"

She had hoped he would come, had she? Mat wondered how much Musenge had told her. He decided it was safest to just tell her the truth. About this, at least. "I was at the White Tower when your lot opened a gateway down the hall."

She frowned. "Why were you at the White Tower?"

"Why was I at the White Tower?" The question made him think of seeing Moiraine in the a'dam, and he couldn't keep the tinge of anger out of his voice. "Tuon, why are the Seanchan attacking the White Tower when the Last Battle is about to start? The Light needs to come together now if we want to have any chance at winning."

Her face had become more chill with every word. He should have been frozen where he stood. "We're invading the White Tower, Matrim, because the Last Battle is so close. We need as many damane as possible in order to face the Dark One. While we gain those damane we will be weakening the Dragon Reborn's support at the same time. He must come to realize that he needs to kneel to me before he faces the Dark One. The Prophecies—"

"Burn the Prophecies, Tuon," he interrupted. Her eyes widened. He had said that much more loudly than he'd intended. "Rand's going to break the seals on the Dark One's prison tomorrow." Perhaps it was today already. It had to be close to midnight by now. "He doesn't care about a prophecy that says he has to kneel to you. He's going to do it whether that happens or not."

"He must not," Tuon said grimly. "If he does, we are all doomed. The Prophecies say the Dark One will win if the Dragon Reborn does not kneel to the Crystal Throne."

"Look, I can't say that I could see him ever doing that, but yesterday he mentioned wanting to meet with you again. He said it didn't go well the first time."

"The man is evil, Matrim," she drawled. He thought he detected a shiver. "The whole room darkened when he entered. But if he is to kneel to me I have no choice but to meet with him again."

"He's changed now," Mat said. He didn't really know the details of what Rand was like before, but he had heard bits and pieces.

"We will see," she said, but she did not look convinced. "I will have Karede ready a guard. Assuming that you know exactly where the Dragon Reborn is, we can be there in less than an hour. You will come with us. Anything that might put him off balance will help." Mat decided it was best not to tell her just yet that he would be siding with Rand. She made as if to walk to the door, but he halted her.

"Wait, Tuon," he said. The dice began spinning more rapidly now. He had been told by more than one Seanchan that Tuon had never broken her word. It was probably futile, but he had to try to get a promise from her. "If I'm to tell you where he is, I need something from you."

"You would hold back that information from me? When you know what it would mean?" she said. The expression on her face made him want to swallow.

"My sister is a novice at the White Tower," he said as calmly as he could manage. He did not to mention his friends there. They wouldn't have the same effect on her. He had to try this though, for Nynaeve and Moiraine. For Elayne and Bode and Egwene. Even Teslyn. "Call the soldiers back. Wait until the Last Battle is over to attack the Tower." Perhaps that would give him enough time to figure out a way to stop it permanently.

Concern appeared on Tuon's face again. "I'm sorry your sister was cursed with the ability to channel, but I cannot do that. I feel that it's necessary in order for Tarmon Gai'don to be won."

Mat sighed. On to his next plan. "What if I said I could give you something better than a thousand damane?"

Tuon frowned. "What could that possibly be? If you mean those explosive weapons you used, I've already set people to try making them." That was worrisome. Mat hoped they were not as effective as the dragons. Another time for that, though.

"The Horn of Valere," he said. "What if I could find a way to procure it for you, in addition to telling you where Rand is? Would you agree to delay the attack?" Mat could not help but feel guilty at not admitting to her that the Horn was in the room with them and he had already sounded it. Even if he gave it to her, she wouldn't be able to use it. Not unless she decided to have him killed. He supposed there was a good chance of that, after she learned of his deception.

"Is that possible? I suspected for a long time that it was sounded at Falme by him," she said thoughtfully, "but there were never similar reports again. Even in the battles we had on the border with Illian."

"Yes. I have a good idea of where it is," he said, shifting uncomfortably. Hopefully she hadn't noticed. That guilty feeling was stronger now. He made sure not to look in the direction of the leather sack sitting by the doorway. "What do you say then? I find the Horn for you, and you call back the attack on the White Tower until after the Last Battle."

"Very well. If you bring the Horn to me," she said, her voice full of doubt, " and take me to the Dragon Reborn, the attack will stop until after the Last Battle." Mat held out a hand toward her and she shook it. As soon as they made contact, the dice stopped in his head.

A woman screamed from the hallway moments later.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thom sat in the hallway at Moiraine's side, hoping that she would wake up soon. The longer it took, the more nervous he became. The sul'dam glared at him with stark disapproval, but at least she wasn't trying to force him to leave anymore. She was sitting on the opposite side of Moiraine. Mat's talk with her must have been convincing.

A change in the bond made Thom look down. Moiraine had opened her eyes and was squinting at the light from the hallway. She sat up abruptly and winced, bringing a hand up to her forehead where the sword hilt had landed. Thom rose up on his knees beside her.

"Are you feeling okay?" he asked tentatively. His stomach was in knots. They had to escape now, or never.

She turned her head toward him, blinking until her eyes focused on his. "No," she said, but she smiled slightly. "I would not say that." She was still massaging her forehead. She frowned and brought her other hand to her neck to feel lightly at the collar and let it drop back down. "I had hoped that had just been a dream," she said, grimacing slightly.

"I am Ianelle," the sul'dam said beside her. Moiraine turned and looked at the sul'dam, her face expressionless. "Normally there would be punishment for your speaking out of turn, but I can feel that your head is still fuzzy so I will make an exception. Take care in the future though. What name do you go by?" Moiraine looked at her as though she were an insect, and turned back to Thom.

"What is the plan?" she asked calmly. She must have felt the determination and small amount of hope through the bond, to be so confident that he had one. He sensed that her head was clearing up quickly now.

"Are you well enough to go to the Field?" Thom asked, trying to be clear enough for Moiraine and cryptic enough that the sul'dam would not understand.

"I need a moment," Moiraine said, pressing at her forehead again.

"I warned you earlier that you would make things more difficult for her," Ianelle said, looking at Thom with disappointment. "Know that you brought this on her."

The pain Thom felt through the bond should have been enough to have Moiraine screaming on the floor—she was feeling thousands of tiny pinpricks all over her skin—but her only reaction was a sharp intake of breath.

"Help me up," she said. Her eyes closed tightly for a moment before opening again.

Thom moved the foxhead medallion into his palm as covertly as he knew how, and held out a hand to her. She nodded as she stood. It was time.

Thom unhooked the a'dam from Moiraine's neck, and saw a gateway forming in front of them almost immediately. Just as the sul'dam was about to shout a warning, he struck her squarely in the face. There was a loud crunching noise, and she went down hard. Mat had told him not to harm anyone, but the temptation had been too strong. Surely he would understand.

Just as Thom and Moiraine jumped through the gateway, they felt the medallion turn ice cold between their hands. The last sounds they heard before the gateway closed were the shouts of soldiers and the sul'dam's screams.

manolin
12-02-2010, 08:01 AM
excellently written. For once a fan fic is very hard to distinguish from the actual book, though your style is more towards sanderson than jordan.

GonzoTheGreat
12-02-2010, 08:07 AM
Nitpick:
I think that it is unrealistic that Lelaine would start pestering Moiraine. Both are Blue Ajah, and Lelaine, as more or less* the leader of that Ajah, would do what she could to increase its influence. Having Moiraine as a living legend helps in that, and giving special rights to the Famous Blue would be more in line with Lelaine's approach than trying to take those away. Especially considering the fact that Moiraine tends to avoid WT politics, so she's not any type of rival.

* Can't remember whether she's officially the head, and can't be bothered to look it up.

jana
12-02-2010, 08:22 AM
Nitpick:
I think that it is unrealistic that Lelaine would start pestering Moiraine. Both are Blue Ajah, and Lelaine, as more or less* the leader of that Ajah, would do what she could to increase its influence. Having Moiraine as a living legend helps in that, and giving special rights to the Famous Blue would be more in line with Lelaine's approach than trying to take those away. Especially considering the fact that Moiraine tends to avoid WT politics, so she's not any type of rival.

All good points. But I wanted Moiraine to be bullied so she's who I picked, for these reasons:

a. I hate her.
b. She was a b*tch to Siuan in KoD, and nobody's a b*tch to Siuan and gets away with it!111one
c. She made Moiraine uncomfortable in NS
d. She's power hungry

:)

alleluia_cone
12-02-2010, 02:27 PM
Personally, I thought it was great; I actually cringed when I got to the end; I wanted to see what would happen afterward.

Rand al'Fain
12-02-2010, 11:30 PM
That was pretty good. Normally, I have to force myself to read most fanfics, but this was vry much in line with how Sanderson writes. I hope you continue with it, as I would like to know how you would continue the story from there.

The Immortal One
12-04-2010, 11:56 AM
Personally, I thought it was great; I actually cringed when I got to the end; I wanted to see what would happen afterward.

Yeah, me too.

I started reading it a few days ago, but had to leave before finishing. I thought it was excellent so I came back to it as soon as I could. I was hugely disappointed that I had only missed the last few lines; I was hoping for another few pages at the least.

Sukoto
12-07-2010, 04:04 PM
This is so much fun! More please.

Cairn
12-07-2010, 04:12 PM
Enjoyed it all very much again. My points of constructive criticism and opinion:

-Silviana seems wrong. Never before had I seen her as having the 'typical' Red Ajah traits she shows in this scene. Maybe I'm just disagreeing with your interpretation, but I always thought Silviana was going to make an outstanding Keeper because she didn't follow in the mold of the old Reds.

-Aes Sedai physically trying to stop a person seems inplausible to me. I also don't see Aes Sedai commenting on how weaves roll off Mat except in private circumstances, they seem unwilling to admit the anomaly/ failure. I would believe this scene more if Silviana simply walked in with Mat in a stately Aes Sedai way and announced, "I apologize Mother, I was unable to stop him from entering" with a significant look at Egwene for what that means for an Aes Sedai.

-Mat's tirade at the end about how they chased the Horn. It's amusing, but it seems lengthy. I think it would have more comic punch if it was a short sentence- 'chased it the entire length of the continent and you lost it?'. Also, I hardly think Mat would shove his way into the tent for precious seconds only to waste a bunch on unnecessary detail. It seems to slow down the pacing here, which had a good quickness before his comment.

I only comment because I think your writing is worth the time and effort and if my criticisms seem nit-picky then it's because I don't perceive any larger errors.

Thoroughly enjoyed it, please write more. :)

GonzoTheGreat
12-07-2010, 04:26 PM
I think it unlikely that Mat would try the front entrance if there's a bunch of AS trying to prevent him from doing so. I would expect him to sneak in through the back. I would also expect Egwene to be highly surprised by that, as no AS had thought of the possibility.

jana
12-07-2010, 08:40 PM
thanks for the comments. I'll definitely do some editing before the next part. I argued with myself about the Mat speech too.

and Gonzo... it would be hilarious if he just cut a hole in the back of the tent. Thanks.

morat'corlm
12-08-2010, 07:13 AM
Does Moiraine get to meet Tuon now?

She can get into a snoot-off with Selucia! In the one corner, from the Sun Palace of Cairhien, trained in serenity by the White Tower, Moiraine! And in the other, from the Court of the Nine Moons in Seandar, with all the dignity of a so'jhin to the Empress herself, may she live forever, Selucia! Snoot!

skaywalker
12-09-2010, 10:33 AM
Grrrr... NOT A CLIFFHANGER! :)

jana
12-10-2010, 12:04 PM
Does Moiraine get to meet Tuon now?

Hmph.

I wonder what their heights are. One of them could be excited that they finally found someone shorter.

Heh, I just looked and the wowwiki lists Tuon as "less than five feet" and Moiraine as "short" (I think Moiraine is 5'1 or so). But maybe the way she gets around now is to glide on the backs of log-rolling da'covale. That would make her about a foot taller.

Sukoto
12-14-2010, 04:31 PM
Interesting twist. It makes me wonder, are sul'dam supposed to obey the Prince of Ravens if they're on an errand for the Empress? Do they have to obey him at all? I wonder if they would even recognize him. If not, would they believe that he was married to the Empress if he told them? Interesting possibilities for conflict. I wonder if Tuon would even care if her minions killed her husband?

jana
12-14-2010, 04:52 PM
I wonder if Tuon would even care if her minions killed her husband?

I shouldn't reply, but *gasp* how could you ask that?

She may not love him (yet), but it's obvious she likes him. A lot. She saved his life once, remember? Endangered her own to do it even. Then got mad that he had almost let it happen.

Later:
Oddly, she felt herself wishing—once again—that Matrim were still with her. She could have put his knowledge of this Rand al'Thor to good use in preparing for the meeting. Stay well, you curious man, she thought, glancing back at the balcony, northward. Do not dig yourself into trouble deeper than you can climb to freedom. You are Prince of the Ravens now. Remember to act appropriately.

Cairn
12-16-2010, 12:05 PM
I have a specific compliment for you about this excerpt. Feeling the Mat/Tuon reunion coming I was waiting for awkwardness in the writing. We tend to know so little about Seanchan customs and what Mat and Tuon's relationship is now I felt the scene would naturally feel forced. Additionally, I feel their interactions have a huge billing to live up to overall, as it is some of my favorite writing of RJ's.

However, even though I was looking for things that sounded off, nothing came out at me. So, well done.

I think this latest section was the best yet.

Sukoto
12-16-2010, 01:25 PM
Go Thom! Punch that evil b!tch in the face! *crunch*

Insane Ducky
12-21-2010, 03:37 AM
I've really been enjoying reading these. I have a few quibbles, but let's be honest, if I were serious about them, I'd have written something myself. :)

There was at least one scene where I found myself thinking, "I hope it happens like this in the next book."

manolin
12-22-2010, 07:32 AM
the adam opening by thom is a little weirdly written. it has always been said in the book so far that adam opening is not that simple; as in the links don't show unless u specifically know what you are looking for.

jana
12-22-2010, 11:43 AM
it has always been said in the book so far that adam opening is not that simple; as in the links don't show unless u specifically know what you are looking for.

Thom spent weeks with Mat planning on how to escape Ebou Dar. It's not a stretch at all to think he would have shown Thom how to open one. Mat opens an a'dam quickly and easily in Knife of Dreams.

GonzoTheGreat
12-22-2010, 11:57 AM
Yeah, I would expect Thom to have picked up the trick too by now.

Mat
12-23-2010, 03:59 AM
Tell me more, tell me more :)

morat'corlm
01-03-2011, 07:49 PM
It seems you've stopped rather than getting roped into writing the whole conclusion to AMOL yourself, so I guess I'll say now that I enjoyed what you put together.

jana
01-03-2011, 08:10 PM
Ya, indefinitely. I would probably have to get really drunk to think I could write Tuon/Rand/Moiraine/Mat/Egwene in the same room.

Sukoto
01-04-2011, 07:00 PM
Aww, it's over? You're probably right. I can't imagine the agony of trying to write all of the main characters together.

But... maybe you could write something else? Maybe something prequel- or sequel-esque? Seriously, I had so much fun reading your fiction.

Atax
01-05-2011, 05:41 PM
I lurk these boards but I felt inclined to register because of your work. I really enjoyed it and hope you decide to do more (or like Sukoto suggested). Thanks for the enjoyable read!

manolin
04-06-2011, 09:03 AM
please write some more. These are dreary days in office, which can only be redeemed by reading some WOT.

Vicious Circle
04-07-2011, 11:57 PM
I would like to congratulate you on your great story telling ability! The only thing that pulled me out of total immersion was your use of "okay". That's such a modern word that it was a little jarring. Can't wait to read more of your stuff, hint,hint.

Seeker
05-07-2011, 06:26 PM
“Would you like to talk?” Rand asked softly.

“Certainly,” Moiraine replied.

Rising from his stool, he turned his back on Mat and Perrin – the pair of them were still comparing potential designs for Mat's eye patch – and ducked low to step through the tent flaps. He straightened once outside, shut his eyes and turned his face up to the silver moonlight. The scent of woodsmoke from various campfires brought a smile to his face. It was good to enjoy simple pleasures.

Moiraine followed him out of the tent, somehow making the act of stooping low seem regal. She took her place beside Rand, clasped her hands together behind her back and stared out at the encampment. She said nothing but the slight twitch of her lips made her good mood quite apparent. Rand felt a bit unsettled by that. Most of his interactions with Moiraine had been fraught with animosity; he almost found himself unable to accept the notion that she would be happy to see him.

Glancing over his shoulder, he nodded toward a thicket of trees. “Would you like to walk?”

“If you'd prefer,” she replied..

A sly smile crept over Rand's face. “I think you've set a new standard in noncommittal answers,” he teased. He turned to her, cocked his head to the side and let the smile become a wicked grin. “It's good to know you're still Aes Sedai at heart.”

Moiriane actually snorted and chuckled hard enough to shake with mirth. She reached up, brushing a lock of curly hair out of her eyes. “It's good to know that you've learned to laugh for reasons other than bitterness,” she said, turning that serene gaze on him. Those eyes... Dark and haunted. Was this truly the same woman who had left his side in Cairhien? Moiriane pursed her lips and nodded curtly. “Yes. Let's walk. At the moment, I value any chance I can get to breathe fresh air.

Rand arched an eyebrow but said nothing.

He turned on his heel, brought his hand and stump together behind his back and walked with his shoulders square, his head held high. Cadsuane told him it was a kingly posture. Amazing how he adopted it so easily now. Rand kept his gaze fixed on the distant trees. His mouth tightened into a frown. “I suppose you won't tell me where you've been all this time? What happened to you or why you now Carry Mierin- Lanfear's angreal”

“Another time,” Moiraine said, falling in at his side. “Your hand...”

“Lost to Semirhage,” he replied.

“Does it trouble you?”

Rand felt his smile return. “Only when I try to count past five.”

They crossed into the thicket of trees, now cut off from the light of the campfires. Taking hold of saidin, Rand raised his hand and spun a complex web of Fire. A globe of light appeared above his upturned palm. He gave a start upon realizing that Moiraine had done the exact same thing. The Aes Sedai now stood beside him with a tiny globe hovering half a foot in front of her face. She glanced over her shoulder and smiled. “You have learned much; I remember when you could not light a candle with the One Power. And is it true that you have cleansed saidin of the Dark One's taint?”

Rand nodded. “It's true.”

“How?”

He scrunched his eyes tight, shook his head quickly. “That's a long and complicated story.” He stepped over an exposed root, onto a bit of higher ground, then turned and offered his hand to Moiraine. When she took it, he helped her up, their globes of light dancing above their heads. Rand faced Moiraine and grinned, letting the expression touch his eyes. “You might say that you gave me the idea; you told me once that the evil of Shadar Logoth was as potent as that of Shayol Ghul, but as hateful of the Dark One as it is of all other living things. I hit on the idea that the two might annihilate each other.”

Moiraine's eyes flared.

Rand shut his eyes and bowed his head.

“Astounding,” she said, as they started down the path again. “Such reasoning is the mark of a man with an intuitive understanding of the One Power and the True Source. It's hard to imagine that a young man from the Two Rivers, with no formal training in the art except what was provided by... Nateal.... would be capable of such a grand feat.”

Rand looked over his shoulder. “A young man from the Two Rivers would not have been.” He left her to mull that over.

“You remember it, don't you?” she asked from behind him.

“I remember everything,” he said, his eyebrows climbing up his forehead. He turned to her with a serious expression on his face, his eyes like polished gemstones. “Yes, Moiraine,” he said softly, “I remember the Age of Legends.” He took a deep, calming breath and crossed his arms before leaning his shoulder against the trunk of an old oak tree. Rand felt his lips quirk into a frown. Light, how did he explain it all? Rand al'Thor and Lews Therin – two names for he same man. It made perfect sense to him but it was one of those things that you couldn't explain to someone who hadn't experienced it. “I remember my life in that time, the things I did and the mistakes I made. I.... Oh, here, let me show you.”

Moiraine frowned. “Show me?”

Rand offered his hand. “Link with me,” he said, nodding slowly.

She arched an eyebrow.

“Trust me,” he whispered.

Rand released the source, his ball of light winking out, and put himself on the edge of seizing saidin. He felt the Power calling to him, tempting him, begging him to take hold of it and use it. It was almost too much to bear. Only a few seconds of concentration and sweat began to bead across his forehead. He was just about to bark at Moiraine to hurry up and link with him when a sudden rush of Power surged through him. Tidal waves of flame, mountains of collapsing ice. He should have warned her. Moiraine would be unprepared for the battle with saidin

“By the light...” she whispered, her eyes as wide as teacups. “Is that?”

“Saidin” he answered. “Quickly, pass me control of the ring.”

“The what?”

“The... circle.” Rand ground his teeth. “Pass me control.” He could take it on his own but the process would be painful for Moiraine. His apprehension faded when he became aware of saidar like a tranquil river beside saidin's rushing rapids. Moiraine was drawing on her angreal. Curious. He would have to inquire about that but he had the distinct impression he would learn scant little of what had happened to her. Rand let out a sigh of relief.

“Watch carefully,” he instructed. “It's about time someone taught you this.” Drawing on the female half of the True Source, he wove Spirit in an intricate net. Memories from his life as Lews Therin provided the knowledge for what he needed to do. Moiraine would be able to see the flows. “You once asked me about this weave – or rather its male equivalent. I regret that I couldn't teach it to you then.”

A vertical slash appeared, seven straight feet of silvery light. At Rand's command, it rotated open into a doorway that led to the roof of the Sun Palace in Cairhien. Moiraine should recognize her the city of her birth, even at night. “The key is to create a similarity between two distant places, make them identical. That is how one travels with saidar.”

“Dear Creator,” Moiraine whispered.

Releasing the Source – the gateway and the remaining ball of light vanishing – Rand turned to Moiraine. “Do you think you can duplicate that weave? I can show you again.”

“You can weave saidar,” she mumbled.

“Of course I can,” Rand said. “I spent most of my adult life – the better part of four hundred years – working with both halves of the One Power. I wouldn't say I know saidar as well as most of the women of my time, or even most Aes Sedai living now, but I know the basics.” He turned to her, smiling a tiny smile. “Do you believe me now, Moiraine?”

Another ball of light appeared as she took hold of the Source. She set her jaw, pursed her lips and stared at him for a very long moment. “Rand, I believed you before your... demonstration.” She bowed her head, her eyes fixed on the root of a tree at her feet. “You are the Dragon Reborn, a figure of prophecy. You were... meant... to defy the ordinary.”

“Lanfear lives,” he told her.

“I suspected as much.”

“Ishamael too.”

Moiraine blinked. “Now, that I hadn't been expecting.”

“The Dark One has ways of restoring his servants,” Rand explained. He turned and braced his forearm across the tree trunk, pressing his forehead into the crook of his elbow. His mouth twisted into a scowl. “Imagine it, Moiraine,” he said, surprised at the harshness in his tone. “All of those desperate struggles for nothing. Sometimes, it makes me feel... Well, never mind. Balefire is the key to destroying the Forsaken permanently. Once touched by it, they cannot be saved by their master.”

Moiraine backed away, staring wide-eyed at Rand. “Balefire...” she whispered, looking down to study her own feet. Her shoulders slumped and she let out a long, deep breath. “A shame,” she went on with a slow shake of her head. “I had hoped that each Forsaken we destroyed was major victory, one less obstacle in our path to victory. Now... Only Be'lal is truly gone.”

“Rahvin too,” Rand said, frowning at the tree trunk.

Moiraine arched a thin eyebrow.

“I killed him with Balefire on the day that you...” He trailed off, spinning around to lean his back against the trunk. Rand folded his arms across his chest. He gazed up at the sky, sucking his bottom lip into his mouth. The day he had mentioned, the one in which he had lost Moiraine, had one of the most painful experiences of his life. Even her return had not truly healed the wounds.

“Rahvin's gone for good,” he said. “And possibly Sammael. I can't tell if my Balefire killed him before he was touched by Mashadar.”

Moiraine's eyebrows went up.

That brought a little amusement to Rand. He chuckled softly, doubled over and reached up to bury his face in the palm of his hand. He scrubbed that hand through his thick, red hair. “Let's just say that Sammael was always fond of dueling in elaborate locations.” He looked up to meet her gaze. “The man had a penchant for showing off. So arrogant!”

“So, what now?” Moiraine asked.

“Well,” Rand began. “Now I hope that Cadsuane is willing to share the position of advisor to the Lord Dragon. Because, frankly, I'm not sure she gets much choice in the matter.”

She nodded. “Perhaps we should return to camp.”

Sukoto
06-03-2011, 05:03 PM
Now... Only Be'lal is truly gone.”

“Rahvin too,” Rand said, frowning at the tree trunk.

Just read your excerpt. Nice!

Regarding the above quote: You forgot to mention Semirhage... didn't Rand kill her and Elza with balefire? Oh, and Rand probably still thinks he killed Graendal with balefire as well. Maybe you left out the women on purpose...

manolin
07-28-2011, 12:19 AM
Jana please continue. Love your writing.

jana
01-16-2013, 11:21 PM
Bumping this once now that it's all over. I nearly tried to write stuff about Teslyn and Seta making their way to Egwene on several occasions but I always chickened out.

GonzoTheGreat
01-17-2013, 04:02 AM
"Sorry Mat. I was... distracted," he said. For some reason Mat had a piece of red cloth tied around his head that covered his eye. "What happened to you Mat?" he said, indicating the cloth.

Mat hesitated, looking at Moiraine. When she looked at Mat, a look close to tenderness passed across her face so quickly that Rand was sure he imagined it. Mat looked back at him. "That's a long story, Rand. What about your hand?"

"Also a long story," Rand nodded. He did not want to talk about his hand. Perhaps Mat did not want to talk about what had happened to him either.
BS didn't quite get that right, did he?

Figbiscuit
01-29-2013, 10:27 AM
OK, so I haven't read aMoL yet, but I have to be honest, I did wonder at one point if I was just reading a huge excerpt of the book which had been copied out. I hadn't seen the date of the posts then. Nice work :cool: