View Full Version : A Different Wheel - Ch.9

09-29-2011, 02:11 PM
Galad emerged from the tent he had sought sanctuary in after hitting Gawyn. The soldiers around him were running about and yet there was an order to everything. None of them appeared panicked and each man knew what was expected of him. They did not fumble nor curse, instead senior soldiers issued clear precise commands.

Rounding the tent he faced the nearby forest. The distinct sound of Trollocs could be heard coming from there. Through the mass of moving men it was not difficult to spot Rand in his red jacket. He was making his way towards Captain Bawyn who stood talking to Lan. The two men seemed slightly unsure of what to do. Galad could not fault them. Trollocs were not known for fighting during the day.

It took only a single glance at Rand, the Dragon Reborn, to know why the shadowspawn had grown so reckless. Thankfully everyone here would assume Elayne to be the target. He moved to reach Rand. He would need someone close to him.

As Galad walked around thirty soldiers with bow in hand and an arrow notched began to form a line. Another twenty or so mounted their horses and stood ready with lances upright. The efficiency of their coordinated movements emphasised this units discipline and organisation.

This far from the tents Galad could see down towards the bottom of the hill where a mass of Trollocs were rushing towards them. The soldiers still had a few more minutes to organise themselves.

"This must be a diversion or a testing of our strength," Lan said to Bawyn as Galad came within earshot.

Bawyn nodded and Galad listened intently. He was not a veteran soldier despite his skill with a blade. "Trollocs would never attack openly and in daylight."

"They might be desperate." Rand said. His gaze was hard and his hand rested casually on the hilt of his sword. They appeared harder than before.

"Why would they want Elayne so badly?" Bawyn questioned.

Rand spoke slowly as he turned to look at Galad. "They might not be looking for her."

The soldier shot him a hard look, but Rand said no more. Galad studied his brother. There was a look of deep understanding in his eyes and Galad wondered what he had figured out in the past few minutes besides that Elayne was a tough woman despite her looks.

Bawyn was still eyeing Rand when an arrow flew over the heads of the soldiers and struck a Trolloc in the distance. Bawyn was about to shout something when he noticed Mat already notching his second arrow. He let it lose. The arrow flew true striking down another Trolloc in the distance.

"I need to get my men some of those," Bawyn said in a stern voice which hinted at awe. By the time the words left his mouth a third arrow had already embedded itself in another Trolloc.

"Can you help, Aes Sedai?" Bawyn asked Moiraine who had joined them as well. Nynaeve, Egwene and Elayne were all three diverging on the Aes Sedai. They could all channel, or touch the One Power at least. Galad hoped they could help.

Moiraine gave a firm nod. "I'm not bound by any oaths against shadowspawn, Captain. I will help as best I can."

"Thank you, Aes Sedai. We will be needing your talents." He gave a salute then marched away towards his men. Rand followed and so Galad did as well. Lan on the other hand remained behind with Moiraine. He would not be leaving her side until the battle was over or she commanded him to leave.

Rand veered away from Bawyn. Following him, Galad slipped into the void as he walked. A clear image of a flame burned in his mind. A vessel into which he poured all emotions. In a smooth motion his blade was in hand. Beside him Rand had done the same. There was no expression on his brother's face. It held the same calm cold of a man firmly in the void. Galad's walk became Cat Crossing the Courtyard and his sword was held low before him. Every step was in perfect balance, and every stone beneath his feet was accounted for. With each stride his breathing became calmer and more controlled. Sensing more than seeing, he noticed Rand walking in the same manner.

They approached the line of soldiers who were finally able to let lose their arrows on the Trollocs. Rand, cold and emotionless, did not stop and so Galad glided past them as he began to wonder if the void of a man who could channel was stronger or more absolute than other men's. While in the void everything around him appeared more vivid and sharp. The Trollocs in the distance became distinct bodies moving in a confused mass. Every sound was distinct and resonated in his mind; the shouts of soldiers as commands were issued were clear and precise; the distinct sound of multiple arrows as they flew through the air and the horrible guttural voices of Trollocs as they shouted their battle cries. The world slowed, or maybe his mind became more adept at seeing, separating and analysing. Opponents almost became sluggish and their movements more predictable. Even from this distance he could smell the horrible filth. In the absolute calm he sensed something new. A melodic song, which pulsed rhythmically in him. It did not take much to link the sensation to saidin. He ignored it and pushed it aside. The blade in his hands would need to come first.

He stared down the sandy rock covered slope. He felt no fear shrouded in the void and a man in a red was beside him still. A dark wave of beasts running towards them was all he considered. The ground vibrated and dust began to rise. Arrows whistled through the air in quick succession as the trained soldiers of House Mantear defended not only their lives but those of the people with them.

The mounted horseman waited patiently to the side. Their faces were covered by helmets and their lances no longer looked like toys. The men held them with fierce determination. Somewhere behind him a trumpet sounded and the horsemen charged. The footmen let lose another round of arrows and then he heard swords being unsheathed. They would form a solid line of men and steel.

Galad's heart beat slowly in his chest, kept calm by the void. Even his breathing was even. He slowly increased his grip on the two handed sword while remaining relaxed. Sweat beaded on his face and the rising clouds of dust clung to the moisture. His eyes were on the dark mass closing in on them. Still his strides took him and Rand relentlessly towards the oncoming Trollocs.

Hairy bodies with beaks and snouts for faces snarled as they ran. Some had horns on their heads and each expression was set and murderous. The few with hooved feet made the most unnatural sound, like charging cavalry but lacking the distinct rhythmic thumping of horses. The sound began to reverberate under his feet and he could feel it in his chest.

On the edge of his vision the cavalry collided with the Trolloc flank. Lance and horse drove through rank after rank of beasts. Trolloc, horse and man screamed as the battle began in earnest. Galad could not think of them nor be distracted by their movements. The beasts were nearly on him. He strode to meet them.

To his side Rand still held an identical posture. Then they were before him, monstrous beasts of hair and muscle with powerful arms gripping large dark blades. Galad flowed into Arc of the Moon. The form came without thought nor reason. The first Trolloc lay headless before Galad. He moved over the body, ready for the coming onslaught.

Galad rose onto the balls of his feet as a large blade met Watered Silk. The horizontal blade parried the monstrous blow from the beast and his whole body vibrated from the impact. He had been trained to fight men not myths. There was no room thought nor fear as his movements flowed naturally into The Boar Rushes Down the Mountain. Dark blood spattered across Galad's clothes and face as the beast toppled to the ground in a bloody heap with a deep slice along its chest.

There was no time to wipe away the dampness. Galad had to keep his momentum. Sword held in a high guard. Courtier Taps the Fan saw a powerful downward strike end a smaller Trolloc. Galad's heart was beginning to beat loudly in his chest and each breath came slightly more raggedly. He took another step. The blade was held in one hand as he struck while shifting his balance to his opposite foot.

He could hear fighting beside him. Trollocs were falling and not only to Galad's blade. He could not see who was with him. A sudden warmth blazed across his body and fire consumed a group of Trollocs near where he had last seen the cavalry. He did not feel anything within the void. Moiraine was helping them.

The moment's distraction saw a sword slice a deep cut into his thigh. He grimaced, but he had to keep moving. He felt alone and before him another beast stood snarling at him in the guttural language of shadowspawn. The Sapling Trembles disarmed the thing. A quick lunge pierced the heart and the Trolloc fell face first onto the blood soaked earth. He saw no man and a thought flicked across the void that he might even be the last man standing. The idea vanished with the rumbling of Trolloc feet. His leg burned. His arms were tiring and still the Trollocs kept coming. How many more could there be?

The Grapevine became Storm on the Mountain ended in Cutting the Wind. The battle continued as ever only the forms varied as needed. Each time he had to walk over another body. Some were powerful others just strong. His survival depended on swift movements and short duels. The Trollocs were too numerous and too large. A fight needed to be short.

Galad continued to flow despite the ever increasing loss of blood from the deep cut to his leg. A ragged step resulted in a painful cut to his left arm. He wavered and barely managed to keep a dark blade from severing his head. The void faltered and almost shattered. He was weak, options were running out. Again a song sung to him. It was warm an inviting. He did not want to touch it. Allowing himself to let it in would bring madness. He was in trouble when he stumbled through the Dove Takes Flight. The Trollocs sensed his weakness.

He closed his eyes for the briefest of moments and opened himself. Saidin crashed down into his being like an ocean wave breaking on him. He gasped loudly and his eyes flew open as the life giving force slammed into him. Strength returned and the pain receded as he fought the Power almost as hard as he did the Trollocs. It felt wondrous. He struck out with the Heron Spreads its Wings and sliced a Trolloc in two before moving on towards a pair of the dead beast's companions.

Saidin continued to pummel him even as he finished the two. Despite the feeling of pure bliss a sickness accompanied the Power. Like a foul something lying on the surface of a pond. Sickly to the touch, pure and wondrous beneath. He wanted to wretch, but the never ending flood of Trollocs would not relent. He swayed, parried and struck.

Then as quickly as they had rushed they were gone. The steep slope downhill from him was empty. He flowed into a high guard and spun to face towards the encampment. A Trolloc screamed and fell to the ground a few feet from him. Galad looked up and into the grey eyes of Rand. Blood covered the man's face and clothes. Little white was left unstained by the crimson on his shirt. The red coat and grey breeches were torn with cuts that lined his arms and legs. None as serious as Galad's, but more numerous.

The gaze looking back at Galad would have made ice seem warm. However, something was different about the man. Rand seemed alive with something. There was more to the him than Galad had noticed before. Galad gave a faint nod of respect. He did not know how, but he knew that he was feeling saidin in Rand. They were both filled to the brim with as much of the One Power as their untrained bodies could hold.

Like Galad, Rand shifted into a defensive posture. His was a low guard, the Apple Blossoms in the Wind, sword held relaxed with two hands pointing down, almost following the lines of his legs. Ready to be used within a breath.

There were no Trollocs living near them. Still Galad did not let go of the void nor saidin. From the sensation coming from Rand, neither did he. It was only then that he glanced up the hill again.

Light! He was nearly three hundred paces from the line of soldiers and tents. They did not move. The cavalrymen were riding around and slicing down the few remaining Trollocs who tried to make a run for it. But even from this distance he could see the bodies of a dozen men lying among the Trollocs. Light send they were only injured. Moiraine and Nynaeve were running towards them. Elayne still lived.

He sensed movement. Beside him Rand moved as well. Galad had to steady himself. Before them stood a Myrddraal. Its black cloak did not move in the breeze and the eyeless gaze brought with it an almost uncontrollable fear, or so it was said. Tucked deep within the void, the feeling touched him only slightly.

"Dragon," the thing hissed out in a grating voice. "Your days have been counted and they are few."

Galad struck and the Fade casually brushed his stroke aside while barely glancing in his direction. His week leg gave in and he stumbled down the hill.

"Serve the Dark Lord and prolong your life," the Halfman continued as he circled Rand. "Serve the Dark Lord Lews Therin."

"I am not Lews Therin," Rand said angrily. Though Galad noticed a slight waver in his reply. Even from the side it seemed as if the Fade was smiling. It was almost more frightening. "I am Rand al'Thor. Son of Elayne al'Thor." He lied proudly.

"So you are Rand al'Thor." The Myrddraal replied slowly while moving around Rand and away from Galad.

It struck quickly and powerfully. Rand barely managed to fend off the attack. The Fade seemed disappointed. "I always thought you a better swordsman, Lews Therin."

"My name is Rand al'Thor!" Rand shouted as he struck out against the Fade with quick rapid movements.

Galad gingerly got to his feet using his sword to push himself up. The Myrddraal had trouble fending off the last set of attacks. Its smile wavered slightly, but only for a moment. The Fade mumbled something and the world grew slightly darker as the blade in Rand's hand began to grow bright red. He cried out in pain and let it fall to the ground.

Galad watched in horror as the Myrddraal stepped towards Rand.

Then as the setting sun cast a shadow over them the Fade vanished. Rand dropped to his knee and he studied his burnt palm. His face grew hard. He retrieved his sword and slowly stood again. His eyes never ceased to study the world around them. He did not let his guard drop as he stood waiting for help to come.

Despite the distance to him, Galad could see the boiling rage within Rand. Galad could not tell if it was directed at the Myrddraal or at his mother or even Moiraine. Still it was clear that Rand now knew that he was the Dragon Reborn and by no means pleased.

Help was not long in coming. A man rode down the slope towards them. He held the reigns of two horses. Captain Bawyn. The man was covered in blood, but he bore no visible signs of injury. He dropped beside Galad as he was closest.

"Are you alright man?" he asked. "Your brother?"

"I think Rand will live, but he is hurt badly."

"Like you aren't! Light blessed fools!" he shouted. "Running into the Trollocs and then fighting a Fade while half dead."

"Not that we really had a choice about the last part," Galad replied.

Bawyn did not reply. He pushed Galad up onto a horse and then led them towards Rand who stood poised in case a Trolloc decided it was not dead or another Myrddraal came jumping out of a shadow. Bawyn leapt from his horse and gripped Rand pushing him up onto the third horse.

Galad looked around them. They stood in the middle of an untold amount of Trollocs some of them were still moving about. The cavalry would finish them before nightfall.

Bawyn did not hesitate and soon he was galloping up the steep slope with Galad and Rand in tow. Despite the weariness Galad still looked upon the chaos with a calm detachedness.

Inside the camp he dismounted. He barely noticed Elyane, Egwene and Moiraine as he cleaned the excess blood from his sword with a casual flick of his wrist. He bent down and wiped the blade clean on a discarded cloak and sheathed the blade with a single seamless movement.

Glancing up into their wide eyes he let go of the void. He barely felt Moiraine's cool hands until he his body burned from her healing. He did not cry out, but darkness nearly overtook him.

To the side Rand had barely gotten off his horse before she touched him as well.

Elayne stood outside her tent and stared about wide eyed as men moved about quickly. They gathered swords and armour without any thought or hesitation. Each man knew what would be needed from him.

"Elayne," Gawyn gripped her arm. "What was that all about?"

"Leave me alone," she threw his arm off. "I need to find Rand."

"What does that liar matter to you?" he asked, but she was already walking towards where the men were running to.

She stopped and rounded on him. "It matters, Gawyn, seeing that he is my husband!" she shouted the last part. In the din of all the shouts no one else heard her words.

Gawyn stood frozen in place. His eyes burning embers. "I don't care who he is?" he said through clenched teeth.

Elayne nodded and then began to walk again. "Clean yourself up Gawyn," she replied angrily. "You are a complete mess. Who did that?"

He grabbed her arm again. "Galad. He seems obsessed with Rand."

Elayne stopped walking as he held her back. "Why go looking for him now?" he asked.

She glared at him and his hand was hurting her. It was a valid question and one she could not answer for herself. "I don't know, Gawyn." Her voice was softer and his grip relaxed. "I just now that I need to speak to him before the fool gets himself killed."

"Let him die!" Gawyn said angrily. "With him dead we are free from this stupid…"

She stopped and slapped him hard across the face. Blood sprayed from his already bleeding nose and onto her dress. "I…" her lips trembled. Rand could not die, not now. "I don't want him dead."

"Why?" he said harshly.

She glanced about. Most of the men were already forming a line. Rand was nowhere to be seen. "It's complicated, Gawyn," she finally whispered when she saw Rand's red jacket. She cursed, he was already far away. Galad strode beside him.

Gawyn snorted, but he did not laugh once he saw the expression on her face. "You love him?" he gasped.

She pressed her hand against her forehead. Her mind felt so confused and all she wanted to do was run to Rand to talk to him. It took a few heartbeats for her mouth to loosen. "I'm not sure, Gawyn. Maybe." It came out softly.

Her brother's eyes softened slightly and he nodded. "Does he love you?"

She bit down hard fighting her emotions. "I'm not sure. I think he was trying to say that he might, but he is as confused as I am, if not more and I was too angry to listen."

She could see the question in her brother gaze. "Later, Gawyn. I must go to him." He nodded and then followed her to where Moiraine and Lan stood.

As they walked he spoke. "If you really do care for him and he for you." He inhaled deeply. The words were no doubt being forced out of him. "Then I will see that no harm comes to him." She nodded, but made no reply. "You will, however, come first."

"What is Rand doing?" Elayne demanded as soon as she reached them. A young woman Elayne did not know was also standing to the side. The woman with the long braid from the Palace was also beside Moiraine. Two men stood beside them. Each held a large bow and were letting lose one arrow after another.

Moiraine's reply was cut-off as the entire line of men before them released the first volley of arrows. The answer was needed. Further down the slope the distinct red jacket of Rand was moving further away. Galad still strode beside him.

He was not stopping. "Rand!" she shouted and began to run after him. She barely managed a few strides before a set of very strong arms enveloped her and dragged her kicking body back up the slope.

"Elayne!" Moiraine said with uncharacteristic anger as her Warder placed Elayne on the ground beside her. "It is too late for anything to be done about them."

"They'll be killed," she pleaded and Moiraine glanced away looking odd.

"The Wheel weaves and Wheel wills," she said barely above a whisper. Then she shook her head. "Never mind them." She turned to Lan. "Go help, Captain Bawyn. I can look after myself and I have the Two Rivers boys here if I need some muscle."

Lan looked unsure of what to do. He gave the two men with the bows a quick glance. "As you command," he said finally.

"Follow him," Elayne commanded her brother.

"No! My duty is with you, Elayne," Gawyn replied firmly.

"Go!" Elayne said more forcibly. "They will be needing every sword they can find." Gawyn knew she was right. "If the Trollocs get here then your sword alone won't help. Go where you can do the most."

He nodded slowly and gave a respectful bow. "Elayne," he turned to the woman with the braid and then to the younger woman and for briefest of moments Elayne saw something else in Gawyn's eyes. A light she'd never noticed before in him. "My Lady."

Lan was already halfway towards the ranks of Andorman. Gawyn straightened slowly and then ran hurriedly to reach the line before the Trollocs could reach them.

To the side the cavalrymen had begun their charge at the sound of a trumpet. Elayne grimaced as they collided with the Trollocs. Even from here she could hear the shouts. She did not look long, nor did the other two women.

"Blood and ashes, Rand!" Mat shouted. "Light, get out of there!"

Elayne was saying the same. She, however, knew there was nothing to be done now. Men would only be killed trying to help them.

The dark mass of beasts hit Rand and Galad and Elayne hid behind her hands as they swarmed around the pair. It was horrible, knowing the man she felt something for was about to die. There was nothing to be done.

"Can you touch the source?" Moiraine asked. "Elayne! Egwene!" the Aes Sedai said louder. "Can you embrace saidar?"

"I can," the other girl said. The voice of the other woman brought Elayne out of her trance.

"I have been taught enough to not kill myself," Elayne replied while straightening her herself. She had to remind herself that she was the Daughter Heir.

"Embrace it," Moiraine said in a stern voice. "As Novices I command you." The Aes Sedai turned to the woman with the braid. "Can you embrace saidar?" Nynaeve's jaw was set and she closed her eyes, nothing happened.

Elayne and the other girl nodded. It was still a slow process. She imagined the bud of rose in her mind and focused on clearing all her thoughts. It was difficult, especially with Rand's red jacket moving far away in the middle of a swarm of Trollocs.

Hope blossomed. He was still alive. They were around him, but he still lived. And she knew her channelling might help him. With the thought firmly set in her mind she surrendered fully to saidar. At first it came in a small trickle and then it changed.

It felt like someone had gripped her body. Instead someone had taken control of her saidar. Her eyes widened and she saw a bright glow around Moiraine. She was powerful, but Elayne sense she would one day be able to hold as much if not more.

Then she sensed a third person. Spinning round she saw a powerful glow around Egwene. The amount the girl channelled was not much. The same as Elayne, but she sensed a similar potential in Egwene. They could both hold more than Moiraine.

A fourth joined the circle. Elayne felt a strong surge of saidar from Nynaeve. Again the flow was less than from Moiraine, but within her Elayne sensed a strength far greater than in any of them. Elayne felt awe for the woman.

Then something flared inside all four of them. The light around Moiraine brightened considerably and Elayne felt mesmerised by the amount of power flowing through the Aes Sedai. More than she ever dreamed of holding. She could feel the same surprise in the women beside her.

Moiraine, however, gave no indication of what she felt. Her gaze was focused on the Trollocs and then the mass of saidar began to move rapidly as complex weaves of fire formed in the air. Above the dark mass of Trollocs and near the cavalrymen who were beginning to struggle a flame blossomed and consumed the Trollocs. The sudden collapse of a large group of beasts freed the cavalry to gain some momentum.

Elayne felt her head spin as another surge of saider moved through her. The same flows were repeated over and over again. Each time it grew steadily weaker as Elayne and the other woman began to grow weak. Moiraine was also beginning to show the effects of channelling.

Then it stopped. No more Trollocs were standing. The Aes Sedai let go of saidar and so did Elayne and the other two women. The world swayed a little, but she managed to keep her footing.

Men were shouting for help. Moiraine and Nynaeve darted towards them. Elayne only stared down the hill for the first time in ages. She had not had the courage to keep an eye on Rand or Galad. Her heart gave a jolt of surprise at seeing two men standing nearly three hundred feet away. Countless bodies lay around them. Those beast had not been killed by the One Power, arrows or cavalrymen. They had all been cut down by one of two swords.

Both of them stood mere paces from each other. Their stances indicated a readiness for more action. Something flickered then a Fade stepped towards the pair. None of them moved for a few moments. Then Galad lunged before being thrown aside. Even from this distance she could tell that Myrddraal motion was casual. Rand seemed to be shouting something as he faced the Myrddraal alone. Then he attacked, pushing the Halfman back. They stopped and the world grew slightly dark. Rand appeared to be shouting as he dropped his sword. Elayne gasped and it felt like her world was ending. Something in her was about to die.

Then the Fade vanished, leaving Rand and Galad alone.

"Captain!" Elayne shouted at Bawyn when she gathered hersel. "Bring those men back." This time it came out as a firm command.

Bawyn nodded, grabbed three horses and rode down the hill. Elayne clutched her stomach. She felt ill as the tension began to bleed from her system. Rand was alive. Bawyn quickly shoved Galad and then Rand onto a horse and then galloped back up the hill before some Trolloc decided to take a chance. Studying Rand as he rode towards them she wondered what he meant to her. Could she really spend a lifetime with him? What did all her fears and worries mean?

Only when they halted before Elayne, did she see the deep cuts on both the men. They were pale, and their gazes were cold and impassive. She watched as Galad slid of his horse. He almost stumbled.

Galad did not seem to notice as he went through an intricate movement she had seen him do countless times. She knew what it was for, but to see the blood cleaned of a sword so casually was unnerving. Even if it was Trolloc blood.

Galad glanced up at them, his eyes softened as Moiraine cupped his cheeks. He did not cry out as her healing touched him, but he did waver unsteadily for a few moments after she had let go.

Rand had managed to get himself off his horse. His feet had barely touched the ground before Moiraine healed him. He cried out before falling back only to steady himself against the horse with his left hand. The other hand was clenched in a tight fist.

Moiraine sensed something and made to grab his hand. He pushed her away angrily. "Ask! Moiraine!"

Egwene strode forward. "That is no way to speak to an Aes Sedai, Rand al'Thor!" she shouted.

He did not glance at Egwene nor Elayne. A burning anger blazed inside his grey eyes. "How many more lies will you be telling me?" he demanded loudly. "How much more are you still hiding from me, Aes Sedai?" he said the title with contempt.

"Rand, how can you say…" Egwene began angrily, but a raised hand from Moiraine cut her off.

Elayne watched him carefully. Had everything he told her earlier been the truth. Could he really not have known who he was? It sounded crazy, but such anger was not easy to replicate.

"I'm am sorry, Rand," she replied calmly.

"How long have you known?" he asked and Elayne could tell he was trying very hard to calm his temper. It was not easy.

Moiraine did not back down. "Since I talked to your mother in Emond's Field."

"That long!" he shouted. He took a step forward and he towered over the diminutive Aes Sedai. Even so he could barely managed to dominate the strong woman. It unnerved Elayne to see a man dominating an Aes Sedai.

"What would have had me say, Rand?" she questioned while seeming smaller before him. "Would you have believed everything? Would you have followed me? Would you have believed your mother had you not seen yourself?"

"Light!" he cursed skyward. His left hand stroked through his hair. His other hand still remained closed as if it were in pain.

"Please, Rand, I can help." Elayne was surprised at the Aes Sedai. It sounded almost as if she were begging him.

He stared down at her, hand still rubbing his head. "Give me one good reason why I should not still you?"

Elayne gasped. "Rand," she said loudly. "How can you threaten an Aes Sedai?"

He blinked as if seeing her for the first time. His eyes softened and a lot of his anger seemed to evaporate. "I'm sorry, Elayne."

Elayne gave a small smile at Rand's reply. Egwene was not oblivious to the subtle change in Rand when he noticed the Daughter Heir standing there. He had been so focused on Moiraine he had barely glanced about.

"I should be," Moiraine agreed and all three woman standing there gasped. "But if you are to have me stilled then how can I help you?"

Rand seemed to tear his eyes away from Elayne. The girl seemed a lot more pleased all of a sudden.

Then something in Rand gave way. "I'm sorry, Moiraine. I think I should go rest for the night." He turned his attention to Elayne. "I will speak with you tomorrow. I'm afraid I…" his voice was growing very weak, "need some rest."

"We have all day," she replied. Then she took a step towards him and embraced him. She whispered something in his ear and he smiled patting her back slightly.

"I think so to, Elayne."

"Rand," Moiraine made him pause just before he could walk away. "Let me heal your hand."

He gave a curt nod and she moved to him. Elayne stepped aside. Slowly Rand opened his palm. Before anyone else could see the damage, Moiraine closed it again and Rand shuddered.

"That is all I can do," Moiraine whispered almost sadly.

"At least we know," Rand replied and walked away.

The Aes Sedai made no sign of acknowledging his words.

Egwene watched in confusion as two soldiers moved to stand outside his tent.

"I think I might retire as well." Egwene jumped, Galad had been so still she had forgotten that he was there.

"I need some rest to clear my head," Elayne said also. "Goodnight, Galad," she said.

The man gave a few bows to the women and then walked away. He entered the tent beside Rand and the one guard moved over to his tent.

"He really did not know?" Elayne asked Moiraine.

She did not look at Elayne. "No, he did not."

"Thank you," she said softly and then strode away regally to her tent.

Egwene still stood with Moiraine when Captain Bawyn and Lan came towards them.

"Are you well, Moiraine?" Lan asked.

She did not move. "I am well all things considered." He looked at her worryingly. Then she said. "It is one thing thinking you know. It is quite another to know."

Lan made no sign, but Egwene saw a subtle shift in his eyes that hinted at understanding. "So it really has come?"

Moiraine came out of her trance. "At least we know he can use a sword."

"Flaming fool was born with a sword in hand by the looks of it," Bawyn said angrily. Egwene got the distinct impression he did not like being wrong. Especially not about a blademaster. "I swear only Galad has as much natural instinct." Bawyn shook his head. "I still think them flaming goat brained madmen, but they do deserve the title."

"I agree," Lan said. "We should find a panel and a sword to have Galad raised."

"There might not be time," Moiraine said with sudden determination. "Captain."

"Yes, Aes Sedai."

"Can a rider of yours get to Caemlyn and back before sunrise?"

"Yes, Moiraine Sedai. This column travelled slowly today and as you know they stopped early."

"Good," she replied. "I need you to send men to the Queen's Blessing inn. There they will find and ogier called Loial. I need that ogier."

"As you command, Aes Sedai." He made to leave, but then stopped. "I would like to thank you for the assistance this evening. Without you my cavalry would not have made it."

Moiraine gave a slight curtsy and then the man left.

Nynaeve and Lan walked away, his hand was holding hers. All around them guards were busy cleaning and disposing of Trollocs.

Two riders mounted their horses and galloped into the rapidly darkening countryside back to Caemlyn.

Egwene stood alone with the Aes Sedai.

"What was Rand talking about?" Egwene asked.

Moiraine did not say anything for a long while. Instead she let the sun set before her. "Tonight the sun sets on an old world. Tomorrow it will rise to a force the world has not seen in more than a millennia."

Egwene did not understand a word. With the sun below the horizon it grew cold. The icy wind bit at her and so she retreated to the safety of the camp and an available tent, which a guard pointed out to her.