Excerpt: Chapters 9 & 10 of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan - Tor/Forge Blog
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Excerpt: Chapters 9 & 10 of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Excerpt: Chapters 9 & 10 of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

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Poster Placeholder of - 75There’s only a month left until The Wheel of Time show FINALLY releases on Amazon Prime, and we’re getting ready by re-reading The Eye of the World! Join us with Chapters 9 & 10 for free here.

Since its debut in 1990, The Wheel of Time® by Robert Jordan has captivated millions of readers around the globe with its scope, originality, and compelling characters.

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs—a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts— five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

Enjoy this special, extended except of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, available now!


Tellings of the Wheel

Rand’s heart pounded as he ran, and he stared in dismay at the barren hills surrounding him. This was not just a place where spring was late in coming; spring had never come here, and never would come. Nothing grew in the cold soil that crunched under his boots, not so much as a bit of lichen. He scrambled past boulders, twice as tall as he was; dust coated the stone as if never a drop of rain had touched it. The sun was a swollen, blood-red ball, more fiery than on the hottest day of summer and bright enough to sear his eyes, but it stood stark against a leaden cauldron of a sky where clouds of sharp black and silver roiled and boiled on every horizon. For all the swirling clouds, though, no breath of breeze stirred across the land, and despite the sullen sun the air burned cold like the depths of winter.

Rand looked over his shoulder often as he ran, but he could not see his pursuers. Only desolate hills and jagged black mountains, many topped by tall plumes of dark smoke rising to join the milling clouds. If he could not see his hunters, though, he could hear them, howling behind him, guttural voices shouting with the glee of the chase, howling with the joy of blood to come. Trollocs. Coming closer, and his strength was almost gone.

With desperate haste he scrambled to the top of a knife-edged ridge, then dropped to his knees with a groan. Below him a sheer rock wall fell away, a thousand-foot cliff plummeting into a vast canyon. Steamy mists covered the canyon floor, their thick gray surface rolling in grim waves, rolling and breaking against the cliff beneath him, but more slowly than any ocean wave had ever moved. Patches of fog glowed red for an instant as if great fires had suddenly flared beneath, then died. Thunder rumbled in the depths of the valley, and lightning crackled through the gray, sometimes striking up at the sky.

It was not the valley itself that sapped his strength and filled the empty spaces left with helplessness. From the center of the furious vapors a mountain thrust upward, a mountain taller than any he had ever seen in the Mountains of Mist, a mountain as black as the loss of all hope. That bleak stone spire, a dagger stabbing at the heavens, was the source of his desolation. He had never seen it before, but he knew it. The memory of it flashed away like quicksilver when he tried to touch it, but the memory was there. He knew it was there.

Unseen fingers touched him, pulled at his arms and legs, trying to draw him to the mountain. His body twitched, ready to obey. His arms and legs stiffened as if he thought he could dig his fingers and toes into the stone. Ghostly strings entwined around his heart, pulling him calling him to the spire mountain. Tears ran down his face, and he sagged to the ground. He felt his will draining away like water out of a holed bucket. Just a little longer, and he would go where he was called. He would obey, do as he was told. Abruptly he discovered another emotion: anger. Push him, pull him, he was not a sheep to be prodded into a pen. The anger squeezed itself into one hard knot, and he clung to it as he would have clung to a raft in a flood.

Serve me, a voice whispered in the stillness of his mind. A familiar voice. If he listened hard enough he was sure he would know it. Serve me. He shook his head to try to get it out of his head. Serve me! He shook his fist at the black mountain. “The Light consume you, Shai’tan!”

Abruptly the smell of death lay thick around him. A figure loomed over him, in a cloak the color of dried blood, a figure with a face. . . . He did not want to see the face that looked down at him. He did not want to think of that face. It hurt to think of it, turned his mind to embers. A hand reached toward him. Not caring if he fell over the edge, he threw himself away. He had to get away. Far away. He fell, flailing at the air, wanting to scream, finding no breath for screaming, no breath at all.

Abruptly he was no longer in the barren land, no longer falling. Winter-brown grass flattened under his boots; it seemed like flowers. He almost laughed to see scattered trees and bushes, leafless as they were, dotting the gently rolling plain that now surrounded him. In the distance reared a single mountain, its peak broken and split, but this mountain brought no fear or despair. It was just a mountain, though oddly out of place there, with no other in sight.

A broad river flowed by the mountain, and on an island in the middle of that river was a city such as might live in a gleeman’s tale, a city surrounded by high walls gleaming white and silver beneath the warm sun. With mingled relief and joy he started for the walls, for the safety and serenity he somehow knew he would find behind them.

As he came closer he made out soaring towers, many joined by wondrous walkways that spanned the open air. High bridges arched from both banks of the river to the island city. Even at a distance he could see lacy stonework on those spans, seemingly too delicate to withstand the swift waters that rushed beneath them. Beyond those bridges lay safety. Sanctuary.

Of a sudden a chill ran along his bones; an icy clamminess settled on his skin, and the air around him turned fetid and dank. Without looking back he ran, ran from the pursuer whose freezing fingers brushed his back and tugged at his cloak, ran from the light-eating figure with the face that. . . . He could not remember the face, except as terror. He did not want to remember the face. He ran, and the ground passed beneath his feet, rolling hills and flat plain . . . and he wanted to howl like a dog gone mad. The city was receding before him. The harder he ran, the further away drifted the white shining walls and haven. They grew smaller, and smaller, until only a pale speck remained on the horizon. The cold hand of his pursuer clutched at his collar. If those fingers touched him he knew he would go mad. Or worse. Much worse. Even as that surety came to him he tripped and fell . . .

“Noooo!” he screamed.

. . . and grunted as paving stones smacked the breath out of him. Wonderingly he got to his feet. He stood on the approaches to one of the marvelous bridges he had seen rearing over the river. Smiling people walked by on either side of him, people dressed in so many colors they made him think of a field of wildflowers. Some of them spoke to him, but he could not understand, though the words sounded as if he should. But the faces were friendly, and the people gestured him onward, over the bridge with its intricate stonework, onward toward the shining, silver-streaked walls and the towers beyond. Toward the safety he knew waited there.

He joined the throng streaming across the bridge and into the city through massive gates set in tall, pristine walls. Within was a wonderland where the meanest structure seemed a palace. It was as though the builders had been told to take stone and brick and tile and create beauty to take the breath of mortal men. There was no building, no monument that did not make him stare with goggling eyes. Music drifted down the streets, a hundred different songs, but all blending with the clamor of the crowds to make one grand, joyous harmony. The scents of sweet perfumes and sharp spices, of wondrous foods and myriad flowers, all floated in the air, as if every good smell in the world were gathered there.

The street by which he entered the city, broad and paved with smooth, gray stone, stretched straight before him toward the center of the city. At its end loomed a tower larger and taller than any other in the city, a tower as white as fresh-fallen snow. That tower was where safety lay, and the knowledge he sought. But the city was such as he had never dreamed of seeing. Surely it would not matter if he delayed just a short time in going to the tower? He turned aside onto a narrower street, where jugglers strolled among hawkers of strange fruits.

Ahead of him down the street was a snow-white tower. The same tower. In just a little while, he thought, and rounded another corner. At the far end of this street, too, lay the white tower. Stubbornly he turned another corner, and another, and each time the alabaster tower met his eyes. He spun to run away from it . . . and skidded to a halt. Before him, the white tower. He was afraid to look over his shoulder, afraid it would be there, too.

The faces around him were still friendly, but shattered hope filled them now, hope he had broken. Still the people gestured him forward, pleading gestures. Toward the tower. Their eyes shone with desperate need, and only he could fulfill it, only he could save them.

Very well, he thought. The tower was, after all, where he wanted to go.

Even as he took his first step forward disappointment faded from those about him, and smiles wreathed every face. They moved with him, and small children strewed his path with flower petals. He looked over his shoulder in confusion, wondering who the flowers were meant for, but behind him were only more smiling people gesturing him on. They must be for me, he thought, and wondered why that suddenly did not seem strange at all. But wonderment lasted only a moment before melting away; all was as it should be.

First one, then another of the people began to sing, until every voice was lifted in a glorious anthem. He still could not understand the words, but a dozen interweaving harmonies shouted joy and salvation. Musicians capered through the on-flowing crowd, adding flutes and harps and drums in a dozen sizes to the hymn, and all the songs he had heard before blended in without seam. Girls danced around him, laying garlands of sweet-smelling blossoms across his shoulders, twining them about his neck. They smiled at him, their delight growing with every step he took. He could not help but smile back. His feet itched to join in their dance, and even as he thought of it he was dancing, his steps fitting as if he had known it all from birth. He threw back his head and laughed; his feet were lighter than they had ever been, dancing with. . . . He could not remember the name, but it did not seem important.

It is your destiny, a voice whispered in his head, and the whisper was a thread in the paean.

Carrying him like a twig on the crest of a wave, the crowd flowed into a huge square in the middle of the city, and for the first time he saw that the white tower rose from a great palace of pale marble, sculpted rather than built, curving walls and swelling domes and delicate spires fingering the sky. The whole of it made him gasp in awe. Broad stairs of pristine stone led up from the square, and at the foot of those stairs the people halted, but their song rose ever higher. The swelling voices buoyed his feet. Your destiny, the voice whispered, insistent now, eager.

He no longer danced, but neither did he stop. He mounted the stairs without hesitation. This was where he belonged.

Scrollwork covered the massive doors at the top of the stairs, carvings so intricate and delicate that he could not imagine a knife blade fine enough to fit. The portals swung open, and he went in. They closed behind him with an echoing crash like thunder.

“We have been waiting for you,” the Myrddraal hissed.

Rand sat bolt upright, gasping for breath and shivering, staring. Tam was still asleep on the bed. Slowly his breathing slowed. Half-consumed logs blazed in the fireplace with a good bed of coals built up around the fire-irons; someone had been there to tend it while he slept. A blanket lay at his feet, where it had fallen when he woke. The makeshift litter was gone, too, and his and Tam’s cloaks had been hung by the door.

He wiped cold sweat from his face with a hand that was none too steady and wondered if naming the Dark One in a dream brought his attention the same way that naming him aloud did.

Twilight darkened the window; the moon was well up, round and fat, and evening stars sparkled above the Mountains of Mist. He had slept the day away. He rubbed a sore spot on his side. Apparently he had slept with the sword hilt jabbing him in the ribs. Between that and an empty stomach and the night before, it was no wonder he had had nightmares.

His belly rumbled, and he got up stiffly and made his way to the table where Mistress al’Vere had left the tray. He twitched aside the white napkin. Despite the time he had slept, the beef broth was still warm, and so was the crusty bread. Mistress al’Vere’s hand was plain; the tray had been replaced. Once she decided you needed a hot meal, she did not give up till it was inside you.

He gulped down some broth, and it was all he could do to put some meat and cheese between two pieces of bread before stuffing it in his mouth. Taking big bites, he went back to the bed.

Mistress al’Vere had apparently seen to Tam, as well. Tam had been undressed, his clothes now clean and neatly folded on the bedside table, and a blanket was drawn up under his chin. When Rand touched his father’s forehead, Tam opened his eyes.

“There you are, boy. Marin said you were here, but I couldn’t even sit up to see. She said you were too tired for her to wake just so I could look at you. Even Bran can’t get around her when she has her mind set.”

Tam’s voice was weak, but his gaze was clear and steady. The Aes Sedai was right, Rand thought. With rest he would be as good as ever.

“Can I get you something to eat? Mistress al’Vere left a tray.”

“She fed me already . . . if you can call it that. Wouldn’t let me have anything but broth. How can a man avoid bad dreams with nothing but broth in his. . . .” Tam fumbled a hand from under the cover and touched the sword at Rand’s waist. “Then it wasn’t a dream. When Marin told me I was sick, I thought I had been. . . . But you’re all right. That is all that matters. What of the farm?”

Rand took a deep breath. “The Trollocs killed the sheep. I think they took the cow, too, and the house needs a good cleaning.” He managed a weak smile. “We were luckier than some. They burned half the village.”

He told Tam everything that had happened, or at least most of it. Tam listened closely, and asked sharp questions, so he found himself having to tell about returning to the farmhouse from the woods, and that brought in the Trolloc he had killed. He had to tell how Nynaeve had said Tam was dying to explain why the Aes Sedai had tended him instead of the Wisdom. Tam’s eyes widened at that, an Aes Sedai in Emond’s Field. But Rand could see no need to go over every step of the journey from the farm, or his fears, or the Myrddraal on the road. Certainly not his nightmares as he slept by the bed. Especially he saw no reason to mention Tam’s ramblings under the fever. Not yet. Moiraine’s story, though: there was no avoiding that.

“Now that’s a tale to make a gleeman proud,” Tam muttered when he was done. “What would Trollocs want with you boys? Or the Dark One, Light help us?”

“You think she was lying? Master al’Vere said she was telling the truth about only two farms being attacked. And about Master Luhhan’s house, and Master Cauthon’s.”

For a moment Tam lay silent before saying, “Tell me what she said. Her exact words, mind, just as she said them.”

Rand struggled. Who ever remembered the exact words they heard? He chewed at his lip and scratched his head, and bit by bit he brought it out, as nearly as he could remember. “I can’t think of anything else,” he finished. “Some of it I’m not too sure she didn’t say a little differently, but it’s close, anyway.”

“It’s good enough. It has to be, doesn’t it? You see, lad, Aes Sedai are tricksome. They don’t lie, not right out, but the truth an Aes Sedai tells you is not always the truth you think it is. You take care around her.”

“I’ve heard the stories,” Rand retorted. “I’m not a child.”

“So you’re not, so you’re not.” Tam sighed heavily, then shrugged in annoyance. “I should be going along with you, just the same. The world outside the Two Rivers is nothing like Emond’s Field.”

That was an opening to ask about Tam going outside and all the rest of it, but Rand did not take it. His mouth fell open, instead. “Just like that? I thought you would try to talk me out of it. I thought you’d have a hundred reasons I should not go.” He realized he had been hoping Tam would have a hundred reasons, and good ones.

“Maybe not a hundred,” Tam said with a snort, “but a few did come to mind. Only they don’t count for much. If Trollocs are after you, you will be safer in Tar Valon than you could ever be here. Just remember to be wary. Aes Sedai do things for their own reasons, and those are not always the reasons you think.”

“The gleeman said something like that,” Rand said slowly.

“Then he knows what he’s talking about. You listen sharp, think deep, and guard your tongue. That’s good advice for any dealings beyond the Two Rivers, but most especially with Aes Sedai. And with Warders. Tell Lan something, and you’ve as good as told Moiraine. If he’s a Warder, then he’s bonded to her as sure as the sun rose this morning, and he won’t keep many secrets from her, if any.”

Rand knew little about the bonding between Aes Sedai and Warders, though it played a big part in every story about Warders he had ever heard. It was something to do with the Power, a gift to the Warder, or maybe some sort of exchange. The Warders got all sorts of benefits, according to the stories. They healed more quickly than other men, and could go longer without food or water or sleep. Supposedly they could sense Trollocs, if they were close enough, and other creatures of the Dark One, too, which explained how Lan and Moiraine had tried to warn the village before the attack. As to what the Aes Sedai got out of it, the stories were silent, but he was not about to believe they did not get something.

“I’ll be careful,” Rand said. “I just wish I knew why. It doesn’t make any sense. Why me? Why us?”

“I wish I knew, too, boy. Blood and ashes, I wish I knew.” Tam sighed heavily. “Well, no use trying to put a broken egg back in the shell, I suppose. How soon do you have to go? I’ll be back on my feet in a day or two, and we can see about starting a new flock. Oren Dautry has some good stock he might be willing to part with, with the pastures all gone, and so does Jon Thane.”

“Moiraine . . . the Aes Sedai said you had to stay in bed. She said weeks.” Tam opened his mouth, but Rand went on. “And she talked to Mistress al’Vere.”

“Oh. Well, maybe I can talk Marin around.” Tam did not sound hopeful of it, though. He gave Rand a sharp look. “The way you avoided answering means you have to leave soon. Tomorrow? Or tonight?”

“Tonight,” Rand said quietly, and Tam nodded sadly.

“Yes. Well, if it must be done, best not to delay. But we will see about this ‘weeks’ business.” He plucked at his blankets with more irritation than strength. “Perhaps I’ll follow in a few days anyway. Catch you up on the road. We will see if Marin can keep me in bed when I want to get up.”

There was a tap at the door, and Lan stuck his head into the room. “Say your goodbyes quickly, sheepherder, and come. There may be trouble.”

“Trouble?” Rand said, and the Warder growled at him impatiently.

“Just hurry!”

Hastily Rand snatched up his cloak. He started to undo the sword belt, but Tam spoke up.

“Keep it. You will probably have more need of it than I, though, the Light willing, neither of us will. Take care, lad. You hear?”

Ignoring Lan’s continued growls, Rand bent to grab Tam in a hug. “I will come back. I promise you that.”

“Of course you will.” Tam laughed. He returned the hug weakly, and ended by patting Rand on the back. “I know that. And I’ll have twice as many sheep for you to tend when you return. Now go, before that fellow does himself an injury.”

Rand tried to hang back, tried to find the words for the question he did not want to ask, but Lan entered the room to catch him by the arm and pull him into the hall. The Warder had donned a dull gray-green tunic of overlapping metal scales. His voice rasped with irritation.

“We have to hurry. Don’t you understand the word trouble?”

Outside the room Mat waited, cloaked and coated and carrying his bow. A quiver hung at his waist. He was rocking anxiously on his heels, and he kept glancing off toward the stairs with what seemed to be equal parts impatience and fear. “This isn’t much like the stories, Rand, is it?” he said hoarsely.

“What kind of trouble?” Rand demanded, but the Warder ran ahead of him instead of answering, taking the steps down two at a time. Mat dashed after him with quick gestures for Rand to follow.

Shrugging into his cloak, he caught up to them downstairs. Only a feeble light filled the common room; half the candles had burned out and most of the rest were guttering. It was empty except for the three of them. Mat stood next to one of the front windows, peeping out as if trying not to be seen. Lan held the door open a crack and peered into the inn yard.

Wondering what they could be watching, Rand went to join him. The Warder muttered at him to take a care, but he did open the door a trifle wider to make room for Rand to look, too.

At first he was not sure exactly what he was seeing. A crowd of village men, some three dozen or so, clustered near the burned-out husk of the peddler’s wagon, night pushed back by the torches some of them carried. Moiraine faced them, her back to the inn, leaning with seeming casualness on her walking staff. Hari Coplin stood in the front of the crowd with his brother, Darl, and Bili Congar. Cenn Buie was there, as well, looking uncomfortable. Rand was startled to see Hari shake his fist at Moiraine.

“Leave Emond’s Field!” the sour-faced farmer shouted. A few voices in the crowd echoed him, but hesitantly, and no one pushed forward. They might be willing to confront an Aes Sedai from within a crowd, but none of them wanted to be singled out. Not by an Aes Sedai who had every reason to take offense.

“You brought those monsters!” Darl roared. He waved a torch over his head, and there were shouts of, “You brought them!” and “It’s your fault!” led by his cousin Bili.

Hari elbowed Cenn Buie, and the old thatcher pursed his lips and gave him a sidelong glare. “Those things . . . those Trollocs didn’t appear until after you came,” Cenn muttered, barely loud enough to be heard. He swung his head from side to side dourly as if wishing he were somewhere else and looking for a way to get there. “You’re an Aes Sedai. We want none of your sort in the Two Rivers. Aes Sedai bring trouble on their backs. If you stay, you will only bring more.”

His speech brought no response from the gathered villagers, and Hari scowled in frustration. Abruptly he snatched Darl’s torch and shook it in her direction. “Get out!” he shouted. “Or we’ll burn you out!”

Dead silence fell, except for the shuffling of a few feet as men drew back. Two Rivers folk could fight back if they were attacked, but violence was far from common, and threatening people was foreign to them, beyond the occasional shaking of a fist. Cenn Buie, Bili Congar, and the Coplins were left out front alone. Bili looked as if he wanted to back away, too.

Hari gave an uneasy start at the lack of support, but he recovered quickly. “Get out!” he shouted again, echoed by Darl and, more weakly, by Bili. Hari glared at the others. Most of the crowd failed to meet his eye.

Suddenly Bran al’Vere and Haral Luhhan moved out of the shadows, stopping apart from both the Aes Sedai and the crowd. In one hand the Mayor casually carried the big wooden maul he used to drive spigots into casks. “Did someone suggest burning my inn?” he asked softly.

The two Coplins took a step back, and Cenn Buie edged away from them. Bili Congar dived into the crowd. “Not that,” Darl said quickly. “We never said that, Bran . . . ah, Mayor.”

Bran nodded. “Then perhaps I heard you threatening to harm guests in my inn?”

“She’s an Aes Sedai,” Hari began angrily, but his words cut off as Haral Luhhan moved.

The blacksmith simply stretched, thrusting thick arms over his head, tightening massive fists until his knuckles cracked, but Hari looked at the burly man as if one of those fists had been shaken under his nose. Haral folded his arms across his chest. “Your pardon, Hari. I did not mean to cut you off. You were saying?”

But Hari, shoulders hunched as though he were trying to draw into himself and disappear, seemed to have nothing more to say.

“I’m surprised at you people,” Bran rumbled. “Paet al’Caar, your boy’s leg was broken last night, but I saw him walking on it today—because of her. Eward Candwin, you were lying on your belly with a gash down your back like a fish for cleaning, till she laid hands on you. Now it looks as if it happened a month ago, and unless I misdoubt there’ll barely be a scar. And you, Cenn.” The thatcher started to fade back into the crowd, but stopped, held uncomfortably by Bran’s gaze. “I’d be shocked to see any man on the Village Council here, Cenn, but you most of all. Your arm would still be hanging useless at your side, a mass of burns and bruises, if not for her. If you have no gratitude, have you no shame?”

Cenn half lifted his right hand, then looked away from it angrily. “I cannot deny what she did,” he muttered, and he did sound ashamed. “She helped me, and others,” he went on in a pleading tone, “but she’s an Aes Sedai, Bran. If those Trollocs didn’t come because of her, why did they come? We want no part of Aes Sedai in the Two Rivers. Let them keep their troubles away from us.”

A few men, safely back in the crowd, shouted then. “We want no Aes Sedai troubles!” “Send her away!” “Drive her out!” “Why did they come if not because of her?”

A scowl grew on Bran’s face, but before he could speak Moiraine suddenly whirled her vine-carved staff above her head, spinning it with both hands. Rand’s gasp echoed that of the villagers, for a hissing white flame flared from each end of the staff, standing straight out like spearpoints despite the rod’s whirling. Even Bran and Haral edged away from her. She snapped her arms down straight out before her, the staff parallel to the ground, but the pale fire still jetted out, brighter than the torches. Men shied away, held up hands to shield their eyes from the pain of that brilliance.

“Is this what Aemon’s blood has come to?” The Aes Sedai’s voice was not loud, but it overwhelmed every other sound. “Little people squabbling for the right to hide like rabbits? You have forgotten who you were, forgotten what you were, but I had hoped some small part was left, some memory in blood and bone. Some shred to steel you for the long night coming.”

No one spoke. The two Coplins looked as if they never wanted to open their mouths again.

Bran said, “Forgotten who we were? We are who we always have been. Honest farmers and shepherds and craftsmen. Two Rivers folk.”

“To the south,” Moiraine said, “lies the river you call the White River, but far to the east of here men call it still by its rightful name. Manetherendrelle. In the Old Tongue, Waters of the Mountain Home. Sparkling waters that once coursed through a land of bravery and beauty. Two thousand years ago Manetherendrelle flowed by the walls of a mountain city so lovely to behold that Ogier stonemasons came to stare in wonder. Farms and villages covered this region, and that you call the Forest of Shadows, as well, and beyond. But all of those folk thought of themselves as the people of the Mountain Home, the people of Manetheren.

“Their King was Aemon al Caar al Thorin, Aemon son of Caar son of Thorin, and Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan was his Queen. Aemon, a man so fearless that the greatest compliment for courage any could give, even among his enemies, was to say a man had Aemon’s heart. Eldrene, so beautiful that it was said the flowers bloomed to make her smile. Bravery and beauty and wisdom and a love that death could not sunder. Weep, if you have a heart, for the loss of them, for the loss of even their memory. Weep, for the loss of their blood.”

She fell silent then, but no one spoke. Rand was as bound as the others in the spell she had created. When she spoke again, he drank it in, and so did the rest.

“For nearly two centuries the Trolloc Wars had ravaged the length and breadth of the world, and wherever battles raged, the Red Eagle banner of Manetheren was in the forefront. The men of Manetheren were a thorn to the Dark One’s foot and a bramble to his hand. Sing of Manetheren, that would never bend knee to the Shadow. Sing of Manetheren, the sword that could not be broken.

“They were far away, the men of Manetheren, on the Field of Bekkar, called the Field of Blood, when news came that a Trolloc army was moving against their home. Too far to do else but wait to hear of their land’s death, for the forces of the Dark One meant to make an end of them. Kill the mighty oak by hacking away its roots. Too far to do else but mourn. But they were the men of the Mountain Home.

“Without hesitation, without thought for the distance they must travel, they marched from the very field of victory, still covered in dust and sweat and blood. Day and night they marched, for they had seen the horror a Trolloc army left behind it, and no man of them could sleep while such a danger threatened Manetheren. They moved as if their feet had wings, marching further and faster than friends hoped or enemies feared they could. At any other day that march alone would have inspired songs. When the Dark One’s armies swooped down upon the lands of Manetheren, the men of the Mountain Home stood before it, with their backs to the Tarendrelle.”

Some villager raised a small cheer then, but Moiraine kept on as if she had not heard. “The host that faced the men of Manetheren was enough to daunt the bravest heart. Ravens blackened the sky; Trollocs blackened the land. Trollocs and their human allies. Trollocs and Darkfriends in tens of tens of thousands, and Dreadlords to command. At night their cook-fires outnumbered the stars, and dawn revealed the banner of Ba’alzamon at their head. Ba’alzamon, Heart of the Dark. An ancient name for the Father of Lies. The Dark One could not have been free of his prison at Shayol Ghul, for if he had been, not all the forces of humankind together could have stood against him, but there was power there. Dreadlords, and some evil that made that light-destroying banner seem no more than right and sent a chill into the souls of the men who faced it.

“Yet, they knew what they must do. Their homeland lay just across the river. They must keep that host, and the power with it, from the Mountain Home. Aemon had sent out messengers. Aid was promised if they could hold for but three days at the Tarendrelle. Hold for three days against odds that should overwhelm them in the first hour. Yet somehow, through bloody assault and desperate defense, they held through an hour, and the second hour, and the third. For three days they fought, and though the land became a butcher’s yard, no crossing of the Tarendrelle did they yield. By the third night no help had come, and no messengers, and they fought on alone. For six days. For nine. And on the tenth day Aemon knew the bitter taste of betrayal. No help was coming, and they could hold the river crossings no more.”

“What did they do?” Hari demanded. Torchfires flickered in the chill night breeze, but no one made a move to draw a cloak tighter.

“Aemon crossed the Tarendrelle,” Moiraine told them, “destroying the bridges behind him. And he sent word throughout his land for the people to flee, for he knew the powers with the Trolloc horde would find a way to bring it across the river. Even as the word went out, the Trolloc crossing began, and the soldiers of Manetheren took up the fight again, to buy with their lives what hours they could for their people to escape. From the city of Manetheren, Eldrene organized the flight of her people into the deepest forests and the fastness of the mountains.

“But some did not flee. First in a trickle, then a river, then a flood, men went, not to safety, but to join the army fighting for their land. Shepherds with bows, and farmers with pitchforks, and woodsmen with axes. Women went, too, shouldering what weapons they could find and marching side by side with their men. No one made that journey who did not know they would never return. But it was their land. It had been their fathers’, and it would be their children’s, and they went to pay the price of it. Not a step of ground was given up until it was soaked in blood, but at the last the army of Manetheren was driven back, back to here, to this place you now call Emond’s Field. And here the Trolloc hordes surrounded them.”

Her voice held the sound of cold tears. “Trolloc dead and the corpses of human renegades piled up in mounds, but always more scrambled over those charnel heaps in waves of death that had no end. There could be but one finish. No man or woman who had stood beneath the banner of the Red Eagle at that day’s dawning still lived when night fell. The sword that could not be broken was shattered.

“In the Mountains of Mist, alone in the emptied city of Manetheren, Eldrene felt Aemon die, and her heart died with him. And where her heart had been was left only a thirst for vengeance, vengeance for her love, vengeance for her people and her land. Driven by grief she reached out to the True Source, and hurled the One Power at the Trolloc army. And there the Dreadlords died wherever they stood, whether in their secret councils or exhorting their soldiers. In the passing of a breath the Dreadlords and the generals of the Dark One’s host burst into flame. Fire consumed their bodies, and terror consumed their just-victorious army.

“Now they ran like beasts before a wildfire in the forest, with no thought for anything but escape. North and south they fled. Thousands drowned attempting to cross the Tarendrelle without the aid of the Dreadlords, and at the Manetherendrelle they tore down the bridges in their fright at what might be following them. Where they found people, they slew and burned, but to flee was the need that gripped them. Until, at last, no one of them remained in the lands of Manetheren. They were dispersed like dust before the whirlwind. The final vengeance came more slowly, but it came, when they were hunted down by other peoples, by other armies in other lands. None was left alive of those who did murder at Aemon’s Field.

“But the price was high for Manetheren. Eldrene had drawn to herself more of the One Power than any human could ever hope to wield unaided. As the enemy generals died, so did she die, and the fires that consumed her consumed the empty city of Manetheren, even the stones of it, down to the living rock of the mountains. Yet the people had been saved.

“Nothing was left of their farms, their villages, or their great city. Some would say there was nothing left for them, nothing but to flee to other lands, where they could begin anew. They did not say so. They had paid such a price in blood and hope for their land as had never been paid before, and now they were bound to that soil by ties stronger than steel. Other wars would wrack them in years to come, until at last their corner of the world was forgotten and at last they had forgotten wars and the ways of war. Never again did Manetheren rise. Its soaring spires and splashing fountains became as a dream that slowly faded from the minds of its people. But they, and their children, and their children’s children, held the land that was theirs. They held it when the long centuries had washed the why of it from their memories. They held it until, today, there is you. Weep for Manetheren. Weep for what is lost forever.”

The fires on Moiraine’s staff winked out, and she lowered it to her side as if it weighed a hundred pounds. For a long moment the moan of the wind was the only sound. Then Paet al’Caar shouldered past the Coplins.

“I don’t know about your story,” the long-jawed farmer said. “I’m no thorn to the Dark One’s foot, nor ever likely to be, neither. But my Wil is walking because of you, and for that I am ashamed to be here. I don’t know if you can forgive me, but whether you will or no, I’ll be going. And for me, you can stay in Emond’s Field as long as you like.”

With a quick duck of his head, almost a bow, he pushed back through the crowd. Others began to mutter then, offering shamefaced penitence before they, too, slipped away one by one. The Coplins, sour-mouthed and scowling once more, looked at the faces around them and vanished into the night without a word. Bili Congar had disappeared even before his cousins.

Lan pulled Rand back and shut the door. “Let’s go, boy.” The Warder started for the back of the inn. “Come along, both of you. Quickly!”

Rand hesitated, exchanging a wondering glance with Mat. While Moiraine had been telling the story, Master al’Vere’s Dhurrans could not have dragged him away, but now something else held his feet. This was the real beginning, leaving the inn and following the Warder into the night. . . . He shook himself, and tried to firm his resolve. He had no choice but to go, but he would come back to Emond’s Field, however far or long this journey was.

“What are you waiting for?” Lan asked from the door that led out of the back of the common room. With a start Mat hurried to him.

Trying to convince himself that he was beginning a grand adventure, Rand followed them through the darkened kitchen and out into the stableyard.



A single lantern, its shutters half closed, hung from a nail on a stall post, casting a dim light. Deep shadows swallowed most of the stalls. As Rand came through the doors from the stableyard, hard on the heels of Mat and the Warder, Perrin leaped up in a rustle of straw from where he had been sitting with his back against a stall door. A heavy cloak swathed him.

Lan barely paused to demand, “Did you look the way I told you, blacksmith?”

“I looked,” Perrin replied. “There’s nobody here but us. Why would anybody hide—”

“Care and a long life go together, blacksmith.” The Warder ran a quick eye around the shadowed stable and the deeper shadows of the hayloft above, then shook his head. “No time,” he muttered, half to himself. “Hurry, she says.”

As if to suit his words, he strode quickly to where the five horses stood tethered, bridled and saddled at the back of the pool of light. Two were the black stallion and white mare that Rand had seen before. The others, if not quite so tall or so sleek, certainly appeared to be among the best the Two Rivers had to offer. With hasty care Lan began examining cinches and girth straps, and the leather ties that held saddlebags, water-skins, and blanketrolls behind the saddles.

Rand exchanged shaky smiles with his friends, trying hard to look as if he really was eager to be off.

For the first time Mat noticed the sword at Rand’s waist, and pointed to it. “You becoming a Warder?” He laughed, then swallowed it with a quick glance at Lan. The Warder apparently took no notice. “Or at least a merchant’s guard,” Mat went on with a grin that seemed only a little forced. He hefted his bow. “An honest man’s weapon isn’t good enough for him.”

Rand thought about flourishing the sword, but Lan being there stopped him. The Warder was not even looking in his direction, but he was sure the man was aware of everything that went on around him. Instead he said with exaggerated casualness, “It might be useful,” as if wearing a sword were nothing out of the ordinary.

Perrin moved, trying to hide something under his cloak. Rand glimpsed a wide leather belt encircling the apprentice blacksmith’s waist, with the handle of an axe thrust through a loop on the belt.

“What do you have there?” he asked.

“Merchant’s guard, indeed,” Mat hooted.

The shaggy-haired youth gave Mat a frown that suggested he had already had more than his fair share of joking, then sighed heavily and tossed back his cloak to uncover the axe. It was no common woodsman’s tool. A broad half-moon blade on one side of the head and a curved spike on the other made it every bit as strange for the Two Rivers as Rand’s sword. Perrin’s hand rested on it with a sense of familiarity, though.

“Master Luhhan made it about two years ago, for a wool-buyer’s guard. But when it was done the fellow wouldn’t pay what he had agreed, and Master Luhhan would not take less. He gave it to me when”—he cleared his throat, then shot Rand the same warning frown he’d given Mat—“when he found me practicing with it. He said I might as well have it since he couldn’t make anything useful from it.”

“Practicing,” Mat snickered, but held up his hands soothingly when Perrin raised his head. “As you say. It’s just as well one of us knows how to use a real weapon.”

“That bow is a real weapon,” Lan said suddenly. He propped an arm across the saddle of his tall black and regarded them gravely. “So are the slings I’ve seen you village boys with. Just because you never used them for anything but hunting rabbits or chasing a wolf away from the sheep makes no difference. Anything can be a weapon, if the man or woman who holds it has the nerve and will to make it so. Trollocs aside, you had better have that clear in your minds before we leave the Two Rivers, before we leave Emond’s Field, if you want to reach Tar Valon alive.”

His face and voice, cold as death and hard as a rough-hewn gravestone, stifled their smiles and their tongues. Perrin grimaced and pulled his cloak back over the axe. Mat stared at his feet and stirred the straw on the stable floor with his toe. The Warder grunted and went back to his checking, and the silence lengthened.

“It isn’t much like the stories,” Mat said, finally.

“I don’t know,” Perrin said sourly. “Trollocs, a Warder, an Aes Sedai. What more could you ask?”

“Aes Sedai,” Mat whispered, sounding as if he were suddenly cold.

“Do you believe her, Rand?” Perrin asked. “I mean, what would Trollocs want with us?”

As one, they glanced at the Warder. Lan appeared absorbed in the white mare’s saddle girth, but the three of them moved back toward the stable door, away from Lan. Even so, they huddled together and spoke softly.

Rand shook his head. “I don’t know, but she had it right about our farms being the only ones attacked. And they attacked Master Luhhan’s house and the forge first, here in the village. I asked the Mayor. It’s as easy to believe they are after us as anything else I can think of.” Suddenly he realized they were both staring at him.

“You asked the Mayor?” Mat said incredulously. “She said not to tell anybody.”

“I didn’t tell him why I was asking,” Rand protested. “Do you mean you didn’t talk to anybody at all? You didn’t let anybody know you’re going?”

Perrin shrugged defensively. “Moiraine Sedai said not anybody.”

“We left notes,” Mat said. “For our families. They’ll find them in the morning. Rand, my mother thinks Tar Valon is the next thing to Shayol Ghul.” He gave a little laugh to show he did not share her opinion. It was not very convincing. “She’d try to lock me in the cellar if she believed I was even thinking of going there.”

“Master Luhhan is stubborn as stone,” Perrin added, “and Mistress Luhhan is worse. If you’d seen her digging through what’s left of the house, saying she hoped the Trollocs did come back so she could get her hands on them. . . .”

“Burn me, Rand,” Mat said, “I know she’s an Aes Sedai and all, but the Trollocs were really here. She said not to tell anybody. If an Aes Sedai doesn’t know what to do about something like this, who does?”

“I don’t know.” Rand rubbed at his forehead. His head hurt; he could not get that dream out of his mind. “My father believes her. At least, he agreed that we had to go.”

Suddenly Moiraine was in the doorway. “You talked to your father about this journey?” She was clothed in dark gray from head to foot, with a skirt divided for riding astride, and the serpent ring was the only gold she wore now.

Rand eyed her walking staff; despite the flames he had seen, there was no sign of charring, or even soot. “I couldn’t go off without letting him know.”

She eyed him for a moment with pursed lips before turning to the others. “And did you also decide that a note was not enough?” Mat and Perrin talked on top of each other, assuring her they had only left notes, the way she had said. Nodding, she waved them to silence, and gave Rand a sharp look. “What is done is already woven in the Pattern. Lan?”

“The horses are ready,” the Warder said, “and we have enough provisions to reach Baerlon with some to spare. We can leave at any time. I suggest now.”

“Not without me.” Egwene slipped into the stable, a shawl-wrapped bundle in her arms. Rand nearly fell over his own feet.

Lan’s sword had come half out of its sheath; when he saw who it was he shoved the blade back, his eyes suddenly flat. Perrin and Mat began babbling to convince Moiraine they had not told Egwene about leaving. The Aes Sedai ignored them; she simply looked at Egwene, tapping her lips thoughtfully with one finger.

The hood of Egwene’s dark brown cloak was pulled up, but not enough to hide the defiant way she faced Moiraine. “I have everything I need here. Including food. And I will not be left behind. I’ll probably never get another chance to see the world outside the Two Rivers.”

“This isn’t a picnic trip into the Waterwood, Egwene,” Mat growled. He stepped back when she looked at him from under lowered brows.

“Thank you, Mat. I wouldn’t have known. Do you think you three are the only ones who want to see what’s outside? I’ve dreamed about it as long as you have, and I don’t intend to miss this chance.”

“How did you find out we were leaving?” Rand demanded. “Anyway, you can’t go with us. We aren’t leaving for the fun of it. The Trollocs are after us.” She gave him a tolerant look, and he flushed and stiffened indignantly.

“First,” she told him patiently, “I saw Mat creeping about, trying hard not to be noticed. Then I saw Perrin attempting to hide that absurd great axe under his cloak. I knew Lan had bought a horse, and it suddenly occurred to me to wonder why he needed another. And if he could buy one, he could buy others. Putting that with Mat and Perrin sneaking about like bull calves pretending to be foxes . . . well, I could see only one answer. I don’t know if I’m surprised or not to find you here, Rand, after all your talk about daydreams. With Mat and Perrin involved, I suppose I should have known you would be in it, too.”

“I have to go, Egwene,” Rand said. “All of us do, or the Trollocs will come back.”

“The Trollocs!” Egwene laughed incredulously. “Rand, if you’ve decided to see some of the world, well and good, but please spare me any of your nonsensical tales.”

“It’s true,” Perrin said as Mat began, “The Trollocs—”

“Enough,” Moiraine said quietly, but it cut their talk as sharply as a knife. “Did anyone else notice all of this?” Her voice was soft, but Egwene swallowed and drew herself up before answering.

“After last night, all they can think about is rebuilding, that and what to do if it happens again. They couldn’t see anything else unless it was pushed under their noses. And I told no one what I suspected. No one.”

“Very well,” Moiraine said after a moment. “You may come with us.”

A startled expression darted across Lan’s face. It was gone in an instant, leaving him outwardly calm, but furious words erupted from him. “No, Moiraine!”

“It is part of the Pattern, now, Lan.”

“It is ridiculous!” he retorted. “There’s no reason for her to come along, and every reason for her not to.”

“There is a reason for it,” Moiraine said calmly. “A part of the Pattern, Lan.” The Warder’s stony face showed nothing, but he nodded slowly.

“But, Egwene,” Rand said, “the Trollocs will be chasing us. We won’t be safe until we get to Tar Valon.”

“Don’t try to frighten me off,” she said. “I am going.”

Rand knew that tone of voice. He had not heard it since she decided that climbing the tallest trees was for children, but he remembered it well. “If you think being chased by Trollocs will be fun,” he began, but Moiraine interrupted.

“We have no time for this. We must be as far away as possible by daybreak. If she is left behind, Rand, she could rouse the village before we have gone a mile, and that would surely warn the Myrddraal.”

>“I would not do that,” Egwene protested.

“She can ride the gleeman’s horse,” the Warder said. “I’ll leave him enough to buy another.”

“That will not be possible,” came Thom Merrilin’s resonant voice from the hayloft. Lan’s sword left its sheath this time, and he did not put it back as he stared up at the gleeman.

Thom tossed down a blanketroll, then slung his cased flute and harp across his back and shouldered bulging saddlebags. “This village has no use for me, now, while on the other hand, I have never performed in Tar Valon. And though I usually journey alone, after last night I have no objections at all to traveling in company.”

The Warder gave Perrin a hard look, and Perrin shifted uncomfortably. “I didn’t think of looking in the loft,” he muttered.

As the long-limbed gleeman scrambled down the ladder from the loft, Lan spoke, stiffly formal. “Is this part of the Pattern, too, Moiraine Sedai?”

“Everything is a part of the Pattern, my old friend,” Moiraine replied softly. “We cannot pick and choose. But we shall see.”

Thom put his feet on the stable floor and turned from the ladder, brushing straw from his patch-covered cloak. “In fact,” he said in more normal tones, “you might say that I insist on traveling in company. I have given many hours over many mugs of ale to thinking of how I might end my days. A Trolloc’s cookpot was not one of the thoughts.” He looked askance at the Warder’s sword. “There’s no need for that. I am not a cheese for slicing.”

“Master Merrilin,” Moiraine said, “we must go quickly, and almost certainly in great danger. The Trollocs are still out there, and we go by night. Are you sure that you want to travel with us?”

Thom eyed the lot of them with a quizzical smile. “If it is not too dangerous for the girl, it can’t be too dangerous for me. Besides, what gleeman would not face a little danger to perform in Tar Valon?”

Moiraine nodded, and Lan scabbarded his sword. Rand suddenly wondered what would have happened if Thom had changed his mind, or if Moiraine had not nodded. The gleeman began saddling his horse as if similar thoughts had never crossed his mind, but Rand noticed that he eyed Lan’s sword more than once.

“Now,” Moiraine said. “What horse for Egwene?”

“The peddler’s horses are as bad as the Dhurrans,” the Warder replied sourly. “Strong, but slow plodders.”

“Bela,” Rand said, getting a look from Lan that made him wish he had kept silent. But he knew he could not dissuade Egwene; the only thing left was to help. “Bela may not be as fast as the others, but she’s strong. I ride her sometimes. She can keep up.”

Lan looked into Bela’s stall, muttering under his breath. “She might be a little better than the others,” he said finally. “I don’t suppose there is any other choice.”

“Then she will have to do,” Moiraine said. “Rand, find a saddle for Bela. Quickly, now! We have tarried too long already.”

Rand hurriedly chose a saddle and blanket in the tack room, then fetched Bela from her stall. The mare looked back at him in sleepy surprise when he put the saddle on her back. When he rode her, it was barebacked; she was not used to a saddle. He made soothing noises while he tightened the girth strap, and she accepted the oddity with no more than a shake of her mane.

Taking Egwene’s bundle from her, he tied it on behind the saddle while she mounted and adjusted her skirts. They were not divided for riding astride, so her wool stockings were bared to the knee. She wore the same soft leather shoes as all the other village girls. They were not at all suited for journeying to Watch Hill, much less Tar Valon.

“I still think you shouldn’t come,” he said. “I wasn’t making it up about the Trollocs. But I promise I will take care of you.”

“Perhaps I’ll take care of you,” she replied lightly. At his exasperated look she smiled and bent down to smooth his hair. “I know you’ll look after me, Rand. We will look after each other. But now you had better look after getting on your horse.”

All of the others were already mounted and waiting for him, he realized. The only horse left riderless was Cloud, a tall gray with a black mane and tail that belonged to Jon Thane, or had. He scrambled into the saddle, though not without difficulty as the gray tossed his head and pranced sideways as Rand put his foot in the stirrup, and his scabbard caught in his legs. It was not chance that his friends had not chosen Cloud. Master Thane often raced the spirited gray against merchants’ horses, and Rand had never known him to lose, but he had never known Cloud to give anyone an easy ride, either. Lan must have given a huge price to make the miller sell. As he settled in the saddle Cloud’s dancing increased, as if the gray were eager to run. Rand gripped the reins firmly and tried to think that he would have no trouble. Perhaps if he convinced himself, he could convince the horse, too.

An owl hooted in the night outside, and the village people jumped before they realized what it was. They laughed nervously and exchanged shamefaced looks.

“Next thing, field mice will chase us up a tree,” Egwene said with an unsteady chuckle.

Lan shook his head. “Better if it had been wolves.”

“Wolves!” Perrin exclaimed, and the Warder favored him with a flat stare.

“Wolves don’t like Trollocs, blacksmith, and Trollocs don’t like wolves, or dogs, either. If I heard wolves I would be sure there were no Trollocs waiting out there for us.” He moved into the moonlit night, walking his tall black slowly.

Moiraine rode after him without a moment’s hesitation, and Egwene kept hard to the Aes Sedai’s side. Rand and the gleeman brought up the rear, following Mat and Perrin.

The back of the inn was dark and silent, and dappled moon shadows filled the stableyard. The soft thuds of the hooves faded quickly, swallowed by the night. In the darkness the Warder’s cloak made him a shadow, too. Only the need to let him lead the way kept the others from clustering around him. Getting out of the village without being seen was going to be no easy task, Rand decided as he neared the gate. At least, without being seen by villagers. Many windows in the village emitted pale yellow light, and although those glows seemed very small in the night now, shapes moved frequently within them, the shapes of villagers watching to see what this night brought. No one wanted to be caught by surprise again.

In the deep shadows beside the inn, just on the point of leaving the stableyard, Lan abruptly halted, motioning sharply for silence.

Boots rattled on the Wagon Bridge, and here and there on the bridge moonlight glinted off metal. The boots clattered across the bridge, grated on gravel, and approached the inn. No sound at all came from those in the shadow. Rand suspected his friends, at least, were too frightened to make a noise. Like him.

The footsteps halted before the inn in the grayness just beyond the dim light from the common-room windows. It was not until Jon Thane stepped forward, a spear propped on his stout shoulder, an old jerkin sewn all over with steel disks straining across his chest, that Rand saw them for what they were. A dozen men from the village and the surrounding farms, some in helmets or pieces of armor that had lain dust-covered in attics for generations, all with a spear or a woodaxe or a rusty bill.

The miller peered into a common-room window, then turned with a curt, “It looks right here.” The others formed in two ragged ranks behind him, and the patrol marched into the night as if stepping to three different drums.

“Two Dha’vol Trollocs would have them all for breakfast,” Lan muttered when the sound of their boots had faded, “but they have eyes and ears.” He turned his stallion back. “Come.”

Slowly, quietly, the Warder took them back across the stableyard, down the bank through the willows and into the Winespring Water. So close to the Winespring itself the cold, swift water, gleaming as it swirled around the horses’ legs, was deep enough to lap against the soles of the riders’ boots.

Climbing out on the far bank, the line of horses wound its way under the Warder’s deft direction, keeping away from any of the village houses. From time to time Lan stopped, signing them all to be quiet, though no one else heard or saw anything. Each time he did, however, another patrol of villagers and farmers soon passed. Slowly they moved toward the north edge of the village.

Rand peered at the high-peaked houses in the dark, trying to impress them on his memory. A fine adventurer I am, he thought. He was not even out of the village yet, and already he was homesick. But he did not stop looking.

They passed beyond the last farmhouses on the outskirts of the village and into the countryside, paralleling the North Road that led to Taren Ferry. Rand thought that surely no night sky elsewhere could be as beautiful as the Two Rivers sky. The clear black seemed to reach to forever, and myriad stars gleamed like points of light scattered through crystal. The moon, only a thin slice less than full, appeared almost close enough to touch, if he stretched, and. . . .

A black shape flew slowly across the silvery ball of the moon. Rand’s involuntary jerk on the reins halted the gray. A bat, he thought weakly, but he knew it was not. Bats were a common sight of an evening, darting after flies and bitemes in the twilight. The wings that carried this creature might have the same shape, but they moved with the slow, powerful sweep of a bird of prey. And it was hunting. The way it cast back and forth in long arcs left no doubt of that. Worst of all was the size. For a bat to seem so large against the moon it would have had to be almost within arm’s reach. He tried to judge in his mind how far away it must be, and how big. The body of it had to be as large as a man, and the wings. . . . It crossed the face of the moon again, wheeling suddenly downward to be engulfed by the night.

He did not realize that Lan had ridden back to him until the Warder caught his arm. “What are you sitting here and staring at, boy? We have to keep moving.” The others waited behind Lan.

Half expecting to be told he was letting fear of the Trollocs overcome his sense, Rand told what he had seen. He hoped that Lan would dismiss it as a bat, or a trick of his eyes.

Lan growled a word, sounding as if it left a bad taste in his mouth. “Draghkar.” Egwene and the other Two Rivers folk stared at the sky nervously in all directions, but the gleeman groaned softly.

“Yes,” Moiraine said. “It is too much to hope otherwise. And if the Myrddraal has a Draghkar at his command, then he will soon know where we are, if he does not already. We must move more quickly than we can cross-country. We may still reach Taren Ferry ahead of the Myrddraal, and he and his Trollocs will not cross as easily as we.”

“A Draghkar?” Egwene said. “What is it?”

It was Thom Merrilin who answered her hoarsely. “In the war that ended the Age of Legends, worse than Trollocs and Halfmen were created.”

Moiraine’s head jerked toward him as he spoke. Not even the dark could hide the sharpness of her look.

Before anyone could ask the gleeman for more, Lan began giving directions. “We take to the North Road, now. For your lives, follow my lead, keep up and keep together.”

He wheeled his horse about, and the others galloped wordlessly after him.

Copyright © 1990 by Robert Jordan

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