The ground turned uneven under Perrin's feet, and brush slapped at him as he let himself be drawn along. The lightning flickered fitfully and was gone. Echoes of thunder rolled across the sky before they, too, faded away. Perrin looked over his shoulder. A handful of fires burned back there, among the tents. Some of the lightning must have struck home, or perhaps men had knocked over lamps in their panic. Men still shouted, voices tiny in the night, trying to restore order, to find out what had happened. The land began to slope upwards, and tents and fires and shouting were left behind.

Suddenly he almost trod on Egwene's heels as Lan stopped. Ahead in the moonlight stood three horses.


A shadow stirred, and Moiraine's voice came, weighted with irritation. “Nynaeve has not returned. I fear that young woman has done something foolish.” Lan spun on his heel as if to return the way they had come, but a single whipcrack word from Moiraine halted him. “No!” He stood looking at her sideways, only his face and hands truly visible, and they but dimly shadowed blurs. She went on in a gentler tone; gentler but no less firm. “Some things are more important than others. You know that.” The Warder did not move, and her voice hardened again. “Remember your oaths, al'Lan Mandragoran, Lord of the Seven Towers! What of the oath of a Diademed Battle Lord of the Malkieri?”

Perrin blinked. Lan was all of that? Egwene was murmuring, but he could not take his eyes off the tableau in front of him, Lan standing like a wolf from Dapple's pack, a wolf at bay before the diminutive Aes Sedai and vainly seeking escape from doom.

The frozen scene was broken by a crash of breaking branches in the woods. In two long strides Lan was between Moiraine and the sound, the pale moonlight rippling along his sword. To the crackle and snap of underbrush a pair of horses burst from the trees, one with a rider.

“Bela!” Egwene exclaimed at the same time that Nynaeve said from the shaggy mare's back, “I almost didn't find you again. Egwene! Thank the Light you're alive!”

She slid down off Bela, but as she started toward the Emond's Fielders Lan caught her arm and she stopped short, staring up at him.

“We must go, Lan,” Moiraine said, once more sounding unruffled, and the Warder released his grip.

Nynaeve rubbed her arm as she hurried to hug Egwene, but Perrin thought he heard her give a low laugh, too. It puzzled him because he did not think it had anything to do with her happiness at seeing them again.

“Where are Rand and Mat?” he asked.

“Elsewhere,” Moiraine replied, and Nynaeve muttered something in a sharp tone that made Egwene gasp. Perrin blinked; he had caught the edge of a wagoneer's oath, and a coarse one. “The Light send they are well,” the Aes Sedai went on as if she had not noticed.

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“We will none of us be well,” Lan said, “if the Whitecloaks find us. Change your cloaks, and get mounted.”

Perrin scrambled up onto the horse Nynaeve had brought behind Bela. The lack of a saddle did not hamper him; he did not ride often at home, but when he did it was more likely bareback than not. He still carried the white cloak, now rolled up and tied to his belt. The Warder said they must leave no more traces for the Children to find than they could help. He still thought he could smell Byar on it.

As they started out, the Warder leading on his tall black stallion, Perrin felt Dapple's touch on his mind once more. One day again. More a feeling than words, it sighed with the promise of a meeting foreordained, with anticipation of what was to come, with resignation to what was to come, all streaked in layers. He tried to ask when and why, fumbling in haste and sudden fear. The trace of the wolves grew fainter, fading. His frantic questions brought only the same heavyladen answer. One day again. It hung haunting in his mind long after awareness of the wolves winked out.

Lan pressed southward slowly but steadily. The nightdraped wilderness, all rolling ground and underbrush hidden until it was underfoot, shadowed trees thick against the sky, allowed no great speed in any case. Twice the Warder left them, riding back toward the slivered moon, he and Mandarb becoming one with the night behind. Both times he returned to report no sign of pursuit.

Egwene stayed close beside Nynaeve. Softspoken scraps of excited talk floated back to Perrin. Those two were as buoyed up as if they had found home again. He hung back at the tail of their little column. Sometimes the Wisdom turned in her saddle to look back at him, and each time he gave her a wave, as if to say that he was all right, and stayed where he was. He had a lot to think about, though he could not get any of it straight in his head. What was to come. What was to come?

Perrin thought it could not be much short of dawn when Moiraine finally called a halt. Lan found a gully where he could build a fire hidden within a hollow in one of the banks.

Finally they were allowed to rid themselves of the white cloaks, burying them in a hole dug near the fire. As he was about to toss in the cloak he had used, the embroidered golden sun on the breast caught his eye, and the two golden stars beneath. He dropped the cloak as if it stung and walked away, scrubbing his hands on his coat, to sit alone.

“Now,” Egwene said, once Lan was shoveling dirt into the hole, “will somebody tell me where Rand and Mat are?”

“I believe they are in Caemlyn,” Moiraine said carefully, “or on their way there.” Nynaeve gave a loud, disparaging grunt, but the Aes Sedai went on as if she had not been interrupted. “If they are not, I will yet find them. That I promise.”

They made a quiet meal on bread and cheese and hot tea. Even Egwene's enthusiasm succumbed to weariness. The Wisdom produced an ointment from her bag for the weals the ropes had left on Egwene's wrists, and a different one for her other bruises. When she came to where Perrin sat on the edge of the firelight, he did not look up.

She stood looking at him silently for a time, then squatted with her bag beside her, saying briskly, “Take your coat and shirt off, Perrin. They tell me one of the Whitecloaks took a dislike to you.”

He complied slowly, still half lost in Dapple's message, until Nynaeve gasped. Startled, he stared at her, then at his own bare chest. It was a mass of color, the newer, purple blotches overlaying older ones faded into shades of brown and yellow. Only thick slabs of muscle earned by hours at Master Luhhan's forge had saved him from broken ribs. With his mind filled by the wolves, he had managed to forget the pain, but he was reminded of it now, and it came back gladly. Involuntarily he took a deep breath, and clamped his lips on a groan.

“How could he have disliked you so much?” Nynaeve asked wonderingly.

I killed two men. Aloud, he said, “I don't know.”

She rummaged in her bag, and he flinched when she began spreading a greasy ointment over his bruises. “Ground ivy, fivefinger, and sunburst root,” she said.

It was hot and cold at the same time, making him shiver while he broke into a sweat, but he did not protest. He had had experience of Nynaeve's ointments and poultices before. As her fingers gently rubbed the mixture in, the heat and cold vanished, taking the pain with them. The purple splotches faded to brown, and the brown and yellow paled, some disappearing altogether. Experimentally, he took a deep breath; there was barely a twinge.

“You look surprised,” Nynaeve said. She looked a little surprised herself, and strangely frightened. “Next time, you can go to her. ”

“Not surprised,” he said soothingly, “just glad.” Sometimes Nynaeve's ointments worked fast and sometimes slow, but they always worked. “What ... what happened to Rand and Mat?”

Nynaeve began stuffing her vials and pots back into her bag, jamming each one in as if she were thrusting it through a barrier. “She says they're all right. She says we'll find them. In Caemlyn, she says. She says it's too important for us not to, whatever that means. She says a great many things.”

Perrin grinned in spite of himself. Whatever else had changed, the Wisdom was still herself, and she and the Aes Sedai were still far from fast friends.

Abruptly Nynaeve stiffened, staring at his face. Dropping her bag, she pressed the backs of her hands to his cheeks and forehead. He tried to pull back, but she caught his head in both hands and thumbed back his eyelids, peering into his eyes and muttering to herself. Despite her small size she held his face easily; it was never easy to get away from Nynaeve when she did not want you to.

“I don't understand,” she said finally, releasing him and settling back to sit on her heels. “If it was yelloweye fever, you wouldn't be able to stand. But you don't have any fever, and the whites of your eyes aren't yellowed, just the irises.”

“Yellow?” Moiraine said, and Perrin and Nynaeve both jumped where they sat. The Aes Sedai's approach had been utterly silent. Egwene was asleep by the fire, wrapped in her cloaks, Perrin saw. His own eyelids wanted to slide closed.

“It isn't anything,” he said, but Moiraine put a hand under his chin and turned his face up so she could peer into his eyes the way Nynaeve had. He jerked away, prickling. The two women were handling him as if he were a child. “I said it isn't anything.”

“There was no foretelling this.” Moiraine spoke as if to herself. Her eyes seemed to look at something beyond him. “Something ordained to be woven, or a change in the Pattern? If a change, by what hand? The Wheel weaves as the Wheel will

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