“Some in Tar Valon,” Moiraine said quietly, “claim that Ogier sanctuary prolonged the Breaking and made it worse. Others say that if all of those men had been allowed to go mad at once, there would have been nothing left of the world. I am of the Blue Ajah, Loial; unlike the Red Ajah, we hold to the second view. Sanctuary helped to save what could be saved. Continue, please.”
Loial nodded gratefully. Relieved of a concern, Rand realized.
“As I was saying,” the Ogier went on, "the Aes Sedai, the male Sedai, left. But before they went, they gave a gift to the Ogier in thanks for our sanctuary. The Ways. Enter a Waygate, walk for a day, and you may depart through another Waygate a hundred miles from where you started. Or five hundred. Time and distance are strange in the Ways. Different paths, different bridges, lead to different places, and how long it takes to get there depends on which path you take. It was a marvelous gift, made more so by the times, for the Ways are not part of the world we see around us, nor perhaps of any world outside themselves. Not only did the Ogier so gifted not have to travel through the world, where even after the Breaking men fought like animals to live, in order to reach another stedding, but within the Ways there was no Breaking. The land between two stedding might split open into deep canyons or rise in mountain ranges, but in the Way between them there was no change.
“When the last Aes Sedai left the stedding, they gave to the Elders a key, a talisman, that could be used for growing more. They are a living thing in some fashion, the Ways and the Waygates. I do not understand it; no Ogier ever has, and even the Aes Sedai have forgotten, I am told. Over the years the Exile ended for us. As those Ogier who had been gifted by the Aes Sedai found a stedding where Ogier had returned from the Long Wandering, they grew a Way to it. With the stonework we learned during the Exile, we built cities for men, and planted the groves to comfort the Ogier who did the building, so the Longing would not overcome them. To those groves Ways were grown. There was a grove, and a Waygate, at Mafal Dadaranell, but that city was razed during the Trolloc Wars, no stone left standing on another, and the grove was chopped down and burned for Trolloc fires.” He left no doubt which had been the greater crime.
“Waygates are all but impossible to destroy,” Moiraine said, “and humankind not much less so. There are people at Fal Dara still, though not the great city the Ogier built, and the Waygate yet stands.”
“How did they make them?” Egwene asked. Her puzzled look took in Moiraine and Loial both. “The Aes Sedai, the men. If they couldn't use the One Power in a stedding, how could they make the Ways? Or did they use the Power at all? Their part of the True Source was tainted. Is tainted. I don't know much about what Aes Sedai can do, yet. Maybe it's a silly question.”
Loial explained. "Each stedding has a Waygate on its border, but outside. Your question is not silly. You've found the seed of why we do not dare travel the Ways. No Ogier has used the Ways in my lifetime, and before. By edict of the Elders, all the Elders of all the stedding, none may, human or Ogier.
“The Ways were made by men wielding Power fouled by the Dark One. About a thousand years ago, during what you humans call the War of the Hundred Years, the Ways began to change. So slowly in the beginning that none really noticed, they grew dank and dim. Then darkness fell along the bridges. Some who went in were never seen again. Travelers spoke of being watched from the dark. The numbers who vanished grew, and some who came out had gone mad, raving about Machin Shin, the Black Wind. Aes Sedai Healers could aid some, but even with Aes Sedai help they were never the same. And they never remembered anything of what had occurred. Yet it was as if the darkness had sunken into their bones. They never laughed again, and they feared the sound of the wind.”
For a moment there was silence but for the cat purring beside Moiraine's chair, and the snap and crackle of the fire, popping out sparks. Then Nynaeve burst out angrily, “And you expect us to follow you into that? You must be mad!”
“Which would you choose instead?” Moiraine asked quietly. “The Whitecloaks within Caemlyn, or the Trollocs without? Remember that my presence in itself gives some protection from the Dark One's works.”
Nynaeve settled back with an exasperated sigh.
“You still have not explained to me,” Loial said, “why I should break the edict of the Elders. And I have no desire to enter the Ways. Muddy as they often are, the roads men make have served me well enough since I left Stedding Shangtai.”
“Humankind and Ogier, everything that lives, we are at war with the Dark One,” Moiraine said. “The greater part of the world does not even know it yet, and most of the few who do fight skirmishes and believe they are battles. While the world refuses to believe, the Dark One may be at the brink of victory. There is enough power in the Eye of the World to undo his prison. If the Dark One has found some way to bend the Eye of the World to his use ...”
Rand wished the lamps in the room were lit. Evening was creeping over Caemlyn, and the fire in the fireplace did not give enough light. He wanted no shadows in the room.
“What can we do?” Mat burst out. “Why are we so important? Why do we have to go to the Blight? The Blight!”
Moiraine did not raise her voice, but it filled the room, compelling. Her chair by the fire suddenly seemed like a throne. Suddenly even Morgase would have paled in her presence. “One thing we can do. We can try. What seems like chance is often the Pattern. Three threads have come together here, each giving a warning: the Eye. It cannot be chance; it is the Pattern. You three did not choose; you were chosen by the Pattern. And you are here, where the danger is known. You can step aside, and perhaps doom the world. Running, hiding, will not save you from the weaving of the Pattern. Or you can try. You can go to the Eye of the World, three ta'veren, three centerpoints of the Web, placed where the danger lies. Let the Pattern be woven around you there, and you may save the world from the Shadow. The choice is yours. I cannot make you go.”
“I'll go,” Rand said, trying to sound resolute. However hard he sought the void, images kept flashing through his head. Tam, and the farmhouse, and the flock in the pasture. It had been a good life; he had never really wanted anything more. There was comfort — a small comfort — hearing Perrin and Mat add their agreement to his. They sounded as drymouthed as he.
“I suppose there isn't any choice for Egwene or me, either,” Nynaeve said.
Moiraine nodded. “You are part of the Pattern, too, both of you, in some fashion. Perhaps not ta'veren — perhaps — but strong even so. I have known it since Baerlon. And no doubt by this time the Fades know it, too. And Ba'alzamon. Yet you have as much choice as the young men. You could remain here, proceed to Tar Valon once the rest of us have gone.”
“Stay behind!” Egwene exclaimed. “Let the rest of you go off into danger while we hide under the covers? I won't do it!” She caught the Aes Sedai's eye and drew back a little, but not all of her defiance vanished. “I won't do it,” she muttered stubbornly.
“I suppose that means both of us will accompany you.” Nynaeve sounded resigned, but her eyes flashed when she added, “You still need my herbs, Aes Sedai, unless you've suddenly gained some ability I don't know about.” Her voice held a challenge Rand did not understand, but Moiraine merely nodded and turned to the Ogier.
“Well, Loial, son of Arent son of Halan?”
Loial opened his mouth twice, his tufted ears twitching, before he spoke. “Yes, well. The Green Man. The Eye of the World. They're mentioned in the books, of course, but I don't think any Ogier has actually seen them in, oh, quite a long time. I suppose ... But must it be the Ways?” Moiraine nodded, and his long eyebrows sagged till the ends brushed his cheeks. “Very well, then. I suppose I must guide you. Elder Haman would say it's no less than I deserve for being so hasty all the time.”
“Our choices are made, then,” Moiraine said. “And now that they are made, we must decide what to do about them, and how.”
Long into the night they planned. Moiraine did most of it, with Loial's advice concerning the Ways, but she listened to questions and suggestions from everyone. Once dark fell Lan joined them, adding his comments in that ironcored drawl. Nynaeve made a list of what supplies they needed, dipping her pen in the inkwell with a steady hand despite the way she kept muttering under her breath.
Rand wished he could be as matteroffact as the Wisdom. He could not stop pacing up and down, as if he had energy to burn or burst from it. He knew his decision was made, knew it was the only one he could make with the knowledge he had, but that did not make him like it. The Blight. Shayol Ghul was somewhere in the Blight, beyond the Blasted Lands.
He could see the same worry in Mat's eyes, the same fear he knew was in his own. Mat sat with his hands clasped, knuckles white. If he let go, Rand thought, he would be clutching the dagger from Shadar Logoth instead.
There was no worry on Perrin's face at all, but what was there was worse: a mask of weary resignation. Perrin looked as though he had fought something until he could fight it no longer and was waiting for it to fi