Rand's stubbornness faded. “No,” he said again, and felt that emptiness inside again, too. “Perrin and Mat have to go, too, don't they?” Leaving the Two Rivers. Leaving his home and his father. At least Tam would get better. At least he would be able to hear him say all that on the Quarry Road had been nonsense. “We could go to Baerlon, I suppose, or even Caemlyn. I've heard there are more people in Caemlyn than in the whole Two Rivers. We'd be safe there.” He tried out a laugh that sounded hollow. “I used to daydream about seeing Caemlyn. I never thought it would come about like this.”
There was a long silence, then Lan said, “I would not count on Caemlyn for safety. If the Myrddraal want you badly enough, they will find a way. Walls are a poor bar to a Halfman. And you would be a fool not to believe they want you very badly indeed.”
Rand thought his spirits had sunk as low as they possibly could, but at that they slid deeper.
“There is a place of safety,” Moiraine said softly, and Rand's ears pricked up to listen. “In Tar Valon you would be among Aes Sedai and Warders. Even during the Trolloc Wars the forces of the Dark One feared to attack the Shining Walls. The one attempt was their greatest defeat until the very end. And Tar Valon holds all the knowledge we Aes Sedai have gathered since the Time of Madness. Some fragments even date from the Age of Legends. In Tar Valon, if anywhere, you will be able to learn why the Myrddraal want you. Why the Father of Lies wants you. That I can promise.”
A journey all the way to Tar Valon was almost beyond thinking. A journey to a place where he would be surrounded by Aes Sedai. Of course, Moiraine had healed Tam — or it looked as if she had; at least — but there were all those stories. It was uncomfortable enough to be in a room with one Aes Sedai, but to be in a city full of them ... And she still had not demanded her price. There was always a price, so the stories said.
“How long will my father sleep?” he asked at last. “I ... I have to tell him. He shouldn't just wake and find me gone.” He thought he heard Lan give a sigh of relief. He looked at the Warder curiously, but Lan's face was as expressionless as ever.
“It is unlikely he will wake before we depart,” Moiraine said. “I mean to go soon after full dark. Even a single day of delay could be fatal. It will be best if you leave him a note.”
“In the night?” Rand said doubtfully, and Lan nodded.
“The Halfman will discover we are gone soon enough. There is no need to make things any easier for it than we must.”
Rand fussed with his father's blankets. It was a very long way to Tar Valon. “In that case ... In that case, I had better go find Mat and Perrin.”
“I will attend to that.” Moiraine got to her feet briskly and donned her cloak with suddenly restored vigor. She put a hand on his shoulder, and he tried very hard not to flinch. She did not press hard, but it was an iron grip that held him as surely as a forked stick held a snake. “It will be best if we keep all of this just among us. Do you understand? The same ones who put the Dragon's Fang on the inn door might make trouble if they knew.”
“I understand.” He drew a relieved breath when she took her hand away.
“I will have Mistress al'Vere bring you something to eat,” she went on just as if she had not noticed his reaction. “Then you need to sleep. It will be a hard journey tonight even if you are rested.”
The door closed behind them, and Rand stood looking down at Tam — looking at Tam; but seeing nothing. Not until that very minute had he realized that Emond's Field was a part of him as much as he was a part of it. He realized it now because he knew that was what he had felt tearing loose. He was apart from the village, now. The Shepherd of the Night wanted him. It was impossible — he was only a farmer — but the Trollocs had come, and Lan was right about one thing. He could not risk the village on the chance Moiraine was wrong. He could not even tell anyone; the Coplins really would make trouble about something like that. He had to trust an Aes Sedai.
“Don't wake him, now,” Mistress al'Vere said, as the Mayor shut the door behind his wife and himself. The clothcovered tray she carried gave off delicious, warm smells. She set it on the chest against the wall, then firmly moved Rand away from the bed.
“Mistress Moiraine told me what he needs,” she said softly, “and it does not include you falling on top of him from exhaustion. I've brought you a bite to eat. Don't let it get cold, now.”
“I wish you wouldn't call her that,” Bran said peevishly. “Moiraine Sedai is proper. She might get mad.”
Mistress al'Vere gave him a pat on the cheek. “You just leave me to worry about that. She and I had a long talk. And keep your voice down. If you wake Tam, you'll have to answer to me and Moiraine Sedai.” She put an emphasis on Moiraine's title that made Bran's insistence seem foolish. “The two of you keep out of my way.” With a fond smile for her husband, she turned to the bed and Tam.
Master al'Vere gave Rand a frustrated look. “She's an Aes Sedai. Half the women in the village act as if she sits in the Women's Circle, and the rest as if she were a Trolloc. Not a one of them seems to realize you have to be careful around Aes Sedai. The men may keep looking at her sideways, but at least they aren't doing anything that might provoke her.”
Careful, Rand thought. It was not too late to start being careful. “Master al'Vere,” he said slowly, “do you know how many farms were attacked?”
“Only two that I've heard of so far, including your place.” The Mayor paused, frowning, then shrugged. “It doesn't seem enough, with what happened here. I should be glad of it, but ... Well, we'll probably hear of more before the day is out.”
Rand sighed. No need to ask which farms. “Here in the village, did they ... I mean, was there anything to show what they were after?”
“After, boy? I don't know that they were after anything, except maybe killing us all. It was just the way I said. The dogs barking, and Moiraine Sedai and Lan running through the streets, then somebody shouted that Master Luhhan's house and the forge were on fire. Abell Cauthon's house flared up — odd that; it's nearly in the middle of the village. Anyway, the next thing the Trollocs were all among us. No, I don't think they were after anything.” He gave an abrupt bark of a laugh, and cut it short with a wary look at his wife. She did not look around from Tam. “To tell the truth,” he went on more quietly, “they seemed almost as confused as we were. I doubt they expected to find an Aes Sedai here, or a Warder.”
“I suppose not,” Rand said, grimacing.
If Moiraine had told the truth about that, she probably had told the truth about the rest, too. For a moment he thought about asking the Mayor's advice, but Master al'Vere obviously knew little more about Aes Sedai than anyone else in the village. Besides, he was reluctant to tell even the Mayor what was going on—what Moiraine said was going on. He was not sure if he was more afraid of being laughed at or being believed. He rubbed a thumb against the hilt of Tam's sword. His father had been out into the world; he must know more about Aes Sedai than the Mayor did. But if Tam really had been out of the Two Rivers, then maybe what he had said in the Westwood ... He scrubbed both hands through his hair, scattering that line of thought.
“You need sleep, lad,” the Mayor said.
“Yes, you do,” Mistress al'Vere added. “You're almost falling down where you stand.”
Rand blinked at her in surprise. He had not even realized she had left his father. He did need sleep; just the thought set off a yawn.
“You can take the bed in the next room,” the Mayor said. “There's already a fire laid.”
Rand looked at his father; Tam was still deep in sleep, and that made him yawn again. “I'd rather stay in here, if you don't mind. For when he wakes up.”
Sickroom matters were in Mistress al'Vere's province, and the Mayor left it to her. She hesitated only a moment before nodding. “But you let him wake on his own. If you bother his sleep ...” He tried to say he would do as she ordered, but the words got tangled in yet another yawn. She shook her head with a smile. “You will be asleep yourself in no time at all. If you must stay, curl up next to the fire. And drink a little of that beef broth before you doze off.”
“I will,” Rand said. He would have agreed to anything that kept him in that room. “And I won't wake him.”
“See that you do not,” Mistress al'Vere told him firmly, but not in an unkindly way. “I'll bring you up a pillow and some blankets.”
When the door finally closed behind them, Rand dragged the lone chair in the room over beside the bed and sat down where he could watch Tam. It was all very well for Mistress al'Vere to talk about sleep—his jaws cracked as he stifled a yawn — but he could not sleep yet. Tam might wake at any time, and maybe only stay awake a short while. Rand had to be waiting when he did.
He grimaced and twisted in the chair, absently shifting the sword hilt out of his ribs. He still felt backward about telling anyone what Moiraine had said, but this was Tam, after all. This was ... Without realizing it he set his jaw determinedly. My father. I ca