“Maybe he did,” Rand said. Guiltily, he felt relieved he was not the only one. “I was going to ask Thom for advice. He's seen a lot of the world. You ... you don't think we should tell Moiraine, do you?”

Perrin fell back on his pillow. “You've heard the stories about Aes Sedai. Do you think we can trust Thom? If we can trust anybody. Rand, if we get out of this alive, if we ever get back home, and you hear me say anything about leaving Emond's Field, even to go as far as Watch Hill, you kick me. All right?”


“That's no way to talk,” Rand said. He put on a smile, as cheerful as he could make it. “Of course we'll get home. Come on, get up. We're in a city, and we have a whole day to see it. Where are your clothes?”

“You go. I just want to lie here awhile.” Perrin put his arm back across his eyes. “You go ahead. I'll catch you up in an hour or two.”

“It's your loss,” Rand said as he got up. “Think of what you might miss.” He stopped at the door. “Baerlon. How many times have we talked about seeing Baerlon one day?” Perrin lay there with his eyes covered and did not say a word. After a minute Rand stepped out and closed the door behind him.

In the hallway he leaned against the wall, his smile fading. His head still hurt; it was worse, not better. He could not work up much enthusiasm for Baerlon, either, not now. He could not summon enthusiasm about anything.

A chambermaid came by, her arms full of sheets, and gave him a concerned look. Before she could speak he moved off down the hall, shrugging into his cloak. Thom would not be finished in the common room for hours yet. He might as well see what he could. Perhaps he could find Mat, and see if Ba'alzamon had been in his dreams, too. He went downstairs more slowly this time, rubbing his temple.

The stairs ended near the kitchen, so he took that way out, nodding to Sara but hurrying on when she seemed about to take up where she had left off. The stableyard was empty except for Mutch, standing in the stable door, and one of the other ostlers carrying a sack on his shoulder into the stable. Rand nodded to Mutch, too, but the stableman gave him a truculent look and went inside. He hoped the rest of the city was more like Sara and less like Mutch. Ready to see what a city was like, he picked up his step.

At the open stableyard gates, he stopped and stared. People packed the street like sheep in a pen, people swathed to the eyes in cloaks and coats, hats pulled down against the cold, weaving in and out at a quick step as though the wind whistling over the rooftops blew them along, elbowing past one another with barely a word or a glance. All strangers, he thought. None of them know each other.

The smells were strange, too, sharp and sour and sweet all mixed in a hodgepodge that had him rubbing his nose. Even at the height of Festival he had never seen so many people so jammed together. Not even half so many. And this was only one street. Master Fitch and the cook said the whole city was full. The whole city ... like this?

He backed slowly away from the gate, away from the street full of people. It really was not right to go off and leave Perrin sick in bed. And what if Thom finished his storytelling while Rand was off in the city? The gleeman might go out himself, and Rand needed to talk to someone. Much better to wait a bit. He breathed a sigh of relief as he turned his back on the swarming street.

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Going back inside the inn did not appeal to him, though, not with his headache. He sat on an upended barrel against the back of the inn and hoped the cold air might help his head.

Mutch came to the stable door from time to time to stare at him, and even across the stableyard he could make out the fellow's disapproving scowl. Was it country people the man did not like? Or had he been embarrassed by Master Fitch greeting them after he had tried to chase them off for coming in the back way? Maybe he's a Darkfriend, he thought, expecting to chuckle at the idea, but it was not a funny thought. He rubbed his hand along the hilt of Tam's sword. There was not much left that was funny at all.

“A shepherd with a heronmark sword,” said a low, woman's voice. “That's almost enough to make me believe anything. What trouble are you in, downcountry boy?”

Startled, Rand jumped to his feet. It was the crophaired young woman who had been with Moiraine when he came out of the bath chamber, still dressed in a boy's coat and breeches. She was a little older than he was, he thought, with dark eyes even bigger than Egwene's, and oddly intent.

“You are Rand, aren't you?” she went on. “My name is Min.”

“I'm not in trouble,” he said. He did not know what Moiraine had told her, but he remembered Lan's admonition not to attract any notice. “What makes you think I'm in trouble? The Two Rivers is a quiet place, and we're all quiet people. No place for trouble, unless it has to do with crops, or sheep.”

“Quiet?” Min said with a faint smile. “I've heard men talk about you Two Rivers folk. I've heard the jokes about woodenheaded sheepherders, and then there are men who have actually been downcountry.”

“Woodenheaded?” Rand said, frowning. “What jokes?”

“The ones who know,” she went on as if he had not spoken, “say you walk around all smiles and politeness, just as meek and soft as butter. On the surface, anyway. Underneath, they say, you're all as tough as old oak roots. Prod too hard, they say, and you dig up stone. But the stone isn't buried very deep in you, or in your friends. It's as if a storm has scoured away almost all the covering. Moiraine didn't tell me everything, but I see what see.”

Old oak roots? Stone? It hardly sounded like the sort of thing the merchants or their people would say. That last made him jump, though.

He looked around quickly; the stableyard was empty; and the nearest windows were closed. “I don't know anybody named — what was it again?”

“Mistress Alys, then, if you prefer,” Min said with an amused look that made his cheeks color. “There's no one close enough to hear.”

“What makes you think Mistress Alys has another name?”

“Because she told me,” Min said, so patiently that he blushed again. “Not that she had a choice, I suppose. I saw she was ... different ... right away. When she stopped here before, on her way downcountry. She knew about me. I've talked to ... others like her before.”

“'Saw'?” Rand said.

“Well, I don't suppose you'll go running to the Children. Not considering who your traveling companions are. The Whitecloaks wouldn't like what I do any more than they like what she does.”

“I don't understand.”

“She says I see pieces of the Pattern. ” Min gave a little laugh and shook her head. “Sounds too grand, to me. I just see things when I look at people, and sometimes I know what they mean. I look at a man and a woman who've never even talked to one another, and I know they'll marry. And they do. That sort of thing. She wanted me to look at you. All of you together. ”

Rand shivered. “And what did you see?”

“When you're all in a group? Sparks swirling around you, thousands of them, and a big shadow, darker than midnight. It's so strong, I almost wonder why everybody can't see it. The sparks are trying to fill the shadow, and the shadow is trying to swallow the sparks.” She shrugged. “You are all tied together in something dangerous, but I can't make any more of it.”

“All of us?” Rand muttered. “Egwene, too? But they weren't after — I mean —”

Min did not seem to notice his slip. “The girl —? She's part of it. And the gleeman. All of you. You're in love with her.” He stared at her. “I can tell that even without seeing any images. She loves you, too, but she's not for you, or you for her either. Not the way you both want. ”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“When I look at her, I see the same as when I look at ... Mistress Alys. Other things, things I don't understand, too, but I know what that means. She won't refuse it.”

“This is all foolishness,” Rand said uncomfortably. His headache was fading to numbness; his head felt packed with wool. He wanted to get away from this girl and the things she saw. And yet ...“ What do you see when you look at ... the rest of us?”

“All sorts of things,” Min said, with a grin as if she knew what he really wanted to ask. “The War ... ah ... Master Andra has seven ruined towers around his head, and a babe in a cradle holding a sword, and ... ” She shook her head. “Men like him — you understand? — always have so many images they crowd one another. The strongest images around the gleeman are a man — not him — juggling fire, and the White Tower, and that doesn't make any sense at all for a man. The strongest things I see about the big, curlyhaired fellow are a wolf, and a broken crown, and trees flowering all around him. And the other one — a red eagle, an eye on a balance scale, a dagger with a ruby, a horn, and a laughing face. There are other things, but you see what I mean. This time I can't make up or down out of any of it.” She waited then, still grinning, until he finally cle

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