When they had started out Egwene insisted that everyone take a turn riding, and Perrin did not even bother to argue.

“First turn is yours,” he told her.


She nodded. “And then you, Elyas.”

“My own legs are good enough for me,” Elyas said. He looked at Bela, and the mare rolled her eyes as if he were one of the wolves. “Besides, I don't think she wants me riding her.”

“That's nonsense,” Egwene replied firmly. “There is no point in being stubborn about it. The sensible thing is for everybody to ride sometimes. According to you we have a long way still to go.”

“I said no, girl.”

She took a deep breath, and Perrin was wondering if she would succeed in bullying Elyas the way she did him, when he realized she was standing there with her mouth open, not saying a word. Elyas was looking at her, just looking, with those yellow wolf's eyes. Egwene stepped back from the rawboned man, and licked her lips, and stepped back again. Before Elyas turned away, she had backed all the way to Bela and scrambled up onto the mare's back. As the man turned to lead them south, Perrin thought his grin was a good deal like a wolf's, too.

For three days they traveled in that manner, walking and riding south and east all day, stopping only when twilight thickened. Elyas seemed to scorn the haste of city men, but he did not believe in wasting time when there was somewhere to go.

The three wolves were seldom seen. Each night they came to the fire for a time, and sometimes in the day they showed themselves briefly, appearing close at hand when least expected and vanishing in the same manner. Perrin knew they were out there, though, and where. He knew when they were scouting the path ahead and when they were watching the backtrail. He knew when they left the pack's usual hunting grounds, and Dapple sent the pack back to wait for her. Sometimes the three that remained faded from his mind, but long before they were close enough to see again, he was aware of them returning. Even when the trees dwindled to widescattered groves separated by great swathes of winterdead grass, they were as ghosts when they did not want to be seen, but he could have pointed a finger straight at them at any time. He did not know how he knew, and he tried to convince himself that it was just his imagination playing tricks, but it did no good. Just as Elyas knew, he knew.

He tried not thinking about wolves, but they crept into his thoughts all the same. He had not dreamed about Ba'alzamon since meeting Elyas and the wolves. His dreams, as much as he remembered of them on waking, were of everyday things, just as he might have dreamed at home ... before Baerlon ... before Winternight. Normal dreams — with one addition. In every dream he remembered there was a point where he straightened from Master Luhhan's forge to wipe the sweat from his face, or turned from dancing with the village girls on the Green, or lifted his head from a book in front of the fireplace, and whether he was outside or under a roof, there was a wolf close to hand. Always the wolf's back was to him, and always he knew — In the dreams it seemed the normal course of things, even at Alsbet Luhhan's dinner table — that the wolf's yellow eyes were watching for what might come, guarding against what might come. Only when he was awake did the dreams seem strange.

Three days they journeyed, with Dapple, Hopper, and Wind bringing them rabbits and squirrels, and Elyas pointing out plants, few of which Perrin recognized, as good to eat. Once a rabbit burst out almost from under Bela's hooves; before Perrin could get a stone in his sling, Elyas skewered it with his long knife at twenty paces. Another time Elyas brought down a fat pheasant, on the wing, with his bow. They ate far better than they had when on their own, but Perrin would as soon have gone back on short rations if it had meant different company. He was not sure how Egwene felt, but he would have been willing to go hungry if he could do it without the wolves. Three days, into the afternoon.

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A stand of trees lay ahead, larger than most they had seen, a good four miles across. The sun sat low in the western sky, pushing slanted shadows off to their right, and the wind was picking up. Perrin felt the wolves give over quartering behind them and start forward, not hurrying. They had smelled and seen nothing dangerous. Egwene was taking her turn on Bela. It was time to start looking for a camp for the night, and the big copse would serve the purpose well.

As they came close to the trees, three mastiffs burst from cover, broadmuzzled dogs as tall as the wolves and even heavier, teeth bared in loud, rumbling snarls. They stopped short as soon as they were in the open, but no more than thirty feet separated them from the three people, and their dark eyes kindled with a killing light.

Bela, already on edge from the wolves, whinnied and almost unseated Egwene, but Perrin had his sling whirling around his head in an instant. No need to use the axe on dogs; a stone in the ribs would send the worst dog running.Elyas waved a hand at him without taking his eyes from the stiff legged dogs. “Hssst! None of that now!”

Perrin gave him a puzzled frown, but let the sling slow its spin and finally fall to his side. Egwene managed to get Bela under control; she and the mare both watched the dogs warily.

The mastiffs' hackles stood stiff, and their ears were laid back, and their growls sounded like earthquakes. Abruptly Elyas raised one finger shoulder high and whistled, a long, shrill whistle that rose higher and higher and did not end. The growls cut off raggedly. The dogs stepped back, whining and turning their heads as if they wanted to go but were held. Their eyes remained locked to Elyas's finger.

Slowly Elyas lowered his hand, and the pitch of his whistle lowered with it. The dogs followed, until they lay flat on the ground, tongues lolling from their mouths. Three tails wagged.

“See,” Elyas said, walking to the dogs. “There's no need for weapons.” The mastiffs licked his hands, and he scratched their broad heads and fondled their ears. “They look meaner than they are. They meant to frighten us off, and they wouldn't have bitten unless we tried to go into the trees. Anyway, there's no worry of that, now. We can make the next thicket before full dark.”

When Perrin looked at Egwene, her mouth was hanging open. He shut his own mouth with a click of teeth.

Still patting the dogs, Elyas studied the stand of trees. “There'll be Tuatha'an here. The Traveling People.” They stared at him blankly, and he added, “Tinkers.”

“Tinkers?” Perrin exclaimed. “I've always wanted to see the Tinkers. They camp across the river from Taren Ferry sometimes, but they don't come down into the Two Rivers, as far as I know. I don't know why not.”

Egwene sniffed. “Probably because the Taren Ferry folk are as great thieves as the Tinkers. They'd no doubt end up stealing each other blind. Master Elyas, if there really are Tinkers close by, shouldn't we go on? We don't want Bela stolen, and ... well, we do not have much else, but everybody knows Tinkers will steal anything.”

“Including infants?” Elyas asked dryly. “Kidnap children, and all that?” He spat, and she blushed. Those stories about babies were told sometimes, but most often by Cenn Buie or one of the Coplins or Congars. The other tales, everybody knew. “The Tinkers make me sick sometimes, but they don't steal any more than most folks. A good bit less than some I know.”

“It will be getting dark soon, Elyas,” Perrin said. “We have to camp somewhere. Why not with them, if they'll have us?” Mistress Luhhan had a Tinkermended pot that she claimed was better than new. Master Luhhan was not too happy about his wife's praise of the Tinker work, but Perrin wanted to see how it was done. Yet there was a reluctance about Elyas that he did not understand. “Is there some reason we shouldn't?”

Elyas shook his head, but the reluctance was still there, in the set of his shoulders and the tightness of his mouth. “May as well. Just don't pay any mind to what they say. Lot of foolishness. Most times the Traveling People do things any which way, but there's times they set a store by formality, so you do what I do. And keep your secrets. No need to tell the world everything.”

The dogs trailed along beside them, wagging their tails, as Elyas led the way into the trees. Perrin felt the wolves slow, and knew they would not enter. They were not afraid of the dogs — they were contemptuous of dogs, who had given up freedom to sleep by a fire — but people they avoided.

Elyas walked surely, as if he knew the way, and near the center of the stand the Tinkers' wagons appeared, scattered among the oak and ash.

Like everyone else in Emond's Field, Perrin had heard a good deal about the Tinkers even if he had never seen any, and the camp was just what he expected. Their wagons were small houses on wheels, tall wooden boxes lacquered and painted in bright colors, reds and blues and yellows and greens and some hues to which he could not put a name. The Traveling People were going about work that was disappointingly everyday, cooking, sewing, tending children, mending harness, but their clothes were even more colorful than the wagons — and seemingly chosen at random; sometimes coat and breeches, or dress and shawl, went together in a way that hurt his eyes. They looked like butterflies in a field of wildflowers.

Four or five men in different places around the camp played fiddles and flutes, and a few people danced like rainbowhued hummingbirds. Children and dogs ran playing among the cookfires. The dogs were mastiffs just like those that had confronted the travelers, but the children tugged at their ears and tails and climbed on their backs, and the massive dogs accepted it all placidly. The three with Elyas, tongues hanging out, looked up at the bearded man as if he were their best friend. Perrin shook his head. They were still big enough to reach a man's throat while barely getting their

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