“Peace be on you,” Elyas said.
“And on you,” Raen said sadly.
When Raen was gone, Elyas scowled at finding the other two looking at him. “So I don't believe in their fool song,” he growled. “No need to make them feel bad by messing up their ceremony, was there? I told you they set a store by ceremony sometimes.”
“Of course,” Egwene said gently. “No need at all.” Elyas turned away muttering to himself.
Dapple, Wind, and Hopper came to greet Elyas, not frolicking as the dogs had done, but a dignified meeting of equals. Perrin caught what passed between them. Fire eyes. Pain. Heartfang. Death. Heartfang. Perrin knew what they meant. The Dark One. They were telling about his dream. Their dream.
He shivered as the wolves ranged out ahead, scouting the way. It was Egwene's turn to ride Bela, and he walked beside her. Elyas led, as usual, a steady, groundeating pace.
Perrin did not want to think about his dream. He had thought that the wolves made them safe. Not complete. Accept. Full heart. Full mind. You still struggle. Only complete when you accept.
He forced the wolves out of his head, and blinked in surprise. He had not known he could do that. He determined not to let them back in again. Even in dreams? He was not sure if the thought was his or theirs.
Egwene still wore the string of blue beads Aram had given her, and a little sprig of something with tiny, bright red leaves in her hair, another gift from the young Tuatha'an. That Aram had tried to talk her into staying with the Traveling People, Perrin was sure. He was glad she had not given in, but he wished she did not finger the beads so fondly.
Finally he said, “What did you spend so much time talking about with Ila? If you weren't dancing with that longlegged fellow, you were talking to her like it was some kind of secret.”
“Ila was giving me advice on being a woman,” Egwene replied absently. He began laughing, and she gave him a hooded, dangerous look that he failed to see.
“Advice! Nobody tells us how to be men. We just are.”
“That,” Egwene said, “is probably why you make such a bad job of it.” Up ahead, Elyas cackled loudly.
Footprints in Air
Nynaeve stared in wonder at what lay ahead down the river, the White Bridge gleaming in the sun with a milky glow. Another legend, she thought, glancing at the Warder and the Aes Sedai, riding just ahead of her. Another legend, and they don't even seem to notice. She resolved not to stare where they could see. They'll laugh if they see me gaping like a country bumpkin. The three rode on silently toward the fabled White Bridge.
Since that morning after Shadar Logoth, when she had found Moiraine and Lan on the bank of the Arinelle, there had been little in the way of real conversation between her and the Aes Sedai. There had been talk, of course, but nothing of substance as Nynaeve saw it. Moiraine's attempts to talk her into going to Tar Valon, for instance. Tar Valon. She would go there, if need be, and take their training, but not for the reasons the Aes Sedai thought. If Moiraine had brought harm to Egwene and the boys ...
Sometimes, against her will, Nynaeve had found herself thinking of what a Wisdom could do with the One Power, of what she could do. Whenever she realized what was in her head, though, a flash of anger burned it out. The Power was a filthy thing. She would have nothing to do with it. Unless she had to.
The cursed woman only wanted to talk about taking her to Tar Valon for training. Moiraine would not tell her anything! It was not as if she wanted to know so much.
“How do you mean to find them?” she remembered demanding.
“As I have told you,” Moiraine replied without bothering to look back at her, “I will know when I am close to the two who have lost their coins.” It was not the first time Nynaeve had asked, but the Aes Sedai's voice was like a still pond that refused to ripple no matter how many stones Nynaeve threw; it made the Wisdom's blood boil every time she was exposed to it. Moiraine went on as if she could not feel Nynaeve's eyes on her back; Nynaeve knew she must be able to, she was staring so hard. “The longer it takes, the closer I must come, but I will know. As for the one who still has his token, so long as he has it in his possession I can follow him across half the world, if need be. ”
“And then? What do you plan when you've found them, Aes Sedai?” She did not for a minute believe the Aes Sedai would be so intent on finding them if she did not have plans.
“Tar Valon, Wisdom.”
“Tar Valon, Tar Valon. That's all you ever say, and I am becoming—”
“Part of the training you will receive in Tar Valon, Wisdom, will teach you to control your temper. You can do nothing with the One Power when emotion rules your mind.” Nynaeve opened her mouth, but the Aes Sedai went right on. “Lan, I must speak with you a moment.”
The two put their heads together, and Nynaeve was left with a sullen glower that she hated every time she realized it was on her face. It came too often as the Aes Sedai deftly turned her questions off onto another subject, slid easily by her conversational traps, or ignored her shouts until they ended in silence. The scowl made her feel like a girl who had been caught acting the fool by someone in the Women's Circle. That was a feeling Nynaeve was not used to, and the calm smile on Moiraine's face only made it worse.
If only there was some way to get rid of the woman. Lan would be better by himself — a Warder should be able to handle what was needed, she told herself hastily, feeling a sudden flush; no other reason— but one meant the other.
And yet, Lan made her even more furious than Moiraine. She could not understand how he managed to get under her skin so easily. He rarely said anything — sometimes not a dozen words in a day — and he never took part in any of the... discussions with Moiraine. He was often apart from the two women, scouting the land, but even when he was there he kept a little to one side, watching them as if watching a duel. Nynaeve wished he would stop. If it was a duel, she had not managed to score once, and Moiraine did not even seem to realize she was in a fight. Nynaeve could have done without his cool blue eyes, without even a silent audience.
That had been the way of their journey, for the most part. Quiet, except when her temper got the best of her, and sometimes when she shouted the sound of her voice seemed to crash in the silence like breaking glass. The land itself was quiet, as if the world were pausing to catch its breath. The wind moaned in the trees, but all else was still. The wind seemed distant, too, even when it was cutting through the cloak on her back.
At first the stillness was restful after everything that had happened. It seemed as if she had not known a moment of quiet since before Winternight. By the end of the first day alone with the Aes Sedai and the Warder, though, she was looking over her shoulder and fidgeting in her saddle as if she had an itch in the middle of her back where she could not reach. The silence seemed like crystal doomed to shatter, and waiting for the first crack put her teeth on edge.
It weighed on Moiraine and Lan, too, as outwardly unperturbable as they were. She soon realized that, beneath their calm surfaces, hour by hour they wound tighter and tighter, like clocksprings being forced to the breaking point. Moiraine seemed to listen to things that were not there, and what she heard put a crease in her forehead. Lan watched the forest and the river as if the leafless trees and wide, slow water carried the signs of traps and ambushes waiting ahead.
Part of her was glad that she was not the only one who apprehended that poisedonthebrink feel to the world, but if it affected them, it was real, and another part of her wanted nothing so much as for it to be just her imagination. Something of it tickled the corners of her mind, as when she listened to the wind, but now she knew that that had to do with the One Power, and she could not bring herself to embrace those ripples at the edge of thought.
“It is nothing,” Lan said quietly when she asked. He did not look at her while he spoke; his eyes never ceased their scanning. Then, contradicting what he had just said, he added, “You should go back to your Two Rivers when we reach Whitebridge, and the Caemlyn Road. It's too dangerous here. Nothing will try to stop you going back, though.” It was the longest speech he made all that day.
“She is part of the Pattern, Lan,” Moiraine said chidingly. Her gaze was elsewhere, too. “It is the Dark One, Nynaeve. The storm has left us ... for a time, at least.” She raised one hand as though feeling the air, then scrubbed it on her dress unconsciously, as if she had touched filth. “He is still watching, however” — she sighed — “and his gaze is stronger. Not on us, but on the world. How much longer before he is strong enough to ...”
Nynaeve hunched her shoulders; suddenly she could almost feel someone staring at her back. It was one explanation she would just as soon the Aes Sedai had not given her.
Lan scouted their path down the river, but where before he had chosen the way, now Moiraine did so, as surely as if she followed some unseen track, footprints in air, the scent of memory. Lan only checked the route she intended, to see that it was safe. Nynaeve had the feeling that even if he said it was not, Moiraine would insist on it anyway. And he would go, she was sure. Stra