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|<<< The Long Chase >>>|
|Setting: The forest north of the Caemlyn Road|
- Point of view: Nynaeve al'Meara
Nynaeve is alone in a night forest, holding the reins of three horses waiting for Moiraine and Lan. Mandarb is one of the horses, and showing unusual tolerance for her proximity, and she presumes it is because Lan himself gave her the reins. She pats the nose of her own horse, and Aldieb, noticing, tries to steal some affection for herself. Nynaeve is impatient and irritable because the two have left her in the dark as to what they intend.
Nynaeve spends some time remembering that after Whitebridge, the three follow the Caemlyn Road until Moiraine is forced to choose to look for the one of the boys about which she is certain, at which time she leads the party of three north, into the forest. That portion of the road is almost deserted, except for a few travelers with miscellaneous destinations. Nynaeve's thoughts reveal that, because of Whitebridge, she is beginning to come around to Moiraine's way of thinking, and such realization is not comforting to her. She remembers following the two reluctantly into the forest, Lan looking back at her frequently, while never leaving Moiraine's side. Moiraine is, of course following the pull of the coin she gave to one of the three (thought she does not know which), and one night, she announces that the pull is gone. Nynaeve worries that the bearer is dead but Moiraine assures her that all it means is that the bearer no longer carries it, saying that they will keep on the way they are going, when she gets close enough she will be able to find him without the coin.
A little time later, as Nynaeve attempts a sleepless night, Moiraine who has been awake all this time, announces that he has the coin back and all will be well, then promptly falls asleep. Nynaeve has no such luck. The touch of Lan's hand on her arm brings her back abruptly into the present. Lan takes no notice of her startlement and simply says, "you are needed," hobbles the horses, grasps her hand and heads off into the night. She marvels at his woodcraft and his strength as he pulls her through the forest.
They come to a rise and both sink to the ground next to Moiraine. In the distance are tents. Lan reveals that they are Whitecloaks, two hundred of them, and one of the boys is with them. Lan reveals that he went into the camp to find him, and find him he does, under guard. She asks him how they are going to free him, and marvels at the fact that her voice is so assured that Lan will accomplish the task. Lan reveals that he can bring him out but doubts that the boy will be in any shape for stealth. He then offers a plan and asks for Nynaeve's help, who gives it willingly. Lan wants her to make it over to the horse picket lines, and cut the lines almost all the way through so that the horses can break free when Moiraine creates her diversion. Nynaeve agrees to do it. Lan also mention that there are wolves about tonight but they shouldn't bother her. She replies with sweet sarcasm that she would not have known that; she grew up around shepherds.
Moiraine grabs her arm with as much strength as Lan just before she takes off and tells her to be careful and return as quickly as she can, because she, too, is part of the Pattern. Nynaeve rubs the spot where Moiraine had grabbed it, but surreptitiously; she does not want the Aes Sedai to know it hurt. Then she notices that Lan has already departed and she silently curses the man for being so good at what he does.
Her initial movement is fast, but she slows down, reminding herself that she is not in competition with the warder, to which an inner voice says, "Oh no?" but she ignores it. She makes her way through the woods, reminding herself that what she does is not a child's game, and is relieved to finally smell horse.
She is almost surprised by two Whitecloaks, who are making their rounds, but manages to evade them. She stays where she is until she has observed their rounds twice, which are regular as clockwork. On their third round, she makes a run for it, and manages to get to the horses without disturbing them. She gets to the picket line and one horse raises its head and she almost panics. Just one whinny, she thinks as she slices almost all the way through the rope, but the whinny never comes. She cuts picket line after picket line until she accidentally cuts herself and stifles a yelp. She decides to quit after that because she may have given herself away, deciding that she has cut enough of the ropes. But as she contemplates such action, Lan haunts her thoughts, knowing that out loud he would approve her caution, while silently wishing she had done more. In the end she decides to try for the final picket line and is surprised to find Bela, Egwene's horse, and that means the girl is there too, with whatever one of the three boys that Moiraine senses. After a bit of mental hand-wringing, she decides to get Bela so that they will not have to double-up riding, reasoning that if they have to double, some Whitecloaks will catch up and that means that some Whitecloaks will die. She is sure of that as if she were listening to the wind, and that scares her because it reminds her that she may very well be Aes Sedai material, but it also calms her trembling. She unties Bela and that wakes the horse, but words of comfort keep the horse from making a disturbance. She also grabs the reins of the next horse, worrying that it will make noise, but it does not.
She wishes for Moiraine to do her thing right now, and like answer to prayer, that's exactly what happens. Lightning and thunder crash close to where the horses are tied up and all the horses go mad with fear. Nynaeve is too busy to exult because the horses are pulling in opposite directions in their attempts to run away. At the second bolt of lightning, somehow she manages to keep hold of the reins, to mount Bela and, with the other horse's rein wrapped around her arm, watches as a gray shadow tears past, ignoring her and her horses while snapping at the other horses, causing even more panic. Nynaeve blames this on Moiraine as well. She then sees a second shadow joining the first and decides to get out of there. Bela needs no encouragement to leave the area and the second horse is happy to follow so long as they can leave this horrifying scene.
- Nynaeve al'Meara
- Moiraine Damodred
- al'Lan Mandragoran
- Aldieb (a horse)
- Bela (a horse)
- Mandarb (a horse)
- Forest north of the Caemlyn Road