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|Setting: The Ways, Shienar|
- Point of view: Rand al'Thor
Rand and the group are in the Ways traveling to a Waygate near Fal Dara. Up ahead, in the direction they are going, they have encountered a break in the path, barring their progress. Inside the Ways it is dark and foreboding and what light they have brought with them does not illumine much. Even the horses are skittish. They are on a path that may as well be a bridge as nothing seems to be holding it up. It is pitch black above and pitch black below. Whether the Ways have a bottom or a ceiling cannot be determined.
Rand moves toward the edge to take a look and suddenly the lantern and pole from which it hangs feels heavy enough to pull him over. Feeling dizzy, he quickly backs away.
Nynaeve remonstrates with Moiraine for bringing them this way, demanding to know if they have to go all the way back to Caemlyn. The Aes Sedai replies that there are many routes they can take to get to Fal Dara, their destination, and Loial should know them. She then calls to the Ogier twice, the last time forcefully.
As usual Loial is a bit dreamy in his response but promises he can find another way; he also becomes pessimistic about their chances because he sees that the Ways are in such a state of decay.
Perrin states that there must be a way, his eyes glowing golden. It reminds Rand of a wolf at bay. Moiraine observes that the break up ahead is an old break and gently dismisses Loial's fears. Loial brightens at her words and boasts of his abilities to find paths in the Ways, remarking that they are three bridges away from Stedding Shangtai. Moiraine reminds him that their destination must be Fal Dara and the Eye.
Loial studies the script on the waypost for a good while and finally makes a decision. He leads the troupe onward and regretfully passes the bridge that would take him home.
In an act of commiseration, Rand offers to show Emond's Field to the Ogier and Loial can show Rand the stedding, once this is all over. Loial questions whether it will ever be all over. Not understanding the Ogier, Rand reminds him that he said it would take two days to get to Fal Dara, and Loial tells him he means everything and then asks him why he thinks it will ever be over?
The bridges go every which way and every once in a while they pass a white line that runs off into the dark. It leads to a Waygate, which leads outside. The Emond's Fielders look wistfully at that Guiding, but move on.
They travel for a long time until Moiraine orders camp be made on an island. Rand is yawning by then. They hobble the horses, set the lamps in tripods made for them, set up an oil stove where Nynaeve and Egwene make tea. Loial reports that once the islands were full of life, grass and fruit trees full of fruit regardless of the time of year outside.
Nynaeve asks if Moiraine is going to set wards. Moiraine speaks of the taint in the Power that made the Ways and says that were she to use the Power it would very likely be corrupted; she will not use the Power unless she must.
Lan and Moiraine eat heartily, but Rand just picks at his food. Perrin and Mat also are glum. Moiraine notes their dark moods and announces that she believes Thom Merrilin is not dead in an effort to cheer them. When Rand mentions the Fade, she replies quickly that when she passed though Whitebridge, they mentioned a gleeman but they did not report his death, and the death of a gleeman would be remembered. She also says that Thom is part of the Pattern that weaves itself around the three boys--too important a part to be cut off.
From those few words Rand deduces that Min Viewed something about Thom and asks, to which Moiraine replies that she saw a great deal about all of them. She also says that the fates of the three boys are bound together, Thom's too.
Mat grins and says he doesn't know how she saw anything; she was too busy looking at Rand. Egwene takes note of his comment and remonstrates with Moiraine for not telling her. She might be talking to Moiraine but the words are meant for Rand. He says that he talked to her once and Egwene takes note of that as well.
Perrin breaks in and says that Min was just a worker in an inn, not like Aram, which causes Egwene to choke on her tea. Rand asks who Aram is and Egwene blushes. Perrin grins mischievously like the old days. Egwene finally says that he is one of the Traveling People.
They continue to banter but tiring of it, Egwene rolls up in her blanket and says she is going to sleep. The three boys continue to playfully sting each other until Rand chooses bed as well. which is like a signal for all the Emond's Fielders to seek their blankets. Moiraine and Lan, however, do not look like they intend to sleep.
Even in their blankets the boys talk about the girls in Rand's life.
Finally Rand is allowed to attempt sleep, but in the Ways made by men who Broke the World, it is very hard. He finds both Perrin and Mat staring at him and it is disconcerting.
Moiraine makes a circuit of them all, speaking softly to each in turn. To Rand she speaks of his destiny and how it protects him, and how he is safe while she is with him and that his dreams are safe for now. Rand is not sure of her remarks, but after she leaves, he drifts into a dreamless sleep.
Lan awakens them. Moiraine allows one cup of tea and they are off, eating in the saddle. Their fare is the same as last night: bread and meat and cheese.
After they finish their breakfast-on-the-go, Lan reports that someone or something is following them. Mat tries to shoot it blindly while Loial moans about regrets. Lan stops Mat from shooting again, though Mat complains that whoever it is, it must be evil because its in the Ways. Lan reminds the boy that they are in the Ways. Other discussion ensues.
Moiraine finally asks Lan what he is feeling. Does the follower serve the Dark One?
Lan says that because of the taint he cannot tell. But he does say that the follower is not trying to catch up. Lan suggests that he be allowed to go looking for this follower, but Loial vetoes that idea. Moiraine second's the Ogier's words with, "we have no time."
Loial points out that they are close to a way that will take them to Tar Valon but stops when it becomes obvious that someone has tampered with the path. Chiseled marks wound the stone. Lan is galvanized. Moiraine says, "this explains much," and continues on by admitting fear and then saying that the marks were made by Trollocs or Fades; the markings are Trolloc runes. The Trollocs have figured out how to use the Ways, in fact that is how they must have gotten to the Two Rivers--through the Waygate at Manetheren. She makes other mental connections with regard to the appearance of Trollocs around Caemlyn noting that there is a Waygate in the Blight. She also concludes that they (the Trollocs) don't know all the ways yet else an army would have poured through the gate they used at Caemlyn.
Lan, who has moved a small distance away shouts back, "They don't use the Ways easily." Moiraine leads the group to him where his lantern reveals horror. Rand sees Trollocs frozen in the rock and are locked forever in fear, and where the rock has bubbled, more fearful Trollocs are revealed deeper in the rock. The bridge ends a few feet beyond the frozen Trollocs, the signpost laying in a thousand shards. All are heavily affected by the sight.
After studying the shards, Loial announces that the bridge before them was the first to Tar Valon. Moiraine announces that it is well they are not going to Tar Valon yet. Nynaeve erupts angrily with a tirade about her calmness, speculating that the fate of the Trollocs could happen to them. Moiraine replies that it is more likely that the men who built the Ways added traps to protect the Ways and then says they cannot remain and asks Loial if he knows the next bridge. Loial replies that they did not ruin that part of the Guiding with an eagerness that is new, probably because of his desire to move on.
Moiraine makes them travel even more slowly despite the need for haste, testing every island before letting anyone step onto it.
Straining to see in the dark, Rand reasons that if Trollocs can use the Ways then their pursuer could be one or more creatures of the Dark One.
They travel, bridge after bridge, eating a meal in the saddle. Then Rand thinks, and finally is sure he hears a wind, absently dreaming it will be good to feel the wind. But then he remembers something Loial said about the Ways and asks him, didn't he say there was no wind in the Ways?
Loial stops and listen and says, "Machin Shin. The Black Wind."
Moiraine demands to know how many more bridges are left to their route and Loial replies doubtfully, two. She tells the Ogier to find them quickly.
Scanning the Guiding, Loial mutters about the effects of the Black Wind and then shouts, "This way!" as he gallops toward the chosen bridge.
At the next bridge Loial quickly scans the Guiding and hardly before his horse has stopped he is moving on. The wind is growing louder. At the last bridge they do not bother with the Guiding, but immediately follow the white line.
They reach the gate and Moiraine cries out, "The Avendesora leaf, the key is not here!" The members of the party react differently to the news but no one is indifferent. Rand thinks he can hear voices in the pursuing Wind, muttering things so vile that bile raises up into his throat.
Moiraine raises her staff and sickly yellow fire flares out generating a filthy smoke, but the gate melts, if slowly. Mat announces that he can feel the Black Wind.
The flame winks out and Moiraine announces that the job is half-done. Two large curved blocks of stone remain in the gate and they look heavy. Once they are gone, everyone should be able to get out, even Loial, though he might have to lay on his back.
Moiraine steps back and Lan uses Mandarb as a battering ram to knock the wedges out of the gate; Lan and Mandarb pass through the opening. The light that pours in is the natural light of a mid-morning day.
Rand slaps Bela on the rump and both the horse and Egwene pass out of the Ways. Moiraine commands all of them to get out as she points her staff back toward the Guiding and discharges a long blast. The Wind howls in anger and pain.
Rand exits and nearly gets thrown off his horse because of the passage through the unnatural Waygate. Outside is a cold winter's day, but it is a natural, almost welcome cold. Rand joins the others as they wait for Moiraine, Lan most tense of all.
Slowly Moiraine backs out of the gateway with its mirror-like surface, her staff pointed toward the Ways, leading Aldieb as she does.
The Waygate darkens to a black as deep as the Ways. Rand can still hear the wind, howling its mad voices at them. The Wind slowly drifts away and the Waygate surface returns to its murky shimmer.
Everyone is intensely relieved, even Lan shows more than his usual stoic demeanor. Moiraine explains that the Black Wind could not pass, but then shows her disgust of the taint that corrupts the Ways.
Nynaeve asks what it was that they just escaped, and when Loial responds with name only, she demands to know more.
Moiraine spins out several possibilities, but it is obvious that she doesn't really know. Having heard enough, Egwene shouts for her to stop, but Moiraine says one last thing: "There is worse to be faced yet."
She wearily climbs up on Aldieb and remarks that Agelmar, Lord of Fal Dara must send men to wall it up lest someone wanders in accidentally, then points toward the towers in the distance, their next destination.
- Rand al'Thor
- Red (Rand's horse)
- Nynaeve al'Meara
- Moiraine Damodred
- al'Lan Mandragoran
- Matrim Cauthon
- Egwene al'Vere
- Perrin Aybara
- Bela (Egwene's horse)
- Aldieb (Moiraine's horse)
- Mandarb (Lan's horse)
- Machin Shin
- Tar Valon
- Stedding Shangtai
- Fal Dara
- Eye of the World
- Two Rivers