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|<<< Apples First >>>|
|Setting: Apple Orchard near Dragonmount|
- Point of view: Almen Bunt
Almen Bunt stands with Adim and Hahn in his sister Alysa's apple orchard. During the night every single tree shriveled its fruit and shed them from the tree, losing an entire crop in the process. The orchard was one of the largest producers in the region. The other two defer to Almen's experience. He sends them to get Uso and Moor to see if they can dig through any of the remains to find any apples that may not have rotted too much. He sniffs and smells a wrongness to the air like something evil. He stands there thinking about how bleak the world around him has become, how all the food is running out, and how all the nearby villages are barely able to feed themselves. He slumps down thinking about Adrinne Bunt, ready to give it all up, when he feels sunlight on his neck.
He spots a break in the cloud cover and smells apple blossoms. Rand al'Thor walks by, returning from Dragonmount; his presence holds back the foulness of the Dark One's touch. Vegetation and the apples rapidly blossom. Almen feels a strange sense of peace while in Rand's presence. In addition, the pain in Almen's hip is now gone. Almen recognizes Rand from when he gave him a ride in his cart two years ago. He also realizes that Rand is the Dragon Reborn. Rand replies cryptically to Almen's question, stating he is going to do something he has been putting off, and he doubts she will be pleased with what he tells her. Rand strides away telling Almen that he needs to pick the apples now before nightfall. Wondering what Rand is talking about Almen turns to see almost too many apples laden on every single tree in the orchard.
Almen sprints towards Alysa's house and following Rand's instructions he commands everyone, including the nearby villagers, to immediately gather and pick all the apples. Almen feels a pull inside of him, tugging him softly in Rand's direction. "Apples first, he thought. Then... well, then he'd see."