A Memory of Light Page 123

"I made the mistake of thinking like a human", Bashere said. "I accounted for Trolloc marching speed, but not for how the Myrddraal might push them. A foolish mistake. The army in the woods must have split in two, with half taking a northeastern route through the woods toward Cairhien. It’s the only thing I can think of".

"We’ve been moving as quickly as we can", Elayne said. "How could they have overtaken us?" Her army had gateways. She couldn’t move everyone through them, as she didn’t have enough channelers to hold gateways for long periods. However, she could move the supply carts, the wounded, and the camp followers through. That let them march at the speed of trained soldiers.

"We’ve moved as quickly as we could safely", Bashere said. "A human commander would never have pushed his forces into such a terrible march. The terrain they went through had to have been awful—the rivers they had to cross, the forests, the wetlands, Light! They must have lost thousands of Trollocs to fatigue during such a march. The Fades risked it, and now they have us in a pincer. The city could be destroyed as well".

Elayne fell silent. "I won’t let that happen", she finally said. "Not again. Not if we can prevent it".

"Do we have a choice?"

"Yes", Elayne said. "Bashere, you’re one of the greatest military minds the land has known. You have resources that no man has ever had before. The dragons, the Kinswomen, Ogier willing to fight in battle . . . You can make this work. I know you can".

"You show surprising faith in me for someone you have known a very short time".

"Rand trusts you", Elayne said. "Even during the dark times, Bashere—when he would look at every second person around him with darkness in his eyes—he trusted you".

Bashere seemed troubled. "There is a way".

"What is it?"

"We march and hit the Trollocs near Cairhien as quickly as we can. They’re tired; they have to be. If we could beat them quickly, before the horde to the south reaches us, we may have a chance. It will be difficult. The northern force probably wants to seize the city, then use it against us as the southern Trollocs arrive".

"Could we open gateways into the city and hold it?"

"I doubt it", Bashere said. "Not with channelers as tired as these. Beyond that, we need to destroy the northern Trollocs, not just hold against them. If we give them time to rest, they will recover from their march, be joined by the Trollocs from the south, then use Dreadlords to rip open Cairhien like an overripe apple. No, Elayne. We have to attack and crush that northern army while it is weak; only then could we possibly hold against the southern one. If we fail, the two will smash us between them".

"It is the risk we must take", Elayne said. "Make your plans, Bashere. We’ll make them work".

Egwene stepped into Tel’aran’rhiod.

The World of Dreams had always been dangerous, unpredictable. Lately, it was even more so. The grand city of Tear reflected strangely in the dream, the buildings weathered as if by a hundred years of storms. The city walls were now little more than ten feet high, their tops rounded and smooth, blown by the wind. Buildings inside had worn away, leaving foundations and lumps of weathered stone.

Chilled by the sight, Egwene turned toward the Stone. It, at least, stood as it had. Tall, strong, unchanged by the weathering of the winds. That comforted her.

She sent herself into its heart. The Wise Ones waited for her. That, too, was comforting. Even in this time of change and tempest, they were solid like the Stone itself. Amys, Bair and Melaine waited for her. She overheard part of their conversation before they noticed her.

"I saw it just as she did", Bair was saying. "Though it was my own descendants who lent me their eyes. I think we will all see it now, if we return the third time. It should be required".

"Three visits?" Melaine said. "That brings change indeed. We still do not know if the second visit will show this, or the previous vision".

Conscious of her eavesdropping, Egwene cleared her throat. They turned toward her, immediately falling silent.

"I did not mean to intrude", Egwene said, walking among the columns and joining them.

"It is nothing", Bair said. "We should have guarded our tongues. We were the ones to invite you here to meet us, after all".

"It is good to see you, Egwene al’Vere", Melaine said, smiling with affection. The woman looked so far along in her pregnancy, she must be close to delivering. "From reports, your army gains much ji".

"We do well", Egwene said, settling herself on the floor with them. "You shall have your own chance, Melaine".

"The Car’a’carn delays", Amys said, frowning. "The spears grow impatient. We should be moving against Sightblinder".

"He likes to prepare and plan", Egwene said. She hesitated. "I cannot remain with you long. I have a meeting with him later today".

"About what?" Bair asked, leaning forward, curious.

"I don’t know", Egwene said. "I found a letter from him on the floor of my tent. He said he wanted to see me, but not as Dragon and Amyrlin. As old friends".

"Tell him that he must not dally", Bair said. "But here, there is something we need to speak of with you".

"What is it?" Egwene asked, curious.

"Have you seen anything like this?" Melaine said, concentrating. On the floor between them, the rock split with cracks. She was imposing her will upon the World of Dreams, creating something specific for Egwene to see.

At first, she was confused. Cracks in the rock? Of course she had seen cracks in rock before. And with the earthquakes striking the land so often recently, they were probably becoming even more common.

There was something distinctive about these. Egwene leaned forward, and found that the cracks seemed to empty into nothing. A deep blackness. Unnaturally so.

"What is it?" Egwene asked.

"Our people report seeing these", Amys said softly. "Those fighting in Andor and those in the Blasted Lands with Rand al’Thor. They appear like fractures in the pattern itself. They remain dark like that for a few moments, then fade, leaving behind ordinary cracks".

"It is a very dangerous sign", Bair said. "We sent one of ours to ask at the Borderlands, where Lan Mandragoran fights. It appears that the cracks are

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