A Memory of Light Page 16

The two men turned to Androl, who caught himself watching the corner of the room where the shadow fell from a table. Was it growing larger? Reaching toward him . . .

"I don’t like leaving men behind", he said, forcing himself to look away from the corner. "There are dozens upon dozens of men and boys here who aren’t yet under Taim’s control. We can’t possibly lead all of them out without drawing attention. If we leave them, we risk . . ".

He couldn’t say it. They didn’t know what was happening, not really. People were changing. Once-trustworthy allies became enemies overnight.

They looked like the same people, yet different at the same time. Different behind the eyes. Androl shivered.

"The women sent by the rebel Aes Sedai are still outside the gates", Pevara said. They had been camped out there for a time, claiming the Dragon Reborn had promised them Warders. Taim had yet to let any of them in. "If we can reach them, we can storm the Tower and rescue those left behind".

"Will it really be that easy?" Emarin asked. "Taim will have an entire village of hostages. A lot of the men brought their families".

Canler nodded. His family was one of those. He wouldn’t willingly leave them.

"Beyond that", Androl said softly, turning on his stool to face Pevara, "do you honestly think the Aes Sedai can win here?"

"Many of them have decades—some centuries—of experience".

"How much of that was spent fighting?"

Pevara did not answer.

"There are hundreds of men who can channel in here, Aes Sedai", Androl continued. "Each one has been trained—at length—to be a weapon. We don’t learn about politics or history. We don’t study how to influence nations. We learn to kill. Every man and boy here is pushed to the edges of his capacity, forced to stretch and grow. Gain more power. Destroy. And a lot of them are insane. Can your Aes Sedai fight that? Particularly when many of the men we trust—the very men we’re trying to save—will likely fight alongside Taim’s men if they see the Aes Sedai trying to invade?"

"Your arguments are not without merit", Pevara said.

Just like a queen, he thought, unwillingly impressed at her poise.

"But surely we need to send information out", Pevara continued. "An all-out assault may be unwise, but sitting here until we are all taken, one at a time . . "

"I do believe it would be wise to send someone", Emarin said. "We need to warn the Lord Dragon".

"The Lord Dragon", Canler said with a snort, taking a seat by the wall. "He’s abandoned us, Emarin. We’re nothing to him. It—"

"The Dragon Reborn carries the world on his shoulders, Canler", Androl said softly, catching Canler up short. "I don’t know why he’s left us here, but I’d prefer to assume it’s because he thinks we can handle ourselves". Androl fingered the straps of leather, then stood up. "This is our time of proving, the test of the Black Tower. If we have to run to the Aes Sedai to protect us from our own, we subject ourselves to their authority. If we have to run to the Lord Dragon, then we will be nothing once he is gone".

"There can be no reconciliation with Taim, now", Emarin said. "We all know what he is doing".

Androl didn’t look at Pevara. She had explained what she suspected was happening, and she—despite years of training at keeping her emotions in check—had not been able to quiet the fear in her voice as she spoke of it. Thirteen Myrddraal and thirteen channelers, together in a horrifying rite, could turn any channeler to the Shadow. Against his will. "What he does is pure, undiluted evil", Pevara said. "This is no longer a division between the men who follow one leader and those who follow another. This is the Dark One’s work, Androl. The Black Tower has fallen under the Shadow. You must accept that".

"The Black Tower is a dream", he said, meeting her eyes. "A shelter for men who can channel, a place of our own, where men need not fear, or run, or be hated. I will not surrender that to Taim. I will not".

The room fell silent save for the sounds of rain on the windows. Emarin began to nod, and Canler stood up, taking Androl by the arm.

"You’re right", Canler said. "Burn me if you ain’t right, Androl. But what can we do? We’re weak, outnumbered".

"Emarin", Androl said, "did you ever hear about the Knoks Rebellion?"

"Indeed. It caused quite a stir, even outside of Murandy".

"Bloody Murandians", Canler spat. "They’ll steal your coat off your back and beat you bloody if you don’t offer your shoes, too".

Emarin raised an eyebrow.

"Knoks was well outside Lugard, Canler", Androl said. "I think you'd find the people there not dissimilar to Andorans. The rebellion happened about . . . oh, ten years back, now".

"A group of farmers overthrew their lord", Emarin said. "He deserved it, by all accounts—Desartin was a horrid person, particularly to those beneath him. He had a force of soldiers, one of the largest outside of Lugard, and was looking as if he’d set up his own little kingdom. There wasn’t a thing the King could do about it".

"And Desartin was overthrown?" Canler asked.

"By simple men and women who had had too much of his brutality, Androl said. "In the end, many of the mercenaries who had been his cronies stood with us. Though he’d seemed so strong, his rotten core led to his downfall. It seems bad here, but most of Taim’s men are not loyal to him. Men like him don’t inspire loyalty. They collect cronies, others who hope to share in the power or wealth. We can and will find a way to overthrow him".

The others nodded, though Pevara simply watched him with pursed lips. Androl couldn’t help feeling a bit of the fool; he didn’t think the others should be looking to him, instead of someone distinguished like Emarin or someone powerful like Nalaam.

From the corner of his eye, he saw the shadows underneath the table lengthen, reaching for him. He set his jaw. They wouldn’t dare take him with so many people around, would they? If the shadows were going to consume him, they’d wait until he was alone, trying to sleep.

Nights terrified him.

They’re coming when I don’t hold to saidin now, he thought. Burn me, the Source was cleansed! I’m not supposed to b

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