A Memory of Light Page 49

He nodded. "I have some Tower guards watching the pair. Nynaeve vouched for them, in a way".

"In a way?"

"She called the woman several variations of wool-headed, but said she probably wouldn’t do you any intentional harm".

"Wonderful". Well, Egwene could make use of a Seanchan who was willing to talk. Light. What if she had to fight them and the Trollocs at the same time?

"You didn’t take your own advice", she said, noting Gawyn’s red eyes as he sat down in the chair in front of her desk.

"Someone had to watch the door", he said. "Calling for guards would have let everyone know that you were not at the Field".

She took a bite of her bread—what had it been made of?—and looked over the report. He was right, but she didn’t like the idea of him going without sleep on a day like this. The Warder bond would only help him so far.

"So the city is truly gone", she said. "Walls breached, palace seized. The Trollocs didn’t burn all of the city, I see. Much of it, but not all".

"Yes", Gawyn said. "But it is obvious that Caemlyn is lost". She felt his tension through the bond.

"I’m sorry".

"Many people escaped, but it’s hard to say what the city population was before the attack, with so many refugees. Hundreds of thousands are likely dead".

Egwene breathed out. A large army’s worth of people, wiped out in one night. That was probably only the start of the brutality to come. How many had died in Kandor so far? They could only guess.

Caemlyn had held much of the Andoran army’s food supply. She felt sick, thinking of so many people—hundreds of thousands of them—stumbling across the landscape away from the burning city. Yet that thought was less terrifying than the risk of starvation to Elayne’s troops.

She drew up a note to Silviana, requiring her to send all sisters strong enough to provide Healing for the refugees, and gateways to carry them to Whitebridge. Perhaps she could deliver supplies there, though the White Tower was strained as it was.

"Did you see the note at the bottom?" Gawyn asked.

She had not. She frowned, then scanned a sentence added at the bottom in Silviana’s hand. Rand al’Thor had demanded that everyone meet with him by . . .

She looked up at the room’s old, freestanding wooden clock. The meeting was in a half-hour. She groaned, then began shoveling the rest of her breakfast into her mouth. It wasn’t dignified, but Light burn her if she was going to meet with Rand on an empty stomach.

"I’m going to throttle that boy", she said, wiping her face. "Come on, let’s move".

"We could always be last", Gawyn said, rising. "Show him he doesn’t order us about".

"And allow him the chance to meet with everyone else while I’m not there to counter what he has to say? I don’t like it, but Rand holds the reins right now. Everyone’s too curious to see what he’s going to do".

She made a gateway back to her tent, into the corner that she’d set aside for Traveling. She and Gawyn stepped through and left the tent, into the clamor of the Field of Merrilor. People shouted outside; with a distant thunder of hooves, troops cantered and galloped as they took positions for the meeting. Did Rand realize what he’d done here? Putting soldiers together like this, leaving them edgy and uncertain, was like tossing a handful of fireworks into a stewpot and setting it onto the stove. Eventually, things were going to start exploding.

Egwene needed to manage the chaos. She strode out of her tent, Gawyn a step behind and to her left, and smoothed her face. The world needed an Amyrlin.

Silviana waited outside, dressed formally with stole and staff, as if she were going to a meeting of the Hall of the Tower.

"See to this, once the meeting starts", Egwene said, handing her the note.

"Yes, Mother", the woman said, then fell into step just behind Egwene and to her right. Egwene didn’t need to look to know that Silviana and Gawyn were pointedly ignoring each other.

At the west side of her camp, Egwene found a cluster of Aes Sedai arguing with one another. She passed through them and pulled silence in her wake. A groom brought her horse Sifter, a testy dapple gelding, and as she mounted, she looked at the Aes Sedai. "Sitters only".

That produced a sea of calm, orderly complaints, each made with an Aes Sedai sense of authority. Each woman thought she had a right to be at the meeting. Egwene stared at them, and the women slowly came into line. They were Aes Sedai; they knew that squabbling was beneath them.

The Sitters gathered, and Egwene looked out over the Field of Merrilor as she waited. It was a large triangular area of Shienaran grassland, bounded on two sides by converging rivers—the Mora and the Erinin—and on the other by woods. The grass was broken by Dashar Knob, a rocky outcrop about a hundred feet high, with cliff walls, and on the Arafellin side of the Mora by Polov Heights, a flat-topped hill about forty feet high, with gradual slopes on three sides and a steeper slope on the river side. Southwest of Polov Heights lay an area of bogs, and nearby, the River Mora’s shallows, known as Hawval Ford, a convenient crossing place between Arafel and Shienar.

There was an Ogier stedding nearby, opposite some old stone ruins to the north. Egwene had paid her respects soon after arriving, but Rand had not invited the Ogier to his meeting.

Armies were converging. Borderlander flags came in from the west, where Rand had made his camp. Perrin’s own flag flew among those. Odd, that Perrin should have a flag.

From the south, Elayne’s procession wound its way toward the meeting place, smack in the middle of the Field. The Queen rode at the front. Her palace had burned, but she kept her eyes forward. Between Perrin and Elayne, the Tairens and Illianers—Light, who had let those armies camp so near one another?—marched in separate columns, both bringing almost their entire forces.

Best to be quick. Her presence would calm the rulers, perhaps prevent problems. They wouldn’t like being near so many Aiel. Each clan but the Shaido was represented. She still didn’t know if they’d support Rand or her. Some of the Wise Ones seemed to have listened to Egwene’s pleas, but she had received no commitments.

"Look there", Saerin said, pulling up beside Egwene. "Did you invite the Sea Folk?"

Egwene shook her head. "No. I thought there was little chance they’d side against Rand". In truth, after her meeting with the Windfinders in Tel’aran’rhiod, she hadn’t wanted to swim in negotiations with them again. She was afraid she’d wake up and find that she’d traded away not only her firstborn, bu

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