A Memory of Light Page 93

"Surely you don’t think we’ll need to go all that way", Elayne said.

Bashere stared at the map, squinting, as if seeing through the parchment itself to the land it depicted. "We're stirring this battle", he said softly, "but we don’t control it. We’re riding it, as a man might ride a stampeding horse. I can’t say where the gallop will stop. I’ll divert it, I’ll send it through patches of thorns. But I can’t stop it, not so long as the Trollocs keep coming".

Elayne frowned. She couldn’t afford an endless retreat; she needed to defeat these Shadowspawn as soon and as thoroughly as possible so she could join the remainder of her forces to Lan’s and Egwene’s armies to beat back the invasions from the north.

That was the only way they’d win. Otherwise, it wouldn’t matter what Rand was able to do against the Dark One.

Light, what a mess.

"Do it".

Perrin rested his hammer on his shoulder, listening as the sweating young messenger relayed Elayne’s orders. A gentle breeze blew through the branches of the forest behind. The Ogier fought in there. He’d worried they would refuse to endanger the trees, but their fighting . . . Light, Perrin had never seen savagery to rival it.

"These tactics aren’t bad", Tam said reading the orders. "The Queen has a good head for warfare".

Perrin waved away the messenger boy. He passed Galad and several of his Whitecloak commanders, conferring nearby. "She listens well to those who know their tactics", Perrin said, "and she doesn’t interfere".

"That’s what I meant, lad", Tam said with a smile. "Being in charge isn’t always about telling people what to do. Sometimes, it’s about knowing when to step out of the way of people who know what they’re doing".

"Wise words, Tam", Perrin said, turning northward. "I suggest you adopt them, as you have command now".

Perrin could see Rand. The colors swam. Rand, speaking with Moiraine on a bleak rocky ridge he did not recognize. They were almost ready for the invasion of Shayol Ghul. Perrin felt a tug from Rand, growing stronger. Soon, Rand would need him.

"Perrin?" Tam asked. "What’s this nonsense about command?"

"You have our forces, Tam", Perrin said. "The men are working together now; let Arganda, Gallenne and Galad assist you". Nearby, Grady held open a gateway through which the wounded from the most recent skirmish were being sent for Healing. Berelain ran the hospital on the other side, which the Yellow Ajah had placed in Mayene. The air coming from the other side was warm.

"I don’t know if they’ll listen to me, Perrin", Tam said. "I’m just a common farmer".

"They listened to you well enough before".

"That was when we were traveling the wilderness", Tam said. "You were always nearby. They answered to me on your authority". He rubbed his chin. "I have a feeling, from the way you keep looking north, that you don’t intend to be here much longer".

"Rand needs me", Perrin said softly. "Burn me, Tam, I hate it—but I cant fight along with you here in Andor. Someone needs to watch Rand’s back, and it . . . well, it’s going to be me. I know it, somehow".

Tam nodded. "We’ll just go to Arganda or Gallenne, and tell them they’re in charge of our men. Queen Elayne is giving most of the orders anyway, and—"

"Men!" Perrin yelled, looking toward the assembled soldiers. Arganda was consulting with Gallenne. They turned to Perrin, as did the nearby members of the Wolf Guard, along with Galad and his Whitecloaks. Young Bornhald regarded Perrin through dark eyes. That one grew more and more unpredictable lately. The Light send Galad had been able to keep him from the brandy.

"You all accept my authority, as granted by the crown of Andor?" Perrin asked.

"Of course, Lord Goldeneyes", Arganda called. "I thought that was established".

"I’m hereby making Tam al’Thor a lord", Perrin called. "I am making him steward over the Two Rivers in the name of his son, the Dragon Reborn. He carries all of my authority, which is the Dragon’s own authority. If I do not survive this battle, Tam succeeds me".

The camp grew still, then the men nodded, several saluting Tam. Tam groaned so softly, Perrin doubted anyone else could hear.

"Is it too late to turn you over to the Women’s Circle for a good talking-to?" Tam asked. "Maybe a sound swat on the behind and a week spent carrying water for Widow al’Thone?"

"Sorry, Tam", Perrin said. "Neald, try making a gateway to the Black Tower".

The young Asha’man adopted a look of concentration. "It still doesn’t work, Lord Goldeneyes".

Perrin shook his head. He’d heard the reports from Lan’s battlefront, that members of the Black Tower were fighting for the Shadow. Something had happened there, something terrible. "All right, back to Merrilor, then", Perrin said.

Neald nodded, concentrating.

As he worked, Perrin turned to the men. "I hate to leave you, but I have these hooks in me, pulling me north. I have to go to Rand, and there’s just no arguing with it. I’ll try to come back. If I can’t . . . well, I want you all to know that I’m proud of you. All of you. You’re welcome in my home when this is over. We’ll open a cask or two of Master al’Vere’s best brandy. We’ll remember those who fell, and we’ll tell our children how we stood when the clouds turned black and the world started to die. We’ll tell them we stood shoulder to shoulder, and there was just no space for the Shadow to squeeze through".

He raised Mah’alleinir toward them, and he bore their cheering. Not because he deserved it, but because they certainly did.

Neald opened the gateway. Perrin started toward it, then hesitated as his name was called. He frowned, looking at Dain Bornhald as the man hurried over.

Perrin rested his hand on his hammer, wary. This man had saved his life against the Trollocs, and against a fellow Whitecloak, but Perrin saw the dislike the man had for him. He might not blame Perrin for the death of his father, but that didn’t mean he liked—or even accepted—Perrin.

"A word, Aybara", Bornhald said, looking toward Gaul standing nearby. "In private".

Perrin waved Gaul away, and the Aiel reluctantly retreated. He stepped with Bornhald away from the open gateway. "What is this about? If it’s because of

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