Winter's Heart Page 186

Skirts hiked to her knees, cursing, Cyndane ran from her third gateway as soon as she was through. She could hear the explosions marching toward the site, but this time she had realized why they came straight for her. Tripping on vines hidden in the snow, bumping into tree trunks, she ran. She hated forests! At least some of the others were here — she had seen those fountaining fires speed elsewhere than at her; she could feel saidar being spun at more than one place, spun with fury — but she prayed to the Great Lord that she would reach Lews Therin first. She wanted to see him die, she realized, and for that, she would have to get closer.

Crouching behind a fallen log, Osan’gar panted from the exertion of running. Those months masquerading as Corlan Dashiva had not made him any fonder of exercise. The explosions that had almost killed him died away, then started up again somewhere in the distance, and he cautiously raised himself enough to peek over the log. Not that he supposed a piece of wood was very much protection. He had never been a soldier, not really. His talents, his genius, lay elsewhere. The Trollocs were his making, and thus the Myrddraal that had sprung from them, and many other creatures that had rocked the world and made his name famous. The access key blazed with saidin, but he could feel lesser amounts being wielded, too, in various directions.

He had expected others of the Chosen to be here ahead of him, had hoped they might have finished the task before he arrived, but plainly they had not. Plainly al’Thor had brought along some of those Asha’man, and by the amount of saidin that had gone into the eruptions that targeted him, Callandor as well. And maybe some of his tame, so-called Aes Sedai.

Crouching again, he bit his lip. This forest was a very dangerous place, more so than he had expected, and nowhere for a genius. But the fact remained that Moridin terrified him. The man had always terrified him, from the very beginning. He had been mad with power before they were sealed into the Bore, and since they had been freed, he seemed to think that he was the Great Lord. Moridin would find out somehow if he fled, and kill him. Worse, if al’Thor succeeded, the Great Lord might decide to kill both of them, and Osan’gar as well. He did not care whether they died, but he did very much about himself.

He was not good at judging time by the sun, but it was obviously still short of noon. Hauling himself from the ground, he dabbed at the dirt on his clothes, then gave up in disgust and began to skulk from tree to tree in what he imagined was a stealthy manner. It was toward the key that he skulked. Perhaps one of the others would finish the man before he got close to it, but if not, perhaps he would find the chance to be a hero. Carefully, of course.

Verin frowned at the apparition making its way through the trees off to her left. She could think of no other term for a woman walking through the forest in gems and a gown that shifted through every color from black to white and sometimes even turned transparent! She was not hurrying, but she was heading toward the hill where Rand was. And unless Verin was very much mistaken, she was one of the Forsaken.

“Are we just going to watch her?” Shalon whispered furiously. She had been upset that she was not the one to meld the flows, as if a wilder’s strength counted with Aes Sedai, and hours tramping through the woods had not improved her temper.

“We must do something,” Kumira said softly, and Verin nodded.

“I was just deciding what.” A shield, she decided. A captive Forsaken might prove very useful.

Using the full strength of her circle, she wove her shield, and watched aghast as it rebounded. The woman was already embracing saidar, though no light shone around her, and she was immensely strong!

Then she had no time for thought of anything as the golden-haired woman spun around and began channeling. Verin could not see the weaves, but she knew when she was fighting off an attack on her life, and she had come too far to die here.

Eben hitched his cloak around himself and wished he were better at ignoring the cold. Simple cold, he could ignore, but not the wind that had sprung up since the sun passed its zenith. The three sisters linked to him simply let the wind take their cloaks as they tried to watch every direction at once. Daigian was leading the circle — because of him, he thought — but she was drawing so lightly that he felt barely a whisper of saidin passing through him. She would not want to face that until she had to. He lifted her cowl back into place on her head, and she smiled at him from its depths. The bond carried her affection to him, and his own back, he supposed. With time, he thought he might come to love this little Aes Sedai.

The torrent of saidin far behind him had a tendency to wash out his awareness of other channeling, but he could feel others wielding the Power. The battle had been joined, elsewhere, and so far all the four of them had done was walk. He did not mind that much, really. He had been at Dumai’s Wells, and fought the Seanchan, and he had learned that battles were more fun in a book than in the flesh. What did irk him was that he had not been given control of the circle. Of course, Jahar had not, but he figured Merise amused herself by making Jahar balance a cookie on his nose. Damer had been given control of that circle, though. Just because the man had a few years on him — well, more than a few; he was older than Eben’s da — was no reason for Cadsuane to look at him as if he were a —

“Can you help me? I seem to have lost my way, and my horse.” The woman who stepped from behind a tree ahead of them did not even have a cloak. Instead, she wore a gown of deep green silk cut so low that half of her lush bosom was exposed. Waves of black hair surrounded a beautiful face, with green eyes that sparkled as she smiled.

“A strange place to be riding,” Beldeine said suspiciously. The pretty Green had not been pleased when Cadsuane put Daigian in charge, and she had taken every opportunity to state her opinion of Daigian’s decisions.

“I hadn’t meant to ride so far,” the woman said coming closer. “I see you’re all Aes Sedai. With a . . . groom? Do you know what all the commotion is about?”

Suddenly, Eben felt the blood drain from his face. What he felt was impossible! The green-eyed woman frowned in surprise, and he did the only thing that he could.

“She’s holding saidin!” he shouted, and threw himself at her as he felt Daigian draw deeply on the Power.

Cyndane slowed at the sight of the woman standing among the trees a hundred paces ahead of her, a tall yellow-haired woman who simply watched her come closer. The feel of battles being fought with the Power in other places made her wary at the same time it gave her hope. The woman was plainly dressed in wool, but incongruously decked with gems as if she were a great lady. With saidar in her, Cyndane could see the faint lines at the corners of the woman’s eyes. Not one of those who called themselves Aes Sedai, then. But who? And why did she stand there as if she would bar Cyndane’s way? It did not really matter. Channeling now would give her away, but she had time. The key still shone as a beacon of the Power. Lews Therin still lived. No matter how fierce the other woman’s eyes, a knife would do for her, if she really thought she could be a bar. And just in case she proved to be what they called a wilder, Cyndane prepared a small present for her, a reversed web she would not even

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