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datatime: 2022-09-25 15:22:51 Author:gjCrJAQx

Off to the left, short of where the road crossed a wooden bridge over a frozen stream that twisted along the town's edge, charred timbers thrust out of the snow atop a large square stone platform with drifts piled around the bottom. Slow to proclaim allegiance to the Dragon Reborn, the local lord had been lucky merely to be flogged and fined all that he possessed. A knot of men standing at the bridge watched the mounted party approaching. Perrin saw no sign of helmets or armor, but every man clutched spear or crossbow almost as hard as he did his cloak. They did not talk to one another. They just watched, the mist of their breath curling before their faces. There were other guards bunched all around the town, at every road leading out, at every space between two buildings. This was the Prophet's country, but the Whitecloaks and King Ailron's army still held large parts of it.

Holding his fur-lined cloak close with one hand, Perrin let Stayer walk at the bay's own pace. The midmorning sun gave no warmth, and the rutted snow on the road leading into Abila made poor footing. He and his dozen companions shared the way with only two lumbering ox-carts and a handful of farmfolk in plain dark woolens. They all trudged along with heads down, clutching at hat or cap whenever a gust rose but otherwise concentrating on the ground beneath their shoes.

"I was right not to bring her," he muttered, "but I'll pay for it anyway."

It took only one question, put to a lanky young man with an ecstatic light on his face, to learn where the Prophet was staying, and three more to other folk in the streets to find the merchant's house, four stories of gray stone with white marble moldings and window frames. Masema disapproved of grubbing for money, but he was willing to accept accommodations from those who did. On the other hand, Balwer said he had slept in a leaky farmhouse as often and been as satisfied. Masema drank only water, and wherever he went, he hired a poor widow and ate the food she prepared, fair or foul, without complaint. The man had made too many widows for that charity to count far with Perrin.

It took only one question, put to a lanky young man with an ecstatic light on his face, to learn where the Prophet was staying, and three more to other folk in the streets to find the merchant's house, four stories of gray stone with white marble moldings and window frames. Masema disapproved of grubbing for money, but he was willing to accept accommodations from those who did. On the other hand, Balwer said he had slept in a leaky farmhouse as often and been as satisfied. Masema drank only water, and wherever he went, he hired a poor widow and ate the food she prepared, fair or foul, without complaint. The man had made too many widows for that charity to count far with Perrin.

"Return to the Black Tower, and don't come here again." Standing, Rand faced the other man over Fedwin's body. "I may be moving about for a while."

Rand smiled at him, a hard feral smile. "Add Corlan Dashiva to your list of deserters, Taim. Next time I visit the Black Tower, I expect to see his head on your Traitor's Tree."

"You are harder than I thought," Taim muttered.

Abila was a goodly sized town, with several tall watch towers and many buildings rising four stories, every last one roofed in slate. Here and there, mounded stone and timbers filled a gap between two structures where an inn or some merchant's house had been pulled down. The Prophet disapproved of wealth gained by trade as much as he did carousing or what his followers called lewd behavior. He disapproved of a great many things, and made his feelings known with sharp examples.

Off to the left, short of where the road crossed a wooden bridge over a frozen stream that twisted along the town's edge, charred timbers thrust out of the snow atop a large square stone platform with drifts piled around the bottom. Slow to proclaim allegiance to the Dragon Reborn, the local lord had been lucky merely to be flogged and fined all that he possessed. A knot of men standing at the bridge watched the mounted party approaching. Perrin saw no sign of helmets or armor, but every man clutched spear or crossbow almost as hard as he did his cloak. They did not talk to one another. They just watched, the mist of their breath curling before their faces. There were other guards bunched all around the town, at every road leading out, at every space between two buildings. This was the Prophet's country, but the Whitecloaks and King Ailron's army still held large parts of it.

Abila was a goodly sized town, with several tall watch towers and many buildings rising four stories, every last one roofed in slate. Here and there, mounded stone and timbers filled a gap between two structures where an inn or some merchant's house had been pulled down. The Prophet disapproved of wealth gained by trade as much as he did carousing or what his followers called lewd behavior. He disapproved of a great many things, and made his feelings known with sharp examples.

The bridge guards frowned and fingered their weapons as Stayer's hooves thudded hollowly onto the wooden planking. They were the usual odd mix that followed the Prophet, dirty-faced fellows in silk coats too big for them, scar-faced street toughs and pink-cheeked apprentices, former merchants and craftsmen who looked as if they had slept in their once fine woolens for months. Their weapons appeared well cared for, though. Some of the men had a fever in their eyes; the rest wore guarded, wooden faces. Along with unwashed, they smelled eager, anxious, fervent, afraid, all jumbled together.

"Dashiva?" Taim snarled, his eyes widening in surprise. "It will be as you say. When next you visit the Black Tower." That quickly, he recovered himself, all polished stone and poise once more. How she wished she could read her viewings of him.

Abila was a goodly sized town, with several tall watch towers and many buildings rising four stories, every last one roofed in slate. Here and there, mounded stone and timbers filled a gap between two structures where an inn or some merchant's house had been pulled down. The Prophet disapproved of wealth gained by trade as much as he did carousing or what his followers called lewd behavior. He disapproved of a great many things, and made his feelings known with sharp examples.

"Of course you'll pay," Elyas snorted. For a man who had spent most of the last fifteen years afoot, he handled his mouse-colored gelding well. He had acquired a cloak lined with black fox, dicing with Gallenne. Aram, riding on Perrin's other side, eyed Elyas darkly, but the bearded man ignored him. They did not get on well. "A man always pays sooner or later, with any woman, whether he owes or not. But I was right, wasn't I?"

It took only one question, put to a lanky young man with an ecstatic light on his face, to learn where the Prophet was staying, and three more to other folk in the streets to find the merchant's house, four stories of gray stone with white marble moldings and window frames. Masema disapproved of grubbing for money, but he was willing to accept accommodations from those who did. On the other hand, Balwer said he had slept in a leaky farmhouse as often and been as satisfied. Masema drank only water, and wherever he went, he hired a poor widow and ate the food she prepared, fair or foul, without complaint. The man had made too many widows for that charity to count far with Perrin.

Perrin nodded. Grudgingly. It still did not seem right taking advice about his wife from another man, even circumspectly, obliquely, yet it did seem to be working. Of course, raising his voice to Faile was as hard as not raising it to Berelain, but he had managed the last quite often and the first several times. He had followed Elyas' advice to the letter. Well, most of it. As well as he could. That spiky scent of jealousy still flared at the sight of Berelain, yet on the other hand, the hurt smell had vanished as they made their slow way south. Still, he was uneasy. When he firmly told her she was not coming with him this morning, she had not raised a single word of protest Among other things, including startled. And how could she be pleased and angry at the same time? Not a scrap of it had showed on her face, but his nose never lied. Somehow, it seemed that the more he learned about women, the less he knew

Taim's bow was minuscule. "As you command."

Behind him, he heard Neald make a ribald joke in a low voice; Grady grunted in reply, and Balwer sniffed prissily. None of the three seemed at all affected by what they had seen and heard this past month since crossing the border into Amadicia, or by what lay ahead. Edarra was sharply berating Masuri for letting her hood slip. Edarra and Carelle both wore their shawls wrapped around their heads and shoulders in addition to cloaks, but even after admitting the necessity to ride, they had refused to change out of their bulky skirts, so their dark-stockinged legs were bared above the knee. The cold did not seem to bother them in the least; just the strangeness of snow. Carelle began quietly advising Seonid as to what would happen if she did not keep her face hidden.

Dismissing Balwer from his thoughts, Perrin set to what he was there about.

"You are harder than I thought," Taim muttered.

Dismissing Balwer from his thoughts, Perrin set to what he was there about.

Rand smiled at him, a hard feral smile. "Add Corlan Dashiva to your list of deserters, Taim. Next time I visit the Black Tower, I expect to see his head on your Traitor's Tree."

The bridge guards frowned and fingered their weapons as Stayer's hooves thudded hollowly onto the wooden planking. They were the usual odd mix that followed the Prophet, dirty-faced fellows in silk coats too big for them, scar-faced street toughs and pink-cheeked apprentices, former merchants and craftsmen who looked as if they had slept in their once fine woolens for months. Their weapons appeared well cared for, though. Some of the men had a fever in their eyes; the rest wore guarded, wooden faces. Along with unwashed, they smelled eager, anxious, fervent, afraid, all jumbled together.

Behind him, he heard Neald make a ribald joke in a low voice; Grady grunted in reply, and Balwer sniffed prissily. None of the three seemed at all affected by what they had seen and heard this past month since crossing the border into Amadicia, or by what lay ahead. Edarra was sharply berating Masuri for letting her hood slip. Edarra and Carelle both wore their shawls wrapped around their heads and shoulders in addition to cloaks, but even after admitting the necessity to ride, they had refused to change out of their bulky skirts, so their dark-stockinged legs were bared above the knee. The cold did not seem to bother them in the least; just the strangeness of snow. Carelle began quietly advising Seonid as to what would happen if she did not keep her face hidden.

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