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datatime: 2022-09-29 20:13:41 Author:wYTwLfuh

"Burn you," she breathed. Tangling both hands in his hair, she stared in his eyes. Now blue, now gray, a morning sky just at sunrise. And dry. "You can cry, Rand al'Thor. You won't melt if you cry"

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

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

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.

"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.

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

"No point wasting time, and no time to waste," Rand muttered. Kneeling in front of her, he took the crown and slipped it into the scrip with the other things. "Min, I thought I was the whole pack of hounds, chasing down one wolf after another, but it seems I'm the wolf."

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.

"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?"

"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."

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

"I don't have time for tears, either, Min," he said gently. "Sometimes the hounds catch the wolf and wish they hadn't. Sometimes he turns on them, or waits in ambush. But first, the wolf has to run."

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

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.

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.

"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?"

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

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.

"Burn you," she breathed. Tangling both hands in his hair, she stared in his eyes. Now blue, now gray, a morning sky just at sunrise. And dry. "You can cry, Rand al'Thor. You won't melt if you cry"

"A little something in the wine," Rand said softly as he laid Fedwin down. Min's eyes burned, but she would not cry. She would not

They made no move to bar passage, just watched, hardly blinking. By what Perrin had heard, all sorts from ladies in silks to beggars in rags came to the Prophet hoping that submitting to him in person might gain added blessings. Or maybe added protection. That was why he had come this way, with only a handful of companions. He would frighten Masema if he had to, if Masema could be frightened, but it had seemed better to try reaching the man without fighting a battle. He could feel the guard's eyes on his back until he and the others were all across the short bridge and onto the paved streets of Abila. When that pressure left, though, it brought no sense of relief.

"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.

"When do we go?" she asked. She did not let go of his hair. She was never going to let go of him. Never.

"No point wasting time, and no time to waste," Rand muttered. Kneeling in front of her, he took the crown and slipped it into the scrip with the other things. "Min, I thought I was the whole pack of hounds, chasing down one wolf after another, but it seems I'm the wolf."

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