Trails and Trials

BY : CharonsPole
Category: S through Z > Wheel of Time Series
Dragon prints: 2798
Disclaimer: I do not own the Wheel of Time series, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Nynaeve stared in wonder at what lay ahead down the river, the White Bridge gleaming in the sun with a milky glow. Another legend, she thought, glancing at the Warder and the Aes Sedai, riding just ahead of her. Another legend, and they don’t even seem to notice. She resolved not to stare where they could see. They’ll laugh if they see me gaping like a country bumpkin. The three rode on silently toward the fabled White Bridge.

Since that morning after Shadar Logoth, when she had found Moiraine and Lan on the bank of th Arindrelle, there had been little in the way of real conversation between her and the Aes Sedai. There had been talk, of course, but nothing of substance as Nynaeve saw it. Moiraine’s attempts to talk her into going to Tar Valon, for instance. Tar Valon. She would go there, if need be, and take their training, but not for the reasons the Aes Sedai thought. If Moiraine had brought harm to Egwene and the boys ...

Sometimes, against her will, Nynaeve had found herself thinking of what a Wisdom could do with the One Power, of what she could do. Whenever she realized what was in her head, though, a flash of anger burned it out. The Power was a filthy thing. She would have nothing to do with it. Unless she had to.

The cursed woman only wanted to talk about taking her to Tar Valon for training. Moiraine would not tell her anything! It was not as if she wanted to know so much.

“How do you mean to find them?” she remembered demanding.

“As I have told you,” Moiraine replied without bothering to look back at her, “So long as they have my tokens in their possessions I can follow them across half the world, if need be.” It was not the first time Nynaeve had asked, but the Aes Sedai’s voice was like a still pond that refused to ripple no matter how many stones Nynaeve threw; it made the Wisdom’s blood boil every time she was exposed to it. Moiraine went on as if she could not feel Nynaeve’s eyes on her back; Nynaeve knew she must be able to, she was staring so hard.

“And then? What do you plan when you’ve found them, Aes Sedai?” She did not for a minute believe the Aes Sedai would be so intent on finding them if she did not have plans.

“Tar Valon, Wisdom.”

“Tar Valon, Tar Valon. That’s all you ever say, and I am becoming—”

“Part of the training you will receive in Tar Valon, Wisdom, will teach you to control your temper. You can do nothing with the One Power when emotion rules your mind.” Nynaeve opened her mouth, but the Aes Sedai went right on. “Lan, I must speak with you a moment.”

The two put their heads together, and Nynaeve was left with a sullen glower that she hated every time she realized it was on her face. It came too often as the Aes Sedai deftly turned her questions off onto another subject, slid easily by her conversational traps, or ignored her shouts until they ended in silence. The scowl made her feel like a girl who had been caught acting the fool by someone in the Women’s Circle. That was a feeling Nynaeve was not used to, and the calm smile on Moiraine’s face only made it worse.

If only there was some way to get rid of the woman. Lan would be better by himself—a Warder should be able to handle what was needed, she told herself hastily, feeling a sudden flush; no other reason—but one meant the other.

And yet, Lan made her even more furious than Moiraine. She could not understand how he managed to get under her skin so easily. He rarely said anything—sometimes not a dozen words in a day—and he never took part in any of the ... discussions with Moiraine. He was often apart from the two women, scouting the land, but even when he was there he kept a little to one side, watching them as if watching a duel. Nynaeve wished he would stop. If it was a duel, she had not managed to score once, and Moiraine did not even seem to realize she was in a fight. Nynaeve could have done without his cool blue eyes, without even a silent audience.

That had been the way of their journey, for the most part. Quiet, except when her temper got the best of her, and sometimes when she shouted the sound of her voice seemed to crash in the silence like breaking glass. The land itself was quiet, as if the world were pausing to catch its breath. The wind moaned in the trees, but all else was still.

At first the stillness was restful after everything that had happened. It seemed as if she had not known a moment of quiet since before Winternight. By the end of the first day alone with the Aes Sedai and the Warder, though, she was looking over her shoulder and fidgeting in her saddle as if she had an itch in the middle of her back where she could not reach. The silence seemed like crystal doomed to shatter, and waiting for the first crack put her teeth on edge.

It weighed on Moiraine and Lan, too, as outwardly imperturbable as they were. She soon realized that, beneath their calm surfaces, hour by hour they wound tighter and tighter, like clocksprings being forced to the breaking point. Moiraine seemed to listen to things that were not there, and what she heard put a crease in her forehead. Lan watched the forest and the river as if the leafless trees and wide, slow water carried the signs of traps and ambushes waiting ahead.

Part of her was glad that she was not the only one who apprehended that poised-on-the-brink feel to the world, but if it affected them, it was real, and another part of her wanted nothing so much as for it to be just her imagination. Something of it tickled the corners of her mind, as when she listened to the wind, but now she knew that that had to do with the One Power, and she could not bring herself to embrace those ripples at the edge of thought.

“It is nothing,” Lan said quietly when she asked. He did not look at her while he spoke; his eyes never ceased their scanning. Then, contradicting what he had just said, he added, “You should go back to your Two Rivers when we reach Whitebridge, and the Caemlyn Road. It’s too dangerous here. Nothing will try to stop you going back, though.” It was the longest speech he made all that day.

“She is part of the Pattern, Lan,” Moiraine said chidingly. Her gaze was elsewhere, too. “It is the Dark One, Nynaeve. The storm has left us ... for a time, at least.” She raised one hand as though feeling the air, then scrubbed it on her dress unconsciously, as if she had touched filth. “He is still watching, however”—she sighed—“and his gaze is stronger. Not on us, but on the world. How much longer before he is strong enough to ...”

Nynaeve hunched her shoulders; suddenly she could almost feel someone staring at her back. It was one explanation she would just as soon the Aes Sedai had not given her.

Lan scouted their path down the river, but where before he had chosen the way, now Moiraine did so, as surely as if she followed some unseen track, footprints in air, the scent of memory. Lan only checked the route she intended, to see that it was safe. Nynaeve had the feeling that even if he said it was not, Moiraine would insist on it anyway. And he would go, she was sure. Straight down the river to ...

With a start, Nynaeve pulled out of her thoughts. They were at the foot of the White Bridge. The pale arch shone in the sunlight, a milky spiderweb too delicate to stand, sweeping across the Arindrelle. The weight of a man would bring it crashing down, much less that of a horse. Surely it would collapse under its own weight any minute.

Lan and Moiraine rode unconcernedly ahead, up the gleaming white approach and onto the bridge, hooves ringing, not like steel on glass, but like steel on steel. The surface of the bridge certainly looked as slick as glass, wet glass, but it gave the horses a firm, sure footing.

Nynaeve made herself follow, but from the first step she half waited for the entire structure to shatter under them. If lace were made of glass, she thought, it would look like this.

It was not until they were almost all the way across that she noticed the tarry smell of char thickening the air. In a moment she saw.

Around the square at the foot of the White Bridge piles of blackened timbers, still leaking smoky threads, replaced half a dozen buildings. Men in poorly fitting red uniforms and tarnished armour patrolled the streets, but they marched quickly, as if afraid of finding anything, and they looked over their shoulders as they went. Townspeople—the few who were out—almost ran, shoulders hunched, as though something were chasing them.

Lan looked grim, even for him, and people walked wide of the three of them, even the soldiers. The Warder sniffed the air and grimaced, growling under his breath.

“The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills,” Moiraine mumbled. “No eye can see the Pattern until it is woven.”

In the next moment she was down off Aldieb and speaking to townsfolk. She did not ask questions; she gave sympathy, and to Nynaeve’s surprise it appeared genuine. People who shied away from Lan, ready to hurry from any stranger, stopped to speak with Moiraine. They appeared startled themselves at what they were doing, but they opened up, after a fashion, under Moiraine’s clear gaze and soothing voice. The Aes Sedai’s eyes seemed to share the people’s hurt, to empathize with their confusion, and tongues loosened.

They still lied, though. Most of them. Some denied there had been any trouble at all. Nothing at all. Moiraine mentioned the burned buildings all around the square. Everything was fine, they insisted, staring past what they did not want to see.

One fat fellow spoke with a hollow heartiness, but his cheek twitched at every noise behind him. With a grin that kept slipping, he claimed an overturned lamp had started a fire that spread with the wind before anything could be done. One glance showed Nynaeve that no burned structure stood alongside another.

There were almost as many different stories as there were people. Several women lowered their voices conspiratorially. The truth of the matter was there was a man somewhere in the town meddling with the One Power. It was time to have the Aes Sedai in; past time, was the way they saw it, no matter what the men said about Tar Valon. Let the Red Ajah settle matters.

One man claimed it had been an attack by bandits, and another said a riot by Darkfriends. “Those ones going to see the false Dragon, you know,” he confided darkly. “They’re all over the place. Darkfriends, every one.”

Still others spoke of some kind of trouble—they were vague about exactly what kind—that had come downriver on a boat. One man mentioned a gleeman, and Nynave wondered if it could be Thom Merrilin he spoke of.

“Perhaps,” Moiraine said, when she put the thought forward. “We shall see.”

An inn still stood in the square, the common room divided in two by a shoulder-high wall. Moiraine paused as she stepped into the inn, feeling the air with her hand. She smiled at Whatever it was she felt, but she would say nothing of it, then.

Their meal was consumed in an unpleasant quiet, not only at their table, but throughout the common room. The handful of people eating there concentrated on their own plates and their own thoughts. The innkeeper, dusting tables with a corner of his apron, muttered to himself continually, but always too low to be heard. Nynaeve did not relish the thought of sleeping there; even the air was heavy with fear.

“Where are the others?” Nynaeve demanded of the Warder.

Lan looked at Moiraine, who shook her head slightly and said, “There is one somewhere to the north-west of us.” A small, satisfied smile touched her lips. “The others were in this room, no more than three days ago. They went west, along the Caemlyn Road.”

“Which two?” Nynaeve leaned over the table intently. “Do you know?” The Aes Sedai shook her head, the slightest of motions, and Nynaeve settled back. “If they’re only a few days ahead, we should go after them first.”

“Perhaps,” Moiraine said in that insufferably calm voice, “but the road will carry us north and west also. We shall gather whichever wayward lambs we catch up with first. I trust they are all smart enough to go toward Caemlyn.”

“But—” Nynaeve began, but Lan cut her off in a soft voice.

“The two who came here had reason to be afraid when they left.” He looked around, then lowered his voice. “There was a Halfman here.” He grimaced, the way he had in the square. “I can still smell him everywhere.”

Moiraine sighed. “I will keep hope until I know it is gone. I refuse to believe the Dark One can win so easily. I will find all three of them alive and well. I must believe it.”

“I want to find the boys, too,” Nynaeve said, “but what about Egwene? You never even mention her, and you ignore me when I ask. I thought you were going to take her off to”—she glanced at the other tables, and lowered her voice—“to Tar Valon.”

The Aes Sedai studied the tabletop for a moment before raising her eyes to Nynaeve’s, and when she did, Nynaeve started back from a flash of anger that almost seemed to make Moiraine’s eyes glow. Then her back stiffened, her own anger rising, but before she could say a word, the Aes Sedai spoke coldly.

“I hope to find Egwene alive and well, too. I do not easily give up young women with that much ability once I have found them. But it will be as the Wheel weaves.”

Nynaeve felt a cold ball in the pit of her stomach. Am I one of those young women you won’t give up? We’ll see about that, Aes Sedai. The Light burn you, we’ll see about that!

The meal was finished in silence. About the time they pushed their plates away, wiped clean with the last scraps of bread, one of the red-uniformed soldiers appeared in the doorway. He seemed resplendent to Nynaeve, in his peaked helmet and burnished breastplate, until he took a pose just inside the door, with a hand resting on the hilt of his sword and a stern look on his face, and used a finger to ease his too-tight collar. It made her think of Cenn Buie trying to act the way a Village Councillor should.

Lan spared him one glance and snorted. “Militia. Useless.”

The soldier looked over the room, letting his eyes come to rest on them. He hesitated, then took a deep breath before stomping over to demand, all in a rush, who they were, what their business was in Whitebridge, and how long they intended to stay.

“We are leaving as soon as I finish my ale,” Lan said. He took another slow swallow before looking up at the soldier. “The Light illumine good Queen Morgase.”

The red-uniformed man opened his mouth, then took a good look at Lan’s eyes and stepped back. He caught himself immediately, with a glance at Moiraine and her. She thought for a moment that he was going to do something foolish to keep from looking the coward in front of two women. In her experience, men were often idiots that way. But too much had happened in Whitebridge; too much uncertainty had escaped from the cellars of men’s minds. The militiaman looked back at Lan and reconsidered once more. The Warder’s hard-planed face was expressionless, but there were those cold blue eyes. So cold.

The militiaman settled on a brisk nod. “See that you do. Too many strangers around these days for the good of the Queen’s peace.”

“How so? I couldn’t help but notice the aftermath of some disturbance in the square without.” Moiraine’s voice was coolly conversational, as if she cared not a whit for the man’s answer.

“A gleeman and his apprentices,” he said with an ugly scowl. “Stirring up trouble for decent folk. The apprentices ran off, but the master was not so lucky.”

“What became of the miscreant,” Moiraine asked. Her voice remained cool, but Nynaeve thought she saw little sparks of anger in those dark, slightly tilted eyes.

“He got into a scuffle with some other fellow, an accomplice perhaps, and came out the worst of it. I wasn’t there myself, but I heard he started throwing fireworks around like an Illuminator ... or maybe one of those sick fools who touch the One Power. He’ll get his, regardless. He set a lot of buildings on fire with that display. Good people stand to lose their livelihood over it.”

“He will, ‘get his’, as you call it? So he has not already been dealt with then?”

The militiaman shook his head. “We have him in the jail. For questioning, you understand. So far all he does is tremble, sweat and mutter to himself. Might be he’s dying of the cut on his leg ... though it only looked a little thing to me. Could be infected I guess. I told the captain we should just leave him to his fate, but he wants answers so he brought in the local Healer. She says there’s something wrong with the man’s wound though. Might be he’ll die anyway.”

“A most troubling tale, guardsman. We shall be sure to pass through Whitebridge in haste, lest these miscreants return. A good day to you.”

The man blinked uncertainly at her clear dismissal. A hand rose to knuckle his forehead seemingly of its own will. Turning on his heel he stomped out again, practicing his stern look on the locals as he went. None of the folk in the inn seemed to notice.

“Thom Merrilin?” Nynaeve whispered.

Moiraine raised an eyebrow at her insultingly and kept her voice pitched low. “A gleeman, two young men, and a wound that sounds very like those left by Thakan’dar steel? It seems very likely the prisoner in question is Master Merrilin, yes. But what to do about it?”

Nynaeve scowled at her. “Help him, obviously. By what I can gather from that fool man’s lies, it sounds as though the gleeman got into a fight with a Fade trying to defend the boys. Knowing that, do you mean to abandon him to these people’s judgement?”

Lan surprised her. “I could deal with the militia without doing any lasting damage,” he volunteered, looking at Moiraine with a very blank face, like that of some heroic statue.

Moiraine sighed. “To their persons, I do not doubt. To our reputations ... well. And the longer we delay here the longer the two boys remain unprotected.”

Nynaeve drew a deep breath, ready to begin the argument in earnest.

“But we shall save Master Merrilin from the guard’s tender mercies nonetheless,” the damnable woman continued, before Nynaeve could get a word out. She clicked her teeth shut angrily. “We will need to arrange passage downriver. If the wound is as I suspect it, he will not be fit to travel for some time. And I do not know of a safe location nearby in which to deposit him. Lan. You will find me at the docks.”

The Warder nodded and slid smoothly from his chair. He dropped some coins on the inn’s counter as he strode by.

Nynaeve and Moiraine gathered themselves and left soon after. Nynaeve in the lead by simple virtue of having lengthened her stride. She marched determinedly out into the partially burned town while Moiraine was still gliding through the inn, too concerned with looking gracious and ladylike to attend to the task ahead in a proper, timely fashion.

Once there, she turned towards the docks, leaving Moiraine to catch up.

She had to wait a time once she got there, to her very great irritation. Moiraine had the money they would need to pay for passage. Nynaeve’s own purse was much the thinner of the two. A Wisdom was paid more than enough to cover her needs, but that was hardly the reason any decent woman would take up the responsibility. So she was left with no choice but to plant her feet, cross her arms beneath her breasts and glare at anyone who was fool enough to venture near while she waited for Moiraine to finally make her appearance.

Passing sailors and townspeople looked askance at Nynaeve, but those wilted quickly enough under her glare. They avoided her eyes, looking oddly confused, and gave her a good space.

Her lips thinned when she spotted Moiraine several jetties down, talking to a tall, bony man in a dark coat with ears that stood out and a dour cast to his narrow face. He stood near the gangplank of an expensive-looking ship with two yellow hunting cats on the flag that fluttered from its mast. A captain of some sort, Nynaeve suspected. She was left with little choice but to make her way over and see what the Aes Sedai was up to this time. Damn her.

“You shall have your fare money, captain,” Moiraine was telling him.

“Then if you’ll come aboard, I’ll sail. I like being here in daylight now less than ever.”

“As soon as the rest of my companions arrive,” Moiraine said, nodding in Nynaeve’s direction. “Here is one. The other two should be along soon. Though one may have to carry the other. Some men are overly fond of ale, despite a poor tolerance for its effects.”

The captain jerked his chin rudely in Nynaeve’s direction. “I’ll show you to the cabin.”

“My thanks, Captain Neres,” Moiraine followed him up the gangplank in her gliding walk, forcing Nynaeve to come along behind, shifting impatiently from foot to foot.

Neres’ cabin proved to be the only accommodation on the ship above deck. Despite that, he didn’t seemed particularly reluctant about moving out. His haste—breeches and coats and shirts flung over his shoulders and dangling from a great wad in his arms, shaving mug clutched in one hand and razor in the other—made Nynaeve suspect that Moiraine had over-paid for passage.

The inside of the cabin only reinforced her suspicion. It smelled of must and mould even with the tiny windows swung out, and they let little light into its dank confines. ‘Confines’ was the word. The cabin was small and most of the space was taken by a heavy table and high-backed chair fastened to the floor, and the ladder leading up to the deck. A washstand built into the wall, with a grimy pitcher and bowl and a narrow dusty mirror, crowded the room still more, and completed the furnishings except for a few empty shelves and pegs for hanging clothes. And there was only one narrow bed. Tall as he was, Neres might as well have lived in a box. The man surely had not given up one inch that might be stuffed with cargo.

The Aes Sedai was watching her closely. “Agni Neres came to Whitebridge in the night, and he wants to leave in the night. He is, of course, a smuggler.”

“In this vessel? It is a barrel.” Nynaeve sat down on the edge of the bed. The cabin might smell, but it could be aired out, and if the bed was cramped, it had a thick feather mattress. The ship did roll disturbingly, though. She imagined it would be worse once it was out on the river. Well, Thom Merrilin would have little cause to complain. Better this smelly ship than whatever awaits him here in Whitebridge.

“You know much of smugglers in the Two Rivers then?” Moiraine’s tone was polite, the small smile on her lips anything but. Nynaeve glared at her but, unlike the sailors outside, the Aes Sedai was completely unfazed by her anger. “Few such dare practice their trade in Tar Valon of course. Those that do are quickly identified and made to rue their decision.”

“Tar Valon,” Nynaeve said scornfully. “I’m sick of hearing about Tar Valon. Why hire a smuggler of all things to take Merrilin downriver? There were plenty of other ships.”

Moiraine studied her for an uncomfortably long time before answering. “Partially because he is a smuggler; he will be much more reluctant to deal with the militia than an honest trader captain would. And partially because he was already making ready to sail. The sooner Thom is on his way, the less likely he is to be retaken by the guards. I would like to question him before I Heal his wound, but given the nature of Thakan’dar steel it is likely he will be too delirious to tell me much of what became the two boys.”

Nynaeve got to her feet and paced as much as the cramped cabin would allow. “You still haven’t told me how you know where they are, or what you intend to do to them once we find them.”

“Haven’t I” Moiraine almost sounded exasperated. It was hard to tell with her.

“No. But I promise you this: if you hurt any of my people you will regret it bitterly.”

She sighed lightly. “So you have said. But how, exactly, do you hope to make that happen?”

Nynaeve’s circuit of the table had brought her around until her back was to the Aes Sedai. She stopped in her tracks, searching her mind for an answer to that question. It infuriated her that she could find none.

“You have no hope ... unless you go to Tar Valon,” Moiraine’s whisper stirred the hair by Nynaeve’s ear. She stood very stiffly, realising that the woman was right behind, practically touching her back. Does she think to intimidate me? She would not find Nynaeve al’Meara so easily cowed!

“Your precious Tar Valon can burn for all of me. The Two Rivers is my responsibility, and no-one will harm it while I live.”

“Such fire,” Moiraine mused. “Among the Aes Sedai we have a saying, ‘there is no fire so fierce that water cannot quench it or wind snuff it out.’ Those last two are usually the strongest of the five powers among women, you see.” Nynaeve felt a tugging at the back of her dress and frowned in confusion. “As you would learn in Tar Valon. Among so many other things.” The bodice of her good wool dress felt suddenly loose; Nynaeve gasped, realising that the Aes Sedai had undone her buttons.

“What do you think you are doing?” she demanded, spinning to face Moiraine ... or trying to. Something held her pinned in place, it felt like ropes bound her wrists and ankles, but she could see nothing there. The One Power. Nynaeve paled.

“Whatsoever I wish ... until you stop me,” Moiraine whispered, her breath hot in Nynaeve’s ear. The Aes Sedai lowered the top of Nynaeve’s dress to her elbows, calmly and with no concern for the other woman’s struggles. Nynaeve watched incredulously as her own breasts—larger than Moiraine’s she had long since noted, with secret pride—spilled free. The stuffy cabin’s air on her bare skin made her tremble. Just the air, nothing else.

Moiraine’s hands on her breasts brought a sharp cry from Nynaeve’s lips, before she bit down on it and forced herself to silence. The Aes Sedai squeezed her soft flesh gently, then started teasing her nipples between thumb and finger. No one had touched Nynaeve’s skin outside of her work in nearly a decade. Even Rand, when the sweet fool had dared to kiss her, had been careful to keep his hands to himself. If he hadn’t she would have done more than thump and scold him. That she hadn’t reported his scandalous behaviour to the Women’s Circle was only because of his, relative, courtesy. Not because of how nice it had been to be touched. Not at all.

“Stop that, you wicked Aes Sedai witch,” Nynaeve grated.

“Or?”

“Or ...” Or what?

Moiraine went right ahead, fondling Nynaeve’s breasts as she pleased. “Such rich, thick hair you have,” the Aes Sedai whispered, weighing Nynaeve’s braid in one hand. “Let us see you in your full glory, shall we?”

The invisible ropes pulled Nynaeve forward until her legs struck the low table, then kept pulling until she was forced to bend over. Her breasts slapped against the polished surface of the table as she sprawled helplessly before Moiraine. “Let me go!” she demanded, though surely she imagined how high-pitched her voice suddenly was.

Moiraine ignored her. Instead she reached down and twitched Nynaeve’s skirts up, bundling them about her hips. She gave Nynaeve’s buttocks an experimental pat through her linen underwear. Then she calmly untied and lowered her drawers, exposing the Wisdom’s most private place to her dark, cool, oh-so-superior eyes. Nynaeve felt her cheeks burn red.

“As rich and thick below as above I see,” Moiraine said, amusedly. Nynaeve hadn’t thought it possible to blush hotter than she had already been, but she learned otherwise then.

The invisible bonds pulled Nynaeve’s legs slightly apart. Slender fingers probed her opening, forcing a gasp from her before she clenched her teeth shut once more. They slid inside, where no finger but Nynaeve’s own had ever been, in those rare, shameful moments.

“And chaste,” the Aes Sedai pronounced in a satisfied tone. “Good. It is not against Tower law exactly, for an Aes Sedai to consort with a man in such a manner, but it is heavily frowned upon. Your sense of propriety will serve you well. In Tar Valon.”

“I’m not ... not going ...” Nynaeve’s words cut off with a shameful whimper when Moiraine fingers began rubbing her tender folds.

“No? Perhaps it is that you want this then?”

“No!”

Moiraine gave her bottom a light slap. Nynaeve quivered in outrage. “But you would pass up the one thing that could prevent me from taking you whenever I pleased. Why so, if you do not want to be taken? So badly that you would give up all that you could be. I understand. Even among the Aes Sedai there are such women. I once knew a novice named Pritalle who would commit a new offense almost every other day, not because she was a poor student, but because she wanted to be sent to the Mistress of Novices ... and disciplined ...”

“I’m not like that!” Nynaeve denied fiercely.

“Yet here we are ...”

Nynaeve felt Moiraine breathe against her private parts. Something warm and wet touched her lower lips and she quivered again. In outrage, only outrage. The Aes Sedai kissed her there and Nynaeve bunched her fists, determined not to cry out.

The woman’s tongue was sinfully nimble. She quickly found Nynaeve’s secret bud and teased it mercilessly, sending jolts of forbidden, unwelcome pleasure shooting through her body. A slender finger slid inside her moist slit and stroked her skilfully, stirring her pot just the way it should.

Moiraine played her body masterfully, through talent or practice, Nynaeve could not say; but try as she did she could not prevent the pleasure that quickly built within her under the Aes Sedai’s ministrations, demanding a release she would not—would not!—give.

Her hard nipples pressed against the cold table as she thrashed. It was useless, the Aes Sedai was too powerful for her, too skilled, too damnably beautiful and intelligent and rich and ... Nynaeve couldn’t hold it any more, couldn’t fight it. A loud squeak escaped her clenched teeth as she came of orgasm, right on Moiraine’s face.

She sprawled limply on the table as waves of shame and pleasure coursed through her.

Moiraine rose and perched on the table beside the flushed, sweaty, exposed Wisdom. She watched her occasional helpless twitch and patted her bare bottom sympathetically. “You have a pleasant taste, Nynaeve al’Meara. Perhaps, when my tasks allow, I shall visit you again. In your Two Rivers. While you are gathering your herbs. There is a certain charm to grubby-kneed girls.” Nynaeve did not meet her eyes, but she felt her cheeks darkened. Anger kindled again in her breast.

“A powerful Aes Sedai could never be treated so of course. But you prefer a different fate,” Moiraine chided her, almost sounding disappointed. “So be it.”

The invisible ropes of Power were gone from Nynaeve’s limbs. She straightened up, her skirts falling to a decent level once more. She quickly fixed her bodice and reached back to do up her buttons. Moiraine watched her expressionlessly. For an instant she wondered what the woman would do if she pounced on her, fists swinging, grabbed her by her silky black hair and gave her a taste of her own medicine. Made her whimper shamefully! But Nynaeve had already seen what happened when a non-channeller tried to fight an Aes Sedai. She tightened her lips angrily and glared at the woman’s modest bosom.

It only made her angrier when she realised her drawers were still puddled around her ankles. She would have to raise her own skirts in order to set herself to rights, with the damnable woman looking at her and judging.

An absurd little flash of gratitude touched her when the Aes Sedai climbed from her tabletop perch and glided towards Captain Neres’ chair. The woman made another little sound of disappointment as she passed within Nynaeve’s reach. As if she had not made her disregard plain enough already! As soon as her back was turned, Nynaeve seized the moment and pulled up her underwear. Her heart finally started to slow to a more normal pace than the wild race it had been on for the past minutes.

Gathering her wits along with her dignity, Nynaeve shot a sidelong glare Moiraine’s way. The Aes Sedai sat with her legs crossed at the knee, calmly wiping Nynaeve’s juices from her lips, and with them the proof of her shame. This isn’t over witch. Do you think I’ll let you get away with treating me like this? Do you think you can come back to my home and do whatever you please? Not hardly! I’ll learn how to use your damned One Power, and then you’ll get what’s coming to you!

If the Aes Sedai could hear Nynaeve’s thoughts she gave no sign of it. She seemed completely disinterested in her, actually, now that she had had her way with her. It was perhaps the most insulting thing Nynaeve had ever seen. Oh, we will have a reckoning someday, you and I, she vowed.

Moiraine’s eyes tracked something only she could see. Abruptly Nynaeve heard voices from beyond the cabin door. They sounded to be in mid-conversation, but she could have sworn the whole ship had been silent up until just a second ago.

She smoothed her skirts and stepped hastily to the side, hoping nothing of what had just happened showed on her face.

The cabin door opened and Lan entered, crouching slightly to fit under the low ceiling; there could not have been an inch of height between he and Rand, and Rand had been the tallest person she had ever met until the Warder came to the Two Rivers. Lan had a narrow form slung over one broad shoulder. Captain Neres hovered behind, making some dire threat about what would become of anyone who puked in his cabin, but the Warder ignored him. He heeled the door shut while the captain was still mid-tirade.

Moiraine rose swiftly from her chair. No sooner had the Warder deposited his catch on the table than she set hands to the man’s chest. It was, as they had all assumed, Thom Merrilin. His deeply-lined face was paler than she had ever seen it, paler even than it had been when they were surrounded by an army of hunting Trollocs. Her hands twitched, instinct demanding she gather her medicines and do something to help him. But she remembered Tam al’Burr and knew that this wound was beyond her power to heal. Yet, she thought. Beyond my Power, yet. She narrowed her eyes as she watched the Aes Sedai work.

Thom was shivering violently, and whatever Moiraine did to him made his shivers worse at first. But then, bit by bit they eased off and his breathing started to become less laboured.

Moiraine tsked. She set her fingers lightly to the gleeman’s knee, a small frown forming between her narrow brows. “He will live,” she said, “but I fear too much time has passed for me to repair the knee completely. A pity. Even in his twilight years he was so nimble.”

Nynaeve might have made some cutting comment about the One Power then. But the words died in her throat. The Warder flicked a glance towards her as though surprised she had held her tongue. Fool man! As if she was one to grouch for no reason!

“Was there any trouble removing him from the militia’s custody?” Moiraine asked.

“None,” the Warder answered flatly. “But we should be gone from Whitebridge within the hour. At most.” She nodded in response.

Lan reached a hand under his coat and produced a pair of knives. They looked expensive, with brightly polished silver on the quillons and pommels. “These may interest you. The source of our fire. I tried to break one against a wall on my way here but could not even scratch the blade.” He raised an eyebrow at Moiraine.

“Power-wrought steel. I wonder where Master Merrilin acquired such a rarity. One of many questions that will have to go unanswered alas.”

Nynaeve abruptly recalled the fight they had been forced into before reaching Shadar Logoth. She had never been so terrified in her life. It still shamed her that she had done so little to help. Lan had duelled a Fade and won, sparks flying from his blade each time it touched the Myrddraal’s tainted steel. Had Thom done the same? And with such small blades! It was a miracle he had survived.

With one last, regretful look at Thom, the Aes Sedai turned to the door. “Leave the knives with him, and let us be going. I would have liked to hear exactly what took place in Whitebridge, and what became of the two boys, but thankfully I do not need Master Merrilin’s report to find them. And haste is very much required.”

Lan’s long legs brought him to the cabin door before Moiraine and he led the way out onto the deck. The sun was just beginning to set and Captain Neres was plainly impatient to depart.

Moiraine approached him with Lan looming at her shoulder. “There has been a new development, Captain. I must change my plans.”

Neres’ already thin mouthed thinned even more. “Of course. Plans and women rarely mix well.”

Little as she liked Moiraine, Nynaeve could not help but bristle at the man’s tone. She knew his sort. Some simply could not accept the inferiority of the male gender—as if Breaking the World hadn’t been proof enough—and insisted on taking it out on their betters. With great reluctance she came to stand at Moiraine’s shoulder, arms crossed and a scowl on her face that was only partly for the fool captain.

Moiraine’s voice was cold. “I will not be travelling with you to Tear. My business calls me elsewhere. But you shall still be hiring out your cabin. My other companion is much too indisposed to accompany me so he must remain with you. The money have I already given you for four passengers should be more than enough to see to his shelter, sustenance ... and his safe delivery to the inn called the Star. I will hear of it when he arrives. And should he not ... a great many will hear of you, from Witebridge to Tear to Illian, Aringill, Ebou Dar ... and Tar Valon itself.”

The Captain had begun to sweat, despite the cool evening air. He looked to Lan as if for support, but the Warder’s cold stare only made him sweat harder.

“You’ll get what you paid for,” Neres said sourly, working his shoulders as though a hard knot had suddenly formed in his back. “I’ll deliver him to this Star myself. Agni Neres never cheated any man of his due.”

 “Or any woman? My people will contact me after your arrival Captain. Do not fail me.” With that, the Aes Sedai turned her back to him and glided down the gangplank, the Warder close on her heels. With a resigned sigh, Nynaeve trailed after them to where their horses waited.



You need to be logged in to leave a review for this story.
Report Story