The Call of the Horny

BY : CharonsPole
Category: S through Z > Wheel of Time Series
Dragon prints: 3587
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.

CHAPTER 13: A New Arrival


In the distance reared a single mountain, its peak broken and split. It looked out of place there on the flat grassland, with no other in sight. A broad river flowed by the mountain, and on an island in the middle of that river was a city such as might live in a gleeman’s tale, a city surrounded by high walls gleaming white and silver beneath the warm sun. As the boat sailed closer she made out soaring towers, many joined by wondrous walkways that spanned the open air. High bridges arched from both banks of the river to the island city. Even at a distance she could see lacy stonework on those spans, seemingly too delicate to withstand the swift waters that rushed beneath them. Tar Valon, the oldest and most powerful city in the world.

Min Farshaw leaned on the railing of the Spray and tried not to stare like some downcountry bumpkin ... but it was hard. Next to Tar Valon her home city of Baerlon seemed barely more than a village. She had been trying to convince herself that it was nothing to be worried about, travelling so far from home. Telling herself that she was a worldly woman who could handle whatever was out there beyond Baerlon’s walls. But watching that gleaming city drift closer made her feel very small and alone.

I’ll be fine. Who knows, it might even be for the best. A fresh start where no-one knows what I can do. She would miss her aunts, but it was not as if she was leaving many friends behind. Everyone in Baerlon knew about the strange girl who could see the future. Knew and kept their distance, as if she might curse them with a nasty fate. Min sighed. If she could actually alter the futures she saw she would have, many times. And perhaps not always in a positive manner. But whatever she saw happened, and whatever she tried to do to change it never worked. As gifts go it was pretty useless. Ever since she was a little girl it had caused her nothing but trouble. And it was still doing so.

She glanced at Dynahir out of the corner of her eye. The Aes Sedai had arrived in Baerlon only a few weeks after The Stag and Lion burned down. Min had never met her before, but the woman had seemed to know almost everything there was to know about her, and everyone else in Baerlon besides. She had convinced Min’s aunts, and Min herself, that it was in all their best interests for Min to accompany her to Tar Valon.

She looked nothing like Moiraine. She was tall and full-figured with skin as dark as peat and long, wavy black hair, and she spoke with an odd accent. Taraboner, the sailors had claimed. But, for all the differences between them, both Aes Sedai favoured the colours of the Blue Ajah and Min had little doubt Moiraine was behind her sudden relocation. Dynahir’s high-waisted and loose-sleeved blue dress was richly embroidered in gold thread. It made a stark contrast to Min’s plain brown coat and trousers, but she didn’t mind. She had no interest at all in fancy dresses.

Dynahir did not fail to notice Min watching her. She turned away from the sight of the city, and smiled warmly. “What do you think of Tar Valon, Min? It is a place of great beauty, yes?”

Min found herself smiling back, if in a half-hearted way. Dynahir had never been less than pleasant towards her. Firm, always certain she would get her way in the end, but pleasant. It was hard to resent her. “It’s a stunning sight. And so large. I’m worried I might get lost in it.”

“Oh, have no fear of that. The Aes Sedai know all that takes place in Tar Valon, city and nation.” Dynahir’s smile was as pleasant as ever, but Min heard the warning underneath. She wondered what the Aes Sedai would do if she hopped off the boat at the docks and wandered towards one of those arching bridges instead of the White Tower.

“You will be well taken care of in the Tower, Min. There is no need to be so glum. And here, your gift can be put to good use.”

Min gave a resigned shrug. “I really don’t know what you all expect of me. My ‘gift’ isn’t much use to anyone.” She glanced around to make sure no sailors were within earshot. “I can’t change the future, only see glimpses of what will happen. Honestly, you’re probably better off just not knowing.”

“The Amyrlin feels differently,” said Dynahir. “Even if your strange kind of Foretelling cannot be altered, knowing what will happen will allow us to be better prepared for it.” As she spoke Min’s gaze was drawn from the Aes Sedai’s face to the images that swirled around her. Most of them were incomprehensible to her, but some she knew the meaning of. That trumpet spoke of a battle Dynahir would fight in, but it would not be soon. The tattered journal was a book she would write, and the chains splattered with blood ... Min did not know the meaning, and did not want to. She shook her head and turned her gaze back to the other woman’s face. What had she been saying? Better prepared, right.

“I suppose, but ...” She cut herself off as she spotted the Spray’s captain approaching. When she was little Min had told everyone she met what visions she had of their future. That was one mistake she did not intend to repeat. “Here’s Captain Domon now.”

Dynahir turned to greet him. Bayle Domon was a stocky Illianer in a coat that hung to his knees. His black hair was quite a bit longer than Min’s; it fell all the way to his thick shoulders. An equally black beard left his upper lip bare. They framed a tanned and wind-burnt face that was round but not soft.

“Here we be,” said Domon, in an accent even odder to Min than Dynahir’s had been. They didn’t get many Illianers in Baerlon, they were a sea-faring folk for the most part. “Swiftest passage down the Erinin, Fortune prick me if it be no.”

The Aes Sedai inclined her head a fraction. “Your coin is well-earned, captain. Jaim?”

Dynahir’s hulking Warder, ever mindful of his Aes Sedai’s safety, had been swift to move to her side when he saw the captain approach. He produced a coin pouch and began counting out what they owed, moving his lips as he did so.

Domon’s Spray had been the second vessel they had travelled on since leaving Baerlon. The first had taken them up the Arindrelle River to the town of Nesum on the easternmost border of Tar Valon’s territory. It had proven a smaller version of Baerlon, walled for safety and with well-maintained docks, familiar enough to lure Min into a false sense of security. The Aes Sedai defended it jealously as it was their only access to the Arindrelle and all the lands that great river touched on. Beyond Nesum they had ridden along an oft-broken road through land that was only sparsely populated until they approached the fertile farmlands that touched on the Erinin. The fishing town of Deane’s Bounty, upriver of Tar Valon, had been where they took passage with Captain Domon.

Dynahir had paid for Min’s passage and seen her safe and fed, but had little to say to her beyond that. The Aes Sedai spent most of her time writing in her journal. Her topknotted Warder had proven more friendly, but it was difficult to make sense of what he was saying sometimes. He seemed a nice man underneath it all, but a blow from a Whitecloak’s mace had apparently robbed him of his wits years ago.

As Domon settled up with his passengers, his first mate directed the Spray towards an opening in the tall white walls of Tar Valon. The northern docks of the city were cupped within a protected harbour, partially sheltered by the towered walls that extended out into the water. In that harbour dozens of vessels loaded and unloaded their wares. The Spray curved smoothly in beside the first dock, thick timbers sitting on heavy, tar-coated pilings, and stopped with a backing of oars that swirled the water to froth around the blades. As the oars were drawn in, sailors tossed cables to men on the dock, who fastened them off with a flourish, while other crewmen slung the bags of wool over the side to protect the hull from the dock pilings.

Before the boat was even pulled snug against the dock, carriages appeared at the end of the dock, tall and lacquered, each one with a name painted on the door in large letters, gold or scarlet. The carriages’ passengers hurried up the gangplank as soon as it dropped in place, smooth-faced women in gleaming silk dresses and fur-lined cloaks and cloth slippers, each followed by a plainly dressed servant carrying an iron-bound moneybox.

His business with Jaim concluded, Domon went to greet the merchants, and the Aes Sedai led her Warder below to gather their things.

Min was on her way to join them—the Aes Sedai had paid for everything on their journey, the least she could do was carry her own belongings—when Captain Domon left the merchants to intercept her.

“You be leaving us now, girl?” He looked conflicted. “Fortune prick me, mayhap I should no say a thing but ... can you channel? Is that why the Aes Sedai do bring you here, and watch you so sharply?”

Min laughed lightly. “Me? Channel? No captain, certainly not.” She would have said more but she was at a loss to explain the Aes Sedai’s interest in her without revealing her viewings to him. And she was determined to keep those as secret as she could in this new life.

Domon nodded. “Good, good. Not that there be anything wrong with that, but ... well, if you no be joining the Aes Sedai then mayhaps you be in some kind of trouble, is what I be thinking. So. The Spray will sail for Illian at noon tomorrow. The cabin you’ve been using will no be occupied. Or mayhaps it will be. Is all I be saying.” He combed thick fingers through his beard as he spoke.

Min blinked in surprise. “That’s very kind of you, captain.” Oddly kind. Domon had been full of stories of all the places he’d visited. He seemed to have a liking for antiques and history. Their passage on the Spray had been the most enjoyable part of Min’s journey in no small part due to the captain’s stories, but she was at a loss to explain why he would try to ‘rescue’ her from the Aes Sedai. For that was plainly what he was doing.

Domon shrugged his heavy shoulders. “If you find yourself no liking Tar Valon as much as you thought, remember the Spray. Go careful, girl. Aes Sedai be tricky sorts.” With one last nod, he turned on his heel and strode back to the merchants, arms spreading wide as he began an apology for keeping them waiting.

Min stared after him. Maybe he fancied her. She did like older men, learned and well-travelled. She usually liked them from afar though, the few times people had gotten physical with her had ended badly. Her short hair and the boy’s clothes she wore put most men off. Breeches were far more practical than skirts, easier to work in. Not that she would ever work in a stables again after ... She hurried off towards the cabin, not wanting to think about that. It didn’t matter anyway. She already knew the name of the man she would fall in love with, and it wasn’t Bayle Domon.

In the cramped cabin she hastily gathered her belongings. She had several changes of clothes, mostly shirts and trousers but Aunt Jan had insisted she bring at least one dress. Min had not had the heart to argue with her, not then, but she had no intention of ever wearing it. There was a respectable amount of coin in her purse, both the one at her hip and the larger one within her travel bag. Min had never been idle with her time. She had worked as a stablehand, a tavern girl, a maid at an inn. She had even tried to get a job at the mines, like her father before her, but the quarrymaster had just laughed her away. The coin she hid under her unwashed clothes, in hopes that would deter any would-be thief.

The last things she packed were her much-read books. They looked ragged but they were her most prized possessions. She had brought a few favourites with her for the journey, and if there was one good thing about this change in her circumstance it was that she would have the opportunity to visit the famed library of Tar Valon. That should be worth getting pestered over a few silly viewings.

Min shouldered her bags and made her way back to the deck.

The Aes Sedai and her Warder were waiting for her at the top of the gangplank. Jaim easily hefted both their belongings, leaving Dynahir free to look gracious and poised. In Min’s experience Aes Sedai did not like to look anything but, especially when strangers could see them. The way she held her head as she descended to the docks of Tar Valon, like a queen descending from her throne, showed that Dynahir Rashamon was no different.

Min combed her fingers through her short hair and followed the Aes Sedai with a wry smile on her face. She looked back only once, and found Captain Domon standing by the railing watching them go. She gave him a cheerful wave. She wasn’t really planning to take him up on his offer, but just knowing that there was another option made her feel less like a prisoner.

The streets of Tar Valon were packed with people dressed in so many colours they made her think of a field of wildflowers. All gave way before the Aes Sedai, even if it meant pushing into a stranger’s doorway. But it wasn’t fear that drove them back, the faces were friendly, respectful, awed even. The city seemed a wonderland to Min and she gave up the pretence of being worldly to gape around her. Even the meanest structure seemed a palace that Governor Ada would be jealous of. It was as though the builders had been told to take stone and brick and tile and create beauty to take the breath of mortals. There was no building, no monument that did not make her stare with goggling eyes.

The street by which she left the docks, broad and paved with smooth, grey stone, stretched straight before her toward the centre of the city. At its end loomed a tower larger and taller than any other, a tower as white as fresh-fallen snow. The White Tower.

Music drifted down the streets, a hundred different songs, but all blending with the clamour of the crowds. The scents of sweet perfumes and sharp spices, of wondrous foods and myriad flowers, all floated in the air. But for all the wonders before her, Min grew increasingly troubled. For a second she glimpsed a raven above a moon-faced shopkeepers head and knew he would die by the sword. A sickly green aura around the lovely golden-haired girl who played her lute so happily promised a short life. Arrows and spears appeared in many men’s hands, but only Min could see them. This city will not always be so peaceful. There are dark days ahead.

The streets flowed into a huge square in the middle of the city, and for the first time she saw that the White Tower rose from a great palace of pale marble, sculpted rather than built, curving walls and swelling domes and delicate spires fingering the sky. The whole of it made her gasp in awe. Soldiers in silvered plate and mail with snowy white tabards stood watch at every door and walkway. The sight of them reminded Min of Whitecloaks though she doubted these men would appreciate the comparison. Broad stairs of pristine stone led up from the square to massive doors carved in intricate scrollwork so delicate she could not imagine a knife blade fine enough to fit.

The doors seemed too heavy for even Jaim to move, but Dynahir pushed one open with a single slender hand.

“Be welcome, Elmindreda Farshaw,” said the Aes Sedai with an air of formality, “to the White Tower.”

Min had never felt smaller than she did when stepping through those huge doors into that tall and famed place. She hadn’t even the heart to object to the use of her full name.

Inside, archways almost surrounded a large, round entry hall beneath a domed ceiling. The pale stone floor looked as though it had been polished to a mirror’s sheen.

A handful of women about Min’s age or younger sat on a plain bench to one side of the chamber, as though waiting for someone. They wore demure white dresses with no decoration except for seven bands of colour at the hem. One woman, her yellow hair tied tightly back, made to rise at their entrance but her wispy-looking friend caught her by the arm after one look at Dynahir’s ageless face. She whispered something and the first woman sat back down, squinting their way. Her eyesight must be bad, Min thought with a stab of sympathy. Her Aunt Rana had often warned that Min’s eyes would go bad if she didn’t spend less time reading and more time outdoors. The idea of losing her sight had always horrified her.

Dynahir strolled to the centre of the entry hall and summoned one of the girls to her with a glance and a single graceful flick of her wrist. “Daniele,” she said after the chosen girl had hastened over to her. “Has the guest chamber I requested been made available?”

“It has, Dynahir Sedai. We were told to expect you today.” This Daniele was a tall whip of a woman with coppery skin and long, straight black hair. She stood straight before the Aes Sedai with her hands folded behind her back, like a soldier reporting for duty, but there was something challenging about her dark eyes and the set of her jaw.

If Dynahir saw it too she did not care. “That is well. Kindly summon a Novice to escort young Min to her new home. She will be staying with us for some time.”

Daniele gave Min a speculative glance. “I understand Aes Sedai. Do you want me to pass the news on to the other Accepted?”

Dynahir shook her head reproachfully. “The matter is being addressed,” she said. Then added under her breath. “By those more versed in subtlety.”

They’re going to be watching me, Min realised. She had the sudden impulse to turn and run back to Captain Domon’s ship. She wondered if Daniele and her white-robed friends would jump her if she tried. Min had chosen to come here of her own free will, albeit under the strenuous advice of her aunts and an Aes Sedai, but that didn’t mean she liked feeling that she had no choice in whether she stayed or not. I get quite enough of inevitability from my viewings, thank you very much.

The Aes Sedai turned to her. “You have been a pleasant travelling companion, Min. I hope that I shall hear good things of you in the future. May the Light watch over you.”

“Thanks, Dynahir,” she said with a wry smile, “It’s been fun. I hope our future meeting is a long way off.”

The Aes Sedai froze, studying Min carefully, and the Accepted frowned at her. Min made her smile as friendly as she could. It sometimes helped at times like this.

Dynahir gave a small shrug. “Quite. Daniele, you have a task. Jaim, with me.” She turned and glided towards an archway, her huge Warder striding along behind her. Jaim gave Min a single broad grin as they parted and then she was alone with the girls in white, all of whom stared at her with credible imitations of the still faces of Aes Sedai. All save Daniele, who strode off towards a different arch, her long legs eating the distance quickly.

“Sooo,” Min said after a lengthy silence. “Do you get many visitors in the Tower? Bards or gleemen maybe?” No-one answered. She suspected not. The Tower didn’t seem a place for music. That was a pity; she had enjoyed the last dance she’d been to, when Rand and his friends passed through Baerlon, and gave the place a good stirring as they did.

Stirred my life up, certainly. But what will happen to me now? She knew part of it. She couldn’t see her own future the way she saw others’, but occasionally she caught glimpses of it in the futures of the people closest to her. What she had seen of herself around Rand was not what she would have expected. Not at all.

The stares of the Accepted were making her uncomfortable. She gave a plump, blue-eyed girl her most winning grin. “How do you know when it’s time for dinner here? I imagine a fancy place like this has some pretty great cooks.” The girl glanced at her fellows uncertainly, but maintained her silence.

The sound of Daniele’s swift footsteps came as a relief. She blew out a sigh as she turned to face the copper-skinned Accepted, then found herself staring, open-mouthed. The Accepted hadn’t come alone ... she had brought the future with her.

The future wore a pure white dress; a Novice come to lead her deeper into the Tower and dressed accordingly. Min was only vaguely aware of it. She was as tall as the Accepted who summoned her, but fair where she was dark, with red-gold curls that fell down her back, pale, unblemished skin and bright blue eyes. She was stunning, no-one could deny it, but it was not her beauty that left Min gaping. I’ve seen this girl before. She was one of the three. Her heart was thundering in her chest. What am I supposed to say to her?

The stranger with the familiar face ran a sharp eye over the room and gave a small sigh. “Dinner is available after the fifth bell,” she said with a welcoming smile. “I suspect you will find little fault with Cook Laras’ work. I know I do not.” She advanced gracefully on Min and took her unresisting hand. “I am Elayne, a Novice of the White Tower. I have been tasked with helping you familiarise yourself with your new surroundings. If there is anything I can do for you, please feel free to ask.”

Min was still staring. Daniele wore an oddly knowing smile and she heard one of the Accepted behind her snigger. Say something, you looby!

She blinked and summoned a smile, but was sadly unable to suppress the blush that darkened her cheeks. “Uh, it’s nice to meet you, Elayne. I’ll try to learn my way quickly, and make things as easy for you as I can.”

Elayne’s smile brought out her dimples. She was the prettiest girl Min had ever seen. “I’m sure you’ll be no trouble at all. If you would follow me, please, I shall escort you to your chambers.”

She adjusted the straps of her bags as they hung from her shoulders and fended off Elayne’s wordless offer to carry one for her. Side by side they walked farther into the White Tower.

“The gardens are free for anyone’s use,” Elayne said as they strolled down a covered walkway. “Though planting and picking the flowers is, of course, reserved for the appropriate gardeners.” The flowers visible on the green beyond were no doubt pretty, but Min’s thoughts were too full of the girl at her side to pay much heed to plants.

She licked her lips and tried to recover her aplomb. “So, Elayne. Where are you from? Your accent sounds a little Andoran.”

She laughed in delight. “I would say my accent sounds a lot Andoran. You are quite right, I was born in Caemlyn. And you are a fellow countrywoman. From Baerlon, I was told?”

Min found herself relaxing. She seemed nice, this Elayne. Easy to get along with. That was a huge relief, all told. “Yes. A great city, I used to think. But seeing Tar Valon puts things in perspective. Is Caemlyn as big as this?”

Elayne nodded solemnly. “Bigger, in truth, though not as old. In Caemlyn you will find a mix of old Ogier-built structures and newer buildings that were the making of humans alone. Here in Tar Valon, the original builders’ designs are strictly maintained. It gives the city an air of eternity, I’ve often thought. But in saying this let us not speak too harshly of Baerlon. The industry of the frontier miners is of great value to Andor.”

Min smiled crookedly, feeling oddly touched by the praise. “My da was a miner,” she said.

“I hope you shall not miss him too terribly. Leaving home can be hard, I know.”

She gave a little shrug. “Actually he died years ago. His sisters finished raising me in his place.”

Elayne winced. “I beg your pardon, Min. I should not have spoken of him without knowing your circumstances.” She closed her eyes and made a fist. “I really must do better.”

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” she said hastily. “Honestly, there’s no reason to get upset.” She holds herself to some pretty high standards, this Elayne. I wonder why. She cast about for a change of subject. “So, have you been in Tar Valon long?”

Elayne straightened her shoulders. “I only just recently arrived in the Tower myself. Roughly a month ago.”

“So you’re a novice Novice.”

She giggled. “Yes. That would be rather accurate.”

“Well I wouldn’t have known it if you hadn’t told me,” she said with a grin.

Elayne seemed pleased. “I do try. I shall be at your disposal for the next few days. If there is anything I can do to make you feel more at home here it would be both a duty and a pleasure.”

“You know, Elayne. I think you and I are going to be great friends,” Min said. She surprised them both by bursting out laughing. Fate was a strange, strange thing.

The red-haired girl blinked once, her smile turning slightly tremulous. “I would like that. I never ... I never mind getting to know new people,” she said, finishing her sentence more firmly than she started it. “And here we are,” she announced, gesturing ahead.

The door she pointed to was one of dozens of identical ones in a featureless corridor of white stone. Min looked around her with a sinking feeling. “This is my room, I take it?”

“It is. The chambers are not exactly luxurious, but there is no need to confine yourself to them. I hope to see you about the Tower in the coming months.”

Min smiled glumly. “Likewise. But I have an embarrassing confession to make. I haven’t been paying the slightest attention to where we were going. I fear I’m lost already.” She hung her head dramatically. “So much for making things easy for you.”

Elayne just laughed. “Well, then I shall simply have to visit you early tomorrow. I will escort you all around the Tower, whether you like it or not!”

“I’ll take that punishment, and gladly,” Min said with a matching laugh. She unlatched the door to her new room and shouldered her way in.

Her room in the Tower was bigger than her room in the attic above her aunts’ shop, but smaller than the good rooms Mistress Fitch had kept for her wealthier clients at The Stag and Lion. It had a narrow window and a narrow bed with clean-looking sheets. A dresser with a mirror and chair, and a heavy oak wardrobe completed the furnishings. Min deposited her bags at the foot of the wardrobe for later.

“It’s bigger than the rooms in the Novice Quarters at least,” said Elayne cheerfully. She stood in the doorway with her hands folded before her. Waiting for an invitation, Min realised. So polite!

“Come on in. My cell is your cell,” she said with a wave of her arm and an irreverent grin.

“A cell?” Elayne’s fine orange brows rose almost to her hairline. “Surely you are not a prisoner here?”

“Ah, don’t mind me. I’m only joking. Though the Aes Sedai that came to fetch me didn’t seem very likely to take no for an answer.” She’d also brought several very fat purses for Mistress Fitch. Enough to rebuild The Stag and Lion ... if Min would come with her. She had a bad enough reputation in Baerlon, without being the ungrateful employee who left her boss penniless and living on the street.

“Why did they bring you here, if I may ask? You can’t channel. I would know. And besides, you would be sent to the Novice Quarters if you could, not the guest wing.”

Min hesitated. She didn’t want anyone to know about her viewings, and she still hadn’t come up with a convincing story to explain the Aes Sedai’s interest in her. They had been getting along well, she’d even begun to hope that they might become friends. Though, depending on exactly what my viewing meant, that could actually make things worse. Her viewings usually made things worse, in fact. How would Elayne respond it she knew about them? She opened her mouth ... but the lie died on her tongue. Lying to Elayne seemed very wrong somehow.

Abruptly a crown appeared among Elayne’s curls, a wreath of roses wrought in yellow gold, contrasting with the red gold of her hair.

“You are going to be a queen some day,” Min blurted.

Elayne pursed her lips. “I didn’t think you knew who I was.”

Min shook her head. The crown was still there. But only to her eyes, she knew. “Who you are? What do you mean? Who are you?”

“I am Elayne Trakand, Daughter-Heir of Andor. But you knew this already, no?”

She gaped. “The Daughter-Heir?” That made the least sense of all. Why would the Daughter-Heir of Andor even consider ... for that matter, why would I!?

“You didn’t know? Then why would you think I would become Queen?” She raised a hand to her mouth. “Was it only a compliment? Did I give myself away? I rather liked the idea of my House name being secret, at least for a time. It would have been nice to be just Elayne for once, and not Mother’s heir.”

Min knew what it was like to want to escape who you were. On reflection, she didn’t much care that Elayne was a princess. Min had never been one for proprieties, despite her aunts’ best efforts. But she imagined a lot of folk would treat you different if they knew your mother was a queen with a massive army and more money than she could ever spend. They certainly did when they found out you could see the future. Most of them anyway. Rand and his friends hadn’t been too put out by it, to her relief. Maybe Elayne wouldn’t be either. We can both have a fresh start, or neither of us can.

She took a deep breath and stood as tall as she could, which was still a few inches shorter than Elayne. “Well, now I know your secret. It seems only fair you know mine. I rather liked the idea of no-one knowing it too, but ...”

Elayne raised a hand. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.” But she came the rest of the way into Min’s room and closed the door discreetly behind her.

“I appreciate that. But maybe it’s best to do this now, rather than later.” She combed her fingers through her hair nervously. “So, it’s, ah ... well, the Aes Sedai say I see pieces of the Pattern. I don’t know about that, it sounds too fancy. But I do see things when I look at people, images and auras that no-one else can see and sometimes I know what they mean. For that person’s future, I mean. I look at a man and a woman who’ve never even talked to one another, and I know they’ll marry. And they do. That sort of thing.” Elayne’s eyes had gotten even bigger as she listened. “I saw a crown on your head just now. It was made of golden roses.”

“The Rose Crown of Andor,” Elayne said in awe. “That’s incredible, Min. Where did you acquire such a gift?”

That was better than making warding signs against evil at least. “It’s not much of a gift,” she scoffed. “I just see what’s going to happen. I can’t change it. Sometimes trying to change it is exactly what causes it to happen, and then people get mad at you. Or they get mad at you for doing nothing and ‘letting’ the bad things come to pass. As if I had a say in the matter.” She scowled bitterly. “I don’t though. Fate is far beyond my control.”

Elayne rested her hand on Min’s shoulder and gave it a little squeeze. “It’s alright, Min. I understand. I won’t ask you to change the future, or blame you for anything that it holds.”

“You don’t think I’m a freak then?” Min asked warily.

Elayne smiled kindly. “I think you’re very special. And I think you were right. You and I are going to be great friends.”

Relief washed over Min and she gave Elayne an impulsive hug. The other girl gave a surprised start, before hugging her back hesitantly. Fate was strange indeed. But sometimes it could be a lovely kind of strange.

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