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A Memory of Light (Page 166)

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Disguise in place, she Traveled to the back lines of the Sharan army fighting Cauthon’s troops. Here were the reserve units, waiting to move forward, as well as supply carts and some of the wounded.

The Sharans stopped sorting supplies to look at her. Gaping. They had been preparing to flee the battlefield itself. They were aware, as was everyone, that the huge Seanchan army had joined in the fight. She noticed that there were a handful of Ayyad in this group—only three, she could see. Two women with tattoos, and a grimy male channeler who squatted at their feet. Most of the others had been killed in the conflict with the Aes Sedai.

The Seanchan. Thinking of them and that imperious leader of theirs made Moghedien writhe. When the Great Lord discovered the mess she’d made . . .

No. He had given her the True Power. Moghedien had outlasted the others, and only that mattered, for now. He could not see everywhere, and probably did not yet know that she’d been uncovered. How had that girl seen through her disguise? It shouldn’t have been possible.

Someone must have betrayed her. Still, she had been working closely with Demandred during this battle, and though she had never been as good a tactician as he—none of the Chosen had been, except maybe Sammael—she understood the battle well enough to take charge. She hated to do it, as it left her exposed in a way she disliked. But desperate times made for desperate actions.

And actually, as she considered, she thought that events were going fairly well for her. Demandred down, defeated by his own pride. M’Hael, that upstart, was also dead—and had conveniently removed the leader of the Aes Sedai from the battlefield. She still had the bulk of Demandred’s Shadowspawn and some Dreadlords, some of the Black Ajah and a dozen of the Turned men M’Hael had brought.

"This is not him!" said an older man wearing the robes of a Sharan monk. He pointed at Moghedien. "This is not our Wyld! It is—" Moghedien burned the man to nothingness.

As his bones fell in a heap, she remembered off-handedly from her eyes-and-ears that Demandred had shown that old man fondness. "Better you should die, old one", she said to the corpse, speaking as Demandred, "than live to denounce the one you should have loved. Does anyone else wish to deny me?"

The Sharans remained silent.

"Ayyad", Moghedien said to the three, "did you see me craft weaves?" Both women and the grimy man shook their heads.

"I kill without weaves", Moghedien said, "only I, your Wyld, could have done this".

She had to remember not to smile, even in victory, as the people bowed their heads. Demandred was always solemn. As the people fell to their knees, Moghedien had to hold in her joy by force. Yes, Demandred had done good work here, and had handed her the army of an entire nation to play with. This would go quite well indeed!

"Dragonslayer", said a kneeling Ayyad woman. She was weeping! How weak these Sharans were. "We saw that you had fallen . . ".

"How could I fall? You have prophecies, do you not?"

The women looked at one another. "They say you will fight, Dragonslayer", the woman said. "But . . ".

"Gather five fists of the Trollocs from the back lines", Moghedien said, turning to the commander of the reserve unit, "and send them upriver to the ruins".

"The ruins?" the man asked. "Only the Caemlyn refugees are in that direction".

"Exactly, you fool. Refugees—children, the elderly, women who search for the dead. They can’t fight back. Tell the Trollocs to start slaughtering. Our enemies are weak; an attack like this will force them to break off and protect the ones that true warriors would just let die".

The general nodded, and she saw approval in his face. He accepted her as Demandred. Good. He ran off to give the order.

"Now", Moghedien said as the dragons fired in the distance, "why haven’t any of our Ayyad gone to remove those weapons from the battle?"

The Ayyad kneeling before Moghedien bowed her head. "We have fewer than a dozen Ayyad left, Wyld".

"Your excuses are weak", Moghedien said, listening as the explosions stopped. Perhaps some of M’Hael’s remaining Dreadlords had just resolved the problem of the dragons.

She felt her skin itch as the Sharan commander strode toward a Myrddraal across the field. She hated being in the open like this. She was meant to remain in shadows, letting others lead battles. However, she would never have it said that when the situation demanded it, she was too frightened to go and—

A gateway split open behind her, and several of the Sharans yelled out. Moghedien spun, opening her eyes wide as she looked into what appeared to be a dark cavern. Dragons pointed out of it.

"Fire!" a voice yelled.

"Close the gateway!" Talmanes shouted, and the portal winked shut.

"This was one of Lord Mat’s ideas, wasn’t it?" Daerid yelled, standing beside Talmanes as the dragons were reloaded. They both had wax in their ears.

"What do you think?" Talmanes yelled back.

If the dragons were vulnerable when firing, what did you do? You fired them from a hidden location.

Talmanes smiled as Neald opened the next gateway in front of ten dragons. The fact that many of the dragon carts were too broken to roll well meant nothing when you could open a gateway in front of them, pointing them wherever you wanted.

This gateway opened up on several fists of Trollocs engaged in fierce combat against Whitecloaks. Some of the Shadowspawn turned horrified eyes toward the dragons.

"Fire!" Talmanes shouted, waving his hand down to give a visual cue, in case any of the men couldn’t hear him.

Smoke filled the cavern, explosions echoing against Talmanes’ earplugs, as the dragons recoiled, releasing a storm of death into the Trollocs. They broadsided the fists, sweeping them out of the way, leaving them broken and dying. The nearby Whitecloaks cheered and raised swords.

Neald shut the gateway, and the dragoners reloaded their weapons. Neald then made a gateway above them, facing downward, to vent the dragon smoke out of the cavern complex and away into empty air somewhere distant.

"Are you smiling,?" Daerid asked.

"Yes", Talmanes said, satisfied.

"Blood and bloody ashes, Lord Talmanes . . . that expression is horrifying on you". Daerid hesitated. "You should probably do that more often".

Talmanes grinned as Neald opened the next gateway to a point on Dashar Knob where Aludra stood with spyglass and scouts, deciding on the next place to target. She yelled through a position, Neald nodded, and they set up the next shot.

CHAPTER 42

Impossibilities

Aviendha felt as if the world itself were cracking, breaking apart, being consumed.

The lightning that fell on the valley of Shayol Ghul was no longer under control. Not by the Windfinders, not by anyone. It slew Shadowspawn and defender alike. Unpredictable. The air smelled of fire, burned flesh and something else—a distinctive, clean odor she had come to recognize as the scent of a lightning strike.

Aviendha moved like the twisting wind itself, trying to stay ahead of Graendal, who hurled bar after bar of white-hot balefire at her. With each shot, the ground trembled. Black lines spread all across the rocks.

The defenders of the valley had nearly fallen. Those people who had not retreated to the very back, near the path up the mountain, were being destroyed by Darkhounds. The ground shook, and Aviendha stumbled. Nearby, a group of Trollocs broke from the windy shadows, snarling. The creatures did not see her, but turned and attacked something else . . . Other Trollocs? They were fighting each other.

She wasn’t surprised. It was not unusual for Trollocs to fight one another if not closely controlled by the Eyeless. But what was that odd mist?

Aviendha heaved herself to her feet and ran away from the Trollocs, moving up a nearby incline. Maybe from that vantage, she could pinpoint Graendal’s location. At the top, she found that she was standing on an impossibility: an enormous chunk of rock that was floating precariously with very little underneath it. It had ripped from the ground and risen here.

All around the valley were similar impossibilities. A group of fleeing Domani horsemen galloped over a section of rock that rippled like water, and all four men and mounts sank into it, vanishing. That deep mist had started to enter the valley on one side. Men and Trollocs alike ran from it, screaming.

A liquid bar of balefire broke through the floating chunk of rock, passing just inches from her head. Aviendha gasped, falling flat against the ground. She heard a scrambling nearby, and she rolled over, preparing a weave.

Amys—her Wise One’s clothing blackened and burned, the side of her face reddened—hurried up to Aviendha and huddled down beside her. "Have you seen Cadsuane or the others?"

"No".

Amys cursed softly. "We all need to attack the Shadowsouled at once. You go round the right; I will go left. When you sense me weaving, join in. Together, perhaps we can fell her".

Aviendha nodded. They rose and parted. Somewhere, fighting here, was Cadsuane’s handpicked team. Talaan, a Windfinder who had somehow made her way to the Dragonsworn. Alivia, the former damane. They, with Amys and Aviendha, were some of the most powerful channelers the Light had.

The origin of the balefire was at least some indication of where Graendal was. Aviendha rounded the floating rock—the balefire had punctured it, rather than destroying it completely—growing disturbed as she saw other chunks of stone rising randomly across the valley. It was a bubble of evil, only on a much grander scale. As she crept, she heard a low thrumming sound coming from the mountain. The ground began to tremble, chips of stone bouncing about. Aviendha stayed low, only to see that the valley had begun to sprout—incredibly—new plants. The once-barren ground turned vibrantly green, the plants seeming to writhe as they grew tall.

Patches of those plants sprouted all across the valley, violent bursts of greenery. Above, the white and black clouds swirled together, white on black, black on white. Lighting crashed, then froze to the ground. The lightning, impossibly, seemed to have become a towering glass column, jagged, in the shape of the bolt that had struck, though it was no longer glowing.

Those clouds above formed a pattern that looked familiar. Black on white, white on black . . .

It’s the symbol, she realized with a start. The ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai.

Under this sign . . . shall he conquer.

Aviendha held tightly to the One Power. That thrumming sound was him, somehow. The life growing was him. As the Dark One ripped the land apart, Rand stitched it back together.

She had to keep moving. She crouched as she ran, using the newly grown plants as cover. They had come right where she needed them to hide her approach. Happenstance? She chose to believe otherwise. She could feel him, in the back of her mind. He fought, a true warrior. His battle lent her strength, and she tried to return the same.

Determination. Honor. Glory. Fight on, shade of my heart. Fight on.

She came upon Graendal—still surrounded by minions under Compulsion—exchanging lethal flows of the One Power with Cadsuane and Alivia. Aviendha slowed, watching the three of them lob bursts of fire at one another, slicing at one another’s weaves with Spirit, warping the air with heat and tossing weaves so quickly that it was difficult to make out what was happening.

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