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I Could Never Regret Our Love

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Nynaeve scowled at the back of Moiraine’s head as the Aes Sedai led them into the Ways. Lan was in lockstep with Moiraine, both peering into the pressing blackness and seeming to pay the Emond’s Fielders little to no mind. For once, Lan didn’t seem inclined to range ahead of the group, sticking close to Moiraine’s side but occasionally dropping back through the group rather than ahead, looking around as if the darkness itself would grab someone.

Nynaeve wasn’t sure she trusted them yet. Well, she trusted Lan. Mostly. But she was under no illusions that he wouldn’t do exactly what Moiraine deemed necessary, even if she did think they might be developing… something. Though Light knew what the truth was there. Lan wasn’t exactly the most forthcoming with emotions even if, in private, he was more open than Moiraine. And something had clearly happened at the White Tower.

He was hovering closer to Moiraine than normal, barely giving anyone, even Nynaeve, the time of day, and turning a gaze that looked worried on Moiraine when Moiraine wasn’t looking. Not that it was noticeable, just a slight tightness in his jaw and a glint in his eyes that Nynaeve had last seen in the forest when Moiraine was near death from the Trolloc poison. Except Moiraine was healthy as could be now, as far as Nynaeve was aware. Of course, she wouldn’t doubt for a moment that the woman would simply not tell them anything until she dropped dead and left them abandoned in the Ways if she could avoid it. But, for all her low opinion of the Aes Sedai… she didn’t think the woman would do that to Lan. Not intentionally.

Her scowl deepened. The woman didn’t tell them much of anything at all. Oh sure, she talked about speaking clearly with them now, but Nynaeve hadn’t missed how she hadn’t been able to say she trusted them now out in front of the gate. She didn’t think the rest of her friends had noticed, but she had. She did heal Mat, her treacherous brain pointed out. Nynaeve scoffed to herself, albeit quietly. It wasn’t like they needed Moiraine to heal him. There were plenty of Aes Sedai in that city. She could have sent one of her sisters to heal him like they’d healed Perrin. Nynaeve was under no delusions that Moiraine Sedai did anything that didn’t benefit her own goals… whatever those were.

She watched as Lan leaned closer to Moiraine briefly, exchanging words too quiet for anyone to hear before he fell back to check their rear again. Moiraine didn’t speak to the group, simply continuing forward, deeper into the pitch black. Light, couldn’t these people occasionally deign to communicate with others and not just each other?

Idly, Nynaeve wondered if it was because of Moiraine’s Ajah or just who she was. Liandrin had told her in their brief conversation that Moiraine was from Cairhien, and that Blues were spies. Liandrin was a snake and Nynaeve trusted her even less than she did Moiraine but still… those both had to be true even if not the entire truth. And what little Nynaeve knew of Cairhien certainly seemed to indicate that Moiraine was a typical Cairhienin. Play everything close to the vest just in case someone could use it against you and who cared if that also meant making everything else more difficult or drove people away. In fact, the latter seemed to be Moiraine’s goal.

Except for Lan. He loped back up to Moiraine’s side and gave her another of those subtly worried looks. This time she appeared to catch him at it and spoke, her usually cold demeanor softening ever so slightly as she did so.

Nynaeve’s eyes narrowed as she tried to put the pieces together. Something had happened in Tar Valon, and she doubted whatever it was, was good for her or her friends.

Egwene’s voice jostled her from her thoughts. She looked over to find the younger woman at her elbow, not quite huddling close but not quite walking confidently on her own either. “What?”

Egwene kept her gaze on the darkness pressing in on them. “Do you think it’s as dangerous in here as the stories say?”

Nynaeve looked around. “Loial seems to think so,” she replied slowly. “And Lan.” She recalled what he said about Mat; that he was safer where he was than with them. She also recalled what he said about the bet he lost and found herself scowling again before she realized. Smoothing her face, she glanced at Egwene. She refused to give Moiraine Sedai any more wins.

“Moiraine doesn’t seem afraid,” Egwene pointed out.

Nynaeve scoffed. “Does she feel anything? Fear or otherwise?” she asked, albeit very quietly. Just because she didn’t care for Moiraine didn’t mean she wanted the Aes Sedai truly angry with her. She wasn’t stupid after all.

Egwene gazed at Moiraine thoughtfully. Her voice was just as quiet as she replied, “I think so.”

Nynaeve pursed her lips and didn’t reply, but something prickled at the back of her mind at Egwene’s comment. She tried to nudge it forward but with no luck. She huffed. “Well, whether she does or doesn’t, she certainly won’t tell us.” That’s not entirely accurate and you know it, her memory of Moiraine telling her it was alright to be afraid and awed at touching the power and how she’d felt the same poked at her. Ruthlessly, Nynaeve shoved the memory down. One small show of humanity certainly didn’t outweigh the rest.

Egwene glanced over and appeared about to speak then shrugged and remained silent, looking at the blackness again. She shivered and edged closer to Nynaeve. Loosing her study of the Aes Sedai for the moment, Nynaeve looked out at the dark also and found herself suppressing a similar shiver. Dangerous or not, this place felt wrong. She caught Lan’s gaze as he moved past again and found herself smiling very slightly at the concern in his eyes. His lips tilted very slightly in a questioning look, and she shook her head in response. He studied her a moment longer then glanced at Egwene before nodding and continuing his circuit. Nynaeve hugged her coat closer and continued on in Moiraine’s wake next to Egwene, only half-listening as the group quietly exchanged stories about their time apart.

Moiraine felt eyes boring into her as they walked and ignored them. She suspected it was Nynaeve. The woman certainly hadn’t warmed to Moiraine even if she’d warmed to the Aes Sedai’s Warder. As if the thought had summoned him, Lan appeared at her side, and she glanced over at him. “Anything?”

He grunted quietly, studying the Ways. “Not like I could see it if it was there, but no, I don’t think so.”


They were both silent then she felt eyes on her, this time from beside her. She’d been ignoring him but now she turned and arched an eyebrow at him, silently challenging him. “I’m fine, Lan.”

He cleared his throat. “You haven’t masked the bond.” It was a subtle reminder that he could feel what she did.

Moiraine sighed, softening. Truthfully, she was touched at his concern, could feel it radiating down the bond even if there was hardly a hint of it on his face. “I… I could be better, but I’m fine.” She favored him with a tiny, sad smile.

He studied her a moment longer then nodded, accepting her answers. He turned back to the Ways. “An island.”

Moiraine nodded and turned her head, searching for Loial. Once he saw she was looking at him, he hurried to her side. She took the opportunity to sweep her gaze across the group. As expected, Nynaeve didn’t shy away from nearly glaring at her. The rest of the Emond’s Fielders either didn’t notice her looking or met her gaze for only a moment. Moiraine quirked a tiny, amused smile at Nynaeve then turned to Loial. “Builder. We have need of your skills.”

He nodded. “Yes, Moiraine Sedai. Of course.”

She gave him a small smile as they both followed Lan onto the island and to the pillar covered in script that she couldn’t read. Stepping back to give Loial his space, she swept her gaze over the group of youngsters now clustering together and watching warily. She caught sight of Rand and Egwene holding hands and, before she could control it, she felt a wave of grief. Wrenching her eyes away, and keeping her expression carefully controlled, she focused on the Ogier busily translating the directions to the Eye.

She felt a gentle hand on her elbow. “Moiraine.”

She looked over at Lan and forced a smile, refusing to let the tears fall. “I…” She trailed off, unable to assert that she was fine.

He looked at her gently, his expression hardening in warning as she started to mask the bond. “Don’t.”

She stopped and sighed, then dropped the only partially formed masking. Quietly, she said, “You don’t deserve to feel that.”

He squeezed her arm lightly. “I want to. Let me share the burden.” He waited for her to meet her eyes and said, voice only barely audible to her and certainly not to their companions, “Your burdens, just like losses, are mine as well.”

She held his gaze for a long moment then nodded slowly, carefully gathering the warmth and love she could feel in the bond to herself as if it could somehow fill the gaping hole left by being forced to leave Siuan’s side again. It couldn’t, but for a brief moment she felt better.

Lan glanced to the side. “I believe our Ogier friend is ready.”

Moiraine followed his gaze and watched in muted amusement as the gazes of the younger people, even Nynaeve’s, suddenly skittered away from them. Calling on her upbringing, she pulled a semblance of her usual self into place and strode to Loial’s side. “You have found the path, Builder?”

He nodded and pointed to the left. “This way, Aes Sedai.”

She nodded. “Thank you.” She looked at Lan who nodded and led the way into the darkness, their small group trouping after him into the looming black.

Moiraine sighed tiredly as she leaned against a short wall. They’d traveled as long as possible but eventually even she had to concede they needed rest. If she could, she’d keep going but she couldn’t leave the others alone and they clearly could not continue right now. The damaged Guiding seemed as good an option as any. The Emond’s Fielders all clustered around the small fire Lan made, exhaustion clear. She wasn’t sure what time it was outside the Ways but suspected it was well past dark. They weren’t constrained by daylight in the unrelenting blackness of the Ways, only human limitation.

She sighed, watching the others as they ate quietly, keeping her cloak wrapped tightly around her and her normal veneer of impassiveness in place. Lan stepped to her side, handing her food and a cup of tea. She gave him a small smile, murmuring, “Thank you.”

He settled next to her, watching the group as well. “How are you doing?” he asked quietly.

“Lan.” She let some of the exasperation bleed through. He could be annoyingly overprotective. He merely raised an eyebrow at her and waited. Huffing, she took an annoyed bite of chicken before replying. “How am I supposed to be doing?”

“There is no right way,” he replied blandly, eating his own meal.

She huffed again. Damn the man and his logic.

“You’re allowed to be upset, you know.” He looked at her sidelong.

“The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills,” she replied almost automatically.

He pinned her with a stare. “Moiraine.”

She didn’t reply, pretending to focus on her food.

After a moment, he broke the silence again. “Do you regret it?”

The emotions down the bond left no doubt that he meant her relationship with Siuan and not the exile. “Never,” she answered immediately.

He gave her a small smile. “Do you think she does?”

“I…” His level stare made her sigh. “No.”

“Then stop beating yourself up.”

“I should never have put her in that position,” she whispered.

“Did you have a choice?”

“I had to have! There had to be… something.”

He gripped her hand and waited until she met his gaze. “If you could have found it, you would have. Or she would have.”

Slowly, she nodded, conceding under the weight of his conviction. Turning her gaze to the Emond’s Fielders, who were still huddled around the fire and occasionally shooting glances their way, she asked, “Do they know?”

She felt his confusion and laughed briefly. “About the exile. Not her.”

He studied the group pensively. “I don’t think so. We left too quickly for the rumors to reach them.”

She nodded. They would certainly find out eventually, but it avoided awkward questions for now. There was no point in asking if any of them had heard rumors about her. The only one of import would have been her and Siuan and, well, even if Nynaeve had heard about the carefully cultivated outward appearance of hatred between them, that had surely been dispelled by taking them to see Siuan. She was certain she’d have heard if there were rumors about their actual relationship. Gossip from Alanna if nothing else.

She felt a stab of regret at the thought of her friend. She’d kept so many secrets from everyone over the years, but Alanna had still been there. Still a friend despite their differences and Moiraine’s secrets. Moiraine had seen the regret on Alanna’s face as her friend turned away. And now… she wished she could have told her the truth even as she knew she couldn’t. Though, she felt a spark of amusement at the thought, Alanna’s concern about her keeping everything to herself had been misplaced. There were certainly two people that knew it all. Which was two more than Alanna seemed to think even if probably less than the other Aes Sedai would recommend.

“Moiraine?” Lan’s concerned voice broke her thoughts.

She gave him a watery smile. “Just thinking.”

His grip on her hand tightened again. “She loves you.”

She smiled, squeezing back briefly. “I know.”

He nodded and rose fluidly. “Good. I’m going to check the perimeter. You should rest.”

She chuckled. “Yes, Lan.”

He looked at her suspiciously then nodded sharply and headed toward the darkness.

Taking a steadying breath, she rose also and approached the younger people. Well, she supposed Loial was probably older in physical years, but unless she missed her guess based on his mannerisms, he was likely considered nearly as young as the others by his own people. “You should all get some rest,” she said as she approached.

They all looked at her. She met each gaze steadily.

Finally, Nynaeve asked, “Just how much longer are we supposed to walk through this place?”

Moiraine shrugged slightly and gave Loial a questioning look.

He considered the question. “We should reach the Waygate near the Eye of the World tomorrow.” Moiraine nodded then raised an eyebrow in surprise as he continued. “But we could be at stedding Shangtai much sooner. Or, there is a pathway from this Guiding that exits…” He trailed off at Moiraine’s look.

Firmly, she said, “We must reach the Eye.”

Loial nodded. He didn’t look happy about it, however. She felt sympathy but refused to be swayed. He’d expressed how dangerous the Ways were, but it was their only choice. If Siuan’s dreams were to be believed, they needed all the speed they could get. And, well, even if they weren’t… delay would only serve the Dark One.

She looked around the group again. “Get some rest.” Without waiting for a response, she turned and returned to the slightly separate area she and Lan had staked out. Settling down herself, she grunted quietly as something in her pack poked her in the head. Frowning, she sat back up and pulled it around to rummage in. Lan was usually more careful.

Reaching inside, she fished around for whatever had poked her and froze as her hand closed around something she didn’t recognize. Frowning, she pulled it out. There was no way Lan would have let this out of his sight so what… She blinked down at the object in her hand. Involuntarily, she laughed softly.

“What’s going on?” Lan’s curious question startled her.

She tilted her hand so he could see. “Did you do this?”

He looked down and a smile tugged at his lips. “I may have helped.”

She chuckled and looked down at the little wooden creature in her hand, gently trailing a fingertip across the little spikes. A pufferfish. Of course. Light only knew where Siuan had managed to find the thing and get it to Lan. Gently, she closed her hand back over it. “It’s not fair to gang up on me, you know,” she said lightly.

Lan simply chuckled as he settled next to her. “Should I have told her no?”

Moiraine snorted, tucking the pufferfish away where it wouldn’t stab her in the head again. “Not if you want to live.”

He smiled. “So, you’d gang up on me instead?”

She knew what he was doing and appreciated it. She smiled deceptively sweetly. “Of course not. What could you possibly be implying, al’Lan Mandragoran?”

“I wouldn’t dare imply anything about my Aes Sedai,” came the diplomatic reply but the bond hummed with amusement. He chuckled again at her look. “Rest. I’ll keep watch.”

She gave in and settled back down, spirit feeling lighter than it had since leaving Tar Valon. She would have to think of suitable ways to thank her lover and her Warder later.

Nynaeve watched Moiraine carefully, though she tried not to scowl. The woman had, unsurprisingly, settled herself apart from the rest of them. Nynaeve didn’t particularly appreciate being spoken to like a child, either. She was half expecting the Aes Sedai to start telling them all to brush their hair. A swift look around the group showed that everyone was listening too, all settling onto their blankets to sleep. Nynaeve looked back at Moiraine in time to find the Aes Sedai rummaging in her pack.

Frowning, Nynaeve watched carefully. She could just make out Lan returning, striding toward Moiraine. The woman pulled something out of her bag and Nynaeve blinked in surprise as she appeared to actually laugh. She’d seen the Aes Sedai smile, at least a few times. But laugh? She frowned in confusion, watching as Moiraine showed whatever it was to Lan who smiled.

Nynaeve had to admit, whatever it was Moiraine had pulled out of the bag, it wasn’t what Nynaeve had expected. She’d been expecting maybe a map or some other object that Moiraine and Lan would pore over while plotting out all their fates but this? Pretending to be asleep, she watched through slitted eyes as Moiraine gently stroked the object, a softer look than Nynaeve had ever expected to see on her face. The expression tugged at a memory, and she frowned. That was impossible. She had definitely never seen Moiraine look like this.

Lan sat next to Moiraine and the Aes Sedai tucked the object back away. There was a lightness between them now as they spoke that had been missing earlier. Lan wasn’t, at least for now, shooting her those worried looks. Nynaeve had seen their earlier exchange, but Moiraine’s face had been hidden mostly in shadow. Still, it had clearly been a serious one but now… whatever she’d found had changed something. Nynaeve wanted to know what. What could possibly make one of the most distant women Nynaeve had ever had the displeasure of meeting act like this?

Moiraine laid back down, and Lan stood again, scanning the area. She blinked in surprise as he strode over to her, settling into a crouch. “Are you alright?”

Wordlessly, she nodded. He gave her a small, but warm, smile. “Good. Rest. I’ll keep watch.”

She nodded again and watched as he stood, strolling toward the edge of the firelit area, facing the blackness ahead and took up a post. Feeling as safe as she figured she could in this place, Nynaeve closed her eyes and tried to sleep, part of her mind still turning over the puzzle that was Moiraine Sedai. The woman followed her own rules and Nynaeve didn’t particularly like things that didn’t follow the rules she expected.

Nynaeve frowned at the back of Moiraine’s head as she hushed the group. “Shh. All of you. What is she up to?”

Egwene followed her gaze. “Moiraine?”

“Who else?”

Nynaeve watched as the woman Moiraine was talking to leaned to the side and peered at their group before resuming her conversation with the Aes Sedai. She narrowed her eyes. What was she up to? She’d barely said two words to them since they arrived in Fal Dara. Sure, she’d complimented them all once they’d escaped the Ways, but after? She’d checked that Lan had her pack, giving him a look that was a cross between grateful and admonishing—Nynaeve assumed for stopping to grab it—then led them into the city in silence. Lan had been no better, not saying a word until they encountered the Shienarans inside.

When Moiraine had left the castle, she’d simply said “Come with me” and strode off into the city. Now they were here, at a tavern and it seemed the reason was so that Moiraine could talk to this woman. Nynaeve huffed. Did she need them along in order to do that? Acts like we can’t even look after ourselves. Aren’t we supposed to be safe here?

Egwene shrugged. “Maybe she’s paying?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Nynaeve murmured. Her frown deepened. Something in Moiraine’s posture had changed. Not that the woman wasn’t usually uptight but her back had gone even more rigid. That can’t be a good sign for us. Abruptly, Moiraine turned away from the counter and strode to their table.

They all looked up at her, expressions ranging from cautiously welcoming—Egwene—to uncertain—the boys—to outright suspicious—Nynaeve. She appeared unmoved and simply stated, “Eat. Rest. I will see you tonight at the castle. When you return, Agelmar’s men will show you to your rooms.” She barely waited for their nods of acknowledgement before striding away, looking almost as regal as she had in Tar Valon despite the traveling clothes.

The barmaid stepped up almost immediately, depositing plates of food and shaking her head when Rand reached for his pouch. “Already handled.” At his confused look, she glanced at the door. “You’re with Moiraine Sedai,” she stated as if that answered everything then left again.

Egwene glanced at Nynaeve. “See?”

Nynaeve pursed her lips but pulled a plate toward herself. “She’s up to something.”

Perrin glanced around then leaned closer, lowering his voice. “While we were at Tar Valon, I heard those yellow sisters say she and someone called the Amyrlin Seat hated each other. They were talking about how the Amyrlin was going to punish Moiraine for something.”

Egwene looked surprised. “When did you hear that?”

“When you left to meet with her. They must have thought I was asleep.” He shrugged and ate some of his food.

Nynaeve exchanged confused looks with Egwene. The Amyrlin and Moiraine hated each other? That was certainly news to Nynaeve… with a start, she remembered where she’d seen that soft look on Moiraine’s face. The day before. In the Amyrlin’s chambers. The Amyrlin and Moiraine had been looking at each other and Moiraine’s face had softened just like when she was looking at whatever it was in her pack. Her mind whirled, trying to fit this piece of the puzzle into the picture she had of Moiraine and failing.

Stay at home, love the people you love, grow old with them, protect them, support them… Nynaeve blinked. By the Light. If you’d asked her even an hour ago whether Moiraine Sedai was capable of loving someone, at least in that way, Nynaeve would’ve been willing to place bets on “no.”

Siuan Sanche waits for only one woman… Nynaeve felt a blush and tried to control it. She hadn’t thought much of that comment at the time, assuming Moiraine meant some other powerful Aes Sedai or ruler. It seemed painfully, and embarrassingly, obvious who she meant now. Light, no wonder the woman thought so highly of herself.

Briefly, she wondered if Lan knew then mentally scoffed. Of course he did. She didn’t particularly care for Moiraine Sedai, but it was clear that she had no, or very few, secrets from her Warder even if she kept an entire castle full from everyone else. She frowned slightly. But if what Perrin had overheard was true… it seemed unlikely others did. Why was this such a secret?


She blinked, refocusing on the group, finding them all watching her with varying levels of concern and confusion. “Sorry. I was just thinking.” She forced a smile, mind still whirling. “We should enjoy our dinner before she comes back to ruin the evening.”

There was a round of wary chuckles before they all dug in. Nynaeve joined in the conversation half-heartedly, mind still turning over the information she’d realized and wondering what, if anything, it meant.

Moiraine stared at the door for a long moment after Lan left before stepping to the writing desk provided in the quarters Agelmar had set aside for her. Fishing in her pack for the figurine Siuan had sent, she pulled it out and studied it for several long moments. In the better light of the room, she could properly appreciate the craftmanship of the small fish as she couldn’t in the Ways. Chuckling softly to herself at her lover’s impudent sense of humor, she set it aside, still within her line of sight, and pulled out parchment and ink. Carefully, she began to write. She would direct Lan to deliver it straight to Siuan should she die. He would do his duty and, she hoped, maybe Siuan could then keep him from sacrificing the rest of his life. He didn’t deserve to lose his future just because she lost hers.

She’d only finished the greeting when there was a sharp knock on the door. Frowning, she looked up. The knock came again, and she sighed, setting down the pen and stepping to answer it. Pulling open the door, she raised one eyebrow in surprise to find Nynaeve there. The other woman looked at her silently, seeming uncertain, before her gaze dropped and she looked past Moiraine into the room.

“He’s not here,” Moiraine stated simply.


Moiraine’s eyebrow arched further, and she allowed a faint smile to curve her lips. “Lan. He’s gone into the city. Just a few minutes ago.”

Nynaeve seemed unsure how to take this information and Moiraine cocked her head in amusement. “Unless you did actually come to speak to me?”

“I…” Nynaeve’s gaze looked past her again before meeting her own once more. She regained her equanimity. “I apologize, Moiraine Sedai. I must have taken a wrong turn.”

Moiraine suppressed a smirk at the backpedal. “I didn’t think so. Goodnight, Nynaeve.” Gently, she closed the door again, a soft laugh somewhere between amusement and sorrow falling from her lips. She supposed it would be wise to mask the bond later tonight. Lan didn’t need to deal with her feelings of loss after finally finding someone himself.

Sighing quietly, she sat back down. She hoped that receiving the letter wouldn’t put Siuan at risk, but she knew Lan would be as discrete as possible. And, well, receiving a letter from an exiled and now deceased sister could be easily explained away as a final apology to the Amyrlin. Carefully, she wrote out what could be her final report to the Amyrlin Seat. Finished with the formalities, she hesitated. She couldn’t bear to seal this without a personal sentiment, but she couldn’t risk Siuan being endangered. Finally, she added, in a shorthand she and Siuan had developed as novices for passing notes, a short message.

Though never enough, I have never regretted a moment of what time we had together.

With all my love, until we meet again in our next lives, Moiraine

It wasn’t much but she knew Siuan would understand the depth of emotion in the sentiment.

Rubbing her temples, she tried to contain the sweep of sorrow. Sealing the letter, she picked up the small pufferfish and walked back out onto the balcony. Resting her forearms on the railing, she gazed out at the Blight, toying with the figurine as her thoughts moved to the next day’s journey. Light, she wished she knew which of the children it was. Ruthless she could be, but she had no desire for any of them to die.

She wished she could return to simpler times. The times when it was just her and Siuan reveling in their relationship and dumping a river on poor Lan. She smirked a little. Not that he hadn’t deserved it. Still did sometimes, in her opinion, though she had better control of herself now. Her gaze dropped to the wooden figure in her hand and the smirk softened into a smile. Her thumb brushed gently over the spikes. Of course, Siuan would send a figure of a fully puffed-up pufferfish. It had become one of her favorite ways to tease Moiraine over the years. She knew full well that in private, together, was one of the only times Moiraine would allow herself emotional outbursts. Knowing that didn’t stop the teasing and though Moiraine always protested, with a smile, she appreciated it. It was Siuan’s way of disarming her. Letting her relax again so they could address whatever the issue was. It had become a comforting ritual over the decades together.

She was tempted to send it with the letter, but she knew she couldn’t part with it. That was perhaps her one regret. That she wouldn’t have the time to properly thank Siuan for this gift. They didn’t exchange them often; it was too risky. But Moiraine appreciated that Siuan had taken the risk this time. Even if she survived the next day, Moiraine didn’t know when they’d see each other next. This small, tangible token of the woman’s love was comforting in a way Lan’s assurances simply couldn’t be. She only wished she had thought to leave something for Siuan.

Almost simultaneously, she felt a wave of emotion through the bond and heard a knock at her door. Smiling sadly, Moiraine masked the bond, allowing Lan his privacy—and protecting her own soul from the grief she knew the emotions would stir. Hearing the knock again, she took a deep breath and turned back to the room to answer it. She was both surprised and not to find Rand at her door, distraught. She nodded slowly as he said, “It’s me.”

Grateful the bond was already masked, she nodded again, more briskly. This would be easier. “Get your things. I will meet you at the entrance hall in ten minutes.”

Rand nodded, still upset but resolved now. Moiraine watched him go, then took a deep breath. It was time. Swiftly, she gathered her belongings, leaving the letter where she knew Lan would find it when he arrived at her quarters in the morning. Hesitating, she started to place the pufferfish back in her pack then, slowly, tucked it into her small belt pouch instead. If she went to die, at least she went with a token of Siuan’s love.

Nynaeve swept into Moiraine’s room after Lan. “You can’t seriously be planning to leave us here.”

He barely glanced at her. “No. You will return to Tar Valon. Agelmar will send men to escort you. You’ll be safe.”

“Are you serious?”

He turned, holding a letter. “Return to Tar Valon and deliver this directly to the Amyrlin Seat. No one else.”

Nynaeve gaped. “The Amyrlin Seat?”

Lan nodded grimly. “It’s from Moiraine.” He seemed to hesitate, then continued, pressing the letter into her hand. “It’s… very important she receive it.” His eyes bored into hers.


Lan sighed but didn’t reply, simply reiterating, “It’s from Moiraine. She has to know. As soon as possible.”

Reflexively, Nynaeve’s hand closed on the letter, studying Lan’s face. She’d been pretty sure she’d figured it out the night before, but doubt had crept in overnight. His reaction. This letter. She was positive now. She looked down at the letter. A tree and crown ordained the seal. She looked up at Lan again. Quietly, she asked again, “Why?”

He sighed, looking down. His hands grasped hers gently. “Please. It’s important. Tell no one of the letter.”

“Have one of Agelmar’s men take it. We’re going with you.”

He sighed. “No one else can know.”

Why?” She demanded. “Why is their relationship such a secret?”

He looked at her, surprised. “What?”

“I figured it out. They’re together, aren’t they? Moiraine and the Amyrlin.” He stared and she plowed forward, taking that as confirmation. “Why is it such a secret? What will happen if someone knows?”

He sighed heavily, closing his eyes. Finally, he looked at her again, “It is dangerous. To them both. Siuan… the Amyrlin cannot love another Aes Sedai. She cannot favor one above all others. If anyone finds out… if anyone even suspects…” He studied her for a moment then added quietly, “It would likely mean worse than death. For both of them.”

She gasped quietly. She looked down at the letter in her hand. “She meant you to deliver this.” She could guess why. She’d seen what happened to Stepin. Even Moiraine had seemed shaken. Her own feelings for the Aes Sedai aside, she had never doubted that Moiraine cared for Lan. Maybe his Aes Sedai’s… lover? Wife? She briefly wondered just what they were then shook aside the extraneous thoughts. Maybe the Amyrlin could keep him from following in Stepin’s footsteps.

He nodded. “I have to go after her. She knows that.”

Nynaeve looked up again. Slowly, she pressed the letter back to him. “We’re going with you. And if its necessary, you will deliver that letter, al’Lan Mandragoran.”

He stared at her for a long moment then finally took the letter, tucking it into the pack. “Are the others ready?”

She smiled slightly and nodded. “Lead on, Dai Shan.” As she followed him out the door, she wondered, assuming they all survived, if she dared let Moiraine know that she knew. She thought of those cold eyes of Moiraine’s and the stern look of the Amyrlin and suppressed a shudder. She wasn’t… afraid… per se… but maybe it was best not to let on.