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Snow and Blood (Something Impossible)

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Rand paused outside Moiraine’s door.

For the tenth time—or perhaps the twentieth, the fiftieth—he considered running away from all of this. If he found a horse, he could be leagues from Fal Dara before sunrise. Whatever the voices said, there had to be somewhere he could go, somewhere without cities or people or Aes Sedai. The thought of leaving Egwene had his stomach in knots, but the Eye would be dangerous. He was dangerous.

He'd seen a map of the Westlands once, stacked among the books on Padan Fain's cart. There had been so many blank spaces, places he could hide until—

Until the dreams came again, or a Fade found him as he slept. Until another Darkfriend tried to put a knife between his ribs.

Or until I go mad.

With a deep breath, Rand knocked. The door creaked softly as Moiraine opened it. Her long hair was loose around her shoulders, and her eyes and mouth seemed tight.

Rand whispered, "It’s me," before he could lose his nerve.

Moiraine studied him for a moment, then stepped back and gestured him inside. Her rooms were warmer than the hall, but only just. The fire in the hearth burned low. Some kind of herb or spice had been lain among the logs; the air smelled of something sharply sweet. Rand felt like he was choking on it.

An owl hooted outside the window. Moiraine moved toward him, her footsteps soft. She pulled a black and yellow lap rug off the back of an armchair and wrapped it around her shoulders.

She said, "Tell me."

The words froze in Rand's throat. He swallowed hard and looked away. He thought of the strange tension that had hummed around him as that Trolloc reared up from the shadows, how he'd grabbed at something as he reached out to protect Egwene. He grabbed for it now, again and again and again. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Then: a flash at the corner of his eye, a prickle over his skin. Something jolted into him, heat sharpened into shards. It gathered in his chest, then chased over his shoulder and down his arm. He lifted his hand, and light flared at the center of his palm, shapeless but bright and flickering like a candle flame.

"You—" Moiraine gripped the fringe on the rug until her knuckles went white. "All this time, and you said nothing?"

Rand couldn't look at her. He muttered, "I didn't know," and ran his hand over his face. "Not until the Ways."

"The Trolloc," Moiraine realized. "It was you who killed it, not Egwene." She barely allowed Rand to nod before pushing for more. "What else?"

He said, "There was a Darkfriend, when I was traveling with Mat," and Moiraine's eyes narrowed. He hadn't told her about that; he'd been too worried that Mat was sick or mad, that Mat could channel and Moiraine would hurt him for it. "She trapped me in a room. The door… she said it was ironwood. That three men my size couldn't break it down. But I—I." He looked away again, his face hot and his throat tight.

"You needed something," Moiraine murmured. "You needed it more than you had ever needed anything before in your life, and you reached out to the one thing that could give it to you. Saidin."

A sick feeling rose in Rand's stomach and chest, something equal parts revulsion and fear; the light cradled in his palm died. He took a shaky breath and rubbed at his stinging eyes. When his vision cleared, he found Moiraine standing in front of him, close enough to touch, although her hands remained where they were—one still clenched in the rug, the other at her side.

She said, "It may not be you. Egwene can channel. And Nynaeve—she is stronger than any Aes Sedai who has lived in the last thousand years. Perhaps since the Breaking. And—" she paused, mouth thinning. "Nynaeve was born outside the Two Rivers."

"So was I."

The fire—now nearly spent—hissed as Moiraine said, "I know." She gestured at it, an absent flick of her fingers, and the flames leapt back to life, casting her face in a sudden wash of shadows and light. "Mistress al'Vere admitted as much when I mentioned your hair, but she could not seem to recall when or where. No one could. I asked many questions about the five of you, and I received few answers." She made a soft, scoffing noise under her breath. "Small villages tend to have selective memories."

"What," Rand started. His hands were shaking. He remembered his father's rough, fevered voice: He was crying. He was so tiny. "What did they say?"

"I was told that your father left the Two Rivers at about the age you are now, and that he returned some ten or twelve years later with an outlander wife and an infant son." Moiraine paused then and favored Rand with a long, searching look. "To earn a heron-mark, he must have served in an army and achieved some rank. The workmanship of the sword suggests Illian or Tear. Illian is the better guess, as Tairens are loath to promote outsiders."

"And my mother?" Rand asked. He remembered little about Kari al'Thor except her gentle hands and soft voice and the song she had sung at bedtime, the melody more than the words. "What about her?"

"She died when you were young, and she shared your coloring. Red hair suggests she came from Andor or northern Murandy. Andor is more likely, otherwise your eyes would be darker. Unless—" Moiraine considered him again, giving him a look so pointed and sharp he felt gooseflesh prickle down his arms. "Unless you have something more to tell me."

"He found me," Rand admitted. He'd known his father had left the Two Rivers, but he could never have imagined that he'd been a soldier. "After a battle, in the snow. I didn't know until Winternight. I thought it was his fever talking." He was crying. He was so tiny. "But the woman at the tavern—"


Rand nodded. "She had a vision about it." I saw snow and blood. I saw a baby born on the slopes of Dragonmount. "My father finding a baby. Raising him on a sheep farm between two rivers." He had to clear his throat twice before he could continue. "She—she said the baby was… 'something impossible.'"

Moiraine paced toward the fire. With her back to Rand, she asked, "Did she say where he found you?"

The lamps flickered. Rand said, "Dragonmount."

Slowly, Moiraine turned back toward him. The color had drained from her face. She repeated, "Dragonmount," in the barest whisper, as if speaking to herself. Then: "It is you. This changes things."

Rand nodded again. His skin was crawling; he gripped the tails of his shirt in both hands to stop himself from clawing at it. "I'm going to the Eye." He took a breath, and another. "Alone."

"Alone?" Moiraine let out a soft, humorless laugh. "You would die half a day's walk from these walls."

"The others will die if they come with me," Rand insisted. "You said so yourself."

"I never wanted to bring all five of you to the Eye; I simply saw no other course. But now, the Wheel has woven the Pattern in such a way that you recognized what you are before the sacrifice became necessary." She drew the rug from around her shoulders and dropped it on a footstool beside the hearth. "I will go with you."

"You and Lan?"

"No," Moiraine said, shaking her head. "Not Lan. Swords cannot help us. Not where we are going. But the others—I suspect they still have parts to play in what comes next. They will need him—his guidance and his strength."

"What—?" Rand asked, shaken. "What does that mean?" He just wanted his friends to be safe. He wanted Egwene to be safe. "Aren't we going to the Eye to end it?"

Moiraine was silent for a long moment. Then: "Whatever happens at the Eye could be an ending. It could also be a beginning."

"Min told me I'm not coming back."

"Min sees pieces of the Pattern, not the whole. She often does not understand her visions until they have come to pass." After another pause, Moiraine said, "We are wasting time. It would be better if we were gone before Lan wakes."

Rand nodded and turned toward the door. He hoped Egwene would forgive him for leaving her behind.