“My heart is lighter for your presence, Anaiya.” That was certainly true; it was good to know she had at least one friend among the Aes Sedai who had come to Fal Dara. “The Light illumine you.”
Liandrin’s mouth tightened, and she gave her shawl a twitch. “The Amyrlin Seat, she requires your presence, Sister.” Her voice was petulant, too, and cold-edged. Not for Moiraine’s sake, or not solely; Liandrin always sounded dissatisfied with something. Frowning, she tried to look over Moiraine’s shoulder into the room. “This chamber, it is warded. We cannot enter. Why do you ward against your sisters?”
“Against all,” Moiraine replied smoothly. “Many of the serving women are curious about Aes Sedai, and I do not want them pawing through my rooms when I am not here. There was no need to make a distinction until now.” She pulled the door shut behind her, leaving all three of them in the corridor. “Shall we go? We must not keep the Amyrlin waiting.”
She started down the hallway with Anaiya chatting at her side. Liandrin stood for a moment staring at the door as if wondering what Moiraine was hiding, then hurried to join the others. She bracketed Moiraine, walking as stiffly as a guard. Anaiya merely walked, keeping company. Their slippered footsteps fell softly on thick-woven carpets with simple patterns.
Liveried women curtsied deeply as they passed, many more deeply than they would have for the Lord of Fal Dara himself. Aes Sedai, three together, and the Amyrlin Seat herself in the keep; it was more honor than any woman of the keep had ever expected in her lifetime. A few women of noble Houses were out in the halls, and they curtsied, too, which they most certainly would not have done for Lord Agelmar. Moiraine and Anaiya smiled and bowed their heads to acknowledge each reverence, from servant or noble equally. Liandrin ignored them all.
There were only women here, of course, no men. No Shienaran male above the age of ten would enter the women’s rooms without permission or invitation, although a few small boys ran and played in the halls here. They knelt on one knee, awkwardly, when their sisters dropped deep curtsies. Now and then Anaiya smiled and ruffled a small head as she passed.
“This time, Moiraine,” Anaiya said, “you have been gone from Tar Valon too long. Much too long. Tar Valon misses you. Your sisters miss you. And you are needed in the White Tower.”
“Some of us must work in the world,” Moiraine said gently. “I will leave the Hall of the Tower to you, Anaiya. Yet in Tar Valon, you hear more of what occurs in the world than I. Too often I outrun what happens where I was yesterday. What news have you?”
“Three more false Dragons.” Liandrin bit the words off. “In Saldaea, Murandy, and Tear false Dragons ravage the land. The while, you Blues smile and talk of nothing, and try to hold on to the past.” Anaiya raised an eyebrow, and Liandrin snapped her mouth shut with a sharp sniff.
“Three,” Moiraine mused softly. For an instant her eyes gleamed, but she masked it quickly. “Three in the last two years, and now three more at once.”
“As the others were, these will be dealt with also. This male vermin and any ragtag rabble who follow their banners.”
Moiraine was almost amused by the certainty in Liandrin’s voice. Almost. She was too aware of the realities, too aware of the possibilities. “Have a few months been enough for you to forget, Sister? The last false Dragon all but tore Ghealdan apart before his army, ragtag rabble or not, was defeated. Yes, Logain is in Tar Valon by now, gentled and safe, I suppose, but some of our sisters died to overpower him. Even one sister dead is more loss than we can bear, but Ghealdan’s losses were much worse. The two before Logain could not channel, yet even so the people of Kandor and Arad Doman remember them well. Villages burned and men dead in battle. How easily can the world deal with three at one time? How many will flock to their banners? There has never been a shortage of followers f
or any man claiming to be the Dragon Reborn. How great will the wars be this time?”
“It isn’t so grim as that,” Anaiya said. “As far as we know, only the one in Saldaea can channel. He has not had time to attract many followers, and sisters should already be there to deal with him. The Tairens are harrying their false Dragon and his followers through Haddon Mirk, while the fellow in Murandy is already in chains.” She gave a short, wondering laugh. “To think the Murandians, of all people, would deal with theirs so quickly. Ask, and they do not even call themselves Murandians, but Lugarders, or Inishlinni, or this or that lord’s or lady’s man. Yet for fear one of their neighbors would take the excuse to invade, the Murandians leaped on their false Dragon almost as soon as he opened his mouth to proclaim himself.”
“Still,” Moiraine said, “three at the same time cannot be ignored. Has any sister been able to do a Foretelling?” It was a slight chance—few Aes Sedai had manifested any part of that Talent, even the smallest part, in centuries—so she was not surprised when Anaiya shook her head. Not surprised, but a little relieved.
They reached a juncture of hallways at the same time as the Lady Amalisa. She dropped a full curtsy, bowing deep and spreading her pale green skirts wide. “Honor to Tar Valon,” she murmured. “Honor to Aes Sedai.”
The sister of the Lord of Fal Dara required more than a nod of the head. Moiraine took Amalisa’s hands and drew her to her feet. “You honor us, Amalisa. Rise, Sister.”
Amalisa straighted gracefully, with a flush on her face. She had never as much as been to Tar Valon, and to be called Sister by an Aes Sedai was heady even for someone of her rank. Short and of middle years, she had a dark, mature beauty, and the color in her cheeks set it off. “You honor me too greatly, Moiraine Sedai.”
Moiraine smiled. “How long have we known each other, Amalisa? Must I now call you my Lady Amalisa, as if we had never sat over tea together?”
“Of course not.” Amalisa smiled back. The strength evident in her brother’s face was in hers, too, and no less for the softer line of cheek and jaw. There were those who said that as hard and renowned a fighter as Agelmar was, he was no better than an even match for his sister. “But with the Amyrlin Seat here. . . . When King Easar visits Fal Dara, in private I call him Magami, Little Uncle, as I did when I was a child and he gave me rides on his shoulder, but in public it must be different.”
Anaiya tsked. “Sometimes formality is necessary, but men often make more of it than they must. Please, call me Anaiya, and I will call you Amalisa, if I may.”
From the corner of her eye, Moiraine saw Egwene, far down the side hall, disappearing hurriedly around a corner. A stooped shape in a leather jerkin, head down and arms loaded with bundles, shambled at her heels. Moiraine permitted herself a small smile, quickly masked. If the girl shows as much initiative in Tar Valon, she thought wryly, she will sit in the Amyrlin Seat one day. If she can learn to control that initiative. If there is an Amyrlin Seat left on which to sit.
When she turned her attention back to the others, Liandrin was speaking.
“. . . and I would welcome the chance to learn more of your land.” She wore a smile, open and almost girlish, and her voice was friendly.
Moiraine schooled her face to stillness as Amalisa extended an invitation to join her and her ladies in her private garden, and Liandrin accepted warmly. Liandrin made few friends, and none outside the Red Ajah. Certainly never outside the Aes Sedai. She would sooner make friends with a man, or a Trolloc. Moiraine was not sure Liandrin saw much difference between men and Trollocs. She was not sure any of the Red Ajah did.
Anaiya explained that just now they must attend the Amyrlin Seat. “Of course,” Amalisa said. “The Light illumine her, and the Creator shelter her. But later, then.” She stood straight and bowed her head as they left her.
Moiraine studied Liandrin as they walked, never looking at her directly. The honey-haired Aes Sedai was staring straight ahead, rosebud lips pursed thoughtfully. She appeared to have forgotten Moiraine and Anaiya both. What is she up to?
Anaiya seemed not to have noticed anything out of the ordinary, but then she always managed to accept people both as they were and as they wanted to be. It constantly amazed Moiraine that Anaiya dealt as well as she did in the White Tower, but those who were devious always seemed to take her openness and honesty, her acceptance of everyone, as cunning devices. They were always caught completely off balance when she turned out to mean what she said and say what she meant. Too, she had a way of seeing to the heart of things. And of accepting what she saw. Now she blithely resumed speaking of the news.
“The word from Andor is both good and bad. The street riots in Caemlyn died down with the coming of spring, but there is still talk, too much talk, blaming the Queen, and Tar Valon as well, for the long winter. Morgase holds her throne less securely than she did last year, but she holds it still, and will so long as Gareth Bryne is Captain-General of the Queen’s Guards. And the Lady Elayne, the Daughter-Heir, and her brother, the Lord Gawyn, have come safely to Tar Valon for their training. There was some fear in the White Tower that the custom would be broken.”
“Not while Morgase has breath in her body,” Moiraine said.