11 Erica Jill Liebman Sadun *

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Winner: Third Place, Most Plausible

What really happened at the Two Rivers during The Fires of Heaven (An Exerpt)

It was not the beginning only a beginning and Faile was getting more than a tad bit annoyed about missing it. "Verin," she said angrily "I would say that all men are worthless if I didn't think I was being redundant."

Verin, involved in making a precise sketch of a small leaf did not look up. "He'll be back soon," she said.

"Men!" Faile repeated as she clumsily stood amidst the enormous kitchen. The kitchen reflected the size of their new dwelling which, while it did not impress Faile, nevertheless did not fail to impress the denizens of the Two Rivers who had built it out of gratitude for Lord Perrin, their battle leader of the previous year. The only size that impressed Faile these days was the prodigious curves of her ample stomach and the kicking of her yet unborn child. "Blacksmith!" she added as an afterthought. "We'll miss the beginning of the show. I know it." She was more than a little bit eager to see the Menagerie show after being cooped up in the two rivers over the long and tedious winter. Advanced pregnancy, too, had slowed her down in every feature except her temper.

"He's checking in on the prisoner, although I don't see why," Verin added. "He's interrogated him often enough during this winter." A frown creased her forehead as she thought about the prisoner. Isam, no I must think of him as Lord Luc, she thought to herself is a dangerous piece that must be played very carefully. Most carefully.

The kitchen door burst open with a gust of wind and both women looked up. "Oh, it's only you, Asam," Faile said. "Where is he?"

"He sent me ahead to tell you he'd be late," Asam said, tying his hat into knots. Even with a sword at his side, even with the protection of Lord Perrin, Asam was no match for Faile in a miff. That would change, Asam thought, when...

"I know he is late," Faile growled. "I'm asking where is he >now"

Verin's attention became focussed like a beam of light through a field glass. "Trouble?" she said.

"The prisoner escaped."

Verin arose with a flurry of skirts. "Asam, stay here with Faile." The words were meant to be obeyed without question, said in an Aes Sedai way that left no room for argument. And she swept out the door, closing it behind her.

Faile growled, frowned, sat and stared at the Tinker. "Well, tinker," she began. "Amuse me."

Asam began to sweat.

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