4 Jeffrey Scott Raglin *

Contents of this section

Winner: First Place, Most Plausible

Winner: First Place, Most Novel

Winner: Third Place, Best Scenes

The Fires of Heaven : Chapter 27 1/2

New Threats and Old Empires

The upstairs bedroom of the Winespring Inn was silent but for the soft murmur of Perrin's breath. Silent, and empty but for him and Faile. He lay awake, patiently waiting for his wife to come to consciousness.

A knocking came on the door. Perrin sprung from the bed, hastily grasping a cloak with which to wrap himself. The door opened before he could reach it to answer. Behind the door stood a white-haired man Perrin barely recognized... Jerinvar Barstere, and behind that man was Aram. Before the mayor of watch hill could speak, Aram interjected "I tried to stop him, but he would not listen to reason"

"Lord Perrin Goldeneyes," said Jerinvar "The collected Womens' Circles of the Two Rivers await your presence."

/I should have known./ "I will be down shortly, then." /Only for Women's Circle business would anyone be so rude./ Perrin turned to Faile, now half-awake. "Return to sleep, beautiful woman. I will be dismissing this 'Lord Perrin' business once and for all."

"I will do no such thing." snapped Faile indignantly. "If this is the business of the women of Two Rivers, then it is my business as well. Now-" She stared directly at the two intruders, "Leave us be. Or perhaps you were wanting to catch a glimpse of my body...?" Jerinvar and Aram became suddenly aware that Faile was covered only by the bedsheet, and left, abashed.

On his way to the village square, Perrin and Faile were intercepted by Loial. The huge Oiger seemed anxious to impart some news, and...Perrin was not sure, but he thought he sensed something else. "Yes, friend Loial? What news do you bring?"

"Friend Perrin, much has happened in these weeks in which you have been celebrating your marriage. Not that I would begrudge you your time with your wife, but I merely mean to say that there are things which you should know before you meet with the Circles."

"And what things are these?"

"Refugees have been arriving in the north, from Saldaea. These men have met with those who fled Taren Ferry, but it is said they would rather face an army of Trollocs than return to Saldaea."

"What is it that they fear so?"

"They say that the Dragon Reborn has raised troops in that land, and has been razing villages that oppose him, taking no prisoners. He is said to channel himself, and have Aes Sedai that follow his will. Perrin, Rand is your dear friend and mine, but if the taint on Saidin-"

"What else, Loial?"

"There is trouble among the tinkers. Many among their number have renounced the way of the leaf and now follow Aram's word. And there is more. When Aram last made his way into the tinker camp to spread his way, Raen struck him with his open fist."

"Raen? I find that hard to believe."

"He was on his knees, pentinent afterwards, but he has since been a broken man. Beware of Aram, friend Perrin. He brings change to this best left alone."

"Is that all the news, then?"

"There is one other thing, that I would speak of privately." Loial took Perrin aside. "I have begun to feel the Longing, friend Perrin."

"Then you should not be wasting time talking. You should make your way to a Stedding, forthright."

"It is not...overpowering, yet. I can hold out for some time, Perrin. I will not abandon you yet. Go now, the Womens Circle awaits."

Perrin reluctantly returned to the path, down to where the Womens Circles had met. Daise Congar seemed to be in charge; it was she who greeted Perrin.

"Welcome, Perrin and Faile Abyara. We of the collected Womens Circles of Emonds Field, Deven Ride and Watch Hill has decided that you shall henceforth be Lord of New Manetheren."

"No." spoke Perrin in a clear voice. "Manetheren is a dead nation. It's blood runs in use, and we should be prideful of that, but were are not it. This is the Two Rivers."

Then women seemed to nod, collectively. "So be it, Lord Perrin Goldeneyes of Two Rivers. Construction will begin immediately on a manor to house our new lord."

Before Perrin could utter another word of protestation, the circle dissolved, each going in a seperate direction. Verin saw Perrin's consternation, smiled enigmatically, and said "Ta'verin."

Perrin turned on her and snapped "What had you to do with this? As what of Aes Sedai in Saldaea?"

"So you have heard of that as well? I know not what those do, but I have learned distressing news. Siuan Sanche has been deposed as Amyrlyn seat."

"Deposed? For what?"

"I have not heard. Know this: you should trust no other Aes Sedai-not even your precious Moiraine. All may betray you."

"I don't trust you, either, Aes Sedai." said Perrin, leaving. Now where had Faile gone off to?

"Perhaps that, too, is wise", said Verin in a voice Perrin thought so low he could not tell if he was intended to hear it. He caught site of Faile again: she had gathered two horses.

"What is this,Faile? You wish to have a race?"

Faile smiled. "In a manner of speaking. We ride now to Saldaea."

"Saldaea? Why in the name of the Light would we go to Saldaea?"

"I will not sit by while your friend destroys my nation. Besides, with your being now a Lord, I can introduce you to my father. I am on my way, and I will have a husband to present if I need abduct some poor villiage fool along the way."

Faile started her horse off in a gallop, then slowed a bit before long. Perrin sighed. Even married to one, he did not understand women. Mat never had any problem controling girls, and everyone always seemed to make silly eyes over Rand. He wished they were here. Or even...Lan. That stony-faced warder understood women well enough to avoid them, and Perrin was sure that was wisdom indeed. He mounted the horse and set of for Saldaea.

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