A Sword Left To Rust - Chapter 5 - A Dance of Death
Read: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Title: A Sword Left To Rust, Chapter 5 - A Dance of Death
General Warning: This fic will deal with specifics that happened during Moiraine’s imprisonment in the Tower of Ghenjei and the traumatic effects of that.
Chapter 5 Warning: Moiraine point of view, battle and canon-typical violence, blood and gore.
Summary: Moiraine-centric Moiraine/Lan/Nynaeve fic, set post-series, but with minimal spoilers because it’s very character/relationship focussed.
Lan and Moiraine are attacked by a band of trollocs. Violence ensues.
Teaser: ‘ Moiraine always channeled the same way that she danced. In both circumstances, her body seemed to be given over to something beyond her, something that took over every fibre of her. Here, her music was saidar, and it moved her like an ocean current, sweeping through her as a wave might claim a beach. Always in motion, a grace and beauty to it, but a deadly strength contained only by her will threatened and promised in every sharp tug of her body or clenching of her fingers. He could not see the weaves of white energy that she commanded, but he could always imagine them, flowing between her fingers like rivers of silk, entwining around her in glowing nets of power, enveloping her body like a second skin. He would have to paint this when they returned to Malkier.’
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Lan watched as Aldieb trotted over and placed her big body between them, giving Moiraine a shield to hide behind as she buried her face and hands into her mane, drawing her close. The distance that had separated them since her death and rebirth seemed to expand into a gaping chasm now, consuming the space between. It hurt him to see her this way. It hurt more that he no longer felt he knew how to help. The scars they both carried from the end of the world ran deep, but this was the only one that was truly unbearable to him.
As she withdrew, he saw her face, expression fixed and resolute once more. His heart lurched as he realised that she was going to leave him. She was going to leave, and she was not going to come back. She was going to leave, and he would never see her again. His last memory of her would be of the slow fading outline of her upon Aldieb, riding away from him, growing more and more distant until she was gone. All at once, he realised he could not stand for it to end like that. Not after everything they had been through. They had to fix this. He had to fix this.
Reaching out, he took her hand in his as it dropped from Aldieb’s mane. She flinched slightly, startled, but he gentled his hand around hers, rolling her knuckles absently between the pads of his fingers as he used to do when they were sore from intricate channeling. A thing that was intimately theirs, that she would associate with him before anything else. Indeed, it calmed her, and she looked from their joined hands up into his face, steadily meeting his gaze.
“Don’t leave,” he murmured quietly, not having the time or the patience for flowery words or impassioned speeches.
They were not the sort of thing she would respond to, anyway. Not in this. A direct, honest plea, something that came so achingly from the heart, and could not be doubted or refuted, that was what she needed from him.
“Don’t leave me again,” he said, fingers pulsing around hers like a heartbeat, seeking to anchor her to him once more, “Stay here in Malkier. At least for a time,” he said, giving her a faint smile to seal the request and mark it as warm and genuine.
Moiraine was not herself. A fool with only a passing knowledge of her could see that. Lan was not a fool, and, despite the distance between them, still likely knew her best of anyone left upon this world. They all carried wounds after what they had been through, but where his had begun to slowly heal over, Moiraine’s were openly bleeding, festering, and draining the life from her. He could not let her go like this. Nynaeve had been right: if she left him again, like this, with their relationship still in the ruins they had left it after her confrontation with Lanfear, he would never forgive himself.
There was shock in her eyes, true shock, something he’d only seen a handful of times from her in all their years together. It hurt him more deeply than he could ever articulate that his asking her to stay had caused that in her. That should have felt natural, and right, not something that rattled her to her core. She belonged here with him, as Nynaeve had said the night she arrived. He had to make her see that as well.
Her mouth had opened to answer him when something changed in her. It was subtle, something he doubted even Nynaeve would have picked up on, but it was a reaction he had learned to watch for keenly as they travelled. Like a cold breeze suddenly sweeping through the land, heralding a storm, she darkened before him. Her eyes narrowed, the surprise shifting to calculated intensity as her gaze swept the clearing around them with the efficiency of a predator. At once she sat up straighter, coming alert, and the hair at the back of his neck rose as it did each time she started to pull upon saidar.
His hand instinctively went to the sword he carried at his back and drew it with a smooth rasp of steel. Lan scanned the trees in the direction she was gazing, he searched for the threat she was reacting to. Before he could make out more than a flicker of dark movement, his view was obscured by a sudden rush of water. For one wild moment he expected it to gush over him, drenching him to the bones, as it had that night they had first met over twenty years ago. Then he realised, as he rose to his feet without conscious thought, mirroring Moiraine, that she had channeled it around them in a cocoon of swirling water, shielding them from all sides in a column of controlled power, rising up thirty feet beyond his head. Within the rushing torrents, he caught the heads and shafts of arrows, swept up, burying themselves in her water, rather than in his flesh.
“Trollocs,” she said simply, meeting his eyes and answering the unasked question.
“I didn’t sense them,” he frowned, the words not meant to doubt, but to confirm a suspicion.
“Nor I,” she returned smoothly, face neutral and composed, as though she was doing nothing more strenuous than pouring them tea, “They brought a channeler to mask them.”
“Delightful,” Lan grunted, spinning the sword in his hand and settling the comforting weight in his grip once more.
Moirine eyed the blade and said, with the suggestion of a smirk, “I hope you haven’t gotten rusty in my absence.”
He snorted derisively as his only response to that, and the twitch of her lips stretched into what was unmistakably a smile this time.
“Shall I bring them closer to dance with you, then?” she offered lightly.
The smile he gave her in return was wolfish and more eager than he’d ever have admitted to his wife, “If you’d be so kind.”
Her expression dropped, matching the cold steel of his drawn blade. She nodded, waited for him to nod in turn, then they both moved as one.
Moiraine always channeled the same way that she danced. In both circumstances, her body seemed to be given over to something beyond her, something that took over every fibre of her. Here, her music was saidar, and it moved her like an ocean current, sweeping through her as a wave might claim a beach. Always in motion, a grace and beauty to it, but a deadly strength contained only by her will threatened and promised in every sharp tug of her body or clenching of her fingers. He could not see the weaves of white energy that she commanded, but he could always imagine them, flowing between her fingers like rivers of silk, entwining around her in glowing nets of power, enveloping her body like a second skin. He would have to paint this when they returned to Malkier.
The wall of water she had commanded around them unravelled and peeled back like a curtain revealing performers on stage. It swept towards the trees then pulled towards her like a tide, bringing with it almost a dozen startled trollocs. Lan comfortably sliced the heads from seven of them in a powerful forehand swing, using the momentum of Moiraine’s wave to lend strength to the cut. Then he relieved the last of them of their heads with a graceful turn and arcing shear, Moiraine bringing them in close to him. For a moment, she seemed to channel a bloody banner before them, the waters dyed crimson with blood. But the might of the nature she had called to her aid could not be overtaken so easily, and they bled blue once more.
Breathing a little more heavily, his eyes swept the trees and picked out the horde of trollocs that had them surrounded, closing in inch by inch. Lan cleaned his sword off in the waters that frothed and bubbled around Moiraine’s feet like storm clouds. For the moment they were tame and docile like a beloved hunting hound at its mistress’s heel, a leashed predator waiting to be given the command it longed for.
A volley of arrows showered towards her back like a sudden downpour of furious rain. Lan deflected them with his sword in a single, fluid sweep, then met her eyes. She nodded, and he fell into stance behind her, the two of them standing back to back, protecting and attacking in a way that covered the others’ blindspots. A part of him was surprised at how naturally he fell into these rhythms with her, reading the subtle shifts and patterns of her body to tell what she would do and how she would move. Most of him simply accepted this as a facet of life. He would not forget how to breathe, or how to walk, or how to love. Nor would he forget how to fight with Moiraine Sedai at his side. These things simply were. An integral part of his Pattern, something no amount of time, or distance, or burning of the threads that joined them would destroy.
Moiraine inhaled deeply, all the signal she gave him, all the signal he needed, before she lashed out once more with the tempest she had leashed to her. Lan moved, intercepting the two trollocs that charged her, horns pointed at her heart. She curved out of the way of the slice of his blade, which gutted both of the monsters in a single sweep. Then she pulled blades of ice from her roaring waters and finished them with slashes across both throats. She deflected another hail of arrows, launched for him this time, hardening the water to ice around him so they clattered harmlessly against it and fell to the ground at her feet.
Though their lives were on the line, every heartbeat falling like a blacksmith’s hammer against the world’s anvil as though it knew it could be his last and it had to make it count, he had missed this. The bright rush through his body he felt now was the same as the one that had burned through him during the brief chase she had initiated earlier. There were few feelings like dancing with his Aes Sedai this way, with blade, and Power, and death.
Even without the bond, they moved seamlessly together in perfect rhythm. Each in step with the other, keeping perfect time, as though they had never stopped doing this, as though their bodies would continue it long after they’d been put in the ground.
He loved to watch Moiraine channel like this. She was skilled in many areas with saidar, and he had seen them all over the years. Healing, tracking, trapping, hiding, deceiving, manipulating - but this, this, was where she excelled. She was a hidden blade concealed within a sleeve or beneath a cloak, something that could be useful in many circumstances, but it had been made to fight, to protect, to be drawn in the last defence of life and justice. In that regard they were the same. He was a soldier, a general, a scout, and a tracker, but his true skill was in this, in combat, in fighting, and protecting, and killing. She was Aes Sedai, a counsellor, a mentor, a healer, and a legend, but like him, there was a song in her blood that only sparked to life in answer to the call to battle. Had the Wheel not willed it, neither of them would have been so. Moiraine had chosen the Blue Ajah for a reason. He had not been given the chance to make a choice at all. A sword had been placed in his cradle with him before he’d even been able to hold it. It ached at his heart, sometimes, that the world had forced them to fight and kill, when at their cores, neither of them were the soldiers they had become. Yet in spite of that, he could not deny the majesty that was Moiraine let loose upon a battlefield of those who sought to undo the peace she had worked so hard to forge.
Extending her arms out to her sides, she caught his eye, and he instinctively stepped out a little more, giving her space. With a deep inhale she rose up onto her toes, hands lifting towards the sky as though she meant to take hold of it and tear the heavens apart. In a smooth motion, she drew them back down, exhaling steadily, and the water around her responded at once. Like a thousand snakes charmed to do her bidding it separated into many tongues of water, each one whipping around her in a frenzy. They snatched arrows from the air, darted out and speared trollocs through the heart before they had gone two paces, wove around her as if she were a leviathan at the heart of a storm-tossed ocean, furious at this intrusion upon her domain.
Lan flowed in and out of the weaves of water as though he were one of them, feeling completely safe even surrounded by a cacophony of death and violence. A spear launched from the trees towards him, and he remained in place, cutting down a trolloc that had come close enough to hurt Moiraine. Her waters shattered it before it even came close to threatening him, as he had known they would. He barely even registered it as more than a sharper heartbeat amidst all the rest, instinct reacting to his impending death, even as his mind had known she would protect him from it.
There was a beauty in what she did, in the way she fought. Lan had been in wars often and early enough in his life that he had dismissed many of the poets and what they had to say about it. There was little glory to be found in a battle. Only survival, if you were lucky, and death, if you were not. Yet it was hard to stand shoulder to shoulder with a woman like Moiraine, who seemed to seize hold of the Wheel itself in these moments and demand that it weave its Patterns at her command, reshaping the world the way an artisan might shape clay into a sculpture, and not find wonder in it. Even as he waded through the blood, and atrocity, and grim reality of it all.
She never approached two battles in the same way. Each time she liked to use elements of the world around her to her advantage. Now she manipulated the water from the pond, having it rear up around her, snapping at the heels of their enemies, slicing through them, shattering tree branches and pinning them in place. He had seen her before use the foundations of a building to halt an advancing army. Another time the cookfires of a Whitecloak camp had burst into roaring infernos at her command. She had brought trees to life to defend their forest homes, commanded the winds of a storm to batter shadowspawn into their oblivion, and bid the seas to rise and crush the advance of a Fade in Tear. It stopped her from being predictable, she said, or easily countered, always inventing new weaves and new approaches to combat. He suspected, too, that a part of her found a deep thrill in it, in adapting, and improvising, and using what was around her as something like a challenge for herself.
Moiraine felt alive to him, for the first time since he had seen her in Malkier— in truth, for the first time since he had watched her throw herself through that archway with Lanfear, the bond breaking like the world. Finally, it was real to him, as it had not been until this moment. She was alive. She had survived. She was really here. She had truly come back to him. Only now, in the heat of combat, with the light of saidar in her eyes, the power radiating from every pore of her being, the faint, wild smirk that pulled at the corner of her mouth in spite of the calm she embraced to channel, did he finally recognise her as his Moiraine.
A shield of water rose before him, several tendrils weaving together to form it, slowing the spear that punched through a moment later, though not stopping it. With a soft smirk, he understood her intent, and caught it in his off-hand. Then he pivoted with it, capturing and harnessing the momentum of the throw. When he turned back to where he had before, Moiraine ducked down smoothly out of the way, anticipating his actions. With a rough shout, he launched it forwards, punching through the chest of an archer nestled in the trees out of reach of Moiraine’s waters.
That all meant that he was looking in that direction as the second archer next to the one he had just killed raised his bow. Lan watched as he aimed steadily for Moiraine, tusked fangs bared. Heart pounding, he saw with aching clarity as the cruel point of the arrow was loosed directly at her heart. Lan did not think. He did not pause. He did not even waste the time it would take to draw in a breath to brace himself. His body moved with a speed and strength only the desperation to protect someone he loved could birth. He set himself in front of her, as he had a hundred times before, and would do a hundred times again, arms spread wide to cover her. The sword he wielded was not in the right position to deflect the shaft, having just thrown the spear, so he took the sharp bolt in the chest with a grunt of pain, staggering backwards. The perfect rhythm of their beautiful dance of death abruptly halted, like the strings of a harp being cut mid-note.
Moiraine felt it the moment Lan was struck. They had no bond, so she did not experience the echo of his pain, but she knew it as the rhythm of their fight came to a sudden, shuddering halt. He moved out of step, his body colliding with hers rather than flowing deftly around her, the river that circled the solid rock of power she formed at the centre of their dance suddenly dried out. Frowning, she caught his eye, and understood immediately what was happening. A grimace of pain burst briefly across his face before it was smoothed away by discipline and training. His body shuddered with the impact of the thick bolt that she knew, from the look in his eyes, and the way he shifted his body to shield hers, that he had taken for her. Burn him to ashes, he was a king! A king, with a wife, and an Aes Sedai, neither of whom were her. Selfishly, too, she felt another stone drop into her stomach, weighing her down, more guilt for her to carry at the pain she had caused this man.
Her heart clenched with fear as Lan fell beside her, but old instincts kept her focused. She was as much a soldier as him, and they both knew what had to happen now. The arrow had dug deeply into his flesh, but it was not an instantly fatal wound. She maintained her control over the water that frothed and bubbled around her feet like foam at the mouth of a rabid hound. They were still in danger. Dropping to her knees and fussing with him would only get both of them killed.
Rage erupted through her with such intensity it was almost frightening. She had fought, and bled, and suffered, and died to protect this world. This was Malkier, this was Lan’s home, consumed by the Blight for almost fifty years before becoming a bastion of light and hope. These creatures had come here, they had hurt Lan, they had bathed this calm, peaceful forest in the blood she constantly had a phantom taste of upon her tongue. Paranoia had whispered at her for months that there would be trollocs hiding in the shadows between the trees. It had been paranoia for a reason. How dare they make it real? How dare they intrude upon Lan’s happiness? How dare they try to take him from her? How dare they try to destroy what she had given everything and more to gain? How dare they?
When she’d been younger, she’d been known to have a temper, a reckless, impulsive streak that ran in her family. She had learned to leash it well at the White Tower, which did not stand for that kind of thing. They taught that, to wield the One Power, a woman had to be composed and calm. Channel with your will, and your intelligence, not with your emotion. The Wheel could take and burn that advice right now. Her feelings had been a roiling mess within her since the Finn had used them as their own personal theatre for over a year. They could damn well be of some use to her now. This was not a little flare of temper from a young girl who had not learned her own heart. This was the justified fury of a woman caged within her own skin and bones for over a year, finally given a chance to unleash it.
Gritting her teeth, Moiraine did what she had always been taught was not right for an Aes Sedai to do. She clamped down on the Power like a dog with a bone between its teeth, seized it, and pulled it to her. All thoughts of opening herself like a flower before the sun were gone. She was the sun. She burst with light, and power, and raged with it, letting it boil through her veins to the point that she knew it was dangerous, but did not care. It brought her to life as nothing else had. She felt. And it was not cold, oppressive gloom, or twitching, feral anxiety, always on edge, always unsettled. It was power. And it was hers.
Before, she had been content to underplay her power. She had wanted to bait the other channeler protecting the trollocs out of hiding, and knew she would have to face them. In that scenario, she did not want to reveal her full capabilities. She did not want them to escape, nor did she want them to know all that she could do when they inevitably clashed. She no longer cared about that, either.
Weaving with one hand she grabbed the air around the trollocs, all thirty of them still left peppered between the trees. Then she pulled. At the same time, with her other hand, she pushed, sending thirty tendrils of water spearing outwards in all directions around her. She felt like the heavens of the earth, opening up and sending a torrential downpour of wind, and rain, and fury to the world that had displeased her. Cold raw power channeled through her angreal and she took hold of the very air within the trollocs lungs and drew it out. Then she forced water into them in its place. She held it. Standing there, eyes intent, she scanned the area for her true prey, patience withering like a delicate blossom before a raging fire. The awful sounds of terrified, panicking, drowning, dying creatures filled the glade, but she did her best to block them out. Once there had been peace, and calm, and pleasant things here. Then Moiraine Sedai had entered this place, and death had followed her.
Movement to her left caught her eye as a thick stream of dark black flame roared for her face. She did not draw back the water she was drowning the trollocs with. Nor did she move. She locked eyes with the channeler she saw beyond and wrapped the fire in weaves of her own Air, strangling the life from it as she had with the trollocs, causing it to die inches from her face.
Breathing heavily, a woman dressed in black to blend with the shadows of the forest stepped out to confront her. If she was rattled by Moiraine’s display of power, she did not show it. There was even a glint of confidence in her eyes, a lust to challenge herself, to match herself against a worthy opponent. Moiraine had felt that, years before, when she and Lan had first started travelling together on their quest to find the Dragon. It had been an intrigue, an excitement almost. She had spent the last six years, and more beside, in truth, preparing for one test or another, determined to beat it, to best it. This had felt like a worthy extension, a new goal, something else to push her, something else to achieve. What a fool she’d been. There was no glory, no success, no achievement to be found in battle. Just another day to survive, with more scars, and more things to make each day after that harder than the one before. There was no eagerness in her as she turned to face this. Only grim resignation and a set jaw. This would not be the end of her, for that would mean the end of Lan, and that was unacceptable.
The channeler opened her mouth to say something to her - goading, or taunting, or grandstanding- but Moiraine didn’t have the patience for any of it. She interrupted her with an impatient storm of ice blades hurled at her face. That, fortunately, ended the preemptive chitchat and pitched them firmly into the duel. There was enough posturing in a standoff between channelers as it was. Simply hurling raw strength at an opponent rarely worked, unless the power disparity was utterly laughable. A woman who could shield and guide over fifty trollocs through the heart of Malkier was not one Moiraine could crush between her fingers as she might a fly.
They paced in a slow circle, occasionally spitting quick whips of Air, or small motes of Fire, to test the other’s reflexes and strength in different weaves. This channeler, like Moiraine, seemed to be well-balanced in all areas, with perhaps a slight favouring towards Air. As if to illustrate this theory, she found a shower of needle sharp bolts of Air flying towards her face a moment later. Bending aside, she used the movement of her body to dodge the incoming missiles in her own channeling, sending them back. The other channeler didn’t move, remaining firmly in place, simply throwing up a shield of Air against which her own projectiles exploded harmlessly.
A lull fell then, the two of them eyeing one another up across the clearing. It was Moiraine’s turn to show what she could do. There was a part of her, the part trained by Lan, that warned her not to fall into the expected patterns of a duel like this. To wait. To force the other woman to get impatient and tip her hand. Unfortunately, Moiraine herself had started this impatient, and was not growing any less so as it dragged on, not with Lan wounded. She wanted this over and that meant she had to end it.
So she pulled on her water again, drawing it from the dead trollocs surrounding them, throwing it towards the Black Sister from behind. Again she remained in place, not attempting to move aside. At first she attempted to seize control of Moiraine’s weave, which was a mistake, and ended up sending up another shield of Air, less polished than the last one from the haste at which it was created. Some of the impact of Moiraine’s attack broke through and she staggered slightly, dabbing briefly at her bloodied nose. Moiraine smiled, just a little.
Retaliation came swiftly. Asserting herself on the field once more with a rooted stance, her opponent dug deeply into the ground, feet sinking in a few inches, then jerked her hands upwards, fingers extending towards the sky like the Seven Towers. Holes erupted around Moiraine’s feet, and she danced deftly aside, up on the balls of her feet, feeling for a moment as if she was in ballet lessons at the Sun Palace with the hard-faced tutor smacking at her feet with a narrow fencing foil to reinforce the proper steps. If she made them, she would not get hit. Often she had left her lessons with bloody toes. Pain was a harsh but effective teacher. As she dodged the craters in the ground, she felt the sharp branches of the tree clawing like fingers at her back, digging in. Hissing in irritation, she ducked and flowed away from it, putting it from her mind, circling Lan protectively.
Growling in the back of her throat, Moiraine crystallised her pond water into a thick column of ice, then sheared it off in thin, razor edged sheets, like throwing stars. She launched them towards the other channeler, countering before the other’s attack was complete, increasing the speed and ferocity of their duel. The Black Sister was good, only caught off guard by this for a moment, and not long enough to be hit. With a snarl, she wove fire, a blinding white blaze that melted Moiraine’s weapons to water once more inches before they buried themselves in her throat.
As Moiraine seized the tongue of fire that lashed for her a second later and turned it aside, remaining in place herself this time, simply grabbing hold of the weave herself and taking control of it. The other Sister, as expected, fought this, pouring all of her strength into maintaining her control. Moiraine let go as soon as she did. Then she sliced at her side with a sharp whip of Air that she did not deflect quickly enough, earning her a burning glare from across the clearing as a spray of red blood stained the grass.
The other Sister was good. The Black Ajah trained their recruits well, particularly when they were as powerful as this woman. Yet Moiraine still felt the teachings of the White Tower in her, in the way she fought. As part of their Oaths, Aes Sedai were not expected to use the One Power to fight unless absolutely necessary. It was a final resort, one the Tower was supposed to frown upon. As such, they were not commonly taught how to fight and kill with Saidar. Though, as with most things, the Tower had found loopholes to it. Such hypocrisy was rooted in every facet of the culture of Aes Sedai. So much of the time was spent teaching them how to undermine and circumvent the laws and principals they apparently held in such lofty esteem. Still, the other sister was using a form of adapted relaxation and stretch postures known as Earth Stances. Very good for grounding oneself after a difficult day practising weaves, it also worked very well as a technique for duelling another channeler.
Moiraine herself favoured no particular form. Not anymore. When she had left the Tower she had been greatly enamoured with Air Poses, which involved a consistent set of elegant movements designed to keep the body noble. They were also deliberately meant to confuse and distract an opponent from the weaves that could be hidden within them. Lan had taught her the error of her ways in that regard, when he’d managed to lodge a practice blade into her abdomen when they were sparring one day, despite the fact she’d been in the process of launching a tsunami’s worth of water at him at the time. Knowing stances, and katas, and movesets was good, he’d told her. Good for practice, good for training. But it was bad for combat. It made her predictable, and predictable made her dead. Moiraine hated being predictable.
Drawing her hands up on either side of herself, forming a common weave for a flurry of fireballs, Moiraine drew the dagger sheathed at her hip in the same fluid motion. Bringing her hands up over her head, she thrust them forwards in a rough burst, sending a chaotic torrent of fire streaming towards the Dark channeler. As she hurled her fire, she threw the dagger in its midst, just as Lan had taught her. She’d laughed at him when, within the first few months of their travels together, he had gifted her the pair of blades she kept sheathed at her hips to this day, and insisted she learn how to use them. They had saved her life almost as often as he had. Indeed, the channeler comfortably countered her fireballs, standing defiantly in place, projecting power and confidence, not ducking to move out of the way of them, as she hadn’t any other time, a hallmark of Earth Stances. The fire was smothered into a harmless cloud of smoke and ash, but she neither saw nor reacted to the flash of steel that flew true and emerged from the black haze to pierce into her abdomen. Not quite where Moiraine had aimed, which Lan would have tutted at, but close enough.
Eyes widening, the Black Sister staggered back, staring down in utter shock at the mundane blade protruding from her belly, a pulse of blood darkening the black fabric of her tunic. Moiraine did not give her time to recover her wits. Before the dagger impacted, she was flying forwards herself, launched by reckless weaves of Air that shoved her across the distance between them. She threw those weaves ahead of herself as she landed, crashing into the other channeler and sending them both to the ground. Her weaves of Air rushed down and pinned her in place, giving Moiraine time to seize the second dagger at her waist and plunge it deep into the channeler’s heart. Her eyes went wide, a choked sound bubbling from her lips a second before a trickle of dark blood followed it. The light went out of her in a moment, and she slumped dead in the grass.
Silence took the glade once more, broken only by Moiraine’s heavy, panting breaths. Adrenaline still pounded through her like a frantic hammer, desperate to get out, but she was not done yet. Abandoning the body of the woman who had nearly killed her, Moiraine half staggered, half crawled to Lan’s side, concerned that he had barely moved from where she had left him. If she’d had her way, she’d have tied him up with weaves of Air to stop him doing anything foolish, like trying to continue fighting. As she hadn’t had a chance to do that, she’d been certain that would have been exactly what he attempted to do. His lack of dramatic heroics was a worry.
As she reached him she sank to her knees and crouched over him, taking his face between her hands. Jaw clenching with concern, she noted the glazed pain and delirium in his glassy eyes and cursed, guessing that the arrow had been poisoned. Tearing open his shirt so she could see it confirmed that. Black spider webs of corruption spread from the ugly wound in his chest. Cursing again, she braced one hand against his ribs, muttered a grim apology, then yanked the arrow out. He grunted slightly with pain, still semi-conscious, and his eyes locked on to hers for a moment, even as she pressed her hands to the wound to stem the pulse of blood that erupted from it.
“Moiraine-” he choked hoarsely, breathing harsh and ragged as he struggled to remain conscious.
“I’m fine,” she assured him brusquely, resting one bloodied hand on his forehead to calm him, knowing that the fool man was about to pass out, poison coursing through his system, but still needed to know that she was well.
Indeed, he slumped in relief, nodding faintly, and gave in to unconsciousness a moment later, faintly whispering his wife’s name as he did. Moiraine’s heart clenched at the thought of Nynaeve feeling what had just happened to him through the bond. She made her a silent promise to take care of him, then began to focus her weaves on his body, looking to Heal, rather than harm this time.
The wound resisted closing. The poison refused to cleanse itself from his body and she hissed with anger. She had seen this in a few of the towns she had passed through. The remnants of the Dark One’s forces could no longer rely on brute force and intimidation, and were resorting to assassination and stealth. That, apparently, included the creation of poisons that could not be touched by the One Power. A forkroot derivative was believed to be used, but it meant she could not remove it. Fortunately, she had already developed a tactic for dealing with this, and pushed down her rising panic with the logic of what she could do to help him.
She could not cleanse the poison, but she could still control it. Closing her eyes, she felt inside of him, deftly separating the poison from his blood. She stored it in a layer of fat in his arm, near the surface, where it could be reached easily with a needle and syringe. Nynaeve could extract it and find an antidote for it through her herb lore. The knowledge her old skills as a Wisdom were still useful, despite her strength with Saidar, would probably have pleased her, if it hadn’t been for her husband being her first test subject.
Lan had already absorbed some of the poison, however, and so, as a precaution, she used the Power to slow his body, putting it into a protective state healers had referred to as a ‘coma’, similar to an animal’s hibernation. Hopefully, it would minimise the amount of poison he absorbed, and the damage it could do, before Nynaeve found a cure. Finally, she used weaves of Air, woven together in a pattern Siuan had taught her years ago, mirrored from fishing nets, and sealed the wound in his chest. It would not Heal, while the poison remained in his system, but this would effectively stitch and bind it up securely to stop it tearing further or bleeding.
Suddenly exhausted, Moiraine sat back on her heels, looking around them. The once peaceful glade was now bathed in blood and gore. She and Lan sat at the centre of it, and from that heart exploded a ring of death and violence extending all the way to the treeline beyond. Moiraine sighed. Though, logically, she knew that this had not been because of her, guilt and grief still rose up in her throat, threatening to choke her as surely as the water she had drowned the trollocs in. Where she went, death seemed to follow, stalking her better than her own shadow. At least she had managed to help Lan. Resting a hand on his head again, she gently stroked his hair, lips trembling as she looked down at him. So much pain. So much suffering. And it was not over. It seemed that it never was.
Starting, she reached for the Power again, spinning to look over her shoulder, as a thin bar of light rent the air just above Lan’s head. She relaxed a moment later as it opened into a Gateway and revealed Nynaeve, eyes wide, mouth set in a tight line of worry, as she emerged beside her husband, looking decidedly pissed.