The Other Side of the Wheel

Chapter Four: On the Trail

"Do you really think it's likely?"

Marya's head was tilted slightly as she looked at him, her brown eyes thoughtful. "There aren't too many tall redheads outside the Aiel Waste. Sooner or later we're bound to catch up with her. But when we do find her..."

"...the chances are overwhelming that she'll be nothing but an innocent bystander. I know." Fergas shook his head. "Logically there's no point in going ahead with this."

"But?"

"I'm not White Ajah."

"Fair enough. There's more to knowing than logic-mongering." Marya turned to look down the street, then crossed it to intercept a boy staring with fascinated eyes at her shifting cloak. "Here, boy. I'll wager you were here when the parade came past earlier. Have you seen a girl in country clothes, tall enough to stand out in a crowd, with long red hair?"

The boy nodded, big-eyed.

"Where is she? Still here?"

"Nah. She went south, down Allenda road. Are you a - Warder, mistress?" He sounded a little doubtful, despite the evidence of cape and sword.

"Last time I checked I was. Was she riding or walking?"

"Walking. Is he an Aes Sedai?" The boy sounded even more doubtful now.

"Last time I checked, I was," Fergas said sharply. "Be off with you, boy. Or wait. Was there anyone with her?"

"Not that I saw. She left in a hurry. Like she was scared of something." He raced off down the street as Marya made a shooing gesture.

"Well, well, well," she said. "Maybe she isn't just a bystander."

"Apparently not." Fergas grimaced. Another chase. He only hoped this one wouldn't be as hard to catch as the last. "What made you pick him to ask?"

"Boys like that notice everything," Marya said. "And they always end up where they can see it all. Allenda road?"

"Allenda road," he agreed.

***

Daimon moved from the shadows as the pair passed on down the street. He had cloaked himself heavily in illusion, even hiding his ability to channel and inverting the weaves so none of these primitives would see through him. By the Shadow, but this business of hiding irked him. If the stakes had not been so high...

High, however, they were, and that meant sneaking like a Myrddraal or leaving the prize to Temad and Conde. He would sneak, then, and with luck this Aes Sedai and his guard - Daimon came close to sneering at that; what channeler needed a sword for protection? - with luck they would lead him to the Dragon. It would be a simple matter to dispose of them then.

He stepped out into the street, dropping the illusion of shadow around him. No one in this time knew more than scraps of the Chosen, certainly not enough to recognise one who walked in their midst. He would attend to that, at leisure, when this matter was done with. In the meantime, it was convenient. He smiled, and walked on down the way the Aes Sedai had taken.

***

The boy raced along the street, weaving and ducking to miss passerbys, sometimes by inches, and followed by startled, and sometimes annoyed, exclamations. He dodged around a corner, ran down an alley, and stepped through an open door into what looked to be the storeroom of some inn.

He circled the room cautiously, moving with a silent alertness that did not fit well on a boy of that age. Satisfied of privacy, he returned to the doorway, standing just back from it to watch for intruders - and changed.

The young man who replaced the boy was little bigger and seemed little older, a wiry, long-limbed adolescent with an open face and hair that invited tousling. His eyes, though, gleamed like - and were as hard as - diamonds.

"Conde," he said softly. "I'm on the trail."

The voice that answered seemed to come from the bracelet on his wrist, a plainly wrought band with a subtle shimmer that was not quite metallic. "Good. Who else?"

"An Aes Sedai of this Age, and his guard - what they call a Warder. Followed by Daimon in plain sight."

"Ah." His partner's voice was distinctly amused. "He never learns, does he?"

"And at least one of the missing two."

"Ah." The word was spoken this time with significance. "Are you sure?"

"He hides very well," he murmured. "But I can feel him watching."

"Follow them. You know what to do."

The contact cut off, and the young man smiled. It would have been a charmingly boyish expression, if not for his eyes. He knew well what to do. He never bothered himself with the why - that was for Conde to work out. But when a course of action had been determined, Temad always knew what to do.

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