Threads of Silver

Chapter 7: Whitecloaks

“This,” Leanna said with a soft laugh, “is unbelievable.”
“What is?” Tanya asked.
They were walking through what seemed to be an abandoned field, with cream and golden flowers blooming amidst the long grass. It was shortly after dawn, and the sun was still low in the sky. “What’s unbelievable?”
“Everything.” Leanna’s gesture took in the sun, the field, the flowers. “That we should be here at all. If someone had told you five years ago that you would be free now and on your way to the White Tower, would you have believed it?”
“Believed?” Tanya laughed aloud. “I would have thought they were drunk, or mad, or both. After all, how likely was it? That we would meet, that Seara’s ship would dock that night, that Faia would be out there...”
“That you would see her,” Leanna chimed in, “that I would have heard enough to know who she was, that we could get to the ship without anyone stopping us...”
“But it happened.” Both sisters laughed this time.
It did feel unreal, Tanya thought, as if she was dreaming. But it was all real. It was far too detailed to be a dream - the earth beneath her feet, the soft wind blowing her hair back, the rustle of the long grass. Even the perfume of the flowers was right. Whoever heard of dreaming a scent?
The sun rose higher as they continued walking. “I wonder where we are,” Leanna said finally. She had gathered up some of the flowers, and was weaving them into a garland as she walked. “There must be a farm, or a village, somewhere near. Maybe we should stop and ask directions.”
Tanya looked around. There were trees here and there, but otherwise only the long grass and flowers as far as she could see. “I don’t think so.” Their maps had turned out to be useless: they showed the borders of countries and the major cities, but not much else. “We haven’t seen people in the last two days. I don’t think anybody lives around here.”
Leanna sighed. “For all we know we could be heading for the Great Blight, or the Aiel Waste. Wherever that is. Tar Valon could be behind us already.”
“We haven’t come far enough.” Tanya was fairly sure of that. Tar Valon must still be some distance away. If they kept on eastwards, sooner or later they must find either the Tower or someone who could direct them to it. "Leanna -"
"Tanya," Leanna said suddenly, "someone's coming."
Tanya turned to follow her sister's gaze. Four men on horseback were riding toward them. "Perfect timing," she said with a laugh. "We can ask them for directions."
"Maybe not." Leanna was still wary. "They're in armor, and armed. Suppose they're hostile?"
"Don't be silly. They're uniformed." Those white cloaks, with a gleaming sunburst on the shoulder, could be nothing else. "They must be official - law enforcers of some kind."
"And that's good?" Leanna retorted. "Didn't you have enough of law enforcement back home? Would you ask a Seeker for directions?"
"But this isn't home, Leanna. Channelers are respected here." Without waiting for a response, she hurried to meet the four. Leanna followed slowly.
The men reined in as Tanya approached them. "I'm sorry to trouble you," she began with a smile, "but -"
"Do you walk in the Light, child?" The man's voice was deep, unexpectedly stern. Leanna frowned, something floating to the top of her memory. Men in white cloaks... Tanya blinked, startled. "I walk in the Light, of course," she said, and went on after a moment. "My sister and I are lost. Would you be kind enough to direct us?"
"To where?" His eyes were sharp with suspicion.
"We're going to -"
"No, Tanya!" Leanna cried, suddenly remembering. "Don't -"
"the White Tower."
Swords flashed. Tanya screamed.
So did Leanna.
Light flashed in her mind along with the memory. The Children of the Light, called Whitecloaks because of their trademark uniforms... The light was fierce, raging through her, but there was a barrier. They believe the One Power to be the work of the Dark One, and oppose the Tower. They kill all channelers that they encounter. She pushed at it. It was weakening, but still firm. They kill all channelers. The barrier broke.
When she could see again, Tanya was lying on the ground, and blood spread like a red flower over the grass...
The light exploded.

"-mind is gone! What did you do, girl?"
Leanna opened her eyes, dazedly. Someone was talking to her. "What?" she said, confused.
"Wake up, for the Light's sake, child!" The speaker was a tall, fair-haired woman, and a strange ring in the shape of a serpent, gleaming gold, encircled her finger. Leanna knew what that meant. "I said, what did you do? I don't have any objections to a few less Whitecloaks, but that one's mind is completely -"
She stopped listening as the woman continued, staring at the scene that met her eyes. Three of the men in white cloaks were lying on the ground. The fourth was sitting, rocking back and forth, sucking his thumb. His eyes were blank as a baby's. And behind him...
"But I am not even the one who can channel," she said softly. Oh, Tanya, have I found you only to lose you again...
"Girl, we felt you a mile away. If you're the one who can't channel I'd love to meet the one who can -" The Aes Sedai stopped as she too saw Tanya's body among the others. "Your sister?" she asked gently.
Leanna couldn't answer. Tears were beginning to run down her cheeks. The woman's words continued over her head, a soft counterpoint to her own thoughts.
"It's never easy, child. Not for any of us. But you had it worse than most. Put it behind you. You're safe, now.
"We will take you to the White Tower."

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