She had carefully prepared herself before opening
the door, knowing that she would have a mere instant at most in which to act. As Moiraine crossed through from Milliways into the Royal Palace of Caemlyn, she embraced saidar
and channeled a second gateway into existence, so close beside the first that her single step carried her through both at once.
It had been a risk, certainly, and enough of one for her to have grown cold at the thought when she had first considered it, but in the end she had been right-- whatever strange powers the Milliways portals had of rendering themselves unseen by others had this time shielded the residue of her weave from detection as well. Thus protected, she had passed through unobserved, emerging beside a small, familiar thicket in the woods a few days' ride outside the city, well away from the Sunrise Gate. A sigh of relief escapes her at finding the hidden cache still undisturbed beneath the brush. Not long afterward, wrapped in a merchant woman's sensible brown dress and shapeless cloak, with her few belongings in a neat bundle slung at her hip, the disguised Aes Sedai walks briskly up the Erinin Road toward Aringill. ****************************************************************
Matters in Aringill are tense; anyone can see that. Then again, matters are much the same everywhere as Tarmon Gai'don approaches; it is not as though she had expected anything different. A few careful inquiries are enough to assure her that there is no immediate danger. Despite the years she has spent in Milliways since last returning to her world, days only have passed here, if even that. Moiraine had suspected that would be the case; she had noticed before the slowing of time itself as the Dark One's strength continues to grow. Even Lews Therin himself had remarked
upon it, once."How can one hope to preserve time when it is endlessly slipping away?"
Moiraine could not answer him then, but she has the answer now, or so she hopes. She knows what must be done, and she is willing to attempt it. Indeed, given Min's past visions
and her own experiences in Rhuidean, the Tower of Ghenjei, and Milliways-- it may well be that she is the only one who can.
A few more inquiries lead her to a stable with a horse for sale, and to a shopkeeper with a stock of travel supplies and a good sense of discretion. Well before midday, Moiraine is on her way north.****************************************************************
The route she chooses leads from Andor to Cairhien, then across Cairhien and into the Borderlands-- first Shienar, then to Arafel, and finally into the mountains beyond. It is the most direct path she can take that does not draw too near either the battles along the Spine of the World or those at Tar Valon. Likewise, although the journey on horseback will be long, she dares not risk detection by weaving another gateway, nor can she chance passing through Tel'aran'rhiod
-- especially as it is evident from the news Nynaeve had brought
that the Forsaken now walk the World of Dreams largely unhindered.
As the days pass, her growing sense of urgency drives her to ride from the first light of dawn until deep into the encroaching dusk. She would push herself even harder, save that she knows that it will all be for nothing if she is exhausted when she arrives at her destination. At night, Moiraine takes care to conceal her camp, using every trick and technique that she has learned during twenty years of partnership with Lan-- who even in his absence guards her still, it seems, as much as he can.****************************************************************
The mountains north of Arafel are cold, desolate, and deadly. Despite that, Moiraine chooses the steepest, most dangerous, least-used path; it will give her the best chance to cross unseen, she knows. When the horse snorts and balks at the trail, wild-eyed, she cannot help but laugh. "You are clearly no fool; very well, let it be so. Our ways would have parted soon enough in any case." She strips it of tack, which she conceals under a pile of rocks, and turns it loose. As it wanders back down toward the lowlands, the Aes Sedai begins the climb on foot.
The going is painfully slow. At one point, she spends the better part of an hour lying flat in the dirt behind a narrow ridge a short distance above the trail, waiting for a fist of Trollocs to move past. It would have been longer, she knows, save that they are desperate to descend from the mountains before they themselves become prey to some of the things that hunt the heights. Moiraine decides that it is good fortune, of a sort-- the more so in that their stench and the noise they are making in their hurry will draw attention away from her, or so she hopes.
Evidently it works, as she reaches the top of the pass without further difficulty. As she starts down the far side, she keeps a sharp watch out for what she needs -- and all in all, it is not long before she finds a group of boulders that will serve. The Aes Sedai creeps carefully past them, hiding herself out of view from the trail. She sets her back against the stone for what protection it might offer, and looks out across the land to the north.
She has no trouble spotting it; there is, after all, very little remaining in the Blasted Lands that could block this sight. As Moiraine looks out at Shayol Ghul, the Dark One's prison, even all her years of training are not enough for her to repress a shudder.
One moment is all she allows herself, however; there is no point in hesitating, not when it has taken so long to reach this place to begin with and certainly not when every second brings more danger of discovery. She has come this far, and she will not be stopped-- not before doing what she must. The Aes Sedai takes a single breath, allows herself one last fleeting thought--(--falter, fail, and all is lost -- oh Light, help me--)
--and then saidar
explodes through her in a storm of power.
It had been Lews Therin Telamon, the Dragon himself, with the aid of the Hundred Companions, who had managed to patch the Bore drilled through the Pattern and into the Dark One's prison with a series of seven seals, ending the last War of the Shadow. Even had she anything approaching such strength, the backlash of power then had led to the tainting of saidin
, the like of which no one can afford now. What is more, the seals are failing; she does not know how many remain intact, but with each one that breaks, the Dark One comes closer to reaching the surface of the world. It cannot happen; not yet, not before Rand is ready -- maybe not ever, truth be told, but how to stop it?
She had first seen the possibility in the futures shown to her in Rhuidean, although she had not truly been able to encompass its meaning then. It had become clearer to her during her time with the Aelfinn and Eelfinn in the Tower of Ghenjei, as she had observed how they were able to view details in the folds of the Pattern itself, but it had not been until Milliways that she had learned
how to work
with such complicated
As she starts to channel, the ground begins to shake and the sky to darken. A furious snarl of Shadowspawn pours out of Thak'andar and toward the mountains, racing toward her; it is clear that she will not have long. She opens herself fully to the True Source, drawing saidar
to the point where it is nearly unbearable -- and then even beyond that, further outward, demanding more. Sparks seem to shimmer at her fingertips as she struggles, reaching for something on the very edge of possibility.
Were she to have told anyone of her plan, the very idea would have seemed madness. The Bore is a hole in the Pattern, and the Pattern is composed of the threads of human lives. While it can be sealed with power drawn from the True Source, as Lews Therin had done, to truly mend such a tear would require new "cloth" to be woven. Such a thing is beyond her, of course, perhaps beyond any mortal effort; but after long years of study, there is finally one thing she can
do -- and as she grasps her own thread in the nearest Mirror of the Wheel and begins to work it free, the world around her trembles. "From place to place run the lines of If,"
she had once explained
, "between all the worlds that might be."
Every one of those possible worlds is her focus now -- or rather, the existence that she might have had in each. Using the trick of sight gleaned from the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn, as well as the skills painstakingly learned from Raven, Moiraine finds and pulls thread after thread from world after world, but drawing only a single one -- hers -- from each. She works with frantic speed, taking her own life over and over again and weaving each multicolored thread into a single shining patch for the Pattern itself.
It will not hold forever, she knows. Still, if they are all lucky, it will last -- she
will last -- long enough. Enough for Rand to have the time he needs, for them all to have a chance -- for the world to, perhaps, survive. Long enough.
Minutes pass with agonizing slowness, until there is only one thread remaining. Moiraine does not hesitate; she sets her hands to the only life she has ever known and begins to twist, using her own future to fasten the patch into place. As she works, her form begins to blur, her appearance growing hollow and near-transparent, becoming insubstantial. She does not seem to notice, or to care.
She ties the weave and watches as it settles into place and remains intact, the patch held fast and secure. Smiling in triumph, Moiraine lets out a soft, relieved sigh and collapses to the earth. The last tiny wisp of thread escapes her fingertips and is carried away on the wind.
Instants later, her body dissolves into dust.