Rand held Callandor, and light surged around him. It streamed from the sky to the rocks of Shayol Ghul itself. Three thousand years before, Lews Therin had broken the world in his madness, then remade the land itself by forging Dragonmount. Rand was building with something greater than earth or sea.
Nynaeve had felt his strength when they cleansed saidin. But while the Choedan Kal had been stronger than Callandor, she could sense that Rand was holding even more of the One Power than he had then. It had to be enough. Light send it was enough.
And then Callandor was a darkness within the blaze, a black streak as a tempest buffeted Nynaeve and Moiraine. The Aiel who danced the spears below were bracing against a slightly gentler wind, while on the fields of Merrilor, a gentle breeze carried the stench of death away. The eye of the storm was Rand himself. He bore all the strength of the wind, all the winds that had ever been, but he did not yield.
In a moment, the light dispersed. Callandor was only a sword. The Aiel lowered their veils; there were no more Myrddraal or Darkhounds or Trollocs to slay. In Merrilor, warriors sheathed their swords, not in sacrifice but in victory and awe. The corpse of Moridin, the Nae'blis, lay in the cave entrance. And when the Dragon Reborn turned back to the world he had saved, his left arm was as healthy and strong as it had ever been. The wounds in his side were healed.
"The soul of fire remembers love," spoke Rand, echoing the prophecy Moiraine had quoted. "The Dark One is no more."
"Rand al'Thor," said Moiraine. Despite her ageless look, the battle seemed to have aged her many years. "The sheepherder from Emond's Field. Thank you."
"Not the sheepherder," said Rand. "Not Rand al'Thor, either. Only an eternal light could conquer the eternal darkness. I am the Creator's champion, the Chosen Dragon, now and always."
Moiraine laughed. "Call yourself what you like. The world is in your debt."
Through the bond, Nynaeve felt Lan's bemusement and gratitude. Whatever had happened, it had shaken the field of battle so that even the king of Malkier was at peace. She focused on sending her joy in return. We won. I am well. I love you.
Rand did not spare a backwards glance for Alanna, who had released him before Moridin's knife had killed her. He opened a gateway, and Thom hurried to support Moiraine, as if she needed an escort. Nynaeve followed them, and a moment later, Rand had joined them on the valley below.
The forces of the Light were so jubilant at the vanishing of the Shadowspawn that Rand's arrival did not draw immediate recognition, and Nynaeve had time to take stock of the battle. Many had fallen before the victory. Davram Bashere, Faile's father. Karldin Manfor, who had helped Loial guard the stedding. Hurin, whose nose had followed the trail of the Horn of Valere. Siuan Sanche. Birgitte. Egwene.
And then there were the humans—or those who had once been human—that had not vanished like the creatures of darkness, but who wandered in confusion instead of pride. The footsoldiers from Shara were obvious, not because they were the only ones with dark skin or tattoos, but because they looked downcast, clutching their weapons as if afraid a pickpocket was after them. A squadron of Asha'man was guarding several prisoners, and Nynaeve gave a start upon recognizing Moghedien. She looked as helpless and lost as she'd been when Nynaeve had defeated her in Tel'aran'rhiod the first time, but Nynaeve could not sense the Source in her. Had the Dark One's death caused her to burn out?
But before Nynaeve could speculate more, the crowds were giving way at Mandarb's approach. Despite his exhaustion, the stallion still considered the rest of the world nuisances, not worthy of attention. All that mattered was Nynaeve, and the man he carried on his back. Lan dismounted and held her. She felt his warm breath, sweaty and bloody and tired and gloriously alive, and it was possible to believe in the stories of time itself stopping.
A week after Tarmon Gai'don, Demandred was found dead in his cell in Caemlyn.
There were no wounds, and no traces of the Power. He'd been burnt out, Rand had said, and kept under close guard by both Aes Sedai and Asha'man. (Forsaken guard duty seemed to be a chore reserved for those who had sworn fealty to him at Dumai's Wells or served Taim at the Black Tower; with the world's new lease on life, most channelers had more fulfilling tasks to be about.)
"I want the guard doubled on the others," said Rand. "Moghedien, Graendal, Lanfear." Was it just frustration at the Forsaken evading his power, or was he still terrified that a woman—an evil, ancient, powerless woman—might perish on his watch?
"It could have been some creature he didn't see coming," Mat pointed out. "A gholam, or a Gray Man."
"It couldn't," said Rand.
"You're certain?" Mat asked, and Rand glared. "Burn me, I'd be more than happy never to worry about those things again! But forewarned is forearmed, and all that."
"The Trollocs and Myrddraal were destroyed at Merrilor, weren't they? If there were any other Shadowspawn, they'd have been killed, too. And speaking of which..."
"All of the Seanchan animals survived, didn't they? The raken, to'raken, torm?"
"Many of them died in the battle," said Mat. "But what happened at the end—no, that didn't kill any of them. Otherwise I suspect Tuon, may she bloody live forever, would have found some way to slit your throat for it."
"Not mine," said Rand, with a grim smile. "It's a sign."
"A sign of what, the sun rising in the west or sheep growing wings? You're as bad as her."
"The north and the west must be as one, the east and the south must be as one. The Seanchan may be brutal conquerors, but so were Artur Hawkwing and Queen Doreille and many others. You must return with Tuon, and help her lead in peace and safety."
"She wasn't particularly inclined to give me a choice, either. Are you sure you don't want to marry her, too? Light, there's probably an Aiel Wise One who'll see to it."
"Don't joke about that sort of thing," Rand said. "Besides, it's not that far. Only a Gateway away."
"Right," said Mat, and there was no telling whether he thought this a good or bad thing.
Min's viewing, of course, came true. Elayne bore twins, Ontiri and Frindas. Not only were they healthy and strong and constantly fussy, but the glow of the Power was bright around them both. Neither the Yellow sisters, nor the Aiel Wise Ones, nor even Lini—as opinionated as ever, when it came to rearing babes—had ever seen the like.
"You must sleep, first-sister," Aviendha declared, when Elayne looked ready to pass out in the throne room. "There is no Birgitte here to keep an eye on you, and no doubt hundreds of mothers who would seek ji from nursing the Dragon's children."
"Do not tell him that," said Elayne. "He'll try to turn the River Erinin into milk, if he thought I had need."
"And what about when my child comes?" Aviendha said. She had not had her cycles since the battle, and Min had seen images around her, too. But that had been months before.
Elayne laughed, then yawned. "No doubt he'll move the new lake in Rhuidean, if you ask."
"Sleep," Aviendha repeated. "I will find the Car'a'carn and tell him he must get to know his children. And if he does not, we will have him paddled in front of the kings of the world."
Elayne shook her head. "A new Age of Wonders, indeed."
It did not occur to her until the next morning that even Aviendha spoke of their lover as the Car'a'carn. He did not allow himself to be "Rand," even to his family.
Once, Rand's presence in a village had bent the Pattern. In some towns fires would destroy houses and food, burning those who did not suffocate inside. In others, young men and women who had barely spoken ten words to each other would propose marriage.
Later, it was the forces of battle and fate that had drawn armies and nations together, for good and ill alike. But some of the consequences felt just as absurd to those who did not see visions. Galad, who wore a lacy shirt that was far too ornate for him even setting aside the missing arm, had charmed Berelain so thoroughly that it no longer occurred to her to flirt with lords and kings.
"Mother's milk in a cup!" exclaimed Elayne. "Isn't she..."
"She is beautiful," said Galad, far too earnestly for his own good. "And brave and wise. I will not pretend it was easy for you to establish your claim to the throne, but Andor is rich in soil and strong in numbers. Only a great leader could preserve and strengthen Mayene as she has."
"I only thought you would prefer someone less...slatternly."
"Elayne! Berelain walks in the Light, and surely the Creator does not judge women differently than men. The warriors of Shienar and Arad Doman boast of Easar and Rodel Ituralde's conquests in war as well as in peacetime. Have not the traders of Mayene the same pride?"
Elayne privately doubted that Berelain was as gallant as all that, but if Perrin and Faile did not besmirch her honor, neither would she. "And will you resign your commission to become the Lord Second?"
"Why should I? The Light send there are no more Shadowspawn to rout, but the Children still have a purpose. It is well for young people who have not...who do not wield the Power," he corrected himself. So they were no longer "witches," then, or at least he had sense when Elayne was near. "To learn strength and discipline, not on behalf of one nation or one king, but to serve the Light."
"Does Berelain approve of this plan?"
"I would not be marrying her if she did not."
Elayne had to give him that.
"Might I ask you a favor?"
"If you want me to change the trade policies for Mayene, send a note to Norry, he knows what's going on before I do."
Galad almost laughed. "I wish to speak with the Lord Dragon regarding a matter of some concern to us both, and he has ignored my messengers. I recognize that he has far more pressing matters to deal with, but perhaps you would know a time when he might be at leisure."
Did he, Elayne wondered? Rand had been adamant about having the entire continent sign the Dragon's Peace, and he did not seem interested in taking power for himself nor even disrupting the Seanchan's control of the west. And yet, his visits to Caemlyn seemed more the work of an emperor inspecting his deputies than a father playing with his children.
"Your Majesty." Tallanvor bowed politely as he entered. "Lord Captain."
"There's no need to be so formal," said Elayne. "We're among family."
"Quite so," said Tallanvor, but Galad stiffened slightly. "Ahem. Lady Aviendha sends word that her sister-daughter has at last gotten to sleep, and that she will promptly be visiting the Three-Fold Land to build her endurance, as clearly being a mother requires far more strength than a mere Wise One."
Elayne smiled. "She does not know her own strength." To Galad, his eyes inquisitive, she added, "I will do what I can."
Galad nodded. "Your children are adorable," he noted, almost as an afterthought, before taking his leave.
Nynaeve stepped through a gateway, emerging in Tar Valon's Travelling ground. Once, the city had been full of secret drops and hide-holes to leave messages for one's eyes-and-ears to find and report back on. Now, the world bloomed full of trust; distance and time were mere inconveniences. There were boxes to leave messages for any sister who wished correspondence, and quite a few that didn't. Light, Androl and the Asha'man were probably finding a way to carry people's letters just to make a few coins!
She dropped off her notes for Suana, and just as promptly, returned to Malkier. There was no true palace, and Lan himself was more comfortable in a barracks than a royal court, but that was no matter. Nynaeve had been the Wisdom of Emond's Field. She did not need fine beds or garments, surely not! Only, it would be nice if Lan would comport himself a bit more like a king and a bit less like a sellsword, on occasion.
"How fares the Tower?" Lan asked.
"The way some of them look to others to decide things, it's a wonder any of them made it to two centuries," Nynaeve groused. "'Shall we raise Saerin, or will the Greens feel hard done by?' Bah! For all they torment the Accepted and Novices, you would think they had more strength in their backbones."
"Raise Saerin Sedai as Amyrlin?" Lan said. "I thought they had called Cadsuane."
"They tried," said Nynaeve. "But she somehow got her hands on the Oath Rod and forswore the Oaths to get out of it. Clever of her, really."
"You do not like her."
"I do not," Nynaeve admitted. "But at her age, I would rather be free to go my own way than bound to serve a bunch of quibbling children who are too busy passing bylaws to do needful work."
"You are not one to go the way someone else has chosen at any age, my heart," Lan said. Burn the man, he could make even insults charming!
The Tower would endure, Nynaeve knew, whether the Hall raised Saerin or another. For too long they had led only by force, defying any who would contain them, until rural villagers feared "witches" nearly as much as they did the Dark One. Egwene had forged them into something glorious because they had chosen to be a united whole, not to overpower the Kin or the Wise Ones or the Windfinders but to stand alongside them as one of many ways to teach saidar.
Except, where did that leave the rest of the world? It seemed as if all the Sharan channelers had been killed by Egwene's weave. Demandred was gone, and those who survived had sought passage with the Sea Folk rather than ask for gateways from their conquerors. An entire corner of the world left without leaders, without the Power, and all Rand had to say for it was "if I was meant to shelter them, they would have beseeched me with prophecies like all the others."
And what of the sul'dam and damane? The Seanchan had collared westlanders who had been born free, and while Rand had once raged and denounced them as the slavers they were, the Dragon who had emerged from Shayol Ghul seemed content to call it necessary. They had survived, so it was the will of the Pattern that they survived. Even though Rand knew perfectly well that someone like Alivia could endure in rage and resentment for four centuries.
Where had she gotten to, anyway? Before the battle, she had hewn close to Rand and Min. With it over, she seemed content to take her leisure. A woman as powerful as Lanfear had once been, wandering the world with a mind scarcely keener than a child's. Light, what a mess!
"I may have some more letters to send," Nynaeve muttered.
"Of course you do," said Lan, his amusement evident through the bond. "Take your time."
Amusement...and desire as well. "I intend to be quite busy with my herbs tonight," she teased. "But perhaps I can order you to give me a backrub."
"It would, of course, be a great honor," said Lan.
She was not sure how much of her anxiety he sensed. The truth was, she wanted Lan with soul and body, and more: she wanted Lan's children. Before Tarmon Gai'don, that and so much else had been consigned to "next Age, if there is a next Age." Now, the fear she grappled with was of a different sort. Rand had made the world safe for their children, and much more. He acted as if he ought to know each of their children's height, eye color, and strength in the Power before they'd even been conceived. The Dark One was something ancient, beyond the world, and Rand believed that killing him had made him Shai'tan's equal. What would become of the world if he was wrong? What if he was right?
Min returned from Seandar in time for the birth of Aviendha's babes, a boy named Nitmal and a girl named Nakomi. "It is an old-fashioned name," Aviendha explained, "but I am fond of it, and it is not as long as the silly monikers like 'Rand al'Thor' or 'Elayne Trakand.'"
Rand only laughed. "Any name you choose will be beautiful, shade of my heart."
"Two children!" Aviendha exclaimed. "Now I shall truly carry my first-sister's burden."
"Think of it this way," Elayne said. "At least you are not holding them in your womb any longer." Frintas babbled, drooling at his new sister.
Rand smiled, but Min and Aviendha exchanged a nervous glance.
"And Nakomi is like Ontiri—she senses the Source already!" Elayne marveled. "What about Nitmal?"
"Of course he does," said Rand. "They are true children of the Dragon, after all. Would you expect them to be slow, or blocked?"
"Dragon or not, you are still a man," said Min. "That, or I have been bedding an impostor."
"You see sparks around channelers, don't you?" Elayne asked. "What do you see in them?"
Min laughed. "Nothing, of course. I haven't had a viewing since Merrilor."
"You haven't?" Aviendha asked. "What does that mean? That there's no future to the Pattern?"
"Of course there is!" said Min. "But I don't need to have viewings to see it. The Dragon has triumphed, and he's not some voice out in the depths; he's right here, flesh and blood."
"That must be strange," said Elayne. "To have them disappear all of a sudden. It would be like being stilled."
"Strange?" said Min. "It's glorious! No seeing people's deaths or dooms or terrors. No Aes Sedai studying me and trying to pick me apart like a blacksmith's puzzle."
"But doesn't Fortuona want you because of the viewings?" Aviendha asked. "How can you keep her satisfied, if you don't see them?"
"The Empress, may she live forever, is silly enough that she takes anything and everything to be prophecy. If the clouds prevent the sun from casting a shadow, or a bird builds its nest on a tree in the palace gardens, all I have to do is make mention and she'll go away convinced her reign is secure."
"How long will you stay in Caemlyn?" Rand asked.
Aviendha gave a weak smile. "Amys is not likely to let me out of these soft beds for several days. Who can say?"
"I think it would be wise for the children to stay together when they can, all four of them. The world has never known anything like them. They ought to learn from each other."
Aviendha nodded. "The Nine Valleys sept has many roofs in this city. They can grow strong in their blood, here."
"And you can still travel to the Waste," Min pointed out. "I mean, the Three-Fold Land."
"Perhaps," said Aviendha. "But the Shaido are many there, and they do not Travel."
"They were no party to the Peace," said Rand. "If they swelter and burn, that is their own choice."
"But you still send apprentices to Rhuidean," said Elayne. "To walk through the glass columns."
"Rhuidean lives again, like a wetlander city," Aviendha said. "But perhaps we have no more need for visions. Even those can be changed."
Min nodded. "And for the better."
Loial carefully breathed on his paper, drying the ink where he had scribbled notes. Ila was a fine source. She had told him about Perrin and Egwene, when they were still children taking flight, unused to their powers. She had offered her memories of the Trollocs' attack on Emond's Field, when she and her husband had stayed with the other Tuatha'an and the village children. Loial remembered the battle, of course, but it was always wise to have other records to draw on.
However, her accent was very strange. Sometimes humans from this side of the Aryth Ocean made fun of the Seanchan for the way they spoke, but to Ogier, every manner of human speech was a twisted relic of the Old Tongue. They ought to rely on books. The words in books changed much less hastily.
Well, his book would help with that. There was peace at last, and time to write. Perhaps by the time it was done, he would be ready to open the Book of Translation. If humans knew better than to make war, they would not need Ogier to fight with them.
But while Ila had no more memories to share for the book, she was still speaking with Gaul. The Stone Dog had made his tent alongside Perrin and Faile in the Two Rivers, and the region was as diverse as any of the great cities. Tairens rubbed shoulders with Cairhienin (if the Cairhienin were tall enough to reach their shoulders), Domani mingled with Aiel, Borderlanders who now called themselves Malkieri met Andorans who now called themselves children of Manetheren.
"It is all the same," Ila pointed out. "I do not know where I was born. If I will not shed blood in the name of a queen, why should she count me as one of her subjects?"
Gaul considered this. "It may be. I am of the Shaarad, and we found strength and purpose from our feud the Goshien. But the Car'a'carn bound us into a strong bundle, and all feuds were cast aside."
"Does it cause you fear, that those ties fray?"
"There are many in the Imran sept who have incurred terrible toh. Should I be punished for their sin?"
"Some would say so."
"If an apprentice blacksmith were to claim ji for a weapon his master forged, he would be beaten like a child."
"You ought not beat your children!" Ila interrupted. "Even if you do not follow the Way, there are far better methods for them to learn obedience and wisdom."
"What I mean is, I do not need a flag to salute like some wetlander lordling. I have my honor, and the name of my father and greatfather. That is pride enough for any man."
"It takes strength to endure change," said Ila cautiously. Even in a world at peace, trust and kinship between a Tuatha'an and an algai'd'siswai was not easy. But in a place like the new Manetheren, they could be neighbors.
Then she turned her attention to Loial. "Will you stare at that page until your eyes grow sore?"
"My eyes have labored in worse circumstances," Loial said.
Ila blushed, as if she was too shy to ask her husband to a dance. "I would hear your songs, t'ingshen."
"I can make green things grow, but even I cannot turn back the Wheel to make Aemon's line rule or restore the world as it was before the Breaking. The songs in the stedding may be old, but they may not be the songs you seek."
"If Gaul can take pride in being an Aiel, for all he has done, I can take pride in being a Tuatha'an. There are worse things than seeking."
Well, Loial supposed, he was not getting anywhere on the book anyway. He sang, and around him, Emond's Field bloomed. But then, was there anything more he could have done? It was the village that had witnessed the Dragon take his first steps, speak his first words, draw the heron-mark sword for the first time. The land had already been transformed.
Lan was in no hurry to rebuild the Seven Towers. A nation's pride, he insisted, was not in monuments or architecture but the hearts and courage of its people. Still, with the Blight vanished and all manner of green things sprouting, it would be any builder's honor to lay new foundations there. Ogier from Stedding Sholoon had taken to visiting and idly musing about what the new city might look like, under Lan and Nynaeve's wise stewardship.
And one such Ogier was nearly split down the middle when Jesamyn burst through a Gateway. "Your Majesty!" The Kinswoman bowed low, only briefly taking note of the Ogier. "Please, I need to speak with Queen Nynaeve at once."
"I am here," said Nynaeve. "What is the matter?" Jesamyn was one of the Kinswomen who had remained in Caemlyn, providing Healing to Elayne's nation.
"The Dragon begs leave of your presence at once. And he asks that you bring your bracelet."
"Her bracelet?" an Ogier laughed. "The only man with authority to tell el'Nynaeve what jewelry to wear is al'Lan Mandragoran, and even he does not give her orders."
"Aes Sedai business," said Nynaeve grimly. "I will be there." For months Rand had had nothing to say to her or his old friends from the Two Rivers, as if slaying the Dark One made him untouchable. Now he dared to beg her leave? How did the man manage to have three lovers and not one of them knew how to teach him manners?
She half-expected to find the entire city of Caemlyn on fire, again, when she appeared at the Travelling ground, but there was no disturbance outside the palace. Elayne met her in the entrance hall, quickly escorting her to her private chambers. "What is the matter?" Nynaeve repeated.
"The children," said Elayne. "They were playing together, and something happened to Nitmal."
"I don't know how it is with men, never mind baby boys."
"How it is with men?" Light, Elayne had more than enough brains to know how her son wet his smallclothes, and Aviendha's was no different!
Aviendha herself was calm, rocking little Nakomi and speaking with Rand. "The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills."
Nynaeve could not tell if Rand was holding sai'din, but he looked ready to grasp Callandor and wait for some more Forsaken to be created so he could strike at them. "The Wheel has no will! What there is is me! If I—ah, Nynaeve. I hope I am not interrupting?"
Light-blinded man! "It is an honor to serve the Lord Dragon," said Nynaeve stiffly.
Rand was unamused. "Nitmal needs Healing."
Nynaeve placed a hand on the child's head, which seemed not much bigger than the rest of him put together, and Delved. Nitmal was fussy, tired, and hungry: in short, a baby. "What happened? He seems well."
"He has lost the One Power. He must have burnt himself out, or perhaps one of the others Stilled him."
"I cannot heal a burned-out channeler," said Nynaeve. "And none of them can control the Power, can they? They can't choose to channel. So neither stilling nor burning out—"
"They said you couldn't heal Stilling, either, and you did. My children are different."
"They are! But I would not know how to help a child who cannot even speak to touch the True Source."
"Our child will grow to be a great man whether or not he can channel," said Aviendha. "If he is a Wolfbrother like Perrin Aybara or a clan chief or a wetlander prince, what is it to me? When I was a Maiden I could never dream of nursing a child of my own."
"But I am the Dragon," said Rand.
"He is healthy," said Nynaeve, "and I cannot detect any residues. Anything I could weave would do more harm than good."
"What has become of you?" Rand yelled. "You were never too young to be the Wisdom, no matter how you looked. Do not pretend my son is too young to be an Asha'man, a guardian of the gifts I have bequeathed him."
"What has become of me? Rand al'Thor, what has happened to you? You asked me to feel and weep for the world when you no longer could. But you have put the mountain down. Will you still turn away from the world?"
"Lews Therin created a mountain three thousand years ago," said Rand. "That wasn't enough. To slay the Dark One, I must be both the mountain and the man, the Dragon and the land."
"But there is no war here," said Nynaeve. "Tam al'Thor loves you with all his heart even though you are not blood kin. Taringail Damodred was not a fine consort or a fine man, but even Elayne can be grateful that he gave her a just and upright brother. Can you not love your son for who he is, channeling or no channeling?"
"A common man could do that," said Rand. "But a common man could not kill Shai'tan." And then there were fires streaming from him, fires that spread no smoke nor engulfed the walls, but flickered like lightnings while the children screamed.
And not only the children. "Stop it!" Aviendha wept. "Stop it, Rand, you will hurt them."
"If you cannot tell me what severed my son, I will torture time itself until it grants me mercy."
"Not balefire," said Nynaeve. "Rand, you must not. What if it was an accident?"
"What if it wasn't?" Elayne raged. "You will not annihilate one child to change another's path. Rand, not you."
"Link with me," said Aviendha, as Nakomi wept and the fires crashed around her. "Stop him—"
But he was too strong, Nynaeve knew. Even if he was one man, his strength would rip her away. There was only one weave that could stand against balefire—and no living soul could say how it worked.
Nynaeve Travelled to Merrilor. The crystals that marked the graves of the Sharans were an eerie monument, as deserted as the glass columns in Rhuidean had once been. Rand had created a great world, a world that knew peace and freedom. For everyone except him.
She carefully probed the crystals, trying to learn the secret of their making. All five Powers, knit together with tremendous force. She was not standing against an army of Dreadlords or a new Forsaken, true, but her enemy was time itself. It would make no difference whether Nitmal could touch the Source or not, if Rand had turned into a force nearly as impersonal as a Forsaken.
Nynaeve cut away the sa'angreal. Egwene had not left a body, but it still felt rude to desecrate her memorial. Hopefully she would have understood.
Then, calling upon all the force of the fluted rod, Nynaeve wove back the Wheel.
The power should have killed her, the way it had killed Egwene. Except that now, they were in a moment when Egwene still held the sa'angreal, and Nynaeve had not yet cast the weave. She was back in the cave with Moiraine and the dying Alanna.
Rand had spoken only a little of what he had seen. Visions of what might have been, had he not triumphed. Carefully splitting off a small thread from the flow that Rand held, Nynaeve touched it gently. The Dark One's own horror would do most of the work, of course, but Rand was proud enough to value others' freedom even when he had lost his own. Make him believe that if he slays the Dark One, we will all be worse than prisoners, unable to choose. Make him believe that the women he loves will be warped, not their true selves. Of course the world was strong enough to bear peace—Aviendha and Elayne were magnificent enough to thrive in any situation, just as Min had thought mundanity a finer thing than visions. But Rand would not see it so.
Nynaeve guided the dark vision to Rand's mind, and felt it flow within him, change the course of his battle. Light send it did not change too much. Light send it changed enough.
The battle warped time itself as surely as a weave had. For those who fought below there was still much blood to shed before the end. For Nynaeve and the others at the Bore, it was perhaps only an hour, if that. And then it was over. Alanna had died again, and Egwene, and all the rest. Except, Moridin still lived. And Rand was dying.
It was not fair, Nynaeve thought. That cost was too high, even if Rand had seemed to seek death. Or was it? She knew what happened to Aes Sedai whose bonds broke. But Elayne and Min looked remarkably tranquil for having survived the end of the World, and Aviendha was grumbling more about her feet than about Rand. "There is something you're not telling me," she said, picking on the woman who was hurt too badly to flee. "Out with it."
Aviendha smirked, and Nynaeve could only let her. Maybe, by some miracle, Rand would be able to see the world as a man who could weep and laugh and feel it all on his own, without carrying the mountains of duty. Maybe, in time, he would return to those who had loved him best and longest. At least he was free to choose.