In the morning, the raken was dead. Warm, but dead. Galer stiffened with expected punishment over the failed healing, but Lasal didn't bother. She instead looked up to the sky and said, "This will be a little slower and more difficult than I'd expected. Which way do we go now?"

Galer, once Marren Sedai of the black ajah, and previously the brown, knew their situation was nearly hopeless. They could probably survive in the wilderness, but Lasal would insist on returning to her fellow Seanchan, and that meant crossing one militarized border or another... or bypassing them all.

Her studies in the tower held open such a possibility. Though she'd managed to hide her being Aes Sedai up to this point, it and related matters being the only secret she still dared keep. "I've read of a way. Have you heard of portal stones?" Lasal silently commanded her to continue. "Relics of the age of legends - pillars covered with symbols. Used correctly, one should be able to move among them very rapidly - to any on this world, or even on other worlds. I know of one not far from here, and another not far from Falme."

"How can this be, yet you still travel by horse?"

"We do not know how to use them reliably, mistress. We have perhaps a one in twenty chance of getting where we want to go on the first try, half that nothing will happen at all, and the remainder that we will end up... somewhere else. It is very likely that we will be able to try again in that case."

Lasal could detect no trace of deception, and hesitantly ordered her, "Lead the way."


The stone was wider than they could reach around, buried at a slant, gouged and cracked. Lasal somehow felt the device to be very familiar, and walked straight up to it. "It's damaged."

Galer suggested, "Portal stones have been known to function when damaged."

"No. It's unsafe to use." Lasal grimaced, running her fingers over the surface. "At least, too unsafe for us. We could perhaps replace our raken."

Galer shook her head. "That's not how it works."

"Then why this 'call' symbol?"

Galer began to object that it was just a squiggle when Lasal became quite cross, and a warning tingle came down the silver leash. She backed off. After a minute, she took a deep breath, about to offer some advice on the matter, but got a severe jolt of pain before she could start. A trickle of itch remained behind. It was more embarrassing than anything, to be brought back to that stage of her training.

And so Lasal examined the portal stone for a long hour as Galer held rock still, refusing to scratch the itchy patches that wandered over her body - just as she knew she was required to do.

Abruptly, Lasal spoke. "This weave on these symbols should query all portal stones, finding which one has the fastest steed - raken or horse - within its circle, and bring it here." She'd included horses strictly as a backup. Raken were rare, and she didn't know what would happen if no candidates were found.

Galer bit her lip, wondering how she could have such facility with the device - talents were not usually so specific. Though... strange talents were cropping up in greater numbers lately, there was no denying it.

Directed by Lasal, Galer started channelling spirit, and then air. Lasal placed her hands across the stone in selected places, directing the weaves in. The portal stone quivered, grew warm. The sun twitched in the sky, darting up and down...

Lasal realized it would have been prudent to allow worms. That way, if no raken or horses were about, the search would at least find something and not do... whatever it was doing. But it was a little late now, so the sul'dam persisted. Galer wished she could release the source and flee...

With a small lightning strike, new cracks appeared on the portal stone, and the process was complete. Lasal released the source. She knew she ought to be trying to capture the beast she'd summoned, but she and Galer were too drained.

"What was that?" asked Rainbow Dash.