Jordan, Robert WOT Prequel: Earlier - Ravens

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Earlier-Ravens

Prequel to The Wheel of Time

Robert Jordan

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This far below Emond's Field, halfway to the Waterwood, trees lined the banks of the Winespring Water. Mostly willows, their leafy branches made a shady canopy over the water near the bank. Summer was not far off, and the sun was climbing toward midday, yet here in the shadows a soft breeze made Egwene's sweat feel cool on her skin. Tying the skirts of her brown wool dress up above her knees, she waded a little way into the river to fill her wooden bucket. The boys just waded in, not caring whether their snug breeches got wet. Some of the girls and boys filling buckets laughed and used their wooden dippers to fling water at one another, but Egwene settled for enjoying the stir of the current on her bare legs, and her toes wriggling on the sandy bottom as she climbed back out. She was not here to play. At nine, she was carrying water for the first time, but she was going to be the best water-carrier ever.

Pausing on the bank, she set down her bucket to unfasten her skirts and let them fall to her ankles. And to retie the dark green kerchief that gathered her hair at the nape of her neck. She wished she could cut it at her shoulders, or even shorter, like the boys. She would not need to have long hair for years yet, after all. Why did you have to keep doing something just because it had always been done that way? But she knew her mother, and she knew her hair was going to stay long.

Close to a hundred paces further down the river, men stood knee-deep in the water, washing the black-faced sheep that would later be sheared. They took great care getting the bleating animals into the river and back out safely. The Winespring Water did not flow as swiftly here as it did in Emond's Field, yet it was not slow. A sheep that got swept away might drown before it could struggle ashore.

A large raven flew across the river to perch high in the branches of a whitewood near where the men were washing sheep. Almost immediately a redcrest began diving at the raven, a flash of scarlet that chattered noisily.

The redcrest must have a nest nearby. Instead of taking flight and maybe attacking the smaller bird, though, the raven just shuffled sideways on the limb to where a few smaller branches sheltered it a little. It peered down toward the working men.

Ravens sometimes bothered the sheep, but ignoring the redcrest's attempts to frighten it away was more than unusual. More than that, she had the strange feeling that the black bird was watching the men, not the sheep. Which was silly, except . . . She had heard people say that ravens and crows were the Dark One's eyes. That thought made goosebumps break out all down her arms and even on her back. It was a silly idea. What would the Dark One want to see in the Two Rivers? Nothing ever happened in the Two Rivers.

"What are you up to, Egwene?" Kenley Ahan demanded, stopping beside her. "You can't play with the children today." Two years older than she, he carried himself very straight, stretching to seem taller than he was. This was his last year carrying water at the shearing, and he behaved as if that cloaked him with some sort of authority.

She gave him a level look, but it did not work as well as she hoped.

His square face twisted up in a frown. "If you're turning sick, go see the Wisdom. If not . . . well . . . get on about your work." With a quick nod, as if he, had solved a problem, he hurried off making a great show of holding his bucket with one hand, well away from his side. He won't keep that up long once he's out of my sight, she thought sourly. She was going to have to work on that look. She had seen it work for older girls.

The dipper's handle slid on the rim of her bucket as she picked it up with both hands. It was heavy, and she was not big for her age, but she followed Kenley as quickly as she could. Not because of anything he had said, certainly. She did have work to do, and she was going to be the best water-carrier ever. Her face set with determination. The mulch of last year's leaves rustled under her feet as she walked through the river's shadowy fringe of trees, out into the sunlight. The heat was not too bad, but a few small white clouds high in the sky seemed to emphasize the brightness of the morning.

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⏰ Last updated: Mar 22, 2008 ⏰

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