The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 125




Egwene hurried to the door and peeked out. The noonday sun was burning off the last reminders of last night's rainstorm. The stilldamp balcony around the Novices' Court was empty, the long row of doors to novices' rooms all shut. The novices who had taken advantage of the freeday to enjoy themselves in the gardens were no doubt catching up on their sleep. No one could have seen. She closed the door and took her place beside Elayne again as Nynaeve helped Min to her feet.
;m sorry, Min," Nynaeve said in a tight voice. "Sometimes my temper ... I can't ask you to forgive me, not for this." She took a deep breath. "If you want to report me to Sheriam, I will understand. I deserve it."
Egwene wished she had not heard that admission; Nynaeve could grow prickly over such things. Searching for something on which to focus, something Nynaeve could believe she had had her attention on, she found herself touching saidar once more, and began juggling the balls of light again. Elayne quickly joined her; Egwene saw the glow form around the DaughterHeir even before three tiny balls appeared above her hands. They began to pass the little glowing spheres back and forth in increasingly intricate patterns. Sometimes one winked out as one girl or the other failed to maintain it as it came to her, then winked back a little

The One Power filled Egwene with life. She smelled the faint rose aroma of soap from Elayne's morning bath. She could feel the rough plaster of the walls, the smooth stones of the floor, as well as she could the bed where she sat. She could hear Min and Nynaeve breathe, much less their quiet words.
"If it comes to forgiving," Min said, "maybe you should forgive me. You have a temper, and I have a big mouth. I will forgive you if you forgive me." With murmurs of "forgiven" that sounded meant on both sides, the two women hugged. "But if you do it again," Min said with a laugh, "I might clout your ear."
"Next time," Nynaeve replied, "I will throw something at you." She was laughing, too, but her laughter ceased abruptly as her eye fell on Egwene and Elayne. "You two stop that, or there will be someone going to the Mistress of Novices. Two someones."
"Nynaeve, you wouldn't!" Egwene protested. When she saw the look in Nynaeve's eyes, though, she hastily severed all contact with saidar. "Very well. I believe you. There's no need to prove it."
"We have to practice," Elayne said. "They ask more and more of us. If we did not practice on our own, we would never keep up." Her face showed calm composure, but she had let go of saidar as hastily as Egwene herself had.
"And what happens when you draw too much," Nynaeve asked, "and there's no one there to stop you? I wish you were more afraid. I am. Don't you think I know what it is like for you? It's always there, and you want to fill yourself with it. Sometimes it is all I can do to make myself stop; I want all of it. I know it would burn me to a crisp, and I want it anyway." She shivered. "I just wish you were more afraid."
"I am afraid," Egwene said with a sigh. "I'm terrified. But it doesn't seem to help. What about you, Elayne?"
"The only thing that terrifies me," Elayne said airily, "is washing dishes. It seems as if I have to wash dishes every day." Egwene threw her pillow at her. Elayne pulled it off her head and threw it back, but then her shoulders slumped. "Oh, very well. I am so scared I don't know why my teeth are not chattering. Elaida told me I'd be so frightened that I would want to run away with the Traveling People, but I did not understand. A man who drove oxen as hard as they drive us would be shunned. I am tired all the time. I wake up tired and go to bed exhausted, and sometimes I'm so afraid that I will slip and channel more of the Power than I can handle that I ..." Peering into her lap, she let the words trail off.
Egwene knew what she had not spoken. Their rooms lay right next to each other, and as in many of the novice rooms, a small hole had long ago been bored through the wall between, too small to be seen unless you knew where to look, but useful for talk after the lamps were extinguished, when the girls could not leave their rooms.
Egwene had heard Elayne crying herself to sleep more than once, and she had no doubt that Elayne had heard her own crying.
"The Traveling People are tempting," Nynaeve agreed, "but wherever you go, it will not change what you can do. You cannot run from saidar." She did not sound as if she liked what she was saying.
"What do you see, Min?" Elayne said. "Are we all going to be powerful Aes Sedai, or will we spend the rest of our lives washing dishes as novices, or ..." She shrugged uncomfortably as if she did not want to voice the third alternative that came to mind. Sent home. Put out of the Tower. Two novices had been put out since Egwene came, and everyone spoke of them in whispers, as if they were dead.
Min shifted on her stool. "I don't like reading friends," she muttered. "Friendship gets in the way of the reading. It makes me try to put the best face on what I see. That's why I don't do it for you three anymore. Anyway, nothing has changed about you that I can ..." She squinted at them, and suddenly frowned. "That's new," she breathed.
"What?" Nynaeve asked sharply.
Min hesitated before answering. "Danger. You are all in some kind of danger. Or you will be, very soon. I can't make it out, but it is danger."
"You see," Nynaeve said to the two girls sitting on the bed. "You must take care. We all must. You must both promise not to channel again without someone to guide you."
"I don't want to talk about it anymore," Egwene said.
Elayne nodded eagerly. "Yes. Let's talk about something else. Min, if you put on a dress, I'll wager Gawyn would ask you to go walking with him. You know he's been looking at you, but I think the breeches and the man's coat put him off."
"I dress the way I like, and I won't change for a lord, even if he is your brother." Min spoke absently, still squinting at them and frowning; it was a conversation they had had before. "Sometimes it is useful to pass as a boy."
"No one who looks twice believes you are a boy." Elayne smiled.
Egwene was uncomfortable. Elayne was forcing a semblance of gaiety, Min was hardly paying attention, and Nynaeve looked as if she wanted to warn them again.When the door swung open once more, Egwene bounded to her feet to close it, grateful for something to do besides watch the others pretend. Before she reached it, though, a darkeyed Aes Sedai with her blond hair done in a multitude of braids stepped into the room. Egwene blinked in surprise, as much at it being any Aes Sedai as at Liandrin. She had not heard that Liandrin had returned to the White Tower, but beyond that, novices were sent for if an Aes Sedai wanted them; it could mean no good, a sister coming herself.
The room was crowded with five women in it. Liandrin paused to adjust her redfringed shawl, eyeing them. Min did not move, but Elayne rose, and the three standing curtsied, though Nynaeve barely flexed her knee. Egwene did not think Nynaeve would ever grow used to having others in authority over her.
Liandrin's eyes settled on Nynaeve. "And why are you here, in the novices' quarters, child?" Her tone was ice.
"I am visiting with friends," Nynaeve said in a tight voice. After a moment she added a belated, "Liandrin Sedai."
ccepted, they can have no friends among the novices. This you should have learned by this time, child. But it is as well that I find you here. You and you" - her finger stabbed at Elayne and Min - "will go."
"I will return later." Min rose casually, making a great show of being in no hurry to obey, and strolled by Liandrin with a grin, of which Liandrin took no notice at all. Elayne gave Egwene and Nynaeve a worried look before she

After Elayne closed the door behind her, Liandrin stood studying Egwene and Nynaeve. Egwene began to fidget under the scrutiny, but Nynaeve held herself straight, with only a little heightening of her color.
"You two are from the same village as the boys who traveled with Moiraine. Is it not so?" Liandrin said suddenly.
"Do you have some word of Rand?" Egwene asked eagerly. Liandrin arched an eyebrow at her. "Forgive me, Aes Sedai. I forget myself."
"Have you word of them?" Nynaeve said, just short of a demand. The Accepted had no rule about not speaking to an Aes Sedai until spoken to.
"You have concern for them. That is good. They are in danger, and you might be able to help them."
"How do you know they're in trouble?" There was no doubt about the demand in Nynaeve's voice this time.
Liandrin's rosebud mouth tightened, but her tone did not change. "Though you are not aware of it, Moiraine has sent letters to the White Tower concerning you. Moiraine Sedai, she worries about you, and about your young ... friends. These boys, they are in danger. Do you wish to help them, or leave them to their fate?"
"Yes," Egwene said, at the same time that Nynaeve said; "What kind of trouble? Why do you care about helping them?" Nynaeve glanced at the red fringe on Liandrin's shawl.

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