The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt: Page 126

"And I thought you didn't like Moiraine."
"Do not presume too much, child," Liandrin said sharply. "To be Accepted is not to be a sister. Accepted and novices alike listen when a sister speaks, and do as they are told." She drew a breath and went on; her tone was coldly serene again, but angry white spots marred her cheeks. "Someday, I am sure, you will serve a cause, and you will learn then that to serve it you must work even with those whom you dislike. I tell you I have worked with many with whom I would not share a room if it were left to me alone. Would you not work alongside the one you hated worst, if it would save your friends?"
Nynaeve nodded reluctantly. "But you still haven't told us what kind of danger they're in. Liandrin Sedai."
"The danger comes from Shayol Ghul. They are hunted, as I understand they once before were. If you will come with me, some dangers, at least, may be eliminated. Do not ask how, for I cannot tell you, but I tell you flatly it is so."
"We will come, Liandrin Sedai," Egwene said.
"Come where?" Nynaeve said. Egwene shot her an exasperated look."Toman Head."
Egwene's mouth fell open, and Nynaeve muttered, "There's a war on Toman Head. Does this danger have something to do with Artur Hawkwing's armies?"
"You believe rumors, child? But even if they were true, is that enough to stop you? I thought you called these men friends." A twist to Liandrin's words said she would never do the same.
"We will come," Egwene said. Nynaeve opened her mouth again, but Egwene went right on. "We will go, Nynaeve. If Rand needs our help - and Mat, and Perrin - we have to give it."
"I know that," Nynaeve said, "but what I want to know is, why us? What can we do that Moiraine - or you, Liandrin - cannot?"
The white grew in Liandrin's cheeks - Egwene realized Nynaeve had forgotten the honorific in addressing her - but what she said was, "You two come from their village. In some way I do not entirely understand, you are connected to them. Beyond that, I cannot say. And no more of your foolish questions will I answer. Will you come with me for their sake?" She paused for their assent; a visible tension left her when they nodded. "Good. You will meet me at the northernmost edge of the Ogier grove one hour before sunset with your horses and whatever you will need for the journey. Tell no one of this."
"We are not supposed to leave the Tower grounds without permission," Nynaeve said slowly.
"You have my permission. Tell no one. No one at all. The Black Ajah walks the halls of the White Tower."
Egwene gasped, and heard an echoed gasp from Nynaeve, but Nynaeve recovered quickly. "I thought all Aes Sedai denied the existence of - of that."
Liandrin's mouth tightened into a sneer. "Many do, but Tarmon Gai'don approaches, and the time leaves when denials can be made. The Black Ajah, it is the opposite of everything for which the Tower stands, but it exists, child. It is everywhere, any woman could belong to it, and it serves the Dark One. If your friends are pursued by the Shadow, do you think the Black Ajah will leave you alive and free to help them? Tell no one - no one! - or you may not live to reach Toman Head. One hour before sunset. Do not fail me." With that, she was gone, the door closing firmly behind her.
Egwene collapsed onto her bed with her hands on her knees. "Nynaeve, she's Red Ajah. She can't know about Rand. If she did..."
annot know," Nynaeve agreed. "I wish I knew why a Red wanted to help. Or why she's willing to work with Moiraine. I'd have sworn neither of them would give the other water if she were dying of thirst."
"You think she's lying?"
"She is Aes Sedai," Nynaeve said dryly. "I'll wager my best silver pin against a blueberry that every word she said was true. But I wonder if we heard what we thought we did."
"The Black Ajah." Egwene shivered. "There was no mistaking what she said about that, the Light help us."
"No mistaking," Nynaeve said. "And she's forestalled us asking anyone for advice, because after that, who can we trust? The Light help us indeed."
Min and Elayne came bustling in, slamming the door behind them. "Are you really going?" Min asked, and Elayne gestured toward the tiny hole in the wall above Egwene's bed, saying, "We listened from my room. We heard everything."
Egwene exchanged glances with Nynaeve, wondering how much they had overheard, and saw the same concern on Nynaeve's face. If they manage to cipher out about Rand ...
"You have to keep this to yourselves," Nynaeve cautioned them. "I suppose Liandrin has arranged permission from Sheriam for us to go, but even if she hasn't, even if they start searching the Tower from top to bottom for us tomorrow, you mustn't say a word."
"Keep it to myself?" Min said. "No fear on that. I'm going with you. All I do all day is try to explain to one Brown sister or another something I don't understand myself. I can't even go for a walk without the Amyrlin herself popping out and asking me to read whoever we see. When that woman asks you to do something, there doesn't seem to be any way out of it.
I must have read half the White Tower for her, but she always wants another demonstration. All I needed was an excuse to leave, and this is it." Her face wore a look of determination

Egwene wondered why Min was so determined to go with them rather than simply leaving on her own, but before she had time to do more than wonder, Elayne said, "I am going, too."
"Elayne," Nynaeve said gently, "Egwene and I are the boys' kith from Emond's Field. You are the DaughterHeir of Andor. If you disappear from the White Tower, why, it - it could start a war."
"Mother wouldn't start a war with Tar Valon if they dried and salted me, which they may be trying to do. If you three can go off and have an adventure, you needn't think I am going to stay here and wash dishes, and scrub floors, and have some Accepted berating me because I didn't make the fire the exact shade of blue she wanted. Gawyn will die from envy when he finds out." Elayne grinned and reached over to tug playfully at Egwene's hair. "Besides, if you leave Rand lying about loose, I might have a chance to pick him up."
"I don't think either of us is going to have him," Egwene said sadly.
"Then we'll find whoever he does choose and make her life miserable. But he couldn't be fool enough to choose someone else when he could have one of us. Oh, please smile, Egwene. I know he's yours. I just feel" - she hesitated, searching for the word - "free. I've never had an adventure. I'll bet we won't either of us cry ourselves to sleep on an adventure. And if we do, we will make sure the gleemen leave that part out."
"This is foolishness," Nynaeve said. "We are going to Toman Head. You've heard the news, and the rumors. It will be dangerous. You must stay here."
"I heard what Liandrin Sedai said about the - the Black Ajah, too." Elayne's voice dropped almost to a whisper at that name. "How safe will I be here, if they are here? If Mother even suspected the Black Ajah really existed, she would pitch me into the middle of a battle to get me away from them."
"But, Elayne-
"There is only one way for you to stop me coming. That is to tell the Mistress of Novices. We will make a pretty picture, all three of us lined up in her study. All four of us. I don't think Min would escape from something like this. So since you are not going to tell Sheriam Sedai, I am coming, too."
Nynaeve threw up her hands. "Perhaps you can say something to convince her," she told Min.
Min had been leaning against the door, squinting at Elayne, and now she shook her head. "I think she has to come as much as the rest of you. The rest of us. I can see the danger around all of you more clearly, now. Not clearly enough to make it out, but I think it has something to do with you deciding to go. That's why it is clearer; because it is more certain."
"That's no reason for her to come," Nynaeve said, but Min shook her head again.
"She is linked to - to those boys as much as you, or Egwene, or me. She's part of it, Nynaeve, whatever it is. Part of the Pattern, I suppose an Aes Sedai would say."
Elayne seemed taken aback, and interested, too. "I am? What part, Min?"
"I can't see it clearly." Min looked at the floor. "Sometimes I wish I couldn't read people at all. Most people aren't satisfied with what I see anyway."
"If we are all going," Nynaeve said, "then we had best be about making plans." However much she might argue beforehand, once a course of action had been decided, Nynaeve always went right to the practicalities: what they had to take with them, and how cold it would be by the time they reached Toman Head, and how they could get their horses from the stables without being stopped.
Listening to her, Egwene could not help wondering what the danger was that Min saw for them, and what danger threatened Rand. She knew of only one danger that could threaten him, and it made her cold to think of it. Hold on, Rand. Hold on, you woolheaded idiot.

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