The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 134



You were right before, too. We will not do them any good letting ourselves be caught as well." Elayne was silent for a moment. "Do you think it was all lies, Nynaeve? What Liandrin told us about Rand being in danger? And the others? Aes Sedai do not lie."
It was Nynaeve's turn to be silent, remembering Sheriam telling her of the oaths a woman took on being raised to full sisterhood, oaths spoken inside a ter'angreal that bound her to keep them. To speak no word that is not true. That was one, but everyone knew that the truth an Aes Sedai said might not be the truth you thought you heard. "I expect Rand is warming his feet in front of Lord Agelmar's fire in Fal Dara this minute," she said. I can't worry about him, now. I have to think about Egwene and Min.
"I suppose he is," Elayne said with a sigh. She shifted behind the saddle. "If it is very far to Falme, Nynaeve, I expect to ride in the saddle half the time. This is not a very comfortable seat. We will never reach Falme at all if you let this horse set her own pace the whole way."
Nynaeve booted the mare to a quick trot, and Elayne yelped and caught at her cloak. Nynaeve told herself that she would take a turn riding behind and not complain if Elayne put the horse to a gallop, but for the most part she ignored the gasps of the woman bouncing behind her. She was too busy hoping that by the time they reached Falme, she could stop being afraid and start being angry.
The breeze freshened, cool and brisk with a hint of cold yet to come.

(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 41
(RubyHilted Dagger)
Disagreements
Thunder rumbled across the slatedark afternoon sky. Rand pulled the hood of his cloak further up, hoping to keep at least some of the cold rain off. Red stepped through muddy puddles doggedly. The hood hung sodden around Rand's head, as the rest of the cloak did around his shoulders, and his fine black coat was just as wet, and as cold. The temperature would not have far to drop before snow or sleet came down instead of rain. Snow would fall soon, again; the people in the village they had passed through said two snows had already come this year. Shivering, Rand almost wished it was snowing. Then, at least, he would not be soaked to the skin.
The column plodded along, keeping a wary eye on the rolling country. Ingtar's Gray Owl hung heavily even when the wind gusted. Hurin sometimes pulled his cowl back to sniff the air; he said neither rain nor cold had any effect on a trail, certainly not on the kind of trail he was seeking, but so far the sniffer had found nothing. Behind him, Rand heard Uno mutter a curse. Loial kept checking his saddlebags; he did not seem to mind getting wet himself, but he worried continually about his books. Everyone was miserable except for Verin, who appeared too lost in thought to even notice that her hood had slid back, exposing her face to the rain.
"Can't you do something about this?" Rand demanded of her. A small voice in the back of his head told him he could do it himself.
All he need do was embrace saidin. So sweet, the call of saidin. To be filled with the One Power, to be one with the storm. Turn the skies to sunlight, or ride the storm as it raged, whip it to fury and scour Toman Head clean from the sea to the plain. Embrace saidin. He suppressed the longing ruthlessly.
The Aes Sedai gave a start. "What? Oh. I suppose. A little. I couldn't stop a storm this big, not by myself - it covers too much area - but I could lessen it some. Where we are, at least." She wiped rain from her face, seemed to realize for the first time that her hood had slipped, and pulled it back up absently.
"Then why don't you?" Mat said. The shivering face peering out from under his hood looked at death's door, but his voice was vigorous.
"Because if I used that much of the One Power, any Aes Sedai closer than ten miles would know someone had channeled. We don't want to bring these Seanchan down on us with some of their damane." Her mouth tightened angrily.
They had learned a little of the invaders in that village, called Atuan's Mill, though most of what they had heard hatched more questions than it answered. The people had babbled one moment and clamped their mouths shut the next, trembling and looking over their shoulders. They all shook with fear that the Seanchan would return with their monsters and their damane. That women who should have been Aes Sedai were instead leashed like animals frightened the villagers even more than the strange creatures the Seanchan commanded, things the folk of Atuan's Mill could only describe in whispers as coming from nightmares. And worst of all, the examples the Seanchan had made before leaving still chilled the people to their marrow. They had buried their dead, but they feared to clean away the large charred patch in the village square. None of them would say what had happened there, but Hurin had vomited as soon as they entered the village, and he would not go near the blackened ground.
Atuan's Mill had been half deserted. Some had fled to Falme, thinking the Seanchan would not be so harsh in a town they held fast, and others had gone east. More had said they were thinking of it. There was fighting on Almoth Plain, Taraboners battling Domani it was said, but such houses and barns as were burned there were kindled by torches in the hands of men. Even a war was easier to face than what the Seanchan had done, what they might do.
"Why did Fain bring the Horn here?" Perrin muttered. The question had been asked by each of them at one time or another, and no one had an answer. "There's war, and these Seanchan, and their monsters. Why here?"
Ingtar turned in his saddle to look back at them. His face appeared almost as haggard as Mat's. "There are always men who see chances for their own advantage in the confusion of war. Fain is one like that. No doubt he thinks to steal the Horn again, from the Dark One this time, and use it for his own profit."
"The Father of Lies never lays simple plans," Verin said. "It may be that he wants Fain to bring the Horn here for some reason known only in Shayol Ghul."
"Monsters," Mat snorted. His cheeks were sunken, now, his eyes hollow. That he sounded healthy only made it worse. "They saw some Trollocs, or a Fade, if you ask me. Well, why not? If the Seanchan have Aes Sedai fighting for them, why not Fades and Trollocs?" He caught Verin staring at him and flinched. "Well, they are, on leashes or not. They can channel, and that makes them Aes Sedai. " He glanced at Rand and gave a ragged laugh. "That makes you Aes Sedai, the Light help us all."
Masema came galloping from ahead, through the mud and the steady rain. "There is another village ahead, my Lord," he said as he pulled in beside Ingtar. His eyes only swept past Rand, but they tightened, and he did not look at Rand again. "It's empty, my Lord. No villagers, no Seanchan, nobody at all. The houses all look sound, though, except for two or three that ... well, they aren't ther

Ingtar raised his hand and signaled for a trot.
The village Masema had found covered the slopes of a hill, with a paved square at the top around a circle of stone walls. The houses were of stone, all flatroofed and few more than a single story. Three that had been larger, along one side of the square, were only heaps of blackened rubble; shattered chunks of stone and roof beams lay scattered across the square. A few shutters banged when the wind gusted.
Ingtar dismounted in front of the only large building still standing. The creaking sign above its door bore a woman juggling stars, but no name; rain came off the corners in two steady drizzles. Verin hurried inside while Ingtar spoke. "Uno, search every house. If there is anyone left, perhaps they can tell us what happened here, and maybe a little more about these Seanchan. And if there's any food, bring that, too. And blankets." Uno nodded and began telling off men. Ingtar turned to Hurin. "What do you smell? Did Fain come through here?"
Hurin, rubbing his nose, shook his head. "Not him, my Lord, and not the Trollocs, neither. Whoever did that left a stench, though." He pointed to the wreckage that had been houses. "It was killing, my Lord. There were people in there."
"Seanchan," Ingtar growled. "Let's get inside. Ragan, find some sort of stable for the horses."
Verin already had fires going in both of the big fireplaces, at either end of the common room, and was warming her hands at one, her sodden cloak spread out on one of the tables dotting the tiled floor. She had found a few candles, too, now burning on a table stuck in their own tallow. Emptiness and quiet, except for the occasional grumble of thunder, added to the flickering shadows to give the place a cavernous feel. Rand tossed his equally wet cloak and coat on a table and joined her. Only Loial seemed more interested in checking his books than in warming himself.
"We will never find the Horn of Valere this way," Ingtar said. "Three days since we ..

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