The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt: Page 16

More still camp outside Caemlyn, for the chance of mischief, and inside Caemlyn still are those who listen."
"Perhaps it is time Morgase learned a little caution," Anaiya sighed. "The world is becoming more dangerous every day, even for a queen. Perhaps especially for a queen. She was ever headstrong. I remember when she came to Tar Valon as a girl. She did not have the ability to become a full sister, and it rankled in her. Sometimes I think she pushes her daughter because of that, whatever the girl chooses."
Moiraine sniffed disdainfully. "Elayne was born with the spark in her; it was not a matter of choosing. Morgase would not risk letting the girl die from lack of training if all the Whitecloaks in Amadicia were camped outside Caemlyn. She would command Gareth Byrne and the Queen's Guards to cut a path through them to Tar Valon, and Gareth Byrne would do it if he had to do it alone." But she still must keep the full extent of the girl's potential secret. Would the people of Andor knowingly accept Elayne on the Lion Throne after Morgase if they knew? Not just a queen trained in Tar Valon according to custom, but a full Aes Sedai? In all of recorded history there had been only a handful of queens with the right to be called Aes Sedai, and the few who let it be known had all lived to regret it. She felt a touch of sadness. But too much was afoot to spare aid, or even worry, for one land and one throne. &ldquo

"You must know that the Great Hunt of the Horn has been called in Illian, the first time in four hundred years. The Illianers say the Last Battle is coming" - Anaiya gave a little shiver, as well she might, but went on without a pause - "and the Horn of Valere must be found before the final battle against the Shadow. Men from every land are already gathering, all eager to be part of the legend, eager to find the Horn. Murandy and Altara are on their toes, of course, thinking it's all a mask for a move against one of them. That is probably why the Murandians caught their false Dragon so quickly. In any case, there will be a new lot of stories for the bards and gleemen to add to the cycle. The Light send it is only new stories."
"Perhaps not the stories they expect," Moiraine said. Liandrin looked at her sharply, and she kept her face still.
"I suppose not," Anaiya said placidly. "The stories they least expect will be exactly the ones they will add to the cycle. Beyond that, I have only rumor to offer. The Sea Folk are agitated, their ships flying from port to port with barely a pause. Sisters from the islands say the Coramoor, their Chosen One, is coming, but they won't say more. You know how closemouthed the Atha'an Miere are with outsiders about the Coramoor, and in this our sisters seem to think more as Sea Folk than Aes Sedai. The Aiel appear to be stirring, too, but no one knows why. No one ever knows with the Aiel. At least there is no evidence they mean to cross the Spine of the World again, thank the Light." She sighed and shook her head. "What I would not give for even one sister from among the Aiel. Just one. We know too little of them."
Moiraine laughed. "Sometimes I think you belong in the Brown Ajah, Anaiya."
"Almoth Plain," Liandrin said, and looked surprised that she had spoken.
"Now that truly is a rumor, Sister," Anaiya said. "A few whispers heard as we were leaving Tar Valon. There may be fighting on Almoth Plain, and perhaps Toman Head, as well. I say, may be. The whispers were faint. Rumors of rumors. We left before we could hear more."
"It would have to be Tarabon and Arad Doman," Moiraine said, and shook her head. "They have squabbled over Almoth Plain for nearly three hundred years, but it has never come to open blows." She looked at Liandrin; Aes Sedai were supposed to throw off all their old loyalties to lands and rulers, but few did so completely. It was hard not to care for the land of your birth. "Why would they now - ?"
"Enough of idle talk," the honeyhaired woman broke in angrily. "For you, Moiraine, the Amyrlin waits." She took three quick strides ahead of the others and threw open one of a pair of tall doors. "For you, the Amyrlin will have no idle talk."
Unconsciously touching the pouch at her waist, Moiraine went past Liandrin through the doorway, with a nod as if the other woman were holding the door for her. She did not even smile at the white flash of anger on Liandrin's face. What is the wretched girl up to?
Brightly colored carpets covered the anteroom floor in layers, and the room was pleasantly furnished with chairs and cushioned benches and small tables, the wood simply worked or just polished. Brocaded curtains sided the tall arrowslits to make them seem more like windows. No fires burned in the fireplaces; the day was warm, and the Shienaran chill would not come until nightfall.
Fewer than half a dozen of the Aes Sedai who had accompanied the Amyrlin were there. Verin Mathwin and Serafelle, of the Brown Ajah, did not look up at Moiraine's entrance. Serafelle was intently reading an old book with a worn, faded leather cover, handling its tattered pages carefully, while plump Verin, sitting crosslegged beneath an arrowslit, held a small blossom up to the light and made notes and sketches in a precise hand in a book balanced on her knee.
She had an open inkpot on the floor beside her, and a small pile of flowers on her lap. The Brown sisters concerned themselves with little beside seeking knowledge. Moiraine sometimes wondered if they were really aware of what was going on in the world, or even immediately around them.
The three other women already in the room turned, but they made no effort to approach Moiraine, only looked at her. One, a slender woman of the Yellow Ajah, she did not know; she spent too little time in Tar Valon to know all the Aes Sedai, although their numbers were no longer very great. She was acquainted with the two remaining, however. Carlinya was as pale of skin and cold of manner as the white fringe on her shawl, the exact opposite in every way of dark, fiery Alanna Mosvani, of the Green, but they both stood and stared at her without speaking, without expression. Alanna sharply snugged her shawl around her, but Carlinya made no move at all. The slender Yellow sister turned away with an air of regret.
"The Light illumine you all, Sisters," Moiraine said. No one answered. She was not sure Serafelle or Verin had even heard. Where are the others? There was no need for them all to be there - most would be resting in their rooms, freshing from the journey - but she was on edge now, all the questions she could not ask running through her head. None of it showed on her face.
The inner door opened, and Leane appeared, without her giltflamed staff. The Keeper of the Chronicles was as tall as most men, willowy and graceful, still beautiful, with coppery skin and short, dark hair. She wore a blue stole, a hand wide, instead of a shawl, for she sat in the Hall of the Tower, though as Keeper, not to represent her Ajah.
"There you are," she said briskly to Moiraine, and gestured to the door behind her. "Come, Sister. The Amyrlin Seat is waiting." She spoke naturally in a clipped, quick way that never changed, whether she was angry or joyful or excited. As Moiraine followed Leane in, she wondered what emotion the Keeper was feeling now. Leane pulled the door to behind them; it banged shut with something of the sound of a cell door closing.
The Amyrlin Seat herself sat behind a broad table in the middle of the carpet, and on the table rested a flattened cube of gold, the size of a travel chest and ornately worked with silver. The table was heavily built, its legs stout, but it seemed to squat under a weight two strong men would have had trouble lifting.
At the sight of the golden cube Moiraine had difficulty keeping her face unruffled. The last she had seen of it, it had been safely locked in Agelmar's strongroom. On learning of the Amyrlin Seat's arrival she had meant to tell her of it herself. That it was already in the Amyrlin's possession was a trifle, but a worrisome trifle. Events could be outpacing her.
She swept a deep curtsy and said formally, "As you called me, Mother, so have I come." The Amyrlin extended her hand, and Moiraine kissed her Great Serpent ring, no different from that of any other Aes Sedai. Rising, she made her tone more conversational, but not too much so. She was aware of the Keeper standing behind her, beside the door. "I hope you had a pleasa

The Amyrlin had been born in Tear, of a simple fisherman's family, not a noble House, and her name was Siuan Sanche, though very few had used that name, or even thought of it, in the ten years since she had been raised from the Hall of the Tower. She was the Amyrlin Seat; that was the whole of it. The broad stole on her shoulders was striped in the colors of the seven Ajahs; the Amyrlin was of all Ajahs and of none. She was only of medium height, and handsome rather than beautiful, but her face held a strength that had been there before her elevation, the strength of the girl who had survived the streets of the Maule, Tear's port district, and her clear blue gaze had made kings and queens, and even the Captain Commander of the Children of the Light, drop their eyes.

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