The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt: Page 22

Good. Glass lamp mantles cracked as the flames leaped higher and hotter, lighting the room as bright as unsheltered noon. Amalisa stood as stiff as a post, her face tight as she tried not to squint.
"It is you who are foolish, my daughter. I care nothing for books. Here, men enter the Blight, and walk in its taint. In the very Shadow. Why wonder you that that taint may seep into them? Whether or not against their will, still it may seep. Why think you the Amyrlin Seat herself has come?"
"No." It was a gasp.
"Of the Red am I, my daughter," Liandrin said relentlessly. "I hunt all men corrupted."
"I don't understand."
"Not only those foul ones who try the One Power. All men corrupted. High and low do I hunt."
"I don't ..." Amalisa licked her lips unsteadily and made a visible fort to gather herself. "I do not understand, Liandrin Sedai. Please ..."
even before low."
"No!" As if some invisible support had vanished, Amalisa fell to her knees, and her head dropped. "Please, Liandrin Sedai, say you do not mean Agelmar. It cannot be him."
In that moment of doubt and confusion, Liandrin struck.
She did not move, but lashed out with the One Power. Amalisa gasped and gave a jerk, as if she had been pricked with a needle, and Liandrin's petulant mouth perked in a smile.
This was her own special trick from childhood, the first learned of her abilities. It had been forbidden to her as soon as the Mistress of Novices discovered it, but to Liandrin that only meant one more thing she needed to conceal from thos

She strode forward and pulled Amalisa's chin up. The metal that had stiffened her was still there, but it was baser metal now, malleable to the right pressures. Tears trickled from the corners of Amalisa's eyes, glistening on her cheeks. Liandrin let the fires die back to normal; there was no longer any need for such. She softened her words, but her voice was as unyielding as steel.
"Daughter, no one wants to see you and Agelmar thrown to the people as Darkfriends. I will help you, but you must help."
"Hhelp you?" Amalisa put her hands to her temples; she looked confused. "Please, Liandrin Sedai, I don't ... understand. It is all so... It's all..."
It was not a perfect ability; Liandrin could not force anyone to do what she wanted-though she had tried; oh, how she had tried. But she could open them wide to her arguments, make them want to believe her, want more than anything to be convinced of her rightness.
"Obey, daughter. Obey, and answer my questions truthfully, and I promise that no one will speak of you and Agelmar as Darkfriends. You will not be dragged naked through the streets, to be flogged from the city if the people do not tear you to pieces first. I will not let this happen. You understand?"
"Yes, Liandrin Sedai, yes. I will do as you say and answer you truly."
Liandrin straightened, looking down at the other woman. The Lady Amalisa stayed as she was, kneeling, her face as open as a child's, a child waiting to be comforted and helped by someone wiser and stronger. There was a rightness about it to Liandrin. She had never understood why a simple bow or curtsy was sufficient for Aes Sedai when men and women knelt to kings and queens. What queen has within her my power? Her mouth twisted angrily, and Amalisa shivered.
"Be easy in yourself, my daughter. I have come to help you, not to punish. Only those who deserve it will be punished. Truth only, speak to me."
"I will, Liandrin Sedai. I will, I swear it by my House and honor."
"Moiraine came to Fal Dara with a Darkfriend."
Amalisa was too frightened to show surprise. "Oh, no, Liandrin Sedai. No. That man came later. He is in the dungeons now."
"Later, you say. But it is true that she speaks often with him? She is often in company with this Darkfriend? Alone?"
"Ssometimes, Liandrin Sedai. Only sometimes. She wishes to find out why he came here. Moiraine Sedai is - " Liandrin held up her hand sharply, and Amalisa swallowed whatever else she had been going to say.
"By three young men Moiraine was accompanied. This I know. Where are they? I have been to their rooms, and they are not to be found."
"I - I do not know, Liandrin Sedai. They seem nice boys. Surely you don't think they are Darkfriends."
"Not Darkfriends, no. Worse. By far more dangerous than Darkfriends, my daughter. The entire world is in danger from them. They must be found. You will command your servants to search the keep, and your ladies, and yourself. Every crack and cranny. To this, you will see personally. Personally! And to no one will you speak of it, save those I name. None else may know. None. From Fal Dara in secrecy these young men must be removed, and to Tar Valon taken. In utter secrecy."
"As you command, Liandrin Sedai. But I do not understand the need for secrecy. No one here will hinder Aes Sedai."
"Of the Black Ajah you have heard?"
Amalisa's eyes bulged, and she leaned back away from Liandrin, raising her hands as though to shield herself from a blow. "A vvile rumor, Liandrin Sedai. Vvile. There are nno Aes Sedai who sserve the Dark One. I do not believe it. You must believe me! Under the Light, I sswear I do not believe it. By my honor and my House, I swear ..."
Coolly Liandrin let her go on, watching the last remaining strength leach out of the other woman with her own silence. Aes Sedai had been known to become angry, very angry, with those who even mentioned the Black Ajah much less those who said they believed in its hidden existence. After this, with her will already weakened by that little childhood trick, Amalisa would be as clay in her hands. After one more blow.
"The Black Ajah is real, child. Real, and here within Fal Dara's walls." Amalisa knelt there, her mouth hanging open. The Black Ajah. Aes Sedai who were also Darkfriends. Almost as horrible to learn the Dark One himself walked Fal Dara keep. But Liandrin would not let up now. "Any Aes Sedai in the halls you pass, a Black sister could be. This I swear. I cannot tell you which they are, but my protection you can have. If in the Light you walk and me obey."
"I will," Amalisa whispered hoarsely. "I will. Please, Liandrin Sedai, please say you will protect my brother, and my ladies ..."
"Who deserves protection I will protect. Concern yourself with yourself, my daughter. And think only of what I have commanded of you. Only that. The fate of the world rides on this, my daughter. All else you must forget."
Liandrin Sedai. Yes. Yes."
Liandrin turned and crossed the room, not looking back until she reached the door. Amalisa was still on her knees, still watching her anxiously. "Rise, my Lady Amalisa." Liandrin made her voice pleasant, with only a hint of the mocking she felt. Sister, indeed! Not one day as a novice would she last. And power to command she has. "Rise." Amalisa straightened in slow, stiff jerks, as if she had been bound hand and foot for hours. As she finally came upright, Liandrin said, the steel back in full strength, "And if you fail the world, if you fail me, that wretched Darkfriend in the dungeon will be your envy."
From the look on Amalisa's face, Liandrin did not think failure would come from any lack of effort on her part.
Pulling the door shut behind her, Liandrin suddenly felt a prickling across her skin. Breath catching, she whirled about, looking up and down the dimly lit hall. Empty. It was full night beyond the arrowslits. The hall was empty, yet she was sure there had been eyes on her. The vacant corridor, shadowy between the lamps on the walls, mocked her. She shrugged uneasily, then started down the hall determinedly. Fancies take me. Nothing more.
Full night already, and there was much to do before dawn. Her orders had been explicit.
Pitchblackness covered the dungeons whatever the hour, unless someone brought in a lantern, but Padan Fain sat on the edge of his cot, staring into the dark with a smile on his face. He could hear the other two prisoners grumbling in their sleep, muttering in nightmares. Padan Fain was waiting for something, something he had been awaiting for a long time. For too

The door to the outer guardroom opened, spilling in a flood of light, darkly outlining a figure in the doorway.
Fain stood. "You! Not who I expected." He stretched with a casualness he did not feel. Blood raced through his veins; he thought he could leap over the keep if he tried. "Surprises for everyone, eh? Well, come on. The night's getting old, and I want some sleep sometime."
As a lamp came into the cell chamber, Fain raised his head, grinning at something, unseen yet felt, beyond the dungeon's stone ceiling. "It isn't over yet," he whispered.
"The battle's never over."

(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 6
(Horned Skull)
Dark Prophecy
The farmhouse door shook under furious blows from outside; the heavy bar across the door jumped in its brackets. Beyond the window next to the door moved the heavymuzzled silhouette of a Trolloc. There were windows everywhere, and more shadowy shapes outside.

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