The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 30



He did not want to think about Rand, but he certainly did not want to upset an Aes Sedai, especially one who was beginning to tap her foot impatiently. "Ah ... I didn't disturb him. He's still sleeping. See?"
"So he is. A good thing for you. Now, what are you doing in here? I remember chasing you out once; you needn't think I don't."
"I only wanted to know how he is."
She hesitated. "He is sleeping is how he is. And in a few hours, he will get out of that bed, and you'll think there was never anything wrong with him."
The pause made his hackles rise. She was lying, somehow. Aes Sedai never lied, but they did not always tell the truth, either. He was not certain what was going on - Liandrin looking for him, Leane lying to him - but he thought it was time he got away from Aes Sedai. There was nothing he could do for Mat.
you," he said. "I'd better let him sleep, then. Excuse me."
He tried to slide around her to the door, but suddenly her hands shot out and grabbed his face, tilting it down so she could peer into his eyes. Something seemed to pass through him, a warm ripple that started at the top of his head and went to his feet, then came back again. He pulled

"You're as healthy as a young wild animal," she said, pursing her lips. "But if you were born with those eyes, I am a Whitecloak."
"They're the only eyes I ever had," he growled. He felt a little abashed, speaking to an Aes Sedai in that tone, but he was as surprised as she when he took her gently by the arms and lifted her to one side, setting her down again out of his way. As they stared at each other, he wondered if his eyes were as wide with shock as hers. "Excuse me," he said again, and all but ran.
My eyes. My Lightcursed eyes! The morning sunlight caught his eyes, and they glinted like burnished gold.
Rand twisted on his bed, trying to find a comfortable position on the thin mattress. Sunlight streamed through the arrowslits, painting the bare stone walls. He had not slept during the remainder of the night, and tired as he was, he was sure he could not sleep now. The leather jerkin lay on the floor between his bed and the wall, but aside from that he was fully dressed, even to his new boots. His sword stood propped beside the bed, and his bow and quiver rested in a corner across the bundled cloaks.
He could not rid himself of the feeling that he should take the chance Moiraine had given him and leave immediately. The urge had been with him all night. Three times he had risen to go. Twice he had gone as far as opening the door. The halls had been empty except for a few servants doing late chores; the way had been clear. But he had to know.
Perrin came in, head down and yawning, and Rand sat up. "How is Egwene? And Mat?"
"She's asleep, so they tell me. They wouldn't let me into the women's apartments to see her. Mat is - " Suddenly Perrin scowled at the floor. "If you're so interested, why haven't you gone to see him yourself? I thought you were not interested in us anymore. You said you weren't." He pulled open his door of the wardrobe and began rummaging for a clean shirt.
"I did go to the infirmary, Perrin. There was an Aes Sedai there, that tall one who's always with the Amyrlin Seat. She said Mat was asleep, and I was in the way, and I could come back some other time. She sounded like Master Thane ordering the men at the mill. You know how Master Thane is, all full of snap and do it right the first time, and do it right now."
Perrin did not answer. He just shucked off his coat and pulled his shirt off over his head.
Rand studied his friend's back for a moment, then dug up a laugh. "You want to hear something? You know what she said to me? The Aes Sedai in the infirmary, I mean. You saw how tall she is. As tall as most men. A hand taller, and she could almost look me in the eyes. Well, she stared me up and down, and then she muttered, 'Tall, aren't you? Where were you when I was sixteen? Or even thirty?' And then she laughed, as if it was all a joke. What do you think of that?"
Perrin finished tugging on a clean shirt and gave him a sidelong look. With his burly shoulders and thick curls, he made Rand think of a hurt bear. A bear that did not understand why had he been hurt.
"Perrin, I'm -"
"If you want to make jokes with Aes Sedai," Perrin broke in, "that's up to you. My Lord." He began stuffing his shirttail into his breeches. "I don't spend much time being - witty; is that the word? - witty with Aes Sedai. But then, I'm only a clumsy blacksmith, and I might be in somebody's way. My Lord." Snatching his coat from the floor, he started for the door.
"Burn me, Perrin, I'm sorry. I was afraid, and I thought I was in trouble - maybe I was; maybe I still am, I don't know - and I didn't want you and Mat to be in it with me. Light, all the women were looking for me last night. I think that's part of the trouble I'm in. I think so. And Liandrin ... She ..." He threw up his hands. "Perrin, believe me, you don't want any part of this."
Perrin had stopped, but he stood facing the door and only turned his head enough for Rand to see one golden eye. "Looking for you? Maybe they were looking for all of us."
"No, they were looking for me. I wish they hadn't been, but I know better."
Perrin shook his head. "Liandrin wanted me, anyway, I know. I heard."
Rand frowned. "Why would she ...? It doesn't change anything. Look, I opened my mouth and said what I shouldn't. I did not mean it, Perrin. Now, please, would you tell me about Mat?"
"He's asleep. Leane - that's the Aes Sedai - said he would be on his feet in a few hours." He shrugged uncomfortably. "I think she was lying. I know Aes Sedai never lie, not so you can catch them, but she was lying, or keeping something back." He paused, looking at Rand sideways. "You didn't mean all that? We will leave here together? You, and me, and Mat?"
"I can't, Perrin. I can't tell you why, but I really do have to go by myse- Perrin, wait!"
The door slammed behind his friend.
Rand fell back on the bed. "I can't tell you," he muttered. He pounded his fist on the side of the bed. "I can't." But you can go now, a voice said in the back of his head. Egwene's going to be all right, and Mat will be up and around in an hour or two. You can go now. Before Moiraine changes her mind.
He started to sit up when a pounding on the door made him leap to his feet. If it was Perrin come back, he would not knock. The pounding came again.
s it?"
Lan strode in, pushing the door to behind him with his boot heel. As usual, he wore his sword over a plain coat of green that was nearly invisible in the woods. This time, though, he had a wide, golden cord tied high around his left arm, the fringed ends hanging almost to his elbow. On the knot was pinned a golden crane in flight, the symbol of Malkier.
"The Amyrlin Seat wants you, sheepherder. You can't go like that. Out of that shirt and brush your hair. You look like a haystack." He jerked open the wardrobe and began pawing through the clothes Rand meant to leave behind.
Rand stood stiff where he was; he felt as though he had been hit in the head with a hammer. He had expected it, of course, in a way, but he had been sure he would be gone before the summons came. She knows. Light, I'm sure of it. "What do you mean, she wants me? I'm leaving, Lan. You were right. I am going to the stable right now, get my horse, and leave."
"You should have done that last night." The Warder tossed a white silk shirt onto the bed. "No one refuses an audience with the Amyrlin Seat, sheepherder. Not the Lord Captain Commander of the Whitecloaks himself. Pedron Niall might spend the trip planning how to kill her, if he could do it and get away, but he would come." He turned around with one of the highcollared coats in his hands and held it up. "This one will do." Tangled, longthorned briars climbed each red sleeve in a thick, gold embroidered line, and ran around each cuff. Golden herons stood on the collars, which were edged with gold. "The color is right, too." He seemed to be amused at something, or satisfied. "Come on, sheepherder. Chang

Reluctantly Rand pulled the coarse wool workman's shirt over his head. "I'll feel a fool," he muttered. "A silk shirt! I never wore a silk shirt in my life. And I never wore so fancy a coat, either, even on a feastday." Light, if Perrin sees me in that ... Burn me, after all that fool talk about being a lord, if he sees me in that, he'll never listen to reason.
"You can't go before the Amyrlin Seat dressed like a groom fresh out of the stables, sheepherder. Let me see your boots. They'll do. Well, get on with it, get on with it. You don't keep the Amyrlin waiting. Wear your sword."
"My sword!" The silk shirt over his head muffled Rand's yelp. He yanked it the rest of the way on. "In the women's apartments? Lan, if I go for an audience with the Amyrlin Seat - the Amyrlin Seat! - wearing a sword, she'll - "
"Do nothing," Lan cut him off dryly. "If the Amyrlin is afraid of you - and it's smarter for you to think she isn't, because I don't know anything that could frighten that woman - it won't be for a sword.

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