The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 35



She stiffened her legs to keep from stepping back, and met him glare for glare.
"The Dark One take Rand al'Thor and the Amyrlin Seat both," he grated, pressing something into her hand. "I will make you a gift and you will take it if I have to chain it around your neck."
She pulled her eyes away from his. He had a stare like a blueeyed hawk when he was angry. In her hand was a signet ring, heavy gold and worn with age, almost large enough for both her thumbs to fit through. On it, a crane flew above a lance and crown, all carefully wrought in detail. Her breath caught. The ring of Malkieri kings. Forgetting to glare, she lifted her face. "I cannot take this, Lan."
He shrugged in an offhand way. "It is nothing. Old, and useless, now. But there are those who would know it when they saw it. Show that, and you will have guestright, and help if you need it, from any lord in the Borderlands. Show it to a Warder, and he will give aid, or carry a message to me. Send it to me, or a message marked with it, and I will come to you, without delay and without fail. This I swear."
Her vision blurred at the edges. If I cry now, I will kill myself." I can't... I do not want a gift from you, al'Lan Mandragoran. Here, take it."
He fended off her attempts to give the ring back to him. His hand enveloped hers, gentle but firm as a shackle. "Then take it for my sake, as a favor to me. Or throw it away, if it displeases you. I've no better use for it." He brushed her cheek with a finger, and she gave a start. "I must go now, Nynaeve mashiara. The Amyrlin wishes to leave before midday, and there is much yet to be done. Perhaps we will have time to talk on the journey to Tar Valon." He turned and was gone, striding down the hall.
Nynaeve touched her cheek. She could still feel where he had touched her. Mashiara. Beloved of heart and soul, it meant, but a love lost, too. Lost beyond regaining. Fool woman! Stop acting like a girl with her hair still not braided. It's no use letting him make you feel ...
Clutching the ring tightly, she turned around, and jumped when she found herself facetoface with Moiraine. "How long have you been there?" she demanded.
ong enough to hear anything I should not have," the Aes Sedai replied smoothly. "We will be leaving soon. I heard that. You must see to your packing."
Leaving. It had not penetrated when Lan said it. "I will have to say goodbye to the boys," she muttered, then gave Moiraine a sharp look. "What have you done to Rand? He was taken to the Amyrlin. Why? Did you tell her about - about ... ?" She could not say it. He was from her own village, and she was just enough older than he to have looked after him a time or two when he was little, but she could not even think about what he had become wit

"The Amyrlin will be seeing all three, Nynaeve. Ta'veren are not so common that she would miss the chance to see three together in one place. Perhaps she will give them a few words of encouragement, since they are riding with Ingtar to hunt those who stole the Horn. They will be leaving about the time we do, so you had better hurry with any farewells."
Nynaeve dashed to the nearest arrowslit and peered down at the outer courtyard. Horses were everywhere, pack animals and saddle horses, and men hurrying about them, calling to each other. The only clear space was where the Amyrlin's palanquin stood, its paired horses waiting patiently without any attendants. Some of the Warders were out there, looking over their mounts, and on the other side of the courtyard, Ingtar stood with a knot of Shienarans around him in armor. Sometimes a Warder or one of Ingtar's men crossed the paving stones to exchange a word: "I should have gotten the boys away from you," she said, still looking out. Egwene, too, if I could do it without killing her. Light, why did she have to be born with this cursed ability? "I should have taken them back home."
"They are more than old enough to be off apron strings," Moiraine said dryly.
"And you know very well why you could never do that. For one of them, at least. Besides, it would mean leaving Egwene to go to Tar Valon alone. Or have you decided to forgo Tar Valon yourself? If your own use of the Power is not schooled, you will never be able to use it against me."
Nynaeve spun to face the Aes Sedai, her jaw dropping. She could not help it. "I don't know what you are talking about."
"Did you think I did not know, child? Well, as you wish it. I take it that you are coming to Tar Valon? Yes, I thought so."
Nynaeve wanted to hit her, to knock away the brief smile that flashed across the Aes Sedai's face. Aes Sedai had not been able to wield power openly since the Breaking, much less the One Power, but they plotted and manipulated, pulled strings like puppetmasters, used thrones and nations like stones on a stones board. She wants to use me, too, somehow. If a king or a queen, why not a Wisdom? Just the way she's using Rand, I'm no child, Aes Sedai.
"What are you doing with Rand, now? Have you not used him enough? I don't know why you have not had him gentled, now the Amyrlin's here with all those other Aes Sedai, but you must have a reason. It must be some plot you're hatching. If the Amyrlin knew what you were up to, I wager she'd - "
Moiraine cut her off. "What possible interest could the Amyrlin have in a shepherd? Of course, if he were brought to her attention in the wrong way, he might be gentled, or even killed. He is what he is, after all. And there is considerable anger about last night. Everyone is looking for whom to blame." The Aes Sedai fell silent, and let the silence stretch. Nynaeve stared at her, grinding her teeth.
"Yes," Moiraine said finally, "much better to let a sleeping lion sleep. Best you see to your packing, now." She moved off in the direction Lan had gone, seeming to glide across the floor.
Grimacing, Nynaeve swung her fist back against the wall; the ring dug at her palm. She opened her hand to look at it. The ring seemed to heat her anger, focus her hate. I will learn. You think because you know, you can escape me. But I will learn better than you think, and I will pull you down for what you've done. For what you've done to Mat, and to Perrin. For Rand, the Light help him and the Creator shelter him. Especially for Rand. Her hand closed around the heavy circlet of gold. And for me.
Egwene watched the liveried maid folding her dresses into a leathercovered travel chest, still a little uncomfortable, even after nearly a month's practice, with someone else doing what she could very well have done herself. They were such beautiful dresses, all gifts from the Lady Amalisa, just like the gray silk riding dress she wore, though that was plain except for a few white morningstar blossoms worked on the breast. Many of the dresses were much more elaborate. Any one of them would shine at Sunday, or at Bel Tine. She sighed, remembering that she would be in Tar Valon for the next Sunday, not Emond's Field. From the little Moiraine had told her of novice training-almost nothing, really-she expected she might not be home for Bel Tine, in the spring, or even the Sunday after that.
Nynaeve put her head into the room. "Are you ready?" She came the rest of the way in. "We must be down in the courtyard soon." She wore a riding dress, too, in blue silk with red loversknots on the bosom. Another gift from Amalisa.
"Nearly, Nynaeve. I am almost sorry to be going. I don't suppose we'll have many chances in Tar Valon to wear the nice dresses Amalisa gave us." She gave an abrupt laugh. "Still, Wisdom, I won't miss being able to bathe without looking over my shoulder the whole time."
"Much better to bathe alone," Nynaeve said briskly. Her face did not change, but after a moment her cheeks colored.
Egwene smiled. She's thinking about Lan. It was still odd to think of Nynaeve, the Wisdom, mooning after a man. She did not think it would be wise to put it to Nynaeve in quite that way, but of late, sometimes the Wisdom acted as strangely as any girl who had set her heart on a particular man. And one who doesn't have enough sense to be worthy of her, at that. She loves him, and I can see he loves her, so why can't he have sense enough to speak up?
"I don't think you should call me Wisdom any longer," Nynaeve said suddenly.
Egwene blinked. It was not required, exactly, and Nynaeve never insisted on it unless she was angry, or being formal, but this ... "Why ever not?"
"You are a woman, now." Nynaeve glanced at her unbraided hair, and Egwene resisted the urge to hurriedly twist it into a semblance of a braid. Aes Sedai wore their hair any way they wanted, but wearing hers loose had become a symbol of starting on a new life. "You are a woman," Nynaeve repeated firmly. "We are two women, a long way from Emond's Field, and it will be longer still before we see home again. It will be better if you simply call me Nynaeve."
"We will see home again, Nynaeve. We will."
"Don't try to comfort the Wisdom, girl," Nynaeve said gruffly, but she smiled.

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