The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 36




There was a knock at the door, but before Egwene could open it, Nisura came in, agitation all over her face. "Egwene, that young man of yours is trying to come into the women's apartments." She sounded scandalized. "And wearing a sword. Just because the Amyrlin let him enter that way ... Lord Rand should know better. He is causing an uproar. Egwene, you

"Lord Rand," Nynaeve snorted. "That young man is growing too big for his breeches. When I get my hands on him, I'll lord him."
Egwene put a hand on Nynaeve's arm. "Let me speak to him, Nynaeve. Alone."
"Oh, very well. The best of men are not much better than housebroken." Nynaeve paused, and added half to herself, "But then, the best of them are worth the trouble of housebreaking."
Egwene shook her head as she followed Nisura into the hall. Even half a year before, Nynaeve would never have added the second part. But she'll never housebreak Lan. Her thoughts turned to Rand. Causing an uproar, was he? "Housebreak him?" she muttered. "If he hasn't learned manners by this time, I'll skin him alive."
"Sometimes that is what it takes," Nisura said, walking quickly. "Men are never more than halfcivilized until they're wedded." She gave Egwene a sidelong glance. "Do you intend to marry Lord Rand? I do not mean to pry, but you are going to the White Tower, and Aes Sedai seldom wed - none but some of the Green Ajah, that I've ever heard, and not many of them - and ..."
Egwene could supply the rest. She had heard the talk in the women's apartments about a suitable wife for Rand. At first it had caused stabs of jealousy, and anger. He had been all but promised to her since they were children. But she was going to be an Aes Sedai, and he was what he was. A man who could channel. She could marry him. And watch him go mad, watch him die. The only way to stop it would be to have him gentled. I can't do that to him. I can't! "I do not know," she said sadly.
Nisura nodded. "No one will poach where you have a claim, but you are going to the Tower, and he will make a good husband. Once he has been trained. There he is."
The women gathered around the entrance to the women's apartments, both inside and out, were all watching three men in the hallway outside. Rand, with his sword buckled over his red coat, was being confronted by Agelmar and Kajin. Neither of them wore a sword; even after what had happened in the night, these were still the women's apartments. Egwene stopped at the back of the crowd.
"You understand why you cannot go in," Agelmar was saying. "I know that things are different in Andor, but you do understand?"
"I didn't try to go in." Rand sounded as if he had explained all this more than once already. "I told the Lady Nisura I wanted to see Egwene, and she said Egwene was busy, and I'd have to wait. All I did was shout for her from the door. I did not try to enter. You'd have thought I was naming the Dark One, the way they all started in on me."
"Women have their own ways," Kajin said. He was tall for a Shienaran, almost as tall as Rand, lanky and sallow. His topknot was black as pitch. "They set the rules for the women's apartments, and we abide by them even when they are foolish." A number of eyebrows were raised among the women, and he hastily cleared his throat. "You must send a message in if you wish to speak to one of the women, but it will be delivered when they choose, and until it is, you must wait. That is our custom."
"I have to see her," Rand said stubbornly. "We're leaving soon. Not soon enough for me, but I still have to see Egwene. We will get the Horn of Valere and the dagger back, and that will be the end of it. The end of it. But I want to see her before I go." Egwene frowned; he sounded odd.
"No need to be so fierce," Kajin said. "You and Ingtar will find the Horn, or not. And if not, then another will retrieve it. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, and we are but threads in the Pattern."
"Do not let the Horn seize you, Rand," Agelmar said. "It can take hold of a man - I know how it can - and that is not the way. A man must seek duty, not glory. What will happen, will happen. If the Horn of Valere is meant to be sounded for the Light, then it will be."
"Here is your Egwene," Kajin said, spotting her.
Agelmar looked around, and nodded when he saw her with Nisura. "I will leave you in her hands, Rand al'Thor. Remember, here, her words are law, not yours. Lady Nisura, do not be too hard on him. He only wished to see his young woman, and he does not know our ways."
Egwene followed Nisura as the Shienaran woman threaded her way through the watching women. Nisura inclined her head briefly to Agelmar and Kajin; she pointedly did not include Rand. Her voice was tight. "Lord Agelmar. Lord Kajin. He should know this much of our ways by now, but he is too big to spank, so I will let Egwene deal with him."
Agelmar gave Rand a fatherly pat on the shoulder. "You see. You will speak with her, if not exactly in the way you wished.
Come, Kajin. We have much to see to yet. The Amyrlin still insists on ..." His voice trailed away as he and the other man left. Rand stood there, looking at Egwene.
The women were still watching, Egwene realized. Watching her as well as Rand. Waiting to see what she would do. So I'm supposed to deal with him, am I? Yet she felt her heart going out to him. His hair needed brushing. His face showed anger, defiance, and weariness. "Walk with me," she told him. A murmur started up behind them as he walked down the hall beside her, away from the women's apartments. Rand seemed to be struggling with himself, hunting for what to say.
"I've heard about your ... exploits," she said finally. "Running through the women's apartments last night with a sword. Wearing a sword to an audience with the Amyrlin Seat." He still said nothing, only walked along frowning at the floor. "She didn't ... hurt you, did she?" She could not make herself ask if he had been gentled; he looked anything but gentle, but she had no idea what a man looked like afterwards.
He gave a jerk. "No. She didn't ... Egwene, the Amyrlin ..." He shook his head. "She didn't hurt me."
She had the feeling he had been going to say something else entirely. Usually she could ferret out whatever he wanted to hide from her, but when he really wanted to be stubborn, she could more easily dig a brick out of a wall with her fingernails. By the set of his jaw, he was at his most stubborn right now.
"What did she want with you, Rand?"
ng important. Ta'veren. She wanted to see ta'veren. " His face softened as he looked down at her. "What about you, Egwene? Are you all right? Moiraine said you would be, but you were so still. I thought you w

"Well, I'm not." She laughed. She could not remember anything that had happened after she had asked Mat to go to the dungeons with her, not until waking in her own bed that morning. From what she had heard of the night, she was almost glad she could not remember. "Moiraine said she would have left me a headache for being foolish if she could have Healed the rest and not that, but she couldn't."
"I told you Fain was dangerous," he muttered. "I told you, but you wouldn't listen."
"If that's the way you are going to talk," she said firmly, "I will give you back to Nisura. She won't talk to you the way I am. The last man who tried to push his way into the women's apartments spent a month up to his elbows in soapy water, helping with the women's laundry, and he was only trying to find his betrothed and make up an argument. At least he knew enough not to wear his sword. The Light knows what they'd do to you."
"Everybody wants to do something to me," he growled. "Everybody wants to use me for something. Well, I won't be used. Once we find the Horn, and Mat's dagger, I'll never be used again."
With an exasperated grunt, she caught his shoulders and made him face her. She glared up at him. "If you don't start talking sense, Rand al'Thor, I swear I will box your ears."
"Now you sound like Nynaeve." He laughed. As he looked down at her, though, his laughter faded. "I suppose - I suppose I'll never see you again. I know you have to go to Tar Valon. I know that. And you'll become an Aes Sedai. I am done with Aes Sedai, Egwene. I won't be a puppet for them, not for Moiraine, or any of them."
He looked so lost she wanted to put his head on her shoulder, and so stubborn she really did want to box his ears. "Listen to me, you great ox. I am going to be an Aes Sedai, and I'll find a way to help you. I will."
"The next time you see me, you will likely want to gentle me."
She looked around hastily; they were alone in their stretch of the hall. "If you don't watch your tongue, I will not be able to help you. Do you want everyone to know?"
"Too many know already," he said. "Egwene, I wish things were different, but they aren't. I wish ... Take care of yourself. And promise me you won't choose the Red Ajah."
Tears blurred her vision as she threw her arms around him.

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