The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt: Page 50

You may send me news of what you find, if you find anything at all." Her eyes traveled around the towers overlooking the courtyard, and the ramparts and archers' balconies, still jammed with people, though silent now. The arrow had to have come from one of those places. "I think this bowman is already

"But, Mother -"
The woman in the palanquin cut him off with a sharp gesture of finality. Not even the Lord of Fal Dara could press the Amyrlin Seat too far. Her eyes came to rest on Egwene and Nynaeve, piercing eyes that seemed to Egwene to be seeing everything about herself that she wanted to keep secret. Egwene took a step back, then caught herself and dropped a curtsy, wondering if that were proper; no one had ever explained to her the protocol of meeting the Amyrlin Seat. Nynaeve kept her back straight and returned the Amyrlin's stare, but she fumbled for Egwene's hand and gripped as hard as Egwene did.
"So these are your two, Moiraine," the Amyrlin said. Moiraine gave the barest nod, and the other Aes Sedai turned to stare at the two women from Emond's Field. Egwene swallowed. They all looked as if they knew things, things other people did not, and it was no help at all to know that they truly did. "Yes, I sense a fine spark in each of them. But what will kindle from it? That's the question, isn't it?"
Egwene's mouth felt dry as dust. She had seen Master Padwhin, the carpenter back home, look at his tools much the same way as the Amyrlin was looking at the two of them. This one for this purpose, that one for that.
The Amyrlin said abruptly, "It is time we were gone. To horse. Lord Agelmar and I can say what needs be said without you all gawking like novices on a freeday. To horse!"
At her command the Warders scattered to their mounts, still wary, and the Aes Sedai, all but Leane, glided away from the palanquin to their own horses. As Egwene and Nynaeve turned to obey, a servant appeared at Lord Agelmar's shoulder with a silver chalice. Agelmar took it with a dissatisfied twist to his mouth.
"With this cup from my hand, Mother, take my wish that you fare well on this day, and every ..."
Whatever else they said was lost to Egwene as she scrambled onto Bela. By the time she had given the shaggy mare a pat, and arranged her skirts, the palanquin was already moving toward the open gates, its horses stepping without rein or lead. Leane rode beside the palanquin, her staff propped at her stirrup. Egwene and Nynaeve brought their horses along behind with the rest of the Aes Sedai.
Roars and cheers from the crowds lining the town streets greeted the procession, all but drowning the thunder of the drummers and the blare of the trumpeters. Warders led the column, with the banner bearing the White Flame waving in ripples, and rode guard around the Aes Sedai, keeping the mass of people back; archers and pikemen, the Flame blazoned on their chests, followed behind in precise ranks. The trumpets fell silent as the column wound its way out of the town and turned southward, yet the sounds of cheering from within the town followed still. Egwene glanced back often, until trees and hills hid Fal Dara's walls and towers.
Nynaeve, riding alongside, shook her head. "Rand will be all right. He has Lord Ingtar and twenty lances with him. In any case, there is nothing you can do about it. Nothing either of us can do." She glanced toward Moiraine; the Aes Sedai's trim white mare and Lan's tall black stallion made an odd pair off to one side by themselves. "Not yet."
The column angled westward as it traveled, and it did not cover the ground quickly. Even footmen in half armor could not move fast through the Shienaran hills, not and maintain the pace for long. Still, they pushed as hard as they could.
Camps came late each night, the Amyrlin allowing no stop until barely enough light remained to pitch the tents, flattened white domes just tall enough to stand in. Each pair of Aes Sedai from the same Ajah had one, while the Amyrlin and the Keeper had tents to themselves. Moiraine shared the tent of her two sisters of the Blue. The soldiers slept on the ground in their own encampment, and the Warders wrapped themselves in their cloaks near the tents of the Aes Sedai to whom they were bonded. The tent shared by the Red sisters looked oddly lonely without any Warders, while that of the Greens seemed almost festive, the two Aes Sedai often sitting outside long past dark to talk with the four Warders they had brought between them.
Lan came once to the tent Egwene shared with Nynaeve, taking the Wisdom into the night a little distance away. Egwene peered around the tent flap to watch. She could not hear what they said, except that Nynaeve eventually erupted in anger and came stalking back to wrap herself in her blankets and refuse to talk at all. Egwene thought her cheeks were wet, though she hid her face with a corner of her blanket. Lan stood watching the tent from the darkness for a long time before he went away. After that he did not come again.
Moiraine did not come near them, giving them only a nod in passing. She seemed to spend her waking hours speaking with the other Aes Sedai, all but the Red sisters, drawing them aside one by one as they rode. The Amyrlin allowed few stops for rest, and those short.
"Maybe she doesn't have time for us anymore," Egwene observed sadly. Moiraine was the one Aes Sedai she knew. Perhaps - though she did not like to admit it - the only one she was sure she could trust. "She found us, and we are on our way to Tar Valon. I suppose she has other things to concern her, now."
Nynaeve snorted softly. "I'll believe she is done with us when she's dead - or we are. She is sly, that one."
Other Aes Sedai came to their tent. Egwene almost jumped out of her skin that first night out of Fal Dara, when the tent flap was pushed aside and a plump, squarefaced Aes Sedai, with graying hair and a vaguely distracted look in her dark eyes, ducked into their tent. She glanced at the lantern hanging at the highest point of the tent, and the flame rose a little higher. Egwene thought she felt something, thought she almost saw something about the Aes Sedai when the flame grew brighter. Moiraine had told her that one day - when she had more training - she would be able to see when another woman channeled, and to tell a woman who could channel even if she did nothing.
"I am Verin Mathwin," the woman said with a smile. "And you are Egwene al'Vere and Nynaeve al'Maera. From the Two Rivers, which was once Manetheren. Strong blood, that. It sings."
Egwene exchanged glances with Nynaeve as they got to their feet.
"Is this a summons to the Amyrlin Seat?" Egwene asked.
Verin laughed. The Aes Sedai had a smudge of ink on her nose. "Oh, my, no. The Amyrlin has more important things to deal with than two young women who are not even novices yet. Although, you never can tell. You both have considerable potential, especially you, Nynaeve. One day ..." She paused, rubbing a finger thoughtfully right atop the ink smudge. "But this is not one day. I am here to give you a lesson, Egwene. You have been poking in ahead o

Nervously, Egwene looked at Nynaeve. "What have I done? Nothing that I'm aware of."
"Oh, nothing wrong. Not exactly. Somewhat dangerous, perhaps, but not exactly wrong." Verin lowered herself to the canvas floor, folding her legs under her. "Sit, both of you. Sit. I don't mean to crane my neck." She shifted around until she had a comfortable position. "Sit."
Egwene settled crosslegged across from the Aes Sedai and did her best not to look at Nynaeve. No need to look guilty until I know if I am. And maybe not then. "What is it I've done that's dangerous but not exactly wrong?"
"Why, you've been channeling the Power, child."
Egwene could only gape. Nynaeve burst out, "That is ridiculous. Why are we going to Tar Valon, if not for that?"
"Moiraine has ... I mean, Moiraine Sedai has been giving me lessons," Egwene managed.
Verin held up her hands for quiet, and they fell silent. She might seem vague, but she was Aes Sedai, after all. "Child, do you think Aes Sedai immediately teach every girl who says she wants to be one of us how to channel? Well, I suppose you are not exactly every girl, but just the same ..." She shook her head gravely.
"Then why did she?" Nynaeve demanded. There had been no lessons for her, and Egwene was still not sure if it rankled Nynaeve or not.
"Because Egwene had already channeled," Verin said patiently.
"So ... So have I." Nynaeve did not sound happy about it.
"Your circumstances are different, child. That you are still alive shows you weathered the various crises, and did it on your own. I think you know how lucky you are. Of every four women forced to do what you did, only one survives. Of course, wilders - " Verin grimaced. "Forgive me, but I am afraid that is what we in the White Tower often call women who, without any training, have managed some rough control - random, and barely enough to be called control, usually, like you, but still control of a sort.

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