The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 67



Her voice sounded strained, as though she found it hard to breathe. "They said you learned quickly. And they said it took your temper burning to get to the heart of what you can do." She took a struggling breath. "Shall we release each oth

Nynaeve, floating in the air with her eyes ablaze, said, "You let me go right now, or I'll-" Abruptly a look of amazement came over her face, a look of loss. Her mouth worked slently.
The Amyrlin sat up, working her shoulders. "You don't know everything yet, do you, child? Not the hundredth part of everything. You did not suspect I could cut you off from the True Source. You can still feel it there, but you can't touch it any more than a fish can touch the moon. When you learn enough to be raised to full sisterhood, no one woman will be able to do that to you. The stronger you become, the more Aes Sedai it will take to shield you against your will. Do you think, now, you want to learn?" Nynaeve pressed her mouth shut in a thin line and stared her in the eye grimly. The Amyrlin sighed. "If you had a hair less potential than you do, child, I would send you to the Mistress of Novices and tell her to keep you the rest of your life. But you will get what you deserve."
Nynaeve's eyes widened, and she had just time to start a yell before she dropped, hitting her bed with a loud thud. Egwene winced; the mattresses were thin, and the wood beneath hard. Nynaeve's face stayed frozen as she shifted the way she sat, just a fraction.
"And now," the Amyrlin said firmly, "unless you would like further demonstration, we will get on with your lesson. Continue your lesson, we might say."
"Mother?" Egwene said faintly. She still could not twitch below her chin.
The Amyrlin looked at her questioningly, then smiled. "Oh. I am sorry, child. Your friend was occupying my attention, I'm afraid." Suddenly Egwene could move again; she raised her arms, just to convince herself that she could. "Are you both ready to learn?"
"Yes, Mother," Egwene said quickly.
The Amyrlin raised an eyebrow at Nynaeve.
After a moment, Nynaeve said in a tight voice, "Yes, Mother."
Egwene heaved a sigh of relief.
"Good. Now, then. Empty your thoughts of everything but a flower bud."
Egwene was sweating by the time the Amyrlin left. She had thought some of the other Aes Sedai had been hard teachers, but that smiling, plainfaced woman coaxed out every last drop of effort, drew it out, and when there was nothing left, she seemed to reach into you and pulled it out. It had gone well, though. As the door closed behind the Amyrlin, Egwene raised one hand; a tiny flame sprang to life, balanced a hairbreadth above the tip of her forefinger, then danced from fingertip to fingertip. She was not supposed to do this without a teacher - one of the Accepted, at the very least - to watch over her, but she was too excited at her progress to pay any mind to that.
Nynaeve bounded to her feet and threw her pillow at the closing door. "That - that vile, contemptible, miserable - hag! The Light burn her! I'd like to feed her to the fish. I'd like to dose her with things that would turn her green for the rest of her life! I don't care if she's old enough to be my mother, if I had her in Emond's Field, she wouldn't sit down comfortably for ..." Her teeth ground so loudly that Egwene jumped.
Letting the flame die, Egwene put her eyes firmly on her lap. She wished she could think of a way to sneak out of the room without catching Nynaeve's eye.
The lesson had not gone well for Nynaeve, because she had held her temper on a tight lead until the Amyrlin was gone. She never could do very much unless she was angry, and then it all burst out of her. After failure upon failure, the Amyrlin had done everything she could to rouse her again. Egwene wished Nynaeve could forget she had been there to see or hear any of it.
Nynaeve stalked stiffly to her bed and stood staring at the wall behind it, her fist clenched at her side. Egwene looked longingly at the door.
"It was not your fault," Nynaeve said, and Egwene gave a start.
"Nynaeve, I - "
Nynaeve turned to look down at her. "It was not your fault," she repeated, sounding unconvinced. "But if you ever breathe one word, I'll - I'll ..."Not a word," Egwene said quickly. "I don't even remember anything to breathe a word about."
Nynaeve stared at her a moment longer, then nodded. Abruptly she grimaced. "Light, I did not think anything tasted worse than raw sheepstongue root. I'll remember that, the next time you act the goose, so watch yourself."
Egwene winced. That had been the first thing the Amyrlin had done trying to rouse Nynaeve's anger. A dark glob of something that glistened like grease and smelled vile had suddenly appeared and, while the Amyrlin held Nynaeve with the Power, had been forced into the Wisdom's mouth. The Amyrlin had even held her nose to make her swallow. And Nynaeve remembered things, if she had seen them done once. Egwene did not think there was any way of stopping her if she took it into her mind to do it; for all her own success in making a flame dance, she could never have held the Amyrlin against a wall. "At least being on the ship isn't making you sick anymore."
Nynaeve grunted, then gave a short, sharp laugh. "I'm too angry to be sick." With another mirthless laugh, she shook her head. "I'm too miserable to be sick. Light, I feel as if I've been dragged through a knothole backwards. If that is what novice training is like, you will have incentive to learn quickly."
Egwene scowled at her knees. Compared to Nynaeve, the Amyrlin had only coaxed her, smiled at her successes, sympathized with her failures, then coaxed again. But all the Aes Sedai had said things would be different in the White Tower; harder, though they would not say how.
If she had to go through what Nynaeve had, day after day, she did not think she could stand it.
anged in the motion of the ship. The rocking eased, and feet thumped on the deck above their heads. A man shouted something Egwene could not quite make out.
She looked up at Nynaeve. "Do you think ... Tar Valon?"
"There is only one way to find out," Nynaeve replied, and determinedly took her cloak from its peg.
When they reached the deck, sailors were running everywhere, heaving at lines, shortening sail, readying long sweeps. The wind had died to a breeze, and the clouds were scattering, now.
Egwene rushed to the rail. "It is! It is Tar Valon!" Nynaeve joined her with an expressionless face.
The island was so big it looked more as if the river split in two than contained a bit of land. Bridges that seemed to be made of lace arched from either bank to the island, crossing marshy ground as well as the river. The walls of the city, the Shining Walls of Tar Valon, glistened white as the sun broke through the clouds. And on the west bank, its broken top leaking a thin wisp of smoke, Dragonmount reared black against the sky, one mountain standing among flat lands and rolling hills. Dragonmount, where the Dragon had died. Dragonmount, made

Egwene wished she did not think of Rand when she looked at the mountain. A man channeling. Light, help him.
The River Queen passed through a wide opening in a tall, circular wall that thrust out into the river. Inside, one long wharf surrounded a round harbor. Sailors furled the last sails and used sweeps alone to move the ship sternfirst to its docking. Around the long wharf, the other ships that had come downriver were now being snugged into their berths among the ships already there. The White Flame banner set workers scurrying along the already busy wharf.
The Amyrlin came on deck before the shore lines were tied off, but dockworkers ran a gangplank aboard as soon as she appeared. Leane walked at her side, flametipped staff in hand, and the other Aes Sedai on the ship followed them ashore. None of them so much as glanced at Egwene or Nynaeve. On the wharf a delegation greeted the Amyrlin-shawled Aes Sedai, bowing formally, kissing the Amyrlin's ring. The wharf bustled, between ships unloading and the Amyrlin Seat arriving; soldiers formed up on disembarking, men set booms for cargo; trumpet flourishes rang from the walls, competing with cheers from the onlookers.
Nynaeve gave a loud sniff. "It seems they've forgotten us. Come along. We'll see to ourselves."
Egwene was reluctant to leave her first sight of Tar Valon, but she followed Nynaeve below to gather their things. When they came back topside, bundles in their arms, soldiers and trumpets were gone - and Aes Sedai, too. Men were swinging back hatches along the deck and lowering cables into the holds.
On the deck, Nynaeve caught a dockman's arm, a burly fellow in a coarse brown shirt with no sleeves. "Our horses," she began.
"I'm busy," he growled, pulling free. "Horses'll all be took to the White Tower." He looked them up and down. "If you've business with the Tower, best you take yourselves on. Aes Sedai don't hold with newlings being tardy." Another man, wrestling with a bale being swung out of the hold on a cable, shouted to him, and he left the women without a backwards glance.

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