The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 76



"She had to go on to Cairhien quickly, during the night."
Caldevwin's eyebrows lifted. "During the night? But my men ... Forgive me, my Lord Rand." He drew the younger officer aside, whispering furiously.
"He had the inn watched, Lord Rand," Hurin whispered. "The Lady Selene must have gotten past them unseen somehow."
Rand climbed to Red's saddle with a grimace. If there had been any chance Caldevwin did not suspect them of something, it seemed Selene had finished it. "Too many people, she says," he muttered. "There'll be more people by far in Cairhien."
"You said something, my Lord?"
Rand looked up as Tavolin joined him, mounted on a tall, dustcolored gelding. Hurin was in his saddle, too, and Loial stood beside his big horse's head. The soldiers were formed up in ranks. Caldevwin was nowhere to be seen."Nothing is happening the way I expect," Rand said.
Tavolin gave him a brief smile, hardly more than a twitch of his lips. "Shall we ride, my Lord?"
The strange procession headed for the hardpacked road that led to the city of Cairhien.

(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 22
(RubyHilted Dagger)
Watchers
"Nothing is happening as I expect," Moiraine muttered, not expecting an answer from Lan.
The long, polished table before her was littered with books and papers, scrolls and manuscripts, many of them dusty from long storage and tattered with age, some only fragments. The room seemed almost made of books and manuscripts, filling shelves except where there were doors or windows or the fireplace. The chairs were highbacked and well padded, but half of them, and most of the small tables, held books, and some had books and scrolls tucked under them. Only the clutter in front of Moiraine was hers, though.
moved to the window, peered into the night toward the lights of the village, not far off. No danger of pursuit here. No one would expect her to come here. Clear my head, and begin again, she thought. That is all there is to do.
None of the villagers had any suspicion that the two elderly sisters living in this snug house were Aes Sedai. One did not suspect such things in a small place like Tifan's Well, a farming community deep in the grassy plains of Arafel. The villagers came to the sisters for advice on their problems and cures for their ills, and valued them as women blessed by the Light, but no more. Adeleas and Vandene had gone into voluntary retreat together so long ago that few even in the White Tower remembered they still lived.
With the one equally aged Warder who remained to them, they lived quietly, still intending to write the history of the world since the Breaking, and as much as they could include of before. One day. In the meantime, there was so much information to gather, so many puzzles to solve. Their house was the perfect place for Moiraine to find the information she needed. Except that it was not there.
Movement caught her eye, and she turned. Lan was lounging against the yellow brick fireplace, as imperturbable as a boulder. "Do you remember the first time we met, Lan?"
She was watching for some sign, or she would not have seen the quick twitch of his eyebrow. It was not often she caught him by surprise. This was a subject neither of them ever mentioned; nearly twenty years ago she had told him - with all the stiff pride of one still young enough to be called young, she recalled - that she would never speak of it again and expected the same silence of him.
"I remember," was all he said.
"And still no apology, I suppose? You threw me into a pond." She did not smile, though she could feel amusement at it, now. "Every stitch I had was soaked, and in what you Bordermen call new spring. I nearly froze."
"I recall I built a fire, too, and hung blankets so you could warm yourself in privacy." He poked at the burning logs and returned the firetool to its hook. Even summer nights were cool in the Borderlands. "I also recall that while I slept that night, you dumped half the pond on me. It would have saved a great deal of shivering on both our parts if you had simply told me you were Aes Sedai rather than demonstrating it. Rather than trying to separate me from my sword. Not a good way to introduce yourself to a Borderman, even for a young woman."
"I was young, and alone, and you were as large then as you are now, and your fierceness more open. I did not want you to know I was Aes Sedai. It seemed to me at the time you might answer my questions more freely if you did not know." She fell silent for a moment, thinking of the years since that meeting. It had been good to find a companion to join her in her quest. "In the weeks that followed, did you suspect that I would ask you to bond to me? I decided you were the on

"I never guessed," he said dryly. "I was too busy wondering if I could escort you to Chachin and keep a whole skin. A different surprise you had for me every night. The ants I recall in particular. I don't think I had one good night's sleep that whole ride."
She permitted herself a small smile, remembering. "I was young," she repeated. "And does your bond chafe after all these years? You are not a man to wear a leash easily, even so light a one as mine."
It was a stinging comment; she meant it to be so.
"No." His voice was cool, but he took up the firetool again and gave the blaze a fierce poking it did not need. Sparks cascaded up the chimney. "I chose freely, knowing what it entailed." The iron rod clattered back onto its hook, and he made a formal bow. "Honor to serve, Moiraine Aes Sedai. It has been and will be so, always."
Moiraine sniffed. "Your humility, Lan Gaidin, has always been more arrogance than most kings could manage with their armies at their backs. From the first day I met you, it has been so."
"Why all this talk of days past, Moiraine?"
For the hundredth time - or so it seemed to her - she considered the words to use. "Before we left Tar Valon I made arrangements, should anything happen to me, for your bond to pass to another." He stared at her, silent. "When you feel my death, you will find yourself compelled to seek her out immediately. I do not want you to be surprised by it."
"Compelled," he breathed softly, angrily. "Never once have you used my bond to compel me. I thought you more than disapproved of that."
"Had I left this thing undone, you would be free of the bond at my death, and not even my strongest command to you would hold. I will not allow you to die in a useless attempt to avenge me. And I will not allow you to return to your equally useless private war in the Blight. The war we fight is the same war, if you could only see it so, and I will see that you fight it to some purpose. Neither vengeance nor an unburied death in the Blight will do."
"And do you foresee your death coming soon?" His voice was quiet, his face expressionless, both like stone in a dead winter blizzard. It was a manner she had seen in him many times, usually when he was on the point of violence. "Have you planned something, without me, that will see you dead?"
"I am suddenly glad there is no pond in this room," she murmured, then raised her hands when he stiffened, offended at her light tone. "I see my death in every day, as you do. How could I not, with the task we have followed these years? Now, with everything coming to a head, I must see it as even more possible."
For a moment he studied his hands, large and square. "I had never thought," he said slowly, "that I might not be the first of us to die. Somehow, even at the worst, it always seemed ..." Abruptly he scrubbed his hands against each other. "If there is a chance I might be given like a pet lapdog, I would at least like to know to whom I am being given."
"I have never seen you as a pet," Moiraine said sharply, "and neither does Myrelle."
"Myrelle." He grimaced. "Yes, she would have to be Green, or else some slip of a girl just raised to full sisterhood."
"If Myrelle can keep her three Gaidin in line, perhaps she has a chance to manage you. Though she would like to keep you, I know, she has promised to pass your bond to another when she finds one who suits you better."
"So. Not a pet but a parcel. Myrelle is to be a - a caretaker! Moiraine, not even the Greens treat their Warders so. No Aes Sedai has passed her Warder's bond to another in four hundred years, but you intend to do it to me not once, but twice!"
"It is done, and I will not undo it."
"The Light blind me, if I am to be passed from hand to hand, do you at least have some idea in whose hand I will end?"
"What I do is for your own good, and perhaps it may be for another's, as well. It may be that Myrelle will find a slip of a girl just raised to sisterhood - was that not what you said? - who needs a Warder hardened in battle and wise in the ways of the world, a slip of a girl who may need someone who will throw her into a pond. You have much to offer, Lan, and to see it wasted in an unmarked grave, or left to the ravens, when it could go to a woman who needs it would be worse than the sin of which the Whitecloaks prate.

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