The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt: Page 77

Yes, I think she will have need of you."
Lan's eyes widened slightly; for him it was the same as another man gasping in shocked surmise. She had seldom seen him so off balance. He opened his mouth twice before he spoke. "And who do you have in mind for this - "
She cut him off. "Are you sure the bond does not chafe, Lan Gaidin? Do you realize for the first time, only now, the strength of that bond, the depth of it? You could end with some budding White, all logic and no heart, or with a young Brown who sees you as nothing more than a pair of hands to carry her books and sketches. I can hand you where I will, like a parcel - or a lapdog - and you can do no more than go. Are you sure it does not chafe?"
"Is that what this has been for?" he grated. His eyes burned like blue fire, and his mouth twisted. Anger; for the first time ever that she had seen, open anger etched his face. "Has all this talk been a test - a test! - to see if you could make my bond rub? After all this time? From the day I pledged to you, I have ridden where you said ride, even when I thought it foolish, even when I had reason to ride another way. Never did you need my bond to force me. On your word I have watched you walk into danger and kept my hands at my sides when I wanted nothing more than to out sword and carve a path to safety for you. After this, you test me?"
"Not a test, Lan. I spoke plainly, not twisting, and I have done as I said. But at Fal Dara, I began to wonder if you were still wholly with me." A wariness entered his eyes. Lan, forgive me. I would not have cracked the walls you hold so hard, but I must know. "Why did you do as you did with Rand?" He blinked; it was obviously not what he expected. She knew what he had thought was coming, and she would not let up now that he was off balance. "You brought him to the Amyrlin speaking and acting as a Border lord and a soldier born. It fit, in a way, with what I planned for him, but you and I never spoke of teaching him any of that. Why, Lan?"
"It seemed ... right. A young wolfhound must meet his first wolf someday, but if the wolf sees him as a puppy, if he acts the puppy, the wolf will surely kill him. The wolfhound must be a wolfhound in the wolf's eyes even more than in his own, i

"Is that how you see Aes Sedai? The Amyrlin? Me? Wolves out to pull down your young wolfhound?" Lan shook his head. "You know what he is, Lan. You know what he must become. Must. What I have worked for since the day you and I met, and before. Do you now doubt what I do?"
"No. No, but ..." He was recovering himself, building his walls again. But they were not rebuilt yet. "How many times have you said that ta'veren pull those around them like twigs in a whirlpool? Perhaps I was pulled, too. I only know that it felt right. Those farm folk needed someone on their side. Rand did, at least. Moiraine, I believe in what you do, even as now, when I know not half of it; believe as I believe in you. I have not asked to be released from my bond, nor will I. Whatever your plans for dying and seeing me safely - disposed of - I will take great pleasure in keeping you alive and seeing those plans, at least, go for nothing."
"Ta'veren," Moiraine sighed. "Perhaps it was that. Rather than guiding a chip floating down a stream, I am trying to guide a log through rapids. Every time I push at it, it pushes at me, and the log grows larger the farther we go. Yet I must see it through to the end." She gave a little laugh. "I will not be unhappy, my old friend, if you manage to put those plans awry. Now, please leave me. I need to be alone to think." He hesitated only a moment before turning for the door. At the last moment, though, she could not let him go without one more question. "Do you ever dream of something different, Lan?"
"All men dream. But I know dreams for dreams. This" - he touched his sword hilt - "is reality." The walls were back, as high and hard as ever.
For a time after he left, Moiraine leaned back in her chair, looking into the fire. She thought of Nynaeve and cracks in a wall. Without trying, without thinking what she was doing, that young woman had put cracks in Lan's walls and seeded the cracks with creepers. Lan thought he was secure, imprisoned in his fortress by fate and his own wishes, but slowly, patiently, the creepers were tearing down the walls to bare the man within. Already he was sharing some of Nynaeve's loyalties; in the beginning he had been indifferent to the Emond's Field folk, except as people in whom Moiraine had some interest. Nynaeve had changed that as she had changed Lan.
To her surprise, Moiraine felt a flash of jealousy. She had never felt that before, certainly not for any of the women who had thrown their hearts at his feet, or those who had shared his bed. Indeed, she had never thought of him as an object of jealousy, had never thought so of any man. She was married to her battle, as he was married to his. But they had been companions in those battles for so long. He had ridden a horse to death, then run himself nearly to death, carrying her in his arms at the last, to Anaiya for Healing. She had tended his wounds more than once, keeping with her arts a life he had been ready to throw away to save hers. He had always said he was wedded with death. Now a new bride had captured his eyes, though he was blind to it. He thought he still stood strong behind his walls, but Nynaeve had laced bridal flowers in his hair. Would he still find himself able to court death so blithely? Moiraine wondered when he would ask her to release him from his bond. And what she would do when he did.
With a grimace, she got to her feet. There were more important matters. Far more important. Her eyes ran over the open books and papers crowding the room. So many hints, but no answers.
Vandene came in with a teapot and cups on a tray. She was slender and graceful, with a straight back, and the hair gathered neatly at the nape of her neck was almost white. The agelessness of her smooth face was that of long, long years. "I would have had Jaem bring this, and not disturb you myself, but he's out in the barn practicing with his sword."
She made a clucking sound as she pushed a battered manuscript aside to set the tray on the table. "Lan being here has him remembering he's more than a gardener and handyman. Gaidin are so stiffnecked. I thought Lan would still be here; that's why I brought an extra cup. Have you found what you were seeking?"
"I am not even sure what it is I am seeking." Moiraine frowned, studying the other woman. Vandene was of the Green Ajah, not Brown like her sister, yet the two of them had studied so long together that she knew as much of history as Adeleas.
"Whatever it is, you don't even seem to know where to look." Vandene shifted some of the books and manuscripts on the table, shaking her head. "So many subjects. The Trolloc Wars. The Watchers Over the Waves. The legend of the Return. Two treatises on the Horn of Valere. Three on dark prophecy, and - Light, here's Santhra's book on the Forsaken. Nasty, that. As nasty as this on Shadar Logoth. And the Prophecies of the Dragon, in three translations and the original. Moiraine, whatever are you after? The Prophecies, I can understand - we hear some news here, remote as we are. We hear some of what's happening in Illian. There's even a rumor in the village that someone has already found the Horn." She gestured with a manuscript on the Horn, and coughed in the dust that rose from it. "I discount that, of course. There would be rumors. But what -? No. You said you wanted privacy, and I'll give it to you."
"Stop a moment," Moiraine said, halting the other Aes Sedai short of the door. "Perhaps you can answer some questions for me."
"I will try." Vandene smiled suddenly. "Adeleas claims I should have chosen Brown. Ask." She poured two cups of tea and handed one to Moiraine, then took a chair by the fire.
Steam curled over the cups while Moiraine chose her questions carefully. To find the answers, and not reveal too much. "The Horn of Valere is not mentioned in the Prophecies, but is it linked to the Dragon anywhere?"
"No. Except for the fact that the Horn must be found before Tarmon Gai'don and that the Dragon Reborn is supposed to fight the Last Battle, there is no link between them at all." The whitehaired woman sipped her tea and waited.
"Does anything link the Dragon with Toman Head?"
Vandene hesitated. "Yes, and no. This is a bone between Adeleas and me." Her voice took on a lecturing tone, and for a time she did sound like a Brown. "There is a verse in the original that translates literally as 'Five ride forth, and four return. Above the watchers shall he proclaim himself, bannered cross the sky in fire ...' Well, it goes on. The point is, the word ma'vron. I say it should be translated not simply as 'watchers,' which is a'vron. Ma'vron has more importance to it. I say it means the Watchers Over the Waves, though they call themselves Do Miere A'vron, of course, not Ma'vron.

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