The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time 2) - Page 31

They had stood there watching him as if they had thought he might vanish in a puff of smoke like a gleeman. That had been when the first alarm bell rang, and everybody in the keep started running.

“Liandrin,” he muttered now. “Red Ajah. About all they do is hunt for men who channel. You don’t think she believes I’m one of those, do you?” Mat did not answer, of course. Perrin rubbed his nose ruefully. “Now I’m talking to myself. I don’t need that on top of everything else.”

Mat’s eyelids fluttered. “Who . . . ? Perrin? What happened?” His eyes did not open all the way, and his voice sounded as if he were still mostly asleep.

“Don’t you remember, Mat?”

“Remember?” Mat sleepily raised a hand toward his face, then let it fall again with a sigh. His eyes began to drift shut. “Remember Egwene. Asked me . . . go down . . . see Fain.” He laughed, and it turned into a yawn. “She didn’t ask. Told me. . . . Don’t know what happened after. . . .” He smacked his lips, and resumed the deep, even breathing of sleep.

Perrin leaped to his feet as his ears caught the sound of approaching footsteps, but there was nowhere to go. He was still standing there beside Mat’s bed when the door opened and Leane came in. She stopped, put her fists on her hips, and looked him slowly up and down. She was nearly as tall as he was.

“Now you,” she said, in tones quiet yet brisk, “are almost a pretty enough boy to make me wish I was a Green. Almost. But if you’ve disturbed my patient . . . well, I dealt with brothers almost as big as you before I went to the Tower, so you needn’t think those shoulders will help you any.”

Perrin cleared his throat. Half the time he did not understand what women meant when they said things. Not like Rand. He always knows what to say to the girls. He realized he was scowling and wiped it away. He did not want to think about Rand, but he certainly did not want to upset an Aes Sedai, especially one who was beginning to tap her foot impatiently. “Ah . . . I didn’t disturb him. He’s still sleeping. See?”

“So he is. A good thing for you. Now, what are you doing in here? I remember chasing you out once; you needn’t think I don’t.”

“I only wanted to know how he is.”

She hesitated. “He is sleeping is how he is. And in a few hours, he will get out of that bed, and you’ll think there was never anything wrong with him.”

The pause made his hackles rise. She was lying, somehow. Aes Sedai never lied, but they did not always tell the truth, either. He was not certain what was going on—Liandrin looking for him, Leane lying to him—but he thought it was time he got away from Aes Sedai. There was nothing he could do for Mat.

“Thank you,” he said. “I’d better let him sleep, then. Excuse me.”

He tried to slide around her to the door, but suddenly her hands shot out and grabbed his face, tilting it down so she could peer into his eyes. Something seemed to pass through him, a warm ripple that started at the top of his head and went to his feet, then came back again. He pulled his head out of her hands.

“You’re as healthy as a young wild animal,” she said, pursing her lips. “But if you were born with those eyes, I am a Whitecloak.”

“They’re the only eyes I ever had,” he growled. He felt a little abashed, speaking to an Aes Sedai in that tone, but he was as surprised as she when he took her gently by the arms and lifted her to one side, setting her down again out of his way. As they stared at each other, he wondered if his eyes were as wide with shock as hers. “Excuse me,” he said again, and all but ran.

My eyes. My Light-cursed eyes! The morning sunlight caught his eyes, and they glinted like burnished gold.

* * *

Rand twisted on his bed, trying to find a comfortable position on the thin mattress. Sunlight streamed through the arrowslits, painting the bare stone walls. He had not slept during the remainder of the night, and tired as he was, he was sure he could not sleep now. The leather jerkin lay on the floor between his bed and the wall, but aside from that he was fully dressed, even to his new boots. His sword stood propped beside the bed, and his bow and quiver rested in a corner across the bundled cloaks.

He could not rid himself of the feeling that he should take the chance Moiraine had given him and leave immediately. The urge had been with him all night. Three times he had risen to go. Twice he had gone as far as opening the door. The halls had been empty except for a few servants doing late chores; the way had been clear. But he had to know.

Perrin came in, head down and yawning, and Rand sat up. “How is Egwene? And Mat?”

“She’s asleep, so they tell me. They wouldn’t let me into the women’s apartments to see her. Mat is—” Suddenly Perrin scowled at the floor. “If you’re so interested, why haven’t you gone to see him yourself? I thought you were not interested in us anymore. You said you weren’t.” He pulled open his door of the wardrobe and began rummaging for a clean shirt.

“I did go to the infirmary, Perrin. There was an Aes Sedai there, that tall one who’s always with the Amyrlin Seat. She said Mat was asleep, and I was in the way, and I could come back some other time. She sounded like Master Thane ordering the men at the mill. You know how Master Thane is, all full of snap and do it right the first time, and do it right now.”

Perrin did not answer. He just shucked off his coat and pulled his shirt off over his head.

Rand studied his friend’s back for a moment, then dug up a laugh. “You want to hear something? You know what she said to me? The Aes Sedai in the infirmary, I mean. You saw how tall she is. As tall as most men. A hand taller, and she could almost look me in the eyes. Well, she stared me up and down, and then she muttered, ‘Tall, aren’t you? Where were you when I was sixteen? Or even thirty?’ And then she laughed, as if it was all a joke. What do you think of that?”

Perrin finished tugging on a clean shirt and gave him a sidelong look. With his burly shoulders and thick curls, he made Rand think of a hurt bear. A bear that did not understand why had he been hurt.

“Perrin, I’m—”

“If you want to make jokes with Aes Sedai,” Perrin broke in, “that’s up to you. My Lord.” He began stuffing his shirttail into his breeches. “I don’t spend much time being—witty; is that the word?—witty with Aes Sedai. But then, I’m only a clumsy blacksmith, and I might be in somebody’s way. My Lord.” Snatching his coat from the floor, he started for the door.

“Burn me, Perrin, I’m sorry. I was afraid, and I thought I was in trouble—maybe I was; maybe I still am, I don’t know—and I didn’t want you and Mat to be in it with me. Light, all the women were looking for me last night. I think that’s part of the trouble I’m in. I think so. And Liandrin. . . . She. . . .” He threw up his hands. “Perrin, believe me, you don’t want any part of this.”

Perrin had stopped, but he stood facing the door and only turned his head enough for Rand to see one golden eye. “Looking for you? Maybe they were looking for all of us.”

Tags: Robert Jordan The Wheel of Time Fantasy
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