The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time 2) - Page 144

“I do,” Rand said. He wondered what lives Mat had lived, and what he had done. He must have told someone, or he wouldn’t be so anxious about it. He could not hold it against him. Those had been other Mats, not this one. Besides, after some of the alternatives he had seen for himself. . . . “I believe you. Perrin?”

The curly-haired youth dropped his hands from his face with a sigh. Red marks scored his forehead and cheeks where his nails had dug in. His yellow eyes hid his thoughts. “We don’t have many choices really, do we, Rand? Whatever happens, whatever we do, some things are almost always the same.” He let out another long breath. “Where are we? Is this one of those worlds you and Hurin were talking about?”

“It’s Toman Head,” Rand told him. “In our world. Or so Verin says. And it is autumn.”

Mat looked worried. “How could—? No, I don’t want to know how it happened. But how are we going to find Fain and the dagger now? He could be anywhere by this time.”

“He’s here,” Rand assured him. He hoped he was right. Fain had had time to take ship for anyplace he wanted to go. Time to ride to Emond’s Field. Or Tar Valon. Please, Light, he didn’t get tired of waiting. If he’s hurt Egwene, or anybody in Emond’s Field, I’ll. . . . Light burn me, I tried to come in time.

“The larger towns on Toman Head are all west of here,” Verin announced loudly enough for all to hear. Everyone was on their feet again, except for Rand and his two friends; she came and put her hands on Mat as she spoke. “Not that there are many villages large enough to call towns. If we are to find any trace of the Darkfriends, to the west is the place to begin. And I think we should not waste the daylight sitting here.”

When Mat blinked and stood up—he still looked ill, but he moved spryly—she put her hands on Perrin. Rand backed away when she reached for him.

“Don’t be foolish,” she told him.

“I don’t want your help,” he said quietly. “Or any Aes Sedai help.”

Her lips twitched. “As you wish.”

They mounted immediately and rode west, leaving the Portal Stone behind. No one protested, Rand least of all. Light, let me not be too late.




Sitting cross-legged on her bed in her white dress, Egwene made three tiny balls of light weave patterns above her hands. She was not supposed to do this without at least one of the Accepted to supervise, but Nynaeve, glaring and striding up and down in front of the small fireplace, did after all wear the Serpent ring given to the Accepted, and her white dress had the colored rings encircling the hem, even if she was not allowed to try to teach anyone yet. And Egwene had found over these last thirteen weeks that she could not resist. She knew how easy it was to touch saidar now. She could always feel it there, waiting for her, like the smell of perfume or the feel of silk, drawing her, drawing her. And once she did touch it, she could rarely stop from channeling, or at least trying to. She failed almost as often as she succeeded, but that was only another spur to keep on.

It often frightened her. How much she wanted to channel frightened her, and how drab and dreary she felt when she was not channeling, compared to when she was. She wanted to drink it all in, despite the cautions about burning herself out, and that wanting frightened her most of all. Sometimes she wished she had never come to Tar Valon. But the fright could not make her stop for long, any more than the fear of being caught by an Aes Sedai or by any of the Accepted beside Nynaeve.

It was safe enough here, though, in her own room. Min was there, sitting on the three-legged stool watching her, but she knew Min well enough now to know Min would never report her. She thought she was lucky to have made two good friends since coming to Tar Valon.

It was a little, windowless room, as all novices’ rooms were. Three short paces took Nynaeve from wall to white-plastered wall; Nynaeve’s own room was much larger, but since she had made no friends among the other Accepted, she came to Egwene’s room when she needed someone to talk to, even as now when she did not talk at all. The tiny fire on the narrow hearth handily kept the first chill of approaching autumn at bay, though Egwene was sure it would not serve so well when winter came. A small table for study completed the furnishings, and her belongings hung neatly on a row of pegs on the wall or sat on the short shelf above the table. Novices were usually kept too busy to spend time in their rooms, but tod

ay was a freeday, only the third since she and Nynaeve had come to the White Tower.

“Else was making calf’s eyes at Galad today while he was working with the Warders,” Min said, rocking the stool on two legs.

The small balls faltered for an instant above Egwene’s hands. “She can look at whoever she wants,” Egwene said casually. “I can’t imagine why I would be interested.”

“No reason, I suppose. He is awfully handsome, if you don’t mind him being so rigid. Very nice to look at, especially with his shirt off.”

The balls spun furiously. “I certainly have no desire to look at Galad, with or without his shirt.”

“I shouldn’t tease you,” Min said contritely. “I’m sorry for that. But you do like to look at him—don’t grimace at me like that—and so does nearly every woman in the White Tower who isn’t a Red. I’ve seen Aes Sedai down at the practice yards when he’s working forms, especially Greens. Checking on their Warders, they say, but I don’t see so many when Galad isn’t there. Even the cooks and maids come out to watch him.”

The balls stopped dead, and for a moment Egwene stared at them. They vanished. Suddenly she giggled. “He is good-looking, isn’t he? Even when he walks he looks as if he’s dancing.” The color in her cheeks deepened. “I know I shouldn’t stare at him, but I can’t help myself.”

“I can’t either,” Min said, “and I can see what he is like.”

“But if he is good—?”

“Egwene, Galad is so good he’d make you tear your hair out. He’d hurt a person because he had to serve a greater good. He wouldn’t even notice who was hurt, because he’d be so intent on the other, but if he did, he would expect them to understand and think it was all well and right.”

“I suppose you know,” Egwene said. She had seen Min’s ability to look at people and read all sorts of things about them; Min did not tell everything she saw, and she did not always see anything, but there had been enough for Egwene to believe. She glanced at Nynaeve—the other woman was still pacing, muttering to herself—then reached for saidar again and resumed her juggling in a desultory fashion.

Min shrugged. “I guess I might as well tell you. He didn’t even notice what Else was doing. He asked her if she knew whether you might be walking the South Garden after supper, since today is a freeday. I felt sorry for her.”

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