The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time 2) - Page 171

He was getting to his feet shakily when Ingtar and the others came running back. They all bore nicks and cuts; the leather of Ingtar’s coat was stained in more than one place. Mat still had the Horn and his dagger, its blade darker than the ruby in its hilt. Perrin’s axe was red, too, and he looked as if he might be sick at any moment.

“You dealt with them?” Ingtar said, looking at the bodies. “Then we’re done, if no alarm is given. Those fools never cried for help, not once.”

“I will see if the guards heard anything,” Hurin said, and darted for the window.

Mat shook his head. “Rand, these people are crazy. I know I’ve said that before, but these people really are. Those servants. . . .” Rand held his breath, wondering if they had all killed themselves. Mat said, “Whenever they saw us fighting, they fell on their knees, put their faces to the floor, and wrapped their arms around their heads. They never moved, or cried out; never tried to help the soldiers, or give an alarm. They’re still there, as far as I know.”

“I would not count on them staying on their knees,” Ingtar said dryly. “We are leaving now, as fast as we can run.”

“You go,” Rand said. “Egwene—”

“You fool!” Ingtar snapped. “We have what we came for. The Horn of Valere. The hope of salvation. What can one girl count, even if you love her, alongside the Horn, and what it stands for?”

“The Dark One can have the Horn for all I care! What does finding the Horn count if I abandon Egwene to this? If I did that, the Horn couldn’t save me. The Creator couldn’t save me. I would damn myself.”

Ingtar stared at him, his face unreadable. “You mean that exactly, don’t you?”

“Something’s happening out here,” Hurin said urgently. “A man just came running up, and they’re all milling like fish in a bucket. Wait. The officer is coming inside!”

“Go!” Ingtar said. He tried to take the Horn, but Mat was already running. Rand hesitated, but Ingtar grabbed his arm and pulled him into the hall. The others were streaming after Mat; Perrin only gave Rand one pained look before he went. “You cannot save the girl if you stand here and die!”

He ran with them. Part of him hated himself for running, but another part whispered, I’ll come back. I’ll free her somehow.

By the time they reached the bottom of the narrow, winding staircase, he could hear a man’s deep voice raised in the front part of the house, angrily demanding that someone stand up and speak. A serving girl in her nearly transparent robe knelt at the bottom of the stairs, and a gray-haired woman all in white wool, with a long floury apron, knelt by the kitchen door. They were both exactly as Mat had described, faces to the floor and arms wrapped around their heads, and they did not stir a hair as Rand and the others hurried by. He was relieved to see the motions of breathing.

They crossed

the garden at a dead run, climbing over the back wall rapidly. Ingtar cursed when Mat tossed the Horn of Valere ahead of him, and tried again to take it when he dropped outside, but Mat snatched it up with a quick, “It isn’t even scratched,” and scampered up the alley.

More shouts rose from the house they had just left; a woman screamed, and someone began tolling a gong.

I will come back for her. Somehow. Rand sped after the others as fast as he could.



To Come Out of the Shadow

Nynaeve and the others heard distant shouts as they approached the buildings where the damane were housed. The crowds were beginning to pick up, and there was a nervousness to the people in the street, an extra quickness to their step, an extra wariness in the way they glanced past Nynaeve, in her lightning-paneled dress, and the woman she held by a silver leash.

Shifting her bundle nervously, Elayne peered toward the noise of shouts, one street over, where the golden hawk clutching lightning rippled in the wind. “What is happening?”

“Nothing to do with us,” Nynaeve said firmly.

“You hope,” Min added. “And so do I.” She increased her pace, hurrying up the steps ahead of the others, and disappeared inside the tall stone house.

Nynaeve shortened her grip on the leash. “Remember, Seta, you want us to make it through this safely as much as we do.”

“I do,” the Seanchan woman said fervently. She kept her chin on her chest, to hide her face. “I will cause you no trouble, I swear.”

As they turned up the gray stone steps, a sul’dam and a damane appeared at the head of the stairs, coming down as they went up. After one glance to make sure the woman in the collar was not Egwene, Nynaeve did not look at them again. She used the a’dam to keep Seta close by her side, so if the damane sensed the ability to channel in one of them, she would think it was Seta. She felt sweat trickling down her spine, though, until she realized they were paying her no more attention than she gave them. All they saw was a dress with lightning panels and a gray dress, the women wearing them linked by the silver length of an a’dam. Just another Leash Holder with a Leashed One, and a local girl hurrying along behind with a bundle belonging to the sul’dam.

Nynaeve pushed open the door, and they went in.

Whatever the excitement beneath Turak’s banner, it did not extend here, not yet. There were only women moving about in the entry hall, all easily placed by their dress. Three gray-dressed damane, with sul’dam wearing the bracelets. Two women in dresses paneled with forked lightning stood talking, and three crossed the hall alone. Four dressed like Min, in plain dark woolens, hurried on their way with trays.

Min stood waiting down the entry hall when they went in; she glanced at them once, then started deeper into the house. Nynaeve guided Seta down the hall after Min, with Elayne scurrying along in their wake. No one gave them a second glance, it seemed to Nynaeve, but she thought the trickle of sweat down her backbone might become a river soon. She kept Seta moving quickly so no one would have a chance for a good look—or worse, a question. With her eyes fixed on her toes, Seta needed so little urging that Nynaeve thought she would have been running if not for the physical restraint of the leash.

Tags: Robert Jordan The Wheel of Time Fantasy
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