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A Memory of Light (Page 170)

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Well, he supposed there were things he’d say the same thing about. Not wearing silly white robes, of course—but he wouldn’t do some of the things the Whitecloaks had done, even if the world was at stake. He didn’t press her further.

"Why are you here?" he asked, putting on his shirt.

"Gaul", Chiad said. "Is he . . ".

"Oh, Light!" Perrin said. "I should have told you earlier. I’ve scrap iron for a brain lately, Chiad. He was fine when I left him. He’s still in the dream, and time passes more slowly where he is. It has probably only been an hour or so in his time, but I need to return to him".

"In your condition?" she asked, ignoring the fact that she’d said she wouldn’t chivvy him for that.

"No", Perrin said, sitting on the bed. "Last time, I nearly broke my neck. I need one of the Aes Sedai to cure me of my fatigue".

"This thing is dangerous", Chiad said.

"More dangerous than letting Rand die?" Perrin said. "More dangerous than leaving Gaul without an ally in the World of Dreams, protecting the Car’a’carn alone?"

"That one is likely to stab himself with his own spear if left to fight alone", Chiad said.

"I didn’t mean—"

"Hush, Perrin Aybara. I will try". She left in a rustle of cloth.

Perrin lay back on the bed, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms. He’d been far more certain of himself when he’d fought Slayer this last time, yet still he’d failed. He gritted his teeth, hoping Chiad would return soon.

Something moved outside his room. He revived, hauling himself up to a sitting position again.

A large shape darkened the doorway, then removed the shield from a lamp. Master Luhhan was built like an anvil, with a compact—yet powerful—torso and arms that bulged. In Perrin’s mind’s eye, the man didn’t have so much gray in his hair. Master Luhhan had grown older, but he was not frail. Perrin doubted he ever would be.

"Lord Goldeneyes?" he asked.

"Light, please", Perrin said. "Master Luhhan, you of all people should feel free to call me Perrin. If not ‘that worthless apprentice of mine.’ "

"Here, now", Master Luhhan said, walking into the room. "I don’t believe I called you that except once".

"When I broke the new blade for Master al’Moor’s scythe", Perrin said, smiling. "I was sure I could get it right".

Master Luhhan chuckled. He paused beside Perrin’s hammer, which still lay on the table at the foot of the bed, and rested his fingers on it. "You have become a master of the craft". Master Luhhan seated himself on a stool beside the bed. "One craftsman to another, I’m impressed. I don’t think I could have ever made something so fine as that hammer".

"You made the axe".

"I guess I did that", he said. "It was not a thing of beauty. It was a thing of killing".

"Killing sometimes needs to be done".

"Yes, but it’s never beautiful. Never".

Perrin nodded. "Thank you. For finding me, bringing me here. For saving me".

"It was self-interest, son!" Master Luhhan said. "If we escape this, it will be because of you boys, mark my words on it as true". He shook his head, as if he couldn’t believe it. One man, at least, remembered the three of them as youths—youths who, in Mat’s case at least, had been in trouble more often than not.

Actually, Perrin thought, I’m pretty sure Mat’s still in trouble more often than not. At least, at the moment, he wasn’t fighting but instead talking with some Seanchan, according to the spinning colors that resolved into an image.

"Chiad said that the fighting at Merrilor was finished?" Perrin asked.

"It is", Master Luhhan said. "I came through, carrying some of our wounded. I should be getting back to Tam and Abell soon, but I wanted to check on you".

Perrin nodded. That tugging inside of him . . . if anything, it was stronger now than it ever would be. Rand needed him. The war wasn’t finished yet. Not by far.

"Master Luhhan", Perrin said with a sigh. "I’ve made a mistake".

"Mistake?"

"I ran myself ragged", Perrin said. "I pushed myself too hard". He made a fist, slamming it into the corner post of the bed. "I should know better, Master Luhhan. I always do this. I work myself so hard, I make myself useless the next day".

"Perrin, lad?" Master Luhhan said, leaning forward. "Today, I’m more worried that there’s not going to be a next day".

Perrin looked up at him, frowning.

"If there was ever a time to push yourself, this is it", Master Luhhan said. "We’ve won one fight, but if the Dragon Reborn doesn’t win his . . . Light, I don’t think you’ve made a mistake at all. This is our last chance at the forge. This is the morning that the big piece is due. Today, you just keep working until it’s done".

"But if I collapse . . ".

"Then you gave it your all".

"I could fail because I’ve run myself out of strength".

"Then at least you didn’t fail because you held back. I know it sounds bad, and maybe I’m wrong. But . . . well, everything you’re talking about is good advice for an average day. This isn’t an average day. No, by the Light it’s not".

Master Luhhan took Perrin by the arm. "You may see in yourself someone who lets himself go too far, but that’s not the man I see. If anything, Perrin, I’ve seen in you someone who has learned to hold himself back. I’ve watched you hold a teacup with extreme delicacy, as if you feared breaking it with your strength. I’ve seen you clasp hands with a man, holding his hand in yours with such care, never squeezing too hard. I’ve watched you move with deliberate reserve, so that you don’t shove anyone or knock anything over.

"Those were good lessons for you to learn, son. You needed control. But in you, I’ve seen a boy grow into a man who doesn’t know how to let those barriers go. I see a man who’s frightened of what happens when he gets a little out of control. I realize you do what you do because you’re afraid of hurting people. But Perrin . . . it’s time to stop holding back".

"I’m not holding back, Master Luhhan", Perrin protested. "Really, I promise".

"Is that the case? Well, maybe you’re right". Master Luhhan suddenly smelled embarrassed. "Look at me. Here, acting like it’s my business. I’m not your father, Perrin. I’m sorry".

"No", Perrin said as Master Luhhan stood to leave. "I no longer have a father".

Master Luhhan gave him a pained look. "What those Trollocs did . ".

"My family wasn’t killed by Trollocs", Perrin said softly. "It was Padan Fain".

"What? Are you certain?"

"One of the Whitecloaks told me", Perrin said. "He wasn’t lying".

"Well, then", Luhhan said. "Fain . . . he’s still out there, isn’t he?"

"Yes", Perrin said. "He hates Rand. And there’s another man. Lord Luc. You remember him? He’s been ordered to kill Rand. I think . . . I think they’re both going to try for him, before this is over".

"Then you’ll have to make sure they don’t succeed, won’t you?"

Perrin smiled, then turned toward the footsteps outside. Chiad entered a moment later, and he could smell her annoyance that he’d sensed her coming. Bain followed, another figure in complete white. And after them . . .

Masuri. Not the Aes Sedai he would have chosen. Perrin felt his lips tighten.

"You do not like me", Masuri said. "I know this".

"I have never said that", Perrin replied. "You were a great help to me during our travels".

"And yet, you do not trust me, but that is beside the point. You wish to have your strength restored, and I am probably the only one willing to do it for you. The Wise Ones and the Yellows would paddle you like a babe for wanting to leave".

"I know", Perrin said, sitting down on the bed. He hesitated. "I need to know why you were meeting with Masema behind my back".

"I come here to fulfill a request", Masuri said, smelling amused, "and you tell me you won’t let me do you that favor until I respond to interrogation?"

"Why’d you do it, Masuri?" Perrin said. "Out with it".

"I planned to use him", the slender Aes Sedai said.

"Use him".

"Having influence with one who called himself the Prophet of the Dragon could have been useful". She smelled embarrassed. "It was a different time, Lord Aybara. Before I knew you. Before any of us knew you". Perrin grunted.

"I was foolish", Masuri said. "Is that what you wanted to hear? I was foolish, and I have since learned".

Perrin eyed her, then sighed, proffering his arm. It was still an Aes Sedai answer, but one of the straighter ones he had heard. "Do it", he said. "And thank you".

She took his arm. He felt his fatigue evaporate—felt it get shoved back, like an old quilt being stuffed into a small box. Perrin felt invigorated, strengthened. Powerful again. He practically leaped as he came to his feet.

Masuri sagged, sitting down on his bed. Perrin flexed his hand, looking down at his fist. He felt as if he could challenge anyone, even the Dark One himself. "That feels wonderful".

"I’ve been told I excel at this particular weave", Masuri said. "But be careful, it—"

"Yes", Perrin said. "I know. The body is still tired. I just can’t feel it". And, as he considered, that last part wasn’t exactly true. He could sense his fatigue, like a serpent deep within its hole, lurking and waiting. It would consume him again.

That meant he had to finish his job first. He inhaled deeply, then summoned his hammer to him. It didn’t move.

Right; he thought. This is the real world, not the wolf dream. He walked over and slipped the hammer into its straps on his belt, the new ones that he had fashioned to hold the larger hammer. He turned toward Chiad, who stood by the doorway; he could smell Bain out there, too, where she’d retreated. "I will find him", Perrin said. "If he is wounded, I will bring him here".

"Do that", Chiad said, "but you will not find us here".

"You are going to Merrilor?" Perrin asked, surprised.

Chiad said, "Some of us are needed to bring the wounded in to be Healed. It is not a thing gai’shain have done in the past, but perhaps it is a thing we can do this time".

Perrin nodded, then closed his eyes. He imagined himself close to sleep, drifting. His time in the wolf dream had trained his mind well. He could fool himself, with concentration. That didn’t change the world here, but it did change his perceptions.

Yes . . . drifting close to sleep . . . and there was the pathway. He took the branch toward the wolf dream in the flesh, and caught just a hint of a gasp from Masuri as he felt himself shift between worlds.

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