Winter's Heart Page 85

“You bloody helped her in this, didn’t you?” she growled, focusing glassy-looking blue eyes on Aviendha. “First, she flaming vanishes out of my head, and then . . .!” She trembled, and visibly controlled herself, but even then she was breathing hard. Her legs did not seem to want to hold her upright. Licking her lips, she swallowed and went on angrily. “Burn her, I can’t concentrate enough to shake it off! You let me tell you, if she’s doing what I think she’s doing, I’ll kick her tickle-heart around the bloody Palace, and then I’ll flaming welt her till she can’t sit for a month — and you alongside her! — if I have to find forkroot to do it!”

“My first-sister is a grown woman, Birgitte Trahelion,” Aviendha said truculently. Despite her tone, her shoulders were hunched, and she did not quite meet the other woman’s stare. “You must stop trying to treat us as children!”

“When she bloody well behaves like an adult, I bloody well treat her as one, but she has no right to do this, not in my flaming head, she doesn’t! Not in my —!” Abruptly, Birgitte’s glazed blue eyes bulged. The golden haired woman’s mouth dropped open, and she would have fallen if Min and Aviendha had not each seized an arm.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she sobbed, just once, and whimpered, “Two months!” Shaking free of them, she straightened and fixed Aviendha with blue eyes clear as water and hard as ice. “Shield her for me, and I’ll let you off your share.” Aviendha’s sullen, indignant glare just slid off her.

“You’re Birgitte Silverbow!” Min breathed. She had been sure even before Aviendha said the name. No wonder the Aiel woman was behaving as if she feared those threats would be carried out right then and there. Birgitte Silverbow! “I saw you at Falme!”

Birgitte gave a start as if goosed, then looked around hurriedly. Once she realized they were alone, she relaxed. A little. She eyed Min up and down. “Whatever you saw, Silverbow is dead,” she said bluntly. “I’m Birgitte Trahelion, now, and that’s all.” Her lips twisted wryly for a moment. “The flaming Lady Birgitte Trahelion, if you flaming please. Kiss a sheep on Mother’s Day if I can do anything about that, I suppose. And who might you be when you’re to home? Do you always show off your legs like a bloody feather dancer?”

“I am Min Farshaw,” she replied curtly. This was Birgitte Silverbow, hero of a hundred legends? The woman was foul-mouthed! And what did she mean, Silverbow was dead? The woman was standing right in front of her! Besides, those multitudes of images and auras flashed by too quickly for her to make out any clearly, but she was certain they indicated more adventures than a woman could have in one lifetime. Strangely, some were connected to an ugly man who was older than she, and others to an ugly man who was much younger, yet somehow Min knew they were the same man. Legend or no legend, that superior air irritated her no end. “Elayne, Aviendha and I just bonded a Warder,” she said without thinking. “And if Elayne is celebrating a little, well, you better think twice about storming in, or you’ll be the one sitting tender.”

That was enough to make her aware of Rand again. That raging furnace was still there, hardly lessened at all, but thank the Light, he was no longer . . . Blood rushed into her cheeks. He had lain often enough in her arms, catching his breath in the tangle of their bedding, but this really did seem like peeping!

“Him?” Birgitte said softly. “Mothers’ milk in a cup! She could have fallen in love with a cutpurse or a horse thief, but she had to choose him, more fool her. By what I saw of him at that place you mentioned, the man’s too pretty to be good for any woman. In any case, she has to stop.”

“You have no right!” Aviendha insisted in a sulky voice, and Birgitte took on a look of patience. Stretched patience, but still patience.

“She might be proper as a Talmouri maiden except when it comes to putting her head on the chopping block, but I think she’ll wind up her courage to put him through his paces again, and even if she does whatever it was she did, she’ll forget and be back in my head. I won’t bloody go through that again!” She squared herself, plainly ready to march off and confront Elayne.

“Think of it as a good joke,” Aviendha said pleadingly. Pleadingly! “She has played a good joke on you, that is all.” A curl of Birgitte’s lip expressed what she thought of that.

“There’s a trick Elayne told me,” Min said hurriedly, catching hold of Birgitte’s sleeve. “It didn’t work for me, but maybe . . .” Unfortunately, once she had explained . . .

“She’s still there,” Birgitte said grimly after a moment. “Step out of my way, Min Farshaw,” she said, pulling her arm free, “or — ”

“Oosquai!” Aviendha voice rose desperately, and she was actually wringing her hands! “I know where there is oosquai! If you are drunk . . . Please, Birgitte! I . . . I will pledge myself to obey you, as apprentice to mistress, but please do not interrupt her! Do not shame her so!”

“Oosquai?” Birgitte mused, rubbing her jaw. “Is that anything like brandy? Hmm. I think the girl is blushing! She really is prim most of the time, you know. A joke, you said?” Suddenly she grinned, and spread her arms expansively. “Lead me to this oosquai of yours, Aviendha. I don’t know about you two, but I intend to get drunk enough to . . . well . . . to take off my clothes and dance on the table. And not a hair drunker.”

Min did not understand that at all, or why Aviendha stared at Birgitte and suddenly began laughing about it being “a wonderful joke,” but she was sure she knew why Elayne was blushing, if she actually was. That hard ball of sensations in her head was a raging wildfire again.

“Could we go find that oosquai, now?” she said. “I want to get drunk as a drowned mouse, and fast!”

When Elayne woke the next morning, the bedchamber was icy, a light snow was falling on Caemlyn, and Rand was gone. Except inside her head. That would do. She smiled, a slow smile. For now, it would. Stretching languorously beneath the blankets, she remembered her abandon the night before — and most of the day as well! She could hardly believe it had been her! — and thought that she should be blushing like the sun! But she wanted to be abandoned with Rand, and she did not think she would ever blush again, not for

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