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An Archery Kind of Girl
Wed Jan 3, 2007 8:34pm

She truly hadn’t been lying when Myrth had told Lysander how good a dancer he was. Oh, he was a detestable man, certainly, and there was no part of him she could really bring herself to like. Nonetheless, when she pushed out of her mind what sort of soul he was, and when she ignored all that she had seen the Shadow press upon Madeline, well . . . there really was no point of quarrel within her. Besides, she could feel his loathing through the bond, and this truth only appeared to widen the smile she wore comfortably on her cheeks.

They danced the course of several dances. Not since Salven (and, before that, Rilain) had Myrth had a partner who knew his way around a stately waltz, a raucous minuet, a leaping courante, a rigid quadrille, a sweeping pavane, a whirling tarantella, and a moderate, mellow-toned allemande. She was pleased that the philharmonic was reaching into the repertoire of Cairhienin dance, songs with which Myrth was utterly familiar–though, considering Cairhien’s ceaseless contribution to the world of dance, this came as not much of a surprise at all. She doubted Lysander, whose olive complexion could not be further from a Cairhienin’s pallor, knew the names of half of these, but he picked them up in good time.

By the time the final notes of the allemande came echoing out over the White Tower’s grounds, Myrth was a panting mess. “I think that it’s time for a rest,” Myrth said, taking her first steps in the direction of the refreshment table. Lysander, however, was not following. She turned, spying him standing as rigid as Dragonmount amidst the dancing couples. He’s not longing for another dance, is he? But he was peering at her, peering stiffly at her, and she knew not what he was doing.

Myrth’s Yellow Ajah know-how began to take charge, and she felt the cogs and gears of her medical instinct beginning to work away. Was something wrong with him? She took a precarious step forth, though she was made suddenly aware of the bond and what it held: livid, undiluted rage. Lysander was suddenly, unspeakably infuriated with her. Why? She didn’t understand. He’d abhorred the dancing, yes, but it was over. She didn’t understand what there was to make him angry.

Without warning, however, the man stalked forwards. On instinct, she embraced the Power, foolishly, but the man made no attempt to hurt her. “Privacy,” was all he said. “Where we cannot be watched.”

She frowned. “If that’s what you want.” The only reason she agreed to that was because of the bond, the fulcrum: it was the agent through which control over this man could be achieved, and she was not afraid to use it. Myrth released her hold on saidar. “Follow me.”

The noise and gaudiness of the previous procession were contrasted by the part of the grounds to which Myrth took Lysander. She brought him away from the lights, the noise, to the quiet of one of the gardens. All was quiet, all still, and Myrth feared she might wake one of the winter-leaden trees for the sudden crunching of snow they brought the gardens. All that could be heard was the distant sound of a boisterous musical accompaniment to the even more boisterous hoots and shouts of the distant festival.

“Yes, Lysander?” she said, smoothing her skirts.

The man stepped forth, and, in turn, Myrth stepped back. She kept a sizeable distance between them, enough so that, should he hurl himself forth in a predatory gesture at her, Myrth would be able to protect herself with the bond in time. “I would like to know what you want of me, Aes Sedai. I would like to know why you will not release me of your bond. It has served its purpose. You bonded me so I would not kill you, and I did not. There is no further reason for you to maintain it.”

Myrth shifted. “Oh, well, I wouldn’t necessarily say that. The bond is the only thing stopping you from hurting me after the fact.”

“Then you have my promise, Aes Sedai, that I will do no harm to you. If necessary, I will swear by your Oath Rod. On a whim, I can have one of my Spies fetch it from wherever you keep the ter’angreal. Our arrangement can be severed as quickly as that.”

“Well,” Myrth said, “there are other reasons I have to keep it.”

Lysander said nothing; instead, the olive-skinned man stared out at her through a grey gaze, his silence expecting words from her.

Again, Myrth shifted, and again, Myrth smoothed her skirts. “I wish–”

“–to use me. You’ve used me once before, and you plan on using me again. Twice.”

Now, though, she was entirely taken aback. What under the Light was the man harping on about? “I’m entirely sure that I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You don’t plan on using me?”

“Ah . . . well, I meant that I didn’t know what you’re talking about by the twice bit. I mean, if the situation were to arise, I wouldn’t–”

“Wouldn’t be opposed to exploiting a Darkfriend for your own personal gain? You came to me asking for an Asha’man, for Eros, to guard over the al’Emonia woman. You requested the opportunity to teach Healing at the Black Tower. You have me dancing to your every beck and call, and–”

“I will not empathize with a Darkfriend,” Myrth said solemnly. She did not shift, now, and she did not fuss with her dress. Instead, she peered at the Asha’man. No. It did not matter if he was an Asha’man, or the M’Hael, or the bloody Dark One himself. It mattered not at all. He was despicable. “Nobody, not even your Asha’man, would stand on your side over this matter.”

A smile curved across Lysander’s face, and the loathing she had managed to forget as they’d danced return in one feral windfall. Oh, Light. She hated him. “How many people would side with you, then? An Aes Sedai, one who walks in the Light, keeping company with a Friend of the Dark? You use me to benefit yourself. For all you know, I could be bringing my Soldiers and Dedicated into the Shadow, training them to assault the world. You do nothing to prevent me. You know of my allegiance, and yet you are perfectly satisfied in maintaining my existence if only to summon favours.”

Warm, sticky guilt began to suffuse her body. He’d unleashed it, punctured whatever concealed bladder had kept it concealed. Lysander was telling her the things that she thought about . . . no, not every night. She had. She hadn’t been able to sleep for the guilt, but, slowly, she’d managed to push these thoughts out of her mind. Myrth had begun to forget what sort of wicked, cowardly person she was.

“And you will. You will require two favours of me in the future: one small, and one large.”

“How do you know this?” He had to be a Dreamwalker. Or something.

“The what transcends the how in terms of importance.”

Myrth paused, holding herself from biting her lip. It was an awful, terrible thing to do, yes, but . . . oh, Light. It was awful, truly awful, but she forced herself to feel vindicated. It was the only upper hand she had. The only one. Light, but the other sisters practically walked all over her; she was weak enough in the Power to rival some of the novices. There was naught to be done. That was, well, until Lysander. She could request favours from him. She could. Besides, she thought, if he was trying to pull something, I could easily stop him, right? She could. She would have enough time. It wouldn’t be a problem at all.

Myrth forced a smile, and, as she smiled, she felt amusement fill her. In fact, she filled herself with amusement, made herself feel happy, until–until she could feel Lysander’s disbelief over her emotional about-turn permeate over the extent of the bond. She was doing what she had to do. She was resolute in this.

“I really was not planning to request these two things from you,” Myrth said, “but if you claim that is how the future will unfurl, I won’t disagree. Instead, I would like to ask the first favour of you. I wouldn’t mind learning archery, actually. Just a quick lesson. Not too strenuous. There are longbows and arrows found in the barracks. Oh, and Lysander?” She grinned. “It would be greatly appreciated.”

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