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After the 2,132d bout of newlywed lovemaking, Faile sat back with her head leaning against the oak headboard of the Winespring Inn's most expensive newlywed suite. Idly, she used a striker to light up a sigret and puffed at it, thinking about how lucky it had been that an indigent Illuminatrix named Aludra had passed through the Two Rivers on her way to join a menagerie in Amadicia and had shown the people here how to wrap unsold tabac in a piece of paperbark bark and smoke it without a pipe.
Especially lucky, since no merchants had come to the Two Rivers this year to buy the bumper tabac crop. It had gotten to the point at which a delegation of farmers had broken into their room during their 1,717th bout and demanded that Lord Goldeneyes send a deputation to Caemlyn to demand that Queen Morgase provide a subsidy for their unsold crops. As silly an idea, Faile thought, as subsidizing them for not growing algode.
She glanced down at her husband, who lay beside her on his back, snoring lightly, and she idly caressed the curly hair on his head, the curly hair on his chin, the curly hair on his chest, and the curly hair on his ... How lucky she was, she thought, to have such a husband. She wondered whether she should awaken him for their 2,133rd bout. She wondered if numbers 1,229-1,314 would ever be repeated; those had been absolutely wonderful, though Verin Sedai, who had been sitting in a corner making notes throughout the entire procedure, had been something of a distraction.
Suddenly she noticed two tears leaking out of Perrin's eyes.
Before she could react, he came awake with a start. "Rand!" he cried "Mat! I must go to them!"
"What is the matter, my husband?" she asked anxiously.
"I was in tel'aran'rhiod," he explained and, by way of illustration, he fished a map out from under the covers; it was a piece of paper, multiply folded, with a blue and white cover that read TEL'ARAN'RHIOD at the top and COPYRIGHT ANDORAN CARTERS' ASSOCIATION at the bottom. He opened it and little pop-up figures popped up all over the map. One bore a remarkable resemblance to Nynaeve al'Meara, the former Wisdom of Emond's Field, whom Faile had once met in Tear; another was a plain but proud looking dark-haired woman who looked vaguely like one of the Forsaken. A third figure, a distinguished-seeming man with white wings at his temples, was on his back; he had Xs instead of eyes, and his hands, folded on his chest, were holding a lily. "I was in ... let me see ... Caemlyn, yes, that's it. Mat was killed!"
"Mat was killed?" Faile cried, horrified.
"Yes, but he got better. Oh, Faile, I feel ta'veren pulling me back to Rand and Mat! I must be with them to face Tarmon Gai'don! I must go!"
So speaking, he leaped from their bed, unbuckled his belt to let his axe drop to the floor, pulled on his smallclothes, bigclothes, and Raiders' jacket, and buckled the axe back on. "The Winespring Brothers are back in action!" he shouted gleefully. And then he began to sing, in a voice somewhat reminiscent of a frog with a bad head cold:
"Bring me my bow of flowing gold!("With apologies to William Blake," he added as an afterthought.)
Bring all the darts I can afford!
Bring me my axe -- oh, clouds, unfold!
Bring me my Tinker with a sword!
I shall not cease from cracking skulls,
Nor shall my axe rest in my hand,
'Til we have kicked the Dark One's butt
Beyond the borders of Randland!"
"Oh, Perrin!" she cried. "You cannot leave me now! Here I've given up my entire career as a Hunter of the Horn for you, given you the best nights of my life, and you abandon me for your scruffy friends! What are you planning to do with them? Sit around in some low inn, dicing and drinking oosquai? Watch that chicken-limbed flat-chested chit Berelain pop out of a cake?"
"Rand needs me," he replied calmly.
"Rand!" she sneered. "The Dragon Reborn! A schizophrenic shepherd with delusions of grandeur!"
"What of Mat?" he said. "We've been friends for years! I remember all of his delightful pranks, such as the time he put a snake in Nynaeve's smallclothes!"
"I'm sure he regretted doing that," she said.
"Yes, indeed. Nynaeve has a tongue that can shear a sheep at forty paces -- and that's when she's in a good mood. Anyway, he needs me."
"What of Saldaea?" she asked. "What of Manetheren? Don't they need you?"
"What Manatheren?" he asked. "As Lord Goldeneyes, I've decided to rename the Two Rivers 'Grand Fenwick'!" And he turned to depart.
Thinking fast, she leaped out of bed, grabbed his blacksmith's hammer from the corner, and clonged him on the head with it. He collapsed in a heap.
"Your place is at home, my husband," she murmured, sitting down on the floor next to him and rubbing his head. He groaned, and she smiled.
It was not, after all, as though she had hit him anywhere it might damage him.
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