Setting: “The Great Hunt”. In Chapter 12 (Egwene’s POV), Lan and Nynaeve have a talk, after which Nynaeve is upset and apparently crying.
Description: What did they discuss?
Nynaeve sighed quietly. Egwene was talking—nattering, really—about what, Nynaeve had no clue. She had too much on her mind—Rand, Lan, the duties she left in Two Rivers, Moiraine and her schemes—to listen. It was all driving her mad. How was she supposed to pay attention to Egwene?
A hand on her arm made her jump, and when she looked up, she saw Lan looming over her and he looked very amused. “I did not intend to frighten you, Nynaeve.”
Irritation swelled in her. What was wrong with her? The man walked right up to her and scared the wits out of her! “I was not frightened. I was merely…lost in thought.” She risked a glance at Egwene and saw the girl’s eyes tighten in anger. She looked back at Lan, glaring. “What do you want?”
His jaw tightened—she supposed he did not care for her attitude—but his voice remained calm. “To speak with you. Will you walk with me?”
Had the man chased her down yet again for the purpose of telling her he did not want her? There was no way she would go through that again, which is why the words she said came as a surprise, if only to herself. “Very well.”
She ignored the arm he offered her and stalked past him out of the tent.
“Will you…” Lan’s voice trailed off behind her, but after a couple of moments, he caught her by the arm. “The idea was for you to walk with me, Nynaeve, not for you to run away while I chase you.”
“The way I see it, I’m not the one who’s running away.” Before he had a chance to respond, she continued, “You’ve already made it quite clear how you feel, or rather, how you don’t feel about me, so—”
“Did you throw away the ring I gave you?” He looked on edge, like a wolf ready to pounce on his prey.
Her hand moved to her pouch. Had he asked the question to distract her? “No. I would never…” She could not finish the sentence, could not lay her heart out again for him to step on.
“I do not know how long we will remain with you.” He touched her cheek briefly—gently—then jerked his hand away as though burned. “I feel better knowing you carry that with you. You will be safe at the White Tower, but…” He frowned worriedly, as if he expected trouble to come.
“And what of you?” she asked, frowning back. “You get to know I’m safe, yet I have to wonder if you…” She fought the urge to cry, to wail like a child until she made him understand how she felt.
“I told you before, Nynaeve, I have nothing to offer you, but—”
“Oh, save it!” she snapped. “Who are you trying to convince anyway, Lan? Me? Or you?” She felt a rush of excitement when she saw his jaw tighten. It gave her great pleasure to crack that icy cold demeanor he flaunted. “You’re a king, Lan. A bloody king! It makes no difference if you have land or not, you are what you are.” His mouth opened, then snapped shut—tightly—when she kept going. “I am a commoner. A sheepherder’s daughter. I am the one who has nothing to offer. All I—”
“Don’t ever say that,” he interrupted between clenched teeth. “You have plenty to offer, more than most men deserve.”
“All I have is myself, Lan. The same as you.” She swallowed the lump in her throat. “And I already found the man I wish to give—”
“Nynaeve, stop.” His eyes and mouth tightened. “I told you, we can not—”
“Blood and bloody ashes!” she snapped, clenching her fists at her sides. Amazingly, she did not feel badly for using such language. In fact, she really wanted to use some more. “Why must you do this to me? Did you come to me tonight only for another chance to push me away with both hands? Do you enjoy shaming me—disposing of me—so much you have to experience it again and again?”
His eyes narrowed angrily. “You know better. I would never—”
“But you do!” she interrupted. “You came to me tonight. I’ve left you alone, as you wanted. You don’t want me in your life, you’ve made that—”
“I have never said…” He trailed off, and it was clear he was trying to maintain control. Good, she told herself, I want him to be angry! He’ll know how I feel! “I just want to know you’re safe, Nynaeve.”
She stared at him incredulously. “Make up your bloody mind!” Anger and hurt battled for control, and both won when angry tears rolled down her cheeks. “You know how I feel for you; at least return the favor instead of telling me some…garbage about widow’s things. If you care for me—even a little—say it! If not, tell me you feel nothing for me and be done with it! You cannot have it both ways. I mean it, Lan.”
“You know I…” His pained expression only made her cry more, but his words made her want to thump him on the head. “I cannot.”
How could he do this to her again? He would drive her mad eventually, she was certain. “Can not or will not?” She squeezed her eyes closed, then looked back up at him; he was blurry through her tears. “I suppose it does not matter, because you’ve decided you don’t want me in either case.”
He caught her arm as she started away. “Nynaeve…Mashiara…”
She was growing tired of that word. Lost love. How could you lose a love you had neither accepted nor returned? “I love you,” she whispered. “But I will not be made a fool again.” She jerked her arm from his grasp and held her chin high, which was difficult considering she was crying openly now. “Next time you wish to tell me to leave you alone, or to stop loving you, save yourself the trouble; I’ve heard it quite enough. I can no more stop loving you than I can stop the wheel’s turning, but I can promise not to bother you with unwanted affections any longer.”
As she stalked away, she could feel his eyes burning into her back. Her knees felt as if they would buckle under her; sheer will allowed her to make her way back to the tent. Without a word, she crawled under the blankets and pulled them over her face. She hated to cry in front of anyone!
Lan was still out there, she knew. She could feel him, feel his eyes boring through the tent like arrows stabbing into her. He did not leave for almost an hour. But even after she felt him go, she remained awake, soaking her blanket with tears and wishing fervently she could hate him. No matter how much she wished, however, she knew it would never be.
al’Lan Mandragoran—King of Malkier—had her heart, and there was not one thing she could do about it.