|Chapter 19: Ringthane's Choice|
Behind him, the Ranyhyn of the Bloodguard were galloping off into the freedom of the Plains. The Cords were leading the company's horses away to be tended, and more Ramen cantered into the glade in answer to the news of the Quest's arrival. But Covenant kept his eyes on the girl, stared at her as if she were a kind of food. Finally she answered his gaze by saying, "I am Winhome Gay. Soon I will share enough knowing to join the Cords." After an instant of hesitation, she added, "I am to care for you while you guest here." When he did not respond, she said hurriedly, "Others will gladly serve if my welcome is not accepted."
Covenant remained silent for a moment longer, clenching his useless ferocity. But then he gathered his strength for one final refusal. "I don't need anything. Don't touch me." The words hurt his throat.
A hand touched his shoulder. He glanced around to find Foamfollower beside him. The Giant was looking down at Covenant, but he spoke to the pain of rejection in Gay's face. "Do not be sad, little Winhome," he murmured. "Covenant Ringthane tests us. He does not speak his heart."
Gay smiled gratefully up at Foamfollower, then said with sudden sauciness, "Not so little, Giant. Your size deceives you. I have almost reached Cording."
Her gibe appeared to take a moment to penetrate Foamfollower. Then his stiff beard twitched. Abruptly, he began to laugh. His glee mounted; it echoed off the cliff above Manhome until the mountain seemed to share his elation, and the infectious sound spread until everyone near him was laughing without knowing why. For a long moment, he threw out gales as if he were blowing debris from his soul.
But Covenant turned away, unable to bear the loud weight of the Giant's humor. Hellfire, he growled. Hell and blood. What are you doing to me?