The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt: Page 119

He had never thought about it this way before; things between Egwene and him had always just seemed to be the way they were, and that was that.
"I think we do it the same way," he muttered, and when Mat laughed, he added, "Do you remember your father ever doing anything your mother really didn't want him to?" Mat opened his mouth with a grin, then frowned thoughtfully and closed it again.
Juin came down the steps from outside. "If you please, will all of you come with me? The Elders would see you." He did not look at Loial, but Loial still almost dropped the book.
"If the Elders try to make you stay," Rand said, "we'll say we need you to go with us."
"I'll bet it isn't about you at all," Mat said. "I'll bet they are just going to say we can use the Waygate. " He shook himself, and his voice fell even lower. "We really have to do it, don't we." It was not a question.
"Stay and get married, or travel the Ways." Loial grimaced ruefully. "Life is very unsettling with ta'veren for friends."

(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 36
Among the Elders
As Juin took them through the Ogier town, Rand saw that Loial was growing more and more anxious. Loial's ears were as stiff as his back; his eyes grew bigger every time he saw another Ogier looking at him, especially the women and girls, and a large number of them did seem to take notice of him. He looked as if he expected his own execution.
The bearded Ogier gestured to wide steps leading down into a grassy mound that was bigger by far than any other; it was a hill, for all practical purposes, almost at the base

"Why don't you wait out here, Loial?" Rand said.
"The Elders -" Juin began.
"- Probably just want to see the rest of us," Rand finished for him.
"Why don't they leave him alone," Mat put in.
Loial nodded vigorously. "Yes. Yes, I think ..." A number of Ogier women were watching him, from whitehaired grandmothers to daughters Erith's age, a knot of them talking among themselves but with all eyes on him. His ears jerked, but he looked at the broad door to which the stone steps led down, and nodded again. "Yes, I will sit out here, and I'll read. That is it. I will read." Fumbling in his coat pocket, he produced a book. He settled himself on the mound beside the steps, the book small in his hands, and fixed his eyes on the pages. "I will just sit here and read until you come out." His ears twitched as if he could feel the women's eyes.
Juin shook his head, then shrugged and motioned to the steps again. "If you please. The Elders are waiting."
The huge, windowless room inside the mound was scaled for Ogier, with a thickbeamed ceiling more than four spans up; it could have fit in any palace, for size at least. The seven Ogier seated on the dais directly in front of the door made it shrink a little by their size, but Rand still felt as if he were in a cavern. The somber floorstones were smooth, if large and irregular in shape, but the gray walls could have been the rough side of a cliff. The ceiling beams, roughhewn as they were, looked like great roots.
Except for a highbacked chair where Verin sat facing the dais, the only furnishings were the heavy, vinecarved chairs of the Elders. The Ogier woman in the middle of the dais sat in a chair raised a little higher than those of the others, three bearded men to her left in long, flaring coats, three women to her right in dresses like her own, embroidered in vines and flowers from neckline to hem. All had aged faces and pure white hair, even to the tufts on their ears, and an air of massive dignity.
Hurin gaped at them openly, and Rand felt like staring himself. Not even Verin had the appearance of wisdom that was in the Elders' huge eyes, nor Morgase in her crown their authority, nor Moiraine their calm serenity. Ingtar was the first to bow, as formally as Rand had ever seen from him, while the others still stood rooted.
"I am Alar," the Ogier woman on the highest chair said when they had finally taken their places beside Verin, "Eldest of the Elders of Stedding Tsofu. Verin has told us that you have need to use the Waygate here. To recover the Horn of Valere from Darkfriends is a great need, indeed, but we have allowed none to travel the Ways in more than one hundred years. Neither us, nor the Elders of any other stedding."
"I will find the Horn," Ingtar said angrily. "I must. If you will not permit us to use the Waygate ..." He fell silent as Verin looked at him, but the scowl remained on his face.
Alar smiled. "Be not so hasty, Shienaran. You humans never take time for thought. Only decisions reached in calm can be sure." Her smile faded to seriousness, but her voice kept its own measured calm. "The dangers of the Ways are not to be faced with a sword in your hand, not charging Aiel or ravening Trollocs. I must tell you that to enter the Ways is to risk not only death and madness, but perhaps your very souls."
"We have seen Machin Shin," Rand said, and Mat and Perrin agreed. They could not manage to sound eager to do it again.
"I will follow the Horn to Shayol Ghul itself, if need be," Ingtar said firmly. Hurin only nodded as if including himself in Ingtar's words.
"Bring Trayal," Alar commanded, and Juin, who had remained by the door, bowed and left. "It is not enough," she told Verin, "to hear what can happen. You must see it, know it in your heart."
There was an uncomfortable silence until Juin returned, and it became more uncomfortable still as two Ogier women followed him, guiding a darkbearded Ogier of middle years, who shambled between them as if he did not quite know how his legs worked. His face sagged, without any expression at all, and his big eyes were vacant and unblinking, not staring, not looking, not even seeming to see. One of the women gently wiped drool from the corner of his mouth. They took his arms to stop him; his foot went forward, hesitated, then fell back with a thump. He seemed as content to stand as to walk, or at least as uncaring.
"Trayal was one of the last among us to go along the 'Ways," Alar said softly. "He came out as you see him. Will you touch him, Verin?"
Verin gave her a long look, then rose and strode to Trayal. He did not move as she laid her hands on his wide chest, not even a flicker of an eye to acknowledge her touch. With a sharp hiss, she jerked back, staring up at him, then whirled to face the Elders. "He is ... empty. This body lives, but there is nothing inside it. Nothing." Every Elder wore a look of unbearable sadness.
"Nothing," one of the Elders to Alar's right said softly. Her eyes seemed to hold all the pain Trayal's no longer could. "No mind. No soul. Nothing of Trayal remains but his body."
"He was a fine Treesinger," one of the men sighed.
Alar motioned, and the two women turned Trayal to lead him out; they had to move him before he began to walk.
"We know the risks," Verin said. "But whatever the risks, we must follow the Horn of Valere."
The Eldest nodded. "The Horn of Valere. I do not know whether it is worse news that it is in Darkfriend hands, or that it has been found at all." She looked down the row of Elders; each nodded in turn, one of the men tugging his beard doubtfully first. "Very well. Verin tells me time is urgent. I will show you to the Waygate myself." Rand was feeling half relieved and half afraid, when she added, "You have with you a young Ogier. Loial, son of Arent son of Halan, from Stedding Shangtai. He is far from his home."
ed him," Rand said quickly. His words slowed under surprised stares from the Elders and Verin, but he went on stubbornly. "We need him to go with us, and he wants to."
"Loial's a friend," Perrin said, at the same time that Mat said, "He doesn't get in the way, and he carries his own weight." Neither of them appeared comfortable at having the Elders' focus shift to them, but they did not back down.
"Is there some reason he cannot come with us?" Ingtar asked. "As Mat says, he has held his own. I don't know that we need him, but if he wants to

"We do need him," Verin broke in smoothly. "Few any longer know the Ways, but Loial has studied them. He can decipher the Guidings."
Alar eyed them each in turn, then settled to a study of Rand.
She looked as if she knew things; all the Elders did, but she most of all. "Verin says you are ta'veren," she said at last, "and I can feel it in you. That I can do so means that you must be very strongly ta'veren indeed, for such Talents ever run weakly in us, if at all. Have you drawn Loial, son of Arent son of Halan, into ta'maral'ailen, the Web the Pattern weaves around you?"
"I ... I just want to find the Horn and ..." Rand let the rest of it die. Alar had not mentioned Mat's dagger. He did not know whether Verin had told the Elders, or held it back for some reason. "He is my friend, Eldest."
"Your friend," Alar said. "He is young by our way of thinking. You are young, too, but ta'veren. You will look after him, and when the weaving is done, you will see that he comes safely home to Stedding Shangtai."

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