The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 150



He frowned and shook his head. "It seemed the only way. We would be destroyed for nothing, defending people who do not even know, or care. It seemed logical. Why should we be destroyed for them, when we could make our own peace? Better the Shadow, I thought, than useless oblivion, like Carallain, or Hardan, or ... It seemed so logical, then."
Rand grabbed Ingtar's lapels. "You aren't making any sense." He can't mean what he's saying. He can't. "Say it plain, whatever you mean. You are talking crazy!"
For the first time Ingtar looked at Rand. His eyes shone with unshed tears. "You are a better man than I. Shepherd or lord, a better man. The prophecy says, 'Let who sounds me think not of glory, but only salvation.' It was my salvation I was thinking of. I would sound the Horn, and lead the heroes of the Ages against Shayol Ghul. Surely that would have been enough to save me. No man can walk so long in the Shadow that he cannot come again to the Light. That is what they say. Surely that would have been enough to wash away what I have been, and done."
"Oh, Light, Ingtar." Rand released his hold on the other man and sagged back against the stable wall. "I think... I think wanting to is enough. I think all you have to do is stop being ... one of them." Ingtar flinched as if Rand had said it out. Darkfriend.
"Rand, when Verin brought us here with the Portal Stone, I - I lived other lives. Sometimes I held the Horn, but I never sounded it. I tried to escape what I'd become, but I never did. Always there was something else required of me, always something worse than the last, until I was ... You were ready to give it up to save a friend. Think not of glory. Oh, Light, help me."
Rand did not know what to say. It was as if Egwene had told him she had murdered children. Too horrible to be believed. Too horrible for anyone to admit to unless it was true. Too horrible.
After a time, Ingtar spoke again, firmly. "There has to be a price, Rand. There is always a price. Perhaps I can pay it here."
"Ingtar, I -"
"It is every man's right, Rand, to choose when to Sheathe the Sword. Even one like me."
Before Rand could say anything, Hurin came running down the alley. "The patrol turned aside," he said hurriedly, "down into the town. They seem to be gathering down there. Mat and Perrin went on." He took a quick look down the street and pulled back. "We'd better do the same, Lord Ingtar, Lord Rand. Those bugheaded Seanchan are almost here."
"Go, Rand," Ingtar said. He turned to face the street and did not look at Rand or Hurin again. "Take the Horn where it belongs. I always knew the Amyrlin should have given you the charge. But all I ever wanted was to keep Shienar whole, to keep us from being swept away and forgotten."
w, Ingtar." Rand drew a deep breath. "The Light shine on you, Lord Ingtar of House Shinowa, and may you shelter in the palm of the Creator's hand." He touched Ingtar's shoulder. "The last embrace of the mother welcome you

"Thank you," Ingtar said softly. A tension seemed to go out of him. For the first time since the night of the Trolloc raid on Fal Dara, he stood as he had when Rand first saw him, confident and relaxed. Content.
Rand turned and found Hurin staring at him, staring at both of them. "It is time for us to go."
"But Lord Ingtar -"
"- does what he has to," Rand said sharply. "But we go." Hurin nodded, and Rand trotted after him. Rand could hear the steady tread of the Seanchan's boots, now. He did not look back.

(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 47
(Horn)
The Grave Is No Bar to My Call
Mat and Perrin were mounted by the time Rand and Hurin reached them. Far behind him, Rand heard Ingtar's voice rise. "The Light, and Shinowa!" The clash of steel joined the roar of other voices.
"Where's Ingtar?" Mat shouted. "What's going on?" He had the Horn of Valere lashed to the high pommel of his saddle as if it were just any horn, but the dagger was in his belt, the rubytipped hilt cupped protectively in a pale hand that seemed made of nothing but bone and sinew.
"He's dying," Rand said harshly as he swung onto Red's back.
"Then we have to help him," Perrin said. "Mat can take the Horn and the dagger on to -"
"He is doing it so we can all get away," Rand said. For that, too. "We will all take the Horn to Verin, and then you can help her take it wherever she says it belongs."
"What do you mean?" Perrin asked. Rand dug his heels into the bay's flanks, and Red leaped away toward the hills beyond the town.
"The Light, and Shinowa!" Ingtar's shout soared after him, sounding triumphant, and lightning crashed across the sky in answer.
Rand whipped Red with his reins, then lay against the stallion's neck as the bay laid out in a dead run, mane and tail streaming. He wished he did not feel as if he were running away from Ingtar's cry, running from what he was supposed to do. Ingtar, a Darkfriend. I don't care. He was still my friend. The bay's gallop could not take him away from his own thoughts. Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain. So many duties. Egwene. The Horn. Fain. Mat and his dagger. Why can't there just be one at a time? I have to take care of all of them. Oh, Light, Egwene!
He reined in so suddenly that Red slid to a halt, sitting back on his haunches. They were in a scanty copse of barebranched trees atop one of the hills overlooking Falme. The others galloped up behind him.
"What do you mean?" Perrin demanded. "We can help Verin take the Horn where it's supposed to go? Where are you going to be?"
"Maybe he's going mad already," Mat said. "He wouldn't want to stay with us if he was going mad. Would you, Rand?"
"You three take the Horn to Verin," Rand said. Egwene. So many threads, in so much danger. So many duties. "You do not need me."
Mat caressed the dagger's hilt. "That's all very well, but what about you? Burn me, you can't be going mad yet. You can't!" Hurin gaped at them, not understanding half of it.
"I'm going back," Rand said. "I should never have left." Somehow, that did not sound exactly right in his own ears; it did not feel right inside his head. "I have to go back. Now." That sounded better. "Egwene is still there, remember. With one of close collars around her neck."
"Are you sure?" Mat said. "I never saw her. Aaaah! If you say she is there, then she's there. We'll all take the Horn to Verin, and then we will all go back for her. You don't think I would leave her there, do you?"
Rand shook his head. Threads. Duties. He felt as if he were about to explode like a firework. Light, what's happening to me? "Mat, Verin must take you and that dagger to Tar Valon, so you can finally be free of it. You don't have any time to waste."
g Egwene isn't wasting time!" But Mat's hand had tightened on the dagger till it shook.
"We aren't any of us going back," Perrin said. "Not yet. Look." He pointed back toward Falme.
The wagon yards and horse lots were turning black with Seanchan soldiers, thousands of them rank on rank, with troops of cavalry riding scaled beasts as well as armored men on horses, colorful gonfanons marking the officers. Grolm dotted the ranks, and other strange creatures, almost but not quite like monstrous birds and lizards, and great things like nothing he could describe, with gray, wrinkled skin and huge tusks. At intervals along the lines stood sul'dam and damane by the score. Rand wondered if Egwene were one of them. In the town behind the soldiers, a rooftop still exploded now and again, and lightning still streaked the sky. Two flying beasts, with leathery wings twenty spans tip to tip, soared high overhead, keeping well away from where the bright bolts danced.
"All that for us?" Mat said incredulously. "Who do they think we are?"
An answer came to Rand, but he shoved it away before it had a chance to form completely.
"We aren't going the other way either, Lord Rand," Hurin said. "Whitecloaks. Hundreds of them."
Rand wheeled his horse to look where the sniffer was pointing. A long, whitecloaked line rippled slowly toward them across the hills.
"Lord Rand," Hurin muttered, "if that lot lays an eye on the Horn of Valere, we'll never get it close to an Aes Sedai. We'll never get close to it again ourselves."
"Maybe that's why the Seanchan are gathering," Mat said hopefully. "Because of the Whitecloaks. Maybe it doesn't have anything to do with us at all."
"Whether it does or not," Perrin said dryly, "there is going to be a battle here in a few minutes."
"Either side could kill us," Hurin said, "even if they never see the Horn. If they do ..."
Rand could not manage to think about the Whitecloaks, or the Seanchan. I have to go back. Have to. He was staring at the Horn of Valere, he realized. They all were. The curled, golden Horn hung at Mat's pommel, the focus of every eye.
"It has to be there at the Last Battle," Mat said, licking his lips. "Nothing says it can't be used before then." He pulled the Horn free of its lashings and looked at them anxiously.

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