The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt: Page 20

If they can sink back; they are ta'veren, too, if lesser than he. I will induce them to carry the Horn of Valere to Illian." She hesitated, frowning. "There is ... a problem with Mat. He carries a dagger from Shadar Logoth."
"Shadar Logoth! Light, why did you ever let them get near that place. Every stone of it is tainted. There isn't a pebble safe to carry away. Light help us, if Mordeth touched the boy ..." The Amyrlin sounded as though she were strangling. "If that happened, the world would be doomed."
"But it did not, Siuan. We do what we must from necessity, and it was necessary. I have done enough so that Mat will not infect others, but he had the dagger too long before I knew. The link is still there. I had thought I must take him to Tar Valon to cure it, but with so many sisters present, it might be done here. So long as there are a few you can trust not to see Darkfriends where there are none. You and I and two others will suffice, using my angreal."
"Leane will do for one, and I can find another." Suddenly the Amyrlin Seat gave a wry grin. "The Hall wants that angreal back, Moiraine. There are not very many of them left, and you are now considered ... unreliable."
Moiraine smiled, but it did not touch her eyes. "They will think worse of me before I am done. Mat will leap at the chance to be so big a part of the legend of the Horn, and Perrin should not be hard to convince. He needs something to take his mind off his own troubles. Rand knows what he is - some of it, at least; a little - and he is afraid of it, naturally. He wants to go off somewhere alone, where he cannot hurt anyone. He says he will never wield the Power again, but he fears not being able to stop it."
"As well he might. Easier to give up drinking water."
"Exactly. And he wants to be free from Aes Sedai." Moiraine gave a small, mirthless smile. "Offered the chance to leave Aes Sedai behind and still stay with his friends a while longer, he should be as eager as Mat."
"But how is he leaving Aes Sedai behind? Surely you must travel with him. We can't lose him now, Moiraine."
"I cannot travel with him." It is a long way from Fal Dara to Illian, but he has traveled almost as far already. "He must be let off the leash for a time. There is no help for it. I have had all of their old clothes burned. There has been too much opportunity for some shred of what they were wearing to have fallen into the wrong hands. I will cleanse them before they leave; they will not even realize it has been done. There will be no chance they can be tracked that way, and the only other threat of that kind is locked away here in the dungeon." The Amyrlin, midway in nodding approval, gave her a questioning look, but she did not pause. "They will travel as safely as I can manage, Siuan. And when Rand needs me in Illian, I will be there, and I will see that it is he who presents the Horn to the Council of Nine and the Assemblage. I will see to everything in Illian. Siuan, the Illianers would follow the Dragon, or Ba'alzamon himself, if he came bearing the Horn of Valere, and so will the greater part of those gathered for the Hunt. The true Dragon Reborn will not need to gather a following before nations move against him. He will begin with a nation around him and an army at his back."
The Amyrlin dropped back into her chair, but immediately leaned forward. She seemed caught between weariness and hope. "But will he proclaim himself? If he's afraid ... The Light knows he should be, Moiraine, but men who name themselves as the Dragon want the power. If he does not..."
"I have the means to see him named Dragon whether he wills it or not. And even if I somehow fail, the Pattern itself will see him named Dragon whether he wills it or not. Remember, he is ta'veren, Siuan. He has no more control over his fate than a candle wick has over the flame."
The Amyrlin sighed. "It's risky, Moiraine. Risky. But my father used to say, 'Girl, if you won't take a chance, you'll never win a copper.' We have plans to make. Sit down; this won't be done quickly. I will send for wine and cheese."
Moiraine shook her head. "We have been closeted alone too long already. If any did try listening and found your Warding, they will be wondering already. It is not worth the risk. We can contrive another meeting tomorrow." Besides, my dearest friend, I cannot tell you everything, and I cannot risk letting you know I am holding anything back.
"I suppose you are right. But first thing in the morning. There's so much I have to know."
"The morning," Moiraine agreed. The Amyrlin rose, and they hugged again. "In the morning I will tell you everything you need to know."
Leane gave Moiraine a sharp look when she came out into the anteroom, then darted into the Amyrlin's chamber. Moiraine tried to put on a chastened face, as if she had endured one of the Amyrlin's infamous upbraidings - most women, however strongwilled, returned from those bigeyed and weakkneed - but the expression was foreign to her. She looked more angry than anything else, which served much the same purpose. She was only vaguely aware of the other women in the outer room; she thought some had gone and others come since she went in, but she barely looked at them. The hour was growing late, and there was much to be done before the morning came. Much, before she spoke to the Amyrlin Seat again.
Quickening her step, she moved deeper into the keep.
The column would have made an impressive sight under the waxing moon, moving through the Tarabon night to the jangle of harness, had there been anyone to see it. A full two thousand Children of the Light, well mounted, in white tabards and cloaks, armor burnished, with their train of supply wagons, and farriers, and grooms with the strings of remounts. There were villages in this sparsely forested country, but they had left roads behind, and stayed clear of even farmers' crofts. They were to meet ... someone ... at a flyspeck village near the northern border of Tarabon, at

Geofram Bornhald, riding at the head of his men, wondered what it was all about. He remembered too well his interview with Pedron Niall, Lord Captain Commander of the Children of the Light, in Amador, but he had learned little there.
"We are alone, Geofram," the whitehaired man had said. His voice was thin and reedy with age. "I remember giving you the oath... what ... thirtysix years ago, it must be, now."
Bornhald straightened. "My Lord Captain Commander, may I ask why I was called back from Caemlyn, and with such urgency? A push, and Morgase could be toppled. There are Houses in Andor that see dealing with Tar Valon as we do, and they were ready to lay claim to the throne. I left Eamon Valda in charge, but he seemed intent on following the DaughterHeir to Tar Valon. I would not be surprised to learn the man has kidnapped the girl, or even attacked Tar Valon. " And Dain, Bornhald's son, had arrived just before Bornhald was recalled. Dain was full of zeal. Too much zeal, sometimes. Enough to fall in blindly with whatever Valda proposed.
"Valda walks in the Light, Geofram. But you are the best battle commander among the Children. You will assemble a full legion, the best men you can find, and take them into Tarabon, avoiding any eyes attached to a tongue that may speak. Any such tongue must be silenced, if the eyes see."
Bornhald hesitated. Fifty Children together, or even a hundred, could enter any land without question, at least without open question, but an entire legion... "Is it war, my Lord Captain Commander? There is talk in the streets. Wild rumors, mainly, about Artur Hawkwing's armies come back." The old man did not speak. "The King..."
"Does not command the Children, Lord Captain Bornhald." For the first time there was a snap in the Lord Captain Commander's voice. "I do. Let the King sit in his palace and do what he does best. Nothing. You will be met at a village called Alcruna, and there you will receive your final orders. I expect your legion to ride in three days. Now go, Geofram. You have work to do."
Bornhald frowned. "Pardon, my Lord Captain Commander, but who will meet me? Why am I risking war with Tarabon?"
"You will be told what you must know when you reach Alcruna." The Lord Captain Commander suddenly looked more than his age. Absently he plucked at his white tunic, with the golden sunburst of the Children large on the chest. "There are forces at work beyond what you know, Geofram. Beyond what even you can know. Choose your men quickly. Now go. Ask me no more. And the Light ride with you."
Now Bornhald straightened in his saddle, working a knot out of his back. I am getting old, he thought. A day and a night in the saddle, with two pauses to water the horses, and he felt every gray hair on his head. He would not even have noticed a few years ago. At least I have not killed any innocents. He could be as hard on Darkfriends as any man sworn to the Light - Darkfriends must be destroyed before they pulled the whole world under the Shadow - but he wanted to be sure they were Darkfriends first.

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