The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 33



With that it was gone, leaving in its place a sense of peace. At its edges, emotions still flickered, fear and anger like black blotches, but the void held. Thought skimmed across its surface like pebbles across ice. The Aes Sedai's attention was only off him for a moment, but when they turned back his face was calm.
"Why are you talking to me like this, Mother?" he asked. "You sho

The Amyrlin Seat frowned and turned to Moiraine. "Did Lan teach him this?"
"No, Mother. He had it from Tam al'Thor."
"Why?" Rand demanded again.
The Amyrlin Seat looked him straight in the eye and said, "Because you are the Dragon Reborn."
The void rocked. The world rocked. Everything seemed to spin around him. He concentrated on nothing, and the emptiness returned, the world steadied. "No, Mother. I can channel, the Light help me, but I am not Raolin Darksbane, nor Guaire Amalasin, nor Yurian Stonebow. You can gentle me, or kill me, or let me go, but I will not be a tame false Dragon on a Tar Valon leash."
He heard Verin gasp, and the Amyrlin's eyes widened, a gaze as hard as blue rock. It did not affect him; it slid off the void within.
"Where did you hear those names?" the Amyrlin demanded. "Who told you Tar Valon pulls the lines on any false Dragon?"
"A friend, Mother," he said. "A gleeman. His name was Thom Merrilin. He's dead, now." Moiraine made a sound, and he glanced at her. She claimed Thom was not dead, but she had never offered any proof, and he could not see how any man could survive grappling handtohand with a Fade. The thought was extraneous, and it faded away. There was only the void and the oneness now.
"You are not a false Dragon," the Amyrlin said firmly. "You are the true Dragon Reborn."
"I am a shepherd from the Two Rivers, Mother."
"Daughter, tell him the story. A true story, boy. Listen well."
Moiraine began speaking. Rand kept his eyes on the Amyrlin's face, but he heard.
"Nearly twenty years ago the Aiel crossed the Spine of the World, the Dragonwall, the only time they have ever done so.
They ravaged through Cairhien, destroyed every army sent against them, burned the city of Cairhien itself, and fought all the way to Tar Valon. It was winter and snowing, but cold or heat mean little to an Aiel. The final battle, the last that counted, was fought outside the Shining Walls, in the shadow of Dragonmount. In. three days and three nights of fighting, the Aiel were turned back. Or rather they turned back, for they had done what they came to do, which was to kill King Laman of Cairhien, for his sin against the Tree. It is then that my story begins. And yours."
They came over the Dragonwall like a flood. All the way to the Shining Walls. Rand waited for the memories to fade, but it was Tam's voice he heard, Tam sick and raving, pulling up secrets from his past. The voice clung outside the void, clamoring to get in.
"I was one of the Accepted, then," Moiraine said, "as was our Mother, the Amyrlin Seat. We were soon to be raised to sisterhood, and that night we stood attendance on the then Amyrlin. Her Keeper of the Chronicles, Gitara Moroso, was there. Every other full sister in Tar Valon was out Healing as many wounded as she could find, even the Reds. It was dawn. The fire on the hearth could not keep the cold out. The snow had finally stopped, and in the Amyrlin's chambers in the White Tower we could smell the smoke of outlying villages burned in the fighting."
Battles are always hot, even in the snow. Had to get away from the stink of death. Tam's delirious voice clawed at the empty calm inside Rand. The void trembled and shrank, steadied, then wavered again. The Amyrlin's eyes bored at him. He felt sweat on his face again. "It was all a fever dream," he said. "He was sick." He raised his voice. "My name is Rand al'Thor. I am a shepherd. My father is Tam al'Thor, and my mother was- "
Moiraine had paused for him, but now her unchanging voice cut him off, soft and relentless. "The Karaethon Cycle, the Prophecies of the Dragon, says that the Dragon will be reborn on the slopes of Dragonmount, where he died during the Breaking of the World. Gitara Sedai had the Foretelling sometimes. She was old, her hair as white as the snow outside, but when she had the Foretelling, it was strong. The morning light through the windows was strengthening as I handed her a cup of tea. The Amyrlin Seat asked me what news there was from the field of battle. And Gitara Sedai started up out of her chair, her arms and legs rigid, trembling, her face as if she looked into the Pit of Doom at Shayol Ghul, and she cried out, 'He is born again! I feel him! The Dragon takes his first breath on the slope of Dragonmount! He is coming! He is coming! Light help us! Light help the world! He lies in the snow and cries like the thunder! He burns like the sun!' And she fell forward into my arms, dead."
Slope of the mountain. Heard a baby cry. Gave birth there alone, before she died. Child blue with the cold. Rand tried to force Tam's voice away. The void grew smaller. "A feverdream," he gasped. I couldn't leave a child. "I was born in the Two Rivers." Always knew you wanted children, Kari. He pulled his eyes away from the Amyrlin's gaze. He tried to force the void to hold. He knew that was not the way, but it was collapsing in him. Yes, lass. Rand is a good name. "I - am - Rand - al'Thor!" His legs trembled.
"And so we knew the Dragon was Reborn," Moiraine went on. "The Amyrlin swore us to secrecy, we two, for she knew not all the sisters would see the Rebirth as it must be seen. She set us to searching. There were many fatherless children after that battle. Too many. But we found a story, that one man had found an infant on the mountain. That was all. A man and an infant boy. So we searched on. For years we searched, finding other clues, poring over the Prophecies. 'He will be of the ancient blood, and raised by the old blood.' That was one; there were others. But there are many places where the old blood, descended from the Age of Legends, remains strong. Then, in the Two Rivers, where the old blood of Manetheren seethes still like a river in flood, in Emond's Field, I found three boys whose namedays were within weeks of the battle at Dragonmount. And one of them can channel. Did you think Trollocs came after you just because you are ta'veren? You are the Dragon Reborn."
Rand's knees gave way; he dropped to a squat, hands slapping the rug to catch himself from falling on his face. The void was gone, the stillness shattered. He raised his head, and they were looking at him, the three Aes Sedai. Their faces were serene, smooth as unruffled ponds, but their eyes did not blink. "My father is Tam al'Thor, and I was born ..." They stared at him, unmoving. They're lying. I am not ... what they say! Some way, somehow, they're lying, trying to use me. "I will not be used by you."
"An anchor is not demeaned by being used to hold a boat," the Amyrlin said. "You were made for a purpose, Rand al'Thor. 'When the winds of Tarmon Gai'don scour the earth, he will face the Shadow and bring forth Light again in the world.' The Prophecies must be fulfilled, or the Dark One will break free and remake the world in his image. The Last Battle is coming, and you were born to unite mankind and lead them ag

"Ba'alzamon is dead," Rand said hoarsely, and the Amyrlin snorted like a stablehand.
"If you believe that, you are as much a fool as the Domani. Many there believe he is dead, or say they do, but I notice they still won't risk naming him. The Dark One lives, and he is breaking free. You will face the Dark One. It is your destiny."
It is your destiny. He had heard that before, in a dream that had maybe not been entirely a dream. He wondered what the Amyrlin would say if she knew Ba'alzamon had spoken to him in dreams. That's done with. Ba'alzamon is dead. I saw him die.
Suddenly it came to him that he was crouching like a toad, huddling under their eyes. He tried to form the void again, but voices whirled through his head, sweeping away every effort. It is your destiny. Babe lying in the snow. You are the Dragon Reborn. Ba'alzamon is dead. Rand is a good name, Kari. I will not be used! Drawing on his own native stubbornness, he forced himself back upright. Face it on your feet. You can keep your pride, at least. The three Aes Sedai watched with no expression.
"What ..." With an effort he steadied his voice. "What are you going to do to me?"
"Nothing," the Amyrlin said, and he blinked. It was not the answer he had expected, the one he had feared. "You say you want to accompany your friend with Ingtar, and you may. I have not marked you out in any way. Some of the sisters may know you are ta'veren, but no more. Only we three know who you truly are. Your friend Perrin will be brought to me, as you were, and I will visit your other friend in the infirmary. You may go as you will, without fear that we will set the Red sisters on you."
Who you truly are. Anger flared up in him, hot and corrosive.

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