The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 4




Avoiding those dead eyes, he glanced once more at the three figures, then followed. Uneasily he wondered how the youth had known what name to use. It was not until the strange carved doors closed behind him and they had walked a dozen paces that he realized he was alone in the corridor with the servant. His brows drew down suspiciously behind his mask, but before he could open his mouth, the servant spoke.
"The others are also being shown to their rooms, my Lord. If you please, my Lord? Time is short, and our Master is impatient."
called himself Bors ground his teeth, both at the lack of information and at the implication of sameness between himself and the servant, but he followed in silence. Only a fool ranted at a servant, and worse, remembering the fellow's eyes, he was not sure it would do any good. And how did he know what I was going to ask? The servant smiled.
The man who called himself Bors did not feel at all comfortable until he was back in the room where he had waited on first arriving, and then not much. Even finding the seals on his saddlebags un

The servant stood in the hallway, not entering. "You may change to your own garments if you wish, my Lord. None will see you depart here, nor arrive at your destination, but it may be best to arrive already properly clothed. Someone will come soon to show you the way."
Untouched by any visible hand, the door swung shut.
The man who called himself Bors shivered in spite of himself. Hastily he undid the seals and buckles of his saddlebags and pulled out his usual cloak. In the back of his mind a small voice wondered if the promised power, even the immortality, was worth another meeting like this, but he laughed it down immediately. For that much power, I would praise the Great Lord of the Dark under the Dome of Truth. Remembering the commands given him by Ba'alzamon, he fingered the golden, flaring sun worked on the breast of the white cloak, and the red shepherd's crook behind the sun, symbol of his office in the world of men, and he almost laughed. There was work, great work, to be done in Tarabon, and on Almoth Plain.

(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 1
The Flame of Tar Valon
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass leaving memories that become legend, then fade to myth, and are long forgot when that Age comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Dhoom. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.
Born among black, knifeedged peaks, where death roamed the high passes yet hid from things still more dangerous, the wind blew south across the tangled forest of the Great Blight, a forest tainted and twisted by the touch of the Dark One. The sickly sweet smell of corruption faded by the time the wind crossed that invisible line men called the border of Shienar, where spring flowers hung thick in the trees. It should have been summer by now, but spring had been late in coming, and the land had run wild to catch up.
Newcome pale green bristled on every bush, and red new growth tipped every tree branch. The wind rippled farmers' fields like verdant ponds, solid with crops that almost seemed to creep upward visibly.
The smell of death was all but gone long before the wind reached the stonewalled town of Fal Dara on its hills, and whipped around a tower of the fortress in the very center of the town, a tower atop which two men seemed to dance. Hardwalled and high, Fal Dara, both keep and town, never taken, never betrayed. The wind moaned across woodshingled rooftops, around tall stone chimneys and taller towers, moaned like a dirge.
Stripped to the waist, Rand al'Thor shivered at the wind's cold caress, and his fingers flexed on the long hilt of the practice sword he held. The hot sun had slicked his chest, and his dark, reddish hair clung to his head in a sweatcurled mat. A faint odor in the swirl of air made his nose twitch, but he did not connect the smell with the image of an old grave freshopened that flashed through his head. He was barely aware of odor or image at all; he strove to keep his mind empty, but the other man sharing the tower top with him kept intruding on the emptiness. Ten paces across, the tower top was, encircled by a chesthigh, crenellated wall. Big enough and more not to feel crowded, except when shared with a Warder.
Young as he was, Rand was taller than most men, but Lan stood just as tall and more heavily muscled, if not quite so broad in the shoulders. A narrow band of braided leather held the Warder's long hair back from his face, a face that seemed made from stony planes and angles, a face unlined as if to belie the tinge of gray at his temples. Despite the heat and exertion, only a light coat of sweat glistened on his chest and arms. Rand searched Lan's icy blue eyes, hunting for some hint of what the other man intended. The Warder never seemed to blink, and the practice sword in his hands moved surely and smoothly as he flowed from one stance to another.
With a bundle of thin, loosely bound staves in place of a blade, the practice sword would make a loud clack when it struck anything, and leave a welt where it hit flesh. Rand knew all too well. Three thin red lines stung on his ribs, and another burned his shoulder. It had taken all his efforts not to wear more decorations. Lan bore not a mark.
As he had been taught, Rand formed a single flame in his mind and concentrated on it, tried to feed all emotion and passion into it, to form a void within himself, with even thought outside. Emptiness came. As was too often the case of late it was not a perfect emptiness; the flame still remained, or some sense of light sending ripples through the stillness. But it was enough, barely. The cool peace of the void crept over him, and he was one with the practice sword, with the smooth stones under his boots, even with Lan. All was one, and he moved without thought in a rhythm that matched the Warder's step for step and move for move.
The wind rose again, bringing the ringing of bells from the town. Somebody's still celebrating that spring has finally come. The extraneous thought fluttered through the void on waves of light, disturbing the emptiness, and as if the Warder could read Rand's mind, the practice sword whirled in Lan's hands.
For a long minute the swift clackclackclack of bundled lathes meeting filled the tower top. Rand made no effort to reach the other man; it was all he could do to keep the Warder's strikes from reaching him. Turning Lan's blows at the last possible moment, he was forced back. Lan's expression never changed; the practice sword seemed alive in his hands. Abruptly the Warder's swinging slash changed in midmotion to a thrust. Caught by surprise, Rand stepped back, already wincing with the blow he knew he could not stop this time.
The wind howled across the tower... and trapped him. It was as if the air had suddenly jelled, holding him in a cocoon. Pushing him forward. Time and motion slowed; horrified, he watched Lan's practice sword drift toward his chest. There was nothing slow or soft about the impact. His ribs creaked as if he had been struck with a hammer. He grunted, but the wind would not allow him to give way; it still carried him forward, instead. The lathes of Lan's practice sword flexed and bent - ever so slowly, it seemed to Rand - then shattered, sharp points oozing toward his heart, jagged lathes piercing his skin. Pain lanced through his body; his whole skin felt slashed. He burned as though the sun had flared to crisp him like bacon in a pan.
With a shout, he threw himself stumbling back, falling against the stone wall. Hand trembling, he touched the gashes on his chest and raised bloody fingers before his gray eyes in disbelief.
"And what was that fool move, sheepherder?" Lan grated. "You know better by now, or should unless you have forgotten everything I've tried to teach you. How badly are you - ?" He cut off

"The wind." Rand's mouth was dry. "It - it pushed me! It... It was solid as a wall!"
The Warder stared at him in silence, then offered a hand. Rand took it and let himself be pulled to his feet.
"Strange things can happen this close to the Blight," Lan said finally, but for all the flatness of the words he sounded troubled. That in itself was strange. Warders, those halflegendary warriors who served the Aes Sedai, seldom showed emotion, and Lan showed little even for a Warder. He tossed the shattered lathe sword aside and leaned against the wall where their real swords lay, out of the way of their practice.
"Not like that," Rand protested. He joined the other man, squatting with his back against the stone. That way the top of the wall was higher than his head, protection of a kind from the wind. If it was a wind. No wind had ever felt... solid... like that. "Peace! Maybe not even in the Blight."
"For someone like you..

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