The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt: Page 60

Rand stared wonderingly at his hand sticking out of the red sleeve of his coat. There was not so much as a singe on the wool. I imagined it all. Frantically, he looked around. Ba'alzamon was gone. Hurin shifted in his sleep; the sniffer and Loial were still only two mounds sticking up out of the low fog. I did imagine it.
Before relief had a chance to grow, pain stabbed his right hand, and he turned it up to look. There across the palm was branded a heron. The heron from the hilt of his sword, angry and red, as neatly done as though drawn with an artist's skill.
Fumbling a kerchief from his coat pocket, he wrapped it around his hand. The hand throbbed, now. The void would help with that - he was aware of pain in the void, but he did not feel it - but he put the thought out of his head. Twice now, unknowing - and once on purpose; he could not forget that - he had tried to channel the One Power while he was in the void. It was with that that Ba'alzamon wanted to tempt him. It was that that Moiraine and the Amyrlin Seat wanted him to do. He would not.

(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 16
(Dragon's Fang)
In the Mirror of Darkness
"You should not have done it, Lord Rand," Hurin said when Rand woke the others just at daybreak. The sun yet hid below the horizon, but there was light enough to see. The fog had melted away while dark still held, fading reluctantly. "If you use yourself up to spare us, my Lord, who will see to getting us home?"
"I needed to think," Rand said. Nothing showed the fog had ever been, or Ba'alzamon. He fingered the kerchief wrapped around his right hand. There was that to prove Ba'alzamon had been there. He wanted to be away from this place. "Time to be in the saddle if we are going to catch Fain's Darkfriends. Past time. We can eat flatbread while we ride."
Loial paused in the act of stretching, his arms reaching as high as Hurin could have standing on Rand's shoulders. "Your hand, Rand. What happened?"
"I hurt it. It's nothing."
"I have a salve in my saddlebags - "
"It is nothing" Rand knew he sounded harsh, but one look at the brand would surely bring questions he did not want to answer. "Time's wasting. Let us be on our way." He set about saddling Red, awkwardly because of his injured hand, and Hurin jumped to his own horse.
"No need to be so touchy," Loial muttered.
d decided as they set out, would be something natural in that world. There were too many unnatural things there. Even a single hoofprint would be welcome. Fain and the Darkfriends and the Trollocs had to leave some mark. He concentrated on the ground they passed over, trying to make out any trace that could have been made by another living thing.
There was nothing, not a turned stone, not a disturbed clod of earth. Once he looked at the ground behind them, just to reassure himself that the land did take hoofprints; scraped turf and bent grass marked their passage plainly, yet ahead the ground was undisturbed. But Hurin insisted he could smell the trail, faint and thin, but still heading south.
Once again the sniffer put all his attentions on the trail he followed, like a hound tracking deer, and once again Loial rode lost in his own thoughts, muttering to himself and rubbing the huge quarterstaff held across his saddle in front of him.
They had not been riding more than an hour when Rand saw the spire ahead. He was so busy watching for tracks that the tapering column already stood thick and tall above the trees in the middle distance when he first noticed it. "I wonder what that is." It lay directly in their path.
"I don't know what it can be, Rand," Loial said.
"If this - if this was our own world, Lord Rand ..." Hurin shifted uncomfortably in his saddle. "Well, that monument Lord Ingtar was talking about - the one to Artur Hawkwing's victory over the Trollocs - it was a great spire. But it was torn down a thousand years ago. There's nothing left but a big mound, like a hill. I saw it, when I went to Cairhien for Lord Agelmar."
"According to Ingtar," Loial said, "that is still three or four days ahead of us. If it is here at all. I don't know why it should be. I don't think there are any people here at all."
The sniffer put his eyes back on the ground. "That's just it, isn't it, Builder? No people, but there it is ahead of us. Maybe we ought to keep clear of it, my Lord Rand. No telling what it is, or who's there, in

Rand drummed his fingers on the high pommel of his saddle for a moment, thinking. "We have to stick as close to the trail as we can," he said finally. "We don't seem to be getting any closer to Fain as it is, and I don't want to lose more time, if we can avoid it. If we see any people, or anything out of the ordinary, then we'll circle around until we pick it up again. But until then, we keep on."
"As you say, my Lord." The sniffer sounded odd, and he gave Rand a quick, sidelong look. "As you say."
Rand frowned for a moment before he understood, and then it was his turn to sigh. Lords did not explain to those who followed them, only to other lords. I didn't ask him to take me for a bloody lord. But he did, a small voice seemed to answer him, and you let him. You made the choice; now the duty is yours.
"Take the trail, Hurin," Rand said.
With a flash of relieved grin, the sniffer heeled his horse onward.
The weak sun climbed as they rode, and by the time it was overhead, they were only a mile or so from the spire. They had reached one of the streams, in a gully a pace deep, and the intervening trees were sparse. Rand could see the mound it was built on, like a round, flattopped hill. The gray spire itself rose at least a hundred spans, and he could just make out now that the top was carved in the likeness of a bird with outstretched wings.
"A hawk," Rand said. "It is Hawkwing's monument. It must be. There were people here, whether there are now or not. They just built it in another place here, and never tore it down. Think of it, Hurin. When we get back, you'll be able to tell them what the monument really looked like. There will only be three of us in the whole world who have ever seen it."
Hurin nodded. "Yes, my Lord. My children would like to hear that tale, their father seeing Hawkwing's spire."
"Rand," Loial began worriedly.
"We can gallop the distance," Rand said. "Come on. A gallop will do us good. This place may be dead, but we're alive."
"Rand," Loial said, "I don't think that is a - "
Not waiting to hear, Rand dug his boots into Red's flanks, and the stallion sprang forward. He splashed across the shallow ribbon of water in two strides, then scrabbled up the far side. Hurin launched his horse right behind him. Rand heard Loial calling behind them, but he laughed, waved for the Ogier to follow, and galloped on. If he kept his eyes on one spot, the land did not seem to slip and slide so badly, and the wind felt good on his face.
The mound covered a good two hides, but the grassy slope rose at an easy slant. The gray spire reared into the sky, squared and broad enough despite its height to seem massive, almost squat. Rand's laughter died, and he pulled Red up, his face grim.
"Is that Hawkwing's monument, Lord Rand?" Hurin asked uneasily. "It doesn't look right, somehow."
Rand recognized the harsh, angular script that covered the face of the monument, and he recognized some of the symbols chiseled on the breadth, chiseled as tall as a man. The horned skull of the Da'vol Trollocs. The iron fist of the Dhai'mon. The trident of the Ka'bol, and the whirlwind of the Ahf'frait. There was a hawk, too, carved near the bottom. With a wingspan of ten paces, it lay on its back, pierced by a lightning bolt, and ravens pecked at its eyes. The huge wings atop the spire seemed to block the sun.
He heard Loial galloping up behind him.
"I tried to tell you, Rand," Loial said. "It is a raven, not a hawk. I could see it clearly." Hurin turned his horse, refusing even to look at the spire any longer.
"But how?" Rand said. "Artur Hawkwing won a victory over the Trollocs here. Ingtar said so."
"Not here," Loial said slowly. "Obviously not here. 'From Stone to Stone run the lines of if, between the worlds that might be.' I've been thinking on it, and I believe I know what the 'the worlds that might be' are. Maybe I do. Worlds our world might have been if things had happened differently. Maybe that's why it is all so ... washedout looking. Because it's an 'if,' a 'maybe.' Just a shadow of the real world. In this world, I think, the Trollocs won. Maybe that's why we have not seen any villages or people."
Rand's skin crawled. Where Trollocs won, they did not leave humans alive except for food. If they had won across an entire world... "If the Trollocs had won, they would be everywhere.
We'd have seen a thousand of them by now. We'd be dead since yesterday."
"I do not know, Rand. Perhaps, after they killed the people, they killed one another. Trollocs live to kill. That is all they do; that is all they are. I just don't know."

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