The Great Hunt: Page 63
"I'm surprised you could let her go, the way you two had your heads together. What do you mean, I was right?"
"She is a fascinating woman, isn't she? Some of the Elders don't know as much as she does about history - especially the Age of Legends - and about - oh, yes. She says you were right about the Ways, Rand. The Aes Sedai, some of them, studied worlds like this, and that study was the basis of how they grew the Ways. She says there are worlds where it is time rather than distance that changes. Spend a day in one of those, and you might come back to find a year has passed in the real world, or twenty. Or it could be the other way round. Those worlds - this one, all the others - are reflections of the real world, she says. This one seems pale to us because it is a weak reflection, a world that had
little chance of ever being. Others are almost as likely as ours. Those are as solid as our world, and have people. The same people, she says, Rand. Imagine it! You could go to one of them and meet yourself. The Pattern has infinite variation, she says, and every variation that can be, will be."
Rand shook his head, then wished he had not as the landscape flickered back and forth and his stomach lurched. He took a deep breath. "How does she know all that? You know about more things than anybody I ever met before, Loial, and all you knew about this world amounted to no more than a rumor."
"She's Cairhienin, Rand. The Royal Library in Cairhien is one of the greatest in the world, perhaps the greatest outside Tar Valon. The Aiel spared it deliberately, you know, when they burned Cairhien. They will not destroy a book. Did you know that they - "
"I don't care about Aielmen," Rand said hotly. "If Selene knows so much, I hope she read how to get us home from here.
I wish Selene-"
"You wish Selene what?" The woman laughed as she joined them.
Rand stared at her as if she had been gone months; that was how he felt. "I wish Selene would come ride with me some more," he said. Loial chuckled, and Rand felt his face burn.
Selene smiled, and looked at Loial. "You will excuse us, alantin."
The Ogier bowed in his saddle and let his big horse fall back, the tufts on his ears drooping with reluctance.
For a time Rand rode in silence, enjoying Selene's presence. Now and again he looked at her out of the corner of his eye. He wished he could get his feelings about her straight. Could she be an Aes Sedai, despite her denial? Someone sent by Moiraine to push him along whatever path he was meant to follow in the Aes Sedai's plans? Moiraine could not have known he would be taken to this strange world, and no Aes Sedai would have tried to fend off that beast with a stick when she could strike it dead or send it running with the Power. Well. Since she took him for a lord and no one in Cairhien knew different, he might keep on letting her think it. She was surely the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, intelligent and learned, and she thought he was brave; what more could a man ask from a wife? That's crazy, too. I'd marry Egwene if I could marry anyone, but I can't ask a woman to marry a man who's going to go mad, maybe hurt her. But Selene was so beautiful.
She was studying his sword, he saw. He readied the words in his head. No, he was not a blademaster, but his father had given him the sword. Tam. Light, why couldn't you really be my father? He squashed the thought ruthlessly.
"That was a magnificent shot," Selene said.
"No, I'm not a - " Rand began, then blin
"Yes. A tiny target, that eye, moving, at a hundred paces. You've a wonderful hand with that bow."
Rand shifted awkwardly. "Ah ... thank you. It's a trick my father taught me." He told her about the void, about how Tam had taught him how to use it with the bow. He even found himself telling her about Lan and his sword lessons.
"The Oneness," she said, sounding satisfied. She saw his questioning look and added, "That is what it is called ... in some places. The Oneness. To learn the full use of it, it is best to wrap it around you continuously, to dwell in it at all times, or so I've heard."
He did not even have to think about what lay waiting for him in the void to know his answer to that, but what he said was, "I'll think about it."
"Wear this void of yours all the time, Rand al'Thor, and you'll learn uses for it you never suspected."
"I said I will think about it." She opened her mouth again, but he cut her off. "You know all these things. About the void - the Oneness, you call it. About this world. Loial reads books all the time; he's read more books than I've ever seen, and he's never seen anything but a fragment about the Stones."
Selene drew herself up straight in her saddle. Suddenly she reminded him of Moiraine, and of Queen Morgase, when they were angry.
"There was a book written about these worlds," she said tightly. "Mirrors of the Wheel. You see, the alantin has not seen all the books that are."
"What is this alantin you call him? I've never heard - "
"The Portal Stone beside which I woke is up there," Selene said, pointing into the mountains, off to the east of their path. Rand found himself wishing for her warmth again, and her smiles. "If you take me to it, you can return me to my home, as you promised. We can reach it in an hour."
Rand barely looked where she pointed. Using the Stone - Portal Stone, she called it - meant wielding the Power, if he were to take her back to the real world. "Hurin, how is the trail?"
"Fainter than ever, Lord Rand, but still there." The sniffer spared a quick grin and bob of his head for Selene. "I think it's starting to angle off to the west. There's some easier passes there, toward the tip of the Dagger, as I recall from when I went to Cairhien that time."
Rand sighed. Fain, or one of his Darkfriends, has to know another way to use the Stones. A Darkfriend couldn't use the Power. "I have to follow the Horn, Selene."
"How do you know your precious Horn is even in this world? Come with me, Rand. You'll find your legend, I promise you. Come with me."
"You can use the Stone, this Portal Stone, yourself," he said angrily. Before the words were out of his mouth he wanted them back. Why does she have to keep talking about legends? Stubbornly, he forced himself to go on. "The Portal Stone didn't bring you here by itself. You did it, Selene. If you made the Stone bring you here, you can make it take you back. I'll take you to it, but then I must go on after the Horn."
"I know nothing about using the Portal Stones, Rand. If I did anything, I don't know what it was."
Rand studied her. She sat her saddle, straightbacked and tall, just as regally as before, but somehow softer, too. Proud, yet vulnerable, and needing him. He had put Nynaeve's age to her - a handful of years older than himself - but he had been wrong, he realized. She was more his own age, and beautiful, and she needed him. The thought, just the thought, of the void flickered through his head, and of the light. Saidin. To use the Portal Stone, he must dip himself back into that taint.
"Stay with me, Selene," he said. "We'll find the Horn, and Mat's dagger, and we'll find a way back. I promise you. Just stay with me."
"You always ..." Selene drew a deep breath as if to calm herself. "You always are so stubborn. Well, I can admire stubbornness in a man. There is little to a man who's too easily biddable."
Rand colored; it was too much like the things Egwene sometimes said, and they had all but been promised in marriage since they were children. From Selene, the words, and the direct look that went with them, were a shock. He turned to tell Hurin to press on with the trail.
From behind them came a distant, coughing grunt. Before Rand could whirl Red to look, another bark sounded, and three more on its heels. At first he could make out nothing as the landscape seemed to waver in his eyes, but then he saw them through the widespread stands of trees, just topping a hill. Five shapes, it seemed, only half a mile distant, a bare thousand paces at most, and coming in thirtyfoot bounds.
"Grolm," Selene said calmly. "A small pack, but they have our scent, it seems."
(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 17
"We'll run for it," Rand said. "Hurin, can you gallop and still follow the trail?"
"Yes, Lord Rand."
"Then push on. We will - "
"It won't do any good," Selene said. Her white mare was the only one of their mounts not dancing at the gruff barks coming from the grolm. "They don't give up, not ever. Once they have your scent, grolm keep coming, day and night, until they run you down. You must kill them all, or find a way to go elsewhere. Rand, the Portal Stone can take us elsewhere."
"No! We can kill them. I can. I already killed one. There are only five. If I can just find ..." He cast around for the spot he needed, and found it. "Follow me!" Digging his heels in, he set Red to a gallop, confident before he heard their hooves that the others would come.
The place he had chosen was a low, round hill, bare of trees.
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