The Great Hunt: Page 65
Light, that's crazy to want it. But I was so full of it! I was so ... Dazed, he stared at Selene. It was she who held his shoulders, stared wonderingly into his eyes. He raised his hand in front of his face. The heron brand was there, but nothing else. No triangleandcircle burned into his flesh.
"Remarkable," Selene said slowly. She glanced at Loial and Hurin. The Ogier looked stunned, his eyes as big as plates; the sniffer was squatting with one hand on the ground, as if unsure he could support himself else. "All of us here, and all of our horses. And you do not even know what you did. Remarkable."
"Are we ...?" Rand began hoarsely, and had to stop to swallow.
"Look around you," Selene said. "You've brought us home." She gave a sudden laugh. "You brought all of us home."
For the first time Rand became aware of his surroundings again. The hollow surrounded them without any stairs, through here and there lay a suspiciously smooth piece of stone, colored red, or blue. The column lay against the mountainside, half buried in the loose rock of a fall. The symbols were unclear, here; wind and water had worked long on them. And everything looked real. The colors were solid, the granite a strong gray, the brush green and brown. After that other place, it seemed almost too vivid.
"Home," Rand breathed, and then he was laughing, too. "We're home." Loial's laughter sounded like a bull bellowing. Hurin danced a caper.
"You did it," Selene said, leaning closer, until her face filled Rand's eyes. "I knew that you could."
Rand's laughter died. "I - I suppose I did." He glanced at the fallen Portal Stone and managed a weak laugh. "I wish I knew what it was I did, though."
Selene looked deep into his eyes. "Perhaps one day you will know," she said softly. "You are surely destined for great things."
Her eyes seemed as dark and deep as night, as soft as velvet. Her mouth ... If I kissed her ... He blinked and stepped back hurriedly, clearing his throat.
"Selene, please don't tell anyone about this. About the Portal Stone, and me. I don't understand it, and neither will anybody else. You know how people are about things they don't understand."
Her face wore no expression at all. Suddenly he wished very much that Mat and Perrin were there. Perrin knew how to talk to girls, and Mat could lie with a straight face. He could manage neither very well.
Suddenly Selene smiled, and dropped a halfmocking curtsy. "I will keep your secret, my Lord Rand al'Thor."
Rand glanced at her, and cleared his throat again. Is she angry with me? She'd certainly be angry if I had tried to kiss her. I think. He wished she would not look at him as she was, as if she knew what he was thinking. "Hurin, is there any chance the Darkfriends used this Stone before us?"
The sniffer shook his head ruefully. "They were angling to the west of here, Lord Rand. Unless these Portal Stone things are more common than I've seen, I'd say they're still in that other world. But it wouldn't take me an hour to check it. The land's the same here as there. I could find the place here where I lost the trail there, if you see what I mean, and see if they've already gone by."
Rand glanced at the sky. The sun - a wonderfully strong sun, not pale at all - sat low to the west, stretching their shadows out across the hollow. Another hour would bring full twilight. "In the morning," he said. "But I fear we've lost them." We can't lose that dagger! We can't! "Selene, if that's the case, in the morning we will take you on to your home. Is it in the city of Cairhien itself, or ...?"
"You may not have lost the Horn of Valere yet," Selene said slowly. "As you know, I do know a few things about those worlds."
"Mirrors of the Wheel," Loial said.
She gave him a look, then nodded. "Yes. Exactly. Those worlds truly are mirrors in a way, especially the ones where there are no people. Some of them reflect only great events in the true world, but some have a shadow of that reflection even before the event occurs. The passage of the Horn of Valere would certainly be a great event. Reflections of what will be are fainter than reflections of what is or what was, just as Hurin says the trail he followed was faint."
Hurin blinked incredulously. "You mean to say, my Lady, I've been smelling where those Darkfriends are going to be? The Light help me, I wouldn't like that. It's bad enough smelling where violence has been, with out smelling where it will be, too. There can't be many spots where there won't be some kind of violence, some time. It would drive me crazy, like as not. That place we just left nearly did. I could smell it all the time, there, killing and hurting, and the vilest evil you could think of. I could even smell it on us. On all of us. Even on you, my Lady, if you'll forgive me for saying so. It was just that place, twisting me the way it twisted your eye." He gave himself a shake. "I'm glad we're out of there. I can't get it out of my nostrils yet, all the way."
absently at the brand on his palm. "What do you think, Loial? Could we really be ahead of Fain's Darkfriends?"
The Ogier shrugged, frowning. "I don't know, Rand. I don't know anything about any of this. I think we are back in our world. I think we are in Kinslayer's Dagger. Beyond that ...
"We should be seeing you home, Selene," Rand said. "Your people will be worried about you."
"A few days will see if I'm right," she said impatiently. "Hurin can find where he left the trail; he said so. We can watch over it. The Horn of Valere cannot be much longer reaching here. The Horn of Valere, Rand. Think of it. The man who sounds the Horn will live in legend forever."
"I don't want anything to do with legends," he said sharply. But if the Darkfriends get by you ... What if Ingtar lost them? Then the Darkfriends have the Horn of Valere forever, and Mat dies. "All right, a few days. At the worst, we will probably meet Ingtar and the others. I can't imagine they've stopped or turned back just because we ... went away."
"A wise decision, Rand," Selene said, "and well thought out." She touched his arm and smiled, and he found himself again thinking of kissing her.
"Uh ... we need to be closer to where they'll come. If they do come. Hurin, can you find us a camp before dark, somewhere we can watch the place where you lost the trail?" He glanced at the Portal Stone and thought about sleeping near it, thought of the way the void had crept up on him in sleep the last time, and the light in the void. "Somewhere well away from here."
"Leave it in my hands, Lord Rand." The sniffer scrambled to his saddle. "I vow, I'll never sleep again without first I see what kind of stone there is nearby."
As Rand rode Red up out of the hollow, he found himself watching Selene more than he did Hurin. She seemed so cool and selfpossessed, no older than he, yet queenly, but when she smiled at him, as she did just then ... Egwene wouldn't have said I was wise. Egwene would have called me a woolhead. Irritably, he heeled Red's flanks.
(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 18
(Flame of Tar Valon)
To the White Tower
Egwene balanced on the heeling deck as the River Queen sped down the wide Erinin under clouddark skies, sails fullbellied, White Flame banner whipping furiously at the mainmast. The wind had risen as soon as the last of them was aboard the ships, back in Medo, and it had not failed or flagged for an instant since, day or night. The river had begun to race in flood, as it still did, slapping the ships about while it drove them onward. Wind and river had not slowed, and neither had the ships, all clustered together. The River Queen led, only right for the vessel that carried the Amyrlin Seat.
The helmsman held his tiller grimly, feet planted and spread, and sailors padded barefoot at their work, intent on what they did; when they glanced at the sky or the river, they tore their eyes away with low mutters. A village was just fading from view behind, and a boy raced along the bank; he had kept up with the ships for a short distance, but now they were leaving him behind. When he vanished, Egwene made her way below.
In the small cabin they shared, Nynaeve glared up at her from her narrow bed. "They say we'll reach Tar Valon today. The Light help me, but I'll be glad to put foot on land again even if it is in Tar Valon." The ship lurched with wind and current, and Nynaeve swallowed. "I'll never step on a boat again," she said breathlessly.
Egwene shook the river spray out of her cloak and hung it on a peg by the door. It was not a big cabin - there were no big cabins on the ship, it seemed, not even the one the Amyrlin had taken over from the captain, though that was larger than the rest. With its two beds built into the walls, shelves beneath them and cabinets above, everything lay close to hand.
Except for keeping her balance, the movements of the ship did not bother her the way they did Nynaeve; she had given up offering Nynaeve food after the third time the Wisdom threw the bowl at her.
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