The Great Hunt: Page 71
. May I... have a look at it?"
"Did any of them follow, my Lord?" Hurin asked anxiously. He stared at the chest with awe, but his eyes slid off into the night, down the mountain. "If they followed, we'll have to move quick."
"I do not think they did. Go to the outcrop and see if you can see anything." Rand climbed down from his saddle as Hurin hurried up the mountain. "Selene, I don't know how to open the chest. Loial, do you?" The Ogier shook his head.
"Let me try ..." Even for a woman of Selene's height, Loial's saddle was high above the ground. She reached up to touch the finely wrought patterns on the chest, ran her hands across them, pressed. There was a click, and she pushed the lid up, let it fall open.
As she stretched on tiptoe to put a hand inside, Rand reached over her shoulder and lifted out the Horn of Valere. He had seen it once before, but never touched it. Though beautifully made, it did not look a thing of great age, or power. A curled golden horn, gleaming in the faint light, with inlaid silver script flowing around the mouth of the bell. He touched the strange letters with a finger. They seemed to catch the moon.
"Tia mi aven Moridin isainde vadin," Selene said. "'The grave is no bar to my call.' You will be greater than Artur Hawkwing ever was."
"I am taking it to Shienar, to Lord Agelmar." It should go to Tar Valon, he thought, but I'm done with Aes Sedai. Let Agelmar or Ingtar take it to them. He set the Horn back in the chest; it cast back the moonlight, pulled the eye.
"That is madness," Selene said.
Rand flinched at the word. "Mad or not, it is what I'm doing. I told you, Selene, I want no part of greatness. Back there, I thought I did. For a while, I thought I wanted things ..." Light, she's so beautiful. Egwene. Selene. I'm not worthy of either of them. "Something seemed to take hold of me." Saidin came for me, but I fought it off with a sword. Or is that mad, too? He breathed deeply. "Shienar is where the Horn of Valere belongs. Or if not there, Lord Agelmar will know what to do with it."
Hurin appeared from up the mountain. "The fire's there again, Lord Rand, and bigger than ever. And I thought I heard shouting. It was all down in the hills. I don't think they've come upon the mountain, yet."
"You misunderstand me, Rand," Selene said. "You cannot go back, now. You are committed. Those Friends of the Dark will not simply go away because you've taken the Horn from them. Far from it. Unless you know some way to kill them all, they will be hunting you now as you hunted them before."
"No!" Loial and Hurin looked surprised at Rand's vehemence. He softened his tone. "I don't know any way to kill them all. They can live forever for all of me."
Selene's long hair shifted in waves as she shook her head. "Then you cannot go back, only onward. You can reach the safety of Cairhien's walls long before you could return to Shienar. Does the thought of a few more days in my company seem so onerous?"
Rand stared at the chest. Selene's company was far from burdensome, but near her he could not help thinking things he should not. Still, trying to ride back north meant risking Fain and his followers. She was right in that. Fain would never give up. Ingtar would not give up, either. If Ingtar came on southward, and Rand knew of no reason for him to turn aside, he would arrive at Cairhien, soon or late.
ien," he agreed. "You will have to show me where you live, Selene. I've never been to Cairhien." He reached to close the chest.
"You took something else from the Friends of the Dark?" Selene said. "You spoke earlier of a dagger."
How could I forget? He left the chest as it was and pulled the dagger from his belt. The bare blade curved like a horn, and the quillons were golden serpents. Set in the hilt, a ruby as big as his thumbnail winked like an evil eye in the moonlight. Ornate as it was, tainted as he knew it was, it felt no different from any other knife.
"Be careful," Selene said. "Do not cut yourself."
Rand felt a shiver inside. If simply carrying it was dangerous, he did not want to know what a cut from it would do. "This is from Shadar Logoth," he told the others. "It will twist whoever carries it for long, taint them to the bone the way Shadar Logoth is tainted. Without Aes Sedai Healing, that taint will kill, eventually."
"So that is what ails Mat," Loial said softly. "I never suspected." Hurin stared at the dagger in Rand's hand and wiped his own hands on the front of his coat. The s
"None of us must handle it any more than is necessary," Rand went on. "I will find some way to carry it - "
"It is dangerous." Selene frowned at the blade as if the snakes were real, and poisonous. "Throw it away. Leave it, or bury it if you wish to keep it from other hands, but be rid of it."
"Mat needs it," Rand said firmly.
"It is too dangerous. You said so yourself."
"He needs it. The Am ... the Aes Sedai said he would die without it to use in Healing him." They still have a string on him, but this blade will cut it. Until I'm rid of it, and the Horn, they have a string on me, but I'll not dance however much they pull.
He set the dagger in the chest, inside the curl of the Horn - there was just room for it - and pulled the lid down. It locked with a sharp snap. "That should shield us from it." He hoped it would. Lan said the time to sound most sure was when you were least certain.
"The chest will surely shield us," Selene said in a tight voice. "And now I mean to finish what is left of my night's sleep."
Rand shook his head. "We are too close. Fain seems able to find me, sometimes."
"Seek the Oneness if you are afraid," Selene said.
"I want to be as far from those Darkfriends come morning as we can be. I will saddle your mare."
"Stubborn!" She sounded angry, and when he looked at her, her mouth curved in a smile that never came close to her dark eyes. "A stubborn man is best, once..." Her voice trailed off, and that worried him. Women often seemed to leave things unsaid, and in his limited experience it was what they did not say that proved the most trouble. She watched in silence as he slung her saddle onto the white mare's back and bent to fashion the girths.
"Gather them all in!" Fain snarled. The goatsnouted Trolloc backed away from him. The fire, piled high with wood now, lit the hilltop with flickering shadows. His human followers huddled near the blaze, fearful to be out in the dark with the rest of the Trollocs. "Gather them, every one that still lives, and if any think to run, let them know they'll get what that one got." He gestured to the first Trolloc that had brought him word al'Thor was not to be found. It still snapped at ground muddied with its own blood, hooves scraping trenches as they jerked. "Go," Fain whispered, and the goatsnouted Trolloc ran into the night.
Fain glanced contemptuously at the other humans - They'll have their uses still - then turned to stare into the night, toward Kinslayer's Dagger. Al'Thor was up there, somewhere, in the mountains. With the Horn. His teeth grated audibly at the thought. He did not know where, exactly, but something pulled him toward the mountains. Toward al'Thor. That much of the Dark One's ... gift ... remained to him. He had hardly thought of it, had tried not to think of it, until suddenly, after the Horn was gone - Gone! - al'Thor was there, drawing him as meat draws a starving dog.
"I am a dog no longer. A dog no longer!" He heard the others shifting uneasily around the fire, but he ignored them. "You will pay for what was done to me, al'Thor! The world will pay!" He cackled at the night with mad laughter. "The world will pay!"
(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 20
Rand kept them moving through the night, allowing only a brief stop at dawn, to rest the horses. And to allow Loial rest. With the Horn of Valere in its goldandsilver chest occupying his saddle, the Ogier walked or trotted ahead of his big horse, never complaining, never slowing them. Sometime during the night they had crossed the border of Cairhien.
"I want to see it again," Selene said as they halted. She dismounted and strode to Loial's horse. Their shadows, long and thin, pointed west from the sun just peeking over the horizon. "Bring it down for me, alantin." Loial began to undo the straps. "The Horn of Valere."
"No," Rand said, climbing down from Red's back. "Loial, no." The Ogier looked from Rand to Selene, his ears twitching doubtfully, but he took his hands away.
"I want to see the Horn," Selene demanded. Rand was sure she was no older than he, but at that moment she suddenly seemed as old and as cold as the mountains, and more regal than Queen Morgase at her haughtiest.
"I think we should keep the dagger shielded," Rand said. "For all I know, looking at it may be as bad as touching it. Let it stay where it is until I can put it in Mat's hands. He - he can take it to the Aes Sedai." And what price will they demand for that Healing? But he hasn't any choice.
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