A Memory of Light Page 120

Rand stiffened. He’d known what he was doing, on some level, but to hear it explained was disconcerting.

Min’s expression darkened. Her grip on him tightened.

"Walk with me", Cadsuane said. "Just you and me, Lord Dragon". She glanced at him. "If you will".

Min looked to Rand, but he patted her on the shoulder and nodded. "I’ll meet you at the tent".

She sighed, but retreated. Cadsuane had already started on the path. Rand had to jog a few steps to catch up. She probably enjoyed seeing that.

"Moiraine Sedai grows restless with your delays", Cadsuane said.

"And what are your thoughts?"

"I think she has a portion of wisdom to her. However, I do not find your plan to be complete idiocy. You must not delay much longer, however".

He purposely did not say when he would give the order to attack Shayol Ghul. He wanted everyone guessing. If nobody around him knew when he would strike, then chances were good the Dark One wouldn’t know either.

"Regardless", Cadsuane said, "I am not here to speak about your delays. I feel that Moiraine Sedai has your . . . education in that matter well in hand. Something else worries me far more".

"And that is?"

"That you expect to die. That you are giving so much away. That you do not even seek to live".

Rand took a deep breath. Behind, a group of Maidens trailed him. He passed the Windfinders in their small camp, huddled and speaking over the Bowl of Winds. They looked toward him and Cadsuane with placid faces.

"Leave me go to my fate, Cadsuane", Rand said. "I have embraced death. I will take it when it comes".

"I am pleased at that", she said, "and do not think—for a moment—that I would not trade your life for the world".

"You’ve made that obvious from the start", Rand said. "So why worry now? This fight will claim me. So it must be".

"You must not assume that you will die", Cadsuane said. "Even if it is nearly inevitable, you must not take it as completely inevitable".

"Elayne said much the same thing".

"Then she has spoken wisdom at least once in her life. A better average than I had assumed of that one".

Rand refused to rise to that comment, and Cadsuane let slip a smile. She was pleased at how he controlled himself now. That was why she tested him. Would the tests never end?

No, he thought. Not until the final one. The one that matters most.

Cadsuane stopped in the path, causing him to stop as well. "Do you have a gift for me as well?"

"I am giving them to those I care about".

That actually made her smile more deeply. "Our interactions have not always been smooth, Rand al’Thor".

"That would be one way to say it".

"However", she continued, eyeing him, "I will have you know that I am pleased. You have turned out well".

"So I have your permission to save the world?"

"Yes!" She looked upward, where the dark clouds boiled. They began to split at his presence, as he did not try to mask it or keep them back.

"Yes", Cadsuane repeated, "you have my permission. So long as you do it soon. That darkness grows".

As if in concert with her words, the ground rumbled. It did that more and more lately. The camp shook, and men stumbled, wary.

"There will be Forsaken", Rand said. "Once I enter. Someone will need to face them. I intend to ask Aviendha to lead the resistance against them. She could use your aid".

Cadsuane nodded. "I will do my part".

"Bring Alivia", Rand said. "She is strong, but I worry about putting her with others. She does not understand limits in the way that she should". Cadsuane nodded again, and from the look in her eyes, he wondered if she’d already planned to do just that. "And the Black Tower?"

Rand set his jaw. The Black Tower was a trap. He knew it was a trap. Taim wanted to lure Rand into a place where he couldn’t escape through a gateway.

"I sent Perrin to help".

"And your determination to go yourself?"

I have to help them. Somehow. I let Taim gather them. I can’t just leave them to him . . .

"You still aren’t certain", Cadsuane said, dissatisfied. "You’d risk yourself, you’d risk us all, stepping into a trap".

"I . . "

"They’re free". Cadsuane turned to walk away. "Taim and his men have been cast out of the Black Tower".

"What?" Rand demanded, taking her by the arm.

"Your men there freed themselves", Cadsuane said. "Though, from what I’ve been told, they took a beating doing it. Few know it. Queen Elayne might not be able to use them in battle for some time. I don’t know the details".

"They freed themselves?" Rand said.

"Yes".

They did it. Or Perrin did.

Rand exulted, but a wave of guilt slammed against him. How many had been lost? Could he have saved them, if he’d gone? He’d known for days now of their predicament, and yet he’d left them, obeying Moiraine’s insistent counsel that this was a trap he could not afford to spring.

And now they’d escaped it.

"I wish that I’d been able to draw an answer out of you", Cadsuane said, "about what you intended to do there". She sighed, then shook her head. "You have cracks in you, Rand al’Thor, but you’ll have to do".

She left him.

"Deepe was a good man", Antail said. "He survived the fall of Maradon. He was on the wall when it blew, but he lived and kept fighting. The Dreadlords came for him eventually, sending an explosion to finish the job. Deepe spent the last moments throwing weaves at them. He died well".

The Malkieri soldiers raised cups toward Antail, saluting the fallen. Lan raised his own cup, though he stood just outside the ring of men around the fire. He wished Deepe had followed orders. He shook his head, downing his wine. Though it was night, Lan’s men were on rotation to be awake in case of an attack.

Lan turned his cup between two fingers, thinking of Deepe again. He found he couldn’t drum up anger at the man. Deepe had wanted to kill one of the Shadow’s most dangerous channelers. Lan couldn’t say he would turn down a similar opportunity, if it were given him.

The men continued their toasts to the fallen. It had become a tradition every evening, and had spread among all of the Borderlander camps. Lan found it encouraging that the men here were starting to treat Antail and Narishma as fellows. The Asha’man were aloof, but Deepe’s death had forged a link between the Asha’man and the ordinary soldiers. Now they’d all paid the butcher’s bill. The men had seen Antail grieving, and had inv

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