A Memory of Light Page 232

Over the years, the Ogier and Two Rivers people had worked closely together—to the extent that now, Two Rivers craftsmen were sought the world over. Rand walked up the roadway, moving among people from all nationalities. Domani trailing colorful, filmy clothing. Tairens—the division between commoner and noble vanishing more and more by the day—in baggy clothing and shirts marked by striped sleeves. Seanchan wearing exotic silks. Borderlanders with noble airs. Even some Sharans.

All had come to Emond’s Field. The city now bore little resemblance to its name, and yet there were hints. More trees and open green spaces dotted the landscape than one would find in other great cities, like Caemlyn or Tear. In the Two Rivers, craftsmen were revered. And their marksmen were the best the world knew. An elite group of Two Rivers men, armed with the new firing sticks men were calling rifles, served with the Aiel in their peacekeeping campaigns in Shara. It was the only place war was known in the world. Oh, there were disputes here and there. The flare up between Murandy and Tear five years back had nearly given the land its first real war in the century since the Last Battle.

Rand smiled as he moved through the crowd, not jostling, but listening with pride to the joy in people’s voices. The "flare-up" in Murandy had been dynamic by Fourth Age standards, but in truth it had been nothing. A single disgruntled nobleman had fired on an Aiel patrol. Three wounded, none dead, and this was the worst "fighting" in years, outside of the Sharan campaigns.

Above, sunlight broke through the thin cloud cover, bathing the roadway in light. Rand finally reached the city square, which had once been the Green in Emond's Field. What to think of the Quarry Road now that it was wide enough to march an army down? He walked around the massive fountain at the center of the square, a monument to those who had fallen in the Last Battle, crafted by the Ogier.

He saw familiar faces among the statuary in the center of the fountain, and turned away.

Not final yet, he thought. This isn’t real yet. He’d built this reality out of threads of what could be, of mirrors of the world as it now played out. It wasn’t set.

For the first time since entering this vision of his own design, his confidence shook. He knew the Last Battle wasn’t a failure. But people were dying. Did he think to stop all death, all pain?

This should be my fight, he thought. They shouldn’t have to die. Wasn’t his sacrifice enough?

So he’d asked time and time again.

The vision quivered, fine stones beneath his feet buzzing, buildings shaking and wavering. The people stopped in place, motionless, sound dying. Down a small side street, he saw a darkness appear like a pinprick that expanded, engulfing everything near it—sucking them in. It grew to the size of one of the houses, slowly expanding.

YOUR DREAM IS WEAK, ADVERSARY.

Rand asserted his will, and the quivering stopped. People who had frozen in place resumed walking, and the comfortable chatter sprang up again. Soft wind blew down the walkway, rustling banners on poles proclaiming celebration.

"I will see that it happens", Rand said to the darkness. "This is your failing. Happiness, growth, love . . ".

THESE PEOPLE ARE MINE NOW. I WILL TAKE THEM.

"You are darkness", Rand said loudly. "Darkness cannot push back Light. Darkness exists only when Light fails, when it flees. I will not fail. I will not flee. You cannot win so long as I bar your path, Shaitan".

WE SHALL SEE.

Rand turned from the darkness and continued doggedly around the fountain. On the other side of the square, a large set of majestic white steps led up to a building four stories high and of incredible craftsmanship. Carved with reliefs, topped by a gleaming copper roof, the building was decked with banners. One hundred years. A hundred years of life, a hundred years of peace.

The woman who stood at the top of the steps had a familiarity to her features. Some Saldaean heritage, but also dark curls of hair that felt distinctly Two Rivers. Lady Adora, Perrin's granddaughter and mayor of Emond’s Field. Rand walked up the steps as she gave her speech of commemoration. Nobody noticed him. He made it so that they didn’t. He slipped like a Gray Man behind her as she proclaimed the day of celebration; then he entered the building.

It was not a government office, though it might seem so from the front. It was much more important.

A school.

To the right, grand hallways were hung with paintings and ornaments to rival those of any palace—but these depicted the great teachers and storytellers of the past, from Anla to Thom Merrilin. Rand strolled that hallway, looking in at rooms where any could come and gain knowledge, from the poorest farmer to the children of the Mayor. The building had to be large to accommodate all who wanted to learn.

YOUR PARADISE IS FLAWED, ADVERSARY.

Darkness hung in a mirror to Rand's right. It reflected not the hallway, but instead HIS presence.

YOU THINK YOU CAN ELIMINATE SUFFERING? EVEN IF YOU WIN, YOU WILL NOT ON THOSE PERFECT STREETS, MEN ARE STILL MURDERED AT NIGHT. CHILDREN GO HUNGRY DESPITE THE EFFORTS OF YOUR MINIONS. THE WEALTHY EXPLOIT AND CORRUPT; THEY MERELY DO SO QUIETLY.

"It is better", Rand whispered. "It is good".

IT IS NOT ENOUGH, AND WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH. YOUR DREAM IS FLAWED. YOUR DREAM IS A LIE. I AM THE ONLY HONESTY YOUR WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN.

The Dark One attacked him.

It came like a storm. A burst of wind so terrible, it threatened to rip Rand's skin from his bones. He stood tall, eyes toward the nothing, crossing his arms behind his back. The attack ripped away the vision—the beautiful city, the laughing people, the monument to learning and peace. The Dark One consumed it, and once again, it became mere possibility.

Silviana held the One Power, felt it flooding her, lighting the world. When she held saidar; she felt as if she could see all. It was a glorious feeling, so long as she acknowledged that it was merely a feeling. It was not truth. The lure of saidar's power had coaxed many a woman into foolhardy gestures. Certainly many Blues had made them, at one point or another.

Silviana sculpted fire from horseback, leveling Sharan soldiers. She had trained her gelding, Stinger, to never be skittish around channeling.

"Archers fall back!" Chubain yelled from just behind her. "Go, go! Heavy infantry companies, advance!" The armored foot soldiers marched past Silviana with axes and maces to confront the disoriented Sharans on the slopes. Pikes would have been better, but they didn’t have nearly enou

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