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A Memory of Light (Page 162)

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ALL IS MINE THIS TIME. IT WAS EVER MEANT TO BE. IT WILL EVER BE.

Rand saluted those who died. The blood running across rocks. The weeping of those who witnessed others fall. The Shadow threw all of it at Rand, intent on Rand’s destruction. But it did not destroy him.

"We will never give in", Rand whispered. "I will never give in".

The vast Shadow thundered and shook. It sent jolts through and across the world. The ground rent, the laws of nature fractured. Swords turned against their owners, food spoiled, rock turned to mud.

It came upon Rand again, the force of nothingness itself trying to pull him apart. The strength of the attack did not lessen. And yet, suddenly, it felt like an idle buzzing.

They would not give up. It wasn’t just about Rand. All of them would keep fighting. The Dark One’s attacks lost meaning. If they could not make him yield, if they could not make him relent, then what were they?

Within the tempest, Rand sought the void as Tam had taught him. All emotion, all worry, all pain. He took it and fed it into the flame of a single candle.

He felt peace. The peace of a single drop of water hitting a pond. The peace of moments, the peace between eyeblinks, the peace of the void.

"I will not give up", he repeated, and the words seemed a wonder to him.

I CONTROL THEM ALL. I BREAK THEM BEFORE ME. YOU HAVE LOST, CHILD OF HUMANKIND.

"If you think that", Rand whispered into the darkness, "then it is because you cannot see".

Loial was panting hard when he returned to the northern end of the Heights. He gave the news to Mat, about how Lan had fought so bravely before he went down, taking Demandred with him. Loial’s report affected Mat deeply, as it did all members of his army, particularly the Borderlanders who had lost a king, a brother. There was a disturbance among the Sharans as well; somehow, news of Demandred’s death was already percolating through their ranks.

Mat forced down his grief. That wasn’t what Lan would have wanted. Instead, Mat raised his ashandarei. "Tai’shar Malkier!" he screamed with all the force he could. "Lan Mandragoran, you bloody wonderful man! You did it!"

His shouts rang in the silence as he charged toward the Shadow armies. Shouts rang behind him: "Tai’shar Malkier!" Shouts from all nationalities, all peoples, Borderlander and not. They surged across the Heights alongside Mat. Together, they attacked the stunned foe.

CHAPTER 39

Those Who Fight

YOU CANNOT FATHOM IT, CAN YOU? Rand demanded of the darkness. IT IS BEYOND YOU. YOU BREAK US, AND STILL WE FIGHT! WHY? HAVEN’T YOU KILLED US? HAVEN’T YOU RUINED US?

YOU, the Dark One replied. I HAVE YOU.

Rand stepped forward. In this place of nothing, the Pattern seemed to swirl around him like a tapestry. HERE IS YOUR FLAW, SHAITAN—LORD OF THE DARK, LORD OF ENVY! LORD OF NOTHING! HERE IS WHY YOU FAIL! IT WAS NOT ABOUT ME. IT’S NEVER BEEN ABOUT ME!

It was about a woman, torn and beaten down, cast from her throne and made a puppet—a woman who had crawled when she had to. That woman still fought.

It was about a man that love repeatedly forsook, a man who found relevance in a world that others would have let pass them by. A man who remembered stories, and who took fool boys under his wing when the smarter move would have been to keep on walking. That man still fought.

It was about a woman with a secret, a hope for the future. A woman who had hunted the truth before others could. A woman who had given her life, then had it returned. That woman still fought.

It was about a man whose family was taken from him, but who stood tall in his sorrow and protected those he could.

It was about a woman who refused to believe that she could not help, could not Heal those who had been harmed.

It was about a hero who insisted with every breath that he was anything but a hero.

It was about a woman who would not bend her back while she was beaten, and who shone with the Light for all who watched. Including Rand.

It was about them all.

He saw this, over and over, in the Pattern arrayed about him. Rand walked through eons and ages, his hand passing through ribbons of the Patterns light.

HERE IS THE TRUTH, SHAITAN, Rand said, taking another step forward, arms out, woven Pattern spreading around them. YOU CANNOT WIN UNLESS WE GIVE UP. THAT’S IT, ISN’T IT? THIS FIGHT ISN’T ABOUT A VICTORY IN BATTLE. TAKING ME . . . IT WAS NEVER ABOUT BEATING ME. IT WAS ABOUT BREAKING ME.

THAT’S WHAT YOU’VE TRIED TO DO WITH ALL OF US. IT’S WHY AT TIMES YOU TRIED TO HAVE US KILLED, WHILE OTHER TIMES YOU DIDN’T SEEM TO CARE. YOU WIN WHEN YOU BREAK US. BUT YOU HAVEN’T. YOU CAN’T.

The darkness trembled. The nothingness shook, as if the arches of the heavens themselves were cracking. The Dark One’s shout was defiant.

Within the void, Rand continued forward, and the darkness trembled.

I CAN STILL KILL, the Dark One bellowed. I CAN STILL TAKE THEM ALL! I AM LORD OF THE GRAVE. THE BATTLE LORD, HE IS MINE. ALL ARE MINE EVENTUALLY!

Rand stepped forward, hand stretched out. In his palm sat the world, and upon that world a continent, and upon that continent a battlefield, and upon that battlefield two bodies on the ground.

Mat fought, Tam at his side with sword out. Karede and the Deathwatch Guard joined them, then Loial and the Ogier. The armies of a dozen nations and peoples fought, many joining him as he rushed across the plateau.

They were outnumbered three to one.

Mat fought, bellowing in the Old Tongue. "For the Light! For honor! For glory! For life itself!"

He slew one Trolloc, then another. Half a dozen in moments, but he felt he was fighting with the surf itself. Wherever he struck down blackness, more took its place. Trollocs moving in the shadows, lit only by the occasional lantern or burning arrow stuck in the ground.

The Trollocs didn’t fight as one. We can break them, Mat thought. We have to break them! This was his chance. Push now, while the Sharans were dazed at Demandred’s fall.

THE SON OF BATTLES. I WILL TAKE HIM. I WILL TAKE THEM ALL, ADVERSARY. AS I TOOK THE KING OF NOTHING.

Blood and Bloody ashes! What was that nothingness in his head? Mat beheaded a Trolloc, then wiped his brow, Karede and the Deathwatch Guards covering him for a moment.

Mat could feel the battlefield in the night. There were a lot of Trollocs and Sharans, so many of them.

"There are too many!" Arganda called from nearby. "Light, they’ll overwhelm us! We need to fall back! Cauthon, can you hear me?"

I can do this, Mat thought. I can win this battle. An army could defeat superior numbers, but Mat needed momentum, an opening. A favorable toss of the dice.

Rand stood above the Pattern and looked down at the fallen men in a land where hope seemed to have died. "You have not been watching closely enough. About one thing, you are wrong. So very wrong . . ".

Cornered and alone, a boy huddled in a cleft in the rock. Horrors with knives and fangs—the Shadow itself made flesh—dug at his hiding place, reaching with nails like knives and ripping his skin.

Terrified, crying, bloodied, the boy raised a golden horn to his lips.

Mat squinted, the battle seeming to dim around him.

So very wrong, Shai’tan, Rand’s voice whispered in Mat’s mind.

Then the voice was no longer in Mat’s mind. It could be heard distinctly by everyone on the battlefield.

That one you have tried to kill many times, Rand said, that one who lost his kingdom, that one from whom you took everything . . .

Lurching, bloodied from the sword strike to his side, the last king of the Malkieri stumbled to his feet. Lan thrust his hand into the air, holding by its hair the head of Demandred, general of the Shadow’s armies.

That man, Rand shouted. That man still fights!

Mat felt the battlefield grow still. All were frozen in place.

At that moment, there rang out a soft but powerful sound, a clear note, golden, one long tone that encompassed everything. The sound of a horn, pure and beautiful.

Mat had heard that sound once before.

Mellar knelt beside Elayne, pressing the medallion against her head to stop her from channeling. "This could have gone in a very different way, my Queen", he said. "You should have been more accommodating".

Light. That leer was an awful thing. He had gagged her, of course, but she did not give him the satisfaction of crying.

She would find a way to escape this. She had to shake free of the medallion. Of course, if she did, there was still the channeler. But if she could evade the medallion, then strike quickly . . .

"Pity that your little Captain-General isn’t alive to watch", Mellar said. "Fool that she was, I really do think she believed that she was Birgitte from the legends". Elayne heard a soft sound in the distance. The ground vibrated. An earthquake.

She tried to concentrate, but she could only think that Birgitte had been right all along. It was fully possible for the babes to be safe, as Min had foretold, while Elayne herself was left dead.

White mist climbed up from the ground around them, like the souls of the dead, curling.

Mellar stiffened, suddenly.

Elayne blinked, looking up at him. Something silvery jutted from the front of Mellar’s chest. It looked like . . . an arrowhead.

Mellar turned, knife dropping from his fingers. Behind him, Birgitte Silverbow stood over her corpse, one foot to either side of the headless body. She raised a bow, bright as newly polished silver, and released another arrow, which seemed to trail light as it struck Mellar in the head and pitched him to the ground. Her next shot took Mellar’s channeler, killing the Dreadlord with a silver arrow before the man could respond.

All around them, Mellar’s men stood as if paralyzed, gaping at Birgitte. The clothing she now wore seemed to glow. A short white coat, a voluminous pair of pale yellow trousers and a dark cloak. Her long golden hair hung in an intricate braid, down to her waist.

"I am Birgitte Silverbow", Birgitte announced, as if to dispel doubt. "The Horn of Valere has sounded, calling all to the Last Battle. The heroes have returned!"

Lan Mandragoran held aloft the head of one of the Forsaken—their battle commander, supposedly invincible.

The Shadow’s army could not ignore what had happened, none of them, wherever they were on the battlefield. The voice that had come out of nowhere had proclaimed it. That the attacker should stand while the Chosen lay dead . . . it stunned them. Frightened them.

And then the Horn sounded in the distance.

"Press forward!" Mat yelled. "Press forward!" His army threw themselves ferociously on to the Trollocs and Sharans.

"Cauthon, what was that sound?" Arganda demanded, stumbling up beside Pips. The man still had one arm in a sling and carried a bloodied mace in the other hand. Around Mat, the Deathwatch Guard fought and grunted, cutting down Trollocs.

Mat yelled, throwing himself into the fight. "That was the bloody Horn of Valere! We can still win this night!"

The Horn. How had the bloody Horn been sounded? Well, it looked like Mat wasn’t tied to the thing any longer. His death at Rhuidean must have broken him from it.

Some other unlucky fool could bear that burden now. Mat howled a battlecry, shearing the arm off a Trolloc, then stabbing it through the chest. The Shadow’s entire army became disoriented at the sound of the Horn. Those Trollocs nearest Lan scrambled back, clawing over one another in desperate urgency to escape him. That left the Trollocs fighting along the slope spread thin, without reserves. And nobody seemed to be in charge.

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