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A Memory of Light (Page 176)

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Logain snapped the once unbreakable seals, one by one, and dropped the pieces to the ground.

CHAPTER 49

Light and Shadow

Everything was dead. In the wolf dream, Perrin stumbled across a rocky wasteland without plants or soil. The sky had gone black, the dark clouds themselves vanishing into that nothingness. As he climbed atop a ridge, an entire section of the ground behind him crumbled—his stone footing shaking violently—and was pulled into the air.

Beneath that was only emptiness.

In the wolf dream, all was being consumed. Perrin continued forward toward Shayol Ghul. He could see it, like a beacon, glowing with light.’ Strangely, behind, he could make out Dragonmount, though it should have been far too distant to see. As the land between them crumbled, the world seemed to be shrinking.

The two peaks, pulling toward one another, all between shattered and broken. Perrin shifted to the front of the tunnel into the Pit of Doom, then stepped in, passing the violet barrier he’d erected earlier.

Lanfear lounged inside. Her hair was jet black, as it had been when he’d first met her, and her face was familiar. It looked as it once had.

I find that dreamspike annoying, she said. "Did you have to place it here?"

"It keeps the other Forsaken away", Perrin said absently.

"I suppose it does that", she said, folding her arms.

"He is still ahead?" Perrin asked.

"It is the end, she said, nodding. Something amazing just happened".

She narrowed her eyes. "This might be the most important moment for humankind since we opened the Bore".

"Let’s make sure nothing goes wrong, then", Perrin said, walking forward down the long maw of stone, Lanfear at his side.

At the end of the tunnel, they found an unexpected scene. Someone else was holding Callandor.; the man that Rand had been fighting earlier. Maybe that was Demandred? Perrin did not know. He was certainly one of the Forsaken.

That man knelt on the floor, with Nynaeve’s hand on his shoulder. She stood just behind Rand and to the left. Moiraine was on Rand’s right, all three of them standing tall, with eyes forward, staring into the nothingness ahead.

The mountain rumbled.

"Perfect", Lanfear whispered. "I couldn’t have dreamed that it could come out this well". She eyed the two women. "We will need to strike quickly. I will kill the taller woman, you the shorter one".

Perrin frowned. Something about that seemed very wrong. "Kill . . . ?"

"Of course", Lanfear said. "If we strike quickly, there will still be time to seize control of Moridin while he holds that blade. With that, I can force Lews Therin to bow". She narrowed her eyes. "He holds the Dark One between his fingers, needing only one squeeze to pinch the life—if it can be called that—away. Only one hand can save the Great Lord. In this moment, I earn my reward. In this moment, I become highest of the high".

"You . . . you want to save the Dark One?" Perrin said, raising a hand to his head. "You joined us. I remember . . ".

She glanced at him. "Such an inferior tool", she said, smelling dissatisfied. "I hate having to use it. This makes me no better than Graendal". She shivered. "If they had given me more time, I would have had you fairly". She patted Perrin fondly on the cheek. "You are troubled. The taller one is from your village, I remember. You grew up together, I presume? I won’t make you kill her, my wolf. You can kill the short one. You hate her, don’t you?"

"I . . . yes, I do. She stole me away from my family. It’s because of her that they died, really. I would have been there, otherwise".

"That’s right", Lanfear said. "We must be quick. Our moment of opportunity will not last long".

She turned toward the two women. Nynaeve and Moiraine. His friends. And then . . . and then Rand. She would kill him, Perrin knew. She would force him to bow, and then she would kill him. All along, her goal had been to put herself into a position where the Dark One himself would be helpless and she could step in to bring him salvation.

Perrin came up beside her.

"We strike together", Lanfear said softly. "The barriers between worlds have been broken here. They will be able to fight back unless we are quick. We must kill them at the same time".

This is wrong, Perrin thought. This is very, very wrong. He couldn’t let it happen, and yet his hands rose.

IT IS WRONG. He didn’t know why. His thoughts wouldn’t allow him to think of why.

"Ready", Lanfear said, eyes on Nynaeve.

Perrin turned toward Lanfear.

"I will count to three", Lanfear said, not looking at him.

My duty, Perrin thought, is to do the things Rand cannot.

This was the wolf dream. In the wolf dream, what he felt became reality.

"One", Lanfear said.

He loved Faile.

"Two".

He loved Faile.

"Three".

He loved Faile. The Compulsion vanished like smoke in the wind, thrown off like clothing changed in the blink of an eye. Before Lanfear could strike, Perrin reached out and took her by the neck.

He twisted once. Her neck popped in his fingers.

Lanfear crumpled, and Perrin caught her body. She was beautiful. As she died, she changed back to the other form she had been wearing before, her new body.

Perrin felt a horrible stab of loss. He hadn’t completely wiped what she’d done from his mind. He’d overcome it, perhaps overlaid it with something new, something right. Only the wolf dream and his ability to view himself as he should be had allowed him to accomplish that.

Unfortunately, deep within, he still felt love for this woman. That sickened him. The love was nowhere near as strong as his love for Faile, but it was there. He found himself crying as he lowered her body, draped in sleek white and silver, to the stone floor.

"I’m sorry", he whispered. Killing a woman, particularly one who wasn’t threatening him personally . . . it was something he’d never have thought himself capable of.

Someone had needed to do it. This was one test, at least, that Rand would not need to face. It was one burden that Perrin could carry for his friend.

He looked up toward Rand. "Go", Perrin whispered. "Do what you must do. As always, I will watch your back".

The seals crumbled. The Dark One burst free.

Rand held the Dark One tightly.

Filled with the Power, standing in a column of light, Rand pulled the Dark One into the Pattern. Only here was there time. Only here could the Shadow itself be killed.

The force in his hand, which was at once vast and yet tiny, trembled. Its screams were the sounds of planets grinding together.

A pitiful object. Suddenly, Rand felt as if he were holding not one of the primal forces of existence, but a squirming thing from the mud of the sheep pens.

YOU REALLY ARE NOTHING, Rand said, knowing the Dark Ones secrets completely. YOU WOULD NEVER HAVE GIVEN ME REST AS YOU PROMISED, FATHER OF LIES. YOU WOULD HAVE ENSLAVED ME AS YOU WOULD HAVE ENSLAVED THE OTHERS. YOU CANNOT GIVE OBLIVION. REST IS NOT YOURS. ONLY TORMENT.

The Dark One trembled in his grip.

YOU HORRIBLE, PITIFUL MITE, Rand said.

Rand was dying. His lifeblood flowed from him, and beyond that, the amount of the Powers he held would soon burn him away.

He held the Dark One in his hand. He began to squeeze, then stopped.

He knew all secrets. He could see what the Dark One had done. And Light, Rand understood. Much of what the Dark One had shown him was lies.

But the vision Rand himself had created—the one without the Dark One—was truth. If he did as he wished, he would leave men no better than the Dark One himself.

What a fool I have been.

Rand yelled, thrusting the Dark One back through the pit from where it had come. Rand pushed his arms to the side, grabbing twin pillars of saidar and saidin with his mind, coated with the True Power drawn through Moridin, who knelt on the floor, eyes open, so much power coursing through him he couldn’t even move.

Rand hurled the Powers forward with his mind and braided them together. Saidin and saidar at once, the True Power surrounding them and forming a shield on the Bore.

He wove something majestic, a pattern of interlaced saidar and saidin in their pure forms. Not Fire, not Spirit, not Water, not Earth, not Air. Purity. Light itself. This didn’t repair, it didn’t patch, it forged anew.

With this new form of the Power, Rand pulled together the rent that had been made here long ago by foolish men.

He understood, finally, that the Dark One was not the enemy.

It never had been.

Moiraine grabbed Nynaeve beside her, moving only by touch, for that light was blinding.

She pulled Nynaeve to her feet. Together, they ran. Away from the burning light behind. Up the corridor, scrambling. Moiraine burst into open air without realizing it, and almost ran off the edge of the path, which would have sent her stumbling down the steep slope. Someone caught her.

"I have you", Thom’s voice said as she collapsed into his arms, completely drained. Nynaeve fell to the ground nearby, gasping.

Thom turned Moiraine away from the corridor, but she refused to look away. She opened her eyes, though she knew that the light was too intense, and she saw something. Rand and Moridin, standing in the light as it expanded outward to consume the entire mountain in its glow.

The blackness in front of Rand hung like a hole, sucking in everything. Slowly, bit by bit, that hole shrank away until it was just a pinprick.

It vanished.

EPILOGUE

To See the Answer

Rand slipped on his blood.

He couldn’t see. He carried something. Something heavy. A body. He stumbled up the tunnel.

Closing, he thought. It’s closing The ceiling lowered like a shutting jaw, stone grinding against stone. With a gasp, Rand reached open air as the rocks slammed down behind him, locking together like clenched teeth.

Rand tripped. The body in his arms was so heavy. He slipped to the ground.

He could . . . see, just faintly. A figure kneeling down beside him. "Yes", a woman whispered. He did not recognize the voice. "Yes, that’s good. That is what you need to do".

He blinked, his vision fuzzy. Was that Aiel clothing? An old woman, with gray hair? Her form retreated, and Rand reached toward her, not wanting to be alone. Wanting to explain himself. "I see the answer now", he whispered. "I asked the Aelfinn the wrong question. To choose is our fate. If you have no choice, then you aren’t a man at all. You’re a puppet . . ". Shouting.

Rand felt heavy. He plunged into unconsciousness.

*

Mat stood up as the mist of Mashadar burned away from him and vanished. The field was littered with the bodies of those eerie pockmarked Trollocs.

He looked upward through the vanishing wisps and found the sun directly overhead.

"Well, you’re a sight", he said to it. "You should come out more often. You have a pretty face". He smiled, then looked down at the dead man by his feet. Padan Fain looked like a bundle of sticks and moss, the flesh slipping from his bones. The blackness of the dagger had spread across his rotting skin. It stank.

Almost, Mat reached for that dagger. Then he spat. "For once", he said, "a gamble I don’t want to touch". He turned his back on it and walked off.

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