A memory of light, p.1
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       A Memory of Light, p.1

         Part #14 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
 
A Memory of Light


  BY ROBERT JORDAN

  The Wheel of Time®

  The Eye of the World

  The Great Hunt

  The Dragon Reborn

  The Shadow Rising

  The Fires of Heaven

  Lord of Chaos

  A Crown of Swords

  The Path of Daggers

  Winter’s Heart

  Crossroads of Twilight

  Knife of Dreams

  The Gathering Storm

  (by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson)

  Towers of Midnight

  (by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson)

  A Memory of Light

  (by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson)

  New Spring

  The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time®

  (with Teresa Patterson)

  *

  The Conan Chronicles 1

  The Conan Chronicles 2

  COPYRIGHT

  Published by Hachette Digital

  ISBN: 978-0-7481-1722-2

  Copyright © 2012 by The Bandersnatch Group, Inc.

  The phrases “The Wheel of Time®” and “The Dragon Reborn™”, and the snake-wheel symbol are trademarks of The Bandersnatch Group, Inc.

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  Maps by Ellisa Mitchell

  Interior illustrations by Matthew C. Nielsen and Ellisa Mitchell

  All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  Hachette Digital

  Little, Brown Book Group

  100 Victoria Embankment

  London, EC4Y 0DY

  www.hachette.co.uk

  For Harriet,

  the light of Mr. Jordan’s life,

  and for Emily,

  the light of mine.

  CONTENTS

  MAPS

  PROLOGUE: By Grace and Banners Fallen

  1 Eastward the Wind Blew

  2 The Choice of an Ajah

  3 A Dangerous Place

  4 Advantages to a Bond

  5 To Require a Boon

  6 A Knack

  7 Into the Thick of It

  8 That Smoldering City

  9 To Die Well

  10 The Use of Dragons

  11 Just Another Sell-sword

  12 A Shard of a Moment

  13 What Must Be Done

  14 Doses of Forkroot

  15 Your Neck in a Cord

  16 A Silence Like Screaming

  17 Older, More Weathered

  18 To Feel Wasted

  19 The Choice of a Patch

  20 Into Thakan’dar

  21 Not a Mistake to Ignore

  22 The Wyld

  23 At the Edge of Time

  24 To Ignore the Omens

  25 Quick Fragments

  26 Considerations

  27 Friendly Fire

  28 Too Many Men

  29 The Loss of a Hill

  30 The Way of the Predator

  31 A Tempest of Water

  32 A Yellow Flower-Spider

  33 The Prince’s Tabac

  34 Drifting

  35 A Practiced Grin

  36 Unchangeable Things

  37 The Last Battle

  38 The Place That Was Not

  39 Those Who Fight

  40 Wolfbrother

  41 A Smile

  42 Impossibilities

  43 A Field of Glass

  44 Two Craftsmen

  45 Tendrils of Mist

  46 To Awaken

  47 Watching the Flow Writhe

  48 A Brilliant Lance

  49 Light and Shadow

  EPILOGUE: To See the Answer

  And the Shadow fell upon the Land, and the World was riven stone from stone. The oceans fled, and the mountains were swallowed up, and the nations were scattered to the eight corners of the World. The moon was as blood, and the sun was as ashes. The seas boiled, and the living envied the dead. All was shattered, and all but memory lost, and one memory above all others, of him who brought the Shadow and the Breaking of the World. And him they named Dragon.

  —from Aleth nin Taerin alta Camora,

  The Breaking of the World.

  Author unknown, the Fourth Age.

  PROLOGUE

  By Grace and Banners Fallen

  Bayrd pressed the coin between his thumb and forefinger. It was thoroughly unnerving to feel the metal squish.

  He removed his thumb. The hard copper now clearly bore its print, reflecting the uncertain torchlight. He felt chilled, as if he’d spent an entire night in a cellar.

  His stomach growled. Again.

  The north wind picked up, making torches sputter. Bayrd sat with his back to a large rock near the center of the war camp. Hungry men muttered as they warmed their hands around firepits; the rations had spoiled long ago. Other soldiers nearby began laying all of their metal—swords, armor clasps, mail—on the ground, like linen to be dried. Perhaps they hoped that when the sun rose, it would change the material back to normal.

  Bayrd rolled the once-coin into a ball between his fingers. Light preserve us, he thought. Light… He dropped the ball to the grass, then reached over and picked up the stones he’d been working with.

  “I want to know what happened here, Karam,” Lord Jarid snapped. Jarid and his advisors stood nearby in front of a table draped with maps. “I want to know how they drew so close, and I want that bloody Darkfriend Aes Sedai queen’s head!” Jarid pounded his fist down on the table. Once, his eyes hadn’t displayed such a crazed fervor. The pressure of it all—the lost rations, the strange things in the nights—was changing him.

  Behind Jarid, the command tent lay in a heap. Jarid’s hair—grown long during their exile—blew free, face bathed in ragged torchlight. Bits of dead grass still clung to his coat from when he’d crawled out of the tent.

  Baffled servants picked at the iron tent spikes, which—like all metal in the camp—had become soft to the touch. The tent’s mounting rings had stretched and snapped like warm wax.

  The night smelled wrong. Of staleness, of rooms that hadn’t been entered in years. The air of a forest clearing should not smell like ancient dust. Bayrd’s stomach growled again. Light, but he would’ve liked to have something to eat. He set his attention on his work, slapping one of his stones down against the other.

  He held the stones as his old pappil had taught him as a boy. The feeling of stone striking stone helped push away the hunger and coldness. At least something was still solid in this world.

  Lord Jarid glanced at him, scowling. Bayrd was one of ten men Jarid had insisted guard him this night. “I will have Elayne’s head, Karam,” Jarid said, turning back to his captains. “This unnatural night is the work of her witches.”

  “Her head?” Eri’s skeptical voice came from the side. “And how, precisely, is someone going to bring you her head?”

  Lord Jarid turned, as did the others around the torchlit table. Eri stared at the sky; on his shoulder, he wore the mark of the golden boar charging before a red spear. It was the mark of Lord Jarid’s personal guard, but Eri’s voice bore little respect. “What’s he going to use to cut that head free, Jarid? His teeth?”

  The camp stilled at the horribly insubordinate line. Bayrd stopped his stones,
hesitating. Yes, there had been talk about how unhinged Lord Jarid had become. But this?

  Jarid sputtered, face growing red with rage. “You dare use such a tone with me? One of my own guards?”

  Eri continued inspecting the cloud-filled sky. “You’re docked two months’ pay,” Jarid snapped, but his voice trembled. “Stripped of rank and put on latrine duty until further notice. If you speak back to me again, I’ll cut out your tongue.”

  Bayrd shivered in the cold wind. Eri was the best they had in what was left of their rebel army. The other guards shuffled, looking down.

  Eri looked toward the lord and smiled. He didn’t say a word, but somehow, he didn’t have to. Cut out his tongue? Every scrap of metal in the camp had gone soft as lard. Jarid’s own knife lay on the table, twisted and warped—it had stretched thin as he pulled it from his sheath. Jarid’s coat flapped, open; it had had silver buttons.

  “Jarid…” Karam said. A young lord of a minor house loyal to Sarand, he had a lean face and large lips. “Do you really think… really think this was the work of Aes Sedai? All of the metal in the camp?”

  “Of course,” Jarid barked. “What else would it be? Don’t tell me you believe those campfire tales. The Last Battle? Phaw.” He looked back at the table. Unrolled there, with pebbles weighting the corners, was a map of Andor.

  Bayrd turned back to his stones. Snap, snap, snap. Slate and granite. It had taken work to find suitable sections of each, but Pappil had taught Bayrd to recognize all kinds of stone. The old man had felt betrayed when Bayrd’s father had gone off and become a butcher in the city, instead of keeping to the family trade.

  Soft, smooth slate. Bumpy, ridged granite. Yes, some things in the world were still solid. Some few things. These days, you couldn’t rely on much. Once immovable lords were now soft as… well, soft as metal. The sky churned with blackness, and brave men—men Bayrd had long looked up to—trembled and whimpered in the night.

  “I’m worried, Jarid,” Davies said. An older man, Lord Davies was as close as anyone was to being Jarid’s confidant. “We haven’t seen anyone in days. Not farmer, not queen’s soldier. Something is happening. Something wrong.”

  “She cleared the people out,” Jarid snarled. “She’s preparing to pounce.”

  “I think she’s ignoring us, Jarid,” Karam said, looking at the sky. Clouds still churned there. It seemed like months since Bayrd had seen a clear sky. “Why would she bother? Our men are starving. The food continues to spoil. The signs—”

  “She’s trying to squeeze us,” Jarid said, eyes wide with fervor. “This is the work of the Aes Sedai.”

  Stillness came suddenly to the camp. Silence, save for Bayrd’s stones. He’d never felt right as a butcher, but he’d found a home in his lord’s guard. Cutting up cows or cutting up men, the two were strikingly similar. It bothered him how easily he’d shifted from one to the other.

  Snap, snap, snap.

  Eri turned. Jarid eyed the guard suspiciously, as if ready to scream out harsher punishment.

  He wasn’t always this bad, was he? Bayrd thought. He wanted the throne for his wife, but what lord wouldn’t? It was hard to look past the name. Bayrd’s family had followed the Sarand family with reverence for generations.

  Eri strode away from the command post. “Where do you think you’re going?” Jarid howled.

  Eri reached to his shoulder and ripped free the badge of the Sarand house guard. He tossed it aside and left the torchlight, heading into the night toward the winds from the north.

  Most men in the camp hadn’t gone to sleep. They sat around firepits, wanting to be near warmth and light. A few with clay pots tried boiling cuts of grass, leaves, or strips of leather as something, anything, to eat.

  They stood up to watch Eri go.

  “Deserter,” Jarid spat. “After all we’ve been through, now he leaves. Just because things are difficult.”

  “The men are starving, Jarid,” Davies repeated.

  “I’m aware. Thank you so much for telling me about the problems with every bloody breath you have.” Jarid wiped his brow with his trembling palm, then slammed it on his map. “We’ll have to strike one of the cities; there’s no running from her, not now that she knows where we are. Whitebridge. We’ll take it and resupply. Her Aes Sedai must be weakened after the stunt they pulled tonight, otherwise she’d have attacked.”

  Bayrd squinted into the darkness. Other men were standing, lifting quarterstaffs or cudgels. Some went without weapons. They gathered sleeping rolls, hoisted packs of clothing to their shoulders. Then they began to trail out of the camp, their passage silent, like the movement of ghosts. No rattling of chain mail or buckles on armor. The metal was all gone. As if the soul had been stripped from it.

  “Elayne doesn’t dare move against us in strength,” Jarid said, perhaps convincing himself. “There must be strife in Caemlyn. All of those mercenaries you reported, Shiv. Riots, maybe. Elenia will be working against Elayne, of course. Whitebridge. Yes, Whitebridge will be perfect.

  “We hold it, you see, and cut the nation in half. We recruit there, press the men in western Andor to our banner. Go to… what’s the place called? The Two Rivers. We should find able hands there.” Jarid sniffed. “I hear they haven’t seen a lord for decades. Give me four months, and I’ll have an army to be reckoned with. Enough that she won’t dare strike at us with her witches…”

  Bayrd held his stone up to the torchlight. The trick to creating a good spearhead was to start outward and work your way in. He’d drawn the proper shape with chalk on the slate, then had worked toward the center to finish the shape. From there, you turned from hitting to tapping, shaving off smaller bits.

  He’d finished one side earlier; this second half was almost done. He could almost hear his pappil whispering to him. We’re of the stone, Bayrd. No matter what your father says. Deep down, we’re of the stone.

  More soldiers left the camp. Strange, how few of them spoke. Jarid finally noticed. He stood up straight and grabbed one of the torches, holding it high. “What are they doing? Hunting? We’ve seen no game in weeks. Setting snares, perhaps?”

  Nobody replied.

  “Maybe they’ve seen something,” Jarid muttered. “Or maybe they think they have. I’ll stand no more talk of spirits or other foolery; the witches are creating apparitions to unnerve us. That’s… that’s what it has to be.”

  Rustling came from nearby. Karam was digging in his fallen tent. He came up with a small bundle.

  “Karam?” Jarid said.

  Karam glanced at Lord Jarid, then lowered his eyes and began to tie a coin pouch at his waist. He stopped and laughed, then emptied it. The gold coins inside had melted into a single lump, like pigs’ ears in a jar. Karam pocketed this lump. He fished in the pouch and brought out a ring. The blood-red gemstone at the center was still good. “Probably won’t be enough to buy an apple, these days,” he muttered.

  “I demand to know what you are doing,” Jarid snarled. “Is this your doing?” He waved toward the departing soldiers. “You’re staging a mutiny, is that it?”

  “This isn’t my doing,” Karam said, looking ashamed. “And it’s not really yours, either. I’m… I’m sorry.”

  Karam walked away from the torchlight. Bayrd found himself surprised. Lord Karam and Lord Jarid had been friends from childhood.

  Lord Davies went next, running after Karam. Was he going to try to hold the younger man back? No, he fell into step beside Karam. They vanished into the darkness.

  “I’ll have you hunted down for this!” Jarid yelled after them, voice shrill. Frantic. “I will be consort to the Queen! No man will give you, or any member of your Houses, shelter or succor for ten generations!”

  Bayrd looked back at the stone in his hand. Only one step left, the smoothing. A good spearhead needed some smoothing to be dangerous. He brought out another piece of granite he’d picked up for the purpose and carefully began scraping it along the side of the slate.

  Seems I re
member this better than I’d expected, he thought as Lord Jarid continued to rant.

  There was something powerful about crafting the spearhead. The simple act seemed to push back the gloom. There had been a shadow on Bayrd, and the rest of the camp, lately. As if… as if he couldn’t stand in the light no matter how he tried. He woke each morning feeling as if someone he’d loved had died the day before.

  It could crush you, that despair. But the act of creating something—anything—fought back. That was one way to challenge… him. The one none of them spoke of. The one that they all knew was behind it, no matter what Lord Jarid said.

  Bayrd stood up. He’d want to do more smoothing later, but the spearhead actually looked good. He raised his wooden spear haft—the metal blade had fallen free when evil had struck the camp—and lashed the new spearhead in place, just as his pappil had taught him all those years ago.

  The other guards were looking at him. “We’ll need more of those,” Morear said. “If you’re willing.”

  Bayrd nodded. “On our way out, we can stop by the hillside where I found the slate.”

  Jarid finally stopped yelling, his eyes wide in the torchlight. “No. You are my personal guard. You will not defy me!”

  Jarid jumped for Bayrd, murder in his eyes, but Morear and Rosse caught the lord from behind. Rosse looked aghast at his own mutinous act. He didn’t let go, though.

  Bayrd fished a few things out from beside his bedroll. After that, he nodded to the others, and they joined him—eight men of Lord Jarid’s personal guard, dragging the sputtering lord himself through the remnants of camp. They passed smoldering fires and fallen tents, abandoned by men who were trailing out into the darkness in greater numbers now, heading north. Into the wind.

  At the edge of camp, Bayrd selected a nice, stout tree. He waved to the others, and they took the rope he’d fetched and tied Lord Jarid to the tree. The man sputtered until Morear gagged him with a handkerchief.

  Bayrd stepped in close. He tucked a waterskin into the crook of Jarid’s arm. “Don’t struggle too much or you’ll drop that, my Lord. You should be able to push the gag off—it doesn’t look too tight—and angle the water-skin up to drink. Here, I’ll take out the cork.”

 
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