Authors: Robert Jordan
THE WHEEL OF TIME
THE GREAT HUNT
“Jordan has come to dominate the world that Tolkien began to reveal. . . . The battle scenes have the breathless urgency of firsthand experience, and the . . . evil laced into the forces of good, the dangers latent in any promised salvation, the sense of the unavoidable onslaught of unpredictable events bear the marks of American national experience during the last three decades.”
The New York Times
“Those who like fantasy can rejoice. This is the genuine article . . . characters you can care about, a world you can believe in, hideous monsters, battles, magic, even love.
“I only have one problem. How am I going to get by until the next volume comes out?”
—John Lee, author of
The Unicorn Solution
“Rousing, slam-bang . . . full of valiant skirmishes, great heroes, and close rescues. The real war is only beginning, but this one battle at least ends with the sort of grand finale worth rereading a time or two.”
“This is good stuff. To write one absorbing long novel [
The Eye of the World
] is an achievement; to write two is miraculous, and [with
The Great Hunt
Jordan has] achieved the miracle. . . . I shall certainly [line up] for the third volume.”
THE WHEEL OF TIME
THE EYE OF THE WORLD
“New readers are advised to start with the first book,
The Eye of the World.
It may take you a year of steady reading, but by next year you’ll be chomping at the bit to jump on the [newest] book.”
—Robert Knox, MPG Newspapers
“Robert Jordan writes with the stark vision of light and darkness, and sometimes childlike sense of wonder, that permeates J.R.R. Tolkien’s works.”
The Pittsburgh Press
The Eye of the World
is the best of its genre.”
“A major piece of fantasy. Jordan has not merely put old wine into new bottles: he has clothed old bones with new flesh.”
“Jordan’s world is rich in detail and his plot is rich in incident. Highly recommended.”
“A powerful vision of good and evil . . . [and] fascinating people moving through a rich and interesting world.”
—Orson Scott Card
“Magic and pacing and detail and human involvement, with a certain subtlety of presentation and a grand central vision. Robert Jordan . . . is a lot of writer!”
“An exciting story; the reader is drawn in early and kept there until the last page. There is adventure and mystery and dark things that move in the night—a combination of Robin Hood and Stephen King that is hard to resist. . . . Jordan makes the reader care about these characters as though they were old friends.”
“Goodness, life, and light are always in retreat, always about to be defeated, but never quite! Don’t miss it!”
—Andrew M. Greeley
“One hell of a story. [It] kept me up past my bedtime for three nights running—and it’s been a long time since a novel’s done
. Jordan keeps the suspense acute and the surprises and invention beautifully paced. Compelling. An exhilarating experience.”
Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine
THE WHEEL OF TIME
by Robert Jordan
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
Crossroads of Twilight
Knife of Dreams
by Robert Jordan
and Brandon Sanderson
The Gathering Storm
A TOM DOHERTY ASSOCIATES BOOKNEW YORK
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
THE GREAT HUNT
Copyright © 1990 by The Bandersnatch Group, Inc.
The phrases “The Wheel of Time
” and “The Dragon Reborn™,” and the snake-wheel symbol, are trademarks of Robert Jordan.
All rights reserved.
Frontispiece by Kekai Kotaki
Maps by Ellisa Mitchell
Interior illustrations by Matthew C. Nielsen and Ellisa Mitchell
A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
First Edition: November 1990
First E-book Edition: November 2009
Manufactured in the United States of America
This book is dedicated to Lucinda Culpin, Al Dempsey, Tom Doherty, Susan England, Dick Gallen, Cathy Grooms, Marisa Grooms, Wilson and Janet Grooms, John Jarrold, the Johnson City Boys (Mike Leslie, Kenneth Loveless, James D. Lund, Paul R. Robinson), Karl Lundgren, William McDougal, the Montana Gang (Eldon Carter, Ray Grenfell, Ken Miller, Rod Moore, Dick Schmidt, Ray Sessions, Ed Wildey, Mike Wildey, and Sherman Williams), Charlie Moore, Louisa Cheves Popham Raoul, Ted and Sydney Rigney, Robert A. T. Scott, Bryan and Sharon Webb, and Heather Wood.
They came to my aid when God walked across the water and the true Eye of the World passed over my house.
And it shall come to pass that what men made shall be shattered, and the Shadow shall lie across the Pattern of the Age, and the Dark One shall once more lay his hand upon the world of man. Women shall weep and men quail as the nations of the earth are rent like rotting cloth. Neither shall anything stand nor abide . . .
Yet one shall be born to face the Shadow, born once more as he was born before and shall be born again, time without end. The Dragon shall be Reborn, and there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth at his rebirth. In sackcloth and ashes shall he clothe the people, and he shall break the world again by his coming, tearing apart all ties that bind. Like the unfettered dawn shall he blind us, and burn us, yet shall the Dragon Reborn confront the Shadow at the Last Battle, and his blood shall give us the Light. Let tears flow, O ye people of the world. Weep for your salvation.
The Karaethon Cycle:
The Prophecies of the Dragon,
as translated by Ellaine Marise’idin Alshinn,
Chief Librarian at the Court of Arafel,
in the Year of Grace 231
of the New Era, the Third Age
In the Shadow
he man who called himself Bors, at least in this place, sneered at the low murmuring that rolled around the vaulted chamber like the soft gabble of geese. His grimace was hidden by the black silk mask that covered his face, though, just like the masks that covered the hundred other faces in the chamber. A hundred black masks, and a hundred pairs of eyes trying to see what lay behind them.
If one did not look too closely, the huge room could have been in a palace, with its tall marble fireplaces and its golden lamps hanging from the domed ceiling, its colorful tapestries and intricately patterned mosaic floor. If one did not look too closely. The fireplaces were cold, for one thing. Flames danced on logs as thick as a man’s leg, but gave no heat. The walls behind the tapestries, the ceiling high above the lamps, were undressed stone, almost black. There were no windows, and only two doorways, one at either end of the room. It was as if someone had intended to give the semblance of a palace reception chamber but had not cared enough to bother with more than the outline and a few touches for detail.
Where the chamber was, the man who called himself Bors did not know, nor did he think any of the others knew. He did not like to think about where it might be. It was enough that he had been summoned. He did not like to think about that, either, but for such a summons, even he came.
He shifted his cloak, thankful that the fires were cold, else it would have been too hot for the black wool draping him to the floor. All his clothes were black. The bulky folds of the cloak hid the stoop he used to disguise his height, and bred confusion as to whether he was thin or thick. He was not the only one there enveloped in a tailor’s span of cloth.
Silently he watched his companions. Patience had marked much of his life. Always, if he waited and watched long enough, someone made a mistake. Most of the men and women here might have had the same philosophy; they watched, and listened silently to those who had to speak. Some people could not bear waiting, or silence, and so gave away more than they knew.
Servants circulated through the guests, slender, golden-haired youths proffering wine with a bow and a wordless smile. Young men and young women alike, they wore tight white breeches and flowing white shirts. And male and female alike, they moved with disturbing grace. Each looked more than a mirror image of the others, the boys as handsome as the girls were beautiful. He doubted he could distinguish one from another, and he had an eye and a memory for faces.
A smiling, white-clad girl offered her tray of crystal goblets to him. He took one with no intention of drinking; it might appear untrusting—or worse, and either could be deadly here—if he refused altogether, but anything could be slipped into a drink. Surely some among his companions would have no objections to seeing the number of their rivals for power dwindle, whomever the unlucky ones happened to be.
Idly he wondered whether the servants would have to be disposed of after this meeting.
Servants hear everything.
As the serving girl straightened from her bow, his eye caught hers above that sweet smile. Blank eyes. Empty eyes. A doll’s eyes. Eyes more dead than death.
He shivered as she moved gracefully away, and raised the goblet to his lips before he caught himself. It was not what had been done to the girl that chilled him. Rather, every time he thought he detected a weakness in those he now served, he found himself preceded, the supposed weakness cut out with a ruthless precision that left him amazed. And worried. The first rule of his life had always been to search for weakness, for every weakness was a chink where he could probe and pry and influence. If his current masters, his masters for the moment, had no weakness. . . .
Frowning behind his mask, he studied his companions. At least there was plenty of weakness there. Their nervousness betrayed them, even those who had sense enough to guard their tongues. A stiffness in the way this one held himself, a jerkiness in the way that one handled her skirts.
A good quarter of them, he estimated, had not bothered with disguise beyond the black masks. Their clothes told much. A woman standing before a gold-and-crimson wall hanging, speaking softly to a figure—impossible to say whether it was man or woman—cloaked and hooded in gray. She had obviously chosen the spot because the colors of the tapestry set off her garb. Doubly foolish to draw attention to herself, for her scarlet dress, cut low in the bodice to show too much flesh and high at the hem to display golden slippers, marked her from Illian, and a woman of wealth, perhaps even of noble blood.
Not far beyond the Illianer, another woman stood, alone and admirably silent. With a swan’s neck and lustrous black hair falling in waves below her waist, she kept her back to the stone wall, observing everything. No nervousness there, only serene self-possession. Very admirable, that, but her coppery skin and her creamy, high-necked gown—leaving nothing but her hands uncovered, yet clinging and only just barely opaque, so that it hinted at everything and revealed nothing—marked her just as clearly of the first blood of Arad Doman. And unless the man who called himself Bors missed his guess entirely, the wide golden bracelet on her left wrist bore her House symbols. They would be for her own House; no Domani bloodborn would bend her stiff pride enough to wear the sigils of another House. Worse than foolishness.
A man in a high-collared, sky-blue Shienaran coat passed him with a wary, head-to-toe glance through the eyeholes of his mask. The man’s carriage named him soldier; the set of his shoulders, the way his gaze never rested in one place for long, and the way his hand seemed ready to dart for a sword that was not there, all proclaimed it. The Shienaran wasted little time on the man who called himself Bors; stooped shoulders and a bent back held no threat.
The man who called himself Bors snorted as the Shienaran moved on, right hand clenching and eyes already studying elsewhere for danger. He could read them all, to class and country. Merchant and warrior, commoner and noble. From Kandor and Cairhien, Saldaea and Ghealdan. From every nation and nearly every people. His nose wrinkled in sudden disgust. Even a Tinker, in bright green breeches and a virulent yellow coat.
We can do without
come the Day.
The disguised ones were no better, many of them, cloaked and shrouded as they were. He caught sight, under the edge of one dark robe, of the silver-worked boots of a High Lord of Tear, and under another a glimpse of golden lion-head spurs, worn only by high officers in the Andoran Queen’s Guards. A slender fellow—slender even in a floor-dragging black robe and an anonymous gray cloak caught with a plain silver pin—watched from the shadows of his deep cowl. He could be anyone, from anywhere . . . except for the six-pointed star tattooed on the web between thumb and forefinger of his right hand. One of the Sea Folk then, and a look at his left hand would show the marks of his clan and line. The man who called himself Bors did not bother to try.
Suddenly his eyes narrowed, fixing on a woman enveloped in black till nothing showed but her fingers. On her right hand rested a gold ring in the shape of a serpent eating its own tail. Aes Sedai, or at least a woman trained in Tar Valon by Aes Sedai. None else would wear that ring. Either way made no difference to him. He looked away before she could notice his watching, and almost immediately he spotted another woman swathed from head to toe in black and wearing a Great Serpent ring. The two witches gave no sign that they knew each other. In the White Tower they sat like spiders in the middle of a web, pulling the strings that made kings and queens dance, meddling.
Curse them all to death eternal!
He realized that he was grinding his teeth. If numbers must dwindle—and they must, before the Day—there were some who would be missed even less than Tinkers.
A chime sounded, a single, shivering note that came from everywhere at once and cut off all other sounds like a knife.
The tall doors at the far end of the chamber swung open, and two Trollocs stepped into the room, spikes decorating the black mail that hung to their knees. Everyone shied back. Even the man who called himself Bors.
Head and shoulders taller than the tallest man there, they were a stomach-turning blend of man and animal, human faces twisted and altered. One had a heavy, pointed beak where his mouth and nose should have been, and feathers covered his head instead of hair. The other walked on hooves, his face pushed out in a hairy muzzle, and goat horns stuck up above his ears.
Ignoring the humans, the Trollocs turned back toward the door and bowed, servile and cringing. The feathers on the one lifted in a tight crest.
A Myrddraal stepped between them, and they fell to their knees. It was garbed in black that made the Trollocs’ mail and the humans’ masks seem bright, garments that hung still, without a ripple, as it moved with a viper’s grace.
The man who called himself Bors felt his lips drawing back over his teeth, half snarl and half, he was shamed to admit even to himself, fear. It had its face uncovered. Its pasty pale face, a man’s face, but eyeless as an egg, like a maggot in a grave.
The smooth white face swiveled, regarding them all one by one, it seemed. A visible shiver ran through them under that eyeless look. Thin, bloodless lips quirked in what might almost have been a smile as, one by one, the masked ones tried to press back into the crowd, milling to avoid that gaze. The Myrddraal’s look shaped them into a semicircle facing the door.
The man who called himself Bors swallowed.
There will come a day, Halfman. When the Great Lord of the Dark comes again, he will choose his new Dreadlords, and you will cower before them. You will cower before men. Before me! Why doesn’t it speak? Stop staring at me, and speak!
“Your Master comes.” The Myrddraal’s voice rasped like a dry snake skin crumbling. “To your bellies, worms! Grovel, lest his brilliance blind and burn you!”
Rage filled the man who called himself Bors, at the tone as much as the words, but then the air above the Halfman shimmered, and the import drove home.
It can’t be! It can’t . . . !
The Trollocs were already on their bellies, writhing as if they wanted to burrow into the floor.
Without waiting to see if anyone else moved, the man who called himself Bors dropped facedown, grunting as he bruised himself on the stone. Words sprang to his lips like a charm against danger—they were a charm, though a thin reed against what he feared—and he heard a hundred other voices, breathy with fear, speaking the same against the floor.
“The Great Lord of the Dark is my Master, and most heartily do I serve him to the last shred of my very soul.” In the back of his mind a voice chattered with fear.
The Dark One and all the Forsaken are bound
. . . . Shivering, he forced it to silence. He had abandoned that voice long since. “Lo, my Master is death’s Master. Asking nothing do I serve against the Day of his coming, yet do I serve in the sure and certain hope of life everlasting.” . . .
bound in Shayol Ghul, bound by the Creator at the moment of creation. No, I serve a different master now.
“Surely the faithful shall be exalted in the land, exalted above the unbelievers, exalted above thrones, yet do I serve humbly against the Day of his Return.”
The hand of the Creator shelters us all, and the Light protects us from the Shadow. No, no! A different master.
“Swift come the Day of Return. Swift come the Great Lord of the Dark to guide us and rule the world forever and ever.”
The man who called himself Bors finished the creed panting, as if he had run ten miles. The rasp of breath all around told him he was not the only one.
“Rise. All of you, rise.”
The mellifluous voice took him by surprise. Surely none of his companions, lying on their bellies with their masked faces pressed to the mosaic tiles, would have spoken, but it was not the voice he expected from. . . . Cautiously, he raised his head enough to see with one eye.
The figure of a man floated in the air above the Myrddraal, the hem of his blood-red robe hanging a span over the Halfman’s head. Masked in blood-red, too. Would the Great Lord of the Dark appear to them as a man? And masked, besides? Yet the Myrddraal, its very gaze fear, trembled and almost cowered where it stood in the figure’s shadow. The man who called himself Bors grasped for an answer his mind could contain without splitting. One of the Forsaken, perhaps.
That thought was only a little less painful. Even so, it meant the Day of the Dark One’s return must be close at hand if one of the Forsaken was free. The Forsaken, thirteen of the most powerful wielders of the One Power in an Age filled with powerful wielders, had been sealed up in Shayol Ghul along with the Dark One, sealed away from the world of men by the Dragon and the Hundred Companions. And the backblast of that sealing had tainted the male half of the True Source; and all the male Aes Sedai, those cursed wielders of the Power, went mad and broke the world, tore it apart like a pottery bowl smashed on rocks, ending the Age of Legends before they died, rotting while they still lived. A fitting death for Aes Sedai, to his mind. Too good for them. He regretted only that the women had been spared.