понеделник, 19 август 2013 г.

Прочетете откъса River of Souls

Така, най-сетне успях да се добера до сборника Unfettered и съответно до отрязания от Спомен за Светлина откъс. Както знаете, в него се разказва за Бао (Демандред, с други думи). С вас ще споделя текста такъв, какъвто е в самия сборник, без да съкращавам нищо - т.е. ще сложа дори встъпителните думи. :)
Навярно на някои ще им хареса повече отколкото на други, но какво да се прави... все пак е последното парченце от "Колелото на Времето", което някога ще видим. 
Enjoy!

This is a deleted sequence from the fourteenth and final Wheel of Time book, A Memory of Light. As such, it contains some minor interior spoilers for that book—and it might not make a ton of sense to you if you haven’t read the Wheel of Time.
However, if you have read the Wheel of Time (particularly the final book), I’d suggest that you read this sequence now and go no further in the introduction. The commentary here will be more meaningful to you if you’ve read the sequence first, I believe.
I pitched this series of scenes to Team Jordan with the knowledge that the scenes were on shaky ground from the start. We knew Demandred was in Shara, and we knew some of what he’d been up to. I wanted to show a glimpse of this. However, Robert Jordan—in interviews—had said that the stories were never going to show Shara, at least not in any significant way.
I felt that he hadn’t ruled out the possibility of a glimpse of Shara—he had only implied that nothing major would happen there on screen. Team Jordan agreed, and I set to work writing these scenes. My goal was to show a different side of one of the Forsaken. Demandred had been building himself up in Shara for months and months, overthrowing the government (Graendal helped with that, unwittingly) and securing his place as a figure of prophecy and power.
He had his own story, which could have filled the pages of his own Wheel-of-Time-like series. He had allies and enemies, companions who had been with him for years, much as Rand, Egwene, and company had found during their adventures in the west. My goal was to evoke this in a few brief scenes, at first not letting you know who this “Bao” was. I wanted to present him sympathetically, at least as sympathetically as a man like him could be presented. It would only be at the end of the sequence that the reader realized that Bao was indeed Demandred, and that everything he was doing here was in preparation for destroying the heroes.
It was also important to me that we see Demandred for what he is—an incredibly capable man with a single overriding flaw. Everything about him, including his ability to feel affection, is tainted by his supreme hatred of Lews Therin. The narrative was to hint that it never had to be that way. He could have made different choices. Of all the Forsaken, I find Demandred the most tragic.
The sequence accomplished these goals—but it did so too well. In threading this sequence into the rest of A Memory of Light, we found that the Demandred scenes were distracting. The worldbuilding required to make Shara distinctive felt out of place in the last book, where the narrative needed to be focused on tying up loose threads rather than introducing a multitude of new questions.
Harriet—Robert Jordan’s widow and editor of every Wheel of Time book—felt that the scenes’ evocation of an entire untold series of books was too overwhelming. It didn’t feel enough like the Wheel of Time. If this had been book eight, that would be wonderful—the scenes would add variety to the series. In book fourteen, however, they offered a taste of something that would never be sated, and served only to make promises we could not fulfill.
My biggest worry in cutting these sequences was that Demandred’s arrival later in the book would feel abrupt. However, test readers didn’t feel this way—Demandred as a character had been a proverbial gun on the mantel long enough that everyone was waiting for him to show up. His arrival felt dynamic to them, rather than unexplained.
So, in the end, we left these scenes on the cutting room floor. I’m quite fond of them, and do consider the general outline of events within to be canon. However, the specifics of the worldbuilding are not canon. We cut these scenes before Team Jordan’s Maria Simons, queen of continuity, had a chance to go over them with her fine-tooth comb.
I hope you enjoy this last taste of Wheel of Time storytelling. Thank you for reading.
— Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson



RIVER OF SOULS
Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Bao slipped into the Oneness as he sat with legs crossed, surrounded by darkness.
During his youthful studies, he had been required to seek the Oneness in the midst of a crashing storm, while being towed on a sled behind a horse, and finally while enduring the pain of a hot coal against his skin. He had once considered that training to be extreme, but life had since required him to find the Oneness during war and agony, during tempests and earthquakes. For today, for this moment, a dark quiet room would do.
The Oneness was lack of emotion. Bao took all of his feelings—all of his thoughts, all that he was—and pressed them into a single point of darkness in his mind. That darkness consumed the emotion. He felt nothing. He thought nothing. He did not sense satisfaction at this, for there could be no satisfaction in this state. He was the Oneness. That was all.
The tent flap lifted, allowing in filtered sunlight. Bao opened his eyes. There was no surprise when he saw Mintel. One could not be surprised in the Oneness.
A thought did hover on the edges of his consciousness. The thought that this man should have been miles and miles away.
“How?” Bao asked, releasing the Oneness.
Mintel stepped forward. It had only been six months since Bao had seen Mintel, but the old man seemed to have aged a decade. His face was all folds and furrows, like a tablecloth taken in two hands and crumpled together. Completely bald, he wore a short beard, all gray. Though he walked with a cane, his steps were sure. That was good to see. Mintel might have grown old, but not frail.
“I rode the caprisha through the City of Dreams, my son,” Mintel said, taking Bao by the arm.
“Dangerous.”
“I could not miss this day.”
“I would not have had you lose your soul to come see me.”
“Not just to see you,” Mintel said, smiling. “To see the fulfillment of prophecy, after all of these years. To see the coming of angor’lot, the True Destiny. No, I would not risk the City of Dreams for my son alone, but to attend the crowning of the Wyld…I would risk anything.”
“Not a crowning yet,” Bao said. Emotions were insignificant. “Not unless I survive.”
“True, true. You held the Oneness when I arrived?”
Bao nodded.
“You came to me knowing the Oneness already,” Mintel said. “Sometimes I wonder if I’ve taught you anything at all.”
The bells rang outside, distant. Bao looked toward the tent flaps, outlined faintly with light. “It is time.”
“So it is.”
After years of preparation, it was time. Bao looked at the man who had adopted him. “I came here for this, you understand,” Bao said. “For this only. I did not expect it to take years. Attachments are irrelevant. Only this matters.”
Mintel’s smile broadened, lines spreading from his eyes and mouth. “To want, to receive, to understand.” It had the way of a quote about it, likely one of the proverbs of Kongsidi, the great servant. Mintel was abrishi, after all.
“And that means?” Bao asked.
“All men want something,” Mintel said. “All men receive something. Not all men understand the nature of what they have received. You came to us for one purpose, but it was not the purpose that the Grand Tapestry planned for you. That is not uncommon.”
Bao flexed a hand, then pulled off his glove. The back of his hand had been scarred with a terrible burn in the shape of a circle, with three sinuous hooked knives stabbing out from the center toward the perimeter, their tips turning until they blended with the line outside.
“If I survive this day,” Bao said, holding up his hand, “I will do with my power things that some will call evil.”
“Good, evil,” Mintel said with a wave of his hand. “These words are the words of the ulikar, the outsiders. Our ways are not theirs. Our ways are not yours. We are only concerned with what must be done and what must not be done.”
“As the Tapestry unravels…” Bao said.
“As the Tapestry unravels,” Mintel said, “so the lives of men unravel a little each day until we reach our end. You have come to us, as prophecy said. Our lives have been chosen for us up until this moment, this time. From today, fate will no longer be decided. We give our lives to you. It was what we were created to do, since the days of the very first Sh’botay. Go, my son. Go and be victorious.”
Bao pulled his glove back on, then strode out into the light.

Bao pulled his horse to a halt at the lip of Abyrward. The massive rent in the ground spread out for what had to be leagues, though the people here did not use that term. It had taken him months to understand their complex measurements of distance, weight, and time. He still had to call in a member of the counters’ guild any time he wanted to be certain of a calculation.
Mintel rode at his side. The ancient man had spent most of the trip with his eyes closed in meditation, as was the way of the abrishi. No man—not lord, not bandit, not slave—would interrupt an abrishi in meditation. A man would rather take his own hand off at the wrist than risk the unfavorable fate caused by such an action.
As the horses stopped, Mintel’s eyes fluttered open. He breathed in deeply, and Bao knew that he was appreciating the grand sight. It was one of the most beautiful in nature. Short kingdom trees lined the edge of the rift. Though other places in the Inner Land were filled with dead trees only, here in this sacred place, they grew vibrantly. Their bright green leaves were the food of the silkworm, a symbol of the Inner Land as old as the symbol that had been burned into the back of Bao’s hand.
The trees were in bloom, the blossoms hanging in clusters on short stalks below the leaves. The air smelled sharply of pollen. In front of the trees, the ground fell away into the deep chasm, the strata of rock making stripes on the walls. A stream ran down below. Angarai’la, the River of Souls. It was there that Bao hoped to find the object of his long search.
Around him, the Freed moved up to the chasm’s lip. That was the name they had taken for themselves. Bao had given the men shirts, and they had ripped them into strips and tied them around elbows and knees. They moved like animals as they reached the chasm and looked down, not speaking, bare backs to the sky, feet unshod. The tattoos on their backs and shoulders wrapped around their necks, then formed into claws or barbed branches below the chins. Their heads seemed to be held from below by the tattoos.
“Where is Shendla?” Mintel asked.
“She will come,” Bao said.
And she did, right on time. As the sun reached its zenith behind the clouds, Bao picked out her crew moving up the side of the chasm from below. Slender and dark of skin, Shendla wore woodsman’s clothing. Thick boots, a rugged coat. She carried two long knives strapped to her back, handles up over her shoulders. Bao had never seen her in a skirt, and didn’t care to.
She reached the top of the chasm, then bowed to him, not pausing to drink or rest despite the long climb. “The way is prepared.”
“No man entered the shrine?” Bao cautioned.
“None. We only scouted the path for you, Wyld.”
“Not Wyld yet,” he said, climbing down from his horse.
“Ha!” said one of Shendla’s companions. Torn had a wide smile and wore his beard in two thick, knotted braids, one down from either cheek. “You are surely the most humble conquering despot this world has known, Bao. You will execute a man for failing you, but you will not allow us to give you the title you seek?”
“To take the title I do not yet have,” Bao said, “is to dishonor it, Torn. I will walk Angarai’la and enter the Hearttomb, where I will face—and kill—its guardian. Until I return, I am not the Wyld.”
“Then what are you?” Torn asked.
“Many things.”
“I shall create for you a title to use until you return! Wy-dain!”
The term was not lost on Bao. The language they called isleh, or Ancient, had little left in common with the Old Tongue that Bao knew. However, during his time with this people, he had begun to piece it together. Wy-dain was a pun on Wy-eld, or Wyld. Wy meant slayer, and Wy-dain roughly translated to “slayer of boredom.”
Mintel chuckled at that, ancient eyes alight. Shendla smiled.
“No smile?” Torn asked, inspecting Bao’s face. “Not a hint of one?”
“Lord Bao does not laugh, Torn,” Shendla said, a possessive hand on Bao’s shoulder. “His duty is too heavy.”
“Oh, I know, I know,” Torn said. “That doesn’t mean I can’t try. Someday I will break that mask of yours, my friend. Someday!” Torn laughed, taking a canteen from one of his servants and drinking its contents down.
“My time has come,” Bao said. “I will descend. Camp here and wait for my return.”
The Freed gathered around him, but Bao seized the One Power and pointed. “Wait!” he commanded. They responded only to direct—and forceful—orders. Like hounds. The feral men pulled away, climbing up onto a nearby incline and huddling down to await his return.
Shendla still held his arm. A tiny broken piece of him was fond of her touch and wished for it to linger. That disturbed him. It had been…long…since he had felt an emotion such as that one.
“I see trouble in your eyes,” she whispered.
“Walk with me a moment,” he said, leading her toward the path down into the chasm. Bao turned his head and saw that Mintel watched them go with a curious, yet patient, expression. The old man then closed his eyes and entered meditation. The man would meditate until Bao returned, eating nothing, taking only occasional sips of water. Mintel gave no farewell, and Bao had expected none. The old man closed his eyes to Bao, then would open them to the Wyld—come at long last into the world.
Once they were a short distance away, Bao stopped Shendla with a hand on her shoulder. “I know you would come with me,” he said to her softly. “You cannot.”
“Let me at least walk you to the opening below,” she said. “I know the path. I—”
“I must walk it alone,” Bao said, stern. “You know this. If I am to bring your angor’lot, I must follow the prophecies exactly. ‘He descends alone and dies, returning to us reborn.’ You will wait.”
She drew her lips into a line. She did not like being told what to do, but she had given him her oaths.
“What bothered you, above?” she asked.
Bao turned, looking down the chasm, toward the River of Souls below. “Torn called me friend.”
“Is he not your friend?”
“I do not have friends,” Bao said. “And I certainly did not come here to find them. I seek the prize, and the prize alone. I will have the cup’s power, Shendla. Nothing else matters to me. Surely all of you can sense that. I long ago lost the capacity for affection.”
“You say things such as that so often.”
“They are true,” he said. “Tell me honestly. You cannot look in these eyes of mine and see anything but death and coldness.”
He turned to her, and she stared into his eyes.
“No,” she said. “That is not what I see at all.”
“Bah!” he said, pulling away from her. “You are fools, all of you. I don’t care for your prophecies! I speak the words so I can control you. How can you not see this?”
“You have come to save us,” she said. “You break us free of fate’s chains. You did not know the prophecies when you first came—you have said so yourself—but you fulfilled them anyway.”
“By accident.”
“Releasing the enslaved, declaring all men free? That was an accident?”
“I did it to create chaos!” he said, turning.
“You have brought us unity,” she replied. “You have brought us glory. The Dragon has come, Bao. Every man and woman in this land can feel it. He will try to destroy the world, and only you can stop him. There is a reason you have done what you did. The Tapestry…shall I call it by your word? The Pattern? It has brought you, and once you step into that cavern below, we will be freed from fate and be made our own people again.”
Darkness within, Bao thought. She is so earnest. She believes it.
And…did he? Two years in this land. Was he starting to believe? Had he accidentally found in this place the very thing he’d so long sought?
“The others always hated me,” he said to Shendla. “They named me ulikar, and spat at me. Not you. You followed me from the start. Why?”
“You do not want the answer to that,” she said, meeting his gaze. “It will weigh upon you.”
How well she knew him.
“I…” he found himself saying. “I will…protect this people, if I can.” Darkness within! He did believe. Only just a little, but he did believe.
“I know,” she whispered. “Go. I will wait here for you.”
Bao let his eyes linger on her, hearing Torn laugh as he told a story above. Then Bao summoned the Oneness and stepped down the path.

Bao kicked out the campfire. He had started it with the One Power, but now—in the light of morning—it seemed to be wise to avoid channeling. He did not know what awaited him inside Rai’lair, the Hearttomb. The guardian was said to be something ancient, and there were many ancient things that could sense channeling.
He continued on his trek. His sleep had come fitfully these two nights of his journey. Perhaps he should have Traveled directly to the entrance of the cavern, but that would have been…cheating. A piece of him laughed that he thought of it so. What cared he for such rules?
Strangely, he did care. More and more, he wanted to be the Wyld to this people. They were a means, a tool, but a man could treat his tools well. Too many of Bao’s associates would break or cast aside a tool once their interest waned.
He stepped up beside the River of Souls. It did not look like much, more a stream than a true river, if a fast-moving one. The babbling noises it made accompanied him down the long decline, always his companion. At times, its noises sounded like whispers. Perhaps that was where it had earned its name.
He filled his canteen from it. Only the Wyld could drink its waters, and he wanted to taste them as soon as he achieved his goal. Eventually, he saw the maw of the Hearttomb opening before him. He checked the sun. Still early in the day. Could he be done and return in time? By prophecy, he was supposed to return from the pit at sunset on the third day. How would the people react if he fulfilled their prophecies in all other ways, but then failed to do so in time?
He arrived at the point where the river descended into the cavern. The stone face of the rock here was worked into the shape of a man and a woman kneeling, heads bowed. And…was that the image of a chora tree, carved behind them? Time had worn the rock face deeply; he could not make it out for certain.
He seized the One Power and entered the cavern. Amazingly, the inside was overgrown with foliage. Ferns and saplings lined the river as it ran into the darkness. Bao frowned, then spun a web to create a light for himself. Better to risk a small amount of channeling than to continue forward in the dark.
He anticipated the plants vanishing as he went deeper, but they did not. Against all logic, they continued; they bloomed, though the land above was in the Great Lord’s grip.
So, Bao thought, walking deeper, the tomb’s guardian is one of the Nym? He had not expected this.
One of the vines at his feet moved.
Bao channeled, releasing a blast of fire at the vine. The fire hit, but it had an unexpected effect—where the web touched the vine, more sprouted out. The room started to shake.
Ahead of him, the darkness trembled, and his light shone on the interior of a horrible maw that stretched from floor to ceiling. Needle-sharp teeth stood in array all the way down its greenish throat. What looked like insectile arms broke up through the twisting plants, long and slender, reaching for him.
Bao cursed, unsheathing his sword. During these last two years he had honed his skill back into top form, and he now considered himself the equal of any man. As those arms came for him, he hacked and sliced, weaving between them in the ancient sword forms. He separated the insectile arms at the joints, leaving them twitching on the ground.
He now knew what he faced. Somehow, a juvenile jumara must have crawled into this cavern and gone through its pupation and transformation. The resulting Shadowspawn was too large to squeeze back out; he saw only its mouth and some of its tendrils and spines. Jumara strengthened when the One Power was used against them.
Aginor, I hope you burn, wherever you are, Bao thought. He had always hated these creatures.
He snarled, and charged the beast. As he ran, he used weaves to lift chunks of rock up into the air, then burned them molten in the blink of an eye and sprayed the jumara’s maw with melted rock. The thing screamed, the rock trembling as the creature pulled away from the end of the tunnel, revealing that it crouched in an enormous cavern. Its mouth had been pressed against the tunnel’s entrance near the ceiling of the cavern, to devour anything that tried to enter the cave.
Bao’s foot hit the lip of the rock at the end of the tunnel and he threw himself out into the cavern, using a blast of Air to hurl himself forward. The enormous jumara reared beneath him, the “vines” proving themselves to be the tentacles that surrounded its mouth, the insectile arms the spines that grew from its maw. It was easily a hundred feet long, pushed up against the side of the cavern, its enormous clawed legs clinging to the rock.
Bao raised his sword and dropped through the air toward the thing.

Bao hauled himself to his feet, gasping, covered in blood from the jumara’nai. Its heart continued to thump, its body splayed open in places, crushed by rocks in others. Bao stumbled, then retrieved his sword from the rocks where he’d dropped it near the stream that ran through the cave.
Behind him, the beast’s heart finally stilled. Bao leaned against a rock, ignoring his bruises and cuts. Darkness within. The thing had nearly had him. He hated the monsters he could not fight directly by channeling. Bao was convinced that Aginor had created them not to be part of the Shadow’s armies, but because of a twisted desire to see just how terrible a beast he could make.
Bao summoned light. The cup had better be in there. If it was not…
He crossed ground overgrown with plants. Between them peeked the bones of fallen heroes who had tried to best the cavern’s champion. A jumara was nearly immortal unless slain; they could live for millennia in hibernation, only eating when something touched one of their spines or tentacles.
Bao shook his head, thinking of how easily these heroes must have fallen. Even with the One Power, even with centuries of training at the sword, he had nearly become another meal—and he had fought jumara before. He knew where to strike.
Sword out, Bao reached the other side of the cavern. Here, upon a natural stone dais, he found the plants grown together into what seemed a kind of face or head.
“So I was right,” he said, kneeling beside the face. “I thought the Nym had all died.”
“I…am not of the Nym…” the face said softly, eyes closed. “Not any longer. Have you come to give me rest, traveler?”
“Sleep,” Bao said, channeling Fire and burning away the creature. “Your service is at an end.” The plants on the dais writhed, then shriveled, drawing back.
Upon the dais, the withdrawing plants revealed an object of gold. Bao could see why the people of this land had called it a cup, though it was not truly one. He had spent two years seeking it, slowly teasing its location from old accounts, myths, and stories. He picked it up, reverent.
A short time later, he left the cavern and stepped into Angarai’la, the River of Souls, to wash off the blood of the fallen guardian, and drank deeply of the cold water. That done, he walked to his pack and removed the golden rod, as long as his forearm, that he had carried in it. A short distance below the end, the metal splayed out into a disc shape.
He took the “cup” and slid it down onto the rod, the two locking into place. How enraged he’d been when he’d found the rod, thinking his quest done, only to find that the sa’angreal had been separated into two pieces!
Now they were whole again. He took a deep breath, then channeled through the rod.
The One Power rushed into him, flooding him. Bao cast his head back, drinking it in, and laughed.
Laughter. How long had it been since he had laughed? This land, these experiences, had brought mirth back to him somehow. He exulted in the power. What he held was no cup, but the second most powerful sa’angreal ever created for a man to use. D’jedt, known simply as the Scepter during his time, had been so powerful that it had been kept locked away during the War of the Power.
This…this was a grand weapon, greater than Callandor. Holding it, Bao felt powerful, invincible. He found himself running back up along the river, and did not grow fatigued.
He ran through the rest of that day. The hours passed as if in the blink of an eye. At sunset, he burst up the last few feet of the trail, bearing his prize. He raised it up high over his head, striding to where he had left Shendla.
She waited there still, sleeping in the very spot where he had left her. She rose, then immediately went to one knee before him.
The Freed scrambled down from their hillside above. He did not fail to notice that the female Ayyad, dressed in black robes with white tassels, had arrived to watch for him. Two hundred of them waited with the gathered nobility that Bao had appointed. In a wave, they fell to their knees as Shendla had, leaving only Mintel, who sat at the top of the path with legs crossed as he meditated.
“Mintel!” Bao announced, walking up to Shendla and reaching down to her shoulder. “Open your eyes to angor’lot! The day has come at long last. I name myself the Wyld. Your dragonslayer has come!”
The people began to cheer him, and Shendla looked up. “You smile,” she whispered.
“Yes.”
“You have accepted it?” she asked. “Your role among us?”
“Yes.”
He noticed a tear roll down her cheek, and she bowed her head again. He had come among them as a stranger. And oh, what power he had found, far more than he had ever anticipated. The Scepter was merely a beginning.
Mintel cried out, standing, eyes opening. “Hail the Wyld! Hail him and bow! He who shall save us from the Dragon, who shall prevent the death of the land and bring us to glory! Hail Bao! Hail our king!”
The cries of the people rose to the heavens above. Bao drew in power thirstily, and fully embraced what he had become. Two years ago he had started on this course when he had decided to impersonate a slave among the Sharans. After that had come the revolution, which he had led almost by accident.
Through it all, he had sought one thing. Through earning the allegiance of the Ayyad—won at a terrible price—and gaining the fervent loyalty of the Freed. Through the chaos of revolution and vanished monarchs, through the solidification of a kingdom beneath him.
Through it all, he had sought this one object for a single purpose. Finally, Lews Therin, thought Bao—once named Berid Bel, and later called Demandred, now reborn as the savior of the Sharan people. Finally, I have the power to destroy you.