The Great Hunt: Page 102
Hurin nodded. "And they will probably try to kill me to stop whatever I'm involved in." Hurin nodded again. "Then do you have any suggestion as to how I avoid any of them wanting to see me dead?" Hurin shook his head. "I wish I'd never burned those first two."
"Yes, my Lord. But it wouldn't have made much difference, I'm guessing. Whoever you accepted or rejected, these Cairhienin would see something in it."
Rand held out his hand, and Hurin laid the two folded parchments in it. The one was sealed, not with the Tree and Crown of House Damodred, but with Barthanes's Charging Boar. The other bore Galldrian's Stag. Personal seals. Apparently he had managed to rouse interest in the highest quarters by doing nothing at all.
"These people are crazy," he said, trying to think of a way out of this.
"Yes, my Lord."
"I will let them see me in the common room with these," he said slowly. Whatever was seen in the common room at midday was known in ten Houses before nightfall, and in all of them by daybreak next. "I won't break the seals. That way, they will know I have not answered either one yet. As long as they are waiting to see which way I jump, maybe I can earn a few more days. Ingtar has to come soon. He has to."
"Now that is thinking like a Cairhienin, my Lord," Hurin said, grinning.
m a sour look, then stuffed the parchments into his pocket on top of Selene's letters. "Let's go, Loial. Maybe Ingtar has arrived."
When he and Loial reached the common room, no man and woman in it looked at Rand. Cuale was polishing a silver tray as if his life depended on its gleam. The serving girls hurried between the tables as if Rand and the Ogier did not exist. Every last person at the tables stared into his or her mug as if the secrets of power lay in wine or ale. No
After a moment, he pulled the two invitations from his pocket and studied the seals, then stuck them back. Cuale gave a little jump as Rand started for the door. Before it closed behind him, he heard conversation spring up again.
Rand strode down the street so fast that Loial did not have to shorten his stride to stay beside him. "We have to find a way out of the city, Loial. This trick with the invitations can't work more than two or three days. If Ingtar doesn't come by then, we must leave anyway."
"Agreed," Loial said.
Loial began ticking off points on his thick fingers. "Fain is out there, or there would not have been Trollocs in the Foregate. If we ride out, they will be on us as soon as we are out of sight of the city. If we travel with a merchant train, they'll certainly attack it." No merchant would have more than five or six guards, and they would probably run as soon as they saw a Trolloc. "If only we knew how many Trollocs Fain has, and how many Darkfriends. You have cut his numbers down." He did not mention the Trolloc he had killed, but from his frown, his long eyebrows hanging down onto his cheeks, he was thinking of it.
"It doesn't matter how many he has," Rand said. "Ten are as bad as a hundred. If ten Trollocs attack us, I don't think we'll get away again." He avoided thinking of the way he might, just might, deal with ten Trollocs. It had not worked when he tried to help Loial, after all.
"I do not think we could, either. I don't think we have money to take passage very far, but even so, if we tried to reach the Foregate docks - well, Fain must have Darkfriends watching. If he thought we were taking ship, I don't believe he would care who saw the Trollocs. Even if we fought free of them somehow, we would have to explain ourselves to the city guards, and they would certainly not believe we cannot open the chest, so - "
"We are not letting any Cairhienin see that chest, Loial."
The Ogier nodded. "And the city docks are no good, either." The city docks were reserved for the grain barges and the pleasure craft of the lords and ladies. No one came to them without permission. One could look down on them from the wall, but it was a drop that would break even Loial's neck. Loial wiggled his thumb as if trying to think of a point for that, too. "I suppose it is too bad we cannot reach Stedding Tsofu. Trollocs would never come into a stedding. But I don't suppose they would let us get that far without attacking."
Rand did not answer. They had reached the big guardhouse just inside the gate by which they had first entered Cairhien. Outside, the Foregate teemed and milled, and a pair of guards kept watch on them. Rand thought a man, dressed in what had once been good Shienaran clothes, ducked back into the crowd at the sight of him, but he could not be sure. There were too many people in clothes from too many lands, all of them hurrying. He went up the steps into the guardhouse, past breastplated guards on either side of the door.
The large anteroom had hard wooden benches for people with business there, mainly folk waiting with a humble patience, wearing the plain, dark garments that marked the poorer commoners. There were a few Foregaters among them, picked out by shabbiness and bright colors, no doubt hoping for permission to seek work inside the walls.
Rand went straight to the long table in the back of the room. There was only one man seated behind it, not a soldier, with one green bar across his coat. A plump fellow whose skin looked too tight, he adjusted documents on the table and shifted the position of his inkwell twice before looking up at Rand and Loial with a false smile.
"How may I help you, my Lord?"
"The same way I hoped you could help me yesterday," Rand said with more patience than he felt, "and the day before, and the day before that. Has Lord Ingtar come?"
"Lord Ingtar, my Lord?"
Rand took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Lord Ingtar of House Shinowa, from Shienar. The same man I have asked after every day I've come here."
"No one of that name has entered the city, my Lord."
"Are you certain? Don't you need to look at your lists, at least?"
"My Lord, the lists of foreigners who have come to Cairhien are exchanged among the guardhouses at sunrise and at sunset, and I examine them as soon as they come before me. No Shienaran lord has entered Cairhien in some time."
"And the Lady Selene? Before you ask again, I do not know her House. But I've given you her name, and I have described her to you three times. Isn't that enough?"
The man spread his hands. "I am sorry, my Lord. Not knowing her House makes it very difficult." He had a bland look on his face. Rand wondered whether he would tell even if he knew.
A movement at one of the doors behind the desk caught Rand's eye-a man starting to step into the anteroom, then turning away hurriedly. "Perhaps Captain Caldevwin can help me," Rand told the clerk.
"Captain Caldevwin, my Lord?"
t saw him behind you."
"I am sorry, my Lord. If there was a Captain Caldevwin in the guardhouse, I would know."
Rand stared at him until Loial touched his shoulder. "Rand, I think we might as well go."
"Thank you for your help," Rand said in a tight voice. "I will return tomorrow."
"It is my pleasure to do what I may," the man said with his false smile.
Rand stalked out of the guardhouse so fast that Loial had to hurry to catch him up in the street. "He was lying, you know, Loial." He did not slow down, but rather hurried along as if he could burn away some of his frustration through physical exertion. "Caldevwin was there. He could be lying about all of it. Ingtar could already be here, looking for us. I'll bet he knows who Selene is, too."
"Perhaps, Rand. Daes Dae'mar -"
"Light, I'm tired of hearing about the Great Game. I don't want to play it. I do not want to be any part of it." Loial walked beside him, saying nothing. "I know," Rand said at last. "They think I'm a lord, and in Cairhien, even outland lords are part of the Game. I wish I'd never put on this coat." Moiraine, he thought bitterly. She's still causing me trouble. Almost immediately, though, if reluctantly, he admitted that she could hardly be blamed for this. There had always been some reason to pretend to be what he was not. First keeping Hurin's spirits up, and then trying to impress Selene. After Selene, there had not seemed to be any way out of it. His steps slowed until he came to a halt. "When Moiraine let me go, I thought things would be simple again. Even chasing after the Horn, even with - with everything, I thought it would be simple." Even with saidin inside your head? "Light, what I wouldn't give to have everythi
"Ta'veren," Loial began.
"I do not want to hear about that, either." Rand started off again as fast as before. "All I want is to give the dagger to Mat, and the Horn to Ingtar." Then what? Go mad? Die? If I die before I go mad, at least I won't hurt anybody else. But I don't want to die, either. Lan can talk about Sheathing the Sword, but I'm a shepherd, not a Warder. "If I can just not touch it," he muttered, "maybe I can ... Owyn almost made it."
"What, Rand? I didn't hear that."
"It was nothing," Rand said wearily.
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