The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 106




"Lord Rand burned all the rest," Hurin said. "Every day they came, and every day he burned them. Until these, of course. Every day from mightier Houses." He sounded proud.
"The Wheel of Time weaves us all into the Pattern as it wills," Verin said, looking at the parchments, "but sometimes it provides what we need before we know we need it."
Casually she crumpled the King's invitation and tossed it into the fireplace, where it lay white on the cold logs. Breaking the other seal with her thumb, she read. "Yes. Yes, this will do very well."
"How can I go?" Rand asked her. "They will know I'm no lord. I am a shepherd, and a farmer." Ingtar looked skeptical. "I am, Ingtar. I told you I am." Ingtar shrugged; he still did not look convinced. Hurin stared at Rand with flat disbelief.
Burn me, Perrin thought, if I didn't know him, I wouldn't believe it either. Mat was watching Rand with his head tilted, frowning as if looking at something he had never seen before. He sees it, too, now. "You can do it, Rand," Perrin said. "You can."
"It will help," Verin said, "if you don't tell everyone what you are not. People see what they expect to see. Beyond that, look them in the eye and speak firmly. The way you have been talking to me," she added dryly, and Rand's cheeks colored, but he did not drop his eyes. "It doesn't matter what you say. They will attribute anything out of place to your being an outlander. It will also help if you remember the way you behaved before the Amyrlin. If you are that arrogant, they will believe you are a lord if you wear rags." Mat snickered.
Rand threw up his hands. "All right. I'll do it. But I still think they will know five minutes after I open my mouth. When?"
"Barthanes has asked you for five different dates, and one is tomorrow night."
"Tomorrow!" Ingtar exploded. "The Horn could be fifty miles downriver by tomorrow night, or - "
Verin cut him off. "Uno and your soldiers can watch the manor. If they try to take the Horn anywhere, we can easily follow, and perhaps retrieve it more easily than from inside Barthanes's walls."
"Perhaps so," Ingtar agreed grudgingly. "I just do not like to wait, now that the Horn is almost in my hands. I will have it. I must! I must!"
Hurin stared at him. "But, Lord Ingtar, that isn't the way. What happens, happens, and what is meant to be, will -" Ingtar's glare cut him off, though he still muttered under his breath, "It isn't the way, talking of 'must'."
Ingtar turned back to Verin stiffly. "Verin Sedai, Cairhienin are very strict in their protocol. If Rand does not send a reply, Barthanes may be so insulted he will not let us in, even with that parchment in our hands. But if Rand does... well, Fain, at least, knows him. We could be warning them to set a trap."
"We will surprise them." Her brief smile was not pleasant. "But I think Barthanes will want to see Rand in any case. Darkfriend or not, I doubt he has given up plots against the throne. Rand, he says you took an interest in one of the King's projects, but he doesn't say what. What does he mean?"
't know," Rand said slowly. "I haven't done anything at all since I arrived. Wait. Maybe he means the statue. We came through a village where they were digging up a huge statue. From the Age of Legends, they said. The King means to move it to Cairhien, though I don't know how he can move something that big. But all I did was ask what it was."
"We passed it in the day, and did not stop to ask questions." Verin let the invitation fall in her lap. "Not a wise thing for Galldrian to do, perhaps, unearthing that. Not that there is any real danger, but it is never wise for those who don't know what they are doing to meddle with things from the Age of Legends."
"What is it?" Rand asked.
"A sa'angreal." She sounded as if it were really not very important, but Perrin suddenly had the feeling the two of them had entered a private conversation, saying things no one else could hear. "One of a pair, the two largest ever made, that we know of. And an odd pair, as well. One, still buried on Tremalking, can only be used by a woman. This one can only be used by a man. They were made during the War of the Powers, to be a weapon, but if there is anything to be thankful for in the end of that Age or the Breaking of the World, it is that the end came before they could be used. Together, they might well be powerful enough to Break the World again, perhaps even worse than the first Breaking."
Perrin's hands tightened to knots. He avoided looking directly at Rand, but even from the corner of his eye he could see a whiteness around Rand's mouth. He thought Rand might be afraid, and h

Ingtar looked shaken, as well he might. "That thing should be buried again, and as deeply as they can pile dirt and stone. What would have happened if Logain had found it? Or any wretched man who can channel, let alone one claiming he's the Dragon Reborn. Verin Sedai, you must warn Galldrian what he's doing."
"What? Oh, there is no need for that, I think. The two must be used in unison to handle enough of the One Power to Break the World - that was the way in the Age of Legends; a man and a woman working together were always ten times as strong as they were apart - and what Aes Sedai today would aid a man in channeling? One by itself is powerful enough, but I can think of few women strong enough to survive the flow through the one on Tremalking.
The Amyrlin, of course. Moiraine, and Elaida. Perhaps one or two others. And three still in training. As for Logain, it would have taken all his strength simply to keep from being burned to a cinder, with nothing left for doing anything. No, Ingtar, I don't think you need worry. At least, not until the real Dragon Reborn proclaims himself, and then we will all have enough to worry about as it is. Let us worry now about what we shall do when we are inside Barthanes's manor."
She was talking to Rand. Perrin knew it, and from the queasy look in Mat's eye, he did, too. Even Loial shifted nervously in his chair. Oh, Light, Rand, Perrin thought. Light, don't let her use you.
Rand's hands were pressing the tabletop so hard that his knuckles were white, but his voice was steady. His eyes never left the Aes Sedai. "First we have to take back the Horn, and the dagger. And then it is done, Verin. Then it is done."
Watching Verin's smile, small and mysterious, Perrin felt a chill. He did not think Rand knew half what he thought he did. Not half.

(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 32
(Harp)
Dangerous Words
Lord Barthanes's manor crouched like a huge toad in the night, covering as much ground as a fortress, with all its walls and outbuildings. It was no fortress, though, with tall windows everywhere, and lights, and the sounds of music and laughter drifting out, yet Rand saw guards moving on the tower tops and along the roofwalks, and none of the windows were close to the ground. He got down from Red's back and smoothed his coat, adjusted his sword belt. The others dismounted around him, at the foot of broad, whitestone stairs leading up to the wide, heavily carved doors of the manor.
Ten Shienarans, under Uno, made an escort. The oneeyed man exchanged small nods with Ingtar before taking his men to join the other escorts, where ale had been provided and a whole ox was roasting on a spit by a big fire.
The other ten Shienarans had been left behind, along with Perrin. Every one of them had to be there for a purpose, Verin had said, and Perrin had no purpose to serve this night. An escort was necessary for dignity in Cairhienin eyes, but more than ten would seem suspicious. Rand was there because he had received the invitation. Ingtar had come to lend the prestige of his title, while Loial was there because Ogier were sought after in the upper reaches of the Cairhienin nobility. Hurin pretended to be Ingtar's bodyservant. His true purpose was to sniff out the Darkfriends and Trollocs if he could; the Horn of Valere should not be far from them. Mat, still grumbling about it, was pretending to be Rand's servant, since he could feel the dagger when it was close. If Hurin failed, perhaps he could find the Darkfriends.
When Rand had asked Verin why she was there, she had only smiled and said, "To keep the rest of you out of trouble."
As they mounted the stairs, Mat muttered, "I still don't see why I have to be a servant." He and Hurin followed behind the others. "Burn me, if Rand can be a lord, I can put on a fancy coat, too."
"A servant," Verin said without looking back at him, "can go many places another man cannot, and many nobles will not even see him. You and Hurin have your tasks."
"Be quiet now, Mat," Ingtar put in, "unless you want to give us away." They were approaching the doors, where half a dozen guards stood with the Tree and Crown of House Damodred on their chests, and an equal number of men in dark green livery with Tree and Crown on the sleeve.
Taking a deep breath, Rand proffered the invitation. "I am Lord Rand of House al'Thor," he said all in a rush, to get it over with.

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