The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 109



He sounded as if he were trying to convince himself.
"I will, Thom. I will." Just as soon as the Horn is safe and Mat has that bloody dagger back. Mat, Hurin, where are you?
As if the thought had been a summons, Hurin appeared in the room, eyes searching among the lords and ladies. They looked through him; servants did not exist unless needed. When he found Rand and Thom, he made his way between the small clusters of nobles and bowed to Rand. "My Lord, I was sent to tell you. Your manservant had a fall and twisted his knee. I don't know how bad, my Lord."
For a moment Rand stared before he understood. Conscious of all the eyes on him, he spoke loudly enough for the nobles closest to overhear. "Clumsy fool. What good is he to me if he can't walk? I suppose I'd better come see how badly he's hurt himself."
It seemed to be the right thing to say. Hurin sounded relieved when he bowed again and said, "As my Lord wishes. If my Lord will follow me?"
"You play very well at being a lord," Thom said softly. "But remember this. Cairhienin may play Daes Dae'mar, but it was the White Tower made the Great Game in the first place. Watch yourself, boy." With a glare at the nobles, he set his empty goblet on the tray of a passing servant and strolled away, plucking his harp. He began reciting Goodwife Mili and the Silk Merchant.
"Lead on, man," Rand told Hurin, feeling foolish. As he followed the sniffer out of the room, he could feel the eyes following him.

(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 33
(Leaf)
A Message From the Dark
"Have you found it?" Rand asked as he followed Hurin down a cramped flight of stairs. The kitchens lay on the lower levels, and the servants who had come attending the guests had all been sent there. "Or is Mat really hurt?"
"Oh, Mat's fine, Lord Rand." The sniffer frowned. "At least, he sounds all right, and he grumbles like a hale man. I didn't mean to worry you, but I needed a reason for you to come below. I found the trail easy enough. The men who set fire to the inn all entered a walled garden behind the manor. Trollocs joined them, went in to the garden with them. Sometime yesterday, I think. Maybe even night before last." He hesitated. "Lord Rand, they didn't come out again. They must still be in there."
At the foot of the stairs the sounds of the servants enjoying themselves drifted down the hall, laughter and singing. Someone had a bittern, strumming a raucous tune to clapping and the thump of dancing. There was no worked plaster or fine tapestries here, only bare stone and plain wood. Light in the halls came from rush torches, smoking the ceiling and spread far enough apart that the light faded between them.
"I'm glad you are talking to me naturally again," Rand said. "The way you have been bowing and scraping, I was beginning to think you were more Cairhienin than the Cairhienin."
Hurin's face colored. "Well, as to that ..." He glanced down the hall toward the noise and looked as if he wanted to spit. "They all pretend to be so proper, but ... Lord Rand, every one of them says he's loyal to his master or mistress, but they all hint they're willing to sell what they know, or have heard. And when they have a few drinks in them, they'll tell you, all whispering in your ear, things about the lords and ladies they serve that'd fair make your hair stand on end. I know they're Cairhienin, but I never heard of such goings on."
"We will be out of here soon, Hurin." Rand hoped it was true. "Where is this garden?" Hurin turned down a side hall leading toward the back of the manor. "Did you bring Ingtar and the others down already?"
The sniffer shook his head. "Lord Ingtar had let himself be cornered by six or seven of those who call themselves ladies. I couldn't get close enough to speak to him. And Verin Sedai was with Barthanes. She gave me such a look when I came near, I never even tried to tell her."
another corner just then, and there were Loial and Mat, the Ogier standing a little stooped for the lower ceiling.
Loial's grin almost split his face. "There you are. Rand, I was never so glad to get away from anyone as from those people upstairs. They kept asking me if the Ogier were coming back, and if Galldrian had agreed to pay what was owed. It seems the reason all the Ogier stonemasons left is because Galldrian stopped paying them, except with promises. I kept telling them I didn't know anything about it, but half of them seemed to think that I was lying, and the other half that I was hinting at something."
"We'll be out of here soon," Rand assured him. "Mat, are you all right?" His friend's face looked more hollowcheeked than he remembered, even back at the inn, and his

"I feel fine," Mat said grumpily, "but I certainly didn't have any trouble leaving the other servants. The ones who weren't asking if you starved me thought I was sick and didn't want to come too close."
"Have you sensed the dagger?" Rand asked.
Mat shook his head glumly. "The only thing I've sensed is that somebody's watching me, most of the time. These people are as bad as Fades for sneaking around. Burn me, I nearly jumped out of my skin when Hurin told me he'd located the Darkfriends' trail. Rand, I can't feel it at all, and I've been through this bloody building from rafters to basement."
"That does not mean it isn't here, Mat. I put it in the chest with the Horn, remember. Maybe that keeps you from feeling it. I don't think Fain knows how to open it, else he'd not have gone to the trouble of carrying the weight when he fled Fal Dara. Even that much gold isn't important beside the Horn of Valere. When we find the Horn, we will find the dagger. You'll see."
"As long as I don't have to pretend to be your servant anymore," Mat muttered. "As long as you don't go mad and ... " He let the words die with a twist of his mouth.
"Rand is not mad, Mat," Loial said. "The Cairhienin would never have let him in here if he were not a lord. They are the ones who are mad."
"I'm not mad," Rand said harshly. "Not yet. Hurin, show me this garden."
"This way, Lord Rand."
They went out into the night by a small door that Rand had to duck to get through; Loial was forced to bend over and hunch his shoulders. There was enough light in yellow pools from the windows above for Rand to make out brick walks between square flower beds. The shadows of stables and other outbuildings bulked in the darkness to either side. Occasional fragments of music drifted out, from the servants below or from those entertaining their masters above.
Hurin led them along the walks until even the dim glow failed and they made their way by moonlight alone, their boots crunching softly on the brick. Bushes that would have been bright with flowers by daylight now made strange humps in the dark. Rand fingered his sword and did not let his eyes stay on any one spot too long. A hundred Trollocs could be hiding around them unseen. He knew Hurin would have smelled Trollocs if they were there, but that did not help a great deal. If Barthanes was a Darkfriend, then at least some of his servants and guards had to be, too, and Hurin could not always smell a Darkfriend. Darkfriends leaping out of the night would not be much better than Trollocs.
"There, Lord Rand," Hurin whispered, pointing.
Ahead, stone walls not much higher than Loial's head enclosed a square perhaps fifty paces on a side. Rand could not be sure, in the shadows, but it looked as if the gardens stretched on beyond the walls. He wondered why Barthanes had built a walled enclosure in the middle of his garden. No roof showed above the wall. Why would they go in there and stay?
Loial bent to put his mouth close to Rand's ear. "I told you this was all an Ogier grove, once. Rand, the Waygate is within that wall. I can feel it."
Rand heard Mat sigh despairingly. "We can't give up, Mat," he said.
"I'm not giving up. I just have enough brains not to want to travel the Ways again."
"We may have to," Rand told him. "Go find Ingtar and Verin. Get them alone somehow - I don't care how - and tell them I think Fain has taken the Horn through a Waygate. Just don't let anyone else hear. And remember to limp; you are supposed to have had a fall." It was a wonder to him that even Fain would risk the Ways, but it seemed the only answer. They wouldn't spend a day and a night just sitting in there, without a roof over their heads.
Mat swept a low bow, and his voice was heavy with sarcasm.
"At once, my Lord. As my Lord wishes. Shall I carry your banner, my Lord?" He started back for the manor, his grumbles fading away. "Now I have to limp. Next it'll be a broken neck, or ..."
"He's just worried about the dagger, Rand," Loial said.
"I know," Rand said. But how long before he tells somebody what I am, not even meaning to? He could not believe Mat would betray him on purpose; there was that much of their friendship left, at least. "Loial, boost me up where I can see over the wall."
"Rand, if the Darkfriends are still -"
"They aren't.

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