The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 111



I am afraid I'm not a very good hero, Rand. I was so afraid I could hardly think."
re both afraid," Rand said. "We may be a poor pair of heroes, but we are what there is. It's a good thing

"Lord Rand," Hurin said diffidently, "could we - leave, now?"
The sniffer made a fuss about Rand going over the wall first, with not knowing who was waiting outside, until Rand pointed out that he had the only weapon among them.
Even then Hurin did not seem to like letting Loial lift Rand to catch the top of the wall and pull himself over.
Rand landed on his feet with a thud, listening and peering into the night. For a moment he thought he saw something move, heard a boot scrape on the brick walk, but neither was repeated, and he dismissed it as nervousness. He thought that he had a right to be nervous. He turned to help Hurin down.
"Lord Rand," the sniffer said as soon as his feet were solidly on the ground, "how are we going to follow them now? From what I've heard of those things, the whole lot of them could be halfway across the world by now, in any direction."
"Verin will know a way." Rand suddenly wanted to laugh; to find the Horn and the dagger - if they could be found, now - he had to go back to the Aes Sedai. They had let him loose, and now he had to go back. "I won't let Mat die without trying."
Loial joined them, and they went back toward the manor, to be met at the small door by Mat, who opened it just as Rand reached for the handle. "Verin says you're not to do anything. If Hurin's found where the Horn is kept, then she says that's all we can do, now. She says we'll leave as soon as you come back, and make a plan. And I say this is the last time I go running back and forth with messages. If you want to say something to somebody, you can talk to them yourself from now on." Mat peered past them into the darkness. "Is the Horn out there somewhere? In an outbuilding? Did you see the dagger?"
Rand turned him around and got him back inside. "It isn't in an outbuilding, Mat. I hope Verin has a good idea of what to do now; I don't have any."
Mat looked as if he wanted to ask questions, but he let himself be pushed along the dimly lit corridor. He even remembered to limp as they started upstairs.
When Rand and the others reentered the rooms filled with nobles, they received a number of looks. Rand wondered if they somehow knew something of what had happened outside, or if he should have sent Hurin and Mat to the front hall to wait, but then he realized the looks were no different from what they had been before, curious and calculating, wondering what the lord and the Ogier had been up to. Servants were invisible to these people. No one tried to approach them, since they were together. It seemed there were protocols to conspiracy in the Great Game; anyone might try to listen to a private conversation, but they would not intrude on it.
Verin and Ingtar were standing together, and thus also alone. Ingtar looked a little dazed. Verin gave Rand and the other three a brief glance, frowned at their expressions, then resettled her shawl and started for the entry hall.
As they reached it, Barthanes appeared as if someone had told him they were leaving. "You go so soon? Verin Sedai, can I not entreat you to stay longer?"
Verin shook her head. "We must go, Lord Barthanes. I've not been in Cairhien in some years. I was glad of your invitation to young Rand. It has been ... interesting."
"Then Grace see you safely to your inn. The Great Tree, is it not? Perhaps you will favor me with your presence again? You would honor me, Verin Sedai, and you, Lord Rand, and you, Lord Ingtar, not to mention you, Loial, son of Arent son of Halan." His bow was a little deeper for the Aes Sedai than for the others, but still no more than a slight inclination.
Verin nodded in acknowledgment. "Perhaps. The Light illumine you, Lord Barthanes." She turned for the doors.
As Rand moved to follow the others, Barthanes caught his sleeve with two fingers, holding him back. Mat looked as if he might stay, too, until Hurin pulled him to join Verin and the rest.
"You wade even deeper in the Game than I thought," Barthanes said softly. "When I heard your name, I could not believe it, yet you came, and you fit the description, and ... I was given a message for you. I think I will deliver it after all."
Rand had felt a prickling along his backbone as Barthanes spoke, but at the last, he stared. "A message? From whom? Lady Selene?"
"A man. Not the sort for whom I would usually carry messages, but he has ... certain ... claims on me that I cannot ignore. He gave no name, but he was a Lugarder. Aaah! You know him."
"I know him." Fain left a message? Rand looked around the wide hall. Mat and Verin and the others were waiting by the doors. Liveried servants stood stiffly along the walls, ready to leap at a command yet appearing neither to hear nor see. The sounds of the gathering floated from deeper in the manor. It did not look like a place where Darkfriends might attack. "What message?"
"He says he will wait for you on Toman Head. He has what you seek, and if you want it, you must follow. If you refuse to follow him, he says he will hound your blood, and your people, and those you love until you will face him. It sounds mad, of course, a man like that saying he will hound a lord, and yet, there was something about him. I think he it mad - he even denied you are a lord, as any eye can plainly see - but there is still something. What is it he carries with him, with Trollocs to guard it? What is it you seek?" Barthanes seemed shocked at the directness of his own questions.
"The Light illumine you, Lord Barthanes." Rand managed a bow, but his legs wobbled as he joined Verin and the others. He wants me to follow? And he'll hurt Emond's Field, Tam, if I don't. He had no doubt Fain could do it, would do it. At least Egwene is safe, in the White Tower. He had sickening images of Trollocs descending in hordes on Emond's Field, of eyeless Fades stalking Egwene. But how can I follow him? How?
Then he was out in the night, mounting Red. Verin and Ingtar and the others were all already on their horses, and the escort of Shienarans was closing round them.
"What did you find?" Verin demanded. "Where does he keep it?" Hurin cleared his throat loudly, and Loial shifted in his high saddle. The Aes Sedai peered at them.
has taken the Horn to Toman Head through a Waygate," Rand said dully. "By this time, he's probably already waiting there for me."
"We will speak of this later," Verin said, so firmly that no one spoke at all on the ride back to the city, to The Great Tree.
Uno left them there, after a quiet word from Ingtar, taking the soldiers back to their inn in the Foregate. Hurin took one look at Verin's set face by the light of the common room, muttered something about ale, and scurried to a table in a corner, alone. The Aes Sedai brushed aside the innkeeper's solicitous hopes that she had enjoyed herself, and silently led Rand and the rest t

Perrin looked up from The Travels of Jain Farstrider when they walked in, and frowned when he saw their faces. "It didn't go well, did it?" he said, closing the leatherbound book. Lamps and beeswax candles around the room gave a good light; Mistress Tiedra charged heavily, but she did not stint.
Verin carefully folded her shawl and laid it across the back of a chair. "Tell me again. The Darkfriends took the Horn through a Waygate? At Barthanes's manor?"
"The ground under the manor used to be an Ogier grove," Loial explained. "When we built ..." His voice trailed off and his ears wilted under her look.
"Hurin followed them right to it." Rand wearily threw himself into a chair. I have to follow more than ever, now. But how? "I opened it to show him he could still follow the trail wherever they went, and the Black Wind was there. It tried to reach us, but Loial managed to close the gates before it could come all the way out." He colored a little at that, but Loial had closed the gates, and for all he knew Machin Shin might have made it out without that. "It was standing guard."
"The Black Wind," Mat breathed, frozen halfway into a chair. Perrin was staring at Rand, too. So were Verin and Ingtar. Mat dropped into the chair with a thump.
"You must be mistaken," Verin said at last. "Machin Shin could not be used as a guard. No one can constrain the Black Wind to do anything."
"It's a creature of the Dark One," Mat said numbly. "They're Darkfriends. Maybe they knew how to ask it for help, or make it help."
"No one knows exactly what Machin Shin is," Verin said, "unless, perhaps, it is the essence of madness and cruelty. It cannot be reasoned with, Mat, or bargained with, or talked to. It cannot even be forced, not by any Aes Sedai living today, and perhaps not by any who ever lived. Do you really think Padan Fain could do what ten Aes Sedai could not?" Mat shook his head.
There was an air of despair in the room, of hope and purpose lost.

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