The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 145



Rand turned the bay stallion that way.
Hurin stood holding his horse by the reins. He had on one of the long vests instead of his coat, and despite the heavy cloak that hid his short sword and swordbreaker, he shivered with the cold. "Lord Ingtar's back there," he said, nodding down the narrow passage. "He says we'll leave the horses here and go the rest of the way on foot." As Rand dismounted, the sniffer added, "Fain went right down that street, Lord Rand. I can almost smell it from here."
Rand led Red down the way to where Ingtar had already tied his own behind the stable. The Shienaran did not look very much like a lord in a dirty fleece coat with holes worn through the leather in several places, and his sword looked odd belted over it. His eyes had a feverish intensity.
Tying Red alongside Ingtar's stallion, Rand hesitated over his saddlebags. He had not wanted to leave the banner behind. He did not think any of the soldiers would have gone into the bags, but he could not say the same for Verin, nor predict what she would do if she found the banner. Still, it made him uneasy to have it with him. He decided to leave the saddleba

Mat joined them, and a few moments later Hurin came with Perrin. Mat wore baggy trousers stuffed into the tops of his boots, and Perrin his tooshort cloak. Rand thought they all looked like villainous beggars, but they had all passed largely unnoticed in the villages.
"Now," Ingtar said, "Let us see what we see."
They strolled out to the dirt street as if they had no particular destination in mind, talking among themselves, and ambled past the wagon yards onto sloping cobblestone streets. Rand was not sure what he himself said, much less anyone else. Ingtar's plan had been for them to look like any other group of men walking together, but there were all too few people outofdoors. Five men made a crowd in those cold morning streets.
They walked in a bunch, but it was Hurin who led them, sniffing the air and turning up this street and down that. The rest turned when he did, as if that was what they had intended all along. "He's crisscrossed this town," Hurin muttered, grimacing. "His smell is everywhere, and it stinks so, it's hard to tell old from new. At least I know he's still here. Some of it cannot be older than a day or two, I'm sure. I am sure," he added less doubtfully.
A few more people began to appear, here a fruit peddler setting his wares on tables, there a fellow hurrying along with a big roll of parchments under his arm and a sketchboard slung across his back, a knifesharpener oiling the shaft of his grinding wheel on its barrow. Two women walked by, headed the other way, one with downcast eyes and a silver collar around her neck, the other, in a dress worked with lightning bolts, holding a coiled silver leash.
Rand's breath caught; it was an effort not to look back at them.
"Was that...?" Mat's eyes were open wide, staring out of the hollows of his eye sockets. "Was that a damane?"
"That is the way they were described," Ingtar said curtly. "Hurin, are we going to walk every street in this Shadowcursed town?"
"He's been everywhere, Lord Ingtar," Hurin said. "His stench is everywhere." They had come into an area where the stone houses were three and four stories high, as big as inns.
They rounded a corner, and Rand was taken aback by the sight of a score of Seanchan soldiers standing guard in front of a big house on one side of the street - and by the sight of two women in lightningmarked dresses talking on the doorsteps of another across from it. A banner flapped in the wind over the house the soldiers protected; a golden hawk clutching lightning bolts. Nothing marked out the house where the women talked except themselves. The officer's armor was resplendent in red and black and gold, his helmet gilded and painted to look like a spider's head. Then Rand saw the two big, leatheryskinned shapes crouched among the soldiers and missed a step.
Grolm. There was no mistaking those wedgeshaped heads with their three eyes. They can't be. Perhaps he was really asleep, and this was all a nightmare. Maybe we haven't even left for Falme yet.
The others stared at the beasts as they walked past the guarded house.
"What in the name of the Light are they?" Mat asked.
Hurin's eyes seemed as big as his face. "Lord Rand, they're... Those are..."
"It doesn't matter," Rand said. After a moment, Hurin nodded.

"We are here for the Horn," Ingtar said, "not to stare at Seanchan monsters. Concentrate on finding Fain, Hurin."
The soldiers barely glanced at them. The street ran straight down to the round harbor. Rand could see ships anchored down there; tall, squarelooking ships with high masts, small in that distance.
"He's been here a lot." Hurin scrubbed at his nose with the back of his hand. "The street stinks of layer on layer of him. I think he might have been here as late as yesterday, Lord Ingtar. Maybe last night."
Mat suddenly clutched his coat with both hands. "It's in there," he whispered. He turned arond and walked backwards, peering at the tall house with the banner. "The dagger is in there. I didn't even notice it before, because of those-those things, but I can feel it."
Perrin poked a finger in his ribs. "Well stop that before they start wondering why you're goggling at them like a fool."
Rand glanced over his shoulder. The officer was looking after them.
Mat turned around sullenly. "Are we just going to keep on walking? It's in there, I tell you."
"The Horn is what we are after," Ingtar growled. "I mean to find Fain and make him tell me where it is." He did not slow down.
hing, but his entire face was a plea.
I have to find Fain, too, Rand thought. I have to. But when he looked at Mat's face, he said, "Ingtar, if the dagger is in that house, Fain likely is too. I can't see him letting the dagger or the Horn, either one, far out of his sight."
Ingtar stopped. After a moment, he said, "It could be, but we will never know from out here."
"We could watch for him to come out," Rand said. "If he comes out at this time of the morning, then he spent the night there. And I'll wager where he sleeps is where the Horn is. If he does come out, we can be back to Verin by midday and have a plan made before nightfall."
"I do not mean to wait for Verin," Ingtar said, "and neither will I wait for night. I've waited too long already. I mean to have the Horn in my hands before the sun sets again."
"But we don't know, Ingtar."
"I know the dagger is in there," Mat said.
"And Hurin says Fain was here last night." Ingtar overrode Hurin's attempts to qualify that. "It is the first time you have been willing to say anything closer than a day or two. We are going to take back the Horn now. Now!"
"How?" Rand said. The officer was no longer watching them, but there were still at least twenty soldiers in front of the building. And a pair of grolm. This is madness. There can't be grolm here. Thinking it did not make the beasts disappear, though.
"There seem to be gardens behind all these houses," Ingtar said, looking around thoughtfully. "If one of those alleys runs by a garden wall... Sometimes men are so busy guarding their front, they neglect their back. Come." He headed straight for the nearest narrow passage between two of the tall houses. Hurin and Mat trotted right after him.
Rand exchanged looks with Perrin - his curlyhaired friend gave a resigned shrug &mdas

The alley was barely wider than their shoulders, but it ran between high garden walls until it crossed another alley big enough for a pushbarrow or small cart. That was cobblestoned, too, but only the backs of buildings looked down on it, shuttered windows and expanses of stone, and the high back walls of gardens overtopped by nearly leafless branches.
Ingtar led them along that alley until they were opposite the waving banner. Taking his steelbacked gauntlets from under his coat, he put them on and leaped up to catch the top of the wall, then pulled himself up enough to peek over. He reported in a low monotone. "Trees. Flower beds. Walks. There isn't a soul to be - Wait! A guard. One man. He isn't even wearing his helmet. Count to fifty, then follow me." He swung a boot to the top of the wall and rolled over inside, disappearing before Rand could say a word.
Mat began to count slowly. Rand held his breath. Perrin fingered his axe, and Hurin gripped the hilts of his weapons.
"... fifty." Hurin scrambled up and over the wall before the word was well out of Mat's mouth. Perrin went right beside him.
Rand thought Mat might need some help-he looked so pale and drawn-but he gave no sign of it as he scrambled up. The stone wall provided plenty of handholds, and moments later Rand was crouched on the inside with Mat and Perrin and Hurin.
The garden was in the grip of deep autumn, flower beds empty except for a few evergreen shrubs, tree branches nearly bare. The wind that rippled the banner stirred dust across the flagstone walks.

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