The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time 2) - Page 128

“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—”

“The

y aren’t. Boost me up, Loial.”

The three of them moved close to the wall, and Loial made a stirrup with his hands for Rand’s foot. The Ogier straightened easily with the weight, lifting Rand’s head just high enough to see over the top of the wall.

The thin, waning moon gave little light, and most of the area was in shadow, but there did not seem to be any flowers or shrubs inside the walled square. Only a lone bench of pale marble, placed as if one man might sit on it to stare at what stood in the middle of the space like a huge upright stone slab.

Rand caught the top of the wall and pulled himself up. Loial gave a low hsst and grabbed at his foot, but he jerked free and rolled over the wall, dropping inside. There was close-cropped grass under his feet; he thought vaguely that Barthanes must let sheep in, at least. Staring at the shadowed stone slab, the Waygate, he was startled to hear boots thump to the ground beside him.

Hurin climbed to his feet, dusting himself off. “You should be careful doing that, Lord Rand. Could be anybody hiding in here. Or anything.” He peered into the darkness within the walls, feeling at his belt as if for the short sword and sword-breaker he had had to leave at the inn; servants did not go armed in Cairhien. “Jump in a hole without looking, and there’ll be a snake in it every time.”

“You would smell them,” Rand said.

“Maybe.” The sniffer inhaled deeply. “But I can only smell what they’ve done, not what they intend.”

There was a scraping sound from over Rand’s head, and then Loial was letting himself down from the wall. The Ogier did not even have to straighten his arms completely before his boots touched the ground. “Rash,” he muttered. “You humans are always so rash and hasty. And now you have me doing it. Elder Haman would speak to me severely, and my mother. . . .” The darkness hid his face, but Rand was sure his ears were twitching vigorously. “Rand, if you don’t start being a little careful, you are going to get me in trouble.”

Rand walked to the Waygate, walked all the way around it. Even close up it looked like nothing more than a thick square of stone, taller than he was. The back was smooth and cool to the touch—he only brushed his hand against it quickly—but the front had been carved by an artist’s hands. Vines, leaves, and flowers covered it, each so finely done that in the dim moonlight they seemed almost real. He felt the ground in front of it; the grass had been scraped partly away in two arcs such as those gates would make in opening.

Tags: Robert Jordan The Wheel of Time Fantasy
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