A serving maid, the one who had been polishing candlesticks when they came in, showed them up to the attic room. A dormer window pierced the slanting outer wall, with a bed on either side of it and pegs beside the door for hanging their belongings. The darkeyed girl had a tendency to twist her skirt and giggle whenever she looked at Rand. She was pretty, but he knew if he said anything to her he would just make a fool of himself. She made him wish he had Perrin's way with girls; he was glad when she left.

He expected some comment from Mat, but as soon as she was gone, Mat threw himself on one of the beds, still in his cloak and boots, and turned his face to the wall.


Rand hung his things up, watching Mat's back. He thought Mat had his hand under his coat, clutching that dagger again.

“You just going to lie up here hiding?” he said finally.

“I'm tired,” Mat mumbled.

“We have questions to ask Master Gill, yet. He might even be able to tell us how to find Egwene, and Perrin. They could be in Caemlyn already if they managed to hang onto their horses.”

“They're dead,” Mat said to the wall.

Rand hesitated, then gave up. He closed the door softly behind him, hoping Mat really would sleep.

Downstairs, however, Master Gill was nowhere to be found, though the sharp look in the cook's eye said she was looking for him, too. For a while Rand sat in the common room, but he found himself eyeing every patron who came in, every stranger who could be anyone — or anything — especially in the moment when he was first silhouetted as a cloaked black shape in the doorway. A Fade in the room would be like a fox in a chicken coop.

A Guardsman entered from the street. The reduniformed man stopped just inside the door, running a cool eye over those in the room who were obviously from outside the city. Rand studied the tabletop when the Guardsman's eyes fell on him; when he looked up again, the man was gone.

The darkeyed maid was passing with her arms full of towels. “They do that sometimes,” she said in a confiding tone as she went by. “Just to see there's no trouble. They look after good Queen's folk, they do. Nothing for you to worry about.” She giggled.

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Rand shook his head. Nothing for him to worry about. It was not as if the Guardsman would have come over and demanded to know if he knew Thom Merrilin. He was getting as bad as Mat. He scraped back his chair.

Another maid was checking the oil in the lamps along the wall.

“Is there another room where I could sit?” he asked her. He did not want to go back upstairs and shut himself up with Mat's sullen withdrawal. “Maybe a private dining room that's not being used?”

“There's the library.” She pointed to a door. “Through there, to your right, at the end of the hall. Might be empty, this hour.”

“Thank you. If you see Master Gill, would you tell him Rand al'Thor needs to talk to him if he can spare a minute?”

“I'll tell him,” she said, then grinned. “Cook wants to talk to him, too.”

The innkeeper was probably hiding, he thought as he turned away from her.

When he stepped into the room to which she had directed him, he stopped and stared. The shelves must have held three or four hundred books, more than he had ever seen in one place before. Clothbound, leatherbound with gilded spines. Only a few had wooden covers. His eyes gobbled up the titles, picking out old favorites. The Travels of Jain Farstrider. The Essays of Willim of Maneches. His breath caught at the sight of a leather bound copy of Voyager Among the Sea Folk. Tam had always wanted to read that.

Picturing Tam, turning the book over in his hands with a smile, getting the feel of it before settling down before the fireplace with his pipe to read, his own hand tightened on his sword hilt with a sense of loss and emptiness that dampened all his pleasure in the books.

A throat cleared behind him, and he suddenly realized he was not alone. Ready to apologize for his rudeness, he turned. He was used to being taller than almost everyone he met, but this time his eyes traveled up and up and up, and his mouth fell open. Then he came to the head almost reaching the tenfoot ceiling. A nose as broad as the face, so wide it was more a snout than a nose. Eyebrows that hung down like tails, framing pale eyes as big as teacups. Ears that poked up to tufted points through a shaggy, black mane. Trolloc! He let out a yell and tried to back up and draw his sword. His feet got tangled, and he sat down hard, instead.

“I wish you humans wouldn't do that,” rumbled a voice as deep as a drum. The tufted ears twitched violently, and the voice became sad. “So few of you remember us. It's our own fault, I suppose. Not many of us have gone out among men since the Shadow fell on the Ways. That's... oh, six generations, now. Right after the War of the Hundred Years, it was.” The shaggy head shook and let out a sigh that would have done credit to a bull. “Too long, too long, and so few to travel and see, it might as well have been none.”

Rand sat there for a minute with his mouth hanging open, staring up at the apparition in widetoed, kneehigh boots and a dark blue coat that buttoned from the neck to the waist, then flared out to his boot tops like a kilt over baggy trousers. In one hand was a book, seeming tiny by comparison, with a finger broad enough for three marking the place.

“I thought you were —” he began, then caught himself. “What are— ?” That was not any better. Getting to his feet, he gingerly offered his hand. “My name is Rand al'Thor.”

A hand as big as a ham engulfed his; it was accompanied by a formal bow. “Loial, son of Arent son of Halan. Your name sings in my ears, Rand al'Thor. ”That sounded like a ritual greeting to Rand. He returned the bow. “Your name sings in my ears, Loial, son of Arent... ah... son of Halan. ”It was all a little unreal. He still did not know what Loial was. The grip of Loial's huge fingers was surprisingly gentle, but he was still relieved to get his hand back in one piece.

“You humans are very excitable,” Loial said in that bass rumble. “I had heard all the stories, and read the books, of course, but I didn't realize. My first day in Caemlyn, I could not believe the uproar. Children cried, and women screamed, and a mob chased me all the way across the city, waving clubs and knives and torches, and shouting, 'Trolloc!' I'm afraid I was almost beginning to get a little upset. There's no telling what would have happened if a party of the Queen's Guards hadn't come along.”

“A lucky thing,” Rand said faintly.

“Yes, but even the Guardsmen seemed almost as afraid of me as the others. Four days in Caemlyn now, and I haven't been able to put my nose outside this inn. Good Master Gill even asked me not to use the common room.” His ears twitched. “Not that he hasn't been very hospitable, you understand. But there was a bit of trouble that first night. All the humans seemed to want to leave at once. Such screaming and shouting, everyone trying to get through the door at the same time. Some of them could have been hurt.”

Rand stared in fascination at those twitching ears.

“I'll tell you, it was not for this I left the stedding.”

“You're an Ogier!” Rand exclaimed. “Wait! Six generations? You said the War of the Hundred Years! How old are you?” He knew it was rude as soon as he said it, but Loial became defensive rather than offended.

“Ninety years,” the Ogier said stiffly. “In only ten more I'll be able to address the Stump. I think the Elders should have let me speak, since they were deciding whether I could leave or not. But then they always worry about anyone of any age going Outside. You humans are so hasty, so erratic.” He blinked and gave a short bow. “Please forgive me. I shouldn't have said that. But you do fight all the time, even when there's no need to.”

“That's all right,” Rand said. He was still trying to take in Loial's age. Older than old Cenn Buie, and still not old enough to ... He sat down in one of the highbacked chairs. Loial took another, made to hold two; he filled it. Sitting, he was as tall as most men standing. “At least they did let you go.”

Loial looked at the floor, wrinkling his nose and rubbing at it with one thick finger. “Well, as to that, now. You see, the Stump had not been meeting very long, not even a year, but I could tell from what I heard that by the time they reached a decision I would be old enough to go without their permission. I am afraid they'll say I put a long handle on my axe, but I just ... left. The Elders always said I was too hotheaded, and I fear I've proven them right. I wonder if they have realized I'm gone, yet? But I had to go. ”

Rand bit his lip to keep from laughing. If Loial was a hotheaded Ogier, he could imagine what most Ogier were like. Had not been meeting very long, not even a year? Master al'Vere would just shake his head in wonder; a Village Council meeting that lasted half a day would have everybody jumping up and down, even Haral Luhhan. A wave of homesickness swept over him, making it hard to breathe for memories of Tam, and Egwene, and the Winespring Inn, and Bel Tine on the Green in happier days. He forced them away.

“If you don't mind my asking,” he said, clearing his throat, “why did you want to go ... ah, Outside, so much? I wish I'd never lef

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