Rand told everything that had happened, everything except what Elaida had whispered to him. And what Gawyn had said at the Palace gate. One he did not want to think about; the other had nothing to do with anything. I'm Tam al'Thor's son, even if I wasn't born in the Two Rivers. I am! I'm Two Rivers blood, and Tam is my father.

Abruptly he realized he had stopped talking, caught up in his thoughts, and they were looking at him. For one panicky moment he wondered if he had said too much.


“Well,” Master Gill said, "there's no more waiting for your friends for you. You will have to leave the city, and fast. Two days at the most. Can you get Mat on his feet in that time, or should I send for Mother Grubb?'

Rand gave him a perplexed look. “Two days?”

“Elaida is Queen Morgase's advisor, right next to CaptainGeneral Gareth Bryne himself. Maybe ahead of him. If she sets the Queen's Guards looking for you — Lord Gareth won't stop her unless she interferes with their other duties — well, the Guards can search every inn in Caemlyn in two days. And that's saying some ill chance doesn't bring them here the first day, or the first hour. Maybe there's a little time if they start over at the Crown and Lion, but none for dawdling.”

Rand nodded slowly. “If I can't get Mat out of that bed, you send for Mother Grubb. I have a little money left. Maybe enough.”

“I'll take care of Mother Grubb,” the innkeeper said gruffly. “And I suppose I can lend you a couple of horses. You try walking to Tar Valon and you'll wear through what's left of your boots halfway there.”

“You're a good friend,” Rand said. “It seems like we've brought you nothing but trouble, but you're still willing to help. A good friend.”

Master Gill seemed embarrassed. He shrugged his shoulders and cleared his throat and looked down. That brought his eyes to the stones board, and he jerked them away again. Loial was definitely winning. “Aye, well, Thom's always been a good friend to me. If he's willing to go out of his way for you, I can do a little bit, too.”

“I would like to go with you when you leave, Rand,” Loial said suddenly.

“I thought that was settled, Loial.” He hesitated — Master Gill still did not know the whole of the danger — then added, “You know what waits for Mat and me, what's chasing us.”

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“Darkfriends,” the Ogier replied in a placid rumble, “and Aes Sedai, and the Light knows what else. Or the Dark One. You are going to Tar Valon, and there is a very fine grove there, which I have heard the Aes Sedai tend well. In any case, there is more to see in the world than the groves. You truly are ta'veren, Rand. The Pattern weaves itself around you, and you stand in the heart of it.”

This man stands at the heart of it. Rand felt a chill. “I don't stand at the heart of anything,” he said harshly.

Master Gill blinked, and even Loial seemed taken aback at his anger. The innkeeper and the Ogier looked at each other, and then at the floor. Rand forced his expression smooth, drawing deep breaths. For a wonder he found the void that had eluded him so often of late, and calmness. They did not deserve his anger.

“You can come, Loial,” he said. “I don't know why you would want to, but I'd be grateful for the company. You ... you know how Mat is.”

“I know,” Loial said. “I still cannot go into the streets without raising a mob shouting 'Trolloc' after me. But Mat, at least, only uses words. He has not tried to kill me. ”

“Of course not,” Rand said. “Not Mat.” He wouldn't go that far. Not Mat.

A tap came at the door, and one of the serving maids, Gilda, stuck her head into the room. Her mouth was tight, and her eyes worried. “Master Gill, come quickly, please. There's Whitecloaks in the common room.”

Master Gill leaped up with an oath, sending the cat jumping from the table to stalk out of the room, tail stiff and offended. “I'll come. Run tell them I'm coming, then stay out of their way. You hear me, girl? Keep away from them.” Gilda bobbed her head and vanished. “You had best stay here,” he told Loial.

The Ogier snorted, a sound like sheets ripping. “I have no desire for any more meetings with the Children of the Light.”

Master Gill's eye fell on the stones board and his mood seemed to lighten. “It looks as if we'll have to start the game over later.”

“No need for that.” Loial stretched an arm to the shelves and took down a book; his hands dwarfed the clothbound volume. “We can take up from where the board lies. It is your turn.”

Master Gill grimaced. “If it isn't one thing, it's another,” he muttered as he hurried from the room.

Rand followed him, but slowly. He had no more desire than Loial to become involved with the Children. This man stands at the heart of it. He stopped at the door to the common room, where he could see what went on, but far enough back that he hoped he would not be noticed.

Dead silence filled the room. Five Whitecloaks stood in the middle of the floor, studiously being ignored by the folk at the tables. One of them had the silver lightningflash of an underofficer beneath the sunburst on his cloak. Lamgwin was lounging against the wall by the front door, intently cleaning his fingernails with a splinter. Four more of the guards Master Gill had hired were spaced across the wall with him, all industriously paying no attention at all to the Whitecloaks. If the Children of the Light noticed anything, they gave no sign. Only the underofficer showed any emotion at all, impatiently tapping his steelbacked gauntlets against his palm as he waited for the innkeeper.

Master Gill crossed the room to him quickly, a cautiously neutral look on his face. “The Light illumine you,” he said with a careful bow, not too deep, but not slight enough to actually be insulting, either, “and our good Queen Morgase. How may I help — ”

“I've no time for your drivel, innkeeper,” the underofficer snapped. “I've been to twenty inns already today, each a worse pigsty than the last, and I'll see twenty more before the sun sets. I'm looking for Darkfriends, a boy from the Two Rivers — ”

Master Gill's face grew darker with every word. He puffed up as if he would explode, and finally he did, cutting the Whitecloak off in turn. “There are no Darkfriends in my establishment! Every man here is a good Queen's man!”

“Yes, and we all know where Morgase stands,” the underofficer twisted the Queen's name into a sneer, “and her Tar Valon witch, don't we?”

The scrape of chair legs was loud. Suddenly every man in the room was on his feet. They stood still as statues, but every one staring grimly at the Whitecloaks. The underofficer did not appear to notice, but the four behind him looked around uneasily.

“It will go easier with you, innkeeper,” the underofficer said, “if you cooperate. The temper of the times goes hard with those who shelter Darkfriends. I wouldn't think an inn with the Dragon's Fang on its door would get much custom. Might have trouble with fire, with that on your door.”

“You get out of here now,” Master Gill said quietly, “or I'll send for the Queen's Guards to cart what's left of you to the middens.”

Lamgwin's sword rasped out of its sheath, and the coarse scrape of steel on leather was repeated throughout the room as swords and daggers filled hands. Serving maids scurried for the doors.

The underofficer looked around in scornful disbelief. “The Dragon's Fang — ”

“Won't help you five,” Master Gill finished for him. He held up a clenched fist and raised his forefinger. “One.”

“You must be mad, innkeeper, threatening the Children of the Light.”

“Whitecloaks hold no writ in Caemlyn. Two.”

“Can you really believe this will end here?”

“Three. ”

“We'll be back,” the underofficer snapped, and then he was hastily turning his men around, trying to pretend he was leaving in good order and in his own time. He was hampered in this by the eagerness his men showed for the door, not running, but not making secret that they wanted to be outside.

Lamgwin stood across the door with his sword, only giving way in response to Master Gill's frantic waves. When the Whitecloaks were gone, the innkeeper dropped heavily onto a chair. He rubbed a hand across his forehead, then stared at it as if surprised that it was not covered with sweat. All over the room men seated themselves again, laughing over what they had done. Some went over to clap Master Gill on the shoulder.

When he saw Rand, the innkeeper tottered off the chair and over to him. “Who would have thought I had it in me to be a hero?” he said wonderingly. “The Light illumine me.” Abruptly he gave himself a shake, and his voice regained almost its normal tone. “You'll have to stay out of sight until I can get you out of the city.” With a careful look back into the common room, he pushed Rand deeper into the hall. “That lot will be back, or else a few spies wearing red for the day. After that little show I put on, I doubt they'll care whether you're here or not, but they'll act

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