|<<< Four Kings in Shadow >>>|
|Setting: The village of Four Kings|
- Point of view: Rand al'Thor
Rand and Mat ride on the back of a wagon into the bustling village pretentiously named Four Kings--a stopover for merchants' wagon trains and for villages in between. It is located at the crossroads of the Caemlyn Road and another heavily-traveled, unnamed southern highway. It is a care-worn place with lots of rude behavior and people who keep to themselves. The boys jump off in front of a garishly colored inn painted green. No one notices them get off. They get the feeling, because of the reactions of the first few persons they meet, that the place is not a friendly place. Rand comments that maybe they should go on.
Noticing the color of the sky, which is black, Mat disagrees and suggests that they can find an inn that does not have musicians, and starts for the door of the inn, but they find that it already has musicians and a rough-looking, raucous crowd, so they check two other inns without success. The fourth inn, the Dancing Cartman, is silent from lack of musicians. It does not have many customers, it is not very clean, nor is it well managed.
The innkeeper is thin (and Rand notes in passing that he has never before met a 'thin' innkeeper, mildly hinting that this may be a harbinger of bad luck), grimy, and challenges them in an unfriendly manner to either buy a drink or get out. Instead, Rand launches into his spiel about them being musicians, promising to fill the man's common room if he gives them room and board. The innkeeper retorts that he already has someone who plays the dulcimer, and is immediately called to account by one of his maids, who reminds him that what he really has is a drunk, calling the innkeeper Saml Hake. She also remarks that most of the time the drunk musician cannot even find the common room.
Hake backhands her, sending her, and sprawling spilling the wine she was serving, then chews her out for spilling it. She takes the mishandling sullenly, cleans up the mess, and goes back to work. Eying the Heron-mark sword, Hake offers a couple of pallets in a store room and food after everyone has left as payment for their performance. Both Rand and Mat listen with uneasiness, unwilling to leave because the storm is coming closer. Rand counter proposes dinner in two hours, which Hake reluctantly agrees to, adding that if they are not good at bringing people in, then out they will go, onto the street, indicating with a nod of his head, the two burly bouncers who will do the job.
Uneasily, Rand agrees. Hake, surprised that he does, tells them to get to work.
While preparing to perform, Rand wonders if it is wise to wear the sword. It brings attention, and may be leaving a clear trail for Myrddraal, but he is unwilling to stop wearing the sword that his father, Tam gave to him. Still, he removes it and lays it across his other belongings, behind where he is performing.
They start working and are an immediate hit, soon filling the inn with a raucous crowd. The storm outside is loud and wet. An occasional fight breaks out inside, but the two bouncers, Jak and Strom toss out any and all parties involved, with lumps, onto the street. The bouncers sometimes have to rescue the serving maids from the hands of the customers though they do it slowly, and Hake then chews out the victim as if it were her fault, but what is more disturbing to Rand is that the women take it.
Rand notes that Hake smiles whenever he looks their direction, and then realizes that he is not smiling at them, but at the Heron-mark sword and other instruments they possess. He realizes that Hake is going to rob them and tells Mat so. Mat agrees by saying they will have to bar their door tonight. Rand reminds Mat that Jak and Strom would have no problem with that, and suggests they get out of there. Mat refuses to go until they eat, opines that Hake will not harm them in a crowded common room, and then reminds Rand that a storm is raging outside.
Rand reluctantly begins playing again. He also comes around to Mat's position about staying the night. The common room continues to fill up with a loud, rude crowd more interested in drinking and fondling the women than listening to the music. That is, all except one man. All the other patrons of the inn are roughly dressed. This one is dressed richly. People avoid him for some reason and he has eyes for no one except Rand and Mat. Mat comments that he thinks he knows him, and Rand has the same feeling, though he is certain that he has never seen the face before.
Two hours into the performance they break for dinner, which angers Hake, but after some bullying from Rand, he orders them fed. They move to the large, cheery kitchen. Rand suggests runnning right away, but Mat demands to eat first. Rand agrees and they eat and while they do so they overhear the women in the kitchen talk. It is about the strange rich man in the common room and his equally strange behavior in the town.
Despite the rain falling in buckets outside, the kitchen gossip inspires Rand to strap on his sword and check the carriages outside belonging to the rich man. He finds that they are owned by Howal Gode. He recognizes the carriages as some he saw in Whitebridge, which makes him worry all the more who this Howal Gode is and what his purpose is for being in Four Kings. Coming back in, he is stopped by Jak who harasses him. Rand demands to know if Hake has had enough of their bringing customers into the inn. In his reply Jak says that he and Strom have bet that Rand stole the sword he wears from his grandmother. Rand pushes by as Jak chuckles evilly.
Returning to the dinner table, Rand tells Mat what he found out about Gode, outside, and repeats the gossip the women had been sharing. Mat is surprised. Mat asks if Gode is a Darkfriend and Rand replies that he may be. Mat replies that he knew they should have never stopped here. Rand gasps in surprise at Mat's turnaround. Noting that Jak is in the door leading outside, he asks Mat if he thinks they can get past him, and Mat replies in the negative, at about which time Hake shows up with Strom right behind and rousts them back out into the common room to perform.
It is just as full, and Howal Gode is still there, obviously satisfied that Rand and Mat are too. While Rand plays the first round he is also contemplating how they are going to get away. While playing he realized that they are as trapped by the common room as Hake is as prevented from moving against them.
Mat gets up and juggles, glaring all the while at Hake, Jak and Strom, which makes Rand wince. He also notices that when Mat is not juggling, his hand is on the ruby knife under his tunic and worries that Hake will see it and not wait to move against them. Mat stares hardest at Gode, who notices it and just smiles back, arching his eyebrow at Rand. Rand has not removed his sword and Gode notices and it is the only thing that shakes his aplomb.
The night lasts forever, or so it seems to Rand, but finally, in the small hours of the morning, the common room empties. Gode is the last to leave, but instead of heading out, he has a conversation with Hake who calls for a serving woman to take him to a room. Before he disappears upstairs, he gives Mat and Rand a knowing smile.
Hake, Jak and Strom confront Rand and Mat, but with a bow Hake escorts them to their palettes. Rand contemplates telling Hake they want to leave, but in the end demands to be led saying that he does not like to be followed. He follows the toughs glumly. They nervously make their way to a storage room without incident, but find it to be cluttered, dirty, and leaking from the rain.
He realizes that Hake will probably not try anything until they are sound asleep and just as quickly realizes that he is not going to sleep under Hake's roof. He orders the innkeeper to leave the lamp. Hake does so and to the surprise of his bullies, orders them out of the room.
After they go, Rand sticks his head out the door to find that one of the toughs are guarding the hallway; they cannot escape that way. The door itself is stout, but it cannot be locked, though it does open inward.
Mat wonders why they didn't make their move and Rand informs him that they were waiting for them to fall asleep. Mat replies that they should exit through the window right now. Rand explains that Hake will make his move if he hears noise. They examine the room and find nothing of use except two wedges which they use to wedge the door shut.
They attempt opening the window which has rusted shut but find out when they finally succeed that it is barred. Mat remembers seeing a crowbar on the shelves, retrieves it and rams it under the iron frame. They try to pry it off, and fail. In the process Rand slips in the gathering pool of water beneath his feet and the crowbar lands on the floor, sounding like a gong.
Mat opines that they will never get out at this rate and Rand encourages him to keep trying. As they get ready for their second try, however, someone tries to open the door, but cannot because of the wedges. Rand tells Hake to go away, but the melodious voice that speaks is Howal Gode who urges them to open the door so they can talk, informing him that Hake and his household sleep soundly. Mat rebuffs him.
Gode changes his tone to one of menace, revealing that he is indeed a Darkfriend and that he wants the boys to place themselves under the protection of his master, because only his master can protect them from the Tar Valon witches.
Rand replies that he doesn't know what Gode is talking about while realizing by the way that the hallway floorboards creak that there is more than one person in the hallway. He wonders how many men could have been transported by the carriages.
Gode tells them that prophecy says that when the Dark Lord awakens, his new Dreadlords must be there to praise him, and that Rand and Mat must be two of them. It is obvious by his voice that he looks forward to his part in that event because of the power it will give him.
Rand looks out the window and in a flash of lightning, sees that there are men outside as well.
Meanwhile, Gode gives them an ultimatum: submit or be made to submit. If the latter, it will not be pleasant for them. The Great Lord of the Dark rules death and he can give life in death or death in life as he chooses. He then abjures them to open the door.
When the boys do not respond, Gode orders a steady thudding against the door, and it begins to open ever so slowly. He demands that they submit or they will spend eternity wishing that they had.
Mat suggests that they don't have any choice. They should submit and get away later.
Rand hears this but it is as though wool is stuffed around his ears. He is thinking, No way out. The thunder is booming outside, and is drowned by a flash of lightning. Rand thinks, have to find a way out! Gode continues to demand, to plead and the door slips open a tiny bit more. Rand thinks a way out! Light fills the room.  He feels himself picked up and dashed against the wall. Dazed, he staggers to his feet and looks around, amazed. The room is in a smoking shambles. The wall holding the window is gone. The door hangs off of its hinges.
Mat stirs from another pile of debris calling for Rand, and then begins laughing, near hysteria. Rand demands of Mat to know what happened, and Mat says "lightning," and then explains that he saw it hit the bars, and now can barely see anything. Then he demands to know where Gode is.
They can see nothing in the hallway, and Rand has no desire to look. For that matter, nothing moves outside, in the night. The noise, however, has awakened the inn and there is the sound of running feet. Rand encourages them to go while they can. Quickly they gather their things and step outside. Gode's men are all laying on the ground, feet toward the opening, eyes open to the sky, which makes Rand stop. Mat demands to know what Rand sees, but Rand says that he sees nothing. In the dark, they run, stumbling among the wagon ruts, away from the inn.
Rand looks back once, to see a man, unidentifiable in the dark, shaking his fist at them, or at the sky, Rand is not sure which. Neither is he sure who it is, Hake or Gode, or someone else. The rain continues to pour down from the sky, isolating them. Rand hurries on, listening through the roar of the storm, for sound of pursuit.
- Cock o' the North
- Jolly Jaim / Rhea's Fling / Colors of the Sun
- The Drunken Peddler / Tinker in the Kitchen
- Two Kings Came Hunting / Two Horses Running
- The Road to Dun Aren