A Memory of Light Page 101

The gateway only covered the distance of a few paces, and opened behind them.

Weaves crafted by Taim’s women and men hit the open gateway—which hung before Androl like a haze in the air—then exploded out behind them.

Weaves killed their own masters, burning away Aes Sedai, killing Asha’man and the few remaining Myrddraal. Straining at the exertion, Androl bellowed louder and opened small gateways on Logain’s bonds, snapping them. He opened another one directly in the floor beneath Logain’s chair, dropping it from the room to a place far away from the Black Tower—one that was, the Light send, safe.

The woman called Hessalam fled. As she darted through a gateway of her own, Taim followed with a couple of others. The rest were not so wise—for a moment later, Androl opened a gateway as wide as the floor, dropping the other women and Asha’man through it to plummet hundreds of feet.

CHAPTER 15

Your Neck in a Cord

The Tarasin Palace of Ebou Dar was far from the most difficult place that Mat had broken into. He told himself that over and over again as he dangled outside a balcony three stories above the gardens.

He clung to a marble ledge with one hand while holding his hat on his head with the other, his ashandarei strapped to his back. He’d stowed his bundle in the gardens below. The night air was cool against the sweat running down the sides of his face.

Above, a pair of Deathwatch Guards clanked as they moved on the balcony. Blood and bloody ashes. Did those fellows never take off their armor? They looked like beetles. He could barely make them out. The balcony was surrounded by an ironwork screen to keep people from looking in at the occupants from below, but Mat was close enough to see the guards moving inside through it.

Light, they were spending a long time in there. Mat’s arm started to ache. The two men murmured to one another. Perhaps they were going to sit down and have some tea. Pull out a book, start reading into the night. Tuon really needed to dismiss these two. Why were they having a leisurely conversation on a balcony? There could be assassins out here!

Eventually, thank the Light, the two moved on. Mat tried to count to ten before swinging up, but only lasted to seven. He pushed open one of the unlatched screens, and scrambled over the balcony railing.

Mat exhaled softly, arms aching. This palace—those two guards notwithstanding—was nowhere near as impregnable as the Stone had been, and Mat had gotten in there. He had another advantage here, of course: He had lived in this palace, free to come and go. For the most part. He scratched at his neck, and the scarf he wore there. For a moment it felt like a ribbon that felt like a chain.

Mat’s father had an adage: Always know which way you are going to ride. There never was a man as honest as Abell Cauthon, and everyone knew it, but some folk—like those up in Taren Ferry—could not be trusted farther than they could spit. In trading horses, Abell had always said, you needed to be ready to ride, and you always had to know which way you were going to go.

In his two months living in this palace, Mat had learned every way out—every crack and passage, every loose window. Which balcony screens were easy to open, which were usually locked tight. If you could sneak out, you could sneak in. He rested a moment on the balcony, but did not enter the room it was attached to. He was on the third floor, where guests stayed. He might have been able to sneak in this way, but the guts of a building were always better guarded than the skin. Best to go up the outside.

Doing so involved a lot of not looking down. Fortunately, the side of the building was not difficult to scale. Stonework and wood with plenty of handholds. He remembered chastising Tylin about that once.

Sweat crept down Mat’s brow like ants down a hill as he crawled out onto the screen, pulled himself upward and started toward the fourth level. The ashandarei occasionally banged his legs from behind. He could smell the sea on the breeze. Things always smelled better when one was up high. Perhaps that was because heads smelled better than feet did.

Stupid thought, that, Mat told himself. Anything to keep from thinking about the height. He pulled himself up onto a piece of stonework, slipping with one foot below and lurching. He breathed in and out, panting, then continued on.

There. Above, he could see Tylin’s balcony. Her quarters had several, of course; he went for the one at her bedroom, not the one attached to her sitting room. That one was on the Mol Hara Square, and climbing there, he would be as obvious as a fly in a white pudding.

He looked up again at the arabesque-covered iron balcony. He had always wondered if he could climb to it. He had certainly considered climbing out of it.

Well, he would not be a fool and try this sort of thing again, that was for certain. Just this once, and grudgingly. Matrim Cauthon knew to look out for his own neck. He had not survived this long by taking fool chances, luck or no luck. If Tuon wanted to live in a city where the head of her armies was trying to have her assassinated, that was her choice.

He nodded to himself. He would climb up, explain to her in very rational tones that she needed to leave the city and that this General Galgan was betraying her. Then he could saunter on his way and find himself some games of dice. That was why he had come to the city, after all. If Rand was up north, where all the Trollocs were, then Mat wanted to be as far from the man as possible. He felt bad for Rand, but any sane person would see that Mats choice was the only one. The swirl of colors started to form, but Mat suppressed it.

Rational. He would be very rational.

Sweating, cursing, his hands aching, Mat pulled himself up to the balcony on the fourth floor. One of the screen latches was loose here, as it had been when he lived in the palace. Quick work with a small wire hook was all he needed to get in. He entered the enclosed balcony, took off the ashandarei, then lay down on his back, panting as if he had just run all the way from Andor to Tear.

After a few minutes of that, he hauled himself to his feet, then looked out the unlatched screen down four stories. Mat felt pretty good about that climb.

He picked up the ashandarei and went to the balcony doors. Tuon would undoubtedly have moved in here, to Tylin’s rooms. They were the finest in the palace. Mat cracked the doors open. He would just peek and—

Something shot from the shadows before him and slammed into the door just above his head.

Mat dropped, rolling, pulling out a knife with one hand and holding the ashandarei with the other. The door creaked open from the force of the crossbow bolt lodged in its wood.

Selucia looked out a moment later. She had the right side of her head shaven clean, the other side covered in cloth. Her skin was the color of cream, but any man who thought her soft would soon learn otherwise. Selucia could teach sandpaper a thing

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