The Shadow Rising Page 142

Chapter 47

(Flame of Tar Valon)

The Truth of a Viewing

The papers scattered on Siuan Sanche's desk held little real interest for her, but she persevered. Others handled the daytoday routine of the White Tower, of course, to leave the Amyrlin Seat free for important decisions, but her habit had always been to check one or two things at random each day, with no notice beforehand, and she would not break it now. She would not let herself be distracted by worries. Everything was sailing along according to plan. Shifting her striped stole, she dipped her pen carefully in the ink and ticked off another corrected total.

Today she was examining lists of kitchen purchases, and the mason's report on an addition to the library. The sheer number of petty peculations people thought they could slip by always amazed her. So did the number that escaped notice by the women who oversaw these matters. For instance, Laras seemed to think watching accounts was beneath her since her title had been changed officially from simple chief cook to Mistress of the Kitchens. Danelle, on the other hand, the young Brown sister who was supposed to be watching Master Jovarin, the mason, was most likely letting herself be distracted by the books the fellow kept finding for her. That was the only way to explain her failure to question the number of workmen Jovarin claimed to have hired, with the first shipments of stone from Kandor just arriving at North harbor. He could rebuild the entire library with that many men. Danelle was simply too dreamy, even for a Brown. Perhaps a little time on a farm working penance would wake her. Laras would be more difficult to discipline; she was not Aes Sedai, so her authority with undercooks and scullions and potboys could be swamped all too easily. But perhaps she, too, could be sent for a “rest” in the country. That would...

With a snort of disgust Siuan threw her pen down, grimacing at the blot it made on a page of neatly totaled columns. “Wasting my time deciding whether to send Laras out to pull weeds,” she muttered. “The woman is too fat to bend over far enough!”

It was not Laras's weight that had her temper jumping, and she knew it; the woman was no heavier now than she had always been, or so it seemed, and it never interfered with her running the kitchens. There was no news. That was what had her flapping like a fisherbird whose catch had been stolen. One message from Moiraine that the al'Thor boy had Callandor, then nothing in the weeks since, although rumors in the streets were already beginning to get his name right. Still nothing.

Lifting the hinged lid of the ornately carved blackwood box where she kept her most secret papers, she rummaged inside. A small warding woven around the box ensured no hand but hers could safely open it.

The first paper she pulled out was a report that the novice who had seen Min's arrival had vanished from the farm she had been sent to, and the woman who owned the farm, too. Hardly unheard of for a novice to ran away, but the farmer leaving too was troublesome. Sahra would have to be found, certainly — she had not progressed far enough in her training to be let loose — but there was no real reason to keep the report in the box. It mentioned neither Min's name nor the reason the girl had been sent to hoe cabbages, but she put it back anyway. These were days to take care that might seem unreasonable at another time.

A description of a gathering in Ghealdan to listen to this man who called himself the Prophet of the Lord Dragon. Masema, it seemed his name was. Odd. That was a Shienaran name. Nearly ten thousand people had come to listen to him speak from a hillside, proclaiming the return of the Dragon, a speech followed by a battle with soldiers trying to disperse them. Aside from the fact that the soldiers apparently got the worst of it, the interesting thing was that this Masema knew Rand al'Thor's name. That definitely went back into the box.

A report that nothing had yet been found of Mazrim Taim. No reason for that to be in there. Another on worsening conditions in Arad Doman and Tarabon. Ships vanishing along the Aryth Ocean coast. Rumors of Tairen incursions into Cairhien. She was getting into the habit of putting everything in this box; none of that needed to be kept secret. Two sisters had vanished from Illian, and another in Caemlyn. She shivered, wondering where the Forsaken were. Too many of her agents had gone silent. There were lionfish out there, and she was swimming in darkness. There it was. The silkthin slip of paper crackled as she unrolled it.

The sling has been used. The shepherd holds the sword.

The Hall of the Tower had voted as she had expected, unanimously and with no need for armtwisting, much less invoking her authority. If a man had drawn Callandor, he must be the Dragon Reborn, and that man had to be guided by the White Tower. Three Sitters for three different Ajahs had proposed holding all plans close in the Hall before she even suggested it; the surprise had been that one was Elaida, but then the Reds would surely want the tightest hawsers possible kept on a man who could channel. The sole problem had been to stop a delegation from being sent to Tear to take him in hand, and that had not really been difficult, not when she was able to say that her news came from an Aes Sedai who had already managed to put herself close to the man.

But what was he doing now? Why had Moiraine not sent further word? Impatience hung so thick in the Hall now that she almost expected the air to sparkle. She kept a tight hold oh her anger. Burn the woman! Why hasn't she sent word?

The door crashed open, and she straightened furiously as more than a dozen women strode into her study, led by Elaida. All wore their shawls, most redfringed, but coolfaced Alviarin, a White, was at Elaida's side, and Joline Maza, a slender Green, and plump Shemerin of the Yellow came close behind with Danelle, her big blue eyes not dreamy at all. In fact, at least one woman from every Ajah except the Blue. Some looked nervous, but most wore grim determination, and Elaida's dark eyes held stern confidence, even triumph.

“What is the meaning of this?” Siuan snapped, slapping the blackwood box shut with a sharp crack. She bounced to her feet and strode around the desk. First Moiraine and now this! “If this is about Tairen matters, Elaida, you know better than to bring others into it. And you know better than to walk in here as if this were your mother's kitchen! Make your apologies and leave before I make you wish you were an ignorant novice again!”

Her cold rage should have sent them scurrying, but though a few shifted uneasily, none made a move toward the door. Little Danelle actually smirked at her. And Elaida calmly reached out and pulled the striped stole from Siuan's shoulders. “You will not need this any longer,” she said. “You were never fit for it, Siuan.”

Shock turned Siuan's tongue to stone. This was madness. This was impossible. In a rage she reached for saidar — and suffered her second shock. A barrier lay between her and the True Source, like a wall of thick glass. She stared at Elaida in disbelief.

As if to mock her, the radiance of saidar sprang up around Elaida. She stood helpless as the Red sister wove flows of Air around her from shoulders to waist, crushing her arms to her side. She could barely breathe. “You must be mad!” she rasped. “All of you! I'll have your hides for this! Release me!” No one answered; they almost seemed to ignore her.

Alviarin ruffled through the papers on the table, quickly yet unhurriedly. Joline and Danelle and others began tilting up the books on the reading stands, shaking them to see if anything fell out from between the pages. The White sister gave a small hiss of vexation at not finding what she sought on the table, then flipped open the lid of the blackwood box. Instantly the box flared in a ball of flame.

Alviarin leaped back with a cry, shaking a hand where blisters were already forming. “Warded,” she muttered, as close to open anger as a White ever came. “So small that I never felt it until too late.” Nothing remained of the box and its contents but a heap of gray ash atop a square charred into the tabletop.

Elaida's face showed no disappointment. “I promise you, Siuan, that you will tell me every word that burned, who it was meant for, and to what purpose.”

“You must be taken by the Dragon!” Siuan snapped. “I will have your hide for this, Elaida. All of your hides! You will be lucky if the Hall of the Tower doesn't vote to still all of you!”

Elaida's tiny smile did not touch her eyes, “The Hall convened not an hour ago — enough Sisters to meet our laws — and by unanimous vote, as required, you are no longer Amyrlin. It is done, and we are here to see it enforced.”

Siuan's stomach turned to ice, and a small voice in the back of her head shrieked, What do they know? Light, how much do they know? Fool! Blind, fool woman! She kept her face smooth, though. This was not the first hard corner she had ever been in. A fifteenyearold girl with nothing but her bait knife, hauled into an alley by four hardeyed louts with their bellies full of cheap wine — that had been harder to escape than this. So she told herself.

“Enough to meet the laws?” she sneered. “A bare minimum, heavy with your friends and those you can influence or bully.” That Elaida had been able to convince even a relatively small number of Sitters was enough to dry her throat, but she would not let it show. “When the full Hall meets, with all the Sitters, you'll learn your mistake. Too late! There has never been a rebellion inside the Tower; a thousand years from now they'll be using your fate to teach novices what happens to rebels.” Tendrils of doubt crept onto some of those faces; it seemed Elaida did not have as tight a grip on her conspirators as she thought. “It's time to stop trying to hack a hole in the hull, and start bailing. Even you can still mitigate your offense, Elaida.”

Elaida waited with chill calm until she was done. Then her fullarmed slap exploded across Siuan's face; she staggered, silverblack flecks dancing in her vision.

“You are finished,” Elaida said. “Did you think I — we — would allow you to destroy the Tower? Bring her!”

Siuan stumbled as two of the Reds pushed her forward. Barely keeping her feet, she glared at them, but went as they directed. Who did she need to get word to? Whatever charges had been brought, she could counter them, given time. Even charges involving Rand; they could not fasten more than rumors to her, and she had played the Great Game too long to be beaten by rumors. Unless they had Min; Min could clothe rumors in truth. She ground her teeth. Burn my soul, I'll use this lot for fish bait!

In the antechamber, she stumbled again, but not from pushing, this time. She had halfhoped that Leane had been away from her post, but the Keeper stood as Siuan did, arms stiffly at her sides, mouth working soundlessly, furiously, around a gag of Air. She had certainly sensed Leane being bound and never realized it; in the Tower, there was always the feel of women channeling.

Yet it was not the sight of Leane that made her miss her step, but the tall, slender grayhaired man stretched on the floor with a knife rising from his back. Alric had been her Warder for close to twenty years, never complaining when her path kept them in the Tower, never muttering when being the Amyrlin's Warder sent him hundreds of leagues from her, a thing none of the Gaidin liked.

She cleared her throat, but her voice was still husky when she spoke. “I'll have your hide salted and stretched in the sun for this,

Prev Next