Winter's Heart Page 159

Joline stared at her, those big brown eyes as wide as they would go, as if she could not believe her ears. Mat was not sure he believed his, either. Innkeepers did not leap down Aes Sedai’s throats. Fen grunted, and Blaeric muttered something that sounded uncomplimentary.

“There’s no need for you to go farther than beyond sight of the guards at the gates,” Mat told Setalle hastily, hoping to divert any explosion Joline might be considering. “Keep the hood of your cloak pulled up . . .” Light, he had to get her one of those fancy cloaks! Well, if Juilin could steal an a’dam, he could steal a bloody cloak, too . . . and the guards will just see another sul’dam. You can be back here before daybreak, and no one the wiser. Unless you insist on wearing your marriage knife.” He laughed at his own joke, but she did not.

“Do you think I could remain anywhere women are turned into animals because they can channel?” she demanded, stalking across the floor till she stood toe-to-toe with him. “Do you think I’d let my family stay?” If her eyes had glared at Joline, they blazed up at him. Frankly, he had never considered the question. Certainly he would like to see the damane freed, but why should it matter this much to her? Plainly, it did, though; her hand slid along the hilt of the long curved dagger stuck behind her belt, caressing it. Ebou Dari did not take kindly to insults, and she was pure Ebou Dari to that extent. “I began negotiating the sale of The Wandering Woman two days after the Seanchan arrived, when I could see what they are. I should have handed everything over to Lydel Elonid days ago, but I’ve been holding off because Lydel would not expect to find an Aes Sedai in the basement. When you are ready to go, I can hand over the keys and go with you. Lydel is growing impatient,” she added significantly over her shoulder to Joline.

And what about his gold? he wanted to ask indignantly. Would Lydel have let him take that away, a windfall under her kitchen floor? Still, it was something else that made him choke. Suddenly he could see himself saddled with Mistress Anan’s whole family, including the married sons and daughters with their children, and maybe a few aunts and uncles and cousins, as well. Dozens of them. Scores, maybe. She might be from off, but her husband had relations all over the city. Blaeric slapped him on the back so hard that he staggered.

He showed the fellow his teeth and hoped the Shienaran would take it for a smile of thanks. Blaeric’s expression never altered. Bloody Warders! Bloody Aes Sedai! Bloody, bloody innkeepers!

“Mistress Anan,” he said carefully, “the way I mean to get away from Ebou Dar, there’s only room for so many.” He had not told her about Luca’s show, yet. There was a chance he could not convince the man, after all. And the more people he had to convince Luca to take, the harder it would be. “Come back here once we’re outside the city. If you have to leave, go on one your husband’s fishing boats. I suggest you wait a few days, though. Maybe a week or so. Once the Seanchan discover two damane missing, they’ll be all over anything trying to leave.”

“Two?” Joline put in sharply. “Teslyn and who?”

Mat winced. He had not meant to let that slip. He had Joline pegged, and petulant, willful and spoiled were the words that came most readily to mind. Anything at all that made her think this more difficult, more likely to fail, might just be enough to make her decide to try some crackbrained scheme of her own. Something that would no doubt ruin his own plans. She would be captured for sure if she tried to run on her own, and she would fight. And once the Seanchan learned there had been an Aes Sedai in the city, right under their noses, they would intensify the searches for marath’damane again, increase the street patrols more than they already had for the “mad killer,” and worst of all, they might well make it even harder to pass the gates.

“Edesina Azzedin,” he said reluctantly. “I don’t know any thing more about her.”

“Edesina,” Joline said slowly. A tiny frown creased her smooth forehead. “I heard that she had — ” Whatever she had heard, she snapped her teeth shut on it and fixed him a fierce stare. “Are they holding any other sisters? If Teslyn is getting free, I won’t leave any other sister to them!”

It took an effort on Mat’s part not to gape. Petulant and spoiled? He was looking at a lioness to match Blaeric and Fen. “Believe me, I won’t leave an Aes Sedai in the kennels unless she wants to stay,” he said, making his voice as wry as he could. The woman was still willful. She might insist on trying to rescue the other two like Pura. Light, he should never have let himself get tangled with Aes Sedai, and he did not need any ancient memories to warn him! His own would do very well, thank you.

Fen poked him on the back of his left shoulder with a hard finger. “Don’t be so light-tongued,” the Warder said warningly.

Blaeric poked him on the back of the other shoulder. “Remember who you are talking to!”

Joline sniffed at his tone, but she did not probe further.

Mat felt a knot loosen in the back of his neck, about where a headsman’s axe would strike. Aes Sedai twisted words with other people; they did not expect others to use their own tricks on them.

He turned to Setalle. “Mistress Anan, you can see your husband’s boats are much better — ”

“It might be so,” she broke in, “except that Jasfer sailed with all ten of his boats and all of our kin three days ago. I expect the guilds will want to talk to him if he ever returns. He isn’t supposed to carry passengers. They are coasting to Illian, where they will wait for me. I don’t really intend to go as far as Tar Valon, you see.”

This time, Mat could not stop a wince. He had intended falling back on Jasfer Anan’s fishing boats if he failed to persuade Luca. A dangerous option, true, more than dangerous. Mad, maybe. The sul’dam on the docks likely would have wanted to check any order that sent damane out on fishing boats, especially in the night. But the boats had always been in the back of his mind. Well, he was just going to have twist Luca’s arm hard, just as hard as necessary.

“You let your kin go out in this season?” Disbelief and scorn mingled in Joline’s voice. “When the worst storms are brewing?”

Her back to the Aes Sedai, Mistress Anan raised her head proudly, but it was not pride in herself. “I trust Jasfer to sail into the teeth of a cemaros, if need be. I trust him as much as you do your Wa

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