Winter's Heart Page 174

“This was delivered for your husband this morning, Mistress Farshaw,” she said, handing Min a letter sealed with an untidy blob of red wax. The innkeeper’s pointed chin rose. “And a woman was inquiring after him.”

“Verin,” Rand said quickly, to forestall questions and get rid of the woman. Who knew to send him a letter here? Cadsuane? One of the Asha’man with her? Maybe one of the other sisters? He frowned at the folded square of paper in Min’s hand, impatient for the innkeeper to leave.

Min’s lips twitched, and she avoided looking at him so hard that he knew he caused the smile. Her amusement trickled through the bond. “Thank you, Mistress Keene. Verin is a friend.”

That sharp chin rose higher. “If you ask me, Mistress Farshaw, when you have a pretty husband, you need to watch your friends, too.”

Watching the woman march back to the red arch, Min’s eyes sparkled with the mirth that flowed along the bond, and her mouth struggled against laughing. Instead of handing the message to Rand, she broke the seal with her thumb and unfolded the letter herself, for all the world as if she were a native of this mad city.

She frowned slightly as she read, but a brief flare in the bond was the only warning he had. Crumpling the letter, she turned toward the fireplace; he bounded from the bench to snatch it from her hand just before she could toss it into the flames.

“Don’t be a fool,” she said, catching his wrist. She stared up at him, her large dark eyes deadly serious. All that came to him through the bond was a grim intensity. “Please don’t be a fool.”

“I promised Verin I’d try not,” he said, but Min did not smile.

He smoothed out the page on his chest. The writing was in a spidery hand he did not recognize, and there was no signature.

I know who you are, and I wish you well, but I also wish you gone from Far Madding. The Dragon Reborn leaves death and destruction where he steps. I now know why you are here, too. You killed Rochaid, and Kisman also is dead. Torval and Gedwyn have taken the top floor above a bootmaker named Zeram on Blue Carp Street, just above the Illian Gate. Kill them and go, and leave Far Madding in peace.

The clock in the Women’s Room rang the hour. Hours of daylight remained before he had to meet Cadsuane.

Chapter 33

Blue Carp Street

Min sat cross-legged on the bed, not as comfortable a position in a riding dress as it was in breeches, and rolled one of her knives across the backs of her fingers. It was an absolutely useless skill, Thom had told her, but sometimes it caught peoples’ eyes and made them pay attention without need to do more. In the middle of their room Rand was holding his scabbarded sword up to study the cuts he had made in the peace-bond, and paid her no attention at all. The Dragon’s heads on the backs of his hands glittered, metallic red and gold.

“You admit this has to be a trap,” she growled at him. “Lan admits it. A half-blind goat in Seleisin has more brains than to walk into a trap! ‘Only fools kiss hornets or bite fire!’ ” she quoted.

“A trap isn’t really a trap if you know it’s there,” he said absently, bending the end of one of the severed wires a little to line up better with its mate. “If you know it’s there, maybe you can see a way to walk in so it isn’t a trap at all.”

She threw the knife as hard as she could. It flew in front of his face to stick quivering in the door, and she gave a little jump recalling the last time she had done that. Well, she was not lying on top of him, now, and Cadsuane was not going to walk in, worse luck. Burn the man, that frozen knot of emotions in her head had not even quivered when the knife streaked by, not by so much as a flicker of surprise! “Even if you just see Gedwyn and Torval, you know the others will be there, hiding. Light, they could have fifty sell-swords waiting!”

“In Far Madding?” He stopped looking at the knife sticking in the door, but only to shake his head and go back to examining the peace-bond. “I doubt there are two mercenaries in the whole city, Min. Believe me, I don’t intend to get myself killed here. Unless I can see how to spring the trap without getting caught, I won’t go near it.” There was no more fear in him than in a stone! And about as much sense! He did not intend to get killed, as if anyone ever intended to!

Scrambling off the bed, she opened the front of the bedside table long enough to take out the strap that Mistress Keene made sure was in every room, even if she did rent to outlanders. The thing was as long as her arm and as wide as her hand, with a wooden handle at one end and the other end split into three tails. “Maybe if I took this to you, it would clear your nose enough to smell what’s in front of you!” she cried.

That was when Nynaeve and Lan and Alivia walked in. Nynaeve and Lan were cloaked, and Lan had his sword at his hip. Nynaeve had removed all of the jewelry except for one gemmed bracelet and the jeweled belt, the Well. Lan closed the door quietly. Nynaeve and Alivia stood staring at Min with the strap raised over her head.

Hastily she dropped the thing to the flowered carpet and kicked it underneath the bed with the side of her foot. “I don’t understand why you’re letting Lan do this, Nynaeve,” she said as firmly as she could. At the moment, that was not particularly firm. Why did people always walk in at the worst time?

“A sister has to trust her Warder’s judgment sometimes,” Nynaeve said coolly, drawing on her gloves. Her face belonged on a porcelain doll for all the emotion it displayed. Oh, she was being Aes Sedai to her toenails.

He isn’t your Warder, he’s your husband, Min wanted to say, and at least you can go along to look after him. I don’t know if my Warder will ever marry me, and he threatened to tie me up if I tried to go with him! Not that she had argued very hard on that point. If he was going to be a bull-goose fool, there were better ways to save him than trying to stick a knife in somebody.

“If we are going to do this, sheepherder,” Lan said grimly, “best we be about it while there’s still light to see.” His blue eyes seemed colder than ever, and hard as polished stones. Nynaeve gave him a worried look that almost made Min feel sorry for her. Almost.

Rand belted his sword over his coat, then settled his cloak with the hood hanging down his back and turned toward her. His face was as hard as Lan’s, his blue-gray eyes almost as cold, but in her head that frozen stone blazed with veins of fiery gold. She wanted to tangle her hands in the black-dyed hair that almost brushed his shoulders and kiss him no matter how many people were watching. Instead, she folded her arms across her chest and lifted her chin, making her disapproval clear. She did not intend for him to die here, either, and she was not about to let him start thinking she would give in jus

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