Winter's Heart Page 87

The door to the hall opened to admit Verin and Sorilea. The leathery, white-haired Aiel woman handed something small to Verin that the Brown tucked into her belt pouch. Verin was wearing a flowered brooch on her simple bronze-colored dress, the first jewelry Cadsuane had ever seen on her aside from her Great Serpent ring.

“That will help you sleep,” Sorilea said, “but remember, just three drops in water or one in wine. A little more, and you might sleep a day or longer. Much more, and you will not wake. There is no taste to warn you, so you must be careful.”

So Verin was having trouble sleeping, too. Cadsuane had not had a good night’s rest since the boy fled the Sun Palace. If she did not find one soon, she thought she might bite someone. Nesune and the others were eyeing Sorilea uneasily. The boy had made them apprentice themselves to the Wise Ones, and they had learned that the Aiel women took that very seriously. One snap of Sorilea’s bony fingers could end their idle morning.

Harine leaned forward out of her chair and gave Cadsuane’s cheek a sharp tap with her fingers! “You are not listening to me,” she said harshly. Her face was a thunderhead, and that of her Sailmistress scarcely less stormy. “You will listen!”

Cadsuane put her hands together and regarded the woman over her fingertips. No. She would not stand the Wavemistress on her head here and now. She would not send the woman back to her apartments weeping. She would be as diplomatic as Coiren could wish. Hastily she scanned through what she had heard. “You speak for the Mistress of the Ships to the Atha’an Miere, with all of her authority, which is more than I can imagine,” she said mildly. “If your Windfinder is not returned to you within the hour, you will see that the Coramoor punishes me severely. You require an apology for your Windfinder’s imprisonment. And you require me to make Lord Dobraine set aside the land promised by the Coramoor immediately. I believe that covers the essential points.” Except for the one about having her flogged!

“Good,” Harine said, leaning back comfortably, in command now. Her smile was sickeningly self-satisfied. “You will learn that — ”

“I do not care a fig for your Coramoor,” Cadsuane continued, her voice still mild. All the figs in the world for the Dragon Reborn, but not one for the Coramoor. She did not alter her tone by a hair. “If you ever touch me again without permission, I will have you stripped, striped, bound and carried back to your rooms in a sack.” Well, diplomacy had never been her strongest point. “If you do not cease pestering me about your sister . . . Well, I might actually grow angry.” Standing, she ignored the Sea Folk woman’s indignant puffing and gaping and raised her voice to be heard at the end of the room. “Sarene!”

The slender Taraboner whirled from her embroidery, beaded braids clicking, and hurried to Cadsuane’s side, barely hesitating before spreading her dark gray skirts in a curtsy. The Wise Ones had had to teach them to leap when a Wise One spoke, but more than custom made them leap for her. There truly were advantages to being a legend, especially an unpredictable legend.

“Escort these two to their rooms,” Cadsuane commanded. “They wish to fast and meditate on civility. See that they do. And if they offer one uncivil word, spank them both. But be diplomatic about it.”

Sarene gave a start, half opening her mouth as if to protest the illogic of that, but one glance at Cadsuane’s face and she quickly turned to the Atha’an Miere women, gesturing for them to rise.

Harine sprang to her feet, her dark face hard and scowling. Before she could utter a word of her no doubt furious tirade, though, Derah touched her arm and leaned close to whisper into her ring-heavy ear behind a cupped hand covered with dark tattoos. Whatever the Sailmistress had to say, Harine closed her mouth. Her expression certainly did not soften, yet she eyed the sisters at the far end of the room and after a moment curtly motioned Sarene to lead the way. Harine might pretend that it was her decision to leave, but Derah followed so close on her heels she appeared to be herding her and shot an uneasy glance back over her shoulder before the door shut her from sight.

Cadsuane almost regretted giving that frivolous order. Sarene would do exactly as she had been told. The Sea Folk women were an irritant, and useless thus far, besides. The irritation must be removed so she could concentrate on what was important, and if she found a use for them, tools needed to be shaped one way or another. She was too angry with them to care how that was done, and it might as well begin now as later. No, she was angry with the boy, but she could not lay hands on him yet.

With a loud harrumph, Sorilea turned from watching Sarene and the Atha’an Miere go and directed her scowl at the sisters gathered at the end of the solar. Bracelets clattered on her wrists as she adjusted her shawl. Another woman not in her best temper. The Sea Folk had peculiar notions of “Aiel savages” — though in truth not that much stranger than some Cadsuane herself had believed before meeting Sorilea — and the Wise One did not like them a hair.

Cadsuane went to meet her with a smile. Sorilea was not a woman you made come to you. Everyone thought they were becoming friends — which they might yet, she realized in surprise — but no one knew of their alliance. Eben appeared with his tray, and appeared relieved when she set her half-empty goblet on it.

“Late last night,” Sorilea said as the red-coated boy hurried back to Daigian, “Chisaine Nurbaya asked to serve the Car’a’carn.” Disapproval lay heavy in her voice. “Before first light, Janine Pavlara asked, then Innina Darenhold, then Vayelle Kamsa. They had not been allowed to speak to one another. There could be no collusion. I accepted their pleas.”

Cadsuane made a vexed sound. “I suppose you already have them serving penance,” she murmured, thinking hard. Nineteen sisters had been prisoners in the Aiel camp, nineteen sisters sent by that fool Elaida to kidnap the boy, and now they all had sworn to follow him! These last were the worst. “What could make Red sisters swear fealty to a man who can channel?”

Verin began to make an observation, but fell silent for the Aiel woman. Strangely, Verin had taken to her own enforced apprenticeship like a heron to the marsh. She spent more time in the Aiel camp than out of it.

“Not penance, Cadsuane Melaidhrin.” Sorilea made a dismissive gesture with one sinewy hand in another rattle of gold and ivory bracelets. “They are attempting to meet toh that cannot be met. As foolish in its way as our naming them da’tsang in the first place, but perhaps they are not beyond redemption if they are willing to try,” she allowed grudgingly. Sorilea more than merely disliked those nineteen sisters. She gave a thin smile. “In any event, we will teach them much they need to learn.” The woman seemed to believe all Aes Sedai could do with time apprent

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