Winter's Heart Page 89

“She won’t need to,” Verin said absently. She was frowning at an inkstain on her finger, but she seemed to be studying something beyond. “The Wise Ones apparently decided that Rand had punished Irgain and the other two sufficiently when he . . . did what he did. At the same time they were treating the others like worthless animals, they have been working to keep those three alive. I heard talk about finding Ronaille a husband.”

“Irgain knows all about the oaths the others swore.” Corele’s voice took on tones of amazement. “She started weeping for the loss of her Warders almost as soon as Damer finished with her, but she’s ready to swear, too. The thing of it is, Damer wants to try with Sashalle and Ronaille, too.” Surprisingly, she drew herself up almost defiantly. She had always been as arrogant as any other Yellow, but she had always known where she stood with Cadsuane. “I can’t see letting a sister remain in that condition if there’s a way out, Cadsuane. I want to let Damer try his hand with them.”

“Of course, Corele.” It seemed some of Damer’s insistence was rubbing off on her. Cadsuane was willing to let that go, so long as it did not go too far. She had begun gathering sisters she trusted, those here with her and others, the day she first heard of strange events in Shienar — her eyes and ears had kept watch on Siuan Sanche and Moiraine Damodred for years without learning anything useful until then — yet just because she trusted them did not mean she intended to let them start going their own way. Too much lay at stake. But in any case, she could not leave a sister like that, either.

The door banged open to admit Jahar at a run, the silver bells on the ends of his dark braids jangling. Heads turned to look at the youth in the well-fitted blue coat Merise had chosen for him — even Sorilea and Sarene stared — but the words that came out of him in a rush drove away thoughts of how pretty his sun-dark face was.

“Alanna’s unconscious, Cadsuane. She just collapsed in the hallway. Merise had her taken to a bedchamber and sent me for you.”

Riding over exclamations of shock, Cadsuane gathered Corele and Sorilea — who could not be left behind in this — and ordered Jahar to lead the way. Verin came as well, and Cadsuane did not stop her. Verin had a way of noticing what others missed.

The black-liveried servants had no idea who or what Jahar was, but they stepped lively to get out of Cadsuane’s way as she walked quickly along behind him. She would have told him to be quicker about it, but any faster, and she would have had to run. Before she had gone very far, a short man with the front of his head shaved, in a dark coat with horizontal stripes of color down the front, stepped into her path and bowed. She had to stop for him.

“Grace favor you, Cadsuane Sedai,” he said smoothly, “Forgive me for bothering you when you are in such a hurry, but I thought I should tell you that the Lady Caraline and the High Lord Darlin are no longer in the Lady Arilyn’s palace. They are on a rivership bound for Tear. Beyond your reach by this time, I fear.”

“You might be surprised what is within my reach, Lord Dobraine,” she said in a cold voice. She should have left at least one sister at Arilyn’s palace, but she had been certain the pair was secure. “Was this wise?” She had no doubt it was his work, though she doubted he had the nerve to admit it. No wonder he had not pressed her over them.

Her tone made no impression on the fellow. And he surprised her. “The High Lord Darlin is to be the Lord Dragon’s Steward of Tear, and it did seem wise to send the Lady Caraline out of the country. She has foresworn her rebellion and her claims to the Sun Throne, but others still might try to use her. Perhaps, Cadsuane Sedai, it was unwise to leave them in the charge of servants. Under the Light, you must not hold them at fault. They were able to hold two . . . guests . . . but not to stand up to my armsmen.”

Jahar was all but dancing with anxiety to go on. Merise had a firm hand. Cadsuane herself was anxious to reach Alanna.

“I hope you have the same opinion in a year,” she said. Dobraine merely bowed.

The bedchamber where Alanna had been taken was the nearest that had been available, and it was not large, appearing smaller for the dark paneling that Cairhienin liked so much. It seemed quite crowded once everyone was inside. Merise snapped her fingers and pointed, and Jahar retreated to a corner, but that helped little.

Alanna was lying on the bed, her eyes closed, with her Warder, Ihvon, kneeling beside it chafing her wrist. “She seems afraid to wake,” the tall, slender man said. “There’s nothing wrong with her that I can tell, but she seems afraid.”

Corele brushed him aside so she could cup Alanna’s face in her hands. The glow of saidar surrounded the Yellow, and the weave of Healing settled on Alanna, but the slim Green did not even twitch. Corele drew back, shaking her head.

“My skill with Healing, it may not equal yours, Corele,” Merise said dryly, “but I did try.” The accents of Tarabon were still strong in her voice after all these years, but she wore her dark hair drawn back severely from her stern face. Cadsuane trusted her perhaps more than any of the others. “What do we do now, Cadsuane?”

Sorilea stared at the woman stretched out on the bed with no expression beyond a thinning of her lips. Cadsuane wondered whether she was reevaluating their alliance. Verin was staring at Alanna, too, and she looked absolutely terrified. Cadsuane had not thought anything could frighten Verin that far. But she felt a thrill of terror herself. If she lost this connection to the boy now . . .

“We sit down and wait for her to wake,” she said in a calm voice. There was nothing else to do. Nothing.

“Where is he?” Demandred growled, clenching his fists behind his back. Standing with his feet apart, he was aware that he dominated the room. He always did. Even so, he wished Semirhage or Mesaana were present. Their alliance was delicate — a simple agreement that they would not turn on one another until the others had been eliminated — yet it had held all this time. Working together, they had unbalanced opponent after opponent, toppling many to their deaths or worse. But it was difficult for Semirhage to attend these meetings, and Mesaana had been shy, of late. If she was thinking of ending the alliance . . . “Al’Thor has been seen in five cities, including that cursed place in the Waste, and a dozen towns since those blind fools — those idiots! — failed in Cairhien. And that only includes the reports we have! The Great Lord only knows what else is crawling toward us by horse, or sheep, or whatever else these savages can find

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