Winter's heart

CONTENTS

MAPS

PROLOGUE: Snow

1 Leaving the Prophet

2 Taken

3 Customs

4 Offers

5 Flags

6 The Scent of Madness

7 The Streets of Caemlyn

8 Sea Folk and Kin

9 A Cup of Tea

10 A Plan Succeeds

11 Ideas of Importance

12 A Lily in Winter

13 Wonderful News

14 What a Veil Hides

15 In Need of a Bellfounder

16 An Unexpected Encounter

17 Pink Ribbons

18 An Offer

19 Three Women

20 Questions of Treason

21 A Matter of Property

22 Out of Thin Air

23 To Lose the Sun

24 Among the Counsels

25 Bonds

26 Expectation

27 To Surprise Queens and Kings

28 News in a Cloth Sack

29 Another Plan

30 Cold, Fat Raindrops

31 What the Aelfinn Said

32 A Portion of Wisdom

33 Blue Carp Street

34 The Hummingbird’s Secret

35 With the Choedan Kal

GLOSSARY

The seals that hold back night shall weaken,

and in the heart of winter shall winter’s heart be born

amid the wailing of lamentations and the gnashing of teeth,

for winter’s heart shall ride a black horse,

and the name of it is Death.

—from The Karaethon Cycle:

The Prophecies of the Dragon

PROLOGUE

Snow

Three lanterns cast a flickering light, more than enough to illuminate the small room with its stark white walls and ceiling, but Seaine kept her eyes fixed on the heavy wooden door. Illogical, she knew; foolish in a Sitter for the White. The weave of saidar she had pushed around the jamb brought her occasional whispers of distant footsteps in the warren of hallways outside, whispers that faded away almost as soon as heard. A simple thing learned from a friend in her long-ago novice days, but she would have warning long before anyone came near. Few people came down as deep as the second basement, anyway.

Her weave picked up the far-off chittering of rats. Light! How long since there had been rats in Tar Valon, in the Tower itself? Were any of them spies for the Dark One? She wet her lips uneasily. Logic counted for nothing in this. True. If illogical. She wanted to laugh. With an effort she crept back from the brink of hysteria. Think of something besides rats. Something besides . . . A muffled squeal rose in the room behind her, faltered into muted whimpering. She tried to stop up her ears. Concentrate!

In a way, she and her companions had been led to this room because the heads of the Ajahs seemed to be meeting in secret. She herself had glimpsed Ferane Neheran whispering in a secluded nook of the library with Jesse Bilal, who stood very high among the Browns if not at the very top. She thought she was on firmer ground concerning Suana Dragand, of the Yellows. She thought so. But why had Ferane gone walking with Suana in a secluded part of the Tower grounds, both swathed in plain cloaks? Sitters of different Ajahs still talked to one another openly, if coldly. The others had seen similar things; they would not give names from their own Ajahs, of course, but two had mentioned Ferane. A troubling puzzle. The Tower was a seething swamp these days, every Ajah at every other Ajah’s throat, yet the heads met in corners. No one outside an Ajah knew for certain who within it led, but apparently the leaders knew each other. What could they be up to? What? It was unfortunate that she could not simply ask Ferane, but even had Ferane been tolerant of anyone’s questions, she did not dare. Not now.

Concentrate as she would, Seaine could not keep her mind on the question. She knew she was staring at the door and worrying at puzzles she could not solve just to avoid looking over her shoulder. Toward the source of those stifled whimpers and snuffling groans.

As if thinking of the