The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt: Page 140

And now she will be. Unless Nynae

The smell of salt and pitch grew heavy in the air, and gulls cried, wheeling overhead. Sailors appeared in the throng, many still barefoot despite the cold.
The inn had been hastily renamed The Three Plum Blossoms, but part of the word "Watcher" still showed through the slapdash paint work on the sign. Despite the crowds outside, the common room was little more than half full; prices were too high for many people to afford time sitting over ale. Roaring fires on hearths at either end of the room warmed it, and the fat innkeeper was in his shirtsleeves. He eyed the three women, frowning, and Min thought it was her Seanchan dress that stopped him from telling them to leave. Nynaeve and Elayne, in their farm women's coats, certainly did not look as if they had money to spend.
The man she was looking for was alone at a table in a corner, in his accustomed place, muttering into his wine. "Do you have time to talk, Captain Domon?" she said.
He looked up, brushing a hand across his beard when he saw she was not alone. She still thought his bare upper lip looked odd with the beard. "So you do bring friends to drink up my coin, do you? Well, that Seanchan lord bought my cargo, so coin I have. Sit." Elayne jumped as he suddenly bellowed, "Innkeeper! Mulled wine here!"
"It's all right," Min told her, taking a place on the end of one of the benches at the table. "He only looks and sounds like a bear." Elayne sat down on the other end, looking doubtful.
"A bear, do I be?" Domon laughed. "Maybe I do. But what of you, girl? Have you given over thought of leaving? That dress do look Seanchan to me."
"Never!" Min said fiercely, but the appearance of a serving girl with the steaming, spiced wine made her fall silent.
Domon was just as wary. He waited until the girl had gone with his coins before saying, "Fortune prick me, girl, I mean no offense. Most people only want to go on with their lives, whether their lords be Seanchan or any other."
Nynaeve leaned her forearms on the table. "We also want to go on with our lives, Captain, but without any Seanchan. I understand you intend to sail soon."
"I would sail today, if I could," Domon said glumly. "Every two or three days that Turak do send for me to tell him tales of the old things I have seen. Do I look a gleeman to you? I did think I could spin a tale or two and be on my way, but now I think when I no entertain him any longer, it be an even wager whether he do let me go or have my head cut off. The man do look soft, but he be as hard as iron, and as coldhearted."
"Can your ship avoid the Seanchan?" Nynaeve asked.
"Fortune prick me, could I make it out of the harbor without a damane rips Spray to splinters, I can. If I do no let a Seanchan ship with a damane come too close once I do make the sea. There be shoal waters all along this coast, and Spray do have a shallow draft. I can take her into waters those lumbering Seanchan hulks can no risk. They must be wary of the winds close inshore this time of year, and once I do have Spray -"
Nynaeve cut him off. "Then we will take passage with you, Captain. There will be four of us, and I will expect you to be ready to sail as soon as we are aboard."
Domon scrubbed a finger across his upper lip and peered into his wine. "Well, as to that, there still do be the matter of getting out of the harbor, you see. These damane - "
"What if I tell you you will sail with something better than damane?" Nynaeve said softly. Min's eyes widened as she realized what Nynaeve intended.
Almost under her breath, Elayne murmured, "And you tell me to be careful."
Domon had eyes only for Nynaeve, and they were wary eyes. "What do you mean?" he whispered.
Nynaeve opened her coat to fumble at the back of her neck, finally pulling out a leather cord that had been tucked inside her dress. Two gold rings hung on the cord. Min gasped when she saw one - it was the heavy man's ring she had seen when she read Nynaeve in the street-but she knew it was the other, slighter and made for a woman's slender finger, that made Domon's eyes bulge. A serpent biting its own tail.
"You know what this means," Nynaeve said, starting to slip the Serpent ring from the cord, but Domon closed his hand over it.
"Put it away." His eyes darted uneasily; no one was looking at them that Min could see, but he looked as if he thought everyone was staring. "That ring do be dangerous. If it be seen ..."
"As long as you know what it means," Nynaeve said with a calm that made Min envious. She pulled the cord from Domon's hand and retied it around her neck.
"I know," he said hoarsely. "I do know what it means. Maybe there do be a chance if you... Four, you say? This girl who do like to listen to my tongue wag, she do be one of the four, I take it. And you, and..." He frowned at Elayne. "Surely this child is no - no one like you."
Elayne straightened angrily, but Nynaeve put a hand on her arm and smiled soothingly at Domon. "She travels with me, Captain. You might be surprised by what we can do even before we earn the right to a ring. When we sail, you will have three on your ship who can fight damane if need be."
," he breathed. "There do be a chance. Maybe ..." His face brightened for a moment, but as he looked at them, it grew serious again. "I should take you to Spray right now and cast off, but Fortune prick me if I can no tell you what you face here if you stay, and maybe even if you go with me. Listen to me, and mark what I do say." He took another cautious look around, and still lowered his voice and chose his words carefully. "I did see a - a woman who wore a ring like that taken by the Seanchan. A pretty, slender little woman she was, with a big War - a big man with her who did look as if he did know how to use his sword. One of them must have been careless, for the Seanchan did have an ambush laid for them. The big man put six, seven soldiers on the ground before he did die himself. The - the woman ... Six damane they did put around her, stepping out of the alleys of a sudden. I did think she would ... do something - you know what I mean - but ... I know nothing of these things. One moment she did look as if she would destroy them all, then a look of horror did come on her face, and she did scream."
"They cut her off from the True Source." Elayne's face was white.
"No matter," Nynaeve said calmly. "We will not allow the sam

"Aye, mayhap it will be as you say. But I will remember it until I die. Ryma, help me. That is what she did scream. And one of the damane did fall down crying, and they did put one of those collars on the neck of the ... woman, and I ... I did run." He shrugged, and rubbed his nose, and peered into his wine. "I have seen three women taken, and I have no stomach for it. I would leave my aged grandmother standing on the dock to sail from here, but I did have to tell you."
"Egwene said they have two prisoners," Min said slowly. "Ryma, a Yellow, and she didn't know who the other is." Nynaeve gave her a sharp look, and she fell silent, blushing. From the look on Domon's face, it had not furthered their cause any to tell him the Seanchan held two Aes Sedai, not just one.
Yet abruptly he stared at Nynaeve and took a long gulp of wine. "Do that be why you are here? To free ... those two? You did say there would be three of you."
"You know what you need to know," Nynaeve told him briskly. "You must be ready to sail on the instant anytime in the next two or three days. Will you do it, or will you remain here to see if they will cut off your head after all? There are other ships, Captain, and I mean to have passage assured on one of them today."
Min held her breath; under the table, her fingers were knotted.
Finally, Domon nodded. "I will be ready."
When they returned to the street, Min was surprised to see Nynaeve sag against the front of the inn as soon as the door closed. "Are you ill, Nynaeve?" she asked anxiously.
Nynaeve drew a long breath and stood up straight, tugging at her coat. "With some people," she said, "you have to be certain. If you show them one glimmer of doubt, they'll sweep you off in some direction you don't want to go. Light, but I was afraid he was going to say no. Come, we have plans yet to make. There are still one or two small problems to work out."
"I hope you don't mind fish, Min," Elayne said.
One or two small problems? Min thought as she followed them. She hoped very much that Nynaeve was not just being certain again.

(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 44
(Flame of Tar Valon)
Five Will Ride Forth
Perrin eyed the villagers warily, selfconsciously hitching at a tooshort cloak, embroidered on the chest and with some holes in it not even patched, but none of them gave him a second glance despite his strange mix of clothes and the axe on his hip. Hurin had a coat with blue spirals across the chest under his cloak, and Mat wore a pair of baggy trousers that made bunches where they were stuffed into his boots.

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