The Great Hunt


The Great Hunt: Page 144



The ends merged, and it seemed solid. It did not feel like anything except a bracelet. She had been afraid that it would.
"Get the dress, Elayne." They had dyed a pair of dresses - one of hers and one of Elayne's - to the gray damane wore, or as close as they could manage, and hidden them here. Elayne did not move except to stare at the open collar and lick her lips. "Elayne, you have to wear it. Too many of them have seen Min for her to do it. I would have worn it, if this dress had fit you instead." She thought she would have gone mad if she had had to wear the collar; that was why she could not make her voice sharp with Elayne now.
"I know." Elayne sighed. "I just wish I knew more of what it does to you." She drew her redgold hair out of the way. "Min, help me, please." Min began undoing the buttons down the back of her dress.
Nynaeve managed to pick up the silver collar without flinching. "There is one way to find out." With only a moment of hesitation, she bent and snapped it around the neck of the sul'dam. She deserves it if anyone does, she told herself firmly. "She might be able to tell us something useful, anyway." The blueeyed woman glanced at the leash trailing from her neck to Nynaeve's wrist, then glared up at her contemptuously.
"It doesn't work that way," Min said, but Nynaeve barely heard.
She was ... aware ... of the other woman, aware of what she was feeling, cord digging into her ankles and into her wrists behind her back, the rank fish taste of the rags in her mouth, straw pricking her through the thin cloth of her shift. It was not as if she, Nynaeve, felt these things, but in her head was a lump of sensations that she knew belonged to the sul'dam.
She swallowed, trying to ignore them - they would not go away - and addressed the bound woman. "I won't hurt you if you answer my questions truthfully. We aren't Seanchan. But if you lie to me ..." She lifted the leash threateningly.
The woman's shoulders shook, and her mouth curled around the gag in a sneer. It took Nynaeve a moment to realize the sul'dam was laughing.
Her mouth tightened, but then a thought came to her. That bundle of sensation inside her head seemed to be everything physical that the other woman felt. Experimentally, she tried adding to it.
Eyes suddenly bulging out of her head, the sul'dam gave a cry that the gag only partially stopped. Fanning her hands behind her as if trying to ward off something, she humped through the straw in a vain effort to escape.
Nynaeve gaped, and hastily rid herself of the extra feelings she had added. The sul'dam sagged, weeping.
"What ... What did you ... do to her?" Elayne asked faintly. Min only stared, her mouth hanging open.
Nynaeve answered gruffly. "The same thing Sheriam did to you when you threw a cup at Marith." Light, but this is a filthy thing.
d loudly. "Oh."
"But an a'dam isn't supposed to work that way," Min said. "They always claimed it won't work on any woman who cannot channel."
"I do not care how it is supposed to work, so long as it does." Nynaeve seized the silver metal leash right where it joined the collar, and pulled the woman up enough to look her in the eyes. Frightened eyes, she saw. "You listen to me, and listen well. I want answers, and if I don't get them, I'll make you think I have had the hide off you." Stark terror rolled across the woman's face, and Nynaeve's stomach heaved as she suddenly realized the sul'dam had taken her literally.
If she thinks I can, it's because she knows. That is what these leashes are for. She took firm hold of herself to stop from clawing the bracelet off her wrist. Instead, she hardened her face. "Are you ready to answer me? Or do you ne

The frantic headshaking was answer enough. When Nynaeve removed the gag, the woman only paused to swallow once before babbling, "I will not report you. I swear it. Only take this from my neck. I have gold. Take it. I swear, I will never tell anyone."
"Be quiet," Nynaeve snapped, and the woman shut her mouth immediately. "What is your name?"
"Seta. Please. I will answer you, but please take - it - off! If anyone sees it on me ..." Seta's eyes rolled down to stare at the leash, then squeezed shut. "Please?" she whispered.
Nynaeve realized something. She could never make Elayne wear that collar.
"Best we get on with it," Elayne said firmly. She was down to her shift, too, now. "Give me a moment to put this other dress on, and - "
"Put your own clothes back on," Nynaeve said.
"Someone has to pretend to be a damane," Elayne said, "or we will never reach Egwene. That dress fits you, and it cannot be Min. That leaves me."
"I said put your clothes on. We have somebody to be our Leashed One." Nynaeve tugged at the leash that held Seta, and the sul'dam gasped.
"No! No, please! If anyone sees me -" She cut off at Nynaeve's cold stare.
"As far as I am concerned, you are worse than a murderer, worse than a Darkfriend. I can't think of anything worse than you. The fact that I have to wear this thing on my wrist, to be the same as you for even an hour, sickens me. So if you think there is anything I'll balk at doing to you, think again. You don't want to be seen? Good. Neither do we. No one really looks at a damane, though. As long as you keep your head down the way a Leashed One is supposed to, no one will even notice you. But you had better do the best you can to make sure the rest of us aren't noticed, either. If we are, you surely will be seen, and if that is not enough to hold you, I promise you I'll make you curse the first kiss your mother ever gave your father. Do we understand each other?"
"Yes," Seta said faintly. "I swear it."
Nynaeve had to remove the bracelet in order for them to slide Elayne's graydyed dress down the leash and over Seta's head. It did not fit the woman well, being loose at the bosom and tight across the hips, but Nynaeve's would have been as bad, and too short besides. Nynaeve hoped people really did not look at damane. She put the bracelet back on reluctantly.
Elayne gathered up Nynaeve's clothes, wrapped the other dyed dress around them, and made a bundle, a bundle for a woman in farm clothes to be carrying as she followed a sul'dam and a damane. "Gawyn will eat his heart out when he hears about this," she said, and laughed. It sounded forced.
Nynaeve looked at her closely, then at Min. It was time for the dangerous part. "Are you ready?"
Elayne's smile faded. "I am ready."
"Ready," Min said curtly.
"Where are you ... we ... going?" Seta said, quickly adding, "If I may ask?"
"Into the lions' den," Elayne told her.
"To dance with the Dark One," Min said.
Nynaeve sighed and shook her head. "What they are trying to say is, we are going where all the damane are kept, and we intend to free one of them."
Seta was still gaping in astonishment when they hustled her out of the shed.
Bayle Domon watched the rising sun from the deck of his ship. The docks were already beginning to bustle, though the streets leading up from the harbor stood largely empty. A gull perched on a piling stared at him; gulls had pitiless eyes.
"Are you sure about this, Captain?" Yarin asked. "If the Seanchan wonder what we're all doing aboard - "
ust make certain there do be an axe near every mooring line," Domon said curtly. "And, Yarin? Do any man try to cut a line before those women are aboard, I will split his skull."
"What if they don't come, Captain? What if it's Seanchan soldiers instead?"
"Settle your bowels, man! If soldiers come, I will make a run for the harbor mouth, and the Light have mercy on us all. But until soldiers do come, I mean to wait for those women. Now go look as if you are no doing anything."
Domon turned back to peering up into the town, toward where the damane were held. His fingers drummed a nervous tattoo on the railing.
The breeze from the sea brought the smell of breakfast cook fires to Rand's nose, and tried to flap at his motheaten cloak, but he held it closed with one hand as Red neared the town. There had not been a coat to fit him in the clothes they had found, and he thought it best to keep the fine silver embroidery on his sleeves and the herons on his collar hidden. The Seanchan attitude toward conquered people carrying weapons might not extend to those with heronmark swords, either.
The first shadows of morning stretched out ahead of him. He could just see Hurin riding in among the wagon yards and horse lots. Only one or two men moved among the lines of merchant wagons, and they wore the long aprons of wheelwrights or blacksmiths. Ingtar, the first in, was already out of sight. Perrin and Mat followed behind Rand at spaced intervals. He did not look back to check on them. There was not supposed to be anything to connect them; five men coming into Falme at an early hour, but not together.
The horse lots surrounded him, horses already crowding the fences, waiting to be fed. Hurin put his head out from between two stables, their doors still closed and barred, saw Rand and motioned to him before ducking back.

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