Winter's Heart: Chapter 9

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Author: Ilissa al'Nari

A Cup of Tea


Chapter Icon: A Serpent twisted through a square

Point of View: Elayne

Setting: Dressing room in the Royal Palace of Andor

Characters: Elayne, Essande, Halwin Norry, Dyelin

Summary

Elayne changes out of her riding clothes with the help of Essande, a pensioner she has chosen for her maid, to get ready for the meeting with the merchants. She reminds herself to make sure Birgitte is there, and allows herself to notice a "heated knot of irritation" before going out into her sitting room where the First Clerk, Norry, awaits her. His first piece of news, the find of first quality alum at Danabar, is good news, because its prospective income will mean that the bankers are far more likely to agree to loan the kingdom of Andor some much-needed funds to, among other things, build up the needed army to secure the throne for Elayne. There are, of course, expenses to be taken into account, but master Norry still agrees that both the Guard as well as the Academy can now be looked into without too much worry.

The next topic is the Dragon Reborn and Elaida's proclamation acknowledging him and offering him "protection and guidance" as well as pronouncing anathema on anyone approaching him save through the Tower. The proclamation stuns Elayne, and so does the news that someone attacked the Sun Palace using the One Power, and that Rand is gone. Norry's source suggests that Rand has probably gone to kneel at Elaida's feet, but Elayne refuses to believe he would even kneel to Egwene and that Elaida has as much chance as "a goat at a court ball".

His other pieces of news are either outdated or Elayne perceives them as unimportant; the latter includes news of Sea Folk ships making their way through the Fingers of the Dragon without pilots and fighting the Seanchan at sea; Illian being quiet and full of Rand's soldiers, assumed to be recovering from a battle against the Seanchan, the Queen of Saldaea still being on her long retreat in the country, the Queen of Kandor having been out of Chachin for months. Elayne asks for his advice, but merely, it seems, out of politeness since she already knows what to do about it - nothing. His last piece of news concerns the fact that King Roedran is gathering an army in Lugard, and when it comes to this aspect Halwin Norry surprises Elayne by seeming almost hesitant before giving his advice. Again it is to do nothing, but that is because Elayne has not yet been crowned Queen of Andor and thus cannot expect an emissary of hers to ever reach the King since that might mean repercussions for him if another contestant for the throne is able to get rid of Elayne. Elayne decides to calm Norry down, however, and tells him about Roedran's aims as she has been told by Egwene.

This impresses Norry, and he "remembers" something he left out in his first round; the fact that Cairhienin nobles are pondering coming to Andor to help her claim the throne there so that she can come to Cairhien quickly and claim her birthright from her father Taringail as well. Elayne thanks him and tells him to write out a letter ready for her signature and seal, in which she states that she will come to Cairhien once she has time and implies that the Cairhienin nobles should keep out of Andor since anything else would only worsen the strained relationship between the two nations. She says nothing straight out, of course, but feels assured that the smarter among the noble Houses will understand and explain it to those who are not as smart.

After, three liveried maids bring her a large choice of midday meals, of which she chooses the one she always does; clear broth and bread served with tea. Dyelin enters during the meal, and announces that there is an army in Braem Wood; an army consisting of men from Arafel, Kandor and Shienar, tens of thousands altogether. Elayne says that it's more than likely Rand they are after, refills her cup and talks some more before she starts to slip away. She realizes that she has been dosed with forkroot, a drug that puts people to sleep and leaves channelers unable to touch the Source, and tells Dyelin to go get help. Dyelin pulls out a knife, and for a few seconds Elayne is grateful for the man entering, thinking that Dyelin has turned traitor - until she sees him pull out a blade of his own and two more following. Despite knowing there is nothing she can do to save herself, Elayne decides to try, and Dyelin screams for help and manages to send two men to the floor before she is stabbed and left to die by a third. He advances on Elayne, slowly at first but then with newfound determination, but suddenly, he and Elayne are equally surprised by the foot of steel sticking out from his chest, and he dies. Elayne falls to her knees and manages to think of how the carpets might never become clean again before looking at the motionless Dyelin and the three men gathered close to the open door. The second of the would-be assassins lie in front of it while the third and sole survivor is fighting an axe-faced man in the white-collared coat of a Guardsman. Her last thought is for Birgitte to come, and then darkness consumes her.

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