The arrival of Moghedien in Graendal’s palace was unexpected but not entirely unprecedented. After a polite chime the gateway rolled open in its normal place, and the Spider stepped through into the room.
“Moghedien,” Graendal said as pleasantly as she could. Rules, after all, were rules. Cordiality was the drink of the month. “Welcome to Arad Doman,” she hesitated when a second woman stepped through the gateway and stood close behind Moghedien, looking annoyed. “Both of you.”
“You’re very kind,” Moghedien said graciously. Both she and the other woman – a plain, rather dumpy specimen who looked like a typical potato-field peasant – were dressed in smart black and red livery.
“May I inquire as to the purpose of your visit?” Graendal asked. She was just opening her mouth to make a slightly more sarcastic remark – borderline unacceptable, even – when the space behind her writing desk flickered and an enormous myrddraal straightened out of the shadow with an audible spine-pop.
“Ooh,” Shaidar Haran said, putting his pasty-white hands to his kidneys and stretching with another series of crackles. “Cramped.”
The Chosen were quite familiar with the quirky-yet-frightening halfman by now, and knew that he spoke for the Great Lord of the Dark. Or at least, he did when speaking in his official capacity, which he generally indicated by standing on his tip-toes and affecting a deep, booming intonation and finishing off with a theatrical flourish and sometimes even the words “ooger booger”.
On most other occasions, he could be accurately said to be speaking for himself. Which, considering the fact that he was a myrddraal, was almost as scary.
“Do you have instructions for me, Hand of the Dark?” Graendal asked.
“Well, we’re working on that,” Shaidar Haran replied. “Things are confused at the moment. The Dragon Reborn is missing, presumed lost in a bubble of the Great Lord’s presence that erupted around his party in Aridhol. There have been no reports about his being found again, although we have teams out looking. That nasty ol’ skank Cadsuane is rushing around looking for him too, but she doesn’t even know where to start. Last I heard, she was in the Sun Palace, and she was trying to enlist the help of the asha’man. That’s where our busty friend here comes in.”
“Who are you?” Graendal asked, turning to confront the sour-faced newcomer.
“Cyndane,” the woman replied, then scowled. “I mean Nancy, I’m Nancy. Fuck it all, no I ain’t, I’m Shannon, God damn it.”
“She’s a bit out of sorts,” Shaidar Haran said with a smile, “which is to be expected, after her mindtrap broke. She’s lucky to be alive, really. We haven’t quite figured out how she managed it. Or,” he shrugged, “maybe she’s having woman troubles. I really wouldn’t know.”
Cyndane, or Nancy, or possibly Shannon, snarled and pulled a shiny length of silvery links from her vest, moving so unexpectedly Graendal almost embraced the Source out of instinct. Only the presence of the huge myrddraal made her think twice.
“I got yer woman troubles right here,” the liveried peasant woman growled.
Graendal stared at the leash, the open bracelet at one end and the dangerously-gleaming open collar at the other. They dared to bring one of those filthy a’dam things into her presence? What did they mean by it? First this talk of mindtraps, and now this … it was making her very nervous, and the unexpectedness of the feeling made it even worse. All the Great Lord and the Nae’blis had inspired in her since she’d been freed from Shayol Ghul had been confidence and loyalty, strange as that was.
“Where did she get that?” Graendal hissed.
“She had it with her when we found her,” Shaidar Haran said.
“An escaped damane, perhaps?”
“Cyndane is not actually a channeler, as far as we can ascertain,” Moghedien shook her head, “but she is ta’veren. She’s ta’veren up the proverbial wazoo.”
“I wouldn’t know about that either,” Shaidar Haran offered.