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Business Luncheon
Sat Oct 28, 2006 09:03 (XFF:

"Well," she continued after a brief moment of silence. If someone were trying to find her, Walter would not be a good person to hide with. His stench gathered flies and rumors alike. "I suppose it is best I start gathering my things and be going then." She wasn't happy about the prospect of leaving Ebou Dar without her business affairs being tied up properly, but sometimes it was better to get while the getting was good. Besides, she had an inclination about who was following her and why: if Walter gathered flies, then she gathered trouble of a completely different kind. This type usually came armed and full of self-righteous anger—not her favorite combination. "Thanks for the tip," she reached inside the cloak long enough to search her pocket. "Here, a few coppers for your troubles." Wiley placed the coins into his hand, careful not to touch his leprous skin.

“Where will you be going? By the looks of the man, he doesn’t look like he’ll be giving up on you anytime soon.” The bum pocketed the coin as if he were afraid she’d be inclined to take it back. The remark caused Wiley to stop her walking in the direction toward town and away from him on the docks. Her half turn and furrowed brow caused him to laugh again until a new wave of coughing over took him and caused him to spit some vile concoction of juices on the ground. The rogue wrinkled her nose and turned in full to face him again.

“What do you mean, he doesn’t look? You’ve seen him, Walter? You should have told me that.” The old man was still coughing, and when she stopped speaking he was trying to gather his breath. The rasping made her insides hurt with the thought of it. As ill and drunken as this man stayed, Wiley was doubtful that he would outlast the worst of the winter season.

“Course I’ve seen him,” He finally gathered enough breath in his lungs to speak a full sentence, and to wipe the back of his hand across his mouth before looking at the mixture of spit and blood that was smeared above his skin, and let his hand hang again at his side. “Who do you think sent him to The Kind?” This time his smile was enough to turn her insides. If the old man had been younger, healthier, then she may have considered putting a knife in his back for such a betrayal. However death was already at his door, and Wiley felt no need to shepherd it to him any quicker. She’d find a way to get out of this mess—somehow.

“I can’t say that I’m pleased with you, Walter, but I guess I will thank you for your honesty.” She turned and walked back toward town, weaving around the early morning workers who were returning to their posts by the port; merchants, sailors for hire, and fishermen. Most of the men gave her a few glances, looking first to the strange hat across her head, and then to her face once they realized she was a woman. The looks normally only lasted for half a moment, but Wiley did not revel in her femininity enough to appreciate the stares. Once she reached the end of the long platform that made up the main part of the pier she was troubled by a question.

“Walter,” she called back, making the old man turn away from his counting the coins that were on his palm. “Did they at least pay you well?”

He gave her another grin and fished around in his pocket before producing a pouch worth of money that her pursuers had given him. “Aye. Enough.” She gave a nod before turning back and began weaving her way through the streets of Ebou Dar toward the inn where she was currently staying. The Kind Man’s Keep was a place that hardly lived up to its name, but it was clean and relatively free from visitors. It wasn’t the sort of establishment that the man who was following her would be used to staying. He was sure to be full of coin but sure to be short on patience for anything that he would have to endure in his search for her. She had been escaping capture for nearly a year now and his constant chasing was beginning to grow tiring.

Wiley too was nearly out of patience for this little game.


“I’ll need a horse,” she commented to the innkeeper. He was writing quickly on a ledger that lay on the table opposite to her. She had been staying at The Kind for several months and her bill ran long. “Or possibly passage if there are any ships leaving this afternoon headed east. I have no desire to go further west. I’ve already been there.” The innkeeper kept writing, nodding all the while. The light from the lanterns around the common room danced off his baldhead. Wiley starred into it like a looking glass, but despite the sweat that was gathered across his brow, she could not see her reflection, and thought it would have been amusing if she had. He finally looked up at her with a hesitant glance, “And your bar tab?” She sighed and laid down the glass of ale she had been working on since her arrival. She never drank a lot, just…often.

“Will those do?” she placed three golden coins on the table before going back to her drink. The warmth of it ran through her, almost burning her throat on the way down. She would have to stop drinking soon if she wanted to remain sober for her meeting with the man who was after her. The innkeeper’s large eyes somehow appeared to grow larger was he picked up the coins and tested their weight in his hand. Timidly he bit the end of one of them between his teeth to test their worth. Satisfied that they were genuine, he laid the coins down with the flame of Tar Valon facing him. The amount more than covered the cost of her rooms and her tab alike, and if he didn’t get a good horse, the price of one of those as well. Anticipating this line of thought, Wiley placed two more coins of a significantly smaller worth on the pile. “Make sure he’s fast.”

A number of hours later found her sitting on a stool at the bar. A horse had been found for her as well as passage arranged on a ship that would be traveling from Ebou Dar to Illian. It had taken a few more of her golden coins to ensure that the ship would wait for her before leaving port. She hadn’t been happy about giving up coin that was so valuable, but sometimes it was necessary. Besides, a ship was the best way to get out of Ebou Dar tonight without being followed. A horse, even a fast one, can only take you so far, and her “friend” was sure to have a good animal of his own.

When he entered the inn she was busy stirring the thick soup that resembled bookbinding paste more than a meal that could be absorbed by a human stomach. Its taste was strange and mostly salty, but it was hot and supposedly would be nourishing to her for the upcoming journey. To her left was a cup of tea, which she had spiked with a bit more hard ale—just in case.

It was raining out by now, and when he opened the door it made the few patrons who were in the common room turn their head and observe this. The man who entered shook his cloak to rid himself of the water drops that littered the material and removed his hood. Golden hair that was still freshly combed despite the weather and hood fell to his shoulders were it curled gently at the ends. Looking around the tavern with his keen blue eyes allowed him to take account of how many people were inside and if any of them were obvious channelers or Darkfriends upon first glance. Calvin Mailhem was always on the hunt. He pushed the edges of his cloak back to reveal in full the long line of a sword fastened at his hip and the color of his uniform. Somehow he always managed to look immaculate.

During that first sweeping look around the room he had dismissed the only person sitting at the bar for the one that he was looking for. The one bent over their soup bowl was wearing an ill-fitting cloak and had their ankles crossed on a rung of their stool. The hat that they were wearing was equally ridiculous. Yet, once he had taken a few steps inside he was able to get a better view of the woman who was nonchalantly eating her lunch and paying very little attention to him. Even more steps revealed her to be the one he was looking for. The dark scar from the brand that he had given her on the back of her right hand was the largest clue.

“Wilimina Darwish, you’re to come with me.”

She turned and looked at him up and down before turning back to her meal. “What’s the charge? Refusing your bed, or for being a pain in the ass?” The man chuckled and pulled out a stool for himself beside her. He was looking at her like a man who had an idea how she looked without the hat and cloak. Unfortunately he had never gotten a real glance.

“Both, actually,” was his reply.

“Well, I’d love to get on my knees right here and relieve you of the trouble in your trousers, but I’m a little busy, if you haven’t noticed. However if you’ll wait till later this afternoon, I may be able to find time for you before I leave town.” She took another sip of the soup before turning to look at him again. “Can you believe that there’s some bastard trying to arrest me for a crime I didn’t commit? What is the world coming to? Next they will be letting Aes Sedai run rampant all over the countryside.” She tisked to herself and took a long drink of her tea.

“You’re very funny, Wiley, but you know why I’m here for you. Why don’t you do something the easy way for once and just come with me? No man is too far-gone that he cannot come back to the Light. If you give yourself up now I’m sure that I can speak to the Questioners upon your behalf. The longer you prolong our little game, the angrier they get and the more difficult it will be to keep you from sharing your fate with your father.”

A flare of anger ran through her with the mention of her father. Her real father had died when she was only six summers old. It was Calvin’s people who had killed him, and that had killed her friend Orlan two short years ago. Wiley lifted her dark eyes to Calvin’s chest, just seeing the edge of the sunburst behind the cloak that he wore. She was relieved to see that the symbol was not yet embroidered with the shepherd’s crook that would have marked him a Questioner. No doubt her capture was the one thing standing between him and a promotion to the said rank.

As dedicated as he was to his craft, Calvin had been patient about seeing her arrested. A large part of her believed that he enjoyed their game of cat and mouse. His amusement with her kept her from being afraid of him, but not from being cautious.

“If I did not come with you in Amador, or Ghealdan, or Salidar, what makes you believe that I will decide to give myself up in Ebou Dar? You haven’t grown any more handsome in the past months, and I can’t say I’ve missed your constant nagging company, Calvin.”

“Well this time I have a proposition for you. We can make out a deal if you will confess your guilt and come with me back to Amadicia.”

“I’m not interested. Whatever it is you have to offer me will still see me neck deep in gallow rope or roasted and flayed. No, thank you.”

“If you will just listen to me, then you’ll know what exactly I’m offering here, and I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I will.” He leaned forward on his stool, rubbing his lips gently across her ear and neck before whispering; “I wouldn’t let a woman like you get tied up…I mean, unless you enjoyed it.” He chuckled at his own innuendo and pulled away from her, laughing all the more when he saw her shudder and rub her ear against her shoulder in repulsion.

“Too bad for you I only like brunettes. Goodbye, Calvin. I have things to do today, and none of them involve being arrested on false charges or being “tied up” so you put it.”

“You’re a fool, Wiley. You should at least listen.”

“Last time I listened to you, I ended up with this.” She lifted her right hand to show him the sunburst that was permanently etched into her flesh. The design matched the one that was on his uniform. “I’m very busy today and must be going. There’s a whole camp of Whitecloaks that I’m scheduled to execute. If you’d be so kind as to not disturb me, I’d greatly appreciate it.”

"What is it exactly that you really do when I’m not chasing you all over the flaming world?" He asked as she moved from the stool and drank the last of the tea.

"Whatever it takes." She smiled and pushed her way out of the door.


Author's note: Wiley's hat is meant to resemble the hat that Indiana Jones wears, which of course would look ridiculous in the WoT setting.

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