Winter's Heart: Chapter 7
Author: Ilissa al'Nari
Chapter Icon: The Lion of Andor
Point of View: Elayne
Setting: The streets of Caemlyn
Elayne rides though Caemlyn and tries to figure out how to get a grip on her nation and country.
Elayne and her entourage, including the Brown sister Sareitha and the Guardswomen Caseille Raskovni and Deni Colford, are riding through the streets of Caemlyn in an attempt to raise support - or at least halt displeasure - among its citizens and visitors. Elayne gives out coins to several people, and is worried about not only the finances of her people but also of that of her nation. While all people she passes halt, the cheers are few and far in between. There are, however, no jeers, a fact that calms Elayne to some extent. Her entourage, consisting of the Brown sister, her Warder and altogether eight Guardswomen clad in the rather elaborate dress of Elayne's honour guard, attract their own attention, and as they pass through the streets of Caemlyn Sareitha gives Elayne a lecture on how the streets are not safe for her and how the ten sisters currently in the Silver Swan do not bode well. Elayne brushes the Brown's various fears away, but inside she is not as calm as she appears.
As she rides through the city she also ponders the fact that some of the fugitives from the war-ridden or occupied neighbouring countries seem to have returned to themselves in the sense that they have taken up their own crafts again. Not only does it help these individuals to provide for themselves, it also reduces the need to import wares from other countries and has the additional advantage of the taxes being a possible income in the future. Some, or even most of the fugitives, though, are not only unable to fend for themselves, some of them are even unable or unwilling to accept the help they are being given. While soup kitchens have been set up for the poor, no one can make people accept them.
Those she notices most, though, are the many mercenaries and merchant's guards wandering the streets. Whether Andoran or foreign, they are armed, and since there are so many of them that their "normal" professions are full, Elayne decides that getting some of them to sign up for the army should not be too much trouble. Mostly, she is concerned with two things; how to make sure the Guards remain mostly Andoran, and how to find enough coin to pay them. As she thinks about this she becomes aware of the strong emotions of her Warder Birgitte, and the combination of her strong emotions and the speed with which she returns to the palace sets "the alarm gongs ringing" in Elayne's head and she hurries back to the palace by the most direct route in order to meet her there.
Birgitte finds them outside the inner city, climbing Pearman's Lane, and wastes little time before telling Elayne that the men escorting Naean and Elenia, two of the contestants for the Andoran crown, have been killed five miles out of Aringill. One of the guards' horses had returned to the town and thus let the soldiers stationed there know. Elayne promptly concludes that there must be at least one spy within the Palace, and Birgitte repeats her plea that Elayne accept a small group of bodyguards. The plea is refused despite of Sareitha's agreement that it might be a good idea, and Elayne angers her Warder further by suggesting that she should have gone to get the two captives herself. Birgitte harangues her not only about how her involvement in getting them would have made no difference except for possibly to the worse, and also hints to Elayne's and Aviendha's lone trip in town. The hint is enough to make the Brown sister elaborate; she seems to know more about it than Birgitte has been told and Birgitte does not seem to appreciate this in the least. Elayne gets her own back to some extent by giving Sareitha a mini-lecture on Andoran practical politics that leaves the Brown stunned and somewhat surprised by the younger woman's grasp on the reality of the nation she has set out to rule, and the rest of the ride back to the palace is passed in silence and with Elayne pondering some of the problems she currently has on her plate.
Their arrival at the palace is a surprise for everyone there, and Elayne notices that there are very few faces she can really say she recognizes among the current servants and soldiers, since many of the old ones fled when Rand took Caemlyn. After the news Birgitte brought she sees a potential spy in most people, and so, seemingly, does Birgitte. Sareitha and her Warder leave the two of them with the plausible excuse of Sareitha wanting something in the Library, and then Elayne and Birgitte have a small argument about a Warder's place and Birgitte's accusation that Elayne gave her the titles and the estate in an attempt to "saddle her down", after which Birgitte stalks out. Elayne notices a young boy (only a bit younger than herself, she realizes,) and tells him to go fetch Mistress Harfor, the First Maid, to her apartments.