A Memory of Light Page 113

"The assassin is very difficult to follow", that annoying voice continued. "People he passes do not remember him. If the Prince of the Ravens has information on how the creature may be tracked, I would very much like to hear it".

Why would the innkeeper let these people into Mat’s room? He drifted toward consciousness, leaving behind a lovely dream involving Tuon and no cares in the world. He opened a bleary eye, looking up at a cloudy sky. Not an inn’s ceiling at all.

Bloody ashes, Mat thought, groaning. They had fallen asleep in the gardens. He sat up, finding himself totally bare except for the scarf around his neck. His and Tuon’s clothing was spread out beneath them. His face had been in a patch of weeds.

Tuon sat beside him, ignoring the fact that she was completely naked, speaking with a member of the Deathwatch Guard. Musenge was on one knee, head bowed, face toward the ground. But still!

"Light!" Mat said, reaching for his clothing. Tuon was sitting on his shirt, and gave him an annoyed look as he tried to yank it free.

"Honored One", the guard said to Mat, face still down. "Greetings upon your waking".

"Tuon, why are you just sitting there?" Mat demanded, finally retrieving his shirt from under that luscious rump.

"As my consort", Tuon said sternly, "you may call me Fortuona or Majesty. I would hate to have you executed before you give me a child, as I am growing fond of you. Regarding this guard, he is of the Deathwatch. They are needed to watch me at all times. I have often had them with me when bathing. This is their duty, and his face is averted".

Mat hurriedly began dressing.

She started to dress, though not quickly enough for his taste. He did not think much of a guard ogling his wife. The place where they had slept was rimmed by small blue fir trees—an oddity here in the South, perhaps cultivated because they were exotic. Though the needles were browning, they offered some measure of privacy. Beyond the firs was a ring of other trees—peaches, Mat thought, but it was hard to tell without the leaves.

He could barely hear the city waking up outside the garden, and the air smelled faintly of the fir needles. The air was warm enough that sleeping outside had not been uncomfortable, though he was glad to be back in his clothing.

A Deathwatch Guard officer approached just as Tuon finished dressing. He crunched dried fir needles, bowing low before her. "Empress, we may have caught another assassin. It is not the creature from last night, as he bears no wounds, but he was trying to sneak into the palace. We thought you might wish to see him before we begin our interrogation".

"Bring him forward", Tuon said, straightening her gown. "And send for General Karede".

The officer withdrew, passing Selucia, who stood near the pathway that led to the clearing. She walked in to stand beside Tuon. Mat put his hat on his head and went up to her other side, setting the ashandarei butt down in the dead grass.

Mat felt sorry for this poor fool caught sneaking into the palace. Maybe the man was an assassin, but he could just be a beggar or other fool looking for excitement. Or he could be . . .

. . .the Dragon Reborn.

Mat groaned. Yes, that was Rand they led along the path. Rand looked older, more weathered, than the last time Mat had seen him in person. Of course, he had seen the man recently in those blasted visions. Although Mat had trained himself to stop thinking of Rand to avoid those colors, he still slipped on occasion.

Anyway, seeing Rand in person was different. It had been . . . Light, how long had it been? The last time I saw him with my own eyes was when he sent me to Salidar after Elayne. That felt like an eternity ago. It had been before he had come to Ebou Dar, before he had seen the gholam for the first time. Before Tylin, before Tuon.

Mat frowned as Rand was led up to Tuon, his arms bound behind his back. She spoke with Selucia, wiggling her fingers in their handtalk. Rand did not seem the least bit worried; his face was calm. He wore a nice coat of red and black, a white shirt underneath, black trousers. No gold or jewelry, no weapon at all.

"Tuon", Mat began. "That’s—"

Tuon turned from Selucia to see Rand. "Damane!" Tuon said, cutting Mat off. "Bring my damane! Run, Musicar! RUN!"

The Deathwatch Guard stumbled backward, then ran, yelling for the damane and for Banner-General Karede.

Rand watched the man go, nonchalant though he was bound. You know, Mat thought idly, he kind of does look like a king. Of course, Rand was mad, most likely. That would explain why he had strolled up to Tuon like this.

Either that, or Rand was just planning on killing her. Bonds did not matter one bit to a man who could channel. Blood and ashes, Mat thought. How did I end up in this situation? He had done whatever he could to avoid Rand!

Rand met Tuon’s stare. Mat took a big breath, then jumped in front of her. "Rand. Rand, here now. Let’s be calm".

"Hello, Mat", Rand said, voice pleasant. Light, he was mad! "Thank you for leading me to her".

"Leading you . . ".

"What is this?" Tuon demanded.

Mat spun. "I . . . Really, it’s just . . ".

Her stare could have drilled holes in steel. "You did this", she said to Mat. "You came, you lured me to be affectionate, then you brought him in. Is this true?"

"Don’t blame him", Rand said. "The two of us needed to meet again. You know it is true".

Mat stumbled out between them, raising one hand either direction. "Here now! Both of you, stop. You hear me!"

Something seized Mat, hauling him into the air. "Stop that, Rand!" he said.

"It isn’t me", Rand said, adopting a look of concentration. "Ah. I am shielded".

As Mat hung in the air he felt at his chest. The medallion. Where was his medallion?

Mat stared at Tuon. She looked ashamed for a brief moment, reaching into the pocket of her gown. She brought out something silver in her hand, perhaps intending to use the medallion as protection against Rand.

Brilliant, Mat thought, groaning. She had taken it off him while he slept, and he had not noticed. Bloody brilliant.

The weaves of Air set him down beside Rand; Karede had returned with a suldam and damane. All three were flushed, as if having run quickly. The damane had been doing the channeling.

Tuon looked over Rand and Mat, then began gesturing with handtalk at Selucia with sharp motions.

"Thanks a bundle for this", Mat muttered to Rand. "You’re such a

Prev Next