A Memory of Light Page 187

"Thanks", Mat said under his breath to Galgan as they both leaned over to study the field below.

"I consider myself a man of truth, my Prince", Galgan said, rubbing his chin with a callused finger. "You will serve the Crystal Throne well. It would be a shame to see you assassinated too early. I will make certain that the first I send after you are newly trained, so that you may stop them with ease".

Mat felt his mouth drop open. The man said it with perfect frankness, almost affection. As if he were planning to do Mat a favor by trying to kill him!

"The Trollocs here", he pointed at a group of them far below, "will pull back soon".

"I concur", Galgan said.

Mat rubbed his chin. "We’ll have to see what Demandred does with them. I’m concerned that the Sharans may try to slip some of their marath'damane into our camp during the night. They show a remarkable dedication to their cause. Or a bloody foolish disregard for self-preservation".

Aes Sedai and suldam weren’t particularly timid, but they were generally cautious. The Sharan channelers were anything but, particularly the men.

"Get me some damane to create lights for the river", Mat said. "And put the camp on lockdown, with a ring of damane spaced through camp to watch for channeling. Nobody channels, not even to light a bloody candle".

"The . . . Aes Sedai . . . may not like this", General Galgan said. He too hesitated upon using the words Aes Sedai. They had started using the term instead of marath'damane by Mat’s order, one that he’d expected Tuon to rescind. She had not.

Figuring that woman out was going to be a real pleasure if they both survived this bloody mess.

Tylee entered the room. Tall and with a scarred face, the dark-skinned woman walked with the confidence of a long-time soldier. She prostrated herself before Tuon, her clothing bloodied and her armor dented. Her legion had taken a beating today, and she probably felt like a rug did after a good-wife had been at it.

"I'm worried about our position here". Mat turned back and squatted down, looking through the hole. As he’d predicted, the Trollocs had begun to fall back.

"In what way?" General Galgan asked.

"We’ve run our channelers to the bone", Mat said. "And we're backed up against the river, a difficult position to defend long-term, especially against such a huge army. If they channel some gateways and move part of the Sharan army to this side of the river in the night, they could crush us.

"I see what you mean", Galgan said, shaking his head. "Given their strength, they will continue to wear us down, until we are so weak, they can throw a noose around us and tighten it".

Mat looked directly at Galgan. "I think it’s time we abandon this position".

"I agree, that seems to be our only reasonable course of action", General Galgan said, nodding. "Why not choose a battlefield more to our advantage? Will your friends from the White Tower agree to a retreat?"

"Let’s see", Mat said, straightening all the way up. "Someone send for Egwene and the Sitters".

"They will not come", Tuon said. "The Aes Sedai will not meet with us here. I doubt this Amyrlin will accept me into her camp, not with the protections I would require".

"Fine". Mat waved toward the gateway in the floor, which the damane was closing. "We’ll use a gateway and talk through it like a door".

Tuon made no specific objection, so Mat sent the messengers. It took a little arranging, but Egwene seemed to like the idea well enough. Tuon entertained herself during the wait by having her throne moved to the other side of the room—Mat had no idea why. She then proceeded to begin annoying Min. "And this one?" Tuon asked as a lanky member of the Blood entered and bowed himself.

"He’ll marry soon", Min said.

"You will give the omen first", Tuon said, "then interpretation, if you desire".

"I know exactly what this one means", Min protested. She had been set on a smaller throne beside that of Tuon. The girl was so decked in fine cloth and lace that she could have been mistaken for a mouse hiding in a bale of silk. "Sometimes, I know immediately, and—"

"You will give the omen first", Tuon said, her tone unchanged. "And you will refer to me as Greatest One. It is a high honor that you are given to speak with me directly. Do not let the Prince of the Ravens’ attitude prove a model for your own".

Min quieted, though she didn’t look cowed. She’d spent too long around Aes Sedai to let Tuon bully her. That gave Mat pause. He had an inkling of what Tuon might be capable of, if she grew displeased with Min. He loved her—Light, he was pretty sure he did. But he also let himself be a little afraid of her.

He’d have to keep watch so that Tuon didn’t decide to "educate" Min.

"The omen for this man", Min said, controlling her tone with—it seemed—some difficulty, "is white lace trailing in a pond. I know that it will mean his marriage in the near future".

Tuon nodded. She wiggled her fingers at Selucia—the man they were discussing was of the low Blood, not of a high enough rank to speak directly to Tuon. His head was down so close to the ground as he bowed that it seemed that he had become fascinated with beetles and was trying to collect a specimen.

"Lord Gokhan of the Blood", Selucia Voiced, "is to be moved to the front lines. He is forbidden to marry until the end of this conflict. The omens have spoken that he will live long enough to find a wife, and so he will be protected".

Min grimaced, then opened her mouth, probably to object that it didn’t work that way. Mat caught her eye and shook his head, and she backed down.

Tuon brought in the next, a young soldier, not of the Blood. The woman had fair skin and not a bad face, though Mat couldn’t see much else beneath that armor. Men’s armor and women’s armor didn’t actually look much different, which he found a shame. Mat had asked a Seanchan armorer if certain areas of the female breastplate shouldn’t be emphasized, so to speak, and the armorer had looked at him like he was a half-wit. Light, these people had no sense of morality. A fellow needed to know if he was fighting a woman on the battlefield. It was only right.

As Min gave her omens, Mat settled back in his chair, putting his boots up on the map table and fishing in his pocket for his pipe. She was rather fine-looking, that soldier, though he could not see some of the important parts. She might make a good match for Talmanes. That fellow spent entirely too little time looking at women. He was shy a

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