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A Crown of Swords/Chapter 29

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For the actual holiday, see Festival of Birds.
"If that is part of what being ta'veren means, you must be very popular."
   —Tylin Quintara Mitsobar to Matrim Cauthon after his first seduction

External summary

<<<   The Festival of Birds    >>>
Setting: Ebou Dar, Tarasin Palace

Point of view: Matrim Cauthon

Matrim Cauthon wakes to the sound of dice in his head and grumpily gets out of bed after a private debate on whether he should continue to sleep until the dice go away. Chasing Nerim off, he dresses himself while breakfasting on last night's cheese and bread, and then checks on Olver who asks him dozens of questions about the day's activities. Mat muses on why the dice have started up; he had no clue last time they did and he has no clue this time.

With Olver finally dressed they both enter the sitting room, to find Queen Tylin there. Mat covers his surprise and panic by placing Olver in front between himself and the Queen. He looks at the door he locked last night which is now standing wide open, while the Queen smiles at him in what seems to him a mocking smile. He babbles about the day's plans, and then realizing he is babbling, shuts up and edges toward the door, with Olver kept protectively in place, like a shield.

Tylin responds by agreeing that Olver needs supervision, and then calls in Riselle, a servant already dressed for the day, and Mat can't help but notice that she has a most spectacular bosom. Riselle sinks to her knees in front of the boy, dangling a mask just his size and invites him to join her at the festival. With such an invitation, Olver breaks away from Mat and accepts her invite, Mat naming him, silently, an ungrateful little lout. Before he can object the two are out the door.

Then, calling him such endearments as "my sweet" and "lambkin," Tylin explains that she has a second key, waving it in front of his face for emphasis. Using one of the keys, she locks them both into the room, and then places both of them in her belt. He snaps, and angrily attempts to retrieve one of the keys, actually laying hands on her, muttering that he doesn't have time for this. She whips out a dagger and places it beneath his chin in such a manner that he has to stand on his tip toes or face a cut.

Coldly, she instructs him to remove his hands, then tells him to place his hands at his sides, since he wants to play roughly. He pleads with her, demanding to know what she is going to do, going so far in his panic as calling her by her name, which is a dangerous thing to do in Ebou Dar without first obtaining permission from the woman. Tylin does not answer, but using the dagger as a kind of goad, backs him up until he hits the bedpost in his bedroom. He suddenly comes to the conclusion that Tylin may be attempting to seduce him, and protests weakly, but to no avail.

A considerable time later, it is obvious that she has had her way with him. He smokes his pipe furiously, naked except for the foxhead medallion on his chest and the silk scarf tied around his neck. She chastises him because she says that he enjoyed himself as much as she, and then jokingly suggests that her great pleasure must have come from him being ta'veren. Meanwhile she sheathes both the dagger and her marriage knife which was used during the festivities.

Mat protests the he is the one who is supposed to do the chasing, and then privately considers that she would be chaseable if she were a tavern maid and if she didn't have a son who liked poking holes in people. Tylin laughs while informing him she left him a gift in the sitting room and admonishes him to eat well—he is going to need his strength.

Mat covers his eyes and attempts not to weep. When he uncovers them, she is gone.

He grumbles about how she peeled off his clothing with her knife as he walks around the room wrapped in one of the bedsheets. He dresses and then stuffs the clothes cut off him underneath the bed until he has a chance to dispose of them without Nerim finding out.

He checks the box where the room key is normally kept, and it is gone; he had expected as much. He ponders his options and finds that none of them are attractive and blames it all on the women in his life.

He finds Queen Tylin's gift, wrapped in green, and placed on one of the tables in the sitting room. Inside is a festival mask, twenty gold crowns and a note that instructs him, "piglet," to get his ear pierced and buy himself something nice. Very nearly weeping with frustration, he protests silently once again that he is supposed to do the chasing and then takes the mask, reasoning that it is worth the cost of the coat that Tylin cut off of him.

He meets Birgitte and Nalesean in the courtyard, both dressed for the festival and Birgitte wearing a revealing dress, a style in which Mat had never seen her. She explains that sometimes its fun to be looked at, and that the dress is both pretty and functional. She then asks him what kept him, hoping out loud that it wasn't to tickle a pretty girl. Mat hopes he isn't blushing. He is about to answer when twenty men join them in the courtyard, decked for the festival, except for Beslan, the Queen's son, who is twirling his mask instead of wearing it. Mat demands to know what he is doing there. Nalesean responds that Beslan intends to spend the festival with Mat, though it will be boring. Beslan refuses to believe that, saying that he never had as much fun as when he went drinking with Mat and Lady Elayne's Warder on Swovan Night, Mat thinking that he does not realize that the woman he is examining with satisfaction is that Warder. Birgitte actually smiles under the scrutiny.

Mat does not care; he just doesn't want to spend the day with Beslan, partly because of his most recent bedtime experience, and the likelihood that when the Queen's son finds out about it, he will use his sword to skewer Mat.

Mat tries to talk Beslan out of it, but gets nowhere, except to begin exciting the man's ire. He, Birgitte, and Nalesean leave the palace, taking half a dozen "feathered fools" following, he muses, because of Birgitte's attire.

Mat and she exchange banter about her behavior while Beslan was examining her. He muses that the world is strange when one woman is a drinking buddy—a friend—and the other chases him, whether he wills it or not.

They enter the Festival, proper. Beslan explains that on cold days the festivals stray indoors. On hot days, it spills out into the streets. He also promises that the night will be way better than the day. And, as the daylight fades, Beslan is proved right, as inhibitions also fade.

Mat finds himself more and more amazed; he wants to shout sometimes, "put some clothes on!" but does not.

Part of the Festival is an object called a "setting"—large decorated carts with various persons dressed as casually as on their birthdays. They are remarkable to behold, and followers trail behind them, throwing coins and sometimes notes. Sometimes Mat's party has to race to an alley keep from getting stampeded, waiting while the setting passes by.

At one of these waits, a man approaches—a beggar—and Beslan prevents Nalesean from donating because he is not wearing a brass ring signifying membership in the Beggars Guild. Mat protests and finds himself attacked by that beggar. Mat grabs him and throws him back into the crowd.

A second beggar attempts to push Birgitte out of the way in order to get to Mat, and is stabbed by her for his trouble. A third beggar approaches, and Mat attempts to warn Birgitte with a shout but fells him with his own knife, thrown sideways. And suddenly they are surrounded by beggars with knives and spiked clubs. A melee follows.

Mat and Birgitte fight back-to-back. One of the beggars mention "Old Cully" not liking this as the fight continues. Suddenly beggars assault the beggars who are assaulting Mat's company. Beslan, covered with blood, nevertheless grins and encourages Mat to leave the premises and let "The Fellowship of Alms" finish the job, stating there was no honor in fighting beggars. Mat takes a moment to note the disarray the grinning company has been thrown into, all but Birgitte, who looks as neat as when they started out.

Mat growls at Beslan demanding to know if beggars in Ebou Dar go around attacking people. Beslan laughs and says it is because he is ta'veren. Mat bitterly muses that if his throat is slit, then he will not have to go back to the palace to be peeled like a pear.

The group stops at the Rose of Elbar to enjoy some bad tea. Mat's companions begin to grow restive as the sun rises. They soon realize that they are not going to get so much as a kiss from Birgitte so they wander off in search of more exhilarating entertainment. Both Birgitte and Nalesean wander off on their own errands leaving Mat and Beslan alone. Beslan observes that he never expected to see a Warder dressed like that, taking Mat by surprise. Beslan then follows up with the observation, "I think you will be good for my Mother, Mat." Mat spews bad tea on bystanders, but nothing more than glares come of it.

Mat asks what he means, and Beslan says, "that my mother chose you for her pretty." Beslan then asks Mat why his face is so red, and if he is angry. Then he realizes that Mat is embarrassed and explains that Tylin is his mother, not his wife, and that she has always been too busy for a pretty prior to Mat's appearance. When Mat stomps off, he asks where he is going and Mat says he needs to clear his head. Beslan observes that Mat is drinking tea, but Mat pays no attention. Instead he stomps off, incredulous that they both know. He shouts back at Nalesean's query that "If I'm not back by tomorrow, tell them that they'll have to find it for themselves!" His head is so madly spinning at the whole culture of this topsy-turvy city that he doesn't realize the dice are still spinning in his head.

Point of view: Reanne Corly

Reanne watches Solain head toward the river, noting that some fellow follows. She accepts it, as Solain can handle men.

She wonders why the urge has grown so strong today. She spoke the order before she thought, and it had been something she could not retract until the proper time. At least those two fools, Elayne and Nynaeve, were not around and had not been for days, and there had been no need for taking dangerous chances.

All the while she keeps reassuring herself that "all will be well."

She turns, and we learn that she is in a room with twelve others, who are Elders, but she is Eldest. She then tells them that they should consider moving all those wearing the belt to the farm for a while. She then muses that as Eldest there is no harm in behaving as Aes Sedai do.




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