|<<< Promises to Keep >>>|
|Setting: Ebou Dar, Altara|
After finding the Bowl of the Winds, the group has returned to the palace and are gathered in a room provided them by Queen Tylin, who with Elayne and Nynaeve flanking her on either side, listen passively as Matrim Cauthon, with his fear of the gholam, tries to convince them to leave. He marvels that both Aes Sedai look as if they have bathed and changed clothes after wallowing in the dust of that closet where the Bowl had been found, though he notes that they haven't been out of his sight for more than a few minutes at any given time. He is still covered from head to foot in muck. All three women look regal and formidable.
Merilille protests that she has never heard of a shadowspawn called a "gholam" and asks the same of the four other Aes Sedai in the room with her: Adeleas, Vandene, Sareitha and Careane. Mat would feel crowded in this room if only Tylin were in it, but with all seven Aes Sedai and Tylin... He notes that the five are now meek when dealing with the two but he still doesn't understand. Elayne and Nynaeve know about the gholam, yet do nothing as the five treat Mat as a hairy-eared lout who needs to be kicked and are ready to do the kicking.
Mat protests that he, Elayne, Nynaeve and the five Wise Women present in the room saw the thing and demands that they be questioned. The Wise Women just huddle in fear, all but Sumeko, who has obviously had a conversation with Nynaeve on their way back to the palace and the new attitude toward the Aes Sedai shows up in her posture.
Renaile din Calon Blue Star, Windfinder to the Mistress of the Ships speaks up, saying that no one denies his word, just that she does not like leaving the water without good cause, and she questions the danger, to which Merilille quickly agrees. Mat notes the twenty additional Sea Folk who stand behind her chair. He notes that though Sea Folk are respectful toward Aes Sedai they are also smug. His Memories tell him little about the Atha'an Miere, but they tell him some: that every Wavemistress and Master of the Blades starts out as a lowly deck hand on some ship, and that they are sticklers for rank, which he then proceeds to analyze as regards the members of the Sea Folk present.
Mat attempts a history lesson concerning the gholam, how they were created during the War of Power, how they were designed to assassinate Aes Sedai, how the Power won't touch them, how a gholam can sense channeling, how they are very strong, how they can squeeze through cracks. He notes that only six were ever made; three males and three females. Then he discusses the one in Ebou Dar, how it was probably kept since the Breaking in a stasis box, how it was sent by the Forsaken, probably to assassinate Elayne and Nynaeve, and to retrieve the Bowl of the Winds. Of the latter he gets a very minor response, mostly a wave to continue his little precis.
He does so by explaining that whoever sent the gholam knows that the Bowl is here in the Tarasin Palace and that if he or she sends the gholam here, many of them are going to die; he cannot protect every one of them all at once. And the gholam will probably get the Bowl. He drops the name of Falion Bhoda and points out that the Black Ajah are also out there.
To no surprise, the Wise women become indignant at the mention of the Black Ajah as do the five Aes Sedai, but Mat realizes there isn't a lot he can do except press on. Which is why he ends his speech by demanding of them, "Now do you see why you need to... take the Bowl... somewhere the gholam doesn't know about?"
Renaile the Sea Folk leader refuses to believe Mat, throwing doubt upon his words and very nearly calling him a liar.
Mat looks to Elayne and Nynaeve who sit silently, not adding one word of support. He does not look to Birgitte at all, who is the source of his information about gholam and stasis boxes. Mat begins by explaining that he read a book, but is viciously cut off by Renaile once more, disdaining a book not known by Aes Sedai.
Mat suddenly realizes he is the only man in the room, all others having been sent off to perform errands. He wonders once again why neither Elayne nor Nynaeve does not speak up in his defense. He examines the women in the room and suddenly suspects that he has been handling this the wrong way. He walks toward the Sea Folk in a manner that makes a couple of Aes Sedai sniff and whisper "such insolence!" He doesn't care. He suddenly knows he is being used, and he hates the feeling.
Stopping in front of Renaille he looks at the faces behind, before studying her, which obviously causes her discomfort. Starting a new monologue, he says in essence, "You can all channel and I don't particularly care." Renaile begins a protest to Nynaeve that listening to Mat was not part of their bargain, but Mat viciously cuts her off by calling her "daughter of sands" which is a very grave insult among the Sea Folk. Renaile reacts as expected, pulling out a blade. Mat snatches it from her and shoves her back into her seat before she can react, then insults the Sea Folk some more. Finally he declares himself the Master of the Blades whose blade is bared (which makes him senior, even if temporarily), and then tells them straightaway that they will go where Elayne and Nynaeve say or he will tie them up and haul them there anyway slung across the backs of pack horses. Somehow that works. Renaile agrees grudgingly, and her response surprises her people. Mat and the Windmistress strike a bargain and Mat gives Renaile back her knife.
Renaile says calmly that she has just made a bargain with a ta'veren but promises Mat that someday if it pleases the Light, he will walk a rope for her. Mat agrees that all things are possible if it pleases the Light. That ends the discussion and Mat suggests that they choose a place far away from there and remove to it with the Bowl.
Discussion of their destination follows, but it is Reanne from the Kin who suggests the Kin's farm a few miles away that is finally, quickly accepted by Nynaeve and Elayne. As everyone files out to get ready for the move, Mat calls Elayne and Nynaeve over. Before he can open his mouth, Elayne apologizes for using Mat, but promises there was a reason, and Nynaeve chimes in with, "which you do not need to know."
As they all leave they all see Tylin pinching Mat on the bottom, with various levels of approval. Tylin compliments him on how he handled Renaile, in such a style that Mat turns red. She then pronounces that she will miss him. He mutters a similar sentiment and realizes that he means it. He demands however, that on his return he'll do the chasing, but she disabuses him of the likelihood. He leaves her presence on unsteady feet tucking his shirt back into his trousers and noticing that everyone else is already gone.
He finds Thom, Juilin, Nerim and Lopin as they are making their exit from Tylin's quarters, loaded with his belongings. Thom flips a ring he found on Mat's pillow surrounded by flowers and loversknots on both pillows, calling it a parting gift. Mat angrily reminds Thom that he bought it with his own money while he jams it on his finger, but that doesn't stop the mirth in both Juilin and Thom.
He informs them all that he will be on his way as soon as he can grab Olver and he hopes they have grabbed their own things. Lopin pleads to stay behind to see Nalesean decently buried. Mat gently advises that if Lopin stays it might be for a long time and then offers to take him on as his manservant. Lopin readily assents.
They head toward his quarters to find Riselle there, but no Olver. She explains that she let Olver go after he read his pages and did his numbers. He will be back by sunset, she says he promised and she reminds Mat that Olver is good at keeping his promises.
Mat dashes to the rooms where Nynaeve and Elayne are staying to find all assembled and ready to move. Nynaeve agrees testily that Mat must go after Olver, and then as if a dam breaks all of them offer to help find the boy, from Lan to Birgitte and back again. He replies that the Bowl is too important.
The dice thunder in his head.
He turns to Lan and orders him to keep them safe. Startling Mat, Aviendha promises that they will, not understanding that she is in the group to be kept safe. The other warders comprehend, however and promise.
As Mat turns to leave, Nynaeve tells him that the storm is about to break and that he should take care of himself. And though he muses about what Nynaeve means, ultimately he shrugs it off. Meeting with his Redarms he explains the strategy to find Olver as quickly as possible. They nod their agreement and in that moment Mat has an epiphany; he suddenly feels responsible for the men gathered in front of him. Telling them to look sharp, that there's a storm coming (and in the process surprises himself), they disperse.
Standing in the Mol Hara Square, he notes that there is no sign of a storm. Then he moves, looking for Olver. Asking dozens of people if they have seen him, they respond with a negative after filling his head with some of the most outlandish rumors ever spilled. Mat keeps searching. A few streets from the river he hears thunder. He gets to the quay and determines that Olver is not likely to be there. Then he notices something peculiar; no one is moving. Ship's crew have mounted masts to look toward the bay where big thick columns of black smoke billow. He makes his way to the end of a dock and looks out. At least two dozen ships are burning. Several more have already settled. He watches as an Altaran ship gets blown apart. He notes that most ships are trying to depart; some upriver, some out to sea. His breath catches as he notices a ship with square, ribbed sails and recognizes it for a Seanchan vessel. Then he notices the winged beasts with passengers, flying over the city, blasting here and there. Desperate, he begins calling Olver's name, to no avail.
He finds himself running against the traffic and soon determines why--a column of Seanchan march by. Thinking he sees Olver at it's tail end, he follows it for a bit until he finds out that the red he saw was a little girl's dress. He continues in his wild meanderings until he sees ahead a sul'dam with her damane. He also sees a small resistance forming. Mat immediately understands that the resistance is going to get decimated by the sul'dam/damane pair. The sul'dam points and Mat's foxhead medallion cools. The ground underneath the resistance erupts and Mat is knocked on his back. The devastation from the explosion is incredible. The Ebou Dari resistance starts running in any direction other than where the Seanchan stand. Mat agrees to the soundness of the idea and starts running himself, staying close to the wall of the alley down which he runs, hoping that the sul'dam does not think him a soldier.
The sul'dam, however, strikes a second time and a second time he is flung to the ground. The masonry bulges outward. Mat shouts, "what happened to my bloody luck?" as the wall comes tumbling down upon him. Before it takes him, he realizes also, that the dice have stopped rattling.
- al'Lan Mandragoran
- Nynaeve al'Meara
- Matrim Cauthon
- Thomdril Merrilin
- Tylin Quintara Mitsobar
- Juilin Sandar
- Birgitte Silverbow
- Renaile din Calon Blue Star
- Sareitha Tomares
- Elayne Trakand
- Famelle Juarde
- Falion Bhoda
- Ispan Shefar
- Setalle Anan
- Pedron Niall