CoT: Chapter 28
A Cluster of Rosebuds
Mat POV - Valan Luca's circus moves slowly through Altara along the Great North Road toward Lugard. He stops at every town for a performance causing slow progress. Seanchan settlers and soldiers often pass by, sometimes riding torm. Mat is sure the Seanchan must be searching for Tuon even though Suroth is keeping it a secret. He keeps company with Noal, Vanin and the Redarms Harnan, Fergin, Metwyn and Gorderan. Vanin is a better cook than Latelle. They pass through the village of Weesin about thirty miles from Ebou Dar. Mat has trouble keeping Edesina, Joline and Teslyn, Bethamin, Renna and Seta under control. With his foxhead medallion he can tell they are channeling. Blaeric and Fen do not help. He cannot manage to get the a'dam away from the sul'dam.1 The Seanchan seem to be heading to Illian in force. More of the settlers are heading east because of stories of Aiel ravaging to the north. Rumor has Suroth making an alliance with someone powerful who will give them access to many lands.2 Juilin and Thom also scout for news in the villages. Thom also plays Snakes and Foxes with Olver. Juilin and Thera are happy together. Mat worries about Thera's reliability so he sets Noal to watch them. Noal suggests getting rid of her, but Mat will have none of it. He already killed one woman3 and left another to die.4 Lopin and Nerim still serve Mat. Thom seems sadder as they move.5 Mat shares a wagon with Egeanin and Domon.
The night after they leave, Mat goes to visit Tuon taking Egeanin with him. Tuon is playing Snakes and Foxes with Olver. Noal is also there. He has been telling stories of Co'dansin and the Ayyad. He suddenly remembers something and recites:
"Fortune rides like the sun on high
with the fox that makes the ravens fly.
Luck his soul, the lightning his eye,
He snatches the moons from out of the sky."6
Noal says it is from the Prophecies of the Dragon. Mat sees the swirling colors again.7 Tuon asks Noal to take Olver to bed and he does. Mat presents Tuon with a gaudy necklace. She gives it to Selucia who then throws it at Egeanin, insulting her and likening her to a shea dancer. Tuon calls her " Leilwin Shipless." Egeanin is humiliated and begs to leave. Setalle tells Mat to behave. He gives up and leaves.
The next night Mat returns and offers to play stones. Tuon beats him easily. The next night he brings a paper flower and presents it to Selucia. They play every night and Mat wins about half. He continues to bring cloth flowers to Selucia. After three nights with no gift, Mat brings a beautiful cluster of silk rosebuds and just sets it beside the stones board. When they play to a draw, Tuon says that she wants to take walks and Mat may accompany her. He tells her about the Two Rivers. When she asks what he does, Mat says his is a gambler. She replies that her father was a gambler and that he died of a bad wager. He asks what she does for fun. She replies that she trains horses and damane. One day Egeanin complains that he is obviously courting Tuon and mentions the ceremony. A Seanchan wedding consists of the each party naming the other their spouse three times with witnesses.8 For the Blood they do not even have to be in each other's presence. They reach the River Eldar and take the ferry across from the town of Alkindar on the west bank to Coramen on the east. It is an important crossing with lots of Seanchan troops about. Mat rides Pips across with the first wagons. There are several hundred soldiers and a few raken in camps around the towns. The dice start rattling and Mat sees that Tuon is riding in the front of her wagon. He is sure she will betray him but she does not. While Luca sets up his show to perform, Tuon makes a request of Mat.9 On the third day of travel after leaving the river they reach the town of Jurador. Mat says he will honor her request. She smiles and the dice stop.
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