A/N: CoT, from Tuon's pov. Like many, I am very intrigued by the Mat-Tuon storyline, and wish there was more. The characters are probably horribly out of character, and my twist is probably boring besides. I intend to continue, but it may take me awhile. Please review and tell me what you think. No flames please, I'm not allowed to have fire in my dorm room.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan does. All the dialogue andmost of the character actions come straight from Crossroads of Twilight. Please don't sue me, as I have neither money nor a lawyer.
The High Lady Tuon tried to remain interested in her book. She tried to pretend she was not in a cramped wagon with two other women, dressed in what might as well have been a sack, not even allowed to see daylight. She tried to pretend she was not bothered by what Setalle had told her. She would remain true to the course she had chosen. However uncomfortable she might be, and however much she doubted it.
She looked up when the door opened, and the source of her discomfort entered. He was handsome enough, she supposed, but he looked different than he had in the palace. He was dressed much plainer, for certain, and missing both his silk scarf and his signet ring. She still did not know why he had taken her. Not really. He had been intending to leave her in the stables, until Selucia let slip that she was the Daughter of the Nine Moons. That had been what changed his mind, she was sure of it. And then he named her his wife, three times, just like for the ceremony. She still wasn't sure what her answer would be, or even if he knew he had asked the question. But why would he have said that in the first place? Enough. She would not let him put her off balance. She was who she was, and she could still control herself, and Selucia.
"Setalle has been keeping me informed. She's told me the story you have put about concerning me, Toy," Tuon drawled coolly.
"My name is Mat."
Without thinking, she grabbed the nearest projectile she could reach: a pottery cup. She threw it at his head, and had the pleasure of seeing him drop to the floor hastily. But that wasn't enough for her.
"I am a servant, Toy?" she demanded as coldly as she knew how. Ooh, but that made her want to hand him to the Seekers. "A thieving servant?" She stood, disregarding the book as it slid to the floor, and reached for the chamber pot. "A faithless servant?" As if she could possibly be any on of those three things! The nerve! The gall! The utter lack of respect!
"We will need that," Selucia explained as she took the chamber pot away. Then she set herself at Tuon's feet, ready to attack the man at a word.
Setalle handed her another cup from the shelf. "We have plenty of these."
Alright, they had a point. Tuon pretended not to see the look Mat shot at Setalle.
Someone thumped on the door. "Do you need help in there?"
"We have everything well in hand," Setalle called, calmly taking up her embroidery again. "Go on about your work. Don't dawdle."
Tuon had to fight not to smile. She looked down at the painted cup, turning it over as if the answers to all her questions lay written among the flowers. The man might think he was in charge, but if he thought that, she would quickly teach him otherwise. "I will not be a servant, Toy." She used a perfectly reasonable tone, merely making a statement.
"My name is Mat, not…that other thing," he said as he stood.
Tuon thought about throwing the cup at him, but he was continuing. "I could hardly tell the showfolk I'd kidnapped the Daughter of the Nine Moons." He sounded exasperated, on edge. Good.
"The High Lady Tuon, peasant! She is under the veil!" Selucia informed him fiercely.
Tuon moved her hand in a gesture laden with meaning. "It is of no import, Selucia. He is ignorant, yet. We must educate him. But you will change this story, Toy. I will not be a servant." The very idea was preposterous.
"It's too late to change anything," Mat protested. "Nobody's asking you to be a servant. I couldn't leave you behind to raise an alarm. I know Mistress Anan has explained it to you." He paused as if about to say more, then said only, "I know she's already told you this, but I promise no one's going to hurt you. We're not after ransom, just getting away with our heads still attached. As soon as I can figure out how to send you home safe and sound, I will. I promise. I'll make you as comfortable as I can until then. You'll just have to put up with the other."
What he said made some sense, at least. "It seems I will see what your promises are worth, Toy." Selucia hissed, but Tuon hushed her a hand signal. She knew what she was doing.
"Answer me a question, Tuon."
"How old are you?"
How dare he! She straightened and put on her imperial face as she recited, "My fourteenth true-name day will come in five months." Try as she might, she couldn't keep the heat from her voice. She noted the change in his expression, and realized she needed to clarify. "No; you keep your birth names here, don't you. That will be my twentieth naming day. Are you satisfied, Toy? Did you fear that you had stolen a…child?" What sort of thoughts were going through his head?
He waved his hands frantically as if to ward off her anger. "I just wanted to know, that's all," he lied. "I was curious, making conversation. I'm only a little older myself."
Tuon studied him. He was unlikely to explain now, after lying. The man would try her patience to the limit. She tossed the cup she had almost forgotten about onto the bed and sat carefully. Some habits were hard to break. She looked him over briefly, then asked, "Where is your ring?"
She saw his hand react unconsciously, and almost smiled. "I don't wear it all the time," he explained. He moved to sit on the bed, but Selucia slid onto it swiftly. Setalle obviously had no intention of moving over, so he was left to lean against a cabinet. When he slouched, Tuon frowned. He should not act so at ease in her presence. Then he had the temerity to grin!
Tuon breathed out very slowly, holding her temper for all she was worth. Remembering something, she asked almost absently, "Do you remember Hawkwing's face, Toy?" Neither Setalle nor Selucia understood why she would ask such a question, but she concentrated on Mat.
She was certain his face froze. His eyes seemed very far away, as if he was seeing something beyond the wagon. And he took entirely too long to answer. Any man would have answered immediately after getting over his surprise. Mat did not look surprised so much as caught.
He took a deep breath before finally answering with very careful words. "Of course I don't! Light, Hawkwing died a thousand years ago! What kind of question is that?"
As she opened her mouth, she considered and discarded a dozen possible replies. What was he hiding? "A foolish one, Toy. I can't say why it popped into my head."
He seemed to accept her answer. "My name is Mat. Mat Cauthon."
She ignored him. "I cannot say what I will do after returning to Ebou Dar, Toy. I have not decided. I may have you made da'covale. You are not pretty enough for a cupbearer, but it might please me to have you for one. Still, you have represented certain promises to me, so it pleases me now to promise, as well. So long as you keep you promises, I will neither escape nor betray you in any way, nor will I cause dissension among your followers. I believe that covers everything necessary." She fell silent and waited for his reply. She had no doubts how he would choose.
He almost whimpered, and swallowed, before saying, "Well, that does all right for you, but what about Selucia?"
"Selucia follows my wishes, Toy," Tuon said. Why did he wait?
She was surprised when he spat in his palm and expected her to shake it.
"Your customs are…earthy," she told him dryly, before spitting in her palm and taking his hand. "'Thus is out treaty written; thus is agreement made.' What does that writing on your spear mean, Toy?"
She didn't know why her question should make him whimper. It seemed a strange thing to do.
Someone knocked on the door, and Mat spun. Knives appeared in his hands from nowhere. "Stay behind me."
The door opened, and a white-haired old man entered. "I trust I'm not interrupting anything?
Mat's face turned the most glorious shade of red as he slid the knives back up his sleeves. "What did you find out, Thom?"
"The streets are full of rumors about her," Thom replied with a nod towards her, "but nothing about her disappearing. I bought drinks for a few Seanchan officers, and they seem to believe she's snug in the Tarasin Palace or off on an inspection trip. I didn't sense any dissembling, Mat. They didn't know."
She couldn't believe this! He must truly be ignorant of the Empire, if he expected rumors of her kidnapping. "Did you expect public announcements, Toy? As it is, Suroth may be considering taking her own life for the shame. Do you expect her to spread such an ill omen for the Return about for everyone to see on top of that?"
"There's more, Mat," Thom said, with a strange look for Tuon. "Tylin's dead. They're keeping it quiet for fear of disturbances, but one of the Palace Guards, a young lieutenant who couldn't hold his brandy, told me they're planning her funeral feast and Beslan's coronation for the same day."
That might present a minor problem for the Return. Only a minor one, of course.
"How?" Mat demanded. Tuon glanced at him. He had been involved with Tylin. She knew that much. Her pet, her toy.
Thom hesitated before replying. "She was found in her bedchamber the morning after we left, Mat, still bound hand and foot. Her head….Her head had been torn off."
Mat's knees gave way and he hit the floor. He looked lost. "The Windfinders?"
"According to what that lieutenant said, the Seanchan have settled on Aes Sedai for the blame. Because Tylin had sworn the Seanchan oaths. That's what they'll announce at her funeral feast."
"Tylin dies the same night the Windfinders escape, and the Seanchan believe the Aes Sedai killed her? That doesn't make sense, Thom." He sounded only half aware.
"It could be political, in part, but I think that's what they really believe, Mat," Thom offered. "That lieutenant said they're sure the Windfinders were running too hard to stop or go out of their way, and the quickest path out of the palace from the damane kennels does nowhere near Tylin's apartments."
Mat grunted, apparently unconvinced. Tuon directed Selucia with hand gestures to speak.
"The marath'damane had reason to murder Tylin. They must fear her example for others. What reason had the damane you speak of? None. The hand of justice requires motive and proof, even for damane and da'covale."
Tuon's hands stilled as Mat looked her way. She didn't know why it was important that he not see her speak with them. "Did you care for Tylin so deeply?" she asked cautiously, aware that this might cause him pain.
"Yes. No. Burn me, I liked her!" He turned away from her, pushing his hat off. "And I left her tied up and gagged so she couldn't even call for help, easy prey for the gholam," he added. "It was looking for me. Don't shake your head. Thom. You know it as well as I do."
What was this? "What is a…gholam?" Tuon inquired.
"Shadowspawn, my Lady," Thom replied. He showed respect, at least. "It looks like a man, but it can slip through a mousehole, or under a door, and it's strong enough to….Well, enough of that. Mat, she could have had a hundred guards around her, and it wouldn't have stopped that thing."
What he described could not be so. It sounded like a story to frighten children. "A gholam," she murmured. She rapped Mat's head to draw his attention back to her. "I'm very happy that you show loyalty to Tylin, Toy," she was, though she didn't want to think too much about why, "but I won't have superstition in you. I will not have it. It does Tylin no honor." He hardly seemed to hear or appreciate her comment.
Someone knocked on the door again, but Mat failed to react this time. A strange man entered rudely and ignored all but Mat. "Joline wants you, Cauthon."
Tuon was surprised by the spurt of jealousy. "Who is Joline?"
Mat seemed not to hear her. "Tell Joline I'll see her once we're on the road, Blaeric."
"She wants you now, Cauthon."
Mat sighed and rose. Tuon could not believe he would go to another woman just because she asked it. He had no right! "Who is Joline, Toy?" she demanded again, deliberately using the nominative he hated so much.
"A bloody Aes Sedai," he crumbled as he placed his hat on his head and headed for the door.
Tuon very nearly reached for the cup to throw at the door as it closed behind the men. Not even a word of farewell! She would teach him some respect. And he had better keep his promise! And what was an Aes Sedai doing in the camp, one that Mat knew? He was keeping secrets, and she didn't like that.
She would discover his secrets, and she would learn of him. Before she made her choice.