Mat's Memories

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"Soft, the winds, like springtime's fingers. Soft, the rains, like heaven's tears. Soft, the years roll by in gladness, never hinting storms to come, never hinting whirlwinds' ravage, rain of steel and battle thunder, war to tear the heart asunder."

It was "Midean's Ford." An old song; of Manetheren, oddly enough, and war before the Trolloc Wars. Natael did a fair job of it; nothing like Thom's sonorous recitals, of course, but the rolling words drew a crowd of Aiel thick around the edge of the fire's light. Villainous Aedomon led the Saferi down on unsuspecting Manetheren, pillaging and burning, driving all before them until King Buiryn gathered Manetheren's strength, and the men of Manetheren met the Saferi at Midean's Ford, holding, though heavily outnumbered, through three days of unrelenting battle, while the river ran red and vultures blacked the sky. On the third day, numbers dwindling, hope fading, Buiryn and his men fought their way across the ford in a desperate sortie, driving deep into Aedomon's horde, seeking to turn the enemy back by killing Aedomon himself. But forces too great to overpower swept in around them, trapping them, driving them ever in on themselves. Surrounding their king and the Red Eagle banner, they fought on, refusing surrender even when their doom became clear.

Natael sang how their courage touched even Aedomon's heart, and how at last he allowed the remnant to go free, turning his army back to Safer in honor of them.

"Back across the blood-red water, marching back with heads held high. No surrender, arm or sword, no surrender, heart or soul. Honor be theirs, ever after, honor all the Age shall know."

He plucked the final chord, and the Aiel whistled their approval, drumming spears on their hide bucklers, some raising ululating cries.

It had not been that way, of course. Mat could remember ... Light, I don't want to! But it came anyway ... he remembered counseling Buiryn not to accept the offer, being told in return that the smallest chance was better than none. Aedomon, glossy black beard hanging below the steel mesh that veiled his face, drew his spearmen back, waited until they were strung out and nearly to the ford before the hidden archers rose and the cavalry charged in. As for turning back to Safer.... Mat did not think so. His last memory at the ford was trying to keep his feet, waist-deep in the river with three arrows in him, but there was something later, a fragment. Seeing Aedomon, gray-bearded now, go down in a sharp fight in a forest, toppling from his rearing horse, the spear in his back put there by an unarmored, beardless boy (TSR, Ch. 37).


"Fool Shaido," Aviendha muttered at his back. Maybe she was right; maybe the amusement was for her riding. But Rand did not think so.

Mat galloped up trailing a cloud of yellowish brown dust, hat pulled low and spear resting upright on his stirrup iron like a lance. "What is this place, Rand?" he asked loudly, to be heard over the shouts. "All those women would say was 'Move faster. Move faster.' " Rand told him, and he frowned at the towering rock face of the butte. "You could hold that thing for years, I suppose, with supplies, but it isn't a patch on the Stone, or the Tora Harad."

"The Tora what?" Rand said. .

Mat rolled his shoulders before answering. "Just something I heard of, once." He stood in his stirrups to peer back over the heads of the Jindo toward the peddlers' train. "At least they're still with us. I wonder how long before they finish trading and go." (TSR, Ch. 49).


Grunting, he closed his eyes again. Cute? Light! And short. Only Aiel could call him short. In every other land he had been in, he was taller than most men, if not always by much. He could remember being tall. Taller than Rand, when he rode against Artur Hawkwing. And a hand shorter than he was now when he fought beside Maecine against the Aelgari. He had spoken to Lan, claiming he had overheard some names; the Warder said Maecine had been a king of Eharon, one of the Ten Nations ... that much Mat already knew ... some four or five hundred years before the Trolloc Wars. Lan doubted that even the Brown Ajah knew more; much had been lost in the Trolloc Wars, and more in the War of the Hundred Years. Those were the earliest and latest of the memories that had been planted in his skull. Nothing after Artur Paendrag Tanreall, and nothing before Maecine of Eharon (TFoH, Ch. 22).


Scrubbing a hand through his hair, Mat sat down heavily on the coping. The memories that had once cluttered his head like raisins in a cake now blended with his own. In one part of his mind he knew he had been born in the Two Rivers twenty years before, but he could remember clearly leading the flanking attack that turned the Trollocs at Maighande, and dancing in the court of Tarmandewin, and a hundred other things, a thousand. Mostly battles. He remembered dying more times than he wanted to think of. No seams between lives anymore; he could not tell his memories from the others unless he concentrated (TFoH, Ch. 3)


Frowning, he squatted with his elbows on his knees. Lan got down with him, but he hardly noticed. A dicey problem. And fascinating. "Best if you try to shove him away. Hit him from the south, mainly." He pointed to the River Gaelin; it joined the Alguenya some miles north of the city. "There are bridges up here. Leave the Shaido a clear path to them. Always leave a way out, unless you really want to find out how hard a man can fight when he's nothing to lose." His finger slid east. Wooded hills for the most part, it seemed. Probably not much different from right around here. "A blocking force here on this side of the river will make sure they go for the bridges, if it's big enough and positioned right. Once they are moving, Couladin won't want to try fighting someone ahead of him while you're coming behind." Yes. Almost exactly the same as at Jenje. "Not unless he's a complete fool, anyway. They might make it to the river in good order, but those bridges will choke them. I don't see Aiel swimming, or hunting out fords for that matter. Keep the pressure on, shove them across. With luck you'll be able to harry them all the way to the mountains." It was like Cuaindaigh Fords, too, late in the Trolloc Wars, and on much the same scale. Not much different from the Tora Shan, either. Or Sulmein Gap, before Hawkwing found his stride. The names flickered through his head, the images of bloody fields forgotten even by historians. Absorbed in the map as he was, they did not register as anything but his own remembrances. "Too bad you don't have more cavalry. Light cavalry is best for the harrying. Bite at the flanks, keep them running, and never let them settle to fight. But Aiel should do almost as well." (TFoH, Ch. 42)


The stormy meeting with Rand had gone on till the sun set, him dodging, refusing, Rand following as doggedly as Hawkwing after the rout at Cole Pass (TFoH, Ch. 51)


The music caught him up, missed notes and all, and the pattern dance, and memories floated in his head as they floated back and forth across the floor. In memory he was a head taller, with long golden mustaches and blue eyes. He wore a red-sashed coat of amber silk with a ruff of finest Barsine lace and yellow sapphire studs from Aramaelle on his chest, and he danced with a darkly beautiful emissary of the Atha'an Miere, the Sea Folk. The fine gold chain linking her nose ring to one of her multitude of earrings held tiny medallions that identified her as Wavemistress of Clan Shodin. He did not care how powerful she was; that was for the king to worry over, not a middling lord. She was beautiful and light in his arms, and they danced beneath the great crystal dome at the court of Shaemal, when all the world envied Coremanda's splendor and might. Other memories flitted around the edges, sparking off bits of that remembered dance. The morrow would bring news of increasingly heavy Trolloc raids out of the Great Blight, and another month word that Barsine of the golden spires had been ravaged and burned and the Trolloc hordes were sweeping south. So would begin what later would be called the Trolloc Wars, though none gave it that name to begin, three hundred years and more of all but unbroken battle, blood, fire and ruin before the Trollocs were driven back, the Dreadlords hunted down. So would begin the fall of Coremanda, with all its wealth and power, and Essenia, with its philosophers and famed seats of learning, of Manetheren and Eharon and all of The Ten Nations, smashed even in victory to rubble from which other lands would rise, lands that barely remembered the Ten Nations as more than myths of a happier time. But that lay ahead, and he banished those memories in the pleasure of this one. Tonight he danced the pattern dance with...

He blinked, for an instant startled by sunlight streaming through the windows and the fair face beaming up at him through a sheen of perspiration. Very nearly he fumbled the complex interweaving of his feet with Betse's as they whirled down the floor, but he caught himself before tripping her, the steps coming instinctively. This dance was his as surely as those memories were, borrowed or stolen, but so seamlessly woven into those he really had lived that he could no longer tell the difference without thinking. All his, now, filling holes in his own memories; he might as well have lived them all (LoC, Ch. 5).


Tylin Quintara, by the Grace of the Light, Queen of Altara, Mistress of the Four Winds, Guardian of the Sea of Storms, High Seat of House Mitsobar, awaited him in a room with yellow walls and a pale blue ceiling, standing before a huge white fireplace with a stone lintel carved into a stormy sea. She was well worth seeing, he decided. Tylin was not young ... the shiny black hair cascading over her shoulders had gray at the temples, and faint lines webbed the corners of her eyes ... nor was she exactly pretty, though the two thin scars on her cheeks had nearly vanished with age. Handsome came closer. But she was... imposing. Large dark eyes regarded him majestically, an eagle's eyes. She had little real power ... a man could ride beyond her writ in two or three days and still have a lot of Altara ahead ... but he thought she might make even an Aes Sedai step back. Like Isebele of Dal Calain, who had made the Amyrlin Anghara come to her. That was one of the old memories; Dal Calain had vanished in the Trolloc Wars (ACoS, Ch. 16).


She met his gaze with a merry twinkle and a grin. "There's enough noise in the common room, we could talk without being overheard. Besides, I wouldn't mind sitting and looking a bit. Elayne preaches like a Tovan councilor if I ogle a man for longer than a heartbeat."

He nodded before he thought. Other men's memories told him Tovans were a stark and disapproving people, abstemious to the point of pain; at least they had been, a thousand years gone and more. He was not sure whether to laugh or groan. On the one hand, a chance to talk with Birgitte ... Birgitte! he doubted he would ever get over the shock ... but on the other, he doubted he would be able to hear the music downstairs for the noise of those dice rattling in his skull. She must be a key to it, somehow. A man with any brains would climb out the window right now. "A pitcher or two sounds fine to me," he told her (ACoS, Ch. 21).


"I don't bloody care about your bargains with anybody else, you daughter of the sands," Mat snapped. So his irritation was not that well under control. A man could only take so much.

Gasps rose among the women behind her. Something over a thousand years ago a Sea Folk woman had called an Essenian soldier a son of the sands just before trying to plant a blade in his ribs; the memory lay tucked inside Mat Cauthon's head, now. It was not the worst insult among the Atha'an Miere, but it came close. Renaile's face gorged with blood; hissing, eyes bulging in fury, she leaped to her feet, that moonstone-studded dagger flashing in her fist (ACoS, Ch. 39).


He went, muttering to himself. Just like an Aes Sedai. Offer to help her, and the next thing you knew, she had you scaling a sheer cliff in the middle of the night to break fifty people out of a dungeon by yourself. That had been another man, a long time dead, but he remembered it, and it fit. (Mat thinking about Teslyn.) (WH, Ch. 19).


Setting out in search of either [Thom and Juilin] he unconsciously began humming "I'm Down at the Bottom of the Well." Well, he was, and night was falling and the rain well and truly coming down. As often happened, another name drifted up out of those old memories, a song of the Court of Takedo in Farashelle, crushed a thousand years ago and more by Artur Hawkwing. The intervening years had made remarkably little change in the tune itself, though. Then, it had been called "The Last Stand of Mandenhar." Either way, it fit too bloody well (WH, Ch. 19).


"And if I asked you to wait for three hours?" he asked, still crouching over her. "I remember the Atha'an Miere judging the passage of an hour within minutes." That fellow had not been him, but the memory was his now, passage on an Atha'an Miere vessel from Allorallen to Barashta, and a bright-eyed Sea Folk woman who wept when she refused to follow him ashore. (Mat to Nestelle din Sakura South Star) (WH, Ch. 31).


"The Wheel has turned for better or worse. And it will keep on turning, as lights die and forests dim, storms call and skies break. Turn it will. The Wheel is not hope, and the Wheel does not care, the Wheel simply is. But so long as it turns, folk may hope, folk may care. For with light that fades, another will eventually grow and each storm that rages must eventually die. As long as the Wheel turns. As long as it turns. . ."

Thom recites the above words, which Mat comments have the sound of a song. Thom confirms this, telling of Doreille writing poetry in the very area in which they are riding. Though Mat still has gaps in his own memory, at this moment he has one of those other men's memories. He was standing on the walls of a mountain fort, in the Splintered Hills of Coremanda, near a natural landmark called The Eagle's Reaches. A pennant-laden army was charging up the hill, arrows raining down upon them. The broken road was there, even in this ancient memory. Below Mat, a woman stood on a balcony--Doreille, the Queen of Aridhol. Aridhol had existed long before, along with Manetheren. The capital of Aridhol was now called Shadar Logoth. Though Mat quashes the other man's memory, he has his own memory, a memory of a ruby dagger, and a lust that still leaches into him (TGS, Ch. 27).


During the insanity in Hinderstap, Mat guides Pips with his knees. He has trained Pips to obey battle commands, all from those other men's' memories (TGS, Ch. 28).


Mat has memories from those other men of fighting in Caemlyn (ToM, Ch. 8).


When Thom is telling of the Banath People, Mat "remembers" the incident (ToM, Ch. 47).