The Gathering Storm: Chapter 20
From Tar Valon Library
Author: Marivea al'Corriyi
On a Broken Road
Chapter Icon: Five dice, arranged in a ring
Point of View: Mat
Setting: Somewhere in the foothills of the Damona Mountains.
Mat and Talmanes are riding down a ruined highway, not particularly sure where they are. Mat is expounding on how impossible women are using a game of dice as an example. Vanin rides up with a map in his hand. Mats asks if Vanin has figured out where they are and Vanin is not sure. It depends on what mountain it is that is ahead of them but he thinks he knows where they are. Mat let Vanin ride off to scout thinking to himself that if Vanin were to spy on an enemy army he'd get close enough to count the whiskers on the camp guards' beards and make off with their stew, too, all without being seen.
As Vanin leaves Mat hurries to catch up with Talmanes and thinks to himself how ridiculous the Cairhien man looks in his Cairhienin clothing even if the man was loyal and had excellent taste in wine he still had horrid taste in fashions. Talmanes mentions the Band's great victories but Mat says that one thousand men buried is not a victory. Talmanes says losses are inevitable. Mat says there are only losses when one fights. Talmanes asks why Mat fights so often then, and Mat says he only fights when he cannot avoid it. Mat thinks to himself how impossible noblemen are; even decent ones like Talmanes.
This sets Mat to thinking about his own title he got by marrying Tuon. He wonders if the Seanchan will pursue him. He knows Tuon knows what his Band is capable of. Then he wonders if Tuon loves him. Yes, she did stay with him when she could have escaped but if it were best for her Empire he is certain she would attack him. Thinking about Tuon's narrow escape from Seanchan soldiers after the reward money placed on her head fills Mat with conflicting emotions about letting her go and he mentions it. Talmanes says Mat did give his word and the Captain of the Deathwatch Guard wouldn't have taken it well had Mat tried to keep her. Mat is not reassured and Talmanes tells him he's sounding husbandly; Mat does not take well to this.
Mat asks Talmanes if he's ever been in love or wanted to marry. Talmanes says he's been in love several times but never married, thank the Light. Talmanes realizes what he just said and tries to soothe Mat saying Mat's marriage will work. Mat thinks about how inconvenient his marriage to Tuon is and says that no matter what he won't stop gambling or drinking. Talmanes teases him about this with a straight face but humor in his eyes. Mat says he isn't going soft no matter what anyone says. Talmanes says some of the greatest generals alive are married.
Mat tells Talmanes that when they get to town he and Talmanes are going dicing. Talmanes objects because of the inferior wine but Mat insists. Mat checks briefly on Olver who is riding with Noal, listening to one of the man's tales.
Vanin returns and confirms their position and says there's a town just over the ridge. Joline overhears and she, Edesina and Teslyn ride up to him. Talmanes stops the army so they can talk. Mat refuses to think of Joline, a Green Aes Sedai, as pretty because if he did he would end up wrapped around her little finger or even bonded to him as she has hinted before. He wonders if she is still angry at him for paddling her. Mat looks at the other two Aes Sedai and thinks that Edesina, a Yellow, is pleasant-appearing enough but that Teslyn is about as appetizing as a stick though she shows respect to Mat - even more suprising because she is a Red.
Joline demands of Vanin if he knows where they are. He affirms rather crudely but rephrases politely after she stares him down, to Mat's dismay. Joline is pleased there is a town nearby because there will likely be an inn and decent food. Teslyn asks how far they are to Caemlyn, ignoring Joline as who also ignores her. The two have been squabbling for weeks although they were displeased when he referred to it as such. Mat and Vanin agree that Caemlyn is about two hundred leagues distant from their present location. He plans to go to Caemlyn to resupply and get information before going to the Tower of Ghenjei with Thom. Teslyn asks how long it will take to get to Caemlyn. Vanin says a little over a week without the Band, on familiar territory and with an extra horse or two. With the army which cannot cut through the forest he says it will take at least twenty days. Mat says he won't leave the Band behind. Joline then demands twenty horses for herself, Edesina, Teslyn, Setalle, the two sul'dam and some pack horses, also grain, coin for inns and a handful of soldiers to care for the horses. Mat refuses rudely and offers instead one horse apiece, no soldiers and bare provisions. Joline sniffs and apparently declines. Mat tells Talmanes make sure the seven thousand soldiers do not go into the town and that Mat will send out as much ale as he can buy while he bargains for supplies. Talmanes does so then asks Mat why he was brusque beyond his normal behavior then divines that Mat misses Tuon deeply. Mat denies this then says he is going to go get some supplies and he bets he can get them for free. Talmanes says that's something he has got to see.