“Where is my daughter, Knotai?” She speaks without preamble, moving across the room until she stands before her idle husband. He’s seated before the fire, legs thrown over the arm of the stuffed chair he insisted upon having. There’s a plate on his bare chest, littered with crumbs and bits of cheese, and he’s drinking straight from a bottle of cheap swill. He doesn’t look at her, instead watches the flames of the flickering fire as though his wife, his Empress, is of little consequence.
“Our daughter is in Tar Valon by now, I’d imagine.” His response is so nonchalant, as though they were talking of mundane things. Horses, the weather. Had she less control, she might have allowed herself to show how staggering those words were. Her daughter, damane! But Fortuona Athaem Devi Paendrag did not gasp like a foolish girl and she certainly did not give in to the impulse to flip the hideous chair over with her damnable husband still seated on it.
“I could have you executed for this.” Her hands are on her hips now, a slip of her careful control. The words are no idle threat.
“You can, but you won’t.” Years had not stripped away his brazen nature or shaped him in to a proper member of the Blood; even the Seanchan Court could not bend the likes of ta'veren. She finds herself shuddering, thinking of it. Even now it is frightening to acknowledge that he is a legend living. An impossible myth who refused to shave his head, as he properly should.
With his usual, careless ease the man once known as Matrim Cauthon sits up, boots thudding to the ground as he sets the plate on the floor and lightly grabs her shoulders - wariness in his actions. He knows better than any alive that she might throw him across the room for breaking some unspoken rule or custom he doesn’t care to understand. And what he’s done this time is certainly worse than calling her by a former name or stepping on her shadow.
Knotai’s dark eyes attempt to catch her gaze but she refuses to even look at him. How can she after what he’s done?
When he finally speaks, his voice is lower, hoarse. Traced with unhappy resignation. “It was better this way. If I told you, you’d feel compelled to obey the law and have her collared. You’re too honorable to do anything else.” He is still staring at her, willing her to meet his eyes. She won’t look at him, she won’t. “Bode’s got her and she’ll keep a sharp eye on her, I promise.”
She wanted to ask if her daughter - no, her name must be stricken from the records now, I have no daughter - would write to them. If that imperious cow-witted marath'damane could care for one of the Blood properly. She didn’t. She couldn’t. She had no daughter now.
Tomorrow she would have it announced and would see about getting the girl back so that she might be collared properly, as all damane should be… Fortuona swallowed heavily, emotion surging to her throat. Choking her. “I couldn’t see her broken, Tuon. She’s our daughter.” His hands drop to his sides, shoulders slumped.
Upset as he is Knotai holds his arms up after a minute, the offer unspoken.
For the first time in their long, convoluted relationship, the Empress went to his arms, allowed herself to be enfolded in the warm comfort he offered as she cried bitter tears for what she’d lost. For what she dared not reclaim.
Light help me, I could not watch her broken either.