Mat and Rand have not been in the same place since Lord of Chaos. They won’t be again until the last moments at Shayol Ghul, and then only approximately. There is also the period after Rand has “died”, until he sneaks away, but by this time Rand, at least, may have ceased being ta’veren.
Rand is wearing red, black and white. Mat notes that he is regal, older and more weathered—like Lews Therin, but in Moridin’s colours. These are also the colours of the Aes Sedai banner.
Tuon and her entourage panic when Rand is brought in. Even Mat starts to, because he thinks Rand is mad. In Mat’s opinion, proof of this is that Rand is not afraid of being taken captive. Mat has done all he could to avoid Rand—including avoiding thinking about him. The first thing Rand says is that Mat led him to Tuon. This makes Tuon furious because she feels betrayed by Mat.
It doesn’t last; Mat indignantly discovers that Tuon has his medallion. While she is embarrassed a little at the theft, she is ruthless enough that her feelings of shame are brief. Yet in Knife of Dreams Tuon was outraged at being disguised as a thieving servant in the menagerie.
Rand says that it is futile for Mat to try and keep away from him because the Pattern will never allow it. That’s true, but they have been apart more often than not. The two have a funny bragging contest, typical of Celtic culture.
Mat tells Rand in an offhand way that he cares about him–despite expecting him to go mad—and that he is looking a lot better, even like a winner. And Tricksters have an eye for winners. Mat tries to pass off his poor treatment of Rand during The Great Hunt as teasing, but it rings hollow.
Convinced that Rand is in over his head, Mat offers to talk to Tuon, but the Dragon addresses her formally himself. Tuon claims Rand as a captive ruler who has resisted her, and says he should have remembered his oaths to Hawkwing. To her surprise, he turns her own arguments against her. One of Tuon’s major roles is as a Nemesis figure, including to herself.
It is obvious from her words that if Hawkwing’s heir were still ruling on the mainland that the Seanchan would not have submitted to the heir’s rule but contended with them. After all, the Seanchan are Hawkwing’s heirs also, and contend continually among themselves for the opportunity to rule. Tuon dismisses Rand’s scenario as a non-issue.
Then Rand overturns her claim as the only legitimate heir of the only man to unite and rule the empire. Rand says that he, as Lews Therin, has an older and more complete claim and scares all of them with his powers. There are timely threatening rumblings of thunder that are unexplained. More explicable is how Rand restores the land while shielded; he uses Singing, as Mat observes.
Like his “cleansing of the temple” at Maradon, it has a mundane explanation and yet also shows great skill. There is a show of force and power with nothing to attack. It also demonstrates Rand’s fitness to rule—just as Tuon is fit to rule due to her establishment of social order, so Rand is fit to rule because he restores health and fertility—natural order—to the Land. Rand says he could have easily killed her, but she has done well for nations under her, and so he has stayed his hand.
Mat and Rand both point out to the Empress that her rule is not strong and she has nothing to spare to fight on more fronts. Tuon insists on keeping damane she has—the unspoken reason being that her rule is too dependent on them. It’s not surprising that Mat and Tuon want to get away from Rand; he is someone they can’t control or outwit.
Rand bows to Tuon on one knee as he offers her peace and alliance in exchange for her help in fighting Last Battle and fulfils a Seanchan prophecy that he would bow or kneel—the paraphrasing varies—to the Crystal Throne:
"I must find a way to make contact with the Dragon Reborn as soon as possible. He must kneel before the Crystal Throne before Tarmon Gai'don, or all is lost.” The Prophecies of the Dragon said so, clearly.Bowing among the Seanchan bowing is formal, either signifying an oath made, as when Egeanin bowed to Elayne, Nynaeve and co in Tanchico after making a vow to them ( The Shadow Rising, Into the Palace); or obeisance of one lower to one higher. Naturally, the Empress would see bowing and kneeling as the same, since everyone makes obeisance to her, and she would not conceive of anyone merely making a courtesy to one who sat the Crystal Throne. The Prophecy indicates that the Dragon Reborn and the Empress as a personification of the Throne must make a courteous agreement before the Last Battle begins. The more Dragon-centric mainland prophecies foretold that he would “bind the Nine Moons”—the name of the Seanchan Court—"to serve him”, which seemed to be in conflict with the Seanchan prophecy and pointed to the latter as an impostor. As it happened, both were true.
Winter’s Heart, What a Veil Hides
He must bow before the Crystal Throne before the Last Battle can begin.
The Gathering Storm, Gambits
By her stated reckoning, the Empress and the Dragon are of equal rank, although his display of restoring the Land shows him as more powerful and holy than her, and therefore Rand’s extra courtesy actually puts her at a disadvantage because she is obligated to him. His prestige is such that his excessive courtesy makes her look inferior or arrogant, and his argument over their respective lineages makes her look like a Johnny-come-lately and lower than he, especially after he exercises his powers. This is not how Tuon expected the prophecy to be fulfilled. Rand undermined her but also offered her help. Balance.
The prophecy was certainly useful: it was the belief that Rand needed to kneel to her which brought Tuon to parley with Rand; otherwise she would never have gone near him.