Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Crown of Swords, Part 10

June 16, 2010

Once upon a midnight freezy, while I wrote comments light & breezy
O’er two chapters of a volume Crowned with Swords galore
As I snark-ed, all protracted, suddenly I was contacted
With some news that made me go, “For reals? Oh wow, oh score!”
For my roommate’s getting married, to a girl she doth adore
Which rocks, you guys, for shore.

But soon I realized my condition, which would soon come to fruition:
Their marriage must be followed by a change in how I lived before!
Because, you see, cohabitation’s typical, post-culmination
Of vows to love and honor your beloved evermore
Ergo, too soon my roommate situation will be shown the door
New options now I must explore.

…aaand that took almost two hours to compose, so rather than further mangle Mr. Poe’s legacy, I will resort to prose to explain that as a result of all the above, I… think we’re going to have to stick with the once-a-week posting schedule for a while, until my situation has settled out, which will hopefully be soon.

Sorry, guys, but the next month or so promises to be a lot, and I’d rather have the re-read be slow than be crappy, so.

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index ishere, in which you can find many a quaint and curious volume of links to news, reviews, and semi-forgotten lore regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

So come, fear not tomorrow, let WOT lend you surcease of sorrow! Click and feel your brow unfurrow! Click, just like you have before!


Chapter 15: Insects

What Happens
Carridin is composing a report to Niall, trying to keep the ants crawling around from smudging the ink, when Shiaine enters. He knows that Niall should be pleased at the chaos his bands of “Dragonsworn” have created in Arad Doman and Tarabon, helped along by the rumors of an army of witches marching across the country, but also knows that Niall will keep insisting that he capture Elayne Trakand, which Carridin has no idea how he is supposed to do. He smashes an ant, ruining the report, and snaps at Shiaine that he supposes she wants more money. She smiles lazily and answers that searches are expensive, especially covert ones. Carridin is irritated that she is not intimidated by him, when he knows that her real name is Mili Skane, and she is no lady, but a saddler’s daughter who turned to the Shadow after being sent away from the White Tower. On the other hand, he knows she is a skilled and deadly assassin, and that matters like earthly rank do not matter among Friends of the Dark; Carridin himself would kneel without question to Old Cully, the leader of his circle, even though Old Cully is a toothless beggar. He tells her that many things can be forgiven, even money that was supposed to go for information being used to gamble, but failure will not be. She freezes a moment at his words, and protests that there are difficulties; it is dangerous to ask about objects of Power, especially when Aes Sedai are in the city. She needs more time. Carridin looks out the window at the “trash” crowding the streets below, and briefly considers starting a riot to smoke Elayne and the others out of Tarasin Palace, but decides that might interfere with his other orders, and of the two sets, Niall’s is the one he can ignore. As Shiaine continues her protest behind him, he suddenly catches sight of a young man across the way, fanning himself with his hat and talking to an old white-haired man.

Suddenly he felt as though a knotted rope had been fastened around his head and was being drawn ever tighter. For an instant a face hidden behind a red mask filled his vision. Night-dark eyes stared at him, and then were endless caverns of flame, and still staring. Within his head, the world exploded in fire, cascading images that battered him and swept him beyond screaming. The forms of three young men stood unsupported in air, and one of them began to glow, the form of the man in the street, brighter and brighter till it must have seared any living eyes to ash, brighter still, burning. A curled golden horn sped toward him, its cry pulling his soul, then flashed into a ring of golden light, swallowing him, chilling him until the last fragment of him that recalled his name was sure his bones must splinter. A ruby-tipped dagger hurdled straight at him, curved blade striking him between the eyes and sinking in, in, until gold-wrapped hilt and all was gone, and he knew agony that washed away all thought that what had gone before was pain.

Carridin comes out of it and realizes that Cauthon is gone, and Shiaine has stopped talking. He turns to her angrily, only to see she is frozen in the act of rising from her chair, and Sammael is standing in the room. Carridin drops to his knees and tells Sammael he’s just seen Mat Cauthon. Sammael seems oddly taken aback at this news, but after ruminating on it a bit tells Carridin that his search is more important, and to only kill Cauthon if he interferes in it. Carridin begins to protest, and Sammael describes to him how his favorite sister Vanora just died at the hands of Myrddraal and Trollocs. Carridin hopes she never found out why she had died so horribly, and backs down; Sammael roars at him to find the cache of angrealter’angreal, andsa’angreal he knows are here in the city. Carridin stammers that there are Aes Sedai in Ebou Dar, which might prove an obstacle.

Waving him to silence, Sammael paced a few quick steps, three times up and back, hands clasped behind his back. He did not look worried, only . . . considering. Finally he nodded. “I will send you . . . someone . . . to deal with these Aes Sedai.” He barked a short laugh. “I almost wish I could see their faces. Very well. You have a little while longer.”

Daring greatly, Carridin asks about the “favor” he asked of Sammael, and Sammael laughs and tells him Carridin has very little luck, as it seems someone is still carrying out at least some of Ishamael’s commands; only Sammael’s protection will keep the same thing from happening to Carridin as already has to his family, so Carridin had better find what Sammael wants. He creates a gateway (Carridin gapes) and leaves, and Shiaine comes back to life, jumping in startlement as Carridin (from her perspective) suddenly jumps from one side of the room to the other. Carridin tells Shiaine that she will set her circle to finding a man named Mat Cauthon, and is surprised that Shiaine recognizes the name. She tells him that few linked to al’Thor remain unknown for long, and begins to ask what “a seedy farmboy” is doing in Ebou Dar. Carridin grabs her by the throat and slams her face onto the desk.

The dagger, stabbing down just in front of her eyes, froze her. By chance, the blade piercing the paper had caught an ant by the tip of one leg. It struggled as vainly as she had.

“You are an insect, Mili.” The pain in his head made his voice rasp. “It is time you understand that. One insect is much like another, and if one won’t do . . . ” Her eyes followed his thumb down, and when it flattened on the ant, she flinched.

“I live to serve and obey, master,” she breathed. She had said that to Old Cully every time he saw them together, but never before to him.

“And this is how you will obey . . . ” No one survived disobedience. No one.

Commentary
So, I just went back and checked the Darkfriend Social scene in TGH, where Ishamael showed “Bors,” aka Carridin, Mat’s image (and Rand’s and Perrin’s), and there’s no mention of the Horn or the dagger in association with Mat. Or at all.

Which is fine, I guess, mystical acid flashbacks not generally needing to conform to set rules and all, but with Ishamael dead I’m just kind of puzzled at how this vision “evolved” to include them, so to speak. We can probably file it under Rule of Cool (Imagery) and let it go (warning: do not click that link unless you’re free for the next four hours), but it still bugs, a bit.

And speaking of Ishamael, who is still killing off Carridin’s family, anyway? I don’t think this is ever really mentioned again, so I suppose it’s just some random faithful minion out there who possibly doesn’t even know Ishy bought it four books ago, i.e. not particularly important, but, yeah.

Anyway, this is another “themelet” chapter, with the ants and the smushing and the I See What You Did There. Jordan tends very strongly to go with a theme whenever he does these interim pickup “let’s see what the Dark Side is doing” chapters, I suspect out of an authorial need to smooth them out a tad, make it less jarring to jump away from the main POV characters for a bit. Which, by the way, totally works, so that’s all right.

Although, he did tend to do it a lot for Our Heroes as well; the chapter example that leaps to mind is “A Sense of Humor” in LOC, with Rand. It was a Thing in general with Jordan. Again, not that I’m complaining.

Sammael: I forgot that it was Sammael who sent the gholam to Ebou Dar, not that it really matters. I also don’t know what to make of the fact that he is “taken aback” that Mat is in town; possibly because he thinks Rand may have sent Mat here to look for the same thing Sammael’s looking for, maybe? Oh, the irony, if so. And how did either he or Moghedien learn that the cache of *greal is in Ebou Dar, again?

Also, Sammael’s appearance here reminds me that I still occasionally wonder whether to complain about how little the Forsaken are utilized in WOT in general, or be glad that their relative scarcity of on-screen time maintains at least some of the shadowy mystique they enjoyed in the first few books. ‘Tis a conundrum I invite you to discuss!

(Oh, and minor note: the proof that Old Barrel Guy ≠ Old Cully is in this chapter, since Carridin would presumably recognize the leader of his own Evil Clubhouse, but looks right at the old man talking to Mat and doesn’t recognize him.)
Chapter 16: A Touch on the Cheek

What Happens
Mat had always previously entered Tarasin Palace via the stables (to get a look at the horses), but this time he marches up to the main gates. He tells the head guard that he is here to leave a message for Elayne and Nynaeve Sedai, in person if possible; the guard eyes him uncertainly, but decides at length that Mat can’t be turned away, and leads him inside. The guard hands Mat off to a maidservant, who leads him further in. For once, Mat is too distracted by the dice rolling in his head to appreciate the display of wealth in the Palace.

The dice almost always meant danger, and something else he had not figured out yet. The prospect of having his skull cracked was not enough, and once or twice there had been no possibility of such, yet the upcoming likelihood of Mat Cauthon dead in some spectacular fashion seemed the most usual cause. Unlikely, maybe, in the Tarasin Palace, but unlikely did not make the dice go away. He was going to leave his message, grab Nynaeve and Elayne by the scruff of the neck if he had an opportunity, give them a talking-to that made their ears glow, and then get out.

He is handed off to another servant, who hands him to another, and another; finally he grabs the sixth servant by the arm and asks how two Aes Sedai can be so difficult to find. A voice from behind him says he has found two Aes Sedai, and Mat turns with a slightly uneasy smile to see two sisters, one of whom he thinks very pretty, while the other looks like she “ate brambles for breakfast”. The servant escapes, and Mat tells the sisters he’s looking for Elayne and Nynaeve, and asks if they are friends of theirs. The pretty one answers, “Not exactly”, and introduces herself as Joline and her companion as Teslyn; Mat berates himself that of all the Aes Sedai in the Palace, he has to run into the two who support Elaida. The two women flank him, entreating him to help Elayne and Nynaeve see that they must abandon “this nonsense” before it’s too late; Mat responds by grinning as insolently as he can, and opining that he thinks Elayne and Nynaeve see just fine, and maybe Teslyn and Joline should abandon their nonsense. They go on the offensive, Joline mentioning that they know he is ta’veren, and Mat wonders uneasily if they could possibly know about the medallion, or worse, the Horn. Abruptly, he is grabbed by the scruff of the neck and hauled backwards by either Adeleas or Vandene (Mat can’t tell them apart), and Teslyn quickly grabs him the same way from the other side. Mat growls at them to watch the coat, but they ignore him. Adeleas/Vandene is accompanied by two other sisters, whom Mat identifies as Sareitha Tomares and Merilille, the leader of the rebel embassy. Merilille asks scathingly if Teslyn has stooped to kidnapping men in the halls, and points out that Mat can be of no interest to a Red, as he doesn’t channel. Teslyn snaps back that Cauthon do be “of considerable interest”, and shouldn’t be running loose.

“Don’t fight over me,” he said. Tugging his coat was not making anyone let go. “There’s enough to go around.”

Five sets of eyes made him wish he had kept his mouth shut. Aes Sedai had no sense of humor.

The Aes Sedai continue to fight over him, but Mat doesn’t understand why Merilille almost backs down from Joline until Vandene (he’s decided it’s Vandene) says something dry, and then Merilille looks embarrassed. She tells Joline that she cannot expect to take Mat from them when it is five to two; as an afterthought, she adds that Elayne and Nynaeve make seven. Just as Mat is about to start prying at fingers, the servant reappears and breathlessly begs forgiveness, but the Queen has summoned Lord Cauthon. The Aes Sedai stare at her, then at each other (Mat thinks, to see who can “out-Aes Sedai” the others), and Mat cheerily announces that he can’t keep the Queen waiting, can he? They all sniff at him (even the servant), and Merilille tells Adeleas to release him.

He frowned as the white-haired woman complied. Those two ought to wear little signs with their names, or different-color hair ribbons or something.

He asks Teslyn to let go also, please, and Teslyn finally tells him to watch who he allies with, or even a ta’veren may come to regret a wrong choice. She lets him go, and the five Aes Sedai watch him follow the maid until he turns back, then glide off in different directions; Mat is very relieved to be away from them. He tells the servant that he’s sure the Queen doesn’t really want to see him, and asks again for Elayne and Nynaeve, but the servant is adamant, and Mat gives up and goes along. Upon being presented to Tylin, Mat thinks she is not exactly beautiful, but very impressive; she reminds him of “Isebele of Dal Calain”, who had made an Amyrlin come to her instead of the other way around. He sweeps her a bow and greets her (“Majesty, by your summons do I come”), trying not to ogle her cleavage, as he thinks he would sooner dally with the Darkfriend he saw at the Silver Circuit than with a queen. She walks all the way around him, and then remarks that he speaks the Old Tongue.

Deyeniye, dyu ninte concion ca’lyet ye. That was what he had said. The bloody Old Tongue popping out of his mouth again without him knowing it. He had thought he had that little bother under control. No telling when those bloody dice would stop or for what.

Tylin tells him she has pen and paper for him to leave a message for Elayne and Nynaeve, and Mat thanks her, carefully not in the Old Tongue, and goes to the writing desk. He composes a note, telling them about the Darkfriend he had followed to Carridin’s rented palace.

What else? He added a few more reasonably worded lines. The last thing he wanted was to put their backs up.

Be sensible. If you have to go traipsing around, let me send a few men along to keep you from having your heads split open. Anyway, isn’t it about time I took you back to Egwene? There’s nothing here but heat and flies, and we can find plenty of those in Caemlyn.

There. They could not ask for pleasanter than that.

As he’s sealing the letter with wax, he suddenly remembers that he has a signet ring now, and pulls it out to take a look: “Inside a border of large crescents, a running fox seemed to have startled two birds into flight.” He would preferred a hand, for the Band, but the medallion has made him fond of foxes, so he likes it. He seals the letter and turns around, and almost walks right into Tylin’s cleavage. He stumbles back, trying not to blush, and hastily tries to cover by telling Tylin the same thing about Carridin as he had Elayne and Nynaeve in the note. Tylin frowns, but moves on, saying they should talk “of more pleasant things”, and Mat is aghast at her cavalier dismissal of such news. She asks if he is “Lord” Cauthon, and he tells her, just Mat Cauthon, and tries to take his leave. Tylin ignores this, and goes on that Elayne and Nynaeve Sedai seldom mention him, but Tylin can read between the lines of what they do say. She touches his cheek lightly.

“What they do not say, but I hear, is that you are an untamed rogue, a gambler and chaser after women.” Her eyes held his, expression never altering a hair, and her voice stayed firm and cool, but as she spoke, her fingers stroked his other cheek. “Untamed men are often the most interesting. To talk to.” A finger outlined his lips. “An untamed rogue who travels with Aes Sedai, a ta’veren who, I think, makes them a little afraid. Uneasy, at the least. It takes a man with a strong liver to make Aes Sedai uneasy. How will you bend the Pattern in Ebou Dar, just Mat Cauthon?”

Mat’s mouth drops open, and he tries to back away, thinking that women never behave this way, no matter what his old memories try to suggest. She smiles in a predatory way (Mat’s hair tries to stand up), but then suddenly turns away just as the door opens to admit a young man who is limping slightly, and who greets Tylin as “Mother”. Tylin greets him fondly as “Beslan”, and asks how it went; Beslan tells her regretfully that “Nevin” slipped on the third pass, so Beslan accidentally killed him instead of just wounding him, and now he has to pay condolences to his widow. Tylin beams, and tells him just to be careful if the widow turns out to be the kind who wants “comforting”, for then he will have to either marry her or kill her brothers. Mat is more aghast. She introduces Beslan to Mat, and tells Beslan that Mat ista’veren, and they should be friends and go to Swovan Night together. Mat jumps, and hastily says he’s more into rough taverns than balls, but Beslan foils this tactic by answering he likes rough taverns better anyway, and Tylin swiftly arranges for them to go to all the upcoming festivals together. Mat laughs weakly, and decides Tylin and her son are both mad.

Commentary
Oh, right: this is why I love Mat.

I’m sorry, but the whole scene with him and the Aes Sedai (and Mat’s mental commentary thereof) is frickin’ hilarious and that’s all there is to it. Nobody in WOT can out-snark Mat, that’s for damn sure. Or out-bareface him, either; I wish I could sum up my reaction to his brazen insolence to Teslyn et al with something more erudite than “OH SNAP”, but, well. Sometimes, Jerry Springerese is the only way to go. Three snaps in a Z formation, girlfriend!

I always got the sense Jordan had a great deal of fun writing Mat POVs, a sense possibly influenced by how much fun I generally have reading them. Part of the reason I like ACOS so much is that I think it’s where Mat’s snark factor reached a kind of apogee point; in my opinion, he’s never been funnier, before or, sadly, since. We will touch more on this point later.

Something besides themelet chapters that Jordan also does a lot, and well, is letting the more in-clued reader know what is going on with the non-POV characters even when the POV character him- or herself is clueless. As here, when Mat’s observations of the “swirling undercurrents” of the Aes Sedai faceoff let us understand that Merilille is having an Aes Sedai hierarchy crisis re: Joline, even though Mat himself has no idea what’s going on. Nicely done.

Tylin: I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT THAT THING YET. It hasn’t happened yet, we’re not talking about it till it does, everybody hush. Bzzt! No talky!

In the resulting blissful lack of foreknowledge of what’s coming up, therefore, I am free to remember that this entire scene cracked my shit up the first time I read it. As much as I enjoy how much Mat sets everyone else on their ear, it’s even funnier to see the tables turned on him for once. The rake out-raked, as it were. It’s a trope that’s older than the hills (a whole set of them, really), but sometimes if it ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it.

(And no, I’m not telling you which tropes they are. I don’t have ten hours to waste on That Site at the moment, thank you.)

The fact that he even can be put so much out of countenance, actually, is what keeps him the proverbial lovable rogue, instead of the arrogant jerk he occasionally threatens to become. This soupçon of vulnerability is an absolutely vital component in the Lovable Rogue formula (cf. Jack Sparrow, Robin Hood, and any character Harrison Ford has ever played). It’s a volatile compound, that formula, which by its very nature is difficult to maintain, and I applaud any writer who can successfully juggle it; keeping that proportion of scoundrel to hero steady can blow up in your face, y’all!

And whatever else you want to say about Tylin, her assessment of Mat’s nature is a hell of a lot more spot-on than just about any other character’s understanding of him, including (I would say, especiallyincluding) the people who have known him his whole life. And, uh, I can’t really say I blame her for being attracted to it, either.

(Yes, I know. HASN’T HAPPENED YET. Bzzt!)

Symbolic Ring is Symbolic: I always thought it was just a leetle overly coy of Jordan to fail to identify the “two birds” on the ring as ravens until Tuon shows up, especially since Mat has had “Odin’s Stunt Double” practically tattooed on his forehead since at least TSR. Not to mention the raven imagery he already has, on his spear. Given all that, would it really have been giving that much away to just call a corvid a corvid? C’mon.


Quoth the me, Nevermore! Or, at least NoMore… of this entry. Ba dum dum! Thanks, I’ll be here all week! Well, actually I won’t, but YOU will, so have fun, and be sure to tip your waitress!

Advertisements

A Crown of Swords, Part 9

June 16, 2010

Greetings and salutations, Readers of the Re-read! Welcome back.

Home computer status update: Still prostrate under evil virus onslaught. I’m having a computer-savvy friend of mine come look at it Saturday, but until that happens, I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to get a post up Monday again. I will keep y’all updated in the comments. Sorry guys, I’m doing the best I can. As a side note, people who write computer viruses need to have hot wires applied to their unmentionables, and no, I am not even slightly kidding.

Anyhoo, today’s post covers Chapters 13-14 of A Crown of Swords, in which everyone gets more than they bargained for.

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index ishere, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of yummy tidbits regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And now, a post!

Chapter 13: The Bowl of the Winds

What Happens
Aviendha perches on a bench in the tiny boat cabin with Elayne, Nynaeve, and Birgitte, and tries not to think of the fact that they are surrounded on all sides by water. She can’t get over how there could be so much water, and yet none of it is fit to drink. She thinks the worst part is that she was the one who suggested this trip in the first place, and tries to distract herself by thinking of the strange but enjoyable clothes she now wore. None of the others look like they want to talk, and Aviendha notes that Elayne seems preoccupied and worried.

Two duties confronted her, and if one lay nearer her heart, she had chosen the one she considered more important, more honorable. It was her right and duty to become the chief, the queen, of Andor, but she had chosen to continue hunting. In a way, however important their search, that was like putting something before clan or society, yet Aviendha felt pride. Elayne’s view of honor was as peculiar at times as the notion of a woman being a chief, or her becoming chief just because her mother had been, but she followed it admirably.

Aviendha finds Nynaeve baffling; though brave “to the point of madness”, she moans about being a coward, and clearly displays her shame for all to see about her discomfort at being on the water. Aviendha jumps when Elayne begins to talk, and Elayne almost asks her what’s wrong before seeming to realize it would shame Aviendha. Hastily, she asks if they think Nicola and Areina could really cause Egwene any trouble, referring to the message Egwene had left them in their dreams. Aviendha opines that Egwene should get rid of them. Elayne looks shocked, but Birgitte agrees it might be a good idea; she admonishes Elayne for going all “prim and indignant in her head”, and Aviendha muses that Birgitte often slips back and forth between behaving like a Warder and like a bossy older sister. Birgitte continues that she would think the news about “Marigan” would concern them more. Nynaeve says firmly that if she comes after them, they will “settle for her” again, but then trails off unconvincingly. After more silence, Aviendha finally asks why, if their search is so important, aren’t they using every weapon at their command?

“Mat Cauthon is ta’veren, yet we work to avoid him. Why not take him with us? With him, we might find the bowl at last.”

Nynaeve exclaims that she would rather “stuff her shift full of nettles”, but Elayne tells her to be quiet, and berates herself for not thinking of that before; Birgitte suggests maybe she was too busy seeing Mat as nothing but a scoundrel, which Elayne acknowledges reluctantly. Nynaeve pleads earnestly against the notion, saying Mat will be nothing but a torment to them, trying to take charge; she thinks he would be ten times worse than Vandene, Adeleas, and Merilille combined. Birgitte is amused, and Elayne points out that he alters chance just by being there, and they could use some ta’veren luck at this point.

“Besides, we can snare two birds at once. We should not have been letting him run loose all this time, no matter how busy we were. That’s done no one any good, him least of all. He needs to be made fit for decent company. We will put him on a short rein from the start.”

Nynaeve mutters and glowers, but at length gives in tacitly by declaring that under no circumstances will she be the one to ask him. Elayne answers that Birgitte will ask him, and Birgitte jerks upright in startlement; Aviendha is surprised to note that she even looks a little afraid. Elayne assures Birgitte that he can’t possibly have recognized her, or he would have said something by now, which Aviendha does not understand. Birgitte smirks and answers that she should have known Elayne would get her back for the remark about her bottom (which Aviendha also doesn’t get), and then wonders what it is about Elayne and Nynaeve that puts Mat’s back up the way they do. She doesn’t think it’s the Aes Sedai thing, because he treated Egwene with more respect than most of the sisters do. Nynaeve only mutters that he was “born to be a trial”, and then the ship lurches to a halt and Nynaeve dashes above with a hand clapped to her mouth. As they head up to the deck behind her, Elayne pauses and suggests that Aviendha only look at the ship and not the water, but makes it sound like she’s talking about herself, and Aviendha is grateful for her near-sister’s delicacy. On deck, however, she forces herself to turn and look out at the vast bay anyway, and is almost sick herself. She mutters to Elayne that she is a fool for not listening to advice, but Elayne answers that Aviendha is braver than she; Elayne then steels herself and adds that tonight they will talk about Rand. Aviendha doesn’t quite see the connection there, but agrees, thinking that sister-wives must discuss the husband in detail if they are to manage him, after all. Nynaeve meanwhile has finished throwing up and is arguing with the sailor on the deck of the Sea Folk vessel they’ve pulled up next to, yelling that they aren’t after the gift of passage, so she doesn’t care if they refuse it to Aes Sedai. Elayne sighs and steps in, introducing herself and telling the man they must speak to the Windfinder on a matter of urgency, and they already know about Windfinders. The sailor frowns and disappears, and Nynaeve tells Elayne the woman will probably think Elayne means to tell on her; she adds that “only a ninny” thinks she can threaten people and get anywhere.

Aviendha burst out laughing. By the startled look Nynaeve gave her, she did not see the joke she had made on herself. Elayne’s lips quivered, though, however she tried to hold them. You could never be sure about wetlander humor; they found strange things funny and missed the best.

At length a rope swing of sorts is lowered down for them to be pulled up on, and Birgitte punches one of the rowers for trying to look up Elayne’s skirts as she is hoisted up. Aviendha solves this problem by hurling her belt knife over their heads; they hit the deck, and definitely do not look up, and Aviendha congratulates herself on figuring out wetlander customs more every day. Up on deck, she gapes at the Sea Folk’s appearance, particularly their jewelry. A woman with more jewelry and silk than most comes up and introduces herself as Malin din Toral Breaking Wave, Wavemistress of Clan Somarin and Sailmistress of Windrunner, and asks them resignedly to the cabin; Aviendha comes to near panic at the unbroken vista of open water the cabin windows show. An old man with a sword is in the cabin, along with a woman who Aviendha senses can channel, and infers must be the Windfinder, and another older woman with twice as much jewelry as anyone else, whom Aviendha immediately pegs as the one in charge. The old woman rises and inspects Nynaeve and Elayne rudely, and then Birgitte. She says to Birgitte that she is not Aes Sedai; Birgitte replies she is not, “by the nine winds and Stormbringer’s beard”, which makes the woman jump and stare before she turns to Aviendha and makes the same observation. Aviendha introduces herself by sept and clan, which surprises the woman even more; she comments that Aviendha is not dressed as she would expect before introducing herself as Nesta din Reas Two Moons, Mistress of the Ships to the Atha’an Miere, and demanding to know how they know about the Windfinders.

Nynaeve had been working on a scowl since the woman first looked at her, and now she snapped, “Aes Sedai know what they know. And we expect more in the way of manners than I’ve seen so far! I certainly saw more the last time I was on a Sea Folk ship. Maybe we should find another, where the people don’t all have sore teeth.”

Elayne again steps in, greeting Nesta politely and asking forgiveness for any offense, and then introduces them all, seeming taken aback at the sniffs from the Sea Folk on learning their Ajahs. Elayne continues that they have come for two reasons: one, to learn how the Sea Folk intend to help Rand al’Thor, who they call the Coramoor, and two, to request help from the Windfinder, whose name she doesn’t know. The Windfinder blushes and introduces herself as Dorile din Eiran Long Feather, and Malin also looks embarrassed and welcomes them formally to her ship. Nesta, on the other hand, is not embarrassed at all, but informs them curtly that the Coramoor is their business, and none of the shorebound’s. Then she demands of Nynaeve (calling her “girl”) to tell which ship gave them the gift of passage; Nynaeve grips her braid and replies with false lightness that she cannot recall. Then the old man (Baroc) speaks up, telling Nesta that “a split sail is split”, and that perhaps it would be of use to know why Aes Sedai ask their aid, if they are truly Aes Sedai; Aviendha notes he speaks to Nesta as an equal. The Windfinder answers him that Elayne and Nynaeve can channel, as well as Aviendha, and that all three are stronger than anyone she’s ever seen. She thinks they must be what they say they are, but Nesta counters that Aes Sedai never ask aid of anyone. She asks Elayne what they want, but addresses her as “Daughter-Heir of Andor”, rejecting the Aes Sedai titles. Nynaeve gathers herself to explode, but Elayne stops her with a hand on her arm, although Aviendha can tell Elayne is furious herself, mostly because of Birgitte’s reaction. Aviendha decides she will kill the Windfinder first if it comes to fighting, but then Elayne tells them that they are seeking ater’angreal that they think can fix the weather, but they believe that in order to use it, they will need a number of channelers, maybe a full circle of thirteen. As no living Aes Sedai knows as much about working weather as the Windfinders, Elayne thinks Windfinders should be in this number. After a moment of silence, Dorile asks her to describe theter’angreal, and when she does so, excitedly tells Nesta that it must be the Bowl of the Winds; she and Malin grow very excited, saying it must be because of the Coramoor’s coming that it would be found after two thousand years, until Nesta calls them to order sharply. She sends Baroc to summon the other Wavemistresses in port, as well as the First Twelve, and to send down tea, as she thinks working out the terms of this bargain will be “thirsty” work. The Sea Folk quickly split them up; Nesta sits down with Elayne and Nynaeve, Malin pins down Birgitte, and the Windfinder Dorile begins interrogating Aviendha:

“I have read of the Aiel. If it pleases you, tell me, if an Aiel woman must kill a man every day, how are there any men left among you?”

Aviendha did her best not to stare. How could the woman believe such nonsense?

Birgitte looks like she wants to run from Malin, and Aviendha overhears snatches of Nesta’s bulldozing; Elayne and Nynaeve came tothem, not the other way around, she says, and that sets the basis for the bargain. Baroc soon rejoins them, saying that the boat they had arrived on has left but there are plenty of rowboats on board which can take them back. Joining Nesta, he opines in disbelief that of course the bargain will favor the Sea Folk, as “Who asks must of course pay highest.” Aviendha goes pale as she realizes that not only was it her suggestion that landed them in this predicament, but that now she would have to recross seven miles of water in an open boat.

“Do you have a bucket?” she asked the Windfinder faintly.

Commentary
Haggling, I think, is something of a lost art in the U.S., at least in terms of direct seller-to-buyer transactions. It survives here and there in non-corporate situations (especially in New York, city of a million sidewalk bilkers hawkers), but you’re just never going to see anyone trying to talk five dollars off a pair of Gap jeans, if you see what I’m saying. Well, you might see it, but you won’t see it succeeding, is what I’m saying.

I’m overgeneralizing, and I’m sure the commenters can come up with a million examples of how I’m wrong (hell, I can come up with contradictory anecdotes my own self), but I’m not trying to say that no one haggles anymore in America; I’m more trying to say the sense of it, as an expected and legitimate way of conducting business, is gone.

The Art of The Deal is the exception nowadays, rather than the rule, and as a result most people don’t have the first clue how to haggle. This is why buying a car–one of the last bastions of corporate-endorsed retail haggling–is a traumatic experience for so many people.

(I know for a damn fact, for example, that I suck at haggling. This vaguely worries me, in the same self-consciously absurd way that it worries me that I’m near-blind without contacts. Because, you know, should the inevitable zombie apocalypse/collapse of civilization/trapped in a sunken submarine/sucked into a parallel medievalish dimension event ever occur, these are just a few of the many factors that will guarantee my total screwage re: survival.

(Okay, my lack of haggle-fu would probably not apply to the submarine thing – but the contacts definitely would. (As a point of interest, it is not possible to swim underwater with your eyes open while wearing contacts – at least not if you want to keep them. This is the sort of thing that is obvious in retrospect, but not when you are, say, a newly-contacted eleven-year-old who just wants to get in the damn pool already. See?! (No, actually. Which is the POINT: Me + contacts + sunken submarine = SCREWED, is what I’m saying. (Nested parentheses FTW!)))))

And, um, yeah. This is what comes of reading too much sf, y’all. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED–oh, wait, you’re reading this blog. YOU HAVE BEEN ASSIMILATED. RESISTANCE WAS FUTILE, SUCKA.

(God, I’m such a geek sometimes.)

I sense I may have digressed. What was I talking about? Oh yes, haggling. And I should probably mention the Wheel of Time at some point!

Like I was saying, haggling is something your average present-day person (in the United States, I don’t presume to assume for other nationalities) finds rather unorthodox and even off-putting, which I suppose is part of why this whole Sea Folk Bargain Thing left such a bad taste in my mouth.

Another part of it is simple partisanship; these are MY Supergirls, how dare you thwart them! Or worse, make them look like fools; my dislike of the latter being rather amplified by the knowledge that I and my lack of bargaining know-how would look just as foolish in the same situation. Nobody likes to be made to feel stupid, even by proxy.

But the biggest “blech”-inducing factor in this is what the Sea Folk are actually haggling about. I’m not sure if Jordan actually intended for them to come off as the biggest assholes ever, but bargaining for political gain over the matter of making sure the world doesn’t starve to death strikes me as being a perfect way to convey the impression. Seriously, Machievelli’s ghost is over here being all, “Damn, y’all, that is cold.”

And hence was born my opinion of the Sea Folk as being the least likeable culture in all of WOT–an opinion which to date has had basically zero incentive to change, either. I do not like them, Sam I Am!

It doesn’t help that also to date, other than the Bowl of the Winds thing (and maybe blowing up some Seanchan ships in Ebou Dar), the Sea Folk have been essentially useless to anyone. Rand was still arguing with them in TGS over why they haven’t done anything he asked them to, and we won’t even speak of the obstacle course-imitation retardedness they’ve been pulling in Caemlyn over the last few books. Useless, I say! Gah.

Besides initiating my hate-on for the Sea Folk, this chapter is also notable for being (to my knowledge) the first time we get a POV from Aviendha. I think it’s rather curious that we had to wait this long for one, actually, seeing as she’s been a central character since TSR.

I seem to recall, in fact, that I had a small looney theory prior to reading ACOS that Aviendha’s lack of POVs meant that she was actually going to get killed off at some point. And though I have bemoaned before (and will again) the dearth of major character deaths in WOT, I do have to say I’m rather glad that that turned out not to be the case (at least thus far), because I like Aviendha a lot.

Her POV here highlighted her amusing and pleasingly believable blend of cultural naivete with sharply observant deductions about her companions. Her thoughts about Nynaeve in particular were rather hilariously on point. Plus, I am always a sucker for POVs of Our Heroes from alternate/outsider points of view; that Aviendha manages to simultaneously fill the role of Hero AND outsider is one of the most interesting aspects of her character.

Not to mention, she gets points for being the only one of the Supergirls thus far to even attempt to view Mat objectively. Speaking of which, let’s go see Mat!

Chapter 14: White Plumes

What Happens
Mat thinks that the Silver Circuit is rather grandly named for being a grimy racetrack, though nobles are in just as heavy attendance as commoners for all they are separated by ropes and guards; he knows, though, that fortunes change hands regularly here, and even lives. Mat raises his hand and a booker comes over, murmuring a ritual phrase that Mat thinks he is probably the only one who remembers the origin of. He notes that Wind, Olver’s mount, is only listed as the third favorite in the odds, and tells Nalesean to put it all on Wind. Nalesean is hesitant at the risk, opining that two other horses in the race look very good, but Mat dismisses them out of hand, thinking that knowledge of horses is at least one thing he learned on his own, from his father. The booker is taken aback at the large sum Nalesean produces, but takes the bet, before casually slapping her assistant for making eyes at Mat and leaving. Nalesean hopes Mat’s luck is in, as the seamstress he’s got his eye on won’t be “friendly” if he can’t afford to make her smile. Mat tells him absently that he’ll make her “laugh till she can’t stand up”, thinking that gold is never his worry; Olver is, since if the boy gets hurt he’ll never hear the end of it from Elayne, Nynaeve, Setalle, and especially Birgitte and Aviendha, as the latter two had already tried to move Olver out of the inn to the Palace behind his back. Mat curses Nalesean again mentally for getting Olver involved in racing in the first place. Nalesean sneers as he notices Juilin approaching; they are both Tairen, but Mat knows there is little love lost between noble and commoner in Tear.

“Well?” Mat said sourly, tugging his hat low, once the thief-catcher reached him. “No, let me tell you. They slipped out of the palace again. No one saw them go, again. Nobody has any bloody idea where they are, again.”

Juilin, however, tells him that the four women took a boat from the river landing, and Thom hired another to see where they are going. Mat thinks of his promises, and of Elayne et al’s failure to even tell him why they are here in Ebou Dar, and growls aloud that he will see them safe if he has to “stuff them into barrels and haul them to Caemlyn in a cart”. Apropos of nothing, Juilin comments that Tarabon must be a terrible place for a woman not used to taking care of herself right now; Mat tells him they have plenty enough problems with women right here, and sends him back to the docks to wait for Thom, as Mat wants to know what those “fool bloody women” are up to. Juilin gives him a sardonic look and leaves. Mat gazes over the crowd, noting a white-haired old man and a “fox-faced” noblewoman with excessive plumes on her hat, among others, as he thinks about the women. He thinks Rand had “jumped into a bear pit” letting Aviendha and Elayne come together, with them both mooning over Rand the way they do; Mat cannot figure out why that hasn’t blown up already. For some reason he notes the fox-faced woman again, and wonders why she makes him think of straw. He thinks that Birgitte and Aviendha can take care of themselves, and normally he would say the same of Elayne and Nynaeve, but the fact that they’ve been sneaking out the way they’ve been doing means that even they think whatever they’re doing is dangerous, which to Mat indicates that it’s really dangerous. He sees the noblewoman again, and thinks, not straw, a stable. And a knife, and fire. He shakes his head.

Other men’s memories, of battles and courts and lands vanished centuries ago, filled holes in his own, places where his own life suddenly went thin or was not there at all. He could remember fleeing the Two Rivers with Moiraine and Lan quite clearly for example, but almost nothing more until reaching Caemlyn, and there were gaps before and after, as well. If whole years of his own growing up lay beyond recall, why should he expect to recollect every woman he had met? Maybe she reminded him of some woman dead a thousand years or more; the Light knew that happened often enough. Even Birgitte sometimes tickled his memory.

Nalesean observes, fretting, that the race is beginning, and Mat tells him to relax. Wind breaks early from the pack, but Mat is distracted from the race as he catches sight of the plumed hat again, and suddenly remembers where he had seen the woman: she was the Darkfriend who had tried to kill Mat and Rand in a stable on the way to Caemlyn, with a knife that charred wood and boiled water; Mat had almost slit her throat with the Shadar Logoth dagger. He shivers, and puts no odds on her just happening to be in Ebou Dar at the same time as he. Nalesean pounds his back in excitement, breaking his reverie, as Olver wins the race by four lengths. Mat, eyes on the Darkfriend, tells Nalesean to collect their winnings and Olver and meet him back at the inn.

“Where are you going?”

“I saw a woman who tried to kill me,” Mat said over his shoulder.

“Give her a trinket next time,” Nalesean shouted after him.

Mat follows the plumed hat back into the city and the throng of refugees crowding the streets, to one of the many canal bridges, this one large enough to support shops along the sides. The Darkfriend stops at one, and Mat hastily turns aside to the shop next to him to avoid being seen. The proprietor asks if my Lord wishes to see a signet ring, and Mat, his attention on the woman, points to one at random. He slips it on, only noting it is a dark oval, and tries to decide if it would be worth it to denounce the woman to the Civil Guard, but thinks the Guard is too corrupt to do him much good. A Whitecloak walks by, the crowd making way for him, and Mat notes that the Darkfriend smiles at him before turning to go. Mat tries to take off the ring, but suddenly it won’t budge; in his haste not to lose the woman, he snaps at the shopkeeper that he’ll take it, and throws far too much money on the table before hurrying off. Once away from the shop, the ring comes off easily, and Mat stuffs it in his pocket. He continues following the woman, losing her periodically and picking her up again in the crowd, and finally sees her entering a small palace where she is clearly known to the doorman. He stares at the place for a while, and wonders aloud to himself who lives there.

Someone said, “Carridin.” It was a scrawny, white-haired fellow lounging nearby in the shade. Mat looked at him questioningly, and he grinned, showing gaps in his teeth. His stooped shoulders and sad weathered face did not fit his fine gray coat. Despite a bit of lace at his neck, he was the very picture of hard times. “You asked who lived there. The Chelsaine Palace is let to Jaichim Carridin.”

Mat asks if he means the Whitecloak ambassador, and the old man confirms it, adding that Carridin is also an Inquisitor, and not someone to mess with. Mat hums to himself, thinking about a Whitecloak who had a Darkfriend visitor, and turns to thank the old man for the information, but is startled to see the man has disappeared. He suddenly remembers that he had also seen the old man before, too: at the Silver Circuit, not far from the Darkfriend woman.

Turning his hat in his hands, he frowned uneasily at the palace. The Mire never held a bog like this one. He could feel the dice tumbling in his head suddenly, and that was always a bad sign.

Commentary
These two chapters are actually something of a piece, in that they both involve bargaining–or the lack thereof, as the case may be. I don’t know, they’re both very much about business transactions. (And I definitely include playing the ponies in that category; it doesn’t have to be smart business to still be business.) I don’t really have any deep observation to draw from that, it was just something I noticed. Hey, I can’t be profound all the time.

I’d really hate to think time can corrupt one’s pleasure in a thing, but, well, sometimes it does. At the time I first read ACOS, Mat was by far and away my favorite character in the series, and I just grinned and snickered my way through his every POV. As this is the first of his POV chapters in the book, I remember mentally cheering when I arrived at it, all Yay, Mat!

And now, well. I still snicker (the exchange between Mat and Nalesean as he heads off to follow Shiaine proves that sometimes old jokes are still the funniest ones), and I still enjoy him as a character, but I dunno, it’s just not the same as it used to be. I’m having a hard time pinpointing exactly why.

Maybe I’ve just read the series too many times. Maybe I’m getting old and decrepit and cynical. Or maybe I’m just having an off day, who knows. Now get off my lawn!

I do remember being a lot more firmly on Mat’s side in the Mat vs. Supergirls showdown in ACOS the first time around, and that is… no longer quite so much the case. Which is to say, I still think Nynaeve and Elayne are still being prejudiced and unreasonable about him, but this time around I’m seeing a lot more of the ways in which Mat is guilty of the exact same thing. The problem on both sides, of course, is that they are all just enough right about each other to make it possible for everyone to ignore the parts where they are dead wrong, and stalemate ensues. At least until one party member switches sides…

Anyway. Lots of new stuff introduced in this chapter, most notably Mat’s Fateful Ring of Impending Princeliness, and Old Barrel Guy, aka Noal Charin, aka Jain Farstrider. Though of course we don’t find out about the “aka”s for a while, and in fact the last one has still not been 100% confirmed in the text, though it’s completely bleeding obvious by inference.

And now I’m having a little moment of fond nostalgia, remembering the endless arguments on the newsgroup over whether Old Barrel Guy was (a) Jain Farstrider, (b) Graendal’s Old Man (who Sammael glimpses in her palace in TFOH), (c) Geofram Bornhald (of all people), or (d) some combination of the above. (It’s (a), by the way; Graendal’s old man is almost certainly Alsalam, the former king of Arad Doman, and supposing this guy is Geofram was just silly even before we found out more about him.)

I do give us fans props for all immediately leaping on both the Jain Farstrider thing and on the Fatefulness of the signet ring (even though we didn’t of course yet know what it was Fateful for). I mean, okay, maybe the ring thing is a gimme, but at least it shows we’ve all done our Fantasy Tropes homework!

We also have some old stuff reintroduced as new, like Plumed Darkfriend Woman, aka Shiaine, in a classic demonstration of the Law of Character Conservation, as she’s the second (or maybe third) Random Speaking Role Darkfriend from TEOTW to pop up again later. And one of the few, if not only, RSRDFs still alive and kicking as of TGS, at least as far as we have been told. .So… yay, I guess?


And… that’s all I have to say about that. Thbbt! Have a lovely weekend, chillen. I will keep you in the loop on the next post. Mwah!

A Crown of Swords, Part 8

June 16, 2010

¡Buenos dias, señors y señoritas! ¡Bienvenido a La Rueda del TiempoLeer uno más!

Or, whatever would be good Spanish for what I usually say. No habla español – claramente.

Today’s entry covers Chapter 12 ofA Crown of Swords, and that’s all, because Chapter 12 was STUPID LONG and that is all there is to it.

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index ishere, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of yummy tidbits regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And as that is the long, short, thick and tall of it, we move on without delay to the post!

Chapter 12: A Morning of Victory

What Happens
As Egwene’s party travels out of camp, she observes the frightening effect of the Dark One’s drought, and prays for Elayne and Nynaeve’s success in Ebou Dar.

Their search was as important as anything she did. More. The world would live if she failed, but they had to succeed.

Despite her unease, Myrelle is highly amused at Siuan’s terrible horsemanship. Egwene is startled to see a column of cavalry from the Band off to the west; Myrelle mutters about “Dragonsworn animals”, and Bryne placidly comments that Talmanes seemed concerned about Egwene when last they spoke. Outraged at this, Myrelle accuses him of being near to treason for communicating with Rand’s followers; Egwene thinks of how every rogue turned bandit was using the “Dragonsworn” title as cover, and the Aes Sedai blame Rand for all of it, even though the Band hang anyone they catch pillaging as much as their forces do. Bryne is unaffected by Myrelle’s ire, and merely replies that when he has ten thousand men at his back, he likes to know what they are doing. Startled by the number (and grateful to turn the conversation away from Talmanes’ interest in her), Egwene asks if he’s sure; Bryne replies that the Band has been gathering recruits as they travel, just as Bryne’s forces have, and the Band has a reputation for never losing, after Cairhien, though some think their luck won’t apply without Mat Cauthon there. Myrelle continues to dress him down, and both Egwene and Bryne ignore her. Egwene thinks of how Bryne had looked at her when he mentioned Mat, and realizes he knows more of the situation there than the Aes Sedai do. She wonders why Bryne had sworn as he did, committing himself to fight Tar Valon when the sisters would gladly have accepted a lesser oath as an excuse not to fight. She admits to herself that she is comforted by his presence, though.

Having him oppose her, she realized suddenly, might be as bad as having the Hall against her, and never mind the army. The one approving comment Siuan had ever had of him was that he was formidable, even if she did try to change her remark immediately to mean something else. Any man Siuan Sanche thought formidable was one to be mindful of.

She thinks that Siuan must either hate Bryne with a passion, or be in love with him, and she cannot imagine Siuan in love. She also marvels at the notion of Mat with a soldier’s reputation; she’d thought he only commanded because of Rand, but reminds herself of the danger of assumptions. Myrelle is still going on, until Egwene finally tells her to be quiet, and toys with the idea of asking a sister at the camp for Healing for her headache. Myrelle is humiliated, but obeys, and Egwene adds to Bryne that all the same, he should not meet with Talmanes again; Bryne acquiesces immediately. At length they come to a caravan of merchant wagons, being inspected by Bryne’s men. Egwene doesn’t understand why he wanted her to see this. Bryne glances at Myrelle and hesitates, but Egwene tells him Myrelle has her “complete trust”; Myrelle looks stricken. Bryne finally says that the merchants have brought a rumor that Rand al’Thor has gone to the Tower to swear fealty to Elaida. Myrelle and Siuan both go dead white at the possibility, but Egwene bursts out laughing, startling all of them. She chuckles that she knows for a fact this isn’t true, as of last night. Siuan and Myrelle both sigh aloud with relief, and Egwene almost laughs again at their expressions. Bryne, however, points out that whether the rumor is true or not won’t stop it from spreading like wildfire all over camp, which sobers Egwene in a hurry. She says she will have six Aes Sedai announce the truth to the soldiers tomorrow, volunteering the Salidar Six; Myrelle grimaces, divining from this that they would have to talk to the Wise Ones again, but looks resigned. Bryne supposes this will do, as long as the sisters do not hedge “by even a hair”.

“You do very well, it appears, Mother. I wish you continued success. Set your time for this afternoon, and I will come. We should confer regularly. I will come whenever you send for me. We should begin making firm plans how to put you on the Amyrlin Seat once we reach Tar Valon.”

His tone was guarded—very likely he still was not entirely sure what was going on, or how far he could trust Myrelle—and it took her a moment to realize what he had done. It made her breath catch. Maybe she was just becoming too used to the way Aes Sedai shaded words, but . . . Bryne had just said the army was hers. She was sure of it. Not the Hall’s, and not Sheriam’s; hers.

She merely thanks him, counseling herself to caution until she can be sure, and then dismisses him to his duties, overriding his concerns about leaving them alone. When he is gone, she asks Siuan to lead the way, which she does. Myrelle glances anxiously at Egwene, expecting her to bring up the ferrets, but she merely rides along in silence, observing Myrelle getting more and more nervous. Finally Myrelle suggests riding a different way to where a pretty waterfall is, but Egwene replies that she thinks Siuan’s direction will provide much more interesting sights, doesn’t she? Myrelle mutters that she knows everything, doesn’t she, and with sudden realization accuses Siuan of being “her creature” all along. She doesn’t understand; they were so circumspect.

“If you want to keep something hidden,” Siuan said contemptuously over her shoulder, “don’t try to buy coin peppers this far south.”

What in the world were coin peppers? And what were they talking about? Myrelle shuddered.

Myrelle begs Egwene to understand; it wasn’t just because Moiraine was her friend, it was because she “hates letting them die”. Siuan interrupts, to Egwene’s exasperation, to say maybe Myrelle should lead the rest of the way and earn some grace. Myrelle does so, and an utterly confused Egwene tries to decide if she wants to strangle Myrelle or Siuan more. Finally they come to a small campsite, where five warhorses are on a picket line. Nisao Dachen waits for them with her Warder Sarin Hoigan, along with two of Myrelle’s three Warders (Croi Makin and Nuhel Dromand). Egwene then spies Nicola and Areina peeking around one of the tents, and feels uneasy. Myrelle goes to Nisao, and Egwene asks Siuan in a whisper why she had interrupted Myrelle. Siuan replies that she thought she knew what was going on and where, but wasn’t sure; she’d only heard about the coin peppers this morning. Egwene still doesn’t see what that has to do with anything, and Siuan explains they are popular in Shienar, and Malkier. Then Egwene sees another man come out of a tent.

He was head and shoulders and more taller than her, taller than any of the other Warders. His long dark hair, held by a braided leather cord around his temples, was more streaked with gray than when Egwene had seen him last, but there was nothing at all soft in Lan Mandragoran. Pieces of the puzzle suddenly clicked into place, yet it still would not come apart for her.

Myrelle murmurs to him; he flinches, then goes off by himself, taking up a sword stance that he holds motionless. Nisao and Myrelle ply Egwene with offers of punch, but Egwene is only interested in an explanation, and says so. Myrelle says pleadingly that Moiraine chose her because two of her Warders belonged first to other sisters who died; Nisao puts in that she was only involved because of her interest in “diseases of the mind”, which this surely is, accusing Myrelle of dragging her into it.

Smoothing her skirts, Myrelle directed a dark look at the Yellow that was returned with interest. “Mother, when a Warder’s Aes Sedai dies, it is as though he swallows her death and is consumed by it from the inside. He—”

“I know that, Myrelle,” Egwene broke in sharply. Siuan and Leane had told her a good bit, though neither knew she had asked because she wanted to know what to expect with Gawyn. A poor bargain, Myrelle had called it, and perhaps it was.

Areina and Nicola are seated on the ground now, watching Lan avidly as he suddenly goes into a flurry of stances, flowing from one to the next with deadly grace. Egwene comments acidly that she sees they are working him hard, and thinks that Nynaeve might well strangle Myrelle when she learns that Myrelle bonded Lan. But then Myrelle protests that passing a bond “isn’t that bad”, no worse than deciding who should have your husband if you die, and Egwene rounds on her in shock. Siuan replies dryly that “we aren’t all Ebou Dari, Myrelle”, and a Warder isn’t a husband… usually; Egwene thinks of the rumors that Myrelle had married all three of her Warders, which defies law even in Ebou Dar. Nisao points out that there is no law against passing a bond.

“That’s not the point, is it?” [Siuan] demanded. “Even if it hasn’t been done in—what? four hundred years or more?—even if customs have changed, you might have escaped with a few stares and a little censure if all you and Moiraine had done was pass his bond between you. But he wasn’t asked, was he? He was given no choice. You might as well have bonded him against his will. In fact, you bloody well did!”

Egwene knows she should be as disgusted as Siuan, but can’t help wondering if Nynaeve would have let Lan walk away unbonded if he hadn’t already been Moiraine’s Warder, or if she would do the same with Gawyn, were he to change his mind about accepting. Nisao spits at Myrelle that she must have been mad to listen to her. Myrelle begs Egwene to believe that she only did it to save him, and will pass his bond to Nynaeve as soon as she gets the chance. Siuan mutters that two wrongs don’t make a right, but Egwene only asks how he is progressing; Lan is still going through sword forms at lightning speed. Myrelle replies that she’s only had him two weeks, and it could take months. Egwene murmurs that perhaps it’s time to try something else, and walks up to him. She manages not to flinch when Lan whirls his sword to within inches of her head before stopping; he stares at her a moment, then says he hears she’s Amyrlin now, and thinks they have a lot in common. Egwene, realizing how dangerous he is, resists the temptation to embrace saidar and replies that Nynaeve is Aes Sedai too, now, and in need of a Warder. Lan laughs harshly and says he hopes she finds a legendary hero who can handle her temper.

The laugh convinced her, icy hard as it was. “Nynaeve is in Ebou Dar, Lan. You know what a dangerous city that is. She is searching for something we need desperately. If the Black Ajah learns of it, they’ll kill her to get it. If the Forsaken find out . . . ” She had thought his face bleak before, but the pain that tightened his eyes at Nynaeve’s danger confirmed her plan. Nynaeve, not Myrelle, had the right. “I am sending you to her, to act as her Warder.”

Lan immediately calls for Areina to saddle his horse; he apologizes to Egwene for ever taking her or Nynaeve out of the Two Rivers, and heads into the tent. Myrelle runs up and protests that Nynaeve can’t handle him the way he is, and Egwene answers that Nynaeve can do the one thing Myrelle can’t: give him something so important to do that he has to stay alive to do it. And that thing is protecting Nynaeve, the woman he loves. Myrelle is amazed; Nisao scoffs that girls have been chasing him since he was a youth, and none ever caught him. She glances at Myrelle, who blushes slightly, and Egwene remembers that some sisters believe part of the cure for a Warder’s broken bond involves distracting him with sex. She hopes Nynaeve never finds out. She spies Areina and Nicola again, and tells Myrelle and Nisao that regardless of what those two have on them, the extra lessons for Nicola are to stop. Myrelle and Nisao (and Siuan) are astounded by this display of perspicuity, and Myrelle whispers that Egwene really does know everything. Nisao says at least now they can deal with the pair as they deserve; Nicola, observing the four Aes Sedai stares now on her, tries to melt into the tree she’s pressed against. Egwene observes that Nicola and Areina are not the only ones needing to face justice, and leaves Myrelle and Nisao to stew over that with Siuan as she goes to Lan and tells him she can have him in Ebou Dar sooner than the month it would take on horseback. She weaves a gateway to Skim to the place where Nynaeve and Elayne had Traveled from, some five or six days from Ebou Dar. Lan follows her onto the Skimming platform, and doesn’t say a word as she explains Nynaeve’s situation. Finally she asks if he’s been listening.

“Tarasin Palace,” he said in flat voice, without shifting his gaze. “Guest of Queen Tylin. Might deny she’s in danger. Stubborn, as if I didn’t know already.” He looked at her then, and she almost wished he had not. She was full of saidar, full of the warmth and the joy and the power, the sheer life, but something stark and primal raged in those cold blue eyes, a denial of life. His eyes were terrifying; that was all there was to it. “I will tell her everything she needs to know. You see, I listen.”

Egwene notices what might be a bite mark on his neck, and considers cautioning him not to mention certain of Myrelle’s rehabilitation methods, but then decides that not even a man would be so scatterbrained as to actually tell Nynaeve about that. They arrive at the other end, and Egwene begins to tell him again what to expect, but Lan interrupts to tell her she’s come a long way since Emond’s Field, and not to let go of Myrelle and Nisao now that she has a hold on them.

“By your command, Mother. The watch is not done.”

She watches him gallop off, amazed that he had successfully deduced her situation even in the midst of sword forms, and thinks Nynaeve had better be careful of underestimating him. She heads back to the camp, and arrives to find Siuan losing ground rapidly against Myrelle and Nisao; Siuan is immensely relieved to see her, and explains that she was speculating on possible penalties the Hall will dream up for the two. She thinks that, since they are so fond of the notion, a fitting penance might be for their Warders’ bonds to be passed to someone else.

Myrelle squeezed her eyes shut, and Nisao turned to look at the Warders. Her expression never changed, calm if a touch flushed, but Sarin stumbled to his feet and took three quick steps toward her before she raised a hand to stop him.

Egwene dislikes this, but accepts it as part of the game, and sends Siuan to put the fear of the Light into Nicola and Areina. Siuan answers that she thinks she can manage that, and stalks over and grabs Nicola and Areina each by an ear; whatever she says to them makes the blood drain right out of their faces, and they both almost prostrate themselves to Egwene before taking off at top speed. Egwene turns back to Myrelle and Nisao, and tells them that without Egwene’s protection they will be flayed alive, figuratively, by the Hall, not to mention their own Ajahs, but Egwene sees no reason to protect them unless they have an obligation to her as well; they must swear fealty. All three of the other women gape in disbelief; Myrelle begins to splutter that no Amyrlin has ever required such a thing, but Nisao cuts her off contemptuously, saying this is all Myrelle’s fault.

Peering at Egwene from beneath lowered brows, she muttered, “You are a dangerous young woman, Mother. A very dangerous woman. You may break the Tower more than it already is, before you’re done. If I was sure of that, if I had the courage to do my duty and face whatever comes—” Yet she knelt smoothly, pressing her lips to the Great Serpent ring on Egwene’s finger. “Beneath the Light and by my hope of rebirth and salvation . . . ”

Siuan watches slackjawed as Nisao and then, reluctantly, Myrelle swear fealty to Egwene. Egwene tells them her first order is that they tell no one of Siuan’s real position with her, and that they are to obey any order from Siuan as if it came from Egwene. Siuan is even more flabbergasted, but Myrelle and Nisao have resigned themselves and agree without a quibble. On the way back, Egwene explains to Siuan about Nicola and Areina’s earlier blackmail attempt on her, and Siuan grimly says she thinks “our two adventurous lasses” are about to meet with accidents. Egwene instantly and sharply forbids this; Siuan argues, but Egwene replies that she will not start down that slippery slope. She cheers Siuan by telling her about Faolain and Theodrin, and her plans for them. When they reach camp, Siuan goes off to summon Sheriam and the others of the Six to meet in Egwene’s study at noon with energy, but Egwene goes back to her tent with a throbbing head. She finds two proposals from Lelaine and Romanda which only make her headache worse. Romanda wants to summon all sisters one by one, and any who refused were to be imprisoned as suspected Black Ajah, while Lelaine wants to pass an edict forbidding any mention of the Black Ajah as “fomenting discord”. Egwene groans.

Were they blind? Fomenting discord? Lelaine would have every sister convinced not just that there was a Black Ajah, but that Egwene was part of it. The stampede of Aes Sedai back to Tar Valon and Elaida could not be far behind. Romanda just meant to set off a mutiny. There were six of those hidden in the secret histories. Half a dozen in more than three thousand years might not be very many, but each had resulted in an Amyrlin resigning and the entire Hall as well. Lelaine knew that, and Romanda.

Egwene knows they are just afraid, the fear of women unused to being afraid of anything, but this does not make things better. She is interrupted by Halima, bringing another proposal from Delana which Egwene knows is the one about declaring Elaida a Darkfriend. She tells Halima that she could wish Halima had gone home when Cabriana Mercandes died, but Halima answers she could hardly do that after what Cabriana had told her about Elaida, and is only grateful Cabriana mentioned Salidar so Halima knew where to come to help them. She studies Egwene, and observes that her head is hurting again.

Moving around behind the chair, she began kneading Egwene’s scalp. Halima’s fingers possessed a skill that melted pain away. “You could hardly ask another sister for Healing as often as you have these aches. It’s just tightness, anyway. I can feel it.”

“I suppose I couldn’t,” Egwene murmured. She rather liked the woman, whatever anyone said, and not just for her talent in smoothing away headaches. Halima was earthy and open, a country woman however much time she had spent gaining a skim of city sophistication, balancing respect for the Amyrlin with a sort of neighborliness in a way Egwene found refreshing. Startling, sometimes, but enlivening.

Egwene lets her thoughts drift, and thinks that Halima isn’t so bad, just misunderstood, and it wasn’t her fault her beauty made everyone assume she was a “brainless flipskirt”. Egwene had known she was intelligent since their first meeting, the day after Logain escaped and the headaches had begun. Egwene tries to think about all the problems in front of her, but Halima instructs her to relax.

“You’re stiff as a stake; you should be supple enough to bend backwards and put your head between your ankles. Mind and body. One can’t be limber without the other. Just put yourself in my hands.”

Egwene, drifting off to sleep, murmurs that that would be nice.

Commentary
Jesus AITCH with this chapter.

It’s the weirdest thing with these recaps, I swear. Some chapters I can just breeze through and summarize with hardly any difficulty at all. (Well, mostly. Usually.) Others, though, are like pulling teeth with rusty pliers to try and summarize. They just – won’t – compress! Pliers, hell – more apt to say it’s like pulling teeth with rusty tweezers.

Or unrusty tweezers, even. The rust really has nothing to do with it – whatever, the POINT is, I end up just plodding along and sticking everything in there and feeling like I’m committing a crime against the art of abridgement, if such a thing even exists, which it probably doesn’t.

Guess which one of those this chapter was. Argh.

This is in large part due, without doubt, to the marked change in pace ACOS has in contrast with LOC. As I’ve mentioned, LOC bulldozed through a good 100 days plus of Shit Happening, whereas ACOS gets through less than a tenth of that chronologically. I think that Jordan’s intent here was to get a little more intimate with the events covered in this novel; to take a step back from the frenetic speed of LOC (insofar as a 700-page, sixth-in-a-series novel can be said to be “frenetic”, anyway) and examine things a little more in detail, spend a little more time with the characters.

Which, incidentally, pissed off a lot of readers who just wanted things wrapped up already. Hah, silly readers. Didn’t you know we were onlyhalfway through?

I was not one of these pissed-off readers, for what it’s worth. As a reader, I am (or was) evidently in support of this notion, at least initially; as I’ve stated, ACOS is overall one of my favorite novels in the series, if not the favorite.

As a recapper, though, I begin to suspect I have a lot of headaches in my future.

Anyway. So yeah, this chapter was hella long, but as it wraps up (or ends, anyway) Egwene’s entire plotline in the novel, I guess that was somewhat unavoidable. Also, some fairly awesome – and equally fairly disturbing – things happen in it, so okay, I guess. I’m just so tired now I hardly know what to say about any of it. We’ll just bang on points in sequence.

Bryne: I don’t recall that I was quite so enamored of him as a character on previous go-rounds (I know I wasn’t nearly so much of a Siuan fan before, either), but this re-read continually makes me heart him fervently. Egwene is exactly right in how comforting his presence is, and the unequivocal throwing of his support to Egwene in this chapter cements his awesomeness lock, stock, and barrel as far as I am concerned.

There’s something incredibly noble, in my opinion, about the way he tossed Egwene a lifeline like that, knowing perfectly well (as he must) that she is the clear underdog in this horse race. Undoubtedly Siuan’s loyalty to Egwene has a lot to do with that, of course, but I think it’s clear he respects Egwene on her own merits, as well. Additionally, I don’t know if this is ever explicitly stated anywhere, but I think he feels it is the only honorable course of action open to him in any case. He has vowed to bring down Elaida and win the Tower back for the rebels; to honor that vow, choosing between the Hall, who only kinda sorta wishy-washily wants that to even happen, and the girl Amyrlin, whose future and possibly her very life hangs upon that goal being achieved, well. Viewed that way, it’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? In a suicidal sort of way, natch.

In conclusion, yay Bryne awesome.

As for Siuan, I continue to be amazed at how much more interesting a character she became once she was deposed, and onward as she deals with reestablishing her place and identity in the world. I would be willing to contend that she is one of the more complex and fully-realized characters in all of WOT, and in my opinion she’s got some pretty good competition there.

Lan: I remember being so excited when he finally reappeared after being so long absent. I was like, Lan! Buddy! Hell yeah! And then you find out he’s broken and suffering (if still utterly badass at the same time), and that kind of sucked.

I was even at first reading rather torn about Egwene’s decision to send him “as is” to Nynaeve. On the one hand, I was dying to see Lan and Nynaeve reunite, but on the other, I sensed even then that not fixing the bonding situation beforehand was going to result in this whole bizarro triangly-ish thing being dragged out FOREVER. And boy, was I right. Nynaeve had better get her ass back to the Tower before Myrelle bites it in Armageddon, is all I’m saying.

On the whole “passing the bond” thing in general: Damn, I don’t even know if I have the energy to get into this. This chapter presented a pretty fair summation, actually, of why I didn’t find Moiraine’s decision to pass Lan’s bond to Myrelle without consulting him first nearly as heinous as I did Alanna’s ambush-bonding of Rand, even though on a base level the two actions are the same.

But they aren’t, really; Moiraine’s (and Myrelle’s) act, while still a violation, was at least with the intent to save a life, while Alanna’s was nothing more than a blatant attempt at coercion. On the other hand, Alanna at least has the defense of acting on impulse, while Moiraine’s decision was definitely premeditated, so… I dunno. I still feel like Moiraine has the higher moral ground here, if only relatively speaking.

Still, the whole thing is more than moderately disgusting, ethically, and though I think Egwene has a point in that sometimes you have to hold your nose in order to do what has to be done, her pursuant thoughts about whether Nynaeve or herself would have been able to resist coercing Lan or Gawyn, respectively, had the situation arisen, show what a dangerously slippery slope she stands on, here. Power corrupts, and alla that.

I also cannot help doing my standard gender-flip mental exercise here, and think of how this might constitute commentary on, say, enforced marriage practices back in the day, and how much of sending (for example) a thirteen-year-old merchant’s daughter to be pawed at by a geriatric duke or something was probably justified as “for the greater good” by the power-brokers (i.e., parents, which is to say, fathers) involved. Fun.

The strongest mitigating factor, actually, at least as far as I’m concerned, is Nisao’s and Myrelle’s Warders’ reaction/behavior when Siuan suggests they be made to pass their bonds to someone else. Artificially (or magically, whatever) generated or not, the devotion of the Warders in general to their Aes Sedai speaks strongly to the benefits of binding outweighing the moral shadiness of it all, Egwene’s thoughts about Warders not knowing what they were agreeing to notwithstanding.

I don’t know, the moment was touching, is all I’m saying. At the end of the day, if you twist hard enough you can make a case for any kind of emotional liaison being ethically unsupportable, but that way lies madness, clearly. And you’ll notice that people are still getting married, too. I’m just saying.

On swearing fealty: Eh. I thought I was going to have a problem with it, and maybe I should, but considering the way the rebel Aes Sedai have jerked Egwene around and set her up as their fall guy, I’m really having a hard time generating any outrage, here. Myrelle, at least, got exactly what she deserved, as will the other Salidar Six. If I’m being callous here I’m sure someone will tell me, but my thinking is, it’s your own damn fault if your puppet emperor suddenly notices she has no clothes, and decides that she’s going take yours instead.

Halima: YIPE YIPE YIPE

Which was pretty much my reaction to the end of this chapter, then and now. And… really, that’s about all I have to say about the cliffhanger “Yikes” that leaves us hanging on Egwene’s situation until we rejoin her in TPOD.


Aaaaaand I am so, so stopping now. I know I didn’t cover everything in this monster of a chapter, but enough is as good as a feast, and I’m just done. I trust y’all will remedy anything I missed in the comments. Have a lovely weekend, and I’ll see you Monday!

A Crown of Swords, Part 7

June 16, 2010

Why, hello, gentle readers! Having succeeded, with foresight, fortitude, and much layering, in not freezing to death this past weekend, I bring you a shiny new Wheel of Time re-read post to celebrate!

Today’s post covers Chapters 10-11 of A Crown of Swords, in which Things Happen, more or less.

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index ishere, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of yummy tidbits regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And that is all she wrote, at least in the introductory bit, so click on to see the post!

Chapter 10: Unseen Eyes

What Happens
Back in her tent, Egwene endures Selame’s brainless chatter and fluttering as she tries to convince herself it was only anger she felt over Nicola and Areina, and not a bit of fear too. When Selame suggests Egwene bathe in ewe’s milk “to keep her skin soft”, Egwene kicks her out and finishes getting ready for bed herself. She checks outside and sees someone hanging around the tent – a woman, she thinks – but smiles to herself that whoever the watcher is, they won’t see where she goes tonight. Getting into bed, she quickly puts herself to sleep and goes to the in-between place where people’s dreams appear. She had considered finding Nicola and Areina’s dreams to “sink the fear of the Light into their bones”, but decides the effort of finding them was not worth it. Instead she finds Nynaeve’s dream, and touches the outside of it gently, not enough to see what Nynaeve is dreaming about, and leaves her a message:

NYNAEVE, THIS IS EGWENE. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO RETURN UNTIL YOU FIND THE BOWL, NOT UNTIL I CAN SETTLE A PROBLEM WITH AREINA AND NICOLA. THEY KNOW YOU WERE PRETENDING. I WILL EXPLAIN MORE WHEN I SEE YOU NEXT IN THE LITTLE TOWER. BE CAREFUL. MOGHEDIEN HAS ESCAPED.

The dream disappears abruptly, and Egwene is amused, thinking it must be a little disconcerting to have a disembodied voice boom at you in the middle of a dream. She finds Elayne’s dream and gives her the same message, and then finds Amys’s dream, asking her to come speak with her. Amys’s voice confirms in a normal “tone”, and Egwene is wryly amused at this reminder of how much more skill the Wise Ones have at this than she. Then she notices another dream coming toward her.

Only one dream would do that, one dreamer. In a panic, she fled, wishing she had a throat to scream, or curse, or just shout. Especially at the tiny corner of her that wanted to stay where she was and wait.

She arrives in Tel’aran’rhiod in the Heart of the Stone in Tear, and laughs at the extremely rich, low-cut gown she’s wearing, reflecting that Gawyn had a very unfortunate effect on her, then blushes at the memory of what they had done in his dream. Then she tells herself firmly that the time for all that would come, but for now she needs to pay attention to other things. Waiting for the Wise Ones, she wonders why they always chose the Stone to meet in the Dreamworld, and again becomes aware of the way it always seemed someone was watching you here. She wishes she had spied on either Logain or Moghedien’s dreams when she had a chance, but knows that would have been very dangerous, especially considering Moghedien was skilled in dreamwalking. She thinks of how Moghedien could be looking for her now, and suddenly realizes she is dressed in full plate armor. Irritated, she changes to Wise One’s garb, and says aloud to herself that Logain is on his way to the Black Tower and Moghedien has no way to know where Egwene is. Bair asks from behind her why she should fear “the Shadowsouled”, and Egwene literally climbs a foot in the air before calming herself. Amys, Bair and Melaine are highly amused by this. In dignified tones, Egwene explains that she caused Moghedien “some hurt”, and does not doubt the Forsaken would like to repay it; she changes her clothes again, to be dressed as the Amyrlin Seat might be, in silk. The Wise Ones are eager to know how she hurt a Forsaken, but Amys intuits that Egwene has something important to say to them, and suggests they get to it. Egwene gathers herself, and says that she has not told them why she was summoned away from them: she has been raised Amyrlin by the sisters opposing Elaida, and when Elaida is brought down, Egwene will be Amyrlin in the White Tower. She waits anxiously for their reaction.

“There is a thing children do,” Melaine said carefully after a time. Her pregnancy did not show yet, but already she had the inner radiance, making her even more beautiful than usual, and an inward, unshakable calm. “Children all want to push spears, and they all want to be the clan chief, but eventually they realize that the clan chief seldom dances the spears himself. So they make a figure and set it on a rise.” Off to one side the floor suddenly mounded up, no longer stone tiles but a ridge of sun-baked brown rock. Atop it stood a shape vaguely like a man, made of twisted twigs and bits of cloth. “This is the clan chief who commands them to dance the spears from the hill where he can see the battle. But the children run where they will, and their clan chief is only a figure of sticks and rags.” A wind whipped the cloth strips, emphasizing the hollowness of the shape, and then ridge and figure were gone.

Egwene is relieved that they believed her, and amazed that they had struck so instantly to the heart of her situation. She answers that that is so, but by the time she finishes she intends to be their chief in truth. Bair opines that Egwene has too much honor for these women, and urges her to return to the Aiel, but Egwene replies that she has made her choice. Amys declares there is much ji in her decision. Then Bair asks if Egwene means to bring the rebel Aes Sedai to swear to theCar’a’carn. Startled at the very notion, Egwene answers, certainly not; it would be like having Wise Ones swear fealty to a clan chief. Melaine is indignant to be compared to Aes Sedai, and Egwene wonders if the contempt the Wise Ones feel for Aes Sedai is due to resentment over the prophecies linking them to the Aiel. She reminds herself that the Wise Ones want to guide Rand as much as the Aes Sedai do, as she does, but thinks that she is the only one of them who wants to guide him for his own sake, as much as for the world’s. She tells the Wise Ones of her fears for Rand, and her uneasiness at Merana’s silence, and her worry that Merana will not know how to handle him. Bair again suggests she return, but Egwene thinks she can do more where she is, and besides, as Amyrlin she isn’t allowed near the Dragon Reborn. The three women exchange glances, and Amys finally says that Merana and the others followed Rand to the treekillers’ city, and there is no need for Egwene to worry about Rand setting a foot wrong with them. Egwene is doubtful.

Bair cackled with laughter. “Most parents have more trouble with their children than lies between the Car’a’carn and the women who came with Merana Ambrey.”

Egwene chuckles, relieved, but still wonders why Merana hasn’t sent a message, and Amys answers carefully that Merana had brought no pigeons with her to Cairhien. Egwene is irritated at Merana’s carelessness, and intently asks Amys to promise not to keep Merana from talking with Rand, as she is only supposed to convince him that the rebels mean him no harm; Elaida might have “some nasty surprise” in store, but the rebels do not. After another long moment, Amys promises, in a flat tone.

Probably she was offended that Egwene had required a pledge, but Egwene felt as though a weight had lifted. Two weights. Rand and Merana were not at each other’s throats, and Merana would have a chance to do what she had been sent to do. “I knew I’d have the unvarnished truth from you, Amys. I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear it. If anything were wrong between Rand and Merana . . . Thank you.”

Startled, she blinked. For an instant, Amys wore cadin’sor. She made some sort of small gesture, too. Maiden handtalk, perhaps.

Bair and Melaine appear not to notice this, so Egwene pretends she did not either, not wanting to shame Amys for her loss of control. She asks them as a favor not to tell Rand about her being raised Amyrlin, as she is worried he would decide to “rescue” her, and who knew what disaster would result; she is startled when the Wise Ones agree immediately. They chat of inconsequential things for a while, then Egwene says she must go, warning them to be careful of Moghedien and the other Forsaken. She takes their hands, thanking them warmly for their friendship, and Amys answers sadly that she hopes Egwene will always regard them so. The Wise Ones leave, and Egwene firmly suppresses the temptation to go find Gawyn’s dream. She returns to real sleep, trying to make sense of the prophetic images she sees.

On and on they came, and she sorted feverishly, desperately tried to understand. There was no rest in it, but it must be done. She would do what must be done.

Commentary
Definitely the biggest thing you’re missing, if you’re only reading these recaps and not following along with the actual text, is the descriptions. The paragraphs in this chapter describing the “in-between” dream place, which I basically skipped entirely, are a prime example:

Formless, she floated deep within an ocean of stars, infinite points of light glimmering in an infinite sea of darkness, fireflies beyond counting flickering in an endless night.

I bring this up not because I think I’m remiss for leaving the description out (I’m not), but as a reminder that if you aren’t reading along, you’re missing all the imagery and scene-setting and things that make the Wheel of Time good writing, as well as a good story. Jordan had a real gift for evoking vivid imagery, in particular, which is something I think gets kind of ignored about him more often than not.

Interesting turning point here in Egwene’s relationship with the Wise Ones – interesting, in that Egwene herself misses it entirely. Which is because, of course, that she doesn’t know that Amys is lying like a rug to her, even if only by omission. Her dance around the truth of the situation with Merana et al, in fact, is downright Aes Sedai-like. How’sthat for shaming, eh?

I understand why the Wise Ones are not telling Egwene about the situation with the sisters swearing fealty to Rand (basically for the exact same reason Egwene doesn’t want Rand told about her situation with the rebels, really – hah, mutual rescue-attempt-avoidance), but I think it was shortsighted of them not to at least tell her about Rand’s kidnapping and rescue. I mean, eventually Egwene’s going to find out about the whole kit and caboodle anyway, but they could have at least mitigated their deception a little bit by telling her part of the story. I guess I just don’t understand the reasoning, there.

(And now I’m trying to remember when Egwene does learn about Dumai’s Wells, and all the rest of it. I don’t think for quite a while, but I could be wrong. Oh well. I’ll find out eventually!)

Gawyn and his Amazing Roving Sex Dreams: Heh.

This does bring up again a criticism that was being discussed in the comments to the last entry, to the effect that (as I understand it goes) many of the female characters seem to have not really cared about clothes until they fell in love, at which point they went full-bore Barbie Dress Up on our asses, and this is a somewhat sexist portrayal, since none of the boys do the same thing.

To which I say: Firstly, there were more influences at work here than just falling for a guy. In my experience, there’s nothing more likely to induce a change in personal style than travel. Seeing new places and cultures is a huge incentive to experiment with all aspects of them, and fashion is one of the easiest (and most portable) ways of doing so. “When in Rome”, and alla that.

Secondly, the statement that the boys don’t change in their sartorial habits is demonstrably not true, as witnessed by all the rigmarole in the early books with the embroidered coats and whatnot. True, that was initially forced on them (well, Rand) by Moiraine, but I haven’t noticed that Rand’s gone back to wearing plain farmer’s coats since then, and there’s a whole passage in (I think) Winter’s Heart where Mat laments (at length!) the fact that he’s all into fancy clothes now – just as Nynaeve and Min do at various points.

Thirdly, there is the fact that fashion, especially in WOT, is more than just feeling pretty; it is also a social and political tool. This is, in fact, why Moiraine went to all that trouble to upgrade Rand’s wardrobe in the first place. Perception is power, boys and girls, and for better or worse there’s absolutely no doubt that what we wear plays a huge role in how others see us. This may not be all the characters’ motivations in wearing fancy clothes, but it certainly is for some of them, and Egwene in particular is well aware of this rule. She even uses it in this very chapter, when she switches from Wise One’s garb to a silk Amyrlin-y dress in order to bring home her change in status to Amys et al.

And last but not least: wearing pretty clothes is fun. It feels nice to look nice, and if that’s a girly thing, well, what’s wrong with that? The problem here is not whether wanting to wear nice clothes is “a girly thing”, the problem is with why we automatically seem to feel that “girly” = “bad”.

This sort of links into the “changing for a guy” accusation, as well. You can have a “nature vs. nurture” argument about whether this gender division is culturally-induced or not, but either way, I personally don’t see what’s so wrong with wanting to look good for the person you love. Love changes you just as much as travel, after all. And if that makes me “girly”, then I say, go me!

So There.

Okay, enough about clothes already. The other major thing about this chapter is, of course, the slew of new prophetic dreams Egwene heaps on us at the end, which you can catch up on by following the handy FAQ link above. Though the interpretation parts of the FAQ are outdated, the interesting thing is that even as of TGS, almost none of these dreams have been fulfilled, except for the one that’s (probably) about Jahar Narishma and Callandor. Though it is true that some of them, like the one about Gawyn slashing his feet up, are in the process of being fulfilled (as long as we assume that only refers to Emo Angst, anyway), and others, like the one about the wall, are iffy.

I’m still uncertain, personally, if the one about Egwene on the headman’s block is meant to be taken literally or not. If not, then it could possibly have been fulfilled by the end of TGS – if you kind of squinch your eyes and look at it sideways. She was under threat of execution, and Gawyn and Siuan and Bryne did come to rescue her; the problem, though, is that it seems their “rescue” was more or less superfluous, which doesn’t jibe much with the dream’s implication that the “running” person was essential to her survival. So, maybe this is still yet to come.

The one about Egwene trying to tear down the wall is strange; TGS seems to put paid to the notion that it meant she was going to tear down the White Tower (though I guess she did end up putting a few holes in it, ba dum dum), so I’m just really not sure what the wall is supposed to be symbolic of. Commenters are invited to have at with their ideas.

And then of course there’s the most annoyingly cryptic one of all:

A man lay dying in a narrow bed, and it was important he not die, yet outside a funeral pyre was being built, and voices raised songs of joy and sadness.

Seriously, what is that all about? I’ve never believed it referred to Rand, seeing as she just had a vision about him being on a funeral bier a second ago, and didn’t connect the two dreams; and plus why would she call Rand “a man”, instead by name, like she did for the one before it, if it was about him? But if it’s not Rand, and (by inference) not anyone else she knows, who the hell could it be?

‘Tis a puzzlement!
Chapter 11: An Oath

What Happens
Egwene endures Meri’s dour and gloomy disposition as the maid helps with her morning toilette, and flees almost before finishing. She heads to her “study”, but finds to her surprise that Faolain and Theodrin are there instead of Sheriam. They report to her that no one saw any man near Marigan’s tent the night before, though a few remember seeing Halima in the vicinity; Faolain adds bitterly that Tiana (the Rebel Mistress of Novices) had seen them and sent them to bed. Egwene knows that they are in the same predicament as her, except without even the extra shield of being Amyrlin. She tells them she is sorry for their difficulties, and that she will speak to Tiana, though mentally she doesn’t believe it will do much good, and makes it clear she wants them to go, but Faolain then says with frustration that she wishes she had held the Oath Rod, so that Egwene would know what she says is true. Egwene replies that it is not the Oath Rod that makes an Aes Sedai, and invites her to speak the truth. Faolain says bluntly that she does not like Egwene, and thinks she didn’t get half the punishment she deserved as a novice, and further that both Romanda and Lelaine have offered to take her and Theodrin under their protection. Theodrin puts in that Faolain is trying to say that they did not attach themselves to Egwene because they had no choice, or for gratitude either. Egwene asks, why, then?

Faolain jumped in before Theodrin could more than open her mouth. “Because you are the Amyrlin Seat.” She still sounded angry. “We can see what happens. Some of the sisters think you’re Sheriam’s puppet, but most believe Romanda or Lelaine tells you where and when to step. It is not right.” Her face was twisted in a scowl. “I left the Tower because what Elaida did wasn’t right. They raised you Amyrlin. So I am yours. If you will have me. If you can trust me without the Oath Rod. You must believe me.”

Pained at hearing again what the Aes Sedai think of her, Egwene asks Theodrin if she feels the same; Theodrin says yes. She does not think that Egwene will win against Romanda or Lelaine, but she and Faolain are trying to be Aes Sedai even though they are not really, yet, and won’t be until they have been tested and sworn on the Oath Rod. Egwene says she wishes they would stop bringing up the Oath Rod.

“Do you think everybody believes Aes Sedai because of the Three Oaths? People who know Aes Sedai know a sister can stand truth on its head and turn it inside out if she chooses to. Myself, I think the Three Oaths hurt as much as they help, maybe more. I will believe you until I learn you’ve lied to me, and I will trust you until you show you don’t deserve it. The same way everybody else does with one another.”

She adds that she doesn’t want to hear anymore about their not being real sisters; they are Aes Sedai. Theodrin and Faolain exchange a look, then each kneel before her and swear fealty, in terms which Egwene is startled to realize is the way nobles swear to kings and queens, quite outside Aes Sedai tradition. Then Faolain asks stiffly about the matter of her penance, for the way she spoke to Egwene. Egwene briefly considers making her eat soap, but answers that she will not penalize her for speaking the truth; Faolain can dislike Egwene all she wants, as long as she holds to her oath. Faolain is amazed by this. Egwene then tells them she has two tasks for them, to begin; they listen carefully to her instructions and then leave with all due courtesy. Egwene finds a note from Siuan (“nothing of interest in the dream”) and grimaces before burning the note, as Siuan had managed to get herself banned from using the dream ter’angreal, and now had to borrow Leane’s, who was likely to be in a taking about it. Siuan finally shows up, and Egwene demands to know where she’s been; Siuan growls back that Aeldene had hauled her out of bed to try and pry the Amyrlin’s eyes-and-ears network from her, and Siuan will be burned before she gives it up. Egwene reflects that Aeldene’s arrival had changed a lot of things for Siuan, as Aeldene had taken over the Blue’s spy network after Siuan had been raised Amyrlin, and had been infuriated on arriving to the Rebel camp to find that Siuan had been diverting its reports. Egwene reassures Siuan that no one will take away her network, but Siuan is despondent, talking of how Lelaine and Romanda and even Aeldene are so far above her in strength and she shouldn’t be fighting with them at all. Egwene is indignant that Siuan would choose now of all times to go into a funk, after everything she’s been through, and points out that the Aes Sedai way is not the only way, nor necessarily the best either, but Siuan will not be roused. Egwene catches sight of Myrelle outside the tent, and decides a victory might pull Siuan out of her depression. She rushes out, calling to Myrelle; Myrelle is startled to see her, and tries to excuse herself, but Egwene is not having it. Then Gareth Bryne appears, and asks to speak with Egwene alone; Egwene notes that just the sight of him is enough get Siuan to pull herself together. Myrelle again tries to slip off, and Egwene snaps at her to stay put; Myrelle appears startled at her own obedience. Egwene tries to put Bryne off till the afternoon, but he tells her his patrols found something this morning. Egwene decides to jump on the opportunity to get out of camp, and orders Siuan to go get horses for herself and Siuan (Myrelle is already mounted). Siuan darts off, but then Lelaine and Romanda appear and plant themselves in front of Egwene, and after weaving a ward against eavedropping that Egwene notes neither of them asked permission to create, immediately begin haranguing Egwene to do something about Delana. Delana wants to lay a proposal in the Hall to publicly condemn Elaida as Black, and Lelaine says Egwene must speak with her. Egwene doesn’t see what good this will do, as Delana is “a weathervane” with her vote, and her obsession with the Black Ajah is her only fixed point.

“Mother . . . ” In [Romanda’s] mouth, that sounded entirely too much like “girl.” “ . . . the reason Delana must be stopped is she does no good and considerable harm. Perhaps Elaida is Black—though I have strong doubts, whatever secondhand gossip that trollop Halima brought; Elaida is wrongheaded to a fault, but I cannot believe her evil—yet even if she is, trumpeting it will make outsiders suspicious of every Aes Sedai and drive the Black into deeper hiding. There are methods to dig them out, if we don’t frighten them into flight.”

Lelaine snorts that no one would submit to Romanda’s “methods”, which in her opinion are little short of being put to the question, and Romanda fires back that she will be the first to agree to undergo them, as long as Lelaine is next. They stare daggers at each other, apparently having forgotten Egwene entirely; fed up, Egwene announces that when they decide what she should say, then Egwene can decide what she will do, and marches off to the horse Siuan has brought. She rides off with Bryne, Siuan, and Myrelle, secretly relieved that neither Lelaine nor Romanda had tried to stop her. She asks Bryne if he expects any opposition ahead, and Bryne answers that he expects Murandy to be much the same as Altara, but Andor will be a different matter; he is not looking forward to it. Egwene then asks how he plans to take Tar Valon when they reach it, and Bryne notes dryly that no one has asked him that before.

“With that, I will lay siege. The hardest part will be finding ships, and sinking them to block Northharbor and Southharbor. The harbors are as much the key as holding the bridge towns, Mother. Tar Valon is larger than Cairhien and Caemlyn together. Once food stops going in . . . ” He shrugged. “Most of soldiering is waiting, when it isn’t marching.”

Myrelle demands to know how he expects to successfully siege Tar Valon when Artur Hawkwing himself tried for twenty years and failed; no army has ever breached Tar Valon’s walls. Egwene knows, thanks to Siuan’s secret histories, that this is not actually true, but Myrelle couldn’t know that. Bryne answers that Hawkwing’s failure was because he could never successfully block the harbors; if Bryne can manage that, the siege will work, after they’ve starved the city enough to weaken it. This shuts Myrelle up, and Egwene feels ill at the notion of all the innocents who will suffer for her war against Elaida. She notes that Siuan almost pats her on the shoulder, but refrains. She tells Bryne to show her what he found.

Commentary
I’ve kind of been skimming over it in the recap, but Egwene’s tribulations with her maids, and the vastly different reasons why they are annoying, are actually pretty amusing.

Halima: several commenters have opined that Halima was an idiot for interfering with Sheriam the way she did later on, and I tend to agree, but you have to admit that otherwise she is the perfect mole. There’s really no reasonable way in the world, after all, for Egwene or anyoneto have deduced that a formerly dead male Forsaken was lurking about in the body of a woman and still able to channel saidin (I mean, really), and the amount of confusion and misdirection Halima causes as a result is impressive, in a really frustrating way. I remember when first reading this I was all “Aah! No!” when Faolain and Theodrin mention Halima and no one gives it a moment’s notice, but, well. Yeah.

Speaking of F & T, Inc., I seem to recall various spikes of contention over the years in the fandom as to whether Egwene was on ethically shaky ground by allowing them (and the other sisters, later) to swear fealty directly to her. I personally tend to think that of the set of ethically gray-tinted things we could potentially give Egwene shit about, this one ranks rather low on the list, at least as far as Theodrin and Faolain specifically are concerned, as they were not coerced. The others… well, we’ll get to the others.

My opinion of Faolain changed pretty sharply as a result of this chapter, unsurprisingly. As characters go, I’ve always been something of a fan of the ones who can believably straddle the line between being both antagonist to and ally of Our Heroes, either in sequence or simultaneously. Even though such characters can often be incredibly frustrating, they also tend to ring true, as how people might realistically behave. And you have to appreciate a person who can overcome her prejudices to do what she believes is right, no matter how against the grain it might go. So, yay Faolain, heh.

There’s also a little bit here about the Oaths, and I remember much applause being sent Egwene’s way by readers (including me) at the time, for her increasing belief that they did more harm than good; it seemed that when she finally had full authority the Oath Rod might at last fall by the wayside. Later events, of course, have shown that this is not the case. I’m… still not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I can see where Egwene is coming from with her reversal, and on the other… eh. This will be discussed in more detail later.

Romanda and Lelaine: are annoying… but at least not totally stupid, at least as regards Delana. Romanda’s little speech I quoted above, actually, is what convinced me personally that she could not be Black Ajah. I never really believed either of them were, in truth, but for whatever reason Romanda’s conviction that Elaida could not be Black (which, of course, she isn’t) clinched it for me.

Bryne: Is still awesome, with his casual intention to out-general Hawkwing himself. Heh.

Speaking of which, perhaps it is a little naïve of Egwene not have realized beforehand that a siege of Tar Valon would involve, you know, a siege, but I appreciated it as a reminder that for all the rapid maturing she’s done in the past few books, she is still young, and doesn’t know everything. Her advantage is that she knows this.

(And aw, Siuan wanted to comfort her. I heart Siuan.)


And I heart YOU, readers of this blog, but I is spent for now, and so will shut up. Have a lovely week, and I will see you Friday. Ciao!

A Crown of Swords, Part 6

June 16, 2010

Top of the Friday to yeh, boyseth and girlseth! Welcome to Yet Another Wheel of Time Re-read post!

Today’s entry covers Chapters 8-9 of A Crown of Swords, in which a cipher cops a ’tude, and it’s about damn time, really.

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index ishere, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of yummy tidbits regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm – not to mention for WOT stuff in general.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

Ergo, a posteth doth follow. Check it!

Chapter 8: The Figurehead

What Happens
Egwene sits in her tent with Sheriam, Siuan, and Chesa, thinking of how anyone would far more readily believe that Sheriam was Amyrlin than her, and says to Sheriam that the army must rest where they are tomorrow. Sheriam thinks they should stop for longer than a day, but Egwene doesn’t need Siuan’s surreptitious headshake to know not to allow that.

“One day.” She might be just eighteen and well short of a true Amyrlin’s grandeur, but she was no fool. Too many of the sisters seized on any excuse for a halt—too many of the Sitters, as well—and if they stopped too long, it might be impossible to start them moving again.

Sheriam is about to protest, but Egwene points out that they will strip the countryside bare and turn the locals against them, and Siuan backs her up diffidently. Sheriam gives Siuan a hard look, and Egwene thinks that the Aes Sedai seem divided between those who welcomed Siuan back warmly as proof that their worst fear was no longer true, and those who condescended to her and blamed her for the whole situation. Sheriam acquiesces grudgingly, and Egwene is glad for Siuan’s advice to her to not let Sheriam take over all the small details of running the camp, as otherwise she might never have known about any problems until they were already dealt with. Chesa murmurs a comment about low light being bad for the eyes, making it seem she’s talking about herself; Egwene appreciates her for the comfortable relationship they have, but even more because Chesa’s presence puts Sheriam off balance, letting Egwene maneuver around her more easily. Egwene thinks she may be right about the light, though, as she has a headache. Egwene moves on to the matter of the army’s pay; Lelaine and Romanda, in a rare show of unity, are suggesting that the soldiers’ wages be cut, and Egwene tells Sheriam that that won’t happen.

“As you command, Mother.” Sheriam’s eyes sparkled with pleasure. The difficulties must be clear to her—anyone who thought her less than very intelligent was in deep trouble—but she did have a blind spot. If Romanda or Lelaine said the sun was coming up, Sheriam most likely would claim it was going down; she had had almost as much sway with the Hall as they did now, perhaps more, until they put a halt to it between them. The opposite was true, as well; those two would speak against anything Sheriam wanted before they stopped to think. Which had its uses, all in all.

Chesa murmurs again about Egwene’s new maid, and thinking of the absurdity that Sheriam, Lelaine and Romanda had each given her a maid makes Egwene recall “Marigan”, and that she should wear the bracelet that holds the Forsaken prisoner more often. She pulls it out and puts it on, and reflects that Moghedien feels fear even while asleep, which is why she hates wearing the a’dam so much. She thinks about the rarity of Siuan’s election to Amyrlin so young, after three Amyrlins before her had died after only a few years in the position.

And Egwene al’Vere, who in many eyes should still have been a novice? A figurehead, easily directed, a child who had grown up in the same village with Rand al’Thor. That last definitely had its part in the decision.

Sheriam notices the bracelet and comments that she thinks she saw Elayne and Nynaeve wearing one just like it, and Egwene hastily improvises that they gave it to her as a parting gift. To distract her from thinking about it, Egwene decides to play one of her trumps, and asks Sheriam about the ten sisters who left Salidar a few days after Siuan and Leane arrived. Surprised, Sheriam tries to weasel out of answering the question, but Egwene confronts her directly, thinking that Sheriam may not subconsciously grant her the true authority of the Amyrlin Seat, but she would still not dare defy a direct demand. Finally, Sheriam explains that after learning about Logain’s “sponsorship” as a false Dragon by the Red Ajah, the Salidar Six decided to send ten sisters back to the Tower to spread the information around there and try to sow dissension against Elaida. Egwene thinks it wasn’t actually that bad a plan, except that it would take forever. She asks Sheriam why the plan to send back these sisters (whom Egwene mentally dubs as “ferrets”) wasn’t shared with the Hall, and Siuan interrupts Sheriam’s evasive half-answer.

“The Black Ajah,” Siuan cut in quietly. “That’s what chills your blood like a silverpike up your skirts. Who can say for sure who is Black, and who can say what a Black sister might do?”

Sheriam darted another hard look at Siuan, but after a moment the force went out of her. Or rather, one sort of tension replaced another. She glanced at Egwene, then nodded, reluctantly.

Siuan innocently wonders aloud what the Hall will do when they find out the secrets Sheriam and the others were keeping from them, and Sheriam pales. Egwene is about to drive home her advantage when she feels pain and then hope coming from the a’dam, and then nothing. Egwene realizes the necklace is off, and that the pain had come from a man who could channel touching the link. She excuses herself lamely, tells Siuan to get Sheriam to tell her everything about the ferrets sisters, and grabs a lantern and runs to Marigan’s tent, to find it empty. Only then does it occur to Egwene that the Forsaken was loose, and Egwene had just stormed right up to her tent.

Shivering, she withdrew slowly. Moghedien had good reason to dislike her, very personally, and the only sister who could match one of the Forsaken alone, when she could channel at all, was in Ebou Dar. Moghedien could have killed Egwene without anyone noticing; even had a sister felt her channel, there would be nothing remarkable in that.

Egwene is startled to realize Chesa had followed her, and tells Chesa that she thinks Marigan ran away. As she heads back to her own tent, she first considers the idea that Logain might have freed Moghedien, but concludes that makes no sense, and that it must have been one of the male Forsaken still alive (Asmodean, Demandred or Sammael, she believes). She sends Chesa to fetch Siuan and Leane.

Commentary
Wow, but this scene plays COMPLETELY differently now that we know for sure Sheriam is Black Ajah.

This is one of the reasons I decided I couldn’t avoid TGS spoilers in the Re-read, too, because there’s simply no way I can read a scene like this and comment on it without bringing in that essential bit of knowledge.

Knowledge which tells us, for instance, that Sheriam is not, in fact, blinded by a self-serving rivalry with Lelaine and Romanda – or at least not entirely – and her continued three-way struggle with them is actually all about sowing yet more dissension and chaos among the rebel Aes Sedai, and ensuring that as little as possible gets done in any constructive manner. Sneaky!

It also seems reasonable to assume that the “ferrets” plan was more of the same; even though I believe that of the Salidar Six, only Sheriam turned out to be Black (Beonin is a traitor, and an idiot, but not Black as far as I recall), Sheriam was clearly the ringleader of the group, and no doubt the one who suggested the idea in the first place. You can clearly see, if you think about it, how clever it is (from an evil point of view) to spread the same dissension and lies in two places at once.

In short, it means Sheriam is a hell of a lot more competent and cunning as a Black sister than she would have been as a plain old Lightside Aes Sedai. Which is kind of ironic when you think about it.

I know that a lot of people believed from the start that Sheriam was Black, but personally I was rather bemused at the revelation in TGS that she was; it all just seemed too obvious to me, what with the business about the Gray Man in Sheriam’s bed and the beatings and all. But, I guess sometimes a red herring is actually a… uh, whatever the opposite of a red herring is. A smoking gun? A grey herring? Or a Black herring, heh.

I did like the notion that she had been 13×13’d (or, forcibly turned to the Shadow), since there would be a certain amount of poetic symmetry there considering she was the one who introduced us to the concept, but I don’t think I ever really believed it was true. And, apparently, it wasn’t. Shame.

It’s kind of funny to me now that the thing many people chose to focus on in this chapter was Chesa, and whether or not her following Egwene to Moghedien’s tent meant she was a Darkfriend. I’m happy to say that at least I was right to disbelieve that theory, at least. Sometimes a distaff Alfred is just an awesome lady’s maid. Neener neener!

Anyway. The chapter title pretty accurately sums up what conflict Egwene’s character arc is going to be dealing with for… well, a while, and Siuan continues to earn awesome points for being Egwene’s unassailable ally in her fight to win real authority. It must be quite the comfort in such a frustrating situation to know that there are at least a couple of people who have your back no matter what. We should all be so lucky.

On the opposite side, I have to say it really doesn’t take much for me to lose respect for a character, and I distinctly remember that making Lelaine and Romanda favor cutting the soldiers’ pay (!!!) gave them both a virtually instantaneous downward swoop on my Clueful Character Graphical Measurement Thingy. I mean, seriously. I’ve never in my life commanded anything bigger than a student film crew, so how is it I know perfectly well that that’s about the stupidest idea in the history of ever, and they don’t?

Sheesh. Do not fuck with the pay of the people you want to die for you, kids. If you only learn one military lesson ever, anywhere, learn that one.

Oh, and also, Moghedien escapes, which tells us that Egwene’s storyline is still catching up to all the others by a little bit. And also that Egwene’s sense of self-preservation rivals Rand’s in its nonexistence. Yikes.

This is also (I think) the first mention of Egwene’s headaches. I’m not sure, though, whether they can be attributed to Halima/Aran’gar at this point, since I was under the impression that Halima needed to be physically kneading Egwene (yeek) to give them to her. God knows dealing with Aes Sedai is enough to give anyone completely non-magically-sourced headaches. But, I could be wrong, I suppose.

Chapter 9: A Pair of Silverpike

What Happens
Neither Siuan nor Leane are happy to be summoned to Egwene – Leane because she doesn’t want herself and Siuan seen together, and Siuan because Sheriam was right where they wanted her, but after Egwene left she brushed Siuan right off. Egwene cuts them both off with the news that Moghedien has escaped, with the aid of a man who can channel. The other two sit down abruptly, appalled, and Egwene notes irrelevantly that Siuan has taken to embroidering her dresses. Siuan growls that they should have had “Marigan” watched, and Egwene wants to know by whom, and why it would have done any good, since it was almost certainly a Forsaken who freed her. Siuan grunts, and Egwene orders them both to find out if anyone saw a man around Moghedien’s tent.

Siuan snorted, louder than the first time. “Why bother?” she growled. “Do you mean to go chasing after like some fool hero in a gleeman’s fool story and bring her back? Maybe tie up all the Forsaken at one go? Win the Last Battle while you’re at it? Even if we get a description head to toe, nobody knows one Forsaken from another. Nobody here, anyway. It’s the most bloody useless barrel of fish guts I ever—!”

“Siuan!” Egwene said sharply, sitting up straighter. Latitude was one thing, but there were limits. She did not put up with this even from Romanda.

Color bloomed slowly in Siuan’s cheeks. Struggling to master herself, she kneaded her skirts and avoided Egwene’s eyes. “Forgive me, Mother,” she said finally. She almost sounded as if she meant it.

Leane tries to take the heat off Siuan with a joke about how she’d be in a better temper if she could keep from throwing things at Gareth Bryne, but Egwene cuts her off acidly, and both Leane and Siuan grow genuinely penitent; Siuan, reddening, offers a sincere apology. Egwene lets the moment set itself before accepting, and Siuan observes (respectfully) that she has taught Egwene well. She suggests one of them bring the order to Faolain or Theodrin, pretending to be very sulky about it, as that will occasion much less comment than Siuan or Leane doing it. Egwene approves, thinking she’s not thinking straight with this headache. Leane leaves, and Siuan assures Egwene that she was in the right to dress her down, which Egwene acknowledges. She asks again whether Siuan would let her do something about Siuan’s situation with Bryne.

“I thank you, Mother, but no. I won’t have him saying I break my word, and I swore to work the debt off.” Abruptly, Siuan’s stiffness dissolved in laughter, rare when she spoke about Lord Bryne. Scowls were much more common. “If you need to worry about somebody, worry about him, not me. I need no help handling Gareth Bryne.”

Egwene thinks the whole situation is very strange, but lets it go and sends Siuan off. She decides to go for a walk to try to clear her head. Various servants and workers who see her make courtesies or ask for her blessing, and Egwene is comforted that at least some people do not seem to see her as a cipher. Her mood is soured somewhat when a group of sisters Traveling back from a message-gathering trip to Salidar do not acknowledge her at all, though their Warders do. Egwene reflects on the usefulness of the Skimming weave she had wrenched out of Moghedien: a way to journey from a place you did not know well to one you did, where Traveling is the opposite, which allowed them to easily retrieve messages from the dovecotes in Salidar even though the army was in a new place almost every day. This leads her to recall the letter Sheriam had (finally) shown her from Merana, which said in cryptic manner that they were settled in Caemlyn and had met “the wool merchant” (Rand) and that he had treated them with courtesy and a little fear, and that they were avoiding the men with “the fellow from Saldaea” (Taim).

Verin and Alanna are here, with a number of young women from the same region as the wool merchant. I will try to send them on to you for training. Alanna has formed an attachment to the wool merchant which may prove useful, though it is troubling too. All will go well, I am sure.

Merana

Sheriam thought it was all wonderful news; Egwene thinks it is “a bucket of horse sweat”. She doesn’t buy that Rand was either courteous or fearful, and if he was the latter, it was a very bad sign. She also doesn’t trust Alanna, and wonders what “attachment” Merana could be referring to, but the worst is that there had been no word from Merana since then. Egwene knows from the Wise Ones that Rand has gone to Cairhien, and thinks Merana should at least have written to say they were following him there. She thinks it even stranger that Coiren and the rest of the Tower embassy have apparently given up and left for Tar Valon.

“I have to go to him,” she muttered. One hour, and she could straighten everything out. Underneath, he was still Rand. “That’s all there is to it. I have to go to him.”

“That isn’t possible, and you know it.”

Egwene jumps a mile before recognizing Leane. They walk together, and Leane reports that Theodrin and Faolain are about their task. Egwene brings up her worries about Merana’s silence to Leane, but Leane agrees with Sheriam (and Siuan) that Merana knows what she is doing and Egwene is overreacting.

Egwene sniffed and folded her arms. “Leane, that man could strike sparks from a damp cloth, if it wore the shawl. I don’t know Merana, but I’ve never seen an Aes Sedai who qualified as a damp cloth.”

“I’ve met one or two,” Leane chuckled. This time her sigh was plain. “But not Merana, true.”

Leane asks if Rand really has a letter from Alviarin, deeming it out of character for the White, and Egwene confirms it, remembering Rand “gloating” over the letters from both Alviarin and Elaida in Cairhien. She frets aloud that sooner or later Rand is going to precipitate a confrontation with an Aes Sedai and ruin everything, and she is the only one who can handle him. Leane begins quoting, “ ‘The Amyrlin Seat being valued with the White Tower itself . . . ’ ”, and Egwene angrily recalls the rest of the extremely inconvenient law Leane was referring to, that the Amrylin Seat not be allowed to deliberately place herself in danger without the lesser consensus of the Hall, unless the Tower is in a state of war.

What rash incident by an Amyrlin had inspired that, Egwene did not know, but it had been law for something over two thousand years. To most Aes Sedai, any law that old attained an aura of holiness; changing it was unthinkable.

Romanda had quoted that . . . that bloody law as though lecturing a half-wit. If the Daughter-Heir of Andor could not be allowed within a hundred miles of the Dragon Reborn, how much more they must preserve the Amyrlin Seat. Lelaine sounded almost regretful, most likely because she was agreeing with Romanda. That had nearly curdled both their tongues. Without them, both of them, the lesser consensus lay as far out of reach as the greater. Light, even that declaration of war only required the lesser consensus! So if she could not obtain permission . . .

Perhaps guessing what Egwene is considering, Leane points out that she would lose what little authority she has if she went to Rand in secret and was found out, which she inevitably would be; she opines that Egwene must let al’Thor go his own way for the moment, and “pluck the goose that’s in front of you”. Egwene agrees grumpily, and heads back to her tent while Leane cheerfully heads off to meet with a prospective Warder. On her way back Egwene is waylaid by Nicola and Areina. Nicola (whose Foretelling Talent and great strength potential Egwene considers to be the main reason why the Aes Sedai agreed to test women over eighteen to be novices) asks Egwene to intervene with her teachers and let her progress more quickly, as she heard Egwene did. Egwene explains that what was done to her was called “forcing” and is very dangerous, and Nicola will have to abide by her teachers’ pace. Areina suddenly mentions that she and Nicola came to Salidar on the same riverboat as Elayne and Nynaeve (and Birgitte). Egwene feels uneasy, as Moeghedien had also been on that boat, but then Nicola goes on that they had overheard Thom Merrilin and Juilin Sandar talking about how if the Aes Sedai in the village found out Elayne and Nynaeve had been pretending to be Aes Sedai they would be in big trouble.

“I know they’re both Aes Sedai now, Mother, but wouldn’t they still be in trouble if anyone found out? The sisters, I mean? Anybody who pretends to be a sister is in trouble if they find out, even years later.” Nicola’s face did not change, but her gaze suddenly seemed to be trying to fix Egwene’s. She leaned a little forward, intent. “Anybody at all. Isn’t that so?”

Egwene is enraged at this attempt to blackmail her on top of everything else, and lights into Nicola and Areina in a cold fury which soon has both of them backpedalling and apologizing frantically. Egwene considers punishing them publically, but realizes it would be too dangerous to herself and Nynaeve and Elayne, and threatens the two with dire and unspecified consequences if they breathe a word of it to anyone. Nicola and Areina agree breathlessly and run off. Egwene wishes she could run too, but she can’t.

Commentary
I really like Leane. I think she would make an awesome drinking buddy. Unless you were trying to land a date, of course. Then she would be a distinct liability.

Siuan: is still awesome… except:

[Bryne’s] methods of dealing with her temper—once she threw plates and boots, anyway—outraged her and provoked threats of dire consequences, yet though she could have wrapped him up unable to stir a finger, Siuan never touched saidar around him, not to do his chores and not even when it meant being turned over his knee.

*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

That is all, good day. I said good day, sir!

This chapter is a little bit of a turning point in Egwene and Siuan’s relationship, in that Siuan was always supportive of Egwene’s bid for Real Amyrlinship (after Egwene faced her down in LOC, anyway), but this is the first time she’s really made to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, at least as far as I can recall.

The whole chapter, really, is about how much Egwene’s changed as a character, and how she’s slowly coming to embrace both being Aes Sedai, and coming to the belief that she really should be the Amyrlin. I left this bit out in the summary, but it is illustrative:

Schemes and deceptions on every side. The camp was like some fetid swamp where strange growths sprouted unseen in mists. Maybe anywhere Aes Sedai gathered was like that. After three thousand years of plotting, however necessary, it was hardly surprising that scheming had become second nature to most sisters and only a breath away for the rest. The truly horrible thing was that she found herself beginning to enjoy all the machinations. Not for their own sake, but as puzzles, though no twisted bits of iron could intrigue her a quarter so much. What that said about her, she did not want to know. Well, she was Aes Sedai, whatever anyone thought, and she had to take the bad of it with the good.

Where this change is most strongly evidenced, though, (in my opinion) is in the way Egwene reacts to the “pair of silverpike” of the chapter title – namely, Nicola and Areina.

I don’t think, two or three books ago, that Egwene would have responded to their blackmail attempt at all the same way. She wouldn’t have capitulated or kowtowed or anything like that before, that’s not what I’m saying, but I don’t think her instant reaction would have beenfury, either. And it’s significant that the main source of her outrage is that they would dare try that shit – not on her, Egwene, but on the Amyrlin. If you see the distinction.

Possibly I’m reading too much into it in light of later events, but nevertheless I think it’s a pretty fair step forward in Egwene’s character development.

This chapter is also the set-up for how Egwene will ultimately do an end-run around the Hall and gain more or less complete control of the Rebel Aes Sedai, and I have to say that though the casual mention here of the war vote needing only the lesser consensus jumps out at me like a house on fire now, I totally missed it the first time around. Clever, very clever!

The Merana stuff is catch-up, and not worth getting into, except for how I’m trying to decide if I’m being unfair to think that Egwene’s failure to realize that Alanna’s “attachment” to Rand must mean “bonding” is Plot Induced Stupidity, or if it’s a reasonable clue for her to have missed. What say you?


And that’s all, folks! Have a spectabular weekend. I’ll be spending mine trying not to freeze to death, because WHAT THE HELL, WINTER SEASON, but, you know. See you Monday!

A Crown of Swords, Part 5

June 16, 2010

Happy new decade, chirren! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read, right here on your friendly neighborhood Tor.com.

I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday season. I myself passed atrés bien time with family and friends, and have gotten some lovely new warm winter boots, just in time for the rest of me to freeze to death, because really, New York.

Winter is stupid.

Anyway! Today’s entry covers Chapter 7 of A Crown of Swords. Today’s a short one, because (a) I’m still recovering from holiday hangover (I leave it to you to decide whether or not I mean that literally) and (b) the next few chapters all go together better anyway.

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index ishere, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of yummy tidbits regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And now, the post!

Chapter 7: Pitfalls and Tripwires

What Happens
Rand fights with saidin while thinking about the different factions and problems in Cairhien. He notes to himself that Faile’s nature is as fierce as her namesake, and that her loyalty is to her husband Perrin, not him; he knows that if she considers it necessary to defend Perrin from the Dragon Reborn, she will. He wonders why Perrin is so vehement about the Aes Sedai, and if Kiruna and the others really could have exerted some undue influence on him. Lews Therin begins raving about killing the Asha’man again, and Rand asks him why shouldn’t he, Rand, be killed as well.

Are you real? the voice said at last, wonderingly. That denial of Rand’s existence was as usual as refusing to answer. Am I? I spoke to someone. I think I did. Inside a box. A chest. Wheezing laughter, soft. Am I dead, or mad, or both? No matter. I am surely damned. I am damned, and this is the Pit of Doom, I am . . . d-damned, wild, that laughing, now, and t-this—is the P-Pit of—

Rand muted the voice to an insect’s buzz, something he had learned while cramped into that chest. Alone, in the dark. Just him, and the pain, and the thirst, and the voice of a long-dead madman. The voice had been a comfort sometimes, his only companion. His friend. Something flashed in his mind. Not images, just flickers of color and motion. For some reason they made him think of Mat, and Perrin. The flashes had begun inside the chest, them and a thousand more hallucinations.

He tells the Maidens and the Asha’man with him to get ready. Ignoring Enaila and Somara’s comments, he creates a gateway to the Palace stables in Caemlyn, noting each Asha’man’s strength as he goes through, and deciding to have the wagons from Dumai’s Wells searched again for the fat man angreal. Lews Therin tries to takesaidin away from Rand again and fails, and Rand worries about what would happen if the madman ever managed to seize it before he could. Lews Therin is relieved once they step through to be far away from Alanna, but Rand likes to be reminded of it, as it makes him remember not to trust Aes Sedai. Rand puts his sword and scepter in a bag and has Sulin tie his hands together; she mutters angrily that Rand’s plan is nonsense.

When Sulin stepped around in front of Rand, she took one look at his face, and her breath caught. “They did this to you,” she said softly, and reached for her heavy-bladed belt knife. A foot or more of steel, it was almost a short-sword, though none but a fool would say that to an Aiel.

“Pull up the hood,” Rand told her roughly. “The whole point of this is that no one recognize me before I reach Bael and Bashere.” She hesitated, peering into his eyes. “I said, pull it up,” he growled. Sulin could kill most men with her bare hands, but her fingers were gentle settling the hood around his face.

They lead him through the Palace to Bael and Bashere, and when they take his hood off Rand sees that Melaine, Dorindha, and Deira are there as well. Bashere asks why he comes to them as a prisoner, but Deira interrupts to ask if the Aes Sedai are coming down on them for what Rand did with the sisters at Dumai’s Wells. Melaine answers sharply that they will be dealt with if they do. Dorindha wants to know what is being done about Colavaere, and Rand growls that Colavaere has taken up farming, which confuses everyone. He continues that the Sun Throne is empty again and waiting for Elayne, and comments that he didn’t know this was to be “a family gathering”. Bael and Bashere both make jokes about the wisdom of keeping things from your wife (or wives), and Bael earns a minor stabwound from Melaine in response.

“What woman could I hate enough to marry her to the Dragon Reborn?” Rand said coldly. That caused a silence solid enough to touch.

He forces himself to be calm, and asks if Elayne has arrived; the “prisoner” disguise had been in case she was already in the Palace, so he could leave without alerting her to his presence. Bashere answers, not yet, but there are rumors of an army with Aes Sedai somewhere in Murandy or Altara, which could be “young Mat” and his Band with Elayne and the other sisters who escaped from Tar Valon after the Tower coup. Deira asks icily if he means to make those sisters swear oaths to him too, and Rand mentally notes that like her daughter, Deira’s loyalty is to her husband, and also that she really doesn’t like Rand. Rand answers her blandly that he’ll accept their oaths if they choose to swear, but if they want to go their own way, they may, unless they put themselves against him. Bael opines that the White Tower already has put itself against him, and “an enemy who comes once, will come again. Unless they are stopped.”

“Don’t you think I’ve enough on my plate without a war against the White Tower? Elaida grabbed my throat and was slapped down.” The ground erupting in fire and torn flesh. Ravens and vultures gorging. How many dead? Slapped down. “If she has sense enough to stop there, I will too.” So long as they did not ask him to trust. The chest.

Rand goes to look at the maps while the others argue over whether Elaida does have the sense to stop, and half-listens to their discussion about various states of affairs as he wonders where Mat is, and why he appears to be moving so slowly. He thinks that he needs Mat for the plan against Sammael, since Perrin is “being stubborn”. Then he overhears something about Dyelin (and Aes Sedai) and demands that they repeat it. Melaine tells him that there are nine Aes Sedai at an inn in Caemlyn, and a few more Melaine is sure are Reds coming in and out of the city periodically to ask about the Black Tower. Rand waves all that away and wants to know about Dyelin, saying if she thinks she can take the throne he can “find a farm for her, too”, but Bashere explains it is quite the opposite: when some nobles proclaimed for her in Aringill, Dyelin had two of them hanged and the rest flogged for treason against Elayne, and since then has had Naean Arawn and Elenia Sarand imprisoned for declaring for themselves. Pelivar and Luan then declared Dyelin Elayne’s regent in Andor until she returns.

“Most of the Houses of Andor have declared support for Dyelin. I think some would like her to take the throne herself, but Aringill keeps even the most powerful careful of their tongues.” Closing one eye, Bashere pointed at Rand. “You, they do not mention at all. Whether that is good or bad, it will take a wiser head than mine to say.”

Rand moves on and introduces them to Fedwin Morr, who he will be leaving with Bael and Bashere, and instructs them to keep his status as an Asha’man secret. He adds that he will be taking other Asha’man to Weiramon, and Bael infers from this that the Illian invasion is at last about to begin. Bashere is gleeful, and Rand promises Bael that the Aiel will have the fifth in Illian.

Bring Elayne quickly, Mat. It ran wild in his head, across Lews Therin’s cackling. Bring her quickly, before Andor and Cairhien both erupt in my face.

Commentary
You will forgive me if I find the last line of this chapter highly ironic.

This chapter is our re-introduction to being inside Rand’s head, which as we all know is just a superfun place to be, for Rand as well as the rest of us. I really don’t remember feeling this sorry for our hero the first time I read the series, but every subsequent time through it’s just more deeply impressed upon me how thoroughly shitty his life really is.

Which is why I made a point of calling attention to the small moment with Sulin where she ties his hands. Plotwise it wasn’t technically worth a quote, but it is so relatively rare to have anyone (besides maybe Min) really gain a sympathetic understanding of what Rand’s going through that I feel the need to, I don’t know, reward it or something.

The other thing that jumped out at me about this chapter is actually what I left out of the summary, which is the number of times Rand manages to unnerve people just by looking at them, including Sulin. I’m undecided if this is supposed to indicate he looks bad-ass, or just crazy. Possibly both. Either way, it’s kind of perversely cool to imagine you can intimidate even extremely assertive characters (which in WOT is just about everyone) just with a look.

This chapter also contains the (I think) first fleeting mention of the “colors” that will eventually develop into Ta’veren Telepathy in Technicolor, tee em. I never noticed that until just now, either. Still not sure what the purpose of it is; I mean, theoretically it could prove to be useful at some point, but to date the only result I’ve noticed is that it annoys the hell out of all three of Our Heroes. This is because it’s more like clairvoyance than telepathy, of course, but then the joke wouldn’t work. And we can’t have that.

The Caemlyn Coterie: I suppose Deira’s dislike of Rand is understandable, given that she thinks he’s going to get her husband killed, but that doesn’t make me like her any better. Bael and Bashere, on the other hand, are an awesome buddy team even in the brief glimpses of them working together we get. Hell, even the names sound like a duo. Just like Hall and Oates!

Perhaps after Armageddon they will go on tour together, and that’show Perrin and Faile get to be King and Queen of Saldaea. Okay, no, but I will be really sad when Bashere dies, because he is awesome. I wonder if Bael will survive. I give it fifty-fifty odds, myself. Melaine, on the other hand, should be a shoo-in, mainly because I don’t peg WOT as being dark enough to kill off a pregnant character.

“What woman could I hate enough to marry her to the Dragon Reborn?” Two things about this. First, damn: nobody can kill a mood like Rand al’Thor, you guys. Second, poll: will Rand actually marry any or all of his three wimmin, or will it be fun fornication to the end? Discuss!

Other than that, this is mostly a State of the WOT catch-up infodump, which at this point is mostly about the theoretically imminent Illian invasion, and the real beginning of the Andoran Succession storyline, which the benefit of hindsight makes me (and, I gather, most readers) go Ah, crap, this thing.

I will say that when I first read this I was rather intrigued by it all, as I do generally enjoy a nice tangled political machination plot; it was just how frickin’ long the Andoran thing got stretched out that made it so irritating, and of course I didn’t know that at the time. Elayne had better be grateful that Dyelin is a downright anomaly among nobles/politicians in her integrity and loyalty. Of course, that initially only made me wonder what her angle was, but as things turned out it seems that Dyelin really was exactly what she portrayed herself to be. Freaky.


And I think that’s about the size of things this go-round, kiddies. Tune in next time for some fun Aes Sedai schemeage – everyone’s favorite! See you Friday!

A Crown of Swords, Part 4

June 16, 2010

Greetings, WOTers! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!

In honor of the season, please imagine that this post has sparkly lights and tinsel twined about it, and snow artistically piled on the letters, and that some clichéd sleigh bells are jingling in the background. Please make sure that the lights are the TWINKLY kind, because I do not truck with those boring steady-glow things. Preferably, they should be white and not colored, but I’m willing to negotiate on that point.

Yes, I have Opinions about festival lighting. I have opinions abouteverything. But you knew that.

Today’s entry covers Chapters 5 and 6 of A Crown of Swords, in which in which Rand disturbs everything but a hairstyle.

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index ishere, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of yummy tidbits regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

Don’t forget: the Re-read briefly goes back on hiatus for the rest of the year, but will be back in all its glory, assuming it has glory, in January. I totes swear, you guys.

And that’s the story, morning glory! Onward to the post!

Chapter 5: A Broken Crown

What Happens
The party marches tensely through the palace to the throne room. The guards at the door gasp in shock to see Rand, and fall to their knees, one of them praying hoarsely under his breath.

“So am I loved,” Rand said softly. He hardly sounded himself.

The throne room is filled to bursting with nobles, and the party gets almost halfway through the room before Rand is recognized; gasps fill the room, and Perrin smells fear throughout the company, but he is only paying attention to the dais at the end of the hall, where Colavaere sits on the Sun Throne flanked by seven ladies-in-waiting. Perrin thinks he sees an eighth woman hidden behind the throne, but all he cares about is that one of the seven attendants is Faile; she looks at Perrin without expression. Rand tells Sulin to wait, and she agrees reluctantly, but then she and all the Maidens veil themselves, causing fresh gasps from the room. Rand walks up to the dais slowly, and Colavaere darts looks behind him.

“Looking for Aes Sedai?” Rand’s voice echoed. He smiled unpleasantly. “I sent them to the Aiel camp. If the Aiel can’t teach them manners, no one can.” A shocked murmur rose, and fell raggedly. Fear became stronger than the perfumes in Perrin’s nose.

Colavaere rallies, and tries welcoming Rand back to Cairhien. Perrin follows him halfway to the dais, but stops when Faile gives no sign of welcome to him, but only stares consideringly. Rand lays a hand on the throne, and says Colavaere knows he means it for Elayne Trakand. Colavaere counters bravely that Cairhien needs a Cairhienin ruler, and rumor reports Elayne to be dead along with her mother. Rand replies flatly that Elayne is alive, and will have the thrones of both Andor and Cairhien. Colavaere replies that what is done cannot be undone.

For all her dignity, all her courage, Colavaere made a visible effort not to flinch as Rand reached out and took hold of the Sun Crown. There was a loud crack of metal snapping, and the crown flexed, hardly disarraying her tower of curls as it pulled away, slowly straightening. A few of the brilliant yellow stones popped from their settings and fell. He held up the stretched arc of metal, and slowly it bent back on itself until the ends met, and . . . Maybe the Asha’man could see what happened, could understand, but to Perrin, one moment the crown was broken, the next it was whole again. No one among the nobles made a sound, not even a shuffling of boots; Perrin thought they might be afraid to. To his nose, stark terror was stronger than any other scent now. It did not quiver; it spasmed wildly.

“Whatever can be done,” Rand said softly, “can be undone.”

Breathily, Colavaere protests that she has kept all Rand’s laws, and when he says nothing, begs him to give her the throne, insisting she has the right to it. Perrin wonders why Rand is dragging this out; jumping in, he asks Colavaere if she had the right to murder Maringil and Meilan, and demands to know where Berelain is. He instantly curses himself as Faile gives him a glance that “could have set water aflame”. Colavaere protests her innocence vehemently, and draws herself up and tells Rand that she is Queen of Cairhien, unless he would rip all their laws asunder. Rand still says nothing, and Colavaere calls for “Annoura” to come advise her. The woman behind the throne steps out, clearly Aes Sedai by her ageless face, and Perrin is surprised when Havien grins at the sight of her. Annoura tells Colavaere that she cannot advise her, and that she allowed Colavaere to “misperceive” their relationship. Then she adds unsteadily to Rand that there is no need for “this”, and that if she had intended him ill she would have struck while unseen. Rand answers icily that she might have died had she tried.

“I’m not who has you shielded, Aes Sedai. Who are you? Why are you here? Answer me! I don’t have much patience with . . . your kind. Unless you want to be hauled out to the Aiel camp? I wager the Wise Ones can make you speak freely.”

Annoura makes the connection quickly, as do most of the nobles; they crowd back from the Asha’man in stark terror, some of them passing out. (Perrin notes that Loial is managing to take notes in the middle of all this.) Annoura says she is of the Gray Ajah, and is advisor to Berelain; she was kept secret because of the Tairen attitude toward Mayene and Aes Sedai together, but she thinks the time for secrets is past. Rand says if Berelain confirms her story, he will release her to Berelain’s parole, but warns her that he will not be manipulated or schemed against; one wrong move and she goes to the Wise Ones with the others. Annoura answers with false calm that she understands. Then Faile steps forward and denounces Colavaere to Rand, saying she had planned to oust the Aiel and recant the laws Rand had set in place; she adds that the woman Faile had gotten this information from (Maire) disappeared soon after, and Faile believes Colavaere had her murdered. Dobraine steps up and formally accuses Colavaere of treason, for which the penalty is execution. Only Perrin hears Rand say “No. I cannot. I will not” and realizes Rand’s delay has been about searching for a way to avoid condemning Colavaere to death. Colavaere searches frantically among the nobles for support, but finds none; she hisses at Faile that she lies, and Perrin growls that Faile does not lie (to himself: “Well, not about something like this”). Colavaere demands proof, claiming that Maire left the city, and without Maire there is no proof of the accusations against her. Then Annoura puts in that Berelain had brought two experienced thief-catchers with her from Mayene, who have procured solid evidence that Colavaere was behind both Maringil and Meilan’s murders.

Word by word the defiance leached out of Colavaere. She still stood, yet it seemed a wonder; she appeared as limp as a damp rag. “They promised,” she mumbled to Rand. “They promised you would never return.” Too late, she clamped both hands over her mouth. Her eyes bulged. Perrin wished he could not hear the sounds coming from her throat. No one should make sounds like that.

With satisfaction, Dobraine amends the charges to treason and murder, and adds that by Rand’s new laws, that now means hanging. Perrin sees that Min is looking at Rand with great sadness as they hear this. Colavaere, near to collapse, manages to demand beheading instead, as befitting her station. Rand seems to struggle with himself; at length he announces that he strips Colavaere of all her titles and possessions, and then asks if she owns a “small farm”. This confuses everyone, but Dobraine confirms that she owns many. Rand orders Dobraine to find out which is the smallest, and to exile her there, making sure she never leaves it. The nobles murmur in scandalized confusion, and Colavaere drops down in a faint; Perrin leaps forward to catch her, but she stops in midair and comes to rest gently on the dais. Perrin guesses that was Rand, as he’s sure the Asha’man would have let her fall. Annoura comments that she suspects Colavaere would have preferred beheading; Rand snaps back that she is alive, and begins giving out orders, but pauses to gaze at the frozen crowd of nobles in the hall, whom Perrin imagines are wondering if he considers them being there treason too.

“This audience is at an end,” Rand said. “I will forget every face that departs now.”

The nobles start filing out, slowly at first, but then, perhaps wondering what exactly Rand meant by “now”, start moving faster and faster until they are shoving and pushing to get out. None of them look at Colavaere as they leave.

Commentary
This is not my favorite scene in WOT, or even in this book, but it’s frickin’ brilliantly done, in my opinion, and ranks pretty high on my overall list of Kickass WOT Sceneage. The tension in this chapter, for one thing, makes piano wire look relaxed; I remember the first time reading this I nearly had sympathetic heart palpitations, wondering how it was all going to be resolved.

While Colavaere more than got what she deserved and I have no sympathy for her per se, Jordan did a marvelous job of putting the reader in her shoes and making us feel what she feels, even from an outside and similarly unsympathetic point of view (Perrin’s). All I have to say is, any day where you are demanding the headsman as the best of your possible range of choices is a really bad day. This observation has been brought to you by Captain Obvious and the letter “Duh”.

All that said, it was something of a bitch to recap, seeing as just about every line in it was significant plotwise, and fraught with portent besides; it really annoys me when I feel like all I’m doing is rephrasing the entire chapter in lesser prose. But as this is a problem fairly unique unto myself, I shan’t dwell on it. You’re welcome.

Loial: Hah! Taking notes. He really is WOT’s resident nerd.

Annoura: I have to say, I quite like her. She doesn’t really get to do that much of significance that I recall, seeing as she spends most of her screen time mired in Ghealdan with Berelain and the rest of That Damn Plotline, but based on her behavior here, woman’s got a good head on her shoulders and some serious brass, to so calmly deliver the coup de grace to Colavaere while facing on no notice what is more or less an Aes Sedai’s worst nightmare come to life.

She is, frankly, a breath of fresh Aes Sedai air after having Kiruna stuck up our collective noses for so long. Annoura’s no Moiraine or Siuan, but at least she walks the walk. It’s also nice that she and Berelain seem to be BFFs, or at least to have a solid working relationship, which speaks well of Annoura, seeing as most Aes Sedai seem to consider it beneath them to be friends with a non-channeler, even if said non-channeler is royalty.

“So am I loved”: you know, it’s kind of a thing. On the one hand, I’m pretty sure that having people be absolutely terrified of you is actually not that much fun to experience in real life, but I must somewhat ashamedly confess that reading about it as a character’s proxy is… kind of awesome. This, possibly, constitutes proof that it is a good thing no one has ever endowed me with Phenomenal Cosmic Power.

Though honestly you can never tell how someone will deal with that sort of thing until they have it. I would like to think that I would handle power at least as well as Rand has (hopefully better, really), but the fact of the matter is, I’d never know until I actually had it. The same way you can train and train a recruit, but never know how they will perform in combat until they are actually there. It’s not a question that can be resolved except in practice. This, I think, is why the world has problems.
Chapter 6: Old Fear, and New Fear

What Happens
Rand, Min, and most of the others leave the throne room while the nobles are still scrambling to get out; Perrin, Aram, Dobraine and Faile remain behind, Perrin and Faile staring at each other and Dobraine staring at the unconscious Colavaere. Perrin goes to Faile and takes her hand, and she takes out a fan and taps her cheek, then his; Perrin knows there is a whole language of fans in Saldaea, but he doesn’t know what this gesture means; her scent is filled with jealousy, though. Dobraine mutters that Rand should have sent Colavaere to the block, and he and Faile have an oblique conversation which Perrin only belatedly realizes is her suggesting Dobraine should do something more permanent with Colavaere than exile her to a farm, and Dobraine refusing.

Every hair on his body tried to stand. From the start he had known that he had married a very dangerous woman. Just not how dangerous.

He catches Aram, who worships Faile, eyeing Colavaere speculatively, and points out firmly that Rand would not like it if anything kept Colavaere from reaching that farm, and neither would he. Faile is disbelieving of Rand’s claims that the Aes Sedai are under his control, instead of the other way around, even after both Dobraine and Perrin swear they saw nine of them give oaths of fealty to Rand with their own eyes, and Perrin realizes that he smells fear on her as well as jealousy. He asks if she truly thinks they are all Aes Sedai puppets, and she answers she’s heard Aes Sedai can do things like that. He asks jokingly if Rand having Verin dance the sa’sara would convince her, but she taps her fan against her wrist, which Perrin knows means I am giving your suggestion serious thought. She continues that she thinks an Aes Sedai would do almost anything to get what she wants, and shivers. Perrin pulls her into a hug, which she returns.

“If any Aes Sedai ever harms you,” she whispered, “I will kill her.” He believed her. “You belong to me, Perrin t’ Bashere Aybara. To me.” He believed that, too. As her hug grew fiercer, so did the thorny scent of jealousy. He almost chuckled. It seemed the right to put a knife in him was reserved to her. He would have chuckled, except that filament of fear remained. That, and what she had said about Maire. He could not smell himself, but he knew what was there. Fear. Old fear, and new fear, for the next time.

Perrin sends Aram off to bring the Two Rivers men into the city, and heads with Faile to their apartments. On the way he hears people following them and spins to confront Selande and her friends, whom he is surprised to see now includes some Tairens. He growls at them that he’ll “kick the lot of [them] from here to Bel Tine” if they make trouble, and Faile tells them to obey her husband, as he is “not a man to be trifled with”. They bow profusely and back off. Perrin mutters about “bloody young buffoons”, and asks Faile how she ended up as one of Colavaere’s attendants. Wary of servants eavesdropping, she murmurs so low that only he can hear that Colavaere jumped at the chance to take her in once she found out who Faile’s father was; Perrin thinks this sounds reasonable, but knows Faile enough to know that’s far from the only reason. He waits until they are in their rooms, and begins to say he worried about her, but she cuts him off furiously.

“Worried about me!” she snapped, spinning to face him. She stood straight and tall, eyes fierce as those of her falcon namesake, and her fan made a coring motion toward his middle. Not part of the language of fans; she made the same gesture with a knife sometimes. “When almost the first words from your mouth were to ask after that . . . that woman!”

Perrin protests that he only wanted Berelain’s thief-catchers and their proof against Colavaere, which only makes Faile angrier that her proof was apparently not good enough. She spits that Berelain had spread rumors after he left that Perrin was in a manor in the country where Berelain could “visit” him, and everyone believed her story instead of Faile’s, and furthermore that Colavaere had delighted in throwing Faile and Berelain together at every opportunity.

“‘Faile, Berelain, come lace my gown.’ ‘Faile, Berelain, come hold the mirror for the hairdresser.’ ‘Faile, Berelain, come wash my back.’ So she could amuse herself waiting for us to claw one another’s eyes out! That is what I have put up with! For you, you hairy-eared—!”

His back thumped against the wall. And something snapped inside him. He had been frightened spitless for her, terrified, ready to face down Rand or the Dark One himself. And he had done nothing, had never encouraged Berelain, had done everything in his wits to chase the woman away. For which his thanks was this.

Gently he took her by the shoulders and lifted her until those big tilted eyes were level with his. “You listen to me,” he said calmly. He tried to make his voice calm, at least; it came out more of a growl in his throat. “How dare you speak to me like that? How dare you? I worried myself near to death for fear you’d been hurt. I love you, and nobody else but you. I want no other woman but you. Do you hear me? Do you?”

He clasps her in his arms, and confesses that he would die if anything happened to her. She grabs his beard when he tries to put her down, and says warmly that a woman likes to hear “I love you” said in the right way. Perrin is stunned; the jealousy is completely gone from her smell, and he gathers by her smoldering look that she’s about to make a comment about Saldaean farmgirls; before she can, though, Rand bursts in.

“Perrin, Berelain isn’t—I’m sorry. Forgive me.” Rand stood shifting his feet, not at all like the Dragon Reborn. There were Maidens in the hallway outside. Min put her head around the doorframe, took one look, grinned at Perrin and ducked back out of sight.

Faile steps away and apologizes pointedly for not hearing his knock, and Rand blushes, but goes on that Berelain is apparently spending the night on a Sea Folk ship. Perrin wishes he would stop mentioning her name, and asks if Rand needed to talk about anything else. Rand stares into space a moment, then asks if Perrin is sure he won’t command his army in Illian; Perrin answers that he is no general, thinking he could not face having men die under his command again, and adds that besides, he thought Min’s viewing meant he had to stay close to Rand. Rand answers that everyone has to take risks, and Perrin takes him at his word by bringing up the Aes Sedai, telling him he will not allow Rand or the Wise Ones to harm them.

Cold blue eyes met his gaze. “You won’t let it?”

I won’t,” Perrin told him levelly. He did not flinch from that stare, either. “They are prisoners, and no threat. They’re women.”

“They are Aes Sedai.” Rand’s voice was so like Aram’s back at Dumai’s Wells that it nearly took Perrin’s breath.

“Rand—”

“I do what I have to do, Perrin.” For a moment he was the old Rand, not liking what was happening. For a moment he looked tired to death. A moment only. Then he was the new Rand again, hard enough to mark steel. “I won’t harm any Aes Sedai who doesn’t deserve it, Perrin. I can’t promise more.”

He continues that it’s just as well about Illian, as he can use Perrin elsewhere, apologizes that he can’t let them rest more than a day or two, and leaves. Faile wonders rhetorically why a man’s sense is inversely proportional to his courage, which Perrin finds a little rich considering what she had been doing, and then decides she doesn’t want the answer, since she feels as forward as a farmgirl at –

“Why are you laughing? Stop laughing at me, Perrin t’Bashere Aybara! Stop it, I say, you uncouth oaf! If you don’t—”

The only way to put an end to it was to kiss her. In her arms he forgot Rand and Aes Sedai and battles. Where Faile was, was home.

Commentary
I swear, these two exhaust me.

I think I’ve said this before, but: I know there are couples out there who thrive on the whole slap-slap-kiss-kiss dynamic, and if it works for you, great, I guess, but the notion of living like that all the time makes me damn near narcoleptic. I just wanna take a nap now. I’m just entirely unconvinced that the alleged great sex that results is anywhere near the aggro needed to get to it, you know?

But, whatever. Again, Faile’s unfounded jealousy is annoying, but then again I have to say if some other woman had been going around telling people she was shacking up with my husband pretty much right in front of me? Um, yeah, I don’t think I would have reacted particularly well to that either. In fact, the more I think about the situation, the more I have to give Faile credit that she didn’t completely lose her shit and try to cut Berelain into tiny pieces.

Of course, that doesn’t excuse her taking it out on Perrin, but, well. Someone needs to give Faile a punching bag – a literal one. I don’t think they have punching bags in Randland, but girl definitely needs something besides her husband to pummel.

I was a little surprised here, having really not remembered that Faile had been genuinely afraid that Perrin et al are Aes Sedai puppets. It sounds silly to the reader, but I don’t think it’s actually an unreasonable fear for her to have had; true, present-day Aes Sedai can’t actually pull that kind of thing off, but given that they have been riding on their overinflated reputation for something like three millenia now, it’s not particularly surprising that Faile would believe they were capable of it.

Fans: This is a little absurd, but the thought that came to me about this is to wonder why a country that’s so cold all the time would develop a code language around a device that is primarily intended to cool you off in hot weather. Though I suppose Saldaea could have hot summers? And anyway, temperature is relative. It’s possible I’m overthinking this.

Perrin: Also forgot he vowed here not to Be In Charge anymore. Thatdidn’t last long, did it?

…Well, it didn’t last long in the sense that Perrin ends up Being In Charge of people again in like two chapters; in the sense of us having to listen to Perrin angst about Being In Charge, we’re at six books and counting. Oy.

The seemingly-brewing confrontation between Perrin and Rand over the Aes Sedai is one of those things that never really came to fruition as a plotline; Perrin will use the topic as the basis of the ruse he and Rand pull off later, but that doesn’t really count, since that was (mostly) faking, and he and Rand have not been together since. I don’t even know if it ever will come up again, given how much the situation will have changed by the time the two of them are reunited. It’s not a big deal, I guess, but it does make the thematic harmonizer in me twitch a bit.


Did that last sentence actually make sense to anyone besides me? Oh well.

That’s our show, kids! I wish each and every one of you a lovely Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati, Islamic New Year, Gregorian New Year, Winter Break, or whatever combination of those you happen to celebrate, and hope everyone stays safe and warm and slightly tipsy. See y’all next decade!

A Crown of Swords, Part 3

June 16, 2010

Monday, Monday, and time for another Wheel of Time Re-read, crafted by expert marksmen just for you! Poing!

Today’s entry covers Chapters 3 and 4 of A Crown of Swords, in which territory is covered, and, yeah.

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index ishere, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of yummy tidbits regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print, or blog, or whatever, so without further ado and with obscure cut text, I give you, the post!

Chapter 3: Hill of the Golden Dawn

What Happens
The various parties of Rand’s forces arrive through the gateway on a hill some miles from Cairhien. Perrin comes through in the middle, and after musing for a bit on whether Elayne would take him to task for flying Manetheren’s banner, thinks back on Rand’s behavior before they went through. After searching the wagons from top to bottom twice (Perrin thinks for a coat), he asked Flinn and Grady whether they thought Rand’s enemies had been asleep while he had been away.

One of the Asha’man waiting to go through first, the stocky fellow with a farmer’s face, looked at Rand uncertainly, then at the leathery old man with the limp. Each wore a silver sword pin on his collar, but not the Dragon. “Only a fool thinks his enemies stand still when he isn’t looking, my Lord Dragon,” the old man said in a gruff voice. He sounded like a soldier.

“What about you, Dashiva?”

Dashiva gave a start, surprised to be addressed. “I . . . grew up on a farm.” He tugged his sword belt straight, which it did not need. Supposedly they trained with the swords as much as with the Power, but Dashiva did not seem to know one end from the other. “I don’t know much about having enemies.” Despite his awkwardness, there was a kind of insolence to him. But then, the whole lot seemed weaned on arrogance.

“If you stay near me,” Rand said softly, “you will.”

The small army finishes coming through, and Dashiva takes the gateway down; Perrin notes he appears to be talking to himself, and hopes he is not going mad already. Rand studies the land, and then Perrin; he remarks that he trusts Perrin, and Min, and Loial, but there are so few he can trust like that. He is interrupted by the fourth Asha’man, Narishma, who points out an Aiel woman running toward them from the city, who proves to be a Wise One named Feraighin. Sorilea and the other Wise Ones consult with her when she arrives, and when Rand, Min, Perrin, Rhuarc, Gaul, Aram, Loial, and the Maidens joins them, Sorilea tells Rand Feraighin’s news, that trouble began in the tents when the rumors that Rand had left to submit to the Amrylin Seat started circulating. Rand asks quietly what was the result.

“Many believe you have abandoned the Aiel,” Amys told him just as quietly. “The bleakness has returned. Every day a thousand or more throw down their spears and vanish, unable to face our future, or our past. Some may be going to the Shaido.”

She continues that the clan chiefs have made no move yet, but are bandying about notions of leaving the wetlands or even attacking Tar Valon. Rhuarc is visibly upset, and Perrin protests that it’s bad, yes, but surely it will be fine once they see Rand is back. Rand asks Sorilea to explain what they’re missing.

“You return with Aes Sedai. Some will believe that means you did bend knee. Whatever you say or do, they will believe you wear an Aes Sedai halter. And that is before it is known you were a prisoner. Secrets find crevices a flea could not slip through, and a secret known by so many has wings.”

Perrin tries not to think about what would happen if the Aiel abandoned Rand, but Sorilea interrupts herself to glare daggers at Kiruna, Bera, and Alanna, who have come up to the group. She tells them they eavesdropped with the Power without permission and left the wagons, two things Sorilea specifically told them not to do. The Aes Sedai stare back defiantly. Rand, paying no attention to this, guesses that Colavaere has been crowned queen; Sorilea confirms this uninterestedly, and Perrin is overcome with worry about Faile, who he thinks may be a target for Colavaere’s ire. He comforts himself with the thought that Bain and Chiad would protect her. Kiruna tells Rand that this is a delicate situation, but Rand ignores her and asks Sorilea if Colavaere harmed Berelain; Sorilea answers that she has not. When prompted, Feraighin adds that Colavaere is telling everyone that Rand will return and confirm her on the throne, and is encouraging the Aiel to leave the city, saying it’s on Rand’s orders. Rand wants to know if anything else is happening, and Feraighin says that the rebels Caraline Damodred and Toram Riatin have moved to a camp south of the city and issued a proclamation that Colavaere is a usurper, and were shortly thereafter joined by the Tairen rebels led by Darlin Sisnera, but otherwise have done nothing except drink and feast. As an afterthought, she adds that there are Aes Sedai in the city, and both Rand and Sorilea jump down her throat, demanding more information. Flustered, Feraighin alternates between telling Rand that there are maybe ten of them staying in Arilyn’s house, and trying to placate Sorilea. All the other Aiel find this hilarious, but Perrin breaks in to ask Feraighin if Faile is well. Feraighin thinks so (calling Perrin “Sei’cair”), which Perrin hardly considers sufficient information, but then Kiruna bulls in, telling Rand that the situation is “complex beyond [his] imagining, so fragile a breath could shatter it”, and that she and Bera and Alanna will accompany him to keep him from visiting on Cairhien “the same disaster you gave Tarabon and Arad Doman”.

Perrin winced. The whole speech could not have been better designed to inflame Rand. But Rand simply listened till she was done, then turned to Sorilea. “Take the Aes Sedai to the tents. All of them, for now. Make sure everyone knows they’re Aes Sedai. Let it be seen that they hop when you say toad. Since you hop when the Car’a’carn says it, that should convince everybody I’m not wearing an Aes Sedai leash.”

Kiruna’s face grew bright red; she smelled of outrage and indignation so strongly that Perrin’s nose itched. Bera tried to calm her, without much success, while shooting you-ignorant-young-lout looks at Rand, and Alanna bit her lip in an effort not to smile. Going by the odors drifting from Sorilea and the others, Alanna had no reason to be pleased.

The group breaks up; Perrin tries to get Feraighin alone to pump her for information about Faile, but the Wise Ones take her off. Aram thinks there’s going to be fighting in the city. Gaul is muttering about women, and tells Perrin his woes re: Chiad and Bain; he is indignant that Chiad is willing to take him as a lover (as long as Bain gets to share), but she will not marry him, even though Gaul is willing to marry Bain as well, which Gaul interprets to mean that he’s not good enough to be worth marrying. In the process of this story he mentions that Chiad and Bain are with the Maidens here, and is startled when Perrin roars at him that they were supposed to be protecting Faile. Puzzled, Gaul points out that Faile is “out of short skirts”; Perrin tries to explain his fears about assassination. Loial tries to comfort him that Faile knows how to take care of herself.

“Perrin . . . Perrin, you know you can’t always be there to protect Faile, however much you want to. You are ta’veren; the Pattern spun you out for a purpose, and it will use you for that purpose.”

“Burn the Pattern,” Perrin growled. “It can all burn, if it keeps her safe.” Loial’s ears went rigid with shock, and even Gaul looked taken aback.

What does that make me? Perrin thought. He had been scornful of those who scribbled and scrabbled for their own ends, ignoring the Last Battle and the Dark One’s shadow creeping over the world. How was he different from them? […] He had no answer for his own questions, but he knew one thing. To him, Faile was the world.

Commentary
Someone pointed out in the comments to the last entry that the whole Gedwyn/Taim nod exchange in the earlier chapter had been about not finding Rand’s fat man angreal, which I think we’re told later is what Rand was having the wagons torn apart looking for here. I don’t know how exactly Taim was supposed to have known about the angreal, but okay.

All the same, I do wonder what happened to it. As far as I can recall, the fat man angreal is never seen again after this point. It probably became something of a moot point after Rand had the Choedan Kal to play with, but still. Oh well: of all the loose ends floating about, this is one I can definitely deal with being left hanging, all things considered.

Flinn: It’s amazing how much projection will do for you. Flinn really doesn’t have that much exposure as a character overall; he only has a few lines here and there, especially at this point, and yet I think he’s awesome. It is to Jordan’s credit that a character can be so easily defined to the reader (well, to this reader, anyway) in so few lines, but I have an extremely clear picture of Flinn and how he behaves already, and I really like him. Insert standard grumble here of how little we get to see of the Asha’man in general over the next books.

I remember, when first reading this, being nearly frantic with worry over the Aiel’s disaffection with Rand. Creating frustration and tension is another thing Jordan was really good at, and I say this with a kind of begrudging admiration, because, well, frustration and tension are not actually fun to experience, but, you know, kudos on achieving what you wanted to achieve, right?

And again we see one of the prevalent themes of WOT, of the malignancy of misinformation, and the corollary that people will interpret what they see the way they want to, and damn is that frustrating. More frustration! And yet, that makes the Wise Ones’ behavior toward the Aes Sedai even more understandable, given that the Wise Ones are, among other things, the PR section of the Aiel in general, in that they are concerned with how things appear as well as how things really are. Anyone who disputes that the two are very different things has not lived in the real world very long, is what I’m saying. And that is also frustrating!

Speaking of the Aes Sedai, someone (else) mentioned in the comments to the last entry that they suspected Kiruna was supposed to come off much cooler than she does, but I don’t know if that’s so, because damn. I cannot think of a single time she is on screen from the moment she appears that I don’t want to smack her upside the head. How could she possibly have thought that Rand would kowtow to her “advice” at this point? Of course, I’m trying to think of a way that she could have changed her behavior without flat-out admitting that she and the other Aes Sedai were Not In Charge, and I’m having a difficult time coming up with one, so maybe it’s not surprising that she decided to take the linebacker method: just put your head down and try to barrel through anything in your way.

It didn’t work, obviously, but when brute strength has always given you everything before, it can be hard to believe that another method is necessary. It’s interesting, in that you don’t generally get to see female characters behave this way, with this faith that bulling through will get you what you want, but in Randland, Aes Sedai really have been the “heavies”, so to speak, so it fits. Until now, of course. It’s got to be a difficult thing to come to terms with, now that I think about it.

As an aside, I give Rand kudos for intuiting the perfect way to defuse her, which is to say, to ignore her entirely. I got quite a chuckle out of that, I have to say.

Also, Perrin obsesses about Faile in this chapter. Shocking! And we set the set-up here for the Plotline That Won’t Die, that Perrin is going to go completely off the Light-side rails when Faile is kidnapped, so thank God for that, really. Sigh.

As a last random note, I think it is much better that I don’t dwell on the Bain/Gaul/Chiad thing, as the logistics of it can get quite brain-melting if you think about it for more than a few minutes. All I’m going to say is, threesomes are logistically problematic enough even when all three parties are enthusiastic about it, but when one of the three is… not so into one of the other three, well, that’s just… a problem. I can’t see how Bain’s going to get any satisfaction out of this regardless of how it’s resolved, is all I’m going to say.
Chapter 4: Into Cairhien

What Happens
The army heads toward Cairhien while Perrin frets about Faile. Her horse, Swallow, is with the Two Rivers men, and Perrin tries to convince himself that if he can manage to get the horse to Cairhien safe, then that will mean Faile will be safe, too. Min tries to reassure him several times, finally growling at him frustratedly that if anyone tries to do anything, Faile will make them “wait out in the hall till she has time for them”. Loial also tries to reassure Perrin:

“I am sure Faile can look after herself, Perrin. She is not like Erith. I can hardly wait for Erith to make me her husband so I can tend her; I think I’d die if she changed her mind.” At the end of that, his mouth remained open, and his huge eyes popped; ears fluttering, he stumbled over his own boots and nearly fell. “I never meant to say that,” he said hoarsely, striding along beside Perrin’s horse once more. His ears still trembled. “I am not sure I want to—I’m too young to get—” Swallowing hard, he gave Perrin an accusing look, and spared one for Rand up ahead, too. “It is hardly safe to open your mouth with two ta’veren about. Anything at all might come out!”

They reach a rise just outside the city, and see that a fourth flag, in Colavaere’s House colors, has been added to Rand’s two banners and the Cairhien rising sun banner, which Dobraine grimly says confirms the Aiel’s report that she has taken the throne. He also points out that a new ruler always gives out lavish gifts to the commoners upon their coronation, and Rand is risking a riot if he unseats her. Rand decides to enter the city with only a token company. There is a brief argument over who is coming into the city with Rand, with Min and Loial insisting on coming along; surprisingly, Dashiva objects to the plan, pointing out that all it takes is one man with a bow Rand doesn’t see in time, and suggesting sending an Asha’man instead to “do what needs doing”.

“I will do this my way.” [Rand’s] voice rose in anger, and he smelled of cold fury. “Nobody dies unless it can’t be avoided, Dashiva. I’ve had a bellyful of death. Do you understand me? Nobody!”

“As my Lord Dragon commands.” The fellow inclined his head, but he sounded sour, and he smelled . . .

Perrin rubbed his nose. The smell . . . skittered, dodging wildly through fear and hate and anger and a dozen more emotions almost too quickly to make out. He no longer doubted the man was mad, however good a face the fellow put on. Perrin no longer really cared, either. This close . . .

Perrin takes off for the city without waiting for anyone else, but the rest soon catch him up. They reach the Foregate, and Perrin notes uneasily that though Rand is fairly anonymous in his plain coat, the Aiel in the crowds know who a wetlander escorted by Maidens must be, and their expressions are “considering”. They head through the city without incident, and when they reach the palace, Asha’man immobilize the guards at the gates, and the party enters the courtyard with no alarm raised; servants take away the horses, and they head into the palace, where they are met by Selande and several others who have started imitating ji’e’toh. They kneel, and one of the women, Camaille Nolaisen, stammers that they did not expect the Lord Dragon to return so soon. Perrin notes that Selande smells terrified.

“Yes,” Rand said softly. “I doubt anyone thought I would return—so soon. None of you has any reason to be afraid of me. None at all. If you believe anything, believe that.” Surprisingly, he looked right at Selande when he said that. Her head whipped up, and as she stared at him, the fear smell faded. Not completely, but down to a tatter. How had Rand known it was there?

Rand asks where Colavaere is, and Selande answers that she is in the throne room, for the “third Sunset Convocation”, and Dobraine mutters that she certainly wasted no time, as that makes this the ninth sunset since her coronation. Selande tells Rand that they are ready to “dance the blades” for him, which makes the Maidens either wince or look murderous, and Perrin demands to know where his wife is. Selande answers slowly that she is in the throne room, too, as one of Colavaere’s attendants; one of the others hisses at her that they swore “water oath” not to tell that. Perrin is astounded, and Min whispers to him that she is sure Faile must have a good reason.

Rand spoke. “Selande, lead the way to the Grand Hall. There will be no blades. I am here to see justice done, to all who deserve it.”

Something in his voice made Perrin’s hackles rise. A hardness grim as a hammer’s face. Faile did have a good reason. She had to.

Commentary
Loial is still adorable, all “freaking ta’veren!” Heh.

I chuckled at Min’s backhanded compliment to Faile, too, which I have to say would probably be somewhat similar to my own reaction to Faile had I met her in real life; which is to say, she would annoy the hell out of me even as I admired her for her better qualities.

Dashiva: The things Perrin smells were a nicely done red herring; this is one of the passages that threw me off, initially, in deciding that he had to be Osan’gar, but I suppose in retrospect it’s not that surprising that he should be that conflicted, considering that he is tasked (both as his cover identity and by the Dark One) with protecting the very person who is his deadliest enemy. Especially considering that Rand was the one who killed him the first time around, which could hardly be expected to dispose Aginor/Osan’gar/Dashiva favorably toward him. Even I couldn’t blame the guy for holding a grudge on that one, really.

I always enjoy the interactions between the main characters and someone – small, I guess? Is that condescending? – like Selande, and how she loses her fear of Rand here. I guess it’s just nice that with all the large-scale stuff going on, Rand still takes the time to try and reassure her, in his way, and that it works; this is something he rather loses the ability or inclination to do as time goes on, and which I think is one of the main ways in which he becomes less sympathetic as a character. Don’t forget the little people, Rand!

And… that’s about all I have to say about this chapter, as it is mainly a ramp-up to the Big Things a-happening in the next.


Which we will get to next time, Gadget, next time! So have fun as I zoom off in my rocket avec screeching cat-noises, kids, and see you on Friday!

A Crown of Swords, Part 2

June 16, 2010

Greeting, WOTerians!

Welcome back to the Re-read, on this frickin’ freezing Friday, Fo’sho. Seriously, what the hell, weather? New York City winters are supposed to be wussy!

Today’s post covers Chapters 1 and 2 of A Crown of Swords, in which I prove that random tangents are my Waterloo.  I have absolutely no response to where I ended up in the commentary to Chapter 1. You’ll see.

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index ishere, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of yummy tidbits regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and WOT stuff in general.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And that puts us square with the house, says I, so let us of course foolishly run right back to the craps table, shall we?

Chapter 1: High Chasaline

What Happens
Wheel, Ages, legend, myth, wind. Perrin sits among the burned out wagons in Rand’s camp and thinks of how it is High Chasaline, a day of feasting in the Two Rivers. He listens to the wolves who had not come to Dumai’s Wells scorn those who had; though he feels no blame from those who did come, he is pained for their deaths. As he worries about what to do about Faile, Aram opines disgustedly that the Aiel should make the Shaido prisoners – nowgai’shain – put on some clothes. Perrin tries to explain about gai’shainto Aram, but doesn’t really understand it himself. They are interrupted by one of the naked prisoners, a woman, asking if Perrin wants anything, and Perrin notes while avoiding looking at her that the Aiel are finding it hilarious to send the Shaido prisoners to the wetlander men and watch them squirm. He suddenly realizes that unlike the Two Rivers men and the Cairhienin, the Mayeners only seem to find it amusing (and titillating), and haven’t been been sent gai’shain hardly at all. He tries looking directly at the woman and actually giving her a task, which sends her off tight-lipped, and Perrin decides to tell the rest to try the tactic. Then Aram asks what they are going to do with the Aes Sedai prisoners; Perrin answers that is for Rand to decide, noting how the prisoners ignore the three sisters Rand had stilled and their Asha’man guards alike.

It was quite a trick. He could not make himself disregard the Asha’man, and he was not under their guard. They ranged from fuzz-cheeked boys to gray-haired, balding gansers, and it was not their grim, high-collared black coats or the sword each wore at his hip that made them dangerous. Every Asha’man could channel, and somehow they were keeping the Aes Sedai from channeling. Men who could wield the One Power, a thing of nightmares. Rand could, of course, but he was Rand, and the Dragon Reborn besides. These fellows made Perrin’s hackles rise.

Aram believes that the Aes Sedai are too dangerous to keep prisoner for long, to both Rand and Perrin, and suggests, in a roundabout way, that perhaps they should be taken care of permanently. Perrin is aghast at the idea, and orders Aram to shut up; Aram acquiesces immediately, and Perrin thinks the worst part is that Aram didn’t smell angry, even when suggesting murder. He overhears a conversation between two Two Rivers men which seems to echo Aram’s sentiments regarding the Aes Sedai, and wonders uneasily how many of the rest feel the same way. He concludes reluctantly that he will have to protect the Aes Sedai if anyone tried anything – including Rand. He doesn’t think the Cairhienin or the Mayeners will be much of a problem on that front, but the Asha’man and the Aiel are another story; he notes that the Wise Ones smell “grim and purposeful” whenever they look at the Aes Sedai.

A mood hung in the camp, though, a tension that had wound everyone tight. Rand was free now, and temporary alliances were just that, after all; temporary. Aiel hefted their spears when they looked at the Cairhienin, and the Cairhienin grimly fingered their swords. So did the Mayeners; they had no quarrel with the Aiel, had never fought them except for the Aiel War when everybody had, but if it came to a fight, there was little doubt which side they would be on. The Two Rivers men, too, probably.

Perrin also notes that the Asha’man are not at all pleased at the Wise Ones’ presence, only slightly less than the Wise Ones are with the Asha’man’s, and wonders what he is supposed to do about any of it. He wishes he were back home. As he mounts his horse, Loial approaches and tells him (in a very loud whisper) that it is wrong to hold Aes Sedai against their will, and furthermore that it will only take one spark for the whole camp to go up “like a wagonload of fireworks”. He asks if Rand is aware of it, and Perrin knows he can’t put off going to Rand any longer.

Commentary
An alternate, much shorter way to summarize this chapter might have been: “Perrin looks around, and says to himself, ‘Dude. We are so boned.’”

I have to ponder if, when beginning writing ACOS, Jordan wasn’t a tiny bit appalled at the utter mess he had left himself to write his way out of in LOC. Not that I think the events in LOC were unplanned, by any means; some writers fly by the seat of their pants, narratively, but by all accounts Jordan was much too into excruciatingly thorough background research and detailed note-taking for that. But all the same I wonder if he knew before he wrote it that LOC was going to explode everything quite that – explodedly.

Perhaps that explains why ACOS only covers ten days. I dunno. But it’s interesting to think about.

Whichever the case, this chapter is mostly about re-establishing the extremely precarious state of the Light-side alliances, and not much else. The plot begins in the next chapter.

Other, more random thoughts:

Aram: There’s a certain amount of peril in assigning modern psychology terms to pre- (or non-) post-Freudian characters, because I absolutely believe that merely possessing knowledge of pop pysch buzzwords changes people’s behavior in having those pop psych buzzwords (making Freud/Jung/etc. the Schrödinger’s cat of the brain, whee!), and Aram wouldn’t know the term “sociopath” if it walked up and smacked him upside the head, but as a post-Freudian human my own self, the label is awfully difficult to avoid applying here.

(Yes, I know. The secret is, keep turning right and eventually you’ll get out.)

The wolves: Aw, bye, wolves. Because after Dumai’s Wells, Mr. Emo Trauma Perrin pretty much entirely avoids them, if I recall correctly. I may not, of course, but I am under the impression that from here on, other than faffing about with Hopper a few times in the Dreamworld, the wolves are persona non evidens, mostly. I mean, I think Perrin had some around during the invasion of *mumblenameoftownFailewasheldprisonerin*, but I don’t recall them actually doing very much.

Blah. More wolves, please.

Okay, fine, Perrin has a right to be little upset about basically leading the wolves to their deaths (she says, magnanimously), but one of Perrin’s fundamental problems is that he has yet, even as of TGS, to truly accept that he is a Leader of Men (and Wolves), with all the craptastic consequences thereof. Most significantly, that part of being a leader, especially in your rarefied apocalyptical situations, is being able to handle that your leadership will lead to people’s deaths. Period. It’s not a question of whether or not some (or most, or even all) of your people will die, it’s only a question of whether or not their deaths will mean anything.

That… that pretty much deeply sucks, doesn’t it. Okay, I give Perrin some slack on the Emo Trauma. SOME. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to grouse when he goes Weapons-Grade Emo in a bit here, but that, fortunately, is not yet.

I would like to give Perrin crap about the Shaido gai’shain thing, but I feel I am on shaky ground doing so, because I can’t deny that having a bunch of stark naked people running around all day in front of me would be… a lot. Maybe this makes me a prude, but I think it’s mostly the idea of doing outdoorsy chores in the nude that kind of wigs me. “Here, Mr. Naked Man, go chop us some firewood!” Ouch? Clothes are for modesty AND protection, dontcha know!

And at the risk of sending my more fragile male readers screaming into the night, what happens if one of the gai’shain Maidens is on her period? Does she just… bleed on the ground, or what?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the question of whether Randland has invented tampons has not been addressed – though really, given the Maidens’ lifestyle, at least, it’s impossible to imagine that they hadn’t come up with a way to deal efficiently with menstruation long since. Not that I really care – Jordan hasn’t filled us in on whether Randlanders use toilet paper, either, and all things considered some things are probably best left unexplored – but the thought did occur to me. This is what happens when you allow free association to run amok. Just keep turning right…

(This has now led me to discover that toilet paper was probably invented, like most things, by the Chinese, and has been documented as being in use since at least the sixth century, and tampons were used by the ancient Egyptians, at least according to Wikipedia, so the chances that both products were in use in Randland are actually excellent. I also note that these are topics I never in a million years DREAMED I would end up researching because of the Wheel of Time. Or at all. I’m sure there’s some profound moral to be drawn from this, but I’m too busy giggling at my life to suss it out at the moment.)

And on that note, I declare that the moving on, it will occur now, yes?
Chapter 2: The Butcher’s Yard

What Happens
Perrin feels sickened as he gazes out at the mass graves of the casualties from those who followed him to rescue Rand (including nineteen Two Rivers men), but it’s better than looking at where Rand is, though Aram is grinning at it:

A seething sea of black, vultures and ravens and crows in tens of thousands, swirling up in waves and settling again, concealing the broken earth. For which Perrin was more than grateful. The Asha’man’s methods had been brutal, destroying flesh and ground with equal impartiality. Too many Shaido had died to bury in less than days, even had anyone cared to bury them, so the vultures gorged, and the ravens, and the crows. The dead wolves were down there, too; he had wanted to bury them, but that was not the wolves’ way.

Perrin watches Rand, surrounded by a huge entourage including Taim, Dobraine, and Min, checking the corpses in the killing grounds while Nandera, Sulin, and the Wise Ones argue with him. Kiruna marches up to Perrin, the other eight Aes Sedai from the Caemlyn embassy behind her, and demands to know what Rand is doing. Perrin notes that this is the first time they’ve been out in public since the battle, no doubt trying to figure out what had happened. Perrin also notes Charl Gedwyn and a dozen more Asha’man just happening to be lounging near where Kiruna et al are. Perrin lies to Kiruna that he doesn’t know what Rand is doing, but he’s willing to bet that every corpse Rand is looking at is of a Maiden. He recalls walking away from camp the night before and coming across Rand, wrapped in a ball and rocking himself.

Rand’s face was drawn and twisted, the face of a man who wanted to scream, or maybe weep, and was fighting it down with every scrap of his fiber.

[…] He did not look around, though Perrin’s boots rustled loudly in the dead grass, yet he spoke hoarsely, still rocking. “One hundred and fifty-one, Perrin. One hundred and fifty-one Maidens died today. For me. I promised them, you see. Don’t argue with me! Shut up! Go away!” Despite his sweat, Rand shivered. “Not you, Perrin; not you. I have to keep my promises, you see. Have to, no matter how it hurts. But I have to keep my promise to myself, too. No matter how it hurts.”

Perrin had sat there with him and listened to him recite all one hundred and fifty-one names, hoping that he could manage to stay sane. He thinks now that none of that is Kiruna’s business. Kiruna is displeased, but moves on, pointing out that with the hundreds of crows and ravens around, some are certainly spies, and they should be killing them. Perrin snaps back that there has been more than enough killing, and before any of the Aes Sedai can take him to task for speaking so, lights into Kiruna and the others for disobeying his orders to stay back from the fighting the day before. Infuriated, Kiruna coldly informs him that they had no choice in order to circumvent the strictures of the Third Oath, and furthermore does not appreciate having to explain herself to “farmboys”. Perrin reluctantly concludes that this is reasonable, but still thinks they wanted to get to Rand first as well. Loial interrupts to point out that Rand is coming, and whispers an aside to Perrin (that everyone in his vicinity can hear) to be careful, as the Aes Sedai swore no oaths to him. Kiruna and the other sisters move off to confer, and Perrin’s guess that they are blocking eavesdropping with the Power is confirmed when Gedwyn’s Asha’man all go alert instantly; Gedwyn looks disappointed when the sisters drop their ward with no further incident. Rand strolls up with Min, laughing and talking to her, trailed by Taim (who grimaces when Gedwyn shakes his head at him), Dobraine, Havien Nurelle, Nandera and Sulin and twenty Maidens, and Amys and Sorilea and the other Wise Ones. Kiruna immediately tells Rand that he needs Healing, and should not have refused it the day before, but Taim and the Wise Ones ignore her, each campaigning for the Aes Sedai to be put into his or their charge, while Kiruna opines that Coiren and the others should be put into her care. Sorilea pronounces the Aes Sedai “da’tsang”, which Perrin doesn’t understand, and they keep arguing until Rand yells at them all to shut up. Perrin notes that Taim smells furious, Kiruna afraid, and Amys and Sorilea determined; Min plucks anxiously at Rand’s sleeve, staring at everyone. Rand hesitates, then orders that the Aes Sedai be given into the Wise Ones’ care, and cuts Taim off before he can protest; Perrin is worried to note that Rand smells of hatred and fear when he looks at Taim. Kiruna smells relieved, but nevertheless pronounces the notion of turning over Aes Sedai to the Wise Ones “unthinkable”.

Rand raised a hand, and her words stopped in their tracks. Maybe it was his stare, like blue-gray stone. Or maybe it was what showed clearly through his torn sleeve, one of the red-and-gold Dragons that wound around his forearms. The Dragon glittered in the sunlight. “Did you swear fealty to me?” Kiruna’s eyes popped as though something had struck her in the pit of her stomach.

After a moment, she nodded, however unwillingly. She looked as disbelieving now as she had the day before, when she knelt down there by the wells at battle’s end and swore beneath the Light and by her hope of salvation and rebirth to obey the Dragon Reborn and serve him until the Last Battle had come and gone. Perrin understood her shock. Even without the Three Oaths, had she denied it, he would have doubted his own memories. Nine Aes Sedai on their knees, faces aghast at the words coming out of their mouths, reeking of disbelief.

Rhuarc joins the party and reports that the Shaido are fleeing, and there were men with green coats to the north who had several women with them, but Rhuarc’s forces let them escape as Rand had ordered. Rand replies that he would have had anything to have Galina, but that Rhuarc had done right. He adds, though, that “they are going to pay, everyone of them”, and Perrin is unsure if he means the Shaido or the Aes Sedai who had escaped. Then Rand informs Kiruna et al that he trusts them to do as he says, but they “won’t so much as take a bath” without permission from a Wise One. Bera and Kiruna are astonished, and Perrin notes that the Wise Ones smell of grim satisfaction, while Taim smells amused. Kiruna rallies and wants to know if Rand is still determined to go without Healing, and Min and the Maidens rib him about being stubborn. Rand gives them wry looks, but tells Kiruna, not from her.

Taim’s mouth quirked in a wry almost-smile, and he stepped toward Rand, but without taking his eyes from Kiruna, Rand flung out a hand behind him. “From her. Come here, Alanna.”

Perrin gave a start. Rand had pointed straight to Alanna with never so much as a glance. That prickled something in the back of his head, but he could not make out what.

Perrin notes that Taim is puzzled too. To his shock, when Alanna comes to him Rand cups her chin to look at her, and she blushes. He commands her to Heal him, and as she does she whispers to ask how he can stand the pain, but Rand does not answer, instead giving the Aes Sedai over to Amys and Sorilea, who immediately begin herding them off, and Perrin thinks they have to be better than handing the sisters off to the Asha’man. Rand orders Taim back to the Tower, but Taim argues that Rand needs Asha’man guard around him.

Rand’s head turned toward Taim. His face matched any Aes Sedai for giving nothing away, but his scent made Perrin’s ears try to lie back. Razor-sharp rage abruptly vanished in curiosity and caution, the one thin and probing, the other foglike; then slashing, murderous fury consumed both. Rand shook his head just slightly, and his smell became stony determination. Nobody’s scent changed that fast. Nobody’s.

Rand points at random, and seems as surprised as Taim that he has pointed at Dashiva, an Asha’man who Taim says is powerful but who may already being going mad. Taim’s opposition seems to cement Rand’s decision, and he cuts Taim’s protests off and dismisses him, and Taim leaves. Rand strides off, and Havien and Dobraine immediately accost Perrin about the Lord Dragon’s strange behavior; Perrin replies bluntly, “He’s still sane”, and marches off to the Two Rivers men and orders them to get ready to move out, then goes to find Rand. He tells Rand he hopes Rand knows what he is doing, and runs down a summary of what he had seen (and smelled) this morning, though he doesn’t phrase it like that, about the sentiments toward Kiruna and the rest. Rand asks if he really thinks that would be worse, to Perrin’s shock, but Min jumps in and calls them both woolheads, and says she knows neither of them would contemplate anything like that.

Sulin chuckled, but Perrin wanted to ask Min how certain she was, although that was not a question he could voice here. Rand scrubbed his fingers through his hair, then shook his head, for all the world like a man disagreeing with somebody who was not there. The sort of voice that madmen heard.

“It’s never easy, is it?” Rand said after a time, looking sad. “The bitter truth is, I can’t say which would be worse. I don’t have any good choices. They saw to that themselves.” His face was despondent, but rage boiled in his scent. “Alive or dead, they’re a millstone on my back, and either way, they could break it.”

Rand asks Min in front of the Maidens if she’s seen anything, and she explains to a startled Perrin that the Aiel know about her visions and think nothing of it, which is more than she can say about where she grew up, but continues that other than seeing that Taim “has blood in his past and blood in his future” she hasn’t seen anything of use, as the Asha’man seem to be gathering images like Aes Sedai. Rand tells her not to worry about it, but this does not reassure her. Loial comes up and asks Rand about telling him the details for his book, but Rand tells him, not until they are back in Cairhien. He calls Dashiva over and asks if he can make a gateway. Dashiva replies that “the M’Hael” teaches Traveling as soon as the student shows he is strong enough to learn it. Rand is disconcerted and disapproving to learn of Taim’s self-imposed Old Tongue title (which means “leader”), but dismisses it and orders Dashiva to make a gateway to Cairhien.

“It’s time to see what the world has been up to while I was away, and what I have to do about it.” He laughed then, in a rueful way, but the sound of it made Perrin’s skin prickle.

Commentary
One thing it’s kind of funny Perrin never really mentions, considering all the odor-detecting he does in this chapter, is what thousands of dead bodies, in sweltering heat, must smell like after two days. Which is to say, about the most horrible, gag-inducing, putrescent stench imaginable.

Well, he does mention it, actually (in the context of watching people in Rand’s entourage vomit while he’s searching the bodies) but what puzzles me is how he could smell anything else through a stink that bad. *shrug* I guess his nose is so good it has selective filters on it?

Anyway. TGS has put an interesting new perspective on this whole List of Rand’s, for me. TGS very strongly implied something which had not really been made that clear in the earlier novels (to me, anyway): that Rand’s long-standing refusal to kill women, and his anguish over those who died following him, was – not exactly an arbitrary hang-up, given his upbringing, but a hang-up that he chose (subconsciously or otherwise) out of several possible hang-ups to represent his own personal Moral Event Horizon.

In other words, in all this becoming harder and more ruthless and etc., he had set this one act – killing women – as the one last line he would refuse to cross; the one deed that was beyond the pale. The implication was that Rand believed that if he could keep from doing that one thing, then he had not slid completely down the slippery slope of expediency into total monster-hood. TGS showed this, of course, by showing what happened once Rand was forced to cross that line, and how it almostdid turn him into a monster.

So, this presents an interesting conundrum for me. On the one hand, I do not in the least withdraw my objections to setting up women on a pedestal like that, either from a feminist perspective or a purely practical viewpoint; seriously, whether it was sexist or not pales next to the observation that with female Forsaken around, it was a policy that was guaranteed to blow up in his face – which it did, horribly. In retrospect, what happened with Semirhage was inevitable – in its consequences if not in the exact sequence of events.

However, the acknowledgement that this was an irrational and at least somewhat random thing for Rand to choose as his line in the moral sand has – not reconciled me to it, exactly, but made it more palatable. I’m not sure I can articulate why this is, really, except that in a strange way it makes it less about the value of women’s lives vs. men’s, and more about Rand’s own flawed, slightly loony, but understandable attempts to hang on to his own internal moral equilibrium.

The interesting thing will be to see how, now that his moral event horizon has been rather spectacularly blown out of the water, how Rand will choose to climb back out of the pit in which he almost completely buried himself in TGS. One hopes that he will choose a better soapbox to stand on.

So, all that took forever to figure out how to phrase, so I will finish up this commentary with some quick notes on other matters:

Taim: I continue to mentally berate Rand for refusing to address the practically infinite number of warning bells Taim’s behavior sets off. “M’Hael”, meaning “leader”? Seriously? I understand Rand’s issues with dealing with the Asha’man in general and Taim in particular, but ye gods, man. Leaving Taim in unsupervised charge of an army of male channelers is like hiring a pyromaniac to be the night watchman for your dynamite factory. Good call!

Aram: Screw avoiding modern labels, that guy needs to be in a padded room. Grinning at a giant field of rotting corpses, holy crap. Psycho, thy name is Tinker. Ugh.

Dashiva: Hi, Osan’gar! Nice of you to join us, I guess. This, I always felt, was one of Jordan’s gimmes: EVERYONE was sure he was Evil in Disguise from the moment he appeared, from what I recall.

Kiruna et al: I still contend what I contended before, that their forced oathing was unethical. I don’t have time to get into it more than that right now (go back and read my initial take on it if you want), but as this will come up continually throughout ACOS, don’t worry, it’ll be discussed again.


Aaaaand I ain’t got no more for the nonce. Play nice in the commentses, chirren, and have a lovely weekend. See you Monday!

A Crown of Swords, Part 1

June 16, 2010

Behold, oh ye faithful!

I give you – bum-bum bum-bum bum-bum BUM – the triumphal return of the Wheel of Time Re-read!

*confetti*

Please insert the appropriately bombastic trumpet fanfare of your choice here. Thank you, that was lovely.

We celebrate this momentous – momentous, I say! – occasion with an unprecedented and death-defying event: a recap of the Prologue of A Crown of Swords – a book which has never been recapped before!

Well. Uh, not by me, anyway. Look, don’t bother me with technical details, I just work here.

Anyway! Previous re-read entries are here. The newly created and terribly spiffy Wheel of Time Master Index is here, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of yummy tidbits regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm – not to mention for WOT stuff in general. Because you are just that lucky.

Two notes before we begin, one on scheduling and one on spoilers.

Scheduling: Previously on the Re-read, I’ve been posting three times a week, which I’ll confess to you now was kind of a grueling amount of work even after I slowed the pace of actual material covered per post, back around TSR. That plus recently changing circumstances have compelled me to make an executive decision, that the three-times-a-week deal is just not going to fly anymore. Thus, from now on the Re-read will only post twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays.

Additionally, the holiday season has done its usual excellent job of throwing my whole damn life into chaos – no, I mean even more chaos than previously – and since I will ergo be traveling/elsewhere for the last two weeks of the year, it’s a pretty fair bet that there will be no posts the week of Christmas or New Year’s. So, yeah, I know it kind of sucks that the blog comes off hiatus only to go right back on hiatus, briefly, but, well. Christmas, end of the year, first time I’ve seen my family in six months… guess what, not going to have too much guilt about this. The Re-read’ll be back full force in January, never fear, and in the meantime you’ll be getting four, I say four shiny ACOS posts to play with before I leave. That’s a windfall, son, buck up!

So there’s that. As to spoilers: Given how much the events it portrayed have changed my view of the story and the characters, I realized as soon as I started up recapping again that it was simply not going to be possible for me to avoid spoilers for The Gathering Storm in the Re-read from here on out. Considering that TGS has been out for over a month now, I don’t think this is unreasonable; if you’re enough of a WOT fan to be following this Re-read, you’re enough of a fan to have gotten hold of and read TGS by now. Or, you’re the kind of fan who doesn’t care about spoilers, which amounts to the same thing.

So: This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

Et voilà, n’est-ce pas? And now, with a veritable surfeit of ado, I present you: the Re-read!

Before I get to the actual recap, I have to note that contrary to many fans’ opinions, A Crown of Swords is actually my favorite novel in the series (thus far). There are several reasons for this. First is my theory that the least favorite WOT book of any given fan will more often than not correspond to the first novel that the fan had to wait for; this doesn’t pass muster as an actual scientific Theory, since I know people who have contradicted it, but it’s true enough to serve as a vague rule of thumb.

In my case, I started reading the series right when ACOS came out in paperback. Thus, the first WOT novel I had to wait for was the novel following it, The Path of Daggers, which is by leaps and bounds my least favorite book in the series. (Given that, the recap of TPOD is going to be either hilarious or the grumpiest series of posts ever. Or, possibly, both. Only time will tell!)

Contrariwise, I adored ACOS to itty bitty bits, and didn’t even notice the chief complaint of other fans – namely, that it only covers something like 10 days chronologically – until it was pointed out to me. Not that I am disputing this as a legitimate complaint; as comparison, LOC covers almost 100 days, so yeah, I can see how that might be a little infuriating – especially if ACOS was the first book you had to wait for.

But like I said, I didn’t notice. In my opinion, the stuff that happened in those 10 days was more than enough to make up for the lack of actual time passing. I mean, this was a pretty damn eventful WOT week, you know? Plus, chronology in novels is one of those things I tend not to notice unless I’m really paying attention, or the amount of time passing is a central element to the plot. Sometimes obliviousness is bliss.

(I also tend to ignore maps. This makes me officially Weird in the eyes of many a fantasy fan.)

The other big reason I loved ACOS is because it so heavily features Mat, who at the time was my favorite WOT character. (I’m not sure if he still is, for reasons I will get into later.) ACOS also has what is probably my absolute favorite scene in all of WOT – which I will tell you about when we get to it (and which may surprise you, or at least puzzle you).

All that being said, it’s been quite a while since I’ve actually read ACOS, so it will be interesting to see if my “favorite” ranking of the novel will hold up under close Re-read scrutiny.

Let’s find out, shall we?
Prologue: Lightnings

What Happens
Elaida looks down on Tar Valon from her new high quarters in the White Tower, and admires the beginnings of the construction of her new palace, which will be taller than the Tower itself when completed. She moves back inside her richly decorated rooms, and reads again the note that had come from Cairhien twelve days earlier:

The ring has been placed in the bull’s nose. I expect a pleasant journey to market.

Elaida knows only Galina could have sent the note, and that it meant Rand al’Thor was shielded and in Galina’s control, and she almost giggles. Her satisfaction at getting the Dragon Reborn under control is interrupted by Alviarin, who comes in without knocking to give her intelligence reports from the Ajahs. Elaida pretends that Alviarin doesn’t annoy her, and asks if there has been word from Teslyn (Red) or Joline (Green), both former Sitters sent to Ebou Dar as a punishment, and a warning to the rest of the Hall. Alviarin replies no, but that the Grays have discovered that Nynaeve al’Meara and Elayne Trakand are also in Ebou Dar, posing as full sisters. Elaida thinks this is nonsense, since Tarna had reported them in Salidar with the rebels, and only then does Alviarin blandly point out that they were sent sketches. Embarrassed, Elaida tells her coldly that she wants them taken.

Elaida had the Foretelling sometimes, a Talent many thought lost before her, and long ago she had Foretold that the Royal House of Andor held the key to winning the Last Battle. Twenty-five years gone and more, as soon as it became clear that Morgase Trakand would gain the throne in the Succession, Elaida had fastened herself to the girl, as she was then. How Elayne was crucial, Elaida did not know, but Foretelling never lied. Sometimes she almost hated the Talent. She hated things she could not control.

She uneasily adds to give Joline and Teslyn the information about “the Macura woman”; the reference to forkroot disturbs even Alviarin. Elaida broods about all the ridiculous obstacles in her way, but comforts herself with Galina’s note and the certainty of her eventual triumph. She moves on to the Black Tower, telling Alviarin that she wants “those men” rooted out. She dismisses Alviarin’s reports of their numbers, and tells her to have Toveine lead a force of fifty sisters to take care of the problem; Alviarin openly questions the wisdom of the move, pointing out that Mazrim Taim is supposed to be there. Elaida is furious at her lack of respect, but replies she is sure that no more than one or two of the men there can really channel, citing the fact that only twenty-four men have been found and gentled in the last twenty years, and that surely Taim would never go from claiming to be the Dragon to serving the real one. Alviarin points out that twenty-four is “a dangerous number to speak aloud,” but Elaida doesn’t see who could bring her to task for even if the truth of those years became known, and tells Alviarin that Toveine’s fifty sisters are to gentle and hang any man they find who can channel. Alviarin does not react to this flouting of Tower law, but instead drops the news that the rebels are on the march from Salidar, and have chosen an Amrylin, Egwene al’Vere. Instead of becoming furious, Elaida begins laughing, to Alviarin’s surprise. Alviarin doesn’t see what’s so funny about an army led by Gareth Bryne marching toward them with some 300 rebel Aes Sedai, but Elaida answers that Tarna’s report indicates that more than a third of the rebels are already on the point of breaking; not to mention, she adds, that the fact that they raised an Accepted scapegoat as Amyrlin means they already know their attempt will fail, since the only offense they’ve committed that actually requires stilling is pretending to be a false Amyrlin. She also thinks of “the secret” Alviarin did not know, and is sure that Bryne’s army will hemorrhage fighters as they travel, and ultimately amount to nothing.

“I mean to break them, daughter. They will split open like a rotten melon.” Her secret assured that, however many farmers and tailors Lord Bryne hung on to, but let the other woman think as she would. Suddenly the Foretelling took hold of her, a certainty about things she could not see stronger than if they had been laid out before her. She would have been willing to step blindly over a cliff on that certainty. “The White Tower will be whole again, except for remnants cast out and scorned, whole and stronger than ever. Rand al’Thor will face the Amyrlin Seat and know her anger. The Black Tower will be rent in blood and fire, and sisters will walk its grounds. This I Foretell.”

Alviarin’s cool façade cracks at this, to Elaida’s satisfaction. She begins laying out her plans, thinking of how she would go down in history as the greatest Amyrlin ever.

Sevanna stands with two hundred Wise Ones, Efalin (a Maiden), Maeric (Seia Doon), Bendhuin (Far Aldazar Din), and the rest of the Shaido, thinking of how once she weds the Car’a’carn she will no longer have to worry about maintaining control of the Shaido. A messenger appears and tells her that one of the forward scouts escaped; Sevanna orders that the Shaido attack full force immediately, keeping no reserves in check. Maeric and Bendhuin try to protest this, and the Wise Ones are very uneasy, but Sevanna shames them into silence, reminding them of what had happened to Desaine (especially the Wise Ones who had helped her kill Desaine). The Shaido move out, and attack the circle of wagons at Dumai’s Wells, where the Aes Sedai are projecting an invisible shield that blocks the Shaido’s arrows. After some prodding from Sevanna, the Wise Ones finally counterattack with fireballs and lightning, which are returned in kind; Sevanna watches the spectacle with delight until her group is almost killed by one of the lightning strikes. Then she starts laughing and shouting “Push spears!”, though she is momentarily dismayed when wolves begin attacking the Shaido. One of the Wise Ones, Rhiale, tells Sevanna that there are wetlanders and other Aiel attacking from the south, and that there are Wise Ones attacking with them. Sevanna understands bitterly that even after Desaine, Rhiale and the others will not countenance openly attacking other Wise Ones; she tells Rhiale to kill who she can, and goes back to the battle, sure of her victory no matter what. Then she hears a hollow boom from somewhere in the camp, followed by strange flashes of light among the warriors, but can’t figure any of it out. She sees that the Aes Sedai defenses are weakening, and exults at her victory until she sees that a huge invisible dome is over the camp, blocking physical attacks and channeling alike. She screams at the Wise Ones that they let them do such a thing, but the Wise Ones tell her sickly that it isn’t women channeling that did it. She turns to see Rand al’Thor’s banner being raised through an opening at the top of the dome.

The other women were thinking of retreat. Not her. She had always known that the easiest path to power lay through conquering men who already possessed it, and even as a child she was sure she had been born with the weapons to conquer them. Suladric, clan chief of the Shaido, fell to her at sixteen, and when he died, she chose out those most likely to succeed. Muradin and Couladin each believed he alone had captured her interest, and when Muradin failed to return from Rhuidean, as so many men did, one smile convinced Couladin that he had overwhelmed her. But the power of a clan chief paled beside that of the Car’a’carn, and even that was nothing beside what she saw before her. She shivered as if she had just seen the most beautiful man imaginable in the sweat tent. When Rand al’Thor was hers, she would conquer the whole world.

She commands the Shaido to press harder, but suddenly the earth begins erupting in an expanding circle around the dome, slaughtering the Shaido, who soon break and run, ignoring Sevanna’s shrieks to stand and fight. She threatens Rhiale, but Rhiale shouts back that if they stay they will die, and runs as well. Sevanna hesitates and then runs as well, glad that she had not thrown away the cube of intricately carved stone she had been given. As she runs, she begins formulating new plans.

Alviarin maintains her cool façade as she leaves Elaida, but inside she feels “wrung out like a damp cloth”, noting absently that the sisters she passes watch her uneasily except for Danelle, the dreamy friendless Brown who had participated in Elaida’s coup but since had been pushed aside. Alviarin thinks of Elaida:

A woman of many layers, Elaida. The first look at her showed a beautiful woman filled with dignified reserve, the second a woman of steel, stern as a bared blade. She overwhelmed where others persuaded, bludgeoned where others tried diplomacy or the Game of Houses. Anyone who knew her saw her intelligence, but only after a time did you realize that for all her brains, she saw what she wanted to see, would try to make true what she wanted to be true. Of the two indisputably frightening things about her, the lesser was that she so often succeeded. The greater was her Talent for Foretelling.

Alviarin thinks Elaida may have to be killed after all, but hesitates to take that step without permission. She enters her rooms, thinking of which of Elaida’s orders to have carried out and which to ignore, and immediately goes to her knees when the room darkens and Mesaana appears before her, cloaked in “dark shadow and silver light”, her voice disguised with crystalline chimes. Alviarin repeats back every word of her interview with Elaida, though she knows Mesaana must eavesdrop on them. She had also been puzzled as to why of all the Forsaken Alviarin has met, only Mesaana disguises herself so completely, and has concluded with shock that Mesaana must be masquerading as a sister within the Tower itself. She has set herself to discover Mesaana’s secret identity, but met with little luck thus far. Mesaana muses on Elaida’s Foretelling, and asks if the rebels “breaking open like a rotten melon” was part of it, but Alviarin is not sure. She tells Mesaana that Elaida is dangerous, but Mesaana replies that Elaida is still of use, and chuckles over the woman’s schemes and powerplays. Daring greatly, Alviarin asks if it is safe to send Black sisters as part of Toveine’s expedition to the Black Tower; Mesaana stares at her, and Alviarin thinks uneasily of the fate of her predecessor as Head of the Black Ajah, Jarna Malari, whom Ishamael had punished for “what she had begun”.

Publicly Gray, Jarna had never shown any interest in the ter’angrealno one knew a use for—until the day she became snared in one untried for centuries. How to activate it remained a mystery still. For ten days no one could reach her, only listen to her throat-wrenching shrieks. Most of the Tower thought Jarna a model of virtue; when what could be recovered was buried, every sister in Tar Valon and every one who could reach the city in time attended the funeral.

Mesaana doesn’t answer the question directly, but Alviarin concludes that sending Black sisters with Toveine is likely to be a bad idea. Then Mesaana demands her direct loyalty, to Mesaana only and none of the other Chosen; Alviarin agrees fervently, and as a reward, Mesaana begins to teach her how to Travel.

Pedron Niall plays stones with Morgase, thinking of how he hadn’t had such a good opponent in years. He knows it’s all a ploy to lull him into thinking she’s going along quietly with his plans for Andor, and admires her wiliness; he thinks that if he had been twenty years younger he might even have played along with “her true game”, but reminds himself that she trained with the Tar Valon witches. Morgase asks again to see Galad, but Niall has no intention of losing that leverage, and replies that Galad’s duties keep him in the north. They are interrupted by Omerna, and Niall sends Morgase away after accepting her invitation to dine with her. After she leaves, Omerna tells Niall that he has not found either Gawyn or Elayne, but Niall knows that Gawyn is with the Tower witches, and Elayne in Ebou Dar; he has sent orders to Carridin concerning Elayne. Then Omerna produces a message tube which Niall snatches from him; ignoring Omerna’s continuing report, he opens the tube to find a message from Faisar, who to Niall’s dismay confirms everything his rug seller informant had told him about Tanchico and the “second mad animal” to appear after al’Thor. As he wonders how he is to fight them both, Omerna moves closer and stabs Niall twice, saying tearfully it had to be done. As Niall falls, Eamon Valda appears; shouting “Traitor!”, he runs Omerna through.

Niall would have laughed if he could; breath came hard, and he could hear it bubbling in the blood in his throat. He had never liked Valda—in fact, he despised the man—but someone had to know. His eyes shifted, found the slip of paper from Tanchico lying not far from his hand; it might be missed there, but not if his corpse clutched it. And that message had to be read. His hand seemed to crawl across the floorboards so slowly, brushing the paper, pushing, it as he fumbled to take hold. His vision was growing misty. He tried to force himself to see. He had to . . . The fog was thicker. Part of him tried to shake that thought; there was no fog. The fog was thicker, and there was an enemy out there, unseen, hidden, as dangerous as al’Thor or more. The message. What? What message? It was time to mount and out sword, time for one last attack. By the Light, win or die, he was coming! He tried to snarl.

Valda realizes Niall is still breathing, and is about to finish him off when Asunawa appears and tells him he might become Lord Captain Commander, but not if Asunawa must report he slit the previous one’s throat. Asunawa wants assurances that Valda will give Morgase to the Hand of the Light, but Valda tells him they need Morgase until Andor is taken, and threatens to assist Asunawa’s second in taking him down as the head of the Inquisitors unless he complies. They are interrupted by Balwer, who gasps at Niall’s corpse; Asunawa tells him the official version of what happened. Disdaining Balwer as “useless”, Valda sends him to convene the Council of the Anointed to plan “vengeance” for Niall’s murder, planning to kick the twitchy man out of the fortress as soon as Valda is appointed Lord Captain Commander.

“So it seems you will be our next Lord Captain Commander after all,” Asunawa said once Balwer was gone.

“So it seems,” Valda answered dryly. A tiny slip of paper lay next to Niall’s outstretched hand, the sort used in sending messages by pigeon. Valda bent and picked it up, then exhaled in disgust. The paper had been sitting in a puddle of wine; whatever had been written on it was lost, the ink a blur.

He dismisses the message as unimportant, and assures Asunawa that he may have Morgase once Valda is done with her.

Gawyn surveys Dumai’s Wells in the distance, and wishes he could have killed al’Thor; he doesn’t believe Egwene’s assertion that the man didn’t kill his mother, and if Min was right that Elayne loved him, all the more reason to kill him. But he hadn’t, because he had promised Egwene he wouldn’t.

He hoped she would accept the compromise he had made with his honor; he had raised not a hand to harm, but none to help, either. The Light send she never asked that of him. It was said that love addled men’s brains, and he was the proof.

Suddenly he spies a woman galloping on a horse, which stumbles and throws her; he goes back to the two hundred or so of the original five hundred and eighty Younglings he’d had before Dumai’s Wells, and starts to tell Jisao they have a sister to rescue, but is interrupted as a party of Shaido suddenly top the rise and attack. There is a brief bloody battle which ends with the Aiel withdrawing; Gawyn gathers the unwounded men to go after the Aes Sedai, but only finds her horse. He decides it would be a good idea to have a sister or two with them to deflect Elaida’s wrath, and tells Jisao they will search for her after the wounded are tended to.

Turning his bay with a sigh, he rode back down to see what the butcher’s bill had been this time. That had been his first real lesson as a soldier. You always had to pay the butcher. He had a feeling there would be bigger bills due soon. The world would forget Dumai’s Wells in what was coming.

Commentary
Freakin’ long-ass Prologues, mumble grumble.

Elaida: Okay, so MAYBE the delusions of grandeur were telegraphed a little more strongly than I initially remembered. If you recall, I was all giving TGS shit in my review for having Elaida more or less literally chew the scenery, but re-reading this scene in particular may make me have to soften that criticism.

I forgot, for one thing, that her stupid palace was actually supposed to be taller than the Tower, which is just beyond idiotic for any number of reasons, not least of which is that I’m pretty sure that doing it without Ogier help is basically just a structural disaster of epic proportions waiting to happen.

And even supposing it could be done without Ogier, has she no aesthetic sensibility at all? A palace taller than the centerpiece of the city? Right next to it? Ugh. Where is the symmetry? Where is the harmony? You are harshing Tar Valon’s feng shui, woman!

Sheesh. Not to mention, nothing says “megalomania” quite like spending vast amounts of resources to build a giant vanity project when half the world is dying in a drought, and oh yeah, THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING. Priorities, we has them! Except not!

Yes, seeds of Mashadar, not entirely her fault, blah, but you know, she wasn’t exactly a ray of sympathetic sunshine before she met up with Fain either, I remind you. And evidently she’s been an idiot about her Foretellings from Day One. Though I suppose it’s a little much for me to bring her to task for not figuring out that her Foretelling about the Royal House of Andor was about the previous ruling House… although, now that I think about it, House Mantear was on the throne when she actually had the Foretelling, so maybe it wouldn’t have been that much of a leap, but then again as far as she knew everyone from Modrellen’s line was dead, and certainly she had no reason to even suspect that Rand was Tigraine’s son, and oh no I’ve gone cross-eyed.

Whatever. Nicely done as a Prophecy mis-fire, anyway.

Also: “The ring has been placed in the bull’s nose.” That’s some lovely imagery, there. Points for accuracy, I guess?

Sevanna: Is annoying. And just made me recap the same scene TWICE. Grrr.

I’m not going to dwell overmuch on the Shaido right now, since I predict you guys will get more than enough of me grousing about them in recaps to come, but I will just say that while I appreciate the device of getting the “Previously on…” section done by retelling the big ending of LOC from the opposition’s point of view, rather than just a straight recap, this is largely obscured by my irritation that it didn’t also manage to tell us anything new, except possibly that Sevanna hadn’t actually thrown away her cube. Which, okay, that’s important to the plot, I know that; I’m just not sure I needed eleven pages of rewind to tell me that one fact. Especially when it’s eleven pages of Sevannabeing annoying.

(Although, I suppose it’s worth pointing out that one of the reasons Sevanna annoys me so much – besides being central to the Plotline That Wouldn’t Die – is because she is exactly the kind of woman I am most disposed to loathe. This is because she is practically the epitome of every negative stereotype about women ever, and it infuriates me that this does not actually make her an unrealistic character, for I’ve met women just like her – minus the actual “inciting to murder” bit, of course – and watching these idiots willfully undermine what fragile progress feminism has made in the past century pisses me right the hell off, to put it mildly. Grr.)

Alviarin: Remains one of my favorite villain characters in WOT. I do like me a smart bad guy, and Alviarin comes across as not only one of the more intelligent villains, but as one of the smarter characters in WOT overall. She is, in fact, rather like a Dark Side Sherlock Holmes, almost, with her methodical attempts to deduce Mesaana’s Sekrit Identity in the Tower. Plus, as I’ve said before, she’s one of the few non-Forsaken evil characters who actually performs effective acts of evil, so yay (in an odd way) for that.

I hope that she does not remain the largely non-existent cipher she became once Elaida kicked her off the Keeper job – which is, now that I think about it, one of the things that rather irritated me in TGS, that Alviarin appears to play no role at all in the Tower battle except to disappear afterwards, and (as far as I recall) basically does nothing except get walloped by Silviana up until that point.

Of course, this is all from Egwene’s perspective, who wasn’t exactly paying that much attention to Alviarin in general, so who knows. Maybe she was doing all kinds of things we won’t find out about till later. I kind of hope so.

Speaking of Mesaana, I am highly amused that we still do not know for certain sure who her alter ego is. I’m personally about 97% sure that she is Danelle. Although, the gratuitous mention of Danelle in Alviarin’s POV here is actually one of the things that gives me my 3% uncertainty, because it just screams of being one of those red herrings Jordan was so fond of tossing out. But of course maybe it is a doublered herring, meaning it isn’t a red herring, because Jordan is sneaky that way. You know, with his herrings.

(Herring, herring – word has lost all meaning.)

As for all the business with Jarna Malari and Tamra Ospenya and etc. Alviarin refers to, not to mention the Red gentling scandal she and Elaida both obliquely refer to earlier, I’m not even going there, because I will freely confess I never could keep all that backstory straight. It’s not really relevant until New Spring, anyway. I promise I’ll do my homework on it then!

Morgase: Oh, man. I’m going to have some screaming to do on this plotline shortly. For now, though, I will confine myself to wondering what would have happened if Niall had actually taken the bait he imagined she was offering.

Also, bye, Niall! I quoted too much of Niall’s death rattle, but I kind of felt he deserved it, for being a character I could respect for his complexity even as I *headdesk* at how close he came to being Not An Asshole – and missing.

But like I’ve said before, Niall’s assholishness is microscopic compared to that of the wankers now at the reins of Children of the Light, Inc. I remember when I first read this I was like, Balls. There goes the neighborhood. And by “neighborhood,” of course, I mean “continent”. Valda and Asunawa: it’s like a crap sandwich on whole crap bread, with crap slaw and a turd pickle on the side.

(Now, who’s hungry?)

Gawyn: Was in this Prologue.


And that’s our show! Glad to be back, kids. I hope you are glad too. Have fun in the comments, and see you Friday!