Haaaay, party people. It’s time for the Wheel of Time! Re-read, that is. Swimmin’ pools, movie stars. Or something.
Today we are all penultimate and stuff with The Dragon Reborn, Part 8, in which we cover Chapters 47-52. Whoo!
Previous entries can be found here. As is ever and always apparent, egregious acts of erudite appellation of ideas intermittently occur inside, and ergo our advice is adamant awareness and ergonomic alertness of our alleged inclinations in arena accordingly alluded at.
(Or, “watch for spoilers.” Alliteration art AWESOME. If a bit hard on grammaticalosity.)
Hokay. Weirdness: Achieved! Now, on with the show.
Chapter 47: To Race the Shadow
Tallanvor guides Mat out to the gates of the Palace, and takes the opportunity to taunt the rat-faced officer there with Mat’s presence. Mat thanks him and sets off, and is surprised when Tallanvor accompanies him. Mat is trying to suppress his paranoia about this when Tallanvor asks him if he knows who Sheriam is, and whether talking to her in her study means anything. Mat truthfully answers he has no idea who Sheriam is, and asks why it should mean anything.
“I do not know,” Tallanvor said softly. “There is too much I do not know. Sometimes I think she is trying to say something… ”
Tallanvor asks sharply then if Mat is a loyal Andorman, and Mat again assures him he is, and asks in return whether Tallanvor serves Morgase and Gaebril loyally. Tallanvor snaps back that he serves Morgase and no other, and strides back to the Palace. Mat mutters to himself that he bets Gaebril says the same, and takes off running back to the inn. He bursts into the library, where Thom and Gill are still playing Stones, and announces that he is leaving, as soon as he eats. Thom asks what the hurry is, and Mat asks Gill to tell him about Gaebril. Gill answers that he came out of the west during the winter while Morgase was still in Tar Valon; the riots had started up again, and Gaebril made himself leader of the faction supporting Morgase, and had it all suppressed by the time Morgase returned. Gareth Bryne disliked his methods, but Morgase was so pleased that she named Gaebril her advisor in Elaida’s place. Mat comments that the man has to have a reason for what he does, and asks if he marries Morgase, will he be King of Andor if Morgase dies? Gill cracks up, and explains to Mat that Andor always has a queen; Gaebril could never be more than Prince Consort. Gill does not like the idea, though, for all that he’s supposed to be a fine man. Too much has changed since he came; Gill keeps having bad dreams. Gill asks why Mat wants to know.
“Because he wants to kill Elayne,” Mat said, “and Egwene and Nynaeve with her.” There was nothing useful in what Gill had told him that he could see. Burn me, I don’t have to know why he wants them dead. I just have to stop it.
Gill demands to know if he is coming down sick again, and Mat explains what he overheard. Gill asks if Mat told Morgase, and Mat replies sarcastically, of course he did, with Gaebril standing right there and her staring at him like a lovesick puppy; she’d have cut his head off. Thom agrees with this assessment. Gill declares he must do something, but can’t think of what; Thom suggests starting a whisper campaign, to hopefully get Morgase to question her assumptions about her new lover. Mat comments that Thom’s taking the news of Morgase’s involvement with another man very calmly, and Thom says he’s been realizing that after fifteen years, he’s still fond of Morgase, but the passion has long since faded. Then he asks if they can wait till tomorrow to leave for Tear; Mat is surprised that he is coming along, but Thom reminds him he cares for the girls too. He tells Mat a ship will be faster; Mat doesn’t care how they go as long as they get there fast. He tosses the purse Gaebril had given him to Gill, and asks him to hold it for him.
“What’s this, lad? Coin?”
“Stakes. Gaebril doesn’t know it, but he and I have a wager.” The cat jumped down as Mat picked up the wooden dice cup and spun the dice out on the table. Five sixes. “And I always win.”
Considering that “going to Sheriam’s study” means something considerably different than “having a quiet talk”, I think it’s pretty clear that Tallanvor is right in that it was a message. I don’t believe we’ve had Compulsion explained to us explicitly at this point, but it’s certainly a common enough magical Thingummy that the genre-savvy should have picked up that something similar is going on. But then again, maybe I’m fooling myself; some things are so obvious in retrospect that they are almost impossible to see around re: recalling first impressions.
[Thom:] “Any fool knows men and women think differently at times, but the biggest difference is this. Men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget.”
Mmm. In the interests of dodging the gender politics bullet for the nonce, here’s my purely aesthetic objection to this: Thom’s little catchphrase here is witty and symmetrical and flowy and all, and it certainly sounds good, and therefore I am instantly highly suspicious of it.
It’s just a little too much like what Oscar Wilde would have one of his more fatuous characters declaim over crumpets and ascribe to absolute wisdom, when actually it’s just cleverly phrased. All I’m saying is, you can believe it or not believe it according to your inclination and personal experience – I ain’t your mama – but just remember that you use a blatantly generalized blanket statement like that as a guide to predicting people’s behavior at your peril.
Chapter 48: Following the Craft
Egwene slumps over the rail of the Darter as it docks at Tear, trying not to look at anything. She and Nynaeve had all been violently ill the entire trip, owing to the rolling corkscrew motion of the ship. The captain, Canin, comes up to her and tells “Mistress Joslyn” that they are docking, plainly eager to have her off his ship. She thinks briefly about what her dreams had lately shown her, and shakes herself and thanks Canin. She is thrilled when the three of them finally disembark, and observes how Tear is completely dominated by the vast bulk of the Stone, which looks to her more like a small mountain than a manmade structure. Elayne comments it was made with the Power, and couldn’t be done today; Nynaeve interjects that that is the sort of thing they should not be talking about out loud in Tear. Egwene grumpily admits to herself that Nynaeve is right, and they set off into the city. Nynaeve asks for suggestions on how they go about finding Liandrin and the others, and Elayne immediately suggests a thief-taker; she explains that they are similar to Hurin’s profession. Nynaeve rejects Egwene’s suggestion of an inn, and says she’ll know what she’s looking for when she finds it. They ride through the poorer section of the city for a while, until Nynaeve suddenly turns down an alley leading to a small house, dismounts, and knocks. She mentions the herbs in the window out front, and Egwene realizes this is a Wisdom’s residence, or Tear’s equivalent. A woman opens the door, and Nynaeve asks her for a remedy for nausea; the woman introduces herself as Mother Guenna and invites them in. Inside, Nynaeve quizzes her on what herbs she will use, and the two of them soon have a herb-knowledge contest going. Egwene becomes impatient and cuts in, reminding “Maryim” she is not a Wisdom anymore; Nynaeve snaps back, and Elayne blandly asks Mother Guenna what she does for two women who cannot stop arguing. She answers that she charges them an exorbitant price, and then sticks their heads in the rainwater barrel. Elayne bursts out laughing; Nynaeve and Egwene try to hide their chagrin. Mother Guenna gives them her real name, Ailhuin, and Nynaeve says that she would like to hire a room from her if she has one to spare. Ailhuin considers the anomalies they present, and tells Nynaeve to tell her why they are here, and if she likes it, she will give them rooms at no charge. Nynaeve answers that they are chasing som thieves who stole things from “her mother”, and did murder.
“Burn my soul,” the large woman said, “have you no menfolk? Men are not good for much beyond heavy hauling and getting in the way, most of the time—and kissing and such—but if there’s a battle to be fought or a thief to catch, I say let them do it. Andor is as civilized as Tear. You are not Aiel.”
“There was no one else but us,” Nynaeve said. “Those who might have come in our place were killed.”
Ailhuin makes the obvious misinterpretation, and sympathizes with them for their loss; Nynaeve flushes, and Egwene is disgusted. Nynaeve warns Ailhuin that the thieves are Darkfriends, and women, but as dangerous as any swordsman. Ailhuin tells them she will bring them the most dangerous man she knows, a thief-catcher named Juilin Sandar, and hurries out. Egwene comments that Maryim is learning how to be Aes Sedai; she manipulates people as well as Moiraine. Nynaeve goes white, and Elayne stalks across the room and slaps Egwene in the face.
“You go too far,” the golden-haired woman said sharply. “Too far. We must live together, or we will surely die together! Did you give Ailhuin your true name? Nynaeve told her what we could, that we seek Darkfriends, and that was risk enough, linking us with Darkfriends. She told her they were dangerous, murderers. Would you have had her say they are Black Ajah? In Tear? Would you risk everything on whether Ailhuin would keep that to herself?”
Egwene recovers from her shock and rubs her cheek, saying she does not have to like it. Elayne sighs and says she doesn’t either, but they have no choice in the matter. Egwene silently agrees.
Go, Elayne! That slap was well-deserved. I’m an Egwene fan later on, but damn is she binty in this stretch. Teenage rebellion sulks, do not want.
Of course, I was an angel princess at Egwene’s age; I never fought with my mother or sisters about anything. Nope. Nosiree. Nada. For true!
Oh, shut up.
What did it mean that Mat was dicing with the Dark One, and why did he keep shouting, “I am coming!” and why did she think in the dream that he was shouting at her?
Always one of my favorite Egwene Dreams. Though if Egwene’s Dreams are meant to be Lightside forewarnings, they really aren’t doing their job very well. Of course, if they’re only meant to make things Cool for the reader, well then bravo.
Chapter 49: A Storm in Tear
The girls sit in silence afterwards; Egwene thinks that Elayne was right, but cannot bring herself to apologize. Ailhuin soon returns with Juilin Sandar, who carries a bamboo staff and a sword-breaker, and checks Nynaeve out with interest. Sandar tells them that he will help them if he can, but the High Lords may soon have other business for him; he has seen men on the rooftops in the past few nights, and no doubt soon they will start stealing. Ailhuin comments that Sandar would lie if he thought it might bring him a kiss, but otherwise he would not; Sandar ignores her. They discuss his methods and prices briefly, then Nynaeve lays out thirteen silver marks and tells him he has thirteen women to find, with as much again to come to him when he does so, but he is only to find them; they will deal with the thieves themselves. Sandar protests there’s no need to overpay him so, but Nynaeve overrides him, and describes each of the women, reiterating at the end that these women are extremely dangerous, and if they find out Sandar is looking for him, he will die.
“When I was young,” Sandar said, voice serious, “a cutpurse put her knife in my ribs because I thought a pretty young girl wouldn’t be as quick to stab as a man. I do not make that mistake anymore. I will behave as if these women are all Aes Sedai, and Black Ajah.”
Egwene chokes, and Sandar apologizes for scaring her; there are no Aes Sedai in Tear, of course. He assures them he will find these women, and takes his leave. Ailhuin in turn assures them that Sandar is the best thief-catcher in Tear; Nynaeve comments she feels a storm coming. Later, Egwene decides to try Tel’aran’rhiod again. She starts, as always, on the hill with flowers and butterflies, and using the way she had discovered to go where she wants, closes her eyes and visualizes the Heart of the Stone in every detail, until it seems real, and opens her eyes.
The columns were there, and Callandor. And around the sparkling sword, almost as dim and insubstantial as shadows, thirteen women sat cross-legged, staring at Callandor as it revolved. Honey-haired Liandrin turned her head, looking straight at Egwene with those big, dark eyes, and her rosebud mouth smiled.
Egwene bolts awake, gasping, and Elayne and Nynaeve tell her she had barely been asleep at all. She tells them that Liandrin and the others are waiting for them, and Egwene thinks they know the girls are in Tear. Outside, the storm breaks.
Mat and Thom are playing Stones on board the Swift, Mat too impatient to keep his mind on the game. He offers to dice with Thom instead, but Thom dryly says he’d prefer to win more than one in ten throws. The captain, Derne, enters and yells at Mat for making him go so fast, tells them they have arrived in Tear, and demands the rest of his gold. Mat tosses him a purse, mentally muttering about finding the one riverman who doesn’t dice, and packs up. Derne asks what the bloody hurry is about anyway, and Mat tells him, a wager. He and Thom head out into a torrential downpour, and Mat yells to Thom that they will start looking as soon as they find an inn. Thom protests, coughing, saying it will take weeks to search every inn in Tear as it is; surely they can wait one night. Lightning illuminates the house opposite, with what looks like herbs hanging in the window, and Mat tells Thom there’s no point in looking in the Maule; the girls would surely have chosen a much nicer area to stay. They find an inn in a nicer neighborhood, and Mat sets out again soon after, surprised that Thom comes with him. They start systematically checking inns, but find nothing; after two dozen or so, Mat is exhausted, and marches past three inns without noticing. Thom argues they should go back now.
Mat stared blearily up the street at a tall man in a cloak hurrying around a corner. Light, I am tired. Rand is five hundred leagues from here, playing at being the bloody Dragon.
Mat notices the inn in front of him, and decides to try just one more. They enter, and Mat spots Comar immediately, dicing. He laughs at his current opponent, and asks who’s next loudly. Mat goes over and asks the innkeeper about him, and the innkeeper says sourly that a rich merchant such as Comar must be should not be here winning away honest men’s coin. Mat says he wins, does he, and the innkeeper replies that he does anytime there’s more than a silver mark at stake; his luck is unbelievable. Thom coughs, and tells him it’s weighted dice. He has the innkeeper bring over two sets of dice and shows him the sleight of hand trick involved; Mat tells the innkeeper to have Comar arrested, and the innkeeper snorts and says he’d end up in chains if he did. Mat tells Thom he doesn’t mean Comar to have a chance at the girls, and heads over to Comar’s table, ignoring Thom’s protests. Comar eyes Mat and starts to tell him he doesn’t waste time with farmer’s coppers, but cuts himself off as Mat tosses a gold crown on the table and yawns at him. Comar says his manners could use improvement, but gold speaks for itself. He shakes and rolls the dice, and chuckles as it lands on three crowns and two roses. He reaches for the dice, but Mat scoops them up before he can touch them; Comar frowns, but lets it ride. Mat thinks to himself that if they both throw the same toss multiple times, surely the Defenders would have to believe there was something amiss.
He spilled the dice onto the tabletop. They bounced oddly. He felt something—shifting. It was as if his luck had gone wild. The room seemed to be writhing around him, tugging at the dice with threads. For some reason he wanted to look at the door, but he kept his eyes on the dice. They came to rest. Five crowns. Comar’s eyes looked ready to pop out of his head.
“You lose,” Mat said softly. If his luck was in to this extent, perhaps it was time to push it. A voice in the back of his head told him to think, but he was too tired to listen. “I think your luck is about used up, Comar. If you’ve harmed those girls, it’s all gone.”
Comar says abstractedly that he still hasn’t even found – then he cuts off and stares at Mat, asking how he knew his name. Mat tells him to go back to Caemlyn, and tell Gaebril he couldn’t find them, or anything he likes, because if Mat sees him in Tear again, he will kill him. Comar jumps to his feet, drawing his sword, and Mat shoves the table at him and grabs for his staff, but Comar is already on him and knocks him over backward. Mat grabs his wrist, stopping the downward blow Comar aims at him, and flips Comar over his head to crash into a table behind them. Mat scrambles up, but Comar does not move, and Mat realizes the man’s back is broken. He kneels next to Comar and tells him his luck is all used up.
“Fool,” the big man breathed. “Do you… think I… was the only… one hunting them? They won’t… live till… ” His eyes stared at Mat, and his mouth was open, but he said no more. Nor ever would again.
The innkeeper rushes up and begs Mat to leave, saying he will tell the Defenders that another man did it, someone the innkeeper dreamed of, a tall man with red hair and gray eyes, but he must leave now. Mat lets himself be pushed outside, and Thom grabs his arm and tows him down the street; Mat hardly notices. Thom asks what’s the matter with him.
“It’s the luck,” Mat mumbled. “I’ve figured it out. The dice. My luck works best when things are… random. Like dice. Not much good for cards. No good at stones. Too much pattern. It has to be random. Even finding Comar. I’d stopped visiting every inn. I walked into that one by chance. Thom, if I am going to find Egwene and the others in time, I have to look without any pattern.”
Thom doesn’t know what he’s talking about; if Comar is dead, the girls are safe, aren’t they? Mat tells him that Comar said there were others, and he has to find them. Thom nods, but says, not without sleep first. Mat agrees, and they return to their inn. The next morning, he and Thom search again, but this time Mat wanders at random, tossing coins to decide whether to go in to an inn or not. They do this for three days, and Thom’s cough grows steadily worse, but all they hear is rumors about war, and Sea Folk shutting off trade, and false Dragons. Mat begins to have bad dreams which he puts down to stress: a white-haired man in a puffy coat weaving a net, sometimes for Egwene and Elayne and Nynaeve, and sometimes for Moiraine; sometimes the man is holding a glowing sword, and sometimes it is Rand who’s holding it. Mat is sure it’s just because he’s not getting enough sleep, but he vows that this is one wager he’s going to win if it kills him.
It was right around this point that I realized how much I had gotten into the story, because I had run about four chapters ahead without stopping to take notes on the ones that came before. Which makes me a naughty recapper, but a good fan, I suppose. Seriously, though, I really had forgotten how gripping the last third of TDR is, even when you know what’s going to happen. The tension and bringing together of plot lines is just really well done.
It’s funny, because most of the time I don’t tend to form very specific mental images of characters in print, but Juilin is an exception; in my mind’s eye he looks exactly like a guy I used to do theater with back in New Orleans. Which is terribly helpful to YOU, innit.
The dice game with Comar and Mat figuring out how his luck works roxxors my soxxors.
Agh! I’m sorry! I couldn’t help that, I won’t do it again. I swear. Probably. Maybe. Crap. Sometimes I really hate the Internet for what it has done to my brain. Curse you, Intarwebs!
Chapter 50: The Hammer
As Perrin and the others arrive in Tear, he finds that he is searching for wolves again, and stops himself, though he can’t help feeling rather alone when he can’t sense any. Zarine asks what Tear is likely to bring after what they found in Illian; Loial wishes she would not sound so enthusiastic, calling her “Faile”; Perrin wishes he would not call her that, and is at least glad he hasn’t run into the hawk yet, or a Tuatha’an with a sword. He tells Zarine that she will find out what they are doing here when Moiraine tells her; she counters that she doesn’t think he knows any more than she does. They ride into the city, Perrin mentally chafing at the heat, and Loial comments that the people here all look sad and defeated. Lan chooses an inn next to a smithy; the innkeeper sighs a great deal and shows them to their rooms. Moiraine seems very abstracted, murmuring about how the Pattern could be torn here; Perrin asks how they are to go about looking for Rand, and she tells them to stay close to the inn while she and Lan go look around.
“ ‘Stay close to the inn,’ ” Zarine mimicked as the Aes Sedai and the Warder disappeared down the stairs. But she said it quietly enough that they would not hear. “This Rand. He is the one you called the… ” If she looked like a falcon right then, it was a very uneasy falcon. “And we are in Tear, where the Heart of the Stone holds… And the Prophecies say… The Light burn me, ta’veren, is this a story I want to be in?”
“It is not a story, Zarine.” For a moment Perrin felt almost as hopeless as the innkeeper had sounded. “The Wheel weaves us into the Pattern. You chose to tangle your thread with ours; it’s too late to untangle it, now.”
“Light!” she growled. “Now you sound like her!”
He leaves her and Loial there and puts his stuff away, then heads back out and goes to the smithy next door. The blacksmith is working alone; without a word Perrin starts pumping the bellows for him. The smith gives him a sharp look, but says nothing, finishing the barrel scrape. When it is done, he gives Perrin a length of square stock and tells him to see what he can do with that. Perrin sets to work, and fashions a chamfer knife. When he’s done, the blacksmith, Ajala, asks if he’s looking for work, but Perrin says he does not know how long he will be in Tear; he can help Ajala for the day, though. They work on until the light fails, and Perrin looks up and realizes Zarine is sitting there watching him.
“So you really are a blacksmith, blacksmith,” she said.
Ajala agrees, complimenting his work as exemplary. Perrin goes to put on his shirt again and is conscious of Zarine watching him, and smiling. She asks if he came all this way to be a blacksmith, then.
Perrin picked up the heavy hammer he had used, a ten-pound head with a handle as long as his forearm. It felt good in his hands. It felt right. The smith had glanced at his eyes once and never even blinked; it was the work that was important, the skill with metal, not the color of a man’s eyes. “No,” he said sadly. “One day, I hope. But not yet.” He started to hang the hammer back on the wall.
“Take it.” Ajala cleared his throat. “I do not usually give away good hammers, but… The work you’ve done today is worth more than the price of that hammer by far, and maybe it will help you to that ‘one day.’ Man, if I have ever seen anyone made to hold a smith’s hammer, it is you. So take it. Keep it.”
Perrin thanks him. As they leave, Zarine looks up at him and asks if he has any idea how strange men are. He goes back up to his room, puts the hammer next to the axe, and stares at them both until Lan comes to fetch him. Annoyed, he follows Lan down to the dining room, where Moiraine tells them that one of the Forsaken is in Tear; the High Lord Samon is Be’lal. Loial and Zarine both react fearfully, and Perrin asks if he is after Rand. Moiraine doesn’t think so; she thinks he means to let Rand enter the Stone and take Callandor, and then take it from him, and they dare not run this time. Perrin asks what they can do against a Forsaken, and Moiraine replies that while she is weaker overall, she is more dangerous than she was when she came to Emond’s Field, and even a Forsaken cannot stand up to balefire. She asks Loial to tell her what the Ogier know of Be’lal; startled, Loial answers not very much. He was said to have forsaken the Light because he envied Lews Therin, and he envied Ishamael and Lanfear too; he supposedly once won a game of Stones against Lews Therin and constantly boasted about it. He, along with Sammael, was one of the leaders against the Dark One’s forces before he turned, and he is also called the Netweaver, though Loial does not know what that means. He apologizes for not being more help, but Moiraine says he told her more than she knew before, and she thanks him. Zarine suddenly speaks up and says she is afraid – only a fool wouldn’t be – but she swore to be one of them, and she is. Perrin thinks she is crazy, and that he wishes he were back home, himself, and then surmises aloud that if Be’lal is inside the Stone, they must get in there, but how? Lan tells him that only he and Moiraine will be going inside the Stone; Moiraine starts to protest, and he tells her he will not stand aside this time. After a moment she nods, and Lan goes on that he forgot to tell her earlier that there are Aiel in Tear; he saw them on the rooftops. Moiraine says it means nothing to her, but asks why Perrin is frowning; Perrin says he is thinking of the Aiel in Remen, who said there was a prophecy that when the Stone falls, the Aiel will leave the Three-fold Land. Moiraine replies that she has read every word of the Prophecies of the Dragon, and the Aiel were never mentioned; she does not know whether this development is of the Pattern, or wrought by Be’lal. She commands Lan to find a way into the Stone quickly. Lan leaves.
Zarine came over to look down at Perrin, her head tilted to one side. “And what are you going to do, blacksmith? It seems they mean us to wait and watch while they go adventuring. Not that I will complain.”
He doubted that last. “First,” he told her, “I am going to have something to eat. And then I am going to think about a hammer.” And try to puzzle out how I feel about you. Falcon.
This is random, but Perrin makes a comment here about how Moiraine and Lan don’t seem to feel the heat, while he himself has unbuttoned his coat, etc., which is obviously a reference to the later much-ballyhooed ability of channelers (and Warders) to ignore the weather. However, this contrasts with Perrin’s behavior in the Blight in TEOTW, where Rand notes that he doesn’t even seem to notice the heat.
Of course, I have noted myself that one’s reaction to the weather is at least 85% psychological, and you’d be amazed at how much physical discomfort a person can endure without noticing as long as their mind is sufficiently occupied; also, the “ignoring weather” trick itself is said to be not of the Power either, but a mental trick. All I’m saying is, a mental trick that makes you not sweat through your blouse in the summer is one I am dying to learn.
It’s interesting that Be’lal’s effect on Tear is different than Sammael’s on Illian: despair and hopelessness, rather than anger and hatred. For that matter, Rahvin’s effect on Caemlyn seemed to be mainly paranoia and mistrust. So many negative emotions, so little time, eh? Subtle, and nicely done; I don’t think I ever specifically noticed it before now.
Though I mostly elided it in the summary, the smithy scene is one of those “slice of life” interludes that are actually rather few and far between in WOT, probably because of the sheer volume of plot to get through, but are nice when they happen.
It’s also a very smooth segue into what will become Perrin’s central dilemma for the series: the axe vs. the hammer, or war/destruction/brutality versus peace/construction/beauty. I’ve never been sure, personally, whether the fact that the hammer is just as capable of being used as a weapon as the axe (and that Perrin does actually use it as such, more than once) undermines this dichotomy or not.
Faile status: non-annoying. Things are looking up! FOR NOW.
Moiraine: still badass, even when she’s not doing anything but talking about it. I can’t approve of her constant efforts to scare Perrin and keep him in the dark, but at least she backs up her high and mightyness with genuine kickassery. Although we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Chapter 51: Bait for the Net
Nynaeve thinks she glimpses a tall man with reddish hair with a flute case on his back on the street, but the figure disappears, and she tells herself that just because she keeps dreaming about Rand doesn’t mean he would come here. She bargains disgustedly with the listless butcher for a bad cut of mutton, and starts back for Ailhuin’s house. She is trying to be charitable with the Tairens, but cannot help comparing their hopeless attitudes to the way Two Rivers people behave when things get bad. She is also trying to be patient with Egwene, who is annoying her no end, but thinks that at least she convinced Egwene not to try entering Tel’aran’rhiod again. She rounds a corner and almost plows into Juilin Sandar, who smiles at her nervously and says he has been looking for her; he’s found the women she seeks. Then he whispers frantically that they are in the Stone, and why did she not tell him they were guests of the High Lord Samon? Nynaeve tries to calm him, and promises to explain when they get back to Ailhuin’s. Sandar nods uneasily and accompanies her. They reach the house and go around the back. When Nynaeve enters, she sees Ailhuin sitting on a chair, wrapped and struggling in flows of Air. Enraged, Nynaeve goes to embrace saidar, but runs into something like a clear glass wall separating her from the Power. Liandrin and Rianna enter the room, and Liandrin starts to say something mocking, but Nynaeve punches her in the mouth, and backhands Rianna hard enough to knock her over, and sprints for the door. Before she can get there, though, the Black sisters pummel her with Air until she curls up in a ball, though she refuses to cry out.
Liandrin crouched beside her, arms around her knees, silk rustling against silk. She had wiped the blood away from her mouth. Her dark eyes were hard, and there was no amusement on her face now. “Perhaps you are too stupid to know when you are defeated, wilder. You fought almost as wildly as that other foolish girl, that Egwene. She almost went mad. You must all learn to submit. You will learn to submit.”
Rianna says they have no use for Ailhuin anymore, and will stop her heart, but Liandrin snaps that Rianna is too quick to kill, and only the Great Lord can make use of the dead. She smiles at Ailhuin and says she trusts that Ailhuin understands what awaits her if she does not hold her tongue. Ailhuin gives Nynaeve a shamed look and promises to keep silent; Nynaeve wearily says it is all right, Ailhuin would help if she could. Rianna laughs, and then she and Liandrin haul Nynaeve to the front room, where Elayne stands between Amico Nagoyin and Joiya Byir, with bruises and a black eye. She apologizes to Nynaeve thickly. Egwene lies on the floor, so covered with bruises Nynaeve hardly recognizes her. She starts cursing at the Black sisters until something invisible smacks her in the mouth, and Joiya tells her with a smile that she will not tolerate bad language. They are hustled into the street and before a shiny black coach with a sigil of a fist clutching lightning bolts on the door. Sandar is there, and drops to his knees in the mud; Nynaeve starts to curse him, too, until another blow stops her.
Liandrin laughed. Tangling a hand in Sandar’s black hair, she wrenched his head back. He stared up at her with the eyes of a faithful hound—or of a cur expecting a kick. “Do not be too hard on this man.” She even made “man” sound like “dog.” “He had to be… persuaded… to serve. But I am very good at persuading, no?” She laughed again.
Sandar turned a confused stare on Nynaeve. “I had to do it, Mistress Maryim. I… had to.” Liandrin twisted his hair, and his eyes went back to her, the anxious hound’s once more.
Light! Nynaeve thought. What did they do to him? What are they going to do to us?
They are loaded into the coach, with Egwene slumped between Nynaeve and Elayne. Nynaeve tells the Black sisters that if they have killed Egwene she will hunt them down, but Liandrin sniffs and says dead bait catches nothing. Nynaeve tries to make them believe that the three of them have backup, and Elayne tries to help with the deception, but Liandrin just smiles and says after they have finished being bait, they will tell her everything; they will want to.
“They say you will be very strong one day, but I will make sure you will always obey me, even before the Great Master Be’lal works his plans for you. He is sending for Myrddraal. Thirteen of them.” Those rosebud lips laughed the final words.
Nynaeve grasps what this means, and realizes both she and Elayne are screaming, while Liandrin and Rianna laugh.
Juilin’s (involuntary) betrayal is another thing I totally forgot about. Right, that’s why he ends up tagging along with the Supergirls. Just goes to show what excessive guilt can get you.
Egwene’s been annoying me the last few chapters, but I’ve got nothing but sympathy for her here. I would have freaked the hell out too, after an experience like Falme. Actually I would have freaked the hell out anyway, as did Nynaeve and Elayne.
Speaking of which, do we ever get an explanation of how being forcibly turned to the Shadow actually works? I mean, are we talking an Attitudinator personality flip-flop, or are you more like a mindless zombie, or is it one of those “trapped screaming behind your own eyes” deals?
Either way, for the record? DO NOT WANT.
(I’m not seriously suggesting the Attitudinator option, by the way. But that would be HILARIOUS. I’ve just spent the past five minutes giggling dementedly at the notion. Or I would have, if I giggled. Which I don’t.)
Chapter 52: In Search of a Remedy
In the gleeman’s room, Mat watches Thom cough and feels guilty that he had been too caught up in his search to notice how sick Thom was getting. He tells Thom to come on, there’s a Wise Woman nearby. Thom wheezes that he’s fine, he just needs some rest, and then doubles over in a fit of hacking coughs. Mat answers lightly, but thinks to himself that he doesn’t think Thom’s cough is going to go away by itself. Ignoring Thom’s protests, Mat hauls him to his feet and half-carries him to where the innkeeper had told him the Wise Woman, Mother Guenna, was. He almost turns back when he sees it is leading into the mud of the Maule, but then grimaces and plows on. He realizes when he reaches the house that it is the same one he noticed on their way in from the docks the first night; he also notices wheel tracks just outside, and thinks he’d never noticed carriages deigning to come down to the Maule before. He pounds on the door, and is about to give up when a gray haired woman opens the door a crack and asks tiredly what he wants. Mat grins at her and introduces himself, and says he heard she could do something for his friend. Mother Guenna looks at Thom, and says she supposes she can still do that, at least, and lets them in. Thom wheezes something about foul concoctions, and Mat tells him to shut up. As he sits in the kitchen, Mat notices through the window with puzzlement that three good horses are tied up out back; he’d thought only nobles and wealthy people rode in Tear. Then he dismisses the matter as Guenna pours a rank-smelling tea down Thom’s throat despite his struggles, and gives him further instruction on how and when to apply the salve she’s giving him. Mat thinks that the more she talks, the more she sounds like the Amyrlin, and comments that he knew a woman with the same accent as Guenna, and supposes that means she was Tairen.
“Perhaps.” The gray-haired woman suddenly sounded tired again, and she kept staring at the floor. “I knew some girls with the sound of your speech on their tongues, too. Two of them had it, anyway.” She sighed heavily.
Mat felt his scalp prickle. My luck can’t be this good. But he would not bet a copper on two other women with Two Rivers accents just happening to be in Tear. “Three girls? Young women? Named Egwene, and Nynaeve, and Elayne? That one has hair like the sun, and blue eyes.”
She frowns, and says slowly that those were not the names they used, but she had suspected they were using pseudonyms before. She describes them, and then tells Mat she is sorry. Mat doesn’t understand why she’s sorry.
Light, I walked right past this place the first night! Right past them! I wanted random. What could be more random than where a ship docks on a rainy night, and where you happen to look in a bloody lightning flash? Burn me! Burn me!
He demands to know where they are, and Guenna says something about High Lords. Thom and Mat frown at each other, and Mat offers to pay for the information; Guenna glares at him and says if she talks she could be tortured to death if the High Lords find out. Mat promises to never mention her to anyone, and she studies him for a while, and finally says that he is too late by nearly three hours; the girls were taken to the Stone on orders from the High Lord Samon. Guenna doesn’t understand why he sent women who could channel, though. Mat is relieved at first, thinking they are from the Tower, but Guenna tells him the girls fought like “lionfish in a net” against being taken. Mat mentally berates himself for not finding them earlier.
“If you break your hand,” Mother Guenna said, “I will splint and poultice it, but if you damage my wall, I will strip your hide like a redfish!”
He blinked, then looked at his fist, at scraped knuckles. He did not even remember punching the wall.
She examines his hand, and tells him she’s sorry. Mat tells her not to be; he knows where they are now, he just has to get them out. He gives her two Andoran gold crowns.
“For Thom’s medicines, and for letting me know about the girls.” On impulse, he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and a grin. “And that’s for me.”
She is startled, then jabs him with a finger and tells him he reminds her of her husband; she glances at his boots and adds it took her six months to train her husband not to track mud in the house; whichever one of those girls he has his eye on will have a hard road training him. He grins and tells her only she could do that, and grins wider when she glares. He asks her if Thom can stay with her. Thom is outraged, and tries to protest, but is barely able to stand; Guenna pushes him back down and assures Mat that she will take care of him. Mat grins at Thom and says he’s enjoyed knowing him, and hurries out. He looks at the Stone, the impregnable fortress that he has to get inside, somehow, and laughs out loud; he thinks he can feel the dice tumbling in his head.
Even though you totally know Mat’s going to put it all together in this chapter, I remember practically dancing a jig with frustration the first time: figure it OUT already! Gah! Look, there are the damn horses! Brain! Use it!
Darn good buildup, in other words, which actually started a few chapters ago when Mat just misses rendezvousing with the Girls’ stranded ship near Jurene (which I forgot to mention at the time, but someone brought up in the comments, thank you).
Also, outrageous flattery for the win, Mat. Sheesh. Why on earth Mat participates in the Boys’ shared hallucination that the other two are better at talking to girls is a complete mystery to me. In the Shameless Flirting category, anyway, Mat has Perrin and Rand outdistanced by a mile.
And that is quite enough of that, thank you. Friday brings you (BUM bum BUM bum BUM!)
MEGAMAID The Final Installment of Book 3, with Chapters 52 to the Endy End. DUN! Bang those timpani! Seacrest out!