Greetings and salutations, people of Tor.com! I come in peace, or at least only in mild feistiness, to bring you yet another installment of the Wheel of Time Re-read, with pretty pictures and everything.
Today we are covering Chapters 11-13 of The Fires of Heaven, in which things happen.
Previous entries are here, and spoilers abound for all currently published books in the Wheel of Time series, so bear that in mind if/as you read.
And I believe that satisfies the legalese portion of our show (and I am amused to note that the spellchecker does not have a problem with the word “legalese”), so without further ado, let’s get to the further ado.
Chapter 11: The Nine Horse Hitch
Logain, Siuan, Leane, and Min enter the city of Lugard, and Siuan reflects on how easy it had been to convince Logain he was in charge, and a small enough price to pay, considering her plans for him. He chooses an inn called the Nine Horse Hitch, and Siuan sidles over to Leane and tells her that she should practice her wiles on “Dalyn” tonight, so that he will not notice Siuan is not there. Leane looks doubtful, but agrees; Min is sullen, but also goes along with it. Siuan heads out, walking past groups of roughly dressed men who shout suggestive invitations to the women on the street, and is surprised to realize some of them are aimed at her. She is not really angry, only startled. She looks at herself in a shop window and observes that she is not just young-appearing, but actually young, no more than a year or so older than Min.
An advantage to having been stilled, she told herself. She had met women who would pay any price to lose fifteen or twenty years; some might even consider her price a fair bargain. She often found herself listing such advantages, perhaps trying to convince herself they were real.
She thinks that she might even be somewhat better-looking now than she had been when she was really this age, though she thinks that merely “pretty” is still the best adjective that applies. She can’t really connect it with the image she still has of herself. The inn names in Lugard run toward the lewd, and the inn she enters has a name she skips over as soon as she recognizes it, with a picture of a woman on horseback wearing only her hair. Inside the inn is what you’d expect, and Siuan resolves to leave as soon as possible. She goes up to the innkeeper, Mistress Tharne, and tells her she wants a job singing. The woman laughs raucously and demands to see her legs.
“I can sing ‘The Song of the Three Fishes,” Siuan said loudly. This had to be the right woman. Surely two women in one city could not have hair like that, not and answer to the right name at the right inn.
The woman only laughs harder, and says to show her legs or get out; redfaced, Siuan slowly complies, and Tharne says they’ll have to get those stockings off to make sure, and hustles her in the back. Siuan can’t figure out why this woman, one of her most reliable eyes-and-ears from before she became Amyrlin, would be so vile, and she begins to tell her off as soon as they are alone, but Mistress Tharne snaps back that if she’d come at opening or closing like she was supposed to, she wouldn’t have had to put on that show for the patrons; she can’t afford to have anyone wondering about her. She threatens to thrash Siuan if she doesn’t keep a civil tongue, and demands to know what she wants. Siuan quivers with anger, but keeps it in check, realizing that the woman could easily best her in a physical fight, a thing Siuan is still getting used to. She tells Tharne that she has a message for those they serve, but they are not where she was told they’d be, and she was hoping the innkeeper knew. Tharne demands to know what is going on in the Tower first, and Siuan tells her evenly that Siuan Sanche has been stilled, and Elaida a’Roihan is now Amyrlin.
Mistress Tharne’s face showed no reaction. “Well, that explains some of the orders I’ve gotten. Some of them, maybe. Stilled her, did they? I thought she’d be Amyrlin forever. I saw her once, a few years ago in Caemlyn. At a distance. She looked like she could chew harness straps for breakfast.” Those impossible scarlet curls swung as she shook her head. “Well, done’s done. The Ajahs have split, haven’t they? Only thing that fits; my orders, and the old buzzard stilled. The Tower’s broken, and the Blues are running.”
Siuan grinds her teeth at “old buzzard”, but merely says that she must deliver the message as soon as possible. Finally the woman tells her that all she has is a name, and she doesn’t know what it means: “Sallie Daera”. Siuan hides her excitement and endeavors to appear dejected. Tharne tells her that if she does find them, to tell Aeldene Sedai that she is still loyal, and Siuan notes that she hadn’t known Aeldene was the one who replaced her in running the Blue’s eyes-and-ears. Mistress Tharne advises Siuan to climb down a rung or two in her manner, and then brings her back out to the common room, where she mocks Siuan loudly and lewdly until Siuan flees, red as a beet. Outside, she dismisses thoughts of revenge on the woman in favor of the information she’d given.
Not Sallie Daera; not a woman at all. Only a Blue would know, or even suspect. Salidar. Birthplace of Deane Aryman, the Blue sister who had become Amyrlin after Bonwhin and had rescued the Tower from the ruin Bonwhin had poised it for. Salidar. One of the last places anyone would look for Aes Sedai, short of Amadicia itself.
Two Whitecloaks ride by, and Siuan hides her face and shrinks back before she remembers it isn’t necessary, then curses herself for possibly drawing their attention. She heads back to the inn.
Min sits and watches the corner where Leane is holding court with half the men in the common room. She had nearly started a riot at one point, but had smoothed the waters as easily as she had roused them, and Min is a little envious, even though she would only want to do that to one man. She berates herself for thinking of changing just for a man, but can’t help considering it. She is interrupted by Siuan, who tells her they have to leave and go south, now. Min points out that they can’t reach anywhere with an inn by nightfall; Siuan admits that she may have attracted the attention of Whitecloaks, and Min doesn’t argue further.
“What is a Nine Horse Hitch, anyway?” she asked, getting to her feet. She had gone out front hoping for a hint, but the sign over the door bore only the name. “I have seen eight, and ten, but never nine.”
“In this town,” Siuan said primly, “it is better not to ask.” Sudden spots of color in her cheeks made Min think that she knew very well.
Min goes to get Leane, thinking maybe she would ask her for some tips after all.
Trust Siuan to have a countersign involving fish.
What is it with guys shouting at women on the street, anyway? I’m seriously asking, because I never saw the point of it. I mean, that doesn’t ever work, does it? So why bother? For the joy of getting a “fuck off” reaction? Tis a puzzlement!
I am firmly avoiding coming up with a lewd interpretation of “Nine Horse Hitch”, because it very swiftly goes into Brain Bleach territory. If you guys must run with it, I just ask that you try to at least nominally not turn this page into something that would come up on an equestrian porn search. (Eurgh.)
There’s not a whole else to say about this chapter, as it is pretty straightforward plot advancement, other than Siuan’s bemusement about being younger and prettier than she was. This may seem shallow or vain of her, but I don’t think it comes across that way in the text; she’s downright clinical about it, and I don’t doubt that she is actually correct. And like it or not, that does have an effect, not only on how you see yourself, but on how others see you. And well, we’ve seen that difference already, re: Bryne. Who’s in the next chapter; let’s go see what he is up to!
Chapter 12: An Old Pipe
In Lugard, Gareth Bryne loses his hat under a wagon in the street and doesn’t care. He enters an inn called The Wagon Seat, whose sign gives the name “an explicit interpretation”, and motions Joni and Barim to leave. They retrieve their horses, and once they are away from Lugard, Barim tells Bryne that the three women were there yesterday, with a broad-shouldered fellow who sounds like the Dalyn who burned down Nem’s barn, but he hadn’t been able to find out which way they were going when they left. Joni had, though; he says they went west on the Jehannah road, and furthermore he talked to two merchant guards who were in an inn called The Good Night’s Ride, and saw the girl Mara come in and ask for a job singing, and didn’t get it because she wasn’t willing to show her legs. He adds that he doesn’t like it, and it sounds to him like Mara might be trying to get away from this Dalyn fellow.
Strangely, despite the lump on his head, Joni had no animosity toward the three young women. It was his opinion, often expressed since leaving the manor, that the girls were in some sort of predicament and needed to be rescued. Bryne suspected that if he did catch up to the young women and take them back to his estate, Joni would be after him to turn them over to Joni’s daughters to mother.
Barim is not so enthusiastic, and doesn’t think it worth their time to go near Ghealdan or Altara or Amadicia to get them back; Bryne thinks again he is being a fool, especially as an Andorman chasing all over Murandy, where they are not well loved. Joni mentions casually that the guards he spoke to were two of many who had been let go from where they’d all used to serve, and are being replaced by troublemakers who call themselves the White Lions, and are only loyal to Gaebril. He adds Gaebril has ten times as many men as there are Guards, and they’re only sworn to the throne of Andor, not Morgase personally. Bryne tells him curtly that that’s not their business anymore, and tells Barim to spit out whatever he’s thinking about. Barim tells him that he’d heard that Whitecloaks had been asking around about a girl who sounds like Mara, and they’d got real interested when they heard she’d left. Bryne can’t imagine what Whitecloaks would want with Mara; he considers the notion that she is a Darkfriend, but then rejects it firmly, and takes off to where the rest of his men are bivouacked. He looks at them, and tells himself again he is a fool to get them involved in a wild goose chase; he should take them home, and leave Mara to Whitecloak justice.
“We will be heading west,” he announced, and immediately there was a scramble of dousing fires with the tea and fastening pots to saddles. “We will have to press hard. I mean to catch them in Altara, if I can, but if not, there’s no telling where they’ll lead us. You could see Jehannah or Amador or Ebou Dar before we’re done.” He affected a laugh. “You’ll find out how tough you are if we reach Ebou Dar. They’ve taverns there where the barmaids skin Illianers for dinner and spit Whitecloaks for sport.”
The men laugh, and one of them makes a joke about the Amyrlin that inevitably leads to mention of Morgase, at which the others shut him up. Bryne thinks if Morgase, who had once trusted him, had called him a traitor and looked at him like he was a stranger, that was reason enough for him to put the past in the past.
Hooking a knee around the high cantle of his saddle, he took out his pipe and pouch and filled his pipe with tabac. The bowl was carved with a wild bull collared with the Rose Crown of Andor. For a thousand years that had been the sign of House Bryne; strength and courage in service of the queen. He needed a new pipe; this one was old.
He tells the men the rest of the story about his meeting with the Amyrlin, about how she had dressed him down like a raw recruit, deliberately mentioning Morgase’s part in the tale. They laugh, and mount up, and Bryne thinks again that he will know why Mara broke her oath, even if he has to follow her to the Pit of Doom.
This again is plot movement; as far as character development goes it’s practically a repeat of the Bryne POV we got in the Prologue, though the symbolism with the pipe was nicely done.
This can probably be considered the point, psychologically at least, that Min’s viewing about a bull ripping roses from his neck is fulfilled. Although, after saying this I went and checked, and Min hasn’t even had that viewing yet. But still, I think it’s safe to say that this is where the process began, at any rate. I think the shiny new rose-and-bull icon here backs me up on that, too.
Chapter 13: A Small Room in Sienda
As Elayne and Nynaeve travel in the coach across Amadicia, Elayne tries to ignore Nynaeve’s mock-solicitous inquiries about whether her Lady is bored, but Nynaeve says her Lady must want to move faster, and yells to Thom to pick up the pace. Elayne hears Thom muttering to himself, and then the coach jolts forward, bouncing them about terribly. Elayne tries to say something, but Nynaeve cuts her off.
“Is my Lady uncomfortable? I know ladies are used to comfort, the sort of thing a poor maid wouldn’t know about, but surely my Lady wants to make the next town before dark? So my Lady’s maid can serve my Lady’s supper and turn down my Lady’s bed?”
Elayne sighs. Nynaeve had seen the point originally, that Elayne was far better equipped to play the noblewoman than Nynaeve, but they had stayed at an inn in a town called Bellon, where the innkeeper had insisted that only the Lady Morelin’s maid, Nana, would know the proper way to wait on her in every way. Elayne thought the woman was trying to get free work out of someone she didn’t have to pay, but it would have looked strange if she hadn’t gone along, and now Nynaeve was punishing her with a “lady’s maid from the Blight” act. Elayne resolves that she will stop trying to apologize, and tells Nynaeve that she has been thinking about getting to Tar Valon.
“My Lady has been thinking? My Lady must have a headache from all that effort. I will make my Lady a nice tea of sheepstongue root and red daisy as soon as — “
“Be quiet, Nana,” Elayne said, calmly but firmly; it was her very best imitation of her mother. Nynaeve’s jaw dropped. “If you pull that braid at me, you can ride on the roof with the baggage.”
She points out that she had tried to spare Nynaeve, but Nynaeve wouldn’t let her, and that she will play the maid at the next stop if that’s what it takes. After a moment, Nynaeve mutters something vaguely apologetic and then yells at Thom to slow down, is he trying to kill them? There is dead silence from above, but the coach slows again. Red-faced, Nynaeve asks Elayne to continue, and Elayne points out that they are rushing to Tar Valon without having any idea of what awaits them there, and after what happened in Mardecin, she does not intend to set foot inside it until they do. Nynaeve agrees, and then they are interrupted by the coach jolting to a halt, throwing Elayne on top of Nynaeve. She looks out the coach and is relieved to see it is only a traveling menagerie, with lions and capars and bears – and also, she sees with shock, three huge gray wrinkled creatures with tusks and trunks, which she had seen before. A good-looking man in a red silk cloak approaches and gives them a flourishing bow, apologizing if the “boar-horses” spooked their animals, and murmuring “be still my heart” as he gets a good look at Elayne. He introduces himself as Valan Luca, and tells them the boar-horses come from Shara, which Elayne knows to be a lie. He entreats them to allow him to put on a private show for them before they continue on to Ghealdan, promising tumblers and even an Illuminator to dazzle them, but Nynaeve tells him curtly that they are not interested. Elayne asks why he is going to Ghealdan, with all the troubles there with the Prophet and rioting, but Luca replies grandly that where there are crowds there are people wanting to be entertained. He also adds that they had a little trouble back in Sienda with one of the boar-horses, and paying the fines has left him a little low on funds. He asks again to put on a show for them, and Elayne tells him she has no time, but will give him something to help, and tells “Nana” to pay him. Nynaeve grumbles and presses something into Luca’s hand.
He looked startled as she said, “If you took a decent job of work, you would not have to beg. Drive on, Thom!”
Thom’s whip cracked, and Elayne was thrown back into her seat. “You did not have to be rude,” she said. “Or so abrupt. What did you give him?”
“A silver penny,” Nynaeve replied calmly, putting the purse back into her pouch. “And more than he deserved.”
“Nynaeve,” Elayne groaned. “The man probably thinks we were making sport of him.”
Nynaeve sniffed. “With those shoulders, a good day’s work would not kill him.”
Elayne lets it go, and they soon reach Sienda. Since the first inn is repairing a gaping hole in its wall, presumably courtesy of the “boar-horse”, they end up at the only other inn in town, called The Light of Truth, and Elayne is unnerved to see its common room is filled with Whitecloaks. Elayne plays the haughty noblewoman, and demands a separate bed for her maid this time; Nynaeve does not appreciate that she cites snoring as the reason, though Elayne thinks it is true. Thom and Juilin carry the trunks up to their small room and say they are going out to gather information; Elayne thinks it is cute that they think they are there for more than heavy lifting, and smiles at Thom and warns them to be careful. The men exchange a long-suffering look and leave, and Nynaeve pointedly fails to comment on Elayne’s behavior toward Thom, preparing for her meetings in Tel’aran’rhiod. Elayne tells her to tell Egwene to tell Rand she loves him, and Nynaeve rolls her eyes and agrees.
Enter: THE CIRCUS. (Dun!) Avec new elephant icon, which I guess was to make sure we really for true understood what the “giant boar-horses” were, like, thanks, we get it.
(Although, I know the “capars” are referring to an animal in the real world, and I cannot for the life of me remember what they are called. It’s kind of driving me nuts. Google is not being of much help, since shockingly, searching for “things that look kind of like boars” does not produce much in the way of useful results. Who’d’ve thunk it.)
The problem with summarizing anything involving Elayne and Nynaeve’s Odd Couple routine in TFOH (and onward) is that if I sat there and put in every nuance of their back-and-forth snarkery, well, I would just have to paste the whole chapter up and have done with it. However, if I don’t, it actually becomes very difficult not to make one or the other of them (or both) look like a complete bitch, because bits are missing which mitigate it.
(Cue Elayne- and/or Nynaeve-haters to chime in with “Well, she IS a complete bitch, bulleted list!”)
They aren’t, really, at least not in my opinion, though Nynaeve in particular really does not come off very well here. However, Nynaeve is going through something of a paradigm shift at the moment (which we will see in the next chapter), so while her current behavior is not exactly winning her Miss Congeniality awards anytime soon, I think it is understandable – and anyway, she pays the price for it Real Soon Now.
Of course, Elayne is not covering herself in glory either, with her dismissive thoughts about Thom and Juilin, right after the men had saved their asses big time. Which is quite definitely an example, in my opinion, of Jordan making a gender-flipped Point, and so I applaud it on a meta level while simultaneously being indignant on the guys’ behalf on an individual level. That’s because I can multitask.
And… that’s about what I got on this one. Have fun, and I’ll see youse guys Wednesday, ya heard me?