The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Lord of Chaos, Part 20

What do you get from a glut of TV? A pain in the neck and an IQ of three! Why don’t you try simply Re-reading a book? Or could you just not bear to look?

…Yeah, I was gonna do the whole intro to the lyrics, but it’s two thirty in the morning and, no.

So! Today’s Wheel of Time Re-read covers Chapters 34-35 of Lord of Chaos, in which we have an inauguration they’d never show you on C-SPAN. You’ll get no, you’ll get no, you’ll get no, you’ll get no commercials!

Previous entries are here. This and all prior posts contain spoilers for the novel of the Wheel of Time series up to and including Knife of Dreams, so if you haven’t read, don’t read.

The Prologue of The Gathering Storm, “What the Storm Means,” is available for download here on Tor.com or at multiple online vendors. Chapter 1 is still available as well. Please refrain from posting spoilers for either the Prologue or Chapter 1 in the posts for the Re-read, in order to protect those who have not yet read them, or do not intend to before the release of the entire book. Spoiler discussion is going on at the respective posts announcing the two releases, linked above; please keep them there. Thanks.

But if you like reading other things, you will go far! And you will click the link below!

Chapter 34: Journey to Salidar

What Happens
Egwene packs and dresses, trying to ignore the pain in her backside, and embraces saidar, hoping this works. She weaves a gateway that makes the inside of her tent identical to its reflection in Tel’aran’rhiod, and knows it worked the moment she steps through. She exits the reflection of the tent and grins to find a dream-Bela there, just as she had envisioned. She eyes the saddle dubiously, then has a thought, and changes things so that her backside no longer pains her, telling herself it’s not cheating; and even if it was, she thinks, there are limits. She mounts and tells Bela she will need to be “swift like the wind”; to her surprise, dream-Bela actually is that fast, traveling across the countryside in a blur that covers miles with every step. Egwene laughs in delight, and enjoys the ride, stopping Bela every so often to orient herself.

A day or two to reach Salidar? That was what Sheriam had said. The Wise Ones were right. Everyone had believed for so long that Aes Sedai knew everything that Aes Sedai believed it, too. She was going to prove them wrong tonight, but it was not likely they would take any real notice of her proof. They knew.

After a short time, she reaches Salidar, and hugs the dream-Bela goodbye before weaving a gateway and stepping back into the real world; she bites off a cry as all her bruises come back full force. She walks up to a woman and introduces herself, and asks for Sheriam Sedai; the woman leads her off with ill grace to where all seven from the Stone are together, though in robes. Sheriam ushers her in, exclaiming over her speed, and Anaiya greets her warmly; Morvrin wants to know if there were any ill effects, and Egwene assures them she is well. The young Aes Sedai Egwene doesn’t know puts in sharply that they have no time to waste to make Egwene ready, lest Romanda “gut her like a fat carp”. Egwene gasps, finally recognizing the voice, and is more astonished than ever when they explain what happened. She is puzzled by the fact that Siuan is clearly the weakest in the Power of all the women in the room, when that had certainly not been the case before. She also notes that such a warm welcome argues against her being punished for anything. She asks after Nynaeve and Elayne, but Siuan interrupts again, berating the other Aes Sedai for “jabbering like brainless girls”, and telling them it’s too late to be afraid of going forward, and the Hall will hang them and Egwene out to dry unless they commit. As one, the other Aes Sedai turn and stare her down; Siuan is defiant at first, but soon wilts under their regard and apologizes, which Egwene thinks is most unlike her. For her part, Egwene is more confused than ever.

“You have been summoned for a very special reason, Egwene,” Sheriam said solemnly.

Egwene’s heart began to beat faster. They did not know about her. They did not. But what?

“You,” Sheriam said, “are to be the next Amyrlin Seat.”

Commentary
LOC is kind of notable for the number of BAM! chapter ending lines, which is not something I recall Jordan using quite as often in earlier novels. It’s a “page-turner” trick that is one of those things I enjoy even while kind of chuckling at the blatant authorial manipulativeness involved. It also tends to be the bad thriller writer’s constant crutch-like companion (*cough*DanBrown*cough*), but that doesn’t negate its legitimate usefulness in more gooder writing.

The text says that Egwene finally recognizes Siuan by the tone of her voice, but I’m willing to bet the fish simile helped. Heh.

Bela: Why can’t I have a zooming pony? I want a zooming pony! Pink macaroons and a million balloons and performing baboons and A ZOOMING PONY. Give it to me! Now!

And, uh… That’s about it, really. Next chapter!


Chapter 35: In the Hall of the Sitters

What Happens
Egwene stares at Sheriam, wondering if this is some bizarre joke. Finally, she points out faintly that she is not even Aes Sedai. Sheriam replies that that can be gotten around, and Beonin explains that while it is clear under Tower law that the Amyrlin is Aes Sedai, nothing in the law says a woman has to be Aes Sedai to be raised Amyrlin. They concede this is semantics, but it is allowable, and therefore Egwene will be Aes Sedai by default as soon as she is Amyrlin. Egwene protests that this is madness, and thinks to herself that she is not remotely ready to be Amyrlin. She says she wouldn’t have the first idea what to do.

Aiel heart. Whatever they did, she would not let them bully her. Eyeing Morvrin’s bluff, hard face, she added, She can skin me, but she can’t bully me. “This is ridiculous is what it is. I won’t paint myself for a fool in front of everybody, and that is what I’d be doing. If this is why the Hall summoned me, I’ll tell them no.”

“I fear that is not an option,” Anaiya sighed, smoothing her robe, a surprisingly frilly thing in rose silk, with delicate ivory lace bordering every edge. “You cannot refuse a summons to become Amyrlin any more than you could a summons for trial. The words of the summons are even the same.” That was heartening; oh, yes, it was.

Sheriam smiles and assures her that they will be there to guide her; Egwene makes no reply to this, and Siuan is sent off to wake the Sitters. Then follows a flurry of preparation, as they have Egwene try on various Accepted dresses and instruct her in her role in the ritual. Egwene is annoyed that they make her repeat it over and over even though she had got it right the first time, as the Wise Ones had taught her, and thinks that if she didn’t know better, she would think they were nervous. They head off to the building where the Hall waits, and Anaiya reassures Egwene that it will go well. Egwene enters bracketed by Sheriam, Myrelle and Morvrin.

“Who comes before the Hall of the Tower?” Romanda demanded in a high, clear voice. She sat just below the golden chair, opposite the three Blue sisters. Sheriam stepped smoothly aside, revealing Egwene.

“One who comes obediently, in the Light,” Egwene said. Her voice should have been shaking. Surely they were not really going to do this.

“Who comes before the Hall of the Tower?” Romanda demanded again.

“One who comes humbly, in the Light.” Any moment this would turn into her trial for pretending to be Aes Sedai. No, not that; they would just have shielded her and locked her away until time if that was the case. But surely…

“One who comes at the summons of the Hall, obedient and humble in the Light, asking only to accept the will of the Hall.”

The youngest Sitter, Kwamesa, stands and asks if there are any present save women; everyone in the room including Egwene strips to the waist as proof that they are women, and Egwene reflects that long ago there would have been more proof required, and formal ceremonies were held “clad in the Light”. Romanda asks who stands for this woman, and Sheriam, Myrelle and Morvrin answer that they do; then Romanda calls Egwene forward and asks why she is here. In the words of the ritual, Egwene answers that she is here to serve as the Amyrlin Seat, if it pleases the Hall. Delana stands first, followed by eight more, not including either Romanda or Lelaine; Egwene knows that nine votes is one short of rejection, and that it was a statement, that the Hall did not intend to be lapdogs. Sheriam had assured her it was only a token gesture, but Egwene is not so sure. Egwene goes around the room with a basin of water and a cloth, washing the Sitters’ feet and asking to serve; when she is done, they vote again. This time every Sitter except Lelaine and Romanda stands. After a moment, Lelaine shrugs and rises; Romanda stares at Egwene for a long, tense moment before finally standing, and Egwene hears a gasp of relief from behind her, where Sheriam and the others are standing. Romanda and Lelaine lead her up to the chair at the head of the room and drape the stole over her shoulders, and all the Sitters recite in unison:

“You are raised to the Amyrlin Seat, in the glory of the Light, that the White Tower may endure forever. Egwene al’Vere, the Watcher of the Seals, the Flame of Tar Valon, the Amyrlin Seat.” Lelaine removed Egwene’s Great Serpent ring from her left hand and gave it to Romanda, who slipped it onto Egwene’s right. “May the Light illumine the Amyrlin Seat and the White Tower.”

Egwene laughs, startling Lelaine and Romanda, because she has remembered what comes next, and manages to sit on the chair without wincing, which she considers a personal triumph. Then the sisters in the room line up in order of age, behind Sheriam, Myrelle and Movrin, and each in turn curtsies to Egwene and asks to be allowed to serve; Egwene answers as seriously as she can manage, and the Sitters leave silently as soon as they finish, until Egwene is alone with her sponsors. She asks what would have happened if Romanda hadn’t stood for her, and Sheriam replies that she would have probably been raised Amyrlin herself, either her or Lelaine. Egwene says that’s not what she meant; what would have happened to her, Egwene? They answer that it is possible she would have just gone back to being Accepted, but usually a woman who is refused the Amyrlin Seat is exiled, and Sheriam adds that as Egwene’s sponsors, they would certainly have been exiled, and likely Carlinya, Beonin and Anaiya along with them.

Her smile was abrupt. “But it did not happen that way. The new Amyrlin is supposed to spend her first night in contemplation and prayer, but once Myrelle finishes with those buttons, it might be best if we gave at least a little of it to telling you how matters stand in Salidar.”

They were all looking at her. Myrelle was behind her, doing up the last button, but she could feel the woman’s eyes. “Yes. Yes, I think that might be best.”

Commentary
Well, that happened almost insanely fast, I remember thinking the first time.

On Egwene being raised in general, I really don’t see how this could have been viewed as anything but a sham by everyone involved. Perhaps this is just a result of having been immersed in the story too long, but even while seeing the logic behind the move as it is explained to us, I still find it slightly unbelievable that Sheriam et al got the entire Hall to go along with it in the first place.

I’m divided in my own mind as to whether the later revelations we get about the “too-young Sitter” mystery in the rebel Hall (read all about it here if you need an outdated-but-still-good-primer-material refresher) lend credence to the notion of raising a puppet Amrylin or not. I guess it does, sort of, except that from what I can tell getting rid of an inconvenient Amrylin is a mite more problematic than getting an extraneous Sitter off the board. I mean, if Egwene had really turned out to be the pushover they thought she would be, what were they planning to do with her, long term? The more I think about it, the more I think that things would really have not ended well for Egwene had she not taken matters into her own hands.

Of course, I do seem to recall that Siuan later has a number of sub rosa stories of Amrylins who were barely more than puppets for the Hall, but those seemed to be effects of happenstance, of Amrylins who turned out to be much weaker than they were thought to be, whereas Egwene’s raising was deliberately engineered. Or maybe I’m just pulling all this from my ass, and raising puppet Amyrlins happened all the damn time.

All that being said, however, the game of legal dodgeball the Salidar Six play in justifying an Accepted being raised to Amyrlin is actually based on historical fact: in papal elections for the Roman Catholic Church (a process upon which the raising of the Amrylin is obviously based), it used to be that a man could be elected Pope without being a bishop or even ordained first, but if such a man was elected, he was immediately made a bishop by virtue of having been elected Pope, since the Pope is also the Bishop of Rome. (This is no longer the case, but back in the day, it was so.)

Indeed, the allusions to the RCC contained within the Aes Sedai organization as a whole and the Hall/Amrylin set-up specifically are almost too numerous to note, right down to the foot-washing thing and the simultaneous election of two opposing Amrylins, which is a reference to the Great Western Schism at the end of the fourteenth century, as I think I have mentioned before. I always did think this was one of Jordan’s more brilliant (and fascinating) real-world parallels in WOT, and it’s pretty clear he put a great deal of thought into constructing it.

The most pointed allusion in this chapter, of course, is the issue of gender, and the mirrored exclusionary emphasis on it in both organizations. While I seriously doubt the papal conclave ever involved dropping trou to verify everyone there was a man (at least I devoutly hope not), the Church’s total exclusion of women in the clerical hierarchy is codified in ecclesiastical law, just as the exclusion of men is in Tower law – and, in a way, for much the same reasons. Eve ate the apple; male Aes Sedai broke the world. It is perhaps ironic that the White Tower’s reasons for excluding men are the more legitimate of the two.

(What, me be incendiary? Nevah!)

As to the “stripping” aspect of the ceremony, I’ve heard people be derisive and/or critical of this, alleging it to be a chauvinistic or inappropriately salacious vision of what a female-only hierarchy might involve, but I’ve personally never seen it that way. To me, it was a pretty clear reference to some of the European pagan traditions that the Church stomped out and/or expropriated in its expansion, many of which had a decided emphasis on the power/sanctity of women; Egwene’s reference to rituals being performed skyclad “clad in the Light” clinches that if nothing else does. The irony of this particular theological mashup was, I’m sure, not lost on Jordan any more than it is on me.

All in all, yummy allusion fun. Good times.


So, there may be more to say about this chapter, but I’m officially tapped out for now. Enjoy, be nice in the comments (if you are wise you’ll listen to me), and I’ll see you folks in the mid-weekal area. As the Pope would say, Ciao!

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