Steampunk, Schmeampunk! This is a Wheel of Time Re-read, buster. Don’t make me break out the gear-encrusted brass rod of Don’t Spare the Child. I was totally going to buy that World War I aviator radio-cum-CD player from Sharper Image, I swear, but then I didn’t. Because this month I am a PHILISTINE. I’m rebelling against the Man! Who is, evidently, Oscar Wilde, at least for the moment. That’s kind of ironic.
So, if’fn ya don’t judge, today’s totally non-neo-Victorian entry covers Chapters 47-48 of Lord of Chaos, in which there is an utter dearth of clockwork machinery, dirigibles, or sepia tones. The Horrah. The Horrah.
(Note to Tor.com: I love steampunk, really! Please do not fire me.)
Previous entries are here. This and all prior posts contain spoilers for all currently published novels 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, and Chapter 2 is available in audio format. Please refrain from posting spoilers for either the Prologue or Chapters 1-2 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 releases, linked above; please keep them there. Thanks.
And now, the pseudo-17th-ish-century post!
Chapter 47: The Wandering Woman
Mat’s party and the Aes Sedai party camp separately, which is fine with Mat, since there is some kind of tension among the women he can’t figure out, with Elayne, Nynaeve, and the Hunter occasionally staring at Vandene and Adeleas, who appear oblivious. However, Mat soon realizes that he does not have enough food for his men, having expected a much quicker trip, and tells Nerim to share the food Nerim had brought for Mat with them, which makes Nerim mournful and Lopin (Nalesean’s servant) very smug. The men aren’t very happy about this either, as the food is quail eggs and smoked tongue and such, while the women are having simple soup and mutton. After dinner Mat is surprised when Elayne approaches and asks for a word; they go aside, and Elayne coolly informs him that his medallion is a ter’angreal, which some consider are the rightful property of Aes Sedai only. However, she does not require that he give it up, only that he let her study it in the evenings. Mat answers that she’s very kind, to allow him to keep what’s his, and pretends not to know what a ter’angreal is, at which she flares up and retorts that he knows very well what they are, as Elayne heard Moiraine speak to him of them in the Stone of Tear.
“The Stone?” he said blandly. “Yes, I remember the Stone. A fine time we all had there. Do you remember something in the Stone that gives you a right to make demands of me? I don’t. I am just here to keep you and Nynaeve from getting holes poked in your hides in Ebou Dar. You can ask Rand about ter’angreal after I deliver you to him.”
Elayne stares at him a moment, then goes back to his camp and performs an inspection, after which she loudly announces that she is pleased with the neatness of the camp, but chastises him for not planning his food supplies properly. She is “sure [he] will think ahead in future”, though, and heads back to the other fire. Almost immediately after this, the foxhead goes cold; shocked, he looks over to the women’s fire and sees them all standing in a row, watching him while Adeleas jots notes. As the journey continues, so do Elayne’s inspections. She ignores him when he tells her to stop, and Mat is even more irritated that she somehow manages to ferret out things he hadn’t known about, but once she brings them to his attention he is forced to address them. Even worse, his men are highly pleased at her praise and encouragement, and even Vanin starts knuckling his forehead to her. None of the other women will give him the time of day, and Nynaeve actually shouts at him to leave her alone when he tries to talk to her, intending to ask about Bode, and spends the trip actively hiding from him. So Mat ends up mostly drinking ale with Nalesean, Thom, and Juilin, discussing Ebou Dar, and the inhabitants’ apparently insatiable appetite for dueling, both men and women. Thom and Juilin don’t really understand what the source of the tension is between Elayne/Nynaeve and Adeleas/Vandene, but reveal that part of it is over Elayne letting slip that she had chosen Birgitte as her Warder; Jaem took to her right away, but Adeleas and Vandene are distinctly not pleased. Nalesean marvels over the notion of a woman Warder.
Mat shrugged. “I suppose she’ll do well enough as long as she really can shoot that bow. Down the wrong hole?” he asked Juilin, who had begun choking on his ale. “Give me a good bow over a sword any day. Better a quarterstaff, but a bow is just fine. I only hope she doesn’t try to get in my way when it’s time to take Elayne to Rand.”
“I think she can shoot it.” Thom leaned across the table to slap Juilin on the back. “I think she can, Mat.”
The Aes Sedai have also continued their attempts to channel at him, which Mat stubbornly refuses to acknowledge. He begins to feel rather smug about their repeated failures to affect him with saidar, until the fourth day, when Adeleas successfully hits him with horse dung, obviously using saidar to throw it. Mat goes into the inn and proceeds to get stinking drunk, while trying to tell himself that being protected only from direct effects of the Power is still better than nothing. So he is nursing a giant hangover when they reach Ebou Dar, which is a beautiful city. Mat wonders why the dice have started rolling in his head when Vandene announces that they will go into the Tarasin Palace to meet Merilille. Mat thinks that normally he likes palaces, but is not enthused about sharing one with a Queen, a bunch of Aes Sedai, a bunch of nobles, and especially Elayne, who had lectured him that morning on the evils of drink. Mat decides he can’t let her get away with any more than she already had, and announces loudly that he and his men will take rooms in an inn, and Elayne and Nynaeve can send for him to “walk them about” when they go out, and chooses an inn at random in the square. The women exchange glances, but say nothing until he starts to head for the inn, whereupon Elayne calls after him to mind that he doesn’t let “the boy” see Mat’s men gone in drink. Mat grits his teeth, making a mental note to warn the men not to drink in front of Olver, and enters the inn, which turns out to be named The Wandering Woman, and is run by a stately older woman named Setalle Anan, who is clearly not an Ebou Dar native but wears a marriage knife. She greets Nalesean and Mat as lords, and welcomes them to her inn.
[Mat] could not help grinning. “Mistress Anan, I feel like I’ve come home.”
The odd thing was, the dice had stopped rolling in his head.
So, okay. I am not an Elayne hater, at all, but I freely admit I considered her to suck from here on out till about halfway through ACOS, where (in my opinion at least) she regains all her awesome and then some. But at this point, I wanted to smack her silly.
However, just to play devil’s advocate here, I will point out that between Egwene and Nynaeve, Elayne could not possibly have been given a stronger incentive to view everything Mat does in the least flattering light possible. And Mat does nothing to help, with everything he says to her being designed to annoy her as much as he possibly can.
Also, it’s sometimes difficult to remember, as much as we are invited to identify with Mat in general, that other than the Band themselves, NO ONE, except Rand and Lan (and Asmodean, for all the good that does), were or are in a position to know that Mat has any business whatsoever knowing what he’s doing in the slightest. WE know that he is primed to be the greatest military genius Evar, but it’s important to remember that the Supergirls have no clue at this point that he is toting around three thousand years’ worth of tactical nohow in his head.
So Egwene and Nynaeve, and by extension Elayne, really do have to be cut some slack for assuming that Mat is doing nothing more than riding on his BFF Dragon Reborn’s coattails, and that otherwise he is the same feckless ne’er-do-well they knew growing up. And in a lot of ways Mat shoots himself in the foot as far as acknowledgement from his friends goes, because of people’s unfortunate (but completely accurately portrayed) tendency to judge based on appearances. Mat’s stubborn refusal to change his manner is perversely admirable in many ways, but you have to accept the disadvantages with the advantages: if the way you behave is no different from how you’ve always acted, why should anyone assume anything else is different about you? Sad, but true.
And yes, it’s still shitty of Elayne to try to suborn Mat’s followers, although I have no doubt she considers it to be for the greater good. Mat’s screwup with the food, though understandable, is unfortunately exactly timed to reinforce her predisposed inclination to view him as incompetent. So from that point of view, taking his men away from him, as it were, could be considered as protecting them from a commander who doesn’t know what he’s doing. And though of course we know there’s really no one better to lead them, Elayne doesn’t. But she still shouldn’t undermine the chain of command! But, argh.
So my frustration with Elayne in this chapter is not so much where so many people seem to take it, which is “how can she be such a complete bitch?”, because that’s not what I see. I see the same thing that’s been reiterated throughout LOC, of the utterly stupid ways otherwise clever people can be induced to behave when operating from erroneous or incomplete information. The, as I said, malignancy of misinformation which is a central theme of the novel.
As for the “channeling at Mat” thing, that was a beyond-the-pale amount of bullshit I was initially totally unprepared to forgive Elayne and Nynaeve for, but in the next chapter we learn that Mat isn’t exempt from making erroneous assumptions either on that score, so.
Also, hi, Setalle! Thanks for being one of the most completely plot-driven characters in the series! Welcome!
Chapter 48: Leaning on the Knife
Nynaeve joins Elayne, Aviendha, and Birgitte for tea in the opulent sitting room of the suite they had been assigned in the palace, trying and failing to maintain enough concentration to keep from sweating. She mutters that she had expected a different reception, and Elayne replies that was very optimistic of her, after how Vandene and Adeleas treated them.
Nynaeve sighed. “Very well, then, I hoped. I am finally Aes Sedai, really Aes Sedai, and nobody seems to believe it. I truly hoped leaving Salidar would make a difference.”
Merilille had reacted with shock and disapproval at the various revelations of the latest from Salidar, and dismissed them perfunctorily to “freshen up” while the “real” Aes Sedai talked. Nynaeve opines that Vandene and Adeleas are hiding something; Elayne thinks she is being paranoid, but Nynaeve thinks their story about coming to Ebou Dar to look for runaways makes no sense, since everyone knows that almost no runaways from the Tower ever make it off the island without being caught. She moves on, growling that at least Mat had better acknowledge they are Aes Sedai, comforted by knowing she could throw things at him if she had to, at least; Birgitte asks with a grin if that’s why Nynaeve has been avoiding him “like a Cheltan flinching from the tax collector”. Aviendha comments that she would like to see these wetlander places Birgitte keeps talking about, which shuts Birgitte up.
Nynaeve wished she had been there to see her admit to Egwene what Egwene already knew. Egwene had grown impressively forceful in her time with the Aiel, and put up with little she considered nonsense. Birgitte had actually come back looking chastened.
To divert Aviendha, Nynaeve admits that Mat threatened her, and then has to reassure Aviendha “not like that”, as Aviendha starts stroking her belt knife. Elayne interrupts to opine that Mat is the least of their concerns; he is only here to get him away from Egwene, and Elayne will figure out what to do about the ter’angreal later. Nynaeve reflects that Elayne had not been happy when Vandene and Adeleas had started channeling at Mat willy-nilly, and dubiously wishes Elayne luck in her campaign to get Mat “in the habit” of obeying her. They move on to the Bowl, and are discussing the best way to move inconspicuously around the city when they are interrupted by a maidservant, who tells them that Queen Tylin would like to see “the three Aes Sedai”; Elayne and Nynaeve exchanges glances, and Elayne replies there are only two Aes Sedai here, but proposes they all go. Birgitte and Aviendha beg off in favor of going to have a look around the city, and Elayne and Nynaeve go with the maid. On the way to Tylin they are shocked to see Jaichim Carridin in the halls, and on asking learn that the Whitecloaks have sent an embassy to Tylin as well. On meeting the Queen, Nynaeve is impressed by Tylin until she fails to offer them chairs and bluntly questions their claim to be Aes Sedai, observing that Elayne was all of eighteen and Nynaeve maybe twenty-two or so. Nynaeve snaps back that she is twenty-six, and they are Aes Sedai, of the Yellow and Green Ajahs respectively, and that the Amrylin Seat herself is no older than Elayne. Tylin replies flatly that she hadn’t known that, and Nynaeve curses her hasty tongue; Elayne steps in and soothingly asks Tylin to allow her to add her apologies to Merilille’s for the army that was inadvertently gathered on Altaran soil, and assures her that no harm is meant to Altara, and the army will be marching north soon.
Tylin stared at her, unblinking. “I have heard no word of apology or excuse until yours. But any ruler of Altara must learn to swallow insult from greater powers without salt.” Taking a deep breath, she gestured, lace waving. “Sit, sit. Both of you sit. Lean back on your knife and let your tongue go free.” Her sudden smile was very close to a grin. “I don’t know how you say it in Andor. Be at ease, and speak your mind as you wish.”
They sit warily, and Tylin insists that whatever they say, she will take no offense. She asks why four more Aes Sedai from Salidar have come, mentioning in passing the Tower embassy, which has only two sisters (Teslyn and Joline), and the Whitecloaks. She says, laughing, she must listen to all who court her, even Carridin; Nynaeve asks why she would listen to a butcher like Carridin, and realizes her mistake when Tylin’s laughter cuts dead. Tylin comments quietly that they took her at her word, evidently, and explains bluntly how shaky her hold on the throne is, and how small her actual range of influence in Altara, a situation she had hoped to change until the Dragon Reborn came and upset everything.
“Now I thank Pedron Niall when he arranges for Illian to take a hundred-mile swathe of Altara instead of invading. I listen to Jaichim Carridin, and I do not spit in his eye, however many Altarans died in the Whitecloak War. I listen to Carridin, and to Teslyn, and to Merilille, and I pray that I can pass something to my son instead of being found drowned in my bath on the day Beslan meets with an accident hunting.”
Tylin drew a long breath. The pleasant face remained, but an edge entered her voice. “Now. I have stood bare-breasted in the fishmarket for you. Answer me mine. Why do I have the honor of four more Aes Sedai?”
To Nynaeve’s amazement, Elayne then tells Tylin the complete truth about their mission in Ebou Dar, even about how they had found the Bowl in the Dreamworld. Tylin says it would be a blessing to do something about the weather, but the area they describe sounds to her like the Rahad, which Tylin judges highly dangerous even for Aes Sedai; maybe they should leave the search to Vandene and Adeleas. Nynaeve asks if they told her about the Bowl, but Tylin replies no, just that they were looking for something. She remarks that she and Elayne are the first Aes Sedai she’s come across who will say a word more than they have to, and hopes that age won’t change that for them. They take tea and chat with the Queen for some time, discussing the Rahad and whether Tylin can help them search it, and meet her son Beslan briefly before heading back to their rooms. Nynaeve asks Elayne if it was wise to tell Tylin everything like that.
“I know how my mother felt about Aes Sedai traveling about Andor, never letting her know what they were doing. I know how I would feel. Besides, I finally remembered being taught about that phrase—lean back on your knife and the rest. The only way to insult somebody who says that to you is to lie.”
Elayne continues that Vandene and Adeleas only think they’ve taken over, and wagers that in ten days they will have the Bowl, and she will have figured out Mat’s ter’angreal and have him knuckling his forehead. Nynaeve replies she won’t take that bet, except for the part about Mat: “Ten days it is.”
Enter: TYLIN. DUNDUNDUNDUN!!!
(Look, I’m not even touching that whole thing till I have to. Which is next book, so nyah. It’s a shame, though; I liked her rather a lot when we first meet her here.)
I must sympathize with Nynaeve, even as I agree with Elayne about her unrealistic optimism re: being accepted by Merilille and the others. God knows their situation would have me ready to tear my hair out. Nothing more fun than being dismissed as irrelevant, oh yeah.
“Merilille”, by the way, has now taken top spot in my list of “WOT names that are incredibly annoying to type”. ILILILILILLLIEIELL, gah. Though the name itself is pretty. She should feel lucky she never had to go through a public school system, though, is all I’m saying.
Adeleas and Vandene: I was actually surprised, but in a good way, that the “channeling at Mat” thing was in no way Elayne or Nynaeve’s idea, and went a long way to reestablishing their cred with me, because that would have been just so shitty if initiated by them. Vandene and Adeleas can be at least a little bit forgiven for doing it (not much, but a little), since they don’t know Mat from Adam, but the Supergirls, no. So I was very relieved to find that that whole thing was not endorsed by either of them. Yes, they could have been a little less reticent in condemning the practice, but given the situation it’s not like Adeleas or Vandene would have listened to them anyway, so maybe they were wise to save their breath.
Also, heh, Nynaeve has no clue about the runaway thing. Although, I’m a little fuzzy on the exact events in ACOS; I know the Aes Sedai knew about the Kin, but I don’t think they knew knew, in the sense of having a clue how extensive and efficient an organization they really were. But either way it was a nice (or annoying) extension of the general theme of misinformation in LOC, in that it all leads Elayne and Nynaeve to conclude that the others were aiming to take the Bowl hunt away from them, when the “real” Aes Sedai probably considered the whole thing a total fairy tale in the first place.
Nynaeve: Tactful as ever, I see. God bless. The Mat thing, I’m a little uncertain about. The surprising impression I get here is that Nynaeve is actually a little bit afraid of Mat, which is certainly not how I recall viewing their adversarial relationship; I had always seen it as being massive mutual irritation from too-similar amounts of tactlessness and intransigence. The notion that Nynaeve fears him is rather demeaning to her, in my opinion. Eh. I’m going to let this go until I see them interacting more in ACOS, and see where I fall then. I do have to love that Nynaeve doesn’t believe for a moment that Elayne will win the battle of wills with Mat; she may not have the best opinion of Mat, but she does know him well in some ways, you have to admit.
Elayne: gets major (if momentary) kudos here for actually extending courtesy and consideration to a non-Aes Sedai. Almost by accident, true, but her motivation is awesome: because that’s how she would want to be treated as a ruler. Golden Rule FTW! Also, let’s not disparage one of the very few times we see any character in WOT be totally honest with another whatever the motivation, because those times, they are rare, my friends – and incidentally, Jordan makes a point of showing the immediate beneficial payoff of doing so, as Tylin can be considered firmly in Elayne and Nynaeve’s camp from here on out. Cherish the love!
Gimme faith, gimme joy, gimme a weekend! Have fun, kids, and see you next week!