Greetings, WOTers! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!
In honor of the season, please imagine that this post has sparkly lights and tinsel twined about it, and snow artistically piled on the letters, and that some clichéd sleigh bells are jingling in the background. Please make sure that the lights are the TWINKLY kind, because I do not truck with those boring steady-glow things. Preferably, they should be white and not colored, but I’m willing to negotiate on that point.
Yes, I have Opinions about festival lighting. I have opinions about everything. But you knew that.
Today’s entry covers Chapters 5 and 6 of A Crown of Swords, in which in which Rand disturbs everything but a hairstyle.
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of yummy tidbits regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
Don’t forget: the Re-read briefly goes back on hiatus for the rest of the year, but will be back in all its glory, assuming it has glory, in January. I totes swear, you guys.
And that’s the story, morning glory! Onward to the post!
Chapter 5: A Broken Crown
The party marches tensely through the palace to the throne room. The guards at the door gasp in shock to see Rand, and fall to their knees, one of them praying hoarsely under his breath.
“So am I loved,” Rand said softly. He hardly sounded himself.
The throne room is filled to bursting with nobles, and the party gets almost halfway through the room before Rand is recognized; gasps fill the room, and Perrin smells fear throughout the company, but he is only paying attention to the dais at the end of the hall, where Colavaere sits on the Sun Throne flanked by seven ladies-in-waiting. Perrin thinks he sees an eighth woman hidden behind the throne, but all he cares about is that one of the seven attendants is Faile; she looks at Perrin without expression. Rand tells Sulin to wait, and she agrees reluctantly, but then she and all the Maidens veil themselves, causing fresh gasps from the room. Rand walks up to the dais slowly, and Colavaere darts looks behind him.
“Looking for Aes Sedai?” Rand’s voice echoed. He smiled unpleasantly. “I sent them to the Aiel camp. If the Aiel can’t teach them manners, no one can.” A shocked murmur rose, and fell raggedly. Fear became stronger than the perfumes in Perrin’s nose.
Colavaere rallies, and tries welcoming Rand back to Cairhien. Perrin follows him halfway to the dais, but stops when Faile gives no sign of welcome to him, but only stares consideringly. Rand lays a hand on the throne, and says Colavaere knows he means it for Elayne Trakand. Colavaere counters bravely that Cairhien needs a Cairhienin ruler, and rumor reports Elayne to be dead along with her mother. Rand replies flatly that Elayne is alive, and will have the thrones of both Andor and Cairhien. Colavaere replies that what is done cannot be undone.
For all her dignity, all her courage, Colavaere made a visible effort not to flinch as Rand reached out and took hold of the Sun Crown. There was a loud crack of metal snapping, and the crown flexed, hardly disarraying her tower of curls as it pulled away, slowly straightening. A few of the brilliant yellow stones popped from their settings and fell. He held up the stretched arc of metal, and slowly it bent back on itself until the ends met, and . . . Maybe the Asha’man could see what happened, could understand, but to Perrin, one moment the crown was broken, the next it was whole again. No one among the nobles made a sound, not even a shuffling of boots; Perrin thought they might be afraid to. To his nose, stark terror was stronger than any other scent now. It did not quiver; it spasmed wildly.
“Whatever can be done,” Rand said softly, “can be undone.”
Breathily, Colavaere protests that she has kept all Rand’s laws, and when he says nothing, begs him to give her the throne, insisting she has the right to it. Perrin wonders why Rand is dragging this out; jumping in, he asks Colavaere if she had the right to murder Maringil and Meilan, and demands to know where Berelain is. He instantly curses himself as Faile gives him a glance that “could have set water aflame”. Colavaere protests her innocence vehemently, and draws herself up and tells Rand that she is Queen of Cairhien, unless he would rip all their laws asunder. Rand still says nothing, and Colavaere calls for “Annoura” to come advise her. The woman behind the throne steps out, clearly Aes Sedai by her ageless face, and Perrin is surprised when Havien grins at the sight of her. Annoura tells Colavaere that she cannot advise her, and that she allowed Colavaere to “misperceive” their relationship. Then she adds unsteadily to Rand that there is no need for “this”, and that if she had intended him ill she would have struck while unseen. Rand answers icily that she might have died had she tried.
“I’m not who has you shielded, Aes Sedai. Who are you? Why are you here? Answer me! I don’t have much patience with . . . your kind. Unless you want to be hauled out to the Aiel camp? I wager the Wise Ones can make you speak freely.”
Annoura makes the connection quickly, as do most of the nobles; they crowd back from the Asha’man in stark terror, some of them passing out. (Perrin notes that Loial is managing to take notes in the middle of all this.) Annoura says she is of the Gray Ajah, and is advisor to Berelain; she was kept secret because of the Tairen attitude toward Mayene and Aes Sedai together, but she thinks the time for secrets is past. Rand says if Berelain confirms her story, he will release her to Berelain’s parole, but warns her that he will not be manipulated or schemed against; one wrong move and she goes to the Wise Ones with the others. Annoura answers with false calm that she understands. Then Faile steps forward and denounces Colavaere to Rand, saying she had planned to oust the Aiel and recant the laws Rand had set in place; she adds that the woman Faile had gotten this information from (Maire) disappeared soon after, and Faile believes Colavaere had her murdered. Dobraine steps up and formally accuses Colavaere of treason, for which the penalty is execution. Only Perrin hears Rand say “No. I cannot. I will not” and realizes Rand’s delay has been about searching for a way to avoid condemning Colavaere to death. Colavaere searches frantically among the nobles for support, but finds none; she hisses at Faile that she lies, and Perrin growls that Faile does not lie (to himself: “Well, not about something like this”). Colavaere demands proof, claiming that Maire left the city, and without Maire there is no proof of the accusations against her. Then Annoura puts in that Berelain had brought two experienced thief-catchers with her from Mayene, who have procured solid evidence that Colavaere was behind both Maringil and Meilan’s murders.
Word by word the defiance leached out of Colavaere. She still stood, yet it seemed a wonder; she appeared as limp as a damp rag. “They promised,” she mumbled to Rand. “They promised you would never return.” Too late, she clamped both hands over her mouth. Her eyes bulged. Perrin wished he could not hear the sounds coming from her throat. No one should make sounds like that.
With satisfaction, Dobraine amends the charges to treason and murder, and adds that by Rand’s new laws, that now means hanging. Perrin sees that Min is looking at Rand with great sadness as they hear this. Colavaere, near to collapse, manages to demand beheading instead, as befitting her station. Rand seems to struggle with himself; at length he announces that he strips Colavaere of all her titles and possessions, and then asks if she owns a “small farm”. This confuses everyone, but Dobraine confirms that she owns many. Rand orders Dobraine to find out which is the smallest, and to exile her there, making sure she never leaves it. The nobles murmur in scandalized confusion, and Colavaere drops down in a faint; Perrin leaps forward to catch her, but she stops in midair and comes to rest gently on the dais. Perrin guesses that was Rand, as he’s sure the Asha’man would have let her fall. Annoura comments that she suspects Colavaere would have preferred beheading; Rand snaps back that she is alive, and begins giving out orders, but pauses to gaze at the frozen crowd of nobles in the hall, whom Perrin imagines are wondering if he considers them being there treason too.
“This audience is at an end,” Rand said. “I will forget every face that departs now.”
The nobles start filing out, slowly at first, but then, perhaps wondering what exactly Rand meant by “now”, start moving faster and faster until they are shoving and pushing to get out. None of them look at Colavaere as they leave.
This is not my favorite scene in WOT, or even in this book, but it’s frickin’ brilliantly done, in my opinion, and ranks pretty high on my overall list of Kickass WOT Sceneage. The tension in this chapter, for one thing, makes piano wire look relaxed; I remember the first time reading this I nearly had sympathetic heart palpitations, wondering how it was all going to be resolved.
While Colavaere more than got what she deserved and I have no sympathy for her per se, Jordan did a marvelous job of putting the reader in her shoes and making us feel what she feels, even from an outside and similarly unsympathetic point of view (Perrin’s). All I have to say is, any day where you are demanding the headsman as the best of your possible range of choices is a really bad day. This observation has been brought to you by Captain Obvious and the letter “Duh”.
All that said, it was something of a bitch to recap, seeing as just about every line in it was significant plotwise, and fraught with portent besides; it really annoys me when I feel like all I’m doing is rephrasing the entire chapter in lesser prose. But as this is a problem fairly unique unto myself, I shan’t dwell on it. You’re welcome.
Loial: Hah! Taking notes. He really is WOT’s resident nerd.
Annoura: I have to say, I quite like her. She doesn’t really get to do that much of significance that I recall, seeing as she spends most of her screen time mired in Ghealdan with Berelain and the rest of That Damn Plotline, but based on her behavior here, woman’s got a good head on her shoulders and some serious brass, to so calmly deliver the coup de grace to Colavaere while facing on no notice what is more or less an Aes Sedai’s worst nightmare come to life.
She is, frankly, a breath of fresh Aes Sedai air after having Kiruna stuck up our collective noses for so long. Annoura’s no Moiraine or Siuan, but at least she walks the walk. It’s also nice that she and Berelain seem to be BFFs, or at least to have a solid working relationship, which speaks well of Annoura, seeing as most Aes Sedai seem to consider it beneath them to be friends with a non-channeler, even if said non-channeler is royalty.
“So am I loved”: you know, it’s kind of a thing. On the one hand, I’m pretty sure that having people be absolutely terrified of you is actually not that much fun to experience in real life, but I must somewhat ashamedly confess that reading about it as a character’s proxy is… kind of awesome. This, possibly, constitutes proof that it is a good thing no one has ever endowed me with Phenomenal Cosmic Power.
Though honestly you can never tell how someone will deal with that sort of thing until they have it. I would like to think that I would handle power at least as well as Rand has (hopefully better, really), but the fact of the matter is, I’d never know until I actually had it. The same way you can train and train a recruit, but never know how they will perform in combat until they are actually there. It’s not a question that can be resolved except in practice. This, I think, is why the world has problems.
Chapter 6: Old Fear, and New Fear
Rand, Min, and most of the others leave the throne room while the nobles are still scrambling to get out; Perrin, Aram, Dobraine and Faile remain behind, Perrin and Faile staring at each other and Dobraine staring at the unconscious Colavaere. Perrin goes to Faile and takes her hand, and she takes out a fan and taps her cheek, then his; Perrin knows there is a whole language of fans in Saldaea, but he doesn’t know what this gesture means; her scent is filled with jealousy, though. Dobraine mutters that Rand should have sent Colavaere to the block, and he and Faile have an oblique conversation which Perrin only belatedly realizes is her suggesting Dobraine should do something more permanent with Colavaere than exile her to a farm, and Dobraine refusing.
Every hair on his body tried to stand. From the start he had known that he had married a very dangerous woman. Just not how dangerous.
He catches Aram, who worships Faile, eyeing Colavaere speculatively, and points out firmly that Rand would not like it if anything kept Colavaere from reaching that farm, and neither would he. Faile is disbelieving of Rand’s claims that the Aes Sedai are under his control, instead of the other way around, even after both Dobraine and Perrin swear they saw nine of them give oaths of fealty to Rand with their own eyes, and Perrin realizes that he smells fear on her as well as jealousy. He asks if she truly thinks they are all Aes Sedai puppets, and she answers she’s heard Aes Sedai can do things like that. He asks jokingly if Rand having Verin dance the sa’sara would convince her, but she taps her fan against her wrist, which Perrin knows means I am giving your suggestion serious thought. She continues that she thinks an Aes Sedai would do almost anything to get what she wants, and shivers. Perrin pulls her into a hug, which she returns.
“If any Aes Sedai ever harms you,” she whispered, “I will kill her.” He believed her. “You belong to me, Perrin t’ Bashere Aybara. To me.” He believed that, too. As her hug grew fiercer, so did the thorny scent of jealousy. He almost chuckled. It seemed the right to put a knife in him was reserved to her. He would have chuckled, except that filament of fear remained. That, and what she had said about Maire. He could not smell himself, but he knew what was there. Fear. Old fear, and new fear, for the next time.
Perrin sends Aram off to bring the Two Rivers men into the city, and heads with Faile to their apartments. On the way he hears people following them and spins to confront Selande and her friends, whom he is surprised to see now includes some Tairens. He growls at them that he’ll “kick the lot of [them] from here to Bel Tine” if they make trouble, and Faile tells them to obey her husband, as he is “not a man to be trifled with”. They bow profusely and back off. Perrin mutters about “bloody young buffoons”, and asks Faile how she ended up as one of Colavaere’s attendants. Wary of servants eavesdropping, she murmurs so low that only he can hear that Colavaere jumped at the chance to take her in once she found out who Faile’s father was; Perrin thinks this sounds reasonable, but knows Faile enough to know that’s far from the only reason. He waits until they are in their rooms, and begins to say he worried about her, but she cuts him off furiously.
“Worried about me!” she snapped, spinning to face him. She stood straight and tall, eyes fierce as those of her falcon namesake, and her fan made a coring motion toward his middle. Not part of the language of fans; she made the same gesture with a knife sometimes. “When almost the first words from your mouth were to ask after that . . . that woman!”
Perrin protests that he only wanted Berelain’s thief-catchers and their proof against Colavaere, which only makes Faile angrier that her proof was apparently not good enough. She spits that Berelain had spread rumors after he left that Perrin was in a manor in the country where Berelain could “visit” him, and everyone believed her story instead of Faile’s, and furthermore that Colavaere had delighted in throwing Faile and Berelain together at every opportunity.
“‘Faile, Berelain, come lace my gown.’ ‘Faile, Berelain, come hold the mirror for the hairdresser.’ ‘Faile, Berelain, come wash my back.’ So she could amuse herself waiting for us to claw one another’s eyes out! That is what I have put up with! For you, you hairy-eared—!”
His back thumped against the wall. And something snapped inside him. He had been frightened spitless for her, terrified, ready to face down Rand or the Dark One himself. And he had done nothing, had never encouraged Berelain, had done everything in his wits to chase the woman away. For which his thanks was this.
Gently he took her by the shoulders and lifted her until those big tilted eyes were level with his. “You listen to me,” he said calmly. He tried to make his voice calm, at least; it came out more of a growl in his throat. “How dare you speak to me like that? How dare you? I worried myself near to death for fear you’d been hurt. I love you, and nobody else but you. I want no other woman but you. Do you hear me? Do you?”
He clasps her in his arms, and confesses that he would die if anything happened to her. She grabs his beard when he tries to put her down, and says warmly that a woman likes to hear “I love you” said in the right way. Perrin is stunned; the jealousy is completely gone from her smell, and he gathers by her smoldering look that she’s about to make a comment about Saldaean farmgirls; before she can, though, Rand bursts in.
“Perrin, Berelain isn’t—I’m sorry. Forgive me.” Rand stood shifting his feet, not at all like the Dragon Reborn. There were Maidens in the hallway outside. Min put her head around the doorframe, took one look, grinned at Perrin and ducked back out of sight.
Faile steps away and apologizes pointedly for not hearing his knock, and Rand blushes, but goes on that Berelain is apparently spending the night on a Sea Folk ship. Perrin wishes he would stop mentioning her name, and asks if Rand needed to talk about anything else. Rand stares into space a moment, then asks if Perrin is sure he won’t command his army in Illian; Perrin answers that he is no general, thinking he could not face having men die under his command again, and adds that besides, he thought Min’s viewing meant he had to stay close to Rand. Rand answers that everyone has to take risks, and Perrin takes him at his word by bringing up the Aes Sedai, telling him he will not allow Rand or the Wise Ones to harm them.
Cold blue eyes met his gaze. “You won’t let it?”
“I won’t,” Perrin told him levelly. He did not flinch from that stare, either. “They are prisoners, and no threat. They’re women.”
“They are Aes Sedai.” Rand’s voice was so like Aram’s back at Dumai’s Wells that it nearly took Perrin’s breath.
“I do what I have to do, Perrin.” For a moment he was the old Rand, not liking what was happening. For a moment he looked tired to death. A moment only. Then he was the new Rand again, hard enough to mark steel. “I won’t harm any Aes Sedai who doesn’t deserve it, Perrin. I can’t promise more.”
He continues that it’s just as well about Illian, as he can use Perrin elsewhere, apologizes that he can’t let them rest more than a day or two, and leaves. Faile wonders rhetorically why a man’s sense is inversely proportional to his courage, which Perrin finds a little rich considering what she had been doing, and then decides she doesn’t want the answer, since she feels as forward as a farmgirl at –
“Why are you laughing? Stop laughing at me, Perrin t’Bashere Aybara! Stop it, I say, you uncouth oaf! If you don’t—”
The only way to put an end to it was to kiss her. In her arms he forgot Rand and Aes Sedai and battles. Where Faile was, was home.
I swear, these two exhaust me.
I think I’ve said this before, but: I know there are couples out there who thrive on the whole slap-slap-kiss-kiss dynamic, and if it works for you, great, I guess, but the notion of living like that all the time makes me damn near narcoleptic. I just wanna take a nap now. I’m just entirely unconvinced that the alleged great sex that results is anywhere near the aggro needed to get to it, you know?
But, whatever. Again, Faile’s unfounded jealousy is annoying, but then again I have to say if some other woman had been going around telling people she was shacking up with my husband pretty much right in front of me? Um, yeah, I don’t think I would have reacted particularly well to that either. In fact, the more I think about the situation, the more I have to give Faile credit that she didn’t completely lose her shit and try to cut Berelain into tiny pieces.
Of course, that doesn’t excuse her taking it out on Perrin, but, well. Someone needs to give Faile a punching bag – a literal one. I don’t think they have punching bags in Randland, but girl definitely needs something besides her husband to pummel.
I was a little surprised here, having really not remembered that Faile had been genuinely afraid that Perrin et al are Aes Sedai puppets. It sounds silly to the reader, but I don’t think it’s actually an unreasonable fear for her to have had; true, present-day Aes Sedai can’t actually pull that kind of thing off, but given that they have been riding on their overinflated reputation for something like three millenia now, it’s not particularly surprising that Faile would believe they were capable of it.
Fans: This is a little absurd, but the thought that came to me about this is to wonder why a country that’s so cold all the time would develop a code language around a device that is primarily intended to cool you off in hot weather. Though I suppose Saldaea could have hot summers? And anyway, temperature is relative. It’s possible I’m overthinking this.
Perrin: Also forgot he vowed here not to Be In Charge anymore. That didn’t last long, did it?
…Well, it didn’t last long in the sense that Perrin ends up Being In Charge of people again in like two chapters; in the sense of us having to listen to Perrin angst about Being In Charge, we’re at six books and counting. Oy.
The seemingly-brewing confrontation between Perrin and Rand over the Aes Sedai is one of those things that never really came to fruition as a plotline; Perrin will use the topic as the basis of the ruse he and Rand pull off later, but that doesn’t really count, since that was (mostly) faking, and he and Rand have not been together since. I don’t even know if it ever will come up again, given how much the situation will have changed by the time the two of them are reunited. It’s not a big deal, I guess, but it does make the thematic harmonizer in me twitch a bit.
Did that last sentence actually make sense to anyone besides me? Oh well.
That’s our show, kids! I wish each and every one of you a lovely Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati, Islamic New Year, Gregorian New Year, Winter Break, or whatever combination of those you happen to celebrate, and hope everyone stays safe and warm and slightly tipsy. See y’all next decade!