The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: A Crown of Swords, Part 7

Why, hello, gentle readers! Having succeeded, with foresight, fortitude, and much layering, in not freezing to death this past weekend, I bring you a shiny new Wheel of Time re-read post to celebrate!

Today’s post covers Chapters 10-11 of A Crown of Swords, in which Things Happen, more or less.

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.

And that is all she wrote, at least in the introductory bit, so click on to see the post!

Chapter 10: Unseen Eyes

What Happens
Back in her tent, Egwene endures Selame’s brainless chatter and fluttering as she tries to convince herself it was only anger she felt over Nicola and Areina, and not a bit of fear too. When Selame suggests Egwene bathe in ewe’s milk “to keep her skin soft”, Egwene kicks her out and finishes getting ready for bed herself. She checks outside and sees someone hanging around the tent – a woman, she thinks – but smiles to herself that whoever the watcher is, they won’t see where she goes tonight. Getting into bed, she quickly puts herself to sleep and goes to the in-between place where people’s dreams appear. She had considered finding Nicola and Areina’s dreams to “sink the fear of the Light into their bones”, but decides the effort of finding them was not worth it. Instead she finds Nynaeve’s dream, and touches the outside of it gently, not enough to see what Nynaeve is dreaming about, and leaves her a message:

NYNAEVE, THIS IS EGWENE. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO RETURN UNTIL YOU FIND THE BOWL, NOT UNTIL I CAN SETTLE A PROBLEM WITH AREINA AND NICOLA. THEY KNOW YOU WERE PRETENDING. I WILL EXPLAIN MORE WHEN I SEE YOU NEXT IN THE LITTLE TOWER. BE CAREFUL. MOGHEDIEN HAS ESCAPED.

The dream disappears abruptly, and Egwene is amused, thinking it must be a little disconcerting to have a disembodied voice boom at you in the middle of a dream. She finds Elayne’s dream and gives her the same message, and then finds Amys’s dream, asking her to come speak with her. Amys’s voice confirms in a normal “tone”, and Egwene is wryly amused at this reminder of how much more skill the Wise Ones have at this than she. Then she notices another dream coming toward her.

Only one dream would do that, one dreamer. In a panic, she fled, wishing she had a throat to scream, or curse, or just shout. Especially at the tiny corner of her that wanted to stay where she was and wait.

She arrives in Tel’aran’rhiod in the Heart of the Stone in Tear, and laughs at the extremely rich, low-cut gown she’s wearing, reflecting that Gawyn had a very unfortunate effect on her, then blushes at the memory of what they had done in his dream. Then she tells herself firmly that the time for all that would come, but for now she needs to pay attention to other things. Waiting for the Wise Ones, she wonders why they always chose the Stone to meet in the Dreamworld, and again becomes aware of the way it always seemed someone was watching you here. She wishes she had spied on either Logain or Moghedien’s dreams when she had a chance, but knows that would have been very dangerous, especially considering Moghedien was skilled in dreamwalking. She thinks of how Moghedien could be looking for her now, and suddenly realizes she is dressed in full plate armor. Irritated, she changes to Wise One’s garb, and says aloud to herself that Logain is on his way to the Black Tower and Moghedien has no way to know where Egwene is. Bair asks from behind her why she should fear “the Shadowsouled”, and Egwene literally climbs a foot in the air before calming herself. Amys, Bair and Melaine are highly amused by this. In dignified tones, Egwene explains that she caused Moghedien “some hurt”, and does not doubt the Forsaken would like to repay it; she changes her clothes again, to be dressed as the Amyrlin Seat might be, in silk. The Wise Ones are eager to know how she hurt a Forsaken, but Amys intuits that Egwene has something important to say to them, and suggests they get to it. Egwene gathers herself, and says that she has not told them why she was summoned away from them: she has been raised Amyrlin by the sisters opposing Elaida, and when Elaida is brought down, Egwene will be Amyrlin in the White Tower. She waits anxiously for their reaction.

“There is a thing children do,” Melaine said carefully after a time. Her pregnancy did not show yet, but already she had the inner radiance, making her even more beautiful than usual, and an inward, unshakable calm. “Children all want to push spears, and they all want to be the clan chief, but eventually they realize that the clan chief seldom dances the spears himself. So they make a figure and set it on a rise.” Off to one side the floor suddenly mounded up, no longer stone tiles but a ridge of sun-baked brown rock. Atop it stood a shape vaguely like a man, made of twisted twigs and bits of cloth. “This is the clan chief who commands them to dance the spears from the hill where he can see the battle. But the children run where they will, and their clan chief is only a figure of sticks and rags.” A wind whipped the cloth strips, emphasizing the hollowness of the shape, and then ridge and figure were gone.

Egwene is relieved that they believed her, and amazed that they had struck so instantly to the heart of her situation. She answers that that is so, but by the time she finishes she intends to be their chief in truth. Bair opines that Egwene has too much honor for these women, and urges her to return to the Aiel, but Egwene replies that she has made her choice. Amys declares there is much ji in her decision. Then Bair asks if Egwene means to bring the rebel Aes Sedai to swear to the Car’a’carn. Startled at the very notion, Egwene answers, certainly not; it would be like having Wise Ones swear fealty to a clan chief. Melaine is indignant to be compared to Aes Sedai, and Egwene wonders if the contempt the Wise Ones feel for Aes Sedai is due to resentment over the prophecies linking them to the Aiel. She reminds herself that the Wise Ones want to guide Rand as much as the Aes Sedai do, as she does, but thinks that she is the only one of them who wants to guide him for his own sake, as much as for the world’s. She tells the Wise Ones of her fears for Rand, and her uneasiness at Merana’s silence, and her worry that Merana will not know how to handle him. Bair again suggests she return, but Egwene thinks she can do more where she is, and besides, as Amyrlin she isn’t allowed near the Dragon Reborn. The three women exchange glances, and Amys finally says that Merana and the others followed Rand to the treekillers’ city, and there is no need for Egwene to worry about Rand setting a foot wrong with them. Egwene is doubtful.

Bair cackled with laughter. “Most parents have more trouble with their children than lies between the Car’a’carn and the women who came with Merana Ambrey.”

Egwene chuckles, relieved, but still wonders why Merana hasn’t sent a message, and Amys answers carefully that Merana had brought no pigeons with her to Cairhien. Egwene is irritated at Merana’s carelessness, and intently asks Amys to promise not to keep Merana from talking with Rand, as she is only supposed to convince him that the rebels mean him no harm; Elaida might have “some nasty surprise” in store, but the rebels do not. After another long moment, Amys promises, in a flat tone.

Probably she was offended that Egwene had required a pledge, but Egwene felt as though a weight had lifted. Two weights. Rand and Merana were not at each other’s throats, and Merana would have a chance to do what she had been sent to do. “I knew I’d have the unvarnished truth from you, Amys. I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear it. If anything were wrong between Rand and Merana . . . Thank you.”

Startled, she blinked. For an instant, Amys wore cadin’sor. She made some sort of small gesture, too. Maiden handtalk, perhaps.

Bair and Melaine appear not to notice this, so Egwene pretends she did not either, not wanting to shame Amys for her loss of control. She asks them as a favor not to tell Rand about her being raised Amyrlin, as she is worried he would decide to “rescue” her, and who knew what disaster would result; she is startled when the Wise Ones agree immediately. They chat of inconsequential things for a while, then Egwene says she must go, warning them to be careful of Moghedien and the other Forsaken. She takes their hands, thanking them warmly for their friendship, and Amys answers sadly that she hopes Egwene will always regard them so. The Wise Ones leave, and Egwene firmly suppresses the temptation to go find Gawyn’s dream. She returns to real sleep, trying to make sense of the prophetic images she sees.

On and on they came, and she sorted feverishly, desperately tried to understand. There was no rest in it, but it must be done. She would do what must be done.

Commentary
Definitely the biggest thing you’re missing, if you’re only reading these recaps and not following along with the actual text, is the descriptions. The paragraphs in this chapter describing the “in-between” dream place, which I basically skipped entirely, are a prime example:

Formless, she floated deep within an ocean of stars, infinite points of light glimmering in an infinite sea of darkness, fireflies beyond counting flickering in an endless night.

I bring this up not because I think I’m remiss for leaving the description out (I’m not), but as a reminder that if you aren’t reading along, you’re missing all the imagery and scene-setting and things that make the Wheel of Time good writing, as well as a good story. Jordan had a real gift for evoking vivid imagery, in particular, which is something I think gets kind of ignored about him more often than not.

Interesting turning point here in Egwene’s relationship with the Wise Ones – interesting, in that Egwene herself misses it entirely. Which is because, of course, that she doesn’t know that Amys is lying like a rug to her, even if only by omission. Her dance around the truth of the situation with Merana et al, in fact, is downright Aes Sedai-like. How’s that for shaming, eh?

I understand why the Wise Ones are not telling Egwene about the situation with the sisters swearing fealty to Rand (basically for the exact same reason Egwene doesn’t want Rand told about her situation with the rebels, really – hah, mutual rescue-attempt-avoidance), but I think it was shortsighted of them not to at least tell her about Rand’s kidnapping and rescue. I mean, eventually Egwene’s going to find out about the whole kit and caboodle anyway, but they could have at least mitigated their deception a little bit by telling her part of the story. I guess I just don’t understand the reasoning, there.

(And now I’m trying to remember when Egwene does learn about Dumai’s Wells, and all the rest of it. I don’t think for quite a while, but I could be wrong. Oh well. I’ll find out eventually!)

Gawyn and his Amazing Roving Sex Dreams: Heh.

This does bring up again a criticism that was being discussed in the comments to the last entry, to the effect that (as I understand it goes) many of the female characters seem to have not really cared about clothes until they fell in love, at which point they went full-bore Barbie Dress Up on our asses, and this is a somewhat sexist portrayal, since none of the boys do the same thing.

To which I say: Firstly, there were more influences at work here than just falling for a guy. In my experience, there’s nothing more likely to induce a change in personal style than travel. Seeing new places and cultures is a huge incentive to experiment with all aspects of them, and fashion is one of the easiest (and most portable) ways of doing so. “When in Rome”, and alla that.

Secondly, the statement that the boys don’t change in their sartorial habits is demonstrably not true, as witnessed by all the rigmarole in the early books with the embroidered coats and whatnot. True, that was initially forced on them (well, Rand) by Moiraine, but I haven’t noticed that Rand’s gone back to wearing plain farmer’s coats since then, and there’s a whole passage in (I think) Winter’s Heart where Mat laments (at length!) the fact that he’s all into fancy clothes now – just as Nynaeve and Min do at various points.

Thirdly, there is the fact that fashion, especially in WOT, is more than just feeling pretty; it is also a social and political tool. This is, in fact, why Moiraine went to all that trouble to upgrade Rand’s wardrobe in the first place. Perception is power, boys and girls, and for better or worse there’s absolutely no doubt that what we wear plays a huge role in how others see us. This may not be all the characters’ motivations in wearing fancy clothes, but it certainly is for some of them, and Egwene in particular is well aware of this rule. She even uses it in this very chapter, when she switches from Wise One’s garb to a silk Amyrlin-y dress in order to bring home her change in status to Amys et al.

And last but not least: wearing pretty clothes is fun. It feels nice to look nice, and if that’s a girly thing, well, what’s wrong with that? The problem here is not whether wanting to wear nice clothes is “a girly thing”, the problem is with why we automatically seem to feel that “girly” = “bad”.

This sort of links into the “changing for a guy” accusation, as well. You can have a “nature vs. nurture” argument about whether this gender division is culturally-induced or not, but either way, I personally don’t see what’s so wrong with wanting to look good for the person you love. Love changes you just as much as travel, after all. And if that makes me “girly”, then I say, go me!

So There.

Okay, enough about clothes already. The other major thing about this chapter is, of course, the slew of new prophetic dreams Egwene heaps on us at the end, which you can catch up on by following the handy FAQ link above. Though the interpretation parts of the FAQ are outdated, the interesting thing is that even as of TGS, almost none of these dreams have been fulfilled, except for the one that’s (probably) about Jahar Narishma and Callandor. Though it is true that some of them, like the one about Gawyn slashing his feet up, are in the process of being fulfilled (as long as we assume that only refers to Emo Angst, anyway), and others, like the one about the wall, are iffy.

I’m still uncertain, personally, if the one about Egwene on the headman’s block is meant to be taken literally or not. If not, then it could possibly have been fulfilled by the end of TGS – if you kind of squinch your eyes and look at it sideways. She was under threat of execution, and Gawyn and Siuan and Bryne did come to rescue her; the problem, though, is that it seems their “rescue” was more or less superfluous, which doesn’t jibe much with the dream’s implication that the “running” person was essential to her survival. So, maybe this is still yet to come.

The one about Egwene trying to tear down the wall is strange; TGS seems to put paid to the notion that it meant she was going to tear down the White Tower (though I guess she did end up putting a few holes in it, ba dum dum), so I’m just really not sure what the wall is supposed to be symbolic of. Commenters are invited to have at with their ideas.

And then of course there’s the most annoyingly cryptic one of all:

A man lay dying in a narrow bed, and it was important he not die, yet outside a funeral pyre was being built, and voices raised songs of joy and sadness.

Seriously, what is that all about? I’ve never believed it referred to Rand, seeing as she just had a vision about him being on a funeral bier a second ago, and didn’t connect the two dreams; and plus why would she call Rand “a man”, instead by name, like she did for the one before it, if it was about him? But if it’s not Rand, and (by inference) not anyone else she knows, who the hell could it be?

‘Tis a puzzlement!


Chapter 11: An Oath

What Happens
Egwene endures Meri’s dour and gloomy disposition as the maid helps with her morning toilette, and flees almost before finishing. She heads to her “study”, but finds to her surprise that Faolain and Theodrin are there instead of Sheriam. They report to her that no one saw any man near Marigan’s tent the night before, though a few remember seeing Halima in the vicinity; Faolain adds bitterly that Tiana (the Rebel Mistress of Novices) had seen them and sent them to bed. Egwene knows that they are in the same predicament as her, except without even the extra shield of being Amyrlin. She tells them she is sorry for their difficulties, and that she will speak to Tiana, though mentally she doesn’t believe it will do much good, and makes it clear she wants them to go, but Faolain then says with frustration that she wishes she had held the Oath Rod, so that Egwene would know what she says is true. Egwene replies that it is not the Oath Rod that makes an Aes Sedai, and invites her to speak the truth. Faolain says bluntly that she does not like Egwene, and thinks she didn’t get half the punishment she deserved as a novice, and further that both Romanda and Lelaine have offered to take her and Theodrin under their protection. Theodrin puts in that Faolain is trying to say that they did not attach themselves to Egwene because they had no choice, or for gratitude either. Egwene asks, why, then?

Faolain jumped in before Theodrin could more than open her mouth. “Because you are the Amyrlin Seat.” She still sounded angry. “We can see what happens. Some of the sisters think you’re Sheriam’s puppet, but most believe Romanda or Lelaine tells you where and when to step. It is not right.” Her face was twisted in a scowl. “I left the Tower because what Elaida did wasn’t right. They raised you Amyrlin. So I am yours. If you will have me. If you can trust me without the Oath Rod. You must believe me.”

Pained at hearing again what the Aes Sedai think of her, Egwene asks Theodrin if she feels the same; Theodrin says yes. She does not think that Egwene will win against Romanda or Lelaine, but she and Faolain are trying to be Aes Sedai even though they are not really, yet, and won’t be until they have been tested and sworn on the Oath Rod. Egwene says she wishes they would stop bringing up the Oath Rod.

“Do you think everybody believes Aes Sedai because of the Three Oaths? People who know Aes Sedai know a sister can stand truth on its head and turn it inside out if she chooses to. Myself, I think the Three Oaths hurt as much as they help, maybe more. I will believe you until I learn you’ve lied to me, and I will trust you until you show you don’t deserve it. The same way everybody else does with one another.”

She adds that she doesn’t want to hear anymore about their not being real sisters; they are Aes Sedai. Theodrin and Faolain exchange a look, then each kneel before her and swear fealty, in terms which Egwene is startled to realize is the way nobles swear to kings and queens, quite outside Aes Sedai tradition. Then Faolain asks stiffly about the matter of her penance, for the way she spoke to Egwene. Egwene briefly considers making her eat soap, but answers that she will not penalize her for speaking the truth; Faolain can dislike Egwene all she wants, as long as she holds to her oath. Faolain is amazed by this. Egwene then tells them she has two tasks for them, to begin; they listen carefully to her instructions and then leave with all due courtesy. Egwene finds a note from Siuan (“nothing of interest in the dream”) and grimaces before burning the note, as Siuan had managed to get herself banned from using the dream ter’angreal, and now had to borrow Leane’s, who was likely to be in a taking about it. Siuan finally shows up, and Egwene demands to know where she’s been; Siuan growls back that Aeldene had hauled her out of bed to try and pry the Amyrlin’s eyes-and-ears network from her, and Siuan will be burned before she gives it up. Egwene reflects that Aeldene’s arrival had changed a lot of things for Siuan, as Aeldene had taken over the Blue’s spy network after Siuan had been raised Amyrlin, and had been infuriated on arriving to the Rebel camp to find that Siuan had been diverting its reports. Egwene reassures Siuan that no one will take away her network, but Siuan is despondent, talking of how Lelaine and Romanda and even Aeldene are so far above her in strength and she shouldn’t be fighting with them at all. Egwene is indignant that Siuan would choose now of all times to go into a funk, after everything she’s been through, and points out that the Aes Sedai way is not the only way, nor necessarily the best either, but Siuan will not be roused. Egwene catches sight of Myrelle outside the tent, and decides a victory might pull Siuan out of her depression. She rushes out, calling to Myrelle; Myrelle is startled to see her, and tries to excuse herself, but Egwene is not having it. Then Gareth Bryne appears, and asks to speak with Egwene alone; Egwene notes that just the sight of him is enough get Siuan to pull herself together. Myrelle again tries to slip off, and Egwene snaps at her to stay put; Myrelle appears startled at her own obedience. Egwene tries to put Bryne off till the afternoon, but he tells her his patrols found something this morning. Egwene decides to jump on the opportunity to get out of camp, and orders Siuan to go get horses for herself and Siuan (Myrelle is already mounted). Siuan darts off, but then Lelaine and Romanda appear and plant themselves in front of Egwene, and after weaving a ward against eavedropping that Egwene notes neither of them asked permission to create, immediately begin haranguing Egwene to do something about Delana. Delana wants to lay a proposal in the Hall to publicly condemn Elaida as Black, and Lelaine says Egwene must speak with her. Egwene doesn’t see what good this will do, as Delana is “a weathervane” with her vote, and her obsession with the Black Ajah is her only fixed point.

“Mother . . . ” In [Romanda’s] mouth, that sounded entirely too much like “girl.” “ . . . the reason Delana must be stopped is she does no good and considerable harm. Perhaps Elaida is Black—though I have strong doubts, whatever secondhand gossip that trollop Halima brought; Elaida is wrongheaded to a fault, but I cannot believe her evil—yet even if she is, trumpeting it will make outsiders suspicious of every Aes Sedai and drive the Black into deeper hiding. There are methods to dig them out, if we don’t frighten them into flight.”

Lelaine snorts that no one would submit to Romanda’s “methods”, which in her opinion are little short of being put to the question, and Romanda fires back that she will be the first to agree to undergo them, as long as Lelaine is next. They stare daggers at each other, apparently having forgotten Egwene entirely; fed up, Egwene announces that when they decide what she should say, then Egwene can decide what she will do, and marches off to the horse Siuan has brought. She rides off with Bryne, Siuan, and Myrelle, secretly relieved that neither Lelaine nor Romanda had tried to stop her. She asks Bryne if he expects any opposition ahead, and Bryne answers that he expects Murandy to be much the same as Altara, but Andor will be a different matter; he is not looking forward to it. Egwene then asks how he plans to take Tar Valon when they reach it, and Bryne notes dryly that no one has asked him that before.

“With that, I will lay siege. The hardest part will be finding ships, and sinking them to block Northharbor and Southharbor. The harbors are as much the key as holding the bridge towns, Mother. Tar Valon is larger than Cairhien and Caemlyn together. Once food stops going in . . . ” He shrugged. “Most of soldiering is waiting, when it isn’t marching.”

Myrelle demands to know how he expects to successfully siege Tar Valon when Artur Hawkwing himself tried for twenty years and failed; no army has ever breached Tar Valon’s walls. Egwene knows, thanks to Siuan’s secret histories, that this is not actually true, but Myrelle couldn’t know that. Bryne answers that Hawkwing’s failure was because he could never successfully block the harbors; if Bryne can manage that, the siege will work, after they’ve starved the city enough to weaken it. This shuts Myrelle up, and Egwene feels ill at the notion of all the innocents who will suffer for her war against Elaida. She notes that Siuan almost pats her on the shoulder, but refrains. She tells Bryne to show her what he found.

Commentary
I’ve kind of been skimming over it in the recap, but Egwene’s tribulations with her maids, and the vastly different reasons why they are annoying, are actually pretty amusing.

Halima: several commenters have opined that Halima was an idiot for interfering with Sheriam the way she did later on, and I tend to agree, but you have to admit that otherwise she is the perfect mole. There’s really no reasonable way in the world, after all, for Egwene or anyone to have deduced that a formerly dead male Forsaken was lurking about in the body of a woman and still able to channel saidin (I mean, really), and the amount of confusion and misdirection Halima causes as a result is impressive, in a really frustrating way. I remember when first reading this I was all “Aah! No!” when Faolain and Theodrin mention Halima and no one gives it a moment’s notice, but, well. Yeah.

Speaking of F & T, Inc., I seem to recall various spikes of contention over the years in the fandom as to whether Egwene was on ethically shaky ground by allowing them (and the other sisters, later) to swear fealty directly to her. I personally tend to think that of the set of ethically gray-tinted things we could potentially give Egwene shit about, this one ranks rather low on the list, at least as far as Theodrin and Faolain specifically are concerned, as they were not coerced. The others… well, we’ll get to the others.

My opinion of Faolain changed pretty sharply as a result of this chapter, unsurprisingly. As characters go, I’ve always been something of a fan of the ones who can believably straddle the line between being both antagonist to and ally of Our Heroes, either in sequence or simultaneously. Even though such characters can often be incredibly frustrating, they also tend to ring true, as how people might realistically behave. And you have to appreciate a person who can overcome her prejudices to do what she believes is right, no matter how against the grain it might go. So, yay Faolain, heh.

There’s also a little bit here about the Oaths, and I remember much applause being sent Egwene’s way by readers (including me) at the time, for her increasing belief that they did more harm than good; it seemed that when she finally had full authority the Oath Rod might at last fall by the wayside. Later events, of course, have shown that this is not the case. I’m… still not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I can see where Egwene is coming from with her reversal, and on the other… eh. This will be discussed in more detail later.

Romanda and Lelaine: are annoying… but at least not totally stupid, at least as regards Delana. Romanda’s little speech I quoted above, actually, is what convinced me personally that she could not be Black Ajah. I never really believed either of them were, in truth, but for whatever reason Romanda’s conviction that Elaida could not be Black (which, of course, she isn’t) clinched it for me.

Bryne: Is still awesome, with his casual intention to out-general Hawkwing himself. Heh.

Speaking of which, perhaps it is a little naïve of Egwene not have realized beforehand that a siege of Tar Valon would involve, you know, a siege, but I appreciated it as a reminder that for all the rapid maturing she’s done in the past few books, she is still young, and doesn’t know everything. Her advantage is that she knows this.

(And aw, Siuan wanted to comfort her. I heart Siuan.)


And I heart YOU, readers of this blog, but I is spent for now, and so will shut up. Have a lovely week, and I will see you Friday. Ciao!

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