The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: A Crown of Swords, Part 8

¡Buenos dias, señors y señoritas! ¡Bienvenido a La Rueda del Tiempo Leer uno más!

Or, whatever would be good Spanish for what I usually say. No habla español – claramente.

Today’s entry covers Chapter 12 of A Crown of Swords, and that’s all, because Chapter 12 was STUPID LONG and that is all there is to it.

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 as that is the long, short, thick and tall of it, we move on without delay to the post!

Chapter 12: A Morning of Victory

What Happens
As Egwene’s party travels out of camp, she observes the frightening effect of the Dark One’s drought, and prays for Elayne and Nynaeve’s success in Ebou Dar.

Their search was as important as anything she did. More. The world would live if she failed, but they had to succeed.

Despite her unease, Myrelle is highly amused at Siuan’s terrible horsemanship. Egwene is startled to see a column of cavalry from the Band off to the west; Myrelle mutters about “Dragonsworn animals”, and Bryne placidly comments that Talmanes seemed concerned about Egwene when last they spoke. Outraged at this, Myrelle accuses him of being near to treason for communicating with Rand’s followers; Egwene thinks of how every rogue turned bandit was using the “Dragonsworn” title as cover, and the Aes Sedai blame Rand for all of it, even though the Band hang anyone they catch pillaging as much as their forces do. Bryne is unaffected by Myrelle’s ire, and merely replies that when he has ten thousand men at his back, he likes to know what they are doing. Startled by the number (and grateful to turn the conversation away from Talmanes’ interest in her), Egwene asks if he’s sure; Bryne replies that the Band has been gathering recruits as they travel, just as Bryne’s forces have, and the Band has a reputation for never losing, after Cairhien, though some think their luck won’t apply without Mat Cauthon there. Myrelle continues to dress him down, and both Egwene and Bryne ignore her. Egwene thinks of how Bryne had looked at her when he mentioned Mat, and realizes he knows more of the situation there than the Aes Sedai do. She wonders why Bryne had sworn as he did, committing himself to fight Tar Valon when the sisters would gladly have accepted a lesser oath as an excuse not to fight. She admits to herself that she is comforted by his presence, though.

Having him oppose her, she realized suddenly, might be as bad as having the Hall against her, and never mind the army. The one approving comment Siuan had ever had of him was that he was formidable, even if she did try to change her remark immediately to mean something else. Any man Siuan Sanche thought formidable was one to be mindful of.

She thinks that Siuan must either hate Bryne with a passion, or be in love with him, and she cannot imagine Siuan in love. She also marvels at the notion of Mat with a soldier’s reputation; she’d thought he only commanded because of Rand, but reminds herself of the danger of assumptions. Myrelle is still going on, until Egwene finally tells her to be quiet, and toys with the idea of asking a sister at the camp for Healing for her headache. Myrelle is humiliated, but obeys, and Egwene adds to Bryne that all the same, he should not meet with Talmanes again; Bryne acquiesces immediately. At length they come to a caravan of merchant wagons, being inspected by Bryne’s men. Egwene doesn’t understand why he wanted her to see this. Bryne glances at Myrelle and hesitates, but Egwene tells him Myrelle has her “complete trust”; Myrelle looks stricken. Bryne finally says that the merchants have brought a rumor that Rand al’Thor has gone to the Tower to swear fealty to Elaida. Myrelle and Siuan both go dead white at the possibility, but Egwene bursts out laughing, startling all of them. She chuckles that she knows for a fact this isn’t true, as of last night. Siuan and Myrelle both sigh aloud with relief, and Egwene almost laughs again at their expressions. Bryne, however, points out that whether the rumor is true or not won’t stop it from spreading like wildfire all over camp, which sobers Egwene in a hurry. She says she will have six Aes Sedai announce the truth to the soldiers tomorrow, volunteering the Salidar Six; Myrelle grimaces, divining from this that they would have to talk to the Wise Ones again, but looks resigned. Bryne supposes this will do, as long as the sisters do not hedge “by even a hair”.

“You do very well, it appears, Mother. I wish you continued success. Set your time for this afternoon, and I will come. We should confer regularly. I will come whenever you send for me. We should begin making firm plans how to put you on the Amyrlin Seat once we reach Tar Valon.”

His tone was guarded—very likely he still was not entirely sure what was going on, or how far he could trust Myrelle—and it took her a moment to realize what he had done. It made her breath catch. Maybe she was just becoming too used to the way Aes Sedai shaded words, but . . . Bryne had just said the army was hers. She was sure of it. Not the Hall’s, and not Sheriam’s; hers.

She merely thanks him, counseling herself to caution until she can be sure, and then dismisses him to his duties, overriding his concerns about leaving them alone. When he is gone, she asks Siuan to lead the way, which she does. Myrelle glances anxiously at Egwene, expecting her to bring up the ferrets, but she merely rides along in silence, observing Myrelle getting more and more nervous. Finally Myrelle suggests riding a different way to where a pretty waterfall is, but Egwene replies that she thinks Siuan’s direction will provide much more interesting sights, doesn’t she? Myrelle mutters that she knows everything, doesn’t she, and with sudden realization accuses Siuan of being “her creature” all along. She doesn’t understand; they were so circumspect.

“If you want to keep something hidden,” Siuan said contemptuously over her shoulder, “don’t try to buy coin peppers this far south.”

What in the world were coin peppers? And what were they talking about? Myrelle shuddered.

Myrelle begs Egwene to understand; it wasn’t just because Moiraine was her friend, it was because she “hates letting them die”. Siuan interrupts, to Egwene’s exasperation, to say maybe Myrelle should lead the rest of the way and earn some grace. Myrelle does so, and an utterly confused Egwene tries to decide if she wants to strangle Myrelle or Siuan more. Finally they come to a small campsite, where five warhorses are on a picket line. Nisao Dachen waits for them with her Warder Sarin Hoigan, along with two of Myrelle’s three Warders (Croi Makin and Nuhel Dromand). Egwene then spies Nicola and Areina peeking around one of the tents, and feels uneasy. Myrelle goes to Nisao, and Egwene asks Siuan in a whisper why she had interrupted Myrelle. Siuan replies that she thought she knew what was going on and where, but wasn’t sure; she’d only heard about the coin peppers this morning. Egwene still doesn’t see what that has to do with anything, and Siuan explains they are popular in Shienar, and Malkier. Then Egwene sees another man come out of a tent.

He was head and shoulders and more taller than her, taller than any of the other Warders. His long dark hair, held by a braided leather cord around his temples, was more streaked with gray than when Egwene had seen him last, but there was nothing at all soft in Lan Mandragoran. Pieces of the puzzle suddenly clicked into place, yet it still would not come apart for her.

Myrelle murmurs to him; he flinches, then goes off by himself, taking up a sword stance that he holds motionless. Nisao and Myrelle ply Egwene with offers of punch, but Egwene is only interested in an explanation, and says so. Myrelle says pleadingly that Moiraine chose her because two of her Warders belonged first to other sisters who died; Nisao puts in that she was only involved because of her interest in “diseases of the mind”, which this surely is, accusing Myrelle of dragging her into it.

Smoothing her skirts, Myrelle directed a dark look at the Yellow that was returned with interest. “Mother, when a Warder’s Aes Sedai dies, it is as though he swallows her death and is consumed by it from the inside. He—”

“I know that, Myrelle,” Egwene broke in sharply. Siuan and Leane had told her a good bit, though neither knew she had asked because she wanted to know what to expect with Gawyn. A poor bargain, Myrelle had called it, and perhaps it was.

Areina and Nicola are seated on the ground now, watching Lan avidly as he suddenly goes into a flurry of stances, flowing from one to the next with deadly grace. Egwene comments acidly that she sees they are working him hard, and thinks that Nynaeve might well strangle Myrelle when she learns that Myrelle bonded Lan. But then Myrelle protests that passing a bond “isn’t that bad”, no worse than deciding who should have your husband if you die, and Egwene rounds on her in shock. Siuan replies dryly that “we aren’t all Ebou Dari, Myrelle”, and a Warder isn’t a husband… usually; Egwene thinks of the rumors that Myrelle had married all three of her Warders, which defies law even in Ebou Dar. Nisao points out that there is no law against passing a bond.

“That’s not the point, is it?” [Siuan] demanded. “Even if it hasn’t been done in—what? four hundred years or more?—even if customs have changed, you might have escaped with a few stares and a little censure if all you and Moiraine had done was pass his bond between you. But he wasn’t asked, was he? He was given no choice. You might as well have bonded him against his will. In fact, you bloody well did!”

Egwene knows she should be as disgusted as Siuan, but can’t help wondering if Nynaeve would have let Lan walk away unbonded if he hadn’t already been Moiraine’s Warder, or if she would do the same with Gawyn, were he to change his mind about accepting. Nisao spits at Myrelle that she must have been mad to listen to her. Myrelle begs Egwene to believe that she only did it to save him, and will pass his bond to Nynaeve as soon as she gets the chance. Siuan mutters that two wrongs don’t make a right, but Egwene only asks how he is progressing; Lan is still going through sword forms at lightning speed. Myrelle replies that she’s only had him two weeks, and it could take months. Egwene murmurs that perhaps it’s time to try something else, and walks up to him. She manages not to flinch when Lan whirls his sword to within inches of her head before stopping; he stares at her a moment, then says he hears she’s Amyrlin now, and thinks they have a lot in common. Egwene, realizing how dangerous he is, resists the temptation to embrace saidar and replies that Nynaeve is Aes Sedai too, now, and in need of a Warder. Lan laughs harshly and says he hopes she finds a legendary hero who can handle her temper.

The laugh convinced her, icy hard as it was. “Nynaeve is in Ebou Dar, Lan. You know what a dangerous city that is. She is searching for something we need desperately. If the Black Ajah learns of it, they’ll kill her to get it. If the Forsaken find out . . . ” She had thought his face bleak before, but the pain that tightened his eyes at Nynaeve’s danger confirmed her plan. Nynaeve, not Myrelle, had the right. “I am sending you to her, to act as her Warder.”

Lan immediately calls for Areina to saddle his horse; he apologizes to Egwene for ever taking her or Nynaeve out of the Two Rivers, and heads into the tent. Myrelle runs up and protests that Nynaeve can’t handle him the way he is, and Egwene answers that Nynaeve can do the one thing Myrelle can’t: give him something so important to do that he has to stay alive to do it. And that thing is protecting Nynaeve, the woman he loves. Myrelle is amazed; Nisao scoffs that girls have been chasing him since he was a youth, and none ever caught him. She glances at Myrelle, who blushes slightly, and Egwene remembers that some sisters believe part of the cure for a Warder’s broken bond involves distracting him with sex. She hopes Nynaeve never finds out. She spies Areina and Nicola again, and tells Myrelle and Nisao that regardless of what those two have on them, the extra lessons for Nicola are to stop. Myrelle and Nisao (and Siuan) are astounded by this display of perspicuity, and Myrelle whispers that Egwene really does know everything. Nisao says at least now they can deal with the pair as they deserve; Nicola, observing the four Aes Sedai stares now on her, tries to melt into the tree she’s pressed against. Egwene observes that Nicola and Areina are not the only ones needing to face justice, and leaves Myrelle and Nisao to stew over that with Siuan as she goes to Lan and tells him she can have him in Ebou Dar sooner than the month it would take on horseback. She weaves a gateway to Skim to the place where Nynaeve and Elayne had Traveled from, some five or six days from Ebou Dar. Lan follows her onto the Skimming platform, and doesn’t say a word as she explains Nynaeve’s situation. Finally she asks if he’s been listening.

“Tarasin Palace,” he said in flat voice, without shifting his gaze. “Guest of Queen Tylin. Might deny she’s in danger. Stubborn, as if I didn’t know already.” He looked at her then, and she almost wished he had not. She was full of saidar, full of the warmth and the joy and the power, the sheer life, but something stark and primal raged in those cold blue eyes, a denial of life. His eyes were terrifying; that was all there was to it. “I will tell her everything she needs to know. You see, I listen.”

Egwene notices what might be a bite mark on his neck, and considers cautioning him not to mention certain of Myrelle’s rehabilitation methods, but then decides that not even a man would be so scatterbrained as to actually tell Nynaeve about that. They arrive at the other end, and Egwene begins to tell him again what to expect, but Lan interrupts to tell her she’s come a long way since Emond’s Field, and not to let go of Myrelle and Nisao now that she has a hold on them.

“By your command, Mother. The watch is not done.”

She watches him gallop off, amazed that he had successfully deduced her situation even in the midst of sword forms, and thinks Nynaeve had better be careful of underestimating him. She heads back to the camp, and arrives to find Siuan losing ground rapidly against Myrelle and Nisao; Siuan is immensely relieved to see her, and explains that she was speculating on possible penalties the Hall will dream up for the two. She thinks that, since they are so fond of the notion, a fitting penance might be for their Warders’ bonds to be passed to someone else.

Myrelle squeezed her eyes shut, and Nisao turned to look at the Warders. Her expression never changed, calm if a touch flushed, but Sarin stumbled to his feet and took three quick steps toward her before she raised a hand to stop him.

Egwene dislikes this, but accepts it as part of the game, and sends Siuan to put the fear of the Light into Nicola and Areina. Siuan answers that she thinks she can manage that, and stalks over and grabs Nicola and Areina each by an ear; whatever she says to them makes the blood drain right out of their faces, and they both almost prostrate themselves to Egwene before taking off at top speed. Egwene turns back to Myrelle and Nisao, and tells them that without Egwene’s protection they will be flayed alive, figuratively, by the Hall, not to mention their own Ajahs, but Egwene sees no reason to protect them unless they have an obligation to her as well; they must swear fealty. All three of the other women gape in disbelief; Myrelle begins to splutter that no Amyrlin has ever required such a thing, but Nisao cuts her off contemptuously, saying this is all Myrelle’s fault.

Peering at Egwene from beneath lowered brows, she muttered, “You are a dangerous young woman, Mother. A very dangerous woman. You may break the Tower more than it already is, before you’re done. If I was sure of that, if I had the courage to do my duty and face whatever comes—” Yet she knelt smoothly, pressing her lips to the Great Serpent ring on Egwene’s finger. “Beneath the Light and by my hope of rebirth and salvation . . . ”

Siuan watches slackjawed as Nisao and then, reluctantly, Myrelle swear fealty to Egwene. Egwene tells them her first order is that they tell no one of Siuan’s real position with her, and that they are to obey any order from Siuan as if it came from Egwene. Siuan is even more flabbergasted, but Myrelle and Nisao have resigned themselves and agree without a quibble. On the way back, Egwene explains to Siuan about Nicola and Areina’s earlier blackmail attempt on her, and Siuan grimly says she thinks “our two adventurous lasses” are about to meet with accidents. Egwene instantly and sharply forbids this; Siuan argues, but Egwene replies that she will not start down that slippery slope. She cheers Siuan by telling her about Faolain and Theodrin, and her plans for them. When they reach camp, Siuan goes off to summon Sheriam and the others of the Six to meet in Egwene’s study at noon with energy, but Egwene goes back to her tent with a throbbing head. She finds two proposals from Lelaine and Romanda which only make her headache worse. Romanda wants to summon all sisters one by one, and any who refused were to be imprisoned as suspected Black Ajah, while Lelaine wants to pass an edict forbidding any mention of the Black Ajah as “fomenting discord”. Egwene groans.

Were they blind? Fomenting discord? Lelaine would have every sister convinced not just that there was a Black Ajah, but that Egwene was part of it. The stampede of Aes Sedai back to Tar Valon and Elaida could not be far behind. Romanda just meant to set off a mutiny. There were six of those hidden in the secret histories. Half a dozen in more than three thousand years might not be very many, but each had resulted in an Amyrlin resigning and the entire Hall as well. Lelaine knew that, and Romanda.

Egwene knows they are just afraid, the fear of women unused to being afraid of anything, but this does not make things better. She is interrupted by Halima, bringing another proposal from Delana which Egwene knows is the one about declaring Elaida a Darkfriend. She tells Halima that she could wish Halima had gone home when Cabriana Mercandes died, but Halima answers she could hardly do that after what Cabriana had told her about Elaida, and is only grateful Cabriana mentioned Salidar so Halima knew where to come to help them. She studies Egwene, and observes that her head is hurting again.

Moving around behind the chair, she began kneading Egwene’s scalp. Halima’s fingers possessed a skill that melted pain away. “You could hardly ask another sister for Healing as often as you have these aches. It’s just tightness, anyway. I can feel it.”

“I suppose I couldn’t,” Egwene murmured. She rather liked the woman, whatever anyone said, and not just for her talent in smoothing away headaches. Halima was earthy and open, a country woman however much time she had spent gaining a skim of city sophistication, balancing respect for the Amyrlin with a sort of neighborliness in a way Egwene found refreshing. Startling, sometimes, but enlivening.

Egwene lets her thoughts drift, and thinks that Halima isn’t so bad, just misunderstood, and it wasn’t her fault her beauty made everyone assume she was a “brainless flipskirt”. Egwene had known she was intelligent since their first meeting, the day after Logain escaped and the headaches had begun. Egwene tries to think about all the problems in front of her, but Halima instructs her to relax.

“You’re stiff as a stake; you should be supple enough to bend backwards and put your head between your ankles. Mind and body. One can’t be limber without the other. Just put yourself in my hands.”

Egwene, drifting off to sleep, murmurs that that would be nice.

Commentary
Jesus AITCH with this chapter.

It’s the weirdest thing with these recaps, I swear. Some chapters I can just breeze through and summarize with hardly any difficulty at all. (Well, mostly. Usually.) Others, though, are like pulling teeth with rusty pliers to try and summarize. They just – won’t – compress! Pliers, hell – more apt to say it’s like pulling teeth with rusty tweezers.

Or unrusty tweezers, even. The rust really has nothing to do with it – whatever, the POINT is, I end up just plodding along and sticking everything in there and feeling like I’m committing a crime against the art of abridgement, if such a thing even exists, which it probably doesn’t.

Guess which one of those this chapter was. Argh.

This is in large part due, without doubt, to the marked change in pace ACOS has in contrast with LOC. As I’ve mentioned, LOC bulldozed through a good 100 days plus of Shit Happening, whereas ACOS gets through less than a tenth of that chronologically. I think that Jordan’s intent here was to get a little more intimate with the events covered in this novel; to take a step back from the frenetic speed of LOC (insofar as a 700-page, sixth-in-a-series novel can be said to be “frenetic”, anyway) and examine things a little more in detail, spend a little more time with the characters.

Which, incidentally, pissed off a lot of readers who just wanted things wrapped up already. Hah, silly readers. Didn’t you know we were only halfway through?

I was not one of these pissed-off readers, for what it’s worth. As a reader, I am (or was) evidently in support of this notion, at least initially; as I’ve stated, ACOS is overall one of my favorite novels in the series, if not the favorite.

As a recapper, though, I begin to suspect I have a lot of headaches in my future.

Anyway. So yeah, this chapter was hella long, but as it wraps up (or ends, anyway) Egwene’s entire plotline in the novel, I guess that was somewhat unavoidable. Also, some fairly awesome – and equally fairly disturbing – things happen in it, so okay, I guess. I’m just so tired now I hardly know what to say about any of it. We’ll just bang on points in sequence.

Bryne: I don’t recall that I was quite so enamored of him as a character on previous go-rounds (I know I wasn’t nearly so much of a Siuan fan before, either), but this re-read continually makes me heart him fervently. Egwene is exactly right in how comforting his presence is, and the unequivocal throwing of his support to Egwene in this chapter cements his awesomeness lock, stock, and barrel as far as I am concerned.

There’s something incredibly noble, in my opinion, about the way he tossed Egwene a lifeline like that, knowing perfectly well (as he must) that she is the clear underdog in this horse race. Undoubtedly Siuan’s loyalty to Egwene has a lot to do with that, of course, but I think it’s clear he respects Egwene on her own merits, as well. Additionally, I don’t know if this is ever explicitly stated anywhere, but I think he feels it is the only honorable course of action open to him in any case. He has vowed to bring down Elaida and win the Tower back for the rebels; to honor that vow, choosing between the Hall, who only kinda sorta wishy-washily wants that to even happen, and the girl Amyrlin, whose future and possibly her very life hangs upon that goal being achieved, well. Viewed that way, it’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? In a suicidal sort of way, natch.

In conclusion, yay Bryne awesome.

As for Siuan, I continue to be amazed at how much more interesting a character she became once she was deposed, and onward as she deals with reestablishing her place and identity in the world. I would be willing to contend that she is one of the more complex and fully-realized characters in all of WOT, and in my opinion she’s got some pretty good competition there.

Lan: I remember being so excited when he finally reappeared after being so long absent. I was like, Lan! Buddy! Hell yeah! And then you find out he’s broken and suffering (if still utterly badass at the same time), and that kind of sucked.

I was even at first reading rather torn about Egwene’s decision to send him “as is” to Nynaeve. On the one hand, I was dying to see Lan and Nynaeve reunite, but on the other, I sensed even then that not fixing the bonding situation beforehand was going to result in this whole bizarro triangly-ish thing being dragged out FOREVER. And boy, was I right. Nynaeve had better get her ass back to the Tower before Myrelle bites it in Armageddon, is all I’m saying.

On the whole “passing the bond” thing in general: Damn, I don’t even know if I have the energy to get into this. This chapter presented a pretty fair summation, actually, of why I didn’t find Moiraine’s decision to pass Lan’s bond to Myrelle without consulting him first nearly as heinous as I did Alanna’s ambush-bonding of Rand, even though on a base level the two actions are the same.

But they aren’t, really; Moiraine’s (and Myrelle’s) act, while still a violation, was at least with the intent to save a life, while Alanna’s was nothing more than a blatant attempt at coercion. On the other hand, Alanna at least has the defense of acting on impulse, while Moiraine’s decision was definitely premeditated, so… I dunno. I still feel like Moiraine has the higher moral ground here, if only relatively speaking.

Still, the whole thing is more than moderately disgusting, ethically, and though I think Egwene has a point in that sometimes you have to hold your nose in order to do what has to be done, her pursuant thoughts about whether Nynaeve or herself would have been able to resist coercing Lan or Gawyn, respectively, had the situation arisen, show what a dangerously slippery slope she stands on, here. Power corrupts, and alla that.

I also cannot help doing my standard gender-flip mental exercise here, and think of how this might constitute commentary on, say, enforced marriage practices back in the day, and how much of sending (for example) a thirteen-year-old merchant’s daughter to be pawed at by a geriatric duke or something was probably justified as “for the greater good” by the power-brokers (i.e., parents, which is to say, fathers) involved. Fun.

The strongest mitigating factor, actually, at least as far as I’m concerned, is Nisao’s and Myrelle’s Warders’ reaction/behavior when Siuan suggests they be made to pass their bonds to someone else. Artificially (or magically, whatever) generated or not, the devotion of the Warders in general to their Aes Sedai speaks strongly to the benefits of binding outweighing the moral shadiness of it all, Egwene’s thoughts about Warders not knowing what they were agreeing to notwithstanding.

I don’t know, the moment was touching, is all I’m saying. At the end of the day, if you twist hard enough you can make a case for any kind of emotional liaison being ethically unsupportable, but that way lies madness, clearly. And you’ll notice that people are still getting married, too. I’m just saying.

On swearing fealty: Eh. I thought I was going to have a problem with it, and maybe I should, but considering the way the rebel Aes Sedai have jerked Egwene around and set her up as their fall guy, I’m really having a hard time generating any outrage, here. Myrelle, at least, got exactly what she deserved, as will the other Salidar Six. If I’m being callous here I’m sure someone will tell me, but my thinking is, it’s your own damn fault if your puppet emperor suddenly notices she has no clothes, and decides that she’s going take yours instead.

Halima: YIPE YIPE YIPE

Which was pretty much my reaction to the end of this chapter, then and now. And… really, that’s about all I have to say about the cliffhanger “Yikes” that leaves us hanging on Egwene’s situation until we rejoin her in TPOD.


Aaaaaand I am so, so stopping now. I know I didn’t cover everything in this monster of a chapter, but enough is as good as a feast, and I’m just done. I trust y’all will remedy anything I missed in the comments. Have a lovely weekend, and I’ll see you Monday!

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