I would like the readers of Tor.com to know that this spring is officially fired, with its icky pollen and its icky rain and its icky warming-up-just-enough-to-fool-you-into-not-wearing-enough-layersness. Faugh, I say!
Oh, and also, I would like you to know that this is a Wheel of Time Re-read post. Hi!
Today’s soggy, sneezing entry covers Chapters 1 and 2 of The Path of Daggers, in which we experiment with potentially explosive methods of travel, actually explosive interpersonal dynamics, and diets high in iron(y).
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 information 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.
So, please pop a Claritin, curl up with a mug of herbal tea, and read on!
Chapter 1: To Keep the Bargain
Wheel, time, Ages, legend, wind. The wind blows across the island of Tremalking, where a giant stone hand holding a crystal sphere sticks out of the earth, and across the Sea of Storms and a huge fleet of ships, sporting banners showing a golden hawk clutching lightning, to Ebou Dar and the Tarasin Palace. Aviendha walks through the halls of the palace with Lan, Nynaeve, Elayne and Birgitte, trying to tell herself that the unease she feels is just her imagination. She wonders why she keeps worrying about Olver, who is a treekiller after all, and tries to distract herself by listening to her companions. Nynaeve informs Lan that he had no business promising Mat that he would “take care” of her, as she is not a porcelain figurine; Lan counters that taking care of her is a Warder’s job.
“Besides, caring for you is my heart’s desire, Nynaeve. You can ask or demand anything of me, but never to let you die without trying to save you. The day you die, I die.”
Nynaeve reacts to this like she’s been punched; even though she recovers quickly, Aviendha suspects that Nynaeve doesn’t really know anything more about dealing with men in a romantic sense than she does, judging from her behavior since she’s gotten married, and decides Nynaeve will be of no use to her in learning how to manage it herself. Meanwhile Elayne is telling Birgitte that they aren’t married, and Elayne expects Birgitte to guard her back, not to make promises behind it. Birgitte points out that the promise was made to her face, actually, speaking as if to a young girl, and Elayne flushes. Aviendha is tempted to laugh, but out of loyalty to Elayne gives Birgitte a firm look, which only makes Birgitte murmur something amused about “kittens”. Humiliated, Avienda then almost runs into Teslyn Baradon. Teslyn stares daggers at Elayne and Nynaeve (ignoring everyone else), but informs them, to their surprise, that whatever they’re up to, she and Joline do not intend to interfere; they will pay for their sins at some point, but not now. Elayne answers coldly that Teslyn has no right to interfere in their business in any case.
“So pull your nose out of our coats, you summer ham, and be glad we do not choose to take issue with you supporting a usurper on the Amyrlin Seat.”
Perplexed, Aviendha glanced sideways at her near-sister. Pull her nose out of their coats? She and Elayne, at least, were not wearing coats. A summer ham? What did that mean? Wetlanders often said peculiar things, but the other women all looked as puzzled as she. Only Lan, staring at Elayne askance, appeared to understand, and he seemed… startled. And perhaps amused.
Teslyn sniffs and goes to leave with a cutting remark, but Nynaeve stops her. Reluctantly, she tells Teslyn about Moghedien, and the gholam, and the Black Ajah, and her weather sense telling her about a storm coming. Teslyn considers all of this nonsense, and answers that once Nynaeve’s back in novice white she’ll soon learn the folly of telling tales, and marches off. Briefly furious, Nynaeve then huffs that she tried, and Elayne agrees it was more than the woman deserved. Nynaeve comments that it almost sounded like Teslyn and Joline are ready to break with Elaida, and she and Elayne discuss it until Lan reminds them of the Forsaken and/or gholam currently presumably headed for them, and Birgitte murmurs something about Windfinders and a lack of patience. Nynaeve and Elayne give the Warders baleful stares; Birgitte grins at Lan and he shrugs at Birgitte, and Nynaeve and Elayne swiftly pretend nothing happened and march off, chatting with Aviendha of frivolous subjects all the way to the stables. Elayne asks why Aviendha is frowning, but Aviendha cannot explain to her that she is ashamed of how she was actually enjoying talking about dresses and such; she despairs that she is growing soft. They reach the stableyards, where the tension is thick enough to cut between the three groups of women waiting there. Renaile gives them a glare of extreme impatience, and Nynaeve and Elayne quickly split up, Nynaeve going to the Knitting Circle and Elayne the Aes Sedai, while Aviendha contemplates yanking Renaile’s nose ring out. Meanwhile the Aes Sedai are dividing their stares between the Windfinders and the Kin; with the exception of Sumeko, the Kin are deeply uneasy at this, and very relieved to see Nynaeve.
The Knitting Circle found it strange, to say the least, that women as young as Elayne and Nynaeve gave orders to the other Aes Sedai and were obeyed. Aviendha herself found it peculiar; how could strength in the Power, something you were born with as surely as your eyes, weigh more heavily than the honor that years could bring? Yet the older Aes Sedai did obey, and for the Kinswomen, that was enough.
Nynaeve examines their prisoner, Ispan Shefar, who is bound, gagged, drugged up, and shielded with the Power to boot (by Kirstian), and Reanne timidly suggests again that perhaps the Aes Sedai should take over holding her. Nynaeve tells them firmly that they are doing fine, ignoring their horror at holding an Aes Sedai, even an evil one. Merilille, however, agrees with Reanne, and tells Elayne that it is not right; if these women are truly to be connected to the Tower, they must have “a clear picture of their places”. Elayne cuts her off and reiterates that Egwene intends all women who can channel to have a place with the Tower; Aviendha thinks that she doesn’t particularly want to be part of the Tower, and she’s pretty sure none of the Wise Ones want it either. Elayne tells Merilille that they have the Bowl of the Winds to guard, and that’s enough. The Windfinders clearly want to have the Bowl themselves, and the Aes Sedai clearly strongly disagree. Renaile announces loudly that time is wasting, and hopes Elayne and Nynaeve do not think to get out of their bargain by delaying. Reanne snaps at her for speaking to Aes Sedai so, and Renaile smirks back about jellyfish gaining tongues, and this quickly turns into a shouting match between the Windfinders and the Kin, both ignoring the Aes Sedai’s efforts to placate them. When it gets to the point where women start embracing saidar, Nynaeve finally shrieks at them to stop behaving like children; even the Windfinders look a little abashed, and the fight ends. Elayne quietly suggests to Aviendha that maybe they should go before anything else happens, and Aviendha agrees. The Windfinders, Sumeko, and (surprisingly) Reanne all watch avidly as Aviendha creates a gateway to a clearing north of the city. Aviendha is dissatisfied with the gateway, berating herself that it takes almost all of her strength to create while Elayne can make one with only a fraction of hers, though she knows this is taking shame too far and the Wise Ones would tell her so. Everyone springs into motion as soon as the gateway is up, and as they start filing through (the Windfinders with some trepidation), Aviendha feels uneasy again. She looks up and sees the silhouette of a man watching them from a high tower above the yard. She stops one of the Windfinders and tells her to tell Elayne to be wary; the Windfinder nods impatiently and goes through. When Aviendha looks up again, the figure is gone, but Aviendha feels no relief.
So, let’s see: it took the Supergirls (*checks*) 10 pages to walk from the Palace to the stables, another 10 to weave a gateway and walk through it, and… that’s about what happened in this chapter. Yep, now starting to remember why I didn’t like TPOD.
Although, to be fair, I suppose, this chapter was also an intro-like chapter, and intended more than anything else to reestablish the state of affairs with the Supergirls and their party. Which can be likened to what would happen if Cold-War-era Russia and America were forced to go on a picnic together. The fun, it has not started. (Though Aviendha’s desire to rearrange Renaile’s facial jewelry was pretty amusing.)
But, at least Lan and Birgitte are here to be awesome. Though I have to say if I were Elayne, I would find suddenly acquiring a bossy older sister (however much I might need one) to be pretty annoying by turns. As a bossy older sister myself, I can speak to this with authority. We are annoying, but that’s because we are right!
(Cue “O RLY” phone call from younger sisters in five… four… three…)
“Summer ham”: Um. What?
I mean, I’m laughing, it was funny, especially Lan’s reaction, but… what? I’m… I’m just boggled, with the nonsensicalness of this profanity. I mean, at least “pig-kissing” makes sense as an insult! I’m going to wander away from this topic while shaking my head in bemusement now.
Teslyn: She shoulda oughta listened, eh? Though Nynaeve’s piling all that on her at once was, admittedly, probably not the most ideal method of getting her to believe in any of it. Oh, well. Bye, Teslyn! See you in the next book, I think!
The only other thing to note here, other than a bunch of grown women acting like toddlers (oy), is Aviendha’s thought re: not understanding why strength as opposed to age is the ranking determinate for Aes Sedai. Which is notable mostly because it at least shows that the readers aren’t the only ones pointing out the fundamental dumbness of such a system. Which is… good, I guess?
Aviendha’s dubiousness about Egwene’s declaration that all women who can channel will have a place in the Tower is a good point, as well. From the Kin’s point of view (at least for the moment), it is an offer of great magnanimousness, implying an egalitarianism that is, frankly, a huge step forward in Aes Sedai policy, but Aviendha’s concerns are well taken that other groups may not view it that way. Particularly the Wise Ones, for whom Aes Sedai are not exactly their favorite group of people at the moment, but the Windfinders are clearly not going to be overly thrilled about it either.
It will be interesting to see whether Egwene actually tries to force that alliance whether the channelers in question want it or not; I kind of doubt that that is her real intention, of course, but this is WOT, so who knows. I don’t think it will go well if she tries, though.
Chapter 2: Unweaving
As Elayne steps through the gateway, she senses Birgitte somewhere off to the southwest, feeling content, which means there is no danger; Careane is concentrating on the southeast, which means Lan must have gone north, and Elayne notices that Nynaeve has chosen that direction to watch even though she has no bond with Lan to tell her his location.
Perhaps being married had created some sense of him in her. More likely, she had noticed a track that escaped Elayne. Nynaeve was as skilled at woodscraft as she was with herbs.
Elayne sees Aviendha through the gateway studying the rooftops, and smiles at her bravery, but worries that she should have stayed with her. The Windfinders file through, and Elayne is grateful that there are only twenty; with their bargain that the Windfinders get to learn any weave the Aes Sedai can teach, she’s surprised Renaile didn’t try to bring every Windfinder in Ebou Dar. She evaluates each woman’s strength in the Power as they pass her; at first she is a bit smug, noting that not even Renaile would stand particularly high among Aes Sedai, but then starts in surprise as the three lowest-ranked Windfinders pass her.
Rainyn was easily as strong as Lelaine or Romanda, and Metarra on a level with Elayne herself, while Talaan…Talaan, so meek in her red linen blouse, with eyes that seemed permanently downcast, came very close to Nynaeve. Very close. More, Elayne knew she herself had not yet reached her full potential, and neither had Nynaeve. How close were Metarra and Talaan?
Elayne laughs at herself for her complacency and goes to herd the Knitting Circle out of the way, who are acting like deer caught in headlights; Famelle keeps apologizing to a semi-conscious Ispan even as she hauls her around. Everyone is glaring at everyone else, and Elayne wants to shake them all, including Nynaeve, who is staring after Lan instead of getting people organized, but instead goes over to the packhorse carrying the stash from the Rahad and starts going through it, discarding the rubbish and putting aside anything she feels has a resonance with saidar. She finds a blue stone carving, an ivory box, a flexible black rod, a crystal vial with red liquid inside, and a brass figurine of a man with a book before Nynaeve comes over and asks if this is really the time to do this. She touches the black rod and jerks away, muttering that it “feels like pain”. Elayne makes a note of her reaction but doesn’t stop sorting, explaining to Nynaeve that if there is an angreal in here she’d like to find it before Moghedien finds them, and Nynaeve concedes this with a grunt. Elayne is briefly distracted by the rather hilarious attempts of the Windfinders to mount their horses, but then finds a small brooch in the shape of a turtle and knows instantly it is an angreal, if not a very strong one. Pleased, she continues until Vandene comes over and warns her she may want to wait until they are in the Tower to examine those items. Taking this as a slight, Elayne answers curtly that she knows what she is doing, and as the only living Aes Sedai whose ever made ter’angreal herself, is better qualified than anyone in the Tower anyway. Vandene notes casually that Martine Jenata was experienced with working with ter’angreal too, studying them for forty years, until one day she was found on the floor of her study, burned out; her Warder died from the shock of it.
“When Martine came to, three days later, she couldn’t recall what she had been working with. She couldn’t remember the preceding week at all. That was more than twenty-five years ago, and no one since has had the nerve to touch any of the ter’angreal that were in her rooms. Her notes mentioned every last one, and everything she had discovered was innocuous, innocent, even frivolous, but . . . ” Vandene shrugged. “She found something she wasn’t expecting.”
Elayne and Birgitte glance at each other, worried, but Elayne thinks that they need to find whatever they can. Nynaeve asks Vandene what happened to Martine after, and Vandene answers that she vanished, but the point is that she was as cautious as possible, and yet it did her no good. They are interrupted by a shriek of horror from Merilille, and Elayne spins to see Aviendha on this side of the gateway, and gapes in shock.
The gateway trembled as Aviendha carefully picked apart the weave that had made it. It shivered and flexed, the edges wavering. The last flows came loose, and instead of winking out, the opening shimmered, the view through it of the courtyard fading away until it evaporated like mist in the sun.
Renaile gasps that that’s impossible, and Elayne remembers that as novices they were taught that picking apart a weave like that should never ever be done. Vandene storms at Aviendha that if she had made one mistake she could have destroyed everything within a hundred paces, or burned herself out, or done Light knows what. The other Aes Sedai join in chastising her; Elayne jumps in before Aviendha starts stabbing people, and asks her why she did it. Aviendha explains that this way, the weave leaves no residue to be read; Merilille snorts and says that reading residues is a very rare Talent, but Aviendha replies that she can do it (which startles Elayne), and if she can, who’s to say the Forsaken can’t?
“Are you such fools that you leave tracks for your enemies to follow? Any who could read the residues could make a gateway to this spot.”
This silences the Aes Sedai, but then Aviendha mutters that perhaps she shouldn’t have done it, but with that man watching her… Nynaeve wants to know what man; the other sisters are dismissive, especially Careane, who opines that it was likely just a servant, but Nynaeve defends Aviendha automatically before shooing everyone off to get going. Elayne takes a moment to pull Aviendha aside and gently suggest that she speak to Vandene or Adeleas about her difficulties with gateways, but Aviendha confesses almost tearfully that it is nothing they can help with.
“They think I panicked at a servant. If I ask for help, it must all come out. That I Traveled once to run from a man, a man I hoped in my soul would catch me. To run like a rabbit. To run, wanting to be caught. How could I let them know such shame? Even if they really could help, how could I?”
Elayne firmly stomps on the jealousy this revelation produces, and promises to try and help Aviendha herself. Aviendha nods, and then tells Elayne that the man she saw was no servant, and he frightened her. Elayne answers that whoever he was, they are safe from him now.
Moridin watches as the last of the horses and women pass through the gateway in the courtyard below, and decides the stash they carry probably doesn’t have anything worth his time; he thinks Sammael was a fool for risking so much to obtain it, and that the man wasn’t nearly as clever as he’d thought himself to be. Then he watches in amazement as the outline of the gateway flexes, trembles and finally melts away.
These barbarous rustics offered too many surprises. A way to Heal being severed, however imperfectly. That was impossible! Except that they had done it. Involuntary rings. Those Warders and the bond they shared with their Aes Sedai. He had known of that for a long, long time, but whenever he thought he had the measure of them, these primitives revealed some new skill, did something that no one in his own Age had dreamed of. Something the pinnacle of civilization had not known! What had the girl done?
A servant in the Palace (and Darkfriend) named Madic enters and tells Moridin that the word is that one of the treasures the Aes Sedai found is called the Bowl of the Winds, and is supposed to be able to control the weather; no one knows where they have gone. Moridin is still considering the melting gateway, and wonders if he had actually been within eyeshot of an unraveling web (and, therefore, almost just died), then catches what Madic said about the Bowl; the name means nothing to him, but if it can actually fix the weather Moridin knows that the Great Lord will be most displeased. In cold fury he seizes the True Power as he tries to think furiously of where the women could have gone, then realizes he’s accidentally squeezed all the blood out of Madic. Unconcerned, he Travels, determined to find them and make them pay for meddling with his plans.
The gholam enters the room cautiously, still feeling the pain of the burn on its cheek; it had never encountered anything that could harm it until “that man with the medallion”. The itch it feels is from something like the One Power, yet not; it’s familiar to it, but it cannot recall from where. It remembers war, but now the world has changed. But, it thinks, the gholam is still the most dangerous weapon of all. It also detects that the One Power has been used below, and miles to the north, and debates whether to follow the trail.
The one who commanded it wanted the man who had wounded it dead perhaps as much as he did the women, but the women were an easier target. The women had been named, too, and for the time being, it was constrained. For its entire existence it had been compelled to obey one or another human, but its mind held the concept of not being constrained.
It decides it wants to follow the women, but is in no hurry, and settles down by the corpse in the room to feed.
And this chapter is 18 pages of everyone standing around, but some fairly interesting things happened here, so I’ll shut up.
Mostly, of course, Aviendha’s stunt with the gateway, but also Vandene’s discussion of Martine Jenata, which might be old hat to me now but was pretty interesting at the time, especially since it retroactively filled in a lot of the blanks on Setalle Anan. The dates were way too prominently mentioned to be missed, so really, it’s a done deal.
It’s interesting that the three Windfinders whose strength Elayne is shocked by are the lowest-ranked – not because of why Elayne’s shocked, which only indicates how much she’s buying into the silly Aes Sedai ranking system, but because it means that those three are (most likely) the youngest of the Windfinders as well. Which is to say, right around the same age range as the Supergirls themselves.
(Though of course it’s possible for an older person to lose rank, or never gain it – Elayne notes one of the former among the Windfinders, in fact – but most of the time low rank and youth go together. Unless you’re Aes Sedai, of course.)
But anyway! My point in bringing this up is that it is a reminder that the Creator and/or the Pattern has actually, in a subtle way, been preparing for the upcoming Last Battle just as much as the Shadow has. There’s no other reason, after all, for all these super-powerful channelers to just be happening to come of age now, all at roughly the same time as the Dragon Reborn, across so many nations and cultures. Or for so many of them to suddenly have so many long-lost innate Talents, either.
Relatedly, I still think one of Jordan’s more ingenious moves as a writer was engineering his cosmology so that “the plot needed it to happen” has an in-story justification. Clever Author.
(As a side note, the revelation here that reading residues is an extremely rare Talent is interesting in light of the fact that Rand can do it, and has been able to all along – he last used it in ACOS to follow Sammael to Shadar Logoth, but I’m pretty certain that wasn’t the first time. The best part, of course, is that Rand doesn’t even know it’s unusual. Of course, for all we know it’s not unusual for men, but I don’t think that’s the case.)
It’s kind of interesting that Moridin doesn’t consider this notion about Light-side battle prep when griping about the newbie barbarians’ innovativeness, considering how much he’s into philosophy and such. Everyone has their blind side, it seems.
(By the way, “involuntary rings” refers to a’dam. I mention this because I know from experience that at least one person will be confused by it. You’re welcome.)
Also, I kind of had to enjoy the irony of Moridin being all “How will I find those stupid stupid girls now??” and stomping out, only for the gholam to stroll in two minutes later all “I totally know where those girls are—ooh, look, lunch.” Although it seems the gholam changed its mind about actually following them, since Mat runs into it again in Ebou Dar later. Them fickle bloodsucking fiends, I swear. So unreliable.
As a random note, for some reason I liked the reminder of Nynaeve’s skill at tracking, even though I don’t think she’s had any reason to use it since TEOTW. It was nice to be reminded that she had skillz even before she got all stupid-powerful.
And that’s all I got for this one. Thanks to everyone who said I was missed at JordanCon; I was sorry I couldn’t be there, but I’m glad it seems like it was a good time for those of you who did go. Y’all enjoy your week, and I’ll see you Friday!