The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Path of Daggers, Part 17

Hi! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!

Today’s entry covers Chapter 27 of The Path of Daggers! Which is really long! And also full of injury! And I don’t like it! So I’m trying to be Cheerful! With Exclamation Marks! But I think I am only succeeding in being Obnoxious!

Well, that’s okay. If I have to suffer SO DO YOU. Mwahahaha.

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.

And that’s it! Read on! Yaah!

 

Chapter 27: The Bargain

What Happens
Min sits in Rand’s rooms at the Sun Palace and tries to concentrate on Herid Fel’s Reason and Unreason, which she hopes reading will help her find the reason for his murder, but is distracted by her irritation at the still-absent Rand, as well as worries that either Sorilea or Cadsuane would come in. Sorilea has been grilling her about Rand (to the point of switching her for being recalcitrant), and seems to be trying to decide if Min is “fit” to be Rand’s lover or not; Cadsuane hasn’t done anything to her as of yet, but Min is fearful that she will suddenly decide to, and also over the inevitable confrontation between her and Rand. Rand walks in, and Min thinks to herself of how beautiful he is, but only puts down her book and glares at him.

For a moment he stood smiling at her, and tugging his ear-lobe for some reason—he seemed to be humming!—then abruptly he swung round to frown at the doors. “The Maidens out there didn’t tell me you were in here. They hardly said a word at all. Light, they looked ready to veil at the sight of me.”

“Maybe they are upset,” she said calmly. “Maybe they wondered where you were. The way I did. Maybe they wondered whether you were hurt, or sick, or cold.” The way I did, she thought bitterly. The man looked confused!

He points out that he wrote to her, and she fires back that he only wrote twice, and neither one even deserves to be called a letter. He staggers (Min is not sure why), and then lifts her up with the Power and floats her over to him, smiling, and kisses her. She gets her breath back and informs him that a note saying “I have claimed the crown of Illian. Trust no one until I return. Rand” is a little terse for a love letter. He kisses her again, and she takes a bit longer to regroup and try to twit him about the second note (“I will return when I finish here. Trust no one. Rand”) which Jonan Adley had walked in on her bath to deliver. Rand sets her down and bleakly says Adley is dead, and he, Rand, killed him. Min decides the bed is a very good idea, then, and is about to drag him there when they are interrupted by Dobraine. Dobraine bows to Rand and greets Min as “My Lady Ta’veren” (referring to the number of noblewomen in the city who have adopted Min’s mode of dress), which amuses Rand momentarily. Rand asks for the news, and Dobraine tells him that he has acted on all of Rand’s letters; this angers Min, who bets Dobraine got more than two one-line notes.  Dobraine tells Rand that Toram Riatin has vanished, but not before Daved Hanlon and Jeraal Mordeth aka Padan Fain deserted him; Toram’s sister Ailil is settled in apartments staffed by “trustworthy” servants, as are Bertome, Weiramon, and Anaiyella. He asks, why bring the latter two?

“How do you know when a woman wants to kill you?” Rand mused.

“When she knows your name?” Dobraine did not sound as if he were joking. Rand tilted his head thoughtfully, then nodded. Nodded! [Min] hoped he was not still hearing voices.

Rand tells Dobraine that he’d thought he could use Weiramon, but he is “a fool who makes too many mistakes”, so better to just keep him nearby. Dobraine nods, and continues that Lady Caraline and High Lord Darlin are guests of Cadsuane Sedai in the city—or perhaps not guests exactly, as he’s heard they tried to leave the City and were brought back “like sacks”, or maybe literally in one. Rand asks Min what she thinks he should do about Caraline and Darlin; Min answers that it’s not a viewing, but she believes that Caraline will support Elayne for the Sun Throne.

“As for Darlin, aside from the fact that he’ll marry Caraline, after she’s wrung him out and hung him up to dry, all I can say is that one day he’ll be a king. I saw the crown on his head, a thing with a sword on the front of it, but I don’t know what country it belongs to. And, oh, yes. He’ll die in bed, and she will survive him.”

Dobraine choked on his wine, spluttering and dabbing at his lips with a plain linen handkerchief. Most of those who knew did not believe.

They are interrupted by Merana and Rafela, who curtsy deeply to Rand, and approach at his gesture; Min notices Rafela finger her shawl, and thinks sympathetically that their situation could not be easy for them. Merana has come to give Rand the results of the Bargain with the Atha’an Miere: Harine din Togara Two Winds agrees that the Dragon Reborn will have ships as needed, when and where he wants them; in return, she and Rafela promised on his behalf that, first, Rand will not change any of the Sea Folk’s laws as he has done among “the shorebound”; Rand mutters he can live with that. Second, the Sea Folk will be granted one square mile of sovereign land at every city near navigable water Rand controls or will control; Dobraine is incensed at this, claiming they will ruin every port city in a year (Min privately agrees), but Rand points out calmly that it wasn’t specified where that land has to be, not even whether it is on water or not, and the Sea Folk will still be subject to the city’s laws (and taxes) anytime they take their goods out of their compound. Min wonders where he had learned all that. Rand asks what else, and Merana tells him that thirdly, he agrees to keep an ambassador (in this case, Harine) and her retinue with him at all times. Rand leaps from his chair, but Rafela hurriedly finishes that fourthly, he agrees to go “promptly” to the Mistress of the Ships when summoned, but “not more than twice in any three consecutive years”. Enraged, Rand shouts at them that the Seanchan and Forsaken are out there, and they have him obeying summonses! Why didn’t they agree he would “caulk their hulls” while they were at it! Rafela looks about to faint, but Merana draws herself up and snaps back that Rand had had the Sea Folk dancing to his tune as a ta’veren, and could have had them all kneeling to him, but then he left, and the Sea Folk shielded Merana and Rafela and threatened to hang them in the rigging by their toes until they “came to their senses”.

“Feel lucky that you have the ships you want, Rand al’Thor. Harine would have given you a handful! Feel lucky she didn’t want your new boots and that ghastly throne of yours as well! Oh, by the by, she formally acknowledged you as the Coramoor, may you get a bellyache from it!”

Min stared at her. Rand and Dobraine stared at her, and the Cairhienin’s jaw hung open. Rafela stared, her mouth working soundlessly. For that matter, the fire faded from Merana’s eyes, and they slowly grew wider and wider as if she were just hearing what she had said.

The Dragon Scepter trembled in Rand’s fist. Min had seen his fury swell near to bursting for far less. She prayed for a way to avoid the explosion, and could not see one.

“It seems,” he said finally, “that the words a ta’veren drags out aren’t always the words he wants to hear.” He sounded… calm; Min was not about to think, sane. “You’ve done well, Merana. I handed you a dog’s dinner, but you and Rafela have done well.”

Min thinks the two Aes Sedai might faint in relief, and Rafela says that they at least managed to keep the details from Cadsuane; Merana adds that Cadsuane had waylaid them on the way here trying to get those details. Rand frowns, and tells Min to tell the Maidens to send a message to Cadsuane that she is to attend the Dragon Reborn “in all haste”. Min tries to opine that this is a bad idea, but Rand is firm, and Min reluctantly obeys; Dobraine, Merana and Rafela all abruptly decide to be elsewhere. In the hall, Min is puzzled to see that the entire corridor is filled with Maidens, all intently watching a few playing “Knife, Paper, Stone”; two Maidens trot off to deliver the message when Min gives it, but they otherwise ignore her, which is also strange. Rand is in the bedroom when she goes back in, which distracts her, but then he asks what Cadsuane could possibly have to teach him. Min corrects that it is all the Asha’man, not just Rand, and all of them have to learn it, whatever it is. She adds that he needs Cadsuane, and cannot afford to make her angry.

A far-off look came into Rand’s eyes, and after a moment, he shook his head. “Why should I listen to a madman?” he muttered almost under his breath. Light, did he really believe Lews Therin Telamon spoke in his head? “Let someone know you need them, Min, and they have a hold on you. A leash, to pull you where they want. I won’t put a halter on my own neck for any Aes Sedai. Not for anyone!”

He says he only needs Min, which is signal enough for the both of them, and he is starting to take off his shirt when three Maidens (Somara, Nesair, and Nandera) enter. Somara tangles him in the shirt and kicks him between the legs, and Nesair begins punching him on the right side. Min screams for help, draws her knives, and goes to attack, but Nandera kicks her in the stomach hard enough to flip her onto her back, and Min is stunned into immobility. She watches as the Maidens pummel Rand, and realizes that they are all being very careful not to strike on his left side, where the unHealable wounds are. Eventually Rand crumples under the onslaught, and the Maidens let him down.

Nesair bent to catch a fistful of his hair and jerk his head up. “We won the right for this,” she growled, “but every Maiden wanted to lay her hands on you. I left my clan for you, Rand al’Thor. I will not have you spit on me!”

Somara moved a hand as if to smooth hair out of his face, then snatched it back. “This is how we treat a first-brother who dishonors us, Rand al’Thor,” she said firmly. “The first time. The next, we will use straps.”

Nandera stood over Rand with fist planted on her hips and a face of stone. “You carry the honor of Far Dareis Mai, son of a Maiden,” she said grimly. “You promised to call us to dance the spears for you, and then you ran to battle and left us behind. You will not do this again.”

They leave, and Min gasps that they must be crazy, and is all for going to Rhuarc or Sorilea, but Rand tells her to leave it; they have earned the right. Min thinks he’s an idiot, but recognizes he won’t be budged, and lies beside him on the bed to hold him. They are interrupted by Daigian, who snarks that she could come back later if this is a bad time; Rand criticizes her manners lazily, but Min can feel how tense he is. Daigian tells him coolly that Cadsuane received his request, but she very much wants to finish the needlepoint she’s working on, and says perhaps another day she can see him, if she has time. She sniffs and leaves, and Rand shouts after her to tell Cadusane she can “go to the Pit of Doom”. Min sighs that it won’t do, as he needs Cadsuane, but Rand is not so sure, and his voice is dangerous.

Rand dresses carefully, ignoring his bruises from the Maidens’ beating, and seizes saidin alone so no one will see him stagger, especially Min. In the anteroom, Min initially insists on going along, but when he refuses, suddenly drops it and goes back to her book, ignoring him; Rand is relieved, but also a little irked. There are six Maidens outside along with the Asha’man; the Maidens stare at him flatly, and he orders Narishma to stand guard on his apartments, though he doesn’t really think the Maidens would do anything to Min. Narishma salutes, still looking accusing.

Light, he had told Narishma everything about the traps he had woven in the Stone when he sent the man to fetch Callandor. The man was imagining things. Burn him, but that had been a mad risk to take.

Only madmen never trust. Lews Therin sounded amused. And quite mad. The wounds in Rand’s side throbbed; they seemed to resonate with each other in distant pain.

He commands the Maidens to bring him to Cadsuane, and Nandera leads him, Dashiva, Flinn, Hopwil and Morr off without a word. On the way, he gives the men their instructions; Flinn tries to protest, but Rand sets him down. Nandera brings them to the right door and leaves, again without speaking, and Rand wonders if the lack of Maidens guarding him is another sign of their displeasure, or if they think the Asha’man are sufficient. Dashiva flings the doors open with the Power and announces Rand with full titles, saying he is here to see “the woman” Cadsuane Melaidhrin; he’s using a weave Rand doesn’t recognize, that makes the air “hum with menace”. He tells Cadsuane, who is sitting with her embroidery spread out before her, that he sent for her; Lews Therin wails and flees at the sight of her. Cadsuane remarks that she would have at least expected thunder and trumpets, and hopes one of them is going to juggle, or eat fire. Flinn laughs, but Dashiva smiles unpleasantly and the “menace” weave increases. Rand decides this approach isn’t going to work, and kicks out the Asha’man. He puts on a show of channeling excessively to get himself a chair and tea in an effort to appear crazy, but Cadsuane only comments that the Laurel Crown is very pretty, but she’s not likely to be impressed by it, as she has “paddled the bottoms” of five reigning monarchs in her day. Rand ripostes by observing that most Aes Sedai he doesn’t actually hold prisoner tend to avoid the Sun Palace.

“The Aiel seem to think I should come and go as I please,” she said absently, eyeing the hoop in her hand as if thinking of taking up her needle again. “A matter of some trifling help I gave some boy or other. Though why anyone but his mother should think him worth it, I can hardly say.”

Rand made another effort not to grind his teeth. The woman had saved his life. Her and Damer Flinn between them, and plenty of others in the bargain, Min among them. But he still owed Cadsuane something for that. Burn her. “I want you to be my advisor. I’m King of Illian now, and kings have Aes Sedai advisors.”

Cadsuane refuses, saying she’s not interested in watching her charge make a mess of things, nor in taking orders, and suggests Alanna as an alternative, which makes Rand go alert; he wonders if she knows about the bond, but lets it go for now. He can’t make himself say he needs her, but asks, what if she didn’t have to take any oaths? Cadsuane is doubtful. She observes that he seems… uneasy; she doesn’t like to say “afraid”, of course. She says she can make him some promises: she expects him to listen, but won’t make him do what she wants. She will not tolerate lying, but doesn’t expect to learn “the deepest yearnings of [his] heart”, either.

“Oh, yes. Whatever I do, it will be for your own good; not mine, not the good of the White Tower, yours. Now, does that ease your fears? Pardon me. Your unease.”

Wondering whether he was supposed to laugh, Rand stared at her. “Do they teach you how to do that?” he demanded. “Make a promise sound a threat, I mean.”

“Oh, I see. You want rules. Most boys do, whatever they say.”

She continues: he will be civil to her, her friends, and guests, which includes not channeling at them as well as not unleashing his “memorable” temper at them. She adds that this includes the other Asha’man, as she would hate to have to spank him for something they did. Rand tells her that he is the one who is supposed to go crazy, but he thinks she already is. He goes to leave, and she remarks that she hopes he hasn’t tried to use Callandor, as he might “escape” once, but not twice. He stops short, and asks what she means. She comments that very few people know exactly what Callandor is, but she went digging once she suspected Rand might have been born. He demands again to know what she meant, and she answers that if he wants her help again, he’ll have to ask politely, and also apologize.

“What do you mean about Callandor?”

“It is flawed,” she replied curtly, “lacking the buffer that makes other sa’angreal safe to use. And it apparently magnifies the taint, inducing wildness of the mind. So long as a man is using it, anyway. The only safe way for you to use The Sword That Is Not a Sword, the only way to use it without the risk of killing yourself, or trying to do the Light alone knows what insanity, is linked with two women, and one of them guiding the flows.”

Rand thinks to himself that he had killed Adley the moment he sent Narishma, then, and strides off; Cadsuane calls out to remind him he must ask nicely, and apologize, if he wants her help.

He had hoped to use Callandor again, hoped it would be strong enough. Now only one chance remained, and it terrified him. He seemed to hear another woman’s voice, a dead woman’s voice. You could challenge the Creator.

Commentary
Wow, so this chapter was a big long bag of mostly crap things happening.

The one exception, perhaps, was Merana mouthing off to Rand. I loved this moment, not only because she was totally right, but because of the way Rand responded to it, which shows one of the more admirable facets of his character. He has a terrible temper these days, yes, and playing footsie with Crazy to boot, which isn’t helping, but it’s pretty consistently shown that what infuriates him more than anything else is dishonesty.

Even if Merana never would have said all that without being ta’verened first, Rand knows it to be utterly honest, and honors that by not punishing it, and returning it in kind. This is an ongoing theme of Jordan’s which I’ve noted several times before, of the rarity of honesty, and the often immediate rewards on the occasions it occurs.

It’s especially big of Rand considering the fact that even if that bargain was the best Merana and Rafela could do under the circumstances, nevertheless it still completely blows. Not least because it means we’ll all have to put up with Harine getting up in Rand’s bidness for six thousand years. Blargh. Frickin’ Sea Folk and their frickin’ bargains, grousity grumble.

The Maidens: So, before this re-read there were basically three things I remembered distinctly from TPOD: Rand going haywire with Callandor during the Seanchan campaign, the attack at the end of the book (which we’ll get to)—and Rand getting the shit beaten out of him by the Maidens. All three memories were enough to convince me that I really really did not like this book, but this chapter is by far the frontrunner for that dubious honor. By a landslide.

I think my initial reaction to this episode might best be described as “livid.” Mostly because I was like, REALLY, Maidens? You pick NOW to beat the snot out of him? Oh, yes, please, let’s beat up the savior of the world ten minutes before game time, metaphorically speaking! A pack of goddamn geniuses, that’s what you are!

On this reading, my indignation at the whole thing initially remained intact, but for slightly different reasons. I made reference to this back in LOC, when I explained why I didn’t have a problem with the corporal punishment Egwene received from the Wise Ones to meet her toh.

Which is, simply because she consented to it. The punishment was explained to her beforehand, she understood what it meant, she had the option to refuse, and she chose to accept it. The end, easy peasy.

In contrast, what the Maidens did here, though I have no doubt it was in accordance with ji’e’toh just as much as Egwene’s thing in LOC, infuriated me because Rand was never given the option to refuse it. Indeed, he was never even given the courtesy of an explanation for it—until after it was over. And just because Mr. Neuroses List Guy over there thinks he deserves it anyway doesn’t mean it’s so.

…Of course, I said all this, and then I was trying to think of an alternate way that the Maidens could have adequately expressed their frustration with Rand—the reasons for which, by the way, I completely understand and fully agree with—and I… couldn’t really think of one.

Well, crap.

The problem is, I’m essentially objecting to Rand being inadvertently included in the Aiel justice system without understanding it, but from the Maidens’ point of view, what other system is there around for them to use, to demand redress for their dishonor? The treekillers’ system? Not no but Hale No.

So… is the position I’ve talked myself around to holding, here, is that I actually agree with Rand, that the Maidens had the right? But—but—beating—no consent! Bad! And yet… Agh.

Man, I hate it when I logic myself into an ethical corner. You suck, Logic!

Okay, so, maybe I can’t totally object to it. But that does not stop me from REALLY REALLY not liking it. So There.

Speaking of things I really really don’t like, let’s move on to Ms. Cadsuane “I’m Going To Phrase My Otherwise True Comments In The Most Offensive Manner Possible At All Times” Melaidhrin, shall we? All of the above about honesty notwithstanding, there is really is such a thing as too much of it, if you ask me, and Cadsuane is the living embodiment of that observation.

Seriously, I am in awe of how much I would never in a million years consent to be near this woman if I were Rand. Be my advisor? NOT A CHANCE, BUCKO. I guess this makes him a better person than me—or at least much more willing to take punishment for a cause.

(More than one kind! In this chapter alone! Sheesh!)

Aaand I can’t deal with talking about Cadsuane anymore for now, so we’ll leave her until I have to come back to her.

Other notes:

Callandor: I seem to recall a lot of people called the “flaw” thing a lousy retcon on Jordan’s part. I’ve never really understood this claim, because Cadsuane’s information perfectly fits what happened with the thing, both in this book and when Rand used it in Tear, cackling re: Now I Am Invincible! while trying to resurrect dead people. You know, like you do.

Not to mention, if it was a retcon, it’s one that’s been in place since Rand’s trip through the Wayback Ter’angreal in TSR, because that whole scene with Solinde and Jonai in Paaren Disen, and the line about “the sword will have to wait,” is clearly a direct reference to Cads’ info here; obviously Solinde et al never did get back to the Sword That Ain’t. Ergo, flaw. Ta da! Can you call it a retcon if it was set up four books in advance, really?

Flinn: There’s a strong implication in this chapter I didn’t notice before that Flinn actually really likes Cadsuane; he seems to get a kick out of her, which is… bizarre. Kind of cool, in that it beats being afraid of her, I suppose, but… erm. Your Mileage Obviously Varies, Dude.

“My Lady Ta’veren”: Dobraine’s a cool guy, but he obviously doesn’t really get how fashion fads work at all. Or how ta’veren works, one of the two. Oh well.


And that’s all there is, there ain’t no more! At least not until Friday, gurlz and boiz. See you thenzors!

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