The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Path of Daggers, Part 18

Happy Friday, y’all, and welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!

Today’s entry covers Chapter 28 of The Path of Daggers, in which it must be the murderer! (Why would he scream?)

I apologize for the truncated entry, but my life suddenly exploded this week, and since the chapter after this is our soi-disant Big Ass Ending for TPOD, rather than be half-assed and rushed about it I figured it would be better to take my time and make sure all the asses are congruent, here. As you do.

Which means, incidentally, that we will be finishing TPOD next Tuesday. As the following weekend is Fourth of July, this seems like an ideal opportunity for me to take a wee hiatus from the Re-read and rejuvenate my depletedness. Therefore, there will be no Re-read posts on either Friday July 2nd or Tuesday July 6th; the Re-read will re-commence with the beginning of Winter’s Heart the following Friday (July 9th).

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, to make a long story short (too late), here’s the post!

Chapter 28: Crimsonthorn

What Happens
Aviendha, Birgitte, and Elayne emerge from the inn at Harlon Bridge to see Adeleas dragging a wailing Garenia up the street toward them, followed by Reanne, Alise, and the rest of the Kin. Adeleas shoves Garenia to the ground before Elayne and tells her that she finally recognized her: her real name is Zarya Alkaese, and she was a novice who ran away from the Tower just before Vandene and Adeleas went into retirement. She comments in passing that she’s surprised Careane didn’t recognize her, as they were novices together, and continues that the law is clear; runaways are to be put in white and disciplined strictly until they can be returned to the Tower for “proper punishment.” Elayne nods agreement, but wonders how Garenia/Zarya will handle being a novice again after seventy years of independence. The Kin are looking upset, except for Kirstian, who suddenly throws herself to her knees and confesses that she, too, ran away from the Tower—three hundred years ago. Adeleas stares in shock a moment, but recovers and says sternly that she must be put in white too. Kirstian accepts this meekly, but another Kinswoman, Sarainya, shouts a denial, asking why they should have to give them back. Reanne snaps at Sarainya to control herself, and asks Alise to take her in hand, but Alise only looks at her and says it is not part of their rules to give runaways back.

Reanne jerked as though struck. “And how do you suggest keeping them?” she demanded finally. “We have always held runaways apart until we were sure they were no longer hunted, and if they were found before, we let the sisters take them. That is the rule, Alise. What other rule do you propose violating? Do you suggest that we actually set ourselves against Aes Sedai?” Ridicule of such a notion larded her voice, yet Alise stood looking at her, silent.

“Yes!” a voice shouted from the crowd of Kinswomen. “We are many, and they are few!” Adeleas stared at the crowd in disbelief. Elayne embraced saidar, though she knew the voice was right—the Kin were too many. She felt Aviendha embracing the Power, and Birgitte setting herself.

Alise abruptly shuts them all up and breaks up the group, telling Reanne she will submit herself for judgment along with the rest, and the incident ends, but the Kinswomen talk among themselves more than ever, and cast dark looks at the Aes Sedai as they travel on. After eight days of this, Elayne is just wondering if they can make it to Caemlyn without a murder when Kirstian (now in white) comes in to her room and tells her Lord Lan requests her and Nynaeve to come at once, and leads them (and Birgitte and Aviendha) to the small hut where Adeleas had taken Ispan the night before.

Adeleas lay on her side beside an overturned stool, a cup on the rough wooden floor not far from one outstretched hand. Her eyes stared, and a pool of congealed blood spread out from the deep slash across her throat. Ispan lay on a small cot, staring at the ceiling. Lips drawn back in a rictus bared her teeth, and her bulging eyes seemed full of horror. As well they might have, since a wrist-thick wooden stake stood out from between her breasts. The hammer that had plainly been used to drive it in lay beside the cot, on the edge of a dark stain that ran back under the cot.

Sickly, Elayne asks who could do such a thing, and more importantly, how; Nynaeve steps to the table and tastes the dregs from the teapot, then spits vigorously and dumps the contents out on the table. Vandene enters and calmly asks what happened; she fends off Elayne’s attempt to comfort her, staring at Adeleas.

“When I saw all of you heading this way, I thought… We knew we didn’t have many years remaining, but… ” Her voice sounded serenity itself, but small wonder if that was a mask.

Nynaeve explains that the tea was spiked with a root called crimsonthorn; a little kills pain, but this much would be fatal.

“They might have remained conscious for hours. Not able to move, but aware. Either whoever did this didn’t want to risk someone coming too soon with an antidote—not that I know one, for a brew this strong—or else they wanted one or the other to know who was killing them.”

Vandene opines that it was meant for Ispan, then, as her murder took the most time. She also observes that Adeleas would never have accepted tea from someone she didn’t know; the two facts together mean that the killer must be a Darkfriend, and a member of their party. Nynaeve agrees sadly, and Vandene asks to be left alone with her sister for a moment, gathering the body into her arms as they leave. Once outside, they hear a heartbreaking wail from the hut; Vandene’s Warder Jaem prevents Nynaeve’s move to go back inside. Shivering, Elayne gathers Nynaeve, Aviendha and Birgitte into a hug.

The murder Elayne had thought of so lightly had come, one of their companions was a Darkfriend, and the day suddenly felt cold enough to shatter bones, but there was a warmth in the closeness of her friends.

Even the Windfinders are subdued as they resume travel; Vandene is serene, but Jaem’s eyes carry “a silent promise of death,” and Elayne is very relieved to reach Caemlyn two days later, though she is less than thrilled to see the Aiel in the streets. They ride to the Inner City and the Palace, where the banner of Andor alternates with Rand’s two banners. At the gates, Elayne rides forwards alone, in a travelworn gray dress (as it is tradition that the claimant come humbly), to the Maidens and Legionnaires guarding them.

“I am Elayne Trakand,” she announced loudly, surprised at how calm she sounded. Her voice carried, and across the great plaza people turned from staring at her companions to stare at her. The ancient formula rolled from her tongue. “In the name of House Trakand, by right of descent from Ishara, I have come to claim the Lion Throne of Andor, if the Light wills it so.”

The gates opened wide.

Elayne knows it won’t be that simple, of course, as even possession of the Palace does not guarantee the throne. She hands the rest of the party off to a surprised Reene Harfor, and proceeds alone to the throne room, where she is hugely relieved to see the gilded Dragon throne she’d seen in Tel’aran’rhiod is gone, and the Lion Throne back in its proper place. She knows she does not yet have the right to sit on it, but lays her hand on its arm, swallowing down grief for her mother, and vows to honor the memory of Morgase Trakand, and try to bring honor to their House. Dyelin Taravin enters and greets Elayne cordially. She comments that she’d heard Elayne was alive, but hadn’t really believed it until now.

“You’ve come to accept the throne from the Dragon Reborn, then?”

“I claim the throne by my own right, Dyelin, with my own hand. The Lion Throne is no bauble to be accepted from a man.” Dyelin nodded, as at self-evident truth. Which it was, to any Andoran. “How do you stand, Dyelin? With Trakand, or against? I have heard your name often on my way here.”

“Since you claim the throne by your own right, with.” Few people could sound as dry as she.

They sit on the steps of the dais, and Dyelin tells her that there are a few obstacles: Naean, Elenia, and Arymilla have made claims for the throne, though Dyelin has locked the first two up, and Arymilla is “a goose” for thinking she has a chance. Dyelin says Elayne’s bigger problem is Aemlyn, Arathelle, and Pelivar, who support Dyelin herself for the throne. After dropping this, Dyelin smiles and asks what Elayne intends to do about the Dragon Reborn.

Her brother fought for Elaida, and her half-brother was a Whitecloak. She had filled the Palace with women who might turn on one another at any moment, not to mention the fact that one was a Darkfriend, maybe even Black Ajah. And the strongest threat she faced in claiming the throne, a very strong one, stood behind a woman who said she supported Elayne. The world was quite mad. She might as well add her bit.

“I mean to bond him my Warder,” she said, and went on before the other woman could more than blink in astonishment. “I also hope to marry him.”

As she continues, Dyelin begins to laugh, and Elayne wonders if it is delight at seeing her own way to the throne cleared, but consoles herself that at least she knows where things stand now.

Daved Hanlon rides into Caemlyn, deeply disappointed that his orders preclude any chance of looting such a rich city. He heads to a certain wealthy merchant’s house, where a thug leads him down to the basement; Hanlon swallows down unease, remembering some who had been led to their own executions for their failures.

He did not think he had failed, but then again, he had hardly succeeded. He had followed orders, though. Which was not always enough.

A pretty woman in silk named Lady Shiaine awaits him in the basement; his orders are to obey her. He makes a leg to her, then notices what else is in the room: a large heavy table with two ovals cut out, through which are wedged the heads and shoulders of a man and a woman, gagged with blocks of wood strapped to the table. Hanlon almost goes for his sword when he realizes the woman is an Aes Sedai. Shiaine compliments him on his perception, remarking that she had asked the Great Master Moridin to send her a man with brains, since “poor Jaichim” here has very few. Hanlon frowns, wondering who this Moridin was, as his orders had come from Moghedien. Shiaine puts a funnel into a hole bored in Jaichim’s block gag.

“Poor Jaichim here failed very badly,” Shiaine said, smiling like a fox looking at a chicken. “Moridin wishes him punished. Poor Jaichim does like his brandy.”

The thug lifts up a cask of cheap brandy and pours the entire thing into the funnel. Jaichim tries to scream and struggle at first, but eventually drowns and dies. Shiaine laughs and says she guesses Jaichim finally had enough brandy.

Hanlon nodded. He supposed the man had, at that. He wondered who he had been.

Shiaine has the thug ungag the Aes Sedai, who proves to be named Falion. Falion immediately begins screaming that she will obey, let her prove herself, she is a worm, etc. Shiaine tells her that Moridin has left it up to her, Shiaine, to decide Falion’s punishment for her failure, but she might give her a second chance. She and the thug make as if to go through with the brandy-drowning again, and Falion thrashes and sobs as if mad. Hanlon is impressed, as he is imagines it’s harder to break an Aes Sedai than most people.

Realizing that Shiaine was looking at him, he stopped smiling down at Falion. His first rule in life was never to offend those the Chosen set above him.

“Tell me, Hanlon,” Shiaine said, “how would you like to put your hands on a queen?”

He licked his lips in spite of himself. A queen? That he had never done.

AND THE SUCCESSIONING BEGINS. Not before they’s a killin’, though!

I am mostly extremely relieved that this mystery is solved as of KOD, and that therefore I don’t have to talk about it: Careane Fransi did it, in the hut, with the crimsonthorn. The End.

Though I probably should make note of how many fans were convinced for years that Vandene was the murderer, as the by now completely outdated FAQ article shows. Which makes the ultimately-completely-innocent-AND-heroic Vandene possibly one of the most unfairly maligned characters in all of WOT. Shame on us!

Back in the day, I was sure it was either Vandene or Careane, myself. So I was half right, and half, uh, malignant.

That… doesn’t sound right. It’s not a tumor!

Vandene’s grief for her sister really choked me up this time, too. Part of that, I’m sure, is because this is the first time I’ve read this scene being sure that she wasn’t the murderer, but it’s also the first time I’ve read this scene having experienced a similar loss. I wouldn’t have thought before that it would make such a difference, but believe me, it does.

Garenia and Kirstian: My reaction to their being made novices again was always kind of “…really?” It just seems so silly to me, especially Kirstian. My impression of Garenia is that she’s something of a dingbat, so I can buy her being able to use (and accept) novice training, sort of, but Kirstian? I mean, hello, woman is over three hundred years old! I THINK she’s probably figured out how to walk and chew gum at the same time by now, sheesh.

As far as the Kin’s little would-be uprising is concerned, I’m of two minds on it. On the one hand I sort of agree with their position, because see above, but on the other, I really would rather they just shut up and allow this plotline to move forward unmolested. This probably qualifies as selfishness on my part, but then again I tend to waver back and forth on wanting to see the Aes Sedai getting down a peg or two, and wanting to prevent anyone from messing with the status quo—if for no other reason than to keep people from continually hampering the Supergirls, who have of course by necessity bought into the Aes Sedai power structure.

After all, a blow against the Aes Sedai status quo, in many ways, is a blow against Our Heroes, so at some point it becomes a practicality versus principle dilemma. And people wonder why it’s so difficult to effect change in governmental systems from within.

Speaking of which, as for Trakand: The Crownening, for now I’m just going to be relieved she made it to the damn capital. I’ll have PLENTY OF TIME to be officially annoyed at this plotline later.

Although, I had to kind of enjoy how Elayne is all, Damn, my life is fucked up, yo, right before telling her greatest potential rival she plans to marry the guy who’s possibly going to blow up the world, and that’s if they’re lucky. Because really, she’s right: at that point, why the hell not? Heh.

Hanlon: Gosh, I hope I get to marry someone JUST LIKE HIM. ‘Scuse me, I need to go shower now. Possibly with bleach.

Oh, and bye, Carridin! Wow, that was… abrupt. He didn’t even get an exit line. Also, I can’t say he didn’t deserve it, but man is that a horrible way to die. I left out the description of it, but trust me, that ain’t the way you want to go.

I have to say that’s kind of a weird ending, there, if you ask me, even for a relatively low-level evil character. I’m really not sure why he gets killed off at this particular point. I had trouble for a moment remembering when the last time was we saw him, other than the bit in ACOS where he threatens Shiaine, but then I realized that is the last time we see him. The only other thing we get on his activities after that is when he sends the letter to Elayne about Morgase, which had rather the opposite effect than what I imagine he intended.

So yeah, he failed, and all, and failure is punished, evil cackle, etc., but still it seems a little odd that after being such an ongoing recurring (if minor) villain for practically the entire series, he’s just killed off in three paragraphs by another minor villain without even getting to say anything.

*shrug* Although I suppose it is some closure for Shiaine’s character. Evil closure, true, but closure. Apparently revenge is a dish best served with a fine brandy.

And that’s what I got, kiddies. I suggest we stack the bodies in the cellar, lock it, and pretend none of this ever happened. At least until next Tuesday, when we polish off this puppy. See y’all then!


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