A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but the Wheel of Time Re-read lives on! Yay!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 7 and 8 of Winter’s Heart, in which we ask not what your damane can do for you, but what you can do for your damane! Or something like that!
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 now, the post!
Chapter 7: The Streets of Caemlyn
Elayne rides slowly through the overcrowded city, conspicuously wearing the Daughter-Heir’s coronet. She wishes those cheering her were more numerous, but prefers the silence to outright jeering. She thinks that while the saying “Who holds Caemlyn holds Andor” is not quite true (as Rand proved), she will never be queen unless she can win over the city. She is accompanied by Sareitha and her Warder Ned Yarman, and eight of the newly-recreated Queen’s Guard, all women, which is drawing a lot of attention from the crowd. Sareitha opines that it is not safe for Elayne out here, reminding her of the ten sisters of unknown affiliation currently occupying an inn nearby. Elayne replies calmly that they are not necessarily Elaida’s; to herself, she thinks it more likely they are among those standing aside until the schism in the Tower is resolved, though she is having them watched anyway. She doesn’t understand why Elaida wants her, Elayne, so badly, but it’s a significant concern now that Elayne has declared her presence to the world. Sareitha further points out that Elaida is not the only one who wants her, and Elayne concedes mentally that kidnapping claimants to the throne is almost par for the course, but counters that that is why Sareitha is here too.
“If I don’t dare leave the Palace, Sareitha, I will never get the people behind me,” she said quietly. “I must be seen, out and about and unafraid.” That was why she had eight Guards instead of the fifty Birgitte had wanted. The woman refused to grasp the realities of politics.
She also wants to see the state of affairs in the city for herself; the large numbers of refugees are both burden and benefit to Caemlyn. Her musing is interrupted when she senses a furious Birgitte coming toward her quickly, and swiftly heads to meet her. Birgitte gallops up to tell her that news has come from Aringill: the men escorting Naean and Elenia out of the town were ambushed and murdered. Elayne replies, so they have a spy in the Palace, and then wishes she hadn’t said so in front of Sareitha. Both Sareitha and Birgitte agree, and immediately use this to argue for a bodyguard for Elayne within the Palace, which Elayne rejects angrily. She goes on bitterly that she should have overseen moving Naean and Elenia herself, or least sent the whole garrison at Aringill, but Birgitte snaps back that a queen isn’t supposed to run her own errands, any more than she is supposed to go wandering around the city at night in disguise and maybe get her skull cracked open by toughs. Elayne sits up, indignant, thinking she had only done that once, but Sareitha jumps in with details that make it clear she was following Elayne and Aviendha that night and knew exactly how close their call was. Birgitte doesn’t think sending the whole garrison would have helped either, and probably only would have ensured Aringill’s fall to boot. Sareitha asks who took them, and Elayne replies they’ll know soon enough.
“It is very simple, Sareitha,” she said in a carefully controlled voice. “If Jarid Sarand took them, Elenia will give Naean a choice. Declare Arawn for Elenia, with some sweetening of estates for Naean in return, or else have her throat slit in a quiet cell somewhere and her corpse buried behind a barn. Naean won’t give in easily, but her House is arguing over who is in charge until she returns, so they’ll dither, Elenia will threaten torture and maybe use it, and eventually Arawn will stand behind Sarand for Elenia. Soon to be joined by Anshar and Baryn; they will go where they see strength. If Naean’s people have them, she will offer the same choices to Elenia, but Jarid will go on a rampage against Arawn unless Elenia tells him not to, and she won’t if she thinks he has any hope of rescuing her. So we must hope to hear in the next few weeks that Arawn estates are being burned.” If not, she thought, I have four houses united to face, and I still don’t know whether I really have even two!
“That is… very nicely reasoned out,” Sareitha said, sounding faintly surprised.
“I’m sure you could have, too, with time,” Elayne said, too sweetly, and felt a stab of pleasure when the other sister blinked. Light, her mother would have expected her to see that much when she was ten!
They return to the Palace, meeting Careane and one of her Warders (Venr Kosaan) on their way out, and Elayne tries not to be overly paranoid in wondering which of the many servants might be the traitor in their midst. Sareitha and Yarman peel off for the library, and Birgitte immediately lights into Elayne for her stunt of sneaking out with Aviendha (and without Birgitte); Elayne deflects her diatribe by chastising her for language.
“My… language,” Birgitte murmured dangerously. Even her strides changed, to something like a pacing leopard. “You talk about my language? At least I always know what the words I use mean. At least I know what fits where, and what doesn’t.” Elayne colored, and her neck stiffened. She did know! Most of the time. Often enough, at least.
Birgitte tells her that Yarman may still be “goggle-eyed” over being a Warder, but Birgitte never was, and doesn’t jump for Elayne. She accuses Elayne again of ennobling her to “rein her in,” and storms off; Elayne stomps her foot and thinks she meant it as a reward, mostly, and also that Birgitte Silverbow had a lot of nerve accusing Elayne of taking unnecessary risks. She likes Birgitte as she is, but wishes their relationship were more Warder to Aes Sedai and less “knowing older sister to scampish younger.” She shakes herself and sends for Reene Harfor.
I think I’ll call this the “convertible in Dallas” chapter. Sheesh.
Though I do get Elayne’s frustration about being hemmed in by bodyguards 24-7. After a year or so of getting to traipse all over the land practically by herself and have adventures and stuff, having to go back to everybody being all up in her Kool-Aid and treating her like spun glass would be unquestionably very galling. But that doesn’t mean she has to be stupid about it, does it?
Speaking of which, the new (and improved, heh) Secret Service Queen’s Guard is something I quite enjoyed when it was introduced. Mostly, of course, because I was pleased that Elayne was taking a cue from the Aiel (Aviendha, in other words) and creating a place for women to be in military service, which, finally, Randland, but also because their style of uniform (which I think gets described more fully later on) is a straight-up riff on the 17th century French musketeers’ uniforms—made famous, naturally, by Dumas’ The Three Musketeers.
Which is awesome. I’m not sure why, but it is. Something about those uniforms always just frickin’ kills me. It’s a thing, I have no idea.
(At the 2009 JordanCon, my absolute favorite costume there was this one girl who dressed as a Queen’s Guard, with the sash and plumed hat and everything. It was kickass.)
This almost certainly isn’t the first time it’s mentioned, but Elayne’s musings on the “unaffiliated” sisters in Caemlyn is probably the first time I really made the connection that up to a third of all the Aes Sedai out there had not actually chosen a side in the schism, but were instead just kind of hanging out and waiting to see who won before coming back. I really can’t decide if I think this is sharp political savvy or rather contemptible cowardice. Of course, it’s not like those two things are automatically mutually exclusive.
Complicated politics are complicated: I quoted that entire paragraph about who re-kidnapped Naean and Elenia for the sole reason that the idea of trying to summarize it made my eyes cross. Basically I’m like, sure, whatever you say, Elayne. This is one of many reasons why me deciding not to go for public office is a good thing.
Though at least I wouldn’t be subject to a government where abduction is standard procedure, because sheesh. That’s kind of hilarious and awful at the same time.
Birgitte: Her dig at Elayne for not knowing what her own curse words mean was funny (and accurate), but this is about where I kind of stopped liking Birgitte. I mean, I get that she’s under a ton of stress, and is additionally freaking out because she’s convinced Elayne jinxed her or something by putting her in actual charge of things, and that’s all understandable, but that doesn’t change the fact that it means awesome laidback Birgitte who hung out with (and stuck up for) Mat in Ebou Dar is now replaced by tense snappy Birgitte who takes her frustrations out on everyone around her, and all the sympathy in the world isn’t going to change how much not fun that is to be around.
It’s a damn shame, too. I really hope she gets re-awesomed before the end of the show. Come back, awesome Birgitte!
Chapter 8: Sea Folk and Kin
Elayne meets up with Reene Harfor in the halls, where Reene tells her that she may have uncovered a pair of spies, but they fled before she could catch them. Elayne tells her that there may be more, and not just from Naean or Elenia. Reene says she will go on looking, and gives Elayne a rundown of her schedule with rather firm “suggestions” of how to handle various issues, including the news that most of their flour is full of weevils and moths, and the hams are spoiling, which Elayne thinks very odd, considering it is winter. As they walk, she catches sight of Solain Morgeillin and Keraille Surtovni hurrying along with a woman squeezed between them.
Flashes of silver showed at the neck of the sullen woman squeezed between them, though the Kinswomen had draped a long green scarf around her to hide the a’dam’s leash. That would cause talk, and it would be seen sooner or later. Better if she and the others did not have to be moved, but there was no way to avoid it. […] How did Rand always manage to do the wrong thing? Being male just was not excuse enough.
Reene carefully ignores all this and finishes by telling Elayne that Mistress Corly has asked to see her, saying she has good news “of a sort.” Elayne decides she could use even sort of good news, and heads off to see Reanne. She runs into Vandene in the corridor. Vandene has Zarya and Kirstian with her, both demure and meek in white. Elayne thinks their treatment is too harsh, but had been surprised to find that most of the Kin disagreed. Vandene momentarily stumbles over calling them “children” (which Elayne does not find surprising, considering that Kirstian is older than Vandene herself), but firms up and informs Elayne that these children have come up with a theory about the murders in Hanlon Bridge, and concluded that the killer must be either Merilille, Sareitha or Careane. Vandene is not happy that they were thinking about this at all, much less what they had concluded, even though she and Elayne had concluded from the start that the murderer must be Aes Sedai.
[Adeleas and Ispan] had been paralyzed with crimsonthorn before they were killed, and it was all but impossible that the Windfinders knew of an herb only found far from the sea. And even Vandene was sure the Kin numbered no Darkfriends among them.
They base their reasoning for the latter on the fact that Ispan knew no more about the Kin than any other Aes Sedai, and if there were any Darkfriends among the Kin, the Black Ajah would have known all about them. Which means that one of the sisters with them was also Black, something Elayne et al are very anxious to keep quiet. Vandene opines that someone has to take Zarya and Kirstian in hand to keep them busy, which means Elayne or Nynaeve. Elayne replies that she hardly has a moment to herself as it is, so it will have to be Nynaeve. Nynaeve herself appears and joins them, asking cheerfully what they’re talking about.
The small red dot, the ki’sain, in the middle of her forehead did look quite strange. According to Malkieri custom, a red ki’sain marked a married woman, and she had insisted on wearing it as soon as she learned. Toying idly with the end of her braid, she looked… content… not an emotion anyone usually associated with Nynaeve al’Meara.
Elayne jumps when she realizes Lan is there too, and shivers at the look in his eyes. Nynaeve’s good mood vanishes when they explain, and she tells them that maybe Elayne can “loll around playing politics,” but Nynaeve has her hands full with the Kin. She’s particularly incensed that many of them now try to argue with her, but Elayne thinks Nynaeve brought that on herself.
“And those cursed Sea Folk! Wretched women! Wretched; wretched; wretched! If it wasn’t for that bloody bargain…! The last thing I need on my hands is a couple of whining, bleating novices!”
This doesn’t please Zarya and Kirstian, but Elayne is not inclined to be the peacemaker for once, since she’d like to slap both them and Nynaeve. She retorts to Nynaeve that she is not playing at anything, and points out to Nynaeve that left to their own devices Zarya and Kirstian will be running off to play detective in a second. Nynaeve, however, replies that maybe they should let them, and forthwith assigns them to Vandene. Vandene is not happy about this at all, but Nynaeve counters that maybe this will give Vandene time to sleep and eat, which she hasn’t been doing. She makes it an order, and Vandene is obligated to yield. As revenge, Vandene remarks that Sereille Bagand had once told her Vandene was too hard on her students, and Zarya and Kirstian go pale.
As Mistress of Novices and later Amyrlin Seat, Sereille was a legend. The sort of legend that made you wake in the middle of the night sweating. “I do eat,” Vandene said to Nynaeve. “But everything tastes like ashes.” With a curt gesture at the two novices, she led them away past Lan.
Nynaeve mutters about Vandene being stubborn, and Elayne wisely ignores this to ask if she knows what Reanne’s news is. Nynaeve replies she’s been in her rooms all morning, and frowns at Lan for some reason.
Nynaeve claimed her marriage was glorious—she could be shockingly frank about it with other women—but Elayne thought she must be lying to cover up disappointment. Very likely Lan was ready for an attack, ready to fight, even when asleep. It would be like lying down beside a hungry lion. Besides, that stone face was enough to chill any marriage bed. Luckily, Nynaeve had no idea what she thought. The woman actually smiled. An amused smile, oddly. Amused, and… could it be condescending? Of course not. Imagination.
They head off to find Reanne, Lan scaring servants as they go, and Elayne fills Nynaeve in on the events of the morning, declining to respond to Nynaeve’s obvious advice regarding spies. Nynaeve tells her they’ve sent eighteen of the Kin via gateways into Seanchan-controlled territory, mostly to try and smuggle out any Kinswomen who didn’t make it out before the invasion, but also because those eighteen would likely have run off if not given something to do. Nynaeve sighs that she can’t see how Egwene’s plan is going to work when most Kin will never earn the shawl, and she doesn’t see them consenting to be novices for the rest of their lives either. They find Reanne with Alise and one of the captured sul’dam, Marli. Nynaeve asks if this one’s “seen reason”; Alise replies that they still deny they can channel (and thinks they can’t really, they are more poised on the brink of it), but at least they have stopped trying to attack people. Reanne adds that they deny seeing the flows, too, claiming it’s a trick, but that sooner or later they will run out of lies to tell themselves.
Elayne sighed. What a gift Rand had sent her. A gift! Twenty-nine Seanchan sul’dam neatly held by a’dam, and five damane—she hated that word; it meant Leashed One, or simply Leashed; but that was what they were—five damane who could not be uncollared for the simple reason that they would try to free the Seanchan women who had held them prisoner. Leopards tied with string would have been a better gift. At least leopards could not channel.
She had decided to have the Kin convince the sul’dam that they could channel, and then send them back to the Seanchan, where their secret was bound to come out sooner or later and shake the Seanchan badly, perhaps even tear them apart, but so far it hadn’t been going well. She asks for the good news, if it isn’t Marli, and Reanne binds Marli to her chair with saidar before replying that three of the damane may be ready to be released from their collars. Elayne and Nynaeve are both surprised, especially since only two of the five captured damane are from this side of the ocean. Reanne continues with distaste that two of the three Seanchan-born damane (Marille and Jillari) still say they must be collared, but Alivia no longer agrees, or so she says.
[Reanne] shook her head slowly in doubt. “She was collared at thirteen or fourteen, Elayne, she’s not certain which, and she’s been damane for four hundred years! And aside from that, she is… she’s… Alivia is considerably stronger than Nynaeve,” she finished in a rush. Age, the Kin might discuss openly, but they had all the Aes Sedai reticence about speaking of strength in the Power. “Do we dare let her free? A Seanchan wilder who could tear the entire Palace apart?”
Nynaeve stares at Reanne, and Elayne keeps quiet; this is an Aes Sedai matter, and therefore Nynaeve’s decision. Lan suddenly speaks up, and tells Nynaeve that if she doesn’t then she might as well give her back to the Seanchan; collaring someone who wants to be free is no better than what they do. Alise tells him to be quiet, but Nynaeve says he is right. She remarks that at least they don’t have to worry about the other two, but Reanne isn’t so sure, pointing out that Kara (from Falme) is very fond of the sul’dam, and Lemore (from Tanchico) still answers to her damane name as easily as her real one; she doesn’t know if either of them would stand up to a sul’dam who ordered her to help them escape. Nynaeve struggles with herself, gripping her braid, and finally declares that the women will have to be watched closely, but nevertheless the a’dam will come off. Elayne smiles in approval.
Reanne merely nodded acceptance—after a moment—but a smiling Alise came around the table to pat Nynaeve’s shoulder, and Nynaeve actually blushed. She tried to hide it behind clearing her throat roughly and grimacing at the Seanchan woman in her cage of saidar, but her efforts were not very effectual, and Lan spoiled them in any case.
“Tai’shar Manetheren,” he said softly.
Nynaeve’s mouth fell open, then curled into a tremulous smile. Sudden tears glistened in her eyes as she spun to face him, her face joyous. He smiled back at her, and there was nothing cold in his eyes.
Elayne struggled not to gape. Light! Maybe he did not chill their marriage bed after all. The thought made her cheeks warm.
She notes that Marli is crying while staring straight at the weaves binding her, but Reanne says they always do that, and then convince themselves it was a trick later. She says it will take time to convince “the Mistress of the Hounds that she is really a hound herself.” She remarks her news wasn’t so good, was it, and Elayne agrees, hoping for some real good news soon.
Now there’s a chapter name to strike fear into the heart. At least the Windfinders aren’t actually in this chapter.
While I can certainly sympathize with Elayne’s lack of appreciation for having yet another thing to worry about on top of all the other crap she’s already got on her plate, I don’t think she’s being quite fair to Rand re: his “gift.” Of course, this is partially Taim’s fault for bitchily phrasing it that way in the first place, which certainly wasn’t Rand’s idea, but still. However, she is keeping her grousing to herself, so you know, it’s fine.
I was actually very surprised that Rand decided to send his POWs from the Seanchan campaign to Elayne, but on reflection she really was the only logical choice. He had to send them to someone who could handle them (i.e. someone who could channel, or to be more accurate, someone with a group of people who could channel), but of the groups he has available, the Wise Ones have their hands full with the Aes Sedai prisoners, he can’t send them to Egwene for reasons that should be obvious, and he doesn’t trust either Taim or Cadsuane, period. That basically leaves Elayne and Nynaeve. So, sucks to be them, I guess.
Also, enter: Alivia. Dun!
I have to say I was very taken aback by Reanne’s revelation that Alivia was stronger than Nynaeve, which at a guess puts her somewhere at Mesaana or Graendal’s level of strength. (I have absolutely no basis for this ranking other than my own opinion, but in my head, the rough progression of female Forsaken from weakest to strongest in the Power has always been: Moghedien, Mesaana, Graendal, Semirhage, and Lanfear (pre-Cyndane-ing). Well, actually I think this is based more on a judgment of their personalities than anything else; whether this makes it more or less likely to be accurate, I leave as an exercise for the reader.)
Woo, tangent. To veer back on topic, I was rather highly annoyed that my girl Nynaeve was suddenly (and randomly, to my mind) no longer Most Badass Female Channeler (for the Light, anyway). In fact I kind of still am, since Alivia has continued to seem random and square-peg-in-round-hole-y to me ever since. Presumably this will no longer be the case once she finally fulfills Min’s prophecy about helping Rand die? I hope so, because she’s otherwise been nothing but a vague irritant to me ever since she was introduced.
Speaking of Nynaeve and strength issues, I found Elayne’s thoughts on that intriguing, since to my recollection this is the first time Elayne has thought of herself as subordinate to Nynaeve under the traditional Aes Sedai ranking rules. Not to continue with the JFK references, but I have to say this made me think of the paranoia when Kennedy was elected over the fact that he was Catholic, which made (stupid) people believe that the Pope would basically get to run the country through him.
This was a thoroughly idiotic chain of reasoning for JFK, but it occurs to me that it could be quite a bit more of a legitimate argument for Elayne, who as an “ordained” Aes Sedai, so to speak, has a much stronger obligation to obey the Amyrlin than a Catholic layperson does to obey the Pope. I can definitely see the potential for a possibly severe conflict of interest at some point.
Zarya and Kirstian: Sound like they should be a Russian pop duo, and man did I get tired of typing their names this post. Otherwise, whatever; this mystery’s been solved and I see no point in dwelling on it.
Well, except to observe that Vandene and Elayne’s “logic” for why it has to be one of the Aes Sedai who dunnit is rather appallingly flawed, no matter how right they turned out to be. The reasoning on the Windfinders is solid, but assuming that because Ispan knew nothing of the Kin means that none of the Black Ajah knows about them is a major logic fail. Even without knowing, as the reader does, of the extreme need-to-know-only structure of the Black Ajah, it’s still a giant honking assumption to make.
And you know what they say: when you make an assumption, you make an “ass” out of “u” and “mption”. (*waves to Lara*)
Lan: Is awesome. Again. Some more. I heart him. That is all.
And I is done with ye! Have a doughnut, and enjoy your weekend!