The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Winter’s Heart, Part 10

It was the summer of 2010, y’all – the summer we went to the Wheel of Time Re-read, and I had the time of my life. Never felt this way!

Today’s entry covers Chapters 13 and 14 of Winter’s Heart, in which we have veiled references, exploding rodents, and I channel my inner Patrick Swayze. Just like any other Tuesday!

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 13: Wonderful News

What Happens
Cadsuane sits in the sunroom of the Sun Palace and wishes she could bite someone as Harine din Togara demands again the return of her Windfinder, Shalon. The Sea Folk ignore Eben when he offers them wine, and Daigian leads him away with an amused smile to play cat’s cradle in the corner. Cadsuane answers Harine absently, concentrating more on watching Nesune, Sarene, Erian, Beldeine and Elza, and wondering what could have caused them to swear fealty to the al’Thor boy without being in the presence of a ta’veren to influence them; she is not sure she believes the rationales they themselves have given her any longer. As Harine continues to rant, Sorilea and Verin enter; Sorilea is giving Verin a sleeping potion, and warning her that an overdose can be fatal. Harine then leans forward and taps Cadsuane’s cheek to get her attention, insisting that Cadsuane listen to her; Cadsuane considers making her cry, but instead calmly repeats back all the imperious demands and threats Harine had made.

“Good,” Harine said, leaning back comfortably, in command now. Her smile was sickeningly self-satisfied. “You will learn that—”

“I do not care a fig for your Coramoor,” Cadsuane continued, her voice still mild. All the figs in the world for the Dragon Reborn, but not one for the Coramoor. She did not alter her tone by a hair. “If you ever touch me again without permission, I will have you stripped, striped, bound and carried back to your rooms in a sack.” Well, diplomacy had never been her strongest point. “If you do not cease pestering me about your sister… Well, I might actually grow angry.”

Ignoring the Sea Folk’s splutters, Cadsuane tells Sarene to escort them back to their room, and to “spank them both” if they are uncivil. Harine seems about to explode, but her Sailmistress Derah talks her down, and they leave. Cadsuane goes to greet Sorilea, who tells her that the last remaining four sisters of the nineteen prisoners taken at Dumai’s Wells have asked to swear to the Car’a’carn. Cadsuane wonders aloud what could make even the Red sisters do so, and Sorilea only answers that they will be made apprentices like all the others. Cadsuane hopes that Sorilea will have them watched, especially the Reds.

She was sure they would keep that ridiculous oath, if not always in ways the boy would like, but there was always the possibility that one or two might be Black Ajah. Once she had thought herself on the point of rooting out the Black only to watch her quarry slip through her fingers like smoke, her bitterest failure except possibly for failing to learn what Caraline Damodred’s cousin had been up to in the Borderlands until the knowledge was years too late to do any good. Now, even the Black Ajah seemed a diversion from what was truly important.

Sorilea agrees, and goes off to talk to Nesune et al. Verin comments to Cadsuane that Sorilea is “formidable,” and Verin is glad that she is on their side, if she is. Verin goes on to explain that she’s discovered that Shalon and Ailil Riatin’s silence about their whereabouts during the attack is not due to treason, but because they are having a clandestine affair; Cadsuane is incredulous that they would be so desperate to conceal such a thing, but Verin points out that Ailil is a typically prudish Cairhienin, while Shalon is married, and adultery is a very serious crime among the Sea Folk. Cadsuane shakes her head, but tells Verin to use the information to blackmail Ailil for information about her brother Toram and Shalon for intelligence about the Sea Folk.

Blackmail was a tool she disliked using, but she had already used it on the three Asha’man, and Toram Riatin might still cause trouble even if his rebellion did seem to have evaporated.

Corele enters, and takes Cadsuane aside to tell her hesitantly that she has “wonderful news.”

“I know you said I should keep Damer busy here in the Palace, but he insisted on looking at the sisters still in the Aiel camp. Mild-tempered as he is, he’s very insistent when he wants to be, and sure as the sun there’s nothing can’t be Healed. And, well, the fact of it is, he’s gone and Healed Irgain. Cadsuane, it’s as if she’d never been… ” She trailed off, unable to say the word. It hung in the air even so. Stilled.

“Wonderful news,” Cadsuane said flatly. It was. Every sister carried the fear somewhere deep inside that she might be cut off from the Power. And now a way to Heal what could not be Healed had been discovered. By a man. There would be tears and recriminations before this was done with. In any case, while every sister who heard would consider it a world-shaking discovery—in more ways than one; a man!—it was a storm in a teacup compared to Rand al’Thor.

Cadsuane wonders if Irgain will now be beaten like the other prisoners, but Verin says that the Wise Ones seem to consider their stilling punishment enough; Corele puts in that in any case, Irgain has already asked to swear loyalty to al’Thor, and Damer wants to try Healing Sashalle and Ronaille as well. She adds defiantly that she agrees with Damer; Cadsuane is not interested in having the sisters under her get too independent, but agrees that it should be done. Jahar bursts in with the news that Merise sent him to tell them that Alanna has collapsed and is unconscious. Everyone is appalled, and Cadsuane, Sorilea, Corele and Verin follow Jahar into the hall. On the way, they are intercepted by Dobraine, who calmly informs Cadsuane that he has liberated Lady Caraline and High Lord Darlin from being “guests” at Lady Arilyn’s palace and sent them to Tear, as Darlin is to be the Lord Dragon’s Steward there.

Jahar was all but dancing with anxiety to go on. Merise had a firm hand.

Distracted, Cadsuane threatens Dobraine vaguely for form’s sake and heads on. Alanna’s room is too crowded even when Merise makes Jahar stand in the corner. Ihvon, Alanna’s Warder, tells them that Alanna seems “afraid to wake”, but there’s nothing wrong with her as far as he can tell. Corele tries Healing, but nothing happens, and Merise remarks dryly that she tried that already. She asks Cadsuane what they should do; Cadsuane notes that Sorilea looks grim and Verin absolutely terrified.

Cadsuane had not thought anything could frighten Verin that far. But she felt a thrill of terror herself. If she lost this connection to the boy now…

“We sit down and wait for her to wake,” she said in a calm voice. There was nothing else to do. Nothing.

Demandred scowls at the Age of Legends scene Graendal had chosen for the meeting, and demands to know where al’Thor is; he’s been seen in five cities since “those blind fools—those idiots!” failed in Cairhien. Demandred wishes Semirhage or Mesaana were there, thinking of their delicate but long-standing alliance, and worries that Mesaana may be thinking of pulling out of it. Osan’gar frowns at “fools” and “idiots,” but opines that it was “Simply probabilities,” and that next time he will be killed or taken. Striking a lascivious pose, Aran’gar asks if he’s really going to rely on chance, pointing out that he and Demandred were responsible for watching al’Thor.

Osan’gar flinched, flicking his tongue against his lips, and she laughed throatily. “My own charge is…” She pressed a thumb down on the edge of the chair as if pinning something and laughed again.

Graendal wonders if all four of them shouldn’t be worried, and Moridin too, at al’Thor’s success as much as his failure; Aran’gar takes the opportunity to hit on her, and Graendal stomps off in a huff. Osan’gar replies sharply that al’Thor is a “primitive,” and if he, Osan’gar, couldn’t think of a way to remove the taint, then al’Thor certainly can’t.

“In any event, we will stop him trying because the Great Lord commands it. I can understand fear of the Great Lord’s displeasure if we somehow failed, unlikely as that might be, but why should those of us you named have any special fear?”

“Blind as ever, and dry as ever,” Graendal murmured. […] “If the young man does somehow remove the shadow, well… You who channel saidin will no longer need the Great Lord’s special protection. Will he trust your… loyalty… then?” Smiling, she sipped her wine.

This unnerves all the saidin channelers, but then Moridin enters, announcing that “The Great Lord is sure you are all faithful,” and Demandred reflects that the boy’s face Moridin now wears hasn’t made him any saner. Moridin has a rat on his shoulder, and is followed by his “silver-haired pet” Cyndane. Moridin remarks on Mesaana’s absence, calling it “a pity,” and talks about small things affecting the course of greater, like whether Isam succeeds in killing that vermin Fain. He flings the rat into the air and sets it on fire, and Demandred flinches because he’d felt nothing, meaning Moridin must have done that with the True Power.

A black speck floated across Moridin’s blue eyes, then another, in a steady stream. The man must have been using the True Power exclusively since he last saw him to gain so many saa so quickly. He himself had never touched the True Power except at need. Great need. Of course, only Moridin had that privilege now, since his… anointing. The man truly was insane to use it so freely. It was a drug more addictive than saidin, more deadly than poison.

Moridin tells Cyndane to tell them al’Thor’s plans; Cyndane tells them (sarcastically) that Lews Therin has two of the access keys to the Choedan Kal, and a female strong enough to use the female half, and plans to use them to cleanse the taint. Everyone starts yelling at once, Osan’gar demanding to know how “this girl” knows al’Thor has the keys.

“And you’ve just been hoping to blunder into him!” [Graendal] screamed at Demandred. “Hoping someone will find him for you! Fool! Fool!”

Demandred thinks that was over the top even for Graendal, and says nothing. Moridin caresses Cyndane’s face, and says (in answer to Osan’gar) that she knows many things, and tells them all to Moridin. Cyndane trembles, and Demandred thinks of his puzzlement over her; he’d thought she was Lanfear reincarnated until Mesaana told him she was weaker in the Power than Lanfear had been. But then again, she called al’Thor “Lews Therin,” and seemed familiar with the Choedan Kal and why they must be feared. He supposes aloud that al’Thor must be killed after all, then, before he destroys the world.

“Killed?” Moridin moved his hands as though weighing something. “If it comes to that, yes,” he said finally. “But finding him is no problem. When he touches the Choedan Kal, you will know where he is. And you will go there and take him. Or kill him, if necessary. The Nae’blis has spoken.”

The others all murmur obedience with varying degrees of enthusiasm, and Demandred follows suit even as he considers the plan madness.

The man was Nae’blis for now, but perhaps matters could be arranged so he did not get another body the next time he died. Perhaps it could be arranged soon.

Commentary
WHAT THE GOAT-SLAPPING HELL, you guys.

It took me an embarrassingly long time, on first reading, to figure out what was the 800-pound gorilla in the room during Cadsuane’s scene in this chapter, but when I did figure it out, I damn near threw the book across the room. GAH.

Of course, I was thrown precisely because Jordan had intended it, having made such a point up till now of referring to Flinn, Hopwil and Narishma almost exclusively by their surnames, so yay successful authorial sneakiness, and all, but I find spluttering outrage tends to limit my ability to be appreciative of such things. Funny, that.

Oh, yes: OUTRAGE. I ain’t gonna lie, Cadsuane blackmailing the Asha’man into getting Wardered pissed me off nearly as much as Alanna’s treatment of Rand did. Even before I understood how exactly Cads had pulled it off! LEIGH SMASH STUPID AES SEDAI. AGAIN. SOME MORE.

Actually, finding out what leverage she was using later on only pissed me off afresh. Because blackmail is bad enough, but given what would have happened to Rand’s Asha’man had Taim caught them, if you ask me this was nothing less than extortion.

Yeah, sure, technically the Asha’Warders had a choice in the matter, unlike Rand, but that is a weaselly justification that I will not even dignify by refuting. It’s extortion, full stop.

And you know who uses extortion? SHITTY PEOPLE, THAT’S WHO.

So I guess we can add “acting like the frickin’ mob” to the list of reasons why Aes Sedai, or at least Cadsuane, sucks. Joy. (Though I did quite enjoy her verbally smacking Harine around, admittedly.)

And the three Asha’man being so inexplicably skippy about it all actually only made me angrier. What, does Warder bonding come with an unlimited supply of X, or something? How are they not at least a little resentful? How could they not be pissed off at being made—made into underlings like that?

They’re Asha’man, dammit! They should be treated as equals, not serving goddamn wine to goddamn Sea Folk jackholes! Are you kidding me with this shit? Nobody puts Jahar in the corner!

…I recognize, by the way, that my reaction to all this is perhaps a little over the top. (Who, me?) And could possibly be construed as an insult to the many Warders out there who are quite proud of their station, thank you. Yes, I get that. However, it’s worth pointing out that I don’t recall any other Warders being required to perform menial servants’ tasks as a normal thing—nor being peremptorily banished into fucking corners either, Jesus—which indicates to me that the Asha’Warders are being treated in a manner a little out of the typical, at least at this stage.

Which, I’m sorry, just made me see red. And the fact that all the characters involved have all apparently drunk the Wardering Kool-Aid and think it’s all just hunky-dory does not appease me in this regard in the slightest. This, possibly, says more about me than it does anything else, but, there you go. These guys have been through all this shit, and are under at least two different kinds of death sentences, and yet stayed loyal to Rand against every possible inclination to do otherwise, and their reward is to get strongarmed into being—being diminished to first-name-called errand boys for Cadsuane’s Cadre?

Excuse me while I barf. It’s like an episode of goddamn Mad Men up in here, except backwards. And screw whatever benefits they’re getting out of it!

It’s just—it’s just not fair, dammit.

And, also, kudos to Jordan for the gender-flipped point.

Gah.

Well. At least Alanna got knocked the hell out. Serves her right. A plague on all her houses!

And, other stuff happened in this bit (like, yay UberHealer Flinn!, and the Cadsuane-facing-down-awesomeness of Dobraine, as well as a nicely sly reference to the events of New Spring), but I’m too annoyed to concentrate on it now, so we’ll move on to the Symposium of Evil Plotting Take 62, or as it was instantly dubbed on the newsgroup, the Forsaken Coffee Hour.

Okay, so I’m kind of whatever with this scene at this point, though it was of deep and vital interest when I first read it, providing as it does (typically) maddeningly vague semi-clues to all kinds of WOT Mysteries. Everything from Cyndane’s identity (Lanfear) to Osan’gar’s identity (Dashiva) to the identity of Halima’s “charge” (Sheriam, surprisingly) to Moridin’s identity (Ishamael, just in case there were three people out there who hadn’t figured it out by now, DUH), to Demandred’s whereabouts (…er) to blah blah blah adnauseamcakes.

Not, of course, that it actually cleared anything up about Demandred, because we STILL don’t know where that asshole is even as of TGS, and frankly it’s really starting to cheese me off. Something Taim-related, maybe, sort of, except maybe not. Great. Do something resembling anything already, you twit!

Can you tell I’m in a contentious mood today? I can’t imagine what clued you in!

This scene was also the foundation of a rather impressive fight in the fandom over the possibly entirely-extraneous question of the hows and whens and whys of the “Don’t Kill Rand” order, and how it related to any number of looney theories therein, which I am certainly not going to bother with at this point but you can read all about here if you want to.

I did have to laugh at Moridin blathering on about chaos theory while throwing flaming rats around, because at this point it’s like he’s going down a checklist of Crazy and making sure he hits all the items. His completionism is to be commended!

I guess, also, that in light of later revelations it’s a measure of just how possible it is that Rand’s scheme to cleanse saidin will Kill Us All, if even Moridin is okay with killing him to stop it from happening. Because, of course, Ishy wants stop the world and melt with alla y’all, but he wants to do it HIS way. Or the Dark One’s way, whatever, same diff. And he can’t really do that if he’s dead, eh?

This is presuming, of course, that Moridin is at least somewhat aware at this point of the connection between himself and Rand, and of the probable (?) consequences to himself if Rand gets whacked, but I think that’s a pretty reasonable presumption to make, actually. It certainly is one of the only logical reasons why Moridin wouldn’t bother to show up for the showdown at the end of WH. But we’ll discuss that when we get to it.

 

Chapter 14: What a Veil Hides

What Happens
Tuon sits in her cabin aboard The Victory of Kidron, watching the hundreds of greatships of the Corenne (the Return) outside the window as her dresser (and secret bodyguard) Selucia shaves her scalp. She feels “almost sei’mosiev” (having loss of honor) for the command she had given in anger the night before, which worries her. She cannot help comparing herself to Selucia as she is dressed, wishing she had a more imposing presence (and perhaps a little more bosom). She and Selucia joke with each other about the number of times Selucia was obliged to switch Tuon as a “unruly” child, and Tuon thinks she feels more affection for Selucia than any of the members of her family, whom Tuon had been obliged to battle for supremacy her entire life. Selucia goes to put a cap of gold lace on Tuon’s head, which would mark her with the Raven-and-Roses, but Tuon orders the veil instead.

Perhaps she was not sei’mosiev, but for the sake of the Corenne, she had to restore her balance. She could ask Anath, her Soe’feia, to administer a penance, but it was less than two years since Neferi’s unexpected death, and she still was not entirely comfortable with her replacement. Something told her she must do this on her own.

Selucia is disapproving, but obeys, and they leave the cabin, meeting the six sul’dam with Tuon’s personal damane in the second cabin. One of the damane, Lidya, tries to grovel tearfully, and Tuon sighs, regretting that she had ordered Lidya caned because she disliked the fortune Lidya had given her. She orders that Lidya’s wounds be doctored and she be given treats, and Lidya gratefully kisses Tuon’s palm. Tuon pets the other damane, who are all very fond of her; she knows people find it odd that she tested for sul’dam, but she enjoys training damane as much as training horses. She takes especial pride in her latest acquisition, Mylen.

The pale little damane had been half-dead with shock and fear, refusing to eat or drink, when Tuon bought her on the docks at Shon Kifar. The der’sul’dam all had despaired, saying she would not live long, but now Mylen smiled up at Tuon and leaned forward to kiss her hand […]. Instead of rebuking her, Catrona, who held her leash, let a smile crease her usually stern black face and murmured that Mylen was a perfect damane. It was true, no one would believe now that once she had called herself Aes Sedai.

Tuon and Selucia continue to the outer cabin, where Captain Musenge and her personal retinue of Deathwatch guards stiffen to attention; the Ogier Gardeners won’t be put to death if she dies, unlike the humans in the company, but all are equally loyal to her. She heads up on deck; the members of the Blood there, seeing her veil, bow as equals instead of prostrating themselves. The Macura woman grovels inappropriately until Tuon’s secretary (and secret Hand) Yuril stops her.

Tuon had been uncertain about taking her into service, back in Tanchico, but the woman had pleaded like a da’covale. She hated Aes Sedai in her bones, for some reason, and despite the rewards already given for her extremely valuable information, she hoped to do them more injury.

Tuon continues up to the quarterdeck, joining Anath, who is very tall, dark, and has eyes that “pierce like awls.” Tuon had been surprised that her mother had chosen Anath to replace Neferi after the latter had died from a fall instead of Neferi’s trained replacement, and Tuon thinks she is a little afraid of her new Truthspeaker.

“So,” Anath said, the word like a nail driven into Tuon’s skull. The tall woman frowned down at her, and contempt lay thick in her voice. “You hide your face—in a way—and now you are just the High Lady Tuon. Except that everyone still knows who you really are, even if they won’t mention it. How long do you intend carrying on this farce?”

Anath supposes contemptuously that is because of the Lidya thing, and asks what the damane said that made Tuon so angry; Tuon only answers that she will wear the veil until an omen tells her to lift it, thinking it lucky that no one had overheard Lidya’s “cryptic words,” otherwise everyone would have been gossiping about her fate. Anath sneers and begins a lengthy diatribe of Tuon’s faults; everyone else in earshot is appalled, but Tuon listens attentively even through her embarrassment, as has always been the tradition in her family.

A Speaker of Truth could not be commanded or coerced or punished in any way. A Truthspeaker was required to tell the stark truth whether or not you wanted to hear it, and to make sure that you heard.

At the end of the harangue, Tuon tells Anath politely that she does not require a penance; she remembers the last time Anath had given her one, administered with an odd tenderness, which had left Tuon weeping for days, but Tuon still considers a penance the easy way out and refuses to take it. She also admits that she also resists listening to Anath, and chastises herself for this. Tuon remarks that Suroth will need to be commended when they reach Ebou Dar—and examined for a possible excess of ambition. Anath replies curtly that she is sure Suroth only means the best for the Empire; Tuon isn’t so sure, but changes the subject to say that she must make contact with the Dragon Reborn as soon as possible.

“He must kneel before the Crystal Throne before Tarmon Gai’don, or all is lost.” The Prophecies of the Dragon said so, clearly.

Anath’s mood changed in a flash. Smiling, she laid a hand on Tuon’s shoulder almost possessively. That was going too far, but she was Soe’feia, and the feel of ownership might have been only in Tuon’s mind. “You must be careful,” Anath purred. “You must not let him learn how dangerous you are to him until it is too late for him to escape.”

She had more advice, but Tuon let it wash over her. […] Behind her veil, she was merely the High Lady Tuon, of no higher rank than many others of the Blood, but in her heart, always, she was Tuon Athaem Kore Paendrag, Daughter of the Nine Moons, and she had come to reclaim what had been stolen from her ancestor.

Commentary
Enter: Tuon.

Dun. Definitely Dun.

Man. You know, on the one hand, I can see why Jordan kind of digs this culture he’s invented here, and why he goes into so much detail on the minutiae of their customs and behaviors and so forth, most of which I’ve been (of necessity) leaving out of the summaries. Because the Seanchan really are a pretty spectacular creation strictly from a world-building point of view, smashing together aspects of at least seven different ancient cultures (most notably Persian, Imperial Japanese, ancient Egyptian, and Byzantine), yet managing to be completely unique unto itself at the same time.

Plus, as I’ve said before, there is always the modern Western fascination with cultures that adhere to elaborate and rigidly enforced codes of conduct as a part of everyday life, mostly because it’s such a sharp contrast to the comparatively…informal, shall we say, way many people live today. There’s a reason why Shogun is still in print, is all I’m saying. Well, you know, apart from being a kickass book in general, of course. (Seriously, if you haven’t read it you really ought to stop depriving yourself of good things.)

Anyway. So, yes, the Seanchan are very impressive, in a literary sense (or whatever), but this unfortunately does not really do too much to lessen my revulsion at some of their more heinous cultural practices. Like SLAVERY, just for goddamn instance.

The scene here with Tuon and her damane was almost literally nauseating to me. Especially the line comparing damane to horses, ugh. I know we’re supposed to get out of this chapter that Tuon is a real person who we are invited to identify with, aside from her elaborate (and often repugnant) cultural trappings, and to a certain degree it works, but the damane thing did not exactly win her brownie points with me, let’s just say.

(Also, she apparently thinks Rand is going to kneel to her, which is a whole bowl of OH HELL NO, GIRL. My Messiah figure! Back off!)

And I’m aware this is somewhat unfair of me, to judge Tuon for beliefs which have been ingrained in her from birth without (I’m presuming) even the possibility of encountering alternative points of view (until now, anyway), but this seems to be my week for having unreasonable visceral reactions to things, so we’ll go with it for now. I’m not even saying that it’s not reasonable for at least one culture in Randland to have slavery as an institution, because historically, unfortunately, it’s less believable that 99% of them don’t. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

I also don’t think I had quite this strong a reaction to the Seanchan slavery thing on previous reads. I don’t know; I think that as you get older, just as it becomes more difficult to suspend your disbelief, it also becomes more difficult to suspend your plain old beliefs, too. Let’s just say, it was definitely a lot easier for me to be sanguine about accepting a fictional slaver culture in college than it is now. Take it for what it’s worth.

Anath: Hi, Semirhage, you heinous bitch! Nice of you to finally join us!

I really liked her a lot better before TGS. Grr.

I’m pretty sure that for once, the “secret identity” game here was a total gimme, mainly because I figured it out instantly, which is a good sign that the author isn’t really trying very hard, given my gift for not seeing twists ahead of time. I mean, between the physical description and the pointed mention of how much Anath enjoys inflicting pain, this wasn’t exactly rocket science, here.

But, you have to be impressed that Semi managed to inveigle herself into the ONE job in, apparently, the entire Seanchan empire where you can do whatever the hell you want and no one will chop something off of you or sell you or whatever. Clever. Evil, but clever!

But the best thing about this chapter is that, with an exit line like that, there’s no way in the WORLD the next chapter is anything but a Mat POV. Can I get a HALLELUJAH?


Aw, that was lovely, thanks. Now just keeping Hallelujah-ing for approximately (*checks watch*) 96 more hours, and I’ll be back with the answer to your prayers! It’ll be the time of your life! Join hands and hearts and voices, voices, hearts and hands, and spontaneously choreograph your way out! Bye-ee!

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