The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue, Part 3

Yo, Love! Come quick, and also in a hurry, ‘cause there’s a Wheel of Time Re-read tonight!

Today’s entry covers Part 3 of The Prologue of Crossroads of Twilight, in which there are thieves in the temple. Or, well, the tent. Which is practically the same thing, clearly. If you’re an idiot.

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general, including the newest release, Towers of Midnight.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 13, Towers of Midnight. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And like a poor man looking for gold, we find a post!

Wheel of Time serpent wheelPrologue: Glimmers of the Pattern [Part 3]

What Happens
On a ridge a league or so north of Caemlyn, Davram Bashere watches the army of some five thousand gathered below him through a looking glass; the army’s officers ignore him even though he is standing in plain sight. It is one of eight similar armies, all spaced evenly around the city in order to lay siege. Bashere is confounded by the flags the army is flying, which indicate that not only are the supporters of House Arawn and House Sarand down there together, but that they are both collectively supporting Arymilla Marne for the throne, which Bashere considers akin to “wolves deciding to follow a lapdog.” Next to Bashere, Bael growls that the army ignores them even though he could “break them before sunset.”

Quickly considering several approaches, Bashere decided on lightness. “Elayne Trakand would not like that, Bael, and if you’ve forgotten what it’s like being a young man, that means Rand al’Thor won’t like it.”

Bael grunted sourly. “Melaine told me what Elayne Trakand said. We must do nothing on her part. That is simpleminded. When an enemy comes against you, you make use of whoever will dance the spears by your side. Do they play at war the way they play at their Game of Houses?”

“We are outlanders, Bael. That counts, in Andor.”

Bashere is not sure how to explain to Bael that foreigners aiding Elayne would likely actually cost her the throne. He thinks to himself, though, that he rather agrees with Bael; even though he knows both the Andoran factions will go to great lengths to prevent the Succession from actually coming to pitched battle, even such a bloodless civil war would never be allowed in Saldaea. He and Bael watch a brief skirmish in which townspeople attempting to flee the city are waylaid by the besiegers, and then rescued by a larger sortie from the city. When it ends with no violence, Bael gets bored and takes his leave; Bashere follows soon after with his escort. His Lieutenant, Tumad, is also annoyed that the Andorans are ignoring them, and Bashere is amused, asking if having Tenobia, the Andorans in Murandy, the Seanchan, and possibly even the Aes Sedai army all after them isn’t excitement enough. Bashere is privately most worried about Tenobia; he doesn’t understand what had induced the Borderlanders to leave the Blightborder, but he’s sure that Tenobia wants his head, and is unlikely to be dissuaded from it.

She should be in Saldaea guarding the Blightborder, but so should he. She could convict him of treason twice-over at least for what he had done since coming south, but he still could see no other way to have gone. Rebellion—Tenobia could define that loosely when she chose—rebellion was horrible to contemplate, yet he wanted his head firmly attached to his neck a while longer. A neat and thorny problem.

Once back at camp, Bashere notices a commotion and realizes it is centered around his tent, and rushes there to find Deira inside, being tended for a deep wound on her arm. Pale but fierce, she tells him that she surprised two strange men ransacking the tent, so “naturally” she hit one of them with a chair and stabbed the other, but they wounded her and escaped. One of the other women kicks Bashere out so they can sew Deira up, and Bashere exits to announce to the onlookers that Deira is fine. Tumad comes up to tell him the thieves had been found, but they had been assassinated.

Bashere nodded. The price of failure often was death. Two to search, and how many to silence them? How many remained, and how long before they tried again? Worst of all, who was behind it? The White Tower? The Forsaken? It seemed a decision had been reached for him.

Bashere tells Tumad quietly to find the man who came to Bashere yesterday and tell him Bashere agrees, but that there will be “a few more than we talked about.”

From a window, Samitsu Tamagowa (Yellow, one of Cadsuane’s followers) gazes at the wrecked wing of the Sun Palace and thinks about the troubles she’s having following Cadusane’s orders, given before she left a week before, to keep Cairhien calm. She feels fortunate that Dobraine is not causing trouble, despite accepting the “fool appointment” of Steward of Cairhien from “the boy,” and is only quietly raising support for Elayne Trakand’s claim to the Sun Throne.

The boy had named a “Steward” of Tear, too, a man who had been in rebellion against him a month gone! If he had done as much in Illian… It seemed all too probable. Those appointments would cause no end of trouble for sisters to sort out before all was said and done! The boy brought nothing but trouble!

Even so, Samitsu is more concerned with the effects of the rumors that al’Thor has gone to the Tower to submit to Elaida, though she finds the way it makes everyone step gingerly rather useful. From behind her, Sashalle asks if Samitsu is listening, and Samitsu turns reluctantly to the source of her biggest troubles. Sashalle is dressed in a strange mix of Aes Sedai and Wise One garb, and Samitsu finds it difficult to look at her directly.

Sashalle was a Red, yet despite her Ajah, she was oathsworn to young al’Thor. How could any Aes Sedai swear fealty to anyone or anything other than the White Tower itself? How in the Light could a Red swear to a man who could channel? Maybe Verin had been right about ta’veren twisting chance. Samitsu could not begin to think of any other reason for thirty-one sisters, five of them Red, to take such an oath.

Sashalle tells Samitsu that the Lady Ailil has been approached by House Riatin’s followers to take the High Seat, and Ailil wants Tower approval first. Samitsu says to tell Ailil no, as Toram is not confirmed dead, and they do not want to foster unrest between Toram’s faction and Ailil’s. Sashalle counters that unrest is inevitable, as the Dragon Reborn is “the herald of upheaval and change,” and besides it is unreasonable to expect that the Cairhienin will ever stop playing Daes Dae’mar.

A Red, preaching the Dragon Reborn like a street-corner demagogue! Light!

Sashalle goes on that Ailil has forsworn any claim to the Sun Throne in favor of Elayne, and is ready to swear fealty to the Dragon Reborn to boot; therefore she considers the change worth making and intends to tell Ailil so. Samitsu thinks irritably that there are others among the Dragonsworn sisters besides Sashalle who stand higher than she, but only Sashalle and Irgain and Ronaile are given enough freedom by the Wise Ones to give her trouble.

Unfortunately, for some reason she could not learn, the Wise Ones looked differently on Sashalle and the other two sisters who had been stilled at Dumai’s Wells. Stilled. She felt a faint shiver at the thought, but only faint, and it would be less if she ever managed to work out how Damer Flinn had Healed what could not be Healed. At least someone could Heal stilling, even if it was a man. A man channeling. Light, how the horror of yesterday became merely the uneasiness of today, once you grew accustomed.

Samitsu knows Cadsuane will be displeased to lose Ailil and her inside information on the Cairhien nobility, but before she can figure out how to counter Sashalle, they are interrupted by Corgaide Marendevin, the head servant of the Palace, who tells them that there is an Ogier in the kitchens with a young man, both claiming to be masons looking for work. Before Samitsu can say anything, Sashalle thanks Corgaide for the information and dismisses her politely, and Corgaide clearly curtseys to Sashalle instead of Samitsu as she obeys. Furious, Samitsu is about to light into the other sister when she suddenly realizes why Sashalle’s face bothers her so much: she no longer has the ageless face of Aes Sedai.

Even Aes Sedai could hide their eyes when they did not want to see. There were always those rumors, though, almost never mentioned and so vague you could never recall where you heard them first, whispers on the edge of hearing, yet forever floating about. One that Samitsu had only half remembered, till now, said that a woman who was stilled grew young again, if she lived. It had always seemed ludicrous, till now.

Now, though, she wonders what else had changed for Sashalle and the others. Sashalle declares they should go check out this Ogier, and leaves without waiting for Samitsu, who perforce must follow her, seething. In the kitchens, all the servants are gathered around an Ogier and a young man. The Ogier (referred to as “Master Ledar”) is asking about Rand al’Thor, while his companion (“Master Underhill”) is more concerned with the rumors about Asha’man being bonded as Warders; the servants reply to both queries with wild and exaggerated tales, until they notice Samitsu and Sashalle, whereupon they clear out hastily. The Ogier tries to make excuses for them to leave, but Sashalle stops him to ask if he is headed to the meeting they’ve heard about in Stedding Shangtai; uneasily, the Ogier says no, and tells his companion (who he calls “Karldin”), that they must get going. Samitsu and Sashalle both block their path, and Samitsu brings up a story she’d heard, of a young Ogier named Loial who was friend to Rand al’Thor, and had left Cairhien some months ago with a man named Karldin. Loial’s ears wilt; Karldin growls harshly that he leaves when he wants to, but first he wants to know what happened to his friends, and whether “he” went mad.

Abruptly it occurred to Samitsu that she could have handled this better. Those were not the eyes of a cornered fox, but a wolf. She had grown too accustomed to Damer and Jahar and Eben, safely bonded and tamed. That might be an overstatement, though Merise was making an effort with Jahar—that was Merise’s way—yet it seemed the horror of yesterday could become the complacency of today after long enough exposure. Karldin Manfor was an Asha’man, too, and neither bonded nor tame. Was he embracing the male half of the Power? She almost laughed. Did birds fly?

Glad that Sashalle has made no move to embrace saidar, Samitsu lays a hand on Karldin’s arm and tells him that “he” seemed sane when last she’d seen him, and was alive as of a few days ago. She reflects to herself that Alanna hadn’t told them much more than that before leaving again, though.

“As for the others, they became Warders of their own free will.” As much as any man did anything of his free will. Her Roshan certainly had not wanted to be a Warder, until she decided she wanted him for one. Even a woman who was not Aes Sedai could usually make a man decide the way she wanted. “They thought it a better choice, safer, than returning to… the others like you. You see, the damage here was done with saidin. You understand who must have been behind it? It was an attempt to kill the one whose sanity you fear for.”

The last does not appear to surprise Karldin, who only asks Loial what they should do. Loial answers that they must find him (meaning Rand) and let him know that they did as much as they could. Samitsu wonders what they did, but before she can ask, a serving woman runs into the kitchens, shrieking that Lord Dobraine has been murdered, and that the dead are walking the corridors. Grimly, Sashalle commands Samitsu, Loial and Karldin to come with her to Dobraine’s apartments; Karldin begins to refuse angrily, but Loial insists that they must go, as Dobraine is a friend. Samitsu reflects, as they follow Sashalle through the halls, that her day is going very badly. They reach Dobraine’s rooms to find two men dressed in servants’ livery but armed with knives dead on the floor, and real servants preparing to cover Dobraine’s bloody body. Sashalle stops them and orders Samitsu to check him; gritting her teeth, Samitsu obeys, and is surprised to discover that Dobraine is still alive, barely. However, he is so weak that Samitsu thinks the shock of a full Healing will kill him.

“Karldin, do you know the kind of Healing that Damer Flinn uses?” Samitsu asked. “The kind that uses all of the Five Powers?”

He paused for a moment, frowning at her. “Flinn? I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I don’t have much Talent for Healing, anyway.” Eyeing Dobraine, he added, “He looks dead to me, but I hope you can save him. He was at the Wells.”

Samitsu knows she has to Heal him enough to survive but not so much that the shock will kill him. She does so, hoping she’s chosen the right amount, and it works. She instructs the servants to put him to bed and send for a Reader (Cairhien’s equivalent of a Wise Woman). She is gratified by the servants’ approbation, but less so by Sashalle’s approving nod. Meanwhile Karldin has been searching the corpses of the fake servants and found a note, which he attempts to show Loial without letting anyone else see.

“But this makes no sense,” the Ogier muttered, frowning as he read. “No sense at all. Unless—” He cut off abruptly, long ears flickering, and exchanged a tense look with the pale-haired fellow, who gave a curt nod. “Oh, this is very bad,” Loial said. “If there were more than two, Karldin, if they found—” He choked off his words again at a frantic head shake from the young man.

Sashalle demands to see the note, and Loial gives it to her over Karldin’s protests. Sashalle reads it and then gives it to Samitsu:

At my command, the bearers of this are to remove certain items, which they will know, from my apartments and take them out of the Sun Palace. Make them private of my rooms, give them whatever aid they require and keep silent on this matter, in the name of the Dragon Reborn and on pain of his displeasure.

Dobraine Taborwin

Samitsu notes that the forgery is a good one. Sashalle demands of Karldin and Loial what it is they are afraid Dobraine’s assailants may have found. Karldin only glares, and Loial lies badly that he didn’t mean anything in particular. Sashalle says they are not leaving until they tell, and Karldin asks quietly how she means to stop them. They are then interrupted by an Aes Sedai named Rosara Medrano, who tells Samitsu that a party of Aes Sedai have entered the city and are on their way to the Palace.

“There are Asha’man with them, and one of the Asha’man is Logain!”

Karldin barked a rough laugh, and suddenly Samitsu wondered whether she was going to live long enough for Cadsuane to have her hide.

Commentary
Holy crap, I actually reached the end of the Prologue! And me without my choir of angels!

(Sloped off for a smoke break, dontcha know. Silly angels.)

My thought on first reading Bashere’s POV: well, thanks man, that was clear as mud.

Of course, I know now who Bashere’s visitor was (Logain) and what the thieves were after (the unbroken seals), but at the time I was very annoyed at all the vagueness, especially since (as it turns out) we don’t get any of it explained to us for another twenty-odd chapters.

When I did figure out that the thieves were after the seals (in both Bashere’s and Samitsu’s POV) I also remember being all, man, I forgot all about those things! Which isn’t surprising, considering they haven’t been in play or even mentioned in the narrative since LOC. A trifle odd, really, in light of how central (well, central-ish) the seals were to the plots of the first few books.

Actually, the whole thing here is odd, if you ask me. Perhaps this has come clear somewhere and I just don’t remember it (and you guys might as well get used to that phrase, because I’m going to be saying it a lot from now on), but I remain confused as to why the Shadow picked this particular juncture to suddenly decide they wanted the (intact) seals now, after being content to leave them in Lightside hands for months on end. (In the case of the seal Moiraine found in the Stone in TDR, almost a full year!) Also, why Moridin (or whoever) would assume Rand (or Bashere) would be dumb enough to keep one or more of the seals in a tent (a tent!) in the middle of open countryside with only a bunch of non-channelers to guard it is utterly beyond me. I mean, yes, I understand that sneering at your enemy’s foolishness is contractually required under the Villain Accords, but that’s just insulting.

While we’re at it, I also never understood why Taim gave Rand an intact seal in the first place (in LOC) if the Shadow was only going to want it back later. Even more, I don’t get why Taim seemed so freaked when it looked like Rand was going to smash it, when presumably breaking the seals and setting the Dark One free should be Itemo Numero Uno on any decent Darkfriend’s to-do list. I mean, what am I missing here?

I suppose one reason for the timing of the attempted burglary could be that Moridin had been hoping Rand would break them all himself, and eventually decided Rand wasn’t going to and so changed plans, but… enh. That’s so wishy-washy and unnecessarily convoluted that it just pisses me off, and I don’t even know how many ways it is in violation of the Evil Overlord List. Plus it doesn’t explain Taim’s reaction.

I dunno, I am definitely missing something here. The entire thing is just hinky. Hinky, I say!

Also, I am not a Deira fan but I have to admit her line about her reaction to the thieves (“They drew daggers, so naturally, I hit one of them with a chair and stabbed the other”) made me chuckle approvingly. Heh.

Anyway, other than that Bashere’s POV is mostly for the purpose of setting up the long, long slog we have ahead of us with regard to the Andoran Succession. It’s ironic, I think, that we’re told that Andorans in general are so much less inclined toward the Game of Houses than most other nations (excepting the Borderlanders, natch, who judging by all evidence (*cough*bitchslapping*cough*) are just too batshit crazy for subtlety), when the Andorans are responsible for the most convoluted and drawn-out political plot of any in the series. The sole exception being, wouldn’t you know it, the Tower schism.

Which, well, there you go. Let’s just say, I do not feel you are living up to your rep for straightforwardness, Andorans, when your machinations nearly rival those of Aes Sedai for length, even if the twistiness is not quite a one-to-one ratio. I mean, I think this may be a, how do you say, blow to your credibility on that front, n’est-ce pas?

Sheesh.

Samitsu: I’ve seen commenters complain about the number of Aes Sedai whose names start with “S” just in this Prologue alone, and I rather agree, but I also have to point out that it’s statistically accurate—for some reason there are always a ton of “S” names. That and “M” names. I have no idea why.

No, I have no data to back that up, other than way (way, way) too many jobs where I’ve had to alphabetically file things. I could be completely wrong. But I feel it, maaaan.

(And speaking of names, nice Tolkien shoutout there with Karldin’s pseudonym, eh? Of course, now I’m stuck imagining that Karldin looks like Elijah Wood, which is a pretty but rather disconcerting image.)

And in relevant news, I spent Samitsu’s entire POV wavering between wanting to smack her, and wanting to feel sorry for her. On the one hand, it is so not fun to have your authority undermined out from beneath you, so sympathies there, but on the other hand, the sheer gall of Cadsuane leaving Samitsu “in charge” of Cairhien in the first place when Dobraine is, hello, right there, and about as lawfully appointed as anyone is likely to get these days, well, grrr. Because at the end of the day, I’m going to care a lot more about someone undermining Rand’s authority than I am Samitsu’s, because duh.

This put me in the bizarre position of realizing that I was ultimately rooting for Sashalle in this scene. Who is Red, and one of the kidnappers, yet is also now apparently on Rand’s side—or as close to “on Rand’s side” as any Aes Sedai besides the Supergirls ever are—and, ergo, one of the more confounding characters in WOT I’ve come across recently. I am right there with Samitsu in not getting her deal at all. Why did she swear to Rand? I suppose the ta’veren thing could account for it, but it seems like she should at least also have some actual reason for it as well, especially since Rand wasn’t even there to give her and the other Reds the full-on ta’veren whammy at the time.

And why is she so comfy with the Wise Ones, enough to dress like them? I mean, I know why they are cool with her—they consider her stilling to have been sufficient to meet her toh for kidnapping Rand, which is a testament to how much everyone agrees stilling sucks—but I don’t get why she apparently returns the Wise Ones’ warm fuzzies (er, relatively speaking, anyway) at all. ‘Tis a puzzlement!

I’ve always kind of vaguely wished for a POV from her or one of the other Reds who swore to Rand, to settle me on this front. Not to mention I think it would have been cool to get a closer-than-thirdhand perspective on the scene where Flinn Healed her and the other two sisters, because that must have been quite a thing and I’ve always been a trifle miffed we didn’t get to “see” it. It probably won’t happen, the POV from Sashalle I mean, there being only so much we can get to in the one book we have left, and that’s fine, really, but it is definitely one of many dim itches I know the ending of this series is not going to let me scratch. Oh well.

Loial: Squee! Hi, Loial! We missed you! Give us hugs! *squidges*

I love that his reason for going to see Dobraine is just because Dobraine is “a friend.” Aw. So sweet. Never change, dude.

Also, I’m not sure why but I felt like I should congratulate Karldin for his lack of blowing-things-up-ishness in this scene. And vague props to Samitsu for realizing how explosive (literally) the situation with him was and taking steps to defuse it with, look at that, some honesty and straightforwardness. CRAZY how that works, innit?

Of course, then we go right back to smackings, with her musings on Warders and “taming” them, because ugh. I trust I need not explain how closely (at least to my way of thinking) that is veering toward Skeevy, right there? Hello, “taming” is not something you do with people, it’s something you do with caged animals, Samitsu. Quit being gross. Plus, we’ve all seen how delightful the view is going too far down that road. Seanchan much?

Anyway. Again, I still don’t understand why the thieves would think Dobraine and/or Rand would just leave the seals lying around in a chest in the Palace, or anywhere a couple of cutthroats could ever get to without at least being able to channel. And obviously they couldn’t, so really, what the hell? I am so not understanding this lame burglary scheme, you guys!

I’m glad Dobraine lived, though. I like him. It’s so nice (and rare) when people stay loyal.

Also, first mention here of the dead walking, which is to become a major “new” feature from here on of how much this apocalypse sucks. Yay? We’ll come back to this later.

(Of course, this begs the question of whether you can have a non-sucky apocalypse. I think that’s probably fairly impossible by definition, wouldn’t you? Lessee… Biblical, zombie, nuclear, millennial, robot, asteroid and/or comet, epidemical, Godzilla, Mayan, global warming, alien invasion… yeah, they pretty much all unequivocally blow goats. So, guess not!)


Aaand I think that is a sign (or a Sign, even) that I have officially run out of useful things to say, so we’ll stop here. Join me next time for an actual Chapter or two! CRAZY. Voices from the sky say have a Happy Thanksgiving if that should geographically apply, and I’ll see y’all later!

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