The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Crossroads of Twilight, Part 14

Top o’ the morning to ye, WOTers! Sure, and this is a Wheel of Time Re-read here, dontcha know!

Today’s entry covers Chapter 20 of Crossroads of Twilight, in which dreams may come, finally. We’re keeping to one chapter today because of Unexpected Events, and also because the next few sets of chapters pair up much more nicely this way.

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 that’s today’s load of blarney, so relax the cax, gargle an Arthurs, and click on for the post!

Chapter 20: In The Night

What Happens
Since this discussion has nothing to do with the war, Egwene knows the Hall will let her take no part in it. Egwene could leave, but she decides to stay anyway as the Sitters wrangle for hours over every last detail of how to approach the Black Tower. Varilin, Takima, Magla, Faiselle and Saroiya continue to try and derail progress as much as they can without blatantly being hindrances, but the other Sitters can’t agree on anything anyway, with each Ajah being determined that one of theirs should lead the embassy (with side arguments over whether it should even be considered an “embassy” in the first place). It’s well after dark before everyone finally gives up, with very little having been decided, and Egwene sends a very grateful Sheriam to bed before heading to her own tent. She is smiling despite her weariness, though.

Somewhere in all that argument, her headache had gone away entirely. She would have no difficulty at all going to sleep this night. Halima always remedied that, yet her dreams were always troubled after one of Halima’s massages. Well, few of her dreams were light, but these were darker than any others, and, strangely, she could never remember anything except that they were dark and troubled. Doubtless both things came from some remnant of the pains that Halima’s fingers would not reach, yet the last was disturbing in itself. She had learned to remember every dream. She had to remember every dream.

Inside her tent she expects to find Halima, but only finds Chesa, who scolds Egwene for not eating all day and fusses over her like she’s been Egwene’s servant forever. Egwene thanks Chesa for her tea, claiming it got rid of her headache. Chesa speaks of Halima with scorn, and Egwene asks if she really thinks Halima is more than just a flirt.

For a moment Chesa was silent, pursing her lips. “She makes me… uneasy, Mother,” she said finally. “There’s something just not right about that Halima. I feel it every time she’s around. It’s like feeling somebody sneaking up behind me, or realizing there’s a man watching me bathe, or… ” She laughed, but it was an uncomfortable sound. “I don’t know how to describe it. Just, not right.”

Egwene sighs and sends Chesa away, and quickly falls asleep, putting herself in the space where she can see other people’s dreams. She runs away from Gawyn’s, and is briefly tempted to find Nynaeve’s and yank the “fool woman” into Tel’aran’rhiod to give her what for, but instead finds Elayne’s dream and gives her a message to meet her in “the usual place.” Then she steps fully into the Dreamworld and waits for Elayne to meet her at the reflection of the old Amyrlin’s study in Salidar. To her surprise, though, Aviendha meets her there instead, and explains Elayne couldn’t make the weaves work to use the dream ter’angreal.

“It is the babes.” Suddenly, she grinned. Her emerald eyes seemed almost to shine. “She has a wonderful temper, sometimes. She threw the ring down and jumped up and down on it.”

Egwene sniffed. Babes? So there was to be more than one. Oddly, Aviendha took it in stride that Elayne was with child, though Egwene was convinced the woman loved Rand, too. Aiel ways were peculiar, to say the least. Egwene would not have thought it of Elayne, though! And Rand! No one had actually said he was the father, and she could hardly ask something like that, but she could count, and she very much doubted that Elayne would lie with another man.

Egwene tells herself to stop being disapproving, and asks if they have heard from Rand or Nynaeve. Aviendha answers that they have not, but Egwene wonders if she is holding something back. She tells Aviendha about the recent developments in the Rebel Hall, and Aviendha marvels that they would go so far just because they assume this “beacon” to be a new Forsaken weapon. Alerted, Egwene asks what else it could be, but Aviendha is evasive in answer, and Egwene realizes she is behaving more and more like a Wise One; while she is proud of Aviendha’s maturing, she is also sad to acknowledge that their goals are no longer necessarily the same. Aviendha is relieved when Egwene lets it go, but becomes agitated when Egwene points out that the other consequence of the Hall’s decision is that they will soon decide the Black Tower is no longer a reason to stay clear of Caemlyn, so she and Elayne had better prepare for visits. Egwene worries that they have matters in hand, but decides not to pry and let Aviendha and Elayne handle their own affairs. She and Aviendha say good night, and Egwene returns to real sleep, but keeps herself aware enough to catalogue her dreams. Most are either of Gawyn or anxiety dreams, of no significance, but a few are not.

Mat stood on a village green, playing at bowls. […] Rubbing the ball between his hands, he took a short run and casually rolled it across the smooth grass. All nine pins fell, scattered as if they had been kicked. Mat turned and picked up another ball, and the pins were back upright. No, there was a fresh set of pins. The old still lay where they had fallen. He hurled the ball again, a lazy underhanded bowl. And Egwene wanted to scream. The pins were not turned pieces of wood. They were men, standing there watching the ball roll toward them. None moved until the ball sent them flying. Mat turned to pick up another ball, and there were more new pins, new men, standing in orderly formation among the men lying sprawled on the ground as if dead. No, they were dead. Unconcerned, Mat bowled.

Egwene knows each of the pins had represented thousands of men, and that an Illuminator was involved somehow; she also knows that it is still only a possible future, but she’s Dreamed about the same thing at least twice. She has another Dream where she almost falls off a cliff, but is rescued by a Seanchan woman whose face is indistinct but whose sword is the most solid thing about her.

Egwene pushed the dream away as she would have a viper. She felt her body thrash, heard herself groan in her sleep, but for a moment she could do nothing. She had dreamed of the Seanchan before, of a Seanchan woman somehow tied to her, but this was a Seanchan who would save her. No! They had put a leash on her, made her damane. She would as soon die as be saved by a Seanchan!

She has a third Dream, in which she climbs to the top of a spire to find a clear glass lamp burning with a white flame on top of a plinth.

Suddenly a pair of birds flashed out of the mist, two ravens black as night. Streaking across the spire-top, they struck the lamp and flew on without so much as a pause. The lamp spun and wobbled, dancing around atop the plinth, flinging off droplets of oil. Some of those drops caught fire in midair and vanished. Others fell around the short column, each supporting a tiny, flickering white flame. And the lamp continued to wobble on the edge of falling.

Egwene woke in darkness with a jolt. She knew. For the first time, she knew exactly what a dream meant. But why would she dream of a Seanchan woman saving her, and then of the Seanchan attacking the White Tower? An attack that would shake the Aes Sedai to their core and threaten the Tower itself.

Egwene hears Halima enter the tent, and pretends to be asleep while the other woman gets in her cot, disappointed that Halima seemed to have been playing the flipskirt after all. The next morning, an agitated Nisao enters the tent and kicks Chesa and Halima out before weaving a ward against eavesdropping and telling Egwene that Anaiya and her Warder Setagana are dead.

Egwene sat down slowly on her chair, which did not feel particularly comfortable at the moment. Anaiya, dead. She had had no beauty except her smile, but when she smiled, it warmed everything around her. A plain-faced woman who loved lace on her robes.

Egwene asks how, and Nisao says everyone thinks they ate bad mushrooms from the way they died, but on a hunch Nisao tested for resonance, and is sure they were both killed with saidin, probably by being smothered in flows of Air. Egwene knows they will have to warn the camp about a man who could channel in their midst, but charges Nisao to find out in secret what Anaiya and her Warder had been doing that could have led to their murder. Nisao asks if she thinks this will affect the Hall’s decision to approach the Black Tower; Egwene doubts it, but is wearily sure this is going to be another very long day.

Commentary
So here’s where we get our first confirmation that Halima is actually doing anything other than just giving Egwene migraines and breaking the arms of random guys. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that I think Halima was strangely wasted, both as a mole in the Rebel camp and as a character in general, and I continue to not understand why she only ever did so little with so much.

That said, however, a commenter on the newsgroup (David Ulaeto) once made a remark about the situation back in the day which gave me quite the “huh” reaction, enough that it got into the FAQ: “This implies […] that the Darkside actually recognizes that Dreaming is one of the major tools of the Lightside/Pattern/Creator for guiding events/characters.”

Which made me blink, because for some reason I had just never really thought of it that way–that Egwene’s Dreams are not just these things that happen to happen to her, but might be actual messages from…someone. Or something. That they could be, in fact, deliberate attempts to help the Light, however obliquely. It’s a subtle distinction, maybe, but I was startled to think of the Dreams’ source as sending them with intent, if that makes any sense. Because as you know, Bob, intent implies sentience.

Mind you, I don’t know if any of that is right. But whether it is or it isn’t, it’s always interesting to run across an unexpected perspective on a thing you thought you had nailed down, viewpoint-wise. And additionally, it suggests a slightly less condemnatory perspective on Halima as well, by implying that blocking Egwene’s Dreams was of such importance to the Shadow that it precluded all of the other things Halima might have otherwise been doing.

…Although I can’t help pointing out that simply killing Egwene would have stopped the Dreams, too—and done it much more efficiently, too, as this chapter proves. But, whatever, I guess. Maybe they were worried she was going to pull a Doyle and pass them on to someone else if she croaked? *shrug*

Speaking of which, I’m not sure whether to make anything of the fact that all three of these Dreams are much more elaborate than any Egwene’s had before, at least in terms of length. Most of her earlier Dreams took only a sentence or two to describe at most, whereas all three of these took several paragraphs each. I suppose it’s a matter of opinion to decide whether that’s an indication that Egwene’s Dreams are getting more accurate and/or detailed, or just Jordan getting increasingly verbose.

I think the thing that disturbs me the most about her Dream of Mat is not the death toll part, but the fact that she describes Mat as “unconcerned” about it. Any idiot with even the vaguest grasp of history would know without being told that the invention of gunpowder weapons automatically equates to an astronomical rise in the casualty rate; it’s terrible, and all, but not particularly shocking, is what I’m saying. But Mat not caring about it, well, that is shocking. To me, anyway. It doesn’t sound anything like him, so I really don’t know what to make of it.

The third Dream, of course, came to pass in TGS—awesomely. In light of that, I have to assume that the second Dream, about a Seanchan saving Egwene, is something that’s going to happen in AMoL, which should be…interesting for everyone involved. I remember there was a lot of argument among the fans over whether the Seanchan woman was Tuon or Egeanin, or (later) Tylee, the Seanchan general who allies with Perrin in KOD. Any of those are possible, I guess, but personally my interest was piqued by the fact that the description suggests that the most important thing about the Seanchan woman was not her identity (her face), but her weapon—her sword.

For my money, then, the Seanchan woman represents not an individual, but something more abstract. Specifically, the Seanchan army itself—which is, after all, led by a woman. Based on this, I Foretell that the Seanchan armed forces’ entry into the fray is going to be a deciding factor on whether the Aes Sedai get their asses kicked or not in Tarmon Gai’don. You heard it here first, kids. Let’s see if I’m right!

Chesa: Not a Darkfriend. Sorry!

Aviendha: I don’t really have anything to say about her meeting with Egwene, because nothing much really happened. The image of Elayne jumping up and down on a ter’angreal in a fit of fury was kind of completely hilarious, though. Heh.

Anaiya: THAT SUCKS, YOU GUYS.

Man. She’s the nicest Aes Sedai we’ve ever met, so of course she has to bite it. Dang it, I really liked her, too. Grumblemumbleblah. Also, death by asphyxiation? Really not a fun way to die. Not that there are many fun ways to die, I suppose, but some are definitely less fun than others.

Her murder, though, lends credence to the theory that Dream-blocking is Halima’s top priority, since it’s specifically mentioned somewhere that Anaiya was one of the only Aes Sedai who really believed that Egwene’s prophetic dreams were real. We’ll get to see later what the loss of her support means when Egwene tries to tell everyone of her Dream about the Seanchan attack.


And now it’s time for me to take a legger, so away with ye! Have a grand weekend, and I’ll see you lot again on Tuesday!

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