The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Crossroads of Twilight, Part 16

Greetings, Wheel of Timers! Shall we have a Re-read?

Today’s entry covers Chapters 23 and 24 of Crossroads of Twilight, in which we contemplate Significant Jewelry, unexpected implied personal revelations, and whether we wouldn’t prefer a nice game of chess.

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 now, the post!

Chapter 23: Ornaments

What Happens
Cadsuane looks out the window of Lord Algarin’s manor house and wonders if it had been too easy to convince the boy to come to Tear. Verin enters to report that she had delivered the Sea Folk to the capital without going near the Stone, though she’d managed to hear that Astoril has thrown in with Darlin, and that Harine had dashed straight to the harbor, convinced she would be named Mistress of the Ships immediately. Min bursts in at this, protesting that she had told Harine that she would be punished first. Cadsuane chastises her for rudeness; Min flushes, but only says that Rand has asked for Cadsuane. Cadsuane dismisses her firmly, and Verin laughs.

“She’s in love with the young man, Cadsuane, and she’s tucked her heart in his pocket. She’ll follow that before her head, whatever you say or do. I think she’s afraid he almost died on her, and you know how that can make a woman determined to hang on.”

Cadsuane’s lips thinned. Verin knew more about that sort of relations with men than she did—she had never believed in indulging with her own Warders, as some Greens did, and other men had always been out of the question—but the Brown had hit close to a truth without knowing. At least, Cadsuane did not think the other sister knew Min was bonded to the al’Thor boy. She herself only knew because the girl had let too much slip in a careless moment.

Verin begins nattering about Tear, clearly wanting to know why she had been instructed to avoid the sisters there, but Cadsuane uses Rand’s summoning as an excuse and leaves. Verin follows her, but gets diverted by Nesune, who traps her in a conversation about snakes.

It was a remarkable sight, and troubling in a way. Nesune was loyal to Elaida, or had been, while Verin was one of those who wanted to pull Elaida down. Or had been. Now they talked amiably about snakes. That both had sworn fealty to the al’Thor boy could be laid to his being ta’veren, winding the Pattern around himself unconsciously, but was that oath sufficient to make them ignore their opposition over who held the Amyrlin Seat? Or were they affected by having a ta’veren in close proximity? She would have liked very much to know that. None of her ornaments protected against ta’veren. Of course, she did not know what two of the fish and one of the moons did, but it seemed unlikely they did that.

Cadsuane comes upon Beldeine and Merise on a colonnade overlooking the courtyard, watching the Warders below, where Jahar is sparring with (and repeatedly losing against) Lan. Beldeine gives Cadsuane a frosty stare and leaves; Merise smiles and comments that Beldeine is getting worried about her lack of a Warder, and is considering finding an Asha’man to be one. Cadsuane notes that her eight-pointed star ornament is vibrating, as it always does in the presence of a man who can channel. Cadsuane asks after Daigian, and Merise answers that she is doing better than expected. She remarks that the Asha’man mourn their own the same way Warders do.

“I did not intrude, of course, but I watched them drink in memory of Daigian’s young Eben. They never mentioned his name, but they had a full winecup sitting for him. Bassane and Nethan, they know they can die on any day, and they accept that. Jahar expects to die; every day he expects it. To him, every hour is most assuredly his last.”

Cadsuane asks if Merise thinks al’Thor really succeeded in cleansing the taint; Merise thinks it feels cleaner than it did, but saidin is so chaotic and alien to her that she can’t be sure. Cadsuane notes Nynaeve down in the yard as well, and thinks her a frivolous girl, though she admits Nynaeve has a brain when she chooses to use it. She’s more concerned about the set of jewelry Nynaeve wears, which includes an angreal stronger than Cadsuane’s shrike ornament.

The others were much like her own decorations, too, ter’angreal and plainly made at the same time, during the Breaking of the World, when an Aes Sedai might find many hands turned against her, most especially those of men who could channel. Strange to think that they had been called Aes Sedai, too. It would be like meeting a man called Cadsuane.

The question—her morning seemed filled with questions, and the sun not halfway to noon yet—the question was, did the girl wear her jewelry because of the al’Thor boy, or the Asha’man? Or because of Cadsuane Melaidhrin?

Merise suddenly comments that Jahar has gotten stronger in the Power, and she is not sure how strong he will become; Cadsuane knows that she is worried he will become stronger than she, and replies that Jahar seems content, but Merise tells her that he is very upset that Merise took away the Dragon pin al’Thor gave him, and asks if Cadsuane thinks she should give it back. Cadsuane is astounded that Merise is actually asking for advice on how to handle a Warder, and disturbed at this evidence that bonding men who can channel is changing the power balance between Aes Sedai and Warders. She goes on to al’Thor’s rooms, where Elza jealously tries to bar her from entering, until Alivia points out that Rand sent for Cadsuane. Elza reluctantly goes in to announce Cadsuane, and Alivia apologizes for Elza, remarking that Elza isn’t sure how to serve anyone.

“Aes Sedai keep their word,” Cadsuane replied dryly. The woman made her feel as if her own way of talking were as quick and crisp as a Cairhienin’s! “We must.”

“I think you do. Just so you know, I keep my word, too. I owe him anything he wants of me.”

Cadsuane is fascinated by this comment, but then Elza comes back out with Lord Algarin, and Cadsuane perforce enters. Inside, Rand offers her wine politely, and she notes that his eyes are even colder than before Shadar Logoth; he staggers once, and she knows it is from weariness, rather than from seizing saidin. He mentions that Algarin had a brother who could channel, and Cadsuane acknowledges that she had been the one to bring him to Tar Valon to be gentled, though she doesn’t mention that Algarin had been grateful that his brother survived ten years afterward, after Cadsuane had helped reconcile him to it. Rand comments that Algarin has asked to be tested, but Cadsuane refuses to rise to the bait, which Rand acknowledges ruefully. They discuss the Seanchan, and their well-deserved reputation for never losing a war. Cadsuane asks if he’s considering the possibility that he can’t defeat them; Rand answers irritably that he can eventually, but before he can elaborate they are interrupted by Erian and Sarene physically pushing a protesting Elza into the room, to report that their Warders they had left behind in Cairhien are suddenly much closer, obviously via gateway. Elza reluctantly admits then that her Warder is coming too, and Cadsuane wonders if she would have mentioned it if the others hadn’t.

“I didn’t expect it so soon,” the boy said softly. Softly, but there was steel in his voice. “But I shouldn’t have expected events to wait on me, should I, Cadsuane?”

“Events never wait on anyone,” she said, standing. […] What had brought those Warders from Cairhien, and who had Traveled with them, might be problems enough to go on with, but she thought she had gotten another answer from the boy, and she was going to have to consider very carefully how to advise him on it. Sometimes, the answers were thornier than the questions.

Commentary
So this is yet another chapter where really nothing much happens, but even so I rather liked it. Cadsuane frequently pisses me off where Rand is concerned, but I’ve generally rather enjoyed her observations about other characters. Which is basically all this chapter is: Cadsuane assessing the state of everyone in the party post-Cleansing. It wasn’t particularly plot-movement-oriented, but it was interesting. It’s also a more subtle example of one of Jordan’s “themelet” chapters, using the revelations about what more of Cadsuane’s hair ornaments do as segues and/or excuses to muse about the larger situation.

Though I have to say, the thing that most sharply caught my attention about this chapter, contained in the first bit I quoted, is utterly trivial, and yet, whoa. When I realized the (probable) implications, I won’t lie, my eyebrows shot up.

‘Cause… um. So… if Cadsuane refused to have sex with her Warders, and other men were “out of the question,” then… Wow. Really? In almost four hundred years, never? Never ever? That’s… wow.

Of course, this doesn’t mean she’s never had sex ever, just that she’s (apparently) never had sex with a man. Given the way Jordan’s set up the Aes Sedai social system, well, let’s just say I highly doubt Cadsuane is actually a virgin. Which is fine, empirically, but… sigh. Especially because it automatically and prejudicially invites a lot of uncomplimentary speculation on her attitude toward men in general, which I resist strenuously because of how easily it slides into judging someone for their sexual choices, which is just shitty and stupid.

Celibacy is (obviously) not for everyone (and a good thing too, owing to that whole “propagating the species” thing), but it is just as legitimate a choice as any other, and I’ve personally never been a fan of the school of thought which seems to insist that sexual experience is directly proportional to life wisdom or whatever, which is (in an odd way) kind of like insisting that someone who doesn’t cook is not allowed to have an opinion about food. Which is just silly. I mean, some people may believe that, but some people are, frankly, snobs.

Anyway.

“Strange to think that [men] had been called Aes Sedai, too”: I have nothing to say here, I’m just chortling wickedly at my copy of ToM. Heh.

Oh, and Cadsuane? Don’t kid yourself. Nynaeve is totally wearing her *greal jewelry set because of you.

Merise: I honestly DO NOT GET the Jahar/Merise thing, at all. I just don’t understand how anyone could be so devoted to someone who snaps and points them around like a servant, and takes away their most prized possessions just because they didn’t come from her! Seriously, WHAT THE HELL, Merise. Give Jahar back his damn Dragon pin, Jesus. Just—agh.

And you know, while I’m happy that Merise and the others seem to be moving toward a sort-of more egalitarian balance of power with their Asha’Warders, the fact that the impetus to do so (for Merise, anyway) is due to consideration of Jahar’s strength in the Power makes me want to beat my head against a wall. That goddamn strength-based hierarchy, I swear. Also, really not a good idea for the Aes Sedai in general, considering that men are generally stronger in the Power than women are. Maybe we should base it on something else, guys! Like, oh, I don’t know, mutual respect and human dignity?

No? Yeah, ha ha, right? Me so crazy, I know. What’s that sound? Oh, nothing, just my teeth grinding. Don’t mind me!

Alivia: I still think she’s a rather shoehorned-in character, but nevertheless I’m as intrigued by her comment here as Cadsuane was. I mean, the reason for her devotion to Rand is obvious (he freed her), and yet it seems oddly insufficient, or something. Even though it isn’t. I don’t know, she’s just weird. Have we ever been in her head? I don’t think so. I’d like to see that, really.

Elza: GRR LEIGH SMASH. That is all.

 

Chapter 24: A Strengthening Storm

What Happens
Rand lies on his bed with Min and tries to figure out how to keep her and Elayne and Aviendha safe. Lews Therin tells him just to hope he isn’t the one who kills them, and Rand wonders again if he could dare to tell Cadsuane about him.

Trust no one, Lews Therin murmured, then gave a wry laugh. Including me.

Min punches him for being melancholy, and gets up before he can start something, asking him what he’s going to do about “them,” or Cadsuane, but Rand doesn’t know. He thinks he had never anticipated Bashere showing up with some half-dozen Asha’man—including Logain, who Rand is amazed is a full Asha’man. Even more surprising is the eight Aes Sedai with them, seemingly voluntarily, which Logain had been reluctant to explain about in front of Bashere. He doesn’t know what Cadsuane will do about any of it; Lews Therin suggests that Alivia would be willing to get rid of her, but Rand reminds him that he can’t afford for Cadsuane to die before she teaches him whatever she’s going to teach him.

“You have to do something,” Min muttered, folding her arms beneath her breasts. “Logain’s aura still speaks of glory, stronger than ever. Maybe he still thinks he’s the real Dragon Reborn. And there’s something… dark… in the images I saw around Lord Davram. If he turns against you, or dies… I heard one of the soldiers say Lord Dobraine might die. Losing even one of them would be a blow. Lose all three, and it might take you a year to recover.”

Rand thinks of Mat for a moment and sees color swirls and a momentary image of a man on a wagon seat, different from the other face he sees sometimes. Elza enters and tells them the Ogier has arrived, and Min gleefully rushes into the outer room to greet Loial, followed by a peevish Elza. Only when alone does Rand seize saidin, fighting the nausea and dizziness that follows; Lews Therin murmurs that it is clean again, which it is, and Rand doesn’t understand why he’s still getting sick from it. He fights off Lews Therin’s attempt to take saidin from him and goes into the outer room, where he spins a web against eavesdropping and knots it so he can release saidin again.

Suddenly it struck him that he had thought of what he had done as spinning a web. That was how Lews Therin would put it. That sort of thing happened too often, the other man’s turns of phrase drifting into his head, the other man’s memories mingling with his. He was Rand al’Thor, not Lews Therin Telamon. He had woven a ward and tied off the weave, not spun a web and knotted it. But the one came to him as easily as the other.

After some small talk, Rand asks Loial what the Elders said, and after some rambling Loial tells him that he and Karldin visited every stedding except Shangtai, and while some did not believe his message, most agreed to guard the Waygates near them; Rand calculates that that leaves nine Waygates unguarded. Loial also tells him that the Ogier have called The Great Stump in Shangtai, for the first time in a thousand years, but no one would tell him what it was called for. Rand notices how tired Loial looks, and suggests that he go back to Shangtai and rest, but Loial is terrified of running into his mother and Erith. Min asks why, since she knows Loial wants to marry Erith.

“Erith will expect me to settle down and stay home. Wives never let a husband go anywhere or do anything, if it means leaving the stedding for more than a few days. I have my book to finish, and how can I do that if I don’t see everything Rand does? I’m sure he’s done all sorts of things since I left Cairhien, and I know I’ll never get it all down right. Erith just wouldn’t understand.”

Rand is disgusted with himself for thinking he could still use Loial outside the stedding, and excuses himself to go talk with Bashere and Logain, but Loial stops him and says there’s something he needs to know about the Aes Sedai who came with them.

I told you to kill them all when you had the chance, Lews Therin laughed. I told you.

Barely holding to calm, Cadsuane asks Samitsu if she’s sure Toveine and the others have been bonded. Samitsu answers that no one’s said so outright, but it’s clear both Toveine and Gabrelle are with Logain, and she thinks Gabrelle is bedding him to boot; if there’s bonding involved, Samitsu is sure that it’s the men who’ve done it, not the sisters.

“Turnabout,” Cadsuane muttered into her tea. Some said that turnabout was fair play, but she had never believed in fighting fair. Either you fought, or you did not, and it was never a game. Fairness was for people standing safely to one side, talking while others bled.

Cadsuane tells Samitsu that she is to go back to Cairhien, but Samitsu tells her bitterly that Sashalle has taken over completely there, and no one listens to her anymore, but Cadsuane tells her she wants her to watch Sashalle along with the other Dragonsworn sisters. Samitsu asks what al’Thor intends to do, and Cadsuane replies that he intends to do something very dangerous; to herself, she thinks she doesn’t know whether to stop him.

Enraged, Rand shouts at Logain that the bonding has to stop; he will not risk a war with the White Tower. Calmly, Logain asks if he means that they must release the Aes Sedai, and whether the Aes Sedai who have bonded Asha’man will do the same. Sourly, Rand answers no, thinking of how shocked Merise had been at the mere suggestion of releasing Narishma, and how he was sure Flinn would refuse to be unbonded from Corele in any case, as they seem to have a thing for each other. He points out, though, that this will make Elaida more determined than ever to exterminate the Asha’man, and Egwene might demand that the disparity be evened up at the very least, even if she doesn’t feel the same as Elaida. Logain is not pleased to be dressed down like this in front of Loial and Bashere, but counters that Taim ordered it, and Logain assumed the order came from Rand. He tells Rand that Flinn and Narishma and Manfor are all on the deserters’ list, and every full Asha’man at the Black Tower except Logain himself is part of Taim’s privately trained “coterie.” He urges Rand to turn his attention to the Black Tower before Taim splits it worse than the White Tower is, for more Asha’man will be loyal to Taim than to Rand if that happens. Rand irritably thinks that Logain wouldn’t even believe that Rand was responsible for cleansing the taint from saidin.

Did he think the Creator had decided to stretch out a merciful hand after three thousand years of suffering? The Creator had made the world and then left humankind to make of it what they would, a heaven or the Pit of Doom by their choosing. The Creator had made many worlds, watched each flower or die, and gone on to make endless worlds beyond. A gardener did not weep for each blossom that fell.

For an instant, he thought those must have been Lews Therin’s reflections. He had never gone on that way about the Creator or anything else that he recalled. But he could feel Lews Therin nodding in approval, a man listening to someone else. Still, it was not the kind of thing he would have considered before Lews Therin. How much space remained between them?

He tells Logain that Taim will have to wait, and asks Bashere why he’s here. Bashere tells him about the men who ransacked his tent, and the similar attack on Dobraine in Cairhien, and that both incidents were obviously attempts to steal the three unbroken seals known to be in Rand’s forces’ possession. Loial points out the obvious of what will happen if all the seals on the Dark One’s prison are broken; Rand wonders where the seventh seal is and whether or not it is broken too, and whether this signals the opening move of the Last Battle.

“You told me something once, Bashere. If your enemy offers you two targets…”

“Strike at a third,” Bashere finished promptly, and Rand nodded. He had already decided, anyway. Thunder rattled the windows till the casements shook. The storm was strengthening.

“I can’t fight the Shadow and the Seanchan at the same time. I am sending the three of you to arrange a truce with the Seanchan.”

Bashere and Logain seemed stunned into silence. Until they began to argue, one on top of the other. Loial just looked ready to faint.

Elza listens to her Warder Fearil’s report, and finally reassures him that he did right to come along with the other Warders to Tear to avoid suspicion. Fearil is deeply relieved that she is not going to punish him. She regrets that Fera (White), who she had discovered in Cairhien was also Black Ajah, had not been able to come along. She tells Fearil that she thinks a few people will have to die soon, but in the meantime he will kill anyone who threatens the Dragon Reborn.

After all, it had become perfectly clear to her, while she herself was a captive of the savages. The Dragon Reborn had to reach Tarmon Gai’don, or how could the Great Lord defeat him there?

Commentary
Stunna! No one expects the Spanish Inquisition a truce with the Seanchan!

Especially not me. Because I kind of hate them, for one, but also because taking the non-belligerent route is practically out of character for Rand at this point. I don’t mean that as a compliment, either. Even though I kind of hate the Seanchan. Never let it be said I am not a complicated person. Or a fickle person, whatever, shut up.

On fighting fair: I gotta say, I’m with Cadsuane on this one. “Fighting fair” is a concept that only makes sense to people who’ve never been in a real fight. Which ties in, really, with Rand’s decision to seek a truce instead, despite what I just said above about not liking it much. If you can’t commit to a fight, because you know it would be disastrous to do so, the only winning move is not to play. Of course, we have yet to see how well that will (or won’t) go, ultimately; Rand almost jumping off the cliff of Crazy in TGS botched things but good, and Tuon’s thoughts in ToM on the subject do not bode well, to say the least.

So, new theories on both Min’s viewings in this chapter. Logain’s glory is totally going to be connected in him bringing down Taim and his Dreadlord assembly line, for one. As for Bashere, I used to think her viewing of him here meant that he was going to die, along with Tenobia, thus making Faile ‘n Perrin the new rulers of Saldaea, but given what happens between them and Elayne in ToM, I really didn’t get the vibe that Perrin was going to allow himself to be separated from the Two Rivers under any circumstances. Maybe the “broken crown” viewing Min had of him waaaay back in TEOTW only meant he was going to hook up with a member of the Saldaean royal family—which he has—rather than that he was going to end up actually wearing the crown himself. Although, I’m pretty sure Faile would be the one actually crowned even if they do end up in Saldaea, so. *shrug* We’ll see.

I remember I was a wee bit disappointed that we were kind of shortchanged on Rand and Logain’s first meeting, in that the narrative pretty much skipped it entirely. I had rather looked forward to seeing one of them assessing his first impression of the other, alas. And OF COURSE Rand doesn’t listen to Logain about Taim here, because he never listens to anyone about that, and grr.

And where is that damn seventh seal, y’all? I think we still don’t know!

Reading Rand’s thoughts here about Lews Therin leakage is a very different experience post-ToM: a bit sad-making, but also much less ominous. Now I find myself wanting him to just get over it and merge already, when on first reading I was all yikes at the notion. And yes, I know I said I wasn’t entirely a fan of post-merging Jedi Master Rand in ToM, but still, better than Psycho Murderous Rand, sez me. I can be fickle complicated about many things, so neener!

Ogier marriage customs continue to suck, owing to how much they resemble the gender-flipped version of what marriage used to be like in the real world back in the day. And now I have this utterly bizarre image of Loial as a plucky-and-free-spirited-and-yet-also-somehow-perfectly-proper Regency heroine sneaking off to have adventures and write about the Napoleonic Wars on the big bad Continent before, somewhat disappointingly, going home and marrying the dark-and-mysterious-and-kind-of-bitchy-and-mean-and-yet-also-somehow-soooo-dreamy Lord Barkleschnark of Widdershins or whatever, and man my brain is messed up.

Elza: GRR LEIGH SMASH. That is all.


And also, that is all for this post! Have an entirely Global Thermonuclear War-free weekend, people, and I’ll see you again on Tuesday!

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