The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Crossroads of Twilight, Part 19

Twirl your mustaches and practice your cackles, WOTers, for it’s a Wheel of Time Re-read, coming to a railroad track near you!

Today’s entry covers Chapter 30 and the Epilogue of Crossroads of Twilight, in which….

*an hour later* Jeez. Do you know there seem to be no videos anywhere on the Internet of the old silent “cliffhanger” serials with the damsel in distress literally hanging off the cliff? I was going to be all clever and shit with that, but noooo. Curses, I am foiled again!

The closest I could find was this, which is just kind of random (and hilariously un-PC). Why isn’t there an equivalent to Project Gutenberg for historical films on the internet, I ask you? I should be able to find this!

Anyway. Uh, cliffhangers! Yes.

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 before we begin, a scheduling note and an Announcement:

Scheduling: As today we end a book, I’m going to do my traditional breather here and take a day off. Therefore, there will be no post this Friday. But fear not, gallant damsels! The Re-read will resume next Tuesday.

However, on Tuesday we will not be starting Book 11, Knife of Dreams. As I mentioned… er, at some point, I decided a while ago to tackle the series in publication order, and it turns out that the one prequel to the series Jordan published before his death, New Spring, was released in between COT and KOD. Ergo, we will be covering New Spring next, and then KOD. Can I get a WOT-WOT?

As for the Announcement, I am very pleased to disclose that barring disaster, I will officially be attending JordanCon 2011 in Atlanta this April. Yay!

I’m not a hundred percent sure yet what I will be doing there, other than, you know, showing up, but I’m pretty sure that I will be doing something. More As It Develops. In any case, I’m very pleased, and looking forward to seeing a bunch of youse mugs there.

So there’s all that. And now, the diabolical-ish post!

 

Before we begin, let’s do the traditional last-post look at the cover art, in which… erm. Well… er. The, uh… the horses! Yes, the horses look very… horse-like?

Okay, sorry, but I hate this cover. It’s awful. It’s a bunch of nothing. It corresponds to no scene in the book I feel like we should recall, no one looks natural in it, and Mat and Tuon both look completely hideous. I don’t know who the hell way-too-prominently-featured arrow-guy on Mat’s left is even supposed to be. Harnan? And if so, why put freakin’ Harnan on the cover, instead of someone more important to the plot, like Egeanin, or Aludra, or Luca, or even goddamn Joline, any one of whom would have been more visually interesting to depict anyway? Seriously, what the hell?

Well, whatever.

Oh, but before we move on, I have to share this with you:

Leigh Butler's Crossroads of Twilight copy

…which was my super high-tech method of making notes to myself for the COT update to the WOTFAQ, and which for some unexplained reason I have never bothered to remove from my copy of the novel. I dunno, I guess I thought it was funny or something. Seriously, you guys, I have moved like five times since originally doing this, and packed the book as is every time. There’s probably something wrong with me.

And, yeah. Onward!

 

Chapter 30: What the Oath Rod Can Do

What Happens
Egwene eats breakfast in her tent, thinking of how most people think this is just any other morning, when it isn’t. Nisao enters and tells Egwene that Kairen Stang is dead, her neck broken by someone using saidin. Egwene realizes that the next “best” after Leane is now Bode Cauthon, a novice. Egwene asks if Nisao knows of any link between Kairen and Anaiya other than that they were both Blue, but Nisao cannot think of any. Egwene orders her to find out if there were any such link, and after dismissing Nisao follows her usual routine, as it is important there be no deviation from it today. She walks to her study, noting the number of Aes Sedai walking about holding saidar and the general feel of paranoia in the air. Once there, she is surprised to be visited by Theodrin, who tells her that Romanda desires a meeting with Egwene, which Egwene grants. An Accepted named Emara comes in as Theodrin is leaving to tell Egwene that Lelaine wants a meeting too, which Egwene also grants; Emara sneers at Theodrin in passing, and Egwene reprimands her sharply about it. After Emara leaves, Egwene looks at the note Theodrin slipped her, about a rumor out of Cairhien that has the Yellow Sitters “buzzing,” and seems to be connected to Nynaeve in some way. Siuan enters, and Egwene gives the note to her, asking if she had made the necessary changes in light of Kairen’s murder; Siuan answers calmly that the less time Bode has to think about it, the less time she’ll have to panic.

A frown creased her forehead as she read the note, though. “First Faolain goes into hiding,” she growled at the paper, “and now Theodrin brings this to you instead of to me. That fool girl has less brains than a fisher-bird! You’d think she wants someone to find out she’s keeping an eye on Romanda for you.”

Egwene brings up her concern about the way Theodrin and Faolain are treated, and points out that much of what can be said about them applies to Egwene herself. Siuan snorts and opines that to the contrary, she thinks the Sitters are beginning to see Egwene as “another Edarna Noregovna,” whom Egwene knows is regarded as the most politically skilled woman to ever hold the Amyrlin Seat. Egwene is still thinking of Shein Chunla, though. Sheriam enters, seemingly recovered from her collapse in the Hall, to give Egwene the report on runaways from Tiana, the Mistress of Novices. Today the report has only one name on it: Nicola Treehill. Egwene sighs, then notes the date.

“Nicola ran away three or four days ago, Sheriam, and Tiana is just reporting it? She isn’t even sure whether it was three days or four?”

“Nicola’s cousins covered for her, Mother.” Sheriam shook her head ruefully. Strangely, her small smile seemed amused, though. Or even admiring. “Not from love; apparently, they were glad to see the child go and afraid she’d be brought back. She was quite overbearing about her Talent at Foretelling.”

Egwene tells her Tiana will handle it, and asks if there has been any change in how the sisters are talking about her Dream about the Seanchan attacking the White Tower. Sheriam instead tries to suggest that she should pardon Nicola’s “cousins” because one of them (Larine) is from the Two Rivers. Egwene is befuddled at the suggestion that she play favorites, and rejects the idea, returning the topic to her Dream. Sheriam’s reply confirms Egwene’s suspicions that no one really believes her Dreams are real Foretellings.

Anaiya had been sure, but Anaiya was dead. Siuan and Leane believed, yet neither stood high enough now to be listened to with more than impatient politeness, if that. And it was quite clear that Sheriam did not believe.

Sheriam leaves, and Egwene wonders why she came if that was all she had to say. Morvrin and Myrelle enter, and say much the same as Sheriam when Egwene asks them about the Dream; Morvrin mentions that it might have been different if Anaiya were still alive, but… Myrelle starts to say something about the event at Shadar Logoth, but is interrupted when Maigan enters. Maigan is the Blue replacement for Anaiya on Egwene’s “council,” and sends Siuan for tea contemptuously. Morvrin leaves, too, and Myrelle and Maigan (who hate each other) busy themselves pretending the other doesn’t exist while Egwene looks through reports. Siuan reenters with tea, followed by Ragan, who reports that the raiders from Tar Valon may have crossed to their side of the river, and that Bryne advises all Aes Sedai keep close to the camp tonight. Siuan leaves again; Egwene snaps at Ragan that Aes Sedai go where they wish and dismisses him, which pleases Maigan and puzzles Myrelle, but Egwene knows what Bryne’s message really means.

The boats were in place. In a few hours, Leane would gather Bode and ride well away from the camp before explaining what they were going to do. […] Bode must do what needed doing. Egwene had been younger than Bode when she was set to hunt Black sisters. Shienarans served their war against the Shadow in the Blight, heart and soul. Aes Sedai, and those who would become Aes Sedai, served the Tower. A stronger weapon against the Shadow than any sword, and no less sharp to an unwary hand.

Romanda enters with a sullen Theodrin. She reports that the talks with the Tower are going badly; Egwene knows that every Sitter who had held a seat pre-split (with the exception of Janya) have taken over the negotiations, pushing Beonin to the side, and gives a noncommittal answer. Romanda answers that it shows Elaida is dug in “like a rat in a wall,” and the only way to get her out is to send “ferrets” after her. Egwene carefully doesn’t react to that, and gives another neutral answer. Romanda switches her attack to the Kin, expressing disbelief that there are over a thousand of them or that they live so long, but Egwene points out that the Tower didn’t find out until very recently about the Windfinders either. Romanda opines that they are wilders and will have to be disbanded in any case; Egwene counters that almost none of the Kin are wilders, but women sent away from the Tower for not being strong enough to earn the shawl. She asks how Romanda proposes to hunt them down, when they have successfully hidden under the Tower’s nose for two thousand years, and show age just like anyone else, even if more slowly. Unsettled, Romanda says they must have “the look” if they channel, and there is no way they could live five or six hundred years.

“There is only one real difference between Aes Sedai and the Kin,” Egwene said quietly. The words still seemed loud. Even Romanda appeared to be holding her breath. “They left the White Tower before they could swear on the Oath Rod.” There; it was in the open finally.

Romanda jerked as if she had taken a mortal blow. “You’ve not taken the Oaths yet,” she said hoarsely. “Do you mean to abandon them? To ask sisters to abandon them?” Myrelle or Maigan gasped. Perhaps both.

“No!” Egwene said sharply. “The Three Oaths are what make us Aes Sedai, and I will swear on the Oath Rod as soon as it is ours!” Drawing a deep breath, she modulated her tone. But she leaned toward the other woman, too, trying to draw her in, to include her. To convince her. She almost stretched out a hand. “As it is, sisters retire to spend their last years in quiet, Romanda. Wouldn’t it be better if those were not their last years? If sisters retired into the Kin, they could tie the Kin to the Tower. There would be no need for a futile hunt, then.” She had gone this far; she might as well go the last step. “The Oath Rod can unbind as well as bind.”

[Romanda stands slowly.] Only then did Romanda speak, in a voice like stone. “When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming Aes Sedai. From the day I reached the White Tower, I tried to live as an Aes Sedai. I have lived as Aes Sedai, and I will die as Aes Sedai. This cannot be allowed!”

She leaves. Maigan and Myrelle are astounded by the idea Egwene has raised, but Egwene can see they are thinking about it. A bit later, Lelaine arrives and takes a jab at Myrelle which makes the Green take her leave swiftly, and then segues that into a broad hint that Elayne might be getting herself into trouble, which leaves Egwene wondering whether Lelaine knows about Myrelle and Lan, or something about what was going on in Caemlyn. Off balance, she asks if Lelaine thinks Kairen’s murder is enough to stop an agreement with the Black Tower; Lelaine doesn’t think so, but suggests that they might want to make sure that the Aes Sedai are in control of any agreement that occurs with the Asha’man. Maigan swiftly chimes in with a suggestion that perhaps a bond with an Asha’man could be modified to remove the “tweak” needed to make the man do as you wish. Egwene tells her that that sounds a little too much like Compulsion, and Maigan counters that it’s a certainty that Compulsion was used on the sisters in Cairhien.

“There might be a way to remove the sharing, perhaps some of the awareness. Then perhaps the madness would not be a problem. It would be a different sort of bond, not like the Warder bond at all. I’m certain everyone will agree it wouldn’t be like having a Warder, really. Any sister could bond whatever number of Asha’man was necessary.”

Abruptly, Egwene realized what was happening. Lelaine sat apparently peering into her teacup, but she was studying Egwene through her eyelashes. And using Maigan as a stalking horse. Smothering anger, Egwene did not have to make her voice cold. It was ice.

“That sounds exactly like Compulsion, Lelaine. It is Compulsion, and no twisting of words will make it anything else. I will point that out to anyone else who suggests this. And I will order the birch for anyone who does more than suggest. Compulsion is banned, and it will remain banned.”

“As you say,” Lelaine replied, which might have meant anything at all. What came next was more pointed. “The White Tower makes mistakes upon occasion. It is impossible to live or move without making mistakes. But we live, and we go on. And if we sometimes need to conceal our mistakes, whenever possible, we rectify them. Even when it is painful.” Putting her cup back on the tray, she left with Maigan at her heels.

Egwene thinks that sounds very close to suggesting that she, Egwene, had been a mistake to be rectified, but it is not that which troubles her. She thinks all through her dinner about Bode, and Larine, and Nicola, and what it means to be a novice, and the lessons you had to learn before being more than that. She also thinks about the Tower’s laws restricting the Amyrlin from putting herself in danger—except in times of war. When Siuan returns, Egwene orders her to saddle Bela, and tell no one that Egwene is going for “a ride.” She leaves her stole behind, and rides Bela to where Bode is waiting to board the rowboat. She tells Bode that she will not be going, but is to wait for Egwene to come back. Bode demands to know why.

“I can do this. Leane Sedai explained to me, and I can do it.”

“I know you can. But not as well as I can. Not yet.” That seemed too much like a criticism that the other woman had not earned. “I am the Amyrlin Seat, Bode. Some decisions, only I can make. And some things, I shouldn’t ask a novice to do when I can do them better.” Perhaps that was not a great deal milder, but she could not explain about Larine and Nicola, or the price the White Tower demanded of all its daughters. The Amyrlin could not explain the one to a novice, and a novice was not ready to learn about the other.

Egwene boards the boat, and the rowers head out into the river. Egwene sees something flash in front of the moon, and thinks for a moment it might be a Draghkar, but then dismisses it as a bat. The boat reaches the wall of Northharbor, near enough for Egwene to embrace saidar and weave Earth, Fire and Air on the chain across the harbor mouth. The chain flashes from black to white just before Egwene senses someone embracing saidar above her, and something knocks her into the river. She comes to, and sees an Aes Sedai’s face above her.

“Do you know who this is?”

“Well, well We certainly got better than we bargained for tonight.”

She is forced to drink something with a minty taste.

Egwene tried to push the cup away, tried to embrace saidar, but she could feel herself sliding back down into darkness. They had been waiting for her. She had been betrayed. But by whom?

Commentary
Cliffhanger, whoo!

I was pissed about that, too, when I first read it. Mostly because I knew I would be waiting two to three years to find out what happened next. Which I was.

There were a lot of words in this chapter, but basically the entire thing was a set-up for Egwene’s capture at the end of it, to induce confusion over who it might have been that spilled the beans on her plan. It was well done as far as that goes, too: any of the players mentioned here seem to have had a legitimate (to their own minds, anyway) reason to betray Egwene’s plan. Pretty much everyone who appeared or is mentioned in this chapter, other than Siuan (and Egwene herself), makes a case for herself to be the traitor.

And… you know, this is pathetic, but I’m not sure what the answer is to the question “who betrayed Egwene?” I thought it was Beonin, but my (admittedly fuzzy) memories of KOD suggest that while Beonin definitely defected to the Tower after Egwene’s capture, it was never specifically stated that she had betrayed Egwene before that.

Or was it stated? Did we ever get a definitive confirmation of who spilled the beans? ‘Cause I tell you, I sure as hell can’t come up with one.

Argh, I can’t remember. I’m going to assume that we do know who betrayed Egwene, and I’m just having another massive smelly brain fart on the matter. I’m sure someone will set matters right in the comments, because y’all are all astute and stuff.

(You’re welcome for the fart image, by the way. You stay classy, Leigh!)

Other thoughts:

Maigan: Is kind of a bitch, wow. And not in a good way, either. I thought all through reading this that she was one of the ones who turns out to be Black Ajah (probably because of the heinousness of her suggestion re: the Asha’man, and also because she was, well, kind of a bitch), but I’m pretty sure I was actually thinking of Moria, one of the Rebel Blue Sitters, who gets outed as Black in ToM. This may constitute proof that there are way the hell too many Aes Sedai whose names begin with “M.”

Romanda: I’ve never been much of a fan of Romanda, which is probably not surprising considering I generally don’t tend to like characters that seem to exist solely to throw caltrops in My Heroes’ paths, but I have to admit I sort of perversely admired her here. I have this slightly bizarre tendency to appreciate (up to a point, anyway) stubborn loyalty to an ideal in an individual, even when I think the ideal itself is kind of stupid. This, I suspect, is a result of encountering rather too often a certain subset of artistically-minded intellectuals whose opinions on any given subject might be best represented as one of these.

Obviously, of course, you can take things too far in either direction, but as a rec.arts friend of mine once remarked, “It is possible to be so open-minded that all your brains fall out.” As an artistically-minded overthinker-of-things myself, I’ve always taken that as a cautionary reminder; I like my brains, and I’d prefer to keep them, thank you.

My admiration of Romanda sticking to her Aes Sedai guns, admittedly, might be helped along by my conviction that Egwene’s proposal, while elegantly simple in theory, will unquestionably turn into a logistical nightmare in practice, because have you met these people? Oy. In any case, I suspect this will be one of those things that we never see come to fruition (or not) in the series proper anyway, so I’m not inclined to worry about it overmuch.

I was prepared to be all scornful of Egwene’s reasoning on why she should be the one to go cuendillar-ize the harbor chain instead of Bode, but I find on reading it again that I kind of understand her logic even while acknowledging it’s slightly hypocritical of her. It is hypocritical from a certain point of view, but Egwene does have a point in that just because she was expected to shoulder an insane amount of responsibility as a novice doesn’t mean she should turn around and be that unreasonable herself to the novices in her care. True, that point may be undermined a tad by the fact that everyone, novice or otherwise, is going to be thrown into the deep end of Armageddon Real Soon Now anyway, but maybe it’s a little bit admirable that she wants to keep Bode from having to deal with being a grownup for as long as possible.

Or, it’s the kind of Star Trek faux-logic where the captain and officers always beam down to the unknown and dangerous planet instead of the logical low-level minions who should do it, because we need the above-the-line talent to have stuff to do in every episode. Either one, take your pick.

I also originally thought that the “bat” Egwene sees in the boat was a raken, and meant that the Tower was going to be attacked that night, but I guess it really was a bat, because as far as I recall there was quite a stretch of time between Egwene’s capture and the Seanchan attack on the Tower. Though I guess it could have been a scout? Either way, it always seemed a little silly to me that Egwene of all people would just dismiss it out of hand, given her Dream about the Seanchan and all.

(Although, does she even know about raken, or that the Seanchan have them? Did she see any in Falme? …Huh.)

Incidentally, the fact that two different characters point out in this chapter that the Rebels’ acceptance of Egwene’s Dreamer status would have been more, well, accepting if Anaiya were alive gives a lot of support to the idea that that’s why she was killed in the first place. I’m just saying.

Anyway, so, bye, Egwene! Hang on tight for a bit, we’ll be right with you after these messages! Or prequels, whatever!

 

Wheel of Time serpent wheelEpilogue: An Answer

What Happens
Rand stares out the window, wounds aching. Bashere enters the room, still dressed in diplomatic finery, and tells him the Seanchan are “crazy as loons,” but amenable. They require a meeting with Rand in person, though.

“Apparently a member of their royal family has arrived. Suroth wants you to meet someone called the Daughter of the Nine Moons.”

Thunder rolled again for distant lightning.

 

We rode on the winds of the rising storm,
We ran to the sounds of the thunder.
We danced among the lightning bolts,
and tore the world asunder.

–  Anonymous fragment of a poem believed
written near the end of the previous Age,
known by some as the Third Age.
Sometimes attributed to the Dragon Reborn.

Commentary
Well, there’s really only one thing to be said to this, which is:

DUN!

I wonder if Rand really wrote that poem, or not? We’ll probably never find out—unless Team Jordan tells us, of course.

 

And so ends COT! Whew.

It was… not the most stellar installment of the series, though also not quite as heinous as I’d dreaded, so there’s that. And again, I think it works much better once you are assured of continuation material to follow it, which fortunately at this late date we have. I can’t say I’m not glad to leave it behind, though. Onward and upward, is what I say!


And that’s our post, people! New Spring next, whoo! Have a mahvelous week and weekend, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday! Cheers!

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