The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: New Spring, Part 4

Greetings and salutations, O my peeps! Welcome to another Wheel of Time Re-read!

Today’s entry covers Chapters 7 and 8 of New Spring, in which we contemplate professionalism in the workplace, proper job training techniques (or the distinct lack thereof), and how there are some people who should just really not be allowed to do the right thing, ever.

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!

Wheel of Time serpent wheelChapter 7: The Itch

What Happens
As they add more names to their list the next day, Moiraine realizes that no woman is actually going to admit to having a son born on the slopes of Dragonmount; the prophecies are garbled for many, but that bit everyone knows. The truth would need to be gleaned through careful questioning, which Moiraine likens to “playing Daes Dae’mar with the world at stake.” Tamra enters, and Moiraine thinks she almost caught her entering a name into her little book. She dryly marvels at their continued enthusiasm for the task, and gives Moiraine a message to take to Kerene Nagashi, a Green sister. As she goes, Moiraine looks about the Green Ajah’s quarters with great interest, noting the decidedly martial décor and the large number of men—Warders—present.

You could see Warders in any Ajah’s quarters, excepting the Red, but most kept rooms in the Guards’ barracks or even in the city. Greens’ Warders often lived in the same apartments as the sister!

Moiraine observes the Warders with fascination. Some are chatting or playing music, and others are practicing; she sees Rina Hafden cheering on her two Warders, Waylin and Elyas, as they spar with each other. Another sister is attempting to teach one of her Warders to dance.

Kerene’s door, bearing a sword lacquered in red, gold and black, also stood open, with the sounds of merry music coming out. Moiraine had no idea what the lacquering meant, or the colors, and she suspected she never would unless she chose the Green. That would not be, yet she disliked not knowing. Once she identified something she did not know, the ignorance became an itch on her shoulder-blade, just beyond reach.

Inside, Kerene is embroidering while one of her Warders reads and the other plays a gittern, but as soon as she reads the letter the two men begin readying themselves to leave, even though she hasn’t said a word yet. She comments to the Warders on the way out, though, that Tamra wants her urgently and yet won’t say why, and Moiraine smiles at how sisters seem to forget Accepted have ears. On the way back she runs into Siuan, who had been sent on a similar mission to Aisha Raveneos, a Gray; Siuan bets it was the same message as to Kerene, and wonders what it could be. Moiraine tells her that Tamra is gathering searchers for the boy, and Siuan demands to know how she knows that. Moiraine thinks it is obvious, and very like Daes Dae’mar, and wonders how Siuan can be so good with puzzles and yet not see it.

“What matter could be more urgent to Tamra right now than the boy-child, Siuan?” she said patiently. “Or more secret, so she dares not put the reason on paper? That secrecy means that she believes the Reds cannot be trusted. That is what you were right about. More than that, how many other sisters will at first want to deny that this child really is the one prophesied? Particularly if he evades discovery until he is a grown man and already channeling. No, she means to use sisters she is sure of to search for him. Where I was wrong was in thinking he would be brought to the Tower. That would only expose him to the Reds, and others who might be untrustworthy. Once found, Tamra will send him into hiding. His education will be at the hands of her searchers, the women she trusts most.”

Siuan clapped a hand atop her head. “I think my skull will explode,” she muttered. “You built all of that from two messages, and you don’t even know what they said.”

Siuan threatens to make her do blacksmith puzzles in retaliation, and Moiraine sticks her tongue out at her. The next day Tamra sends three more messages, to Meilyn Arganya (White), Valera Gorovni (Brown), and Ludice Daneen (Yellow), all of whom, like Kerene and Aisha, are known for their adherence to Tower law, and have all held the shawl for over a hundred years. Moiraine considers it confirmation of her theory, but thinks five sisters seems far too few considering the number of names she and Siuan have collected as the days pass; however, she doesn’t know if Tamra is using people other than themselves as messengers. Moiraine’s lack of knowledge frustrates her, and she takes to spying on the entrance to the Amrylin’s study until she is caught by Aeldra Najaf, who has been raised Keeper of the Chronicles to replace Gitara. Aeldra scolds her gently but firmly, and Moiraine knows she will have to stop spying.

Moiraine began to think she would scream from that cursed itch.

Commentary
Moiraine finally gets to be a little badass in this chapter, methinks, with her political acumen. She may not have much enjoyed being a member of House Damodred, but the intrigue skills it taught her are clearly serving her well. It’s also nice to see her be better at something than Siuan for once, too.

Also nice to see here the birth of the rationale Moiraine and Siuan eventually come to in their decision to let Rand go his own way in TGH. It’s that decision more than anything else (in my opinion) that shows their rapid maturing, trusting to fate in that way. Granted, it’s initially motivated more by (totally justified, it turns out) distrust of their own people, but that doesn’t make the decision to let the Savior and/or Destroyer of the world run free (well, more or less) any less brave to make. Also, there are way too many parenthetical asides in this paragraph. (Oh, well.)

Several people in the comments last post were speculating, I believe, on how differently the story would have gone if Moiraine and Siuan’s positions had been reversed—if, say, Moiraine had ended up becoming Queen of Cairhien or something, and Siuan had been the one to go out into the world to look for Rand. It’s a bit of a challenge for me personally to think about, because the first five books in the series are practically impossible for me to picture without Moiraine being there with Rand et al, but I could theoretically see it going one of two ways if Siuan had been the one to find him: either she would have been much more easily able to get along with Rand than sneaky manipulative Moiraine, or her blunt directness would have alienated him so thoroughly it’s not even funny.

And that’s because the effectiveness of bluntness as a social tool depends to a huge extent on the reaction of the recipient. Some people enjoy it, and some people really, really don’t. People under extreme duress, as Rand is… well. I dunno for sure, but I think on balance it’s a pretty good thing Siuan got mired in one place instead of Moiraine.

Also, Moiraine is perceptive and all, but she’s seriously kidding herself if she thinks Tamra hasn’t already guessed what she and Siuan are up to. She totally knows, dudette, get real.

The little slice o’ life bit of the Green Ajah was—er. Okay, I am really beginning to wonder if Jordan wasn’t just fucking with us epically the whole time with this Aes Sedai/Warder… thing. Seriously, I ask, because I really can’t tell anymore: am I supposed to be getting the subtext I am getting from this scene, or have I just been on the internet too long?

I just cannot figure out, at this point, whether Jordan genuinely meant for us to believe that the majority of Aes Sedai and Warder relationships were not sexual in nature (even among Greens, I’m positive that was implied/said somewhere), or if the whole thing was a big wink-wink-nudge-nudge DADT… thing.

Maybe it’s just me, really, because I am aware that I have been conditioned by a lifetime of literature and television and movies that fall back on the Ole Faithful trope of Unresolved Sexual Tension to generate conflict between lead characters in a story. Which is fine in fiction (no conflict, no story, remember) but also tends to lead to the unfortunate implication that men and women cannot work together professionally, ever, without sex coming into it.

And in the real world, y’all, that is just not true, as I and many others who work in non-fictional professional environments can testify. I’m not saying it never happens, because duh, but it certainly doesn’t as a general thing, especially not in recent decades, as the number of women in the workforce has expanded to be on par with (and possibly even exceeding that of) the number of men (in the U.S., anyway). I mean, if UST were universally true no one would ever get anything done, and unless you want to get seriously wacky with conspiracy theories on the cause of the recent economic crisis, then, no.

So perhaps I am falling prey to a stereotype I actually vehemently disagree with to see it here. I might possibly have to be ashamed of myself a bit.

OR DO I? Cause, you know, usually one is not actually sharing living quarters with one’s co-workers, is what I’m saying. So, er, um. Maybe?

I dunno. But these were my thoughts on reading that bit, and therefore here you have them. Talk amongst yourselves.

(But in any case: Hi, Elyas! I squeed a tiny bit when I saw your name!)

 

Chapter 8: Shreds of Serenity

What Happens
The Accepted go back to having lessons with sisters as the days pass, though some sisters show their displeasure with Tamra’s orders by refusing to teach. Moiraine wonders why Tamra’s searchers haven’t left yet; she recognizes that they think he is a baby, and that it would be cruel to take him from his mother that young, but she frets over the size of the list she and Siuan have compiled. She tries to subtly increase Kerene et al’s urgency by pointing out rumors of disturbances near the Blight, but is shut down firmly. An Accepted named Ellid Abareim tells them of a rumor she overheard from Adelorna, that Gitara Moroso had Foretold that Tarmon Gai’don would come in the lifetime of sisters now alive. Moiraine and Siuan discuss it later, and Siuan wants to know why it matters if Gitara had had more than one Foretelling.

“Siuan, did you never wonder how Tamra could be certain this is the time, that the boy will be born now? I would say it is very likely that at least one of those other Foretellings spoke of him. Something that, put with what we heard her say, told Tamra that now is the time.” It was Moiraine’s turn to frown, in thought. “Do you know how the Foretelling was with Gitara?” It took different women in different ways, including how they gave voice to a Foretelling. “The way she spoke, he could have been being born at that instant. Maybe the shock of that was what killed her.”

Siuan doesn’t know, and suggests they practice for the shawl test. That night Elaida comes to Moiraine’s room and observes as Myrelle and Siuan test Moiraine; Moiraine tries to concentrate even harder, and gets through sixty-one weaves before losing control. Elaida pronounces this “pitiful,” and declares she will show them how to test properly. She commands Moiraine to begin again. Her “distractions” start as flashes and bangs and whistles, but quickly move to lashes and blows and switches. Moiraine only gets through twelve weaves before losing saidar in pain. Siuan tries to head Elaida off, but Elaida only tells Moiraine “Again.” She only completes nine weaves the second time.

“Again,” Elaida said.

On the third try, she completed six weaves, and only three on the fourth. Sweat rolled down her face. After a while, the flashing lights and ear-piercing whistles hardly seemed more than annoyances. Only the incessant beating mattered. Only the endless beating, and the endless pain. On the fifth attempt, she fell to her knees weeping beneath the first shower of blows. The pummeling ceased instantly, but huddling in on herself, she sobbed as though she would never stop. Oh, Light, she had never hurt like this before. Never.

Elaida is unsympathetic, and declares she will Heal Moiraine in the morning to start over again, but first it is Siuan’s turn. Siuan does better than Moiraine, but not by much. She refuses to cry, though. After six attempts, Elaida stops, and warns them as she leaves that even if they had finished this way, they still would have failed.

“There isn’t a shred of serenity in you.” She fixed first Siuan and then Moiraine with a stern eye. “Remember, you must be serene whatever is done to you. And you must be fast. If you are slow, you will fail as surely as if you fall to panic or fear. Tomorrow night, we will see if you can do better.”

She leaves, and Siuan immediately begins sobbing. Myrelle and Moiraine join her, hugging each other for comfort. Myrelle then goes to get salve for the other two’s welts, and comes back with Sheriam and Ellid to help treat them. Ellid declares this is wrong, and Sheriam and Myrelle agree, but Moiraine replies that she thinks Elaida is trying to help them, that she wants them to pass. Siuan is incredulous, and declares she is sure Elaida wants them to fail. They all agree, though, that nothing good would come of trying to complain about it in any case. Elaida returns to Heal them the next morning, and the next night to test them again, and again the day after that. Each night, Sheriam and Ellid and Myrelle come to treat Moiraine and Siuan’s wounds, and Moiraine begins to be terrified that Siuan is right and Elaida is trying to ensure they fail. On the third morning, however, Merean appears to Heal them instead of Elaida, and she tells them that Elaida will not trouble them again, and that she’d almost earned herself a penance for it. Siuan demands to know why she didn’t get one.

“Had she used saidar to punish or coerce you, I’d have seen her strapped to the triangle for birching, yet what she did broke no law.” Merean’s eyes twinkled suddenly, and her lips curved in a small smile. “Perhaps I shouldn’t tell you, but I will. Her penance would have been for helping you cheat in the test for the shawl. All that saved her was the question of whether it actually was cheating. I trust you will accept her gift in the spirit it was given. After all, she paid a price in humiliation for giving it when I confronted her.”

[…] The icy lump that had melted from Moiraine’s middle when she learned there would be no further lessons from Elaida returned twice as large. She had almost helped them cheat? Could she have given them a foretaste of the actual test for the shawl? Light, if the test meant being beaten the whole way…! Oh, Light, how could she possibly pass? But whatever comprised the test, every woman who wore the shawl had undergone it and succeeded. She would, as well. Somehow, she would!

Moiraine’s dread grows as she continues to fail to complete the hundred weaves time after time. They don’t see Elaida for two days, and when they finally run into her in the hall, she only glares at them silently. Moiraine realizes that Elaida must think they had gone to Merean themselves, and further realizes that they have just earned themselves an enemy for life.

When she told Siuan as much, and her reasoning, the taller woman grunted sourly. “Well, I never wanted to be her friend, did I? I tell you, once I gain the shawl, if she ever tries to harm me again, I’ll make her pay.”

When exactly one week has passed since Gitara’s death, a sudden thaw causes all the snow around and on Dragonmount to melt, except for the peak, and Moiraine knows that the limit has been set: a boy born within those ten days was the one they sought. A few days after that, their list is more or less complete.

Nine days after the thaw, in the dim light before dawn. Merean appeared on the gallery as Siuan and Moiraine were leaving for breakfast. She was wearing her shawl. “Moiraine Damodred,” she said formally, “you are summoned to be tested for the shawl of an Aes Sedai. The Light keep you whole and see you safe.”

Commentary
DUN!

So, okay, my wonderings earlier about whether Elaida and Moiraine ever interact with each other on-screen now look downright ridiculous. How could I have forgotten this bit so completely?

Maybe because I blocked it out? Because, uh, yeah. Just in case we needed any more confirmation of how much Elaida truly, madly, deeply sucks, y’all, HERE, HAVE THIS CHAPTER. Holy hell.

I do think Moiraine is right, though: in her own horrible, deluded, screamingly wrongheaded way, Elaida really was trying to help them. Elaida’s history as a character has always been that she truly believes that she is doing the good and right thing—but the ways in which she tries to do it are always utterly, disastrously, *headdesk*ingly wrong. It would be downright tragic, if there were any chance Elaida could ever be the kind of person to realize how much she is her own cause’s worst enemy. It’s actually kind of fortunate (for her, anyway) that she can’t.

Well. It would have been tragic, had she not been destined to end up tortured and brainwashed and a prisoner for life, which kind of beats out “realizing you are a sucky person” on the “tragedy” scale, objectively. Or hell, maybe not; at least this way she can believe it was the world that did her wrong, instead of herself.

Man. Okay, now I’m depressed.

In any case, I can’t see how on earth Elaida’s “method” here can possibly help. Maybe some people think holding a person’s head under water is a good way to cure them of their fear of drowning, but I see a few flaws in that chain of logic, personally. But then again, I don’t remember any of the details of Moiraine’s testing (I haven’t read the next chapter yet), so well, we’ll see, I suppose.

Also, what do we want to bet it was Sheriam who ratted on Elaida to Merean, and not out of the goodness of her heart either? Black Ajah motto, you know: any chance to generate discord without being detected. I don’t really know if Sheriam was the tattletale or not, honestly, but considering the ultimate result of Elaida’s animosity toward Siuan, twenty years down the line, if Sheriam did do it, it might just count as the single most effective evil thing any Black sister’s done to the Tower, in the long term. Huh.

Moiraine’s speech to Siuan about the timing of Gitara’s Foretelling made me laugh at how directly it addressed my earlier musings about why no one realized she was talking about something that was happening that second. Thus we see the perils of doing commentary on something you haven’t read already—or in this case, read so long ago you might as well have never read it in the first place, because wow, I clearly remember jackshit about NS. At least it’s fun for those in the audience who know what’s coming, right?

In that vein, I keep wanting to yell at Moiraine to realize that Tamra’s searchers aren’t in a hurry because they don’t have an equivalent list to the one Siuan and Moiraine have compiled. I don’t actually remember if this is true or not, but given that the natural order of things tends toward “clusterfuck,” I will not at all be surprised to find out I’m right.


And that’s the story, morning glory! At least for now. Have a lovely weekend, and I’ll see you Tuesday!

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