The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: New Spring, Part 6

Haaaaay, party people. Welcome to another Wheel of Time Re-read, yeah?

Today’s entry covers Chapters 11 and 12 of New Spring, in which pies are puzzlingly promised, preferred hues successfully bestowed, and rodents (apparently) satisfactorily distributed.

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 11: Just Before Dawn

What Happens
Moiraine dresses tiredly, wishing she had talked Siuan out of pulling the prank. A knock sounds at her door, and Moiraine answers to find seven sisters, one from each Ajah, waiting for her. Elaida is one of them, and Moiraine forces herself to meet her gaze evenly.

Another hour, or just a little more, and they would be equals, at least to some degree. Never again would Elaida be able to make her quail.

They collect Siuan from her room, and the sisters surround them both as they head back to the testing chamber. When Tamra demands to know who comes, in the words of the ritual, Moiraine and Siuan answer together. One of the sisters catches her breath, but Tamra only pauses a moment before continuing the ceremony. Moiraine and Siuan continue to answer in tandem, and soon are admitted together into the chamber. Inside, Tamra and Aeldra wait with all the Sitters of the Hall as well as two more sisters from each Ajah, each of the latter waiting with an extra shawl. They are required to step through the oval ring to get to Tamra, and Moiraine is glad that she won the argument so that Siuan goes first, though in return Siuan had insisted Moiraine be the first to swear on the Oath Rod, which Moiraine considers unfair.

“Under the Light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will speak no word that is not true.” The Oath settled on her, and suddenly the air seemed to press harder against her skin. Red is white, she thought. Up is down. She could still think a lie, but her tongue would not work to utter it now. “Under the Light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will make no weapon for one man to kill another.” The pressure grew abruptly; it felt as though she had been sewn into an invisible garment, much too tight, that molded her from the crown of her head to the soles of her feet.

To her chagrin, sweat popped out on her forehead, yet she managed to keep her face calm. “Under the Light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will never use the One Power as a weapon except against Shadowspawn, or in the last extreme of defending my life or that of my Warder or another sister.” That garment shrank to still greater snugness, and she breathed heavily through her nose, clamping her jaws to keep it from becoming a gasp. Invisible and utterly flexible, yet oh, so tight! This feeling that her flesh was being compressed would fade, but not entirely for a whole year. Light!

To Moiraine’s delight, Tamra gives the rod to Siuan instead of completing the ceremony, ensuring they will both become Aes Sedai at the same moment. Siuan swears the Oaths without faltering, and Tamra instructs them to complete the ceremony by choosing their Ajahs. They both walk toward the Blue sisters, having made their decision more than a year ago.

The Blue sought to right wrongs, which was not always the same as seeking justice, like Greens and Grays. “Seekers after Causes,” Verin had called Blues, and the capitals were there to be heard in her voice. Moiraine could not imagine belonging elsewhere. Siuan was smiling, which she should not have done. But then, so was she herself, she realized, and she could not make it go away.

Once their direction is clear, the other Ajahs and Tamra all exit, leaving Aeldra and the Blues. Leane gives Moiraine her shawl and Rafela gives Siuan hers, and the three Blue Sitters (Eadyth, Anlee, and Lelaine) welcome them with a formal kiss. Aeldra kisses them as well, and adds to Moiraine’s startlement that they each owe her a pie, as the sixth sister to give them the welcome kiss. Eadyth chides Aeldra for being undignified, and charges Leane and Rafela to escort Moiraine and Siuan to their new home. The Sitters and Aeldra leave. To Moiraine’s horror, Rafela tries to convince them to be escorted in the old way, which involves being “clad in the Light,” but Leane derides her attempt to revive customs that haven’t been used in over a thousand years.

“I doubt anyone but a few Browns even remembers the custom. Rafela is half mad with trying to bring back dead customs. Don’t deny it, Rafela. Remember the apple blossoms? Even the Greens don’t remember what battle that was supposed to commemorate.”

Strangely, though Rafela had reached the shawl a year before Leane, she only sighed. “Customs should not be forgotten,” she said, but without any force.

Leane teases Rafela about other customs she’s tried to revive, to her embarrassment, and hustles them out. Moiraine is bemused at this different face of Aes Sedai, never shown to Accepted, and inquires if they are allowed to ask questions. Leane says they may, but some cannot be answered until they meet the First Selector, which is the title of the Head of the Blue Ajah. Rafela warns them they must never reveal that title, either, and begins regaling them with arcane customs, some of which Moiraine finds practical and others silly.

She was not about to have the beginning of her search delayed by something as ridiculous as not wearing all blue on the first day of the month. Light, surely they did not enforce that one. Safer to be sure, though.

They reach the quarters of the Blue Ajah, and enter to find every Blue sister in the Tower waiting for them inside.

Commentary
Man, so we don’t even get to see the prank? That’s weak. I was all expecting a tense sneaking-through-the-Tower bit. Well, at least they didn’t get caught, I guess. Yay, and all.

And more sincerely: Yay, they are Officially Blue! The raising ceremony was actually refreshingly simple and straightforward. Tamra gets major cool points for taking Moiraine and Siuan’s insistence on being raised together in stride. Although—no, I’ll get to that in a minute.

Also, hi, Leane! Hi, Rafela! …And, uh, hi, Lelaine, I guess. And—

Wait, “Eadyth” and “Anlee”? Who the hell are these people? Where did they come from? Where did they go later? Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot, over?

Seriously, it kind of boggles my mind that we STILL don’t know some of the infrastructure here. We know that at least one of these two sisters is no longer a Sitter by the time of Siuan’s fall from power, because the two Blue Sitters who show up in Salidar after fleeing the Tower are Lelaine and Lyrelle (Moria is selected in Salidar). However, we’ve never, ONCE, found out who the third pre-schism Blue Sitter was or what the hell happened to her, at least not as far as I recall. Fans used to speculate that the third Sitter was Cabriana Mecandes, the sister Semirhage tortured and murdered in LOC, but the next chapter makes that rather unlikely (though admittedly not impossible). But assuming she wasn’t Cabriana, was the third Sitter Anlee, or Eadyth, or someone else entirely?

And regardless of who she was, why hasn’t anyone among the rebels made a fuss or even passingly wondered what happened to her? This is especially true if the third Sitter was Eadyth, since we find out in the next chapter that she was not only a Sitter, but also the Head of the Ajah. So you’d think a sister who was both a Sitter AND the Ajah Head dropping completely off the map might be noteworthy, right? Well, apparently, you’d be wrong.

…Okay, checking further, it’s possible that both Eadyth and Anlee simply died of old age in the interim; they’re both described here as being white- and gray-haired, respectively, which means they were super up there in years, so that’s reasonable. So, fine, maybe Anlee and Eadyth both bit it at some point, and Lyrelle was selected to replace Anlee, no big. It still doesn’t explain, though, why we’re never told who replaced Eadyth, either as a Sitter or as Head of the Blue, nor why none of the rebel Blues make any mention of that person’s absence once they all re-congregate in Salidar. In fact, I’m not a hundred percent on this but I’m pretty sure we still don’t know who heads the Blue among the Rebels.

I don’t get it, man. There doesn’t seem to be any conceivable reason why Jordan would need to withhold the identity of the third Blue Sitter (or the current or former First Selector) from the readers, so I can only assume this is just an oversight that was never considered important enough to fill in. And okay, I grant that it probably really isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things, but the geek in me continues to find the gap faintly itchy and irritating.

Well, whatever. Moving on!

 

Chapter 12: Entering Home

What Happens
Anaiya welcomes them with a kiss, pretending annoyance that Aeldra “stole” her pies, and Kairen Stang hopes they pay her back by baking poorly; Moiraine laughs and feels like she has come home. They make the rounds, receiving kisses from all forty-one gathered Blues before coming to the Sitters. Eadyth tells them there is something she must tell them before they leave the Blue quarters again, and tells Cabriana to escort them to their rooms. Moiraine is puzzled by the meek way Cabriana behaves toward them, and asks if Eadyth is the First Selector. Anaiya, walking with them, answers that she is.

“It’s unusual for the First Selector also to be a Sitter,” Anaiya went on, “but unlike some, we Blues like to make full use of ability.”

Folding her shawl and laying it across one arm, Kairen nodded. “Eadyth is perhaps the most capable Blue in the last hundred years, but if she were a Brown or a White, they’d let her potter off wherever she wanted.”

“Oh, yes,” Cabriana said, making a tsking sound. “Some of the Brown Sitters have been disgraceful. For Sitters, at least. But Browns always let their minds wander. In any case, you may rest assured that whatever talents you have, a use will be found for them.”

Moiraine exchanges a glance with Siuan, not liking the sound of that last, and thinks this place might have just as many undercurrents as the Sun Palace. Moiraine finds that her personal effects have been transferred to her new quarters, which are next door to Siuan’s, and Cabriana adds anxiously that they can choose other rooms if these don’t suit. Moiraine notes that Cabriana is clearly the low man on the totem pole compared to Anaiya and Kairen, but cannot figure out why Cabriana treats her and Siuan with the same amount of deference as she does Anaiya. The others leave Moiraine and Siuan alone to eat, but Siuan is much more interested in what Eadyth is going to tell them; Moiraine has no clue, but agrees with Siuan that it all sounds very like Daes Dae’mar. They change into blue dresses left for them, and Moiraine is pleased that she finally gets to wear her kesiera again, affixing the gold chain so the sapphire hangs in the center of her forehead.

Studying herself in a wall mirror with a scroll-worked wooden frame, she smiled. She might lack the ageless face yet, but now she looked the Lady Moiraine Damodred, and Lady Moiraine Damodred had navigated the Sun Palace where hidden currents could pull you under even at fifteen or sixteen. Now she was ready to navigate the currents here.

She and Siuan go to Eadyth’s rooms, and she wonders why Eadyth looks like she’s tasting something bad. Eadyth sits them down and hesitates for a long moment before turning to them.

Folding her arms beneath her breasts, she took a deep breath. “For six years you have been taught that the second greatest rudeness is to speak directly of someone’s strength in the One Power.” Her mouth twisted again briefly. “In truth, I find it difficult to do so now, necessary though it is. For six years, you have been strongly discouraged from thinking of your own strength in the Power or anyone else’s. Now, you must learn to compare your strength to that of every sister you meet. In time, it will become second nature, and you will do it without thought, but you must be very careful until you reach that point. If another sister stands higher than you in the Power, whatever her Ajah, you must defer to her. The higher she stands above you, the greater your deference.”

She warns them that penances for misjudging standing are usually harsh, as they are set by the offended sister. Moiraine nods slowly, finally understanding Cabriana’s behavior, and why Elaida had deferred to Meilyn and Rafela to Leane, and is very grateful that she and Siuan are nearly identical in strength. Siuan asks if they have to obey anyone that outranks them, but Eadyth only repeats that the higher a sister stands above you, the greater your deference, except in cases where a sister has been specifically appointed above you, for example as chief emissary on a diplomatic mission. Then she declares an urgent need to brush her teeth, and kicks them out. In the corridor, Siuan comments that this isn’t so bad; they already aren’t so far from the top, and will get closer as their potential is reached. Moiraine points out that it isn’t that simple:

“At what point does deference become obedience? Even if she did not call it so, that is what she meant. We must observe the other sisters closely, and until we know for certain, we must err on the side of prudence. A month from now, I mean to be leagues from Tar Valon, not sweating on a farm across the river.”

They are intercepted by a sister named Cetalia Delarme, who immediately outrages Moiraine by referring to her as a “pretty porcelain doll”; Moiraine says nothing, though, noting that Cetalia is as strong as she and Siuan will be in five years. Cetalia goes on that she’s heard Siuan is a great one for solving puzzles, and gives her a stack of pages with the names of playing cards on them. Moiraine can’t make head or tails of it, but Siuan quickly identifies the order as that of a game called Arrays, though she’s never played it herself. Cetalia is impressed, and peremptorily drags Siuan off to test her on more puzzles, over her protests. Moiraine is grateful that they will only have to put up with this for a week or so before they leave, and goes back to her rooms. She is interrupted almost immediately by Anaiya, who offers her Healing from the pain of taking the Oaths, and also tells her Tamra has sent for her. Moiraine, thinking that perhaps Tamra means to make her one of the searchers, goes eagerly.

Hours later, Siuan protests to Cetalia that she doesn’t want a job as her assistant, but Cetalia is having none of it, and kicks Siuan out to eat. Siuan curses herself for wanting to impress people and showing off, and thinks that now she’ll be stuck in the Tower for years, until she gets strong enough to tell Cetalia to stuff it. She goes looking for Moiraine.

The sight of Moiraine always made her smile. Cetalia had been wrong in one particular. She was not a pretty little porcelain doll; she was a beautiful little porcelain doll. On the outside, anyway. Inside, where it counted, was another matter. The first time Siuan saw her, she had been sure the Cairhienin girl would crack like a spindle-shell in a matter of days. But Moiraine had turned out to be as tough as she herself, if not tougher. No matter how often she was knocked down, she climbed back to her feet straightaway. Moiraine did not know the meaning of “give up.”

She is surprised, therefore, to find Moiraine disconsolate; Moiraine tells her that Tamra has assigned her to distribute the bounty. Siuan asks if it could be to get her out of the way of the search, but Moiraine doesn’t think so, pointing out that she does have experience in managing an estate, after all. She asks what Cetalia wanted, and Siuan grumbles without thinking that she just wanted Siuan to look at a bunch of fifty-year-old reports on happenings in various nations. Moiraine, however, immediately divines what this means:

“Cetalia heads the Blue Ajah eyes-and-ears.” It was not a question. Trust her to see straight to the heart right away.

“Don’t even whisper that. The bloody woman will boil me down like an oil fish if she learns I let it slip. […] Look now, handing out the bounty can’t last more than a few months. After, you’re free to go. Let me know where you’re going, and if I learn anything, I’ll try to get word to you.”

Moiraine answers that she doesn’t know if she has a few months, and confesses to Siuan about the possibility of having to be Queen of Cairhien. Siuan blinks, but opines Moiraine would make a great queen. Moiraine counters that she is not willing to take the chance that having an Aes Sedai queen would not go badly for Cairhien, and further points out that no one has ever ruled Cairhien without eventually having to stoop to “kidnapping, assassination and worse” to hold on to power. She begins to cry, and Siuan reassures her that everything will be okay, a bit surprised that the First Oath allows her to say it.

“If you say so, Siuan.” Moiraine did not sound as if she believed, either. “There is one thing I can remedy. May I offer you Healing?”

Siuan could have kissed her. In fact, she did.

Lan and his men gather at the foot of Kinslayer’s Dagger, and Lan sees that the Aiel they’ve been following must already be into the mountain passes. Bukama hopes that Pedron Niall (who currently commands the coalition) doesn’t try to “paint his face” (meaning try to gain glory by attacking), but Lan answers that he won’t, knowing Niall is too smart for that. He looks to the north, feeling the urge to go back; Bukama, noting this, comments that “only a fool jumps from one war straight into another.” Lan answers that a month or two will be rest enough, but Bukama bargains him up to four. As the army disperses in the wake of the cessation of the Aiel threat, he and Bukama turn south toward Andor and Tear, avoiding Tar Valon.

Lan did not speak at all unless Bukama addressed him. He felt the pull of home sharply. All he wanted was a return to the Blight. And no encounters with Aes Sedai.

Commentary
Yeah, Lan, I’m thinking you’re kind of S.O.L. on that last wish. Heh.

It’s funny that you guys chose to have a big debate about the strength hierarchy thing in the comments to the last post, considering how much more appropriate it would have been in this one. But then again, it’s not like this territory hasn’t been covered multiple times, at length, by everyone and their dog, including me, so it’s all good in the end.

Siuan’s comments about the strength thing are… well, I can’t entirely blame her for it, because it’s a pretty natural reaction, but damn if that isn’t a classic case of privilege, there. I can’t help but think of what that conversation with Eadyth would be like if you were, say, Daigian—i.e. someone very weak in the Power. Seriously, what must that be like, to be informed that not only are you at the bottom rung of the ladder, but you will always be at the bottom rung, and there’s not a damn thing you can do to not be on the bottom rung, ever?

That would fucking suck, is what it would be like. I would be pissed as hell, man.

Someone pointed out in the comments recently that the strength thing was strategically necessary for the story, as there is no other reasonable way the Supergirls could have ended up in charge of everything in the short time frame they have before Armageddon rolls around. Which, okay, but “because the plot needed it to happen” is generally not considered the most classy rationale for things existing in a story, you know?

Argh. And the most annoying thing is that, even given my issues with the whole set-up, seeing Moiraine and Siuan’s status get elevated like that was still a heady thrill-by-proxy, just like it was for when the Supergirls (or the Superboys, for that matter) got to step up and take charge in the series proper. Damn wish-fulfillment fantasy getting in the way of my principles and shit, I swear.

I have to admire Moiraine for her reasons for not wanting to be queen of Cairhien. The Aes Sedai thing aside, I have to agree I wouldn’t exactly be enthused about taking on a job that pretty much demands that you be a part-time sociopath, regardless of whether I would be good at it or not. In fact, if I thought I would be good at it, that would be my cue to run the bloody hell away from it at top speed, methinks. Yikes.

The sight of Moiraine always made her smile.

And:

Siuan could have kissed her. In fact, she did.

Uh-huh. And the part about how they totally broke Tower protocol to be sworn in together. Oh, and I left out the bit where they entered the swear-in holding hands, or the part where Moiraine rhapsodizes about how Siuan is awesome in every way, just as Siuan does in the quote from the summary above. Yeah, thank goodness this is just a girl-on-girl and therefore by definition temporary and dismissable pillow friend thing, ‘cause, you know, otherwise I might think this actually was a real relationship. Silly me!

I wonder if Jordan was even aware of the mixed signals he was generating here, and how belittling they are when examined in any depth. The ironic thing is that if he had just left the pillow friend thing out of it, and kept Moiraine and Siuan’s relationship strictly that of BFFs, I would have been totally happy to accept that. Just as I would have been happy to accept them being in an OTP, True Love Forever relationship as well. It’s this damn wishy-washy either-neither thing that cheeses me off. Oh well.


And that’s our show, kids! Have a lovely weekend, unless you’re in my neck of the woods, in which case you’re kind of hosed as far as “lovely” goes. New York weather is officially fired, I swear. See you next week!

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