Top o’ the Tuesday to ye, WOTers! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 22 and 23 of Knife of Dreams, in which deals are made, moles are unearthed, and totally unnecessary Kool-Aid is drunk. Sheesh.
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 22: To Make an Anchor Weep
Harine and Shalon enter the harbor of Illian for a meeting of the Twelve Clan Wavemistresses, being held aboard one of the captured Seanchan ships from the Escape from Ebou Dar. Harine is disturbed by an unnatural wind that blows suddenly from the north, but refuses to show it. She and Shalon are the last to arrive, and inside the cabin Harine is either ignored or shown contempt by the other Wavemistresses, except for her old friend Mareil, who tells her consolingly that surely Harine did what she felt she had to.
Against her will, Harine’s eyes went to the ringbolt set in one of the beams of the overhead. It could have been removed by now. She was sure it remained for the purpose of provoking her. That strange young woman Min had been right. Her Bargain with the Coramoor had been judged deficient, giving away too much and demanding too little in return. In this same cabin, with the rest of the First Twelve and the new Mistress of the Ships watching, she had been stripped and hung by her ankles from that ringbolt, stretched tight to another set in the deck, then strapped until she howled her lungs out. The welts and bruises had faded, but the memory lingered however hard she tried to suppress it.
She consoles herself with the rest of Min’s foretelling, that she would become Mistress of the Ships eventually. Zaida enters with her Windfinder and a very discomfited-looking Aes Sedai named Amylia, and Harine thinks that Zaida’s much better-accepted bargain with Elayne of Andor and arrival by gateway had been definite factors in her being chosen to be the new Mistress of the Ships. Zaida announces that “the man” from the Coramoor has not arrived yet, and orders Amylia to serve wine. From Amylia’s obsequious behavior, Harine concludes she committed some very large error recently.
Of the Brown Ajah, Amylia had wanted to study the Atha’an Miere, but she was given little time for study. Her purpose was to work, and Zaida saw that she did. She was there to teach the Windfinders all that the Aes Sedai knew. She still dithered over that, but shorebound instructors, rare as they were, ranked barely a whisker above the deckhands in the beginning, the woman apparently had believed her dignity fully equal to Zaida’s if not more! and the deckmaster’s flail laid with some frequent regularity across her rump supposedly was changing her mind, if slowly. Amylia had actually tried to desert three times!
Zaida berates Harine publically for deserting her post with the Dragon Reborn and for the bargain she made, and Harine thinks there is no way she would tell how she had almost wept with relief to get away from Cadsuane. The Coramoor’s ambassador arrives soon after, and introduces himself as Logain, to everyone’s shock; even the Sea Folk know that name. Breathlessly, Amylia asks for permission to speak, and tells them Logain is a false Dragon, and channels tainted saidin. Logain answers calmly that he is Asha’man, but saidin is cleansed now. He asks Amylia whether she holds allegiance to Elaida or Egwene, and Zaida cuts in to say that Amylia serves her for the next year. (Amylia looks horrified.) Zaida wants to know where the Coramoor is, so she can send an ambassador to him, and Logain answers that he can’t tell her, to her outrage.
“He wants his whereabouts kept secret for now, Shipmistress. The Forsaken have made efforts to kill him. I am willing to take Harine din Togara with me, however. From what I heard, I think he found her acceptable.”
Harine jerked so hard she spilled wine over the back of her hand, then took another long swallow. But, no, Zaida would divorce Amel and marry a ballast stone before she sent Harine din Togara as her ambassador. Still, even the thought of it was enough to make her tongue stick to the roof of her mouth. Even becoming Mistress of the Ships might be insufficient recompense for being forced to endure Cadsuane any longer.
Zaida tells Amylia to pour wine for Logain, but Amylia is shaking so badly she spills it.
Strangely, Logain walked over to her and put his hands on hers to steady her. Was he one of those who could not leave others to do their own work?
“You’ve nothing to fear from me, Amylia Sedai,” he told her. “It’s been a long time since I ate anyone for breakfast.” She stared up at him with her mouth hanging open as though uncertain whether he was making a joke.
Zaida asks what service the Coramoor requests, and Logain tells her it is no request, but an order: the Atha’an Miere are to provide him with ships to carry food and supplies from Tear and Illian to Bandar Eban sufficient to feed over a million people. Astonished, Zaida protests that this would require more rakers than they currently possess, and Logain shrugs and tells her to find other ships, then. Zaida is incensed at his rudeness, but then they are interrupted by Turane, who whispers something to Zaida that drains the blood from her face. She announces that there is “news to make an anchor weep”, and brings in the messenger, a Sailmistress named Cemeille din Selaan Long Eyes. Haggard and grieving, Cemeille tells them she went as fast as she could, stopping at every island, but she was too late. She says that three weeks earlier, the Amayar on Tremalking had asked to send messengers to all the other islands, and soon after all the Amayar in the port cities left, and did not return.
“The governor sent people to the Amayar villages, and they found ” She squeezed her eyes shut. “The Amayar were all dead or dying. Men, women” her voice broke “children.”
Funeral keening rose in the cabin, and Harine was surprised to realize that shrill sound was coming from her mouth, too. Sad enough to make an anchor weep? This should make the heavens sob.
One of the Wavemistresses demands to know how, and Cemeille replies that it was poison, given to their children and then themselves.
“The Great Hand on Tremalking melted. The hill where it stood reportedly is now a deep hollow. It seems the Amayar had prophecies that spoke of the Hand, and when it was destroyed, they believed this signaled the end of time, what they called the end of Illusion. They believed it was time for them to leave this this illusion” she laughed the word bitterly “we call the world.”
“Have none been saved?” Zaida asked. “None at all?” Tears glistened on her cheeks, too, but Harine could not fault her on that. Her own cheeks were wet.
Zaida stands and declares that ships must be sent to every island to try and find any survivors anyway, but Logain interrupts to remind her that every ship they have must be committed to Bandar Eban. Zaida demands to know if he is heartless; the Atha’an Miere must mourn.
As [Logain] spoke, it seemed to Harine that the space turned chill and the light dimmed. She was not the only woman to hug herself against that cold. “Mourn if you must.” he said, “but mourn on the march for Tarmon Gai’don.”
I’m not entirely convinced this chapter needed to exist.
I feel a little bit like a heel for saying that, because of course an entire people poisoning themselves is a horrific tragedy which should not be ignored, but I’m just saying that I don’t know that we needed an entire two-thirds of a chapter of Harine’s self-esteem issues to lead up into telling us about it. (Though I admit her horror at the idea of being reunited with Cadsuane was pretty amusing.)
Nor am I convinced we really needed this scene to tell us about the deal with Logain/Rand to bring food to Bandar Eban. This is an important plot point, yes, but again, I really feel like it was one we could have learned about secondhand.
But then again, maybe I’m being unfair, because I do note that whenever Jordan did let things happen in the background without taking time to bring it “up front”, so to speak, more often than not the fandom yelled at him for doing so. So possibly I’m just letting my general distaste for the Sea Folk, and my wish to not have to deal with them, ever, influence my critique here.
But still there’s just so much to get through, at this point. I just don’t know that we needed to take a whole chapter here, even to mourn the death of a people.
Especially, frankly, a people whom we have no connection to at all as readers. We’ve only ever “met” an Amayar once, for like two point five seconds, during the Cleansing in WH, and, well. I just maybe don’t have much room to care about them with all the other peoples we do know going on in WOT.
Maybe that is terrible and callous to say. And maybe this is terrible too, but honestly my main response to Cemeille’s news was not sorrow, but a kind of blank astonishment that an entire nation of people could be that deluded. Or, to not soft-pedal it, could be that stupid.
I’m sorry, but the psychological derangement that leads to suicide cults to people who are not actually in death camps or facing starvation or some comparable no-hope scenario, thinking that it’s the best option to kill their own children is so alien to me that I can’t even wrap my brain around it. Seriously, how how could you do that?
And no, I don’t consider even impeding apocalypse to be a sufficient “no-hope” scenario. Especially not this particular one, where there is a definite possibility of an out-clause, however faint. Not to be all cliché, but where there’s life, there’s hope. At least go down fighting, goddammit.
Anyway. By the way, the FAQ has stuff to say about the real-world references this is referring to (scroll down to “Time of Illusions” if you’re interested). I’ll just note in passing that while my acquaintance with both Gnosticism and Hinduism is best described as “scant,” I’m pretty sure that neither practice ever advocated killing everyone. I’m just saying.
In other news, I seriously spent about ten minutes racking my brain for who the hell Amylia was before I gave up and checked online, only to find out that I didn’t know her for the very good reason that she’s never been mentioned before, not specifically, anyway. So, good to know I’m not losing my mind or anything. At least, not for this reason.
Also, Logain’s sense of humor is kind of awesomely horrible. Or horribly awesome, I’m not sure which.
Chapter 23: Call to a Sitting
Romanda sits in her tent, reading a trashy novel in lieu of thinking about how all the Keeping wards on the Rebels’ food supplies were failing, and ignores the novice straightening the tent.
Bodewhin Cauthon was quite pretty, but she was an intelligent girl even so, though she had something of her brother around the eyes and rather more of him in her head than she was willing to admit. Undoubtedly she was already hard on the path to the Green, or perhaps the Blue. The girl wanted to live adventure, not just read about it, as if an Aes Sedai’s life would not bring her more adventure than she wished without searching for it.
Nisao enters and asks to speak with Romanda privately, and Romanda sends Bodewhin out, irritated by Bodewhin’s comment on not wanting to upset Sharina Melloy. Romanda notes that some way must be found to get rid of Sharina and all the other novices who were far too old, regardless of their potential. Nisao tells her Lelaine has stopped Nisao from investigating the murders of Anaiya and Kairen, claiming that they are Blue Ajah business, and Nisao wants Romanda to speak to Lelaine about it. Romanda thinks Lelaine’s claim is “utter nonsense,” but asks why Nisao is looking into the murders in the first place. Nisao tells her because the Mother asked her to. Romanda is surprised, even though she herself had come to have a grudging respect for Egwene, and asks if that was enough for Nisao.
“It is my major reason. In the beginning, I thought she would end up as your pet. Or Lelaine’s. Later, when it was clear she had evaded both of you, I thought Siuan must be holding the leash, but I soon learned I was wrong. Siuan has been a teacher, I’m sure, and an advisor, and perhaps even a friend, but I’ve seen Egwene call her up short. No one has a leash on Egwene al’Vere. She is intelligent, observant, quick to learn and deft. She may become one of the great Amyrlins.” The bird-like sister gave a sudden, brief laugh. “Do you realize she will be the longest sitting Amyrlin in history? No one will ever live long enough to top her unless she chooses to step down early.”
Romanda is disconcerted by Nisao’s words, and tells her she will speak to Lelaine. She asks what Nisao has learned so far, and Nisao tells her the only link she could find between Anaiya and Kairen was that they had been close friends, along with another Blue named Cabriana Mecandes, but mere friendship seems a weak motive for murder. Romanda thinks the name Cabriana Mecandes rings a bell, but can’t place it. She orders Nisao to report to her in Egwene’s absence from now on, and Nisao has no choice but to agree. Theodrin enters to tell Romanda that Lelaine has called for a meeting of the Hall. Romanda readies herself and heads out, coming across Sharina and Tiana, the Mistress of Novices, talking together. Romanda notes with disgust that Sharina looks more like she is in charge of Tiana instead of the other way around.
Were there fewer lines in her face than there had been? Well, there was no saying what might happen when a woman began with the Power at her age. Sixty-seven and a novice!
After Sharina leaves, Tiana tells Romanda that Sharina and several of the older novices have displayed great ability with Nynaeve’s new Healing weave, which so flusters Romanda that she trips. She reassures herself that she does not need to rethink her position on the older novices, and rudely criticizes Tiana for allowing novices to learn such dangerous weaves. Tiana stomps off in a huff. Romanda arrives at the Hall, noting that Sheriam is embarrassing herself by hanging around even though the Keeper cannot enter the Hall unless the Amyrlin is there. She passes Malind and Faiselle, who are discussing how Myrelle was strongarmed into bonding Llyw, Kairen’s former Warder, to try to save him, and how upset Myrelle had been about it. She approaches Lelaine and asks what this is about, but Lelaine refuses to say, only commenting that it will be “dramatic.” Romanda is uneasy at how smug she seems. Lelaine calls the meeting into session and asks that it be Sealed to the Hall. She tells them that a Green sister has come to her with a proposal that “meets some of our needs,” and has Moria bring her in. The Green is trailed by three Warders, and it takes a moment for them all to realize that at least one of them is also an Asha’man. Malind jumps up and runs out. Janya presumes that the Green is not here to join them, and she answers with distaste that she is not.
“My name is Merise Haindehl, and me, I will stand with no sister who wishes to contend against other sisters while the world hangs in the balance. Our enemy, it is the Shadow, not women who wear the shawl as we do.” Mutters rose in the pavilion, some angry, some, Romanda thought, shamed.
Janya asks why she is here then, and Merise answers that she has a proposal from the Dragon Reborn via Cadsuane, or rather her Warder Jahar has one. She gives Jahar permission to speak, and Jahar demands to know where Egwene is, as he was ordered to give the proposal to her. Romanda answers that Egwene is unavailable at the moment, but they will bring the proposal to her. Then Jahar snarls and tells Merise that a man just tried to listen in, or maybe the Forsaken that tried to kill Eben; several of the Sitters embrce saidar when they realize Jahar is holding saidin, and Delana suddenly excuses herself. She leaves as Malind returns with a Malkieri Green named Nacelle, who tests out a new weave which proves able to detect a man’s channeling, though not what he is channeling. The other sisters are amazed; Jahar sneers, but obeys when Merise orders him to participate in the test. Lelaine then kicks Nacelle out, and Romanda asks for the Dragon Reborn’s proposal.
“This.” he said, facing her proudly. “Any sister who is faithful to Egwene al’Vere may bond an Asha’man, to a total of forty-seven. You cannot ask for the Dragon Reborn, nor any man who wears the dragon, but any Soldier or Dedicated you ask cannot refuse.” Romanda felt as if all the breath had been squeezed from her lungs.
“You will agree this meets our needs?” Lelaine said calmly.
Faiselle jumps up to call for a formal session, and Saroiya raises the question of covenants “to be sure we are in control,” but Lelaine overrides the first and points out that the Warder bond should be more than sufficient. Faiselle and Saroiya then both raise the question of the taint, but Jahar tells them saidin is clean, and Merise backs him up. Romanada is further amazed, but puts it off to call the proposal to a vote; everyone except Faiselle and Saroiya vote in favor. Only after the vote is passed does Janya think to ask why forty-seven specifically. Jahar tells her that fifty-one sisters have already been bonded to Asha’man, and four Asha’man are bonded to sisters, so forty-seven makes the difference.
“There were five of us, but one died defending his Aes Sedai. Remember his name. Eben Hopwil. Remember him!”
There was a stunned silence from the benches. Romanda felt a lump of ice in her middle. Fifty-one sisters? Bonded by Asha’man? It was an abomination!
“Manners, Jahar!” Merise snapped. “Do not make me tell you again!”
Shockingly, he rounded on her. “They need to know, Merise. They need to know!” Turning back, he ran his gaze along the benches. His eyes seemed hot. He had been dreading nothing. He had been angry, and still was. “Eben was linked with his Daigian and Beldeine, with Daigian controlling the link, so when they found themselves facing one of the Forsaken, all he could do was shout, ‘She’s channeling saidin,’ and attack her with his sword. And despite what she did to him, ruined as he was, he managed to hang on to life, hang on to saidin, long enough for Daigian to drive her off. So you remember his name! Eben Hopwil. He fought for his Aes Sedai long after he should have been dead!”
When he fell silent, no one spoke until Escaralde finally said, very quietly. “We will remember him, Jahar.”
She asks how the fifty-one sisters came to be bonded, and he shrugs and tells her they were sent by Elaida to destroy the Black Tower, but the Dragon Reborn has ordered that no Aes Sedai are to be harmed unless she attacks first, so Taim decided to capture and bond them before they could. Moria asks why he keeps insisting a woman channeled saidin, and Jahar tells her it is the only explanation for what happened to Eben.
Suddenly that small chime sounded again in the back of Romanda’s head, and she knew where she had heard the name Cabriana Mecandes. “We must order the arrest of Delana and Halima immediately,” she said.
After Romanda explains, they search the camp, but it is too late: both Delana and Halima are gone.
I totally forgot that this scene was from Romanda’s point of view. It was a bit disconcerting.
I’m sort of tempted to call bullshit on this particular Hall vote. I’m glad it happened, because even though I think that having equal amounts of involuntary bondage on both sides is kind of supposing that two wrongs make a right, I think that in the larger picture this will ultimately be by far the most effective way to smooth the inevitable détente or alliance or, dare I hope, even eventual merging of the Black and White Towers, so I’m more or less willing to hold my nose about it. At least this week.
However, all that said, I rather raise my eyebrow that the Hall would just be all “Okay, sure!” to such a thing and only THEN think to ask what the catch was. It was all very narratively dramatic and all, but seriously, that is a major glaring oversight there, ladies. Enough so that it was a tad, well, eyebrow raise-y. You know?
But hey, at least Halima is gone! What a relief, eh?
Except for how she hardly did anything while she was there, of course, so, yeah. Yes, killing two Aes Sedai is very bad, and all, but as far as what we’ve been led to expect of Forsaken-level badness, it’s downright tame. Eh, whatever.
I’m a tad miffed that the implication here is that the only reason Anaiya and Kairen were killed is because they were friends with Cabriana. Not that that isn’t a perfectly good motive on Halima’s part, but I was rather fond of the idea that Anaiya was killed because she believed in Egwene’s Dreaming ability. But it seems not. Oh, well.
Anyway, back to the bonding thing, this would be a lot cooler if I didn’t know what was coming up re: the sisters going to the Black Tower, i.e. a virtual Darkfriend snakepit. Actually, scratch that, because I’m not sure I do remember correctly what happens with the Rebel sisters who go there, now that I think about it. I seem to recall something about Taim just stonewalling them for forever, but I’m not sure. Either way, not a fun environment from what I remember. Blagh.
I’m glad that Jahar seems to be growing a backbone and talking back to Merise, because that relationship has always vaguely freaked me out. So I’m pleased that there is at least some indication of growing parity, there. But then, the power dynamics here on the whole are unsettling and freaky, by design, so there’s that? Right. Well, at least we finally learned Merise’s last name!
And I’m pleased that the Sitters at least acknowledged Eben’s sacrifice, too. Poor kid.
Bodewhin: I was completely tickled by Romanda’s assessment of her, and that she was a lot like her brother. This may or may not be because of the rather large soft spot I have for her brother, of course. It’s a total throwaway bit overall, but it’s probably my favorite part of this chapter. Cauthons FTW!
I think I’ve mentioned before that I have an unofficial list of Reunions I Hope To See before the series is over, and having Mat meet up with Bodewhin again, even if only briefly, is definitely one of them. It’s also one of the ones I kind of doubt I’ll get to see, for lack of time. Grump.
Also, I wonder how young (looking) Sharina might actually get. Would it really be like a full regression to the age she would have looked if she’d started channeling in her teens or twenties? Because that would be kind of awesome, if so. Imagine getting into your sixties and then getting to look like you’re twenty-one again, eh? No wish-fulfillment there!
And last, and very definitely least, I am such a nerd, because I totally giggled that there is an Aes Sedai in this chapter named after a warp engine propulsion system. I have lost my mind, you guys.
Not that this is news, or anything! So have a week, kiddie kadanzies, and I’ll see you later!