Jumping Jehoshaphat, it’s a Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 25 and 26 of Knife of Dreams, in which I half-heartedly kick a defunct beast of burden, allegedly squee at manly serenades, and shamelessly flaunt my belletristic fetishes. Oooh!
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 25: Attending Elaida
Tarna heads through the altered Tower, careful not to enter any other Ajah’s territory; she doesn’t think anyone would actually attack the Keeper, but knows the situation will become “irretrievable” if someone did. As she walks, she considers the troubling problem of whom among the Red to approach regarding the possibility of bonding the Asha’man as Warders; not only who would not be repulsed at the notion, but who can be trusted not to run to Elaida with it if told. So far, Tarna can only think of one name. She finds Elaida in her sitting room with a very nervous-seeming Meidani, who Tarna notes is dressed for either a ball or “a seduction.” Elaida dismisses Meidani, and then laughs.
“We were pillow-friends as novices,” she said, rising, “and I believe she wants to renew the relationship. I may let her. She might reveal more on the pillows than she’s let slip so far. Which is nothing, truth to tell.”
[ ] Tarna kept her face smooth with an effort. Pillow-friends were common among novices and Accepted, but girlhood things should be left behind with girlhood. Not all sisters saw it so, certainly. Galina had been quite surprised when Tarna refused her advances after gaining the shawl. She herself found men far more attractive than women.
Tarna tries to convince Elaida to let the Sitters know about Meidani and the other ferrets, but Elaida refuses, paranoid that some of the Hall may be working with them. Tarna reports that there is no news on the location of the seals on the Dark One’s prison, and that work is progressing slowly on unblocking the harbors, mostly because the other Ajahs besides the Red are dragging their feet to obey Elaida’s orders. Infuriated, Elaida tells Tarna to post an order saying that the Sitters of each Ajah are to receive a daily penance from Silviana for every day that Ajah fails to send a sufficient number of sisters to work on the harbor chains, and the same for any Ajah that continues to send sisters to the negotiations with the rebels.
Tarna drew a deep breath. Penances might work and they might not, depending on how set the Sitters were, and the Ajah heads she did not think things had gone so wrong that they might refuse to accept penance at all; that would be an end to Elaida for sure, perhaps an end to the Tower. But posting the order publicly, not allowing the Sitters a scrap to hide behind and maintain their dignity, was the wrong way to go about it. In truth, it might well be the very worst way.
She tries to suggest an alternate course, but Elaida will not let her. Tarna gives up and reports that Egwene spends half the day in Silviana’s study, and she is sure the girl will break soon. Elaida approves, and orders that Egwene is to attend her that night to serve supper for Elaida and Meidani.
Mat and his party have stopped for a meal in the woods, on their way to a smugglers’ pass through the Damona Mountains that Vanin just happens to know about. Mat deliberately provokes Tuon with his bad table manners and then ignores Aludra when she chides him for wasting her fire-strikers to light his pipe, and thinks of how happy Luca had been to see them go. Both Seta and Bethamin are now being taught to channel, and Mat thinks Seta seems oddly content about it. Mat is relieved to have left the gholam behind, sure that it will continue to follow Luca’s show, and that he will have a while more to be with Tuon before having to send her back. Amathera screams when she spots a blacklance, a large poisonous snake, but Mat tells Juilin to let it go when it only goes to escape rather than attack.
“A strange man, who lets poisonous serpents go,” Tuon said. “From the fellow’s reaction, I assume a blacklance is poisonous?”
“Very.” he told her. “But snakes don’t bite anything they can’t eat unless they’re threatened.” He put a foot in the stirrup.
“You may kiss me, Toy.”
He gave a start. Her words, not spoken softly, had made them the object of every eye. Selucia’s face was so stiffly expressionless her disapproval could not have been plainer. “Now?” he said. “When we stop tonight, we could take a stroll alone-“
“By tonight I may have changed my mind, Toy. Call it a whim, for a man who lets poisonous snakes go.” Maybe she saw one of her omens in that?
Taking off his hat and sticking the black spear back into the ground, he took the pipe from between his teeth and planted a chaste kiss on her full lips. A first kiss was nothing to be rough with. He did not want her to think him pushy, or crude. She was no tavern maid to enjoy a bit of slap and tickle. Besides, he could almost feel all those eyes watching. Someone snickered. Selucia rolled her eyes.
Tuon folded her arms beneath her breasts and looked up at him through her long eyelashes. “Do I remind you of your sister?” she asked in a dangerous tone. “Or perhaps your mother?” Somebody laughed. More than one somebody, in fact.
Grimly, Mat tapped the dottle from his pipe on the heel of his boot and stuffed the warm pipe into his coat pocket. He hung his hat back on the ashandarei. If she wanted a real kiss Had he really thought she would not fill his arms? Slim, she was to be sure, and small, but she filled them very nicely indeed. He bent his head to hers. She was far from the first woman he had kissed. He knew what he was about. Surprisingly or then again, perhaps not so surprisingly she did not know. She was a quick pupil, though. Very quick.
When he finally released her, she stood there looking up at him and trying to catch her breath. For that matter, his breath came a little raggedly, too. Metwyn whistled appreciatively. Mat smiled. What would she think of what plainly was her first real kiss ever?
To his disgruntlement, though, Tuon only comments that he is feverish from his wounds, and they are arguing about whether he needs ointments when they are interrupted by approaching riders. One of them is Vanin, and the other, to Mat’s great surprise, is Talmanes. Talmanes offers his condolences about Nalesean’s death; Mat assumes that Egwene never took Talmanes up on their offer of protection, and hopes Talmanes didn’t bring the entire bloody Band into Altara. Talmanes tells Mat that he’d been wrong about Egwene; she really was the Amyrlin Seat, and that she’s off besieging Tar Valon at the moment. Teslyn and Joline overhear this and attempt to get more info out of Talmanes, but Mat cuts them off, asking about the Band.
“Oh. No, I only brought three banners of horse and four thousand mounted crossbowmen. I left three banners of horse and five of foot, a little short of crossbows, in Murandy with orders to move north to Andor. And the Mason’s Banner, of course. Handy to have masons ready to hand if you need a bridge built or the like.”
Mat squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. Six banners of horse and five of foot. And a banner of masons! The Band had only been two banners counting horse and foot when he left them in Salidar.
He demands to know how he’s supposed to pay that many men, and Talmanes explains to him that their severance package from King Roedran equals a year’s pay for all the Band, and besides, the Dragon Reborn is sure to give Mat grand estates, considering Mat grew up with him. Mat is less than enthused at the notion, but doesn’t say so aloud. He introduces Selucia and Tuon to Talmanes, giving Tuon no titles, but Talmanes bows very low, and Mat knows Vanin tattled about Tuon’s status to Talmanes. Mat decides they will go meet Talmanes’ contingent and leave Altara the same way they entered, to avoid the Seanchan, but Talmanes reports that the pass they used (the same one Vanin had been guiding them to) is now blocked by a rockslide and is impassable. Mat tells Vanin to find another one, but Vanin explains how extremely hazardous that could be. Mat decides he needs time to think.
So I submit that making the title of this chapter “Attending Elaida” but then making the icon Mat’s dice was both (a) confusing and (b) mildly panic-making, as I had some terrible idea, first time around, that Mat was meeting Elaida, which I think we can all agree would be extremely no bueno. On SO many levels. Fortunately, of course, that is not what we are dealing with here, but I think it probably could have been made a little bit less confusing, in my opinion.
As always, reading about Tarna makes me sad, post-ToM. I wonder if there’s a way to undo the 13×13 evilifying process, but I sadly suspect there is not.
Pillow-friends: Oh, no, I’m going to talk about this again! Fire in the hole!
But not a lot, really, because I’m pretty tired of the subject myself. But I couldn’t let Tarna’s internal monologue on the matter pass without a comment, which I’ll quote again here for convenience:
Pillow-friends were common among novices and Accepted, but girlhood things should be left behind with girlhood.
Riiight. Yes, let’s all chuckle at that silly immature time
in college when we experimented with adorable fake fads, like lesbianism. And then we’ll get back to the real world, where only creepy and/or desperate people try to keep going with it! Le sigh.
I don’t think it was really sufficiently impressed upon me, on first reading, just how badly the Tower was falling apart at the seams by this point. I’m not sure why, but I just don’t remember registering that the Ajahs are by now verging on frickin’ armed camps within a demilitarized zone, but now it’s like an airhorn in my mental ear. Seriously, you’re going to let your pissy in-fighting trump making sure an entire city doesn’t starve, by not fixing the harbors? Dude. NOT COOL. Ugh.
And the rest of Tarna’s POV is basically blah blah blah Elaida Is A Moron, so let’s move on to the actual interesting part of the chapter, which is of course Messieur Matrim and the most hilariously publically vetted first kiss ever. Good thing he has, er, advanced training in the subject, eh?
I tend to waver back and forth on my approval of the Mat/Tuon pairing in general, usually in sync with how long it’s been since Tuon said or thought something that pissed me off, but I thought this bit with the kiss was extremely cute and sweet in its own inimitable WOT way. Which is why I had to quote the whole thing, of course. Heh.
(He even got a do-over! Aw.)
Also: TALMANES. THE BAND. OMGYAY.
I was so excited to see him show up, you guys, you have no idea. Actual plot movement FTW!
Chapter 26: As If the World Were Fog
As they ride, Tuon listens in on Toy’s conversation with Talmanes, though she is distracted by the revelation that Toy grew up with the Dragon Reborn, and even more by the fact that he had successfully lied to her about it. She is also distracted by the memory of their kiss. Toy is incensed that Talmanes left a man named Estean in charge, and Talmanes explains that Estean may be a fool, but he will listen to Daerid (a commoner) where Carlomin and Reimon will not. Toy growls that that is going to change.
That red hand symbol Talmanes wore was intriguing. More than intriguing. Much more. Of an old and distinguished House, was he? But Toy was the one. He remembered Hawkwing’s face. That seemed utterly impossible, yet his denial of it had plainly been a lie, as plain as the spots on a leopard. Could the Red Hand be Toy’s sigil? But if so, what about his ring? She had almost fainted when she first saw that. Well, she had come as close to it as she had since childhood.
Toy and Talmanes discuss their crossbowmen, and both Tuon and Selucia are very intrigued to hear that the Band possesses a new kind of crossbow that allows up to eight quarrels to be fired a minute. Selucia asks in sign language what this “Band” is, and Tuon signs back that it is Toy’s personal army, obviously. She finds it odd to think of Toy commanding an army when he seems like such a “buffoon” and a “rapscallion”, though she admits he showed an “unexpected” side of himself in the street brawl in Maderin.
A formidable man, though with a peculiar weakness. For some reason, she found that strangely endearing.
She wishes she could ask how he got the hanging scar, but thinks it would shame him too much to ask. She observes Aludra, and does not understand why she is here, and worries about Thom, who is obviously a spy, probably for the White Tower. She thinks sometimes that Toy is part of a White Tower plot, though she does not see how that is possible. She comments to Thom on the strange coincidence of Talmanes finding them here, and Thom replies that as Mat is ta’veren, he often finds what he needs before he even knows he needs it. Mystified, Tuon demands an explanation of the term; Thom is amazed she doesn’t know of it, but explains. Tuon dismisses this as an obvious superstition, and then sees an omen telling her to stay with Toy. They soon arrive at the camp, and Tuon notes with surprise the eager excitement and affection with which the men greet “Lord Mat’s” return. She is also surprised at the neatness and discipline shown by the camp and the men.
Suddenly a man began to sing in a deep voice, and others joined in, the song spreading rapidly.
There’re some delight in ale and wine,
and some in girls with ankles fine,
but my delight, yes, always mine,
is to dance with Jak o’ the Shadows.
Every man in the camp was singing, now, thousands of voices roaring the song.
We’ll toss the dice however they fall,
and snuggle the girls be they short or tall.
then follow Lord Mat whenever he calls.
to dance with Jak o’ the Shadows.
They cheer and laugh until Toy raises his spear for silence, and gets it instantly; Tuon notes he is not soft with discipline, then. Toy makes a short speech telling the men he means to get the Band home, and they will have to live up to their reputation for moving fast to do it. The men all nod, and Toy asks for maps; Tuon is furious to learn of the existence of one that tracks the Seanchan troops’ movement, and tries to think of how to get it and destroy it. The party is soon settled on stools with tea while Toy has a reunion with his officers, who all seem very fond of him. Tuon shakes her head when she notes the respect they all show to the marath’damane, and Setalle Anan comments that Tuon still doesn’t quite believe that she is in a different world now, does she.
“Just because a thing is a certain way.” Tuon replied, “doesn’t mean it should be that way, even if it has been for a long time.”
“Some might say the same of your people, my Lady.”
Toy gets deeply involved in going over the map with the Seanchan troop movements (shooing off the Aes Sedai), and Talmanes and the other officers come over to Tuon. Talmanes bows to her and gives her a reassurance that “Lord Mat” always keeps his word, meaning his promise to her, and Tuon demands to know if he is a lord or not. Reimon laughs and replies that he is not, except to them; Mat hates nobles, and they consider it an honor to be among the few that he likes. Tuon asks how Toy expects to get this many men out of Altara undetected.
Reimon laughed again. “If I know Mat, he’s planning us a battle. The Band of the Red Hand rides to battle again. It’s been too long, if you ask me.”
Selucia sniffed, and so did Mistress Anan. Tuon had to agree with them. “A battle won’t get you out of Altara,” she said sharply.
“In that case,” Talmanes said, “he’s planning us a war.” The other three nodded agreement as if that were the most normal thing under the Light. Reimon even laughed. He seemed to think everything was humorous.
“Three thousand?” Toy said. “You’re sure? Sure enough, man. Sure enough will do. Vanin can locate them if they haven’t moved too far.”
Tuon looked at him, squatting there by the map, moving his fingers over its surface, and suddenly she saw him in a new light. A buffoon? No. A lion stuffed into a horse-stall might look like a peculiar joke, but a lion on the high plains was something very different. Toy was loose on the high plains, now. She felt a chill. What sort of man had she entangled herself with? After all this time, she realized, she had hardly a clue.
Perrin sits on a ridge above the aqueduct terminus of Malden and consults with pack leader Snowy Dawn, who assures him irritably that the wolves will be there in two days. He and Mishima go down with the carts to the windmill house; Gaul and the Maidens meet him outside and assure him no one’s been in there since they last scouted it. They enter the house, and the Seanchan cart drivers begin unloading the sacks of forkroot and dumping it into the aqueduct. The party entering Malden via the aqueduct begin filing in: Seonid, her two Warders Furen and Teryl, Masuri’s Warder Rovair, Elyas, Tallanvor, twenty of Faile’s followers, and fifty Two Rivers men, led by Ban al’Seen. Perrin makes a point of speaking with each of them, before they get in the pipeline, and most of them assure Perrin they will do nothing to endanger Faile. Gaul enters last, to Perrin’s surprise, and Gaul implies that the other Maidens goaded him into it. Perrin desperately wants to go himself, but knows he cannot. Mishima offers to grease the axles of the windmills to quiet them, but Perrin tells him they can’t risk changing anything.
Mishima regarded him for a long moment, his face half-hidden by moonshadows. For once, he did not seem put off by glowing yellow eyes. His scent . . . He smelled as if he saw something unexpected. “The Banner-General was right about you,” he said slowly.
“What did she say?”
“You’ll have to ask her, my Lord.”
Perrin leaves and returns to where Grady is holding the gateway back to their camp open. Perrin knows Grady and Neald are both tired, but Grady assures him they’ll be all right. Grady comments that the damane in the Seanchan camp make his skin crawl; he tried to talk to them about losing their leashes and they freaked out. Perrin tells him they have other concerns at the moment and to leave it alone. He goes through, back to camp, and sees that a raken has arrived with a message. He finds Berelain, Annoura, Tylee, Balwer, Aram, Lini, and Breane in his tent. Lini is distinctly cold to both Perrin and Berelain, still believing that Perrin had cheated on Faile with Berelain; Aram is upset that he wasn’t allowed to go to Malden, and soon stomps out, no doubt to go see Masema. Tylee tells him she has news: there are seven thousand Whitecloaks on the march some fifty miles from Tylee’s camp, heading north. Annoura adds that Tylee believes them to be deserters, as Eamon Valda had sworn fealty to the Seanchan Empress.
“Something over a month ago, however,” the Gray sister went on. “Galad Damodred killed Valda and led seven thousand Whitecloaks to leave the Seanchan cause. A pity he became enmeshed with Whitecloaks, but perhaps some good has come of it. In any case, it appears there is a standing order that these men are all to be killed as soon as found.”
Balwer seems agitated by this news, and Perrin tells him they are not concerned with Whitecloak deserters. Balwer replies that actually, he might owe this Galad person a debt. Tylee tries to get Perrin alone for the next piece of news, but Perrin tells her to speak, and she tells him there are two large parties of Aiel heading toward Malden from the southeast and southwest, and they will reach the town in three days.
Suddenly, everything seemed to ripple in Perrin’s sight. He felt himself ripple. Breane gave a cry and dropped the pitcher. The world rippled again, and Berelain clutched his arm. Tylee’s hand seemed frozen in that odd gesture, thumb and forefinger forming a crescent. Everything rippled for a third time, and Perrin felt as if he were made of fog, as if the world were fog with a high wind coming. Berelain shuddered, and he put a comforting arm around her. She clung to him, trembling. Silence and the scent of fear filled the tent. He could hear voices being raised outside, and they sounded afraid, too.
Tylee asks, shakily, what that was, and Annoura says she does not know. Perrin tells them it doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is that in three days this thing will be over.
Faile is feeling the pressure; twenty more wetlander gai’shain have asked to swear fealty just that day, and they are starting to advocate an uprising. Rolan is trying to convince her to play a “kissing game” when Galina comes up, looking half-mad, and Rolan takes his leave.
The finger he drew softly down her cheek before walking away made her shiver. To Aiel, touching someone’s cheek in public was as much as a kiss. It surely had felt like a kiss to her. Harmless? Somehow, she doubted that any game that involved kissing Rolan would end with just kissing. Luckily, she would not have to find out or hide anything from Perrin if Galina proved true. If.
Galina demands frantically to know where Faile has hidden the rod, but Faile demands a reiteration of her promise to take Faile and her followers with Galina when she escapes. Galina slaps her, but Faile stands her ground, and Galina finally snarls that she will take Faile et al with her when she goes. Faile offers to get the rod right then, but Galina tells her to meet her the next morning in the south end of the town, in a building Galina will mark with a red scarf. Faile is puzzled, but Galina hisses at her to do it or she’ll regret it. She runs off; Faile is uneasy about her unhinged behavior, but doesn’t see how an Aes Sedai could weasel out of a promise stated that bluntly. She prays she is right about that.
Well, this was a ridiculously long chapter, too. Three, three POVs! Ha Ha Ha!
MAT IS BACK WITH THE BAND YAY.
AND THEY SING TO HIM YAY.
Seriously, that was awesome. I grinned, a lot. There may have been a slightly embarrassing amount of gleeful hand-clasping, too. And maybe even a squee or two. But you can’t prove it!
As I’ve said on many an occasion, Tuon is not always or even usually my most favorite character, but her scene in this chapter is one of my favorite bits of KOD. And of the series as a whole, in fact; it’s definitely at least in the top twenty. This is because I am such a total sucker for the conceit of the outsider’s POV.
It is one of my favorite things when a well-known (and loved) character, who we generally only see from the inside, is shown from a stranger or relative outsider’s perspective instead. I just find it fascinating every time. And it is even better when that outsider POV consists of the outsider character coming to realize that our well-known character is as awesome/cool/badass as we already know them to be.
I’m aware that this is a rather specific literary kink, but I don’t care. It makes my heart happy, y’all.
Plus it doesn’t hurt that Mat’s been playing the “lion stuffed in a stable” role for FAR too goddamn long in my estimation, so seeing Tuon finally get an inkling that he’s so much more than that was extremely gratifying, to say the least.
I also completely missed this tidbit from Tuon’s thoughts before:
Not everything had fallen out as it had to, yet. There was still a chance this could all go awry.
I’m assuming this refers to the fact that she hasn’t yet completed the marriage ceremony, but I’m intrigued to think that perhaps there is even more to Lydia’s prophecy that we haven’t heard yet. Needless to say, I am both very excited and extremely apprehensive about Tuon and Mat’s presumed reunion in AMoL.
Yeah, I can’t summon up much of anything interesting to say about this interlude, other than my relief that it establishes a firm end date for This Damn Plotline. Which, you know, is justification enough in and of itself, so there’s that.
Though I am kind of interested to know what exactly Mishima was talking about; what did Tylee say about Perrin? (There’s that outsider POV thing again!)
The only thing worth noting, really, is the “ripple” phenomenon, which happened once before during a Faile POV and now has happened again. I have to say, I’m not a hundred percent sure what the deal is with this (though I suspect it’s part and parcel of the whole “rearranging reality” hiccups the Pattern’s started having lately), but whatever it is, it sounds incredibly scary to experience.
I do note that Berelain managed to wrangle a Perrin-hug out of it. Of course she did. And meanwhile Perrin’s all, “why do people still think we had an affair?” Argh.
Perhaps hypocritically, though, I still want to kick Lini for believing it.
Speaking of dubious fidelity, here’s a topic: if Faile had decided to sleep with Rolan in order to guarantee her escape, would you condemn her for it? Or is it a case of extreme circumstances calling for extreme measures?
I myself am uncertain. Discuss!
And with that, I run away! See y’all later!