The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Knife of Dreams, Part 17

Happy Tuesday, folks! Welcome back to Yet Another Wheel of Time Re-read!

Today’s entry covers Chapter 27 of Knife of Dreams, in which I split prophetic hairs, examine my possibly erroneous ennui, and squee at a slaughter, which in retrospect is a tad disturbing. It makes sense in context, I swear!

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 27: A Plain Wooden Box

What Happens
Rand waits on a hilltop in Altara just west of the meeting place set with the Daughter of the Nine Moons, while Lews Therin laughs at him for walking into a trap. Min is feeling smug about the promise she’d gotten from him in “a weak moment”, while Alivia is sulking that she is not allowed to go with him to the meeting. Bashere doesn’t like it either, but Rand tells him he knows what to do if something goes wrong. Bashere, his Saldaeans, the Maidens, and most of the Asha’man and Aes Sedai are staying behind with Alivia, while Cadsuane, Nynaeve, Min, Logain, Sandomere, and Narishma are coming with Rand. Rand observes with bemusement the companionable and even affectionate behavior between the Asha’man and the Aes Sedai forcibly bonded to them, even the Red sister Jenare.

Not everyone felt agreeable today. Ayako’s eyes seemed almost black as she glared at Rand, but then, considering what happened to a Warder when his Aes Sedai died, the dark-complected little White had reason to fear Sandomere going into possible danger. The Asha’man bond differed from the Warder bond in some respects, but in others it was identical, and no one yet knew the effects of an Asha’man’s death on the woman he had bonded.

Logain impatiently gets the party together, and Rand warns Min to stay behind him; she replies that she will if she wants to, and they head down to the manor house. Logain and the other Asha’man seize saidin, but Rand does not, unwilling to give Lews Therin a chance to grab it again. He is chagrined to realize that Cadsuane and Nynaeve are already holding saidar, but masked their ability so he couldn’t tell. They enter the manor house’s front yard, and three sul’dam-damane pairs come out to line up before the door, followed by a tiny veiled woman who exactly matches Bashere’s description of the Daughter of the Nine Moons. Nynaeve tells him quietly that one of the women before them is channeling; whoever it is has masked and inverted the weave, and Nynaeve can only tell because of her ter’angreal. Rand asks if she can tell which one, and Cadsuane answers no, but she can do something about it when they get closer. The party dismounts and begins walking toward the veiled woman, who also approaches. Suddenly she flickers for a moment, showing a much taller woman wearing black, and Rand recognizes her.

“Semirhage,” he said in shock before he could stop the word, and suddenly everything seemed to happen at once.

He reached for the Source and found Lews Therin clawing for it, too, each of them jostling the other aside from reaching it. Semirhage flicked her hand, and a small ball of fire streaked toward him from her fingertips. She might have shouted something, an order. He could not leap aside: Min stood right behind him. Frantically trying to seize saidin, he flung up the hand holding the Dragon Scepter in desperation. The world seemed to explode in fire.

Rand comes to and finds himself on the ground, the Scepter destroyed. He tries to get up, and realizes there is only a mangled, charred ruin where his left hand used to be. He finally seizes saidin and gets up, Min helping him, but the fight is already over. Semirhage stands wrapped in Air, with one of Min’s knives in her shoulder and a contemptuous look on her face.

She had been a prisoner before, briefly, during the War of the Shadow. She had escaped from high detention by frightening her jailers to the point that they actually smuggled her to freedom.

Reinforcements arrive as Nynaeve Heals Sandomere’s injuries, Bashere shouting orders to search the house. Nynaeve comes over to Rand; anguished, she tells him she can Heal the injury, but she cannot replace the hand. Rand is silent as she does so, and thinks that it’s strange that he can still feel the whole hand even though it is gone. She Delves him and remarks there is something wrong with his eyes, but she doesn’t dare try anything with that right now. Rand lies that he can see fine, and Bashere says that he’s seen worse injuries. Rand agrees, and remarks that he will have to learn the sword all over again. Nynaeve thinks he is in shock, but Min tells her sadly that he isn’t; Nynaeve tells him it is all right to feel hurt, to grieve, but Rand tells her he doesn’t have time. Nynaeve tries again to Heal the wounds in his side, to no avail. Bashere asks who the tall woman is, and Rand explains. One of the captured sul’dam insists that he is wrong, that she is Anath Dorje, and Cadsuane asks how Rand can be sure.

Semirhage saved him the effort of thinking up a lie. “He’s insane,” she said coolly. Standing there stiff as a statue, Min’s knife hilt still sticking out beside her collarbone and the front of her black dress glistening with blood, she might have been a queen on her throne. “Graendal could explain it better than I. Madness was her specialty. I will try, however. You know of people who hear voices in their heads? Sometimes, very rarely, the voices they hear are the voices of past lives. Lanfear claimed he knew things from our own Age, things only Lews Therin Telamon could know. Clearly, he is hearing Lews Therin’s voice. It makes no difference that his voice is real, however. In fact, that makes his situation worse. Even Graendal usually failed to achieve reintegration with someone who heard a real voice. I understand the descent into terminal madness can be… abrupt.” Her lips curved in a smile that never touched her dark eyes.

Were they looking at him differently? Logain’s face was a carved mask, unreadable. Bashere looked as though he still could not believe. Nynaeve’s mouth hung open, and her eyes were wide. The bond… For a long moment, the bond was full of… numbness. If Min turned away from him, he did not know whether he could stand it. If she turned away, it would be the best thing in the world for her. But compassion and determination as strong as mountains replaced numbness, and love so bright he thought he could have warmed his hands over it.

Cadsuane asks Semirhage why she would condemn herself from her own mouth, and Semirhage asks proudly why she should deny herself.

Cadsuane simply nodded. “I am Cadsuane Melaidhrin. I look forward to long talks with you.” Semirhage sneered. She had never lacked courage.

Two Saldaeans return from searching the manor with a plain wooden box, which proves to have several a’dam and several circlets of black metal. Nynaeve gasps, and explains that they are a’dam for men. Rand observes that Semirhage evidently thought she could capture all of them, and Nynaeve says that if they hadn’t all already been holding the Power and she and Cadsuane hadn’t had their ter’angreal, she very well could have. They discuss what to do with the captured sul’dam and damane. Rand insists that they are to be sent back to Ebou Dar, to carry word that he wants a meeting with the real Daughter of the Nine Moons. Cadsuane and Nynaeve are not happy about this, but Rand tells them the truce is of paramount importance.

“Who are you to ask for a meeting with the High Lady?” Falendre demanded. She emphasized the title for some reason.

“My name is Rand al’Thor. I’m the Dragon Reborn.” If they had wept at hearing Semirhage’s name, they wailed at hearing his.

Mat waits in the trees with Tuon, Selucia, Teslyn, and two thousand mounted crossbowmen, and wonders what Tuon is thinking about his plans for that night; he can’t imagine she is happy about it. Teslyn observes that his plan entails a lot of reliance on luck, and Captain Mandevwin replies that Lord Mat is lucky, and has gotten the Band out of seemingly hopeless situations to win. Mat wonders what’s keeping Aludra, and says he means to bloody the Seanchan “so hard and fast and often that they’re reacting to what we’re doing instead of making their own plans.” Then he regrets saying that, but Tuon doesn’t react except to whisper with Selucia. Mandevwin insists that battle luck “rides on [Mat’s] shoulder.”

Mat grunted and resettled his hat on his head irritably. For every time a banner got lost and blundered into a bloody chink in the enemy’s defenses, there were ten when it just was not bloody where you expected when you bloody well needed it. That was the truth of battle luck.

They see two green nightflowers, which is Aludra’s signal that the raken is away, and that Reimon’s attack on the supply camp is about to begin. Mat sends Vanin off to ascertain the location of the company of lancers that are supposed to be approaching, and his company sets out to the ambush site Mat has chosen. He is distracted on the way by thoughts of Tuon.

Strange as it was, he had no doubt she would keep her word not to escape, even now. […] He had tried kissing her again the night before, and she had punched him in the side so hard that at first he thought she had broken one of his shortribs. But she had kissed him just before they started out this evening. Only once, and said not to be greedy when he attempted a second. The woman melted in his arms while he was kissing her, and turned to ice the moment she stepped back. What was he to make of her?

To himself, he acknowledges that his plan does rely on luck to some extent; if the Seanchan lancers have moved further than he expected, they will either miss them altogether or blunder straight into them. They reach the ambush point, and Mat deploys the crossbowmen atop the hills flanking either side of the road, while he and the women stay on the road to wait for Vanin; they ignore his attempts to convince them to wait in the trees instead. Teslyn suddenly warns him to be wary of Joline, who she says is fascinated with Mat and wants to bond him, possibly even if Mat is not aware to having agreed to it.

“She cannot have him,” [Tuon] said sharply. Drawing a breath, she went on in amused tones. “Toy belongs to me. Until I am through playing with him. But even then, I won’t give him to a marath’damane. You understand me, Tessi? You tell Rosi that. That’s the name I intended to give her. You can tell her that, too.”

Teslyn is enraged, but Mat tells them all to shut up, earning a mocking remark from Tuon about being “masterful.” Teslyn asks what he thinks he can achieve with these raids and ambushes, as the Seanchan will only send more soldiers to hunt him down. Mat replies that he’s counting on that; he wants them to send the whole of the army they have in Molvaine Gap, in fact.

“Everything Thom and Juilin picked up says their big push is aimed at Illian. I think the army in the Gap is to guard against anything coming at them out of Murandy or Andor. But they’re the stopper in the jar for us. I mean to pull that stopper out so we can pass through.”

After several minutes of silence, he looked over his shoulder. The three women were just sitting their horses and watching him. He wished he had enough light to make out their expressions. Why were they bloody staring?

Two hours later, Vanin returns to report that the lancers are a mile behind him, and that there are a thousand more than they thought there were. Teslyn points out that Mat is now outnumbered two to one, but Mat tells her he doesn’t intend to give them “a stand-up fight.” They move to join the crossbowmen on the north side; Mat gives Mandevwin the news about the numbers, who merely nods thoughtfully.

If Mat Cauthon took it in stride, so would he. Mat had forgotten that about the Band. They trusted him absolutely. Once, that had almost made him break out in a rash. Tonight, he was glad of it.

The Seanchan appear soon, trotting down the road, and to Mat’s surprise the commander calls a halt to the column just as they reach the ideal point for the ambush, which Mat thinks must be ta’veren work for sure. He tells Teslyn “Now,” and she sends up a ball of light, illuminating the soldiers below.

Along the line below Mat, a thousand crossbow strings gave what sounded like one loud snap, and a thousand bolts streaked into the formation, punching through breastplates at that short range, knocking men from their feet, sending horses rearing and screaming, just as a thousand more struck from the other side. Not every shot struck squarely, but that hardly mattered with a heavy crossbow. Men went down with shattered legs, with legs ripped half off. Men clutched at the stumps of ruined arms trying to stem the flow of blood. Men screamed as loudly as the horses.

The Seanchan commander tries to rally and send men into the trees before their attackers can reload, but thanks to the new cranks, a second volley finishes the job before the lancers regroup. Mat orders Mandevwin to get the men ready to move out; Teslyn tells him the rules of war demand that he must stay to offer aid.

“This is a new kind of war,” he told her harshly. Light, it was silent on the road, but he could still hear the screaming. “They’ll have to wait for their own to give them aid.”

Tuon murmured something half under her breath. He thought it was, “A lion can have no mercy,” but that was ridiculous.

Mat leads his men away from the road, heading to where he intends to hit the Seanchan again that night.

Well, goodness. Things certainly happened in this chapter!

Including, of course, the dropping of one of the longest prophetically-held other shoes in the series: the loss of Rand’s hand, something that’s been foreshadowed since the very first book in the series.

Although… well. On checking, the in-story prophecies about Rand losing a hand are actually pretty vague. Min saw a “bloody hand” around Rand the first time she met him in TEOTW, but I would tend to argue that that’s not the same as “a charred, severed hand,” though I suppose you could stretch it to symbolize that. Despite the fact that there was no actual blood. I guess. For Elayne, Min saw “a severed hand, not hers,” but I’m kind of puzzled about that one, because Elayne has nothing to do with this entire thing, other than being bonded to Rand, and that’s kind of weak, because so are Min and Aviendha (and Alanna), so if it does refer to Rand’s hand, why does Min only see it in connection with Elayne?

Where we actually got the “severed hand” thing, really, isn’t from the narrative at all, but from Jordan directly. Jordan told people at a signing, about a million years ago, that just as Mat shares characteristics with Odin and Perrin with Thor, he made Rand share traits with the Norse god Tyr, who sacrifices his arm to Fenris so that the wolf may be bound. Without that, I’m not convinced the in-story foreshadowing is even sufficient to indicate it.

Though there is this passage from LOC:

“Trust me, Min. I won’t hurt you. I will cut off my arm before I hurt you.” She was silent, and he finally looked down to find her peering up at him with a strange expression.

“That’s very nice to hear, sheepherder.” Her voice was as odd as her face.

There’s no proof, of course, that this is actually a viewing, but I tend to think it is. The problem is that if it is a viewing, I personally think it’s more likely to be referring to what happens in TGS, when Semirhage tries to force Rand to strangle Min and he resorts to the direst of measures (yeek) to keep from doing it. I say that because Rand says in the passage above that he’ll cut off his arm before he hurts her, not before he allows her to be hurt by outside parties. That might be splitting hairs, but to my mind the phrasing fits the incident in TGS better.

So, yeah. Possibly, the “bloody hand” thing in TEOTW could be considered a case of Jordan changing his mind about that prophecy, or, er, forgetting about how exactly he originally worded it. In fact, though, a lot of Min’s earliest viewings are pretty vague and open to interpretation; I still haven’t decided, for instance, what the deal is with the “white-hot iron” for Rand and the “red-hot iron” for Elayne. The wording seems too similar to be a coincidence, but neither character has yet to come into contact with irons in any significant way that I can recall. I think some people have speculated that it was Min’s way of referencing channeling (which she was hardly familiar with at the time), or maybe balefire specifically for Rand’s viewing (which is often described as “a white-hot bar of light” or something similar), but that seems… wrong. Or, you know, whatever it refers to just hasn’t happened yet.

But I digress! In any case, however we got the information about Rand’s hand loss, it’s a thing we’ve been waiting to see happen for Quite A While. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I was personally rather… bemused that this was the way it happened.

I suppose it’s a matter of opinion whether the rather, er, offhand way it went down (yes, I’m going to punner’s hell, I’m aware) was ironic or just anticlimactic. All these crazy fancy things you can do with the Power, and Rand almost gets killed by a simple fireball. Certainly I think it was intended to be ironic, obviously; I’m just not sure it worked.

And by that I mean, I’m really not sure, because I’m not positive I’m able to give it a sufficiently objective evaluation. That’s what fifteen years’ worth of buildup will do to your perceptions of an event, I guess. Maybe it totally rocked and I’m just too jaded, or something; I just remember when I first read the scene I was like, “Oh. Okay, then.” Then again, I was in a particularly weird place when I first read KOD, as I’ve mentioned, so maybe that’s why it didn’t quite do it for me. *shrug*

And once again Cadsuane saves the day, huh? Well. Glad that all worked out! I’m really not going to examine in any detail the plausibility of the plans of either Rand or Semirhage for this meeting (I leave that in the commenters’ capable hands), but it’s possible that my less-than-whelmed reaction to the whole thing is also partially due to the ever-so-slight whiff of Xanatos Roulette it exudes. On both sides.

(Or is it a Gambit Pileup? Or a Kansas City Shuffle? Argh. Damn you, TV Tropes!)

Well, whatever it is, it made me raise an eyebrow at it, possibly without cause. Take it for what it’s worth.

Cads’s introduction of herself to Semirhage made me snort out loud, though, in light of what’s to come. Heh.

Speaking of which, I initially was also a bit underwhelmed that Semirhage was captured so easily, but in light of what eventually happened in TGS I’m sort of retracting that judgment, because AAAGGHH. If I wanted something appropriately horrific re: a villain called the Lady of Pain (and what a kickass Title of Evil, eh?), I certainly got it, is what I’m saying; I just had to wait a while, it turns out. (AAAGGGHH) And I loved the memory Rand has that Semirhage actually scared her jailers into releasing her, back in the day, because that’s like pre-prequels-Darth Vader levels of awesome terribleness, y’all.

It’s worth mentioning that I had a very difficult time, both initially and now, keeping myself from blaming Min for this entire disaster — especially with her being all “I do what I want!” when Rand tells her to stay behind him. I don’t think, though, that this is an entirely fair judgment. I’m just… not sure why it isn’t. Um.

As far as what Semirhage said about Lews Therin, I found it a somewhat maddening continuation of Jordan’s refusal to tell us whether the Lews Therin in Rand’s head is “real” or not. I mean, Semi is basically saying straight up here that Rand is schizophrenic, except that the voice he’s hearing is a “real voice.” Oh, really? Well, thanks for clearing that up! What the hell does that even mean?

Pshh, I give up. I don’t even really care anymore, honestly. Whether you think Lews Therin is “real” or a constructed personality built on real memories is, fortunately, completely irrelevant at this point anyway, so I’m content to let it go.

I will say, though, that I while I think we were supposed to find Rand’s companions’ reactions to this news heartening (i.e. they’re still standing by him, etc.), I just found it kind of amusing. Oh, Rand’s crazy, is he? TELL US SOMETHING WE DIDN’T KNOW, GIRLFRIEND. Heh.

Ayako: The interesting thing is, I think we still haven’t found out what happens to the bondee in the Asha’man version of the Warder bond, have we? If we have, I certainly don’t remember it. I suspect we’re going to find out Real Soon Now, of course. And won’t that be fun.

Aaaand I also should at some point talk about Mat’s part of this chapter.

…Except I really don’t have a lot to say about it, honestly. It is basically eight pages of Mat being completely awesome and kicking military ass, and, well, there you are.

I loved loved loved the line about how the Band trusts Mat absolutely, because of course they do! He’s Mat Cauthon!

Even his ruthlessness in refusing aid to the wounded Seanchan was kind of terribly brilliant from a tactical point of view, if rather sobering in the abstract. I feel like I should be more appalled about his decision than I am, but honestly, in Mat’s position — grossly outnumbered, grossly outgunned (no fighting channelers), and trapped behind enemy lines — I really can’t say that I fault him for doing what he has to do to ensure his own side’s survival. This is why war sucks.

Tuon: Shut up, Tuon. I wish Teslyn had punched you in your slavery-condoning mouth. Just because you’re kind of hilarious with your push-me-pull-you kissing tactics is no excuse!

…Though okay, her line about a lion having no mercy was pretty cool. Because it was about Mat. Who, as I may have mentioned, is awesome. The End.

No, really, The End! So, bye, Rand! Sorry about the maiming! See you when your downward spiral hits Mach 2 in TGS, argh! Y’all wave now, hear? Bye!


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