Happy 2012, WOT fans! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 23 through 25 of The Gathering Storm, in which I battle the forces of Evil, Crazy, and Stupid, not necessarily in that order, and mostly lose. Dangit!
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 23: A Warp in the Air
As they hurry into the manor, followed by Narishma and a group of Wise Ones, Merise reports to Cadsuane that Daigian is dead, but Corele and Nesune were only put into some kind of trance; they are still unconscious. Cadsuane theorizes that they were left alive in order to keep their Warders from being alerted. She wonders irritably how the boy could have gotten himself in so much trouble again, and how any of this could have happened. They enter al’Thor’s room to find Sarene, Erian and Beldeine there, along with Min, who is rubbing her throat, and al’Thor standing at the window. Cadsuane demands peremptorily to know what happened, and Rand tells her the danger “has been dealt with.” Cadsuane is taken aback when he turns to face her.
There was a strange serenity about him now, but it had a dark edge. Like the serenity one saw in the eyes of a condemned man the moment before he stepped up to the hangman’s noose.
Rand tells Narishma he has a weave for him, and shows him balefire, destroying a coat. Cadsuane hisses that she forbade him from using that weave, but al’Thor cuts her off, telling Narishma that this is what must be used to kill Forsaken, otherwise they might come back. Cadsuane says it is forbidden, and al’Thor replies that he has decided it is not. He tells her he has seen thousands burned from the Pattern with that weapon, and understands it better than she does. Then he shows her the bracelets still sitting on the bed, and then the box she had been keeping them in, open and empty. Shocked, Cadsuane protests that it was protected by intricate wards, but Rand answers, not intricate enough. She tries to figure out how he could have escaped from the collar, and whether he now had the access key ter’angreal that had also been in the box. She asks if he expects her to apologize, and he answers coldly that he would sooner expect an apology from a stone, and that she is exiled from his sight; if he sees her again after tonight, he will kill her. Min protests, but he ignores her. Cadsuane says this is foolishness.
He turned, and again that gaze of his made her trail off. There was a danger to it, a shadowy cast to his eyes that struck her with more fear than she’d thought her aging heart could summon. As she watched, the air around him seemed to warp, and she could almost think that the room had grown darker.
Cadsuane stammers that he doesn’t kill women, and al’Thor replies that he has been “forced to revise that particular inclination.” He asks softly if she believes that he could kill her just through using ta’veren influence on the Pattern; Cadsuane wants to believe that being ta’veren doesn’t work that way, but when she meets his eyes, she realizes that he really will kill her if she doesn’t leave. She nods, and al’Thor tells her to be certain he never sees her face again. She sees the warping darkness around him again for a moment, and forces herself to leave. She hears him telling the others that he plans to be gone from the manor by the end of the week.
Cadsuane raised a hand to her head and leaned against the hallway wall outside, heart thumping, hand sweating. Before, she had been working against a stubborn but good-hearted boy. Someone had taken that child and replaced him with this man, a man more dangerous than any she had ever met. Day by day, he was slipping away from them.
And at the moment, she hadn’t a blasted clue what to do about it.
Ah, so much ambivalence, so little time.
Because okay. I have always been highly ambivalent toward Cadsuane. And I know some of you are like AMBIVALENCE WHUT, YOU HATE HER, but really if you go back and look at my commentary on her over the books since she appeared, I think it shows that I have admired her (even if reluctantly) almost as often as I have railed at her. Or at least enough that it has not been a one-way ticket on the Revulsion Train, anyway.
So, ambivalence. But this chapter takes my ambivalence to a whole other level, because I have said that, generally speaking, the one area in which Cadsuane ALWAYS managed to piss me off was in how she treated Rand. And here she is FINALLY FINALLY getting her comeuppance on that score and it completely sucks, because it is Evil(ish) Rand doing it, and it is, actually, scary as hell and not awesome at all.
Not so much as in what actually happened, but the implications of it. Because when Rand said that he would kill her here if she didn’t get lost, I believed him.
A warlord/king/nascent Messiah figure with no moral boundaries? Even without knowing what comes next, that is fucking terrifying. I remember I read this chapter the first time going “aw, shit” in my head on repeat, and also lots of very cliché things like SO NOT COOL and I’ve Got A Bad Feeling About This, and etc.
So, cliché, maybe, but nevertheless it bears repeating: SO NOT COOL.
And, dammit, it undermines my whole (perfectly cromulent, in my opinion) outrage with Cadsuane re: her insistence on treating Rand like a delinquent child, and my wish that someone would finally make her see how utterly counterproductive (also in my opinion, natch) her treatment of Rand has been. Because someone finally calls her on it and it’s Dark Side Rand? THANKS FOR RUINING MY POINT, DUDE.
All crazed-with-despair semi-evil people are to stay off my side, you hear me? I wanted dressings-down, not death threats! This is not convincing anyone you’re worth listening to, you know! In fact, the exact opposite!
So, er, yeah. Not to forget the larger point, of course, which is that in addition to undermining my talking points re: Cadsuane (heh), this chapter makes clear that Rand has gone right off the moral rails (and I don’t know why I am so into locomotive imagery today), and Anything Could Happen, and this is really, really not a good thing.
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. Do not want Dark Side Rand! Bad! Go away!
So let’s move on, then, right? Right!
Chapter 24: A New Commitment
Exhausted from days of riding, Gawyn rides into the Rebel army camp. He regrets leaving the Younglings but knows it was the right thing to do, even if he hates the idea of working with the Aes Sedai who had set Egwene up to be a puppet and pawn. He resolves to rescue her and convince her to come back to Andor with him. As he passes through the camp followers, he is shocked to see that one of the washerwomen has an Aes Sedai face; she refuses to acknowledge him, though, and so he moves on to the command palisade. The guards do not believe him when he tells them his name and refuse to send for Bryne; when Gawyn insists, they go to drive him off by force. Gawyn quickly takes out the entire squad, though he tries to injure them as little as he can. The disturbance brings Bryne soon enough; Gawyn is angered by Bryne’s rude summoning to him, thinking that Bryne should show him more respect, but follows to Bryne’s tent. Bryne then demands an explanation for Gawyn’s behavior. Gawyn replies that perhaps he was “hasty” but it was too important that he see Bryne and get him to listen to him.
“And if I don’t?” Bryne asked. “If I instead throw you out of my camp for being a spoiled princeling with too much pride and not enough sense?”
Gawyn frowned. “Be careful, Gareth. I’ve learned a great deal since we last met. I think you’ll find that your sword can no longer best mine as easily as it once did.”
“I have no doubt of that,” Bryne said. “Light, boy! You always were a talented one. But you think that just because you’re skilled with the sword, your words hold more weight? I should listen because you’ll kill me if I don’t? I thought I taught you far better than that.”
Gawyn then feels ashamed, and apologizes to Bryne. Bryne accepts gruffly, and Gawyn explains that he’s here to rescue Egwene. Bryne snorts and tells him that even if he could, why would he think Egwene will let him, when she’s forbidden the rebels to rescue her? Gawyn finds this ridiculous, and points out to Bryne that eventually they will kill her; Bryne replies he may be right, but even so his hands are tied by the oath he made. He says he will bring Gawyn to see some of the Aes Sedai, though; perhaps Gawyn can sway them. Gawyn mentions in passing that he saw one in the camp, hiding among the washerwomen; Bryne frowns, and insists that Gawyn show her to him. As they head back to the outer camp, Bryne discovers that Gawyn has no idea that Elayne is already in Caemlyn and holds the throne. Gawyn is relieved by the news, but tells Bryne he can’t go to his sister until Egwene is safe.
“You made an oath,” Bryne said sternly. “Before me. Have you forgotten?”
“No,” Gawyn said. “But if Elayne has the throne, then she’s safe for now. I’ll get Egwene and tow her back to Caemlyn where I can keep an eye on her. Where I can keep an eye on both of them.”
Bryne snorted. “I think I’d like to watch you trying that first part,” he noted.
Bryne still doesn’t understand why Gawyn wasn’t with Elayne in the first place, and then puts two and two together and realizes, outraged, that Gawyn must have been the one conducting all the raids on his camp. Gawyn refuses to apologize, and says it doesn’t matter anymore, as he has left the White Tower’s allegiance, and swears nothing he sees here will return to Bryne’s enemies. Bryne accepts this reluctantly, but asks what Egwene is to Gawyn that he would delay returning to Caemlyn.
Gawyn met his eyes. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I wish I did.”
Strangely, Bryne chuckled. “I see. And I understand. Come, let’s find this Aes Sedai you think you saw.”
They then argue about Morgase; Gawyn is still convinced al’Thor killed her, but to his shock Bryne replies that he’s not sure he believes that, and even if he did, al’Thor saved Andor by doing so. Gawyn lays his hand on his sword, and Bryne tells him he will always the truth no matter who challenges him on it.
“Morgase the woman I can forgive. But Morgase the Queen? She gave the kingdom to that snake. She sent her allies to be beaten and imprisoned. She wasn’t right in her mind. Sometimes, when a soldier’s arm festers, it needs to be cut free to save the man’s life. I’m pleased at Elayne’s success, and it is a wound to speak these words. But you have to bury that hatred of al’Thor. He wasn’t the problem. Your mother was.”
Gawyn kept his teeth clenched. Never, he thought. I will never forgive al’Thor. Not for this.
Bryne sees his look, and advises him to ask his sister about it. They drop the subject, and eventually Gawyn locates the Aes Sedai washerwoman, Shemerin, who refuses to acknowledge them at first. Then Bryne asks her if she is Aes Sedai, and offers to leave without question if she commands it, but the woman whispers that she is not; she was once Aes Sedai, but no longer. Bryne says he needs to bring her to the sisters in the camp, and Shemerin sighs, but acquiesces. Bryne tells Gawyn he’d best come along as well.
OH MY GOD GAWYN STOP TALKING FOREVER.
The stupid, it burnsssss. You are SUCH A MORON, DUDE. AAAAAAAAGGGHHHH.
*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*
I honestly don’t have any other reaction to this chapter, except for a desire to invent new expletives to express how I feel about the absolutely jaw-dropping levels of willful stupidity, arrogance, entitlement, and obliviousness Gawyn displays here. The fact, that, at base, the idiot really does mean well only makes it worse. Road, hell, good intentions, etc.
I’m not kidding, EVERYTHING HE SAYS here makes me want to beat him senseless. Good God. It’s almost perversely impressive.
Seriously, pick a topic and just watch the stupid splatter everywhere:
“Oh, NEWSFLASH, we’ve got to rescue Egwene! Because I am obviously the ONLY PERSON who realizes OMG SHE’S IN DIZZANGER!”
“Oh, my sister gained the throne even though I wasn’t there to help her like I swore on her cradle? Cool whatever NOW ABOUT EGWENE. And her DANGER. Because I’m sure my sister is totally not in any kind of peril anymore now that she’s Queen!”
“Oh, that silly Egwene and her hilarious ‘orders,’ I will just wrap her in cotton and take her away and she will of course be all ‘MY HERO’ and be totally fine with this, amirite? Right! Wow, it’s like I never even met her before!”
“Oh, my childhood mentor/father figure now joins the list of EVERYONE I’VE EVER MET telling me to get the fuck over the Rand thing? Well, that is totally not good enough to overcome my batshit insane irrational hatred of him, so there! Banzai!”
“Oh yeah, I was totes raiding the shit out of your army, but it doesn’t matter now, because I’ve stopped!”
Seriously. SERIOUSLY. The words, they fail me.
That last one in particular is just stunning, especially considering he said it right to Bryne’s face. That is extra-super special, right there. I really do not understand how Bryne had the self-control to keep from slapping him silly. Or at least locking him up and throwing away the key.
In conclusion: Shut up, Gawyn. Pretty please. With sugar on top. God.
Chapter 25: In Darkness
Sheriam enters her tent, instinctively checking to see if Halima is there to punish her even though she knows Halima is long gone. Sheriam thinks sometimes that she would not have chosen her path if she’d known about the pain involved, or that the end times would occur during her lifetime; she had joined strictly for the political advantages.
She wasn’t so naive as to feel guilty about the things she’d done. Every sister in the White Tower tried to get ahead; that’s what life was about! There wasn’t an Aes Sedai who wouldn’t stab her sisters in the back if she thought it would give her advantage. Sheriam’s friends were just a little more… practiced at it.
She suddenly realizes that a woman with great strength in the Power is standing outside the tent, and flings herself to grovel before the woman when she enters, cloaked in an illusion of black cloth and darkness. The woman, who Sheriam surmises must be one of the Chosen from her strength, tells her that Sheriam must arrange for Egwene al’Vere to be deposed. Sheriam is astonished, and protests that it was one of the Chosen who ordered her to have the girl raised in the first place.
“Yes, but she has proven to have been a… poor choice. We needed a child, not a woman with merely the face of a child. She must be removed. You will make certain this group of foolish rebels stops supporting her. And end those blasted meetings in Tel’aran’rhiod.”
She asks how they have those meetings anyway, and Sheriam reluctantly reveals that they have nineteen ter’angreals that allow the bearer to enter the Dreamworld. The woman calls them “sleepweavers,” and orders Sheriam to steal all of them. Sheriam is appalled, having no idea how to get away with this, and the woman adds that she has three days to do it, and will lose a finger or toe for each one of the nineteen she fails to acquire in that time. The woman leaves through a gateway which Sheriam sees leads to the White Tower. Sheriam berates herself that she didn’t lie about the sleepweavers’ numbers, and reflects that her brief period of peace is over.
Egwene sits outside her cell, talking to Seaine, who tells her that Elaida will be tried for the violations of Tower law she committed on Egwene’s person in front of multiple witnesses two days earlier, but that it will not be enough to get her deposed, only censured, especially since Elaida is claiming Egwene is a Darkfriend, and there are some who believe her. Seaine assures her that the accusation will not stand, and that Elaida will not risk a trial, as that would mean allowing to Egwene to speak on her own behalf. Egwene reflects that even just censure would lose Elaida a great deal of credibility, but it may not be enough to keep the pressure on. Seaine also reports that the effects of the Dark One’s stirring are growing worse, with servants dying, food spoiling, and entire sections of the Tower being rearranged at random.
“You have to bring these things up, Seaine,” Egwene said softly. “Keep reminding the sisters that the Dark One stirs and that the Last Battle approaches. Keep their attention on working together, not dividing. [ ] Do what I cannot. Ask the others to do so as well.”
Seaine says she will try, and leaves as the Red guards lock Egwene back in her cell, which is too low for her to stand up straight in, and pitch black once the door is shut. Egwene worries over what Elaida will do to her, but tells herself all she can do is stay firm.
I warmed this pot myself, and now I must boil in it, if that is what will protect the Tower. They knew she continued to resist. That was all she could give them.
I am trying really hard here to remember what my initial reaction was to the big reveal here, which is of course that Sheriam is Black Ajah, and I’m really not sure what it was.
I feel like this might be because I had, oddly, not much reaction to it either way. I was neither all ZOMG THE HORRAH, nor was I all I KNEW IT. Because I didn’t know it beforehand. I hadn’t ever really bought into the fan theories that said she was Black at all; I think I thought she was just too much of an obvious red herring to actually be Black. And yet when I found out I was wrong, I wasn’t particularly surprised by it. Or upset, either. I really do think my reaction was, in a word, “Enh.”
I kind of feel like that is way too blasé a reaction, but it is what it is. I dunno. Maybe there is just so much other shit going on at this point that this particular revelation got lost in the sound and fury. If it had come at a time when I hadn’t been on miserable tenterhooks re: Evilish Rand (not to mention being agog over what was going to happen with Egwene, and nursing my Gawyn-induced migraine), I might have paid more attention.
And I really should have, especially considering how much it changes about the entire Salidar/Rebel Aes Sedai storyline in retrospect. Oddly, it makes it a lot more palatable in many ways, since this way at least you know a heck of a lot of the Dumb on display was actually intentional, or intentionally guided, anyway. This is, rather perversely, somewhat comforting.
At any rate, Sheriam makes herself ultra-contemptible here with her I was only in it for the perqs! bullshit; I mean, at least genuinely evil people have the courage of their convictions. The banality of evil, indeed. Pfeh.
Also, Mesaana is such a bitch, you guys. I mean, okay, that’s kind of a given considering her vocation, but really. Three days to steal nineteen items, each (I presume) in the possession of an extremely entitled and (these days) paranoid Sitter? So not doable without discovery, and I bet Mesaana knows it. Damn evil people, I swear.
Also also, Egwene = Awesome, still. The End.
No, really, the end! Go on, git! See you next Tuesday!