The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Gathering Storm, Part 15

Well, hello there! Would you like a Wheel of Time Re-read? Then by all means, have one!

Today’s entry covers Chapters 26 of The Gathering Storm, in which Plots get Positioned, and I buy stock in Raid, because AAAAAAGGGHH.

I apologize for the short entry this week, but I realized too late that the next two chapters really need to go together, and Chapter 28 is a doozy. Also, my 90-year-old grandfather had to have surgery this weekend, which has been more than a little bit stressful and distracting. (He’s doing very well now, though, thank goodness.) You’ll have an extra-long entry next week to make up for this one, promise.

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 26: A Crack in the Stone

What Happens
Aviendha watches the rest of the manor prepare to depart while she is forced to continue with her most humiliating punishment yet: using her finger to transfer water from one pail to another, drop by drop. She is furious about this, and ashamed of her anger; she thinks that perhaps she is too dense to figure it out, and therefore not fit to be a Wise One. She is surprised to realize she wants to be a Wise One just as badly as she ever wanted to be a Maiden. Min approaches, and asks if she is all right. Aviendha replies curtly that she is fine.

The woman turned and looked out over the camp. “Don’t… you have anything to be doing?”

Aviendha could not suppress the blush this time. “I am doing what I should.”

Min wants to talk to her about Rand. Aviendha remembers how she’d felt his pain the night before, but had thought it was a nightmare, and had not raised the alarm quickly enough, for which she owes him toh. She tells Min Rand will deal with his problems, as she will deal with hers, and the time for them to face their trials together is not yet.

I must be his equal, first, she added in her head. I will not stand beside him as his inferior.

Min comments that she doesn’t know what to make of Aviendha; she had expected Aviendha to seek Min out as soon as she arrived at the manor to discuss their situation, or maybe to challenge her over Rand. Aviendha snorts at the idea of fighting over a man, and further at the idea that Min could even hope to match her in a physical duel, which offends Min, so Aviendha lets it go. Min says she doesn’t like the idea of sharing, and Aviendha agrees, at least concerning a woman she doesn’t know well, but says they must continue as they have for now, as she is occupied with other matters.

“Like dipping your finger in buckets of water?”

Aviendha blushed again. “Yes,” she snapped. “Just like that. You will excuse me.” She stood and strode away, leaving the buckets. She knew that she should not have lost her temper, but she could not help it. Min, repeatedly pointing out her punishment. Her inability to decipher what the Wise Ones wished of her. Rand al’Thor, constantly putting himself into danger, and Aviendha unable to lift a finger to help him.

She could stand it no longer.

She storms across the green, turning aside twice to avoid Rand, until she finds Amys, Bair and Melaine, and informs them that she has “memorized every lesson, repeated every fact, performed every duty” that they have asked of her, and furthermore can channel better than any Aiel woman alive, and that they shame themselves by treating her so. She refuses any more punishments until they either tell her what they want or send her away. She expects anger and disappointment from them in reply. Bair asks if she presumes to be their equal; Aviendha has a moment of panic, but then replies that if these punishments are all they have left to teach, then she has learned all she must, and is ready to join them.

She gritted her teeth, waiting for an explosion of furious incredulity. What was she thinking? She shouldn’t have let Min’s foolish talk rile her so.

And then Bair started to laugh.

It was a full-bellied sound, incongruous coming from the small woman. Melaine joined her, the sun-haired Wise One holding her stomach, slightly bulging from her pregnancy. “She took even longer than you, Amys!” Melaine exclaimed. “As stubborn a girl as I’ve ever seen.”

Amys’ expression was uncharacteristically soft. “Welcome, sister,” she said to Aviendha.

Aviendha blinked. “What?”

“You are one of us now, girl!” Bair said. “Or soon will be.”

Amazed, Aviendha protests that she defied them, and Amys explains that a Wise One must stand up for herself; she could not be allowed to become a Wise One while still thinking of herself as an apprentice. Bair comments on the wisdom of their system as opposed to that of the Aes Sedai, where those on the bottom “simper and beg like hounds”, and are ignored by those above them. Amys says one Wise One may have earned more honor than another, but no Wise One should let herself be pushed aside when she believes she is right, even by other Wise Ones.

“No woman is ready to join us until she has declared herself ready,” Amys continued. “She must present herself as our equal.”

“A punishment is not a true punishment unless you accept it, Aviendha,” Bair said, still smiling. “We thought you ready weeks ago, but you stubbornly continued to obey.”

“Almost, I began to think you prideful, girl,” Melaine added with a fond smile.

Aviendha is dazed, and thinks she must thank Min for unwittingly riling her so. Bair says she has one more task though: she must go to Rhuidean. It is not the same any longer, but that is no reason to abandon tradition. Amys explains that she may wear her clothing this time, and normally she would walk the whole way, but in this case time is short, so Amys suggests Aviendha Travel to Cold Rocks Hold and walk from there. She compliments her on how well Aviendha did, and confesses they were much harder on her than most apprentices, but there is just so little time. Amys advises her to spend her days of contemplation running to Rhuidean well, as she will not likely have another opportunity for such for a while. Then she smiles, and turns her back to Aviendha. Aviendha looks to where Rand is standing, and promises him silently she will be back for him, before heading to the Traveling ground and weaving a gateway.

She ducked through the gateway, exulting—finally—in what had just happened.

Her honor had returned.

Shemerin explains to the small group of Aes Sedai in Romanda’s tent (Romanda, Lelaine, Siuan, Sheriam, and Magla) how she had left Tar Valon through a small Watergate, to avoid the Amyrlin’s notice. Romanda is annoyed that she couldn’t prevent Lelaine from hearing about this meeting. Shemerin apologizes for seeking employment among the camp followers, but begs them not to send her away, promising to live as a normal woman. Romanda tells her she is still Aes Sedai regardless of what Elaida says, shocked by how meekly the woman had accepted her demotion, but Siuan is more interested in the details of where this gate is. Shemerin tells her, but adds that it is far too small to take an army through. Magla wants to know how Elaida could have thought demoting a sister was remotely acceptable, and asks what Shemerin did to earn it, but Shemerin only says she was “weak” and without poise. Romanda notices something about the size of a cricket creeping under the canvas flooring of the tent, but ignores it to observe that Shemerin was likely an example used so that Elaida can later use the punishment on her real enemies. Then Siuan notices the bump under the canvas, and asks what it is, and suddenly the canvas splits to allow a huge cockroach to scramble through.

The roach skittered across the canvas, antennae twitching. Siuan took off her shoe to swat it. But the bottom of the tent bubbled up near the rip, and a second cockroach climbed through. Then a third. And then a wave of them, pouring through the split like too-hot tea sprayed from a mouth. A black and brown carpet of scrambling, scratching, scurrying creatures, pushing over one another in their hurry to get out.

The sisters screech in revulsion and jump up, and a moment later Magla and Lelaine’s Warders rush in, but don’t seem to know what to do about a flood of roaches. Siuan starts squashing them with the Power, and the others join her, but there are too many, and they are forced to evacuate the tent. Lelaine asks Romanda if there’s anything dear to her in the tent, and Romanda answers, nothing she’d ever touch again in any case. They weave Fire and burn the tent to the ground, the insects popping and sizzling inside. Magla comments that those were “four-spine” roaches, only found in Shara. Siuan replies they’ll no doubt see worse from the Dark One before they’re done, before dragging Shemerin off to draw a map of the Watergate. Romanda watches all her possessions burn.

Light, she thought. Egwene is right. It is coming. Fast.

[…] The Tower needed to be whole. Whatever it took. Would she be willing to bow before Elaida to make that happen? Would she put on an Accepted dress again if it would bring unity for the Last Battle?

She couldn’t decide. And that disturbed her nearly as much as those scuttling roaches had.

Commentary
FINALLY, LAWD.

…I mean about Aviendha, not the cockroaches.

‘Cause, as a point of information, O my peeps, the appearance of a flood of giant hissing cockroaches (okay, the text didn’t specifically say they were hissing cockroaches, but whatever, that’s totally what they were, and for God’s sake don’t click on that link if pictures of giant disgusting bugs squick you) will never, and I mean never, elicit the sentiment of “FINALLY” from me.

My sentiment would be, shall we say, rather less welcoming, and rather more oriented toward screaming and running and possibly throwing what the kids call an EPIC SHITFIT, because no.

That doesn’t just go to “Crispin Glover” on my squick-o-meter, it fucking buries the needle, you guys. Kill it with fire, indeed, Aes Sedai. Thank you for that.

…Sorry, I had to stop and close that tab on my browser before I could even keep going. Ick ick ick ick yeargh bad no. This is exactly why I am against apocalypses, people, because shit like this happens, and I Do Not Approve!

As for what Romanda et al were actually talking about before AGH COCKROACHES, I… really have nothing to say about it, except: hey, at least the rebels didn’t let their plot device Shemerin get eaten by AGH COCKROACHES before getting that map!

AGH NO MORE COCKROACHES. Back to Aviendha, or Topics That Don’t Make Me Check Under My Desk Every Ten Seconds.

(Although, as a totally random aside, I really rather wish I had kept a record of the things I have Googled in the course of writing this blog, because I’m pretty sure the compiled list – to which I can now add “hissing cockroach” – would either be hysterical or horrifying. Probably both. Hysterifying? Horsterical? …I’m going to stop now.)

(AGH COCKROACHES)

Um. Aviendha. Yes. Let’s try this again: FINALLY.

I’m so pleased to come to the end of the “This Is A Test A What A Test A What A Test Oh, A Test” plotline re: Aviendha’s Wise-Oneifying, in fact, that I am going to mostly ignore how obvious this chapter otherwise was about getting her the hell out of the way so we can forget about her until ToM. Where, admittedly, her storyline gets seriously awesome, but still. I mean, yes, okay, it’s crazy complicated up in here with the myriad plotlines and I appreciate that, but that was just a little too… something.

I don’t know, it bothered me. Almost as much as the fact that Aviendha and Rand have been in the same place for *mumble* days and have not once managed to actually interact. Even while mostly buying the rationale presented (and I did, even if I have some issues about the rather facile way it was presented to us), it still bugged me, because WHYYYYY with the never talking to anyone, WOT people, you frickin’ kill me. And this is, by far, the most egregious example of it in the entire series, if you ask me. They are IN THE SAME HOUSE, for the love of Mike. AND, psychically bonded to boot! What is this I can’t even, for reals.

All I’m saying is, this better not be a trend. If Rand, Mat and Perrin end up in the same house in AMOL – hell, if they end up in the same zipcode in AMOL (or WOT equivalent, whatever, you know what I mean) – and somehow manage to STILL not have an actual conversation, I may have to have a small aneurysm in protest. I would also like to note for the record that I spelled “aneurysm” correctly on the first try without looking it up first, and I am therefore damn impressed with myself.

Ahem! My point is, however correctly I can spell it, I am not even slightly in favor of actually having an aneurysm. So I’m just tossing that out there. For, you know, informational purposes. *cough*

Moving on!

My pleasure that Aviendha passed it aside, as far as the nature of the Wise One final exam itself is concerned, I’m… a bit dubious. Because, while I certainly agree with Bair that the Aes Sedai hierarchy system is stupid, for pretty much exactly the reasons she gives, I’m not sure that a system which apparently has no final authority at all would work much better.

I mean, I understand that the nature of clans and septs and all usually means that one Wise One’s business doesn’t often overlap with the others’, but if everyone is more or less of equal standing, how are conflicts resolved when they do happen? If Wise One A wants X to happen, and Wise One B wants not!X to happen, and each “believes she is right” and absolutely refuses to yield to the other, and Wise Ones C through Z cannot gainsay either A or B because no one of them has any more clout than any of the others, then how is the impasse to be broken?

I dunno. I guess no system is perfect, but that seems like a pretty glaring flaw, there. Hierarchical systems are easily abused, no doubt, but there’s a reason why they continue to exist in spite of that: so that at some point you can have a person or body of persons who have the power to say, “okay, this is the final decision, so everybody shut up and deal”. Otherwise no one would ever get anything done, it seems like. I disapprove of the Aes Sedai system of rank not because they have ranks, but because the criteria by which those ranks are assigned is dumb.

*shrug* Maybe I’m missing something about the Wise Ones’ system. And probably what I’m missing, honestly, is that Bair’s assertion that all Wise Ones are equals is real nice and all in theory, but is just not at all the reality, and this is just one of those unspoken things that you figure out as you go along: that no, some Wise Ones really do outrank others. (Case in point: Sorilea.) I still think not having it codified presents issues, but this at least makes a little more sense to me than the other.

So, bye, Aviendha! See you most awesomely/terribly/upsettingly/impressively/ I don’t even know in ToM!


And bye to you too, O my peeps! See you next week!

109 Comments

Subscribe to this thread