The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Towers of Midnight, Part 5

And a very stormy hello, WOTers! Assuming my computer doesn’t get fried by all the lightning before I can upload this or the house doesn’t get carried away by a tornado (because what the hell, New Orleans weather), welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!

Today’s entry covers Chapters 4 and 5 of Towers of Midnight, in which shoutouts are awesome, toboggans are scary but secretly awesome, and the Trakand boys are fired. And not awesome. And FIRED.

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 upcoming final volume, A Memory of Light.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And now, the post!

Chapter 4: The Pattern Groans

What Happens
Perrin examines the diseased-looking but verdant growth the Maiden scouts had brought him to see on the side of the Jehannah Road, along with Seonid, Masuri, the six Wise Ones, Faile, Berelain, Annoura and Gallenne. Seonid says the foliage is like that of the Blight, and Perrin agrees, thinking it smells like rotted meat. They press into the heart of the Blight-like growth to find a strange abandoned village that Masuri is sure is not native to the area.

“The Pattern groans,” Berelain said softly. “The dead walking, the odd deaths. In cities, rooms vanish and food spoils.”

Perrin orders the village and foliage alike burned to the ground, and no one argues.

In the wolf dream, Hopper and other wolves (Oak Dancer, Whisperer, Morninglight, Sparks, Boundless) entreat Young Bull to come hunt with them, but Perrin declares he will not lose himself and become a wolf. Hopper tells him he is a wolf, and also a man. Perrin remembers Noam, locked in a cage, all humanity gone, and realizes that in the waking world he is not far from the village (Jarra) in which he saw Noam.

Moiraine had told Perrin there was nothing human left inside of Noam. That was what awaited a wolfbrother if he let himself be completely consumed by the wolf.

“I must learn to control this, or I must banish the wolf from me,” Perrin said.

Hopper is frustrated and baffled by his reluctance, and invites him to hunt again, and Perrin realizes this is Hopper’s attempt to teach him as he had demanded. He agrees to hunt, but is determined at first to do so in human form, which amuses Hopper and the other wolves. Perrin comes to a clearing and sees holes in the sky above, showing what he thinks are visions of the future:

Mat stood there. He was fighting against himself, a dozen different men wearing his face, all dressed in different types of fine clothing. Mat spun his spear, and never saw the shadowy figure creeping behind him, bearing a bloody knife.

[…] He saw sheep, suddenly, running in a flock toward the woods. Wolves chased them, and a terrible beast waited in the woods, unseen. He was there, in that dream, he sensed. But who was he chasing, and why? Something looked wrong with those wolves.

A third darkness, to the side. Faile, Grady, Elyas, Gaul… all walked toward a cliff, followed by thousands of others.

Hopper bounds up, not seeing the visions, and shows him a picture of what Perrin had looked like during Faile’s captivity, and Perrin is shocked by how bad he looked, almost as bad as Noam, he thinks. Hopper takes off again, refusing to wait, and Perrin does the flash-step trick to keep up with him. As the hunt goes on, Perrin relaxes more and more, and feels more and more alive and exhilarated until he decides to stop holding the rest of the pack back, and changes to Young Bull. He and the others glory in the chase, Young Bull in the lead, until they reach their quarry, a magnificent stag. Young Bull brings the stag down, but Hopper stops him from going for the kill, explaining that if it dies here, it dies “the last death.” The shock brings Perrin back to himself, terrified at how wonderful the hunt had been. He asks Hopper if this is how he will teach him the dream, and Hopper says yes. Perrin knows that this will push him to the edge of the thing he worries about most, but also knows that he has been avoiding this issue too long.

He relied on the powers of scent he’d been given, reaching out to wolves when he needed them—but otherwise he’d ignored them.

You couldn’t make a thing until you understood its parts. He wouldn’t know how to deal with—or reject—the wolf inside him until he understood the wolf dream.

“Very well,” Perrin said. “So be it.”

Galad rides through the Children’s camp near the Jehannah Road, and reflects that he will have to change the layout now that the Questioners are no longer allowed to stay together. Vordarian argues against the letter Galad commanded to be sent to the rest of the Children with the Seanchan, informing them what had happened and ordering them to join him, but Galad says it must be sent. Harnesh is more concerned with Galad’s declaration that they will ally with the witches of Tar Valon, whom he protests are evil. Galad says perhaps they are, but their evil is insignificant compared to the Dark One, and they must have allies to fight that battle – and right now, the Children have none. Galad says that the Children’s “overeagerness” alienated those who should have been their allies in the past, and they should strive to have the monarchs of the nations respect them, not fear them for how they answer to no king or queen. Harnesh mutters, “Darkfriends,” and Galad rebukes him sharply:

“You speak like a Questioner,” Galad said. “Suspecting everyone who opposes us of being a Darkfriend. Many of them are influenced by the Shadow, but I doubt that it is conscious. That is where the Hand of the Light went wrong. The Questioners often could not tell the difference between a hardened Darkfriend, a person who was being influenced by Darkfriends, and a person who simply disagreed with the Children.”

“So what do we do?” Vordarian asked. “We bow to the whims of monarchs?”

“I don’t yet know what to do,” Galad confessed. “I will think on it. The right course will come to me. We cannot become lapdogs to kings and queens. And yet, think of what we could achieve inside of a nation’s boundaries if we could act without needing an entire legion to intimidate that nation’s ruler.”

They are interrupted by Byar, who gallops up to report that they have captured a group of “suspicious” travelers on the Jehannah Road. Galad sighs at Byar’s automatic assumption that they are Darkfriends, and goes to see. He immediately divines from the equipment they carry that the travelers are not merchants, but most likely camp followers of an army. Their leader starts at the sight of Galad, who concludes that he must have recognized Galad. The man introduces himself as Basel Gill from Caemlyn, and spins a story about going to trade in Ebou Dar but being stymied by the Seanchan occupation. Galad doesn’t believe this for a moment, especially when Gill refuses to sell any of his wares, and orders them all taken prisoner. He tells Gill he wants to know whose army they are attached to. Soon Bornhald and Byar approach, and tell Galad that some of the “merchants” have talked, and there is a large army nearby.

“And?”

Byar spat to the side. “Have you ever heard of a man called Perrin Goldeneyes?”

“No. Should I have?”

“Yes,” Bornhald said. “He killed my father.”

Commentary
There’s a Star Wars joke here that I have WAY TOO MUCH dignity to make. Right! Dignity! Moving on!

Let’s just say, it is a very different experience reading this chapter once you know who Boundless really is. I was all, OMG! when I saw the name, and then I spent the rest of Perrin’s POV being pissed at him that he didn’t get it immediately. Which is absurd, of course, but he’s all “Gosh, I think I’m near Noam’s old joint, what a co-inky-dink!” and Boundless is right there and I’m all “ARGGH.”

By the way, Hopper should totally be nominated for sainthood for putting up with Perrin in this book. You know, if he were Catholic. And, er, human. But you know what I mean!

Like I said before, I get why Perrin’s having such stage fright about this, but his interaction with Hopper is sort of irresistibly reminding me of when I was ten or so and my dad was trying to convince me to get on the water toboggan (which is basically just like a snow toboggan except you tow it behind a speedboat on the water, because I am from the South and we do weird water sports instead of weird snow sports) and my dad was like You will love it it is so much fun and I was like But what if I die and my dad was like You will not die I totally swear I’ve done it a million times just try it and I was like BUT WHAT IF I DIE and my dad was like Sigh.

And okay, so Perrin’s issue is possibly a tiny bit more dire than whether or not ten-year-old me got on the damn toboggan, but my point is, sometimes you really just have to trust that your dad and/or de facto lupine parental figure knows what they are talking about, mostly because they would bloody well tell you if they didn’t know. Hopefully.

Cause they were right, weren’t they, Perrin? You totally had fun on your dream hunt once you got into it, and I had such a blast once I finally got on the toboggan that trade negotiations had to ensue to convince me to let anyone else have a turn. I Hope We’ve All Learned A Lesson Here, Sonny.

(Well, we didn’t, yet. But eventually!)

Also, I confess that in my summary of Perrin’s dream, I totally stole the term “flash-step” (don’t click that) from the anime Bleach. But just like in TFOH when I said that Moghedien “Crucioed” Nynaeve, if another sf author has come up with an awesome one-or-two-word term for a concept that would otherwise take me an entire sentence or more to describe, who am I not to shamelessly co-opt it? It’s all for the BREVITY, man.

“Brevity,” of course, being understood to be an extremely relative term. Ahem.

Re: Perrin’s visions, I’m… bemused. Unless I’m seriously misremembering what happened in the Tower of Ghenjei or in Caemlyn in TOM (which is certainly a possibility), the vision of Mat denotes something that hasn’t happened yet. So I guess Mat either has a real fun multiple doppelganger fight (avec side of extra assassin) ahead of him in AMoL, or this is symbolic hoohah about Mat having to choose which of his increasingly fancy outfits he has to wear (general and possible second in command – or, hell, first in command, maybe – of the armies of the Light, Prince of Ravens, yadda), also with assassin fries on the side. Personally I vote for the doppelganger fight, which sounds much cooler.

The sheep and wolves thing, I’m… well, I’m sort of assuming that has something to do with Graendal’s trap and Perrin’s army and the Whitecloaks getting all tangled in it, but I’m having real issues with the idea that you can legitimately refer to Whitecloaks as “sheep,” so maybe there’s something else I’m forgetting that this could refer to. Or it refers to something that hasn’t happened yet. It’s pretty vague, so I dunno. The cliff thing, also, could refer to any number of things, from the Whitecloaks to Graendal to the Last Battle itself, so I’m just going to noncommittally shrug at it for now.

As for Galad, I really like him and I keep wanting to root for him, and then I keep running headlong into how severely I object to pretty much every single aspect of the Whitecloaks as an outfit, from their philosophy to their tactics to their very organizational foundations. It’s a problem, seriously.

Like here, when Galad in one breath reprimands his officers for assuming everyone who opposes them is a Darkfriend, which I can totally get behind, and in the next breath is musing how best to continue the Children’s utterly appalling lack of oversight by or answerability to any sovereign power whatsoever, which makes me want to beat up something. Especially when you consider that Galad is of royal blood, and says himself in this chapter that he was well aware of how much his mother couldn’t stand having them bang around in her kingdom like they owned the place.

And it couldn’t be, Galad, that Morgase didn’t hate it just because the Children weren’t nice about it, but also maybe because having a completely autonomous military force composed entirely of paranoid zealots taking it upon themselves to randomly police her towns and cities was both an affront and a threat to her people, her sovereignty and the stability of her entire nation? No? Nothing?

*headdesk*

 

Chapter 5: Writings

What Happens
Gawyn and Sleete arrive at the apartments of a White sister named Kateri Nepvue, who was murdered the night before, making her the fourth sister killed within the Tower, each from a different Ajah. The official explanation for the deaths is that they are the work of the Black Ajah, Traveling into and out of the Tower, but Gawyn is doubtful of this story. After the Aes Sedai leave with the body, Gawyn and Sleete enter the room to find Captain Chubain there, who is not pleased to see him, but does not try to prevent him from examining the room. Gawyn observes there is no evidence that a gateway was used in the room, and Sleete finds a scrape on the deadbolt that may indicate it was jimmied by a physical pick. Sleete also points out that none of the victims had Warders. Gawyn also doesn’t understand why, if the killers were Black Ajah, why the victims had been killed with a knife rather than the One Power.

“But that would also risk alerting the victim or those around,” Sleete noted.

Another good point. But still, something about these killings didn’t seem to add up.

Or maybe he was just stretching at nothing, struggling to find something he could do to help. A part of him thought that if he could aid Egwene with this, maybe she would soften toward him. Perhaps forgive him for rescuing her from the Tower during the Seanchan attack.

Chubain reenters and tries to kick Gawyn out, and Gawyn holds his temper back and tries to figure out why the man dislikes him so much. Then it occurs to him that Chubain might think Gawyn was after his own job, which Gawyn finds “laughable,” and draws him aside to explain to him that Gawyn’s interest in these murders is in the hope that it will help the Amyrlin look favorably on him and perhaps take him for her Warder. Chubain is startled by this news, but it seems to relieve him, and they discuss the murders. Gawyn tells Chubain that he thinks it might be Gray Men or Darkfriends as opposed to Black Ajah, and suggests that Chubain might want to look at the servants; Chubain agrees. Sleete shows them fibers of black silk he’d found in the room, which may or may not have come from the attackers. Gawyn decides to go talk to Egwene.

“Assuming she’ll see you,” Sleete said.

Gawyn grunted irritably. They walked down a series of ramps to the level of the Amyrlin’s study. Sleete remained with him—his Aes Sedai, a Green named Hattori, rarely had duties for him. She still had her eyes on Gawyn for a Warder; Egwene was being so infuriating, Gawyn had half a mind to let Hattori bond him.

No. No, not really. He loved Egwene, though he was frustrated with her. It had not been easy to decide to give up Andor—not to mention the Younglings—for her. Yet she still refused to bond him.

He goes to Egwene’s study, and Silviana informs him that Egwene is writing a letter and makes him wait. He looks down at the new exercise grounds below, and reflects that while most of the Younglings have already been reincorporated into the Warder training, his memories of the coup and the men he had killed that day still haunt him. Egwene emerges from her study, and Gawyn blurts that he needs to talk to her. Egwene agrees, and they go back into her study. He wants to know why she only speaks to him as the Amyrlin and never Egwene, and Egwene replies, because he refuses to accept that she is Amyrlin and Aes Sedai, and she cannot be served by someone who refuses to see her authority.

“I accept you,” Gawyn said. “I do, Egwene. But isn’t it important to have people who know you for yourself and not the title?”

“So long as they know that there is a place for obedience.” Her face softened. “You aren’t ready yet, Gawyn. I’m sorry.”

He set his jaw. Don’t overreact, he told himself.

He moves on to the murderers, and points out that none of the victims had Warders, and that he thinks this is a problem as a whole, that so many sisters do not have one. Egwene says she can hardly order sisters to choose a Warder, but Gawyn argues that the Last Battle is coming, and every sister will be of vital importance, more valuable than any hundred ordinary soldiers on the field, and that it is irresponsible to allow them to remain unprotected. To his surprise, Egwene concedes that he has a good point, and promises to consider the matter. Gawyn asks about the possibility that the murderer(s) are Gray Men or Darkfriends; Egwene says the killer is definitely not either, and the way she phrases it makes Gawyn sure she is hiding something, and he pleads with her to trust him with the secret. At length she sighs and admits that one of the Forsaken, Mesaana, is hiding in the Tower, and she is responsible for the murders; she has kept it secret to prevent a panic, and to keep from newly dividing all the Ajahs with suspicion. Gawyn is aghast, but tries to appear confident for her sake. Egwene then says she wants him to stop guarding her door at night.

What? Egwene, no!”

She shook her head. “You see? Your first reaction is to challenge me.”

“It is the duty of a Warder to offer challenge, in private, where his Aes Sedai is concerned!” Hammar had taught him that.

“You are not my Warder, Gawyn.”

That brought him up short.

Egwene points out he could do nothing against a Forsaken anyway, and that her apartments must look unguarded. Gawyn is appalled that Egwene is using herself as bait, but Egwene tells him wearily that the murdered sisters are her responsibility, and she is confident that if she can confront Mesaana she can defeat her; the problem is finding her. Gawyn really doesn’t like this, and tells her so, and Egwene acknowledges it is dangerous, but says he will have to trust her.

“I do trust you,” he said.

“All I ask is that you show it for once.”

Gawyn grits his teeth and leaves.

Egwene sighs and wonders why it is so hard to keep her feelings in check around Gawyn. She still wants him, but he gets under her skin far too easily; she wants to bond him, but thinks he is still too untrusting yet. She puts aside the letter she was writing to Darlin regarding Rand’s plan to break the seals; she is still not sure whether to believe the rumors that Darlin is Rand’s ally or the ones that say he is his enemy. She considers Gawyn’s argument about Warders, and decides that while she will not order it, she will make a strong plea for unbonded sisters to choose a Warder.

She hadn’t told Gawyn of the other reason she’d asked him to leave her door at nights. She had trouble sleeping, knowing he was out there, only a few feet away. She worried she’d slip and go to him.

Silviana’s strap had never been able to break her will, but Gawyn Trakand… he was coming dangerously close to doing so.

Graendal is hiding in the last place anyone would expect of her, a dank uncomfortable cave on a remote island in the middle of nowhere, but is not surprised that Moridin’s messenger finds her anyway. She follows him back through the gateway to Moridin’s palace. Moridin is angry that she caused the death of Aran’gar after the Great Lord went to so much trouble to bring her back the first time, and Graendal pretends confusion, saying that she was only following her orders, and that the gain was worth the cost. Moridin snarls that she was caught unaware, but Graendal protests that she’d let al’Thor find her on purpose, to Moridin’s astonishment.

“Moridin, don’t you see? How will Lews Therin react to what he has done? Destroying an entire fortress, a miniature city of its own, with hundreds of occupants? Killing innocents to reach his goal? Will that sit easily within him?”

[…] These actions would tear at al’Thor, rip at his soul, lash his heart raw and bleeding. He would have nightmares, wear his guilt on his shoulders like the yoke of a heavily laden cart.

She can see that Moridin hadn’t considered this, but knows that like her, he had once had a conscience and dimly remembers what it was like. She says he told her to hurt al’Thor, to bring him pain, and that is what she did, though she regrets that Aran’gar did not listen to her and flee. She also points out that al’Thor now thinks her dead, which is a large advantage. Moridin tilts his head as if listening to something, and then scowls that he is not to punish her for now.

Had that been a communication directly from the Great Lord? As far as she knew, all Chosen in this Age had to go to him in Shayol Ghul to receive their orders. Or at least suffer a visit from that horrid creature Shaidar Haran. Now the Great Lord appeared to be speaking to the Nae’blis directly. Interesting. And worrisome.

It meant the end was very near. There would not be much time left for posturing. She would see herself Nae’blis and rule this world as her own once the Last Battle was done.

Moridin says she is still to stay away from al’Thor, though, and Graendal smoothly replies that she had a different suggestion anyway: to send her after Perrin Aybara. She says it will ruin al’Thor to lose Aybara; Moridin agrees, but points out that she will never trap him, as Aybara has men to make gateways for him. He leads her to a storage room, which Graendal is amazed to see contains dozens or even hundreds of rare objects of Power. He gives her an object she recognizes with shock as a dreamspike, and sees that Moridin has not one but two of them. He warns her that he has the “key” to this one, and he will know if she uses it against him or any of the other Forsaken.

“Aybara can walk the World of Dreams,” Moridin said. “I will lend you another tool, the man with two souls. But he is mine, just as that spike is mine. Just as you are mine. Do you understand?”

She nodded. She couldn’t help herself. The room seemed to be growing darker. That voice of his… it sounded, just faintly, like that of the Great Lord.

He tells her, though, that if she succeeds, she will be granted even greater access to the True Power. Then he shows her a book bound in “pale tan skin,” and she is astonished at what the page contains. She asks where these prophecies came from, and Moridin tells her hardly anyone besides himself knows of their existence.

“But this…” she said, rereading the passage. “This says Aybara will die!”

“There can be many interpretations of any prophecy,” Moridin said. “But yes. This Foretelling promises that Aybara will die by our hand. You will bring me the head of this wolf, Graendal. And when you do, anything you ask shall be yours.” He slapped the book closed. “But mark me. Fail, and you will lose what you have gained. And much more.”

Commentary
First, before anything else: Kateri Nepvue! Ahahaha AWESOME.

Kate is not only a great advocate of and participant in sf fandom in general, she is a personal friend of mine whom I’ve known for years, one of many whom I met solely as a result of belonging to this wonderful fandom. So seeing her get a shoutout in WOT was occasion for, first, an almost literal spit take, and second, several hours’ worth of mad grinning on my part. Too effin’ cool, y’all. (And check out her kickass Lord of the Rings Re-read on Tor.com if you haven’t already.)

This is, I think, one of the more awesome things Brandon is doing with his stewardship of the end of the WOT series, which is sending lovely little shoutouts like this to the fans of the books, but in a way which does not disturb the reading experience of anyone not into the fandom enough to recognize them for what they are. By which I mean, I got the shoutout here instantly, but Random Non-Hardcore Fan reader can go right by this without noticing a thing out of joint, and everyone is happy. Nice.

So that part’s awesome. Most of the rest, however, is Gawyn, and therefore not so much with the awesome, because I believe I am on fairly emphatic record regarding the height and breadth and Dutch Elm disease-ness of the tree he drives me up. I’m pretty sure I have just committed a relatively grievous crime to the English language with that last sentence, but I don’t care because I am UP A ROTTING GAWYN TREE, AND I DON’T LIKE IT.

I know I forgive him later (or at least I did originally), but right now he is still getting on my last nerve. It’s probably not even rational, because he’s actually being quite smart here in not buying the Black Ajah cover story and sussing out clues and all. But he’s just so… so… irritating about it. Gah. Like the part I left out in the summary when he realizes Chubain thinks Gawyn’s after his job:

The concept was laughable. Gawyn could have been First Prince of the Sword—should have been First Prince of the Sword—leader of Andor’s armies and protector of the Queen. He was son to Morgase Trakand, one of the most influential and powerful rulers Andor had ever known. He had no desire for this man’s position.

Yeah, so even though Gawyn walked away from every last bloody obligation and oath his birth rank gave him, he doesn’t want Chubain’s job because it’s not good enough for him. Even if that’s not what he meant here, that certainly is what is implied, and all I have to say is ugh. Snobbery is bad enough, but unearned snobbery is a whole new level of You Suck.

And I even agree with his argument that all sisters should have Warders, because they really probably should – although I also agree with Egwene that ordering Aes Sedai to bond Warders is unethical – but of course my mind immediately went to the benefit such an order would give Gawyn. Because, naturally, Egwene could never get away with giving out such a mandate if she herself didn’t follow it. Uh-huh. I See What You Did There, Gawyn, and it’s a little skeezy.

And then there’s this:

Gawyn didn’t often think of [his mother], as doing so brought his mind back to al’Thor. That murderer had been allowed to walk away from the White Tower itself! Egwene had held him in her hand, and had released him.

True, al’Thor was the Dragon Reborn. But in his heart, Gawyn wanted to meet al’Thor with sword in hand and ram steel through him, Dragon Reborn or not.

Al’Thor would rip you apart with the One Power, he told himself. You’re being foolish, Gawyn Trakand. His hatred of al’Thor continued to smolder anyway.

So basically Gawyn is that guy in the bar everyone hates with a passion because he comes in and feeds twenty dollars into the jukebox and plays the same fucking song six hundred times in a row so he can cry into his whiskey and make everyone else just as miserable as he is.

Bah. Get a new tune, dude, because we are so over this one it isn’t even funny any more.

As for Egwene, it was suggested by several people in the comments that Rand’s visit to the White Tower in Chapter Three was actually designed to put Egwene against him, so that she would do all the work of gathering the armies of Light at Merrilor for him. And, further, that she thinks they’re going to oppose him there, but then (presumably) Rand will show up and stun them with his Ta’veren Beam of Awesome™ and make them all see it his way.

I’m not a hundred percent sure New and Improved Jesus Rand would actually be that devious, personally, but judging by the mention here of Egwene’s letter to Darlin, if that was his plan it seems like Egwene is falling right into line with it. If this does turn out to be the case, I’m having trouble deciding whether that will irritate me or not.

And then there’s Graendal!

…Who, er, I really don’t have a lot to say about, since this scene is basically just a set-up for the rest of her plotline in TOM, and most of the stuff concerning that will be more relevant to talk about later. Though you’ve got to give girl kudos for her sheer brass, lying her head off to Moridin cool as you please.

Other that that, the only thing that really jumped out at me in this bit was her observation that Moridin now apparently has a direct line to the Dark One, which is probably about as clear an indication that the Dark One’s house arrest has got a definite expiration date on it as one could hope for. If one was evil, of course.

(And also assuming, of course, that Moridin isn’t just crazy and talking to some guy in his head. It’s not like that hasn’t happened before!)


And that’s what I got for today, chirren! Party on, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!

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