The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Towers of Midnight, Part 8

Drink up, me hearties, for it’s a Wheel of Time Re-read!

Today’s entry covers Chapters 10 and 11 of Towers of Midnight, in which we contemplate the vagaries of theoretically fallacious linkage, the misappropriation of incongruous Latinate abbreviations, and the gratuitous invocation of admonitory AT-ATs.

(What?)

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 10: After the Taint

What Happens
Perrin walks the camp with Elyas and Grady, berating himself for sending Gill et al off. Elyas counters that he couldn’t have done any differently, as the alternative would have been risking the camp followers getting caught between two armies of Shaido if their campaign at Malden had failed. Perrin notes that the Two Rivers sentries smell both disappointed and embarrassed, which Perrin attributes to the fact that they still believe he cheated on Faile with Berelain. Grady doesn’t see why Perrin doesn’t just send him and Neald to “pound those Children down” until they release their hostages. Perrin thinks he will do that if he has to, though he can’t help remembering the horror of Dumai’s Wells; he tells Grady that hopefully their alliance with the Queen of Ghealdan and their larger numbers will persuade the Whitecloaks to return them without violence, though he is not convinced himself.

There are no coincidences with ta’veren. The wolves, the Whitecloaks. Things he had been outrunning for some time were returning to hunt him.

[…]It felt like the time had come. Time to make an end to his troubles with them, one way or another.

Grady alerts Perrin that he thinks the Wise Ones and Neald have succeeded, and they go over to where Neald, Edarra and Masuri have created a large gateway between them. Neald is exuberant, and tells Grady that feeling saidar is “beautiful”; he explains to Perrin that he is not weaving saidar himself, but in a circle he can use it to augment what he does with saidin. Perrin notes that the women are not as enthused; Masuri smells afraid, Edarra wary, and Perrin remembers that apparently this kind of circle requires Neald to be in control, though Neald does not seem to be taking advantage of it. Grady then pulls Perrin aside to ask permission to go to the Black Tower for an afternoon to see his family. Perrin is reluctant to be without either of the Asha’man even for a short time, but tells Grady he will find time for it soon. He asks Grady what has changed that he has asked now, and Grady tells him it’s because the taint has been cleansed. Perrin tells Grady that he trusts Grady’s word that it is true, but doesn’t see the connection.

“When I joined the Lord Dragon, I knew what would happen to me. A few more years and I’d be gone. Might as well spend them fighting. The Lord Dragon told me I was a soldier, and a soldier can’t leave his duty. So I haven’t asked to go back before now. You needed me.”

“That’s changed?”

“My Lord, the taint is gone. I’m not going to go mad. That means… well, I always had a reason to fight. But now I’ve got a reason to live, too.”

Perrin realizes this must be how Rand feels too, and sees Rand riding through a muddy city with Nynaeve in the colors. He promises Grady he will see his family before “the end comes,” and Grady leaves, satisfied. A Maiden scout approaches to report that a Whitecloak is approaching the camp, and Perrin gathers Tam and heads to meet him; his heart sinks to see it is Dain Bornhald. Bornhald calls for “the criminal Perrin,” and tells him they have unfinished business. Perrin demands the release of his people, and Bornhald replies that the Lord Captain Commander is waiting ahead on the road to meet with him, and swears on oath that Perrin will return from the meeting safely, and that he may bring Aes Sedai with him if he wishes. Bornhald leaves, and Perrin tells a doubtful Tam that he has to at least try to parley with the Whitecloaks before attacking. Perrin has Grady dress like a Two Rivers man, to join him, Tam, Gaul, Sulin, and Edarra to go to the meeting.

As he and the others neared, someone stepped from the small tent, wearing white. The tall man had fine features and short, dark hair. Most women would probably call him handsome. He smelled… better than the other Whitecloaks. They had a wild scent to them, like that of a rabid animal. This leader of theirs smelled calm, and not sickly at all.

The Lord Captain Commander comments on his eyes, and Perrin asks what it will take to get him to release Perrin’s people. The other man says that his Whitecloaks tell him that Perrin offered such an exchange before and then betrayed it; Perrin counters that the price demanded was his own life, and warns the other not to make him force the issue a second time. The Lord Captain Commander replies that he has been told Perrin murdered several of the Children, and that he leads Trollocs to attack villages. Perrin answers that his men are not very reliable, and demands a formal parley. The Lord Captain Commander replies that he merely wanted to see Perrin for himself, and tells him that if Perrin’s forces meet his on the field of battle, he will release the prisoners regardless of the outcome.

“And if I refuse?” Perrin asked.

“Then it will not bode…well for their health.”

Perrin ground his teeth.

“Your force will face ours under the Light,” the Whitecloak leader said. “Those are our terms.”

Grady looks a question at him, and Perrin is tempted to have him capture the man right there, but decides not to break the oath of peace, and leaves instead.

Galad watches Aybara go, and wonders if he had been wrong to discount Byar’s contention that the man was not just a Darkfriend but Shadowspawn, with those eyes. Bornhald thinks the meeting was foolhardy, considering the risk of the One Power, but Galad points out that if Aybara had wanted to kill him that way he would already have done so, but judging from what Byar and Bornhald say, is too invested in his appearance as a good guy to be so overt. Galad recalls that Aybara had stiffened at the mention of the murdered Whitecloaks, and the rumors that he had allied with the Seanchan and had men who could channel with him.

Better to defeat this Aybara now, than to wait and face him at the Last Battle. As quickly as that, he made his decision. The right decision. They would fight.

“Come,” Galad said, waving to his men. “Let’s get back to camp.”

Commentary
I didn’t actually shout “YOU ARE A DUMBASS” at the book out loud, the first time I read that last bit, but probably only because I read most of TOM for the first time in a crowded coffee shop on Broadway, and even in New York people will give you funny looks for that sort of thing.

And… well, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not actually sure whether I thought it would All Come Right In The End between Perrin and Galad/the Whitecloaks or not, the first time around. Probably, but I don’t remember speculating on it specifically, mainly because I was distracted by being all agog for Galad to catch a glimpse of his mom and be all HOLY SHITBALLS (or, er, the Galadian equivalent of “holy shitballs,” which is probably a lot more upstanding and spit-polished, and also much less funny, neener), and also being pissed that his rejection of a more formal parley lessened the chances of that.

Well, not lessened, because I was absolutely dead sure that they were going to run into each other at some point, but I was pissed because now it was going to take longer, or so I assumed. Hence, dumbass. Q.E.D.

But I guess it’s nice to know that Galad doesn’t have Crazy Smell – although I’m still not entirely sold on the idea that fanaticism arrived at via logic and moral stick-up-assery rectitude is any better than achieving fanaticism via vigorous application of fear, ignorance and prejudice. Just because the former smells prettier doesn’t mean it isn’t just as dangerous as the latter – if not even more so, actually.

And I love the “logic” here, too. Right, Galad, Perrin only refrained from killing you because it would be bad PR. There couldn’t possibly be any other explanation!

Montem al’San and Azi al’Thone—Perrin’s two guards for the day—trailed behind.

*raises eyebrow* I’m… going to assume those are fan shout-out names, and… move on.

Faile didn’t seem to have heard what was happening. Perrin would bring her if there was a longer parley or discussion, but he intended this trip to be quick, and he needed to be able to move without worrying about her.

BAAAAAP

Seriously.

Um, no, Perrin. Either Faile is your partner and your equal, and therefore gets to be in on all major decisions that potentially involve you getting killed or kidnapped or starting a war, just as I have ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT you would expect from her as well, or she is your fragile little flower who must be protected from hurting her darling widdle head with all that tactical thinking, and you fail.

At least have the decency inside your own head to admit why you really sneaked off without talking to your wife first, which is that you just didn’t want to give her the chance to object to the idea. Which is also fail-boaty, but at least has the virtue of not making you come off like a condescending prick. Sheesh.

Randomly, do you have any clue how annoying it is to have to type “Lord Captain Commander” over and over again? Here’s a hint: VERY. Whitecloaks: so annoying that even their titles are annoying. Gah.

Also: nice little interlude with Grady and Perrin, though hindsight makes me extremely grateful Grady didn’t go to the Black Tower just then. I really do like how much Perrin is treating both Asha’man more like people and less like weapons that need to be handled with metaphorical tongs, even with his memories of Dumai’s Wells and all to incline him the opposite way. I was also going to congratulate him on believing Grady about the taint being cleansed, but I think Perrin kind of has an unfair advantage there in that he can smell that Grady’s not being delusional about it. Still, it’s good that he makes a point of telling Grady that he believes him. So now if Perrin could only treat everyone else that well…

On linking: okay, I don’t know if I just missed a memo or what, but I am confused by the “who controls the link” rules of One Power circles. Not because of what happened here, but because what happened here reminded me of what happened elsewhere that doesn’t jibe with what happened here.

…Perhaps I should unpack that a bit. Use, like, nouns, and stuff. Ahem.

Right, so, the glossaries for LOC and ACOS (which are the only ones with an entry on linking, and yes, I actually checked them all, because I am a giant nerd) says that the only times a man must control the circle is when there are (a) seventy-two people in it (the largest number possible), or (b) in “mixed circles of less than thirteen.”

So, groovy, whatever, and that works just fine for what we see in this chapter, and what we saw when Sammael and Graendal were working together, but then how does that square with what has to be used to safely wield Callandor, which is, according to Cadsuane (and proven during the Cleansing), a circle of one man and two women, but with one of the women controlling the circle? Thems not the rules, y’all!

I don’t know if that’s a mistake or what, but now that I’ve thought of it I find it rather bothersome. I suppose it’s possible that the addition of The Sword That Ain’t means that the regular rules of linking no longer apply, but I have no idea why that would be. It makes even less sense when you consider that Callandor is a male sa’angreal, and so you’d think that it would be more, um, happy (or whatever) with the guy in control of the link anyway.

But then again, the whole reason it has to be wielded that way in the first place is because it’s kind of broken, so, sure, I guess. *shrug*

 

Chapter 11: An Unexpected Letter

What Happens
Elayne hurls Ellorien’s “proposal” (which contains a bunch of “empty promises” in return for the release of the nobles who opposed her during the Succession) to the floor, to Birgitte’s amusement, and declares it an insult. Dyelin points out that she can’t keep the nobles imprisoned forever; Elayne had been considering releasing them, in fact, but knows that if she does so now, their gratitude (and loyalty) would go to Ellorien instead of her. Elayne reflects that Ellorien is one of the last holdouts against her rule, but Elayne’s support from the other Houses is still too precarious in this delicate period. She points out that the captive nobles are a resource, and Dyelin counters, not if she never uses them. Birgitte suggests executing them, to Dyelin and Elayne’s shock.

“What?” Birgitte said. “It’s what they deserve, and it would establish a hardfisted reputation.”

“It’s not right,” Elayne said. “They should not be killed for supporting someone else for the throne. There can be no treason where there is no Queen.”

“So our soldiers can die, but the nobles bloody walk away?” Birgitte asked. Then she raised a hand before Elayne could protest. “Spare the lecture, Elayne. I understand. I don’t agree, but I understand. It’s always been this way.”

Elayne says that she cannot allow this jockeying for power among the Houses to continue, with the Last Battle fast approaching, and needs something to either unify them behind her or scare them off from challenging her:

“It’s time to seize Cairhien.”

Birgitte choked quietly on her tea. Dyelin merely raised an eyebrow. “A bold move.”

“Bold?” Birgitte asked, wiping her chin. “It’s bloody insane. Elayne, you barely have your fingers on Andor.”

Elayne says this is why it’s a good idea; she doesn’t have fifteen years to stabilize her rule like her mother did, and this will show she is not to be trifled with. Dyelin points out that it could look like she’s letting al’Thor hand it to her, but Elayne is unconcerned by that. She tells Dyelin that it was important that she take Andor by herself, but she has no problem with accepting Cairhien from Rand. She further points out that with Cairhien, she will be one of the most powerful monarchs since Artur Hawkwing. Norry enters, and hesitantly informs Elayne that he has been using Hark to watch Duhara Basaheen, the Aes Sedai emissary from Elaida Elayne has been consistently refusing to see; Elayne is delighted, to his surprise, and he goes on to tell her that Duhara was seen visiting with Ellorien. Elayne is momentarily intrigued by this until she realizes that Duhara had meant to be seen, as a warning to Elayne.

“Ah,” Norry said, deflated. “So my initiative wasn’t so keen after all.”

“Oh, it was still valuable,” Elayne said. “If you hadn’t had her watched, we’d have missed this—which would have been embarrassing. If someone is going to go out of her way to insult me, then I at least want to be aware of it.”

Elayne wishes Egwene would hurry up and oust Elaida. Norry goes on to tell her thathe has been obeying her edict regarding mercenary bands (to let them stay near the city but otherwise ignore them for now), but he has received a very “familiar” letter from one of their captains that Norry was hesitant to ignore in case his “outlandish” claims had any truth. Curiously, Elayne takes the letter.

Your Royal Bloody Pain in My Back,

We’re bloody waiting here to talk to you, and we’re getting angry perturbed. (That means angry.) Thom says that you’re a queen now, but I figure that changes nothing, sense you acted like a queen all the time anyway. Don’t forget that I carried halled your pretty little backside out of a hole in Tear, but you acted like a queen then, so I guess I don’t know why I’m suprised now that you act like one when you really are a queen.

So I’m thinking I should treat you like a bloody Queen and send you a bloody letter and all, speaking with high talk and getting your attention. I even used my ring as a signet, like it was paper proper. So here is my formal salutation. So BLOODY STOP TURNING ME AWAY so we can talk. I need your bellfounders. It’s bloody important.

—Mat  

p.s. Salutation means greeting.  

p.p.s. Don’t mind the scratched out words and bad spellings. I was going to rewrite this letter, but Thom is laffing so hard at me that I want to be done.  

p.p.s. Don’t mind me calling your backside pretty. I hardly ever spent any time looking at it, as I’ve an awareness that you’d pull my eyes out if you saw me. Besides, I’m married now, so that all doesn’t matter.

Elayne is torn between outrage and exultation to hear that Thom is alive and Mat is in Andor. Birgitte thinks she is upset until she bursts out laughing, and gives the letter to Birgitte; Birgitte chuckles and comments that Mat’s backside is just as nice as Elayne’s (Norry is appalled), and that it will be good to have a drink with someone who doesn’t think of her as their “bloody military superior.” Elayne tells Norry that Mat and the Band are friends and hopefully allies; she thinks Mat is “a scoundrel,” but has a surprisingly good eye for tactics. She tells Norry to arrange a meeting with Mat and Thom, and Norry bows and leaves. Birgitte wonders why he mentioned bellfounders; Elayne isn’t sure, but has no doubt it has to do with some scheme of Mat’s. Confused, Dyelin asks who this man is, and Birgitte tells her he is one of the other two ta’veren who grew up with Rand; Elayne adds that he is useful when “harnessed” properly, and a disaster when not, but he knows how to fight.

“And, from what I remember Mat saying, he has a lot of Cairhienin in the Band. They are native sons. If I arrive with that section of the Band as part of my army, perhaps the transition will be easier.”

“So you really do intend to go through with this?” Dyelin asked. “Taking the Sun Throne? Now?”

“The world needs unity,” Elayne said, standing. “With Cairhien, I begin knitting us all together. Rand already controls Illian and Tear, and has bonds to the Aiel. We’re all connected.”

She feels only cold anger from Rand these days, and reflects that she doesn’t intend for Andor to become merely part of the Dragon’s empire, especially since that empire might fall to another if Rand dies at Shayol Ghul, though it pains her to be that coldly practical about it. Dyelin comments ruefully that she seems committed to this course of action, and Elayne agrees, but says they will need reliable Traveling ability to do it.

“Let’s set up a meeting for me with Sumeko and Alise. We need to discuss the future of the Kin.”

Commentary
There was no way on earth I was even going to try to summarize Mat’s letter, so you get it fully quoted in all its dubious glory.

And… well, I laughed, so there’s that at least. I don’t know if I quite buy that this is how Mat would write, but as far as I know we’ve never seen Mat write anything longer than a very brief note, and by his own admission he’s no more than adequate in the literacy department, so it would certainly make sense that his spelling isn’t spectacular. (Though you’d think his memories would compensate for some of that… but then again I guess they would only help if he was trying to write in the Old Tongue, so never mind.) And quite often people “sound” very differently in writing than they do in speech, even when they’re not trying to be formal. So, okay, fine, I’m not going to harp on it.

The only really major problem I have, therefore, is the use of “p.s./p.p.s”, which is not anachronistic so much as it is just flat-out inappropriate to use in this context, in my opinion. “Postscript” comes from the Latin post scriptum, and while I suppose you can make a case that this is just a “translation” of a similar letter-writing convention in Randland Basic, it’s just – enh. It feels wrong to have it there, just as Min’s only-makes-sense-in-English “toe/toh” pun felt in WH. What can I say, it threw me out of the story, and, well, yeah.

Although I did enjoy Birgitte’s reaction to the letter, and her obvious pleasure at the thought of seeing Mat again. Their simple and uncomplicated (and, therefore, apparently incredibly rare) friendship remains one of my favorite relationships in all of WOT.

Also, lookit Birgitte and her populist self! Not that I don’t agree with her sentiments, because she’s absolutely right that it sucks that commonfolk die and the nobles get spared, but she probably should have thought of that before she got herself bonded to royalty, eh?

…Er, not that she was actually consulted about that, of course. Whoops?

(I’m not really drawing a connection between the two, by the way. Elayne saved Birgitte’s life by bonding her, and totally would have asked permission if such had been possible, and Birgitte has stated outright that she is perfectly fine with Elayne’s decision. So, yeah, not the same thing at all.)

As far as Elayne’s decision to take Cairhien goes, maybe this is just hindsight talking but all I have to say is BLOODY FINALLY. Let’s get this show on the road already, Lightside people. And after all the belly-aching over not letting Rand give her Andor (which I actually agreed with in principle but was violently against in terms of how much it stretched out that plot narratively), I found her shrug of “So?” about taking Cairhien as a gift from Rand to be delightfully practical and efficient.

I even agreed with her reasoning that she should attempt to keep Andor (and Cairhien) at least nominally separate from Rand’s “empire.” Which I put in quotes because of course Rand pretty much designed it to fall apart once he dies, insofar as there was any organized designing involved in the first place. That Elayne recognizes this (even if she doesn’t quite seem to realize that Rand is just as well aware of the inevitability of it as she is) speaks well of her political astuteness, in my opinion.

And if she gets more power out of it, well, as long as we’re going with the Randlandian premise that absolute(ish) monarchy is the best system of government possible (and actually, historically monarchies have always been the most stable form of government even in the real world), then that can be construed as civic responsibility just as much as it could be considered a straight power grab. Because if there’s one thing Cairhien in particular could use at the moment, it’s some stability.

Lastly and least relevantly, I really don’t understand why the dragon icon was used for this chapter. Sure, Rand was mentioned in it, but then he’s mentioned pretty much in all the chapters. Because of that whole protagonist/central character/Messiah thing he’s got going on, dontcha know. Just having a mention of him is not sufficient reason to give him the icon, in my opinion.

Especially since there would have been at least three icons that would have been ten times more appropriate for the subject matter: the rampant lion of Andor, most obviously, followed closely by the rising sun of Cairhien, since that was the central subject discussed, and lastly Mat’s dice icon, considering the chapter’s named after his letter. Hell, even the Aes Sedai white flame would have made more sense than the dragon, given the talk about Duhara and the Tower and so on. So yeah, I don’t get that icon choice at all.


Instead, I leave you to contemplate it, and the many other things I have perhaps nonsensically said! So have a lovely week, and may it include many yummy barbeques and sparkly explosions and general red-white-and-blueage for the USAians in the audience. Well, the rest of you can have all that too if you want, but I figured you’re probably, y’know, not as into it. And… yes. Yo ho!

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