The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Towers of Midnight, Part 9

I was gonna do a Re-read post, but then I got high. Oooh-ooh…

Just kidding. The Wheel of Time Re-read is squeaky clean and super sober at all times!

…What? Hey, quit laughing, I mean it!

Thbbt. Today’s entry covers Chapters 12 through 14 of Towers of Midnight, in which we discuss pacing, shoutouts, and appropriate aesthetic choices in WOT bong design. No, really.

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 12: An Empty Ink Bottle

What Happens
Min sits at her window in the Stone, enjoying the unexpected sunlight bathing the city through an unnaturally circular break in the clouds. Her enjoyment irritates Nynaeve, who is incensed that Min refuses to lead her to Rand, who’s been missing for three days. Min thinks that she had been tempted to seek him out when she’d felt his pain, fury and despair.

In those moments, Rand had seemed more dangerous than he ever had before. Not even that night—when he’d knelt above her, strangling her with one hand—had he been as frightening.

And then…

She smiled. And then had come the warmth. It radiated from the bond like the comfort of a winter hearth. Something wonderful was happening, something she’d been awaiting without knowing it.

She tries to reassure Nynaeve that everything is all right, but Nynaeve is unnerved by what Rand did at Natrin’s Barrow and what he almost did in Ebou Dar and to Tam. Nynaeve says that she wanted Rand to grow up, but now that he has, he frightens her. Min compromises by promising Nynaeve that if Rand’s absence continues much longer, she will lead her to him. Sarene enters to tell Nynaeve that Cadsuane wants to see her: Alanna Mosvani has disappeared.

Cadusane, Corele, Rafela and Bera are in Alanna’s room, which is empty of clothes and possessions except for an empty ink bottle and a torn, hastily-opened envelope with the remnants of a blood-red seal on it. Corele tells Cadsuane that she had not sensed enough channeling for Alanna to have left via gateway. Bera says that she had not really talked to Alanna for weeks, but had overheard her weeping in her room frequently. Nynaeve and Min arrive, and Cadsuane shows her the envelope and asks if Nynaeve knows what it is. Nynaeve says that she does not, and Cadsuane is irritated that she cannot know for sure whether Nynaeve is telling the truth. Nynaeve wants to know why it matters, and Min points out that Alanna is just as much a path to Rand as Min is; if the Shadow has taken her… Nynaeve says they should have had Alanna better guarded, and Cadsuane privately agrees. She asks for tea; when Bera brings it to her, she braces herself for the spoiled taste.

Cadsuane froze. The tea tasted good.

It was wonderful, as a matter of fact. Perfectly sweetened with honey. Faint bitterness and a relaxing flavor. It had been weeks, perhaps months, since Cadsuane had tasted tea that wasn’t spoiled.

Min gasps and turns toward the northern quarter of the city, and the two Maidens who had been watching her dash off immediately.

“He’s here,” Min said softly.

Commentary
RAND’S HERE HOORAY

It’s just amazing, y’all, the difference an epiphany makes in a Messiah-type figger. Before Dragonmount, “hooray” would definitely not have been my response to Rand showing up, especially not in TGS, but now I’m all bouncy-bouncy with anticipation, to see how New Non-Toxic Rand will make things better. Non-crap tea for everyone!

As for Alanna, I continue to be amazed she isn’t dead yet. I don’t think we see her again before the end of TOM, so who knows where she’s fucked off to or why. Well, except that if the note is from Verin, which I am assuming is the case, then the odds of Alanna’s mission being disastrous and/or ill-advised are actually pretty low. Because Verin is sneaky and awesome even from beyond the grave!

Oh, wait, right. It’s probably of a piece with Verin’s note to Mat – giant incursion of Trollocs imminent, please put on To Do List ASAP – isn’t it. So maybe Alanna’s off to warn Arafel of the same? Yeah, that would make sense.

 

Chapter 13: For What Has Been Wrought

What Happens
Min runs across the courtyard to meet Rand as he approaches the Stone surrounded by Aiel. She thinks the warmth from the bond is overwhelming now, and sees a strange distortion of the air around him, along with new viewings: “An open cavern, gaping like a mouth. Bloodstained rocks. Two dead men on the ground, surrounded by ranks and ranks of Trollocs, a pipe with smoke curling from it.” She stops short as she sees his eyes, which look deeper and older.

Min felt a moment of panic as his eyes held hers. Was this the same man? Had the Rand she loved been stolen away, replaced with an ancient force of a man she could never know or understand? Had she lost him after all?

And then he smiled, and the eyes—deep though they had become—were his. That smile was something she’d been waiting a very long time to see again. It was now much more confident than the one he’d shown her during their early days together, yet it was still vulnerable. It let her see a part of him that others were never allowed.

Min runs up and hugs him, and demands to know what he’s been doing. “Existing,” Rand tells her. She tells him about Alanna, but Rand tells her that she went north, possibly to Arafel, and that it doesn’t matter that she could tell where Rand is.

“The Shadow does not need her to find me, Min, nor will it ever again. All its eyes are fixed directly upon me, and will be until I blind them.”

He turns to the Aiel, and tells them he has toh. Rhuarc rebukes him for acting stupidly, and Rand promises him he will never leave them behind voluntarily again, and that he will meet his toh for not doing so before. The gathered Aiel relax, and twenty Maidens come up to form Rand’s guard. Rand goes to Darlin, Flinn and Narishma, and sends a Maiden for messengers, and walks with them to where the Aes Sedai are gathered.

“Rand al’Thor,” Nynaeve said, folding her arms as he walked up to them. “You are—”

“An idiot?” Rand finished, sounding amused. “An arrogant fool? An impulsive, wool-headed boy in need of a sound ear-boxing?”

“Er. Yes.”

Rand agrees, but says he may have gained some wisdom now. He sends for Cadsuane, promising not to execute her, and then tells Narishma to go to the Borderlander army outside Far Madding and tell them he will meet with them in a few days. He instructs Darlin to have all the Tairen nobles gather in the courtyard, and to post word that the Tower has been reunified with Egwene al’Vere as the new Amyrlin Seat. The Aes Sedai are astounded, and at Min’s suggestion, Rand modifies it to announcing that Egwene has “succeeded” Elaida as Amyrlin. The Aes Sedai are further astounded to learn that Rand went to the White Tower, angered Egwene, and yet walked out unhindered. He tells Darlin to marshal his forces, and Nynaeve asks eagerly if he is heading to Tarwin’s Gap. Rand feels pained through the bond, but tells Nynaeve that he swears he will help Lan, but not yet; he needs to go to Arad Doman first.

“Min.” He looked at her, and those unfathomable eyes seemed to draw her in. “I need you, Min.”

“You have me. Stupid looby.”

Callandor,” he said. “It plays a part in this. You have to find out how. I cannot seal the Bore the way I tried last time. I’m missing something, something vital. Find it for me.”

“I will, Rand.” A cold shiver ran through her. “I promise.”

Cadsuane approaches, and Rand pardons her for her “past mistakes” and revokes her exile, though he notes wryly that it was never more than an “inconvenience” for her anyway. Cadsuane expresses skepticism that she needs any pardoning, and Rand calmly adds an apology, commenting that he was under a great deal of stress. Cadsuane opines that he cannot afford to let pressure drive him, but Rand counters that that pressure has made him what he is. He tells her that she tried to manipulate him and failed “horribly,” but her efforts taught him that he was wrong about what he was being shaped for.

“I thought I was being forged into a sword,” Rand said, eyes growing distant. “But I was wrong. I’m not a weapon. I never have been.”

He asks Cadsuane for help in locating someone “in the hands of well-meaning allies”; he mentions Mattin Stepaneos, in the White Tower, but tells her the person he wants is someone different, probably in the Caralain Grass. The nobles have gathered by this time, and Rand has them all line up and walks down the line, examining each one until he reaches Weiramon and Anaiyella, both of whom can hardly look at him. Rand seems disappointed, and tells them to deliver a message from him to the others of their “association”:

“Tell them that they cannot hide among my allies any longer.”

Weiramon tried to bluster, but Rand took a step closer. Weiramon’s eyes opened wide, and Anaiyella cried out, shading her face.

“Tell them,” Rand continued, voice soft but demanding, “that I am no longer blind.”

He orders them to go, and assigns three Maidens to watch them until they leave the Stone. Min asks what that was about, and Rand replies that the time for hiding is past, on either side. He stops when he sees Tam al’Thor enter the courtyard, and Min feels his emotions: reluctance, shame, and fear. Rand walks to his father and abruptly embraces him.

There, holding to his father, the Dragon Reborn began to weep.

The gathered Aes Sedai, Tairens and Aiel watched solemnly. None shuffled or turned away. Rand squeezed his eyes shut. “I’m sorry, Father,” he whispered. Min could barely hear. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s all right, son. It’s all right.”

“I’ve done so much that is terrible.”

“Nobody walks a difficult path without stumbling now and again. It didn’t break you when you fell. That’s the important part.”

Eventually Rand pulls away, and motions Min to come closer, telling Tam he wants to introduce them. Tam chuckles that they’ve met, but Rand says he needs to introduce them formally.

“Father,” Rand said, resting his hand on Min’s back. “This is Min Farshaw. And she’s very special to me.”

Commentary
Hokay.

I debated a really long time about saying this, because it feels mean to say it and I know a lot of people will get upset with me and think I’m being way over-critical, and maybe I am, but nevertheless it’s how I feel and so I’m sharing it: I was a little underwhelmed by Rand’s reunion with Tam.

Not so much in what actually happened, because I loved that, that Rand would weep and beg his father’s forgiveness and then formally introduce him to Min. That was great, and utterly appropriate, and all of that. My problem here is that the actual execution of the scene felt… rushed.

This is something that’s going to come up again in TOM, but this is one of the big ones for me. Because yes, I know we have a metric shit-ton of stuff to get through here, and the book’s already probably classified as a deadly weapon just on its sheer weight because you could totally beat a dude to death with this thing, but nevertheless there are certain moments that really, really, really deserved to be lingered over, and this was one of them, and instead it was over in less than a page of text. And I really felt that took away from the impact of the moment.

There’s a whole lot more I could say about the understandable-yet-still-detrimental impulse to sacrifice character interaction for plot movement, but I really don’t want to hammer this into the ground just yet, because for one thing it’s going to come up again, and for another I feel really guilty right now, so I’ll leave it here for the moment, and invite y’all to give me your thoughts on it in the comments.

All that said, in a more general sense I enjoyed this chapter quite a lot, for pretty much the same reasons I mentioned in the commentary to the previous chapter, which is that it is suddenly fun to be around Rand again, and see him confound everyone who was expecting him to still be Stressball Doom Guy from TGS. His initial rejoinder to Nynaeve here was especially hilarious, and I really really appreciated that he made a point of promising her that he would help Lan, which is very apropos after what a dick he had been to her about it in the previous book.

It’s seriously a wonderful relief that he isn’t Stressball Doom Guy anymore, y’all, and I really don’t know why I was so against it on the first go-round. Maybe I just needed time to get used to it.

Also, for those who may be mad at me for not loving the Tam scene, if it makes you feel any better this chapter also features a development that proved one of my older WOT theories wrong, wrong, super-plus wrong, which is the reveal of Weiramon as a Darkfriend. If you recall (and you may not, and I wouldn’t blame you, because I think the last time I talked about it was during the re-read of TPOD or thereabouts, i.e. a million years ago), up until the publication of TOM my stance on Weiramon was that he was in the class of characters which included Pedron Niall and Elaida: in other words, antagonists to our protagonists without being actual certified Cohorts of Evil™. I thought Weiramon was a dumbass and a jerk, but not actually a Darkfriend. Whoops?

So, yeah, totally chowing down on the corvus corvidae over here. But hey, at least the way he was revealed was pretty cool. Rand’s got Shadow-seeking infrared laser vision, y’all! Sweet.

As for Cadsuane, I’m going to talk more about her later, but I did want to point out one thing in particular Rand said to her, which I’ll quote again for convenience’s sake:

“I thought I was being forged into a sword,” Rand said, eyes growing distant. “But I was wrong. I’m not a weapon. I never have been.”

We’re going to come back to this statement, you mark my words. I’m not entirely sure yet what it could mean, but I’m betting right now that it’s pivotal to how this whole shindig will go down.

Min’s visions: the first two seem pretty obvious, and in fact I think we just saw the first one. As for the two dead men, it’s unclear to me if the pipe part was meant to be connected to that vision or separate from it. The comma would suggest the former, but there are an awful lot of typos in my copy of TOM, so, not sure.

If it is connected, it seems a little odd. What, these two dudes sat down for a smoke in a fieldful of Trollocs before falling down dead?

Okay, probably not, but that’s the image that leaped to my mind. Silliness aside, the only immediate association I have with pipe smoking is Thom, even though that’s pretty dumb considering about half the male characters in WOT smoke pipes, including Rand himself. (Why smoking is only a male vice in WOT – at least, if we’ve ever seen a woman smoking a pipe I don’t recall it – I have no idea, because yeah, no.)

So maybe it means that Moridin and Rand will meet up and be all, “yeah, this sucks, how about a bowl before we kill each other?”, and I am totally cracking myself up picturing various WOT characters taking bong hits now.

(This one would totally be Rand’s. Hahaha.)

Annnnyway. Then there’s this:

“Leeh,” Rand said. “Take two others. Watch them.”

Three Maidens split from those watching over Rand, darting after the two former nobles.

*tilts head*

Hmmm.

*tilts head other way*

 Hmmmm.

You know, I meant to ask Brandon about this at the TOM signing – or Maria or Alan or Harriet at JordanCon – and totally forgot. My brain, she is sieve-like sometimes.

But what the hell, I’m taking it unless and until I find out it ain’t so. My shoutout! Mine! MINE! Mwahahahaha!

*dances* I’m a Maiden, yes I am! Whoo!

*bangs spear on things*

*cuddles shoutout*

(whoo)

 

Chapter 14: A Vow

What Happens
In the Dreamworld, Egwene walks in the field where she had first come when learning about Tel’aran’rhiod, and reflects on how little she’d known back then. Then she goes to the first of her two meetings, with Bair and Amys in the reflection of the Heart of the Stone. She tells them the Tower is whole and she Amyrlin. Bair comments that Sorilea will be disappointed she is staying with “those fools,” but Egwene rebukes her, saying that she, Egwene, was once a fool as well, and yet the Wise Ones did not abandon her, any more than she can abandon the Aes Sedai. Amys comments that she has grown much, which pleases Egwene very much, as she values their opinion of her highly.

“Have you seen Rand recently?” Egwene asked.

“The Car’a’carn has embraced death,” Amys said. “He has given up trying to be as strong as the stones, and has instead achieved the strength of the wind.”

Bair nodded. “Almost, we will have to stop calling him a child.” She smiled. “Almost.”

Egwene is shocked at their approval of him. They digress briefly into a discussion about the possibility of Aes Sedai training with Wise Ones and vice versa (though Amys is very against this idea) before returning to Rand. Egwene tells them Rand intends to break the seals; Amys and Bair seem shaken at the news, and promise to consult with Rand on the matter. Amys and Bair leave, and Egwene goes to the reflection of the Hall of the Tower. She is profoundly irritated that Nynaeve is not there to meet her, and then notices with a shock that the rose window here is different from the real one, featuring a Dragon’s Fang as well as the Flame of Tar Valon.

There is a third constant besides the Creator and the Dark One, Verin’s meticulous voice said, a memory from another time. There is a world that lies within each of these others, inside all of them at the same time. Or perhaps surrounding them. Writers in the Age of Legends called it Tel’aran’rhiod.

Did this window represent one of those, another world where Dragon and Amyrlin ruled Tar Valon side by side?

Nynaeve shows up at last, and Egwene is relieved. Nynaeve is shocked to learn the Seanchan had attacked the Tower, but is reluctant to stick around for details. Instead of rebuking her, to Nynaeve’s evident surprise, Egwene asks for her advice as someone who has been in a similar position to hers.

“Amyrlin?” Nynaeve asked flatly.

“A leader,” Egwene said, passing Nynaeve and nodding for her to walk beside her, “that everyone thinks is too young. Who rose to her position abruptly. Who knows she is the right woman for the job, yet has only grudging acceptance from most of those near her.”

“Yes,” Nynaeve said, walking with Egwene, eyes growing distant. “You could say I know something of being in that situation.”

Egwene asks how she dealt with it, and Nynaeve admits that she doesn’t know that she did, really, but advises that Egwene establish her authority quickly, before her subordinates have a chance to see how far she can be pushed, and to make sure she is not being bypassed on important decisions. Egwene nods, but comments that her biggest problem is her lack of supporters. Nynaeve protests that she has herself and Elayne.

“Do I?” Egwene said, stopping in the hallway and looking at Nynaeve. “Do I really have you, Nynaeve?”

The former Wisdom stopped beside her. “Of course you do. Don’t be silly.”

“And how will it seem,” Egwene asked, “if those who know me best refuse my authority? Might it seem to the others that there is something they do not know? Some weakness that only my friends have seen?”

Nynaeve stops, caught out, and Egwene asks her how it felt when those she was supposed to be leading saw only the girl and not the station. Nynaeve ruefully acknowledges the trap Egwene laid for her, and Egwene asks why, if Nynaeve would be willing to serve other women as Amyrlin, why she cannot do the same for Egwene when she acknowledges Egwene will do well at the job. Nynaeve admits it will be difficult, but promises to try. She calls her “Mother” with some difficulty, and Egwene thinks wryly that at least she’s trying. The wards Egwene had set go off, but when they go out to the corridor there is no one there. Then Elayne appears. She congratulates Egwene on the Tower, and hugs Nynaeve, saying she is glad she decided to come so Egwene didn’t have to hunt her down and “pull your toes off one at a time.”

“The Amyrlin,” Nynaeve said, “has much better things to do. Isn’t that right, Mother?”

Elayne started, looking amazed. She got a glimmer in her eye, and hid a smile. She assumed that Nynaeve had been given a tongue-lashing. But, of course, Egwene knew that wouldn’t have worked with Nynaeve; it would be like trying to yank a burr out of your skin when its spines had gone in the wrong way.

Egwene wonders who set off the wards, though, and weaves a deliberately imperfect ward against eavesdropping, hoping to lure whoever it was in. They sit, and Egwene tells Nynaeve she wants her to return to the Tower and teach more sisters her new Healing, but Nynaeve is reluctant to leave Rand. Elayne is concerned to hear he has “changed”; Egwene suspects Elayne is hiding something about Rand, and wonders if Elayne has bonded him. Nynaeve replies he has changed, but in a good way.

“Mother… you don’t know how bad he grew. There were times when I was terrified of him. Now… that’s gone. He’s the same person—he even talks the same way as before. Quietly, without anger. Before it was like the quiet of a knife being drawn, and now it’s like the quiet of a breeze.”

“He’s awakened,” Elayne said suddenly. “He’s warm now.”

This confirms Egwene’s suspicion, though she doesn’t press the issue. Nynaeve suddenly looks more closely at Elayne and declares indignantly that she is pregnant, which is something Egwene had already known. Egwene congratulates her and Rand, but comments the timing is awkward. She tells them what Rand had said about breaking the seals, risking releasing the Dark One.

Elayne pursed her lips. “Well, there are only three seals left, and they’re crumbling.”

“So what if he is running that risk?” Nynaeve said. “The Dark One will be freed when the final seal crumbles; best if it happens when Rand is there to battle him.”

“Yes, but the seals? That’s foolhardy. Surely Rand can face the Dark One, and defeat him, and seal him away without taking that risk.”

“Maybe you’re right,” Nynaeve said.

Elayne looked troubled.

Egwene is disturbed by their lack of negative reaction, but tells herself that Nynaeve is probably just being affected by Rand’s ta’veren nature. She moves on, telling them that she wants them both to come to the Tower and swear the Oaths. Elayne objects on the grounds that she doesn’t know what that will do to her unborn children, which Egwene accepts provisionally, but she insists on Nynaeve. Nynaeve is very reluctant, but agrees humbly, to Elayne’s surprise. Egwene is worried about getting her exempted from the testing, though. Nynaeve, however, tells her it is not a problem; she’s learned all the weaves for the test and has no problem with taking it.

“When have you had time to learn those?” Elayne exclaimed.

“I haven’t spent the last few months mooning about and dreaming of Rand al’Thor.”

“Securing the throne of Andor is not ‘mooning about’!”

Egwene tells Nynaeve to be there the next morning, then, to her dismay, and tells Elayne that in the meantime she needs to make more dream ter’angreal, as the ones they had were stolen. Elayne and Nynaeve are both horrified to hear that Sheriam was Black Ajah, but before Egwene can explain further, her wards go off. Egwene blinks to the hallway, where a Black sister named Talva tries to attack her. Egwene shields her, but Alviarin appears and attacks from behind; Egwene blinks out of the way, and Alviarin’s weaves kill Talva instead. Alviarin disappears before Egwene can shield her, to her chagrin.

Egwene hadn’t been thinking like a Dreamer. Lately, her mind had been on the Aes Sedai and their problems, and weaves had come naturally to her. But she couldn’t let herself forget that in this place, thought was more powerful than the One Power.

Nynaeve and Elayne catch up to her. Nynaeve comments that they shouldn’t have met here, but Egwene counters that they’ll never defeat the Black Ajah unless they can find them. Nynaeve disapproves of this, but Egwene is distracted by something down the hall. She blinks over, but nothing is there. She reflects that she had cleansed the White Tower, but the infestation at its heart was still unpurged. She promises herself that she will find Mesaana before returning to the others.

Commentary
So, Egwene is being both cool and annoying in this chapter.

Cool, because she totally schools Nynaeve, but she does it with logic and with an appeal to Nynaeve’s innate empathy and loyalty, rather than just yelling at her or ordering her around. Which was very nice to see after the near-assault she pulled on Nynaeve back in TFOH (I think) the last time they were tussling over the question of who’s the boss, and I feel it means Bair and Amys were right when they said Egwene has Grown As A Person.

But she is also annoying me in her willful and almost inexplicable blindness to the evidence that everyone and their dog is giving her that maybe Rand is no longer Stressball Doom Guy (sorry, but that’s just way too fun to say/write), and that maybe destroying the seals is not actually a totally psychotic suggestion to make. Especially since, as Elayne pointed out, they’re eventually going to break on their own anyway, so why not at least control how and when it happens?

Still, I suppose I might be being a little too impatient with her here. Because if you’ve got, say, a big, poisonous, and deeply pissed-off spider trapped under a jar, and you know the only way to kill it is to let it out first, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to have to seriously psych myself up first before I’m willing to admit to the necessity. And if it was a big, poisonous, deeply pissed-off and universe-destroying spider, well, I would imagine even more so, then. That’s logic, y’all!

Speaking of the sometimes dangerous practice of applying logical thought to fictional magic systems, I’m a little confused about the rose window thing in this chapter, because while we’ve seen the Dreamworld reflect things in the real world oddly or intermittently or whatever, I feel like this is the first time it’s ever actually reflected something from an alternate version of Randland. Verin’s comments notwithstanding, as far as I can tell the only place we’ve come across the whole parallel universe thing is when everyone was mucking around with the Portal Stones in the early books; I don’t ever remember the Dreamworld specifically switching elements around between dimensions before this.

I always kind of figured (insofar as I thought about it at all) that even if Tel’aran’rhiod touches all the parallel universes out there, when a dreamer is actually in it she only sees the reflection of the particular universe she belongs to. This is the first time that assumption’s been challenged, which therefore makes it either a gaffe, or an indication that reality really is getting seriously tattered around the edges by this point. For obvious reasons, I think I’ll go ahead and believe that the latter option is the correct one.

“Pull your toes off”?

Also, Egwene didn’t know that Elayne had bonded Rand, but did know that she was pregnant by him? WTF? It’s probably a bit inconsistent that I am simultaneously annoyed that she didn’t know the first thing and annoyed that she did know the latter thing, but, well, there you go. It must be positively exhausting keeping track of which characters know which things at which time in this series.

I was, kind of hilariously, rather disappointed that Alviarin appeared only long enough to take a potshot at Egwene and miss before booking it. Fortunately, though, she shows up again later, and I have high hopes of her being a decent opponent to the Supergirls in AMOL.


And that’s what I got for this one, peoples! Have a lovely week; I will be over here loving and hugging and squeezing my shoutout. But not calling it George, because that would rather defeat the purpose, methinks. My shoutout! Mine!

(whoo)

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