The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Towers of Midnight, Part 20

Are you coming with me, WOTers? Let me take you on a Wheel of Time Re-read ride!

Today’s entry covers Chapters 35 and 36 of Towers of Midnight, in which we discuss symmetry, mad negotiation skillz, and line-dancing.

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!

Okay, so before we start, there is some scheduling and plans for the future and all what needs discussionating, and ergo, I discuss it. That’s LOGIC, y’all.

First off, I know there has been some question about my advance review of AMOL and when and where that’s happening and what it’s cool to talk about here in the Re-read and so forth and so on, yes? Yes! So, the deal is, I am doing my traditional advance review of AMOL, and it will be terribly kickass, or at the very least terribly verbose, BUT that review is not yet.

Because as you know, Bob, I am currently still midstream on my Re-read of TOM, and I have decided that I would really rather get through most or all of TOM spoiler-free for the ending. To that end, I have asked the benevolent overlords of Tor to hold off on sending me AMOL, so that I might come to it as free and clear as is humanly possible.

Also to that end, I have refrained from reading any of the advance material on AMOL currently available to everyone, including both the sample excerpts Brandon has released AND the prologue now available for purchase. This is a personal choice on my part, of course, and I certainly neither expect nor demand that anyone follow me in this if they don’t want to. However, as a personal courtesy to me, I would ask that commenters refrain from discussing or divulging AMOL spoiler material of any kind in the comments to this Re-read until I have posted my advance review.

And in fact, I would ask that you continue to avoid AMOL spoilers in the Re-read thread even after that point, for those who wish to read the whole thing spoiler free on January 8th. The Powers That Be have assured me that they have provided y’all with a spoiler thread in which to discuss the advance material to your heart’s content, so if you could keep that there I would be terribly grateful.

As to when my own advance review is going up, the timing is still a tad uncertain owing to reasons, but right now I’m tentatively planning to put it up sometime in mid-to-late-November. I will be more specific as soon as I can be.

Part of the reasons for this uncertainty is personal: among other events, I am pleased to report that your Auntie Leigh has been privileged to be accepted to participate in the Viable Paradise writer’s workshop this October, about which she is so excited that she has begun referring to herself in the third person. O The Humanity. That means, however, that I will of necessity be taking a hiatus from both the WOT Re-read and the ASOIAF Read for the week of October 7th and possibly the week after as well.

I am going to TRY not to miss more than a week of posts, because believe me I want to get to AMOL as much as the next fan, but the possibility exists and thus I warn you of it. To say that October is going to be a crazy month for me is to drastically understate the case.

So that’s what THAT all is. And in the meantime, your jonesing for advance review-type material re: A Memory of Light may be slaked via the advance review by the lovely and talented Jason Denzel, which, like the rest of the advance material out there, I will not be perusing at this time, but which you fine folk can find right here. Share and enjoy – as long as you don’t share it with me, of course. Shhhhh!

Okay, enough of all that. On with the post!

 

Chapter 35: The Right Thing

What Happens
Egwene cautions Siuan snippily to follow directions, and tries to calm herself. She thinks that Mesaana’s attack needs to happen that night; she has too much else on her plate to still have this to deal with. In apology, she tells Siuan she doesn’t want to lose her, and Siuan smiles and leaves. Egwene finds Silviana in her quarters, who tells her she suspects Gawyn is delaying his reply to be difficult; Egwene is surprised to realize she feels exposed without him. She instructs Silviana to double the guard on her door, and send Gawyn another letter asking him to return, but cautions Silviana to word it more politely this time.

Perrin is exhausted and Faile is angry, but he doesn’t care that Morgase condemned him; his only concern is getting his people to safety. He is surprised that Galad returned their captured supplies as well as his people. Gaul comments that that is twice they’ve readied for battle and not had one, and once more would be a dishonor among Aiel. Perrin replies he’d rather have the dishonor than the battle. Faile approaches and Gaul beats a retreat. Faile tears into him for promising to deliver himself to the Whitecloaks, and Perrin yells back that he made a decision. She retorts it was the wrong one, and they could have fought.

“They intend to fight at the Last Battle,” Perrin said. “Every Whitecloak we killed would be one less man to face the Dark One. Me, my men, the Whitecloaks—none of us matter compared to what is coming! They had to live, and so did we. And this was the only way!”

Light, but it felt wrong to yell at her. Yet it actually softened her temper. Remarkably, the soldiers nearby him started to nod, as if they hadn’t been able to see the truth until he’d bellowed it out.

He tells Faile that she will take command of the retreat; he believes that now that whatever’s watching them knows they are not going to fight the Whitecloaks, the waiting trap will be sprung very soon. She warns him they are not done with this fight, but backs down. He says he is going to the wolf dream, where he will either destroy the dome or force Slayer to tell him how to make Traveling work again. He says to have the Asha’man try to make gateways every few minutes, and the moment it works to get their people out, to Whitebridge in Andor. If it doesn’t work after an hour, she is to march the army toward the perimeter, though he doesn’t think that will work. She embraces him, and asks what happens if Slayer kills Perrin in the dream, and he doesn’t reply, but tells her he thinks Slayer is Lord Luc.

“It’s all coming back around. We finish with Malden and find ourselves within a stone’s toss of the remnants of the Whitecloaks, Byar and Bornhald with them. Slayer appears in the wolf dream again. That man I told you of, Noam, the one who was in the cage. Do you remember where I found him?”

“You said you were chasing Rand. Through…”

“Ghealdan,” Perrin said. “It happened not one week’s ride from here.”

“An odd coincidence, but—”

“No coincidences, Faile. Not with me. I’m here for a reason. He’s here for a reason. I must face this.”

She nods, and he turns to their tent.

Byar is incensed that Galad let Aybara go, and Galad warns him of insubordination. Bornhald looks very upset, but says nothing. Byar insists that Aybara is of the Shadow, and Galad replies that then they will still face him in battle. He gives orders to strike camp and make for Lugard immediately. Byar leaves, his face “dangerously resentful,” and Galad asks Bornhald if he is as displeased. Bornhald says he has believed for so long that Aybara killed his father, but Byar’s behavior has unsettled him, and he admits that he has no proof. He points out, however, that Aybara did definitely kill two other Children, which makes him a Darkfriend. Galad points out that he himself has killed one of the Children, and named Darkfriend for it; Bornhald says that is different, but sounds troubled. Troubled himself, Galad thinks that the answers should be easier to find, frustrated at the worry gnawing at him.

Life is not so easy as the toss of a coin, his mother had said. One side or the other… your simple illusions…

He did not like the feeling. Not at all.

The scents in the wolf dream are all jumbled up, making no sense. Hopper appears and tells Perrin this is not good, that the dream is “beginning to break.” Perrin heads to the dome perimeter, where Hopper, Oak Dancer, Sparks and Boundless join him. He tries to protest, but Oak Dancer says Young Bull should not hunt such dangerous prey alone, and Slayer must fall for what he has done, and Perrin acquiesces. They enter the dome and head for the center; the smell of wrongness increases, and Perrin shifts himself aside just as an arrow come down where he’d been standing. He sees Slayer there, sneering, and the wolves attack, but Slayer vanishes, to appear in the air above. Perrin knocks aside his arrow with wind and fires a return arrow. Slayer shifts to avoid it, and Hopper pounces, knocking him down. Slayer curses and vanishes. Perrin and the wolves follow, and Slayer kills Oak Dancer and wounds Sparks in one blow, but Perrin blocks his attack again, to Slayer’s surprise.

“How is the dome created, Luc?” Perrin said. “Show me and leave. I will let you depart.”

“Bold words, cub,” Slayer snarled back. “For one who just watched me kill one of your pack.”

Boundless howled in anger, leaping forward. Perrin attacked at the same time, but the ground beneath them trembled, shaking.

No, Perrin thought. His own footing became firm as Boundless was knocked to the ground.

Slayer lunged, and Perrin raised his hammer to block—but Slayer’s weapon turned into smoke and passed right through it, solidifying on the other side. With a yelp, Perrin tried to pull back, but the blade scored him across the chest, cutting through his shirt and leaving a gash from one arm to the other. It flared with pain.

Hopper knocks Slayer down again, but Slayer kicks him off, and Perrin attacks again, enraged, willing his wound to be bandaged. Slayer runs, and Perrin chases him, changing into a wolf. Slayer smells afraid as Young Bull pursues him, going from place to place, until Slayer manages to lose him. Sparks calls for him, and Young Bull goes to where the other wolf has found a thin silver rod that looks made of wire, driven into the earth. Perrin pulls it up and tries to change it into something else, but the rod resists him, and Sparks says it is “here in its reality.” Perrin tries moving it, and finds that the dome moves with the rod, keeping it in its center. Perrin instructs the other wolves to spread out and try to decoy Slayer while Perrin gets the dome away from his army.

He would take the spike someplace safe, someplace where Slayer couldn’t find it.

Commentary
I think I was on record as saying Perrin’s arc in TOM was probably my favorite thing about the novel as a whole, and reading this chapter I’m realizing that it was probably for more reasons than just the upcoming Crowning Moment of Hammer Awesome.

Don’t get me wrong, that is certainly a very big part of it, but as Perrin has noted before and again in this chapter, Perrin’s story in TOM is also a great example of a character arc coming full circle. His personal fulfillment/character resolution is ending, essentially, exactly where it began, way back in TEOTW, and there’s a lot of really pleasing symmetry to that which I find very satisfying from a narrative structure standpoint. Especially considering that I suspect such symmetry is going to turn out to be rather rare.

When a story gets as big and sprawling as this one, it is inevitable, I think, that to a certain extent it also gets… messy. Meaning, there are going to be cases (arguably, there have already been cases) where we’re just not going to get this kind of neat, rewarding tying up of a character’s personal demons/bugaboos/issues, and in fact we’ve already been specifically warned that we won’t. Given that, I think it’s probably important to enjoy it as much as we can when we do get it, as here.

It’s interesting that I also think that Galad gets this kind of pleasing wrap-up arc even though he’s a minor enough character that I think possibly he normally wouldn’t, if it were not for how closely he is tied to Perrin’s resolution arc. So he gets symmetry by proxy, or contamination, or something. Which is nice, I think. It’s possible I’m not making too much sense here, but hopefully you get what I mean.

The scene with Galad, Byar and Bornhald resonates differently to me now, knowing what the eventual outcome will be, than it did when I read it originally. I was smart enough to see the inevitable clash between Crazypants Byar and Galad coming, of course, but I think the first time around I figured that Bornhald’s apparently very distressing brush with sanity would result in nothing more than his decision to simply wuss out, rather than coming in on Byar’s side against Galad. I was prepared to be perfectly happy with that, too, make no mistake. Little did I know, eh?

I will say this about Saldaean cultural quirks: I still think their ideal of marital bliss is wackadoo in general, but there is something to be said about airing your grievances openly instead of letting them fester in silence. Especially when said open airings inadvertently clue in your people on why you’re doing the seemingly crazy things you are. As is almost always the case in WOT, it seems that honesty is the best policy even when it takes the form of an overly-public spat with your spouse. So there’s that?

Also: Slayer is a tool. Thank you for your attention to this important announcement.

 

Chapter 36: An Invitation

What Happens
Egwene sends herself to Tel’aran’rhiod, and meets Nynaeve there. She tells Nynaeve that she is to lead the attack, but to be very careful. Nynaeve agrees and vanishes to her post near the Hall, waiting for the Black sisters hopefully coming to spy on the decoy meeting there. Egwene sends herself to another location in the city, where Leane, Yukiri, Seaine, Amys, Bair, and Melaine are waiting for her; Elayne is not present, having warned that she might not be able to channel enough to get there. The hostility between the Aes Sedai and Wise Ones is palpable. Soon after the Windfinders arrive, obviously very inexperienced in the dream, led by a woman named Shielyn; Egwene notes that the one Nynaeve had assumed would be in charge, Renaile, seems subservient to the others. Egwene invites them to sit, but Shielyn refuses. The Wise Ones are displeased that “children” such as the Sea Folk have been allowed there, but Egwene tells them it is necessary. Shielyn is offended, and Yukiri irritated.

Egwene took a calming breath. “Please, you are leaders of your separate peoples, women with reputations for great wisdom and acuity. Can we not at least be civil with one another?” Egwene turned to the Sea Folk. “Windfinder Shielyn, you have accepted my invitation. Surely you will not now reject my hospitality by standing through the entire meeting?”

Shielyn hesitates, but agrees, and sits. She says that she knows that this meeting is about the Aes Sedai finding out about the Windfinders and wanting to put a stop to them. Egwene answers that they may have been correct to hide from the Tower, to everyone’s shock. She says perhaps the White Tower has been “overly zealous” to control women who can channel, and she thinks the Tower can learn much from the Windfinders. But, she adds, there are also things the White Tower knows that the Sea Folk do not.

Otherwise you would not have striven to bargain for our women to train your Windfinders.”

“We will not rescind that agreement,” Shielyn said quickly. Her blouse turned pale yellow.

“Oh, I expect nothing of the sort,” Egwene said. “It is well that you now have Aes Sedai teachers. Those who bargained with you achieved something unexpected.”

True words, every one. However, the way she said them implied something more—that Egwene had wanted the Aes Sedai to be sent to the Sea Folk ships. Shielyn’s frown deepened, and she sat back in her chair.

Egwene gets Amys to confirm that the Aes Sedai know weaves that the Wise Ones do not, but adds that the Wise Ones’ knowledge of Tel’aran’rhiod is unparalleled. She proposes a three-way exchange: each group to send apprentices/Accepted to the others to train, and allowed to either return to their “home” groups after a period of time, or have the option to stay. Both the Windfinders and the Wise Ones are very leery of the idea. Egwene asks the Wise Ones what it would be worth to them have more Aes Sedai like her, who understand ji’e’toh and respect the Wise Ones rather than regard them as wilders; she asks the same of the Windfinders, and proposes changing their current bargain from the Aes Sedai teachers who do not want to be there to the more “pliable” Accepted. She also throws in an offer of the dream ter’angreal she’d loaned them for this meeting, to keep permanently. The Wise Ones are not happy about this, but Egwene tells them sternly that they cannot keep the Dream world all to themselves forever. Shielyn and Bair are skeptical, given the Tower’s previous policy about ter’angreal, but Egwene offers a formal exception to that policy for the other groups.

“The world is changing, Bair,” Egwene said softly. […] “When change comes, you can scream and try to force things to stay the same. But you’ll usually end up getting trampled. However, if you can direct the changes, they can serve you. Just as the Power serves us, but only after we surrender to it.”

Egwene looked at each woman in turn. “Our three groups should have begun working together long ago. The Last Battle is upon us, and the Dragon Reborn threatens to free the Dark One. If that weren’t enough, we have another common foe—one who would see Aes Sedai, Windfinders and Wise Ones alike destroyed.”

“The Seanchan,” Melaine said.

[…] “Yes,” Egwene said. “Together, we can be strong enough to fight them. Apart…”

Shielyn and Amys both say they need time to consider, but tentatively agree to send two apprentices each to the other two groups for a set period, in exchange for the same. Shielyn also agrees to consider releasing the Aes Sedai teachers bargain in exchange for the dream ter’angreal and Egwene’s pledge to release any Sea Folk Aes Sedai who wished to return to their people. The Sea Folk leave, and Amys says the work Egwene does is good as long as she does not mean to “tie us in steel bands.”

No, Amys, Egwene thought. I will not tie you in bands of steel. I’ll use lace instead.

“Now,” Bair said. “You still have need of us this day? You indicated a battle…?”

“Yes,” Egwene said. “Or so I hope.” No word had come. That meant Nynaeve and Siuan hadn’t discovered anyone listening. Had her ploy failed?

The Aes Sedai confer with her in private, and Yukiri thinks the Hall will not agree to the proposed arrangement, especially regarding the ter’angreal. Egwene points out that they have already given the Bowl of the Winds back to the Sea Folk, and now that they have a sister (Elayne) capable of creating more ter’angreal anyway, it is only a matter of time before there are too many to track anyway. She points out that if so many long-lost Talents like Elayne’s are cropping up among them, it is only reasonable to assume they will be also appearing among the Sea Folk and Aiel. Yukiri says they could bring the Wise Ones and Windfinders under control if they had to, and Egwene asks if they intend to do the same to the Asha’man, for objects of Power women cannot even use.

“The world as it was cannot be ours any longer,” Egwene said softly, not wanting the Wise Ones to overhear. “Was it ever? The Black Tower bonds Aes Sedai, the Aiel no longer revere us, the Windfinders have hidden their best channelers from us for centuries and are becoming increasingly belligerent. If we try to hold too tightly to all of this, we will either become tyrants or fools, depending upon how successful we are. I accept neither title.

“We will lead them, Yukiri. We must become a source that women look to, all women. We achieve that by not holding too tightly, by bringing their channelers to train with us and by sending our most talented Accepted to become experts in the things they are best at.”

Siuan interrupts, appearing in the middle of the room, frantic. Egwene asks if the battle has begun, and Siuan answers that it started immediately; the Black sisters came not to listen, but to attack.

Perrin runs with the rod and the dome, and Slayer pursues, trying to shoot him with arrows, but Perrin blocks him with an imagined brick wall and changes direction, going east instead of north. He tries to figure out where he can put the rod without Slayer being able to retrieve it, and realizes he will have to kill Slayer to stop him. He sees that he is near Tar Valon, and thinks that he will be able to hide easier in the city. He leaps in the direction of the White Tower.

Commentary
Oh, FFS. Well, sure, Perrin, let’s take the giant gateway-blocking dome directly to the largest enclave of channelers in Randland! WHAT A GREAT IDEA. I’m sure that won’t cause anyone any problems whatsoever. Dumbass.

Also, I’m sorry if this kind of harshes the general air of dramatically dramatic action here, but I still find the image of Perrin haring across the countryside toting a ginormous purple umbrella to be inexplicably hilarious. There’s probably something wrong with me.

I can’t say I find much fault with anything Egwene had to say in this meeting. In general I think it was a masterful example of turning disadvantages into advantages, but more importantly it was about creating advantages for all parties involved, not merely her own, which has the awfully nice benefit of being ethically sound as well as clever – two things which do not necessarily always go together.

Thus, Egwene manipulating her way out of the craptastic bargain Elayne and Nynaeve struck with the Windfinders became replacing it with a bargain that benefited the Sea Folk just as much as it did the Tower. Smartest thing they ever did, accepting that, too. Because I can tell you now, there is no crappier teacher in the world than the one who doesn’t want to be there. Plus, again, that whole side benefit of not being assholes. Just for fun.

And of course, nothing works better to unite folks than a common enemy. And in this case, one would probably be hard-pressed to find an enemy more likely to unite squabbling groups of channelers than the Seanchan. Yes, this is an old tactic (the enemy of my enemy is my friend) and probably an obvious one, but (a) if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and (b) just because it’s a negotiating ploy doesn’t mean it doesn’t also happen to be perfectly true. Because, as I may have opined in the past, SLAVERY NO.

I have to say, I really can’t imagine how this presumed Light alliance with the Seanchan is going to play out at the Last Battle. I mean, I’m supposing a way will be found for Egwene and Bair and Shielyn and everyone to be all oh hey, so you want to enslave and brainwash and torture us, but sure, let’s totally work together!, but… well, I’m just very interested to see it get pulled off, is all I’m saying.

So, in general, big kudos to Egwene from me for managing to be a fair bargainer as well as a skilled one. Of course, there is the small detail that Egwene still intends to ultimately be the boss of them, but c’mon, it’s not like the Wise Ones and the Windfinders don’t totally know that, and will prepare for it. And really, considering the specialized and isolationist tendencies of the other two groups, I’m not even prepared to say Egwene is wrong to angle for the role, especially if she intends it to be more a “first among equals” situation than a ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR kind of thing.

…We’ll root for the former, shall we? Yes, let’s.

But in general, even with that tiny wrinkle, by WOT standards this entire détente is practically Kumbaya on auto-repeat with cheery shiny tie-dyed unicorns doing the electric slide in the background. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

(What?)


My goodness, look at the time, must boogie. Have a specTACular week, kiddos, and see you next Tuesday!

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