The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Towers of Midnight, Part 22

Holy crap, it’s a Wheel of Time Re-read!

Today’s entry covers Chapter 39 of Towers of Midnight, in which we have a shocking and unprecedented event: a WOT character talks about peeing. DUN!

Oh, and also she says some other stuff.

Short entry is short, because as you know, Bob, I have just returned from the amazing and highly recommended Viable Paradise Writer’s Workshop, which was a great deal like being cheerfully guided through the world’s most engaging, articulate, enlightening and insightful combine harvester, and my brain, she is FRIED.

As proof, I just spent almost twenty minutes dithering over which string of adjectives to use in the preceding sentence, and also whether or not to drop the adverbs, and yeah, I really gotta get me some more of that sleep thing I hear the kids are raving about these days.

(Plus, the chapter after this one really deserves my… full attention, let’s just say. Better to wait.)

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!

 

The Wheel of Time Re-read on Tor.com: Towers of Midnight, Part 22Chapter 39: In the Three-fold Land

What Happens
Aviendha runs through the Three-fold Land, feeling safer than she ever had in the wetlands, even though dangers lurked everywhere. The dangers here, though, she felt she understood. She thinks of how she had succumbed to the weaknesses of living in the wetlands, making her soft, and contemplates how she must make sure her people are returned to their home and restored after the Last Battle. She stops and makes camp, and is startled when an ordinary-looking Aiel woman appears outside of the camp, even though Aviendha had not heard her approach. The woman, who introduces herself as Nakomi, greets her as a Wise One and asks to share water and shade with Aviendha. Aviendha senses that the woman cannot channel, and warily agrees, adding that she is not yet a Wise One, but is on her way to Rhuidean for her second test. Nakomi asks if she is one of those who went west with the Car’a’carn, which Aviendha acknowledges, and then asks what Aviendha thinks of him. Aviendha replies that she thinks he has much honor, and admits that she has spent more time with him than most.

“Tell me, are the wetlands as glorious as so many say? Rivers so wide you cannot see the other side, plants so full of water they burst when squeezed?”

“The wetlands are not glorious,” Aviendha said. “They are dangerous. They make us weak.”

Nakomi frowned.

Aviendha thinks there is something strange about Nakomi, but cannot decide what it is, and notices the coals in her fire have built up just enough to allow Nakomi to bake the roots she offers for the meal. Nakomi comments that Aviendha seems worried, she assumes about the Last Battle, but Aviendha says that she worries more about how the wetlands are corrupting the Aiel, making them soft. Nakomi observes that the Three-fold Land was named for what it did to the Aiel: punishing them for their sin, testing their courage, and shaping them as an anvil shapes metal. She wonders whether that suggests what they were being shaped for in the wetlands was just as dangerous. She dodges Aviendha’s questions about where she comes from, and observes that by breaking their ancient oaths to do no violence, the Aiel have great toh, so great that perhaps it cannot be repaid. Aviendha replies that the Aiel will meet their toh by fighting in the Last Battle.

“And so,” Nakomi said, handing over a cup of tea, “the Three-fold Land was our punishment. We came here to grow so that we could meet our toh.”

“Yes,” Aviendha said. It felt clear to her.

“So, once we have fought for the Car’a’carn, we will have met that toh. And therefore will have no reason to be punished further. If that is the case, why would we return to this land? Would that not be like seeking more punishment, once toh is met?”

Aviendha is unsettled, but insists to herself that the Aiel belong in the Three-fold Land. Nakomi observes that it seems that everything the Aiel are is in service to the Dragon, and suggests that perhaps that is why so many Aiel refused to follow him, for once that service is done, then their customs and culture itself no longer will make any sense. Aviendha does not know how to reply, and Nakomi serves the meal, which is almost inexplicably delicious. She then excuses herself from the fire to “see to nature,” and leaves. Aviendha eats, disturbed by Nakomi’s words.

But what was the purpose of the Aiel now? If they did not wait for the Car’a’carn, what did they do? Fight, yes. And then? Continue to kill one another on raids? To what end?

Nakomi never returns to the camp. Aviendha goes to look for her, but finds no trace of her, and returns to find the woman’s belongings are gone. Troubled, Aviendha goes to sleep.

Commentary
Ah, the infamous Nakomi.

Who may be any number of things, but the one thing she sure as hell is not is the random innocuous Aiel woman she represents herself to be. Because, yeah, no.

And thus were born a thousand rampant Internet theories on Nakomi’s true identity and agenda. Most of which, I freely admit, I have mostly completely forgotten in the intervening months between TOM’s initial release and flurry of discussion, and now.

However, this is precisely why God invented The Google™, and a bit of searching has refreshed my memory nicely. There are a bunch of theories floating around out there, as I’ve said, but the main Nakomi theories seem to be:

  1. Nakomi is an agent of the Creator, sent to nudge Aviendha onto the right path.
  2. Nakomi is “a bubble of good,” operating on the idea that if there are “bubbles of evil,” why not an opposing counterpart?
  3. Nakomi is Verin in disguise, sent to nudge Aviendha onto the right path, and their entire conversation took place in Tel’aran’rhiod without Aviendha realizing it.
  4. Nakomi is a random Wise One in disguise, and ditto.

I… pretty much don’t buy any of these. Though they are at least more plausible than the ones that claimed Nakomi was a Forsaken or other agent of the Shadow. Given that the result of Nakomi’s visit led directly to Aviendha being forewarned of the terrible fate that awaited her people, should they continue on the path she herself had been espousing, and thus having the chance to avert that fate, the idea that Nakomi is evil seems fairly flatly contradicted.

I mean, there’s incompetence in promoting your own agenda, and then there’s going out and carefully researching, buying, registering, cleaning, and loading the gun you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot with. I’m just saying.

That said, none of the above Light-oriented theories really ring true to me either. I’ll go through ‘em briefly, just for fun:

Agent of Creator Theory: “I WILL TAKE NO PART.” ‘Nuff said.

Bubble of Good Theory: Bah. If this is actually the case, then it’s an example of the sloppiest writing ever, because unless I seriously missed something we’ve had exactly zero indication that such a thing is even possible before this moment. Foreshadowing, people, we does not have it!

Not to mention, having a hallucinatory woman cook and philosophize at you really doesn’t fit the M.O. of what I would think a “bubble of good” would be like, based on observation of the nature of the bubbles of evil we’ve seen. If a bunch of yummy cupcakes and wiggly puppies had dropped gently out of the sky into Aviendha’s camp for no discernible reason, that I might buy as “a bubble of good.” Nakomi? No.

Verin in Disguise Theory: Lots of people have put forth very valid logistical objections to this idea, but I don’t even care whether or not Verin was still alive at this point, or if she had the means to enter Tel’aran’rhiod, or any of that; for me where this falls down is that as far as I can tell we have not had the slightest indication that Verin would have given a crap about the fate of the Aiel post-Last Battle in the first place.

I mean, not to sound callous or anything, but Verin was revealed in TGS to have pretty much two very specific goals: to blow the kind of giant honkin’ whistle on the Black Ajah that makes that dude with the cigarette company look like a first grader tattletale by comparison, and to make sure the Dragon Reborn did not get killed by aforementioned Black Ajah before she could do so. I’m just saying, I’m pretty sure that those two concerns were more than enough to fill her schedule, and one conversation with Gaul way back in TGH, in my opinion, just does not constitute evidence of sufficient interest in the Aiel on Verin’s part to plausibly have any kind of equal footing with the first two items. So this idea really doesn’t make much sense to me.

Random Wise One in Disguise Theory: Fairly efficiently discardable on the basis of the presence of the word “random” in the theory. This is epic fantasy, people; shit is not random here. You want the terrifying intrusion of the meaninglessness of life into fiction, totter your ass on down to the Litrachoor section; over here in the SF ghetto we do signal, not noise, and we like it that way. So there.

Well, Ms. Smarty-Pants, you no doubt then ask, if you’re so sure our theories are crap, then who do you think Nakomi is/was?

To which I answer, with all my native wit, insight, and deductive brilliance: Dunno.

Seriously, I don’t know. I don’t buy any of the above theories, but nor do I have a suggestion to replace them. I could be completely wrong and one of the above theories is correct; I just said none of them felt right to me, not that I have ironclad proof they’re wrong. I don’t even have tinfoilclad proof, unless you count a gut feeling that they just don’t jive.

And hell, the first thing I thought of upon initial reading of this chapter was Lanfear’s masquerade as Silvie with Egwene, way back in TGH. Because while Lanfear’s motives there were obviously ulterior, she did manage to drop some very useful information on Egwene in the process anyway, so maybe I’m super wrong and Nakomi’s a bad guy, and this was somehow meant to cause Avi to stray, and only did the opposite because Avi is just that awesome. I highly doubt it, but what do I know?

If Nakomi is evil, though, that’s mildly worrying, since I pretty much agree with her completely as far as the disposition of the Aiel goes. I mean, her point is eminently valid: why keep eating gruel when there’s bacon and pancakes one table over? And more importantly, why keep eating gruel when the unfortunate condition that up till now has required you to eat daily gruel has finally cleared up?

(As a side note, I have just wasted five minutes trying to imagine a condition in which one would be obliged to eat gruel. Lockjaw?)

Because sure, you’re used to gruel, and it’s nice and safe in the way it so reliably tastes like crap, but: bacon. C’mooooooonnnnn.

As a caveat, I should note that I am saying all this without remembering the specifics of Avi’s upcoming adventures in the Way Forward Machine, and whether it was the Aiel leaving the Waste or them staying there that turned out to be the wrong move. I am cheerfully preparing, therefore, for the giant foot I have a 50% percent of chance of having just put in my mouth. I brought ketchup!


And, yeah. Not much point in saying more about that till I get to that chapter, so this is where we stop. Have a lovely week, kiddies, and have fun in the comments telling me all the ways in which I am So Very Wrong And Also Stupid About Nakomi, Like, God, Leigh, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!

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