Semi-live, from New Orleans, it’s a Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 17 of A Memory of Light, in which there are egregious acts of aggressive greenery, and everything else just pisses me off.
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And now, the post!
Chapter 17: Older, More Weathered
Mat wakes up to find Tuon talking to Musenge, and is appalled that she hasn’t bothered to dress first. She reprimands him, but starts dressing. Another Deathwatch guard approaches to report that they have caught another possible assassin; Tuon sends for the prisoner and General Karede. Selucia arrives just before the guarded prisoner, and Mat groans when he sees it is Rand. He thinks Rand looks older than the last time he’d seen him person (not counting in the colors).
It had been… Light, how long had it been? The last time I saw him with my own eyes was when he sent me to Salidar after Elayne. That felt like an eternity ago. It had been before he had come to Ebou Dar, before he had seen the gholam for the first time. Before Tylin, before Tuon.
Tuon turns from Selucia and sees Rand, and immediately yells for her damane. A guard runs off, and Mat jumps in front of Tuon, telling Rand to be calm. Rand greets him (calmly) and thanks him for leading Rand to Tuon. Mat is astounded, and Tuon is enraged. Something binds Mat, and he yells at Rand, but Rand replies that it isn’t him; he is shielded. Mat realizes that Tuon stole his medallion while they were sleeping. Karede arrives at a run with a sul’dam and damane.
“Thanks a bundle for this,” Mat muttered to Rand. “You’re such a bloody good friend.”
“It’s good to see you too,” Rand said, a hint of a smile on his lips.
“Here we go,” Mat said with a sigh. “You’ve pushed me into trouble again. You always do this.”
“Yes. In Rhuidean and the Waste, in the Stone of Tear… back in the Two Rivers. You do realize that I went south, instead of coming to your little party with Egwene in Merrilor, to escape?”
“You think you could stay away from me?” Rand asked, smiling. “You really think it would let you?”
“I could bloody try. No offense, Rand, but you’re going to go mad and all. I figured I’d give you one less friend nearby to kill.”
Their conversation devolves into bickering and one-upmanship, and Rand is amused that Mat is trying to win a bragging contest against the Dragon Reborn. Mat denies he was worried about Rand, except in the sense of wanting him to make it to his destined duel with the Dark One. He tells Rand to let him do the talking, and Rand ignores him and addresses Tuon himself, telling her the Last Battle has begun and the time for “his trial” is approaching. She tells him he will be taken to Seanchan, as a ruler who resisted her. She says he should have remembered his oaths. Rand asks her what the Seanchan would have done if they had arrived on this continent to find Hawkwing’s descendants still ruling. Tuon says they would have welcomed them as brothers, but Rand is not so sure. Tuon says it is not so, in any case. She says she rules by right of being the only legitimate heir of Artur Hawkwing, the only one to have unified the land in glory and greatness. Rand tells her she is wrong.
“I am Lews Therin Telamon, the Dragon. I ruled these lands, unified, during the Age of Legends. I was leader of all the armies of the Light, I wore the Ring of Tamyrlin. I stood first among the Servants, highest of the Aes Sedai, and I could summon the Nine Rods of Dominion.”
Rand stepped forward. “I held the loyalty and fealty of all seventeen Generals of Dawn’s Gate. Fortuona Athaem Devi Paendrag, my authority supersedes your own!”
“My authority supersedes that of Hawkwing! If you claim rule by the name of he who conquered, then you must bow before my prior claim. I conquered before Hawkwing, though I needed no sword to do so. You are here on my land, Empress, at my sufferance!”
Tuon backs away, and Mat finds himself shaking. Green grass suddenly spreads outward from Rand, and Mat realizes Rand is singing something very softly, a tune he feels he knows but can’t place. The sul’dam cries fearfully that Rand is still shielded, but the greenery expands to the trees surrounding them, flowers bursting open everywhere. Rand demands to know if Tuon still denies his prior claim, and Tuon answers that he broke the land and abandoned it.
“I allowed you to live,” Rand said to Tuon, “when I could have destroyed you in an instant. This is because you have made life better for those under your rule, though you are not without guilt for the way you have treated some. Your rule is as flimsy as paper. You hold this land together only through the strength of steel and damane, but your homeland burns.
“I have not come here to destroy you or to taunt you. I come to you now to offer you peace, Empress. I have come without armies, I have come without force. I have come because I believe that you need me, as I need you.” Rand stepped forward and, remarkably, went down on one knee, bowing his head, his hand extended. “I extend my hand to you in alliance. The Last Battle is upon us. Join me, and fight.”
Mat pulls Tuon aside and tells her he vouches for Rand and his word. Tuon counters that there is darkness in him. Mat replies that she can trust Rand, and if she can’t, then to trust him instead. He tells her she needs a stable base here in Altara to take back Seanchan, and she won’t have that if her forces have to fight a three-front war. She turns to Rand, and asks his terms. Rand stands, and tells her the terms are peace for a hundred years, by co-signing a treaty with the other rulers and working with them against the Shadow. They haggle over borders, then Tuon demands that all women who channel shall be damane. Rand answers that he will not interfere with Seanchan-born damane, but all women captured on this side of the ocean must be freed. Tuon answers that there is no deal, then.
“If it is that important,” she said firmly, “you can agree to my demand. Our property is our own. You wish a treaty? Then you will get it with this clause: We keep the damane we already have. In exchange, I will allow you to leave in freedom. […] The world is your charge, Dragon, not mine. I care for my empire. I will greatly need those damane. Choose now. As I believe you said, your time is short.”
Rand’s expression darkened; then he thrust his hand outward. “Let it be done. Light be merciful, let it be done. I will carry this weight too.”
He adds, though, that if she takes any more damane from his allies during the battle it will be seen as breaking the treaty. Tuon agrees, and takes Rand’s hand briefly before leaving, telling Mat to follow. Mat mutters to Rand that he has some of the Dark One’s own luck himself.
“I can’t believe that worked.”
“Honestly?” Rand said softly. “I can’t either. Thank you for the good word.”
“Sure,” Mat said. “By the way, I saved Moiraine. Chew on that as you try to decide which of the two of us is winning.”
Mat followed Tuon, and behind him rose the laughter of the Dragon Reborn.
Well, not to be a Debbie Downer or anything, but I really don’t see what’s so funny.
I feel like maybe I have lost my ability to be objective when it comes to Tuon, and maybe even when it comes to Mat, too. But whatever, this is about my opinion in any case, objective or otherwise, and in my opinion, this entire chapter left a bad taste in my mouth.
I mean, I can sort of see this from Tuon’s perspective, if I try hard. Because, it’s not like Rand made the most stellar first impression on her, and just because I know he’s all Zen Ghost Anakin now, instead of Borderline Psycho Darth Vader, doesn’t mean she does. And, if you view damane as… as ordnance, instead of as, you know, people who have been brutally enslaved and brainwashed, then from her point of view what Rand was asking her to do was to strip her army of its most effective weapons, and a responsible ruler wouldn’t agree to that.
Right, sure. And yet: UGH.
I guess I’m just really disappointed that all the buildup of first Egeanin and then Tuon finding out the big secret about sul’dam being channelers too (and thus knocking down the Seanchan’s entire house of cards justifying the dogma of declaring all channelers dangerous animals who must be bound) has effectively come to jack squat, and in fact made my opinion of Tuon even worse. Because now Tuon knows it’s all bullshit, and as far as I can tell, not only has it not changed her perspective on the issue, she doesn’t even care that it’s all bullshit.
Because yes, the argument can be made that practicality indicates that “on the eve of apocalypse” is not the time to be dismantling a system which, again, provides the most significant portion of her Empire’s defense. And I would even buy that, honestly. But the fact of the matter is that nothing Tuon has said or done indicates to me that she will ever be interested in dismantling that system, even after they win the Last Battle.
Therefore, fuck you, Tuon. Because that is utter crap.
And perhaps I am not being fair in not blaming Rand for acceding to such a morally reprehensible deal, but no, I’m still pinning it all pretty squarely on Tuon. She had him over a barrel, and they both knew it. Which is ironic, because while I know that the specific future Aviendha saw in the Way Forward Ter’Angreal has been averted, I really do not see how the Dragon’s Peace is going to last for ONE year, much less a hundred years, between two sides with such fundamentally opposing moral philosophies. And yet, the short term needs were so great, I also really don’t see how Rand had any other choice. Other than basically obliterating Tuon’s entire empire, of course, which I think we have all agreed would be A Bad Thing, since solving the problem of an atrocity with an even bigger atrocity is kind of an exercise in missing the point, if you ask me.
I did like that Rand called her on the hypocrisy of assuming that this giant invading force of hers would have been like, oh, oops, our bad on finding a pro-Hawkwing empire in place on this continent, and turned around and gone home with no further ado. Because, suuuuure, that totally would have happened. Uh-huh. *rolls eyes*
Plus I have to also call bullshit on her line about the world not being her concern versus her Empire, because, um, honey, don’t you think it will be kind of hard to provide for your Empire if there isn’t a world for your Empire to exist in? Seriously, I have a hard time following the logic of what to me is the equivalent of a landlord arguing over whether he has to pay for heating the apartments, when the whole building will be torn down if he doesn’t. Stupid, just stupid.
And then there’s Mat, who I am sort of judging for agreeing to even be part of this craptacular Empire in the first place, even as I acknowledge that that’s sort of unfair of me. Especially considering that he is the best chance the Seanchan have of moving toward not being craptacular, since this chapter does firmly establish that Tuon will listen to him even against her own (highly biased) judgment. And yet, blah. How can he stomach this?
Not to mention his entire interaction with Rand, to which I was rather giving the stinkeye even as I was amused by some of the banter. The one-upmanship thing was funny, but that doesn’t change how disappointed I was that Mat is apparently still, after all this time, trying to weasel out of his Ta’veren Tripod duties. Because, really. Haven’t we got past that yet?
I was even annoyed at Rand for not being angrier about that, because that is also utter crap. Perhaps not as utterly crap as Tuon’s thing, but definitely pinging at least at 8.5 on my internal Crapometer™.
And speaking of the Ta’veren Tripod: I suppose, as long as I’m complaining, that this is as good a place as any to bring up one of my biggest peeves with AMOL, which is that one of the things I have been waiting for literally three fourths of the entire series never ended up happening. Which is, of course, Rand, Perrin, and Mat all being in the same place together again—a thing which has not happened (on screen, at least) since the end of TDR. Which is the third book, I remind you.
I’m not going to lie, this seriously upset me. There are so many reasons why this upset me that it’s hard to even know where to start listing them, but I guess the over-arching meta reason is that it really, really should have happened, for symbolic symmetrical coming-full-circle narrative purposes if nothing else. And yet it didn’t. This was a journey these three boys started together, and they should have ended it together. And they sort of did, logistically, but emotionally they really didn’t.
And that sucks, not to put too fine a point on it.
And you know, I didn’t even really need anything significant to happen in that reunion, plot-wise. I would have been happy just to have the three of them take a moment to look at each other and be like, damn, I know, right?, and that would have been enough for me. And yes, there were geographical/logistical obstacles to putting them all together, but even if we discount Traveling, Rand’s got his dreamshards and all that. He couldn’t have staged even one little quick dreamtime Superboys pow-wow before the shit all went down?
Well, it is what it is. And since I have done nothing but grouse in this entry, let me attempt to lighten the mood by mentioning what I did find cool about this chapter, which is Rand’s time-lapse approach to gardening, and that apparently Rand has found the Song?
Though it is kind of a shame that no one’s probably going to have a chance to mention this to the Tinker community, I must say.
Urgh. Apparently I don’t have much of anything nice to say about this chapter. Which is probably a good sign that I should stop here, and hope for better things next time. Be well, O My Peeps, and I’ll see you next week!