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Today’s entry covers Chapter 19 of A Memory of Light, in which we have tragic hair accessories, possible subliminal causes for bad pocket etiquette, and a sartorial selection which will be shown in the fall line for Hot Mess Designs, because MY EYES.
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This reread post, and all posts henceforth, contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series. If you haven’t read, continue at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 19: The Choice of a Patch
Elayne meets Bashere by the Alguenya, remembering Bryne’s warnings to her as a child about the deceptive surface of rivers hiding the deadly current beneath. He apologizes to her for not seeing the trap they were in before it was too late: there was an army of Trollocs ahead of them, heading for vulnerable Cairhien. Bashere says he did not account for how fast the Fades were able to push the Trollocs on a forced march, and speculates they must have broken off from the larger force pursuing them from Braem Wood and outflanked them. They are in a pincer now. Elayne says she will not allow Cairhien to be destroyed.
“Bashere, you’re one of the greatest military minds the land has known. You have resources that no man has ever had before. The dragons, the Kinswomen, Ogier willing to fight in battle… You can make this work. I know you can.”
“You show surprising faith in me for someone you have known a very short time.”
“Rand trusts you,” Elayne said.
Bashere says the only way is to get to that northern force and crush it before they can trap Elayne’s forces between them and the enemy to the south, though he says it is a risky move. Elayne agrees to the plan.
Egwene goes to meet the Wise Ones in the World of Dreams, and overhears them discussing something about requiring a third trip for all; Bair says she saw “it” just as “she” did, through her own descendants’ eyes. They stop talking when Egwene makes her presence known. Melaine congratulates her on the ji her army has earned, while Amys frowns over Rand’s delay to take them to Shayol Ghul. Egwene says he has asked for a meeting, not as Amyrlin and Dragon, but as “old friends,” and Bair says to tell him not to dally. Then she changes the subject, asking if Egwene has seen the cracks in the rocks, with the strange nothingness inside. Egwene asks what they are, and Amys says they seem like cracks in the Pattern itself, most often appearing where the Dreadlords are using balefire.
Egwene stared at that darkness, shivering. “Balefire weakens the Pattern. During the War of Power, even the Forsaken grew to fear using it, lest they unravel the world itself.”
“We must spread the word to all of our allies,” Amys said. “We must not use this weave.”
“It is forbidden of Aes Sedai already,” Egwene said. “But I will make it known that nobody is to even consider breaking that rule.”
She admits, though, that the Aes Sedai—and Rand—have ignored that rule before, but only in dire need; she is troubled that the Shadow has access to such a dire weapon when the Light dares not use it. Melaine asks if she has noticed the changes in the World of Dreams, the storm eroding its very existence, and Egwene nods. Amys says that therefore they will not be coming here very much anymore, and Egwene realizes that this is goodbye.
“I am proud of you, girl,” Amys said. Amys, tough-as-rocks Amys, looked teary-eyed. They rose, and Egwene embraced them one at a time.
“Light shelter you Amys, Melaine, Bair,” Egwene said. “Give my love to the others.”
“It will be done, Egwene al’Vere,” Bair said. “May you find water and shade, now and always.”
They fade away, and Egwene says her own farewell to Tel’aran’rhiod before she wakes herself as well. She is in the Tower, and Gawyn tells her Rand is there. She goes to meet him, and Rand smiles to see her. She asks if he’s there to convince her to break the seals, and he comments that she has grown cynical. She points out that he tried to anger her the last two times they met. He offers her a ribbon, and she asks if he’s implying she’s a child.
“What? No!” Rand sighed. “Light, Egwene. I want to make amends. You’re like a sister to me; I never had siblings. Or, at least, the one I have doesn’t know me. I only have you. Please. I’m not trying to rile you. […] I just… I didn’t want to go to my fight with our last meeting having been an argument, even if it was an important one.”
Egwene softens at that, and hugs him, and tells him she does support him, even if not about the seals. She is resolved not to cry at what seems like a last parting. Gawyn asks about the sibling Rand mentioned, and is floored when Rand reveals that Tigraine was his mother, making he and Galad half-brothers, though Rand supposes it would not mean much to a Whitecloak.
“I think Galad would surprise you,” Gawyn said softly. “But Elayne…”
“Not to tell you your own family history, but Elayne is not related to me.”
Rand asks to see the seals once more, and Egwene pulls them out somewhat reluctantly. She is nervous about carrying them on her person, but reasons that if she decides Moiraine is right about breaking them, she would need to have them with her. Rand suddenly goes pale, and demands to know where the real ones are, as these are fake. Shocked, Egwene insists that these are the ones he gave her, and Rand realizes he didn’t look at them closely when he retrieved them.
“He has them, Egwene. He’s stolen them back, somehow. The Dark One holds the keys to his own prison.”
Mat reflects that he had often wished for most of his life that people wouldn’t look at him (as it would let him get away with more), but now he is unnerved at how none of the Seanchan servants will meet his eyes—not to mention by how little they wore. He is concerned that Galgan is being too slow about gathering Tuon’s troops. A new woman, Nata, enters and immediately begins designing him a new wardrobe. Mat threatens to throw her off the balcony if she tries to take his hat, but is distracted by the rich gems she shows him as the other servants disrobe him, until:
“We shall tailor you outfits for military expression, court attendance, private functions, and civic appearances. It—”
“No,” Mat said. “Military only.”
“We’re at the bloody Last Battle, woman,” Mat said. “If we survive this, you can make me a bloody feastday cap. Until then, we’re at war, and I don’t need anything else.”
He endures the measuring without complaint, though he secretly wishes for more lace. He picks out the simplest of the new eye patches they offer him. He is disgruntled at the elaborate robes they put on him, but Nata assures him it is a ceremonial warrior’s uniform for the Imperial family, and will make the soldiers see him as Prince of the Ravens first, and an outsider second, so Mat allows it, though he is not sure it isn’t some kind of joke until he sees another man clad in something similar. As they drape gems on him and lacquer his nails, he realizes to his dismay that he is really rich now.
“Burn me,” Mat said, lowering his arms to his side as the lacquering finished. “I’m a bloody nobleman.” He sighed, plucking his hat from the hands of a startled servant—who was walking past with his old clothing—and set it on his head.
Nata protests that the hat looks completely out of place with his new clothes, and Mat tells her if he’s going to look ridiculous, he’s going to do it “with style,” and demands to be taken to where the generals are meeting.
Okay, not that I am throwing in with Nata and her cray Seanchan fashion sense, but she is so right in that the hat doesn’t go with that outfit, at all. I don’t even have to see it to know Mat’s going to look absurd. Seriously, I laughed at this image for like five minutes. Please, please put him back in his old clothes, because I am sort of cringing with contact embarrassment here.
Also, I love that they had ornamental eye patches for him. Like, did they just happen to have those lying around, or were servants up all night frantically making them? Okay, it’s probably the latter, but I’d rather be amused at the notion that the Corenne took absolutely everything with them, no matter how random the item, when they sailed to Randland, and so just happened to have ridiculous bejeweled eye patches on hand, because what if you need them?
Heh. The Seanchan do rather strike me as a people constitutionally incapable of packing light. Not that I can throw stones, since it’s a damn miracle if I manage to travel anywhere without bringing at least four pairs of shoes and every toiletry item in the world with me, but you know. They should feel very lucky they don’t have to deal with airline baggage fees, is all I’m saying.
Other than that, this was kind of an odd blip of a scene, in which nothing really happened, and feels like it should have been tacked on to the Mat scene that obviously follows it at some point rather than being left to stand alone. Not to mention, I’m not sure why Mat’s picking out an eye patch was considered important enough to name the chapter after when, from the way that bit is written, the selection seems to have very little significance to Mat other than to make sure it’s not too fancy. Maybe this comes up again later and I’ve just forgotten about it? *shrug*
Although, on re-reading I sort of take the “blip” comment back, because obviously the thing here was Mat’s hilariously belated realization that he is, in fact, a filthy rich fop of a nobleman. Well, look who just caught up, dude. *rolls eyes*
I wonder if he’s ever going to give any thought to the fact that he’s been artificially jumped to the highest caste of a society which runs on slavery? And maybe about how the reason those servants won’t look at him is because Seanchan society is a place where you literally can be killed for looking at someone wrong? Because let me tell you, that’s the part that would be bothering me, not the stupid clothes. Just saying.
(Well, okay, the stupid clothes would also bug me. But the implicit condoning of slavery and all, that would probably trump it. Sheesh.)
Egwene: Wow, this entire sequence is about a hundred times sadder when you know what’s coming.
The Wise Ones are bad enough, but the worst is her meeting with Rand, because she’s assuming the whole time that he’s the one who isn’t coming back, when, yeah.
And he gave her a ribbon, y’all. SAD SYMBOLISM IS SAD. I’m making a very unattractive mournful pouty face right now.
I’ve read a comment from a reader (can’t remember who or where, unfortunately) saying that knowing Egwene’s fate makes reading everything she does prior to that seem pointless. And I guess I can sort of see that point of view, but I really don’t share it. For me, knowing what’s going to happen just fills every scene with her in it with bittersweet poignancy.
It’s very similar, in fact, to how I felt when reading anything with Moiraine in it for all of TFOH, leading up to the famous scene at the docks at the end. Even though in that case I knew Moiraine wasn’t really dead, I still knew that she was going to be gone for the next eleventy million books in the series—and at the point I was doing the TFOH re-read, TOM hadn’t yet come out, so I still didn’t know exactly when or how she was coming back.
And although Egwene obviously doesn’t know her future the way Moiraine did hers, the foreshadowing is definitely there to see in retrospect. She said goodbye to Tel’aran’rhiod, for the love of Mike.
(You’d think, though, that as a Dreamer the Pattern would have had the courtesy to give her a heads-up about her own impending demise, wouldn’t you? Or did she Dream it already and misinterpreted it and I just forgot? Probably the latter.)
Also, nice foreshadowing here of Egwene’s impending discovery of anti-balefire. I’m sure it gets a better name than that in the book, but I can’t remember what it is. Sue me. (Please don’t sue me.)
Side note about the Wise Ones’ discussion of the Way-Forward Ter’angreal (and wow is that annoying to type): Bair says she saw the same future Aviendha did, so I assume that means she went in before Rand’s meeting with the rulers at Merrilor, where that future presumably got averted? And what would they see if someone went in now? What if they went in in between Rand’s meeting with the rulers and Rand’s meeting with Tuon? OH THE POSSIBILITIES.
This question will never get answered, of course, but it’s interesting to speculate about. I mean, I hope Aviendha et al have considered the implications of having free access to what is essentially an on-demand future viewer, and what will happen if the world at large ever finds out about it. Because every science fiction story I’ve ever read is telling me they should smash that thing now.
Oh, and also: The seals are gone! DUN!
I can’t help but feel like Rand subconsciously knew the seals he had were fakes, because otherwise I can’t justify how he was just sticking them in his pocket like they were sugar-free gum, instead of the extremely fragile thingies that are the only thing holding back Ultimate Evil from killing us all. (Sorry, still not over that.)
I had to snicker at Rand’s dry assurance to Gawyn that he was not committing incest with Elayne, which was totally a fan shoutout as far as I am concerned.
As for the revelation itself, I was like FINALLY, someone besides Rand himself knows about this! I mean, I don’t think he’s even told Elayne about his true parentage! (Has he?) Of course, what I really wanted was to see Rand tell Galad about it, and see his reaction, but I’m not getting that wish, so oh well. I’m still glad someone in the damn family found out, even if it was Gawyn.
Elayne and Bashere: NO ELAYNE DON’T LISTENNNNNNNN
Dammit. Again, I’m pretty sure on first reading that I hadn’t made the connection at this point, so I probably read this section and was like, yeah, tactical maneuvers, whatever, and moved right on. That’ll learn me!
And that’s our show, campers! Have a week, I DARE YOU, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!