BEHOLD, WOTers! I see before me a Sign: a sign that says WHEEL OF TIME REREAD. What can it mean?
Today’s entry covers Chapter 27 of A Memory of Light, in which I try on someone else’s shoes, with limited success. Also, owl crap. No, seriously.
Previous reread 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. The index for all things specifically related to the final novel in the series, A Memory of Light, is here.
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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, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Before we begin, scheduling note: your Auntie Leigh is taking herself a little vaycay for Labor Day weekend (which is this coming weekend, for all y’all who are differently nationed), and therefore there will be no Reread post on Tuesday, September 3rd. The Reread will resume as usual the following Tuesday, September 10th.
Chapter 27: Friendly Fire
Bryne walks through the battle-torn camp, taking reports; he’s keeping in motion to prevent having a command post for the enemy to strike at. Though the latest messenger, Holcom, reports that the Aes Sedai’s strength is flagging, Bryne thinks that the battle is actually going to plan for once. Holcom reports the pikemen guarding the hills where the Aes Sedai are launching their attacks from are holding for now. Bryne is irritated that he doesn’t know what’s going on at the ford, and Holcom says the Seanchan there seem to be pressing the Sharans hard. Bryne learns that Captain Joni Shagrin is dead, and Uno Nomesta leads the lancers now. He sends Holcom off with new orders, and calls over another messenger, Annah.
“Annah, go beg that Imperial monster of a Seanchan leader if she’d be ever so kind as to lend us some of her bloody cavalry.”
“Shall I phrase it exactly that way?” Annah asked, saluting, a smile on her lips.
“If you do, girl, I’ll throw you off a cliff and let Yukiri Sedai test a few of her new falling weaves on you. Go!”
The messenger grinned, then dashed off toward the Traveling ground for passage.
Siuan observes that he is “grouchy” and then they are interrupted by a dead raken falling into camp. It crushes Annah, and Bryne decides to bring the message himself. He asks Siuan if she can make a gateway, but Siuan is uncertain if she has the strength left. Then Min appears and volunteers to go; Bryne had forgotten all about her, but agrees, saying it can count toward working off her debt.
Ashmanaille (Gray) recognizes Min with surprise as “Elmindreda,” but creates a (very small) gateway for her without much fuss. Min crawls through, to be confronted by guards who make her wait despite her claim of urgency. She waits impatiently, glad to be doing something useful. She tells herself not to be angry at Rand for refusing to take her to Shayol Ghul, for she would only have been a liability there. A sul’dam appears, and declares that all messengers must be cleared beforehand, to prevent assassins. Min retorts that she is no assassin; the sul’dam (Catrona) is unconvinced until she brings Min to a clerk, who confirms Min’s story about the raken crashing into Bryne’s camp. Then she leads her to a collapsible building where several commanders are inside, including Mat.
He had an eyepatch covering one eye. So that viewing had finally come to pass, had it?
Mat looked up at her and grinned. “Min!”
“I’m a total fool,” she said. “I could have just said I knew you. They’d have brought me right here without all of the fuss.”
“I don’t know, Min,” Mat said. “They rather like fuss around here.”
Min tells him Bryne needs cavalry, and Mat immediately suggests to Galgan that they send the First Legion, adding something in the Old Tongue no one understands. Tylee, in command of the First Legion, says she looks forward to seeing this Bryne’s work up close. Min starts to leave as Mat gives out more “suggestions,” but he pulls her aside and asks her what she sees. She reminds him about the eye on the balance scale (he winces), but that she sees nothing new around him.
“What about Galgan?”
“A dagger rammed through the heart of a raven.”
“I don’t think it means you,” she added. “I can’t say why.”
Mat is unconvinced, and opines that Galgan is just trying to decide when to have him assassinated. He adds that Tuon says it would be a sign of disrespect if Galgan wasn’t trying to kill him, and calls them all insane—fun, but insane. Then the Empress herself enters. Everyone prostrates themselves except Mat; Min grits her teeth, but goes to one knee. Fortuona asks Mat who she is, commenting that she “thinks herself high,” and Mat casually replies that Min is “the Dragon Reborn’s woman.” Catrona makes a strangled noise.
“How curious,” Fortuona said. “That would make her your equal, Knotai. Of course, you seem to have forgotten to bow again.”
“My father would be mortified,” Mat said. “He always did pride himself on my memory.”
“You embarrass me in public again.”
“Only as much as I embarrass myself.” He smiled, then hesitated, as if thinking through those words a second time.
The Empress smiled as well, though she looked distinctly predatory.
Mat tries to shove Min out of the tent, to keep her away from the Empress, but Min resists, telling him that she sees a “death lily” above Fortuona’s head, meaning someone is going to try to kill her very soon. Instantly, two guards put Min flat on the floor, ignoring Mat’s demands to let her up. Fortuona demands to know the meaning of this, and to Min’s dismay, Mat explains about her visions.
The room grew very still. It was so quiet, Min could once again hear the explosions in the distance.
“Doomseer,” Fortuona whispered.
The guard back off hastily and with seeming disgust, but Fortuona touches her face and demands to know what omens Min sees around her, so that she may “judge it true or false.” Uneasily, Min tells her what she sees besides the lily: three ships sailing, an insect in the darkness, red lights spread across a field that should be lush and ripe, and a man with the teeth of a wolf. Fortuona gasps, and tells Mat he has brought her a gift without price. Mat is stunned, and Min tries to say she doesn’t belong to anyone, but Fortuona ignores her.
“This woman is my new Soe’feia. Doomseer, Truthspeaker! Holy woman, she who may not be touched. We have been blessed. Let it be known. The Crystal Throne has not had a true reader of the omens for over three centuries!”
Min sat, stunned, until Mat pulled her to her feet. “Is that a good thing?” she whispered to him.
“I’ll be bloody in the face if I know,” Mat said back. “But you remember what I said about getting away from her? Well, you can probably forget about that now.”
Sooo, apparently everyone is tired of me talking about how much I hate the Seanchan and/or slavery, so today we’re going to do a thought experiment, which is “let’s have Leigh try to think like a character who, in general, doesn’t in any way think like she does, i.e. Tuon,” in the context of her actions toward Min in this chapter. I feel like this will be either a very embiggening experience, or an exercise in total frustration, or both, but either way it will probably be amusing for someone (if not me), so yay, right? Right.
To do this, I’ll have to consider the things I know (or have decided I know) about Tuon, and try to picture a worldview within which those things are true for me, and rationalize them on that basis. Right, no problem.
*deep breath* Hokay.
So, what do I think I know about Tuon that are traits I think I don’t share? Well, the first and most obvious is:
1. Superstition. Tuon (along with most of the Seanchan, culturally) is highly superstitious. Tuon believes implicitly and unquestioningly in the validity of omens, which, as presented for most of the series, generally equate to the real-world versions of the same thing: i.e. believing that one event inevitably leads to another event, despite there being no rational causational link between the two. Like believing that having a black cat walk in front of you will lead to bad luck, or that finding a four-leaf clover will lead to the opposite.
I can’t say that I am entirely free of superstition, because cultural conditioning can be an extremely difficult thing to throw off; American culture may not be as strongly superstitious as Seanchan culture, but, well, I’ve lived in three different apartment buildings that had no Apt. #13, is all I’m saying, and someday if we’re having drinks together I’ll tell you the story of the co-worker who got randomly assigned “the number of the Beast” as her employee number, and the EPIC shitfit that followed (it was awesome). But as a general rule, as a rational person I consider most superstitions to be illogical at best and sometimes dangerously absurd at worst, and I’ll confess that sometimes I have trouble taking seriously people who deeply believe in this kind of thing.
So it’s probably safe to say that this also colored how I perceived (and still perceive) Tuon; I have an inherent suspicion of the reasonability of people who automatically reject the “natural” explanation for the “supernatural” one. In other words, sorry, but I’m going to look a little funny at you if you insist that the owl that just crapped in front of you in the woods is an omen that means that a baby is going to be stillborn or whatever, when I personally feel much more certain that the only reason that owl crapped in front of you was because she happened to need to take a crap right then. You know?
Of course, the obvious caveat here is that Tuon and I most emphatically do not live in the same world when it comes to the validity of supernatural events. We can have an argument about whether the supernatural exists in the real world, but there really isn’t much doubt of the question in Randland—particularly not when we have a full-scale apocalypse in progress. Though it’s worth pointing out that even so, it’s sort of left ambiguous in the text as to whether Tuon’s omens are valid or not. True, by AMOL they seem to be pretty solidly indicated to be Not Bullshit—not entirely, at least—but that first impression of wild-eyed superstition, particularly bolstered by how thoroughly warped we are shown the Seanchan’s prophecies (and history) to be, is pretty hard to shake. For me, anyway.
But that’s sort of irrelevant to what I’m supposed to be doing here, which is looking at things from Tuon’s point of view re: Min. So say I am a person who deeply, truly believes that omens are totally real and vitally important, and then I run into a person who literally sees omens around everyone, all the time. It’s probably safe to say that I would sort of flip my shit over her. Because holy moly, here I’ve been stumbling around trying to notice whenever owls crap or whatever, and suddenly I’m confronted with someone who could be my own personal owl crap generator.
…I think this metaphor may have gotten away from me. But you know what I mean!
(As an aside on Min, I find it interesting—and a testament to how well her character was set up—that she never once pinged my bullshit radar on her visions, even way back in TEOTW before we knew that they were infallible, even though she is doing essentially the exact same thing with omens that Tuon does—interpreting images that are only symbolically related to the events she claims they predict. Well, yes, Leigh, you point out, but there’s a difference between seeing an actual owl crap in the woods and believing it predicts something, as opposed to have an ephemeral image of a crapping owl (that only you can see) appear right over the person’s head that the thing is going to happen to. And I answer, yeah, except for how that actually makes the case for Min’s believability worse than Tuon’s; I mean, did you read the preceding sentence? And yet I rolled my eyes at Tuon’s omens and never once even blinked at Min’s. But what sold me on Min was how utterly matter-of-fact and non-hysterical she has always been about her visions; a more non-stereotypical “seer” character you will rarely come across, and that totally is what made Min work as a character—and a soothsayer—for me. Because “soothsayer” is about the last term I would think to apply to her, even though that’s functionally exactly what she is.)
Annnyway, given all that, I suppose I can see why Tuon would be like “Mine! MIIIINE” the second she realized what Min was, because OMG OMENZZZZ. Which brings us to the second of the non-Leigh-like traits Tuon possesses, which is:
2. Entitlement. This is not to say I don’t have entitlement issues, because just about everyone in the world has entitlement issues on one level or another, and if you think you don’t, well, you’re wrong. But in Tuon’s case I mean “entitlement” on a far grander scale than I or most people would ever dream of claiming.
That’s because most of us are not Empresses, of course, and have not been raised from birth to think of ourselves as one. And, most of us (I deeply hope) are not living in a culture which explicitly condones the notion that everything, including people, can (and should) be owned. So I guess it’s no surprise at all that Tuon should think nothing of claiming Min as “hers,” since concepts like “personal autonomy” are shaky at best for the Seanchan anyway.
And since we are not discussing That Topic today, I’ll just pretend the preceding paragraph didn’t make me throw up in my mouth a little, and move on.
Not to mention, she’s the goddamn Empress, aight? SHE IS THE BOSS OF YOU. Plus, from Tuon’s point of view, claiming Min and her ability to see omens is of deeply vital strategic importance to the survival of her people, and also of the world and stuff. Aaaaand she’s not even wrong about that, really. In fact, cycling back to the first bullet point for a moment, Tuon obviously considers Min’s arrival in itself an omen, one which she ignores at her peril, no doubt.
And suuure, Min’s “the Dragon Reborn’s woman,” but it’s not like he’s using her vision powers right now, seeing as he’s busy bleeding out on a mountain at the moment, right? And obviously as the next most important person on all of Team Light, it is only meet that Tuon take over for him, right?
(As another aside: REALLY, Mat? “The Dragon Reborn’s woman”? Are we suddenly in Clan of the Cave Bear here? Is Min also going to invent fire and sex her way across prehistoric Eurasia? Is there seriously no other, non-troglodyte way we could have gotten that concept across? Sheesh.)
So, in sum, there you go: why Tuon thought it was totally okay to shanghai Min to be her own personal owl crap shaman. It all makes perfect sense, and doesn’t change in the slightest how much I wanted to slap her into the next Age for it.
“Want,” actually. Not past tense. Clearly I have not Grown As A Person as a result of this experiment.
Other, more random notes:
Annah: wow, that sucked. Crushed by friendly
giant flying lizard fire. But, another little fan cameo, so that’s nice.
Mat sighed. “‘Say the name of Darkness, and his eye is upon you.’” Yalu kazath d’Zamon patra Daeseia asa darshi. “…What?” Min asked.
“You don’t know that one either?” Mat said. “Doesn’t anyone bloody read anymore?”
I hope this passage was corrected in the final print, because as it stands it makes no sense. Since this is a Min POV, this reads as if she was translating Mat’s Common tongue rendition of the proverb into the Old Tongue in her mind, but considering that (a) Min doesn’t speak the Old Tongue and (b) her next line indicates she has no idea what he just said, that’s pretty clearly not the case. At least, it shouldn’t be, because earlier in the chapter Min mentally comments on not understanding something else Mat said in the Old Tongue, so why she would get this and not the other bit is a little puzzling, to say the least. Weird.
And last but not least, I almost forgot: there were also some actual visions in this chapter! The death lily, of course, which started this whole hot mess, but then there were others too, which I will quote again here so you don’t have to scroll back up:
[T]hree ships sailing, an insect in the darkness, red lights spread across a field that should be lush and ripe, and a man with the teeth of a wolf.
…And, um. I’m sure we found out by the end of AMOL what these mean (at least I certainly hope we did, because otherwise having them in the first place seems pretty pointless), but other than surmising that the last one probably refers to Slayer, I am drawing a total blank. I also am not sure what the one about Galgan refers to, and I’m relatively positive I’m going to kick myself over the obviousness of that one once my memory is jogged. If only there were a comment section where other people could help me!
Oh, wow, look at that, right down there. A comment section! IT MUST BE AN OMEN. *rimshot*
An omen for me to stop, methinks. If I believed in that sort of thing. Which I don’t. Except when I do. What? Me? Nope, just an owl. Whee! Have a lovely Labor Day weekend if that’s your thing, O My Peeps, and I’ll see alla y’all in two weeks!