Greetings, salutations, and what up: Welcome to Part 7 of The Great Hunt, part of your on-going Wheel of Time Re-read blog serieseseses.
Today’s post covers Chapters 37-40; previous entries can be found here.
Beware, there are spoilers lurking behind every corner. Just like zombies. Stupid zombies. I should probably also warn you that this post contains melodramatic posturing, personal anecdotes, and Dirty Language.
I mean, more than usually. Y’all Hush.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
Chapter 37: What Might Be
Alar leads them to the Portal Stone, and after remarking that she does not think Tarmon Gai’don will pass the Ogier by, she wishes them luck and leaves. Verin calls Rand over to the Stone, and explains to him that she cannot channel nearly enough of the Power to handle a Portal Stone, so he will have to do it. Rand says he doesn’t see the symbol for their world Selene showed him, and Verin tells him of course he doesn’t, they’re already in that world. She shows him the symbol for a Stone she saw on Toman Head, and other symbols she knows indicate other worlds; however, she doesn’t know what any of those worlds are like, and supposedly there are worlds where the air can kill you, or which are barely real enough to hold together. She tells him he must choose one of them, and hope it’s a good choice. Rand asks why she’s willing to risk so much on his random choice, and Verin replies that he is the Dragon Reborn, and she does not think the Pattern will let him die until it is done with him. Rand growls a denial, but Verin tells him, choose or watch his friend die, it’s up to him. Rand grinds his teeth, and picks one of the symbols at random. Verin tells the others to gather close, and pretends to be the one doing something with the Stone. Rand seizes saidin successfully, and channels into the symbol he’s chosen.
“Something is happening,” Verin said. “Something . . . ”
The world flickered.
Trollocs burst into the farmhouse on Winternight, and kill both Tam and Rand. As Rand dies, he hears a voice whisper, I have won again, Lews Therin.
Rand marries Egwene, and she becomes Wisdom. They live happily except for Rand’s black moods and strange rotting sickness. They hear news of the outside world—Artur Hawkwing’s armies returned, the Aes Sedai destroyed—but none of it affects them, until Rand is old and gray-haired, and the army of Trollocs that had defeated the Hawkwing conquerors come to the Two Rivers. He rides out with all the other villagers, wearing a sword he found after Tam’s death even though he has no idea how to use it, and dies on the bank of the river Taren, run through by a Trolloc. As Rand dies, he hears a voice whisper, I have won again, Lews Therin.
Egwene gets sick and dies screaming a week before she and Rand were to marry, and Rand decides to leave the Two Rivers. Tam gives him a heron-mark sword and teaches him how to use it, and Rand ends up in Caemlyn in the Queen’s Guards. He has a dark and violent reputation, and some say that he is mad, but Rand has learned he can channel, and uses it secretly to rise through the ranks until he leads a thousand men against the Seanchan. They lose, and Rand returns to Caemlyn and defends Queen Elayne as Andor is overrun, until Caemlyn is taken and a lightning bolt throws him from the Palace wall. As Rand dies, he hears a voice whisper, I have won again, Lews Therin.
Rand tries to hold the void, and Verin screams something is wrong.
Flicker. Flicker. Flicker. Flicker. Flicker. Flicker.
He was a soldier. He was a shepherd. He was a beggar, and a king. He was farmer, gleeman, sailor, carpenter. He was born, lived, and died an Aiel. He died mad, he died rotting, he died of sickness, accident, age. He was executed, and multitudes cheered his death. He proclaimed himself the Dragon Reborn and flung his banner across the sky; he ran from the Power and hid; he lived and died never knowing. He held off the madness and the sickness for years; he succumbed between two winters. Sometimes Moiraine came and took him away from the Two Rivers, alone or with those of his friends who had survived Winternight; sometimes she did not. Sometimes other Aes Sedai came for him. Sometimes the Red Ajah. Egwene married him; Egwene, stern-faced in the stole of the Amyrlin Seat, led the Aes Sedai who gentled him; Egwene, with tears in her eyes, plunged a dagger into his heart, and he thanked her as he died. He loved other women, married other women. Elayne, and Min, and a fair-haired farmer’s daughter met on the road to Caemlyn, and women he had never seen before he lived those lives. A hundred lives. More. So many he could not count them. And at the end of every life, as he lay dying, as he drew his final breath, a voice whispered in his ear, I have won again, Lews Therin.
Flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker.
Rand finally loses saidin, and falls. The rest of the party is down, too; Uno vomits, Masema is crying, Mat is huddled into a ball, and Perrin has his nails dug into his face. Rand asks what happened; Verin says shakily it was a surge of the One Power, and that he must learn to control it. Rand tries to explain what he saw, and Verin says it stands to reason that they were born and lived in many of the Worlds That Might Be, and that they would go very differently from this one. The important thing is, they are here, though not as they had hoped. Rand asks where “here” is, and Verin tells him they are on Toman Head, but instead of gaining time, they have lost it. She estimates by the weather that they’ve been gone for four months. She starts going around to the others, checking them, and Rand goes to his friends. Mat grabs his coat and begs him to believe that he would never betray him; Rand says that he does believe it. Perrin only says that no matter what they do, some things are almost always the same. Verin announces that all the major towns are to the west, and after Rand refuses to accept Healing from her, they mount up and set out.
In the summer of 1969, when my mother was still in college, after she had met but long before she married my father, her family had a small vacation house in the woods on Henderson Point, Mississippi, which is a spit of land jutting out between the Gulf of Mexico and Bay St. Louis. My grandfather at the time had a strict policy that no TV or radio was allowed in the house, because it was “family” time, and the secluded nature of the property meant that they had no neighbors to speak of.
That August, the Gulf Coast was hit by Hurricane Camille, one of only three Category 5 hurricanes to ever make landfall on the U.S. mainland. Even today, Camille is still the strongest landfalling hurricane in recorded history, with sustained wind speeds of over 190 mph, outranking even Katrina (Katrina’s highest was 175 mph).
Now usually, the only good thing about hurricanes is how far in advance you can see them coming, and so get out of the way in time, assuming you have the means to do so, or at least to batten down the hatches and prepare to ride it out. However, my mother’s family, TV-and-radioless as they were, hadn’t heard a thing about Camille; they had no idea one of the most devastating hurricanes in history was headed straight for them.
In the end, the only reason my mother and her family found out in time was because a few hours before Camille made landfall, my grandmother sent my mother to the store to buy bread, and my mother heard about it on the radio in the car. They got out of Henderson Point barely an hour before the storm struck.
When they came back afterwards to assess the damage, my mother tells me, they found that the house was gone. Not damaged, not even wrecked, but gone. No trace of it remained. If they’d been there when Camille hit, my mother and all her family would almost certainly have died. If my grandmother hadn’t happened to run out of bread, if my mother hadn’t happened to have the radio on in the car, or if they had decided to try and ride out the hurricane at the house instead of getting out (which, my mother tells me, they very nearly did), I might not be sitting here writing this right now, because I might never have been born.
So, that was... a digression. Sorry. But, well, this is what I thought of when I read this scene.
I gave serious consideration to not even bothering to recap this chapter, and simply telling you guys to just go read it, because there was no way a summary was in any way going to do it justice. As it is, I was forced to quote the large chunk above to even come close. You should still go read it yourself anyway.
This is not one of the scenes I generally list as among my favorites in WOT, even though it is without question one of the best written passages in the series, if not the best. I think the reason it isn’t one of my faves is because while it is brilliant, it is also incredibly bleak, and the introspection it inspires is distinctly less than comfortable.
I’m sure everyone has a story similar to the one above, if not necessarily quite so dramatic, of a point where if things had happened differently or if a different choice had been made, their whole lives would have progressed in a vastly divergent manner from where it is now. Or, possibly, not have progressed at all.
That alone is a sobering thought. But the notion of having to experience every possible consequence of every possible choice you could make, good or bad, and every single way your life could come to an end... yeah, I’d be happy to give that one a miss. All death is certain, but having to go through it once is quite bad enough, thanks.
Chapter 38: Practice
Egwene sits on her bed, playing with saidar-created balls of light, while Nynaeve paces angrily up and down and Min watches Egwene. She thinks to herself about how difficult it’s been to keep herself from channeling all the time these past thirteen weeks, and how scary that is, sometimes. Min teases Egwene about Galad, about how practically every woman in the Tower except the Reds manages to come down to the practice yard when he’s there; Egwene can hardly blame them, he is so pretty to look at. Min agrees; she feels the same, and she “can see what he is like”. Min adds that Galad asked about Egwene, though, and no one else. Elayne comes in, and tells them that Galldrian is dead, and there is civil war in Cairhien, as well as war on Toman Head and possibly in Tear as well. She adds that she just saw Logain, and he was crying. Egwene thinks that Logain always makes her think of Rand; she hasn’t dreamed of him in months, and she has the odd feeling that he is not there anymore to be dreamed about. Elayne then asks what Nynaeve’s so upset about, and Min tells her Nynaeve hit another Accepted and was sent to Sheriam’s study. Nynaeve growls at Min, and suddenly a gale wind blows through the door and slams open the door. Nynaeve looks stricken, and apologizes to Min; Min accepts readily, and says she should learn to watch her mouth. Nynaeve, Elayne and Egwene discuss working with the One Power and how frightening it is, and how hard the Tower drives them all; Elayne asks Min to tell them what she sees, whether they make it to be Aes Sedai or not. Min is reluctant, saying she doesn’t like to read friends, but then squints at them and murmurs that that’s new.
“What?” Nynaeve asked sharply.
Min hesitated before answering. “Danger. You are all in some kind of danger. Or you will be, very soon. I can’t make it out, but it is danger.”
Elayne changes the subject uneasily, back to boys, but doesn’t get very far before the door opens again to reveal Liandrin. The others all scramble to their feet, surprised, and Liandrin orders Min and Elayne out. They leave with worried looks, and Liandrin asks Nynaeve and Egwene if they are the ones from the same village as the boys traveling with Moiraine. They ask Liandrin if she has any news of them, and she replies that they are in danger, but Nynaeve and Egwene may be able to help them. Nynaeve demands to know how Liandrin knows they are in trouble, and Liandrin replies tightly that Moiraine has sent letters to the Tower; the danger comes from Shayol Ghul. Will they help or not? Egwene says of course they will, but how? Liandrin tells them they must go to Toman Head. The girls are amazed, and Nynaeve wants to know what they can do that Liandrin or Moiraine cannot. Liandrin replies that they are connected to those boys in some way she does not understand. She wants them to meet her at the north end of the Ogier grove. They agree, and Liandrin warns them that the Black Ajah walks in the halls of the Tower, and they must tell no one what they are doing. Nynaeve and Egwene gasp, and Nynaeve says she thought Aes Sedai denied even the existence of the Black Ajah. Liandrin sneers and tells her Tarmon Gai’don approaches, and the time for denials is past. She repeats for them to tell no one, or they may not live to leave the Tower.
Liandrin exits, and Egwene asks worriedly if she might know about Rand. Nynaeve doesn’t think so, but can’t figure out why Moiraine would work with a Red on this, nevertheless. Elayne and Min burst back in and ask if they are really going; they had eavesdropped on the conversation from the next room. Egwene wonders nervously if they understood what she and Nynaeve had meant about Rand, and Nynaeve cautions them that they must keep quiet about this. Min replies, quiet, hell: she’s going with them. She’s been waiting for an excuse to leave the Tower anyway. Elayne informs them she will be going as well; she’s never had an adventure, and this might be her only chance. Nynaeve is aghast at this foolishness, and tries to talk Elayne out of it, but Min tells her she thinks Elayne has to come; she, too, is connected to the boys. Nynaeve gives up and begins planning what they should bring along; Egwene mentally implores Rand to hold on; they’ll help him somehow.
No, Supergirls! Don’t listen to her! Liandrin is evil and bitchy and Red/Black! She’s like a talking hemorrhoid! Don’t do it!
Nooooooooo! I run toward you in slow motion, my arm outstretched! There’s probably an explosion silhouetting me in the background! Heed my melodrama!
...Crap. I hate how fictional characters never listen to you, eighteen years after the fact. No respect, that’s what it is.
What? Oh, like you’ve never yelled at any of these idiots. I’m just doing it with style. Or at least with hyperbole. Whatever works.
Chapter 39: Flight from the White Tower
Nynaeve, Egwene and Elayne head through the halls, wearing silk dresses and trying to pass as petitioners waiting in the Tower to speak to Aes Sedai. Min follows behind, dressed like a manservant and carrying all their luggage; she had refused to let Egwene help, saying they have to maintain their cover. They almost run headlong into Takima, a Brown sister, and then an Accepted, but Nynaeve just turns at random each time until they are out of sight. Eventually they make it to the stable, where Nynaeve orders the stablehand to saddle their horses. The stablehand says he was only told to expect one Accepted and one novice, but Nynaeve threatens him until he agrees to saddle four. As they head out Elayne smiles warmly at the man and tosses him a coin to thank him. They ride out and soon reach the Ogier grove. Liandrin meets them there with a pack horse carrying pole lanterns, and is in a fury at Elayne and Min’s presence. Elayne quickly takes the blame on herself and Min, telling Liandrin that they overheard the conversation, and they want to help Rand and the others as well. Liandrin stares at them in silence for a moment, and finally remarks that she had made arrangements for Elayne and Min to be taken care of, but this will do as well, she supposes. Elayne asks what she means, and Liandrin replies that the Black Ajah surely knows of their association with Nynaeve and Egwene; she implies that she had taken precautions to protect them once the other two had been found missing.
Liandrin leads them deeper into the Grove until they come to a Waygate. Elayne and Min are shocked, Nynaeve and Egwene dismayed but resigned. Liandrin opens the gate and sends them through, then follows herself, closing the gate behind them. They light up the lanterns and set out, Liandrin consulting a parchment at each Guiding that she will not let them see. After a while Liandrin stops and tells them to eat and rest. As they do so, Egwene asks her what if they encounter the Black Wind. Liandrin tells them she will deal with it if it comes, and adds with a smile that Moiraine does not know as much as she thinks she does. The others turn to the subject of Rand, low enough that Liandrin cannot overhear; Elayne and Egwene discuss whether either of them will marry him if the other decides not to, and Egwene says sadly that she doesn’t think Rand will marry anyone, but cannot explain why. She ends up playing along with Elayne’s suggestion that she will be Green and have Rand as one of her Warders. Min and Nynaeve watch her thoughtfully. When they sleep, Egwene dreams again of the man with eyes of fire laughing at her, and is grateful when Liandrin wakes them and makes them move on. They travel a while longer, and then Liandrin turns off the Ways onto a white line leading to a Waygate, saying they have reached their destination.
Okay, so my outrage at the Girls’ stupidity is slightly—slightly—mollified by the fact that Elayne and Min would almost certainly have been murdered (assassinated, in Elayne’s case—royals get the automatic killin’ term upgrade, dontcha know) if they had stayed behind. Fine. BUT STILL.
I did kind of chuckle to see the first vestiges of Elayne and Nynaeve’s good cop-bad cop routine they’ll be polishing through most of the following books.
I’m curious about Liandrin’s confidence about being able to handle the Black Wind. I would say that she’s just bullshitting the Girls, but it seems here that she really believes she can do something about it. This combined with the Wind waiting for Rand all over the place really makes me wonder if this was ever addressed later on, because the implication is that despite what Moiraine thought, the Shadow does have some kind of control over the Black Wind, but I can’t remember whether this was ever confirmed or just left hanging once everyone stopped using the Ways anyway.
Oh, man. I am really not looking forward to the next chapter. Hokay. Here goes.
Chapter 40: Damane
The girls and Liandrin emerge from the Waygate to find a large party of armored men waiting for them, with helmets shaped like insects’ heads. Egwene notices there are also women with the group, two in dark gray dresses and silver necklaces, and two in dresses embroidered with forked lightning bolts directly behind them, and one last richly-dressed woman reclining on a palanquin, with both sides of her head shaved and blue-lacquered fingernails. Liandrin asks this one if she is the High Lady Suroth, and Suroth nods fractionally. With distaste, she informs Liandrin that they must be done here quickly, as Suroth wants to get back to Falme before Turak knows she is gone. Nynaeve demands to know what they are talking about, and Liandrin pushes her and Egwene forward, saying these are the two they were told about, and that there is a third, the Daughter-Heir of Andor. The women with the lightning-embroidered dresses come forward, along with one of the soldiers, and the man grabs Elayne and Min by their necks. Someone screams, and the wind suddenly becomes a gale, and one of the women snaps something around Egwene’s neck.
Egwene tugs at the collar, but can’t get it off, and sees a silvery coil extending from the collar to a bracelet around the woman’s wrist. She punches the woman in the face, and falls to her knees, feeling as if a large man had struck her own face. When she recovers, the wind has died, and she sees Min on her hands and knees, the man who had grabbed her standing over her with his hand bleeding. Nynaeve and Elayne are gone, and so are one of the two pairs of women; Egwene sees now that the two who remain behind are linked by a bracelet-and-collar set like the one she has on. The woman she had punched bends over and says in a friendly tone that that was her first lesson.
“I will not punish you further this time, since I should have been on guard with a newly caught damane. Know this. You are a damane, a Leashed One, and I am a sul’dam, a Holder of the Leash. When damane and sul’dam are joined, whatever hurt the sul’dam feels, the damane feels twice over. Even to death. So you must remember that you may never strike at a sul’dam in any way, and you must protect your sul’dam even more than yourself. I am Renna. How are you called?”
Groggily, Egwene says she is not what Renna said she was, and asks Liandrin why she is doing this; Liandrin ignores her. Renna says she must learn to do what she is told without delay, and suddenly Egwene’s skin feels like it is on fire. She gasps and writhes; Renna tells her calmly that some sul’dam do not allow their damane to keep their own names, but Renna will allow it as long as she is not displeased any further. Egwene finally gasps out her name, and the burning stops.
“Egwene,” Renna said. “That is a good name.” And to Egwene’s horror, Renna patted her on the head as she would a dog.
That, she realized, was what she had detected in the woman’s voice—a certain good will for a dog in training, not quite the friendliness one might have toward another human being.
Egwene tries to ignore Renna, and asks Min if she’s all right; Min nods unconvincingly. Lightning crackles in the distance, and Egwene grins, thinking that Nynaeve at least was still free, and would save them if anyone could. Suroth and Liandrin face off about the botched capture; Liandrin says it is not her fault if Suroth can’t handle what she was given, and Suroth says perhaps she could get two damane after all. Liandrin embraces saidar, and Renna calls to Suroth that Liandrin stands ready. Suroth smiles and tells Liandrin that she would not dare defy their master so far as to attack, and Liandrin replies that Suroth fears him just as much as she does. A tree in the distance goes up in flame, and Suroth tells the soldier to recall the search. Liandrin insists that Nynaeve must be found and collared; she and Egwene both must go to the other side of the Aryth Ocean and stay there. Suroth sniffs and says she will waste no more time looking for the other; Liandrin says she’d better, or pay the price, and heads back to the Waygate.
The search party returns, not having found either Elayne or Nynaeve, and the soldier standing over Min asks permission of Suroth to kill her for making him bleed. Suroth assents, and Egwene screams No, and her skin burns again, but she continues to plead for Min’s life anyway. Suroth tells her that if Egwene will keep quiet and do as she’s told, she will spare Min’s life, but only as long as Egwene continues to behave. Egwene agrees, and they set off back to Falme. Renna begins punishing Egwene for daring to speak to a High Lady, ignoring Min’s protests. Finally she stops, and Egwene tells Min that it wasn’t her fault.
“It was your fault, Egwene,” Renna said. She sounded so patient, dealing so kindly with someone who was too dense to see the right, that Egwene wanted to scream. “When a damane is punished, it is always her fault, even if she does not know why. A damane must anticipate what her sul’dam wants.”
Egwene receives permission to ask a question, and asks who is the “master” Liandrin and Suroth were referring to. Renna replies that the affairs of the Blood are not for her to meddle in, lest she find her tongue or hands removed. Egwene tugs on her leash, and asks how anyone could have thought of something so horrible; Renna tells her the history of the a’dam, and the Aes Sedai named Deain who invented it and brought it to Luthair, son of Artur Hawkwing, to help him defeat the Armies of the Night, which he did, finally collaring Deain herself, as all marath’damane must be. She tells Egwene to try channeling at a distant tree, to see what she can do, and Egwene lies that she cannot. Renna knows she didn’t even try, though, and explains that after a while sul’dam develop an affinity that lets them tell when their damane are channeling or not. She begins punishing Egwene again, Min watching helplessly, and tells Egwene fondly that she will be one of the best.
Nynaeve sneaks among the trees, still not certain the Seanchan are gone. She’s lost contact with saidar, worry and fear overcoming her initial fury. She finally runs into Elayne, and they hug in relief. Nynaeve asks about Egwene and Min, and Elayne says she saw Min go down, and the woman put something around Egwene’s neck, but then she ran. She says she’s a coward and not fit to take the Lion Throne; Nynaeve snaps back that Elayne didn’t see her stick around to get collared, did she? Elayne asks what they are going to do to rescue the others; Nynaeve says she heard Suroth mention Falme, so they will go there and try to blend in, and figure out what to do next.
If you’ve been waiting with bated breath for the other Thing I Hate in TGH I mentioned a while back, look no further, for here it is.
I distinctly remember, the first time I read this, being surprised at the strength of my own reaction: I was LIVID. We’re talking full-on, no holds barred, needed-to-put-the-book-down-and-go-take-a-walk rage here.
If I had to put a finger on why exactly the damane thing stirred me up so badly, I would say it’s not just the “being captured” part or even the “being tortured” part, though that’s plenty bad enough on its own. No, I think it’s Renna’s perfectly sincere conviction that this institutionalized enslavement, brainwashing, and rape of these women—and it is rape, in every way that matters, a violation of their bodies, minds, and souls—is a fucking GOOD THING.
Words cannot describe; there just isn’t vocabulary profane enough to express what I think of people who think this way. It literally made me see red.
Still does, apparently.
Again, this isn’t to say I think this is bad writing, more like the complete opposite, but “incoherent fury” being rather far down on my list of Things I Like to Experience on a Regular Basis, you can see why I tended to avoid this book more than the others.
(And also why I will never watch a performance of The Crucible again if I can help it. Different pony, same ride. Think about it.)
Well! That was bracing, no? It only gets
worse better from here, kids. Come back Wednesday for the penultimacy of Chapters 41-45. Laters!