Jumping Jehoshaphat, it’s another Wheel of Time Re-read post! Who’da thunk it.
All righty, today’s post covers the second-to-last chunk of The Great Hunt, or Chapters 41-45, for those of you keeping score at home. Try not to cavort too hard.
Previous entries can be found at the usual spot. Also as usual, spoilers abound; I think you’ve got this down by now, but I am here to think of your well-being, so suck it up.
Or something. I’m kind of punchy at the moment. It’s possible that none of this will make sense at all. Whether this would result in improvement or not is an exercise I will gladly leave you to make out my earshot, THANKS.
Chapter 41: Disagreements
Ingtar’s party trudges miserably through cold rain as Hurin searches for Fain’s trail. Rand asks Verin if she can’t do anything about the weather, and she replies she could, but that it would be like a beacon for any damane in the area. She looks angry at the mention of them, which they had learned about at the villages they’d passed through. Mat is skeptical about the villagers’ claims about monsters. They come to another village, partially razed and deserted, and set up for the night. Ingtar thinks they are wasting time, but Verin and Rand are both sure that Fain went to Falme. Ingtar continues to argue, repeating that he must have the Horn. Hurin again murmurs a protest, but Ingtar ignores him. Rand tells him and the others that he is riding on to Falme; if he doesn’t, Fain will do something to hurt Emond’s Field. The others are surprised, but quickly convince him going to Falme alone will do no good. Ingtar tells Hurin that he wants him to dress as a local and go out in sweeps with one or two of the others, to search for the trail. Rand says he feels something pulling him to Falme, and at Verin’s look says harshly it is only Fain, not... anything else. Rand grumpily goes upstairs and tries to sleep, and then Ba’alzamon is there, holding the Dragon banner in his hands. He calls Rand “Lews Therin”, and tells him the time draws near; will he kill everyone he loves again like before? Rand tells him he is not the Dragon, and Ba’alzamon laughs, saying he knows Rand down to his soul. He again offers the choice to die or serve. Rand realizes he is on his feet and holding saidin, and he hurls the Power at Ba’alzamon, who falls back a step but absorbs Rand’s attack. Rand tries harder, drawing more of the Power, and Ba’alzamon shouts at him that he will destroy himself; with a great effort, Rand lets saidin go and falls, shuddering uncontrollably. Ba’alzamon tosses the banner at him and says much good may it do him; he cannot escape, and Ba’alzamon is the only one who can teach him how to use the Power before it kills him. Rand denies that he is the Dragon again, and when he looks up, Ba’alzamon is gone and the banner back in the saddlebags, but there is still smoke rising from the chairback where Ba’alzamon rested his hands.
So, am confused. Here is Mat, talking about damane:
“They can channel, and that makes them Aes Sedai.” He glanced at Rand and gave a ragged laugh. “That makes you Aes Sedai, the Light help us all.”
Masema came galloping from ahead, through the mud and the steady rain. “There is another village ahead, my Lord,” he said as he pulled in beside Ingtar. His eyes only swept past Rand, but they tightened, and he did not look at Rand again.
I’m confused, because it seems here that the party at large knows that Rand can channel, post-Portal Stone; Mat talks about it openly, and Masema avoids eye contact. Furthermore, this matches up with how Verin straight out told Rand earlier, seemingly in front of everyone, that Rand had to learn to control his Power surges. But later in Chapter 44, Ingtar snorts at the notion of running into men who can channel. So what gives?
I suppose Mat and Masema are just both separately being jerks, as is their wont re: Rand, but it really sent the wrong impression if so.
Also, I really don’t understand why Ishy doesn’t just kill Rand already. He’s had a million golden opportunities to do it, and he just won’t. Yeah, blah blah turn him to the Dark Side, whatever. Didn’t these guys ever read the Evil Overlord List?
I mean, I recognize it’s a legitimate problem, how to avoid killing your protagonist while still giving the Big Bad adequate screen time, but my eyes are starting to have serious roll issues, over here.
Chapter 42: Falme
Nynaeve and Elayne hide in an alley as a damane and sul’dam pass by on the street, Nynaeve still sickened by the sight. She thinks she sees a familiar face in rich Seanchan robes on the street, but thinks she is imagining things; that couldn’t have been Padan Fain. Elayne suggests they move on before the vendor nearby notices she stole some apples. Nynaeve hisses at her that they are not so bad off yet as to stoop to stealing, and Elayne retorts that Nynaeve “not being hungry” at half their meals isn’t fooling her. Nynaeve concedes the point and takes an apple. Elayne looks with contempt on the people walking around, and says they should be fighting back. They have to stop and bow as a Seanchan patrol passes, and Elayne is noticeably slow about it. Nynaeve tells Elayne that if they are caught because of her she will beg them to let her beat on Elayne personally. Elayne protests that at least she didn’t channel with a damane in plain sight, and Nynaeve mutters that was just the one time; she had to know if there was some way to unfasten those collars. She thinks there might be, but she would have to try again to be sure. She and Elayne make their way to an alley where they can see the houses commandeered for the sul’dam and damane, and settle down to watch it for signs of Egwene or Min.
Egwene stands at the window of her cell-like room, keeping Renna in sight in the courtyard below while she channels carefully at her collar, trying to figure out how to open it. Channeling without permission is making her sick, but she perseveres. Min comes in to visit, dressed as a Seanchan serving girl. Egwene tells her that Renna gave her a test the day before and discovered she had an affinity for Earth, which is unusual in women, and got so excited she promised Egwene a pudding with her supper, to Egwene’s humiliation. Min tells her perhaps it doesn’t matter; she’s found a ship for them. Egwene tells her dispiritedly that Min should take the opportunity and go; since the Earth test, now she is more valuable than ever, and a ship is being sent back to Seanchan specifically to take her there, in a couple of days. Furious, Min says there must be a way out. Egwene doesn’t think so; she tells Min that two of the women captured here are Aes Sedai. Min is shocked, then suggests that maybe they could help.
“They can’t even help themselves, Min. I only talked to one—her name is Ryma; the sul’dam don’t call her that, but that’s her name; she wanted to make sure I knew it—and she told me there is another. She told me in between bouts of tears. She’s Aes Sedai, and she was crying, Min! She has a collar on her neck, they make her answer to Pura, and she can’t do anything more about it than I can. They captured her when Falme fell. She was crying because she’s beginning to stop fighting against it, because she cannot take being punished anymore. She was crying because she wants to take her own life, and she cannot even do that without permission. Light, I know how she feels!”
Min uneasily tells Egwene that she must not think of harming herself, and Egwene says dryly she wouldn’t even if she could, but she can’t anyway. She shows Min what happens if she tries to pick up anything she thinks of as a weapon (debilitating cramps), and adds that once she thought of trying to hit Renna with the washstand pitcher, and couldn’t pour water for three days. She asks Min to remember her when she is gone, and Min snaps back that she’s read Egwene and her destiny is here, linked to Rand and Perrin and Mat and even Galad, not across the ocean. Renna steps in on their argument, and Egwene and Min both jump up and bow. Renna puts on the bracelet, and immediately knows that Egwene was channeling without permission earlier. Angrily, Renna says that perhaps she’s been too lenient, letting Egwene keep her own name; she had a kitten named Tuli once, so Egwene’s name is now Tuli. She tells Min to leave, which Min does with an anguished look, and Renna tells Egwene that she will punish her until Egwene tells her that she loves being damane, and makes Renna believe it.
I’ve always found the concept of Stockholm Syndrome to be horrifying, and it’s showing up here in more places than just Egwene’s... training. (retch) Nynaeve also observes it in the inhabitants of Falme, and Elayne is disgusted by it. Elayne’s being a bit of a self-righteous naïf here in doing so, as Nynaeve rightly notes, but like Nynaeve I still feel where she’s coming from.
Stockholm Syndrome is a survival mechanism, a method to cope with and adapt to an otherwise insupportable position, and I understand that. But the notion that a person can become willingly complicit in their own degradation, that survival can override principle, will, and basic human dignity, is one I find... awful.
Because you have to wonder: if it were me, if I were the one there in that situation (or any comparable one), would I be strong enough to fight, no matter what the cost? Even if the price be my own life? Or would raw survival prevail?
And of course there is the corollary dilemma: which choice is better? Is a fight to the death noble, or stupid? Should principle trump survival?
I don’t know. Fortunately for me, the question remains academic; I pray that it always be so.
Chapter 43: A Plan
Min runs from the building, weeping, pursued by Egwene’s screams, and stumbles out into the street. She is startled to hear someone call her name, and looks over to see Nynaeve and Elayne there in farmers’ coats. Min grabs their arms and hustles them away from the building; don’t they know how dangerous it is for them there? Nynaeve asks how Egwene is, and Min hedges that she’s as well as can be expected, fearful that if she tells the truth Nynaeve would go storming back in there right this second. She tells them she’s found a ship that will take them out of Falme, but she has no idea how to get Egwene to it. Nynaeve thinks a ship is a good idea, but Min brings up the further complication that Egwene is being sent back to Seanchan in a couple of days, and explains about the iron ore. Elayne wishes Rand were there, and when the other two look at her, blushes and quickly explains that at least he has a sword. Nynaeve opines it’s brains they need, not “men thinking with the hair on their chests”, and tells Min to take her to this boat captain.
For an instant Min found herself reading the auras of the other two women. There was danger, but that was to be expected — and new things, too, among the images she had seen before; it was like that, sometimes. A man’s ring of heavy gold floated above Nynaeve’s head, and above Elayne’s, a red-hot iron and an axe. They meant trouble, she was sure, but it seemed distant, somewhere in the future.
Min takes them to an inn near the harbor and introduces them to Captain Domon. Nynaeve asks him if his ship can avoid the Seanchan, and Domon says yes, as long as a damane doesn’t rip it to splinters. Nynaeve tells him he will sail with something better than damane, and shows him her Aes Sedai ring, hidden on a cord around her neck along with Lan’s ring (which Min recognizes). Domon begs her to put it away, looking around nervously, and tells them to be careful. He tells them how he saw an Aes Sedai named Ryma surrounded and captured even with a Warder by her side. Nynaeve tells him they know the risks; is he in or out? Finally, Domon nods and says he will be ready. The girls leave, and Nynaeve sags in relief once out of sight. She tells Elayne and Min she has a plan.
Why didn’t I like Nynaeve earlier than this? I tell you, if I were Elayne or Min I wouldn’t care how pissy the woman acted when she’s off the clock; when she’s on, girl gets shit done.
It helps that when she is pissy, she’s capable of blowing up half of Falme, of course. But even without that, you can’t tell me you wouldn’t be glad to have her around in a crisis. Well, you can, but I probably won’t believe you.
Chapter 44: Five Will Ride Forth
Perrin, Mat and Hurin observe the people in the village they’re scouting. Perrin asks Hurin if he’s sure Fain passed through here, and Hurin confirms it, adding that he thinks Fain was alone. There is a commotion just beyond the hills east of the village, and Mat suggests that they make themselves scarce before whoever it is gets there. They run to where they had left their horses, and Perrin looks back just before he ducks out of sight to see the approaching horsemen are Whitecloaks. They mount and gallop off, but Perrin isn’t sure that they weren’t followed. Reluctantly, he searches out the local wolf pack and introduces himself, and asks them to check for him. The wolves are bored by two-legs who don’t talk to them, but take a look, and tell him the only two-legs they saw moving west are himself and his companions. Perrin tells Mat and Hurin the Whitecloaks aren’t following; Mat demands how he knows, and Perrin refuses to explain. They discuss what to do, and decide to circle the village and follow Fain’s trail to see where it goes before reporting back to Ingtar.
Bornhald sits his horse in the street, peering after the broad-shouldered man he’d seen running off as they entered the village, thinking the man reminded him of the lad who’d claimed to be a blacksmith; he can’t remember the boy’s name. Byar rides up and tells him the village is secured. Bornhald tells him to put the prisoners in the inn with food and water, and nail the doors and windows shut; he thinks that it will be a couple of days before any of the villagers work up the courage to break out, and by then the Whitecloaks will be long gone. As his orders are carried out, Bornhald thinks about the skirmish he’d had with the Seanchan, where one pair of witches had cost him fifty men from the thousand he’d snuck here in defiance of the Questioners’ edict. He calls Byar back over, and tells him that when they attack the enemy, Byar will not take part; he will watch from a distance, and carry word to Bornhald’s son of what happens, and then to the Lord Captain Commander. Byar strenuously protests, but Bornhald overrides him, and Byar gives in stiffly. Bornhald thinks to himself that he no longer expects to live to leave Toman Head, and adds to Byar to tell Niall of how they were used by the Questioners. Then he remembers the blacksmith’s name: Perrin. He asks Byar if there was a blacksmith among the villager prisoners, and Byar tells him that the village’s blacksmith supposedly left over a month ago. Bornhald discusses with Byar whether the man he saw could be Perrin, and Byar says that a Darkfriend would surely carry word of them to the Seanchan. Bornhald agrees, and tells Byar there will be no rest here; the legion is to move out immediately. Neither of them notice the winged shape wheeling overhead.
At the campsite, Rand practices sword forms while Verin scribbles in the dirt, muttering to herself. Watching Rand, Ingtar comments that he should not bother with Heron Wading in the Rushes, as it leaves you completely open; even if you get the other man, he will get you, too. Rand replies it’s only for balance. Uno shouts that someone is coming, and Hurin, Mat and Perrin soon appear. Hurin tells the others that he’s found Fain’s trail, and Mat adds that they found Whitecloaks as well. Ingtar dismisses Whitecloaks as irrelevant, and apologizes to Verin for doubting her about Falme. Verin replies placidly that being with ta’veren usually means that everything happens within a Pattern, so no matter. Ingtar says that according to the locals the Seanchan don’t care who goes in or out of Falme, and so proposes that he take Hurin and a few others into the town and search for the Horn. Verin draws two lines in the dirt, and says she assumes Mat will go as well, since he can sense the dagger. Mat agrees reluctantly, and Verin makes a third line. She looks at Rand, who says he will go; it’s why he’s here. At her look, he adds sharply, to help Mat and Ingtar, that’s all, but thinks to himself that he has to find Fain as well.
Verin scratched a fourth line, turning the bird track to a lopsided star. “And who else?” she said softly. She held the stick poised.
“Me,” Perrin said, a hair before Loial chimed in with, “I think I would like to go, too,” and Uno and the other Shienarans all began clamoring to join.
“Perrin spoke first,” Verin said, as if that settled it. She added a fifth line and drew a circle around all five. The hair on Rand’s neck stirred; it was the same wheel she had rubbed out in the first place. “Five ride forth,” she murmured.
The others protest the decision, but Verin is firm. Rand asks, what about her, and she replies she would only bring the damane down on them if she went. She adds, casually, that those in town might feel either a woman or a man channeling unless the amount was kept very small. Ingtar snorts at the notion of a man channeling, and begins making plans to set out. Rand peers at the drawing in the dirt, and sees that Verin has smudged out one of the spokes so the wheel appears to be broken. For some reason, he shivers.
Sometimes, awesomely, the ta’veren thing is very subtle; the mere glimpse of Perrin is enough to induce Bornhald to change his plans, and significantly affects the outcome of events as a result. Very cool.
This is in contrast, of course, to Verin practically bulldozing the “five ride forth” prophecy into place. I imagine that she would say that that’s what the Pattern meant her to do; possibly that it is the only reason she’s there in the first place. There’s a whole dissertation in here about the nature of prophecy vs. foreknowledge of that prophecy vs. free will that anyone who’s spent any significant amount of time reading epic fantasy is well aware of; good thing, ’cause I don’t have time for dissertations just now.
Suffice it to say that prophecy in WOT is very much results-oriented; if it happens the way it’s supposed to, nobody quibbles over how it got that way. Mostly. I’m not sure I care for the implication that, when it comes to prophecy at least, the ends really do justify the means, but then I am sure prophecy doesn’t give a rat’s ass what I think. It merely points out all the cool Wheel imagery and subtext and stuff, and suggests I shut up and enjoy.
Prophecy is kind of mean.
Also, Yet Another Verinism in this chapter, namely that she tells Rand that the damane in Falme would be able to sense him channeling, when of course we later find out that while men can sense women channeling, the reverse is not true. For a long time people thought this was proof that Verin could lie, and thus was Black Ajah, but even if you don’t buy my theory that Verin just de-Oathed herself for the lulz, we find out later that Verin is from Far Madding, which has a ter’angreal that does detect male channeling, so Verin knows it is possible. If the Seanchan can come up with collars that enslave female channelers, who knows what else they could have up there?
Chapter 45: Blademaster
It’s dawn, and Nynaeve, Elayne and Min wait in front of a closed shop. A sul’dam and damane walk by, yawning, and the three girls get to their feet casually, and drift into position so that they bracket the Seanchan women. Nynaeve tries to be confident that what she’s going to try will work, and resolves that if it goes badly she will try to draw attention to herself and give Elayne and Min a chance to escape. She had made Min tell her what the sul’dam did to enforce their will, and the thought makes her furious enough to embrace saidar. The Seanchan both gasp, but before they can do anything Nynaeve channels one quick whipcrack, and the collar on the damane springs open and falls to the ground. After a second of shock the damane turns and punches the sul’dam in the face (“Good for you!” Elayne yells), and takes off down the street. Elayne calls after her to wait, but Nynaeve hisses at her to shut up as they pounce on the stunned sul’dam and stuff a rag in her mouth. Min throws a sack over the woman’s head, and they wrestle her into an alley while the few people on the street pretend not to notice. Nynaeve snaps at Elayne to pick up the collar, which she does gingerly. They hustle the struggling woman into an abandoned shed, and Nynaeve channels again, and the bracelet falls off the sul’dam’s wrist. They remove the woman’s dress and hogtie her, and Nynaeve puts on the lightning-embroidered dress and, reluctantly, the bracelet. Elayne starts to get undressed, too, saying she wished she knew what this was going to be like; Nynaeve says there’s one way to find out, and picks up the collar and snaps it on the sul’dam’s neck. Min starts to tell her that it doesn’t work that way, and the sul’dam sneers, but Nynaeve realizes she is aware of the woman, and can feel what she feels. She tries adding to that, and the sul’dam abruptly cries out and twists as though trying to escape something. Min is shocked; it’s not supposed to work for a woman who can’t channel. Nynaeve says she doesn’t care how it works as long as it does.
Nynaeve seized the silver metal leash right where it joined the collar, and pulled the woman up enough to look her in the eyes. Frightened eyes, she saw. “You listen to me, and listen well. I want answers, and if I don’t get them, I’ll make you think I have had the hide off you.” Stark terror rolled across the woman’s face, and Nynaeve’s stomach heaved as she suddenly realized the sul’dam had taken her literally. If she thinks I can, it’s because she knows. That is what these leashes are for. She took firm hold of herself to stop from clawing the bracelet off her wrist.
They find out the sul’dam’s name is Seta. Nynaeve realizes she cannot let Elayne wear the collar, and tells them to put the gray dress on Seta instead; she will be their Leashed One. Seta protests frantically, and Nynaeve tells her harshly that if she doesn’t want to be seen, she’d best do everything she can to make sure their plan succeeds. Terrified, Seta agrees.
Bayle Domon waits on his ship. His second protests staying, but Domon just tells him to make sure the men are ready to leave when he tells them and not a moment before; he means to wait for those women.
Rand, Mat, Perrin, Hurin and Ingtar stroll into Falme casually and separately, leading their horses. They meet up behind a stable and leave their horses; Hurin says Fain’s trail is clear as day. They wander for a while, following Hurin, until they come upon a large manor house surrounded by Seanchan soldiers. Rand and Hurin are both shocked to see they have grolm with them, but they pass by casually, and the Seanchan do not notice them. Hurin tells Ingtar that Fain has been here a lot, the last time as late as yesterday, and Mat suddenly gasps and says the dagger is in the manor house, he can feel it. Ingtar doesn’t care about the dagger, saying they must find Fain and the Horn, but Rand points out that he doesn’t think Fain would let the dagger or the Horn get very far from him. He suggests watching to see if Fain comes out, and then going back to Verin to plan what to do next, but Ingtar is having none of it; he will have the Horn today. Ingtar leads them around the back of the manor, where it is surrounded by a walled garden. They sneak in to the manor, Rand getting increasingly worried about Ingtar’s recklessness, and Mat leads them to a room on the second floor where the Horn and the dagger sit next to each other on a stand. Mat rushes over and grabs them both, exultant; Ingtar touches the inscription on the Horn, murmuring that he is saved. Hurin goes over to the window to check on the guards; Rand joins him, and sees across the way another garden filled with pairs of women linked by collars and bracelets, and recognizes one of them as Egwene right before she disappears back inside. He tells the others, but none of them see her now. Rand starts to say he has to get her out, but is interrupted by High Lord Turak and his guards. Turak is surprised; he thought it would be Fain who tried for the dagger and Horn. He orders his men to get the items back; one of the guards walks over and reaches for the Horn as if none of them were armed, to Rand’s amazement. Mat slashes the guard’s hand with the dagger.
With a curse, the soldier leaped back, looking surprised. And then he screamed. It chilled the room, held everyone where they stood in astonishment. The trembling hand he held up in front of his face was turning black, darkness creeping outwards from the bleeding gash that crossed his palm. He opened his mouth wide and howled, clawing at his arm, then his shoulder. Kicking, jerking, he toppled to the floor, thrashing on the silken carpet, shrieking as his face grew black and his dark eyes bulged like overripe plums, until a dark, swollen tongue gagged him. He twitched, choking raggedly, heels drumming, and did not move again. Every bit of his exposed flesh was black as putrid pitch and looked ready to burst at a touch.
Even Turak is stunned. Ingtar takes the opportunity and leaps into the midst of the soldiers, Hurin right behind him; Perrin and Mat go for the guards at the other end of the room, and Rand finds himself alone with Turak and his two servants, who take his robe and kneel. Turak comments Rand is young, and he wants to find out what it takes to earn the heron on this side of the ocean; with a sinking feeling, Rand sees that Turak’s sword is a heron-mark blade. As he prepares to fight, Rand desperately wants to seek the void, but doesn’t know if he can resist saidin if he does, and then, as he thinks, the damane across the way might notice. Turak attacks, and it is immediately obvious that he far outclasses Rand. Turak is disgusted, and goes to finish it; the void surrounds Rand, and he ignores saidin and meets Turak’s attack. They dance the forms, Rand matching Turak now, and abruptly switches from defense to attack. Two strokes later, Turak is dead. The two servants look at their dead master, then draw daggers and stab themselves in the hearts, falling dead. Rand gapes. The others come back, and Ingtar wants to go, now. Rand tells them to go ahead; he has to find Egwene.
“You fool!” Ingtar snapped. “We have what we came for. The Horn of Valere. The hope of salvation. What can one girl count, even if you love her, alongside the Horn, and what it stands for?”
“The Dark One can have the Horn for all I care! What does finding the Horn count if I abandon Egwene to this? If I did that, the Horn couldn’t save me. The Creator couldn’t save me. I would damn myself.”
Ingtar stared at him, his face unreadable. “You mean that exactly, don’t you?”
Hurin urgently notes that there is something happening in the courtyard below; Mat and Perrin run out, and Ingtar tells Rand he can’t save the girl if he gets killed here. Reluctantly Rand follows the others out of the house, swearing to himself that he will come back for Egwene somehow.
Dude, the Seanchan are one fucked-up culture.
Also, isn’t Turak a Vulcan name? I’m just saying.
I wonder: if Mat had ever nicked himself with the dagger, would it have done the same to him as the Seanchan guy? Or would his link to it have protected him? It’s to become a moot point, but it’s interesting to think about.
So, do we think it’s awesome that Rand was able to defeat a real blademaster with like a couple months’ training because he is just that cool, or do we think it’s a lame plot-convenient instance of Implausible Fencing Powers? DISCUSS.
Aight, that’s all there is, there ain’t no more! Until Friday, of course, which will provide nummy Chapter-46-to-end-of-TGH-ness for your delectation. Booyah!