Greetings, chirren. It is time – for Wheel of Time! Yaaaay!
The Re-read of DOOM continues with Chapter 7 of Lord of Chaos, a chapter which is mighty and meaty, and that plus unexpected events is why you’re only getting one chapter today.
Previous entries are here, and as always all posts contain spoilers for all currently published novels in the Wheel of Time series.
Speaking of which, a note before we begin: I’ve noticed people have been asking about spoiler policy regarding the upcoming release of The Gathering Storm. I’ve talked about it with the folks in charge round these parts, and rest assured that you guys will have a place to discuss TGS to your heart’s content on Tor.com – both the spoilery kind of discussion and the non-spoilery kind. I will be giving you more details as soon as I have them.
As far as how spoilers will be handled within the re-read blog series itself: Well, it goes without saying that once I’ve read TGS myself, it is obviously going to affect my commentary on the series from that point forward. It’s impossible to suppose otherwise, really. However, I recognize that some of you may want to avoid spoilers for at least a short while immediately following the release date, so out of courtesy I will try to avoid spoilers for a couple of weeks following the book’s release in the re-read itself.
I can’t guarantee that there won’t be spoilers, since as of now I have no idea what will happen in the new book, and therefore I can’t know how it will impact whatever we happen to be covering when it gets here. However, I DO promise you that you won’t be blindsided. For at least a couple of weeks after, if I absolutely have to put spoilers for TGS in the re-read, I will make sure you can skip them if you so desire.
So, posts will have either no spoilers , or spoiler protection, for two weeks after the drop date. After that, though, it's every sentient entity for hirself. You Have Been Warned.
Concurrent with this, we’re going to ask you guys to be on the honor system regarding spoilers in the comments. There will a place for spoileriffic discussion, as I’ve said, so please respect your fellow readers on Tor.com and refrain from posting spoilers in the comments of the re-read – or indeed in other posts on Tor.com.
So, there’s all that. And now, actual content!
Chapter 7: A Matter of Thought
Elayne finishes getting ready for bed in the sweltering heat, and urges Nynaeve to hurry, as she knows how “they will go on” if they’re made to wait. Nynaeve sniffs, but agrees, and settles down with one of the three dream ring ter’angreal copies of the original that Elayne had made. She contemplates them with dissatisfaction; they worked better than the other dream ter’angreal, but still not quite as well as the original.
But what if one of her failures did worse than simply not work, or not work very well? Aes Sedai had been stilled studying ter’angreal. Burned out, it was called when it happened by accident, yet it was just as final. Nynaeve did not think so, of course, but Nynaeve would not be satisfied till she Healed somebody three days dead.
Nynaeve and Elayne drink the sleeping draught Nynaeve had prepared, and Elayne muses about the Salidar Tower dragging its feet about selecting an Amyrlin, despite all the reasons surrounding them that should be cause for hurry. She drifts off thinking of Rand and Min, and finds herself in Tel’aran’rhiod with Nynaeve, Siuan, and Leane. Elayne is annoyed that Siuan insists on keeping the original ring for herself, even though it would do more good with Elayne or Nynaeve, since it would let them channel at full strength. Siuan asks irritably what’s taking them so long, and Leane replies that she doesn’t know why it upsets her to have them there, considering how Siuan enjoys watching them make mistakes. Siuan mutters about Bryne running her ragged and being “lumbered with these two”, meaning Elayne and Nynaeve; Nynaeve grips her braid, and then the Salidar Six appear, clothes flickering wildly. Elayne reflects that they still haven’t seemed to grasp that they didn’t have to appear in their own bedrooms first. As they approach, Elayne overhears the end of their conversation: Sheriam and Anaiya are telling Carlinya that “they” will scorn any choice they make, so they might as well stick with the one they have, and no ruler will dare either way.
“In any case, no king or queen knows enough of what passes among Aes Sedai to understand. Only the sisters’ opinions need concern us, not theirs.”
“What worries me,” Carlinya replied coolly, “is that if she is easily guided by us, she may be as easily guided by others.”
They break off the conversation as they reach Elayne’s party, and Siuan and Leane immediately go into their squabbling act, turning their backs on each other peevishly. Elayne knows Nynaeve is intensely irritated by their charade, but she thinks it is very cleverly done, herself, as proven by the weary and absentminded way Sheriam and the others chastise them. Elayne notes that Myrelle’s jewelry changes momentarily to a wide silver collar supporting three small daggers, with a fourth one appearing and vanishing again in a second. Myrelle glares at Nynaeve and asks if they’re going to the Tower or what. Elayne attributes her temper to the meetings the Six have been having with the Wise Ones, which unfortunately started just as Egwene got injured, and so have been unsupervised. Between the Aes Sedai’s expectations of deference, and the Wise Ones’ protectiveness of the Dreamworld and fierce loyalty to Rand, Elayne judges the whole thing to have been “a recipe for disaster”. They are distracted by one of the cooks (Gera) briefly appearing in the Dreamworld (as an Aes Sedai, which Anaiya finds amusing), and Nynaeve gets in trouble for lecturing the Aes Sedai “like dim-witted children”:
“When somebody dreams themselves into Tel’aran’rhiod like Gera, but they’re having a nightmare, sometimes the nightmare survives, and those are very dangerous. Avoid anything that looks unusual. And try to control your thoughts this time. What you think of here can become real.”
Elayne jumps in, heading off disaster with an apology on Nynaeve’s behalf and a meek reminder that time is wasting. They all blink themselves into Elaida’s study, and Leane immediately excuses herself to go check on her network in Tar Valon; she vanishes before the Aes Sedai can stop her, and Sheriam tells Nynaeve to go after her. Nynaeve tries to explain that it will be next to impossible to find her, but Myrelle cuts her off sharply, and Nynaeve sighs and disappears. Suddenly Elaida is standing behind the desk.
“As I have Foretold,” she intoned. “The White Tower will be reunited under me. Under me!” She pointed harshly to the floor. “Kneel, and ask forgiveness of your sins!” With that, she was gone.
Everyone lets out relieved breaths; Beonin is worried that she said it was a Foretelling, and Elayne points out that it was Elaida’s dream, not necessarily reality. Anaiya observes that there was no blue stripe on her stole, and she and Sheriam are suddenly wearing their Blue Ajah shawls. They get down to business, splitting up to go through Alviarin’s and Elaida’s papers, as Siuan watches balefully, angry (and, Elayne thinks, worried) at this usurping of her responsibilities. Elayne remembers that Siuan claimed that Alviarin’s papers show that she has twice countermanded Elaida’s orders, apparently without repercussions. Myrelle finds a report from Danelle:
“She says that Mattin Stepaneos accepts wholeheartedly, Roedran is still trying to take every side, while Alliandre and Tylin want more time to consider their answers. There’s a note here in Elaida’s hand. ‘Press them!’ ”
Elayne knows that the topic had to have been either Rand, or the rebel Aes Sedai; Sheriam comments that at least that means their emissaries have as good a chance as Elaida’s, though of course Salidar had sent no one to Stepaneos (i.e. Sammael) in Illian. Elayne wonders what proposal Sammael could have approved of so well. Moving on, they find that the arrest warrant for Moiraine is still in effect (meaning the Tower doesn’t know she’s dead), and that the Accepted Shemerin has run away. The Aes Sedai look at Elayne at this, but say nothing; Elayne tries not to stamp her foot, for she and Nynaeve had told them about Shemerin being reduced to Accepted, and had not been believed. She creates a stool for herself to sit on, and notes that the semicircle of stools that used to be before Elaida’s desk is no longer there. The strange fighting in Arafel and Shienar is finally dying down, and the Blight is still disturbingly quiet; the eyes and ears in Tarabon are still silent, and there are rumors that Aes Sedai are involved in the fighting there. Reports of strange occurrences, two-headed calves that talk, “nightmares walking in daylight” and the like, which the Aes Sedai dismiss as nonsense (Elayne is not so sure); reports of Morgase raising an army under the banner of Manetheren and/or fleeing to every nation imaginable, including Amadicia, which Elayne dismisses as purely unbelievable. There is a report on Elayne herself, saying she must be returned to the Tower at all costs, as the ruling house of Andor was “the key”; Elayne has no clue what this means. The report on Rand’s amnesty looks rather crumpled.
[Elaida] had not written anything on that document, but scrawled biting words on another, enumerating the Aes Sedai in the Tower, made clear she was almost ready to declare publicly that any who did not obey her order to return were traitors. Sheriam and the other two discussed the possibility calmly. However many sisters intended to obey, some would have far to travel; some might not even have received the summons yet. In any case, such a decree would confirm to the world all the rumors of a divided Tower. Elaida must be near panic to consider such a thing, or else maddened beyond reason.
Elayne reflects that the Tower currently holds about a third of all active Aes Sedai, while the rebels have another third, and probably the best outcome they can hope for is that the last third splits itself equally between the two factions. Then Beonin finds out that Elaida has sent a delegation to Rand; Elayne jumps to her feet, but keeps silent at a hasty gesture from Siuan. Beonin says they are heading to Cairhien (Elayne is relieved), and that they apparently intend to offer him support and “an escort to the Tower”. Myrelle finds this preposterous, but Sheriam thinks “that woman” might do anything, and worries that Rand might find the offer attractive. Elayne bursts out, asking how they can think Rand would even consider Elaida’s offer, and that they have to warn him. Sheriam asks coolly how exactly they should do that, but then they hear screams coming from outside. They all run out of the study to find that Anaiya, Morvrin and Carlinya are gone. Myrelle, Sheriam and Beonin rush into the corridor, ignoring Elayne’s shout to be careful. She and Siuan follow to find themselves looking at a nightmare, literally: a cavern filled with ravening Trollocs.
Once freed of the mind that created them, such things sometimes drifted through the World of Dreams and sometimes latched on to a particular spot. Aiel dreamwalkers destroyed each as a matter of course whenever they found one, but they—and Egwene—had told her the best thing to do was avoid any she saw altogether. Unfortunately, Carlinya apparently had not listened when she and Nynaeve passed that on.
Carlinya is being lowered headfirst into a cauldron filling with boiling oil, screaming frantically; Anaiya and Morvrin hesitate on the edge of the nightmare and are suddenly sucked in, and reappear being flogged and racked, respectively. Sheriam, Myrelle and Beonin link; Elayne shouts at them not to treat it as real, but it is too late, and they are sucked into the nightmare in turn. Elayne asks Siuan if she remembers how to dispel nightmares.
Eyes fixed on the scene in front of her, Siuan nodded. “Deny its reality. Try to fix things in your mind as they would be without it.”
That had been Sheriam’s mistake, all the Aes Sedai’s mistake probably. By trying to channel against the nightmare they had accepted it as real, and that acceptance had pulled them into it as surely as walking in, leaving them helpless unless they remembered what they had forgotten. Which they showed no sign of doing.
She and Siuan concentrate on the corridor as it’s supposed to be, but nothing happens, and Elayne says they need the others. Siuan thinks she means Leane and Nynaeve at first, but then stares at her, realizing she means going into the nightmare themselves and doing it from the inside.
“Girl,” Siuan said in a toneless voice, “you have a lion’s courage, and maybe a fisherbird’s sense.” With a heavy sigh, she added, “But I don’t see any other way myself.”
She and Siuan let themselves get sucked in, and Elayne finds herself bound face down on a stone slab, with a cookpot a few feet away. She hears Siuan telling Sheriam and the others, in between screams, that this is only a dream, and Elayne joins in, entreating them to imagine the corridor as it should be, as a Trolloc comes toward her with a knife and starts cutting off her clothes.
Desperately she held on to the image of the hallway. “Carlinya, Morvrin, for the love of the Light, concentrate! Think of the corridor! The corridor! All of you! Think of it hard!” Grunting something in a harsh language never meant for a human tongue, the Trolloc flipped her facedown again and knelt on her, thick knees crushing her arms against her back. “The corridor!” she screamed. It tangled heavy fingers in her hair, yanked her head back. “The corridor! Think of the corridor!” The Trolloc’s blade touched her tight-stretched neck beneath her left ear. “The corridor! The corridor!” The blade began to slide.
Suddenly she was staring at colored floor tiles under her nose. Clapping hands to her throat, marveling that they were free to move, she felt wetness and brought her fingers up to stare at them. Blood, but only a tiny smear.
She gets up to find the others in much worse state: Sheriam and Anaiya are weeping and covered in blood, Myrelle is in a fetal position, and Carlinya and Beonin seem almost catatonic. Morvrin, who appears to have multiple broken bones, says they must go back to Salidar for Healing, but Siuan asks to stay, saying she’s had worse bruises “falling in a boat”; Morvrin replies that she looks more like someone dropped a boat on her, but agrees. Elayne asks to stay too, but is told no. The six Aes Sedai vanish, and Elayne takes a quick side trip to the throne room in the Caemlyn Palace. It’s difficult to get there, and Elayne sees why:
On the dais at the end of the hall where the Lion Throne should have stood was instead a grandiose monstrosity made of Dragons sparkling gold and red in gilt and enamel, with sunstones for their eyes. Her mother’s throne had not been removed from the chamber. It stood on a kind of pedestal, behind and above the monstrous thing.
She wonders aloud in a harsh whisper what he thinks he is doing, and is afraid he’s going to bungle things in Andor without her there to help him. She worries about Elaida’s embassy to him, and Salidar’s for that matter, and she wishes for Min to reach him quickly and take care of him.
A stab of jealousy hit her that Min would be there to do what she wanted to. She might have to share him, but she would have part of him all to herself. She would bond him as her Warder, whatever it took.
“It will be done.” She stretched a hand up toward the Lion Throne, to swear as queens had sworn since there was an Andor. The pedestal was too high for her to reach, but the intent should count. “It will be done.”
She disappears, and Demandred steps out from behind a column. He was pretty sure that the young woman had been Elayne Trakand, and judging from her words she was not happy about what al’Thor was doing here at all.
In any case, another thread in the tangle yanked, however feeble the pull turned out to be.
“Let the Lord of Chaos rule,” he told the thrones—though he still wished he knew why it had to be so—and opened a gateway to leave Tel’aran’rhiod.
Well, that was a very... full chapter.
“Nynaeve would not be satisfied till she Healed somebody three days dead”: Uh-huh. No symbolic foreshadowing here, no sirree. Nothing Christ-like to see here, move along! Shoo!
Egwene: Still can’t remember at what point I guessed what all the cryptic conversations like the one in this chapter were referring to. It’s possible that I didn’t guess it till Egwene actually finds out, because occasionally I am very slow on the uptake.
Myrelle’s marriage knives: Um, yeah, you go ahead and enjoy shitting on Nynaeve while you can, because if she ever finds out that you have not just gotten Lan’s bond (and slept with him too!), which is quite bad enough, but that you even kinda sorta considered yourself married to him? RUN, WOMAN. Run and hiiiiiiide. Ye gods.
Nynaeve’s “dim-witted child” lecture: Sometimes there’s a fine line between awesome foreshadowing, like the “three days dead” thing above, and stuff like this, which is just clunky plot telegraphing if you ask me. It would have been okay if this bit of exposition had been slipped in earlier, but for Nynaeve to grace us with this information and then for the worst-case scenario to happen almost immediately? Enh.
But I do sympathize with the “dim-witted child” bit, because I would have LOST MY MIND if I’d had to try teaching these women. I’ve made various attempts to see things from their perspective, and I can admittedly see how a headstrong teenage princess and a backcountry wilder with a giant chip on her shoulder might not automatically inspire the greatest amount of confidence, but GRAAAR.
In their defense, though, sort of, the White Tower has fallen prey to the same trap that plagues any political organization high in intrigue and low on tolerance for failure, which is that its members are continually under extreme pressure to never show any signs of weakness whatsoever. The whole dog-eat-dog thing, which makes for great fictional drama but makes me want to spit in real life. Social Darwinism is fun! *gag*
(Trust me on this; I used to work in Hollywood. There’s a reason I don’t anymore.)
“Weakness” would certainly include admitting ignorance of any given topic, so Aes Sedai, like many a politician in real life, are strongly conditioned to maintain the pretense of all-knowing serenity, even in the direct face of evidence they are not, lest they be pulled down by their detractors/competitors. Combined with the equally strongly enforced view of Accepted as immature children regardless of their actual age, from a certain point of view it’s amazing that these Aes Sedai allowed Elayne and Nynaeve to teach them anything at all.
Stupid? Yes. Annoying as hell? You betcha. But, sadly, believable.
Of course, it’s hard to maintain irritation at people who have been through hell, more or less literally, though perhaps it’s rather terrible of me to use their nightmare torture as an excuse to find a silver lining...
The “trapped in a nightmare” sequence, by the way, is one of the better scary scenes in WOT, in my opinion; it left a very vivid impression on me. Elayne and Siuan are Ka-Razy for voluntarily jumping into that. And, also, awesome.
Also rather awesome, surprisingly, is Morvrin, who has a dry comeback for Siuan with her limbs bent the wrong way. Dude. Carlinya, of course, continues to suck, and Anaiya continues being sweet and lovely and setting us up for heartbreak when she gets killed off, dammit.
I remember a lot of people got perturbed at Elayne’s vow to bond Rand, since this was taken to mean that she would do it with or without his permission, which is pretty much beyond uncool (as we will see). I’m pretty sure that’s what Jordan wanted us to think, actually, and I’m not sure why he wanted us to think Elayne was capable of such a thing, because I’m personally convinced that she is not, and this was another one of Jordan’s red herrings. (And no, Birgitte’s bonding does NOT constitute evidence of such. That was a life-or-death situation, in which it was not possible to ask first, and bonding her was certainly preferable to letting her die, as Birgitte herself was the first to agree.) I always thought she was going to ask Rand first; I just took the vow to mean she wasn’t going to let anything else get in her way. But then, I like Elayne, so maybe it depends on how low your opinion is of her as to where you fall in this debate.
Of course, it’s a moot point now, given what happened in Winter’s Heart, but it was a big controversy at the time, so.
Demandred: Heh. It’s not just the good guys who can wildly misinterpret information. Neener neener!
And on that mature note, your Auntie Leigh takes a powder. Enjoy, play nice, and I’ll see you on Friday!