Hey-o! It’s the Wheel of Time Re-read!
On this fine Friday we are covering Chapters 31-33 of Lord of Chaos, featuring a tragedy of errors, lessons in swan-diving, and A Turning Point.
Also, as most of y’all know by now, the Prologue of The Gathering Storm, “What the Storm Means,” is available for download here on Tor.com or at multiple online vendors. Chapter 1 is still available as well.
Ergo, as discussed before, please refrain from posting spoilers for either the Prologue or Chapter 1 in the posts for the Re-read, in order to protect those who have not yet read them, or do not intend to before the release of the entire book. Spoiler discussion is going on at the respective posts announcing the two releases, linked above; please keep them there. Thanks.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled opinionating!
Chapter 31: Red Wax
An irritated Eamon Valda rides into the courtyard of the Fortress of the Light, where he is greeted eagerly by “young” Dain Bornhald; he notes disapprovingly that Dain smells of brandy. He is very displeased with the orders that had called him back from Tar Valon just when a strong push could, he was sure, bring down the Tower for good. He isn’t any better pleased by the Dragonsworn rabble he had encountered on the way to Amador either.
The roads behind his legion were littered now, and the ravens fed to bursting. If it was not possible to tell the Prophet’s trash from refugee trash, well then, kill whoever clogged the way. The innocent should have remained in their homes where they belonged; the Creator would shelter them anyway. As far as he was concerned, the wanderers were added plums on the cake.
He is startled to hear Dain confirm the rumor that Morgase is in the Fortress, and thinks Niall has grown old and soft if she hasn’t already signed a treaty; Valda would have made her sign it the first day, by whatever means necessary. Valda invites Dain to dinner, but warns him he’d better be sober, and goes in. On the way, he encounters a Questioner who murmurs that he might like to visit the Dome of Truth; Valda considers dressing down the man, but then considers that it might mean something more, and heads to the Dome, where he meets Rhadam Asunawa, the High Inquisitor, seemingly by happenstance. Asunawa remarks casually that times are troubled when the Children harbor a witch. Valda says nothing in reply, and Asunawa adds that Niall must not be allowed to destroy the Children. Valda pretends to study a painting, and finally says he is prepared to listen.
Niall watches Valda stalk inside the Fortress, and thinks the man is always in a fury, and he would have left him in Tar Valon had there been any way to do so; his only notion of tactics or strategy was to charge. Niall dismisses Valda from his mind as Balwer tells him that Omerna left him a bunch of papers, and another sealed message tube, which angers Niall, as Omerna knows perfectly well he is never to give those messages to anyone but Niall himself. He opens it to find it is another letter from Varadin, his mad rug merchant in Tanchico, who is still spouting gibberish about leashed Aes Sedai and monsters, but then Niall reads that he is hiding Faisar, one of the Children Niall had sent there to assess the situation, which gives him pause, as Varadin should know nothing of Faisar. Niall tells Balwer to arrange for a courier to go to Tanchico, and burns Varadin’s note.
He had four rules concerning action and information. Never make a plan without knowing as much as you can of the enemy. Never be afraid to change your plans when you receive new information. Never believe you know everything. And never wait to know everything. The man who waited to know everything was still sitting in his tent when the enemy burned it over his head.
Niall thinks that he has only ignored those rules once, when he followed a hunch that saved his army, and now he has that feeling again.
Tallanvor is arguing with Morgase over Paitr, who has come to them with a plan for escape from the Fortress by the next day. Tallanvor does not trust him; Morgase is deliberately patronizing of his concerns, and then annoyed when Lini agrees with Tallanvor. She thinks that Paitr had been thrilled at the prospect of getting her out, saying something about making up for a failure at home, and the plan was elegantly simple, if undignified; she was going to ride out of the Fortress under a cartload of garbage. She ignores Lini and Tallanvor and is reiterating their parts in the plan when Gill interrupts nervously to tell her there is a Questioner come to speak to her. Morgase is calm outside, but inside she is queasy as Elinor Saren enters and informs her she is summoned to the Lord Captain Commander, now. She asks why an Inquisitor was sent, and Saren replies coldly that he was sent because it was on his way. He leads her through the halls a different way than she’s gone before, which he tells her curtly is a shortcut when she asks. Then they come to a courtyard where, to her horror, she sees a group of people being hanged, and that two of them are Paitr and his uncle. Saren is watching her, and she manages to keep her expression under control.
The shortest way? So this was Niall’s new tactic. It did not surprise her that no mention had been made of her planned escape. Niall was too subtle for that. She was an honored guest, and Paitr and his uncle had been hanged by chance, for some crime that had nothing to do with her. Who would be the next to mount the gallows? Lamgwin or Basel? Lini or Tallanvor? Strange, but the image of Tallanvor with a rope around his neck hurt more than the image of Lini. The mind played peculiar tricks. Over Saren’s shoulder she caught sight of Asunawa, at a window overlooking the scaffold. He was staring down at her. Maybe this was his doing, not Niall’s. It made no difference. She could not let her people die for nothing. She could not let Tallanvor die. Very peculiar tricks.
Shortly afterward they reach Niall’s audience chamber, where Niall ignores her for a moment, staring into space. Morgase is irritated that he’d beaten her and didn’t even seem to notice. She debates getting herself killed in an open escape attempt, so that the throne would go to Elayne, but for some reason still trusts the Tower less than she does Niall.
No, she had to save Andor herself. But the cost. The cost must be paid.
She had to force the words out. “I am ready to sign your treaty.”
Niall blinks and laughs wryly, and she is angered that he bothers to pretend surprise; he quickly produces the document, and Morgase thinks it might take her and Elayne’s lifetimes both to undo the damage it will wreak on Andor, but that the alternatives were al’Thor, one of Gaebril’s toadies, or Elayne as the Tower’s puppet on the throne. She signs, as does Niall, and asks when his legions would ride. To her utter surprise he replies that it will be a while, as there are “developments [he] must consider”; Morgase notes that his prissy secretary Balwer seems almost as shocked as herself. She makes herself smile warmly, and asks Niall if he cares to play stones; she flushes at his amused look, but tells herself that opponents who are thought broken are not watched as closely.
Asunawa remarks to Saren that “the witch” was taken aback at the Darkfriend hangings; Saren replies that they were caught chanting “some catechism to the Shadow”, but no one thought to ask if any of them had any connections to Morgase. He observes, though, that some people are just affected that way by hangings, and Asunawa tends to agree, but it still troubles him. Saren complains that Niall sent her to fetch the witch as if he were a dog, and feels filthy from standing so close to her; Asunawa ignores him to contemplate Morgase’s surprising strength in holding out in the very heart of the Fortress.
She would ruin some of his plans if she turned out to be weak after all. He had all the details in his mind, each day of her trial with ambassadors on hand from every land that could still produce one, until finally her dramatic confession, wrung from her so skillfully no one would ever find a mark, and then the ceremonies surrounding her execution. A special gallows just for her, to be preserved afterwards to mark the occasion.
“Let us hope she continues to resist Niall,” he said, with a smile that some would call mild and pious. Even Niall’s patience could not last forever; eventually he would have to hand her to justice.
This chapter would be an example of how Jordan occasionally liked to torture us all. I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course.
I’d say it’s a pretty impressive accomplishment, actually, that Jordan managed to screw over every single character in this chapter, all through the delightful medium of egregious misinformation and misinterpretation. Everyone here is completely wrong about everything. It’s sort of beautiful, except for how it’s so damn frustrating.
This stands as about the one and only time I sincerely wished for a plot of the Shadow to succeed. Yeah, I’m sure Paitr did not exactly have nice things in mind for Morgase once they got out of Amador, but considering that Mat beat him up even while in the throes of Shadar Logoth Dagger Syndrome (and long before taking a level in badass), I feel fairly confident that Tallanvor could have handled him. Alas, we’ll never know if I’m right, because AAAGH.
Meanwhile our Messieur Valda continues angling for the trophy of Least Likeable Human Ever, and I’d say he’s got a real shot at the brass ring on that one. I vomit in his general direction. Even Asunawa isn’t as pukeworthy in my opinion.
Niall: I suppose you could say he’s the only one in this chapter who actually did get what he wanted. The problem is it’s about to really not matter from his point of view. Oh well!
Chapter 32: Summoned in Haste
Egwene observes that matters in Cairhien have been incredibly tense ever since Rand’s visit and departure. Everyone in the Palace is staring daggers at each other, and Berelain seems to have gone into hiding. Among the Aiel, the Wise Ones are collectively in an extremely bad mood ever since Amys and Sorilea’s audience with Rand, and this is not improved by the arrival of Sevanna and two Shaido Wise Ones, Therava and Emerys. Sevanna has apparently been made a Wise One despite never having been to Rhuidean, and the others are forced to accept this; they have diplomatic immunity as Wise Ones, which Egwene finds ridiculous and frustrating. Sevanna also knows who Egwene is, and goes out of her way to torment her, and Egwene has no recourse but to take it. Then some of the Wise Ones talked a couple of Maidens into trying to sneak into Arilyn’s manor to spy on Elaida’s embassy, with the result that the Maidens were caught, chastised severely, and tossed out, and the rest of the Wise Ones openly derided the instigators while Sevanna and Co. sneered. Egwene begins avoiding the tents as much as possible, spending every morning with Gawyn; she is aware that he is not letting very much at all slip about the Tower Aes Sedai, but can’t make herself care. The Wise Ones report that the Aes Sedai are still channeling night and day without a break, but no one can find out what they are doing. Three days after Rand’s departure Egwene hires a boatman to row her out to the Sea Folk ship in the river, hoping that she might be able to convince the Windfinder to teach her about weather as they had Elayne before. She reaches the ship and asks permission to come aboard; a rope ladder is sent down for her, but right as she reaches the top, someone slices through the rope, sending her into the river. The boatman hauls her back aboard his boat.
The Windfinder was at the railing now, and two more women, one in plain green silk, the other brocaded red worked with gold thread. Their earrings and nose rings and chains caught the sun.
“You are refused the gift of passage,” the green-clad woman called, and the one in red shouted, “Tell the others, disguises do not fool us. You do not frighten us. You are all refused the gift of passage!”
Furious, Egwene channels, shielding the Windfinder with one flow while binding and lifting all three women with Air, to dump them into the river in turn. To her dismay, however, they all smoothly dive in as soon as she lets them go, not seeming frightened at all. Then she notices the boatman gaping at her, and realizes she was just channeling immense amounts of saidar out in plain sight of anyone; she gets him to bring her ashore, where she sprints for the tents, and does not return to the city thereafter except to visit Gawyn. On the fifth day the Wise Ones take Egwene for two short trial runs in Tel’aran’rhiod, and test her thoroughly afterward. She doesn’t go on her own trips those nights, and she has been firmly avoiding the place where people’s dreams were, knowing that the temptation to get pulled into Gawyn’s dream was too strong. On the seventh night she prepares nervously to meet the Aes Sedai with the Wise Ones in the Dreamworld, and worries that they will reveal that she is only Accepted in front of Amys and Bair. She arrives in the reflection of the Heart of the Stone, and realizes she is wearing an Accepted’s dress; she changes it hastily before the Wise Ones notice. The Wise Ones start to complain that the Aes Sedai are late again when suddenly seven Aes Sedai appear, all wearing their shawls; Egwene recognizes one of them as the determined blue-eyed woman she’d seen in the Dreamworld before, and wonders who she is.
The Aes Sedai’s eyes focused immediately on Egwene. The Wise Ones might as well not have existed.
“Egwene al’Vere,” Sheriam said formally, “you are summoned before the Hall of the Tower.” Her tilted green eyes shone with some suppressed emotion. Egwene’s stomach sank; they knew she had been masquerading as a full sister.
[Carlinya]: “Ask not why you are summoned; it is yours to answer, not to question.”
[Anaiya]: “Delay not in your coming; it is yours to obey in haste.”
The three spoke in unison. “It is well to fear the summons of the Hall. It is well to obey in haste and humility, unasking. You are summoned to kneel before the Hall of the Tower and accept their judgment.”
The Wise Ones look concerned, and Egwene tries not to panic. She gathers her courage and replies that she will come as soon as she can, but she doesn’t know exactly where Salidar is, nor how long it will take to get there. Sheriam brings up the possibility of entering Tel’aran’rhiod physically, and the Wise Ones instantly forbid it, saying it is evil. Beonin tries to point out that they can’t know that if they haven’t tried it themselves; the Wise Ones’ eyes go flat, and Egwene jumps in before they can retaliate, saying she thinks she knows how, and will try, but she still needs to know where to go. The Wise Ones turn to stare at her; Sheriam begins giving directions, but the young Blue says she might have a better way, and creates a large map that replicates the terrain between Cairhien and Salidar exactly. Even the Wise Ones are impressed, and Sheriam compliments her, calling her “Siuan”; Egwene blinks, deciding it must just be someone with the same name, and tells them she can find it now. They admonish her again to come in haste and ask no questions, and then disappear; Amys and Bair disappear too, before she can say anything to them. Sadly Egwene steps out of the dream herself, wakes up in her tent and immediately begins to pack.
A part of her life was over, but she would not cry over the loss. She would not.
Rand steps out from behind one of the columns of the Heart of the Stone; he still isn’t sure what this place is, but he comes here sometimes to look at Callandor. He thinks briefly about the prophecy that said whoever drew it out would “follow after” him, but he is more interested in the map he had just seen.
Was it simple chance that drew him here tonight instead of yesterday, or tomorrow? One of his ta’veren tugs on the Pattern? No matter. Egwene had accepted that summons meekly, and that she would never do if it came from the Tower and Elaida. This Salidar was where her mysterious friends were hiding. Where Elayne was. They had handed themselves to him.
Laughing, he opened a gateway to the reflection of the Palace in Caemlyn.
I’ve brought this up about a gazillion times, so I apologize, but it is really bugging the crap out of me that I can’t remember whether I guessed about Egwene’s Amyrlining ahead of time. I think I guessed it here? Maybe? Hopefully? Go me?
It’s just annoying, because of how often I can remember pretty much exactly what my reaction was to this or that bit of the story, but on this one thing I’m drawing a total blank. Argh. Okay, I will shut up about it now.
Like for instance, I remember being really annoyed at Rand, reading the first part of this chapter with all the tension. See, this is why you should be nice to people! Of course, it’s hardly all Rand’s fault (Sevanna and the Tower embassy are working overtime on this one), but Rand throwing an extended hissy before stomping back to Caemlyn certainly didn’t help, is all I’m saying. Chaos? I’d say yeah.
Windfinders: Not sure what’s going there, or if it has any real significance. I think this gets clarified for us in ACOS, when Nynaeve and Elayne go to the Sea Folk in Ebou Dar, but right now I’m guessing some of the Tower Aes Sedai in Cairhien tried to muscle in on the Windfinders to pass the time (kinda like Egwene was going to, actually), and ticked the Sea Folk off but good. So, not that important then. Cool!
Siuan: This is kind of random, but have we ever had two characters in WOT with the same name? I can’t think of any. It’s a common sort-of-failing of fiction, at any rate, and I’m hardly complaining; the cast of WOT is hard enough to keep track of as it is. (This is why trying to read histories of European monarchies always gives me migraines; name your kids something besides Henry, Louis or Philip, dammit!) I’m sure TV Tropes has a name (heh) for this phenomenon, but I am resolutely not going to look for it, because I’m on a deadline here.
Rand: Uh, way to sound like a scheming villain there, hero. Be less creepy, kthx. Also, I remember when I first read this my immediate reaction was, “Aw, crap.” Which just goes to show that even a stopped clock can be psychic two or three times in a series. Go me!
Chapter 33: Courage to Strengthen
Egwene is in her tent, blushing over the letter she had just sent to Gawyn telling him she was going away and asking him to wait for her, when Amys, Bair, and Sorilea enter, staring at her silently. She tells them she’s sorry, but if they mean to punish her she doesn’t have time to dig holes or whatever. They are surprised, and Amys asks how they should punish her, when she stopped being their pupil the moment she was summoned as Aes Sedai? Egwene winces, and says she knows they are angry with her; Sorilea replies they are not, but their faces say differently.
Egwene stared from one to another, especially Amys and Bair. “But you told me how wrong you think what I’m going to do is; you said I must not even think about it. I said I wouldn’t, and then I went ahead and worked out how to do it.”
Startlingly, a smile bloomed on Sorilea’s leathery face. Her multitude of bracelets clattered as she shifted her shawl in a satisfied manner. “You see? I told you she would understand. She could be Aiel.”
Egwene understands then; they disapprove of what she is going to do, but what mattered to them under ji’e’toh was the fact that she lied. She takes a deep breath, and confesses her other lies to them: that she entered the Dreamworld alone when she had promised not to, and that she is not really Aes Sedai, only Accepted. They stare at her, expressionless, and Egwene scornfully suppresses the inner voice telling her she could just leave and not deal with it. She gathers her courage again, and stands before them proudly.
“I have toh.” Her stomach was not fluttering any longer. “I ask the favor, that you will help me meet my toh.” Salidar was going to have to wait.
Mat lounges in his tent, playing the Snakes and Foxes game with Olver. Olver is convinced they are going to win this time, but on the next roll a snake token reaches Olver and a fox Mat, and they lose.
Only a child’s game, and one you would not win so long as you followed the rules. Soon Olver would be old enough to realize that, and like other children, stop playing. Only a child’s game, but Mat did not like the fox getting him, and even less the snakes. It brought back bad memories, even if one had nothing to do with the other.
Undaunted, Olver begins another game, opening with the ritual of drawing a triangle with a wavy line through it in the air and chanting: “‘Courage to strengthen, fire to blind, music to dazzle, iron to bind’”. He asks why you have to say that, and Mat answers that he doesn’t know, though it tickles something in his memory. Daerid enters and looks startled; Mat tells Olver to go to bed, and threatens Daerid with dire consequences if he blabs about this. Daerid dryly replies that Mat is turning into a wonderful father; Mat contemplates punching him, but forgets when Daerid gives him the news: the Dragon Reborn is coming to the camp. Mat exits his tent to find Rand striding up to him, with two Aiel guards and Aviendha in tow; Mat cannot understand why he keeps her around, as she is nothing but trouble as far as Mat is concerned. Olver asks breathlessly if that’s really the Dragon Reborn, and Mat says yes, and shoos him off, though he notes that Olver only goes far enough to spy without being seen. He also notes that Rand looks almost feverishly excited, which unnerves him. Rand tells him they have to talk alone right away, but Aviendha follows them into the tent without asking, and once inside Rand doesn’t say anything immediately. Finally Mat asks what’s going on, adding that he hopes Rand doesn’t mean to change the plan now; it’s too bloody late to –
“I want you to bring Elayne to... to Caemlyn,” Rand broke in. “I want you to see her safe to Caemlyn, whatever happens. Don’t leave her side until she’s on the Lion Throne.” Aviendha cleared her throat. “Yes,” Rand said. For some reason his voice went as cold and hard as his face. But then, did he need reasons if he was going mad? “Aviendha is going with you. I think it’s best.”
“You think it is best?” she said indignantly. “If I had not wakened when I did, I would never have known you had found her. You do not send me anywhere, Rand al’Thor. I must speak with Elayne for my... my own reasons.”
Carefully, Mat says he’s glad Rand’s found Elayne, but doesn’t understand why he, Mat, has to get involved; can’t Rand just make a gateway, “scoop her up and kiss her” and take her back? Rand unrolls a map he’s brought, with an arrow labeled “Salidar” on it, and tells Mat Elayne is there, and he’ll bring Mat and the Band within a couple days’ ride of it via gateway. Mat still doesn’t understand why he has to go, and Rand snaps at him, explaining that Salidar has “maybe fifty” Aes Sedai in it, rebels against Elaida and probably very scared, and all Mat has to do is “loom a little” and say Elayne must be crowned in Caemlyn, and they’ll let her go. Then he is to escort her to Caemlyn, and gather in any Dragonsworn he comes across as he goes through Altara and Murandy, maybe handing Rand both countries in the process. Mat can think of about a million ways this is a terrible idea, and tries to suggest that it might draw Sammael’s attention the wrong way, but Rand is determined, and Mat gives up, telling him the Band can be ready in two hours. Rand tells him again how important it is for Elayne to reach Caemlyn so she can be crowned, as if Mat doesn’t know he’s sweet on her, and Mat replies dryly that he’ll treat her like his own sister, thinking that his sisters had always tormented him and he expects no less from Elayne.
Rand nodded. “That reminds me. Bodewhin is in Caemlyn. With Verin and Alanna, and some more Two Rivers girls. They’re on their way to train for Aes Sedai.”
Mat gapes, flabbergasted, but Rand is already moving on, telling him Egwene may be in Salidar by the time he gets there, and he thinks she’s in some kind of trouble with the Aes Sedai, and Mat should do what he can to get her out of it. Mat promises on both counts, still stunned over the news about Bode; Rand also gives him a letter to give to Thom Merrilin, and starts to say something to Aviendha, but then hurries out without saying anything.
Aviendha took a step after him, half-raising a hand, lips parted to speak. Just as suddenly her mouth snapped shut, and she buried her hands in her skirts and squeezed her eyes shut. So the wind came that way, did it? And she wants to talk to Elayne. How did Rand ever get himself in this pickle? Rand was always the one who knew how to handle women, Rand and Perrin.
Mat notes that the letter to Thom is addressed in a feminine hand, but does not recognize the seal, and decides none of it’s his concern anyway. He tells Olver, who he knows perfectly well is listening at the tent flap, to go get Talmanes, Daerid and Nalesean; Olver squeaks and runs off. Then he informs Aviendha that she is under his command as long as she is with the Band, and he expects no trouble from her; Aviendha sniffs that she knows how to follow, and sits and begins sharpening her knife as he studies the map. When the others enter, Mat gives them the news:
“We are going to tickle some Aes Sedai under the chin, rescue a mule, and put a snip-nosed girl on the Lion Throne. Oh, yes. That’s Aviendha. Don’t look at her crosswise, or she’ll try to cut your throat and probably slit her own by mistake.” The woman laughed as if he had made the funniest joke in the world. She did not stop sharpening her knife, though.
Egwene stands up shakily in the Wise Ones’ tent and sobs, her whole backside feeling like it is on fire. The tent is filled with Wise Ones and their apprentices, everyone she had specifically told she was Aes Sedai. Egwene is ashamed that she is taking it so badly, instead of stoically like she is sure an Aiel would. She asks if it is over, and Amys answers that only she can know what her honor is worth. Egwene takes a deep breath, and lies down again, bracing herself.
This time she would not cry out. This time she would not kick, or thrash about, or... the belt had not hit her yet. Raising her head, she blinked her eyes clear to glare at them. “What are you waiting for?” Her voice still shook, but there was more than a note of anger too. Making her wait on top of everything else? “I have a journey to make tonight, in case you’ve forgotten. Get on with it.”
Amys tossed the belt down beside Egwene’s head. “This woman has no toh toward me.”
The other join her, saying Egwene has no toh to them, and Sorilea tells her she knew Egwene was “Aiel in her heart” and that she should get up before they think she is boasting. Everyone gathers around, wiping her tears and hugging her and smiling, and Egwene is rather amazed until she remembers that for Aiel, once toh is met it no longer exists.
A bit of Egwene that was not wrapped up in ji’e’toh thought that maybe what she had said at the end helped, too, as well as getting back down in the first place. Perhaps she had not faced it with the indifference of an Aiel in the beginning, but at the end, Sorilea was right. She had been Aiel in her heart. She thought a part of her heart always would be Aiel.
Slowly the others filter out until only Bair, Amys and Sorilea remain. Egwene says she is going to miss them, and Sorilea snorts and answers that with luck the Aes Sedai will kick her out, and Egwene can come back to them; in her opinion, in three or so years Egwene could have her own hold. Egwene laughs and thanks her, and Bair says she and Amys will continue to meet her in the Dreamworld and pass on news; Amys will not teach her any longer, true to her word, but Bair will if Egwene wants it. Egwene says that she does, and asks them to watch over Rand for her. Amys adds that she should not worry, she will have an opportunity to discharge her toh to Rhuarc at some point, and Egwene almost gapes before catching herself, remembering with dismay that she also still had toh to Melaine and Aviendha; she doesn’t know if her heart is that Aiel. Bair and Amys obviously want to protest what Egwene is going to do, but Sorilea chases them out firmly and then takes her leave herself:
“We are always more afraid than we wish to be, but we can always be braver than we expect. Hold on to your heart, and the Aes Sedai cannot harm what is really you, your heart. They are not nearly so far above us as we believed. May you always find water and shade, Egwene. And always remember your heart.”
Egwene thinks about that, and thinks that she will need every bit of what she had learned being Aiel, in order to be Aes Sedai. She is determined not to surrender, whatever happens.
Rand: *headdesk* Oh, honey. No. Just no. How very, very delusional you are here, let me count the ways. “Loom a little.” Have you met an Aes Sedai, ever? Sheesh.
I’m honestly not sure if I’m more annoyed with Rand for actually thinking this cockamamie scheme would work, or with Mat for not protesting against it more strenuously when he knew goddamn well just how loopy it was. At least then you could say “I told you so” later, man. Way to show some backbone.
But, at least Mat is not alienating his own people. Rand is just really not comporting himself well these last few chapters. I especially didn’t appreciate the way he casually dropped on Mat the news that his sister can channel, like, thanks for the sensitivity, bro.
Olver: Heh. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t know why anyone would doubt that Mat would be a good father; out of the three Superboys, I would have pegged him as the most likely to be a good dad long before Olver even appeared. I’m not a parent, nor do I play one on TV, but I’ve been around, and I say one of the single most important assets one must have to be a good parent is a sense of humor. Ergo, Mat wins. (He even makes an Aiel joke without even trying!)
(Perrin will be a very responsible father, but his kids will think he’s a total dork. Rand... sorry, dude. You are not father material. You’ll mean well, but you will give your kids complexes in two years flat – assuming you have a chance to. All in my very-tongue-in-cheek opinion, of course.)
Egwene: So, I guess you guys are all thinking I’m outraged by this scene, given my (apparently very controversial) dislike of spanking, aren’t you?
Well, I’m not. I actually have no problem with this scene at all, and I never did.
See, this is the thing. What happens to Egwene here is both a formal ceremony and an official state-sanctioned (so to speak) administration of justice. So while I am not proposing to run out and suggest we add ritual corporal punishment (not “corporeal”, thank you Shimrod) to the agenda at the next Neighborhood Watch meeting, within the context of Aiel society specifically this is a well-defined, rigidly constrained, and universally accepted method of maintaining order, and as such I have no issue with it. Furthermore, it was a punishment Egwene chose to accept, of her own free will; she is made perfectly well aware that she could have walked away from it at any time. That is what makes her acceptance of the punishment – and the punishment itself – meaningful. I have no problem with that.
What I do have a problem with is using spanking and humiliation in a one-on-one, off the cuff, retaliatory manner to resolve individual personal conflicts, without it being part of a system of justice accepted by all parties. Perrin’s spanking of Faile in TSR infuriated me because, among other things, it was done in anger; conversely, the Maidens’ beating of Rand in TPOD also enraged me, because while it wasn’t done in anger (at least supposedly), from what I recall it was not presented as an option for Rand to participate in, either. The fact that Rand is a giant neurotic ball of guilt and took it without a protest is beside the point; in my view it was not a kosher employment of ji’e’toh and was, therefore, just plain old abuse. But I’ll discuss that more when we get to it.
In other news, Sorilea is extremely awesome in this chapter and I kind of love her at the moment. And Egwene is finally not annoying me anymore, for which I am profoundly grateful. Her snapping at the Wise Ones in the toh tent was, if not a Crowning Moment of Awesome, at least a Bronze Medal Moment of Awesome. Perhaps even a silver. Very nicely done turning point for her character. And now, It Begins – for Egwene, anyway.
But not until next week – for you, anyway! Have a lurvely weekend, and I will see you Monday. Ciao!