Happy new decade, chirren! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read, right here on your friendly neighborhood Tor.com.
I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday season. I myself passed a trés bien time with family and friends, and have gotten some lovely new warm winter boots, just in time for the rest of me to freeze to death, because really, New York.
Winter is stupid.
Anyway! Today’s entry covers Chapter 7 of A Crown of Swords. Today’s a short one, because (a) I’m still recovering from holiday hangover (I leave it to you to decide whether or not I mean that literally) and (b) the next few chapters all go together better anyway.
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of yummy tidbits regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 7: Pitfalls and Tripwires
Rand fights with saidin while thinking about the different factions and problems in Cairhien. He notes to himself that Faile’s nature is as fierce as her namesake, and that her loyalty is to her husband Perrin, not him; he knows that if she considers it necessary to defend Perrin from the Dragon Reborn, she will. He wonders why Perrin is so vehement about the Aes Sedai, and if Kiruna and the others really could have exerted some undue influence on him. Lews Therin begins raving about killing the Asha’man again, and Rand asks him why shouldn’t he, Rand, be killed as well.
Are you real? the voice said at last, wonderingly. That denial of Rand’s existence was as usual as refusing to answer. Am I? I spoke to someone. I think I did. Inside a box. A chest. Wheezing laughter, soft. Am I dead, or mad, or both? No matter. I am surely damned. I am damned, and this is the Pit of Doom, I am . . . d-damned, wild, that laughing, now, and t-this—is the P-Pit of—
Rand muted the voice to an insect’s buzz, something he had learned while cramped into that chest. Alone, in the dark. Just him, and the pain, and the thirst, and the voice of a long-dead madman. The voice had been a comfort sometimes, his only companion. His friend. Something flashed in his mind. Not images, just flickers of color and motion. For some reason they made him think of Mat, and Perrin. The flashes had begun inside the chest, them and a thousand more hallucinations.
He tells the Maidens and the Asha’man with him to get ready. Ignoring Enaila and Somara’s comments, he creates a gateway to the Palace stables in Caemlyn, noting each Asha’man’s strength as he goes through, and deciding to have the wagons from Dumai’s Wells searched again for the fat man angreal. Lews Therin tries to take saidin away from Rand again and fails, and Rand worries about what would happen if the madman ever managed to seize it before he could. Lews Therin is relieved once they step through to be far away from Alanna, but Rand likes to be reminded of it, as it makes him remember not to trust Aes Sedai. Rand puts his sword and scepter in a bag and has Sulin tie his hands together; she mutters angrily that Rand’s plan is nonsense.
When Sulin stepped around in front of Rand, she took one look at his face, and her breath caught. “They did this to you,” she said softly, and reached for her heavy-bladed belt knife. A foot or more of steel, it was almost a short-sword, though none but a fool would say that to an Aiel.
“Pull up the hood,” Rand told her roughly. “The whole point of this is that no one recognize me before I reach Bael and Bashere.” She hesitated, peering into his eyes. “I said, pull it up,” he growled. Sulin could kill most men with her bare hands, but her fingers were gentle settling the hood around his face.
They lead him through the Palace to Bael and Bashere, and when they take his hood off Rand sees that Melaine, Dorindha, and Deira are there as well. Bashere asks why he comes to them as a prisoner, but Deira interrupts to ask if the Aes Sedai are coming down on them for what Rand did with the sisters at Dumai’s Wells. Melaine answers sharply that they will be dealt with if they do. Dorindha wants to know what is being done about Colavaere, and Rand growls that Colavaere has taken up farming, which confuses everyone. He continues that the Sun Throne is empty again and waiting for Elayne, and comments that he didn’t know this was to be “a family gathering”. Bael and Bashere both make jokes about the wisdom of keeping things from your wife (or wives), and Bael earns a minor stabwound from Melaine in response.
“What woman could I hate enough to marry her to the Dragon Reborn?” Rand said coldly. That caused a silence solid enough to touch.
He forces himself to be calm, and asks if Elayne has arrived; the “prisoner” disguise had been in case she was already in the Palace, so he could leave without alerting her to his presence. Bashere answers, not yet, but there are rumors of an army with Aes Sedai somewhere in Murandy or Altara, which could be “young Mat” and his Band with Elayne and the other sisters who escaped from Tar Valon after the Tower coup. Deira asks icily if he means to make those sisters swear oaths to him too, and Rand mentally notes that like her daughter, Deira’s loyalty is to her husband, and also that she really doesn’t like Rand. Rand answers her blandly that he’ll accept their oaths if they choose to swear, but if they want to go their own way, they may, unless they put themselves against him. Bael opines that the White Tower already has put itself against him, and “an enemy who comes once, will come again. Unless they are stopped.”
“Don’t you think I’ve enough on my plate without a war against the White Tower? Elaida grabbed my throat and was slapped down.” The ground erupting in fire and torn flesh. Ravens and vultures gorging. How many dead? Slapped down. “If she has sense enough to stop there, I will too.” So long as they did not ask him to trust. The chest.
Rand goes to look at the maps while the others argue over whether Elaida does have the sense to stop, and half-listens to their discussion about various states of affairs as he wonders where Mat is, and why he appears to be moving so slowly. He thinks that he needs Mat for the plan against Sammael, since Perrin is “being stubborn”. Then he overhears something about Dyelin (and Aes Sedai) and demands that they repeat it. Melaine tells him that there are nine Aes Sedai at an inn in Caemlyn, and a few more Melaine is sure are Reds coming in and out of the city periodically to ask about the Black Tower. Rand waves all that away and wants to know about Dyelin, saying if she thinks she can take the throne he can “find a farm for her, too”, but Bashere explains it is quite the opposite: when some nobles proclaimed for her in Aringill, Dyelin had two of them hanged and the rest flogged for treason against Elayne, and since then has had Naean Arawn and Elenia Sarand imprisoned for declaring for themselves. Pelivar and Luan then declared Dyelin Elayne’s regent in Andor until she returns.
“Most of the Houses of Andor have declared support for Dyelin. I think some would like her to take the throne herself, but Aringill keeps even the most powerful careful of their tongues.” Closing one eye, Bashere pointed at Rand. “You, they do not mention at all. Whether that is good or bad, it will take a wiser head than mine to say.”
Rand moves on and introduces them to Fedwin Morr, who he will be leaving with Bael and Bashere, and instructs them to keep his status as an Asha’man secret. He adds that he will be taking other Asha’man to Weiramon, and Bael infers from this that the Illian invasion is at last about to begin. Bashere is gleeful, and Rand promises Bael that the Aiel will have the fifth in Illian.
Bring Elayne quickly, Mat. It ran wild in his head, across Lews Therin’s cackling. Bring her quickly, before Andor and Cairhien both erupt in my face.
You will forgive me if I find the last line of this chapter highly ironic.
This chapter is our re-introduction to being inside Rand’s head, which as we all know is just a superfun place to be, for Rand as well as the rest of us. I really don’t remember feeling this sorry for our hero the first time I read the series, but every subsequent time through it’s just more deeply impressed upon me how thoroughly shitty his life really is.
Which is why I made a point of calling attention to the small moment with Sulin where she ties his hands. Plotwise it wasn’t technically worth a quote, but it is so relatively rare to have anyone (besides maybe Min) really gain a sympathetic understanding of what Rand’s going through that I feel the need to, I don’t know, reward it or something.
The other thing that jumped out at me about this chapter is actually what I left out of the summary, which is the number of times Rand manages to unnerve people just by looking at them, including Sulin. I’m undecided if this is supposed to indicate he looks bad-ass, or just crazy. Possibly both. Either way, it’s kind of perversely cool to imagine you can intimidate even extremely assertive characters (which in WOT is just about everyone) just with a look.
This chapter also contains the (I think) first fleeting mention of the “colors” that will eventually develop into Ta’veren Telepathy in Technicolor, tee em. I never noticed that until just now, either. Still not sure what the purpose of it is; I mean, theoretically it could prove to be useful at some point, but to date the only result I’ve noticed is that it annoys the hell out of all three of Our Heroes. This is because it’s more like clairvoyance than telepathy, of course, but then the joke wouldn’t work. And we can’t have that.
The Caemlyn Coterie: I suppose Deira’s dislike of Rand is understandable, given that she thinks he’s going to get her husband killed, but that doesn’t make me like her any better. Bael and Bashere, on the other hand, are an awesome buddy team even in the brief glimpses of them working together we get. Hell, even the names sound like a duo. Just like Hall and Oates!
Perhaps after Armageddon they will go on tour together, and that’s how Perrin and Faile get to be King and Queen of Saldaea. Okay, no, but I will be really sad when Bashere dies, because he is awesome. I wonder if Bael will survive. I give it fifty-fifty odds, myself. Melaine, on the other hand, should be a shoo-in, mainly because I don’t peg WOT as being dark enough to kill off a pregnant character.
“What woman could I hate enough to marry her to the Dragon Reborn?” Two things about this. First, damn: nobody can kill a mood like Rand al’Thor, you guys. Second, poll: will Rand actually marry any or all of his three wimmin, or will it be fun fornication to the end? Discuss!
Other than that, this is mostly a State of the WOT catch-up infodump, which at this point is mostly about the theoretically imminent Illian invasion, and the real beginning of the Andoran Succession storyline, which the benefit of hindsight makes me (and, I gather, most readers) go Ah, crap, this thing.
I will say that when I first read this I was rather intrigued by it all, as I do generally enjoy a nice tangled political machination plot; it was just how frickin’ long the Andoran thing got stretched out that made it so irritating, and of course I didn’t know that at the time. Elayne had better be grateful that Dyelin is a downright anomaly among nobles/politicians in her integrity and loyalty. Of course, that initially only made me wonder what her angle was, but as things turned out it seems that Dyelin really was exactly what she portrayed herself to be. Freaky.
And I think that’s about the size of things this go-round, kiddies. Tune in next time for some fun Aes Sedai schemeage – everyone’s favorite! See you Friday!