Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Wheel of Time Re-read, and the winter of my discontent - to say the LEAST.
I apologize in advance for the lameness of this entry. It turns out that root canal surgery (a) sucks, (b) is extremely non-conducive to wittiness in writing, and (c) SUCKS. Basically I have spent most of this week either in pain, feeling very sorry for myself, or some combination of the two. A laugh riot, I am currently not.
Fortunately, nothing terribly wit-worthy happens in Chapters 24 and 25 of A Crown of Swords, in my opinion, anyway, so at least there’s… that? This may be a rather strange use of the word “fortunately”, admittedly.
(The BEST part was how I got to pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege of being put in extreme pain! That was the BEST. REALLY, YAY FOR THAT. Ow.)
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 information 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 with that scintillating intro I’m sure you’re just dying to read the rest of this, so…
Chapter 24: The Kin
Reanne watches the two strange girls disappear into the city with consternation. Berowin whispers that they did not perspire, and Reanne feels the same panic that had caused her to refuse to finish her Accepted test in the Tower. She thinks they would have to use precautions that hadn’t been used in years.
“Eldest, could it be possible that the older of the two really is . . . ? We channeled, and . . . ”
Berowin trailed off miserably, but Reanne did not need to consider, not even setting aside the younger girl. Why would any Aes Sedai pretend to be less, so much less? Besides, any real Aes Sedai would have put them all on their knees begging mercy, not stood there so submissively.
“We did not channel in front of an Aes Sedai,” she said firmly. “We broke no rule.”
Berowin brings up the rumors about a girl Amyrlin with the rebels, and Garenia the ones about Logain and the Reds, but Reanne squashes both trains of thought. Garenia then moves on to Setalle Anan, opining that she must have told the girls about the Circle, and that she should be “taught to hold her tongue”, which makes Berowin gasp in shock. Reanne retorts sharply for Garenia to remember who Setalle is, and that they would all be crawling back to the Tower now if Setalle had betrayed them, but to herself wishes there was a way she could ask Setalle to be more circumspect. An Arafellin Wise Woman named Sarainya enters to tell them that Callie is dead, and though it was made to look like she was robbed, Sumeko is sure that the One Power was used to kill her. Berowin says it is impossible that a Wise Woman would do such a thing, and Garenia hesitantly suggests an Aes Sedai, though she can’t see how that’s possible, with the Three Oaths.
No Aes Sedai could have done this, obviously, and no Kinswoman would have, but . . . Those girls, so insistent, knowing what they should not. The Circle had lasted too long, offered succor to too many women, to be destroyed now.
“This is what must be done,” she told them. That flutter of fear began again, but for once she hardly noticed.
Nynaeve stalks away from the house in a fury, trying to convince herself that she could have been as meek as necessary to find out what they knew about the Bowl, but knows that given the opportunity she would have “given them Aes Sedai till they squeaked”, and shaken the secret out of them. Elayne is silent, seeming lost in thought, and Nynaeve dreads having to apologize to her for this debacle. Elayne continues to stay quiet as they wend through the city, making Nynaeve jumpier and angrier the longer she delays, until suddenly Elayne asks how old Reanne looked to Nynaeve. Nynaeve supposes she was maybe fifty or sixty, and doesn’t see why it matters, and bursts out that she is sure they are a guild, and do know where the Bowl is. Elayne answers absently that she supposes so, and wonders how they could be so aged. Nynaeve stops dead in indignation, and demands to know why, if Elayne believed, she announced who she was to them “like Rhiannon at the Tower”. Elayne answers that the women weren’t going to tell them anything no matter what they did, and goes back to Reanne, saying she must have slowed like everyone else, so how old is she, to look the age she does? Nynaeve has no idea what she’s talking about; Elayne observes dryly that Nynaeve never listened in class, and asks her who the oldest Accepted in the Tower is. Nynaeve thinks she had too listened, sometimes, and answers Elin Warrel, who Nynaeve thinks is about her own age. Elayne laughs and tells her that she saw Elin’s younger sister come to visit before Nynaeve arrived in Tar Valon, and the younger sister had to have been over forty.
“We slow, Nynaeve. Somewhere between twenty and twenty-five, we begin aging more slowly. How much depends on how strong we are, but when doesn’t. Any woman who can channel does it. Takima said she thought it was the beginning of achieving the ageless look, though I don’t think anyone has ever reached that until they’ve worn the shawl at least a year or two, sometimes five or more. Think. You know any sister with gray hair is old, even if you aren’t supposed to mention it. So if Reanne slowed, and she must have, how old is she?”
Nynaeve wants to cry, understanding now why no one ever believes her to be her true age, and wonders how long now she would have to wait before achieving her gray hairs. Then she feels a blow on her head, and turns groggily to see Elayne crumpled in a heap on the ground. A crowd gathers, and a “long-nosed” woman and a tall man offer to help them to a waiting carriage, and begin moving them over Nynaeve’s (polite) protests. Then Nynaeve sees an arrow with a blunted head on the street, obviously what had struck them, which makes her angry enough even through her dizziness to embrace saidar and start flinging people around. The woman and man flee in the carriage and the crowd disperses in a hurry.
“Thank you, but we don’t need any help,” Nynaeve shouted. Politely.
She’s too dizzy to use her special Healing weaves, but the traditional version works to Heal Elayne’s head wound; Elayne gasps and shakes, and comes to. A seamstress appears and offers Elayne water, but Nynaeve refuses, again very politely, and the seamstress shrugs and leaves. Elayne asks what that was about, and Nynaeve shows her the arrow. Elayne embraces saidar, and asks grimly, Teslyn and Joline? Nynaeve doesn’t think they would stoop to something like this, but wonders if Reanne, or more especially Garenia, might. Elayne promises they will settle for them eventually, but in the meantime, Nynaeve knows there’s only one way to find the Bowl now, right?
Nynaeve nodded slowly, though she would rather have eaten a handful of dirt. Today had seemed so bright for a time, but then it had spiraled into darkness, from Reanne to . . . Oh, Light, how long before she had her gray hair?
“Don’t cry, Nynaeve. Mat can’t possibly be that bad. He’ll find it for us in a few days, I know.”
Nynaeve only cried harder.
Nynaeve al’Meara, ladies and gentlemen: the only woman in the history of the world to actually be devastated to learn she’s going to stay young and beautiful for multiple decades. Lordy.
Also, the fact that the only thing that turns her into Miss Manners is head trauma is damn amusing.
Regarding the attack, I know we’re supposed to assume that the Kin sent the thugs after Nynaeve and Elayne, but I also know that that’s just a red herring. However, for some reason I’m not very sure who actually did send the kidnappers. I’m assuming Shiaine/Carridin, but then I remembered that Falion was trying to convince Ispan to capture the Supergirls as well, so really it could be either one. Doesn’t matter that much, I suppose, since the attempt failed.
The Kin: I was going to get all into this, but the fact is that at this late stage it’s pretty clear what the Kin are, and their relationship to the Tower/Setalle Anan, which the commenters have covered very nicely in the comments to the previous couple of entries. The FAQ entry on Setalle sums up the case for her to be Martine Jenata pretty well too, I think.
Though I have to say, all this was mostly clear as mud to me as a reader initially. It wasn’t until I stumbled onto the online fandom for WOT that most of this started making sense. Possibly because I didn’t care that much, true, but even so the whole Kin thing has always struck me as one of Jordan’s murkier backstory tangles, and one I’ve never really understood the need for, to boot.
As far as the “seventy years” thing goes: some people have been suggesting a connection between Garenia/Zarya, Setalle Anan/Martine Jenata, and Verin’s Seventy Year Plan (the nature of which we finally learned about in TGS), because of the fact that Garenia ran away from the Tower seventy years ago.
First of all, assuming Setalle is Martine (which I do), Setalle should not be included in this theory at all, since according to Vandene’s info in TPOD Martine was burned out a mere twenty-five years ago. So her only connection to the seventy years’ thing is that she happened to be in the Tower (and happened to meet the novice Zarya) seventy years ago – which is to say, no connection at all.
As for Garenia/Zarya, I may be missing something, but for my money it is a total coincidence that she ran away at the same time that Verin was embarking on her grand scheme. Certainly I can’t recall anything from either her or Verin to suggest a connection between them, and now that the mystery of who killed Adeleas and Ispan in TPOD has been (finally) cleared up, there’s no reason to suspect Zarya is a Darkfriend, or anything other than exactly what she says she is.
So there’s all that. The only other Kin-related thing worth mentioning at this point is the Wise Ones’ dream in LOC about the Bowl, which I’ll quote again here for convenience’s sake:
“Rain, coming from a bowl. There are snares and pitfalls around the bowl. If the right hands pick it up, they will find a treasure perhaps as great as the bowl. If the wrong hands, the world is doomed. The key to finding the bowl is to find the one who is no longer."
“The one who is no longer” = former Aes Sedai Setalle, of course. I’ve always liked Rich Boye’s theory that it is the Kin, and not the *greal stash, that is the “treasure” referred to here, since if the Kin hadn’t gotten out of Ebou Dar when they did, they would have been captured and made damane by the Seanchan. And though the Forsaken getting hold of the stash would not exactly have been a wonderful development either, in my opinion a thousand extra channelers in the hands of the Seanchan would have been even worse.
As a last note, Reanne’s thought about how Elayne and Nynaeve could not have been Aes Sedai because, basically, they didn’t bulldoze everyone in sight into the ground and then jump up and down on the mangled corpses of everyone’s dignity, is reflective of something that tends to get lost in observations about the Supergirls, which is that they are actually the newer, kinder, gentler version of Aes Sedai. In all the back and forth over whether they are high-handed/running roughshod over this or that person, it’s worth remembering that as a general rule all of the Supergirls, including Nynaeve, treat non-Aes Sedai with about ten times the respect that any other Aes Sedai would give.
Granted, this may qualify as damning with faint praise, but it’s something worth thinking about.
Chapter 25: Mindtrap
Moghedien does not want to dream the dream again, but cannot wake up. She relives the memory of the woman Halima aka Aran’gar coming to her tent in the Rebel camp and freeing her from the a’dam, using what Moghedien concluded must be saidin, since only the Chosen can tap the True Power. She remembers Skimming to Shayol Ghul and meeting the strange Myrddraal, Shaidar Haran, who ordered her to follow it into the Pit of Doom. She remembers following it, terrified that for the first time her failures were out in the open for the Great Lord to see. The spikey ceiling of the tunnel cleared Shaidar Haran’s head easily, but Moghedien soon had to move her head around the spikes, then duck down.
She bent lower, scurrying crouched in the Myrddraal’s wake, trying to get closer. Its stride never changed, but no matter how quickly she scuttled, the interval between them did not lessen. The ceiling descending, the Great Lord’s fangs to rend traitors and fools, and Moghedien dropped to hands and knees, crawling, then flattened to elbows and knees. Light flared and flickered in the tunnel, cast from the entrance to the Pit itself, just ahead, and Moghedien slithered on her belly, pulled herself along with her hands, pushed with her feet. Stone points dug at her flesh, caught at her dress. Panting, she wriggled the last distance to the sound of ripping wool.
Staring back over her shoulder, she shivered convulsively. Where the tunnel mouth should have been stood a smooth stone wall. Perhaps the Great Lord had timed it all exactly, and perhaps, had she been slower . . .
She tried to get up, but Shaidar Haran planted a foot on her back, keeping her prone; she demanded to know if it knows who she is.
MOGHEDIEN. That voice inside her head flushed away all thought of the Myrddraal; it nearly flushed away all thought. Beside this, any human lover’s deepest embrace was a drop of water beside the ocean. HOW DEEP IS YOUR FAILURE, MOGHEDIEN? THE CHOSEN ARE ALWAYS THE STRONGEST, BUT YOU LET YOURSELF BE CAPTURED. YOU TAUGHT THOSE WHO WOULD OPPOSE ME, MOGHEDIEN.
Moghedien defended herself that she only taught them small things, and taught them a false way to sense a man’s channeling that only gives headaches, and reminded the Great Lord that her way has always been to serve from the shadows, trying to imply that she had allowed herself to be captured. The Great Lord answered “MY CHOSEN ARE ALWAYS THE STRONGEST. MY HAND MOVES”, and the Fade grabbed her and took out a knife. In desperation Moghedien tried to channel, but to her horror could not reach saidar, and Shaidar Haran scraped the blade along her tongue and nicked her ear, and Moghedien knew what was going to happen. As the Fade took out a small cage made of wire and crystal, she began screaming for mercy. The cage was a cour’souvra, a mindtrap, and Shaidar Haran scraped her saliva and blood onto it, activating it, and she howled in agony and ecstasy both. Then the dream starts over again, but this time Shaidar Haran wakes her. She quickly prostrates herself before it, calling it “Mia’cova”, Old Tongue for “One Who Owns Me”. She doesn’t understand how the Fade could shield her from the One Power, but knows channeling too near one’s own mindtrap is agonizing and possibly fatal anyway. Shaidar Haran laughs, which no other Fade does, and Moghedien considers herself lucky to only have bruises thus far. It asks if she is eager to obey, and she assures it that she is; it hauls her up by her hair and commands her to close her eyes and keep them shut until told to open them. She obeys instantly, and it shoves her forward; she screams, thinking it means to slam her into the wall of her cell, but then stumbles forward far further than the width of the cell would have allowed, and a different voice tells her she can open her eyes. She finds herself in a luxuriously appointed room that she can tell is still near Shayol Ghul, with a handsome young man with “startlingly blue” eyes; the Fade is gone. The young man asks if she enjoyed her time in the vacuole, and Moghedien shivers in fear to learn where she had been; vacuoles are “bubbles in the Pattern” which sometimes broke off and drifted away, and whatever was inside them when they did is lost forever. She asks how long, and to her relief the man answers only two days; time flows differently in vacuoles.
She would not have been entirely surprised to learn that the Great Lord had really imprisoned her for a hundred years, or a thousand, to emerge into a world already his, to make her way feeding among carrion while the other Chosen stood at the pinnacle. She was still one of the Chosen, in her own mind, at least. Until the Great Lord himself said she was not. She had never heard of anyone being released once a mindtrap was set, but she would find a way.
She realizes this young man knows an awful lot for a modern-day Darkfriend, and dislikes the insolent way he regards her. She demands his name, and if he knows who she is. The man smiles, calling her Moghedien, and says she may call him Moridin.
Moghedien gasped. Not for the name; any fool could call himself Death. But a tiny black fleck, just large enough to see, floated straight across one of those blue eyes and then across the other in the same line. This Moridin had tapped into the True Power, and more than once. Much more. She knew that some men who could channel survived in this time aside from al’Thor—this fellow was much of a size with al’Thor—but she had not expected the Great Lord to allow one that particular honor. An honor with a bite, as any of the Chosen knew. In the long run, the True Power was far more addictive than the One Power; a strong will could hold down the desire to draw more saidar or saidin, but she herself did not believe the will existed strong enough to resist the True Power, not once the saa appeared in your eyes. The final price was different, but no less terrible.
She tells him he has been given a great honor, and commands him to bring her some wine, and he laughs and tells her she misunderstands her position; if she hadn’t managed to do some good by accident, she would be dead now. She retorts angrily that he’d better watch his tongue when speaking to one of the Chosen, but cuts off when he reaches into his shirt and pulls out her mindtrap. She thinks she sees another around his neck, but only pays attention to her own, feeling it when he caresses the trap. She knows if he were to break it, she would be trapped inside her own body, able to see and hear but unable to do anything but her owner’s will. Moridin asks if she understands now, and she answers flatly that she does, Mia’cova. He laughs and tells her to call him Moridin, but Moghedien knows that changes nothing.
I made a decision a while back that I would summarize flashbacks in past tense, and I’m sticking with it for stylistic symmetrical whatever, but I’ve got to say it reads really weirdly to me. Oh well.
The lowering ceiling thing here has always been one of the more vivid images in all of WOT, to me. Probably because I would LOSE MY MIND if it happened to me. I’m not claustrophobic as a rule, but for that situation I would make an exception. Yeesh.
Jordan really does have an ability to make me feel sorry for characters who totally do not deserve my sympathy, like Moghedien. Still, the crap that happens to her here is – well, it’s pretty bad. And that’s not even including what happened off-screen. Which is all I’m going to say about that.
Also, hi, Official Moridin! We met him earlier in Skulk Mode, of course, when he was proving how evil he is by failing to kill Sevanna, but this is his first time on screen with proper billing, so to speak. Interesting that Moghedien almost immediately notes his resemblance to Rand, which means that the “mirroring” of the two characters is established right from the very start. Foresight in plotting, Jordan has it. This will come up again, duh.
I had a thought about the way Jordan describes the effect of the Dark One’s voice on his minions, which I will share with you, because you’re just that lucky: the sensations they experience seem to me to be very similar to what I imagine addicts feel when they get a hit of their super-bad drug of choice.
I say “imagine” because I’ve never personally experienced what being on heroin or crack or so forth actually feels like, and I’m pretty damn sure at this point that I’m never going to; if I’m having trouble making myself take doctor-prescribed pain medication (really. Yes, I’m lame), then I’m fairly certain shooting up heroin is Right Out. And I’m… really perfectly okay with that, all things considered.
However, it does mean that in order to get even an inkling of what that kind of addiction is like, I am forced to rely on third party descriptions and/or depictions in popular culture, which needless to say is a path fraught with truthiness issues. Some of them do seem to get it right, though – or at least they strike me that way, which again, blah blah blah caveatcakes, and the one which stuck most distinctly in my mind is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Trainspotting.
First of all, I will NEVER EVER forget that baby thing. EVER. Holy God. But more importantly, Trainspotting (as I recall, and it has been a while, so forgive me if this is just completely wrong) depicted the drug addiction of its characters to be an intensely contradictory experience, in that it was the most wonderful feeling in the world, at the exact time that it was the most horrifying experience ever. Kind of like heaven and hell smushed together and jammed directly up your nose – or injected directly into your veins, as the case may be.
This feels, to my lack-of-personal-knowledge self, to be an intuitively accurate way to portray drug addiction and why it is so, well, addictive, in spite of all the horribly bad crap that comes along with it. Which kind of makes me understand better why the Forsaken keep crawling back for more abuse from their Great Lord. Because yeah, they get hell – but they also get heaven. Or the WOT Age of Legends equivalent of heaven, anyway. If there is one. I believe the relevant phrase is “Hurts so good”, yeah? Yeah.
Exploring metaphorical analogies of the all-too-easy way people can become enslaved to their own craving for sensation has a long and illustrious history in fantasy literature, of course, and WOT is no exception. Jordan also for the first time gives us some knowledge in this chapter of the even more explicit drug analogy of the True Power, which as of the end of TGS has me really really worried. That’s going to get worse before it gets better, is all I’m saying. As these things usually do.
And, yeah. I would get more into this but, uh, I have to go take more Vicodin now.
Yeah, well, ow. Ow ow ow ow OW. So there. And that’s our lame-ass show, guys. Ow. Teeth suck and I hate them, ow, me go lie down now, ow, see you next week. Ch-OW.