Where y’ at, WOTers? Son of a gun, but we’re gonna have some fun on the Wheel of Time
Today’s entry covers Chapters 28 and 29 of Winter’s Heart, in which a plot almost fails to thicken, but gets a good dollop of ta’veren cornstarch at the last minute. It’s all about making a roux, y’all.
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 latest 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 gently simmering post!
Chapter 28: News in a Cloth Sack
In bed the morning after Mat promised to help Teslyn and Joline escape, Tylin tells him that Suroth is taking her on a tour to show her how much of Altara Tylin now controls, at Tuon’s suggestion. Tylin will be gone for over a week, and Mat is immensely relieved when she doesn’t insist he accompany her, though she does semi-threaten to tie him to the bed until she returns. Mat rides down to the docks with Tylin and Suroth and their huge entourage, and the pain the ride puts him in convinces him that for now the only way he’s leaving Ebou Dar is either by sea or by Valan Luca’s show. He has a notion of how to make Luca leave before spring, though it is risky. Mat watches one of the sul’dam in the party, linked to a damane named Pura, one of the former Aes Sedai.
He had not really believed Teslyn when she said the woman had become a true damane, but the graying sul’dam leaned low in her saddle to say something to the woman who had been Ryma Galfrey, and whatever it was the sul’dam murmured, Pura laughed and clapped her hands in delight.
Mat shivered. She would bloody well shout for help if he tried to take the a’dam from her neck. Light, what was he thinking of! Bad enough that he was stuck with pulling three Aes Sedai’s bacon off the fire for them—Burn him, but he did seem to get lumbered with doing that every time he bloody turned around!—bad enough that, without thinking about trying to get any more out of Ebou Dar.
They reach the docks, and Tylin pinches Mat goodbye before climbing aboard with a very impatient-looking Suroth. As Mat watches them set sail, he notes all the Sea Folk rakers in the harbor, all now with Seanchan crews, and tries not to think about the Sea Folk da’covale currently mucking out the Rahad. He also notes the sul’dam-damane pairs inspecting every ship leaving the harbor, and concludes that Luca is the least risky choice, though that isn’t saying much. Noal pops up as soon as Mat returns to the Palace, and offers his services for whatever Mat is planning. Mat tells him he isn’t planning anything, and Noal smiles and observes that Mat doesn’t trust him yet. He points out that if Noal meant Mat harm all he would have had to do was let the gholam get him in that alley.
“You have the look in your eye. I’ve seen great men laying plans, and villains dark as the Pit of Doom, too. There is a look a man gets, laying dangerous plans he doesn’t want known.”
Mat laughs this off. Noal then asks him if the gholam drinks blood; Mat asks why, and Noal tells him a man was found in the city with his throat torn out but no blood at the scene. Then he looks behind Mat, bows, tells Mat he’s ready if Mat changes his mind, and leaves; Mat turns to see Tuon there, but she walks off as soon as he sees her. Mat shivers and thinks it’s a shame Tuon hadn’t gone with Suroth and Tylin.
A man given a loaf should not complain that a few crumbs were missing, but Aes Sedai and Seanchan, gholam stalking him and old men poking their noses in and skinny girls staring at him was enough to give any man the golliwogs.
Mat retrieves the rest of his old clothes, and an amused Juilin finds him studying himself in the mirror and muttering that maybe his coat needs a little lace. Mat realizes from his comment about Suroth that the woman Juilin is interested in must be a da’covale of Suroth’s, but figures that not nearly as bad as planning to steal her damane. Mat tells Juilin that he needs him to steal a damane dress, three sul’dam dresses, and an a’dam. Juilin is incensed at the implication he is a thief, but Mat tells him grimly that the only chance they have of getting the Aes Sedai out of the city is if the guards think they’re still damane.
“Teslyn and Edesina are wearing what they need, but we have to disguise Joline. Suroth will be back in ten days, Juilin. If we aren’t gone by then, in all likelihood your pretty will still be her property when we go.” He could not help feeling that if they were not gone by then, none of them would be going.
Juilin grimaces and mutters it won’t be easy, and neither are the days that follow. Mat has to endure the servants’ disapproval and attempts to sabotage his evident intention to leave, which Mat is making as obvious as possible in order to keep any blame from the fallout after from falling on Tylin. He sees Teslyn being walked several times, and she seems more determined and more panicked each time, which seriously worries Mat, but he doesn’t dare risk going to the kennels again to reassure her, with the way Tuon continues to pop up near him at odd moments. Mat wishes Tuon had gone with Anath on her “retreat,” whatever that meant. Noal and Thom bring news of a fresh gholam killing every day, and Mat starts sleeping in a different place every night. Mat is also worried about Beslan, who had barged in on Mat, Thom and Juilin’s meeting (where Thom had come up with the idea to walk the Aes Sedai out as damane) and wants to “help” with an uprising, claiming there are hundreds in the city ready to rise up with him and his friends. Mat tries to reason with him, pointing out that the Seanchan will turn Ebou Dar into “a slaughter yard” in retaliation if he tries it, not to mention that it will probably get both Beslan and Tylin beheaded.
“She says we are mice,” Beslan said bitterly. “ ‘When wolf-hounds pass by, mice lie quiet or get eaten,’ ” he quoted. “I don’t like being a mouse, Mat.”
Mat breathed a little more easily. “Better a live mouse than a dead one, Beslan.” Which might not have been the most diplomatic way to put it—Beslan grimaced at him—but it was true.
They eventually manage to convince Beslan to wait until a month after Mat et al are gone. Juilin discovers that the only viable time to free the damane is at night, and also is having trouble obtaining the dresses and a’dam; Thom discovers that the only way to walk damane out even with disguises is to have a signed and sealed order from either one of the Blood or a high-ranking officer, which he has to have before he can forge. They discuss who can be their three “sul’dam”; Mat is already planning to use Setalle Anan for Joline’s sul’dam, though he hasn’t actually asked her yet, but they cannot come to a consensus on who the other two should be. Juilin opines that his “Thera” would not be able to keep up the pretense, and Thom says Riselle is in love with a Seanchan officer and would refuse. Seven days have passed since Tylin left and they are at an impasse. The gholam keeps killing, putting the city in an uproar, and Thom tells Mat the Seekers are under secret orders to find and stop the culprit at all costs. Mat is appalled that Thom is talking to Listeners, but Thom pooh-poohs the risk. Patrols have been stepped up in response to the murders as well, which thrills Mat not at all. Then there are two days left.
At midday, Juilin brought him the only really good news he had heard in an Age. It was not news, exactly. It was a cloth sack containing two dresses wrapped around the silver length of an a’dam.
Aw, poor stressed-out Mat. Yeah, we hate waiting, too, man.
Which is basically what this chapter is, so I’m disinclined to dwell overmuch on the mechanics of it except to say that as usual Jordan is very good at making his readers just as on edge and irritable as his characters are. This is, as I’ve noted, both a good thing and a bad thing.
The next book after this (Crossroads of Twilight) is very much a blur for me, and Knife of Dreams isn’t much better, so while I know we get much more of an insight into Tuon’s motivations and so forth re: Mat during their very strange courtship in those two books, I don’t really remember a lot about it. I’m interested, therefore, to find out if she ever tells us whether or not getting Suroth and Tylin out of the Palace was a total set-up on her part, or not.
It was her idea, evidently, after all. Though it’s possible I’m giving her way too much credit in the foresight department, or alternately in the department of—I don’t know, cold-bloodedness? Diabolical savvy? Something—to facilitate her own kidnapping like that. Is the idea even plausible? I’m not sure. But it did occur to me.
As a side note, Tylin deserves smackings for many reasons, but ruining Mat’s fashion sense for all time is definitely one of the bigger ones. I’m sorry, I know this totally reflects my own cultural prejudices and is bad, but I can’t help it: men and lace should be extremely unmixy things, the end. Because the image of Mat looking like he was attacked by Liberace’s wardrobe is deeply, deeply wrong and I would like it to stop now, please. Gyah.
And we finally get a name for Juilin’s honey, though I’m pretty sure most of the fandom had long since picked up the cluebat on this one. And… well, that’s about it, really. So, yay, I guess?
Pura: Dude, that is seriously one of the creepiest things ever. No, it’s not creepy, it’s offensive. I know it’s true and it’s been documented and all, Stockholm Syndrome and brainwashing and Patty Hearst and all that, but it just deeply offends me on a visceral level to believe that a person’s core identity can be so—violable. That a person can be broken like that, broken so badly that they probably can never be fixed. Forget Trollocs or Darkhounds or even the gholam on a killing spree—what happened to Ryma Galfrey, that’s the stuff of nightmares.
Anath: Her “retreat” here is to clue us in on the timeline of Mat’s arc relative to the others, though naturally it ends up being misleading. Initially the assumption was that Semirhage was taking a powder in order to tear around with the rest of the Forsaken trying to find Rand before he possibly blows them all up and/or gives the Dark One’s plans a serious wedgie, take your pick, but then of course we find out later that she was indulging in a bit of regicide and mass slaughter one continent over instead. You know, like you do. So, er, yeah.
Also, “golliwogs” is an awesome word. That is all.
Chapter 29: Another Plan
In the basement of the inn, Joline flatly refuses to put on the a’dam, saying she asked for help, not “a noose around [her] neck”; Mat growls back that it’s the only way, and she trusts Setalle, doesn’t she? Joline’s Warders (Fen and Blaeric) back her up threateningly, but then Setalle informs Joline that she intends to see Joline back in the White Tower, and she’d appreciate seeing Joline behave like an Aes Sedai instead of “a novice sniveling in her bed.” Joline is astounded, and Mat jumps in to explain to Setalle that her part won’t require her to go very far beyond the gate, and then she can return home. To his surprise, Setalle is incensed that Mat thinks she’s willing to stay anywhere women are “turned into animals” because they can channel, and tells him she’s already sold her inn and intends to leave with her family as soon as the matter of Joline is settled. Mat tries to say delicately that there will only be so much room the way they’re going, and points out it would be better for her to wait until the furor over two damane disappearing dies down. This is news to Joline, who demands to know who the second sister is; Mat winces, thinking she is going to kick up a petulant fuss about an additional Aes Sedai, and tells her reluctantly that it is Edesina.
“Edesina,” Joline said slowly. A tiny frown creased her smooth forehead. “I heard that she had—” Whatever she had heard, she snapped her teeth shut on it and fixed him a fierce stare. “Are they holding any other sisters? If Teslyn is getting free, I won’t leave any other sister to them!”
It took an effort on Mat’s part not to gape. Petulant and spoiled? He was looking at a lioness to match Blaeric and Fen. “Believe me, I won’t leave an Aes Sedai in the kennels unless she wants to stay,” he said, making his voice as wry as he could. The woman was still willful. She might insist on trying to rescue the other two like Pura. Light, he should never have let himself get tangled with Aes Sedai, and he did not need any ancient memories to warn him! His own would do very well, thank you.
The Warders poke him for his impudence, but Joline accepts this, and Mat thinks that Aes Sedai rarely expect people to use their own truth-twisting tricks on them. Setalle then tells him her family have gone on ahead in the boats to Illian; Joline is scornful of this, and Setalle tells her off, calling her “Green.” Joline suddenly asks if they’ve met before, saying her voice is familiar, and Setalle changes the subject by telling Mat they need to test the a’dam. Mat is confused by this, and Setalle explains to him that not every woman can be a sul’dam; she “has hopes” she can do it, but they should find out ahead of time. Mat is aghast that this hadn’t occurred to him, and opens the collar and bracelet (annoyed that no one is impressed he figured out how to do it) for Setalle. Setalle puts on the bracelet, and after a moment Joline allows her to put the collar on her.
Side by side, the two women took a small step, brushing by Mat, and he began to breathe. Joline frowned uncertainly. Then they took a second step.
With a cry, the Aes Sedai fell to the floor, writhing in agony. She could not form words, only increasingly louder moans. She huddled in on herself, her arms and legs and even her fingers twitching and crooking at odd angles.
Setalle hurriedly takes the collar off while Fen and Blaeric try to massage Joline’s pain away, glaring at Mat; Mat ignores them, seeing his whole scheme falling apart. He mutters to Setalle that they’ll try something else as he leaves, but knows he doesn’t have another idea. Despondently, Mat heads back to the Palace, only to be stopped by the Illianer so’jhin from the inn’s kitchen the day Joline had arrived, who greets Mat by name. Mat asks if he knows him.
The heavyset man beamed a wide smile at him. “Fortune prick me, I do. You did take a memorable voyage on my ship, once, with Trollocs and Shadar Logoth at one end and a Myrddraal and Whitebridge in flames at the other. Bayle Domon, Master Cauthon. Do you remember me now?”
“I remember.” He did, after a fashion. Most of that voyage was vague in his head, tattered by the holes those other men’s memories had filled. “We’ll have to sit down over hot spiced wine some time and talk over old times.” Which would never happen if he saw Domon first. What remained in his memory of that voyage was strangely unpleasant, like remembering a deathly illness. Of course, he had been ill, in a way. Another unpleasant memory.
But Domon answers, no time like the present, and semi-manhandles Mat back into the inn and then up to a room above instead of the common room, which Mat does not like at all. Inside the room, he introduces Mat to “Captain of the Green Lady Egeanin Tamarath,” who he also recognizes from the kitchen that day. Egeanin immediately tells him that Domon says Mat is “not unfamiliar with danger,” and wants to hire him, along with two of his companions named Thom Merrilin and Juilin Sandar, to crew a boat for her. She adds that Thom and Juilin know her, and know they can trust her with their lives. Blatantly disregarding Seanchan protocol, Mat sits down and bluntly asks when her ship is leaving; Egeanin is angered, but answers, by the end of spring at the latest. Mat sighs, but asks how she knows Thom and Juilin; Egeanin is about to throw him out for asking too many questions, but Domon insists that he must know the truth to help them. Finally, Egeanin tells Mat that she gave Thom and Juilin “some small aid” in Tanchico, along with two women with them—Elayne Trakand and Nynaeve al’Meara. Startled, Mat wonders what on earth they had been doing in Tanchico that required a Seanchan’s help, but decides it is beside the point.
Egeanin wanted men who could keep her secrets and did not mind danger. She herself was in danger. Very little was dangerous to one of the Blood, except for other Blood and…“The Seekers are after you,” he said.
The way her head came up was confirmation enough, and her hand went to her side as though reaching for a sword. Domon shifted his feet and flexed his big hands, his eyes on Mat. Eyes suddenly harder than Egeanin’s. The thick man no longer looked funny; he looked dangerous. Abruptly it came to Mat that he might not leave the room alive.
“If you need to get away from the Seekers, I can help you,” he said quickly. “You’ll have to go where the Seanchan aren’t in control. Anywhere they are, the Seekers can find you. And it’s best to go as soon as possible.”
He adds that Thom tells him the Seekers seem to be gearing up for something, “getting the rack ready”; Egeanin stares at him and says maybe leaving quickly would be better. She points out, however, that while the Seekers won’t stop her leaving, they will definitely follow her, and she will need to vanish once they’ve gone beyond Seanchan-occupied lands. Taking a gamble, Mat tells her he can make her vanish now—if she can get him three sul’dam who will keep their mouths shut. After a moment, she nods, and Mat smiles. Back at the Palace, Thom and Juilin seem less than thrilled at the news of Egeanin and Domon, but reluctantly admit that they are trustworthy, though Juilin mutters about Domon and smuggling. Mat declares that they are leaving the following night, then.
“And these sul’dam are going to take three Aes Sedai out of the city, let them go, and never think of raising an alarm,” Juilin muttered. “Once, while Rand al’Thor was in Tear, I saw a tossed coin land on its edge five times in a row. We finally walked away and left it standing there on the table. I suppose anything can happen.”
“Either you trust them or you don’t, Juilin,” Mat growled.
He asks what happened in Tanchico; Juilin thinks they shouldn’t tell because Nynaeve and Elayne said not to, but Thom overrides him and tells Mat that they helped dispose of a male a’dam which the Black Ajah wanted to use on Rand, though Thom is almost more concerned about rumors of the thing getting out than the thing itself. Mat assures him he’ll keep mum.
Mat understood, in a manner of speaking. A man always tried to make whoever was commanding the troops against him believe that he was doing something other than what he was, that he was going where he had no intention of going, and the enemy tried to do the same to him, if the enemy was any good at the craft. Sometimes both sides could get so confused that very strange things happened. Tragedies, sometimes. Cities burned that no one had any interest in burning, except that the burners believed what was untrue, and thousands died.
Mat asks if anyone has told Rand about this male a’dam; Thom supposes that Elayne and Nynaeve would have let him know, and Juilin doesn’t see why it matters since the thing is at the bottom of the ocean. They all go to bed, and Mat tries to convince himself there is no sentiment behind his choice to sleep in Tylin’s bed one more time. He thinks their plan is a good one, but also that no battle ever goes according to plan.
Great captains earned their reputation not just for laying brilliant plans, but for still being able to find victory after those plans began to fall apart. So when first light illumined the windows, he was still lying there, rolling the medallion across the back of his fingers and trying to think of what was going to go wrong.
I love it when a plan ta’verens together, don’t you?
Once again I have to chuckle at the cheeky narrative brilliance of Jordan’s ta’veren plot device, which is the reason I can’t call bullshit on the oh-so-terribly convenient appearance of Egeanin and her built-in sul’dam defectors riiiight at this pivotal juncture, when Mat’s whole scheme is about to go splat. Well, I can, call bullshit I mean, but it would be a waste of breath. I say, just go with it and enjoy the forward momentum.
Because really, man, whatever gets us the hell out of this damn city already. Ebou Dar is so last year’s vacation spot, you guys. So Over. And the tourists, ugh! Never again.
Joline: Sort of redeems herself here, I guess. In a typically obnoxious way, of course, but it’s good that she still has some team spirit. It’s hilarious how Setalle is obviously so ready to smack her into next week.
Speaking of whom: Yeah, I don’t know who Setalle thinks she’s kidding, here. She may as well have “FORMER AES SEDAI” tattooed on her forehead at this point. Calling Joline “Green” clinched it if nothing else did.
From what I recall, Mat really does have some basis for being annoyed that no one is impressed that he can open the a’dam. I’m not real clear on this, but my distinct impression is that as a matter of fact, no one else has ever figured out how to do it!
Well, no one who’s not Seanchan, anyway. But I’m not certain how much of this has to do with Mat not being able to channel, since I can only recall other channelers trying to open it before this. Aviendha couldn’t do it in TFOH, and Nynaeve cheated, since as I recall she didn’t manually open the collar on Egwene in TGH, but popped it off with the Power. But, I could be wrong.
The abortive a’dam test itself generated a small amount of controversy in the fandom, by the way. If you recall, back in LOC Siuan and Leane tried wearing Moghedien’s a’dam bracelet while stilled, and Moggy had none of the violent effects Joline does here. In addition, Siuan and Leane could feel Moghedien through the link, even if they couldn’t make her do anything. Which led many people to wonder why the difference between that and what happened with Joline and Setalle.
The argument was that the difference came in owing to the fact that Setalle/Martine had been burned out, as opposed to stilled like Siuan and Leane. Thus, the theory went, there must be a significant difference between the “injury” of a burned-out channeler and that of someone who is stilled (or gentled). Meaning, perhaps also unlike Siuan and Leane (and Logain, etc.), burned-out channelers like Setalle could not in fact be Healed and made able to channel again.
Which makes perfect sense, as far as it goes; it’s logical to think that burning yourself out in an uncontrolled manner could be a far worse trauma than being ritually severed. Kind of like the difference between having an arm cut off, and having it torn off. (Ow.)
There’s one big problem, though, which is that neither Siuan, Leane, nor Moghedien actually tried to move during their test in LOC. Joline didn’t get zapped until she and Setalle tried to move; if Moggy had tried to move during the LOC test, it might have had quite a different outcome, for all we know. Additionally, we can’t know whether Setalle felt anything through the a’dam or not here with Joline, since the scene is from Mat’s POV and Setalle declined to say anything about it to him one way or the other.
So the evidence is inconclusive, and I get to cling to my somewhat random stubborn hope that Setalle can get Healed someday. Nyah!
Sad Bracelets: *headdesk*
Well, that’s classic WOT if I ever saw it. Keeping secrets for stupid reasons? Check. Misinformation? Check. Assuming facts not in evidence? Check! Assuming people actually talk to each other in the face of all blatant evidence to the contrary? CHECK!
A theme which is echoed in a way by Mat’s thoughts on battles I quoted above, as well. I’ve watched or read a fair number of war movies/series/novels/whatever in my time, and the ones that (in my opinion) most obviously had a clue what they were talking about were invariably the ones where, in any given battle, the most dominant feature of the fighting was that no one in the midst of it had a goddamn clue what the hell was going on. Being in battle, I get the distinct impression, is like going temporarily insane in more ways than just the obvious.
And that’s what I got for this one, peoples. Come join me next time to watch as it all goes battle-shaped for Mat and Co. Laters!