Bells are ringing, WOT fans! Which is what happens when you get kicked repeatedly, I hea r. But hey, it’s still a Wheel of Time Re-read, bruises and all!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 30 and 31 of Winter’s Heart, which brings a whole new meaning to the term “shotgun marriage”—or, more appropriately to the setting I suppose, er, “spearpoint marriage”? “Runaway marriage”? Something like that. You know what I mean!
In other news, the Prologue for Towers of Midnight, the upcoming newest release in the series, is now available for download, and a special preview of Chapter 8, “The Seven Striped Lass”, is available here. If you would like to read my completely spoiler-free advance review of Towers of Midnight, you can find it here.
Please refrain from posting spoilers for either the Prologue or Chapter 8 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 here, in a special post just for discussion of preview material; please keep all spoilers there. Thanks.
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to all of the above plus links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time 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.
Scheduling note: Much as I know it will pain your greedy little hearts, this is the only Re-read post going up this week, and I am not at all certain whether there will be a Re-read post the following week. This is because in a few days your Auntie Leigh is going on her first real vacation since, um, 2009, and thus she is cutting back decisively, one might even say vehemently, on anything that remotely smacks of actual toil, because all work and no play might make Leigh a Jack Nicholson. And no one wants to see that, really. Trust me. You can’t handle the Jack Nicholson.
I’m not sure about no post next week, though; being so close to the end of Winter’s Heart I kind of want to just finish it already, but I also kind of desperately need a break, so we’ll see. I’ll keep y’all posted in the comments. And yes, I suck, I know, but I totally promise your hearts will go on. For reals, I swear.
So there’s all that. And now, the post!
Chapter 30: Cold, Fat Raindrops
The next day, Mat goes around reassuring himself that everyone knows their roles for that night, trying very hard to convince himself that nothing will go wrong. He makes Nerim and Lopin repeat their instructions about where they and the Redarms are to wait outside the city for him, and orders them to only wait until sunrise before going on without him to Talmanes.
The alarm would go up with the morning inspection of the kennels, and if he was not out of the city before that, he expected to learn whether his luck ran to stopping a headsman’s axe. He had been told that he was fated to die and live again—a prophecy, or near enough one—but he was pretty sure that had already happened.
Nerim and Lopin both murmur their agreement to go without him; Mat suspects they’re lying, but lets it go. He is surprised that Olver isn’t more upset about leaving Riselle, but Olver points out that she’s getting married (Mat reflects that her Seanchan beau hadn’t stood a chance against “that marvelous bosom”), and tells Mat he isn’t a child anymore, before making Mat promise they will play Snakes and Foxes more once they leave. Beslan is very upset that Mat is only letting his rebels set a few fires as a distraction, and Mat makes him promise again that he himself will not participate, and be prominently seen getting drunk in an inn when the fires happen, in order not to endanger Tylin. Mat sees money changing hands among the servants when they see the Redarms moving their horses out of the stables; the sul’dam are obviously amused by the gossip that Tylin’s Toy is leaving. Mat sees Teslyn in the stableyard looking dazed and shocky, and worries that she might be about to break. Mat goes back to Tylin’s rooms and worries about his ashanderei, which he has to leave in the rooms until the last moment. Fretting, he sits in the dark room and waits, hoping everyone else was doing what they were supposed to be doing; Egeanin in retrieving Joline, and Juilin in retriving Thera.
Thom, Joline and the others from the inn would meet him just before he reached the Dal Eira. And if he did not reach it, Thom had gone ahead with carving his turnip; he was sure he could get them past the gates with his forged order. At least they had a chance, if it all fell apart. If. Too many ifs to think about, now. It was too late for that.
Four hours past nightfall, Mat leaves the room and heads to the stableyard, trying to appear casual. Finally, riders appear at the gates, but there are too many of them, and Mat almost retreats before Egeanin strides up, trailed by Domon and two sul’dam with their heads down. Egeanin informs Mat that his man Vanin is “very rude,” and that he didn’t tell her Joline had two men and Setalle Anan coming with her, but luckily Egeanin knows how to adapt, and had the Warders (and Setalle) acting as her entourage (they are still at the gate). She introduces Mat to the sul’dam (Seta Zarbey and Renna Emain), and Mat wonders what hold she has on them, but decides it doesn’t matter.
“No point standing here,” Mat said. “Let’s get on with it.” He let her changes in the plan go without further comment. After all, lying on that bed in Tylin’s apartments, he had decided to risk a change or two himself.
I hereby nominate this for Most Random Chapter Title in WOT. “Cold, Fat Raindrops”? Really?
Sometimes familiarity with narrative tropes is a good thing, and sometimes it can really lead you down the wrong path. The first time I read this chapter, for instance, I was convinced Mat’s worry about his ashanderei was a Chekhov’s Gun that was going to ruin the whole scheme; I thought he was going to be prevented in some way from getting to it and have to blow the escape by refusing to leave it behind, or some such.
This, quite understandably, pissed me right the hell off, as I was so frickin’ ready for Mat to get out of Ebou Dar at this point it wasn’t even funny. Of course, then it turned out that getting the spear was the least of Mat’s problems, so you know, nevermind.
Re: Mat’s thoughts about dying and living again: I know which incident Jordan said fulfilled the prophecy about Mat dying and living again (being resurrected by Rand balefiring the ever-living crap out of Rahvin in TFOH), but it occurs to me that this is probably not what Mat thinks is the fulfillment of the prophecy, for the very good reason that he doesn’t even remember that it happened. Mat, therefore, must assume that his near-hanging in Rhuidean (and resuscitation by, again, Rand, except with CPR instead of balefire) was what did the trick. I don’t really have a point in bringing this up; I just thought it was interesting because it hadn’t really occurred to me before.
Beslan: Aw, poor frustrated revolutionary. Have fun getting hammered, man! Oh, and I hope no one missed that Mat was essentially bossing around the crown prince of Altara, by the way. Yep, dude, you’re still just this guy. Suuure.
Egeanin: another erroneous Chekhov’s Gun, in that I thought for sure if the ashanderei didn’t derail the plan, she would, if through nothing more than her sheer being-annoyingness. Thank God I’m wrong a lot, eh?
Chapter 31: What the Aelfinn Said
Egeanin is annoyed when Mat comes with her and the sul’dam to the kennels; Mat grins and tells her he has a “small errand” there, nothing to worry about. In the attic, Renna and Seta head for Edesina and Teslyn’s cells, and when Egeanin and Domon follow, Mat steels himself and darts into the cell he remembers containing one of the Sea Folk damane. He claps a hand over her mouth when she wakes, and asks what she would do if he took the collar off, praying he hadn’t gotten the room wrong.
“I would free my sisters, if it pleases the Light that should happen.” The Sea Folk accents in the darkness made him breathe again. “The Light be willing, we would cross the harbor, somehow, to where our people are held, and free as many as we were able.” The unseen woman’s voice remained low, but grew fiercer by the word. “The Light be willing, we would take back our ships, and fight our way to sea. Now! If this is a trick, punish me for it and be done, or kill me for it. I was on the brink of yielding, of giving up myself, and the shame of that will burn me forever, but you have reminded me who I am, and now I will never yield. Do you hear me? Never!”
“And if I asked you to wait for three hours?” he asked, still crouching over her. “I remember the Atha’an Miere judging the passage of an hour within minutes.” That fellow had not been him, but the memory was his now, passage on an Atha’an Miere vessel from Allorallen to Barashta, and a bright-eyed Sea Folk woman who wept when she refused to follow him ashore.
“Who are you?” she whispered.
“I’m called Mat Cauthon, if it makes a difference.”
“I am Nestelle din Sakura South Star, Mat Cauthon.” He heard her spit, and knew what she was doing. He spat on his own palm, and their two hands found each other in the darkness. Hers was as callused as his, her grip strong. “I will wait,” she said. “And I will remember you. You are a great and good man.”
“I’m just a gambler,” he told her. Her hand guided his to the segmented collar around her neck, and it came open for him with a metallic snick. She drew a very long breath.
He shows her how to open the collar, and hopes she waits as promised. He leaves the cell, and almost walks into a der’sul’dam, who is facing away from him, talking to Egeanin. Mat almost attacks her before Egeanin silently warns him off, and instead slips shakily out of the attic and runs to Tylin’s rooms. Inside, he is stunned to find that Tylin has returned early. She stares at him, and says Suroth heard of an army disappearing in Murandy and decided to cut their trip short.
Tylin glided to him across the carpets and fingered his plain green coat. “The trouble with having a pet fox,” she murmured, “is that sooner or later it remembers it is a fox.” Those big dark eyes peered up at him. Suddenly she seized two handfuls of his hair and pulled his head down for a kiss that curled his toes in his boots. “That,” she said breathlessly when she finally let him go, “is to show you how much I will miss you.” Without the slightest change of expression, she slapped him so hard that silver flecks floated in front of his eyes. “And that is for trying to sneak away while I was gone.”
She tells him to stay with her one more night, but Mat tells her he has to go tonight, and is taking Aes Sedai from the attic with him. He tries to convince her to come along, but she rejects the notion with scorn. He tells her he’d tried to arrange it so no suspicion fell on her, but now – she cuts him off and tells him he will tie her up, to make it look like she resisted, and she will be very angry and Seanchan Blood-like and put a bounty on his head. Mat believes her. Tylin gets rather fussy about the verisimilitude of getting tied up; Mat tells her he will miss her before he pushes her under the bed, and is surprised to realize it’s true. He grabs his spear and heads to the stableyard anteroom, but no one else is there; he growls and starts to go to check the stables.
“So you are intending to leave. I cannot allow that, Toy.”
Mat spins and see Tuon, and desperately tries to grab her, but Tuon fights back with surprising effectiveness, knocking his spear out of his hands and fending him off. Mat doesn’t understand why she isn’t screaming for help.
For some reason, after a few moments her full lips curved in a smile, and if he had not known better, he would have said those big liquid eyes took on a glow of delight. Burn him, thinking about how pretty a woman was at a time like this was as bad as trying to price her gems!
Tuon goes to kick his bad hip, and succeeds, staggering Mat, but suddenly Noal appears and grabs her from behind. Only now growing furious, she tries to shout, but Mat gags her with her own veil; she tries to bite him. Noal asks if he usually has this kind of trouble with women (Mat: “Always”), and adds that he didn’t know what Mat was planning, but had decided to leave himself anyway. Mat ties Tuon up with strips from her dress, earning a second painful kick in the process, and notes with amazement that she doesn’t look afraid at all. Juilin shows up with a woman in da’covale robes; Thera squeaks at the sight of Tuon and prostrates herself. Juilin asks what Mat intends to do with Tuon, and Mat replies that they’ll leave her in the hayloft to be found in the morning. Everyone hides at the sound of people approaching, but it’s Egeanin and the rest of their party; Edesina looks calm, but Teslyn is “a quivering mass of eagerness.” Egeanin starts to explain why they were delayed, but then she sees Tuon and stops dead.
“Oh, Light!” Egeanin said hoarsely, sinking to her knees. “You madman! It’s death by slow torture to lay hands on the Daughter of the Nine Moons!” The two sul’dam gasped, and knelt without hesitation, not only pulling the two Aes Sedai down with them but gripping the a’dam right at the collar to force their faces to the floor.
Mat grunted as though Tuon had just kicked him square in the belly. He felt as if she had. The Daughter of the Nine Moons. The Aelfinn had told him truth, much as he hated knowing. He would die and live again, if he had not already. He would give up half the light of the world to save the world, and he did not even want to think about what that meant. He would marry… “She is my wife,” he said softly. Somebody made a choking sound; he thought it was Domon.
“What?” Egeanin squeaked, her head whipping toward him so fast that her tail of hair swung around to slap her face. He would not have thought she could squeak. “You cannot say that! You must not say that!”
“Why not?” he demanded. The Aelfinn always gave true answers. Always. “She is my wife. Your bloody Daughter of the Nine Moons is my wife!”
Everyone stares at him, all the Seanchan gaping in horror except for Tuon herself, whose expression is unreadable. Then Selucia hurries in (Mat groans), and tells him fearfully that what he is doing is “foolish beyond madness”, but can be fixed if he draws back, “whatever the omens”. Mat tries to soothe her, assuring her that she won’t be harmed; for some reason her fear disappears, and she tells him she will obey him as long as he does not harm her mistress, but if he does she will kill him. Mat doesn’t consider this much of a threat from her. Noal asks if he intends to leave them both in the hayloft.
“No,” Mat replied, looking at Tuon. She stared right back, still with no expression he could read. A boy-slim little woman, when he liked women with flesh on their bones. Heir to the Seanchan throne, when noblewomen gave him goose bumps. A woman who had wanted to buy him, and now likely wanted to put a knife in his ribs. And she would be his wife. The Aelfinn always gave true answers. “We are taking them with us,” he said.
At last, Tuon showed expression. She smiled, as if she suddenly knew a secret. She smiled, and he shivered. Oh, Light, how he shivered.
Well, I bet there aren’t too many people out there who can claim their marriage vows had actual profanity in them. I always knew Mat was a man after my own heart.
I think marriages in Vegas have more ritual than that one did. Okay, granted, as we find out later, that was only half a marriage, but still. Heh. Hah.
Amusement aside, I remember I was very much divided in my own mind about the second of Mat’s fates to come true, the first time reading this. Being a player is so much of who Mat is as a character, I was honestly kind of sad to see the inevitable end of that approach, mostly because he seemed so against it himself. I’m very much in favor of fidelity once you’ve committed to a relationship, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time I don’t have much patience for commitments you’re dragged into against your will, which is certainly what the Tuon thing struck me as for Mat. It’s like an arranged marriage, but even worse, because the actual universe is deciding it has to happen. That… kind of sucks, if you ask me. Love should be voluntary, dangnabit.
Yeah, I know. But still. Self-fulfilling prophecies give me headaches, y’all.
Regardless, though, it was still a great cliff-hangery way to end Mat’s plot arc. Or, “DAMMIT!” as I said at the time. Heh.
We get a better picture of where Tuon’s head was here later on, but I have to say it was very opaque to me on first reading, and even later she remains very much a character I don’t “get” in terms of motivation. Maybe I’m just constitutionally incapable of comprehending how being kidnapped would be even remotely fun no matter what prophecies I’d had about it. But hell, maybe the thrill of being out of control of things for once was a heady experience for her, or something. I can kind of see that, for a person with her background.
And contrariwise, sort of, I suppose in a weird way that I approve that she made Mat work at “carrying her away,” instead of just letting it happen. But in general, I don’t know; I think Tuon is just a strange, strange girl who I would never be able to talk to at a party. Mostly because I would probably end up beheaded inside of two minutes, but you know.
The Tuon thing aside, I loved this chapter for how generally awesome Mat was in it, all heroic to the nines and stuff. The interlude with the Sea Folk Windfinder, in particular, is one of my favorite moments in this book. If anything should ever come of Nestelle’s gratitude to Mat, that would be really cool.
Also, bye, Tylin! At frickin’ LAST, sheesh. I remember being very indignant that Mat thinks he is actually going to miss Tylin, because, agh. No. I have never been so thrilled in my LIFE to see a character fall by the narrative wayside, you guys.
Of course, I don’t think even she deserved to go the way she eventually does, but, well. I was still ridiculously glad to see her out of Mat’s life. Even aside from the whole nonconsensual aspect of their relationship, Tylin’s whole purpose seemed to be about making Mat less than he was, and I pretty much completely resented that. Bah.
Even though, I will give her credit for grasping Mat’s circumstances as quickly as she does and going along with it—relatively. There is certainly a kind of person who would have given Mat much more trouble about the whole situation than she does, so I suppose—SUPPOSE—that that should be acknowledged about Tylin. Grumpily acknowledged, but acknowledged. So there; I acknowledged it. And I’d better get some good karma out of it, too!
Chapter title: It’s kind of hilarious, and I don’t know if it was intentional or not, that even though we’ve known about the Snakes and Foxes/Aelfinn and Eelfinn since TSR, it’s not until five books later that it’s actually confirmed that the Snakes are the Aelfinn and the Foxes are the Eelfinn—and in a chapter title, no less! I’ve always wondered if that was something Jordan actually meant to keep the readership in suspense about, or if he just kind of forgot to mention which was which in the books until now. I don’t know why he would want to keep us in the dark about it, really, since knowing which is which doesn’t really help in any discernable way, but hey, sometimes he was kind of bloody-minded that way (cf. Asmodean), so what do I know.
At least the long uncertainty gave the fans plenty of opportunity to make Scandinavian-aimed “*finnland” jokes. IKEA may have gotten mentioned a disproportionate number of times, is what I’m saying. And fjords, and the pining for which thereof. Heh.
So, bye, Mat! Have fun eloping from the castle! See you in the next book!
And bye, Re-readers! See you in the next installment, which may or may not be next week, because I am about to full-bore tilt at some serious rest and relaxation windmills, you guys. It’s so crazy it just might work! Y’all play nice while I’m gone, ‘kay? Ciao!