Where have all the good men gone, and where are all the gods? The Wheel of Time Re-read knows!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 33 of Winter’s Heart, in which we count coup (or lack thereof), discuss improbable housing situations, and Hold Out For A Hero.
I originally meant to cover Chapter 34 in this post as well, and have the Cleansing all by itself in the final WH post, but I’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff recently, not least a very unfun bout of bronchitis, so even though that will make Part 23 EPICALLY LONG, I think we’re going to push the last two chapters together for next week. I feel certain that you will find some way to cope with this state of affairs.
“Distinctions”, the Prologue for Towers of Midnight, the upcoming newest release in the series, is now available for download, and a preview of Chapter 1, “Apples First”, is available here. The audio version of Chapter 2, “Questions of Leadership” is here, and a special preview of Chapter 8, “The Seven Striped Lass”, can be found 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 the preview material currently available 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 and here, in special posts 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.
And now that we’ve determined that we’ve gotta be strong, and fast, and fresh from the fight (and wielding neon whips for some reason, I don’t even know), click on for the post!
Chapter 33: Blue Carp Street
In their room at the inn, Min tells Rand that “a half-blind goat in Seleisin” has more sense than to walk into such an obvious trap. Rand, who is checking the cuts on his sword’s peace bond, replies absently that a trap isn’t a trap if you know it’s there. Min hurls a knife past his head again, and is annoyed that this doesn’t even startle him. Rand assures her that he won’t spring the trap unless he’s sure he won’t be caught, and in frustration Min grabs the flogging strap (which the innkeeper thoughtfully keeps one of in every room) and threatens him with it. Which is of course when Lan, Nynaeve and Alivia enter, Nynaeve wearing the Well and one other bracelet. Embarrassed, Min kicks the strap under the bed, and tells Nynaeve she doesn’t understand why she’s letting Lan do this; Nynaeve replies that sometimes a sister must trust her Warder’s judgment, but her worry is obvious to Min. Lan is impatient to get on with it.
[Rand’s] face was as hard as Lan’s, his blue-gray eyes almost as cold, but in her head that frozen stone blazed with veins of fiery gold. She wanted to tangle her hands in the black-dyed hair that almost brushed his shoulders and kiss him no matter how many people were watching. Instead, she folded her arms across her chest and lifted her chin, making her disapproval clear. She did not intend for him to die here, either, and she was not about to let him start thinking she would give in just because he was stubborn.
He did not try to take her in his arms. Nodding as if he actually understood, he picked up his gloves from the small table by the door. “I’ll be back as soon as I can, Min. Then we’ll go to Cadsuane.” Those golden veins continued to glow even after he left the room, followed by Lan.
Nynaeve promises to watch over the men and runs out, admonishing Alivia to look after Min and not let her do anything foolish. Min, however, only waits a few minutes before convincing Alivia that they should follow them.
On Blue Carp Street, Rand learns from a meat pie vendor that Zeram the bootmaker rents out his top floor to boarders, but his wife wouldn’t pay for a separate door to be cut for it, which means the renters are locked in at night. Rand observes, though, that it should be easy for the occupants to reach the ground from the third floor by dropping to the roof of the seamstress’ building next door and from there to the street. Then he sees Gedwyn walking with another man who must be Torval (though Rand can’t see his face) to Zeram’s. He watches them go in and then goes to find Nynaeve and Lan a few streets away. He tells them he found their quarry, and asks Nynaeve if she can lift him and Lan to the rooftop from the alley behind the building; Nynaeve confirms that she can, but warns there won’t be enough left in the Well to get them back down again. Rand tells her that will do, but Nynaeve argues against the idea, saying she thought she would be going in with them. Rand asks her what she thought she would do, kill them herself? This silences Nynaeve as they head to the alley.
“You are very quiet,” Lan said, following close behind.
She took three more quick steps before replying, without slowing or looking back. “I didn’t think, before,” she said quietly. “I was thinking of it as an adventure, confronting Darkfriends, renegade Asha’man, but you are going up there to execute them. You’ll kill them before they know you’re there if you can, won’t you?”
Rand glanced over his shoulder at Lan, but the older man only shook his head, as confused as he was. Of course they would kill them without warning if they could. This was not a duel; it was the execution she had named it. At least, Rand hoped very much it would be.
Nynaeve sighs and entreats them to kill them in their sleep if possible, and lifts them up to the roof. Lan and Rand find the trapdoor to the attic, and from there the trapdoor to the top floor of Zeram’s. They drop in, swords at the ready, only to find Gedwyn and Torval already dead, faces black and swollen. Rand tells Lan that Fain is here, and must have sent the letter; the wounds in his side begin throbbing, and he indicates to Lan that they must kill Fain. They dart into the next room, where Fain attacks, Rand barely avoiding the dagger.
Every movement was an effort of will. The wounds in his side no longer throbbed; they clawed at him, molten iron and the very soul of ice warring to rip him open. Lews Therin howled. It was all Rand could do to think, with the agony.
“I told you he’s mine!” the bony man screamed, dancing away from Rand’s cut. With his face contorted in fury, his big nose and ears that stuck out made him seem something contrived to frighten children, but his eyes held murder.
Fain screams to “kill the ugly one,” and Toram Riatin appears and attacks Lan; Rand ignores their duel to concentrate on Fain. After failing to get past Rand’s guard, Fain snarls and runs out of the room, Rand following cautiously. Fain is waiting for him at the head of the stairs, talking about making sure Rand knows who is killing him as if Rand isn’t even there. Then Gedwyn and Torval walk up the stairs, arguing, and Rand attacks, wounding Fain. The illusion of the two dead men vanishes, and Fain shrieks and flees down the stairs. Lan stops Rand from following him.
“The street out front is filling up with Guards, sheepherder.” A dark wetness stained the left side of Lan’s coat, but his sword was sheathed, proof of who had danced that dance the better. “Time we were on the roof, if we’re going.”
Reluctantly, Rand acquiesces, and they head back to the roof and climb to the peak. Lan’s boot slips, and Rand turns and grabs him, the other man’s weight pulling them both down to the edge of the roof and past, until Lan is dangling into space, Rand above him holding on.
“Let go,” Lan said quietly. He looked up at Rand, his eyes cold and hard, no expression on his face. “Let go.”
“When the sun turns green,” Rand told him. If he could just pull the other man up a little, enough to catch the eave…
Whatever his fingers had caught broke with a sharp snap, and the alley rushed up to meet them.
When Tor’s lovely and talented Irene Gallo was soliciting opinions a few months ago on what bit from Winter’s Heart should grace the cover of the ebook edition, as I recall the only scene that got as many votes as the Cleansing (which eventually won out) was the one at the end of this chapter, with Rand refusing to sacrifice Lan for his own safety. I’m glad that the Cleansing got the cover, personally, because that was just too central to the book (not to mention the entire damn series) to be ignored, but I totally get why so many people clamored for this scene, because it is pretty much heroism wrapped up in two lines of dialogue, and it is Made of Awesome. Sigh.
Not to mention their whole infiltration bit before that, which is, in the words of Generation Kill, pretty fucking ninja. Actually, what Lan and Rand are doing there is pretty much exactly what Recon Marines like those in GK (which you should totally Netflix if you haven’t seen it already) are trained to do. Which is, yeah, still awesome.
Also, I had to chuckle at how Lan’s defeat of blademaster Toram is such a given that the actual fight didn’t even get a line. Heh. Two badasses badassing together is pretty much what’s going on here.
Like, I love how, when first observing Zeram’s place, Rand thinks jumping from rooftop to rooftop to get out of a place is (a) totally easy, and (b) something normal people would have no problem doing on a regular basis. Not ALL of us are full-time superheroes, dude. Of course, then again I have trouble believing “normal” people would consent to rent an apartment they couldn’t get out of (or into) at night, because that is just cuckoo bananas as far as I am concerned, so maybe he has a point in this case.
(Seriously, I don’t think even landlords in New York City would try to pull that shit. Well, not in most places in New York. Er. Maybe. Yeah, real estate in New York is kind of also cuckoo bananas, so.)
Anyway. I’m a bit torn about Nynaeve’s reaction to realizing that Rand and Lan intend to kill Gedwyn and Torval with Extreme Killination, because on the one hand, okay, yes, cold-blooded executions are probably not what you want to associate with your husband and your former babysittee, but on the other hand, has she met these two lately? Full of warm fuzzies they are not, girlfriend! And you know, we ARE in an epic duel of Good and Evil here; does she honestly expect there won’t be any killing involved?
…Except now I’m trying to think if Nynaeve has ever actually killed a human being up to this point in the series, and do you know, I think she hasn’t! Even with her chasing the Black Ajah all over hell and gone in the earlier books, she never actually killed any of them. She tried to kill Rahvin in TFOH, and also I think Aginor in TEOTW (though it’s arguable if Aginor counted as a human being at that point, but anyway), but she didn’t actually succeed in either instance—Rand had to finish the job both times. Huh.
…Have any of the Supergirls killed people up to this point? Not including Aviendha and Birgitte, of course, who definitely have. Hmm. Well, Min certainly hasn’t. Elayne technically killed a bunch of people in TPOD, when her unraveling gateway blew up the Kin’s farm and most of the Seanchan troops on it, but I don’t really think that should count, seeing as it was a complete accident. And while Egwene (by inference) killed a fair number of raken riders in TGS, that hasn’t happened yet; she may have killed some Seanchan in TGH, when she forgot they were supposed to be skulking in Falme and blew up a street or two, but I don’t think we ever get confirmation on that one way or the other, and I’m pretty she only injured them at worst. Oh, but wait, she had to have killed at least a few Shaido at Cairhien in TFOH while helping Rand from the tower, even if it was at a remove. So, Egwene, then, and Aviendha and Birgitte, but otherwise, no.
That’s… sort of irritating, in a way. Not to be all Yay for killing! or anything, but at risk of repeating myself, we ARE having an apocalypse here; I really think protecting the womenfolk (unintentionally or not) from crossing that particular moral boundary is a tad absurd, you know?
…Eh, whatever. I may be overreacting. But I just find it a little boggling that any of our WOT Hero Starter Kit™ has managed to make it through nine books of apocalyptical apocalypticness without killing a single person. And that all of those happen to be female is, well, a little further eyebrow-raising, is all I’m saying. The only one I’ll give a pass on, really, is Min, because all her knife-playing notwithstanding, for whatever reason I agree that she shouldn’t be killing anything. Some people just aren’t the killing kind, even in an end-of-the-world type scenario.
(And won’t my face be red if I get Jossed on that one...)
And speaking of Min, and also of cuckoo bananas, I am compelled to mention the inn’s Complimentary In-Room Flagellation Device, which… Um.
…Yeah. In lieu of all the things I could say here, please enjoy instead this moment of silent disbelief.
Thank you. Moving on!
Back to the killination, of course the irony then becomes that Rand doesn’t get to kill anyone, and then gets captured, because of goddamn Fain, again. I swear, I will sing a freakin’ Hosanna—out loud, even—when Fain finally bites it, that is how ready I am for him to die. Sheesh.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that when WH originally came out, the thing with Gedwyn and Torval walking up the stairs while dead created a HUGE amount of confusion in the fandom. Probably because it made not one iota of sense based on the information we had at that point about WOT cosmology, and the result was that a lot of people (including myself) assumed that Fain had created the illusion himself for some unfathomable reason. Of course, that didn’t make any sense either, considering the illusion is what distracted Fain enough for Rand to wound him (at least, this is what I infer from the text, which is a little unclear), but it was the best explanation anyone could think of at the time.
Later, of course, we find out that Dead Men (and Women) Walking is to become a fairly common occurrence, but at the time I don’t think it occurred to pretty much anyone to think that Gedwyn and Torval were just plain old ghosts. This is a point we will be coming back to later.
Much, much later, methinks! Here’s hoping you have a lovely weekend which does not involve either falling off rooftops, or inexplicably kneeling in the dirt singing about white knights while cowboys circle you menacingly and your house burns down, because what the hell, Bonnie Tyler, really. I Do Not Think That Video Means What You Think It Means, girlfriend. And, yeah. Bye!