God rest ye merry, WOTrians! Let nothing you dismay, for Wheel of Time Re-read is here to stay, I hope not sporadically!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 12 and 13 of Crossroads of Twilight, in which our fingers get all wrinkly and sodden, because that’s what happens when you stay in the tub too long, homes. You know it to be true!
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general, including the newest release, Towers of Midnight.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 13, Towers of Midnight. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
Scheduling note: So it turns out it’s, like, Christmas and shit, you guys. Who knew? So here’s the deal: there will be today’s post, but Friday is Christmas Eve, so no. And then another on Tuesday on next week, so a post, and then Friday is New Year’s Eve, so no. And then we’ll see. I’ll keep you posted; the next Tuesday kind of entirely depends on how drunk I get over New Year’s.
Hey, at least I’m being honest, yeah? Yeah. And with that y’all will have to be satisfied, because I’ve got nothing otherwise.
So until, then, have some tidings of comfort and joy, and a post!
Chapter 12: A Bargain
Elayne and Aviendha take a bath while Birgitte talks of recent news, carefully edited for the benefit of the maids. Elayne is disappointed there is no news of Gawyn, who both she and Birgitte eagerly wish was back in Caemlyn to ease their burdens re: commanding their forces. Elayne also wants him away from the Tower before Elaida finds out that he aided Siuan’s escape.
Elayne did not resent his decision to aid Elaida; he could not have known enough then to make any other choice. A good many sisters had been confused over what was happening, too. A good many still seemed to be. How could she ask Gawyn to see what Aes Sedai could not?
Birgitte also tells them that two sisters have left the Silver Swan in the city, but two more have arrived, keeping their numbers at ten, and Elayne wishes she knew whose side those sisters were on. Further worrying is that one of their spies at the inn overheard a mention of a woman named Cadsuane, which Elayne thinks too uncommon a name not to be referring to Cadsuane Melaidhrin, and points to the unnerving possibility that the “neutral” faction and Elaida’s faction might be talking sub rosa. There is a sudden commotion outside; Birgitte goes to investigate while Elayne and Aviendha get out of their baths. Aviendha runs to get their angreal even though Elayne tells her it is not necessary. Birgitte comes back to growl that Zaida wants to see Elayne, and then is shoved aside by Zaida herself, who enters with two of the highest-ranking Windfinders, Shielyn and Chanelle. Incensed, Elayne points out tightly that she was taking a bath, but Zaida ignores this to tell her that Nesta din Reas Two Moons is dead, killed by the Seanchan, and the First Twelve will be meeting to choose a new Mistress of the Ships in Illian. Therefore, she informs Elayne, in fulfillment of their bargain she will be taking all the Aes Sedai in the Palace except Elayne herself and Vandene (who is grieving), tonight, and the Tower will owe her the rest, though she has sent to the Silver Swan to see if the sisters there will help meet the Tower’s debt.
Elayne fought very hard to keep her own face smooth. The woman just announced that she intended to scoop up every Aes Sedai lying around loose in Caemlyn and carry them off? And it sounded very much as if she did not intend to leave any of the Windfinders behind. That made Elayne’s heart sink. Until Reanne returned, there were seven of the Kin with sufficient strength to weave a gateway, but two of those could not make one large enough to admit a horse cart. Without the Windfinders, plans for keeping Caemlyn supplied from Tear and Illian became problematical at best. The Silver Swan! Light, whoever Zaida had sent would reveal every line of the bargain she had made! Egwene was not going to thank her for spilling that mess out into the open. She did not think she had ever had so many problems dropped in her lap in the course of one short statement.
Thinking fast, she invites Zaida to join her for tea, and notes that Zaida accepts without a quibble, which indicates to Elayne that she has some leverage here. Once served, Elayne points out that the Tower has promised twenty teachers to the Sea Folk, not Zaida herself, and it was understood that the sisters teaching here was a temporary arrangement, in return for which the Windfinders agreed to help bring in supplies to Caemlyn. If they are leaving, however, that bargain is ended and so is their requirement to teach. Aviendha chortles that her sister “has [Zaida] by the ear,” but Zaida ignores her to counter that Merilille is part of the original bargain, and so must go. Elayne knows that is a lost cause, and agrees, with the caveat that she can recall Merilille as long as she supplies a replacement; to herself, she thinks that she might have to if it turns out Merilille is Black. The bargain is done, but Zaida makes no move to leave, and Elayne is determined to outwait her. After a prolonged staring contest, Zaida finally remarks that Elayne has need of women to make gateways.
Elayne sipped her wretched excuse for tea and said nothing.
“It might please the Light that I could leave one or two Windfinders here,” Zaida went on. “For a set time.”
Elayne wrinkled her brow as though considering. She needed those bloody women, and more than one or two. “What would you ask in return?” she said finally.
“One square mile of land on the River Erinin. Good land, mind. Not marshy or boggy. It is to be Atha’an Miere land in perpetuity. Under our laws, not Andor’s,” she added as if that were a small afterthought hardly worth mentioning.
Elayne chokes on her tea, but then considers that it is a small price for keeping Caemlyn supplied during the siege, and additionally in future will mean landlocked Andor will have access to everything the Sea Folk trade. She doesn’t let Zaida know this, of course. She demands in return that Zaida leave all twenty-one Windfinders with her, and keep that number as long as Aes Sedai teach Sea Folk. Zaida allows that she could leave three, but they must not be used in fighting. Elayne agrees to the latter, but counters that she needs twenty; Zaida can keep Shielyn. They haggle back and forth until they finally settle on nine Windfinders, and those under Elayne and Birgitte’s authority. Aviendha and Birgitte are both impressed, though Elayne suspects Zaida had expected a similar outcome.
That hardly mattered, either, nor did it matter what advantage Zaida hoped to gain toward becoming Mistress of the Ships. That she saw some was clear as good glass. All that mattered was that Caemlyn would not go hungry. That and the… the bloody beacon still blazing in the west. No, she would be a queen, and she could not be a moonstruck girl. Caemlyn and Andor were all that could matter.
“Elayne and Aviendha take a bath while Birgitte talks of recent news, carefully edited for the benefit of the maids.”
I feel that you should be aware that the above one sentence of my recap covers five pages of hardcover text—out of sixteen total for this chapter. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t exclude one iota of relevant information in that condensation, either.
That’s… well, that’s a lot, right there. And also, very little. And also, WTF, over?
I’m just—I have no idea what’s going on with this. Jordan’s never been exactly stingy with descriptive passages, and sometimes I’ve been vaguely impatient with them when he feels the need to describe every last wagon wheel and dress color in a five mile radius, but I’ve never before this felt that such a long stretch of text was actually pointless. But this bath sequence… Christ. It reads almost like one of those “domestic” fanfics, where the entire “plot” is 5,000 words of the characters cooking breakfast or cutting their toenails or something. I mean, the hell? Why does this merit five pages? Why are we wasting so much time on this?
And this isn’t even me knocking domestic fanfics as such, because those are, after all, deliberately pointless. Their point actually is that they don’t have one—they are just interludes, used as excuses to play with the characters, essentially. Which is fine if that’s all you’re going for, and are also, you know, a fanfic writer with no obligations to produce an actual plot if you don’t want to, but this is the bloody Wheel of Time, you guys. If there’s one thing this series doesn’t have, it’s a lack of plot to get through!
So again I ask, WTF?
Well, at least this chapter gives us the happy news that seventy-five percent of the frickin’ Sea Folk are finally getting out of Elayne’s hair, and, by extension, ours as well, which is awesome. Though of course it had to be achieved in the most obnoxious way possible. I suppose in a messed-up way I should give Zaida kudos for consistency on that front, though I’d obviously much rather give her a wedgie, because gah. And seriously, what is it with people in WOT being completely unable to keep from walking in on other people while they’re naked?
On second thought, don’t answer that.
But in any case, bye, Zaida! Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, sheesh.
Gawyn: Elayne’s being way too generous with him here, in my admittedly irritated opinion, and also at the same time being rather condescendingly insulting to him, too. At least I give him enough credit for native intelligence to be pissed at him for failing to use it.
But then, I’m not operating under the Randland default mindset that (a) women are smarter than men and (b) Aes Sedai are smarter than everyone. Because, yeah, no. On both counts. Stupidity, in my unfortunate experience, is blissfully gender-blind—and by all in-story evidence, channeling-gene-blind, too. I’m sure there’s a less awkward way to phrase that, but you get my drift. Anyway, nicely subtle gender-flipped point there, maybe.
Speaking of our Selectively Stupid Duo, there’s also a rather glaring gaffe in this chapter in Elayne’s musings on Galad (which I left out of the summary):
Galad fancied Nynaeve, or had for a time—it was hard to imagine he still felt that way, with him a Whitecloak, the Light only knew where and doing what—but the truth was, he had started that war to rescue his sister.
Er, no. Pretty sure that should have been “Egwene,” there; Galad respected Nynaeve, but there was never the slightest indication he had feelings for her. And there’s no way Elayne is just mistaken about this, because she knew damn good and well Galad was all about Egwene—she teased Egwene about it quite a lot back in the day. This is pretty clearly authorial error; I have no idea if it’s been corrected in later editions, but it exists in mine, and so I note it.
And… yeah. Onward!
Chapter 13: High Seats
Zaida leaves, and Elayne hopes that she wins over her rivals (and remembers Andor’s favor), but chews out her guard for letting her in. Birgitte’s reflected embarrassment forces her to back down a bit, though, which Aviendha finds hilarious.
“I think you two will make each other melt, one day,” she said, laughing. “But then, you already played that joke, Birgitte Trahelion.” Birgitte scowled at her, sudden alarm crushing embarrassment in the bond, and she returned such a look of innocence it seemed her eyes might fall out of her face.
Better not to ask, Elayne decided. When you ask questions, Lini used to say, then you have to hear the answers whether you want to or not.
Elayne gives up on her tepid bath and begins getting dressed, but Birgitte interrupts her toilette to tell her Dyelin has returned with four High Seats: Mantear, Haevin, Gilyard and Northan. Elayne is ecstatic at the news, and doesn’t understand why Birgitte is puzzled and annoyed. She changes into more formal attire and convinces Aviendha to do the same for once. She understands Birgitte’s hesitance, though, once she and Aviendha enter the sitting room and Dyelin introduces the four High Seats to her: they are all children, the oldest (Conail Northan) barely past sixteen, and none are accompanied by adult advisors. All four declare their allegiance to Trakand, which Elayne accepts with as little consternation as she can manage. Catalyn of Haevin asks rudely about Birgitte’s status and Elayne’s own as Aes Sedai. Elayne replies politely, gritting her teeth, and Aviendha makes a pointed rejoinder-slash-veiled threat. Elayne introduces her, and Catalyn is astonished to meet an Aiel who is also Elayne’s sister. Conail thinks they’re joking, and Branlet Gilyard keeps ogling Birgitte, but the four of them have brought between them three thousand armsmen (Catalyn points out repeatedly that she had brought the most), and have sent for more, so Elayne puts up with it. Elayne notes that Perival Mantear is shy, but seems to have a much better idea than the others of what he’s getting into. They chat for a bit before sending the kids off to change, and Dyelin congratulates herself for a job well done, though she notes that Catalyn is an “odious child.” Elayne is still distracted by the beacon in the west and Rand’s undoubted involvement with it, but Birgitte and Aviendha are both incensed at the notion that these children are to be allowed to command armsmen; Birgitte opines that people will die for this. Irritated, Dyelin begs to differ:
“I became High Seat of Taravin at fifteen, when my father died in a skirmish on the Altaran Marches. My two younger brothers died fighting cattle raiders out of Murandy that same year. I listened to advisors, but I told Taravin riders where to strike, and we taught the Altarans and the Murandians to look elsewhere for their thieving. The times choose when children must grow up, Aviendha, not we, and in these times, a High Seat who is a child cannot be a child any longer.”
Dyelin goes on to dryly suggest that Birgitte keep Conail in line by letting him look at her breeches. Elayne shrugs off Birgitte’s fury to point out that young or not, their men follow their High Seats, not Elayne, and so she will not treat them as less. She further adds that age doesn’t always necessarily bring wisdom, either, but still chastises Dyelin for not bringing their advisors along. As retribution, she makes Dyelin responsible for keeping an eye on them, which makes Dyelin wince.
It made Birgitte laugh out loud. “If you have any problems, I’ll lend you a pair of breeches and some boots, and you can walk for him.”
“Some women,” Dyelin murmured into her wine, “can make a fish bite by crooking a finger, Lady Birgitte. Other women have to drag their bait all over the pond.” Aviendha laughed at that, but Birgitte’s anger began to edge upward in the bond.
They are interrupted by Rasoria, who tells Elayne the First Maid and the First Clerk are here to see her. Elayne wishes her friends could all get along, and tells Rasoria to send them in.
“You already played that joke”: …uh, what exactly does Aviendha mean here? I have a feeling I’m being extraordinarily dense, but I don’t quite get it. I mean, the logical assumption is that she’s referring to the whole episode with the Hot Rod Ter’Angreal™ and Elayne (as we presume) table-dancing naked as a result, but how was that a joke Birgitte played? ‘Cause Elayne pretty much did that to herself, you know. Or does Aviendha just mean she told Min about it during the oosquai-and-accidental-voyeurism episode in WH? I don’t know, something about the phrasing here baffles me.
(It’s rather disturbingly easy to phrase many of the Supergirls’ adventures to sound like they’re describing vignettes from Animal House. I… have no response to that, really.)
(Also, this. Just because.)
And not to bring up The Dreaded Bath again, but, um. Why is Elayne complaining that her bath water has gone cold, when either she or Aviendha could make it hot again with a thought? Hello, what? How did we forget the Supergirls have frickin’ MAGIC which makes the heating of water a completely trivial exercise? What is this bath thing’s damn deal? Why is it so weird and long and dumb?
And, why am I still talking about it?
Well, possibly because there’s not a whole hell else of a lot to talk about in this chapter. I honestly could not care less about the Four Snot-Nosed Brats of the Apocalypse—although I must point out to Dyelin, just because you stepped up and did okay doesn’t mean that the idea of a fifteen-year-old commanding armies isn’t terrifying in general, you know.
(Okay, Alexander the Great didn’t suck at army-ing at that age, either. But still. How many people are Alexander the Great? I’m thinking, not many!)
Also, Dyelin is being ridiculously catty here, and also stuck-up in general, which kind of sucks. I liked her much better when she was being awesome and throwing chairs at assassins and such.
And…okay, I have nothing else to say. Which, considering I can blather on about just about anything, is a pretty fair indictment of how little this chapter signifies in advancing anything about anything. Jeez.
But the show must go on, WOT fans! I’m sorry to leave you in such lameness till next week, but console yourselves with egg nog and mistletoe and such, or whatever floats your goat, I ain’t picky. I’m sure you’ll find a way to carry on regardless. Until then, cheers, and Merry Christmas/Solstice/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah/generic holiday/consumer orgy/whatever. You know I loves ya whatever you espouse! See you next week!