O HAI, Wheel of Timers. You can has Re-read?
Today’s entry covers Chapters 8 and 9 of Crossroads of Twilight, in which the best thing I can say is, at least we won’t be back here for another fifteen chapters. Yay?
Also, metaphorical Molotov cocktails lurk below. BE YE WARNED.
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.
And nao, you can has post!
Chapter 8: Whirlpools of Color
Perrin races after Arganda to where Elyas and a Maiden (Elienda) approach. Elyas tells Perrin and Arganda that they have found the Shaido; they are camped around a largeish town forty miles away. But, he tells Perrin, there are more Shaido than they thought; at least nine or ten septs, which means at least ten thousand spears and perhaps the population of Ebou Dar total. Perrin feels despair, knowing that his entire force and Masema’s combined would be slaughtered against that many Aiel. Aram, who along with Berelain and Gallenne and the Aes Sedai have caught up to Perrin et al, says that they beat that many Trollocs in the Two Rivers, but Elyas points out that they trapped the Trollocs in a vise there, and cannot expect the same advantage in this case. The Wise Ones also approach, and Arganda asks Marline if the Shaido would accept a ransom for Alliandre and the others. Marline says normally not, but the Shaido have broken with tradition already, so it’s possible. Gallenne, however, points out that ransoming is a fairly common practice out here in rural Altara, and yet they’ve seen only ruin in the Shaido’s wake, and no evidence that they’ve ever honored a ransom demand. Annoura disagrees, and argues that she should approach them to negotiate.
“No ransom,” Perrin said, and when everyone stared at him, most in consternation, Annoura with her face unreadable, he said it again, in a harder voice. “No ransom.” He would not pay these Shaido for making Faile suffer. She would be afraid, and they had to pay for that, not profit from it. Besides, Gallenne had the right of it. Nothing Perrin had seen, in Altara or Amadicia or before that in Cairhien, so much as hinted that the Shaido could be trusted to keep any bargain. As well trust rats in the grain bins and cutworms with the harvest.
Perrin tells Aram to get Grady to meet him at the Traveling ground, so Elyas can take Perrin to see the Shaido camp. Everyone looks ready to argue with Perrin’s declaration, so he gallops off before anyone can say anything, Elyas following, trying desperately to think of a plan. They stop at the stone slab with the Darkhound tracks on it, and Elyas muses on them:
“They were wolves, once. The souls of wolves, anyway, caught and twisted by the Shadow. That was the core used to make Darkhounds, the Shadowbrothers. I think that’s why the wolves have to be at the Last Battle. Or maybe Darkhounds were made because wolves will be there, to fight them. The Pattern makes Sovarra lace look like a piece of string, sometimes. […] [Wolves] avoid talking about Darkhounds, though, and they avoid Darkhounds, too. A hundred wolves could die trying to kill one Shadowbrother. Worse, if they fail, the Darkhound can eat the souls of those that aren’t quite dead yet, and in a year or so, there’d be a new pack of Shadowbrothers that didn’t remember ever being wolves. I hope they don’t remember, anyway.”
Perrin asks if they can eat the soul of a man who can talk to wolves, too, but Elyas doesn’t know. Elyas reassures him that the Darkhounds are surely too busy hunting their prey to report on him for a while yet. The others catch up and they head to the Traveling ground, Perrin ignoring Berelain’s attempts to talk to him. They meet up with Aram, Grady, Dannil, and a dozen more Two Rivers men. Grady looks exhausted, but works with Elyas to create a gateway to the spot Elyas wants; Perrin notes absently as he goes through that Grady’s gateways are larger than they used to be. Once everyone is through (Annoura glaring at Grady, Marline and Perrin in a fury), Perrin, Aram, Elyas, Arganda, Gallenne, Grady, Dannil et al, Marline, and Annoura head up the ridge. Halfway there they run into Sulin and another Maiden, Tuandha, who leads them the rest of the way. Perrin is shocked by the sight of the Aiel camp, which sprawls out for a mile on each side of the medium-sized walled town in the center. Marline murmurs that there are “too many.”
“Too many Wise Ones, Perrin Aybara. Wherever I look, I can see a woman channeling. Just for a moment here, a moment there—Wise Ones do not channel all the time—but they are everywhere I look. Too many to be the Wise Ones of ten septs.”
He drew a deep breath. “How many do you think there are?”
“I think maybe all the Shaido Wise Ones are down there,” Marline replied, as calm as if she were talking about the price of barley. “All who can channel.”
Marline is not sure, but estimates that means between four and five hundred channeling Wise Ones, plus apprentices. Annoura practically cries at hearing that just the Shaido Wise Ones equal half the Tower’s numbers, and Sulin derisively shoots down Dannil’s suggestion of trying to sneak into the camp. Perrin realizes he no longer feels despair now that he’s seen the worst. He notes an odd cluster of windmills outside the walls, which Sulin tells him is part of an aqueduct system running from the city to a lake five miles distant. Then:
The colors erupted inside Perrin’s head, an explosion of hues so strong that sight and hearing vanished. All sight except for the colors themselves, at least. They were a vast tide, as if all the times he had pushed them out of his head had built a dam that they now smashed aside in a silent flood, swirling in soundless whirlpools that tried to suck him under. An image coalesced in the middle of it, Rand and Nynaeve sitting on the ground facing one another, as clear as if they were right in front of him. He had no time for Rand, not now. Not now! Clawing at the colors like a drowning man clawing for the surface, he—forced—them—out!
Sight and hearing, the world around, crashed in on him.
“…it’s madness,” Grady was saying in worried tones. “Nobody can handle enough of saidin for me to feel that far off! Nobody!”
Annoura and Marline concur re: saidar, and the three worry about whether it is the Forsaken, but Perrin tells them it is Rand, and not to worry about it. Ignoring everyone’s stares, and Annoura’s attempt to convince him they must go investigate whatever is happening, he asks Sulin if she can capture him some Shaido prisoners to interrogate. Sulin shrugs, and opines that he won’t learn much from them; they will laugh at pain, and she doesn’t know if they can be shamed anymore. Perrin answers that even a little information is better than none.
His work lay in front of him. A puzzle to solve, Faile to free, and the Shaido to destroy. That was all that mattered in the world.
And the Emo continues to continue. Thank God, really.
Interesting that the ta’veren color swirls seem to have practically attacked Perrin here, when the Cleansing started, while Mat only appeared to have a brief (and decidedly less traumatic) flash of them at the same time, back in Chapter 3. I suppose that Perrin’s thought, though, that they were punishing him for ignoring them so much before, is the explanation we should go with. Funny, I never really thought of the color swirls as anything but some weirdass effect of ta’veren-y whatever before, but this is making them seem almost… anthropomorphic.
Not that I’m really seriously suggesting that, but, um. Um?
Well, who the hell knows at this point, but it should be no shock that I am reeeeally interested, swirly-thing-wise and otherwise, to see what happens once all three Superboys are finally all together again in the last book. An event which, I might remind you, hasn’t occurred since the end of the third book. And we’re at thirteen and counting. I’M JUST SAYING.
(Note, since I know people will be picky about this: yes, technically all three boys are in the same place for the first seventeen chapters of TSR (the Stone in Tear), but as far as I can tell, never once in that time are all three of them together together. Perrin and Mat have a scene together (their last until ToM), and Rand has one with each of them separately, but they are never once actually all in the same room before Perrin leaves for the Two Rivers in Chapter 18 (and Mat and Rand leave for the Aiel Waste in the chapter following). Nor are they ever all together after that, either. It’s kind of wacky when you think about it.
(And really, looking at it more, even the end of TDR is pretty sketchy on the “together” part, unless you count “Mat and Perrin catching glimpses of Rand out of the corner of their eye” as being “together.” And while they might have all seen each other in between the ending of TDR and the beginning of TSR, we’re not told about it if so, and from Mat and Perrin’s behavior in TSR it seems kind of unlikely that they were. Thus, in terms of “together” meaning “all three of them actually interacting with each other in a meaningful way, on screen,” the last time it really happened was… wow. The Battle of Falme, at the end of TGH. Dude.
(Also, did I talk about this already? I think I did. Oh well.))
And now that that parenthetical aside has rendered meaningless both the word “together” and the concept of what sanely constitutes “an aside,” let’s move on!
I initially found it rather hinky that Annoura suggests trying to negotiate with the Shaido, especially in light of how well that hasn’t gone for everyone else they’ve come across. However, it occurs to me that Annoura can count just as well as Perrin can, and she doesn’t have his Emo to make her not care how badly they are outnumbered. All things considered, negotiating with them is actually the slightly less stupid option to suggest.
That being said, even while making fun of Perrin’s emo I agree with his sentiment. Fuck negotiating with Sevanna, dudes. SMASH HER. WE WANTS IT, PRECIOUS.
Darkhounds Redux: It was Elyas’ info here on how Darkhounds are created which made people—well, first it made people go “Yikes” because THAT SUCKS, YOU LEAVE MY WOLVES ALONE, DAMMIT, but then it also made people speculate on a possible connection between Darkhounds and Slayer, who after all has wolf-soul huntin’ as the main hobby on his Facebook page. Wouldn’t that be a logical way to, er, recruit new Darkhounds, so to speak?
Of course, if that’s the case you have to wonder why Slayer hasn’t ever, you know, used Darkhounds in all the many attempted Perrin-killings he’s done, since they evidently would have come rather in handy there. So, maybe not. It’s a neat idea, though.
(Also, random free-association thought: does Elyas know about/know how to use the Wolf Dream? I almost have to assume “no,”,because if he did know, why wouldn’t he have ever brought it up to Perrin, or at least mentioned it in passing? But if not, why not? All wolves are supposed to be able to enter the dream, right? And Perrin’s not the only Wolfbrother who can do it, either, as evidenced by Noam in ToM. So, why not Elyas? ‘Tis a puzzlement!)
Chapter 9: Traps
Faile stands in the snow between the gai’shain camp and the main Shaido camp, reporting Sevanna’s words to Someryn; Someryn is not pleased when Faile says Sevanna said the other Wise Ones are “timid.” Faile is uneasy about being in the open so long talking to Someryn, but doesn’t dare move without permission. She contemplates the double-sided trap she is in; if Sevanna catches them spying on her, the punishment will be severe, but the penalty from the other Wise Ones might be fatal if they stop. And that is not the only trap Faile is in. Faile asks Someryn if she can go, but Someryn doesn’t answer, and Faile looks up to see she appears to be staring at nothing, mouth open in stunned amazement. Faile then notes two other Wise Ones staring in the same direction, and concludes that someone must be channeling on the ridgeline above the camp. She tries not to get her hopes up. Someryn snaps out of it, hits Faile and orders her off, and Faile goes quickly.
Pride said to maintain a cool defiance, a quiet refusal to yield, yet sense said that was the way to find herself guarded twice as closely as she was. The Shaido might take the wetlander gai’shain for domesticated animals, but they were not completely blind. They must think that she had accepted her captivity as inescapable if she were to be able to escape, and that was very much on her mind. The sooner, the better. Certainly before Perrin caught up. […] She was a soldier’s daughter. She knew the Shaido’s numbers, she knew the strength Perrin had to call on, and she knew she had to reach him before that clash could take place.
Faile hurries through the crowd until she finds Chiad, who reports that Lacile and Arrela’s escape appears to have been successful; Faile is mostly relieved that they had gone through with it rather than deciding honor demanded they stay. She comments again that the rest of them would have a better chance if Bain and Chiad came with them, but this offends Chiad, who tells her that she, Chiad, will follow ji’e’toh even if the Shaido do not, and leaves. Faile feels guilty, but lets her go for now. She contemplates the wreckage of the city for a moment before turning to go, but is stopped by a huge Aielman, who steps in front of her and informs her she is very pretty. Faile can smell that he has been drinking. She tells him meekly that she is gai’shain to Sevanna and must go, but to her shock the man ignores this and picks her up bodily and begins to carry her off. She kicks at him futilely and tries to scream, but he muffles her.
Abruptly, the monster carrying her stopped.
“I made this one gai’shain, Nadric,” another man’s deep voice said.
Faile felt a rumble of laughter in the chest against her face even before she heard it. She did not stop her kicking, never stopped writhing or trying to shout, yet her captor seemed unaware of her efforts. “She belongs to Sevanna now, Brotherless,” the huge man—Nadric?—said contemptuously. “Sevanna takes what she wants, and I take what I want. It is the new way.”
“Sevanna took her,” the other man replied calmly, “but I never gave her to Sevanna. I never offered to trade her to Sevanna. Do you abandon your honor because Sevanna abandons hers?”
There is a pause, and finally Nadric says she is not pretty enough to fight over, drops her on her back, and leaves. Faile forces herself to get up and stop shaking, and reluctantly thanks Rolan, who tells her he isn’t asking for gratitude. She tries not to snarl at him and lurches off to where she’d dropped her basket; Rolan catches up to her and picks it up. She starts to snap at him, and then reasons that that might be foolish, since Rolan has obviously been following her.
She was sure she did not need to fear him trying to force her. Rolan had had his chance for that, when he had her naked and bound, and he could have been looking at a fence post then. Perhaps he did not like women in that way. In any case, the Brotherless were almost as much outsiders among the Shaido as the wetlanders. None of the Shaido really trusted them […] If she could make a friend of the man, perhaps he would be willing to help her. Not to escape, certainly—that would asking too much—but… Or would it? The only way to find out was to try.
She smiles at him and thanks him again, and he smiles back and comments that he thinks she is “a woman of much ji,” and that he would like to see her laugh. She comments daringly that there isn’t much reason for her to laugh while in white; Rolan answers that he can make a woman laugh sometimes, and he’d heard she has a husband. Faile stumbles, and tells him she does, and that she loves him very much.
“What happens while you are gai’shain cannot be held against you when you put off white,” he said calmly, “but perhaps you wetlanders do not see it that way. Still, it can be lonely when you are gai’shain. Perhaps we can talk sometimes.”
Faile cautiously feigns interest, telling herself she could flirt some without letting it get too far if it meant convincing Rolan to help her escape. They reach the area near the aqueduct’s terminal, where Alliandre is doing laundry. Once Rolan leaves, Faile explains why she was smiling at him, somewhat embarrassed, but Alliandre shrugs and says she would marry him if he could get them out of here, and her husband would never need to know. Faile grits her teeth, and tells Alliandre about Lacile and Arrela’s escape; worried, Alliandre tells her Maighdin went to make a try for Therava’s tent, but she should have been back by now. Faile thinks of the dangerousness of despair, and reassures Alliandre that Maighdin won’t get caught. They wash clothes until Galina comes by to sneer at them.
Galina was pretty, but nowhere near beautiful, and Faile did not understand what Therava saw in her, unless it was simply the pleasure of dominating an Aes Sedai. That still left the question of why the woman remained when Therava seemed to take every opportunity to humiliate her.
Alliandre tells her Maighdin went to Therava’s tent to get “your ivory rod” this morning, and asks when they will see Galina’s promised help, but the blood drains out of Galina’s face at the news. However, just that moment Maighdin appears, looking worked-over, and tells them Therava caught her, but only thought she was there to steal, so Galina is safe. She demands of Galina what’s happening re: saidar, which even she can feel even though she has almost no ability to channel. Galina grabs her by the hair and wrenches her head back, but one of Sevanna’s gai’shain, an Amadician named Aravine, intervenes and throws Galina down. Galina blusters, but Aravine taunts her with what happened the last time she displeased Therava, and Galina threatens her and stalks off. Unimpressed, Aravine tells Faile Sevanna wants her, but instead of leading her straight to Sevanna, she takes Faile to where Lacile and Arrela are hogtied naked to a cart. Aravine tells her they wer caught this morning, and will be released at dark. Faile asks why she is showing her this, since no one should know of a connection between her and them.
“You forget, my Lady, I was there when you were all put in white.” Aravine studied her a moment, then suddenly took Faile’s hands and turned them so that her own hands were between Faile’s palms. Bending her knees just short of kneeling, she said quickly, “Under the Light and by my hope of rebirth, I, Aravine Carnel, do pledge my fealty and obedience in all things to the Lady Faile t’Aybara.”
Faile demands to know how she knows that name, and Aravine answers she overheard it from Galina. She knows they are trying to escape, and begs Faile to let her help and come with them. Faile briefly considers killing her, but then reasons that Aravine had already had enough info to condemn them and hadn’t said anything, so she accepts her pledge (with inner reservations) and asks if Aravine has anyone else she can trust to bring in on this. Aravine thinks there may be one or two, but she wants to be sure before approaching them. Faile approves this and then hastens to Sevanna’s tent. Inside, Sevanna is arguing with Therava, who wants them to head for the mountains in the east immediately, to get as far away from “whatever it is” that’s happening as possible. Sevanna dismisses her advice, and changes the subject to Faile. She unwraps the knife Faile had hidden away, and asks if Faile recognizes it; Faile knows she’s caught, and doesn’t bother to deny it’s hers.
“As well Galina brought me this before you could use it. For whatever purpose. If you stabbed someone, I would have to be very angry with you.”
Galina? Of course. The Aes Sedai would not allow them to escape before they did as she wanted.
Laughing, Sevanna asks Therava what she should do with Faile, and Faile admits to herself that Therava absolutely terrifies her. Therava opines coldly that she thinks Faile was trying to escape, but that she “can learn to do as she is told.” Faile ends up hogtied naked on a table for the night. Just as the cramping and cold is about to become unbearable, Rolan shows up with two braziers, which he puts under the table, and begins contorting her body and massaging Faile’s muscles to ease the cramps.
“You do not mind if I occupy myself while I try to think of a way to make you laugh, do you?” he asked.
Suddenly she realized that she was laughing, and not hysterically. Well, it was only partly hysteria. She was trussed like a goose for the oven and being saved from the cold for the second time by a man she thought maybe she would not stab after all, Sevanna would be watching her like a hawk from now on, and Therava might be trying to kill her as an example; but she knew she was going to escape. One door never closed but another opened. She was going to escape. She laughed until she cried.
Oh, for crying out loud.
I really have to laugh at myself, because the first thing I thought when reading the last bit of this chapter was “That is so inappropriate,” which is hilarious both in its prissiness, and yet also in what a mind-blowingly huge understatement it is.
I don’t think I really identified until now what bothered me so much about Faile’s entire part of this plotline, quite aside from the more structural-meta Plotline Of Doom stuff I’ve already talked about. Or rather, I identified it a long time ago, but tried to convince myself I was overreacting about it.
However, I think that is Other People talking on that count, and since the whole point of this is for me to speak truthfully about How I Feel About WOT Things, well, here’s how I feel about this: the thing that bugs me about Faile’s part in This Damn Plotline, specifically, is that once you strip the obfuscating layers of it away, this entire plotline is a downright egregious example of the Damsel in Distress scenario, and the whole thing is dismayingly sexist as a result.
Oh yes, I went there. And I’m about to get comfy, too.
This is particularly upsetting because in general I expect better of Jordan on this front. Though even he has an unfortunate tendency to lean on the Women Getting Kidnapped plot crutch—one of these days I’m really going to have to make a list of just how many different ways the Supergirls managed to get themselves abducted and/or imprisoned over the course of the series—it’s really only this one in particular (at least that I can think of at the moment) that leaves such a bad taste in my mouth, and I think it’s because of the sheer volume of Wimmins In Danger stereotypes covered here, and the frankly rather creepily sexual overtones with which they are achieved.
Because, let’s review, shall we? Faile (and the rest of the women in her party—and it was only the women, I point out) have been abducted and enslaved in a manner that I would call almost disturbingly fetishistic—stripping, spanking, bondage, ritual humiliation, you name it. She’s been dominated, objectified, and rendered almost completely powerless, and tortured in ways which are extremely sexually charged; I mean, did you read the last few paragraphs of this chapter?
And while silk robes and excessive jewelry might not be quite as kinky as, say, a gold bikini avec neck chain, both outfits convey the same message: sexualized, fetishized ownership. The fact that it’s another woman doing it to her only mitigates the situation if you don’t think about it too closely, and it fails completely once you consider the Galina/Therava situation, which, okay, WHATEVER if you don’t think there’s a sexual element to that after the quote from Faile above about not being able to figure out what Therava sees in her! Because she’s not that pretty, no less!
So there’s all that. And now Faile’s been threatened with sexual assault, from which she was, again, helpless to extract herself. Also from which, I might mention, she was rescued by a man—a man whose own treatment of her hovers a razor’s edge from being the same goddamn thing. Not that “sexual blackmail” is much of an upgrade from rape, if it is one at all. And it’s just icing on the cake that the very strong inclination we’re directed to by the text is to consider Rolan a good guy for doing this. He may think he’s a good guy—Faile may even think he is, in a fashion—but just think about the implications of that for a few minutes.
And at the end of it, we already know, all her own efforts to free herself will still be contingent upon her white knight, namely Perrin, finally sweeping in and saving her. I could have forgiven the whole thing if Faile had gotten herself out of it, but whether you consider it was Rolan or Perrin or both who actually rescued her, the point is, it definitely wasn’t Faile.
Worst of all, Faile never even gets to avenge her treatment at Sevanna’s hands directly. I mean, at least Leia got to fucking kill Jabba the Hut herself. (Also, Leia was only one of several people being rescued, most of whom were not women. Trust me, it makes a difference.)
And that’s really just infuriating. All that creepy objectifying bullshit, and Faile doesn’t even get to take back her own power, either by rescuing her own damn self or confronting/defeating her tormentor?
In a word: Ugh.
Mind you, it’s not any one of these elements in isolation that make it sexist in my opinion; it’s all of them together. It’s just piling them all up in one place, and banging into every—last—stereotype of the DiD scenario on the way, that tips it over the edge from irritating into truly offensive.
So, yeah. I think it’s safe to say that, with the possible exception of That Thing With Tylin, the Perrin ‘n Faile Plotline of Doom is officially my least favorite thing in WOT ever. Like really really REALLY my least favorite thing. Ever. Ever ever.
As a sop to Jordan, though, I will point out there is another thing in this chapter for which I will have to offer him at least a partial mea culpa on, and that is this quote:
Perhaps [Rolan] did not like women in that way.
Which, while it’s not exactly a mention of Mr. and Mr. Al’Smith living in conjugal bliss (or conjugal strife, even) in Baerlon or whatever, or even the presence of an actual gay man, it is most definitely what I once claimed did not exist in WOT: a tacit acknowledgment of the existence of male homosexuality.
And while it’s still kind of sad that “tacit acknowledgment” is the best we can do here, it’s still more than I originally gave Jordan credit for, and so I am happy to say: my bad. I was wrong.
I just wish I was wrong about the Faile stuff, too.
Aaand there may be more worth covering in this chapter (though there may not be, either), but I am officially exhaustified, y’all, and so I will leave you all to be horribly outdone (or, hopefully, horribly contemplative) about My Thoughts on sexism in WOT (and also other things, too) in the comments. Remember, calm and reasoned discussion yay, ad hominem attacks nay. Have a lovely weekend, and see you Tuesday!