Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, Wheel of Time Re-read! Because it is, right now. Snowing, I mean. I’m not so much a fan of the ass-biting cold, but snow? Still kind of neat to this Southern girl.
Anyway. Today’s entry covers Chapters 10 and 11 of Crossroads of Twilight, in which a vase obstinately will not become two faces no matter how I squint. Woe.
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 now, the objective-reality-challenged post!
Chapter 10: A Blazing Beacon
In the manor of House Matherin, near the border of Murandy, Elayne waits impatiently as a maid nervously helps her dress. Since the siege of Caemlyn began she has been visiting numerous estates of minor Houses throughout Andor; she chafes at the time wasted, but knows it is necessary. The maid, Elsie, finally finishes and precedes Elayne out into the corridor, where she shrieks in horror. Embracing saidar, Elayne dashes out after her and demands to know what happened; Elsie tells her she saw a ghost.
“Lady Nelein, as was Lord Aedmun’s grandmother. She died when I was little, but I remember even Lord Aedmun tiptoed around her temper, and the maids used to jump if she looked at them, and other ladies who visited, too, and the lords, as well. Everybody was afraid of her. She was right there in front of me, and she scowled so furious—” She broke off, blushing, when Elayne laughed.
Elayne, relieved that there were no assassins or Black Ajah, tells Elsie gently that the dead cannot harm the living, dismissing her fears as hysteria, and sends her off to bring porters for her luggage. She meets Aviendha further on, who immediately begins inquiring after Elayne’s health worriedly; Elayne makes fun of her for being a mother hen. She thinks the mood swings and fatigue of pregnancy are annoying, but the coddling was the worst part of it.
She just wished every woman she knew did not believe that pregnancy had made her brainless. Nearly every woman she knew. Those who had never borne a child themselves were the worst.
She wishes that Aviendha and Birgitte hadn’t been so drunk that night as to be unable to remember whether Min had said her baby was a boy or girl. Through the bond she knows that Rand had suddenly jumped to the west that morning after being south of her for quite some time, but nothing more than that. Aviendha guesses what she is thinking, and reassures her Rand is well, and that if he allows himself to be killed she will “cut off his ears.” They both start laughing, and they hug for comfort. Elayne tries not to let laughter become tears.
Life was very strange. Had anyone told her a few years ago that she would share a man with another woman—with two other women!—she would have called them mad. The very idea would have been indecent. But she loved Aviendha every bit as much as she did Rand, only in a different way, and Aviendha loved Rand as much as she did.
Denying that meant denying Aviendha, and she could as easily step out of her skin. Aiel women, sisters or close friends, often married the same man, and seldom gave him any say in the matter. She was going to marry Rand, and so was Aviendha, and so was Min. Whatever anyone said or thought, that was all there was to it. If he lived long enough.
Elayne hastens to appear calm again as Fridwyn Ros, the manager of Lord Aedmun’s estate, enters to tell her her escort (of which he seems doubtful) is ready, and the men he is sending with her are mounted as well as he could manage. He apologizes that Matherin couldn’t send more, and Elayne answers that Trakand has always valued Matherin’s loyalty, subtly assuring him that their allegiance will be rewarded. In the courtyard Elayne contemplates her escort of the Queen’s Guard, knowing that their ceremonial appearance as well as the fact that they are all women is the cause of Ros’s uncertainty.
She hoped people would think them an affectation on her part, and largely decorative with all the lace and silk. Men tended to underestimate a woman carrying weapons until they faced one, and even most other women tended to think her a brainless fool. […] A bodyguard her enemies would dismiss until it was too late for more than regrets was her aim. She intended to make their uniforms more elaborate, partly to feed those misconceptions and partly to feed the women’s pride as soldiers marked out from the rest, but she herself had no doubts. Every one of them, from merchants’ guards to Hunters of the Horn, had been carefully chosen for her skills, experience and courage. She was ready to put her life in their hands. She already had.
The Guard lieutenant, Caseille Raskovni, salutes Elayne and tells her they are ready, and Matherin’s men are “as ready as they’ll ever be”; Elayne surveys the eleven men Ros had scraped together, all either past retirement age or too young to shave, and agrees with her assessment. Aviendha observes quietly to her that all the two hundred-plus men Elayne has gathered on these trips have been the same, and asks if this really worth the time; Elayne tells her it is worth it, in terms of how talk of her will spread throughout the countryside. She says support for her claim in the rural areas may not help in Caemlyn, but it will make all the difference after she wins.
“Most Queens in our history spent the first years of their rule gathering the people solidly behind them, Aviendha, and some never did, but harder times than these are coming. I may not have one year before I need every Andoran to stand behind me. I can’t wait until I have the throne. Harder times are coming, and I have to be ready. Andor has to be ready, and I must make it so,” she finished firmly.
Aviendha comments that she will learn much about being a Wise One from Elayne; Elayne blushes furiously, and tries not to resent Rand for putting her in this condition where she can swing “from giddy to weepy” on no notice. They head out, and Elayne tries not to react to the families weeping to see their sons go off to war. Aviendha is about to weave the gateway to take them back to Caemlyn when Elayne feels someone channeling saidar far to the west, “a beacon blazing on a far mountaintop in the night,” and cannot imagine how much must be being channeled for her to feel it at this distance. Nothing changes in the bond with Rand, but Elayne knows immediately he is involved, and tells Aviendha that they must go to him. Aviendha says they must not, to Elayne’s astonishment. She tells Elayne that they know nothing of the situation, and rushing headlong into it might bring nothing but disaster. Elayne insists they could be careful, and that Min’s viewing about her baby being born healthy means nothing will happen to her, Elayne, before she is born (she hopes for a daughter). Aviendha asks her if she remembers what Aviendha told her about the rings in Rhuidean, and what they show.
“No one can remember all of that, Elayne, only bits and pieces. I knew I would love Rand al’Thor… ” she was still uncomfortable sometimes about using just his first name in front of others, “and that I would find sister-wives. For most things, all you retain is a vague impression at best. A hint of warning, sometimes. I think if we go to him now, something very bad will happen. Maybe one of us will die, maybe both in spite of what Min said. […] Perhaps he will die. Perhaps something else. I do not know for sure—maybe we will all survive, and we will sit around a fire with him roasting pecara when we find him—but the glimmer of a warning is there in my head.”
Elayne wants to argue, but then gives in, and tells Aviendha she needs to learn nothing from Elayne, as she is already wiser and more coolheaded. Aviendha flushes, and makes the gateway to Caemlyn. Elayne tries not to feel anguish at leaving Rand to take care of himself, but thinks it must be done; her duty to Andor comes first.
So, the non-infants in the audience probably remember those Magic Eye things that infected the world back in the nineties—because it wasn’t bad enough that the nineties gave us stirrup pants, the fanny pack, and the Backstreet Boys, it also had to make a fad out of giving people migraines for fun.
The nineties were kind of evil, you guys.
Anyway, I always hated those things, mostly because of the aforementioned migraines, but also because I never could figure out whether I was seeing what I was supposed to be seeing because I actually saw it, or because people said that was what was there to see. It was all very psychological and I didn’t like it AT ALL, because I did not appreciate being told by a big eye-searing square of squiggles that I just wasn’t perceptive enough to see that the big splodge of exploding neon chickens was actually the Taj Mahal, or whatever. I do not need a bunch of cheap manipulative headachy doodles lowering my self-esteem, is what I’m saying, y’all.
Er. I had a point here… oh yeah. So my point is, I’m having a rather unfortunate flashback to those halcyon days of flannel and Hanson and it being socially acceptable to squash your face against head-splitting scribble-art, because I totally cannot figure out whether the prose in this chapter is actually moving as glacially slowly as I think it is, or I’m just perceiving it that way because so many other people have complained about COT in general being slow that the suggestion is winning over the reality.
But, honestly, I’m sort of thinking it’s not just me. Remember how I used to complain, back around LOC, about plotty plotty Chatty McExposition chapters that just—wouldn’t—condense? Well, I am kind of missing those, now.
Not that things don’t happen in this chapter. Well, okay, two things happen in this chapter: we see a ghost, and the Cleansing starts. Again.
…I’m not really sure that helped my counterargument, there.
I think, though I’m not sure, that on first reading it was right about here, when the Cleansing started for the fourth time in a row, that I first thought to myself, wait, is he going to do this for every plotline in WOT? Because, um.
Right, see, because on the one hand, this was the first time in quite a while that I was completely clear about where everyone else was in relation to each other chronologically without having to resort to online resources, which was kind of nice, but on the other, I was like, holy crap, how long is it going to take us to get through this one day? And…well, yeah.
Although, I do grok Elayne’s reasoning about making a preemptive strike in getting the countryside behind her for Tarmon Gai’don purposes. I just don’t know that I need to get this much detail about it.
Elayne’s Guard: I really don’t have anything much to say about the quote on her trust in them, I just really liked it. Being underestimated is frequently extremely annoying, but taking sneaky advantage of being underestimated? AWESOME. Like I’ve said many times, Jordan sometimes fails at avoiding sexist tropes, but I will never let it be said that he didn’t far more often win at same. There is more than one reason I’m a fan of this series, after all.
Also, props to Aviendha for reining Elayne in and not letting her go haring off and screwing everything up re: the Cleansing. Though now I am kind of morbidly curious to know what would have happened had they tried. Their exchange on this is also notable for being the first time (that I recall) of Elayne using Min’s viewing as an excuse to do whatever the hell she wants, which I seem to remember becoming very annoying after a while. More on that later.
Pregnancy coddling: Dude, the thing about women who’ve never had babies being the worst about getting all drive-by advice-y on you? SO TRUE. I know, because I was completely kind of guilty of this. I’ve never had kids, nor am I typically around them as a general thing. I freely and cheerfully admit, therefore, to knowing fuck-all about kids or babies or pregnancy or any of it, and yet while my sister was pregnant I had to like physically clamp my mouth shut sometimes to keep myself from pestering her about did she feel okay and has she been taking her vitamins and maybe she should lie down and smother yadda blah cloy. It was really pathetic, you guys.
Fortunately I was also living 1,400 miles from her for most of her pregnancy, so it was easier to stomp on the impulse than it otherwise might have been, but seriously, suppadat? I guess something that major happening to a loved one, that you haven’t experienced yourself, is scarier to think about. And of course it’s easier to be convinced you know the right way to do something when you haven’t had the opportunity to screw it up personally, as well.
Chapter 11: Talk of Debts
As they emerge from the gateway into the stableyard, Elayne notes that she cannot sense a single woman channeling in the Palace even though there are more than a hundred and fifty channelers inside, and thinks that even the Windfinders must be “walking small” in the face of the phenomenon they are all sensing. A hungover Birgitte enters the courtyard and goes straight to Aviendha, and Elayne approaches in time to overhear her asking Aviendha if Elayne drank her goat’s milk and such. Elayne answers that she did, and asks irritably if there is anything else Birgitte wants to ask her, but knows that Birgitte knows how tired she is. Elayne is further annoyed that the “mirroring” effect of their bond means that she is now experiencing Birgitte’s hangover, and asks sharply if Dyelin is back from approaching the Houses which have not yet thrown their support behind either Elayne or Arymilla. Birgitte tells her Dyelin is not back yet, and grumbles as they enter the Palace about the fresh contingent of useless armsmen Elayne has brought back with her; Elayne reminds her that they aren’t there to fight. Then Birgitte pulls her aside and tells her something very strange is going on with the Kin and Windfinders—Sumeko had fainted while Birgitte was asking her to Heal her hangover—but no one will tell her what the problem is. Elayne explains as much as she knows, and adds that it has nothing to do with them, but both Aviendha and Birgitte offer her sympathy.
It was more than commiseration; it was the shared feeling of a woman who had already suffered the loss she herself feared and more. Gaidal Cain was lost to Birgitte as surely as if he were dead, and on top of that, her memories of her past lives were fading. She remembered almost nothing clearly before the founding of the WhiteTower, and not all of that. Some nights, the fear that Gaidal would fade from her memory, too, that she would lose any remembrance of actually having known and loved him, left her unable to sleep until she drank as much brandy as she could hold. That was a poor solution, and Elayne wished she could offer a better, yet she knew her own memories of Rand would not die until she did, and she could not imagine the horror of knowing those memories might leave her.
Birgitte stoically laughs it off as they come upon Vandene, Merilille, Sareitha and Careane in the corridor; the last three are conversing urgently, but Vandene is ignoring them. Elayne notes how gaunt Vandene is, and thinks she is wearing Adeleas’s clothes. Vandene moves on, barely acknowledging Elayne, but the other three stop and curtsy, Merilille as deeply as a novice. Elayne tells them she doesn’t know what it is, but there is nothing they can do about it, and they have other matters to attend to. Sareitha and Careane accept this without an (outward) quibble, but Merilille still looks unnerved. Careane elbows Aviendha aside as they walk on (she hates wilders), and asks if they shouldn’t be ready to flee if it approaches; she and Sareitha agree that they would have to take the Kin with them if so. Incensed that they are talking so openly about fleeing, which could induce panic in the city if rumors got out, Elayne snaps that they aren’t going anywhere until the Amyrlin commands otherwise. Careane hastily agrees, and moves on to asking if Elayne couldn’t get Vandene to take some of the lessons with the Windfinders.
“She says she’s too busy with those two runaways, but she finds enough time to keep me talking some nights until I’m half asleep. That pair is already so cowed they wouldn’t squeak if their dresses caught fire. They don’t need her attention. She could take her portion of teaching those cursed wilders. Vandene needs to start behaving as an Aes Sedai, too!”
Elayne (who half-suspects Nynaeve left just to avoid the Windfinders) doesn’t answer, and Sareitha cuts in to opine that Zarya and Kirstian help distract Vandene from her grief over Adeleas, but also wonders if maybe she could spare an hour or so for lessons too. Elayne refuses the request, and Sareitha and Careane both sigh; Merilille doesn’t bother to react.
Vandene was not only grieving for a sister, she was searching for Adeleas’s murderer, and there could be no doubt that the killer was Merilille Ceandevin, Careane Fransi or Sareitha Tomares. One of them, or worse, more than one. The charge was hard to believe of Merilille, in her present condition, but it was not easy to believe of any sister. As Birgitte had pointed out, one of the worst Darkfriends she had ever met, during the Trolloc Wars, was a mild-as-milk lad who jumped at loud noises. And poisoned an entire city’s water supply.
Sareitha brightens to see Captain Mellar approach, and comments he was a hero again while Elayne was gone; her reaction to his presence is in marked contrast to everyone else’s open dislike. Mellar bows ostentatiously to Elayne and replies that it was only his duty to his Queen. Birgitte tells Elayne coldly that Mellar led a sortie without orders the day before, the fighting from which almost spilled back into the city. Sareitha protests that he had rescued a party of Lord Luan’s men from ambush by the besiegers, and added eighty to Elayne’s numbers by doing so. Quietly, Elayne asks how Mellar knew they were Luan’s, and Mellar answers smugly that he recognized one of Luan’s men. Elayne asks if this man brought any message from House Norwelyn, seeing as Luan has not declared for her.
Mellar’s smile faded somewhat. He was unused to being cut short. “But, my Queen, Lady Dyelin says that Luan is as good as in your camp right now. Accan showing up is proof of—”
“Of nothing, Captain,” Elayne said coldly. “Perhaps Lord Luan will be in my camp eventually, Captain, but until he declares, you’ve given me eighty men who need to be watched.” Eighty out of a hundred. And how many of hers had he lost? And he had risked Caemlyn doing it, burn him!
She continues that since he created the problem, he can be responsible for arranging their surveillance, and dismisses him coldly. Stunned and then furious, Mellar jerks a bow and leaves. Sareitha asks if that was necessary, seeing that Mellar had saved Elayne’s life; Elayne squeezes Birgitte and Aviendha’s hands, and answers that she always pays her debts.
Birgitte: One of my deeper irrational fears about growing old is the idea that I could go senile and forget everything before I die. It’s irrational mainly because there is (thankfully) very little tendency toward that in my family, and the phenomenon definitely tends to be genetic, but still the notion gives me shivers on occasion. To have that happen as a (relatively) young person, though—to actually feel it happening, and wonder how much was going to go… Man.*shudder*
There really wasn’t much need for me to quote the bit about Adeleas’s murder, since we know whodunit at this point, but for some reason the description of the jumpy kid who poisoned an entire city jumped out at me, because yikes. Also, it’s extremely obvious in retrospect (but nicely camouflaged at the time) what Careane’s request here was about, trying to divert Vandene away from investigating her sister’s murder.
Also also, poor Vandene. Another thing that’s completely obvious in retrospect here is that the only reason Vandene’s even bothering to hold on is because she’s waiting to take down whoever killed Adeleas. Talk about bleak.
Mellar: SOMEONE KILL HIM PLZKTHX
Also, now that Sareitha’s bizarre cheerleading for Mellar is no longer useful as a red herring directing us away from Careanedunit, I would really like to know what the hell is wrong with her, that she doesn’t see what a total slime he is. I’m kind of scornful of the idea of female intuition as a general thing, but come on. What more does she need here, a notarized Certificate of Ew Bad Touch in triplicate? Ugh.
And… um. Yeah, I really don’t have anything else to say about this chapter, and therefore have nothing else to say in this post. Fortunately I think we have a bath coming up on Friday; ORANGE YOU EXCITED? Of course you are. Cheers till then!