Happy Friday, y’all! Welcome to another Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 3 and 4 of New Spring, in which I contemplate sororal preparation rituals, possible subtextual reader chastisement, and the benefits of playing in your own sandbox, as it were.
(Side note: Word does not recognize “sororal” as a word. I’m just going to… point that out. And maybe growl, softly.)
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 post!
Chapter 3: Practice
After leaving the Amyrlin’s quarters, Moiraine wants to go take a nap, but Siuan convinces her that they should practice for their shawl testing instead. Moiraine reflects that the second surprise about her and Siuan is that the fisherman’s daughter led and the noblewoman followed, but thinks that Siuan had been born to lead, and outside rank meant nothing in the Tower anyway. She tells Siuan again of her conviction that Siuan will be Amyrlin inside a hundred years, but Siuan is not thrilled by this, opining that she’d rather go see the world instead. Then she accuses Moiraine of trying to change the subject from what they’d just heard.
For more than three thousand years the world had waited on the Prophecies of the Dragon to be fulfilled, fearing them, yet knowing they told of the world’s only hope. And now a boychild was about to be born – very soon, perhaps, by the way Gitara had spoken – to bring those Prophecies to a conclusion. […] That infant’s birth meant the Dark One would break free again, for the child would be born to face the Dark One in Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle. On him rested the fate of the world. The Prophecies said he was the only chance. They did not say he would win.
Worse, Moiraine thinks, he will channel saidin. She tells Siuan the Amyrlin told them not to talk about it, but Siuan counters that she just said they couldn’t talk about it to anyone else. They reach the Accepted’s gallery, and Moiraine muses on how the Tower holds less than a third of the novices, Accepted, and Aes Sedai it was originally designed to house.
Numbers that still burned like acid. No Aes Sedai would say it aloud, and she would never dare say it where a sister might hear, but the White Tower was failing. The Tower was failing, and the Last Battle was coming.
They go to Siuan’s room, and Moiraine thinks of some of the pranks they’ve pulled in their time as novices. Siuan insists Moiraine go first, and Moiraine begins going through the one hundred intricate-but-useless weaves while waiting to see what Siuan will try to do to distract her this time. To her surprise, Siuan puts her off balance by talking about Gitara’s prophecy, asking if Moiraine thinks the Reds will be able to leave “him” alone.
“They will have twenty years to learn how. Or nearly so, at worst. At best, they will have longer.” Girls sometimes, if rarely, began channeling as young as twelve or thirteen, if they were born with the spark, but even with the spark boys never did before eighteen or nineteen, unless they tried to learn how, and in some men the spark did not come out until they were as old as thirty.
Moiraine goes on that the Reds will have to recognize that he can’t be gentled until after the Last Battle, anyway, but Siuan points out that there are rumors the Reds aren’t so particular about taking these men alive in the first place. They are interrupted when Myrelle Berengari barges in, an Accepted from the same year as they and a friend of Moiraine’s. Myrelle asks how long they think it will be before the Last Battle starts, referring to the (hotly contested) belief that certain passages in The Prophecies of the Dragon refer to the Aiel. Siuan and Moiraine exchange glances, and Myrelle immediately divines that they are hiding something, but declares she won’t pry. To Moiraine’s surprise, Siuan agrees to let Myrelle help “distract” Moiraine in her practice, and Moiraine is intensely annoyed with herself that between them they make her break concentration six times. They are interrupted again, this time by an Accepted named Tarna Feir, whom Moiraine considers humorless and arrogant. Siuan tells her to go away, but Tarna tells them all the Accepted have been summoned to the Oval Lecture Hall for an address from the Amyrlin, and also that Gitara Moroso just died a few hours ago. Myrelle exclaims that this must be the secret Siuan and Moiraine are keeping, and Tarna recalls that they would have been in attendance, and asks what happened.
“I was handing her a cup of tea when she gasped and fell dead in my arms,” Moiraine replied. And that was an even better Aes Sedai answer than Siuan’s, every word true while avoiding the whole truth.
To her surprise, an expression of sadness crossed Tarna’s face. It was fleeting, but it had been there. Tarna never showed emotion. She was carved from stone. “Gitara Sedai was a great woman,” she murmured. “She will be badly missed.”
They all run to the lecture hall to avoid being late, and Moiraine listens to the wild speculation circulating among the gathered Accepted. Aisling Noon, a rarity among Tower initiates in that she was a former Tinker, asks Siuan and Moiraine whether Gitara had a Foretelling before she died, but Tarna saves them from having to lie by declaring they’d said she hadn’t. Tamra enters, looking tired to Moiraine, and tells the Accepted that in thanks for the continued safety of Tar Valon, she has decided that the Tower will give a bounty of one hundred crowns “to every woman in the city who bore a child between the day the first soldiers arrived and the day the threat is ended.” She adds that she has decided to extend this bounty to the camp followers of the armies as well, and thus she is sending the Accepted out, accompanied by the Tower Guard, to start taking names before they disperse back to their homes, since the Aiel appear to be retreating. Everyone is shocked that the Accepted are to go out of the Tower without Aes Sedai to escort them. Tamra warns them sharply of the dangers outside Tar Valon’s walls beyond the Aiel, in particular the Whitecloaks, but advises them (and an impetuous Accepted named Alanna specifically) that anyone using the Power to defend themselves will regret it. She tells them to ready themselves to ride out.
“Oh, yes.” The words jerked everyone to a halt. “When you record the woman’s name, also put down the infant’s name and sex, the day he or she was born, and exactly where. The Tower’s records must be complete in this matter. You may go.” Just as though what she had left till last was not the most important thing. That was how Aes Sedai hid things in plain sight. Some said Aes Sedai had invented the Game of Houses.
Moiraine could not help exchanging excited glances with Siuan. Siuan absolutely hated anything that smacked of clerical work, but she wore a wide grin. They were going to help find the Dragon Reborn. Just his name, of course, and his mother’s name, but it was as near to an adventure as Accepted could dare to hope for.
Siuan gets her own icon! And it’s a fish! AWESOME.
So, it’s probably a little nonsensical to think of New Spring as Wheel of Time fanfiction, considering it was written by the original author, but nevertheless this is exactly what it feels like to me. And I mean that in a good way.
A great deal of the attraction of fanfic, I think, is getting to see characters you know and love from the original source material in a new and different way—by putting them in a different setting, by altering the storyline (or continuing it, if the original story has ended), by changing the characters’ relationships with each other, or any combination of the above—to varying degrees of extremity, of course. (And I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s reading this has been on the Internet—and in science fiction/fantasy fandom—more than long enough not to need an explanation of that last.) NS isn’t doing either of the latter two things, because of course by definition everything that happens in it is germane with the story (and relationships) of the series proper, but it is doing the first—just chronologically, instead of, you know, putting them in Gotham City or something.
That the new setting is also canon is irrelevant—it doesn’t change the fact that every few minutes I catch myself going “Ha! There’s Alanna!” or whoever else I know from the regular story who suddenly pops up, and it’s just fun to see them. Because they’re different, but also the same, and for whatever reason that’s just terribly entertaining. I dunno, it’s a thing.
Well, seeing Tarna, though, who evidently even as a young’un was secretly a cool person, was not so much entertaining as saddening, post-ToM. Dammit.
Aisling Noon: I was all like, wait, do I know this person? I tried to think of it without cheating, but I eventually resorted in defeat to Teh Intrawebs. She mostly only shows up in KOD, apparently, which does a great deal to explain why I couldn’t dredge her up from my brain independently. I don’t have a point here except to note that one unintended side effect of the fanfic-ish fun I’m having seeing old/new characters appear is that it sometimes makes me convinced that every last random person we come across in NS is someone I should recognize, when logically at least some of them are really just, well, random people.
I was kind of startled to realize that Moiraine and Siuan (and Tamra as well, clearly) are uncertain about when exactly the Dragon was going to be reborn, even though it seems perfectly obvious to me that Gitara’s words weren’t so much a prophecy as they were a breaking news update. But then again, Gitara’s Talent is supposed to be Foretelling, isn’t it? The future, not the present. Even though the wording is in the present tense (which isn’t normally the case for Foretellings if Elaida and Nicola are any example), realistically it’s probably not surprising that Moiraine et al still assumed she was talking about an event that hadn’t happened yet.
Shame; it would have saved them a lot of trouble if they’d figured that out, eh? But then, of course, we wouldn’t have had a story.
My attention was caught by Moiraine’s thought about how sometimes men with the spark don’t “show” until they’re almost thirty, which amused me because the translation may as well have been “TAIM IS NOT BLOODY DEMANDRED, LET IT GO ALREADY” as far as I’m concerned. One of the biggest arguing points in that debate had always been that Taim’s apparent age didn’t make sense for a “sparker,” despite the fact that we only had Rand’s off-the-cuff and presumably not very scientific estimation of Taim’s age being “around thirty-five or so” to go on in the first place. (Read the FAQ if you have no idea what I’m talking about.)
It was during the post-COT signing tour that Jordan began flat-out telling people that Taim is not Demandred (ergo, either right before or during the time he would have been writing NS), and I got the distinct impression from various signing reports that Jordan was rather irked that so many fans didn’t seem to believe him. And if he wasn’t irked, I don’t know why; I sure as hell would’ve been. Either way, if this wasn’t meant as a shoutout to that whole thing I’d be very surprised, personally. Heh.
Chapter 4: Leaving the Tower
Moiraine goes back to her room and packs quickly for the journey, taking everything she thinks she might need. She exits into the hallway, where the Accepted are in an uproar of similar preparation, yelling at each other to return borrowed items.
Katerine Alruddin popped out of her room, demanding at the top of her lungs that Carlinya return her sewing kit, then darted back inside without waiting for an answer.
“Alanna, Pritalle, can one of you lend me a pair of clean stockings?” someone called from below.
“I loaned you a pair yesterday, Edesina,” came a reply from above.
Doors banged throughout the well as women rushed out to shout for Temaile or Desandre, Coladara or Atuan or a score of others to return this or that borrowed item or lend something. Had a sister been present, the cacophony would put them all in the soup kettle to their necks, on a hot fire.
She joins an impatient Siuan to hurry to the stables, where she is irritated to see how many Accepted have beaten them there and are already heading out, but comforts herself with the thought that none of them know what they are really looking for. She mounts her horse (an extravagance that had almost got her into trouble when she bought it), trying to ignore the Guardsmen’s looking at her exposed legs, and is amused anew at Siuan’s terrible riding skills. The leader of their escort is a humorless man named Steler, who herds them toward the Sunset Gate and ignores Siuan’s attempts to suggest their direction. Moiraine whispers to Siuan that she can’t think they are going to be the ones to find “him”; he might not even be born yet.
“As much chance us as anyone else,” Siuan muttered. “More, since we know what we’re really looking for.” She had not stopped scowling at the bannerman. “When I bond a Warder, the first thing I’ll make sure of is that he does what he’s told.”
“You are thinking of bonding Steler?” Moiraine asked in an innocent voice. Siuan’s stare was such a blend of astonishment and horror that she nearly laughed. But Siuan nearly fell off her horse again, too, and she could not laugh at that.
Moiraine decides to leave puzzling out Steler to Siuan and instead enjoys the ride through the bustling, beautiful city and watching the multitude of people from every nation pass her by. She bows to an Ogier crew doing repairs and receives one in answer, though she thinks the foreman knows she is only an Accepted. They exit the city, which is a thrilling event for Moiraine considering Accepted are never allowed off the island, but they stop halfway over the bridge when they see a squadron of Whitecloaks blocking the foot of the bridge. She tells Steler loudly that they must not allow Whitecloaks to think they can intimidate initiates of the Tower, and Siuan stops her from thumping him with Air when he ignores her. Eventually the Whitecloaks head back into the village at the foot of the bridge, and they continue on. Siuan engages Steler again, insisting that they go to the most distant camps first, but Steler squashes that notion inexorably, and this time it’s Moiraine’s turn to stop Siuan from retaliating with saidar. The village seems dead and empty, and Moiraine is relieved to leave it behind.
Siuan plainly was not relieved. From time to time she looked over her shoulder toward the great black peak of Dragonmount-half the time, she needed a steadying hand from Moiraine to keep her in her saddle—and more than once she ground her teeth audibly. They had often discussed what Ajah they might join, and Moiraine had long since settled on the Blue for herself, but she thought Siuan might well end choosing Green.
They pass the first camp, where a beautiful Accepted named Sarene is already taking down names, and stop at the next, mainly populated by Murandians. Steler announces their purpose in a bellow, and Siuan and Moiraine are quickly set up to begin their task.
The image of the Accepted’s quarters being like a giant echo-y sorority house completely cracked me up, with everybody yelling and stealing shit back and forth from each other. Hah, so true. Not that I was ever in a sorority, but I have two actual sisters, so, yeah. SO TRUE.
Although, it’s a bit eek-ifying that no less than three of the character cameos appearing in that bit turn out to be Black Ajah later. I still wonder when and how that happened for a lot of the Shadow-side characters we meet. Were Atuan, Katerine and Temaile already Darkfriends at this point, or were they recruited later?
On second thought, never mind about Temaile; I’m convinced that woman came out of the womb evil. Yeesh.
(Totally random thought: am I the only one who mentally pronounces “Temaile” as “Teh-MY-ul”? Just me? Okay then.)
For some reason it strikes me as really odd that Moiraine could ever have thought Siuan might choose Green, probably because Moiraine’s hardly what I would call unobservant, and yet this seems to totally miss the boat on Siuan’s character. (Hah, boat.) Siuan is so thoroughly a Blue it’s not even funny. Leane switching to Green after being Healed made sense, but I wouldn’t have bought it for a minute if Siuan had done the same. You’re her best friend, Moiraine, c’mon, you’re supposed to know this stuff.
And… er, well, not a lot else happens in this chapter, other than Siuan and Moiraine kind of making fools of themselves trying to order Steler around. Moiraine’s joke about Siuan bonding him was pretty funny, though.
…It may also be the first joke we’ve ever seen Moiraine make. Huh. Is that true? I can’t remember for sure, but I am secure in declaring that she was hardly the plucky comic relief character in the series proper, so I might be right.
And… yeah. Not much else, except a lot of Moiraine packing things she doesn’t need, and a lengthy description of Moiraine’s ride through Tar Valon, which I didn’t mind reading but saw absolutely no point in including in the summary. Conclusion: Moiraine overthinks things, and Tar Valon is pretty. The End.
No, really, that’s the end! FOR NOW. Have a weekend, whydontcha, and I’ll catch you on the flip side, peoples. Ciao!