The cake may be a lie, you button-mashers, but the Wheel of Time Re-read, she will never steer you wrong!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 9 and 10 of New Spring, in which Our Heroine has come to kick ass and chew bubblegum. And she’s all out of gum. Yay!
All my previous post are belong to ME! And, er, you too, sure. Go ahead. The Wheel of Time Master
of Unlocking 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, then your princess may be in another castle!
Okay, fine, that made no sense. WHATEVER. It's dangerous to go alone! Take this. And now, sit your ass down in that chair and drink your goddamn TEA! And, er, also, read the post!
Chapter 9: It Begins
Moiraine tries not to panic as she follows Merean, convinced she is going to fail. She begins making contingency plans for when she is put out of the Tower, and takes comfort in her determination that she will still search for the Dragon Reborn no matter what happens. Merean leads her to the lowest basement level of the Tower and into a large domed chamber that contains a large iridescent oval ring standing unsupported in the center, which Moiraine knows must be a ter’angreal. Besides Merean, there are six other Aes Sedai in the room, one from each Ajah, and Moiraine is dismayed to see one of them is Elaida. Merean begins the ritual opening of the ceremony, and Moiraine is surprised that her answers sound calm. She disrobes as the ceremony continues, and almost falters as she remembers that she still has the notebook on her, but recovers and hides it under the rest of her clothes.
“You will see this sign upon the ground.” [Merean] channeled, and her finger drew a six-pointed star in the air, two overlapping triangles written for an instant in fire.
Moiraine felt one of the sisters behind her embrace saidar, and a weave touched the back of her head. “Remember what must be remembered,” the sister murmured. It was Anaiya, the Blue. But this was not part of what she had been taught. What did it mean?
[…] “When you see that sign, you will go to it immediately, at a steady pace, neither hurrying nor hanging back, and only then may you embrace the Power. The weaving required must begin immediately, and you may not leave that sign until it is completed.”
“Remember what must be remembered,” Anaiya murmured.
“When the weave is complete,” Merean said, “you will see that sign again, marking the way you must go, again at a steady pace, without hesitation.”
“Remember what must be remembered.”
“One hundred times you will weave, in the order you have been given and in perfect composure.”
“Remember what must be remembered,” Anaiya murmured for a final time, and Moiraine felt the weaving settle into her, much as Healing did.
The sisters kneel around the ter’angreal and channel into it until it begins to glow and spin, but Moiraine notes that Elaida takes the time to glare at her. Moiraine knows that to break serenity now means failure, though, and shows no reaction. She enters the spinning ter’angreal, and finds herself in a corridor, with no memory of how she’d gotten there or why she was naked. Suddenly a rich dress in her House colors appears, and Moiraine puts it on before exiting the corridor into a courtyard with a six pointed star at the center. She walks toward it, and her dress melts away right before three rough-looking men enter and begin ogling her.
They began sauntering toward her, oily smirks twisting their faces. She had no fear of them, just the burning consciousness that these… these… ruffians… were seeing her without a stitch – without a single stitch! – yet she dared not channel until she reached the star. Utter calm and a steady pace. Deep-buried anger twitched and strained, but she held it down.
She reaches the star and channels the required weave, blocking the men with a shield of Air. She sees the next star and heads for it, ignoring the cursing men and remaining calm with an effort. She steps out of the courtyard into another corridor, and forgets everything again except what she must do. She finds fresh garments and dresses again before exiting into a deserted village with a star painted next to the well. She reaches the star and begins to channel, but is suddenly snared in thorny bushes; she ignores the pain of the thorns and continues, but then sees that the bushes are crawling with poisonous death's-head spiders. She continues with the main weave, but splits flows off to torch the spiders with Fire.
Light, how many were there? Her eyes, the only part of her that could move, searched hurriedly, and almost everywhere they lit, she found another death's-head, crawling toward her. Every one she saw, she killed, but so many where her eyes could find them begged the question. How many were below her sight? Or behind her? Calm!
Burning spiders as rapidly as she could locate them, she began to weave faster at that great useless lump. In several places, thin tendrils of smoke rose from blackened spots on the branches. Holding her face in a smooth, frozen mask, she wove faster and faster. Dozens more spiders died, and more tendrils of smoke rose, some thicker. Once the first flame showed, it would spread like the wind. Faster. Faster.
She completes the weave, and the bushes and spiders vanish; she resists the urge to shake herself all over to check for spiders on her, and continues to the next star, ending up in a small house that paradoxically goes on for quite some time.
A very peculiar place, this. A dream, she would have thought, had she not known it was not.
She ends up in a walled square with the star in the center, but Trollocs begin climbing the walls as she heads toward it. She forces herself not to channel until she reaches the star, and then begins hurling fireballs at the Trollocs while working on the third weave. She kills them as fast as she can, but there are too many, and they are making her lose track of the main weave. Moiraine is determined not to fail, and hits upon the idea to dance.
After all, however quickly her feet moved, what could be more serene than a court dance, with her face properly smooth, as though she were dancing in the Sun Palace? She wove the Five Powers as fast as she could, faster than she had ever woven before, she was certain. In some way, the dancing helped, and the intricate weave began to take shape like the finest Mardina lace. Dancing, she wove, hurling fire with both hands, killing Shadowspawn with both hands. Sometimes they came so close that their blood spattered her face, sometimes so close that she had to dance out of their way as they fell, dance away from their down-curving swords, but she ignored the blood and danced.
Finally she completes the weave, and kills the rest of the Trollocs in the square before heading toward the next star.
So, okay, this was pretty darn cool.
Not the least part of what was cool about it, of course, is Moiraine being completely badass, especially in the bit where she’s calmly dancing around and torching Trollocs like it ain’t no thang, but it was also cool in that the storytelling here actually managed to generate tension about the outcome of the test, at least for me, even though I knew perfectly well that Moiraine was going to pass. Which is a pretty neat trick, really.
Also, that scene with the thorn bushes is not recommended to those with arachnophobic tendencies. I’m not even especially creeped out by spiders and I found that bit hair-raising. I think it’s the realization that they could be coming from behind her, eeeek. Also, you know, poisonous. Not fun.
I wonder: if Moiraine had gotten overwhelmed by Trollocs, or spiders, or whatever else, would the sisters have stopped the test, or let her die? Let’s be incredibly optimistic and assume the first, yes?
The mechanics of the test itself were alternately interesting or puzzling, or both. As with the Acceptatron ter’angreal, the world inside it is clearly some version of the Dreamworld, though of course Moiraine doesn’t have the knowledge to recognize it as such at this point. It’s never been explicated as to whether the test subjects in either situation are actually supposed to be in Tel’aran’rhiod proper, or whether the ter’angreal creates a sort of, er, closed system clone version of the Dreamworld, to get all metaphorically cyberpunk on you for a second, that imitates all the properties of the larger system without being connected to it. The fact that the channelers participating in the shawl test seem to be actively in control of what happens in the world inside suggests strongly to me, though, that it’s the latter.
Which is kind of hilarious when you consider that the Aes Sedai testing thingy has (apparently) been a perfect template to teach them how to handle the Dreamworld all along, and yet it seems that no one ever made the connection that that’s what they were doing. Silly rabbits, Trix are for kids!
How all that actually works, of course, is another question, and one I’m going to let slide under “because it’s cool, okay?” Similarly, I’m choosing to not look too closely on the question of how one actually creates a weave that enforces incredibly specific selected (and temporary) memory loss.
Also, was I the only one who got a very video-game savepoint feel out of the star thing? Just me? Okay then!
Chapter 10: It Finishes
Moiraine has completed ninety-nine weaves, in every environment imaginable and while threatened by everything from wild animals to rampaging mobs, each time unable to remember where the fresh injuries had come from. In pain and almost too tired to stand, she hobbles toward the last star, in a garden next to a fountain. As she begins the weave, her father steps into the garden and tells her that she must come with him immediately; her mother is dying. Moiraine wants to weep, but she finishes the weave and tells her father to give her mother her love before brushing past him, and…
…found herself staggering into a round white chamber, the reflected light of stand-lamps dazzling her eyes. Memory crashed back into her, nearly buckling her knees. Unable to think as that torrent flooded in on her, she managed three more steps before stumbling to a halt. She remembered everything, the making of every weave, where every injury had been received. All of her missteps, her frantic efforts to hold on to some outward semblance of serenity.
“It is done,” Merean intoned, clapping her hands together with a loud crack. “Let no one ever speak of what has passed here. It is for us to share in silence with she who experienced it. It is done.” Again she clapped her hands loudly, the blue fringe of her shawl swinging. “Moiraine Damodred, you will spend tonight in prayer and contemplation of the burdens you will take up on the morrow, when you don the shawl of an Aes Sedai. It is done.” For a third time she clapped her hands together.
Merean leaves, and Elaida goes with her, but the other sisters come to Moiraine to offer Healing. Moiraine is amazed that she passed, and Anaiya laughs and tells her that if blushes counted, no one would ever pass. Moiraine remembers one part of the test where she had been thoroughly kissed by a handsome man, and flushes to realize they had seen everything. Moiraine is dismayed to see that Verin is holding her clothing, but the notebook is still in her pouch. After she is Healed and dressing, she comments that the last test had been very cruel.
“It is not to be spoken of, however cruel,” Anaiya said firmly. “Not ever, to anyone.”
But Yuan, a slim Yellow, half glanced toward the door, displeasure in her gray eyes. So. Merean had been no part of the test. Elaida had tried to make her fail, and harder than anyone else, or the Arafellin sister would not have disapproved. So.
Moiraine goes back to the Accepted gallery, looking for Siuan, and finds Myrelle and Sheriam. Myrelle tells her excitedly that Siuan was taken away for her test a little while ago, and Sheriam asks if Moiraine passed. She says yes, and feels a pang when they both stand respectfully, knowing that they will no longer be her friends until the gap is closed and they are all Aes Sedai. She leaves them and goes to her room, where she finds a huge meal waiting for her. She eats every scrap, and fights the temptation to sleep, determined to wait for Siuan and grimly deflecting thoughts that Siuan might not have passed. She overhears Accepted in the hall; when they hear Moiraine has passed and is in her room, they go quiet so as not to disturb her. Finally, Siuan enters.
“Did you…?” Moiraine began, and could not finish.
“It was as easy as falling off a boat,” Siuan answered. “Into a school of silverpike. I almost swallowed my heart when I remembered this…” she slapped her belt pouch, where she also carried her book of names, “but after that, it went well.” Her whole face suddenly turned bright red. She managed a smile through it. “We'll be raised together, Moiraine.”
Moiraine leaped to her feet, and laughing, they danced hand in hand for joy.
Moiraine exhorts Siuan to eat, but Siuan has a better idea; she got six mice from one of the grooms earlier. Moiraine protests that they are practically sisters, they can’t be pulling pranks, but Siuan insists that this is their last chance, and adds grimly that mice are only a small repayment for the beatings Elaida gave them.
Moiraine drew breath. Without Elaida, she might never have practiced trying to weave faster, and without that, she might well have failed. But she suspected her father had not been Elaida's only special addition to her test. Too often, her weaknesses had been laid bare by someone who knew them particularly well. The woman had tried to make her fail.
“Only after you have eaten,” she said.
That was too close, you were almost a Moiraine sandwich!
(Yes, I know, I’m rolling my eyes at myself at this point. But I can’t help it!)
Two new icons this round, by George! Though I’m a tad bemused that “mice” got one of its own. Or maybe it’s “prank-pulling” in general, but either way, really? Especially considering that I think neither Nynaeve nor Egwene have their own icons, still! I’m just saying, interesting priorities there, iconically, ha ha.
I faintly remember that this is made more of later, but I was really reminded here of Jordan’s military background, with Myrelle and Sheriam’s reaction to the news that Moiraine was about to be promoted to Aes Sedai—not to mention the way the other Accepted behave. Something about the artificiality and yet indelible reality of rank within its own system; the way a battle-hardened sergeant of twenty-five years’ experience will still unhesitatingly salute a cherry lieutenant straight out of boot camp. Because that’s how it is; a true, more bone-deep respect may have yet to be earned for the individual person, but the rank carries its own inherent respect which may not be denied. At least, that’s how I understand it.
Moiraine hasn’t changed because of the symbolic addition of a shawl, and yet she has, and like many things in strict rank-based hierarchical systems, it’s perfectly logical while simultaneously being very illogical indeed. As a civilian in a world where hierarchy is generally ill-defined at best and given misleading, faux-casual lip-service at worst, I have always found this kind of sharp definition to the divisions between one level and another both attractive and faintly repellent at the same time. But fascinating, either way.
(This can, by the way, also apply to the strength-based hierarchy of the Aes Sedai as well. I’ve spent plenty of time bitching about it, and no doubt will have occasion to do so again in the future, but thinking about it from this angle, it does make a certain logical/illogical, typically militaristic sense to find some way to further increment the ranking system in an ordered, easily-definable way. Though I can’t help noting that at least real military ranks make a token nod to having something to do with merit, and not just arbitrary inborn factors. But whatever.)
Verin: Yay! Hi, Verin! Fancy meeting you here! Did you sneak a look at Moiraine’s diary, you sneaky Verin you? I bet you did. I don’t remember what happens next, but I bet this comes up again. Don’t make me a liar, now!
Elaida: News flash: SHE SUCKS. There, now you’re all shocked and stuff. Or, you know, not. Will she get mice, or will Moiraine and Siuan get severely pantsed? Well, I sure as hell can’t remember, so I guess we’ll find out when I read the next chapter, eh?
You fool! You gave cheese to a lactose intolerant volcano god! Now we’ll have to end the post! So, see you Friday, right? If we haven’t all died of dysentery, of course. Whoot!