Top o’ the Tuesday to ye, peoples! Welcome to another installment of the Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 21 and 22 of New Spring, in which pretty much everyone annoys me. Whee!
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!
Short scheduling note, which camouflages a somewhat major announcement, at least for me: So it turns out I am moving out of New York City next week, and going back to my hometown of New Orleans, at least for the time being. I’ve known about this for a while, of course, but it hasn’t impacted the Re-read until now, so I haven’t seen fit to mention it before.
But now, since it turns out that preparing for and then executing a 1,500-mile move is something of a major undertaking, there is a distinct possibility that next Tuesday’s post may be postponed or canceled. I’m going to try not to do that, but I can’t guarantee anything at this point. I will keep y’all posted in the comments.
So wish me luck, and enjoy the rest of the post!
Chapter 21: Some Tricks of the Power
The party rides hard to Chacin, and it fulfills Lan’s expectations of being a journey he would rather forget. Alys continues her search for the Sahera woman at every village, and in between interrogates all three men about themselves, to little result. Ryne continues to flirt with her, but even he avoids her inquiries. Bukama continues to nag Lan about the pledge, and Lan continues to refuse to discuss it. Twice, Alys shields them with the Power from fierce storms, and seems surprised when they thank her. On the fourth day, they are set upon by bandits; Alys frightens them with a thundering voice (“You dare impede the way of an Aes Sedai?”) and a display of Fire, and Lan gives them a count of ten to get lost. The bandits clear out, and Alys berates Lan for letting them escape, asserting that they should have been captured and brought to justice; Lan marvels that she really seems to think she could have handled almost fifty men herself. On each of the nights on the road, Alys torments him in different ways: flicks of an invisible switch to keep him awake, sand in his clothes, ants in his bedding that she somehow made bite him all at once.
That first night he had sat in the wet to let her know he would accept what she had done. If they were to travel together, better to end it with honors even, as she must see it. Except that she did not.
[…] Clearly, she wanted some response, some reaction, but he could not see what. If she felt that she had not been repaid for her wetting, then she was a very hard woman, but a woman could set the price for her insult or injury, and there were no other women here to call an end when she went beyond what they considered just. All he could do was endure until they reached Chachin. The following night she discovered a patch of blisterleaf near their campsite, and to his shame, he almost lost his temper.
Lan begins to pray they reach Chachin before she kills him, sent by Edeyn or not.
Moiraine doesn’t understand why Lan is too stubborn to show any remorse for dunking her, but as long as he refuses to apologize or show her the respect due an Aes Sedai, she is determined to continue punishing him.
He was frozen arrogance to the core! His disbelief of her right to the shawl was so plain he might as well have spoken aloud. A part of her admired his fortitude, but only a part. She would bring him properly to heel. Not to tame him utterly – a completely tame man was no use to himself or anyone else – but to make certain he recognized his mistakes right down to his bones.
She thinks it odd that neither of the other men commiserate with Lan, and that none of them will share anecdotes of their past with her even after she shares some of her own. She still isn’t sure whether any of them are Darkfriends. She finally locates Averne Sahera in a village called Ravinda, but there’s no way her son fits the prophecy, and her irritation at that is amplified by Lan’s continued arrogance. Planning for the night’s punishment, she asks Lan whether he is allergic to wasp stings.
He twisted in his saddle, half reining his stallion around, and suddenly grunted, his eyes growing wide. For an instant, she did not understand. Then she saw the arrowhead sticking out from the front of his right shoulder.
Without thought, she embraced the Source, and saidar filled her. It was as though she were back in the testing again. Her weaves flashed into being, first of all a clear shield of Air to block any more arrows away from Lan, then one for herself. She could not have said why she wove them in that order.
She sees the archer in the trees and seizes him with Air just as Ryne and Bukama’s arrows kill him. Moiraine is deeply upset, since to her that skirted very close to using the Power as a weapon even if it was not on purpose. Ignoring the arrow in him, Lan goes to investigate the body; it is a man named Caniedrin, who knows Lan and Bukama. Bukama asks him why.
A weak voice answered in gasps. “Gold. Why else? You still have… the Dark One's luck… turning just then… or that shaft… would have found… your heart. He should have … told me… she's Aes Sedai… instead of just saying… to kill her first.”
Moiraine tries to Heal him, wanting to ask if “he” was Gorthanes, but Caniedrin dies before she can do anything. She examines his purse, finding ten gold Cairhienin crowns, which she concludes was the price paid for her assassination. Lan asks if she’s taken to robbing the dead while Bukama and Ryne are yanking the arrow out of him. None of them request Healing for Lan, and his stoicism only irritates Moiraine more. She finally asks him if he will accept Healing, and Lan shies back until Bukama makes a comment that he might need his right arm in Chachin. He leans forward then; affronted, Moiraine Heals him rather violently. Lan frees the assassin’s horse so it won’t starve, and Moiraine decides to repay that kindness by foregoing the wasps she’d had planned.
There had to be something memorable, in any case. She had only two more nights to crack him, after all. Once they reached Chachin, she would be too busy to attend to Lan Mandragoran. For a time she would be.
Okay, so maybe I was wrong last entry about Lan being childish regarding the sitting in the wet thing, at least according to his own rationale. However, I find that I’m having the same problem here with Lan that I often had with Faile during her and Perrin’s courtship phase, which is that he is displaying a screamingly frustrating inability to comprehend that maybe instead of it being that everyone is insulting him all the time, maybe it’s that everyone else doesn’t bloody understand his obscure bizarro customs.
That’s probably more than a little unfair of me, but then again maybe not. Faile and especially Lan are hardly delicate sheltered flowers who’ve never been off the proverbial farm; they are both experienced world travelers who cannot possibly have avoided noticing by this point that other cultures react differently to things than their own do. And they’re also both smart enough to have followed that observation to its logical conclusion. And yet, it seems like they both just don’t. And it is Annoying.
Sheesh. Maybe it’s a Borderlander thing.
Of course, it’s not like Moiraine is covering herself in glory here either, but my frustration with her is not so much that she can’t understand Lan’s reactions, because honestly they would puzzle me too. However, she is being uncomfortably bully-like here. One retaliation I could see, but just continuing to torment the guy, well.
I think the interpretation we’re supposed to get here is that Moiraine is trying to figure out how to make him respect her, and is too young to realize that you can’t force respect from people. You can force deference or compliance or a dozen other things that mimic respect, but true, genuine respect can only ever be earned. And sorry honey, but filling a guy’s bed with fire ants ain’t the way to do it.
It was amusing, though, how well the two of them automatically worked together when it came to handling the bandits, even if Moiraine clearly doesn’t agree. I’m trying to figure out if Moiraine really could handle fifty attackers at once, or if Lan was right to think she was over-confident. Moiraine’s pretty strong in the Power, so I guess it’s theoretically possible, but it seems like with fifty variables in there that’s way too much to handle just logistically, no matter how much raw strength you have – especially if you’re trying to take your opponents alive. It’d be different if she’d just planned to drop a giant fireball on them, I suppose.
The assassin: sent by Gorthanes (the Cairhienin dude who was following her in Tar Valon) or Merean/the Black Ajah? “He” could also refer to Ryne, I guess. Man, I hate when I can’t even keep track of the number of people who want to kill me, don’t you?
Chapter 22: Keeping Custom
The moment they enter Chachin, Lan curtly tells Alys that their pledge is fulfilled and she should go her separate way. Ryne and Bukama both decry Lan’s rudeness, but Alys only looks at him, and Lan gallops off without waiting for the other two, heading straight for Aesdaishar Palace at the center of the city, knowing that’s where Edeyn would be. Ryne and Bukama catch up to him and keep silent, and Lan wonders if he is a fool for coming here.
He owed Alys a debt for her Healing, as well as for her torments, though in honor it was only the first he could repay. No. He had to get that odd little woman out of his head, although she seemed to have lodged herself inside his skull, somehow. It was Edeyn he needed to concentrate on. Edeyn and the most desperate fight of his life.
They are admitted to the palace with little trouble, and Lan finds it worrisome that the shatayan herself leads them in, an honor usually reserved for royalty. Ryne seems irritated by the simple room he is assigned, but Bukama is pleased. Lan is relieved when the shatayan gives him a suite that is opulent but not for royalty, which she senses.
“No one can know what the future may hold, my Lord,” she said, “but we know who you are.” And then she offered him a small curtsy before leaving. A curtsy. Remarkable. Whatever she said, the shatayan had her expectations of the future, too.
Lan finds out from the servants assigned to him that Queen Ethenielle is not in residence, but Prince Consort Brys and the Lady Edeyn Arrel both are. Lan changes and sends the servants away to wait. First there is a summons to Edeyn’s quarters, which Lan refuses, and then a note (“Come to me, sweetling. Come to me now”), which he burns. Finally the shatayan reappears and invites him to an audience with Prince Brys, which he accepts. Brys meets him in a large hall filled with courtiers; they are old friends. Brys introduces Lan to his son Diryk, who excitedly plies Lan with questions about his exploits. Then they walk to where Edeyn stands; Lan bows, thinking she could do nothing here in public. Edeyn murmurs that it would have been easier had he come to her.
And then, shockingly, she knelt gracefully and took his hands in hers. “Beneath the Light,” she announced in a strong, clear voice, “I, Edeyn ti Gemallen Arrel, pledge fealty to al'Lan Mandragoran, Lord of the Seven Towers, Lord of the Lakes, the true Blade of Malkier. May he sever the Shadow!” Even Brys looked startled. A moment of silence held while she kissed Lan's fingers; then cheers erupted on every side. Cries of “The Golden Crane!” and even “Kandor rides with Malkier!”
Lan pulls her up and reminds her that “the Great Lords have not cast the rods” to determine the King of Malkier, and she points out that three of the surviving five of them are in the room, and that “what must be, will be.” She fades into the crowd, and Brys draws him off to a private walkway. Brys tells Lan he didn’t know what Edeyn intended, and offers to withdraw his welcome to her, but Lan demurs, still stunned at her adroit move. Brys asks what he will do, but Lan doesn’t know. Eventually he heads back to his rooms, where he finds Edeyn waiting for him. She commands him to bring his daori, the braid of his hair she had cut from him the morning after their first night together. Lan points out she just swore fealty to him, and she answers that even a king is not a king when alone with his carneira. He brings it, and she brings him to the balcony overlooking a garden, where a young woman is strolling on the path.
“My daughter, Iselle.” For a moment, pride and affection warmed Edeyn's voice. “Do you remember her? She is seventeen, now. She hasn't chosen her carneira, yet.” Young men were chosen by their carneira; young women chose theirs. “But I think it time she married anyway.”
Lan tells her they have to talk, but Edeyn goes on that it’s time he got married too, and since none of his female relatives are alive, it’s up to her to arrange. Lan is shocked at what she is suggesting, and tells her he won’t do something so shameful, but Edeyn only says that perhaps they do need to talk.
Edeyn would never give up all of her advantage. Not until she presented his daori to his bride on his wedding day. And he could see no way to stop that bride being Iselle.
Yeah, well, I think Future!Nynaeve might have something to say about that….
So, Malkieri customs kind of suck. People who don’t understand anything about feminism might find that opinion surprising coming from me, considering the amount of power it seems that women wield in that culture, but see, here’s the thing.
The reason I am a feminist is not because I think women are better than men or that women ought to “win” over men, whatever that means, but because I believe in gender equality. And equality, by definition, doesn’t have one side “winning” over the other. An imbalance of power is an imbalance of power, no matter which side of the fence it happens to be on, and I am instinctively primed to rail against anything which takes a person’s choices away based on factors outside of their control, such as their gender.
Therefore, I am not any more pleased at the prospect of Lan being forced into a marriage he doesn’t want than I would be by a woman in the same situation. That shit pisses me off, full stop.
I’m only slightly less unpleased about Edeyn trying to shanghai Lan into being a king, though that is less annoying to me for probably spurious and possibly hypocritical reasons. Politics and the shenanigans associated with politics just don’t push my buttons in quite the same way, even if they should. I mean, it wasn’t Lan’s fault that he was born into royalty any more than it was his fault that he was born male, and yet for some reason I can be more detached about the royalty part.
Maybe because on some level the whole “king” thing still strikes me as entirely fantastical in nature, whereas marriage is something “real.” This is silly, of course, because hello, hereditary rulers are perfectly real, and in fact still exist today. But it’s not something I have any direct experience with or any reason to be concerned about, unless the world goes seriously pear-shaped in the next thirty to forty years. Which, granted, isn’t outside the realm of possibility, but….
I sense I am digressing. My point is, questions of what marriage means and who is allowed to control it are issues that are very real and present in my own life here and now; questions of whether a prince can be forced to become a king, not so much. Take it for what it’s worth.
So Edeyn is not exactly my favorite person at the moment. And also, dude. All questions of gender politics aside, marrying your daughter to your former lover? That’s just skeevy. If an incredibly clever move politically. But still, eesh.
Last and least, Yet Another Extraneous Icon for this chapter. I think there's some conservation law being broken here. This is also possibly one of the nerdier things I've ever been piqued about, and that's saying something.
And that’s all for now, kids! Enjoy the rest of your week, especially if, unlike mine, it doesn’t involve packing up everything you own. Cheers!