Gather round, guys and gals, and listen close, for it is time for another Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 15 and 16 of New Spring, in which Plotses are Thickened, and Asses are Kickened. Yay!
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 15: Into Canluum
The air of Kandor held the sharpness of new spring when Lan returned to the lands where he had always known he would die.
Lan notes the merchants and farmers heading into the walled town of Canluum seem on edge; the Blight has been stirring more than usual lately, and there are even rumors of a man channeling the One Power. The hadori on his and Bukama’s heads draw attention as they approach the gates, which seems to put Bukama in a very bad mood, but Lan only cares that they are at last close to the Blight again.
Four nations bordered the Blight, but his war covered the length of it, from the Aryth Ocean to the Spine of the World. One place to meet death was as good as another. He was almost home. Almost back to the Blight. He had been away too long.
At the gate, the guards are especially watchful of them, which sours Bukama’s mood further. Then they are accosted by a young guard who exclaims that he’d heard Lan was dead, and addresses him by his full title, declaring that he stands ready, “Majesty.” Lan merely replies quietly that he is no king, but Bukama lights into the young man, declaring he is not fit to claim to be Malkieri, with his hair cut short and his services sworn to a Kandori lord. It seems likely that the incident will escalate, until an officer Lan and Bukama know (Alin Seroku) appears. He greets Lan politely, but warns them that he keeps Lord Marcasiev’s peace strictly.
“The city is on edge. All these tales of a man channeling are bad enough, but there have been murders in the street this last month and more, in broad daylight, and strange accidents. People whisper about Shadowspawn loose inside the walls.”
To Lan’s barely-concealed shock, Bukama declares that the incident is his fault, and swears not to draw sword while inside Canluum’s walls. Seroku is also surprised, but lets them pass. Inside the city, Lan notes several Aes Sedai about, and thinks there have been an unusually large number of sisters about in the world since the death of the last Amyrlin.
He kept his eyes away from them, walked on quickly to avoid notice. The hadori could be enough to attract the interest of a sister seeking a Warder. Supposedly, they asked before bonding a man, but he knew several who had taken that bond, and every time it had come as a surprise. Who would give up his freedom to trot at an Aes Sedai’s heels unless there was more to it than asking?
Lan is shocked that some women are wearing veils, violating the Borderland law against covering faces within city walls, but is more concerned that Bukama doesn’t bother to react to this, nor to other Malkieri they see not following tradition. Lan decides he is not in the mood to be wined and dined at the lord’s manor, and worries more when Bukama accepts his decision without complaint.
Along with regaining his own edge, he needed to find a way to sharpen Bukama’s, or they might as well open their veins now.
It takes a singular kind of fucked-upedness to think of the evil rot that ate your country as “home.” God bless, Lan. We heart you and your noble, noble neuroses for all time.
So, I think I kind of skipped over mentioning it in the last chapter, but a pretty fair chunk of time passed between Siuan and Moiraine getting raised and Moiraine pulling a Claude Rains and setting off from Tar Valon. And it seems from what Lan is saying here about the number of sisters around since Tamra’s death that more time has passed since then as well; even more so by the comment made about “strange accidents,” which indicates to me that the Black Ajah’s little clandestine murder spree to stamp out the Dragon Reborn is already well underway.
This is worth mentioning mostly because I’m so used at this point to the WOT timeline not skipping over any significant period of time that I actually found this a little disconcerting. Seriously, I think the last time Jordan did a “time passes” skim section was somewhere back in LOC, and that was only for a period of about a month; right here I think we brushed past at least a year, and maybe two. Wacky!
Also, I’m not sure why WOT decided to go nuts with new icons in NS in particular, after introducing almost no new ones in the last few novels of the series proper, but sometimes they seem really gratuitous. Granted, I don’t remember much about what happens in NS, but surely Lord Marcasiev doesn’t play such a large part as to really deserve his own icon here? (The antlered stag is his sigil.) I mean, do we even get to meet the guy? Sheesh.
I have no idea what Bukama’s problem is, and neither this chapter nor the next really spells it out. I guess I’ll find out later?
Maybe. So, er, onward, I guess!
Chapter 16: The Deeps
In the shadier area of Canluum known as the Deeps, Lan and Bukama look for an inn for the night. They have no luck at the first three inns they try, but the fourth turns out to be owned by a woman named Racelle, who promptly marches up to Bukama, kisses him, punches him, and then kisses him again, while berating him for going off for six years with no word. Lan is greeted by a man named Ryne Venamar, who dryly opines that Racelle will probably find a room for Bukama, at least. Ryne is Malkieri by birth but dressed in Arafellin garb, and Lan draws him off to avoid Bukama’s irritation. At a table, the barmaid, Lira, blatantly propositions Lan, ignoring his demur, which Lan accepts with resignation. Ryne comments somewhat bitterly on Lan’s luck with women, saying that maybe he should try some of that “coy modesty.”
Lan opened his mouth, then took a drink instead of speaking. He should not have to explain, but it was too late for explanation with Ryne in any case. […] He actually started conversations with women who had not spoken to him first. Lan, raised by Bukama and his friends in Shienar, had been surrounded by a small community who held to Malkieri ways. If Lira did share his bed tonight, as seemed certain, she would discover there was nothing shy or retiring about him once they were abed, yet the woman chose when to enter that bed and when to leave.
Ryne comments that he never expected to see Lan here; he thought Lan would be with the Lady Edeyn Arrel in Chacin. Lan’s head snaps up at the name, and Ryne explains that she’s raised the Golden Crane in Lan’s name, and already has several hundred men ready to follow her—or Lan, technically. Lan swiftly excuses himself, and heads out to the barn, where his furious pacing soon scares off the groom. He tries to calm himself by assuming the ko’di, and takes out his signet ring.
In his cradle he had been given four gifts. The ring in his hands and the locket that hung around his neck, the sword on his hip and an oath sworn in his name. The locket, containing the painted images of the mother and father he could not remember seeing in life, was the most precious, the oath the heaviest. “To stand against the Shadow so long as iron is hard and stone abides. To defend the Malkieri while one drop of blood remains. To avenge what cannot be defended.” And then he had been anointed with oil and named Dai Shan, consecrated as the next King of Malkier and sent away from a land that knew it would die.
Nothing remained to be defended now, only a nation to avenge, and he had been trained to that from his first step. With his mother’s gift at his throat and his father’s sword in his hand, with the ring branded on his heart, he had fought from his sixteenth nameday to avenge Malkier. But never had he led men into the Blight. Bukama had ridden with him, and others, but he would not lead men there. That war was his alone. The dead could not be returned to life, a land any more than a man. Only, now, Edeyn Arrel wanted to try.
Edeyn had been his carneira, his first lover, and Lan has not been with her for almost ten years, but he knows she still has a special hold on his heart. Bukama enters, and asks what Lan intends to do. Lan bitterly observes how many are ready to follow, and wonders aloud if it is worth the cost. Bukama comments cautiously that custom ties him to Edeyn, and that she will use those ties like a leash if she can; in return for this impropriety, Lan fires back a query on how much Racelle will charge them for their rooms, making Bukama blush bright red and splutter as they leave the barn. Outside, though, six men are approaching, and Lan divines instantly that they mean to attack. Remembering Bukama’s oath not to draw steel in the city, Lan barks at him to get back in the barn; Bukama is momentarily stunned, but then obeys, and Lan begins to dance the forms with his attackers.
Only in stories did one man face six without injury. The Rose Unfolds sliced down a bald man’s left arm, and ginger-hair nicked the corner of Lan’s eye. Only in stories did one man face six and survive. He had known that from the start. Duty was a mountain, death a feather, and his duty was to Bukama, who had carried an infant on his back. For this moment he lived, though, so he fought, kicking ginger-hair in the head, dancing his way toward death, danced and took wounds, bled and danced the razor’s edge of life.
Suddenly Lan realizes that all six men are dead, and sheathes his sword. The stableyard soon floods with people from the inn drawn by the commotion, and Ryne mutters that Lan has the Dark One’s own luck. Lira and Bukama begin tending Lan’s wounds, while Racelle complains loudly about the inefficiency of the town Watch and begins commandeering people to drag the bodies away. Ryne looks at the dead men and opines that they were not footpads, pointing out one of them who he saw listening to Edeyn’s speech when she had been in town.
“It’s peculiar. The first she said of raising the Golden Crane was after we heard you were dead outside the Shining Walls. Your name brings men, but with you dead, she could be el’Edeyn.”
He spread his hands at the looks Lan and Bukama shot him. “I make no accusations,” he said hastily. “I’d never accuse the Lady Edeyn of any such thing. I’m sure she is full of all a woman’s tender mercy.” Mistress Arovni gave a grunt hard as a fist, and Lira murmured half under her breath that the pretty Arafellin knew little about women.
Lan is sure Edeyn is capable of what Ryne is suggesting, but still disapproves of saying as much out loud in public. Bukama asks again what Lan intends to do, and Lan tells him they ride for Chacin. Ryne declares he will accompany them.
Lan nodded. To put his hand on the banner and abandon what he had promised himself all those years ago, or to stop her, if he could. Either way, he had to face Edeyn. The Blight would have been much easier.
Lan = BAMF. Who’s shocked? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
This was a beautifully written chapter, as the excerpts I quoted probably show. I wanted to quote a great deal more of it, actually, like the bit about how Lan’s ring had been melted down and recast so many times over the centuries, or Lan’s musings about what a carneira meant in Malkieri culture, but I had to draw the line somewhere. Something about the air of quiet, stoic sorrow that is the cornerstone of Lan’s character seems to bring out the lyrical in Jordan’s prose, even more so than typically, and it’s really quite lovely to read.
There was also a lot of interesting insight into the Malkieri culture in general in this chapter, which I enjoyed even while being slightly bemused by some of their customs. By the time we meet Lan in TEOTW I think that he’s a great deal more—not “worldly,” exactly, because it’s not like he hasn’t traveled the world already by this point—but more… acclimatized, I guess, to cultures other than his, and less likely to take umbrage about when they differ from his own. Or at least, if he does, he hides it a lot better. It probably helps that we’re never in his head in the series proper until ToM, of course.
As I said, I’m simultaneously intrigued and bemused by the gender relations in Malkieri culture, which struck me as a kind of adjusted version of the flip-flop Jordan likes to play with on this topic. In that, the women are clearly expected to be the aggressors in courting rituals in Lan’s eyes—and, Racelle’s punching antics here aside, I don’t necessarily mean that in a, well, aggressive way; only that women are obviously the ones to typically make the first move, whereas it’s traditionally the other way around in our own cultures (though that dynamic is undergoing at least something of a transition period these days).
This clearly struck Jordan as a reasonable cultural inference to make, considering that Randland cultures are set up to be female-dominated, where ours are historically patriarchal in nature. I liked it not because I necessarily agree that the one follows from the other (though I don’t necessarily disagree either), but simply because it brings the dynamic sharply to the reader’s attention, and makes the reader think about the implications of an interaction which is so ingrained in many of us that it often escapes notice.
Which, of course, is the point. I have my criticisms of Jordan’s treatment of gender relations, as all who have been reading this blog well know, but it’s worth it to occasionally reiterate that WOT is such a rich mine of commentary on this subject precisely because it’s something Jordan himself was obviously very interested in, and endeavored to comment upon, in the very structure of his worldbuilding, and that’s commendable in and of itself. Anything that makes you aware of your own unconscious assumptions is good, in my book, whether you agree with that thing or not.
Also, the plot, she coagulates a trifle, yes? The Lady Edeyn is another aspect of NS that I completely failed to remember, as is the use of her declaration to put Lan in something very akin to the same situation as Moiraine was in re: the throne of Cairhien. So they do have something in common, huh. I wonder if this will help to bring them together!
Man, I hate it when people try to make me the monarch of a country, don’t you? So inconsiderate, I swear.
Also, am I the only one who read this and immediately decided Ryne was a mole? I look forward to finding out if I’m right!
But that’ll be for some other post, for we is done here, y’all. Have a week, and I’ll see youse Friday!