Sakes alive, it’s a Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 17 and 18 of New Spring, featuring unexpected visits by a friend, an enemy, and a frenemy, not necessarily in that order.
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, please click on both for the post, and some announcements and scheduling and stuff.
So, first the announcement: I’m starting a new blog series on Tor.com, reading George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Series, because I have lost my mind. You can read all about it here.
Ergo, the schedule for the Wheel of Time Re-read will be changing up: starting next week, instead of two WOT posts a week, I will be doing one WOT post every Tuesday and one ASOIAF post every Friday, at least for now. I certainly hope that all a y’all will follow along on both series!
Also, as a reminder, JordanCon 2011 is coming up this April, and I will be going, so there will almost certainly be a hiatus on both series at that time. But to tide you over, I believe I’m going to be doing some on-the-spot blogging from the convention, which should be moderately hilarious. Watch This Space.
And that’s pretty much what that is, so without further ado, on we go to the post!
Chapter 17: An Arrival
After a month, Moiraine thinks chasing after prophecy is less an adventure and more total boredom and frustration. She is in Canluum, taking tea with a woman named Jurine Najima, who just lost her husband and her three sons in a barn fire. Grieving, Jurine tells “the Lady Alys” that she doesn’t understand how it could have happened; Moiraine inwardly winces at how pompous her soothing platitudes sound in reply. She is distracted momentarily at thinking of the news from Cairhien, where four Houses are skirmishing fiercely over their claims to the throne, and wondering how the Tower will eventually make her pay for ducking out of the succession.
“It's just that Josef was always so lucky, my Lady Alys. Everyone spoke of it. They said if Josef Najima fell down a hole, there'd be opals at the bottom. When he answered the Lady Kareil's call to go fight the Aiel, I worried, but he never took a scratch. When camp fever struck, it never touched us or the children. Josef gained the Lady's favor without trying. Then it seemed the Light truly did shine on us. Jerid was born safe and whole, and the war ended, all in a matter of days, and when we came home to Canluum, the Lady gave us the livery stable for Josef's service, and… and…”
Moiraine soon takes her leave, feeling guilty to be relieved by the death of an infant, but Jurine’s youngest son had been born in the wrong place. She heads back to her inn, which she thinks she would never have picked if she had known that no less than five Aes Sedai were also staying there. Fortunately none of them know Moiraine, and have inferred she is a wilder, a misconception which Moiraine has been happy to let them believe. She enters the common room and heads straight for the stairs, but is stopped by, to her dismay, two sisters she knows well: Larelle Tarsi (Gray), who taught Moiraine as a novice, and the former Mistress of Novices Merean Redhill herself.
Larelle was as strong as Merean, requiring deference, but they were outside the Tower, now. They had no right to interfere with whatever she might be doing here. Yet if either said the wrong thing here, word that Moiraine Damodred was wandering about in disguise would spread with the sisters in the room, and it would reach the wrong ears as surely as peaches were poison. That was the way of the world. A summons back to Tar Valon would find her soon after. Disobeying the Amyrlin Seat once was bad enough. Twice, and very likely sisters would be sent to bring her back.
Fortunately, Moiraine is saved from having to say anything by one of the original five sisters staying there, Felaana Bevaine (Brown), butting in to tell Larelle and Merean that Moiraine is a wilder who refuses to consider going to the Tower. Moiraine replies perfectly truthfully that she has no intention of enrolling as a novice at this time; Merean appears amused, and neither she nor Larelle give Moiraine away, telling Felaana to leave her be. Felaana is set to argue it further when all three sisters see someone behind Moiraine, and freeze in place.
“So this girl does not want to be a novice,” said a woman's voice from the stairs. A voice Moiraine had heard only once, two years ago, and would never forget. A number of women were stronger than she, but only one could be as much stronger as this one. Unwillingly, she looked over her shoulder.
Nearly black eyes studied her from beneath a bun of iron-gray hair decorated with golden ornaments, stars and birds, crescent moons and fish. Cadsuane, too, wore her shawl, fringed in green. “In my opinion, girl,” she said dryly, “you could profit from ten years in white.”
Moiraine thinks of the incredible stories connected with Cadsuane, and opines to herself that it is a most uncomfortable thing to have a living legend staring right at you. Moiraine tries to speak up, but trails off under Cadsuane’s stare. Cadsuane orders Merean and Larelle to “bring the girl,” and heads up stairs to a private room. Helpless to disobey, the three of them follow, and Moiraine thinks to herself that at least Cadsuane could not be one of Tamra’s searchers, as she had not been back to Tar Valon since the beginning of the Aiel War. In the room, Cadsuane lets Merean and Larelle sit but orders Moiraine to stand, and Moiraine keeps her mouth shut with difficulty. Cadsuane studies them all for a while, then bluntly asks what a newly-raised sister is doing without her shawl or ring near the Blight. Moiraine answers that new sisters are often in search of Warders, and she’d heard Bordermen are excellent for that. Cadsuane stares at her, then asks Merean and Larelle for their estimates of Moiraine’s character. Larelle tells her that Moiraine and Siuan both were prone to pranks and too outspoken, but quick learners with a lot of potential. Merean agrees about the pranks, but adds that they were never mean-spirited.
“Novice and Accepted, she was sent to my study more often than any three other girls. Except for her pillow-friend Siuan. Of course, pillow-friends frequently get into tangles together, but with those two, one was never sent to me without the other. The last time the very night after passing for the shawl. […] Instead of spending the night in contemplation, they tried to sneak mice into a sister's bed—Elaida a'Roihan—and were caught. I doubt any other women have been raised Aes Sedai while still too tender to sit from their last visit to the Mistress of Novices.”
Moiraine kept her face smooth, kept her hands from knotting into fists, but she could do nothing about burning cheeks. That ruefully amused frown, as if she were still Accepted. She needed seasoning, did she? Well, perhaps she did, some, but still. And spreading out all these intimacies!
Moiraine announces she is leaving for Chachin, and wants to kick herself. Cadsuane tells her she’s going nowhere. Merean and Larelle want to know why Cadsuane is interested in her, and Cadsuane answers bluntly that she, Cadsuane, might die at any time, and when she and Meilyn are gone, that will leave Kerene the strongest of any living Aes Sedai. The others are utterly appalled at her flouting of custom by speaking of this, but Cadsuane goes on relentlessly that after that there is “a sharp drop” to the next five strongest, which will include Moiraine and Siuan once they reach their potential.
Cadsuane scowled, a fearsome sight. “No one has come to the Tower in a thousand years who could match me. No one to match Meilyn or Kerene in almost six hundred. A thousand years ago, there would have been fifty sisters or more who stood higher than this child. In another hundred years, though, she'll stand in the first rank. Oh, someone stronger may be found in that time, but there won't be fifty, and there may be none. We dwindle.”
Uncomfortably, Larelle wants to know what Moiraine has to do with the issue, and Cadsuane answers as offensively as possible that she worries for Moiraine’s safety out here, and orders that she will wait and accompany the other two sisters to Chachin. All three of the others protest this as strongly as they dare, but Cadsuane will hear none of it, and kicks Merean and Larelle out; Moiraine thinks it’s like watching an avalanche. Once they are gone, Moiraine wants to know what if she has affairs that can’t wait; Cadsuane scoffs, and tells her she has not yet figured out that she has only just begun to learn.
“You will take great risks in your life, if you live long enough. You already take more than you know. Heed carefully what I say. And do as I say. I will check your bed tonight, and if you are not in it, I will find you and make you weep as you did for those mice. You can dry your tears afterward on that shawl you believe makes you invincible. It does not.”
Cadsuane leaves, and a stunned Moiraine wonders if it had been a coincidence that she’d mentioned Kerene and Meilyn, two of Tamra’s searchers, and notes that her interference had put paid to Moiraine’s participation in the search for at least a week. She is very uneasy, wondering how much Cadsuane knows.
Maybe it’s just repeated exposure, like I’m building up an immunity (like with chicken pox!), but Cadsuane gets more amusing to me the further I go with this Re-read. But then, I always found her bulldozing people right and left to be at least slightly amusing; it was only when she did that shit with Rand that I tended to get truly annoyed.
Also, I remember I was like “Oh Lord” when I saw in KOD that Cadsuane had her own icon, but apparently she first got it here. I have to say, I really like her icon just from an aesthetic viewpoint.
Opinions on Cadsuane’s personality aside, one of the bigger complaints that fans have historically directed at the character is how she appeared out of nowhere, narratively, so very late in the series, and seemed like a convenient invention on Jordan’s part. And while I don’t remember much about the story in NS, I do remember some fans scoffing at her inclusion in the prequel, calling it a lame attempt to “legitimize” her.
Personally, I’m kind of “eeehhnn” about this criticism. There’s obviously a certain amount of truth to Cadsuane’s Johnny-come-lately-ness as a character (for the very simple reason that so many people wouldn’t feel that way about her if she weren’t), but getting mad at Jordan for including her in NS seems a little over the top. If the author says the woman existed, at some point you have to just accept that and get over it, you know?
Merean and Larelle: The one thing I definitely remember about NS is that Merean turns out to be Black, but I can’t remember if Larelle is as well. It certainly seems like she and Merean are in lockstep here, though.
Also, whoops: Moiraine and Siuan did get caught with the mice. Somehow I totally missed that, jeez.
Again we see here with Cadsuane’s speech about the “dwindling” of the strength of the Tower, literally as well as figuratively, the reemphasis that the Tower as an institution is actually severely messed up. Those who complain that the Black Ajah never seem to really do too much evil stuff may want to consider that perhaps they simply had more long-term goals, eh?
This also reminds me of an observation I made a couple of thousand years ago, reflecting on the cleverness of Jordan’s “Pattern” cosmology set-up, which gives him a perfect in-story justification of why all of a sudden all these super-powerful channelers start popping up when TEOTW begins, many of whom are being born right about now in the timeline, give or take a few years. In other words, the Pattern is preparing for Tarmon Gai’don not just in the birth of Rand, but in the births of those he’ll need to help him. Neat.
Also, Jurine is someone we'll never see again, but I just have to say, I can't even imagine what it would be like to lose three sons and a husband in one day. Man.
Chapter 18: A Narrow Passage
Moiraine reenters the common room, wishing Siuan was there, and blinks in astonishment when she suddenly sees Siuan herself peeking into the door. Siuan vanishes into the street, and Moiraine swiftly follows her to an alley, where she is shocked to see Siuan is genuinely afraid. Siuan begs Moiraine to tell her that she’s already found the boy.
Siuan began to weep. Siuan, who had a lion's heart. Tears spilled down her cheeks. Throwing her arms around Moiraine, she squeezed hard enough to make Moiraine's ribs ache. She was trembling. “I couldn't trust this to a pigeon,“ she mumbled, ”or to any of the eyes-and-ears. I wouldn't have dared. They're all dead. Aisha and Kerene, Valera and Ludice and Meilyn. They say Aisha and her Warder were killed by bandits in Murandy. Kerene supposedly fell off a ship in the Alguenya during a storm and drowned. And Meilyn… Meilyn…” Sobs racked her so she could not go on.
Weakly, Moiraine supposes that accidents do happen, but Siuan tells her how Meilyn had returned to the Tower a month ago, and Siuan had wanted to talk to her without being seen, so she snuck into Meilyn’s room and hid under her bed, but Meilyn never came. Then the next day, Chesmal Emry had come into breakfast and announced that Meilyn had died in her sleep, in her bed the night before. Moiraine is stunned, and Siuan adds that Meilyn died without a mark on her, so it must have been done with the One Power.
“Think, Moiraine. Tamra supposedly died in her sleep, too. Only we know Meilyn didn't, no matter where she was found. First Tamra, then the others started dying. The only thing that makes sense is that someone noticed her calling sisters in and wanted to know why badly enough that they bloody risked putting the Amyrlin Seat herself to the question. They had to have something to hide to do that, something they'd hazard anything to keep hidden. They killed her to hide it, to hide what they'd done, and then they set out to kill the rest. Which means they don't want the boy found, not alive. They don't want the Dragon Reborn at the Last Battle. Any other way to look at it is tossing the slop bucket into the wind and hoping for the best.”
[…] Forcing her face to smoothness, forcing her voice to calm, [Moiraine] forced the words out. ”The Black Ajah.“ Siuan flinched, then nodded, glowering.
Siuan doesn’t think they know about her and Moiraine, because Tamra never really considered them part of the search, otherwise they’d be dead too. She says she put a note in disguised handwriting under Sierin’s door, but doesn’t think it will do much good. Moiraine pulls herself together and tells Siuan they will just have to carry on the search alone, and then remembers her encounter at the inn. She swiftly recounts it to Siuan, who thinks Cadsuane could be Black, but could also be one of Tamra’s searchers. Either way, Siuan proposes they leave Canluum, now, but Moiraine convinces her to go on ahead, and Moiraine will follow her in the morning. They hug goodbye, and Moiraine heads back to the inn, trying not to see Darkfriends behind every door. She sees what she thinks must be a sister (because of the shawl) talking to a very tall man with his hair in belled braids who stalks off angrily, but doesn’t see what sister it is or her Ajah. In the common room, she notes that Merean and Larelle and Cadsuane are all wearing their shawls. Moiraine finds that everyone’s attitude has changed now that they assume she is being hustled off to the Tower, and the innkeeper has put her in to share a room with a merchant named Haesel Palan, who proves to be a very unsatisfactory roommate. Moiraine can’t sleep anyway, and when the door creaks open in the middle of the night she embraces saidar in a flash, ready to defend herself.
Cadsuane put her head in. Moiraine had forgotten her promise, her threat. The Green sister saw the glow, of course, could feel how much she held. ”Fool girl" was all the woman said before leaving.
Moiraine waits a bit, then gets up, dresses, and sneaks out, leaving her saddlebags behind.
Yeah, Siuan’s news would pretty much terrify the hell out of me if I were Moiraine. Revelations of a supposedly non-existent evil organization within your own aside, the feeling there must be akin to being two rookie cops who find out the police station got blown up while they were gone.
Or something, I dunno. Just very much, “Oh, look, we’re the only non-evil people left alive who know about this prophecy that affects the fate of humanity itself. No pressure!” Yeek.
Plus, that is a murder spree of truly horrific proportions in almost any context. Especially on the heels of Cadsuane’s observation on the dearth of powerful sisters; well, there are even fewer now, aren’t there? It’s upsetting both on a personal level and on a tactical one.
I’m really glad that Siuan figured out Tamra was murdered, because I really would have to have lost respect for her if she hadn’t. Wow, I just re-read that sentence three times, and even though I’m 99% sure it’s grammatically correct it still looks wrong.
ANYWAY. I was a trifle annoyed, though, that neither of them seemed to make the connection that this meant Chesmal is Black Ajah too. Although, I guess that can’t be assumed, technically, since Chesmal could have just been repeating what she was told by someone else. Still, you’d think that would have made Siuan suspicious of her, at the very least.
Tall bell-braided guy: Ryne? Ooh, was I right about him being evil? Or is it just a Red Herring? We’ll see!
Also, what does Cadsuane know about the whole thing? That, I can’t remember at all, but I’m probably safe in assuming it’s more complicated than Moiraine thinks.
And that’s what I got for this one, peoples. Have a scrumptious weekend, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday!