Tip your hat to my newly restored constitution, kids, for this is the Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Part 2 of the Prologue of Knife of Dreams, in which we have a new boss who may actually not be the same as the old boss, a belated realization that the memo from the brass may not have said what it seemed to say, and the dubious merits of (possible) promotion through the medium of invisible facial blemishes.
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!
Prologue: Embers Falling on Dry Grass [Part 2]
Pevara sits with another Red Sitter, Javindhra, in Tsutama Rath’s flamboyantly decorated rooms. Tsutama is now the Ajah’s Head (“the Highest”) and Pevara thinks that her exile had only made her harder. They are discussing the rumors about Dumai’s Wells which had finally begun to circulate; Pevara defends against the notion that Katerine or Tarna spread them, saying there was no way to keep sisters from learning what happened eventually through their eyes-and-ears.
Galina's death had lifted a great weight from Pevara's shoulders – the Highest, a Darkfriend; oh, that had been agony! – yet she was uncertain about Tsutama. There was something… wild… about her, now.
Something unpredictable. Was she entirely sane? But then, the same question could be asked regarding the whole White Tower. How many of the sisters were entirely sane, now?
Pevara asks if Tsutama brought them here because of the letter she had received (addressed to Galina) from Sashalle Anderly. Tsutama tells them Sashalle confirms most of what they’ve heard from Toveine and other sources, but also claims she is “in charge” of most of the sisters in Cairhien. Javindhra asks how that is possible, and Tsutama ignores her to read the section where Sashalle informs them that she and a number of other sisters have sworn fealty to the Dragon Reborn, and that she, Irgain Fatamed and Ronaille Vevanios have been Healed of stilling by an Asha’man named Damer Flinn, and that she swears what she did was for the good of the Red Ajah and the Tower. Javindhra opines that Sashalle is clearly delusional, but Tsutama doesn’t agree, and tells Pevara that in light of all that’s going on, she has decided to move forward with Pevara’s scheme re: “these flaming Asha'man.” Pevara winces to hear the idea named as hers, though she had been surprised at the lack of outrage from Tsutama when she had presented Tarna’s notion of bonding the Asha’man to her. Javindhra had been violently against the idea, and mutters that Elaida will never stand for it. Icily, Tsutama replies that Elaida won’t know about it until too late; Elaida is Amyrlin now, and this is Red Ajah business. Javindhra acquiesces hastily, but Pevara notes that she seems to be hiding a smile. Tsutama kicks them out, and Pevara goes to meet with Yukiri, mulling over who should be approached first about the bonding scheme. Yukiri reports that Marris broke that morning, but her “one other” is out of the Tower, probably with the rebels.
Pevara sighed. It had seemed so encouraging, at the start. Terrifying and nearly overwhelming, too, yet they had appeared to be making a good beginning. Talene had only known the name of one other Black sister actually in the Tower at present, but once Atuan had been kidnapped – Pevara would have liked to think of it as an arrest, yet she could not when they seemed to be violating half of Tower Law and a good many strong customs besides – once Atuan was safely in hand, she had soon been induced to surrender the names of her heart: Karale Sanghir, a Domani Gray, and Marris Thornhill, an Andoran Brown. Only Karale among them had a Warder, though he had turned out to be a Darkfriend, too.
Luckily, soon after learning that his Aes Sedai had betrayed him, he had managed to take poison in the basement room where he had been confined while Karale was questioned. Strange to think of that as lucky, but the Oath Rod only worked on those who could channel, and they were too few to guard and tend prisoners.
Pevara knows they are at an impasse, and the threat of discovery grows every day, and she contemplates whether they should just come forward with who they have now. Then Yukiri tells her that Talene has been summoned to appear before the Supreme Council, and is now begging them to hide her. Pevara thinks they should go with Talene, and destroy the Black Ajah’s highest-ranking members at one stroke, but Yukiri points out that if even one of the Black sisters escapes in the attempt, their cover will be blown and they will become the hunted. Pevara admits to herself that it was a foolish idea.
But she wanted to strike out, at something, at anything, and small wonder. The head of her Ajah might be insane; she was tasked with arranging for Reds, who by ancient custom bonded no one, to bond not just any men, but Asha'man; and the hunt for Darkfriends in the Tower had reached a stone wall. Strike out? She wanted to bite holes through bricks.
Then Yukiri asks if the Red has heard anything from the sisters with Toveine, and Pevara reluctantly tells her almost everything they’ve heard from Toveine, except the accusations against Elaida. Yukiri in turn tells her the Gray heard from Akoure Vayet, but they will keep silent for the sake of the Tower for now. They are arguing over whether to go to Elaida with what they have when they are interrupted by Seaine, who has urgent news. She starts telling them about a letter the Whites received from Ayako Norsoni, but then sees that they already know about Toveine’s group, and moves on:
“I've just come from answering a summons to Elaida. She wanted to know how I was getting on.” Seaine took a deep breath. “With discovering proof that Alviarin entered a treasonous correspondence with the Dragon Reborn. Really, she was so circumspect in the beginning, so indirect, it's no wonder I misunderstood what she wanted.”
Yukiri and Pevara are both chilled by this news, and Pevara knows they have lost their one assurance that Elaida was not also Black Ajah.
Alviarin glides through the Tower, hiding her inner turmoil, and realizes she is touching the spot where Shaidar Haran marked her.
The Great Lord had marked her. Best not to think on that. But how to avoid it? The Great Lord… On the outside she displayed absolute composure, but within was a swirling tangle of mortification and hatred and very near to gibbering terror.
She retrieves a bundle of messages from behind a tapestry and returns to the White Ajah quarters, ignoring the looks of either pity or contempt from the other Whites. She overhears two sisters arguing about the unnatural rate of food spoilage in the Tower, and almost smiles, but then overhears another sister deliberately loudly discussing Alviarin’s new penance for being stripped of the Keeper’s stole (a strapping every morning before breakfast), and hurries to her rooms before anyone can see her cry in humiliation. She wishes she dared kill Elaida, but takes comfort in the rumors about Dumai’s Wells Katerine is spreading, and knows the news about the Black Tower will soon be out as well.
Break the White Tower from within, she had been ordered. Plant discord and chaos in every corner of the Tower. Part of her had felt pain at that command, a part of her still did, yet her greater loyalty was to the Great Lord. Elaida herself had made the first break in the Tower, but she had shattered half of it beyond mending.
Abruptly she realized that she was touching her forehead again and snatched her hand down. There was no mark there, nothing to feel or see.
She deciphers the first message, which reports that Talene had been seen leaving the Tower packed for a journey, and allows herself to feel hope that she was right about Talene looking to Doesine and Yukiri for guidance; she needs a threat to the Black Ajah to keep the Great Lord’s protection, without which she is sure Mesaana will kill her instantly, for witnessing her humiliation. The next two messages tell her that both Doesine and Yukiri sleep with wards against intrusion, which will make kidnapping them difficult, and Alviarin decides to consider that for a bit. She tries not to think about day after day of being beaten by Silviana, and begins writing out orders for Talene to be found and Doesine and Yukiri to be watched closely for an opportunity to take them.
She wrote furiously, unaware that her free hand had risen to her forehead, searching for the mark.
And this concludes the Aes Sedai Politicking portion of our Prologue. Please untangle your brains and return your Amyrlin Seats to their full upright and locked positions.
Or something. Look, I don’t know.
I don’t know about all this hoopla either, mainly because post-ToM, the plots here are either (a) moot, (b) maddeningly hanging off a cliff, or (c) completely gone from my brain. Like Javindhra’s deal: do I even need to care at this point why Javindhra is all maybe secretly stoked about something she professes to be violently against? Is this at all relevant to my interests?
Nope, can’t remember. *shrug* Maybe she’s just sick and tired of Elaida’s stupid ass and is happy people are doing things which will piss her off. Which normally I would find a rather contemptuous reason for switching political allegiances, but in this case only causes me to promote Javindhra to a rather higher grade of Sense than I am generally inclined to initially assign Reds. Because sometimes I am catty. On multiple levels, even.
The bonding-of-Asha’man scheme itself is annoying to think about at this particular moment, because the whole Black Tower Thing was just about the single biggest cliffhanger plotline of ToM, and ARGH SOMEONE KILL TAIM ALREADY PLZKTHX.
(Is it 2012 yet? No? Crap.)
Not to mention, I find the entire issue rather irksome on a more philosophical level as well, with Tsutama and Javindhra all just discussing whether to bond the Asha’man without even considering what the Asha’man themselves might have to say about it. I just love institutionalized sexism, don’t you? It’s my FAVORITE.
At least Pevara gives that aspect of it some thought. But then, we’ve long since established that Pevara is practically a freak of nature for a Red, what with the considering of men to possibly be actually human and stuff. Of course, Tsutama appears to be such a Red’s Red that she’s apparently gone right through the far end of galloping misandry into actual Crazy, and then somehow circled back around into making rational decisions, sort of, even when they involve channeling men. Which is a rather eye-crossingly impressive feat, if you ask me. Wow.
So that’s fun, I guess. The rest of Pevara’s POV, on the other hand, is just boring to think about, because Egwene thankfully makes the whole Black Ajah Hunters Thing irrelevant Real Soon Now. It’s maybe not entirely fair of me, because that scene followed by the orders re: Doesine and Yukiri Alviarin’s writing in the next bit probably should be an effective tension generator over whether the Hunters’ cover really is about to be blown.
But, well, sorry, but no. It’d be one thing if this had actually been going somewhere, but knowing, as I do, that this entire plotline essentially deflates like a week-old party balloon the moment Verin steps in with her Gordian-Knot-severing Death Scene of Awesome in TGS, well, that just takes all the interest out of it for me. Really, the fizzling of the Black Ajah Hunter plotline tends to get filed with Masema’s death as examples of story arcs that really deserved better resolutions than they got.
Alviarin: again with the cliff-hanging, here, because as far as I know this is the last POV we get from Alviarin, and we have no idea as of ToM what happened to her after she fled the Tower in TGS. I continue to cherish my mostly-looney theory that Leane will get to be the one to off her in AMOL. It’s all symmetrical and shit, y’all!
I wasn’t so much paying attention to post-KOD fan discussion at the time, but all the same I remember that a lot of people compared Alviarin’s “mark” from Shaidar Haran to the mark Cain gets after being cursed by God. And certainly there are a lot of similarities, if in a certain inside-out way. The short version of Cain’s mark, in case you aren’t familiar, is that Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve in Genesis; they each offered a sacrifice to God, but God only accepted Abel’s. This pissed Cain off, and he killed his brother Abel. As you do. In retribution, God cursed Cain to wander the earth, but placed a mark on him which indicated that anyone who killed Cain would suffer God’s vengeance.
So you can see where the parallels come in: certainly Alviarin’s work in breaking the Tower apart is that of turning sister against sister, pretty much literally, just as Cain turned on his brother Abel. And even though unlike Cain, Alviarin’s mark comes from, shall we say, the opposing team, they both serve the same purpose: to protect the bearer from those who would otherwise take revenge on them. Nicely done reference, all in all.
I also remember I thought that it might indicate that Alviarin might be on track to become the first of The Forsaken: The New Class (along with Taim, perhaps), but I think a lot of people disagree with me on that one. Which is SHOCKING. Well, no it isn’t, and there’s probably a perfectly good reason or reasons why I’m wrong, but hell if I can think of what they might be.
And… that’s what I have to say about that. And ooh, lookit, it’s 4:00 AM. Say goodnight, Gracie, and see you next week!