Hey kids! Through hail and lightning and actual freakin’ tornadoes (seriously, WTF), I deliver your Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 25 through the end of New Spring, in which a story is begun.
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!
Cover art check in! And… eh, I have no real opinion on this cover. It’s fine. The castle is pretty. The trees seem a little autumn-y for “New Spring,” and I’m bemused at the saddles, which look like the most uncomfortable riding tack ever conceived (seriously, is that a real style, there?), but as these things go it’s pretty inoffensive. Onward!
Chapter 25: An Answer
As Moiraine follows the shatayan, she is distracted by wondering if Siuan has ever been with a man, and if not, hoping she doesn’t let this footman be the first just to reach Ines. She sees Ryne and Bukama sparring in a courtyard and realizes she will have to avoid them and Lan, but given their low stations she doesn’t think that will be a problem. She meets Prince Brys and some of his relatives, and Moiraine is extremely bored until she meets Brys’s son Diryk:
“And how did you earn your bruises, my Lord Diryk?” she asked, hardly listening to the boy’s soberly delivered story of a fall. Until…
“My father says it was Lan’s luck I wasn’t killed, my Lady,” Diryk said, brightening out of his formality. “Lan is the King of Malkier, and the luckiest man in the world, and the best swordsman. Except for my father, of course.”
“The King of Malkier?” Moiraine said, blinking.
Brys tells her that Lan is the king “if he wishes it,” and then asks if she’s well. Moiraine makes her excuses and says she might keep to her rooms for the next few days. On the way back, worrying about running into Lan, she runs straight into Merean instead, with the shatayan and a bevy of servants. Merean notes that she’s still not wearing her ring, and Moiraine asks if she is alone; Merean answers that Larelle “decided to go her own way,” and Moiraine replies that she meant Cadsuane.
The more she had thought about Cadsuane, the more she had become convinced the woman must be Black Ajah. What surprised her was Larelle. Larelle had seemed bent on reaching Chachin, and without delay. Of course, plans could change, but suddenly Moiraine realized something that should have been obvious. Black sisters could lie. It was impossible – the Oaths could not be broken! – yet it had to be.
Merean backs Moiraine up and wonders why Moiraine is so eager to see Cadsuane considering Cadsuane had promised to spank her till she couldn’t sit for a week, and suggests Moiraine be “very still and quiet” until they can talk. She leaves, and Moiraine wonders if Merean is one of Tamra’s searchers, or if she is Black and Larelle is dead in a ditch somewhere. Having been outed as Aes Sedai in front of the servants, she changes her mind and tells her guide to take her to Lan Mandragoran’s rooms. Lan tries to refuse her entrance, so Moiraine just walks in to find him practicing the sword, shirtless; she notes he has nail marks on his back, and blushes, wondering that he could actually inspire that level of passion in a woman. Lan growls that he has no time for her or her games, as he is waiting for someone. Moiraine replies dryly that his “lady love” need not fear, as Lan is not her type, and declares that she is calling upon him to uphold the pledge made by Malkier to ride when the Tower calls. Lan answers that he will help her if she will answer a question truthfully.
For the first time since she had met him, he met her eyes directly, and his stare was blue ice. “When Malkier died,” he said in tones of quiet steel, “Shienar and Arafel sent men. They could not stop the flood of Trollocs and Myrddraal, yet they came. Men rode from Kandor, and even Saldaea. They came too late, but they came.” Blue ice became blue fire. His voice did not change, but his knuckles grew white gripping his sword. “For nine hundred years we rode when the White Tower called, but where was the Tower when Malkier died? If you are Aes Sedai, answer me that!”
Moiraine hesitated. The answer he wanted was Sealed to the Tower, taught to Accepted in history lessons yet forbidden to any except initiates of the Tower. But what was another penance alongside what she faced? “Over a hundred sisters were ordered to Malkier,” she said more calmly than she felt. By everything she had been taught, she should ask a penance for what she had told him already. “Even Aes Sedai cannot fly, however. They were too late.” By the time the first had arrived, the armies of Malkier were already broken by endless hordes of Shadowspawn, the people fleeing or dead. The death of Malkier had been hard and blood-soaked, and fast. “That was before I was born, but I regret it deeply. And I regret that the Tower decided to keep their effort secret.”
Lan stares at her a while, then asks what help she needs. Moiraine tells him she wants a sister named Merean Redhill followed. Lan seems reluctant to leave his rooms, somewhat to Moiraine’s disgust, but tells her he will ask Bukama and Ryne to do it; Moiraine tells him, only Bukama, and not to tell him why. Lan agrees without asking questions, and Moiraine hopes she is not making a big mistake. She returns to her rooms to find Iselle there; Iselle is clearly doubtful that Moiraine is really Aes Sedai, but informs Moiraine that she does not wish to marry her mother’s carneira, and has decided to go to the White Tower instead. She adds that she was tested years ago, but was too young to go then, and that her mother was furious over it.
“She has always said I was to be Queen of Malkier one day, but that means marrying Lan, which I would not want even if Mother weren’t his carneira. When you tell her you are taking me to the Tower, she will have to listen. Everyone knows that Aes Sedai take any woman they want for training, and no one can stop them.“ That full mouth pursed. ”You are Aes Sedai, aren’t you?“
Unamused, Moiraine tells her she can go by herself if she wants, and “Suki” kicks her out. Moiraine asks what she learned, and Siuan answers, only that Cal is a good kisser, and then indignantly insists that’s all it was at Moiraine’s look. Siuan is appalled at Moiraine’s request of Lan, opining that a man who claims the throne of a dead country is “nine kinds of fool,” but Moiraine doesn’t think he’ll tell tales even so, and Siuan heads off to see what else she can get out of Cal. She returns much later to report that Lan had gotten them a message: Merean had spent most of the day with Brys, which isn’t very helpful. More helpful is that Siuan had managed to bring up Ines’s son in conversation with Cal, who told her that Rahien had been born the day after the Aiel had begun their retreat from Tar Valon.
Moiraine and Siuan shared a long look over that. One day after Gitara Moroso had made her Foretelling of the Dragon’s Rebirth and dropped dead from the shock of it. Dawn over the mountain, and born during the ten days before that sudden thaw.
Siuan goes on that she’s led Cal to believe she’d been dismissed from Moiraine’s service, and he’s offered her a bed with Ines’s servants. Then she snorts again at Moiraine’s look and adds, not his bed, and hopes she’ll be there when Moiraine falls for a man. Moiraine dismisses this as unimportant.
Merean had spent all day with Brys? Without going near Lady Ines? One of Tamra’s chosen or Black Ajah, that made no sense, and it went beyond credibility to believe Merean was not one or the other. She was missing something, and that worried her. What she did not know could kill her. Worse, it could kill the Dragon Reborn in his cradle.
Ha, Moiraine’s such a snob sometimes. Her being all horrified that a mere footman might be Siuan’s first was kind of hilarious. (She’s against Siuan’s doing it for spying purposes as well, which I quite agree with, but she’s also clearly like, plus, he’s a footman! Heh.) Moiraine and Siuan’s conversation about this also makes me rather gleefully curious to see what Siuan’s reaction is to Moiraine being with Thom. I don’t know if we’ll actually get to see this in AMOL, but it would definitely be fun to see.
For the record, by the way, I do not have a problem with either Siuan or Moiraine being interested in men or ending up with a man, at all. Some people seemed to take my remarks on pillow friends in earlier entries to mean that I thought the two of them should have been portrayed as in love with each other and no other way, but that’s not what I was saying. I wasn’t lamenting that Siuan and Moiraine aren’t in True Love; I was lamenting the fact that going by the way same-sex relationships are portrayed in WOT, True Love between them (or any other same-sex couple) could never even have been a possibility. The difference is subtle, but important.
Anyway. So here we find out why Lan’s so very down on Aes Sedai, and I have to say, as reasons for grudges go that’s a pretty good one. And again with Moiraine and Lan’s interaction we see the repeated theme of the dividends paid by giving honesty where dishonesty is expected. Not just in that Moiraine tells the truth to Lan, but in the negative example of the Tower deciding to lie (by omission) about failing to get there in time to help Malkier.
And seriously, what a dumbass move. Even if you thought there would be no Malkieri around to resent you for it (which is not true, demonstrably), wouldn’t you think that it might also lessen the Tower’s already-debatable awesomeness in the eyes of other nations as well, to make it seem like you were all “Pfft, whatevs” over an entire country being eaten by evil? The evil your institution was pretty much created to specifically fight against, I might add. No cognitive dissonance, there? Hello? Is this thing on?
Larelle: Is definitely dead in a ditch, then. Sorry, Larelle!
Chapter 26: When to Surrender
Lan sneaks through the halls, hiding to avoid being seen by Merean and Iselle, who are deep in conversation. Edeyn had untied the knot in his daori that had kept him in his rooms for two days, but she was announcing his marriage to Iselle soon, and Lan wants to run, but he is determined to see Bukama first, to ask whether Bukama would want him to stay. At the top of a stone staircase, something trips him, and Lan just manages to go limp enough not to have every bone broken on the fall down. He realizes that the trip must have been done with the One Power just as a guard runs up to tell him Bukama is dying. Lan runs, but Bukama is dead by the time he gets there, a knife in his back.
He hoped Bukama was reborn in a world where the Golden Crane flew on the wind, and the Seven Towers stood unbroken, and the Thousand Lakes shone like a necklace beneath the sun. How could he have let anyone get close enough to do this? Bukama could feel steel being unsheathed near him. Only one thing was sure. Bukama was dead because Lan had tangled him in an Aes Sedai’s schemes.
Lan stands and runs.
Moiraine embraces saidar as Lan bulls his way into her room, and sees that he looks like someone had been beating him. Flatly, he informs her of Bukama’s murder and that someone had tried to kill him, Lan, with the Power, and that since Lan doesn’t think Merean saw him, that leaves Moiraine. Moiraine winces, and answers that she wouldn’t be so sure Merean didn’t notice him.
“Perhaps I should not have asked Bukama to watch Merean. She is very dangerous.” The woman was Black Ajah; she was certain of that, now. Sisters might make painful examples of people caught snooping, but they did not kill them. But what to do about her?
She suggests Lan get Iselle away from Merean, but Lan thinks she is safe for the moment, as he saw her going somewhere with Brys and Diryk. Moiraine suddenly puts it all together, and asks where Brys would go for privacy. Lan catches on, and wants to raise the guards, but Moiraine tells him there is no time, and they have no proof; she commands Lan to take her to Brys. They run through the halls, Moiraine trying not to be afraid, and arrive at Brys’s private balcony walk to see that Merean has bound Brys and Diryk with Air while a confused Iselle looks on. Ryne is also there, watching. Moiraine tries to shield Merean, but it bounces off the stronger sister; Merean calmly tells Ryne to finish the job he started by killing Bukama. Ryne attacks Lan while Moiraine duels Merean. The only reason she doesn’t lose immediately is because Merean wants to question her before killing her (and tells her so). Lan is losing to Ryne, and Merean decides to hurry things along.
Diryk floated into the air, struggling against the bonds he could not see as he drifted over the railing. Brys’s head twisted, following his son, and his mouth worked around his unseen gag.
”No!“ Moiraine screamed. Desperately, she flung out flows of Air to drag the boy back to safety. Merean slashed them even as she released her own hold on him. Wailing, Diryk fell, and white light exploded in Moiraine’s head.
Moiraine recovers to find she is shielded and on the floor. Lan and Ryne are still dueling, and Moiraine struggles to rise as Merean throws Brys over as well, and then begins to do the same for Iselle. Moiraine gets up and drives her knife into Merean’s back, killing her. The shield vanishes, but Moiraine is unable to embrace saidar in time to save Iselle; Lan pulls Moiraine down from the railing, where she had tried to pull Iselle back, advising her to “never watch a death you don’t have to.” He is grievously injured, but Ryne is dead. Moiraine shakily goes over to Merean and pulls out her knife, and Lan comments she is “a cool one.”
“As cool as I must be,” she told him. Diryk’s scream rang in her ears. Iselle’s face dwindled below her. As in the test for the shawl, all her calm was outward show, but she clung to it tightly. Let go for an instant, and she would be on her knees weeping. Howling with grief. “It seems Ryne was wrong as well as a Darkfriend. You were better than he.”
Lan shook his head slightly. “He was better. But he thought I was finished, with only one arm. He never understood. You surrender after you’re dead.”
Moiraine nodded. Surrender after you are dead. Yes.
She Heals Lan as much as she can, and then cremates Merean’s body with the Power so no evidence of it is left. Lan asks why, and Moiraine tells him that there is no proof Merean was Black Ajah; she can’t lie about what happened, but she can keep silent about it. She asks if he will do the same. Lan (who didn’t flinch at the mention of Black Ajah) only comments that she is a very hard woman, but Moiraine acknowledges the assent, and answers that she is as hard as she needs to be.
I remembered that Moiraine fought and killed Merean in NS, but I definitely did not remember the amount of collateral damage that came with it. “That poor little boy!” seems so inadequate a response, and yet that’s about what I’m coming up with. Not to mention Brys and Iselle—and Bukama, indirectly. And Larelle! And who knows how many others.
It’s just too bad Merean couldn’t have been killed more than once, in my opinion. Actually, better would have been if she could have been taken alive and questioned, of course, but we know why that wasn’t going to happen.
I also didn’t remember that Moiraine essentially covers up the crime. I understand the reasoning, mostly, but I have to say I’m kind of uncomfortable with it ethically. Diryk and Brys and Iselle died so pointlessly and terribly, and now their loved ones don’t even get to know the truth. That sucks, not to put too fine a point on it.
And what was the official story, anyway? That they all just happened to slip and fall off the same balcony? That they jumped? I’m having trouble coming up with a plausible scenario that doesn’t involve foul play, frankly. Which I’m assuming the cover story would have to be, to prevent suspicion possibly falling on either Lan or Moiraine, who were after all seen running like crazy people through the castle right around the same time. Not to mention the fact that Lan’s armsman got murdered moments before. It may not add up to anything logically, but man, if I were in charge I wouldn’t be letting either of them leave the castle till I got to the bottom of all that.
So, enh, maybe a few holes there. But ultimately it’s pretty irrelevant to the story we’re trying to get to, here, so I’ll let it go.
Also, Moiraine and Lan kick ass. But we knew that.
The city is in mourning the next day, the disappearance of Merean (and Ryne) going unnoticed. Moiraine passes a dead-eyed Edeyn in the hall on the way back from searching and destroying Merean’s belongings, and goes back to her apartments. Siuan greets her with the news that Ines’s son is definitely not the one, and Moiraine tells her all that’s happened, pointing out that Merean had wanted Diryk dead the most. Siuan doesn’t understand why she would care about killing an eight-year-old, let alone Lan; Moiraine answers that it has something to do with luck, but she can’t figure out what. Siuan muses for a bit, then:
Suddenly she stopped dead and said, “She never went near Rahien, Moiraine. The Black Ajah knows the Dragon was Reborn, but they don’t bloody know when! Maybe Tamra managed to keep it back, or maybe they were too rough and she died before they could pry it out of her. That has to be it!” Her eagerness turned to horror. “Light! They’re killing any man or boy who might be able to channel! Oh, burn me, thousands could die, Moiraine. Tens of thousands.”
Moiraine agrees, but ruthlessly points out that this gives them an advantage in getting to the real Dragon Reborn first, and gives them more time to find him. Siuan stares at her, but concurs. She says they can go in the morning, but Moiraine tells her to go back to the Tower and use her job with the Blues’ eyes-and-ears to search that way. Siuan is reluctant, but at length agrees, muttering about the penance she’ll get from Cetalia for running off. She comments that she hopes Moiraine warned that Lan fellow.
“I heard he rode out an hour ago, heading for the Blight, and if that doesn’t kill him – Where are you going?”
“I have unfinished business with the man,” Moiraine said over her shoulder. She had made a decision about him the first day she knew him, if he turned out not to be a Darkfriend, and she intended to keep it.
Moiraine gets her horse and dashes out of the city, finding Lan burning something that smells like hair. He says that he had hoped she was done with him, and she answers that it will sorrow many when he dies in the Blight. Lan disagrees, and she tells him only fools die before they must, and that she wants him to be her Warder.
He stared at her unblinking, then shook his head. “I should have known it would be that. I have a war to fight, Aes Sedai, and no desire to help you weave White Tower webs. Find another.”
“I fight the same war as you, against the Shadow. Merean was Black Ajah.” She told him all of it, from Gitara’s Foretelling in the presence of the Amyrlin Seat and two Accepted to what she and Siuan had reasoned out, the deaths of Tamra’s searchers, every last bit. For another man, she would have left most unsaid, but there were few secrets between Warder and Aes Sedai. For another man, she might have softened it, but she did not believe hidden enemies frightened him, not even when they were Aes Sedai. “You said you burned your past. Let the past have its ashes. This is the same war, Lan. The most important battle yet in that war. And this one, you can win.”
Lan stares north for a long time, then suddenly draws his sword and kneels, swearing to her (“By my mother’s name, I will draw as you say ‘draw’ and sheathe as you say ‘sheathe.’ By my mother’s name, I will come as you say ‘come’ and go as you say ‘go’”). She tells him there’s a little more to it, and bonds him with the Warder weave.
He rose smoothly, sheathing his sword, studying her. “Men who weren’t there call it the Battle of the Shining Walls,” he said abruptly. “Men who were, call it the Blood Snow. No more. They know it was a battle. On the morning of the first day, I led nearly five hundred men. Kandori, Saldaeans, Domani. By evening on the third day, half were dead or wounded. Had I made different choices, some of those dead would be alive. And others would be dead in their places. In war, you say a prayer for your dead and ride on, because there is always another fight over the next horizon. Say a prayer for the dead, Moiraine Sedai, and ride on.”
Startled, she came close to gaping. She had forgotten that the bond’s flow worked both ways. He knew her emotions, too, and apparently could make out hers far better than she could his.
She nods, and he asks where they are going. She tells him, back to Chachin, and then Arafel.
“The world, if need be. We win this battle, or the world dies.”
Side by side they rode down the hill and turned south. Behind them the sky rumbled and turned black, another late storm rolling down from the Blight.
I quoted way too much of this epilogue, but that’s what you get when there’s so much stuff so awesomely phrased.
And yay, they’re bonded! And Questified! And Lan immediately starts taking care of Moiraine’s mental well-being, aw. And regardless of her speeches, you know he would never have consented to being bonded in the first place if he hadn’t developed a true respect for her badassedness. Not that he would have put it that way, of course, but that’s why I’m here! *beams*
Annnnyway. I felt kind of bad for Edeyn here, who after all lost a daughter, but I felt worse that I didn’t feel worse for her than I did. Um, if that makes the slightest amount of sense. Trapping Lan in his rooms for two days? Ugh. That is so not acceptable. The only one I wanted to smack more than Edeyn for doing it was Lan for putting up with it.
The revelation that the Black Ajah didn’t know what they were looking for probably would have been more exciting if we hadn’t known this from the series proper forever ago, but that couldn’t really be helped, I suppose. And Jarna Malari, at least, is going to regret this whole scheme Real Soon Now, if she hasn’t already.
I also think it’s tangentially interesting that Moiraine’s last thought on Cadusane (which I left out of the summary, I think) is to decide that she was probably Black. I wonder if that will come into play in AMOL at all? It would be kind of horribly hilarious if Cadsuane decided her promise to spank Moiraine still held—assuming she doesn’t get to actually do it, of course. Because that would not be funny at all, in my opinion. Well, we’ll see!
And so ends, quite satisfyingly, New Spring! It was a refreshing change of pace, I must say. Good times. So have a lovely week, y’all, and assuming I’m not flattened by Nature before then, we’ll be back next week with a triumphant return to the main series, starting with Knife of Dreams. Whoo!