Hey-hey-hey, it’s a Wheel of Time Re-read! Fancy that.
Today’s entry covers Part 3 (!!) of the Prologue of Knife of Dreams, in which there is a lot of face-slapping, kidnapping, and… um, another three-syllable word that ends in “apping."
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 3]
Galina rides through the forest, pleasantly ruminating on her revenge against all who have wronged her, until thoughts of how thoroughly Therava owns her, and what her life will be like if she does not escape with the oath rod in Therava’s tent, ruins her good mood. She is turning back to the Shaido encampment when she is stopped by an Aielman; she assumes he is Shaido, and threatens him with Sevanna and Therava’s retribution, but his response is to yank her from her saddle and blindfold and hogtie her, ignoring her struggles. A man whose accent is from Murandy talks to the Aielman, Gaul, asking about her strange attire for a gai’shain (“Shaido,” Gaul spits), and commenting that they’ll need more than one to find out where “she” is.
“I think maybe this one can tell Perrin Aybara what he needs to know, Fager Neald.”
If she had stiffened before, now she froze. Ice seemed to form in her stomach, and in her heart. Perrin Aybara had sent these men? If he attacked the Shaido trying to rescue his wife, he would be killed, destroying her leverage with Faile. The woman would not care what was revealed, with her man dead, and the others had no secrets they feared having known. In horror, Galina saw her hopes of obtaining the rod melting away. She had to stop him. But how?
Gaul tells Neald that Galina is Aes Sedai, and she is puzzled that neither man seems worried about that. She is further confused by their talk of “gateways” as they tie her across her saddle. She tries to think of what she should say to Aybara, but then thinks of what Therava’s punishment will be for being days late getting back, regardless of the cause, and begins flailing and weeping. The men ignore her, and to her confusion they arrive at Aybara’s camp only an hour later and free her. Neald comments her cold demeanor would convince him she was Aes Sedai even without the face, and he and Gaul take her by the arms to lead her to Aybara. She is unnerved that manhandling an Aes Sedai seems to concern neither them nor any of the soldiers they are passing. As they approach the tent she overhears someone talking about arranging a meeting, and hopes it is not with Sevanna. She goes in haughtily, and recognizes Berelain, who comments to Aybara (who has his back turned) that Galina seems cautious.
She was Aes Sedai. That was all that mattered. That was all she would allow to matter. She opened her mouth to take command of the situation…
Aybara suddenly looked over his shoulder at her, as though he had sensed her presence in some way, and his golden eyes froze her tongue. She had dismissed tales that the man had a wolf's eyes, but he did. A wolf's hard eyes in a stone-hard face.
Gaul and Neald tell Aybara of her capture, and that she struggled but didn’t try to channel; Galina abruptly realizes that Neald and the other black-coated man in the tent can channel, and tries not to throw up. Aybara is puzzled by the contradictions she presents, and comments that she is terrified, though she doesn’t see how he could know that. She tells him coldly that she is on Tower business, and that he is endangering his wife and Queen Alliandre by interfering with her. She tells him that if he wishes to protect Faile, he should retreat before he is discovered by the Shaido. Aybara only seems interested in the fact that she’s seen Faile, and begins digging for maps. Berelain comes up and introduces herself (Galina: “you may call me Alyse”), and tells her there are other Aes Sedai in the camp, asking if she would like to speak them after. Casually, Galina refuses, and urges Berelain to help he convince Aybara before they are discovered, but Berelain laughs and tells her they are a four-day ride from Shaido territory.
“Perrin is stubborn, Alyse Sedai. I doubt you'll change his mind. That isn't easy to do once he has it set.” For some reason, the young woman smiled a smile mysterious enough to credit a sister.
“Berelain, could you have your talk later?” Aybara said impatiently, and it was not a suggestion. He tapped the sheet of paper with a thick finger. “Alyse, would you look at this?” That was not a suggestion, either. Who did the man think he was, ordering an Aes Sedai?
She is surprised at the detailed intelligence of Malden the map reflects, and points out again how outnumbered they are. She warns him again not to interfere, but Aybara only demands to know where Faile and the others are quartered. Galina lies that they are moved often, knowing that now she was committed to killing Faile and the others before they could expose her. Aybara seems determined, and Galina is reduced to asking him to at least wait a week. Aybara is not happy about that, pointing out the increasing amount of public drunkenness they’ve observed among the Shaido.
Drunkenness was rife among the Shaido. Every raid brought back all the wine that could be found. Dozens and dozens of small stills produced vile brews from grains, and every time the Wise Ones destroyed a still, two sprang up in its place. Letting him know that would only encourage him, though.
Galina assures him the Wise Ones only drink water. Aybara asks if the Shaido go in the town itself often, and Galina accidentally tells him the truth (no), and then tries to backtrack, to discourage him from going there via gateway.
Aybara only nodded. “When you see Faile, tell her that on the day she sees fog on the ridges and hears wolves howl by daylight, she and the others must go to Lady Cairen's fortress at the north end of the city and hide there. Tell her I love her. Tell her I'm coming for her.”
Wolves? Was the man demented? How could he ensure that wolves would…?
Suddenly, with those wolf's eyes on her, she was not sure she wanted to know.
Galina lies that she will pass the message on, and Aybara loses some of his tension. Galina demands to be taken back immediately, and also for Aybara to hit her in the face. Shocked, Aybara refuses, and Berelain volunteers to do it instead. Neald takes her back, and she is so frantic to get back to Therava on time that she barely thinks about him using saidin. She races the sun, and loses.
Therava did not accept excuses. She was particularly upset over the bruises. She herself never marred Galina's face. What followed easily equaled her nightmares. And it lasted much longer. At times, when she was screaming her loudest, she almost forgot her desperate need to get the rod. But she clung to that.
Obtain the rod, kill Faile and her friends, and she would be free.
Egwene regains consciousness to find she is in a coach with five Aes Sedai, traveling through Tar Valon; Egwene is appalled to smell rotting garbage from the streets. She tries to pretend she isn’t awake, but Katerine Alruddin slaps her in the face, which promptly starts all the sisters in the coach bickering at each other. Egwene feels sadness for the rebels, wondering if they will fall apart without her, and anger that her Great Serpent ring has been taken away, but cannot figure out why she doesn’t feel afraid. She asks aloud who betrayed her; Katerine goes to slap her again, but another sister (Felaana) stops her, and to Egwene’s shock all five have soon embraced saidar. The standoff is tense but brief, and Katerine goes back to Egwene, weaving a shield in case the forkroot wears off. She opines that Egwene might very well be stilled and beheaded tomorrow, and the other Red (Barasine) thinks it might even be tonight, but Berisha Terakuni (Gray) thinks the Hall is unlikely to be that easy to persuade. Katerine sneers that the Hall will do what Elaida tells them. Berisha changes the subject, asking Egwene what she did to the harbor chain.
“It can't be undone,” Egwene replied. “You must know that it's cuendillar, now. Even the Power won't break it, only strengthen it. I suppose you could sell it if you tear down enough of the harbor wall to remove it. If anyone can afford a piece of cuendillar that big. Or would want such a thing.”
This time, no one tried to stop Katerine from slapping her, and very hard, too. “Hold your tongue!” the Red snapped.
Egwene keeps silent, wondering why Elaida would set a task for five women who so clearly hate each other, and hoping that she lives long enough to tell Siuan what happened in the dream, so Siuan could at least track down the traitor. They arrive at the Tower.
It was very strange. She was a prisoner and unlikely to live much longer, yet she felt she had come home. The Tower seemed to renew her vigor.
Nicola Treehill meets them at the entrance, and seems just as shocked to see Egwene as Egwene is to see her. Nicola reports that Elaida has instructed that Egwene is to go to the Mistress of Novices, Silviana, and Katerine is satisfied that the birching part will start immediately, then. Egwene stares Katerine down, and thinks of how painful birching is supposed to be.
The Aiel had a way of dealing with pain. They embraced it, gave themselves over to it without fighting or even trying to hold back screams. Perhaps that would help. The Wise Ones said that way the pain could be cast off without keeping its hold on you.
Felaana and Pritalle leave with strange hastiness. Nicola suddenly apologizes to Egwene, calling her “Mother,” and Katerine switches her with Air, yelling at her to get back to Elaida. Berisha objects to this, and Egwene is astonished when Katerine and Barasine actually seem to be threatening her. Berisha nervously begs off going with them to Silviana. Egwene is struck by how silent the Tower is, until they run into another Red, Melare, who comments on Egwene’s composure. Katerine mutters that it must be the forkroot, and asks how things went at Northharbor. Melare says they caught a wilder claiming to be Leane Sharif of the Green Ajah, but not before she’d turned half the chain into cuendillar. Melare remarks that oddly, they couldn’t detect the wilder channeling at all, and only caught her because one of the Warders spotted the boat; Egwene chastises herself for not taking similar precautions. Egwene explains that Leane is not lying and why, until Katerine gags her with Air for talking nonsense. Melare seems more doubtful, though, and Egwene hopes that helps ease Leane’s treatment. Melare leaves, and they continue to Silviana’s study, where Silviana orders Katerine and Barasine to leave, to Katerine’s indignation.
Silviana studied her, arms folded beneath her breasts, until the door closed behind the other two Reds. “You aren't hysterical, at least,” she said then. “That makes matters easier, but why aren't you hysterical?”
“Would it do any good?” Egwene replied, returning the handkerchief to her pouch. “I can't see how.”
Silviana tells her that Elaida has decided she was a dupe, and so instead of charging her with impersonating the Amyrlin Seat, she is to be demoted back to novice. Egwene replies calmly that she is Aes Sedai by virtue of having been raised Amyrlin Seat, and Silviana replies she has just earned her first visit to Silviana. Egwene wants to know why she thinks a spanking will make her deny who she is, and Silviana warns her that she is not nearly as lenient as Sheriam was. Egwene asks how they plan to make this work, and Silviana tells her that she will be regularly dosed with forkroot, enough to let her channel a trickle, but no more. She takes Egwene back out to Katerine and Barasine, and makes Barasine give her Egwene’s ring for safekeeping. Reluctantly, Egwene stops her before she leaves and tells her about her Dream of the Seanchan attacking the Tower. Katerine and Barasine are openly derisive, but Silviana observes thoughtfully that Egwene means what she says, and agrees to pass the message on, for what that’s worth. As they walk, Egwene notes a serving woman not even notice her, and thinks she must find a way to make it impossible to dismiss her like that. Katerine and Barasine take her to her novice cell, and Egwene ignores them as she readies for bed and puts herself immediately to sleep, going to the in-between place where people’s dreams are. She sees that Siuan is not yet asleep, and settles down to wait.
[…] she had been sure she would die soon, sure the sisters inside the Tower were a solid army behind Elaida. Now… Elaida thought her safely imprisoned. No matter this talk of making her a novice again; even if Elaida really believed it, Egwene al'Vere did not. She did not consider herself a prisoner, either. She was carrying the battle into the heart of the Tower itself. If she had had lips there, she would have smiled.
Please insert standard grumble here about ridiculously lengthy Prologues. Jeezus pleezus.
Seriously, the Egwene section is great, but in my opinion it in no way belongs in this Prologue at all. Or any Prologue. Actually, neither does the Galina section, since both that and the Egwene scene are part of plotlines that form a large section of the main book—the bulk of the book, actually, if I’m remembering correctly, which of course I may not be.
But still. What happened to Prologues being for side-project plotlines, or at least for stuff we’re not coming back to right away? Why not just give these two scenes proper chapters? It’s not like they’d take up that much more space or something. I don’t get it, man.
Well, whatever. Stuff is still happening, so I guess I can’t complain too much.
Galina is pretty freakin’ far from being my favorite character in general, but I like this scene because it is yet another example of one of my favorite literary tricks, that of the outsider POV—seeing the protagonist(s) (or whoever we most frequently are inside the heads of) from another character’s perspective. Judging from how often he employs it, I’d wager this is one of Jordan’s favorite tropes too. I do not have a problem with this, personally.
And it’s always nice, as well, to be reminded of the existence of BAMF!Perrin. Particularly at this point, where he’s been emo-ing his way across the land for, what, three books now? Four? Sheesh. Mind you, the events of ToM have gone a long way toward healing my Perrin-related trauma, but I’m still nursing some residual bitterness—especially since I still have yet to reach the end of This Damn Plotline in the Re-read.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving, y’all. Just like herpes!
Also, Galina’s life sucks, try to contain your shock. I’d feel worse for her if she hadn’t just spent this scene trying to make This Damn Plotline even LONGER. How dare she, really. Chop-chop, people, I mean c’mon.
And, yeah. The only other thing I feel like commenting on for this bit was the mention of the increasing amount of Shaido alcoholism, which surprised me on first reading but makes perfect sense in retrospect. Depression on an individual basis is bad enough; having it go culture-wide…well. Sevanna’s a damn fool. On so many levels, it’s kind of astounding.
Oh, except Berelain being all, “Oh, you need a facepunch? Here, let me!” to Galina, which totally made me snort out loud. Hah. Berelain’s on my shit list at this point in the story, but that’s just classic, sorry.
(Also, what is with every Aes Sedai using some variation on the WOT version of “Alice” every time they use a fake name? Is it some kind of play on “alias”? Because, if so, I might have to roll my eyes. Or, possibly, stop reading so much into things that probably aren't there. One of the two.)
Egwene: speaking of BAMFs, thus begins Egwene’s period of greatest Awesome. Yay!
A period which, arguably, has yet to come to a close, though of course she had much less to do in ToM after mostly dominating the plot of TGS. Regardless, she is basically the bomb-diggety from here on out, and I am very much looking forward to reading her storyline in KOD.
It’s funny, considering how much I complained about Zen Jedi Master Rand in ToM, how little problem I had with Egwene essentially pulling the same move here, character-development-wise. If not quite so
melodramatically traumatically, of course. It’s possible I’m imagining it, but it seems to me that the difference between the Egwene of COT and the Egwene of KOD is rather…noticeable. And for significantly less cause than Rand's transformation had.
I’m not complaining about this, exactly, because Zen Jedi Master Egwene is unquestionably a joy to behold, but it is kind of…well, I noticed it, is all. It’s a tad sudden, is what I’m saying. I dunno, I shall have to think on this as we get to more Egwene awesomeness.
But that time is not now! Enjoy, my peoples, and I will see you with an actual chapter or two next week!