We laughed, we cried, we got caught in the rain! It’s a Wheel of Time Re-read! Or a piña colada, one of the two.
Today’s entry covers Chapters 13 and 14 of Knife of Dreams, in which we learn the value of genre savviness, umbrellas, and screaming.
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 13: Siege
Elayne watches in frustration from the street below as Birgitte, a handful of Guardsmen, and one of their companies of mercenaries holds off an attack from Arymilla’s men on the wall above. Elayne’s forces are holding the city only by dint of using the Kinswomen to gate Elayne’s outnumbered troops to whichever part of the wall is currently being attacked, and Elayne knows if Arymilla succeeds in getting into the city, Elayne will likely be defeated. She snaps at Caseille for being over-protective, and Aviendha remarks that if this is what happens when you get with child, she thinks she won’t have any. Then they realize the attack is ending, and Elayne bolts away from her guards to run up the tower to the top of the wall where Birgitte is mopping up, Aviendha following. Annoyed, Birgitte tells Elayne she should get Aviendha to tie her up and sit on her.
“I was quite safe.” Elayne tried to remove the acerbic touch from her voice, without much success. “Min said I will bear my babes, sister. Until they’re born, no harm can come to me.”
Aviendha nodded slowly, thoughtfully, but Birgitte growled, “I’d just as soon you didn’t put her visions to the test. Take too many chances, and you might prove her wrong.” That was foolish. Min was never wrong. Surely not.
Birgitte and Elayne speak with the mercenary captain, and Elayne chastises him for failing to press as hard as they could have against Arymilla’s mercenaries, though Birgitte doesn’t think this will do much good. Privately, Elayne tries to convince Birgitte that she doesn’t need to lead every counterattack herself, but Birgitte asks wearily who else there is to do it.
“My officers are inexperienced boys,” Birgitte went on, “or else men who came out of retirement and should still be warming their bones in front of their grandchildren’s fireplace. Except for the mercenary captains, anyway, and there isn’t one I’d trust without someone looking over his shoulder. Which brings us back to: Who else but me?”
They are interrupted by a sudden and violent lightning storm which forms out of nowhere over Caemlyn. Elayne tries to deal with it herself, but is unable to embrace the Source, and has to ask Aviendha to do it instead; Aviendha delights in the rainfall that results from dispersing the storm. They head back to the Palace using the gate Alise and the other Kinswomen form, and Elayne reflects that the chance to do something useful as well as the news about Egwene’s plans re: having the Aes Sedai retire into the Kin have settled most of the Kinswomen considerably. They arrive back to find another gateway admitting a large column of men in Guardsmen’s uniforms. Elayne speaks to their lieutenant, who introduces himself as Charlz Guybon; Elayne notes in passing that he is very good-looking. Guybon reports that he was stationed in Aringill, and was given permission to try to reach Caemlyn after Naean and the others escaped.
“Captain Kindlin said I could try to find men who’d been discharged by Gaebril, my Lady, and they started flocking in as soon as I put out the call. You’d be surprised how many tucked their uniforms into a chest against the day they might be wanted again. A good many carried off their armor, too, which they shouldn’t have done, strictly speaking, but I’m glad they did. I feared I’d waited too long when I heard of the siege.”
Elayne asks how many, and Guybon reports that including the retinues of the various nobles who joined him on the way, he’s brought in nearly ten thousand troops. Delighted, Elayne promotes him to Captain on the spot, and Birgitte makes him her second on a provisional basis. Guybon seems overwhelmed, and stammers thanks. Then Birgitte orders Elayne off to get out of her wet clothes.
Oh, yeah. This storyline. Well, at least there are no Shaido.
And, at least it now features actual fighting. Yay? I guess?
Although, I must say that that actual fighting seems a tad problematic to me. If I recall correctly, Arymilla had her forces split up into, I think, five camps so as to surround the city on all sides, right? So if Elayne’s gating her troops to the trouble spots because she doesn’t have enough men to defend the whole wall, why wouldn’t Arymilla have all five camps attack at once and overwhelm them? What’s with all this piecemeal bullshit?
Of course, thinking about it a little more, I do concede that a simultaneous assault might be more difficult than I initially assumed. I mean, the timing alone would be an issue; it’s not like Arymilla’s people have radio, or Traveling capability either unless I seriously missed something, so coordinating a synchronized attack would probably be quite the thing.
Still, it could be done, even if it took a week or more to set up. Six leagues (or whatever the distance is, I can’t remember and don’t care enough to check) isn’t going to create an appreciable lag if everyone is told “attack at dawn on such and such a date,” or whatever. Close generally only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades, maybe, but I bet wall sieges can be fudged a bit, too.
Then again, maybe Elayne does have enough men to hold off five separate attack points. But if she does, why does she think she doesn’t have enough men in the first place? And contrariwise, I suppose Arymilla’s forces could spread along the wall, attack at many points instead of just five, but then if they could do that why haven’t they?
Argh, I don’t know. Either this whole thing is silly, or I’m missing something obvious. Since I freely acknowledge that my medieval-ish battle tactics-fu is not especially strong, I’ll assume the latter for now.
This chapter also features the introduction of the most intensely annoying Elayne Thing yet, at least in my opinion, which is her insistence on believing that Min’s viewing about her babies makes her invincible until they are born. This is the kind of sentiment that is tailor-made to give any even remotely genre-savvy reader the screaming meemies just on general principle, whether it turns out to be true or not.
Because really. You see this Fate thing here, Elayne? Don’t tempt it. This is the first rule of surviving epic fantasy stories, woman! DO NOT TAUNT HAPPY FUN FATE.
Guybon: So, when Guybon appeared here in this chapter, I was immediately convinced that he was a Darkfriend. And when I say that, I don’t mean “when I first read KOD,” I mean when I read it just now. But then I looked him up and discovered that apparently he is a perfectly nice guy who is exactly what he says he is, at least as of ToM.
I think it says something that I was so nonplussed by this discovery. Someone who is exactly what he seems, and whose introduction improves a situation instead of complicates it? What series am I reading again?
Of course, we still have one more book to go. YOU NEVER KNOW.
(Also, his name makes me think of Guy of Gisbourne, which I don’t think helped disperse the negative connotation very much. Which is silly, but seriously, the name “Charlz Guybon” really pinged me for some reason, and I still can’t think of why. Oh well.)
Chapter 14: Wet Things
Elayne tries to keep hold of her temper as they head to her rooms. She sees Reanne Corly walking with Kara Defane and Jillari, two former damane, and detours to meet her. Jillari, who is Seanchan-born, tries to prostrate herself before Elayne, but Kara (who is from Toman Head) coaches her on curtseying instead, and tries to get her to call herself “I” instead of “Jillari.” Jillari begins to cry, and Reanne sends her and Kara off gently. Reanne notes Elayne is wet, and tells Elayne she’s helping Jillari choose a new surname, which Elayne realizes means she’s changed her mind about thinking she needs to be collared. Reanna also tells her that one of the former sul’dam, Marli Noichin, has admitted to seeing weaves of the One Power, but is now begging for the a’dam, and Reanne doesn’t know what to do with her. Elayne replies that they will send her back to the Seanchan. Reanne is shocked, and says she can’t condemn a woman to that.
“She helped hold enough others prisoner that she deserves a taste of it herself, Reanne. But that’s not why I mean to send her back. If any of the others wants to stay and learn, and make up for what she’s done, I certainly won’t hand her to the Seanchan, but Light’s truth, I hope they all feel like Marli. They’ll put an a’dam on her, Reanne, but they won’t be able to keep secret who she was. Every one-time sul’dam I can send the Seanchan to collar will be a mattock digging at their roots.”
Reanne asks her to consider a few days before deciding, and Elayne grits her teeth at the implication that she is letting her mood swings influence her decisions, but agrees, uneasy that maybe she is. They come across Vandene, walking with Kirstian and Zarya as usual, and Reanne comments that she thinks Vandene is wearing Adeleas’s dress, and refused Reanne’s offer of solace. Elayne knows Vandene wears nothing but Adeleas’s clothes now, as well as her perfume, but can hardly blame her with being obsessed with finding her sister’s murderer. She and Aviendha squeeze hands quickly. Vandene moves on, and Elayne’s party is joined by Reene Harfor, who notes Elayne is wet, and tells Elayne that three of the mercenary captains are here to see her, and that Careane, Sareitha, and Captain Mellar joined them to “keep them company” while they waited.
Elayne frowned. Mellar. She was trying to keep him too busy for mischief, yet he had a way of turning up where and when she least wanted him. For that matter, so did Careane and Sareitha. One of them had to be the Black Ajah killer. Unless it was Merilille, and she was beyond reach, it seemed.
Birgitte growls that they probably want more money, and Elayne tells Reene she will see them as soon as she’s changed out of her wet clothes. Then she runs into Chanelle din Seran White Shark and Renaile din Calon, the last people she wants to see. Renaile, once Windfinder to the Mistress of the Ships, has fallen low in station now that Nesta din Reas is dead, so Chanelle is in charge now. She demands imperiously of Elayne if Talaan and Merilille have been found. Elayne tries to rein in her temper, and tells her no, coldly. She tries to move on, but Chanelle accuses Elayne of being involved in an Aes Sedai conspiracy to kidnap Talaan and hide her. This infuriates Birgitte as well as Elayne, and hot words are exchanged; Elayne realizes her and Birgitte’s anger is feeding off each other, and desperately tries to dial it back and return to civility. Chanelle sends Renaile to demand of the Aes Sedai staying at the Silver Swan that they produce Merilille and Talaan, and Elayne winces, knowing this will spread the news of her bargain with the Sea Folk even further. Renaile obeys meekly, and Chanelle seems vengefully pleased at her change in circumstances.
The Windfinder stared her up and down, frowning. ”You’re wet,“ she said as though just noticing. ”It is very bad to be wet for long in your condition. You should change your clothes right away.“
Elayne threw back her head and screamed as loudly as she could, a howl of pure outrage and fury. She screamed until her lungs were empty, leaving her panting.
In the silence that followed, everyone stared at her in amazement. Almost everyone. Aviendha began laughing so hard she had to lean against a tapestry of mounted hunters confronting a leopard that had turned. She had one arm pressed across the middle as if her ribs hurt. The bond carried amusement, too – amusement! – though Birgitte’s face remained as smooth as a sister’s.
”I must Travel to Tear," Chanelle said breathily after a moment, and she turned away without another word or any gesture toward a courtesy. Reene and Reanne offered curtsies, neither quite meeting Elayne’s eye, and pled duties before hurrying off.
Elayne dares either Aviendha or Birgitte to say a word, amusing both women further. Elayne stalks off toward her rooms.
I was initially going to be rather scornful at how much Elayne’s pregnancy-induced mood swings are being played up here, but then it occurred to me that having never been pregnant myself, I might not have all the facts. So I called in more experienced reinforcements.
And after my sister, my mother, my grandmother, and my aunt all assured me that yes, you really do have ridiculous mood swings while pregnant, I guess I have to concede that in this Jordan was quite correct. My sister adds that the first trimester (which I believe is the stage Elayne’s in at the moment) is by far the worst, and that things settle down greatly once you’re in the backstretch. So, okay then. Good to know!
Still, the truth of that is not doing much to help with the glory Elayne is kind of completely failing to cover herself with here. I have to admit, though, that I found her scream of fury just as funny here as I did when she did it at the circus a million years ago. The mental image, especially of everyone else’s reaction of “…okay, I’m going somewhere else now!”, is just terribly amusing.
And really, mood swings or no, if you had to deal with the Sea Folk, wouldn’t you scream? Or really want to? ‘Cause I sure as hell would.
I am still not sure if I think the Sea Folk tradition of Windfinders’ station being tied to their captain (or whatever) is dumb or not. On the one hand, it seems like a shameful waste to demote an experienced Windfinder to nothing just because the person she’s paired up with dies. But then again, there is a case to be made that this is a legit way for a society to put checks on a group of people who will in general live four to six times as long as any of their peers, and who otherwise might be in a position to gain far too much power politically as well as, er, magically. If that makes any sense. So you could argue it either way, I think.
You would think, though, that given all that, a smart Windfinder would know to be nicer to people on the way up, if she knows with certainty that she will at some point be climbing right the hell back down. I mean, Renaile had to realize that she would outlive Nesta by a huge margin even if Nesta hadn’t been executed by the Seanchan, so really, that’s kind of an amazing lack of foresight, there. So, Renaile is not exactly high on my list of Smart People, right now. Not that she ever was, of course.
As before, I find it a much different (and much sadder) experience to read about Vandene now that I’m no longer suspecting her of being her sister’s killer. Poor darling.
Re: Elayne’s decision to send Marli et al back to the Seanchan, I understand Reanne’s shock at the idea, but I have to say I’m in Elayne’s camp on this one. And this is saying something considering my virulent hatred of the damane institution in the first place.
But Elayne is really caught between a rock and a hard place here, if you ask me. And if it’s a question of being obliged to partially condone slavery in the hopes of destroying the entire practice of it, or being forced to (more or less) practice it yourself (by keeping the sul’dam prisoner), well, I know which one I’d pick. But it’s hardly an easy choice either way.
Talaan and Merilille: Have they ever resurfaced? I can’t remember. I suppose it doesn’t matter much if they haven’t. One of these days I’m going to make a list of plotlines I do and do not care if AMoL resolves, but in the meantime I can say with certainty that this one belongs firmly in the “Do Not” column.
And that is about what that is, so without further ado, that is the end of this post! See you next week!