ZOMG, it’s a Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 9 and 10 of Knife of Dreams, in which confrontations go seriously south, road safety gets seriously pear-shaped, and my desk gets seriously (more) dented.
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 9: A Short Path
Mat badgers Egeanin until she agrees to tell him what little she knows about Tuon, and Mat is appalled by most of what he learns about her upbringing, especially how she had had two of her own siblings assassinated (in retaliation for trying to kill her). Egeanin does tell him that the razor was very clever and appropriate as a courting gift, and acknowledges that Mat does not expect to be above her in rank; Mat tries not to grind his teeth. The Aes Sedai are still sweeping about imperiously, to Mat’s continued annoyance. Joline has Bethamin thoroughly cowed by now; Setalle tells Mat that Seta is still pretending she can’t see the weaves, but thinks it won’t be long before she caves too. Meanwhile Joline and Edesina have discovered the same loophole for his medallion that Adeleas and Vandene had, and Mat gets pelted with rocks and embers until Teslyn has a huge fight with Joline, whereupon the rocks stop, though Joline and Edesina continue to try to get him to hand over the medallion. Setalle opines that Mat has made just about every mistake it is possible to make with Aes Sedai, which is half of why she decided to stick with him.
“Half the reason? What’s the other…?” He grunted as though he had been punched in the stomach. “Tuon? You think I can’t be trusted with Tuon?”
Mistress Anan laughed at him, a fine rich laugh. “You are a rogue, my Lord. Now, some rogues make fine husbands, once they’ve been tamed a little around the edges – my Jasfer was a rogue when I met him – but you still think you can nibble a pastry here, nibble a pastry there, then dance off to the next.”
“There’s no dancing away from this one.” Mat said frowning up at the wagon door. The dice clicked away in his head. “Not for me.” He was not sure he really wanted to dance away anymore, but want and wish as he might, he was well and truly caught.
“Like that, is it?” she murmured. “Oh, you’ve chosen a fine one to break your heart.”
She asks to see the ter’angreal, and Mat lets her. He abruptly deduces from this and many other hints that she used to be Aes Sedai, and says so; she smiles sadly and comments that the other sisters refuse to see it. She advises him that Tuon is not playing the same game he is, more like “a general planning a battle,” and says she will try to level the playing field for him if he keeps her secrets; he agrees. After the show leaves Jurador, Mat discovers that Luca has let slip to the Aes Sedai that Tuon is a High Lady (though not that she is royalty), and the three of them continually try to talk to her to arrange negotiations. Tuon refuses to speak to them. Then one night they burst into Tuon’s wagon while Mat and Noal are visiting, and Joline announces that Tuon must not ignore them any longer.
“Your people have brought a war to these lands such as we have not seen since the War of the Hundred Years, perhaps not since the Trolloc Wars. Tarmon Gai’don is approaching, and this war must end before it comes lest it bring disaster to the whole world. It threatens no less than that. So there will be an end to your petulance. You will carry our offer to whoever commands among you. There can be peace until you return to your own lands across the sea, or you can face the full might of the White Tower followed by every throne from the Borderlands to the Sea of Storms.”
At Tuon’s command, Selucia comes up behind Teslyn and snaps an a’dam around her neck. Teslyn screams, and Edesina tries to run, but is stopped with Air, as is Joline. Blaeric and Fen try to rush in, but the door slams in their faces. Selucia puts two more collars on Joline and Edesina, and Mat sees that Tuon has the bracelets for all three. Teslyn is crying; Joline tries to maintain her calm, and Tuon punishes her through the collar, whereupon Mat tells her no, and that she’d promised not to harm his followers. Tuon retorts that she’d promised not to cause dissension among his followers, and that it’s clear these three aren’t following him in any case. She continues her “lesson” to Joline, and Mat kicks Noal under the table to keep him from trying to interfere. He points out to Tuon that she can learn to channel herself, doesn’t that change anything?
“I am nothing like these women, Toy. Nothing like them. Perhaps I could learn, but I choose not to, just as I choose not to steal or commit murder. That makes all the difference.”
[…] “I didn’t bring these three out of Ebou Dar so you could take them back.” Mat said firmly, sliding himself along the bed. The foxhead grew colder still, and Tuon made a startled sound.
“How did you… do that, Toy? The weave… melted… when it touched you.”
“It’s a gift, Precious.”
Mat stands, and Selucia goes to make a move, but stops at a barked negative from Tuon. Mat frees Teslyn, who begins kissing his hands in gratitude, making Mat extremely uncomfortable; he pulls loose and frees the other two. Tuon tells him she wants them to stop annoying her, and Mat replies that he thinks they will now; Edesina and Teslyn agree fervently, but Joline says nothing, and Mat sighs.
“I could let Precious keep you for a few days, until you change your mind.” Joline’s collar clicked open in his hands. “But I won’t.”
Still staring into his eyes, she touched her throat as though to confirm the collar was gone. “Would you like to be one of my Warders?” she asked, then laughed softly. “No need to look like that. Even if I would bond you against your will, I couldn’t so long as you have that ter’angreal. I agree, Master Cauthon. It may cost our best chance to stop the Seanchan, but I will no longer bother… Precious.”
Tuon hissed like a doused cat, and he sighed again. What you gained on the swings, you lost on the roundabouts.
Later, Joline actually tries to keep the a’dam to study, but Mat refuses, and spends part of the (rainy) night burying them.
Goddammit, I’d forgotten about this chapter.
Can I pretend this chapter doesn’t exist? Can we call foul, get a do-over? At least some free throws? Something? Bueller?
Seriously, because I really really want to like Tuon, if for no other reason than that she’s going to be my boy Mat’s wife and I want him to be happy and married to someone awesome, and it’s chapters like this that makes it nigh on impossible, because this plantation-owner bullshit right here is pretty much the complete and total opposite of awesome.
And this is not to say that the Terrible Trio are not being idiots here, because they totally are—even though Teslyn is at least mildly awesome for sticking up for Mat re: getting rocks thrown at him, because that shit is NOT ON—but once again the punishment is UTTERLY disproportionate to the crime, and once again I am Pissed.
And yes, I recognize that Tuon is coming from a completely different cultural mindset than I am, and that no doubt in her mind she probably considers her “lesson” to be very mild, in fact, but if you ask me that only makes it worse, not better. Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.
I’m even a little annoyed with Mat for not having a stronger reaction, though I suppose actually blowing up at Tuon would have been counterproductive on many levels.
(Although, I will say that while Joline is (as usual) as annoying as ever in her over-estimation of her own importance, and also (as usual) about as subtle and diplomatic as an oncoming fuchsia freight train, what she actually said about the Seanchan was… not wrong. Not as far as I am concerned, anyway. The likely upcoming truce with the Seanchan still sticks in my craw, I tell you.)
And THEN Joline turns around and is all “ooh, wanna be my Warder?” to the guy who spanked the shit out of her two days ago. Because he’s all, like, masterful or something to her. AAAAAAAAAGGGHH *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*
This chapter is fired.
Chapter 10: A Village in Shiota
The following day seems to go better; Mat entertains Tuon with juggling, and makes her laugh several times, and they argue lightly about horse training methods. He sees a flight of crows go by; Tuon asks if he sees an omen in them, and Mat explains to her about how they can be spies for the Dark One. Tuon scoffs:
“How many children’s tales do you believe? Do you believe that if you sleep on Old Hob’s Hill under a full moon, the snakes will give you true answers to three questions, or that foxes steal people’s skins and take the nourishment from food so you can starve to death while eating your fill?”
Putting on a smile took effort. “I don’t think I ever heard either one of those.”
Mat is enjoying himself, but wonders what her real aim is, since he is sure she can’t possibly feel about him the way he feels about her, with her talk about making him a cupbearer.
Nothing said Tuon could not complete the marriage ceremony just to make him think himself home free and safe, then have him executed. Women were never simple, but Tuon made the rest look like children’s games.
The caravan comes upon a large village just as a peddler approaches from the opposite direction. Luca begins turning into a field before the town, and Mat notices that none of the villagers have reacted to either their presence or that of the peddler, which is very strange. Then Mat realizes that the peddler’s wagon is going over paving stones, on a road that hasn’t been paved in centuries, and he yells to the peddler to keep going. The peddler is puzzled, but ignores him.
“Keep going!” Mat bellowed. “They’re dead! Keep going!” Behind him, somebody gasped, Tuon or Selucia. Maybe both.
Suddenly, the peddler screams as he and his wagon begin sinking into the ground, along with the entire village. The animals in the caravan all go nuts. Mat calms his horse and makes a move to go help the peddler, but Tuon and Selucia stop him. Helplessly he watches as the peddler disappears along with the village, which Mat now recognizes as having the kind of buildings popular in Shiota three hundred years earlier. Afterwards, everyone is freaked out, and begin arguing against crossing that expanse of road. Luca makes an elaborate speech trying to convince them to carry on, extolling the virtues of Lugard and Caemlyn and Tar Valon, and Thom bets Mat a gold crown that he’ll succeed. Meanwhile the Aes Sedai are examining the field where the village had been, revealing nothing of their thoughts. They move on to staring at Tuon, and Mat worries that they will find some way around their promise to leave Tuon alone. Eventually Luca calls a vote, and the circus folk all agree to press on; Mat hands Thom a gold crown.
Thom accepted with a small bow. “I think I’ll keep this as a memento,” he said, rolling the fat gold coin across the back of his fingers. “To remind me that even the luckiest man in the world can lose.”
They cross the patch of road without incident, and Tuon comments that she will probably make Tar Valon her capital one day. She and Selucia seclude themselves for prayer that night, and Thom et al all end up at Mat’s tent that night, not wanting to be alone. Egeanin and Bayle show up to invite Juilin and Amathera to their wagon for wine, as a peace offering to Juilin for accusing him of stealing Amathera; Juilin is still suspicious of Egeanin, but agrees, leaving Mat with Noal, Olver and Thom. Thom is reading his letter for the umpteenth time while Noal and Olver play Snakes and Foxes, and Mat finally asks why he reads it so often. Thom offers it to him, but Mat demurs, saying it’s no business of his. Thom counters that it is his business, actually; it’s from Moiraine. Mat stares, and takes the letter.
My dearest Thom,
There are many words I would like to write to you, words from my heart, but I have put this off because I knew that I must, and now there is little time. There are many things I cannot tell you lest I bring disaster, but what I can, I will. Heed carefully what I say. In a short while I will go down to the docks, and there I will confront Lanfear. How can I know that? That secret belongs to others. Suffice it that I know, and let that foreknowledge stand as proof for the rest of what I say.
When you receive this, you will be told that I am dead. All will believe that. I am not dead, and it may be that I shall live to my appointed years. It also may be that you and Mat Cauthon and another, a man I do not know, will try to rescue me. May, I say, because it may be that you will not or cannot, or because Mat may refuse. He does not hold me in the affection you seem to, and he has his reasons, which he no doubt thinks are good. If you try, it must be only you and Mat and one other. More will mean death for all. Fewer will mean death for all. Even if you come only with Mat and one other, death also may come. I have seen you try and die, one or two or all three. I have seen myself die in the attempt. I have seen all of us live and die as captives. Should you decide to make the attempt anyway, young Mat knows the way to find me, yet you must not show him this letter until he asks about it. That is of the utmost importance. He must know nothing that is in this letter until he asks. Events must play out in certain ways, whatever the costs.
If you see Lan again, tell him that all of this is for the best. His destiny follows a different path from mine. I wish him all happiness with Nynaeve.
A final point. Remember what you know about the game of Snakes and Foxes. Remember, and heed.
It is time, and I must do what must be done.
May the Light illumine you and give you joy, my dearest Thom, whether or not we ever see one another again.
After reading the letter, Mat points out to Thom that Moiraine’s bond to Lan was broken, meaning she must be dead, and even if she is alive, the door to where the Eelfinn are is melted; there’s no way to get to her. But then Olver pipes up to say that Birgitte told him that the Tower of Ghenjei is the way to the lands of the Aelfinn and Eelfin; he also knows how to get in, which is to make the sign that opens the Snakes and Foxes game on the side of the tower with a bronze knife. Mat is startled, but says that even if this is true, they don’t know where this tower is. Noal says he’d heard it was somewhere along the Shadow Coast, but Mat replies that that doesn’t narrow it down much. Thom interjects that Moiraine said in the letter that Mat would know how to find it, but Mat tells him he’s never heard of it. Noal comments that Mat would be unlikely to forget it if he had seen it:
“The thing gleams like burnished steel. I’m told, two hundred feet high and forty thick, and there’s not an opening to be found in it. Who could forget seeing that?”
Mat went very still. His black scarf felt too tight against his hanging scar. The scar itself suddenly felt fresh and hot. It was hard for him to draw breath.
Mat thinks that he remembers nothing of the trip on Domon’s river ship, except for one thing. Thom asks him what’s the matter, and Mat tells him he thinks he knows where the tower is, but Mat can’t go. He then tells the other three the whole story of his encounters with the Aelfinn and Eelfinn, from Tear to Rhuidean to his own suspicions that they are watching his every move. He emphasizes how dangerous they are, even showing them his hanging scar. Noal comments in wonder that that story tops anything Jain ever did, and asks if he can be the third man. Angrily, Mat asks if Noal heard what he said about them being able to see him coming. Thom replies that it doesn’t matter; he’ll go himself if he must, but he points out the letter says the only hope of success is if Mat comes too. Mat struggles with himself, cursing Moiraine for trying to make him a hero even beyond the grave.
But then, if not for her, he would be back in the Two Rivers mucking out the barn and tending his da’s cows. Or he would be dead. And there old Thom sat, saying nothing, just staring at him. That was the rub. He liked Thom. Oh, blood and bloody ashes.
“Burn me for a fool,” he muttered. “I’ll go.”
Thunder crashed deafeningly right atop a flash of lightning so bright it shone through the tent canvas. When the rumbling booms faded, there was dead silence in his head. The last set of dice had stopped. He could have wept.
FUCKING FINALLY JESUS H ZOMG
That, uh, about sums up how I felt when I first read the last part of this chapter, really. Also, there may have been an imaginary football stadium’s worth of people cheering “MOIRAINE! MOIRAINE! MOIRAINE! MOIRAINE!” in my head, too. My head can be a crowded place, sometimes. All right, shut up.
It’s probably important to recall that this is the first time we’ve gotten actual words from Moiraine, even if only from a secondhand source, in twelve years, in reader time; even for a relative latecomer like me it had been nearly a decade. That’s a long time, yo. Not to mention, this is the first real indication since TFOH that the plotline containing one of the biggest shockers of the series, namely Moiraine’s (greatly exaggerated) “death,” is finally moving toward an actual conclusion after hanging fire for more than half the series.
So, you know, this is some seriously exciting shit, here.
The events of ToM, which are, obviously, Relevant To Our Interests here, pretty much… er, well, they really don’t seem to change things that much for me, really. Or, they do, in the sense that I’m relieved it all went down so that I can look forward to everyone flipping the fuck out when they find out Moiraine’s back, but since the whole rescue went more or less precisely the way I expected it to, the actual event in ToM itself doesn’t really seem to change anything in how I regard this chapter. If that makes any sense.
All that aside, I do have a niggling feeling that Moiraine’s letter is committing at least one or two minor crimes against continuity, or organic plotting, or something. Like, she was allowed to mention the game of Snakes and Foxes, but she wasn’t allowed to say specifically what Thom needed to know from it? She was allowed to say Mat would know how to find the Tower of Ghenjei, but not allowed to mention the tower itself?
Because, okay, fine, I guess, but I’m kind of boggled that the rings could be so precise on what she could and could not say, to such a fine degree. Presumably she saw that revealing some information led to disaster and other bits of info didn’t, but man. That’s just really… specific. And, a little inexplicable. And, dare I say, somewhat convenient. And then there’s the built-in time delay
plot device in the letter (Moiraine’s instructions that Mat not be given the letter until he asks), which is also very convenient, and invites further speculation on how exactly the rings conveyed this knowledge to Moiraine. And we won’t even get into how she remembered such precise gradations along with the rest of the tsunami of knowledge she was bombarded with in the rings at Rhuidean.
I’m not going to belabor this point too much, because eleven books and dozens of snarled storylines in, probably the more amazing thing is that this kind of brute-forcing of the timeline hasn’t happened a hell of a lot more often. It only stands out, after all, because Jordan is so rarely this clumsy, so I’ll just be glad for that and move on. (Plus, it also finally gave Olver a reason to exist other than being a Gaidal Cain red herring, so that’s nice.)
But: awesome new icon, yes? Yes! Probably one of my favorites of all the WOT icons, really.
Quicksand village: Okay, standing next to dead people = BAD. Important safety tip, thanks, Egon.
As for Tuon, I still haven’t forgiven her for the previous chapter, but fortunately she doesn’t have much to do in this one, so it’s all good.
Although: You know, it occurs to me that there’s nothing to guarantee that Tuon and Mat’s marriage will actually work out, long term. There’s nothing to say, in fact, that it won’t turn out to be an utter disaster—up to and including Mat’s worry in this chapter that she’ll turn around and execute him. The prophecies only say Mat marries the Daughter of the Nine Moons, after all, not that he spends his life with her or that they are happy.
Well, now I’m depressed.
However, that said, I’m pretty sure Mat’s musings on that score are just another example of how wildly WOT characters can misinterpret the thoughts and intentions of others. I’m not sure even as of ToM whether Tuon loves Mat, but she definitely finds him very attractive. In fact, I’m pretty sure the cupbearer thing was a joke meant to express that, since Egeanin mentions that cupbearers are chosen for their physical beauty.
So that might have been a joke on Tuon’s part, rather than a real intention. A creepy, wrong, plantation-owner type joke, but a joke nevertheless.
Last but not least, there is this quote, when Mat is bemused at Luca’s claim that he will hire river ships to get the circus from Caemlyn to Tar Valon:
Luca, who was tight enough to render mice for tallow?
I blinked at that for almost a minute before I got it, and then I laughed. And… so I thought I’d share that.
...Right. So, that was probably the most weakass ending of a Re-read post ever, but I are eggsauceded, so I’m stopping anyway, and we’ll all pretend it was artistically ironic or something, aight? Aight! Have a week, chillens, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!