Hey, WOTers! Would you, could you kiss a pig? Would you, with some mice and fig?
No? Well, can’t say I blame you. How about a Wheel of Time Re-read instead? Ah, there we go.
Today’s entry covers Chapters 18 and 19 of Knife of Dreams, in which I ponder the wisdom (or lack thereof) of bringing a knife to a magic fight, defile classic children’s literature, and experiment with getting my EPIC FURY returned to sender. As you do.
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 18: News for the Dragon
In Lord Algarin’s manor in Tear, Loial is complaining to Rand about the brevity of his accounts of his exploits, and that he even managed to make the Cleansing sound boring. Min understates that Rand isn’t very talkative, and suggests Loial talk to Verin or Cadsuane instead. Loial counters that it is Rand who is central to his book, and hopes that Mat and Perrin will be more forthcoming – if they’re okay. In the colors, Rand sees Mat arguing with a dark-skinned woman in a forest, and Perrin looking grim in a tavern; he tells Loial they are well, ignoring Cadsuane’s look at his statement.
Abruptly another image was floating his head, a man’s face, and his breath caught. For the first time, it came without any dizziness. For the first time, he could see it clearly in the moments before it vanished. A blue-eyed man with a square chin, perhaps a few years older than himself. Or rather, he saw it clearly for the first time in a long while. It was the face of the stranger who had saved his life in Shadar Logoth when he fought Sammael. Worse…
He was aware of me, Lews Therin said. He sounded sane for a change. Sometimes he did, but the madness always returned eventually. How can a face appearing in my mind be aware of me?
If you don’t know, how do you expect me to? Rand thought. But I was aware of him, as well. It had been a strange sensation, as if he were… touching… the other man somehow. Only not physically. A residue hung on. It seemed he only had to move a hair’s breadth, in any direction, to touch him again. I think he saw my face, too.
[…] When our streams of balefire touched in Shadar Logoth, it must have created some sort of link between us. I can’t think of any other explanation. That was the only time we ever met. He was using their so-called True Power. It had to be that. I felt nothing, saw nothing except his stream of balefire.
He wonders who the man is, knowing he is not one of the Forsaken, and worries that if the man can see him, perhaps he can find him as well. His lengthy silence has worried the others, and Nynaeve Delves him with the Power, but again finds nothing aside from his unhealing wounds. Logain enters with minimal courtesy, and Rand notes that he is now sporting a lord’s sigil (three golden crowns in a field of blue), which he insists is his right even though his titles were stripped when he was captured. Cadsuane mocks him slightly about this, but Rand doesn’t care about it. Logain reports to Rand that Elayne still holds Caemlyn, and the Borderlanders are holding position, and are rumored to have thirteen Aes Sedai with them. Dobraine and Rhuarc are in Bandar Eban, which has mostly descended into chaos, with pillaging and rapine rampant; they’re working on subduing it. Logain asks if Bashere is back yet, but Rand ignores the question to ask if his orders have been carried out. Logain replies that “more than half” of the Black Tower is in Arad Doman and Illian, including all the men with bonded Aes Sedai. He adds that Taim was extremely displeased by the order.
“One thing pleased him, though: that I didn’t take any of his cronies. That was plain on his face.” He smiled, a dark smile, not amused. “There are forty-one of those now, by the way. He’s given over a dozen men the Dragon pin in the past few days, and he has above fifty more in his ‘special’ classes, most of them men recruited just lately. He’s planning something, and I doubt you’ll like it.”
I told you to kill him when you had the chance. Lews Therin cackled in mad mirth. I told you. And now it’s too late. Too late.
Rand asks why Taim would have expanded the Black Tower so well if he were a Darkfriend, but Logain thinks the Black Tower grew in spite of Taim, not because of him.
“But he’s made a Tower of his own hidden inside the Black Tower, and the men in it are loyal to him, not you.”
Rand wonders just how loyal Logain is, at that, remembering Min’s viewing of him. He answers that he’ll deal with Taim when he can, but the Seanchan come first; possibly, the Last Battle comes first. This angers Logain, and their exchange grows more heated, until Cadsuane announces she is amending the “rules” to say that Rand has to be courteous to the Asha’man as well as the Aes Sedai, and vice versa. Rand is about to tell her what she can do with her “rules,” when Verin distracts them all by nattering about the signs of Tarmon Gai’don, which they’ve already discussed. Rand calms down, and asks Cadusane what she thinks of his plan to offer a truce to the Seanchan; she replies that it will not be popular. Rand tells her the truce will die with him anyway, which infuriates Min, who informs him that she and Elayne and Aviendha will not let him die. Rand tells Cadsuane that one of his questions to the Aelfinn was “How can I win the Last Battle?” and that their answer had been “The north and the east must be as one. The west and the south must be as one. The two must be as one.”
That was not the whole of it. He had asked how to win and survive. The last part of his answer had been “To live, you must die.” Not something he was going to bring up in front of Min anytime soon. In front of anyone except Alivia, for that matter. Now he just had to figure out how to live by dying.
He goes on that he’d thought the Aelfinn’s answer meant he had to conquer everyone, but now he thinks it means a truce with the Seanchan, who pretty much already hold “the west and the south.” Cadsuane concedes that his interpretation may be correct, but asks why he is building up his forces so hugely in Illian and Arad Doman, then?
“Because Tarmon Gai’don is coming, Cadsuane, and I can’t fight the Shadow and the Seanchan at the same time. I’ll have a truce, or I’ll crush them whatever the cost. The Prophecies say I have to bind the nine moons to me. I only understood what that meant a few days ago. As soon as Bashere returns, I’ll know when and where I’m to meet the Daughter of the Nine Moons. The only question now is how do I bind her, and she’ll have to answer that.”
[…] “Stone cracks from a hard enough blow,” [Cadsuane] said, her face an Aes Sedai mask of calm. “Steel shatters. The oak fights the wind and breaks. The willow bends where it must and survives.”
“A willow won’t win Tarmon Gai’don,” he told her.
A servant enters to report that three Ogier have arrived, one of whom is Loial’s mother, and are waiting for him. Loial leaps up in a panic, and asks Rand what he is to do. Rand reminds him that he said he wanted to marry Erith, but Loial bemoans that now he will never finish his book. Cadsuane tells him he’d better do what his mother says, and Loial sadly prepares to leave. Cadsuane, Verin, and Nynaeve go to leave as well; Nynaeve pauses to tell Rand that the wind tells her a storm is coming, and not the rain kind. He asks her if it is the Last Battle, and when.
“It may be, and I don’t know. Just remember. A storm is coming. A terrible storm.” Overhead, thunder rolled.
In light of events in ToM, I am extremely intrigued by this chapter. In particular, naturally, by Rand’s discussion with Lews Therin about their connection with Shadar Logoth Dude — who we know, of course, is really Moridin, aka Ishamael, aka (increasingly, I feel) The Key To This Whole Thing.
This Whole Thing being, also naturally, how to win the Last Battle, or more specifically how to stuff the Dark One back in his cubbyhole and seal it up like new. I don’t think I’m too off base to speculate, at this point, that this inadvertent connection between Rand and Moridin (and, by extension, between the One Power and the True Power) that was created when they crossed the balefire streams in ACOS is somehow pivotal to making that happen.
I am not, however, going to venture to speculate on the specifics of how exactly it will happen. I know, you’re like, buh? But really, I won’t.
I won’t, not because I’m afraid of looking stupid (because really, by this point I have lost ALL self-consciousness on that score, if I ever had any to begin with), but because I possess an inveterate love of my ability to not see plot twists coming before they happen. Spoilers are the necrotic fasciitis (don’t click this if you’re squeamish) of entertainment, in my book, and I have less than zero interest in spoiling myself for how this whole thing is going to go down, even by independent logical deduction on my own part.
I am aware that this is slightly nutty, but, you know, whatever. And of course everyone else is more than welcome to speculate their brains out on What It All Means; I just ain’t gonna. I’ll think around the edges of it and go “hmm, yes, maybe that’s something!”, but for the rest, I am content to wait until the narrative plays it out for me, and then make my judgment. So There. Nyah!
Logain’s news about Taim: *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*
Well, the *headdesk*ing is more about Rand’s reaction to it, of course, because WHAT HAVE I BEEN SAYING, DUDE? Even before we learned about the 13x13 assembly line thingy in ToM, I might add! Why do these completely fictional characters not listen to me, I ask you? The noive!
…You know, if it turns out that Androl and Pevara and Logain and whoever else end up taking out Taim and fixing this whole problem without any help from Rand, thus validating his entire hands-off policy toward the Black Tower all along, I’m making a mental note right now to be ROYALLY PISSED about it. You Have Been Warned.
Seanchan truce thingy: I’m strongly tempted to sulk about this, I really am. Even while seeing the rationale here, I’m really (unreasonably) wishing we could just go with Rand’s backup plan of Crush Them. And not even because I already know how Rand’s meeting with “Tuon” is going to go, because that has nothing to do with it on an overall ethical level.
It’s because I do not like them, y’all. I do not like them, not at all.
I would not like them here or there; I would not like them anywhere. I would not like them west or south; I’d like to kick them in the mouth! I do not like them, Sam I Am! But I don’t think they give a damn!
Chapter 19: Vows
Loial wishes he had the nerve to ask Nynaeve or Verin to come with him, but doesn’t. He reflects that sooner or later Cadsuane is going to make Rand explode, and that Rand is very different from the man he’d first met in Caemlyn. He sees a servant startle at a ghost, and wishes he could see them. Very reluctantly, he heads to the Ogier sitting room and enters to find his mother, Elder Haman, and Erith there, and is distracted by how lovely Erith is. His mother immediately lights into him, and Haman tells him about the wild goose chase they’ve been on to find him. Erith mentions the tales of his bravery they’d heard from the Two Rivers folk, and seems enthralled; his mother is much less impressed, and demands that they get on with the ceremony.
“Her mother and I reached agreement. You yourself witnessed us signing the betrothal and Loial’s dowry.”
Elder Haman’s ears tilted back a little further, and his shoulders hunched as if he was gripping his hands together very hard behind his back. His eyes never left Erith. “I know you want to marry Loial, but are you sure you are ready? Taking a husband is a grave responsibility.”
Loial wished someone would ask him that question, but that was not the way. His mother and Erith’s had reached their agreement, and only Erith could stop it now. If she wanted to. Did he want her to? He could not stop thinking of his book. He could not stop thinking of Erith.
Erith confirms that she does want to marry him, and without further ado Haman performs the marriage; Loial and Erith are nearly indecent (by Ogier standards) in their affection after. Covril then insists they get going as soon as possible, since the Book of Translation must be opened as soon as possible. Loial is aghast at this news, and protests that they can’t do that.
“We must leave this world eventually, so we can come to it when the Wheel turns.” his mother said, striding to the nearest fireplace to spread her skirts again. “That is written. Now is exactly the right time, and the sooner the better.”
Haman doesn’t agree, but admits that Covril’s opinion has so far prevailed over his at the Great Stump. Loial wishes aloud that he could address the Stump; Covril tries to pooh-pooh the notion, but Erith reminds her angrily that as his wife, Erith takes precedence over Covril re: Loial, now, and asks Loial what he would say if he did. Loial is almost too nervous to speak, but gathers himself, and says that the Ogier have never stood aside in the war against the Shadow, but always fought alongside the humans.
“Perhaps in a year, or five, or ten, we will open the Book of Translation, but if we do it now, we cannot run away with any real hope of safety. Tarmon Gai’don is coming, and on that hangs the fate not only of this world, but of any world we might flee to. When fire threatens the trees, we do not run away and hope that the flames will not follow us. We fight. Now the Shadow is coming like wildfire, and we dare not run from it."
Then he realizes the shapes moving among the trees he sees through the window are Trollocs, tens of thousands of them. All four Ogier arm themselves, and Haman and Loial charge out, bellowing a warning to the house.
In the sitting room, Rand and Cadsuane sense the Shadowspawn moments before they hear the Ogier shouting. Cadsuane and Alivia embrace saidar and Logain seizes saidin, and asks Rand angrily what he’s waiting for. Rand braces himself against the dizziness and seizes the Source, but Lews Therin takes it away from him, and Rand cannot get it back. The Aes Sedai and Asha’man are hurling lightning and fireballs and exploding the earth beneath the Trollocs from various points in the manor, but barely making a dent in the horde. Lews Therin shatters the window casement, and begins channeling deadly weaves that Rand doesn’t know, though he recognizes them after the fact: Blossoms of Fire and Deathgates. Lews Therin asks frantically where his hands are, and Rand slowly raises his hands so that Lews Therin can channel Arrows of Fire. The other Asha’man soon begin imitating his weaves.
Trollocs fell by the hundreds, the thousands, riven by lightning bolts and balls of fire. Blossoms of Fire and Deathgates and Arrows of Fire, the earth itself exploding beneath their feet, yet on they raced, roaring and waving their weapons, Myrddraal riding close behind, black-bladed swords in hand. As they reached the outbuildings, some of the Trollocs surrounded them, pounding on the doors with their fists, prying at the boards or the walls with their swords and spears, tossing flaming torches onto the thatched roofs.
Rand pleads with Lews Therin to do something about the fires, to save the men inside, but Lews Therin ignores him and continues mowing down Trollocs, so Rand yells at Logain to do it. A Myrddraal almost gets in the window; the Maidens and Min all get it with spears or knife, and then Lews Therin thoroughly kills it with Arrows of Fire. Eventually Rand realizes that the Shadowspawn are all dead, and tells Lews Therin he can let go now, but he will not. Logain is meanwhile asking angrily why Rand never taught those weaves to them before now, but Rand is concentrating on convincing Lews Therin not to kill them both with the Power.
I want to die, Lews Therin said. I want to join llyena.
If you really wanted to die, why did you kill Trollocs? Rand thought. Why kill that Myrddraal?
[…] I seem to remember dying, Lews Therin murmured. I remember how I did it. He drew deeper still, and small pains grew in Rand’s temples.
[…] That pain was a warning. He was close to the amount of saidin he could hold without dying or being burnt out. You can’t die yet, he told Lews Therin. We have to reach Tarmon Gai’don or the world dies.
Logain suddenly asks why he’s holding so much saidin, alerting everyone that something is wrong, and Cadsuane demands that Min tell her what she’s feeling through the bond, or else. Still fighting with Lews Therin, Rand tells Cadsuane to ask him, not Min, and that he has a rule for her: don’t ever threaten Min again. Cadsuane is dryly amused. Lews Therin suddenly agrees that they can die at Tarmon Gai’don, and releases the Power. Logain tells everyone else that Rand released, and Cadsuane tells him she knows, to his surprise. Rand heads for the door.
Yes, he thought. We can die at Tarmon Gai’don.
Whoof. Well, that was action-packed. Nice.
Seriously, are non-channelers even going to have anything to do at the Last Battle? Because, swords and axes and such are looking mighty passé at this point, you know?
Okay, yeah, I know. They totally are going to be in there, for the very good reason that unlike here, at the Last Battle the Lightside channelers will be mostly busy fighting the other channelers, and concentrating much less on blowing up rank and file Shadowspawn. But even so, man.
I also have to wonder, how many Trollocs are actually in existence right now that there are a spare twenty or thirty thousand or however many to scoop up for an illicit (so to speak) assassination attempt on Rand? Ye gods. I think I remember Jordan saying once that we didn’t want to know the specifics of how Trollocs breed, and while I of course recognize that for the playful authorial dodge it is, I still think I pretty much agree. Yeurgh.
I think I said this already, but I don’t remember at all if we’ve ever been told who set this up. I think most people have just assumed it was Demandred, with his big fat hate-on for Rand/Lews Therin, but I’m not at all sure about that. *shrug* Not that it really matters, I suppose, since it failed spectacularly. Whatever.
And of course, there’s the other big thing in this chapter, which is Loial’s Total Abrogation of Freedom and Independence As A Sapient Being.
Oh, I’m sorry, I meant his marriage. So easy to mix those two up, silly me!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, y’all: Ogier culture is fired. Arranged marriage, in any setting, is especially fired. Arranged marriage with an opt-out clause for only one half of the pair — based on gender, no less! — is epically double-plus-infinity fired.
Seriously, are you kidding me? Erith can say no, but Loial can’t? FUCK. THAT.
No. Just — no. That is a whole bowl of bullshit, right there. I really hope my contempt for this entire proceeding is coming through, here, because I would certainly not want there to be any confusion. There needs to be a male Ogier suffrage movement, like, stat, because no.
Oh, yes, it happens to work out in this particular instance that Loial does actually like Erith, and is secretly all happy to be married to her even though this apparently means she now has total veto power over his entire life, WTF. So, you know, goody goody gumdrops if this is mostly okay for him, but I really hope I don’t have to point out that this is guaranteed to not always or even usually be the case for anyone else.
Honestly, I think the part that truly got me riled about this whole thing, even aside from the sheer principle of it all, is that Loial’s ability to finish his book is now at the mercy of Erith’s whim. As a writer, that pisses me so far the hell off that my moral outrage just might currently be in a different zip code from the rest of me.
That is HIS BOOK, WOMAN, BACK OFF. No one should be able to tell Loial whether he can write or not, dammit! Granted, I’m pretty sure that of course Erith is going to be right on board with Loial writing his book, but even the fact that she has the totally legal ability to stop him from doing so, whether she exercises it or not, makes me want to smash things on his behalf. That is NOT COOL.
(Seriously, I think the last time I got this angry at an otherwise perfectly non-evil character was when Amy burned Jo’s book in Little Women. I saw RED, you guys. “Incandescent rage” is not even in it. I couldn’t have been more horrified than if she’d… hell, I can’t even think of anything I would have regarded as a bigger betrayal from a sibling, short of, like, murder or something. I am not even kidding.)
So, uh, yeah. In conclusion, Ogier marriage customs = EPIC FAIL. But, you know, really great gender-flipped point there, Jordan. A few more of those and I’ll have an ulcer!
Which I hear can be cured by a liberal application of green eggs and ham! No, really, the guy in the funny hat said so. Shirley he couldn’t be putting me on! So I’m off to breakfast, and you’re off to comment! Huzzah! Laters!