Hello! This is a Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 7 and 8 of The Gathering Storm, in which everyone is mean to words. Including me. Okay, especially me. Must be Tuesday!
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, extremely obscure cut text, followed by the post!
Before we start, I should mention that as mentioned on the website, yesterday, October 17th, was Robert Jordan’s birthday; he would have been 63 years old. If any of y’all who haven’t already would like to go over to my B&N review of The Eye of the World and contribute to the lovely comments there reminiscing about discovering the series for the first time, please do.
Chapter 7: The Plan for Arad Doman
In the manor, Nynaeve tells Daigian that a storm is coming, and it’s going to be worse than any she’s ever seen. Daigian is slightly discomforted by this, but suggests they continue with the lesson; she is teaching Nynaeve the hundred weaves necessary for the test for the shawl. Nynaeve is frustrated that the other sisters, especially those loyal to Cadsuane, still do not treat her as a full Aes Sedai, and tells herself that she is only allowing these lessons to help distract Daigian from her grief over her Warder Eben’s death. She tries not to worry about Lan at the thought. Nynaeve finds the weaves as easy to reproduce as she finds them pointless, and tells Daigian she will not need to know them anyway, as she is already Aes Sedai. She thinks back to the Cleansing, and is glad the female linking ter’angreal had been destroyed, as she was frightened by how much power she had drawn.
But the male ter’angreal was still intact: an access key to a powerful sa’angreal. As far as Nynaeve knew, Rand had not been able to persuade Cadsuane to return it to him. As well she shouldn’t. No human being, not even the Dragon Reborn, should channel that much of the One Power. The things one could be tempted to do...
Daigian is saddened when one of the weaves reminds her of Eben, and Nynaeve offers to try and see if she can Heal Daigian’s grief, reasoning that it had to be of the One Power since it resulted from the severing of the Warder bond. Daigian asks if she would want the pain of her loss taken away if it were Lan; Nynaeve is chastened, and apologizes. Nynaeve then begins contemplating Daigian’s position as the weakest Aes Sedai she’s ever met, and that no matter how long Daigian had been a sister, whenever she met another Aes Sedai she would always be obliged to defer to her.
“There is something wrong with this system, Daigian,” Nynaeve said absently. […] “There you sit,” she said, “knowing as much as any other Aes Sedai—knowing more than many, I’d wager—and the moment any Accepted just off apron strings gains the shawl, you have to do what she says.”
Daigian is deeply disconcerted by this subject, and Nynaeve lets it drop, aware that her last foray into this issue (with the Kin) had backfired on her. She sees out the window that Cadsuane is heading somewhere, and excuses herself to go see where. She discovers that the Aiel chiefs have arrived, and soon finds the tent where Rand and Bashere are studying maps. She notes Rand’s glance when she enters, and worries that he is becoming increasingly paranoid. She makes a quip when he states the obvious, and notes the flash of anger in his eyes before he reins it in.
Semirhage said he was mad, Nynaeve thought. Said that. . . he heard voices from his past life. Is that what is happening when he cocks his head, as if listening to things that nobody else can hear?
She notes Min in the corner, reading a book about the Breaking, and thinks that Rand’s refusal to marry her is idiotic. Cadsuane and Corele enter, followed by Merise, Jahar, Damer, Elza, some of Bashere’s officers, and finally Rhuarc and Bael, along with a group of Wise Ones who Nynaeve is surprised to see includes Aviendha. Rand asks Rhuarc what they’ve done in Arad Doman, and implies that Rhuarc is making excuses when he talks of the difficulties they’ve had there. Cadsuane asks Rand how often the Aiel have failed him versus the other way around, and Rand reins in his temper with an effort and apologizes. Rhuarc accepts the apology, but tells him that Arad Doman is “broken,” and explains that the king, Alsalam, has been missing for months or even years, and the Council of Merchants have so far failed to select a new monarch, instead jockeying for power among themselves, an assumption Cadsuane confirms. Rand whispers to himself that Graendal might have Alsalam, and Nynaeve shivers at the familiarity with her his words suggest. Rand asks about the Domani fighting the Seanchan, which Rhuarc attributes to Rodel Ituralde. Both he and Bashere express a certain eagerness to try themselves against one of the Great Captains, which Rand forbids:
“If we can stop the Domani war with the Seanchan, perhaps this Daughter of the Nine Moons will see that I am serious in my desire for peace. Then maybe she’ll agree to meet with me.”
Bael asks why not conquer, as he has before, but Rand replies he does not have the resources; instead, he wants the Aiel to seize the members of the Council of Merchants, so that he can induce them to choose a new king. Bael protests that the Aiel are not kidnappers, and Rand replies that they are what he says they are.
“We are still free people, Rand al’Thor,” Rhuarc said.
“I will change the Aiel with my passing,” Rand said with a shake of his head. “I don’t know what you’ll be once this is all through, but you cannot remain what you were. I will have you take up this task.”
Rand lays out the rest of his plan to restore order in Arad Doman, which Nynaeve thinks sounds “surprisingly rational”: police the cities and offer food and supplies once the Sea Folk begin bringing them in. Rhuarc and Bael are doubtful, but ask for some of Bashere’s forces as reinforcements. Rand agrees. Bashere asks what Rand intends to do about Ituralde, and Rand replies that he will deal with Ituralde personally.
Okay, so, right.
I don’t mean to harp on this, I really don’t, but certain things just really bug me, and this one literally almost jumped off the page and smacked me in the face, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to bring it up.
So, I recognize that when you’re dealing with a fantasy world that includes as part of its construction the idea that the “real” world is an era that’s happened before and will happen again, that therefore the concept of “anachronism” has a certain amount of… flexibility, shall we say. That’s fine, I’m on board with that.
Even given that, even making allowances for that, I really just do not accept for a moment that Nynaeve — or any character in WOT — would ever know, much less say, the word “paranoid.” Which she did in this chapter:
Rand glanced up when each one entered, alert and wary, but he quickly turned back to his maps. Was he growing paranoid? Some madmen grew suspicious of everyone.
And… yeah, no. That word, that entire concept, only came into being with the advent of modern psychiatry; the first recorded use of it was not until 1904, or so Google tells me. And I’m sorry, but modern psychiatry and WOT are severely, emphatically, unmixy things.
Or, well, let me correct myself: modern psychiatric terms and WOT are unmixy things. Because, in fact, “paranoid” is actually a perfectly accurate way to describe one of the many ways in which Rand is losing his collective shit, and Nynaeve is perfectly right to attribute that quality to him; the problem is, it is most definitely not the way in which Nynaeve would have defined the phenomenon, to herself or to anyone else, because there’s no way that term exists here. In My Opinion, Of Course.
So, no. And yes, I’m aware I’ve just written seven-ish paragraphs complaining about a single word in a book that has over 300,000 of them, but, well. Sometimes that’s all it takes to throw you out of a headspace.
But, enough, and so I am moving on to what actually happened in this chapter.
Which is, er, not that much. We’re basically going through a series of “intro” chapters at this point; we’ve checked in with Rand, Egwene, Aviendha, Gawyn, and Ituralde, to recap/catch up with where they are and the state of their particular clusterfuck and/or existential crisis. Now we’re doing the same with Nynaeve, and Siuan (and Bryne) are next up.
Which is fair enough; there was a very large gap between the publication date of KOD and TGS, for reasons of which we are all well aware, and it’s reasonable to assume that not everyone (or, er, most people) are quite so, shall we say, saturated with the doings of WOT that a little recapping, a little space to get reacquainted with the material might not come in handy.
I also suspect that the previous sentence makes no grammatical sense. But you get my actual meaning, hopefully.
So, basically the upshot here is Nynaeve is worried about Rand, and Rand is making plans for Arad Doman that sounded to me even the first time around like synonyms for “doom,” and also “disaster,” and also “if someone gave me such ridiculously vague guidelines for pacifying an entire nation I would punch him in the mouth.”
(I may be using an unusually broad definition of the word “synonym,” today. The English language is so going to stop speaking to me soon.)
But seriously, guys, here is Rand’s “plan”:
“Once you take the Council of Merchants,” Rand continued […], “move the Aiel into the cities where those merchants ruled. Make sure those cities don’t degenerate. Restore order as you did in Bandar Eban. From there, begin hunting bandits and enforcing the law. Supplies will soon arrive from the Sea Folk. Take cities on the coast first, then move inland. Within a month’s time, the Domani should be flowing toward you, rather than running away from you. Offer them safety and food, and order will take care of itself.”
And yes, fine, Rand is the big kahuna, details are for minions, whatever, but still: really?
Oy. He’s being such a dick right now, I swear.
The only other thing worth noting here is that I appreciated the consistency re: Nynaeve, who despite all appearances (and self-assurances) to the contrary, is at heart a true egalitarian.
No, really. Anyone who tries, twice, to stir shit up about a ranking system that, if left unmolested, would place them squarely at the top of it can’t in honesty be called anything else. You go, girl.
Chapter 8: Clean Shirts
Siuan follows Lelaine through the Rebel camp outside Tar Valon, worrying over the perpetually overcast sky. She is smug over the thousand or so novices that Egwene’s efforts have brought them, though she thinks that Lelaine’s decision to approve of even the older novices was a shrewd move in her campaign against Romanda, who has been openly disapproving of them. Siuan thinks that Lelaine is winning that fight overall, and that this is a problem.
In another era, Lelaine would have done well in the position [of Amyrlin]. But this world needed Egwene, and—friendship or not—Siuan couldn’t afford to let this woman displace the rightful Amyrlin. And she had to make certain Lelaine wasn’t taking action to prevent Egwene’s return.
Lelaine asks how the negotiations with Elaida’s people are going, and Siuan tells her they are at a stalemate, as Elaida’s emissaries refuse to concede any points; she thinks that they have no actual authority to make binding agreements at all. Lelaine replies that Egwene’s reports of Elaida’s behavior indicate her leadership has been “erratic at best.” Siuan contemplates how so many Aes Sedai, including Lelaine, seem to assume Siuan’s political astuteness has declined along with her strength in the Power; she had found that upsetting at first, but now she is finding it liberating, and wonders how often she had made the same mistake before she had been stilled. She worries, though, how long she can keep Lelaine and Romanda distracted, and wishes Egwene would hurry up and return.
Light! Some days, she felt that she was trying to juggle buttered live silverpike.
Lelaine then suggests that since Siuan is one of her attendants now, she should pay off Siuan’s debt to “that ruffian of a general of yours,” and Siuan almost panics at the thought. She talks Lelaine out of it by promising to keep an eye on Bryne, and makes her escape. She heads back to Bryne’s tent, and contemplates how the life she’d chosen had not left her much room for friendships or “entanglements.” She envies that Moiraine had at least gotten to go out and see the world in their pursuit of the Dragon Reborn, and wonders if perhaps now she might have more room for changes in her life. She enters the tent to find Bryne reading by a single candle, and chastises him for ruining his eyes; he grins at her comments.
Siuan sniffed again, loudly, to make sure he heard. Then she wove a globe of light and sent it hovering over beside his desk. Fool man. She wouldn’t have him going so blind he fell in battle to an attack he didn’t see.
Bryne then mentions that a woman from the camp offered to take over his laundry, but that he told her it was not necessary, as Siuan’s work in that area is to be “commended.” Siuan knows that this is a genuine compliment coming from him, and tries to hide her blush.
A person didn’t gain stature in Gareth Bryne’s eyes by being a king or queen; one gained stature by keeping to one’s oaths and doing one’s duty. To him, a compliment on laundry well done was as meaningful as a medal awarded to a soldier who had stood his ground before the enemy.
He comments that she never did explain why she broke her oath to him, and does not accept her explanation that she had to get Logain to Salidar as more than an excuse. He tells her that the question is what drove him to follow her all that way and then to throw his lot in with the rebels against his better judgment, but he despairs of ever getting a straight answer out of her.
“When I was still an Accepted in the White Tower,” Siuan said softly, “I was one of four people present when a Foretelling announced the imminent birth of the Dragon Reborn on the slopes of Dragonmount.”
His rustling froze.
She tells him the rest of the story, how Tamra was tortured and killed, and her hunters exposed and murdered by the Black Ajah, and how she and Moiraine were left as the only ones in the world who knew the truth, and how she swore to do whatever she had to to prepare for the Dragon and the Last Battle, which supercedes her oath to him.
“You blame me for the loss of a barn and some cows. Well, then I suggest that you consider the cost to your people should the Dragon Reborn fail. Sometimes, prices must be paid so that a more important duty can be served. I would expect a soldier to understand that.“
He says she should have told her, but she replies that he wouldn’t have believed her, which he reluctantly concedes. He tries to say something about releasing her, but she cuts him off sharply, and tells him she is done with him when she says, not him. Bryne mutters about “hunting boars with a rabbit knife,” but laughs, and she grins back, though she is panicking a little about what she told him. Then he astonishes her by telling her to go lay down with her “odd ring,” and to give his regards to the Amyrlin.
Insufferable... insufferable man! She’d have to do something to get back at him. Mice in the bedsheets. That would be a good payback.
She eventually falls asleep and meets Egwene in the Mistress of Novices’ study in Tel’aran’rhiod, though Egwene quickly relocates them to the novices’ dining hall, commenting she has “seen enough” of the study. Siuan catches her up on recent events, particularly the news that either Delana or Halima (most likely Halima) had been a Forsaken in disguise, wielding saidin, and had escaped, but also the news of the deal the Rebel Hall had made to bond forty-seven Asha’man in redress for the Aes Sedai forcibly bonded by the Asha’man. Siuan explains that it had been done without Rand’s knowledge or permission, but Egwene replies that Rand must still take responsibility for it. Siuan urges Egwene to return to the Rebel camp, telling her that she is losing control of Lelaine, who is setting herself up as a second Amyrlin by riding on Egwene’s coattails. Egwene tells her not to worry.
“Lelaine’s gambit will only succeed if I fail to return. She is using me as a source of authority. When I return, she’ll have no choice but to accept my leadership. She’ll have spent all of her effort building me up.”
“And if you don’t return, Mother?” Siuan asked softly.
”Then it will be better for the Aes Sedai to have a strong leader,” Egwene said. “If Lelaine has been the one to secure that strength, then so be it.”
Siuan grouses that she will be facing the Last Battle with hardly any of her former power, and Egwene promises to get her an angreal if possible; Siuan tells her how to find the storeroom in the Tower that contains the Tower’s collection of such objects. Egwene then sends her off, but says that they will meet every two days now, and possibly out in the city from now on, as she no longer trusts the Tower, even in the Dreamworld. Siuan wakes up, and thinks of reporting to Egwene that she might be in love, and decides to forego the mice for now.
“Buttered live silverpike”? I have no response to that, Siuan.
So a few important plot points were set up in this chapter, most importantly (and subtly) the info Siuan gives Egwene on how to find the Tower’s stash of *greal, which cleverly looks like a throwaway tidbit here but will, as we know, become pretty damn important later on, but my attention was mainly taken up by the huge strides forward this chapter finally took Siuan and Bryne’s relationship.
I remember being downright startled by that the first time I read this chapter. Probably because even in a series rife with relationships that take forever to actually be relationships, Siuan and Bryne’s proto-love affair stands out for its tardiness. And then, this chapter happened.
I mean, you guys. They actually smiled at each other in this chapter. At the same time, even! AND, they said true things to each other. You know it’s love in WOT when honesty gets involved!
(Truth? Hell: Bryne actually tells her, out loud, in this chapter that she has “passionate, haunting eyes,” which, seriously, Siuan, how on earth could you misinterpret that for anything else than that the man’s just as besotted with you as you are with him? Sheesh.)
Speaking of Bryne, one of the lines of the Harry Potter series that most struck me (bear with me, I have a point here) was in the fourth book, after Our Heroes had (dramatically) met Barty Crouch the Elder. Harry and Ron are giving Hermione a hard time about her suspicions re: Mr. Crouch, because her misgivings were based on how Crouch had treated his former house elf Winky (i.e. badly). Someone (I think it was Sirius, but I’m not sure) then gently corrects Harry and Ron, and says that Hermione has the right of it: if you want to get the measure of a man, look not at how he treats his equals, but how he treats those he considers his inferiors.
That line was immediately what I thought of when reading Siuan’s thought about Bryne’s compliment to her above. Not that Bryne thinks of Siuan as an underling or inferior, of course, but the point she was making was that it wouldn’t have made any difference to him if she were.
And that, my friend, is a pretty rare thing.
So, Bryne = Awesome, check. We pretty much knew that, though.
And, yes. That is what I have to say about this chapter.
So I guess this is a good place to stop! Have a delightful week, people, and I’ll see you next time!