Happy Tuesday, y’all! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 30 and 31 of The Gathering Storm, which may have left me with a mild concussion, and definitely left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Blarg.
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 30: Old Advice
Gawyn remembers his father Taringail’s advice to Galad that he’d overheard as a small boy: that there are two groups he should never trust: pretty women, and Aes Sedai, and Light help him if he had to deal with someone who was both. Lelaine Sedai, who Gawyn finds pretty, tells him she cannot disobey the Amyrlin’s wishes. Gawyn argues that Egwene is trying to protect them, and is “self-sacrificing” to a fault”, but Lelaine replies that Egwene seems confident of he safety, and Shemerin’s information confirms that Elaida is too power-mad to consider Egwene a real threat. Gawyn tries again to find out how they are communicating with Egwene, and Lelaine tells him coldly that it is none of his business. Gawyn tries to get his anger under control, and asks if there isn’t even a possibility that Egwene is wrong.
“Perhaps,” Lelaine said, continuing to write. She had a flowing, ornate hand. “But must I not uphold the Amyrlin, even if she is misguided?”
Gawyn gave no response. Of course she could disobey the will of the Amyrlin. He knew enough of Aes Sedai politics to understand it was done all the time. But saying that would accomplish nothing.
Lelaine makes a vaguely worded promise to consider bringing the matter up before the Hall, and proceeds to quiz Gawyn on what he thinks Elayne will do about taxation rates on fruit. Gawyn thinks she is attempting to gain leverage with various Andoran Houses, but doesn’t dare not answer, as this is the only bargaining chip he has to get to see Lelaine and the others. As he leaves later, he watches the people in the camp and begins to realize that they really do see Egwene as the Amyrlin.
Obviously, she had been chosen because the rebels wanted someone easy to control. But they didn’t treat her as a puppet—both Lelaine and Romanda spoke of her with respect. There was an advantage to Egwene’s absence, since it created a void of power. Therefore, they accepted Egwene as a source of authority. Was he the only one who remembered that she’d been an Accepted just months ago?
Gawyn rides to meet Bryne at one of the outer guard posts. Bryne asks how the meeting went, and Gawyn tells him, about as well as he would expect. Bryne wants to talk about the Youngings again, but Gawyn tells him he will not betray his trust to them even if he left. Bryne obliquely threatens to put him to the question, and Gawyn tells him that the Younglings are youths, and not a threat to him now that Gawyn is no longer leading them. Bryne accepts this conditionally, but warns him that if the raids continue they will revisit the topic. Gawyn thinks about the situation, and blurts out to Bryne that he cannot let it come to bloodshed between the rebels and Elaida’s faction. Bryne counters that he gave his word, and Gawyn points out that there will be no reconciliation if it comes by the sword. Bryne wonders why he cares, and asks him what his true allegiances are: to Elayne, or to Egwene? Gawyn flounders for an answer.
“Whom to serve?” Bryne said, thoughtful. “Our own skill frightens us, sometimes. What is the ability to kill if one has no outlet for it? A wasted talent? The pathway to becoming a murderer? The power to protect and preserve is daunting. So you look for someone to give the skill to, someone who will use it wisely. The need to make a decision chews at you, even after you’ve made it. I see the question more in younger men. We old hounds, we’re just happy to have a place by the hearth. If someone tells us to fight, we don’t want to shake things up too much. But the young men... they wonder.”
Gawyn asks if Bryne ever wondered, and Bryne tells him yes, several times. He says he serves the rebels now because the world is changing, and he needs to be part of it, but also because he has come to believe the rebels are right, and Elaida cannot be allowed to “pull this world down with her”. He tells Gawyn that he will need to pick a side, and more importantly, he’ll need to know why he chose it. Gawyn knows he is right, but he does not know which side to choose.
…Okay, ‘cause, wow.
Sorry, I just have to quote this astounding piece of drivel for posterity:
No man trusted beautiful women, for all their fascination with them. But few realized what Taringail had said—that a pretty girl, like a coal that had cooled just enough to no longer look hot, could be far, far more dangerous.
Lelaine wasn’t beautiful, but she was pretty, particularly when she smiled. Slender and graceful, without a speck of gray in her dark hair, an almond face with full lips. She looked up at him with eyes that were far too comely to belong to a woman of her craftiness. And she seemed to know. She understood that she was just attractive enough to draw attention, but not stunning enough to make men wary.
She was a woman of the most dangerous type. One who felt real, who made men think they might be able to hold her attention. She wasn’t pretty like Egwene, who made you want to spend time with her. This woman’s smile made you want to count the knives on your belt and in your boot, just to make sure none of them had found their way into your back while you were distracted.
Wow. WOW. That is… wow.
That is some spectacular objectifying misogynist bullshit, right there. Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK, GAWYN.
Because you know what, there are a lot of perfectly legitimate reasons to not like or at least not trust Lelaine, or Aes Sedai in general, but are you seriously telling me you’re basing your judgment of her on the fact that she is, what, MEDIUM PRETTY?
Really? Really. You’re going to apply a character judgment to her based on the one factor that she (a) has no control over and (b) has NOTHING TO DO WITH HER CHARACTER?
I don’t even know where to begin picking apart the levels of insulting stupid here. I’ve been sitting here making indignant gestures at it for like five minutes, such is the level of my incredulity.
Because, gee, how dare Lelaine not be drop dead gorgeous, so you can immediately KNOW that she’s untrustworthy, like all beautiful women obviously are! How devious and misleading of her to arrange to be merely pretty! I bet there’s a conspiracy, yeah! A conspiracy of women, masterfully manipulating their level of prettiness, all just to fuck with your head, Gawyn!
I can’t even – how can you – are you seriously – gah.
Oh look, a desk!
*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*
And let’s not even mention that this delightful sliding scale of beauty to evilness is based on advice from Taringail, of all people, who, lest we forget, is the giant douche who was so outdone by his wife’s political ascendancy over him OHNOES that he plotted to assassinate her. Because this is the healthy example all young boys should follow, right? Riiiight.
Granted, I’m about 90% certain that no one ever told Gawyn that his father was planning to murder his mother, but even so, whatever. That is still no excuse for hosing us all down with this much liquid drippy fecal matter, and that’s a fact.
Hell’s bells. And here I was thinking I couldn’t get any more annoyed at a character than I already was at Gawyn. That’ll show me!
…yeah, and then the rest of the chapter, Gawyn has to pick a side, whatever, I’m done. Ugh.
Chapter 31: A Promise to Lews Therin
Cadsuane makes her way through the streets of Bandar Eban, careful not to show her face in accordance with the letter of al’Thor’s edict to her, and arrives at an inn called The Wind’s Favor, which is owned by a man whose daughter Namine is a Brown in the Tower, and her longtime informant. Quillin tells her that there have been many people who have claimed to have communications from Alsalam since he disappeared from the public eye, but he does not trust them. He does not believe the Council of Merchants is holding him, as they are too disorganized; Cadsuane wonders if this means al’Thor’s suspicions about Alsalam being held by a Forsaken are correct. Quillin also tells her of the fears in the city that Rand’s Aiel are poisoning the incoming grain, bolstered by the fact that the spoilage has become much worse since the Dragon Reborn has arrived in the city, along with other foul occurrences like stillbirths and stones randomly falling and killing people. Cadsuane asks about the balancing occurrences, like unexpected marriages or windfalls of wealth, but Quillin tells her there has been no such thing.
Al’Thor was ta’veren, but the Pattern was a thing of balance. For every accidental death caused by Rand’s presence in a city, there was always a miraculous survival.
What did it mean if that was breaking down?
Cadsuane leaves the inn and heads to the docks, reflecting that she had bungled her handling of al’Thor, and that his collaring at the hands of a Forsaken had made her job all that much more difficult. She wonders if it is too late to change him, and if he is beyond saving; she refuses to accept the idea, but cannot figure out what to do about it. She reaches the docks only to find that al’Thor has arrived there with his entourage; she shields herself from him, but notices again that aura of darkness around him, and despairs of what to do, until a sudden idea strikes her.
She spun on her heels and hurried back the way she had come, her head bowed, barely daring to think about her plan. It could fail so easily. If al’Thor really was as dominated by his rage as she feared, then even this would not help him.
But if he really was that far gone, then there wasn’t anything that would help him. That meant she had nothing to lose. Nothing but the world itself.
She goes back to the mansion and finds Sorilea and the other Wise Ones, and tells them she has failed. Bair and Amys agree that there is no fault when the failure is due to another (al’Thor). Cadsuane tells them she has a plan, and asks for their help.
Rand watches Cadsuane disappear in the crowd, and decides to let her go. He thinks that perhaps it had been a “poor move” to exile her, but that it was too late now to rescind it. He turns his attention back to the Asha’man Naeff, who is reporting on Bashere’s negotiations with the Seanchan for the new meeting place with the Daughter of the Nine Moons. Naeff doesn’t think they will accept Katar as a neutral meeting place; Rand tells him to return to them and say they will meet at Falme instead, as it has a certain “historical significance”. Neither Naeff nor Flinn like the way the Seanchan look at them, and Flinn argues that they want to enslave every last one of them, or execute them. Rand stares Flinn down until he backs off and apologizes, and sends Naeff off. Nynaeve approaches, and points out that Falme is deep in Seanchan territory; Rand doesn’t think they will attack even so. Nynaeve grumbles, but accepts this, and Rand thinks she is one of the few he still trusts, even though Lews Therin is not as sure. Rand asks if she’s heard from Lan; she tells him that is none of his concern.
“The entire world is my concern, Nynaeve.” He looked at her. “Would you not agree?”
She opened her mouth, no doubt to snap at him, but faltered as she met his eyes. Light, he thought, seeing the apprehension in her face. I can do it to Nynaeve, now. What is it that they see when they look at me? That look in her eyes almost made him frightened of himself.
Nynaeve tells him reluctantly that Lan rides to the Gap, but that she arranged to leave him in Saldaea so that it would take him some time to reach it, and hopefully to gather an army on the way, but she adds that he could use some help. Rand replies that if he will not wait for the rest of the forces of Light, he deserves what he gets, and then thinks that even so, it might serve as a distraction for the Shadow.
“Yes,” Rand said thoughtfully. “His death could serve me well indeed.”
Nynaeve’s eyes widened in fury, but Rand ignored them. A very quiet place, deep inside of him, was struck with worry over his friend. He had to ignore that worry, silence it. But that voice whispered to him.
He named you friend. Do not abandon him...
Nynaeve tells him curtly that they will speak again on this. The party reaches the mansion, where Rhuarc reports that they have found four of the Council, and another two are dead, which means they need to find four more members to elect a new king. Rand wonders why he is bothering with this when he can just appoint a king, but orders Rhuarc to keep searching. He calls for Milisair Chadmar again, who confesses that the messenger she was questioning is dead, from his poor treatment in prison. A courtier named Ramshalan calls eagerly for her execution; Rand finds him obnoxious, but pretends to consider the notion, terrifying her, before ordering her to be locked in the same dungeon where the messenger died. The Aiel drag her out screaming.
If Graendal sent the messenger, Lews Therin said suddenly, I’d have never been able to break him. She’s too good with Compulsion. Crafty, so crafty.
Rand hesitated. It was a good point.
He reasons, though, that just finding the evidence of Compulsion would be proof enough, and orders that anyone who claims to have spoken to the King be brought to him, gritting his teeth at all the things he doesn’t have time to fix before the Last Battle. Nynaeve tells him she does not approve of this, nor his attitude toward Lan. She asks if he even thinks of Mat and Perrin, which leads him to see them in the colors: he sees Perrin in a tent with Galad, of all people, and Mat riding through what looks like Caemlyn. He tells Nynaeve that Mat and Perrin live, but he barely knows them anymore, nor they him; what he cares about is the Last Battle, beside which a “pair of boys from my little village” are meaningless.
[Nynaeve] was silent, although her face took on a profound sadness. “Oh, Rand,” she finally said. “You can’t go on like this. This hardness within you, it will break you.”
“I do what I must,” he said, anger creeping into him. Would he never hear the end of complaints about his choices?
“This isn’t what you must do, Rand,” she said. “You’re going to destroy yourself. You’ll—”
Rand’s anger surged. He spun, pointing at her. “Would you end up exiled like Cadsuane, Nynaeve?” he bellowed. “I will not be played with! I am done with that. Give advice when it is asked for, and the rest of the time do not patronize me!”
Nynaeve recoils, and he realizes he is reaching for the access key in his pocket, and forces his anger down with difficulty. He ends the audiences abruptly and leaves the hall, telling himself he only has to keep things together for a short time longer. He finds he is looking forward to that as much as Lews Therin is.
You promised we could die, Lews Therin said between distant sobs.
I did, Rand said. And we will.
Gloom doom sad sigh.
I am frankly shocked that Nynaeve didn’t have more of an extreme reaction than she did to what Rand said about Lan in this chapter, because if it had been me in her place, Dark Side or no, I don’t know whether I would have been able to stop myself from hauling off and slapping him upside the head. I don’t even know that the possibility of being killed for it would stop me, because What. The. Hell.
I mean, my God. Forget that he’s talking to the man’s wife, who happens to be not only someone he’s known since birth but is someone who has personally saved his life multiple times, but isn’t this the man who just three books ago Rand fell off a roof for rather than sacrifice? And this isn’t even to mention the number of times Lan has saved Rand’s bacon! Cognitive dissonance much?
Yeesh. If we ever needed an extra clue that things were seriously wrong in Rand Land, no pun intended, that was it. Seriously, “His death could serve me well indeed”? That is straight out of the Evil Overlord Book of 1001 Handy Megalomaniacal Phrases, right there.
Moridin? That you?
If so, go away, please. I’ve already said it but it bears repeating: DO NOT WANT SEMI-EVIL RAND, PLEASE TO GO BYE-BYE NOW.
Also, my other reaction to this part of the chapter was, oh, Nynaeve is still with Rand? I hadn’t even noticed till now! She’s been awfully quiet up till now, hasn’t she? Very unlike her. Enh.
The glimpse of Mat and Perrin doing things and/or being places they totally weren’t when we left off with them is either a clever clue that their timelines are significantly behind Rand’s, or is just kind of confusing. Which is it? You decide!
Cadsuane: admits in this chapter that she bungled things with Rand. And while I totally think that that’s exactly what she did, I can’t help but be rather taken aback that she apparently agrees. It’s not that I think she’s incapable of admitting that she is ever wrong, but… well. It was a rather sharp reversal of attitude on her part, to my perception.
But either way, fortunately she has An Idea. I think I was kind of “Oh, crap” even before I knew what the idea was, like I do now. I am so psychic sometimes!
And for my next trick, I will predict when this post ends. Which is… now! Holy crap, I am amazing. See you next week, peoples!