Hello! This is a Wheel of Time Re-read! Unless you look at it from the opposite point of view, in which case it is… well, no, it’s still a Wheel of Time Re-read, never mind.
Today’s entry covers Chapters 45 and 46 of The Gathering Storm, in which speeches are made, a plot is resolved, and a tower stands.
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!
Once again, scheduling note: JordanCon 2012 is coming! I will be there, and speaking on some panels, and meeting people, and generally having the blast I always have whenever I go to this shindig. I hope to see some of you there!
Coincidentally, it looks like I will be polishing off TGS in the Re-read right before I go. Therefore, your Auntie Leigh will be taking her traditional between-book break starting the last week of April, before starting Towers of Midnight. How long that hiatus will be, I ain’t for sure yet, but I will let you know as soon as I do. And in the meantime, I will have some fun JordanCon-related blogging for you!
So there’s that. Onward!
Chapter 45: The Tower Stands
Egwene walks through camp, pointedly wearing a crimson gown. She thinks the Aes Sedai habit of wearing dresses in one’s Ajah colors has helped fuel the divisions, and means her red dress to be a reminder not only of that, but to symbolize the blood shed that past hour. Though around twenty of them had escaped, over fifty Black sisters had been stilled and executed that morning, including Sheriam, who had sobbed and confessed to several “disturbing” crimes before going to the block.
That scene would always be vivid in Egwene’s mind—her former Keeper, lying with her head pressed against the stump, blue dress and fiery red hair suddenly bathed in warm golden light as a thinner section of clouds moved in front of the sun. Then the silvery axe, falling to claim her head. Perhaps the Pattern would be kinder to her next time she was allowed a thread in its great tapestry. But perhaps not. Death was not an escape from the Dark One. Sheriam’s horror at the end indicated that she might have been thinking that very thing as the axe took her head.
Egwene feels sick at the deaths, but had insisted on execution instead of interrogation, as some Sitters had advocated; she thinks she learned the folly of being too greedy for information with Moghedien, and is determined that Verin’s sacrifice not be wasted. Every other Aes Sedai in camp has resworn the Oaths, and the Black sisters’ Warders are being guarded until the Darkfriends can be sorted from them; she hopes the innocent ones can be convinced to stay alive long enough to fight in the Last Battle. She notes the looks of “respect, awe, and a little horror” she receives as she walks through camp, and doesn’t blame them for the latter.
If there had been any doubt that Egwene was Amyrlin, it had been dispelled. They accepted her, they feared her. And she would never quite fit in with them again. She was separate, and always would be.
Lelaine, a model subject to Egwene now that she has no choice in the matter, approaches to report that Bryne is ready for the assault, and asks if using gateways for a flanking move are acceptable. Egwene thinks it skirts perilously near using the Power as a weapon, but tells Lelaine she will make the gateway herself. Romanda joins them to report that, disturbingly, there has been no contact with the sisters sent to the Black Tower at all. Egwene thinks it is more disturbing that the group had just happened to include Nisao, Myrelle, Faolain and Theodrin, all who had sworn fealty to Egwene. She wonders if it was intentional, sending away those most loyal to her, but then if so, wonders why Siuan hadn’t been sent as well.
Was this perhaps Sheriam’s work? The woman had confessed to several things before her execution, but this hadn’t been one of them. Either way, something was happening with those Asha’man. The Black Tower would need to be dealt with.
Lelaine also reports that Sheriam had apparently stolen all the dream ter’angreal the night before her capture, which is a blow, for now they have no unflawed copies to work with. Lelaine asks if Egwene thinks Sheriam’s claim that she had given the ter’angreal to a Forsaken hiding in the Tower is true; Egwene replies that she thinks so, though she doesn’t mention that Verin had verified it. As they reach the edge of camp and mount their horses, Egwene notes that Gawyn is still following her at a distance, and thinks that she is still not certain what to do with him yet. She embraces the Source, ready for an attack; it galls her, but she knows that she can no longer risk herself like she used to.
She could have been killed, rather than captured, all those weeks ago. The Salidar rebellion would have floundered, and Elaida would have continued as Amyrlin.
They ride up to the troops assembled outside the village of Darein, where the White Tower is visible; Egwene feels pride to see that it still stands, bloodied but unbowed, metaphorically. As she joins Bryne and Siuan, she notes that Bryne has gained a “certain familiar grace”, and asks Siuan if she’s at last taken another Warder. Siuan confirms it, and Egwene tells Bryne to do his best to keep her out of trouble, opining that Siuan could use a dose of military discipline to remind her that “sometimes, obedience overrides initiative.“
Siuan wilted, glancing away.
… never had the dissension extended beyond the doors of the Tower itself. Never had Aes Sedai led troops across those bridges. To do so now would attach the event forever to Egwene’s tenure as Amyrlin. Whatever else she achieved, it would likely be overshadowed by this day.
She had hoped to liberate and unite. Instead, she would turn to war and subjugation. If it had to be so, then she would give the command. But she wanted to wait until the last possible moment.
They wait the hour, and more, and Egwene reluctantly turns to give the command, but as she does, a procession appears on the far side, all Aes Sedai. One of them steps in front of the blockade, and Egwene recognizes Andaya Forae, a Gray Sitter, which implies a willingness to negotiate. Andaya weaves an amplification of her voice so she can be heard, and asks for Egwene al’Vere. Egwene does the same, and orders Andaya to have the others come out as well; to her surprise, they obey, and she sees the procession is of two Sitters from each Ajah except the Blue and Red. She asks what they want.
“We have come,” Andaya said. She hesitated. “We have come to inform you that the Hall of the White Tower has chosen to raise you to the Amyrlin Seat.”
Siuan gasped in shock, and Bryne cursed quietly to himself. Several of the soldiers muttered about it being a trap. But Egwene just closed her eyes. Dared she hope?
She asks if they deposed Elaida, and after a moment Andaya replies that Elaida was taken in the raid the previous night, and presumed dead or “otherwise unable to fulfill her duties”. Siuan mutters that it is no more than she deserved, but Egwene counters that no woman deserves that. Bryne points out that this could be a trap, but Siuan doesn’t see how Andaya could lie like that, as she was not on Egwene’s list of Black sisters. Egwene restores the weave and demands that her army be allowed into the city, her Aes Sedai be accepted back “in fellowship” and the Blue Ajah reinstated. Andaya agrees, and Egwene replies that she accepts. Siuan cautions that this might be rash, but Egwene replies that it is what they wanted, and besides, who is Siuan to lecture her on being rash? Egwene gives the orders to prepare to cross the river, and then begins across the bridge herself, Siuan (and Gawyn) following. As she rides, she feels a growing sense of joy.
On the other side of the bridge, the Sitters waited, solemn. The Tower rose just ahead. Wounded. Bleeding.
But it still stood. Light, it stood!
Chapter 46: To Be Forged Again
In the Tower, Egwene is led to a small waiting room near the Hall, where a Brown sister named Lairain goes over the ceremony with her. She remembers how nervous she had been when doing this same ritual in Salidar, but now she thinks that the ceremony itself is of little importance. She overhears Siuan arguing with a sister outside (Tesan, White) that Egwene should not have to do this twice, and calls her in to disagree.
“I was raised by the rebels, Siuan,” Egwene said sternly. “These women deserve the chance to stand for me as well. Otherwise, I will never have a claim to their loyalty. The ceremony must be performed again.”
Siuan asks what she wants to do with the sisters from the camp, and Egwene tells her to have them gather before the Sunset Gate in ranks, by Ajah; when she is finished with the Hall ceremony, she will go to formally accept their apology and welcome them back. Siuan is incredulous at “apology,” and Egwene counters that however needed it was, they rebelled, and the Tower must know that they regret the division. Siuan protests that Egwene was with the rebels, but Egwene replies that she represents all Aes Sedai now. She encounters Gawyn on the way to the Hall, and orders him to stay put. She enters the Hall, and remembers that she had done this before, in a way, during her testing for Accepted. This time, however, she is shocked to see a great hole has been blasted in the wall of the chamber, directly behind the Amyrlin Seat itself, though the throne is miraculously undamaged. She notes the Black Ajah Hunters among the Sitters in the Hall, and wonders how much they had to do with the decision for Egwene, but does not sense any real disapproval from any of the Sitters. She is discomfited by how many seats are empty: Talene (Green/Black) had fled “weeks ago”, and Velina Behar (White), Sedore Dajenna (Yellow), and Evanellein (Gray) are also missing. Velina and Sedore were on her list of Black sisters, but Evanellein was not, which makes Egwene worry that Verin may have missed her. There are no Red Sitters either; Egwene knows Duhara is Black, and had left the Tower weeks before, but the other two (Javindhra and Pevara) have also vanished mysteriously. That leaves only eleven Sitters.
It would have to do. At least each and every Sitter currently in the Tower knew of this event; it wasn’t in secret, like Elaida’s raising. And Egwene could be reasonably certain no Black Sitters would stand for her.
Saerin begins the ceremony, but Egwene ignores her to ask Tesan about the Red Ajah. Tesan confirms that the Reds have been more or less confined to their quarters, and that she “needn’t worry about them”. She also confirms that Silviana Brehon is still imprisoned, but Leane is free and with the rebels outside. Egwene orders Tesan to have Silviana brought to the Hall immediately, and only then continues the ceremony. As it goes on, Egwene compares this with her raising in Salidar and realizes that the Tower Hall’s motivations for raising her are actually much the same as the rebels’: they were terrified, and reaching for stability, and Egwene was the only one everyone could agree upon.
Originally, in Salidar, Egwene had thought the women were being idiots. She was more experienced now, and hopefully wiser as well. She could see that they hadn’t been fools. They’d been Aes Sedai—covering their fear by being overly cautious, yet brazen at the same time. Choosing someone they wouldn’t mind seeing fall. Taking a risk, but not putting themselves in direct danger.
She is not surprised, therefore, when all eleven Sitters stand for her, though the Sitters themselves seem a little taken aback that no one had established independence by holding back on the first round. The ceremony complete, Egwene goes to the Amyrlin Seat. Saerin meets her there, but before she gives her the stole, asks Egwene in a low voice if she is certain she wants to bear this weight. Egwene replies that she already does, and has since Elaida cast it aside, and will until her death.
Saerin nodded. “I think that might be why you deserve it,” she said. “I doubt anything in the histories will compare to the days ahead. I suspect that, in the future, scholars will look back on our days and judge them to be more difficult—more trying of mind, body and soul—than the Time of Madness or the Breaking itself.”
“Then it’s a good thing the world has us, isn’t it?” Egwene asked.
Saerin hesitated, then nodded. “I suppose it is at that.”
She declares Egwene Amyrlin, and Egwene sits, feeling as if she has returned home. Tesan returns with Silviana as the Sitters are presenting themselves to her, and Egwene orders the chains taken off of her. Silviana, who has obviously received rough treatment, surprises Egwene by kneeling serenely before her and kissing her ring. Yukiri asks if this is the right time to be dispensing judgment. Instead of answering, Egwene faces the Hall and tells the Sitters that they bear a great deal of shame. The Sitters are indignant at first, but grow shamed as Egwene denounces them plainly, for allowing the divisions in the Tower become so wide, and for putting a madwoman on the Amyrlin Seat, and then failing to take her down even after she almost tore the Tower apart. It is they, she says, who are supposed to be a check upon the Amyrlin, and they failed.
“You are a disgrace. The White Tower—the pride of the Light, the power for stability and truth since the Age of Legends—has nearly been shattered because of you.”
[…] “You dare call yourself the Hall of the Tower? You who were cowed? You who were too frightened to do what was needed? You who were too caught up in your own squabbles and politicking to see what was needed?”
Egwene looked down at Silviana. “Only one woman in this room was willing to stand up for what she knew to be right. Only one woman dared defy Elaida, and she accepted the price of doing so. And you think I brought this woman here to exact vengeance on her? Are you really so blinded that you think I’d punish the only person in the entire Tower who did anything of decency these last few months?”
They were all looking down, now. Even Saerin wouldn’t meet her eyes.
Silviana looked up at her.
“You did your duty, Silviana,” Egwene said. “And you did it well. Rise.”
Egwene tells Silviana that she is ashamed that once again an Amyrlin has been raised without allowing one of the Ajahs to participate – the Red, this time. Silviana replies that there was good reason for that, but Egwene says that even so, it will mark her reign with tension from the Red. Silviana admits that she sees no way around that.
“I do,” Egwene said. “Silviana Brehon, I would have you as my Keeper of the Chronicles. Let it not be said that I spurned the Red.”
Everyone is surprised, and Egwene is not certain what Silviana will say, but after a moment Silviana accepts humbly, to Egwene’s great relief. She hopes that Silviana will be the envoy to the Reds she needs. She says aloud that the Reds have a difficult path ahead of them; reports claim that saidin has been cleansed, and their purpose must change, but she sees great things ahead for them. She returns to the Sitters, and tells them that they are shamed, but Egwene herself is not guiltless either, for siding with the rebels and allowing them to raise her. She says they must all bear their shame with determination.
“The time for healing has begun, and there is no longer any use in pointing fingers. You failed. But you are all that we have. We are all that the world has.”
She leads the Hall to the Sunset Gate, where the rebels wait. As they walk, Silviana asks if she means to maintain two Keepers, herself and her Keeper from the rebels, but Egwene tells her her previous Keeper was revealed as Black Ajah and executed. She tells Silviana about her “important visitor” and what will need to be done with the Oath Rod. She also tells Silviana that she will need to select a new Mistress of Novices capable of handling the thousand new novices coming in from the rebels, with more on the way. Silviana is shaken, but accepts her tasks smoothly, and Egwene reflects that Silviana will be an excellent Keeper for more reasons than that she is a diplomatic bridge to the Reds. In the square, Egwene address the rebels, the Tower Hall, and most of the rest of the Tower as well, who are gathered in the windows of the Tower above the square. Egwene makes a speech in which she says they cannot pretend the rebellion did not take place, but that it is time to join the division together again. She tells the rebels that, necessary or not, they did something terrible, and so must admit to their guilt.
“You did not come here in glory,” Egwene said to them. “You did not come here victorious. For there is no victory, and could have been no victory, when sister fought sister and Warder died to Warder.”
She says the Tower is as a shattered sword, which must be melted down and completely reforged to be saved. She says they will be tested to the limit in the days ahead, but that they will prove stronger than their weaknesses.
“The White Tower stands, and we shall stand with it! We will become one again. We will be an assembly that tales will tell of! When I am finished with you, it will not be written that the White Tower was weak. Our divisions will be forgotten in the face of our victories. We will be remembered not as the White Tower who turned against itself, but as the White Tower who stood strong in the face of the Shadow. These days will be legendary!“
[…]”Let it go forth across the land!“ she shouted. ”Let it be spoken of, let it be relied upon, and let it be remembered. The White Tower is whole and complete. And no one—man, woman or creation of the Shadow—will see us divided again!"
All cheer her, on both sides, and Egwene hopes they will still cheer her in the months to come, with the work ahead of them.
Ladies and Gentlemen: One major WOT plotline, RESOLVED.
No, seriously. I’m still a little incredulous that it actually happened. But oh, so very, very glad it did.
Though on a purely selfish note: holy hell, these two chapters took FOREVER to recap. Egwene makes SO MANY SPEECHES. Not that I had a problem with that on the face of it, but ugh, to try and summarize them was a bitch and a half. But, that’s a pretty me-centric issue, so never mind.
Okay, so there has been an awful lot of back and forth in the comments recently about whether Egwene does or does not suck. It should be fairly blatantly obvious from my recent posts which side of that particular debate I come down on, but the fact that there has been this much discussion about it does indicate that there’s legitimate wiggle room in the subject for there to be a genuine question. I’m not entirely sure that last sentence made any actual sense, but hopefully y’all got my gist there.
Having done some thinking on the matter, I think a lot of the divide here ultimately comes down to a question of perspective, or rather one of predisposition. For those readers who, like me, have always liked Egwene and usually or always saw her behavior in a positive light, the tendency to continue doing so is very strong; for those readers who have historically disliked or been annoyed by her in the past, the tendency continue thus is equally strong. This seems like a “duh” kind of statement, but the point I’m making here is that for both factions, that tendency toward emotional inertia re: Egwene tends to remain in effect regardless of the merit of the behavior being judged. Or rather, the merit of the behavior can be re-jiggered to fit whichever viewpoint one is personally inclined to (or determined to) adhere.
Anyone who doubts me on this score need only pay even the most superficial amount of attention to American politics, and observe, on both sides, the ratio of the tendency to align along party lines versus the tendency to align on the merits of the issue. It… ain’t proportional, is my point here.
I am not at all exempting myself from this tendency, by the way, at least in regards to WOT, and Egwene specifically. And I am, of course, aware that this tendency probably does not apply across the board, since I’m sure there are those who used to love her who hate her now, or vice versa. However, I am saying that this is enough of a phenomenon that it’s worth considering as a factor in the debate.
These two chapters alone provide numerous examples of Egwenisms which can, I imagine, be used with equal facility to argue for either her awesomeness or her suckiness, depending on which one of those qualities the observer is more likely to, er, observe.
Take, for example, her treatment of Siuan in these two chapters. For those of us with anti-Egwene tendencies, it could be viewed as high-handed, hypocritical, and, well, bitchy of Egwene to call Siuan out like that and humiliate and chastise her, especially in front of witnesses. And I can certainly see how one would think that; if one looks it from a perspective of their relative positions historically, and how one would want to be treated by one’s own friends if one screwed up, then yeah, it’s mean and bitchy.
But for those of us predisposed to view her actions in a positive light, it could be seen quite differently. I, for example, would first of all challenge the notion that the chastisement was uncalled-for in the first place. Siuan did disobey a direct order from her acknowledged superior, a very emphatically phrased and often repeated order at that, and just because she did it with the best of intentions doesn’t mean that there should be no consequences for it. And consequences aren’t consequences if they don’t sting.
Secondly, I would observe that friendships, frankly, just don’t go well with power, and sometimes one must be sacrificed for the other. Egwene is simply no longer in a position where she can afford to be “nice” all or even most of the time anymore – not even to those she considers friends. Actually, especially to those she considers friends, because she can no longer in conscience allow her friendships to clutter her objective judgments, either on their behalf or in general.
In addition, she must consider that as a powerful leader, her friendship is no longer the most valuable or necessary value she can offer her friends anyway. In the hierarchical view Egwene must of necessity adopt now that she is at the top of it, it is more beneficial to Siuan in the long run to respect Egwene as a leader than it is for Siuan to like her as a person. From that perspective, reinforcing Siuan’s (or Nynaeve’s, or Elayne’s, or etc.) status as Egwene’s subordinate, even harshly, is to help Siuan, not to feed Egwene’s ego or whatever.
Actually I think that is a great deal of the problem here in general, now that I think on it. It seems like a lot of the anti-Egwene complaints I’ve seen have been centered, more or less, on the contention that Egwene is becoming (or, in some cases, always has been) egotistical, arrogant, and full of herself – that she thinks she is all that and a bag of chips, as the youth of, um, ten years ago say. And certainly many of her statements in these chapters, to herself and to others, can be read that way.
But I rather think this hinges on the subconscious assumption that Egwene has no right to claim the things she says of herself – that she is not the best, or indeed the only, person who can do this job, that it was not her destiny or fate or whatever to become the person she has and gain the power she’s taken. If you think that she is wrong, that she doesn’t have the right to say these things about herself, well then yeah, she’s an overentitled narcissistic megalomaniac.
But if she does… well. Is it egotism if it’s true?
I will also note that there has never, in the history of the world, been a great leader (or a great anything, really) who didn’t also possess a healthy enough dose of ego to believe that they could achieve that greatness, or that they deserved to have it. The meek may inherit the earth, but you’ll note that that trait did not even remotely apply to their spokesperson.
(Humble? Sure. Meek? No. No one who mouths off to every authority figure in earshot and physically throws people out of temples can sanely be described as a “meek” person.)
But again, that’s how I would see it, because I like Egwene and identify with her, and I think that she deserves the power that she holds and I think she deserves to act like she deserves the power she holds.
If you don’t, well, then I can see how she might drive you right up a tree, and never the twain shall meet. *shrug*
So, yeah. AND, regardless of your position on the Scale of Egwenity, I defy anyone to deny that her verbal smackdown of the Tower Hall was anything but a thing of beauty, because EXACTLY. Took the words right out of my mouth, girl. If that’s an example of fan service in action I’ll take it and gladly.
That said, I’m not as sure about Egwene’s thoughts to herself on why each of the Halls chose to raise her. It’s not that I don’t think she’s right, but it seems a little harsher than I would have put it. Perhaps this sounds a little strange coming from me, but prioritizing stability is not exactly the most un-noble goal for a government to have. But then, Egwene, by nature and by circumstance, is a progressive, and progressives are often impatient with the slowness of stability.
But contrariwise, she did chastise the Hall (quite rightly) for failing to check Elaida, who can be viewed as that oddest (and scariest) of creatures, a radically progressive ultra-conservative – in the sense that she was willing to destroy the Tower’s stability in order to preserve it. Or her version of it, anyway. Egwene is surely smart enough to realize that charge of checks and balances must also apply to her, and as a progressive force, the checks on her must needs trend toward the conservative simply by definition. So I don’t entirely get why she was disparaging them on those particular grounds. Especially since there were so many other grounds to disparage them on, heh.
But anyway. The best part of both of these chapters, no contest, is the bit with Silviana. A brilliant political move AND a dose of true poetic justice in one, which are two things that don’t get to hang out together nearly as much as they ought to. Plus, Silviana is awesome, and Egwene is so right that she will be ten times better as Keeper than either Lelaine or Romanda would have been. The fact that it’s also a delightful little karmic slap to those two for their scheming, opportunistic, plot-lengthening ways certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
Sheriam: Well. Exit Sheriam, stage thunk. Initially I was set to be rather annoyed that we got her execution in flashback format, but on reflection we really did kind of have other fish to fry, so whatever, I guess.
From TFOH, Chapter 26:
Rays of silver and blue flashed about [Sheriam’s] fiery hair, and a soft golden light; Min could not say what it meant.
Mm. Well, so much for it meaning Sheriam was going to redeem herself/go out in a blaze of glory by taking out Halima, which was totally my pet theory about her even before I found out she was Black. Damn. Oh well. It’s a tad anticlimactic, in my opinion, but at least that’s one more prophecy we can slide into the “Fulfilled” column, so that’s good.
Incidentally, I would like to note for the record that fifty beheadings in one morning is a GREAT DEAL. Even if the executees were all unquestionably evil, that is just… a lot. Of course, from my perspective even one beheading is over my personal quota, so take it for what it’s worth, but I think fifty in a row is plenty for anyone. Yeesh.
But! The Tower is united, Hooray! Snoopy dances for everyone!
And now my brain go melty, so this is where we stop. See ya next time!