Top of the posting queue to you, loves! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read, in which we cover Chapters 37-38 of The Shadow Rising.
Our handy Index of previous entries is found here. As always, many many spoilers, over here, over there, in your clothes in your toes in your hair!
Oh, I’m weird? Do I have to point to a certain 800+ comment thread, here? No? That’s what I thought!
Let’s do this thing.
Chapter 37: Imre Stand
They reach Imre Stand with plenty of daylight left; in answer to Rand’s inquiry, Aviendha and Rhuarc explain that it is always best to stop where you can be sure of water, and also that Rhuarc does not want to leave the wagons behind. Rand says no, we certainly wouldn’t want that, and laughs to himself. He notes that while both Mat and Aviendha are watching him, Moiraine and the Wise Ones are not, instead gathered around something in Moiraine’s hands that looks like a gem. This makes him uneasy, and he laughs again. Aviendha asks if the Three-fold Land amuses him, and opines that when it breaks him it will be a fitting punishment for his treatment of Elayne. Rand snaps back that she may not have any respect for the Dragon Reborn, but she could try having some for the Car’a’carn.
Rhuarc chuckled. “A clan chief is not a wetlander king Rand, nor is the Car’a’carn. There is respect—though women generally show as little as they can get away with—but anyone can speak to a chief.” Even so, he sent a frown in the direction of the woman on the other side of Rand’s horse. “Some do push the bounds of honor.”
Aviendha clenches her fists at this and stalks along without another word. A Maiden named Adelin runs up to Rhuarc and tells him that there is trouble at Imre Stand; there is no one to be seen. Rhuarc sends her to tell the Wise Ones, but Mat comments that it looks like they already know; Rand agrees, and wonders how. Rand asks Aviendha what kind of trouble it might be, and when she ignores him, snaps that she can answer a simple question. She flushes and answers that it may be a raid, most likely from either the Chareen or the Goshien. Rand asks if there will be fighting, and seizes saidin, but Aviendha says Adelin would have said if anyone were still there. Rand and Mat follow Rhuarc and the Jindo as they enter Imre Stand, where they find no people, but goats still grazing. Troubled, Aviendha notes that raiders would not have left the goats behind. Cautiously, they go to investigate one of the building, and discover the room inside is ransacked and splattered in blood. Rand backs out hastily, bringing up his fire sword; Mat mutters that it looks like Trolloc work to him. Aviendha tells him contemptuously that Trollocs would never dare come this far into the Waste; they call the Three-fold Land The Dying Ground. Rand knows Mat is right, though, and doesn’t think their being here right before he arrived to be a coincidence. The Aiel are very tense as they set up camp. Later, Kadere brings out a beautiful woman from his wagon, dressed entirely inappropriately for the Waste, and chaperones her to see the inside of the building; she shudders when she comes out, but Rand is positive this is an act. She guides Kadere over to Rand, and says seductively that she’s heard he is supposed to be the Aiel’s prophesied leader. Rand replies that it appears so, and she smiles and says she thought he would be handsomer, and leaves. Kadere asks for forgiveness on Isendre’s behalf, and then mentions he’d heard that Rand took Callandor from the Heart of the Stone.
The man’s eyed never changed. If he knew about Callandor, he knew Rand was the Dragon Reborn, knew he could wield the One Power. And his eyes never changed. A dangerous man. “I have heard it said,” Rand told him, “that you should believe nothing you hear, and only half of what you see.”
“A wise rule,” Kadere said after a moment. “Yet to achieve greatly, a man must believe something. Belief and knowledge pave the road to greatness. Knowledge is perhaps the most valuable of all. We all seek the coin of knowledge.”
He excuses himself and leaves, and Aviendha immediately hisses at him for staring at other women when he belongs to Elayne. Rand counters that he doesn’t belong to anyone, and anyway Elayne doesn’t seem to know what she thinks. Aviendha repeats that Elayne laid her heart bare to him in the letters, and Rand throws his hands up in the air and stalks off, but she follows. Seeking a way to get rid of her, he hunts up Lan and asks him to practice the sword with him, though he chooses a secluded area to avoid unnecessarily insulting the Aiel. This is not successful in getting rid of Aviendha, and Rand is soon exhausted in the punishing heat. Lan cautions him against losing concentration, and sort-of jokes that otherwise he might lose his head to a farmboy picking up a sword for the first time.
“Yes. Well, I’m not a farmboy any longer, am I?” They had gained an audience, if at a distance. Aiel lined the edge of both the Shaido and Jindo camps. Keille’s cream-wrapped bulk stood out among the Jindo, the gleeman beside her in his cloak of colored patches. Which one did he choose? He did not want them to see him watching them.
Rand asks Lan how Aiel fight, and Lan replies “Hard”, in a deadpan voice. He gives Rand a brief lesson in standard Aiel tactics, which Aviendha interrupts by asking why he wants to know how to fight Aiel, and claiming that Lan’s defense will not work. Rhuarc walks up and interjects that she is wrong, and informs her that there is a limit to how far her sulking will be tolerated; she will be a Wise One one day, and she will not execute her duties by throwing tantrums. Rand feels foolish on hearing this, realizing that the dress and all that were not, in fact, gambits directed at him, and suddenly wonders if she can channel. Rhuarc then says to Rand that he thought he might like to learn how to fight with a spear; Rand looks at the Aiel watching him, and decides to do it, despite his exhaustion, because of them, and certainly not because Aviendha was watching too.
“That mountain can grow awfully heavy sometimes,” he sighed, taking a spear and buckler from Rhuarc. “When do you find a chance to put it down awhile?”
“When you die,” Lan said simply.
Mat leans against a wagon and watches the Aiel watching Rand, and thinks him a fool for jumping around in this heat. The peddlers have been doing a steady business since making camp, and Mat had noticed Couladin and Kadere talking for a long while, though apparently no agreement was reached. Mat observes with interest the kind of things the Aiel are interested in trading for (books, laces and velvets, needles, pins) and those they are not (silks, ivory, knives, pots). Mat is startled to hear Heirn ask for Two Rivers tabac (the peddlers have none). He watches one driver trying to interest an Aiel in a crossbow.
Of course, a good Two Rivers longbow could shoot six arrows while a crossbowman was still cranking back the bowstring for his second shot. A longer range for a crossbow that size, though, by a hundred paces. With two men doing nothing but keeping a crossbow with bolt in place in the hands of each crossbowman, and stout pikemen to hold the cavalry off…
Mat winces; it was happening again. Before Rhuidean his memory had been full of holes, but now there was something filling them: memories of cities and dances and battles he’s sure he’s never seen and is not sure ever existed. Battles, especially. They must be dreams, but they creep up on him sometimes; he’ll find himself looking at a piece of ground and planning how to defend it. He traces the writing on the haft of his spear, and knows that he knows the Old Tongue, sifted out of those dream memories, and also suspects he gave himself away to Rand back in Rhuidean.
Light, what did they do to me?
“Sa souvraya niende misain ye,” he said aloud. “I am lost in my own mind.”
“A scholar, for this day and Age.”
Mat looks up to see the gleeman, and replies it was just something he heard once. The gleeman introduces himself as Jasin Natael, and asks to join Mat. Mat assents, and Natael sits beside him, watching the Aiel with fascination. He comments he can hardly credit it, and Mat agrees they are odd, and cautions Natael against playing Maiden’s Kiss. Natael remarks that Mat seems to lead an interesting life, traveling with Aes Sedai, not to mention the Dragon Reborn. Mat suggests he talk to Rand, then, but Natael ignores this and begins grilling Mat about Rhuidean. Mat sees no reason not to tell him about it, and does so, leaving out any mention of the doorway ter’angreal. Natael digs for all kinds of details until they are interrupted by Keille, who glares at Natael and tells him they are not there for Rhuidean. They move off, arguing fiercely in undertones. Mat cannot imagine sharing a wagon with her, and thinks Isendre would be a much more preferable companion, but at the dinner fire that night, which Mat shares with Rand, Aviendha, Rhuarc, Kadere and Isendre, Isendre only has eyes for Rand. Rand doesn’t seem to notice, but Aviendha does, and glares at Rand. After they eat, Rhuarc asks Natael for a song, which seems to startle him, and he goes back to the wagons for his harp; Mat reflects he’s not much like Thom Merrilin, who hardly goes anywhere without his instruments. Natael returns and strikes up a song called “Midean’s Ford”, which is about a battle in Manetheren against the Saferi, whose leader Aedomon was so impressed with King Buiryn’s army’s valor that he lets them quit the field. Unwillingly, Mat remembers that what the song leaves out is the part where Aedomon betrayed the Manetheren army afterwards, and slaughtered them to a man. He remembers counseling Buiryn against the offer and being ignored.
His last memory at the ford was trying to keep his feet, waist-deep in the river with three arrows in him, but there was something later, a fragment. Seeing Aedomon, gray-bearded now, go down in a sharp fight in a forest, toppling from his rearing horse, the spear in his back put there by an unarmored, beardless boy. This was worse than the holes had been.
Natael asks Rand if he liked the song, and Rand replies he’s not sure how smart it is to rely on the generosity of enemies. Then the quiet is broken as Trollocs come howling in to attack, and suddenly everything is madness. Mat is grateful now for those memories, which make using the strange spear like second nature to him, as he fights Trollocs and Fades alike.
A dozen times the spear’s iron-hard black haft barely deflected a Trolloc thrust. It was Aes Sedai work, and he was glad of it. The silver foxhead on his chest seemed to pulse with cold as if to remind him that it, too, bore the mark of Aes Sedai. Right then, he did not care; if it took Aes Sedai work to keep him alive, he was ready to follow Moiraine like a puppy.
Suddenly it is over and the Shadowspawn are all down, and Mat slides to his knees, exhausted, seeing fires all over the camp and in several of the wagons. Rand comes over to him and asks if he’s all right; Mat replies he is fine, noting that Aviendha had managed to arm herself and looked deadly even in skirts. Moiraine appears with Egwene and the Wise Ones in tow, Healing injured Aiel where she can. Rhuarc comes up to Rand, and tells him that the Wise Ones’ camp was hit by over fifty Trollocs, and would have been overwhelmed were it not for Moiraine Sedai, while the Shaido were seemingly only attacked enough to keep them from coming to aid, though Rhuarc seems skeptical that they would have offered aid in the first place. Rand replies that the attack on the Wise Ones could have been the same thing, proportionate to knowing an Aes Sedai was with them, and to remember that he, Rand, brings enemies with him wherever he goes. Isendre, Kadere, Natael and Keille all emerge from the wagons, staring toward the group around Rand, and Mat mutters they were fools to hide inside the wagons, and lucky they didn’t get burned alive.
“They are still alive,” Rand said, and Mat realized he had seen them, too. “That is always important, Mat, who stays alive. It’s like dice. You can’t win if you can’t play, and you can’t play if you are dead. Who can say what game the peddlers play?” He laughed quietly, and the fiery sword vanished from his hands.
Mat is over Rand’s crypticness and announces he’s going to bed, and if the Trollocs come back to let them kill him in his blankets. He wonders if the attack will induce Kadere and Co. to leave the Waste, and if so he intends to be with them.
Rand lets Moiraine examine him, though he was not injured and she does not have the strength to spare to wash away his tiredness. She tells him this was aimed at him; “Was it?” he answers, and she just turns away. Egwene comes over, too, to hiss at him that whatever he was doing to upset Aviendha, to stop it; Rand thinks she looks ridiculous with those two braids. He stumbles to his tent, exhausted, and thinks that this time the sword had almost not come for him. Aviendha spends the night outside his tent, and he is glad to see her when he wakes; at least he knows how she feels about him.
Whoo boy, lot of developments here. Let’s go in order.
First, the slightly confusing fact that Rand is confused about how the Wise Ones and Moiraine know what Adelin reported to Rhuarc about Imre Stand, when in the last chapter he was all like “I KNOW YOU’RE LISTENING, MS. THANG”, or so it seemed to me, at least. I’m… not sure what I’m missing here. But considering the last chapter was deliberately written to be, ahem, misdirecting, maybe I’m supposed to be confused.
One other bit of misdirection going on here that I rather glossed over owing to too much hindsight (and which was pointed out by several commenters) is that we are also supposed to be uncertain which of the four main peddlers (Kadere, Isendre, Natael, and Keille) are really Secretly Forsaken. I don’t know why, because I never had the slightest doubt that Keille, not Isendre, was Lanfear, myself; Keille’s personality was far too perfect a match, in my opinion, and I personally couldn’t picture Lanfear lowering herself to pretending to be a wagon driver’s trophy mistress, no matter how good a disguise it would be. It would be like Meryl Streep agreeing to be in a Pauly Shore movie.
Wow, I just completely freaked myself out with that image.
Anyway. I’m not looking ahead to see the conversation the comments mentioned when Lanfear and Rand talk about it, but my conviction is also bolstered by the cryptic comment Rand makes that I quoted above, but will repeat for convenience’s sake:
Keille’s cream-wrapped bulk stood out among the Jindo, the gleeman beside her in his cloak of colored patches. Which one did he choose?
That says pretty strongly to me that Rand’s already pinned those two down as the Secretly Forsaken of the four, though I’m not entirely certain of what Rand’s question actually means. Deciding which one he’s going to try to “chain to his will”, I guess? But that doesn’t make sense; even if he didn’t have his Hurting Women Thing (which I’m assuming extends to holding one prisoner?), if he wants to learn about channeling, Asmodean would be the only one of the two who would be of any use to him anyway.
Aaah, I dunno. More later as this gets clearer, hopefully.
Aviendha: I’m not saying it’s particularly noble, because it ain’t, but there is a certain perverse satisfaction in making the unwitting cause of your torment suffer as much as you are. The fact that Rand has no clue that that’s what he is to her just makes it worse, especially since the humiliation involved in actually explaining to him why she’s so pissed off would be impossible for someone as prideful as Aviendha to deal with, in my view.
So she’s annoying as all get out through this bit, but at the same time I kind of feel her. I would be pissed as hell if someone suddenly informed me, hey, that thing you’ve wanted to do your whole life? Sorry, no, you’re doing this other thing. No, you do not get any say in it. Oh, and you’re going to fall in love with this guy who’s your good friend’s boyfriend and incidentally is going to bring about the near total destruction of your people, have fun with that!
Yeah, I think I might be a little full of ill grace for a while, too.
Mat 2.0: ah, yummy Mat goodness, it makes me happy. I remember realizing what the deal was with the battle memories and going completely Surfer Dude in my joy (DUDE! SWEET!), which is very scary for everyone and I’ll try not to do that anymore. But dude. Sweet!
Though this chapter did start one of the Big Controversies concerning Mat’s memories and how that whole thing works, and rather than get into all that again, I’ll point you here (specifically, the last question on that page), because I already wrote that once, I ain’t gonna again.
Here’s a (pointless and frivolous) question about Mat’s memories I don’t remember ever seeing, though: so if the Finn collect memories (which they do), and they gave these memories to Mat (which they did), does that mean the Finn don’t have those memories anymore? Like, did they do the scary magical equivalent of giving Mat a burned copy of their iMemories library, or is it a read-only kind of situation? DRM protection! Okay, I’m going to stop now.
We also get our first indication here that the foxhead medallion is more than just a shiny souvenir, and now I’m wondering how long it took me to twig to that.
Chapter 38: Hidden Faces
Egeanin sits in a wineshop in Tanchico called the Garden of Silver Breezes and watches the ships in the harbor. The wineshop caters to wealthy clientele who wish to have meetings without fear of eavesdropping. She turns to her table companion, a weaselly fellow named Floran Gelb, and asks what he has for her. He hands her a bag, which she opens to find an a’dam inside, the third one Gelb had recovered for her. She pays him, and asks if he has anything else. Gelb tells her thinks he’s found another one of the women she asked him to look for; Egeanin grimaces, thinking of the mistakes he’s already made on this front, and tells him he’d better be sure this time. Gelb asks for money, of course, and she tells him she pays for results. Gelb then nervously observes he’s heard she’ll pay for special sorts of work:
“Stirring up trouble, as it were? I heard a rumor—from a fellow who’s body-servant to Lord Brys—about the Assembly, and choosing the new Panarch. I think maybe it’s true. The man was drunk, and when he realized what he had said, he nearly fouled himself. Even if it isn’t, it would still rip Tanchico wide open.”
Egeanin thinks Tanchico doesn’t need any help in the falling apart department, and tells Gelb he can go; Gelb hesitates and asks where her strange accent is from, and she sends him scurrying. After he is gone, Egeanin notes a Sea Folk ship coming into harbor; she admires it for a moment and then rises to leave, only to sit back down hastily when she recognizes Bayle Domon leaving another table. Even though she is masked, she waits until he is gone before leaving herself, noting on her way out the entrance of Jaichim Carridin.
An Inquisitor of the Hand of the Light, a high officer in the Children of the Light. The very concept of the Children outraged Egeanin, a military body answerable only to itself. But Carridin and his few hundred soldiers had power of a sort in Tanchico, where any kind of authority seemed to be lacking most of the time.
She hurries out to her litter and sets off through the crowds of weary, dispirited refugees filling the streets. Egeanin tries not to look at them, knowing that giving any of them money will cause an instant mob scene, and besides it was overstepping her place to give charity. She hates this place, and wonders why the High Lady Suroth holds back from coming in and making things right.
Jaichim Carridin lounges seemingly at ease among the masked noblemen in the private room of the Garden, even though it had been over two months since the last news of a family member of his being brutally murdered (a cousin, found skinned alive). Carridin sips his wine, and observes aloud that King Andric wishes the Children’s help in restoring order in the city, but the Children do not often involve themselves in a nation’s internal affairs (at least not openly, he thinks to himself). One of the noblemen snaps that it is urgently necessary that they suppress the many factions threatening to split them all apart, and another adds the death of the Panarch has made things more difficult. Carridin asks if they know who killed her yet; his private theory is that it was the King himself, which he thinks was a stupid move even if the old Panarch was plotting against him, since the Assembly is refusing to ratify Andric’s choice for a new Panarch (his lover Lady Amathera). And if news of the Panarch’s murder gets out before Amathera is confirmed, the city might riot. The owl-masked nobleman thinks it was Dragonsworn. Carridin agrees blandly, and says that he cannot help secure the Panarch’s Palace unless he hears from the King himself, to avoid the appearance that the Children are reaching for power themselves. The noblemen seem sure that is exactly what the Children want, and say they must have assurances that Tarabon will not be subject in any way to Amador, which Carridin smoothly assures them of. Then an older man wearing a lion mask says he will have sureties signed and sealed by the King. Carridin knows the man is Andric himself, though he’s not supposed to know that. Carridin nods, and swears the Children will secure the Panarch’s Palace and deal with any attempts to halt the investiture. To himself, he knows that the deceit involved in making the Children take the blame will give Pedron Niall a very nice bit of leverage to use on the King and Panarch. Tarabon is not as great a prize as it used to have been, but still useful.
In truth, he hardly cared if Tarabon fell under the Children’s sway, or Tanchico, or any of it. There were motions to go through, things to do that he had always done, but it was difficult to think of anything except when his own throat would be cut. Perhaps he would long to have his throat cut. Two whole months since the last report.
Carridin takes his leave of the Taraboners and walks through the streets, thinking about the rebels in the countryside and the Dragonsworn. The rebels were easily enough taken care of, he thought, and the problem with the Dragonsworn is not them but the man they are sworn to follow, when most of them don’t even know his name. Carridin cannot figure out which band of the Dragonsworn out there was sheltering Rand al’Thor, and if he can’t figure it out he is a dead man. He returns to the Children’s headquarters and is heading for the brandy when he sees a pretty woman with honey-colored braids and a veil standing by the window. He demands to know how she got in, and for her to leave at once or he’ll throw her out.
“Threats, Bors? You should be more welcoming to a guest, yes?”
He is jolted by the name she calls him, and instantly draws his sword and attacks, but the air turns to jelly around him, forcing him to his knees, and he realizes she is a Tar Valon witch. She asks if he remembers a meeting where Ba’alzamon appeared and showed them the faces of Perrin Aybara, Matrim Cauthon, and Rand al’Thor, and Carridin knows she is not just a witch, but Black Ajah. He begs her not to kill him, and babbles that he has tried to kill Rand al’Thor, but he needs more time. He protests frantically that he still has many more family members left alive, and begins detailing where they can be found. The woman watches him with interest, and eventually stuffs more jelly-air into his mouth, shutting him up. She tells him that “Jaichim” is a good name for a dog; would he like to be her dog? If he is good, she might let him watch Rand al’Thor die one day. Carridin realizes this means she is not going to kill him, and sobs with relief. The woman grabs him by the hair and tells him that she knows he is to use the Children to secure the Panarch’s Palace, and wants to know when; Carridin tells her he should have Andric’s sureties in three or four days. She considers, and accepts this, but then tells him afterwards he is to send away all the Panarch’s soldiers. Carridin says that is impossible, but the woman does not like that word, and a thousand invisible needles stab him all over. Gasping in pain, he explains that Amathera will control the Legion once she is Panarch, and will turn them on the Children if he tries to get them out, and Andric will help her. The woman stares at him for a long moment, then says the Panarch will be dealt with. The needles vanish, and Carridin swears to obey her. He asks hesitantly for her name, and she replies a dog should know its mistress’s name, and says it is Liandrin. After she leaves, Carridin thinks that even if she takes care of Amathera it may not be as simple as she thinks to hold the Palace, and if it failed, Niall might well sign Carridin’s death warrant.
His own men would arrest him; and hang him. If he could arrange the death of the witch… But she had promised to protect him from the Myrddraal. He wanted to weep again. She was not even here, yet she had him trapped as tightly as ever, steel jaws clamped on both legs and a noose snug around his neck.
Liandrin slips out of the Whitecloaks’ commandeered palace, killing the gate guard she had semi-Compelled on the way in with a knife. She wishes she had Chesmal’s talent at killing with the Power, but it was too closely related to Healing for Liandrin to be good at it. She heads back to the house she and the others had taken, wishing for a palace but acknowledging that even though there was no way the White Tower could know they were here, keeping a low profile is still the better course for now. Entering the house, she encounters one of the servants sweeping the entry hall, a sturdy woman named Gyldin. She demands of Gyldin where the others are, and Gyldin tells her they are in the front withdrawing room. Liandrin notes angrily that Gyldin never curtsies or uses addresses of respect, and snaps at her to clean or be beaten. She berates herself for slipping back into the common dialect of her youth and stomps into the withdrawing room. Inside, Eldrith Jhondar sits writing notes while Marillin Gemalphin pets a scrawny cat. They are both Browns, but Liandrin thinks there will be trouble if Marillin finds out Eldrith is the reason all her adopted strays keep disappearing.
They had been Browns. Sometimes it was difficult to remember they no longer were, or that she herself was no longer a Red. So much of what had marked them clearly as members of their old Ajahs remained even now that they were openly pledged to the Black.
As examples, she looks at the former Greens: Jeaine Caide, dressed in scandalously thin silks, and Asne Zeramene, who regrets having to leave her Warders behind. And then there was Rianna Andomeran, who was a textbook example of a cold, arrogant White. Liandrin announces that it went well with Carridin, but adds the interesting data point that he had believed she was there to kill him for failing to kill Rand al’Thor. Asne says that makes no sense; their orders are to bind and control al’Thor, not kill him.
Rianna shook her head worriedly. “It makes troubling sense. Our orders from the Tower were clear, yet it is also clear that Carridin has others. I can only postulate dissension among the Forsaken.”
Jeaine wants to know what good are promises of power if they are all crushed between warring Forsaken first. Asne points out that they have the means to produce balefire, which will kill even a Forsaken, but Jeaine sniffs that it does them no good if they can’t control it, and reminds Asne that the one test they tried with the ter’angreal almost sunk the ship they were on. Liandrin interjects that if they control the Dragon Reborn, they would have enough leverage to not need to destroy the Forsaken, but then becomes aware that Gyldin is in the room. In reply to Liandrin’s furious query, Gyldin replies she was cleaning, like she was told. Wondering how much the woman had heard, Liandrin tells her to go to cook and ask to be strapped. Gyldin leaves, tight-lipped, and Liandrin asks Eldrith if she’s found a clue yet. Eldrith natters about booksellers and librarians, and Liandrin shoves her papers to the floor with saidar; Eldrith blinks, and says the thing they are looking for must be a ter’angreal, considering what it does, and is in the Panarch’s Palace, probably in the exhibition room. Gritting her teeth, Liandrin asks if she’s found anything new, and Eldrith says no.
“It does not matter,” Marillin said. “In a few days, once they have invested their precious Panarch, we can begin searching, and if we must inspect every candlestick, we will find it. We are on the brink, Liandrin. We will put Rand al’Thor on a leash and teach him to sit up and roll over.”
“Oh, yes,” Eldrith said, smiling happily. “On a leash.”
Liandrin hoped it was so. She was tired of waiting, tired of hiding. Let the world know her. Let people bend knee as had been promised when she first forswore old oaths for new.
Egeanin knows she is not alone the moment she enters her house, but pretends obliviousness until she can get to where she’s stashed a small crossbow with poisoned bolts. She whirls with it to find a blond man leaning casually in the corner, who asks her in a Seanchan accent if she thinks he means her harm. She asks who he is, and for answer he fishes out an ivory plaque engraved with a raven and tower. She says that normally that would be enough, but these are strange lands. He smiles and strips to the waist, revealing the same tattooed on his shoulders, marking him the property of the Imperial family. Egeanin knows no one would dare fake those, and puts down her weapon and apologizes.
He left her holding the plaque while he re-dressed himself in a leisurely manner. A subtle reminder. She was a captain and he property, but he was also a Seeker, and under the law he could have her put to the question on his own authority. By law he had the right to send her out to buy the rope to bind her while he put her to the question right here, and he would expect her to return with it.
She thinks she had never contemplated a criminal act in her life, but if this Seeker asks the wrong questions… The Seeker tells her he is here to check on the progress of Suroth’s agents; he had booked passage here on the ship of a smuggler named Bayle Domon to avoid notice. He continues that he is glad to see she holds to her instructions, as so many others did not, and mentions casually there has been some trouble with the order to return and/or dispose of the sul’dam left behind after Falme. He orders her to make him tea; she almost hits him, but does it, and he grills her for some time about Tanchico’s defensive and offensive capabilities. After he leaves, Egeanin thinks that all the information she had given him had gone out by courier boat weeks since, and wonders if this was something else. Perhaps he had gone down to the basement first. She picks up a lantern and goes down, unlocking the door to reveal Bethamin, the first and only sul’dam Egeanin had found. She had failed to return her, because of the a’dam around Bethamin’s neck, which Egeanin had put on more or less by accident. Bethamin assures her that no one had come down, and begs her to take the a’dam off.
“If you bring it to me, I will,” Egeanin said angrily. She was angry with many things, not with Bethamin. “Bring the a’dam over here, and I will remove it.”
Bethamin shivered, let her hands fall. “It is a mistake,” she whispered. “A horrible mistake.” But she made no move toward the bracelet. Her first attempted flight had left her writhing on the floor upstairs, wracked by nausea, and had left Egeanin stunned.
Egeanin does not understand why the a’dam controls Bethamin; it’s supposed to only be able to be used on women who channel. Women who can channel are dangerous animals who must be controlled, everyone knew that, but Egeanin cannot avoid thinking that that had not happened over here. Logically, though, she thinks, it must mean that Bethamin can channel, and Egeanin wonders if that is why Suroth had ordered the sul’dam left behind killed, and also wonders if Suroth would dare keep this knowledge from the Empress, if true. She had to find out more.
This is what I always think of as a “pickup” chapter in WOT, moving along storylines parallel to but not (yet) intersecting with the paths of Our Heroes. These can be anywhere from fascinating to tedious, depending on how much I’m interested in/confused by what’s going on in them. This one rates much closer to the “interesting” end of the scale, despite the presence of Seanchan and Whitecloaks, which as we know are a few of my non-favorite things. Very clever chapter title, in any case, referring to the “hidden faces” both literal and figurative in the narrative.
We also get a précis on the political situation in Tanchico, which as per the usual in Randland can be summed up as “makes your average banana republic look like a civics wet dream”. I’m mostly not really interested in the whole Andric/Amathera/etc. thing, though I do note that as usual Jordan is very good at creating an impressively screwed-up (and therefore realistic) sounding political atmosphere in a very short space. But then, getting things knotted up was never a problem for Jordan; it’s getting them untangled again that has presented… difficulties.
Carridin is such a little shit. “Oh, please don’t kill me! Here’s my sister, kill her instead! Wah, I wetted my undies!” Sheesh. Taking self-serving cowardice to a whole new level there, pal, congrats.
This chapter also starts what I think of as The Education of Miss Egeanin storyline. I don’t have as big a problem with it now, but I remember really resenting being forced to like a character who holds such heinous cultural beliefs, even though of course the whole point of this plotline is Egeanin coming to realize they are horrible, at least in part. So I should probably just get over myself.
I feel like I should like Egeanin even better than I do, actually, as she is a prime example of Jordan portraying a female character right. By which I mean, Egeanin is not written as a woman who also happens to be a person, but as a person who also happens to be a woman.
You would be AMAZED, once you start paying attention, how many authors do the former instead of the latter – and not just male authors, either. This is because most of the time, they aren’t aware they’re doing it. It’s a subtle thing, usually (though sometimes it’s really, really not). But Egeanin is done right, in my opinion; she just does her thing, and her actions and decisions are really not impinged or influenced in any way by what her gender happens to be. It is literally irrelevant to her, and if you brought it up to her in that context, she would probably have no idea what you were even talking about. Which is how it should be, by God.
I’m not too pleased, however, that this means the Seanchan culture, ergo, is one of the only cultures in WOT (or anywhere, fictional or otherwise) that has appeared to gain true equality between the sexes. And acknowledging anything as “equal” about a culture that features institutionalized slavery as one of its perqs officially makes my head hurt.
(Most other cultures in WOT do not have equality between the sexes, either because they have a kind of standing Cold War situation there (in the sense that relative absence of conflict does not automatically equal “peace”), or because they’re actually prejudiced in the opposite direction, to misandry. This is largely by design on Jordan’s part, though… well, this is a larger issue I will touch on throughout.)
Small side note to the effect that I think says something about my own culture that I had to actually look the term “misandry” up. Its opposite, though? Don’t have to look that one up.
Onward. Black Ajah, whee! Liandrin is actually one of the better villains in WOT; not so much in terms of effectiveness, but in terms of believable motivation. I mean, you totally know this person, right? Cause I do. I’ve had to work with this person. If I never meet another violently insecure asshole bent double under the weight of his/her own entitlement issues, actually, it’ll be far too soon. I think I may have said this already. Certain people in my life have left an impression, evidently. And by “impression”, I mean “icky scar”.
I really, really don’t want to know what Eldrith does with Marillin’s strays, do I? Hopefully it’s for some kind of mad scientist makeup-testing scheme, because the other possibilities are far, far skeevier. Hopefully she’s just in a corner dripping mascara in a cat’s eye and, you know, cackling. AND THAT’S ALL. Eurgh.
Rianna’s observation that there may be dissension among the Forsaken is one of those statements that was all “oooh, interesting” the first time I read it, and now just makes me snicker at the understatement. I mean, ya think?
Speaking of which, hi, Moghedien! Nice of you to join the show! It’s interesting, the contrast between her and Lanfear; while as I said above I cannot picture Lanfear being able to set aside her pride long enough to pretend to be subservient to anyone, Moghedien is clearly far more practical – up to a point, anyway. As we will see.
And ‘tis Le End – FOR NOW. See you Friday!