What goes up must come down
Spinning Wheel (of Time), got to Re-read
Talking ’bout your Chapters Twenty-Four and Five
Ride a painted Bela
Let the Lord of Chaos ji-i-ive
(Jive, rule, whatever. I went for the rhyme scheme. QUIT JUDGING ME!)
Aaand now you will have that horn section riff stuck in your head all day. Mwhahahaha!
Previous entries are here. This and all earlier posts contain spoilers for the novels of the Wheel of Time series through the 11th book, Knife of Dreams, so if you haven’t read, don’t read.
So, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, why don’t you drop all your troubles by the river side, and click the link?
Chapter 24: An Embassy
In high spirits, Egwene wends her way through Cairhien, amused at how everyone assumes she is Aiel despite her height and dark eyes. She is pleased because the Wise Ones have finally agreed to let her back into Tel’aran’rhiod soon, though her mood is blighted a little when she thinks about Mangin’s hanging six days ago, which he had gone to with a cheerful joke.
Rand had liked Mangin; she was sure of it. Berelain had informed the Wise Ones of the sentence as though telling them their wash would be ready the next day, and the Wise Ones had listened the same way. Egwene did not think she would ever understand Aiel. She was very much afraid she did not understand Rand anymore. As for Berelain, Egwene understood her all too well; that one was only interested in men who were alive.
She moves on, listening to various rumors circulating, and abruptly thinks that there must be spies for the Tower in the city; this worries her until she is reminded that everyone believes her to be Aiel. At one point she stops and berates a group of men for setting upon another four-to-one, and then realizes with embarrassment that she had chastised them as if they followed ji’e’toh. She is then distracted by the sight of a party on horseback, and realizes that the women are Aes Sedai, and at least one of them is a Red, which makes them the embassy from the Tower Elaida had written Rand about. Egwene instantly runs, not stopping until she reaches the Aiel camp outside the city, where she finds Berelain taking tea with Amys and Bair and Sorilea. She tells them about the embassy, and Berelain rises, sighing that she must get back to the Palace, then. She asks Amys to give Rhuarc a message to join her there, and Sorilea advises her not to let herself depend on Rhuarc too much, lest he take advantage. Berelain replies that he reminds her of her father.
“But he gives very good advice. And he knows when to loom, and how much. I think even Aes Sedai must be impressed by Rhuarc staring at them.”
Amys laughed in her throat. “He is impressive. I will send him to you.” She kissed Berelain lightly on the forehead and each cheek.
Egwene stared; that was how a mother kissed her son or daughter. What was going on between Berelain and the Wise Ones? She could not ask, of course. Such a question would be shaming to her and to the Wise Ones. To Berelain too, though Berelain would not know it, and Egwene would not mind shaming Berelain until her hair fell out.
Egwene stops Berelain as she goes to leave, and swallows her dislike enough to ask obliquely that Berelain not let the embassy know about Egwene’s presence in the tents. Berelain begins to be snide about this, but Sorilea brings her up short, and Berelain blushes and asks them not to mention it to Rhuarc. They agree, and Berelain leaves. The Wise Ones chuckle over her, opining that they need to find her a worthy husband, but move on to the embassy. Amys asks Egwene if she thinks they mean harm to Rand; Egwene hesitates and says she doesn’t think they mean him intentional harm, but they will definitely try to control him, and they will not leave Egwene free if they learn she is here. Sorilea says decisively that Egwene should stay among the tents, then; she will make a fine Wise One in a few years. Egwene replies carefully that she’s flattered, but she will have to leave eventually. Sorilea does not look convinced, and they move on to Egwene’s health, making her eat and putting her through a series of rigorous calisthenics that Egwene reflects would have half-killed her before she started living among the Aiel. Finally they pronounce her “sound as a Maiden”, which makes Egwene very proud. She goes to sleep that night and dreams of Gawyn.
This chapter is mainly about establishing the degree to which Egwene has assimilated into Aiel culture, which is the kind of thing I always find interesting to track in characters – and people, for that matter.
This is not exactly the same thing, but at one point in my life I was more or less fluent in French, and the way I knew I had reached that point was when I noticed that I was speaking French without having to translate it from English in my head first. It’s a bizarre and strangely exhilarating sensation. Well, it was to me, anyway. I lost the fluency, though, through lack of opportunity to practice. For some reason, there are not that many French-speaking people in Los Angeles. Who knew, right?
(Funny random story: A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless for dignity’s sake, was in the south of France years ago. She was desperately trying to find the train station, as she was late for her train back to Paris. She spoke a little French, and asked several people for directions, but couldn’t understand why they all just stared at her like she was crazy. Much later she realized that she had been mispronouncing the word for “station” – so instead of asking “Où est la gare?” (“Where is the station?”), she had been running around frantically demanding to know “Où est la guerre?” – or, in English, “Where is the war?” Heh.)
Anyway. Egwene’s unconscious internalization of ji’e’toh, therefore, rang very true to me as an indicator of her immersion in the Aiel way of life. This is also reflected, of course, in how everyone considers her Aiel, even the Aiel themselves. Telling her she’s “sound as a Maiden” is high praise indeed; I remember being a little “whoa” when I read Sorilea saying that.
This was necessary, of course; Egwene is about to embark on what will be her central character arc for the rest of the series, so she needed to be shown as having finished/succeeded at the preparatory phase. Her training as a Wise One was needed as a replacement for the training she would have gotten in the Tower – and meant to be a superior replacement, at that – and we would not have believed her ready for the challenges of being Amyrlin if we had not seen that the Wise Ones considered her ready to be a Wise One. So, yay for that.
The only other thing worth noting in this chapter is Egwene’s behavior towards Berelain, which I’m sort of ambiguous about. On the one hand, her comment about Berelain only being interested in “men who are alive” is about the cattiest thing I’ve ever heard; overall, it would be extremely easy to put her extreme dislike of Berelain down to pure spite and envy.
And I’m not denying that there’s probably a little bit of that in there. However, two things keep me from condemning Egwene’s behavior outright. The first is that dislikes, even irrational ones, are not always motivated by maliciousness or jealousy. Egwene, in my opinion, is mostly hating on Berelain out of loyalty to Elayne. Whatever a woman’s redeeming values may be, I tend to agree it becomes difficult to see those virtues once the woman in question has made a play for your best friend’s boyfriend. That shit is Not Cool, in any setting.
The second thing is that as events turn out, Berelain kind of ends up acting exactly in the manner in which Egwene mentally accuses her – just in regards to Perrin, rather than Rand. True, this may be a little disingenuous to use as an excuse for Egwene, since Egwene obviously could not know she would do so beforehand… um.
Actually, she kind of did, didn’t she? True, there’s no indication that I can recall that Egwene actually makes the falcon=Faile/hawk=Berelain connection herself, but hell. Maybe she knew it subconsciously.
As to what’s going on between the Wise Ones and Berelain, I still got nothing. That must have been one hell of a “talk” she had with Rhuarc in the Stone, is all I’m saying. And I don’t intend that as a sexual innuendo, either, because ew. Maybe it really is as simple as they think she is a Cool Chick. If you can have irrational dislikes, I guess you can also have irrational likes, n’est-ce pas?
Chapter 25: Like Lightning and Rain
The next morning, Amys tells Egwene that Rhuarc had much news about the Tower embassy, and relates it to her. Egwene cannot believe Elaida had been stupid enough to send two Reds among the six sisters, but at least a Gray (Coiren Saeldain) is in charge. She tells the Wise Ones that she only knows two of the sisters in the group: Nesune Bihara (Brown) is “fair-minded”, but she can find any flaw in an argument, and never forgets anything; Sarene Nehmdal is cool and logical like most Whites, but she has a temper, though she will admit being in the wrong after she cools down. This is based on Egwene’s experiences with them as teachers while a novice, though of course she doesn’t tell the Wise Ones that. Rhuarc had said Nesune had muttered something about the Great Library and the seals, and Sorilea sends three Wise Ones to find any information in the library on them before Nesune does. Amys tells Egwene that the Aes Sedai have declined the hospitality of the Palace, and are staying with a noblewoman named Arilyn, who Egwene immediately pegs as a spy for the Gray, or perhaps Coiren personally. This disgusts the Wise Ones.
Spying violated ji’e’toh, though how that squared with the dreamwalkers’ peeking into people’s dreams whenever they liked was something Egwene had not worked out. There was no use pointing out that Aes Sedai did not follow ji’e’toh. They knew that; they just found it hard to really believe or understand, about Aes Sedai or anyone.
Bair puts in that the embassy has over a hundred guards with them, and believes they fear the Aiel, and Amys counters that actually they have over five hundred; the rest are outside the city. The Wise Ones look grim at this news; Egwene assures them that Rand will not be fool enough to accept their offer, but suggests that they have Wise Ones who can channel follow the Aes Sedai and make sure they do not leave any traps behind them when they enter the Palace. She also says they must verify that there are only six sisters, and explains about the traditional thirteen used to capture men who can channel; she knows Rand can handle two women, and possibly up to six, but there’s no point in taking chances. The Wise Ones agree, and make preparations to implement Egwene’s suggestions. After breakfast, Egwene slips back into the city and makes her way to Arilyn’s manor house, where she senses women channeling inside in significant amounts, but cannot tell what they are doing without seeing the flows. She hides herself behind a wall, and uses Moiraine’s eavesdropping trick to listen in on the manor, skipping from window to window. Mostly she only hears servants’ gossip, though she does learn that Arilyn had left to meet her husband in the country. She catches the tail end of a conversation between Coiren and another Aes Sedai:
“…really believe this is necessary?” Even in a whisper, as it seemed, the woman’s voice sounded rich and full of herself.
“We must be prepared for any eventuality, Coiren,” another woman replied in a voice like an iron rod. “I heard an arresting rumor—” A door closed firmly, cutting off the rest.
Frustrated, Egwene keeps going until suddenly Nesune exits the house, Warder in tow, obviously looking for something, and Egwene decides this might be a good time to make herself scarce. She turns and runs.
For all of three strides she ran. Then she struck a stone wall, bounced off, and sat down in the street so hard that she bounced again on the hot paving blocks.
Dazed, she stared up, becoming more dazed by the heartbeat. The stone wall was Gawyn, staring down at her, looking as stunned as she. His eyes were the most brilliant blue. And those red-gold curls. She wanted to wrap those around her fingers again. She felt her face going scarlet. You never did that, she thought firmly. It was only a dream!
He goes to help her up, and she jumps up and pulls him away from the manor, but he catches her hand when she lets him go. He comments on her Aiel garb, and says the last he heard she was in Illian. She replies she’s never been to Illian, and suddenly realizes he must be with the Tower Aes Sedai, and says so, shocked; Gawyn confirms it.
Egwene’s heart was in her throat. “I . . . I must ask you a favor, Gawyn.”
“Anything except these,” he said simply. “I will not harm Elayne or Andor, and I will not become Dragonsworn. Anything else in my power is yours.”
This attracts angry stares from passersby, and Egwene hastily gets him to take her somewhere private. They go to a private dining room in an inn, and both become tongue-tied at finding themselves alone. Finally Egwene asks him how he can serve Elaida after what she did, and he replies that he had been taught to follow the law no matter what. He adds angrily that he should have expected she would be here, where al’Thor is. She asks how he can hate Rand so much? He is truly the Dragon Reborn. Gawyn replies that he doesn’t care; al’Thor killed his mother, and probably Elayne. Egwene gasps that that isn’t true, and he asks if she can swear to it. Egwene replies she can swear that Elayne is alive and safe, but she cannot tell him where Elayne is. He studies her, and says she becomes more Aes Sedai every time he sees her, and laughs that he used to think of being her Warder. She replies that he will be her Warder, suddenly certain that’s what her dream had meant, and he thinks she is joking; surely she wants Galad.
“I do not love Galad. I love you.”
The man still tried to pretend it was a jest, smiling against her fingers. “I cannot be a Warder. I’m to be Elayne’s First Prince of the Sword.”
“If the Queen of Andor can be Aes Sedai, a Prince can be a Warder. And you will be mine. Push that through your thick skull: I am serious. And I love you.” He stared at her. At least he was not smiling anymore. But he said nothing, just stared. She took her hand away. “Well? Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“When you wish for so long that you could hear something,” he said slowly, “and then suddenly, with no warning, you do, it is like a lightning strike and rain on parched ground at the same time. You’re stunned, but you cannot hear enough.”
“I love you, I love you, I love you,” she told him, smiling. “Well?”
He kisses her, a lot, and tells her he loves her too, and cannot wait to be her Warder. He asks what he can do for her, and she replies, don’t tell Coiren and the others about her. He agrees immediately, though he thinks she should return to the Tower. She tells him Rand did not kill Morgase, and asks him to promise not to raise a hand against him until she can prove it; Gawyn likes this much less, but again agrees without hesitation. She wonders what Coiren et al are up to, and realizes she has spoken aloud when Gawyn begins entreating her to run away with him and get married, saying he will betray anything for her.
He thought she wanted him to spy on them. And he would. Desperately seeking a way not to, he still would, if she asked. Anything, he had promised, and anything he meant, whatever the cost to him. She made a promise to herself; to him really, but it was not the sort of promise she could speak aloud. If he let slip something she could use, she would—she had to—but she would not dig, not for the smallest scrap. Whatever the cost.
She tells him she cannot run away with him, and he cannot betray anyone, the notion is ridiculous. They make arrangements to meet in the city again, and after quite a bit more kissing, Egwene finally leaves the inn. She still wonders what the Aes Sedai are up to, but leaves without attempting any more eavesdropping.
Katerine Alruddin meets with Lady Colavaere, while Nesune visits High Lord Meilan. Each separately tells the two nobles that they intend to escort Rand al’Thor to Tar Valon, which will leave a power vacuum in Cairhien. Both nobles are very interested to hear it.
Sarene meets with Coiren and Erian, and tells them Berelain may prove difficult; she is not sure whether “the apple or the whip” will work better there. Coiren brings up the rumor that a Green sister is in Cairhien with al’Thor; Galina enters and adds that someone channeled at them that morning. Sarene points out that a woman channeling does not prove a Green’s existence, or even an Aes Sedai; they’ve heard some of the Aiel women can channel. Galina believes it was Moiraine, and that the tales of her death are fabrications; Sarene had been friends with Moiraine once, and thinks the woman quite capable of faking her own death if necessary. Galina goes on that she thinks this mysterious Green is actually Moiraine herself, passing herself off as a different Ajah, which shocks Sarene and infuriates Erian (who is Green). Sarene is not convinced, but Coiren interrupts to tell her that it is “her turn”. Erian opines that she doesn’t like it, as it feels like “preparing for failure” to her, but Sarene tells her it is only logical to be ready for any eventuality.
“We have as much time as we need,” Coiren pronounced. When she was not making a speech, she made pronouncements. “Beldeine arrived today and took a room near the river, but Mayam is not due for two days. We must take care, and that gives us time.”
Sarene sighs, and heads off to her rooms, where she begins drawing as much Power as she can and runs through novice exercises. They were as good as anything else.
GRR LEIGH SMASH STUPID AES SEDAI
Seriously. At least Katerine and Galina have the excuse of being, you know, evil, but Coiren and the rest… argh. Especially Sarene, who I quite like here and later on, but damn, woman. How is it logical to suppose putting the savior of the world in a box and beating the shit out of him will end any other way but very, very badly? Bad White! No makeover!
Basically everything you need to deduce that the Tower Aes Sedai are planning at least provisionally to kidnap Rand is right here in this chapter, and yet I still don’t think I realized that’s what was going on at this point, the first time around. I mean, I knew they were planning something stupid and gumming-up-the-works-like, but I think I just never dreamed they would do anything near as utterly retarded as what actually happened.
Grr. Smash. Bah. I’d better save some of this righteous anger up, because we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
I do love that Moiraine is now this towering legendary figure of awesome sneakiness to the Aes Sedai. The Tower is going to have a collective aneurysm when she shows up alive, you guys. This I Foretell. I look forward to it with gleeful glee. Possibly even a squee! And I don’t squee! for just anything, you know.
Egwene/Gawyn: Well, at least no one can accuse Egwene of beating around the bush when it comes to romance. Wow. Just spat that “I love you” right out, didn’t you?
Ah, I don’t know, maybe I’m being too critical. I feel like this whole love story plotline was rushed, but maybe that’s only in comparison to how long everything else takes to happen in WOT, generally speaking. You can’t have it both ways, maybe. Also, I was recently reading back over some of the older recaps, and was reminded that there was actually quite a bit more foreshadowing of the Egwene/Gawyn hookup than I had previously supposed. And Egwene slamming smack into Gawyn on the street was cute. Clichéd, but cute. If it ain’t broke…
I seem to recall that people have come up with laundry lists of useful things Egwene could have told Gawyn at this juncture and didn’t. And, okay, there’s no doubt that there are plenty of things besides “Elayne is not dead” that she could have imparted to him, but you know, if impartial observer, read-the-series-*mumble*-times me can’t think offhand of what those things are, I can’t exactly blame extremely-distracted-by-first-love-smoochies Egwene for not thinking of them either. I mean, I could, but I won’t.
In any case, I’m not a hundred percent approving of the way it happened, but I am happy that Egwene finally catches up to the rest of the Supergirls in the romance department (if not the actual nookie part of it, since as far as I recall, to date she and Gawyn have never had the chance to consummate the relationship; they just got to neck a lot). It kind of sucks that her True Love is a part-time psycho who might possibly kill her down the road, but hey. Nobody’s perfect!
(And, uh, actually, that description could apply just as well to Rand as to Gawyn, especially pre-taint-cleansing. It seems that impending apocalypti do not lend themselves to uncomplicated relationships. Who’da thunk it.)
Wise Ones: How does peeking at people’s dreams square with spying being against ji’e’toh? The only thing I can figure is that maybe they liken it to reading body language: what you unconsciously give away, pun intended, doesn’t count as actually spying. This is awfully splitting-hairs-ish, though, if you ask me, especially in FictionLand, where dreams are often suspiciously plot-relevant even when they’re not actually Magically Prophetic. They’re Frosted Lucky Dreams!
(I apologize, both to the non-Americans who will not get that joke, and to the Americans who will. That was horrible and I’m sorry. I plead an entire childhood of misspent Saturday mornings.)
And that’s all I got, chirren. Catch you on the Friday side, wot? WOT!