Hey, kids. Welcome to another Wheel of Time Re-read post!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 38-39 of Lord of Chaos, in which people kick ass, but not in a good way.
Previous entries are here. This and all prior posts contain spoilers for the novel of the Wheel of Time series up to and including Knife of Dreams, so if you haven’t read, don’t read.
The Prologue of The Gathering Storm, “What the Storm Means,” is available for download here on Tor.com or at multiple online vendors. Chapter 1 is still available as well, and now Chapter 2 is available in audio format. Please refrain from posting spoilers for either the Prologue or Chapters 1-2 in the posts for the Re-read, in order to protect those who have not yet read them, or do not intend to before the release of the entire book. Spoiler discussion is going on at the respective posts announcing the releases, linked above; please keep them there. Thanks.
And that’s about the size of things, so let’s get on with it, shall we?
Chapter 38: A Sudden Chill
Mat rides uneasily through the oven-like heat, and wonders if the world is burning up. He looks at Aviendha striding along beside him, and thinks of Olver’s attempt to stab her the second night, shouting about Aiel killing his father. Aviendha had only taken the knife away from him, and Mat had tried to explain the difference between Shaido and other Aiel, but Olver glares at Aviendha still, which seems to make her nervous, to Mat’s surprise. He worries about how to keep Aviendha from slitting Elayne’s throat, which he thinks is obviously her aim from how she keeps sharpening her knife.
He was very much afraid he was going to end taking the Aiel woman to Caemlyn under guard, with the bloody Daughter-Heir demanding he hang her every step of the way. Rand and his bloody women!
Vanin returns, with the news that Warders had captured some of Mat’s scouts, and that there at least two or three hundred Aes Sedai in the village, and that they also had an army twice the size of Mat’s own camped outside the town. He orders his officers to dig in with fortifications, reasoning that if the Warders see them preparing to defend they’ll know the Band doesn’t intend to attack.
Giving his oiled beard a twist, Nalesean muttered, “What do you intend to do then? Just sit and wait for them?”
“That’s what you’re going to do,” Mat told him. Burn Rand and his “maybe fifty Aes Sedai”! Burn him and his “loom a little; intimidate them”!
Then Aviendha sets off straight for Salidar, to Mat’s consternation. He hurriedly leaves Talmanes in charge and sets off after her, taking along Vanin and the two men carrying Rand’s banners, though he orders them to keep the banners furled. When he catches up, she demands he give her a ride on his horse. As they ride, she asks him about Olver’s parents, and then tells him he does not care for the boy properly, while combing her hair and putting on jewelry; Mat looks at her wonderingly, and grumbles to himself about women. Everyone stares at his party as they ride into Salidar, but no one tries to stop them; Mat catches sight of a blond woman in odd wide trousers and carrying a bow ducking into an alley, and can’t figure out why she tickles his memory. Finally he rides up to an Aes Sedai and introduces himself, and says he’s looking for Elayne Trakand, Egwene al’Vere, “and Nynaeve al’Meara, I suppose.” The Aes Sedai blinks, and then tells him to follow her and she will see if the Amrylin Seat can see him. Vanin comments that the building they’re going to is called the Little Tower, the implications of which trouble Mat a great deal.
A plain-faced Aes Sedai pushed to the front of the crowd, leading a slender young woman in white, with big eyes. He vaguely remembered Anaiya, but she hardly seemed interested in him at all. “Are you sure, child?” she asked the novice.
The young woman’s mouth tightened slightly, but she certainly let no irritation into her voice. “He still seems to glow, or shine. I really do see it. I just don’t know why.”
Anaiya gave her a delighted smile. “He’s ta’veren, Nicola. You’ve uncovered your first Talent. You can see ta’veren.”
As they wait outside, Aviendha is accosted by a number of Aes Sedai who ask if she knows she can channel, and start campaigning to get her into novice white. Then Nynaeve appears and demands to know what Mat thinks he’s doing here, and hopes he has nothing to do with the army of Dragonsworn outside the village.
“Actually,” he said dryly, “I am in command.”
Nynaeve gapes at him for a moment, then pulls herself together and takes him inside to see the Amrylin; a surrounded Aviendha rather breathlessly calls after him, looking hunted, but Mat grins and leaves her, at least sure that she wouldn’t be going looking for Elayne anytime soon. Nynaeve mutters about fool men frightening people half to death, and that she doesn’t know “what she’s going to make of this”, and leads him to a room. Once inside, he stops dead in shock at the sight of Egwene with a seven-striped stole over her dress, then shoves the door shut and marches over to her, growling that maybe she thinks this is a joke, but she won’t if the Aes Sedai see her wearing that. He grabs the stole off of her and pulls her out of the chair, and the foxhead medallion goes ice-cold. He glares at Nynaeve and Elayne, who are staring at him slack-jawed, and seats himself in Egwene’s chair, putting his boots up on the desk. All three of them try to say something, but he doesn’t let them.
“I said listen!” He poked a finger at Elayne. “You, I’m taking back to Caemlyn, if I can keep Aviendha from killing you. If you don’t want that pretty throat slit, you stay close to me and do what I say, no questions!” The finger shifted to Egwene. “Rand says he’ll send you back to the Wise Ones whenever you want, and if what I’ve seen so far is any indication what you get up to, my advice is to take him up on it now! It seems you know how to Travel”—Egwene gave a small start—“so you can make a gateway to Caemlyn for the Band. I don’t want any argument, Egwene! And you, Nynaeve! I ought to leave you here, but if you want to come, you can. Only, I’m warning you. You yank that braid at me just once, and I swear I’ll warm your bottom!”
They all stare at him as he continues, telling them that he’ll do the talking when the “poor blind fool” they’ve chosen to be Amyrlin of a village in “the middle of bloody nowhere” gets here; he will get them to Caemlyn and leave these madwomen to “run off and get killed by Elaida”, or else help them to swear fealty to Rand to save them. They just stare, until a novice enters and curtsies to Egwene with awe, calling her “Mother”, and asking if the general needs wine. Egwene tells her no, and sends her to tell Sheriam she will attend Egwene soon.
“Close your mouth before you catch flies, Mat,” Nynaeve said in tones of deepest satisfaction.
Lord. This whole section marks the first time since his awesomeing in TDR that I’ve been truly annoyed with Mat. Maybe I’m just in the wrong frame of mind at the moment, but I just want to smack him.
I think it has to do with my permanent state of annoyance at people who leap to conclusions based on a tiny smidge of evidence, plus a great heap of pre-conceived notions, with a soupçon of always assuming the worst possible interpretation of things. People being what they are, this means I am annoyed a disproportionate amount of the time.
And seriously, what is the logic here? Does Egwene strike anyone as a practical joker? Does Mat really think she would pretend to be the Amrylin just so she could point and do a Nelson HA-ha?
So, not pleased with Mat at the moment. He has some mitigating elements for reacting the way he did, but some thought before action would be awful nice. And of course, Nynaeve’s about to match him for stupid thoughtless behavior, so yay? Basically, why can’t any of these people just talk to each other? Agh.
I do recall that the first time I read this I experienced a certain amount of satisfaction that Mat’s medallion prevented Egwene from trussing him up like a ham. So there’s that.
Nicola: I would complain about disagreeable characters owning a surfeit of Talents, but in this case Foretelling and seeing ta’veren actually do seem like they would go together, both of them being about seeing the Pattern in some way. So, okay.
Chapter 39: Possibilities
Egwene had expected Mat to look cornered, but he only seems “poleaxed and sweaty”, and suppresses all the questions she wants to ask Mat, thinking that perhaps he and his Band were an unexpected gift. She hopes he’s noticed that none of them were sweating (Siuan had finally shown them the trick, which annoyed Nynaeve when she found out it had nothing to do with the Power at all), and asks quietly for her chair back. He gets up, still staring at them, and she sits. Before she can say anything, though, he tells her just as quietly that this is madness, and will end with her head cut off, and entreats her and the others to come with him and escape. Nynaeve mutters “Warm my bottom?” and kicks Mat squarely in the rear, sending him staggering across the room; Elayne bursts into laughter, and Egwene bites her lip to keep from doing the same. Outraged, Mat slowly stalks toward Nynaeve.
Nynaeve drew herself up sternly, and then perhaps a few things occurred to her. She might be angry enough to channel, but saidar was apparently useless with him. Mat was tall for a Two Rivers man, considerably taller than she, considerably stronger, and there was a decidedly dangerous glint in his eye. She glanced at Egwene, and smoothed her dress, trying to maintain her stern face. Mat stalked nearer, face like thunder. Another hasty glance, worry beginning to show, was followed by a small step back.
Egwene tells Mat to stop it, and that he is the one in a predicament, not she, but she may be able to get him out of it. Finally he stops, and shakes a finger at Nynaeve before ignoring her and turns to Egwene, begging to differ with her assessment. She points out that no one here is very fond of Dragonsworn, considering some of the stories they’ve heard; Mat yelps that he is no bloody Dragonsworn, but Egwene replies that he takes orders from Rand. What is that, if not Dragonsworn? Mat just looks confused, and returns to his previous tack, telling her Rand can solve all her problems, and mend the Tower for her with no battles or bloodshed. Egwene is intensely annoyed by his patronizing tone, but thinks that she certainly agrees that she doesn’t want bloodshed; once Aes Sedai blood is spilled it will be next to impossible to reunite the Tower. She answers that however she deals with Rand, it will certainly not be by swearing fealty to him, and Mat had better keep quiet about the notion in Salidar if he values his health. Mat glares, and tells her he’ll talk to her again when she’s ready to listen to reason. He asks if Thom is around, and at her nod, goes to leave. Elayne warns him not to try to leave Salidar.
He grinned at her insolently, and the way he eyed her up and down, he was lucky Elayne did not slap him hard enough to loosen all his teeth. “You, my fine Lady, I am taking back to Caemlyn if I have to tie you up in a package to hand to Rand, burn me if I don’t. And I will bloody well leave when I choose.” His bow was mocking, to Elayne and to Egwene. Nynaeve got only a glower and another shake of his finger.
After he goes, Elayne comments that she doesn’t understand how Rand can have such a “low, insufferable lout” for a friend, and Nynaeve agrees emphatically, but Egwene interjects that she ought have let Mat at Nynaeve; she can’t go around kicking people anymore, she is Aes Sedai. Nynaeve goes red and silent, and Egwene sighs and takes off the stole to remind her they are alone. Elayne asks if Egwene means to join Mat’s Band to Bryne’s army, but Egwene doesn’t think this is a very good idea. She explains her scheme to the other two; Elayne thinks it is brilliant, but Nynaeve opines that Mat will spike their plan just for the fun of it. Egwene disagrees, and tells Nynaeve she thinks Mat made a promise; Nynaeve considers, and nods, but Elayne looks confused.
“Elayne, Mat does exactly as he pleases; he always has.”
“No matter how many turnips he had to peel for it,” Nynaeve muttered, “or how often he was switched.”
“Yes, that is Mat,” Egwene sighed. He had been the most irresponsible boy in Emond’s Field, maybe in the Two Rivers. “But if he gives his word, he keeps it. And I think he promised Rand to see you back in Caemlyn, Elayne. You notice he retreated to asking me”—in a way he had—“but you he never changed a hair on. I think he’ll try to stay as close to you as your belt pouch. But we won’t let him even see you unless he does as we want.”
She hesitates, and tells Elayne she can go to Rand instead if she wants, but Elayne replies that Ebou Dar is too important. She comments that Mat must have a ter’angreal, and Egwene agrees, thinking of how the flows had touched him and just melted. Nynaeve suggests frisking him for it, but Egwene points out that that would hardly make Mat disposed to do what they want. Elayne then suggests taking him with them to Ebou Dar, which will give her a chance to try and study it; Nynaeve is violently against this idea, but Elayne thinks it is perfect, and Egwene agrees that having a few soldiers with them would not be amiss in addition to Thom, Juilin, and Birgitte. Elayne flushes, and Nynaeve protests rapidly that Ebou Dari can’t possibly be as touchy as the stories say, and if they survived Tanchico without soldiers they can certainly do the same now. Egwene sighs; any time she mentions Birgitte their reaction is the same. Egwene is sure that the woman in Salidar is truly the Birgitte from legend, but Elayne still refuses to explain, and Egwene is held by her promise not to pry. As a sop to Nynaeve, Egwene points out how annoying Mat would find it to have to play bodyguard for them, and Elayne chimes in that sometimes the best men are reluctant to take orders, and worth teaching; they would be doing Rand a favor.
Egwene tried not to smile; Elayne always caught on so quickly. Then again, she probably was going to try teaching Mat to sit up straight. That would be something to see. She liked Elayne, and admired her strength, but she would bet on Mat in that contest. By a whisker.
Nynaeve is still adamantly against it; the other two are wearing her down when Sheriam enters and looks coolly at Elayne and Nynaeve, who perforce excuse themselves, curtsy, and leave, though Nynaeve tries to have a staring contest with Sheriam first. Egwene tells Nynaeve as she goes that she should probably avoid Mat except when there are a large number of people around, “perhaps a few Warders”. Nynaeve rather faintly agrees.
Sheriam watched the door close with a small frown that she still wore when she turned to Egwene. “There were hard words, Mother?”
“Only what you expect when old friends meet after a long time. Nynaeve remembers Mat as a scamp, but he isn’t ten anymore, and he resents it.” Bound by the Oath against lying, Aes Sedai had carried the half-truth, the quarter-truth and the implication to arts. Useful arts, in Egwene’s opinion. Especially with Aes Sedai. The Three Oaths did no one any favors, least of all Aes Sedai.
Sheriam calmly assumes the leader of the Dragonsworn sent “young Mat” with a message from Rand al’Thor, and hopes Egwene did not make him any promises; Egwene decides it’s time to rattle her composure.
“It seems Mat is the commander, Sheriam, and in a way, the army is the message. Apparently, Rand would like us all to come to him in Caemlyn. There was some mention of oaths of fealty.”
Sheriam reacts with outrage, but also with fear that Egwene might have actually promised such a thing, and Egwene lets her stew a moment before adding that she told him it was ridiculous, of course. Sheriam is visibly relieved, and Egwene continues that unfortunately, given the delicacy of the situation, she doesn’t think simply increasing preparations to leave Salidar will be enough anymore. She reflects on Romanda and Lelaine’s “advice”, which were based on different reasons but amounted to the same thing, which was that they should not leave Salidar at all. Sheriam doesn’t understand, saying surely the preparations are sufficient to show that Egwene will not be bullied by the Hall.
Egwene managed to put on a disingenuous expression. “I understand, Sheriam. I don’t know what I would do without your advice.” How she looked forward to the day she could stop this. Sheriam would make a very good Keeper—she might even have made a good Amyrlin—but Egwene was going to enjoy the day she could teach the woman that she was Keeper, not Amyrlin. Sheriam and the Hall.
But, Egwene continues, she worries about possible conflicts between Bryne’s army and these Dragonsworn, and suggests they could move downriver to Ebou Dar, which would show Rand they are not interested in his offer. Alarmed, Sheriam says that would convince Tylin that they are moving on Altara in force; Egwene answers, but can they afford to stay still, with Dragonsworn at their doorstep? Sheriam answers that they must send the Dragonsworn away, but Egwene counters that she doubts Mat will obey, and implies that Mat said something about waiting for something; orders from Rand, perhaps, or even Rand himself. Sheriam is aghast, though she mostly hides it, and finally says maybe they do need to leave after all.
“But the only way left is north.” Egwene widened her eyes. Light, but she hated this! “It will seem we’re moving toward Tar Valon.”
“I know that,” Sheriam almost snapped. Drawing breath, she moderated her tone. “Forgive me, Mother. I feel a little… I do not like being forced into things, and I fear Rand al’Thor has forced our hand before we are ready.”
“I will speak quite severely when I see him,” Egwene said. “I can hardly think what I would do without your advice.”
She thinks of sending Sheriam to be a Wise One apprentice for a while, and smiles.
Well, thank God EVERYONE’S behaving like a moron now. Share the wealth! Yeeeaaah-blagh.
For the record, no, Nynaeve had absolutely no right to do what she did and I don’t blame Mat in the slightest for being infuriated. However, I am ill-disposed to turn this into a bigger, overarching men vs. women philosophical debate. More often than not the larger picture definitely applies, but in this particular case I contend that it does not, mainly because of Nynaeve and Mat’s specific relationship.
Which is, in my opinion, more one of brother and sister than anything else. They drive each other up the wall; they are constantly looking for opportunities to belittle or humiliate the other; each knows exactly how to push the other’s buttons, and rarely miss a chance to do so. And yet, none of what would be intolerable offenses from another person ultimately does much to change their relationship. In short, it’s got “sibling rivalry” written all over it in letters of fire, if you ask me.
As a person with two sisters, let me assure you from experience that nothing will send you over the Cliffs of Immature Screechy Behavior faster than a sibling who knows precisely what to say or do to make you see red. Fortunately, my sisters and I grew out of that. Mostly. Nynaeve and Mat, obviously, have a ways to go.
I also think the reason they clash so much has to do with a certain base similarity between them (which I’ve noted before), which neither would ever believe exists but which is pretty clear to outside observers, I think. Don’t get me wrong, in a lot of ways they are obviously very different, but they each possess a certain degree of willful self-blindness, as well as mule-headed stubbornness and a distinct lack of tact which is practically guaranteed to cause sparks when the two meet up. How could it not? And yet, they are each in their way very noble, in the old sense of that word.
One thing I did really like is that even Nynaeve admitted freely Mat’s virtue (or stubbornness, take your pick) in adhering to his word. She also acknowledges (grudgingly, but she does acknowledge it) that Mat may be a player, but he restricts his attentions to women who want those attentions, in a bit I skipped over in the summary. It says something about Mat’s constance in those attributes that not even Nynaeve can find a way to poke holes in it.
It is a shame that this whole episode prejudices Elayne against Mat to the extent it does. Mostly because we will have to deal with the fallout from it for most of the entire Ebou Dar plotline. Sigh.
Speaking of Elayne, I originally considered her decision to go to Ebou Dar instead of Caemlyn to be foolish (and, additionally, an artificial way to draw out that entire plotline), but on reflection I do see the logic. If the weather isn’t fixed, pretty soon she wouldn’t have a nation to be queen of. However, this does not stop it from being frustrating; I get a little starry-eyed, imagining how much would have been sped up if she’d just gone to Caemlyn now instead of three books later.
Anyway. In other news, Egwene’s sneakiness re: the other Aes Sedai is still awesome. Girl can think on her feet. It’s funny that even I was startled, on first reading, to have Mat equated with “Dragonsworn”, because Egwene’s calling him that was perfectly logical, really, though of course she was only doing so for tactical advantage; even she doesn’t really consider Mat (or Perrin, I’m sure) to be the same thing as a bunch of random bandits.
It sure came in handy, though, didn’t it? I am all for something that gets this plotline moving.
Aight, that all there is and there ain’t no more, ya heard me? Have a scrumptious weekend, people, and I’ll see you Monday!