Monday, Monday, and time for another Wheel of Time Re-read, crafted by expert marksmen just for you! Poing!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 3 and 4 of A Crown of Swords, in which territory is covered, and, yeah.
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of yummy tidbits regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And that’s all the news that’s fit to print, or blog, or whatever, so without further ado and with obscure cut text, I give you, the post!
Chapter 3: Hill of the Golden Dawn
The various parties of Rand’s forces arrive through the gateway on a hill some miles from Cairhien. Perrin comes through in the middle, and after musing for a bit on whether Elayne would take him to task for flying Manetheren’s banner, thinks back on Rand’s behavior before they went through. After searching the wagons from top to bottom twice (Perrin thinks for a coat), he asked Flinn and Grady whether they thought Rand’s enemies had been asleep while he had been away.
One of the Asha’man waiting to go through first, the stocky fellow with a farmer’s face, looked at Rand uncertainly, then at the leathery old man with the limp. Each wore a silver sword pin on his collar, but not the Dragon. “Only a fool thinks his enemies stand still when he isn’t looking, my Lord Dragon,” the old man said in a gruff voice. He sounded like a soldier.
“What about you, Dashiva?”
Dashiva gave a start, surprised to be addressed. “I . . . grew up on a farm.” He tugged his sword belt straight, which it did not need. Supposedly they trained with the swords as much as with the Power, but Dashiva did not seem to know one end from the other. “I don’t know much about having enemies.” Despite his awkwardness, there was a kind of insolence to him. But then, the whole lot seemed weaned on arrogance.
“If you stay near me,” Rand said softly, “you will.”
The small army finishes coming through, and Dashiva takes the gateway down; Perrin notes he appears to be talking to himself, and hopes he is not going mad already. Rand studies the land, and then Perrin; he remarks that he trusts Perrin, and Min, and Loial, but there are so few he can trust like that. He is interrupted by the fourth Asha’man, Narishma, who points out an Aiel woman running toward them from the city, who proves to be a Wise One named Feraighin. Sorilea and the other Wise Ones consult with her when she arrives, and when Rand, Min, Perrin, Rhuarc, Gaul, Aram, Loial, and the Maidens joins them, Sorilea tells Rand Feraighin’s news, that trouble began in the tents when the rumors that Rand had left to submit to the Amrylin Seat started circulating. Rand asks quietly what was the result.
“Many believe you have abandoned the Aiel,” Amys told him just as quietly. “The bleakness has returned. Every day a thousand or more throw down their spears and vanish, unable to face our future, or our past. Some may be going to the Shaido.”
She continues that the clan chiefs have made no move yet, but are bandying about notions of leaving the wetlands or even attacking Tar Valon. Rhuarc is visibly upset, and Perrin protests that it’s bad, yes, but surely it will be fine once they see Rand is back. Rand asks Sorilea to explain what they’re missing.
“You return with Aes Sedai. Some will believe that means you did bend knee. Whatever you say or do, they will believe you wear an Aes Sedai halter. And that is before it is known you were a prisoner. Secrets find crevices a flea could not slip through, and a secret known by so many has wings.”
Perrin tries not to think about what would happen if the Aiel abandoned Rand, but Sorilea interrupts herself to glare daggers at Kiruna, Bera, and Alanna, who have come up to the group. She tells them they eavesdropped with the Power without permission and left the wagons, two things Sorilea specifically told them not to do. The Aes Sedai stare back defiantly. Rand, paying no attention to this, guesses that Colavaere has been crowned queen; Sorilea confirms this uninterestedly, and Perrin is overcome with worry about Faile, who he thinks may be a target for Colavaere’s ire. He comforts himself with the thought that Bain and Chiad would protect her. Kiruna tells Rand that this is a delicate situation, but Rand ignores her and asks Sorilea if Colavaere harmed Berelain; Sorilea answers that she has not. When prompted, Feraighin adds that Colavaere is telling everyone that Rand will return and confirm her on the throne, and is encouraging the Aiel to leave the city, saying it’s on Rand’s orders. Rand wants to know if anything else is happening, and Feraighin says that the rebels Caraline Damodred and Toram Riatin have moved to a camp south of the city and issued a proclamation that Colavaere is a usurper, and were shortly thereafter joined by the Tairen rebels led by Darlin Sisnera, but otherwise have done nothing except drink and feast. As an afterthought, she adds that there are Aes Sedai in the city, and both Rand and Sorilea jump down her throat, demanding more information. Flustered, Feraighin alternates between telling Rand that there are maybe ten of them staying in Arilyn’s house, and trying to placate Sorilea. All the other Aiel find this hilarious, but Perrin breaks in to ask Feraighin if Faile is well. Feraighin thinks so (calling Perrin “Sei’cair”), which Perrin hardly considers sufficient information, but then Kiruna bulls in, telling Rand that the situation is “complex beyond [his] imagining, so fragile a breath could shatter it”, and that she and Bera and Alanna will accompany him to keep him from visiting on Cairhien “the same disaster you gave Tarabon and Arad Doman”.
Perrin winced. The whole speech could not have been better designed to inflame Rand. But Rand simply listened till she was done, then turned to Sorilea. “Take the Aes Sedai to the tents. All of them, for now. Make sure everyone knows they’re Aes Sedai. Let it be seen that they hop when you say toad. Since you hop when the Car’a’carn says it, that should convince everybody I’m not wearing an Aes Sedai leash.”
Kiruna’s face grew bright red; she smelled of outrage and indignation so strongly that Perrin’s nose itched. Bera tried to calm her, without much success, while shooting you-ignorant-young-lout looks at Rand, and Alanna bit her lip in an effort not to smile. Going by the odors drifting from Sorilea and the others, Alanna had no reason to be pleased.
The group breaks up; Perrin tries to get Feraighin alone to pump her for information about Faile, but the Wise Ones take her off. Aram thinks there’s going to be fighting in the city. Gaul is muttering about women, and tells Perrin his woes re: Chiad and Bain; he is indignant that Chiad is willing to take him as a lover (as long as Bain gets to share), but she will not marry him, even though Gaul is willing to marry Bain as well, which Gaul interprets to mean that he’s not good enough to be worth marrying. In the process of this story he mentions that Chiad and Bain are with the Maidens here, and is startled when Perrin roars at him that they were supposed to be protecting Faile. Puzzled, Gaul points out that Faile is “out of short skirts”; Perrin tries to explain his fears about assassination. Loial tries to comfort him that Faile knows how to take care of herself.
“Perrin . . . Perrin, you know you can’t always be there to protect Faile, however much you want to. You are ta’veren; the Pattern spun you out for a purpose, and it will use you for that purpose.”
“Burn the Pattern,” Perrin growled. “It can all burn, if it keeps her safe.” Loial’s ears went rigid with shock, and even Gaul looked taken aback.
What does that make me? Perrin thought. He had been scornful of those who scribbled and scrabbled for their own ends, ignoring the Last Battle and the Dark One’s shadow creeping over the world. How was he different from them? […] He had no answer for his own questions, but he knew one thing. To him, Faile was the world.
Someone pointed out in the comments to the last entry that the whole Gedwyn/Taim nod exchange in the earlier chapter had been about not finding Rand’s fat man angreal, which I think we’re told later is what Rand was having the wagons torn apart looking for here. I don’t know how exactly Taim was supposed to have known about the angreal, but okay.
All the same, I do wonder what happened to it. As far as I can recall, the fat man angreal is never seen again after this point. It probably became something of a moot point after Rand had the Choedan Kal to play with, but still. Oh well: of all the loose ends floating about, this is one I can definitely deal with being left hanging, all things considered.
Flinn: It’s amazing how much projection will do for you. Flinn really doesn’t have that much exposure as a character overall; he only has a few lines here and there, especially at this point, and yet I think he’s awesome. It is to Jordan’s credit that a character can be so easily defined to the reader (well, to this reader, anyway) in so few lines, but I have an extremely clear picture of Flinn and how he behaves already, and I really like him. Insert standard grumble here of how little we get to see of the Asha’man in general over the next books.
I remember, when first reading this, being nearly frantic with worry over the Aiel’s disaffection with Rand. Creating frustration and tension is another thing Jordan was really good at, and I say this with a kind of begrudging admiration, because, well, frustration and tension are not actually fun to experience, but, you know, kudos on achieving what you wanted to achieve, right?
And again we see one of the prevalent themes of WOT, of the malignancy of misinformation, and the corollary that people will interpret what they see the way they want to, and damn is that frustrating. More frustration! And yet, that makes the Wise Ones’ behavior toward the Aes Sedai even more understandable, given that the Wise Ones are, among other things, the PR section of the Aiel in general, in that they are concerned with how things appear as well as how things really are. Anyone who disputes that the two are very different things has not lived in the real world very long, is what I’m saying. And that is also frustrating!
Speaking of the Aes Sedai, someone (else) mentioned in the comments to the last entry that they suspected Kiruna was supposed to come off much cooler than she does, but I don’t know if that’s so, because damn. I cannot think of a single time she is on screen from the moment she appears that I don’t want to smack her upside the head. How could she possibly have thought that Rand would kowtow to her “advice” at this point? Of course, I’m trying to think of a way that she could have changed her behavior without flat-out admitting that she and the other Aes Sedai were Not In Charge, and I’m having a difficult time coming up with one, so maybe it’s not surprising that she decided to take the linebacker method: just put your head down and try to barrel through anything in your way.
It didn’t work, obviously, but when brute strength has always given you everything before, it can be hard to believe that another method is necessary. It’s interesting, in that you don’t generally get to see female characters behave this way, with this faith that bulling through will get you what you want, but in Randland, Aes Sedai really have been the “heavies”, so to speak, so it fits. Until now, of course. It’s got to be a difficult thing to come to terms with, now that I think about it.
As an aside, I give Rand kudos for intuiting the perfect way to defuse her, which is to say, to ignore her entirely. I got quite a chuckle out of that, I have to say.
Also, Perrin obsesses about Faile in this chapter. Shocking! And we set the set-up here for the Plotline That Won’t Die, that Perrin is going to go completely off the Light-side rails when Faile is kidnapped, so thank God for that, really. Sigh.
As a last random note, I think it is much better that I don’t dwell on the Bain/Gaul/Chiad thing, as the logistics of it can get quite brain-melting if you think about it for more than a few minutes. All I’m going to say is, threesomes are logistically problematic enough even when all three parties are enthusiastic about it, but when one of the three is… not so into one of the other three, well, that’s just… a problem. I can’t see how Bain’s going to get any satisfaction out of this regardless of how it’s resolved, is all I’m going to say.
Chapter 4: Into Cairhien
The army heads toward Cairhien while Perrin frets about Faile. Her horse, Swallow, is with the Two Rivers men, and Perrin tries to convince himself that if he can manage to get the horse to Cairhien safe, then that will mean Faile will be safe, too. Min tries to reassure him several times, finally growling at him frustratedly that if anyone tries to do anything, Faile will make them “wait out in the hall till she has time for them”. Loial also tries to reassure Perrin:
“I am sure Faile can look after herself, Perrin. She is not like Erith. I can hardly wait for Erith to make me her husband so I can tend her; I think I’d die if she changed her mind.” At the end of that, his mouth remained open, and his huge eyes popped; ears fluttering, he stumbled over his own boots and nearly fell. “I never meant to say that,” he said hoarsely, striding along beside Perrin’s horse once more. His ears still trembled. “I am not sure I want to—I’m too young to get—” Swallowing hard, he gave Perrin an accusing look, and spared one for Rand up ahead, too. “It is hardly safe to open your mouth with two ta’veren about. Anything at all might come out!”
They reach a rise just outside the city, and see that a fourth flag, in Colavaere’s House colors, has been added to Rand’s two banners and the Cairhien rising sun banner, which Dobraine grimly says confirms the Aiel’s report that she has taken the throne. He also points out that a new ruler always gives out lavish gifts to the commoners upon their coronation, and Rand is risking a riot if he unseats her. Rand decides to enter the city with only a token company. There is a brief argument over who is coming into the city with Rand, with Min and Loial insisting on coming along; surprisingly, Dashiva objects to the plan, pointing out that all it takes is one man with a bow Rand doesn’t see in time, and suggesting sending an Asha’man instead to “do what needs doing”.
“I will do this my way.” [Rand’s] voice rose in anger, and he smelled of cold fury. “Nobody dies unless it can’t be avoided, Dashiva. I’ve had a bellyful of death. Do you understand me? Nobody!”
“As my Lord Dragon commands.” The fellow inclined his head, but he sounded sour, and he smelled . . .
Perrin rubbed his nose. The smell . . . skittered, dodging wildly through fear and hate and anger and a dozen more emotions almost too quickly to make out. He no longer doubted the man was mad, however good a face the fellow put on. Perrin no longer really cared, either. This close . . .
Perrin takes off for the city without waiting for anyone else, but the rest soon catch him up. They reach the Foregate, and Perrin notes uneasily that though Rand is fairly anonymous in his plain coat, the Aiel in the crowds know who a wetlander escorted by Maidens must be, and their expressions are “considering”. They head through the city without incident, and when they reach the palace, Asha’man immobilize the guards at the gates, and the party enters the courtyard with no alarm raised; servants take away the horses, and they head into the palace, where they are met by Selande and several others who have started imitating ji’e’toh. They kneel, and one of the women, Camaille Nolaisen, stammers that they did not expect the Lord Dragon to return so soon. Perrin notes that Selande smells terrified.
“Yes,” Rand said softly. “I doubt anyone thought I would return—so soon. None of you has any reason to be afraid of me. None at all. If you believe anything, believe that.” Surprisingly, he looked right at Selande when he said that. Her head whipped up, and as she stared at him, the fear smell faded. Not completely, but down to a tatter. How had Rand known it was there?
Rand asks where Colavaere is, and Selande answers that she is in the throne room, for the “third Sunset Convocation”, and Dobraine mutters that she certainly wasted no time, as that makes this the ninth sunset since her coronation. Selande tells Rand that they are ready to “dance the blades” for him, which makes the Maidens either wince or look murderous, and Perrin demands to know where his wife is. Selande answers slowly that she is in the throne room, too, as one of Colavaere’s attendants; one of the others hisses at her that they swore “water oath” not to tell that. Perrin is astounded, and Min whispers to him that she is sure Faile must have a good reason.
Rand spoke. “Selande, lead the way to the Grand Hall. There will be no blades. I am here to see justice done, to all who deserve it.”
Something in his voice made Perrin’s hackles rise. A hardness grim as a hammer’s face. Faile did have a good reason. She had to.
Loial is still adorable, all “freaking ta’veren!” Heh.
I chuckled at Min’s backhanded compliment to Faile, too, which I have to say would probably be somewhat similar to my own reaction to Faile had I met her in real life; which is to say, she would annoy the hell out of me even as I admired her for her better qualities.
Dashiva: The things Perrin smells were a nicely done red herring; this is one of the passages that threw me off, initially, in deciding that he had to be Osan’gar, but I suppose in retrospect it’s not that surprising that he should be that conflicted, considering that he is tasked (both as his cover identity and by the Dark One) with protecting the very person who is his deadliest enemy. Especially considering that Rand was the one who killed him the first time around, which could hardly be expected to dispose Aginor/Osan’gar/Dashiva favorably toward him. Even I couldn’t blame the guy for holding a grudge on that one, really.
I always enjoy the interactions between the main characters and someone – small, I guess? Is that condescending? – like Selande, and how she loses her fear of Rand here. I guess it’s just nice that with all the large-scale stuff going on, Rand still takes the time to try and reassure her, in his way, and that it works; this is something he rather loses the ability or inclination to do as time goes on, and which I think is one of the main ways in which he becomes less sympathetic as a character. Don’t forget the little people, Rand!
And… that’s about all I have to say about this chapter, as it is mainly a ramp-up to the Big Things a-happening in the next.
Which we will get to next time, Gadget, next time! So have fun as I zoom off in my rocket avec screeching cat-noises, kids, and see you on Friday!