Good morning! Or afternoon! Or whatever! It doesn’t matter, because it is a glorious discrete chunk of the diurnal cycle regardless, and I have a Wheel of Time Re-read for you!
But, you are not imagining that I will be covering Chapters 19-20 of A Crown of Swords, because I totally am. Covering them. Covering them in GLORY.
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.
Don’t mind me, nothing to see here. Move along!
Chapter 19: Diamonds and Stars
Merana and Annoura follow Cadsuane silently, while Merana tries to convince herself she is not intimidated by the woman, whom she met only met once as a novice.
Once Cadsuane Melaidhrin had been the standard by which every new entry into the novice books was judged. Until Elayne Trakand, none had come to the White Tower in her lifetime who could match that standard, much less surpass it. In more ways than one, her like had not walked among Aes Sedai for a thousand years. […] She would end a legend among Aes Sedai. If she was not already.
She had retired several times, but always reappeared when something major happened in the world. Merana tells herself to stop babbling Cadsuane legends to herself like a novice. They pass two Wise Ones in the hall (Edarra and Leyn), who stare at the sisters coldly, and Merana realizes that she will have to be the one to explain the “compromise” she and the other sisters sworn to “young al’Thor” had worked out with the Wise Ones. She thinks it was the best they could have hoped for under the circumstances, but strongly doubts Cadusane will agree. She tries to convince herself it was ta’veren swirling that had caused her to babble what she had to al’Thor, rather than fear of him, but thinks that either way he had all the advantages now. Merana is surprised that Cadsuane leads them to the small room Bera and Kiruna are sharing in the Palace, where they are met by a very low-ranking White sister named Daigian, who immediately goes to serve tea. Cadsuane supposes that Merana’s presence means the tales about al’Thor submitting to Elaida are false, scoffing at Merana’s surprise that Cadsuane knows about her “associations” (which Cadsuane makes sound like a bad word). When questioned in turn, Annoura explains that she is only here to advise Berelain, and has made no decision about the rest of the situation.
“A wise decision, that,” Cadsuane murmured, with a pointed look at Merana. “It seems that in the last few years far too many sisters have forgotten they possess brains, or discretion. There was a time when Aes Sedai reached their decisions after calm deliberation, with the good of the Tower always in the front of their thoughts. Just remember what the Sanche girl got from meddling with al’Thor, Annoura. Walk too near a forge-fire, and you can be burned badly.”
Merana asks, far too diffidently, what Cadsuane’s intentions are regarding Rand, and adds awkwardly that she had been “rather undiplomatic” with him; Annoura puts in that Cadsuane might as well have slapped him.
“If you want to see what a man is made of, push him from a direction he doesn’t expect. There’s good metal in that boy, I think, but he’s going to be difficult.” Steepling her fingers, she peered across them at the wall, musing to herself. “He has a rage in him fit to burn the world, and he holds it by a hair. Push him too far off balance . . . Phaw! Al’Thor’s not so hard yet as Logain Ablar or Mazrim Taim, but a hundred times as difficult, I fear.” Hearing those three names together clove Merana’s tongue to the roof of her mouth.
Annoura says that she’s heard Taim is following al’Thor, and Merana is relieved that tales of Dumai’s Wells evidently haven’t gotten around yet; Cadsuane is irritated that all her work is undone on that score, and reminisces about the fun she’d had chasing down both Logain and Taim for a moment, before suddenly breaking off to ask them if they’d had anything to do with “that vileness” after the Aiel War. Merana has no idea what she’s talking about, and Annoura seems just as confused, but Cadsuane does not explain. Then Corele Hovian (Yellow) enters, herding Bera and Kiruna; the latter’s eyes bulge when they see Cadsuane.
“I thought you were dead,” Bera breathed.
Cadsuane sniffed irritably. “I am growing tired of hearing that. The next imbecile I hear it from is going to yelp for a week.” Annoura began studying the toes of her slippers.
Corele relates with great amusement that she had found Bera and Kiruna sitting “meek as mice” with a bunch of Aiel wilders, who told Corele that she would have to wait to have them until Sorilea (“a harridan to give you nightmares, she is”) was done talking with her “apprentices.” Bera and Kiruna go beet-red, and Merana is tremendously relieved that now she would not have to be the one to explain anything. Cadsuane comments that she’d expected the situation to be bad, but not “a bucket from the midden.” But, she supposes, after rebelling against a lawful Amyrlin, what’s one more treason more or less? Bera begins to protest about the “lawful Amyrlin” part, but Cadsuane interrupts to say that Elaida may be a disaster waiting to happen, but she is still the Amyrlin. Bera asks why Cadsuane hasn’t obeyed the summons to return to the Tower, then; Cadsuane chuckles and comments that at least one of them has some backbone. Then she proceeds to interrogate them all relentlessly.
What Cadsuane thought of the answers was impossible to say, except once, when she learned that Alanna had bonded al’Thor, and how. Her mouth compressed to a thin line and she frowned a hole though the wall, but while everyone else expressed disgust, Merana thought of Cadsuane saying she had considered taking another Warder herself.
Merana is relieved they manage to keep some things back; she knows al’Thor will be furious when he finds out Kiruna had let slip about the kidnapping, but at least they had not told about his treatment during his captivity, as he had made it clear how displeased he would be if that came out. Merana feels sick. She and the others had argued at length about what exactly their oath to al’Thor meant; in the end even Kiruna had agreed that it meant they must defend and support al’Thor as well as obey him, but Merana wonders if Bera and Kiruna have realized that their decision might now pitch them against a living legend. She’s sure Cadsuane knows it perfectly well.
Min hurries through the Palace, ignoring greetings from Maidens and trying not to cry. Outside Rand’s apartments, Riallin warns Min that he is in a foul temper, but does not stop her from entering. Inside, Min is aghast at the wreckage of the room; Rand is in a chair with his head flung back, staring at the ceiling, but Min cannot make herself be afraid of him.
She had long since reconciled herself to being hopelessly in love. Nothing else mattered, not that he was an unsophisticated countryman, younger than she, not who or what he was, not that he was doomed to go mad and die if he was not killed first. I don’t even mind having to share him, she thought, and knew how tightly she was caught if she could lie to herself.
She is sure he is in love with her too (and Elayne and Aviendha too, she tries not to think), but he would try to send her away if he found out she loved him. She wonders if he really believes that just because Lews Therin killed those he loved, that he is fated to do the same. Rand suddenly says he’s glad she’s there, and tells her Herid Fel is dead, torn limb from limb; he wishes he knew what Herid could have told him that warranted his death like that. Min is shocked and grieved by the news, thinking what a sweet old man Herid had been, but tries to think of what it could be that he was killed for. Rand apologizes for telling her like that, and brushes tears from her cheek; Min flings her arms around him, sobbing, and tells him how she had gone to Colavaere’s apartments, hoping to find some way to avert her viewing, and found Colavaere hanging from her bedpost. Rand hugs her back, and wishes he could take some of her pain away, and Min mumbles for him to kiss her. Rand is startled, and she tells him she is not teasing this time.
“I’m cold inside, sheepherder. Colavaere, and Master Fel . . . I need to feel warm flesh. I need . . . Please?”
His head lowered so slowly. It was a brother’s kiss, at first, mild as milk-water, soothing, comforting. Then it became something else. Not at all soothing. Jerking upright, he tried to pull away. “Min, I can’t. I have no right—”
Seizing two handfuls of his hair, she pulled his mouth back down, and after a little while, he stopped fighting. She was not certain whether her hands began tearing at the laces of his shirt first or his at hers, but of one thing she was absolutely sure. If he even tried to stop now, she was going to fetch one of Riallin’s spears, all of them, and stab him.
Cadsuane studies the Aiel wilders as she leaves the Palace; she thinks she’s seen Aes Sedai regarded with awe, hate, adoration, or fear, but she’s never seen contempt before. She dismisses the Aiel, though, to concentrate on al’Thor.
The al’Thor boy needed to be kept intrigued enough that he allowed her near him, and off-balance enough that she could nudge him where she wanted without him realizing. One way or another, anything that might interfere with that must be controlled or suppressed. Nothing could be allowed to influence him, or upset him, in the wrong way. Nothing.
She says to Corele and Daigian that she may skin Elaida for making her task near impossible, but then laughs and remembers that the one thing guaranteed to spark her interest was to tell her something was impossible to accomplish, maybe because so few things were.
Any day now might be her last, but young al’Thor would be a fitting end to it all.
Hokay, I’ll get to freakin’ Cadsuane in a second. Min and Rand first! And I say:
Yay, the sexing!
Seriously: yay. Not only do I think Min deserves major snugglies for the crap she’s been through, I am also wildly in favor of anything that serves as a pressure valve for Mr. Could Blow At Any Moment.
Um. So to speak.
So, loved loved loved this bit. Not least because, in my opinion, this scene between Rand and Min is probably the most romantically effective (or is that effectively romantic?) “sex” scene in all of WOT. (Out of all, what, four of them in twelve books, but hey.) I won’t lie, I got all girly and “Le sigh” for a second there—and still do, every time I read the scene. I don’t know, it just works for me. Aw.
Also, MAJOR foreshadowing here, in Min’s thoughts about Rand and Lews Therin and killing the ones they love, of the scene that almost gave me a heart attack in TGS. You know which one I mean. Which is… impressive. It’s like someone had a Plan!
Oh, and also, bye, Colavaere! At least I don’t have to remember how to spell your name anymore!
(That had to have really majorly sucked, though, for Min to see that, even if she hadn’t predicted it first. It’s not like when you see hanged people on TV, you guys; that shit is nasty in real life. Or, whatever. Snugglies are the least the plot could do for her after that, if you ask me.)
Herid Fel: What he would have told Rand (aka What The Bloody Hell Does That Damn Note Mean Already) is what I predict will be one of the very last WOT Mysteries to be cleared up in the series, if not the last. I trust my reasoning on this is fairly obvious.
As to what I think the answer actually is, well. I think it’s pretty much a given at this point (especially after TGS) that “clearing the rubble” refers to removing the seals presently patching the Dark One’s prison, so that’s all right, but (as Rand himself quite rightly points out) knowing that is worth exactly jack if you don’t have any idea what to do next.
So, it’s all about the “belief and order give strength” hoohah. And… yeah, I dunno. Several people (here and elsewhere) have suggested that the line refers to women and men finally working together to wield the One Power, balance to the Force, yin and yang, ebony and ivory, live together in perfect harmony, yadda.
And I say, sure, why not. I still don’t see how that clears up what they’re actually supposed to DO with this mystic bout of Kumbaya, but sure, symbolically it works.
Do I seem blasé? Well, I am, but it’s only because I am so cool, man.
Or not. No, really, it’s just that since this seems to be the bit that concerns the ultimate pivot point of the entire plot of the series—like, this is what it’s all ABOUT, maaaan—I’m actually not all that interested in figuring it out ahead of time.
I’d prefer to find it out when, you know, it actually happens. I know, I’m just a nut over here.
Aaaand now I guess I have to talk about Cadsuane. *grumble*
Of course, the issue of her motivations and/or strategic savvy and/or coolness as a character have already been quite efficiently discussed to death in the comments to the previous entry, with many a cogent and persuasive argument put forth on both the pro- and anti-Cadsuane front, to the point where I feel rather superfluous to the issue.
I would pout about this, but frankly, the less time I have to spend talking about Cadsuane the happier a camper I’ll be. So let me sum up by saying that I can totally see where the pro-Cads folk are coming from and totally agree with the reasoning on why she is the way she is and even agree that her strategy re: Rand is not completely insane when looked at the right way—I can do all that, and not have the fact that I haaaaaaaaaaaaate her change one tiny little bit.
Sorry, guys. Everyone has their irrational prejudices re: character likes and dislikes, and Cadsuane is one of mine. I freely admit it. She is nails on the chalkboard of my soul, whether she deserves to be or not, and that’s about the size of it.
Oh, and when I read Merana’s theory here that Cads was only upset about Alanna forcibly bonding Rand because she was thinking of doing it first?
AGH WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN AGH HEADDESKHEADDESKHEADDESK
That? Did not help.
Though, I suppose it’s arguable whether Cadsuane would really have done it without asking first, but since I don’t see any POSSIBLE way she could have convinced Rand to agree to it without doing it by ambush (I mean, come ON), well. Perhaps I am underestimating her powers of persuasion, but given the next few books, I tend to doubt it.
Either way, the whole notion rates at least five Crispin Glovers on my Scale O’ Skeeve. I mean, can you imagine being psychically bound to that? I weep. And throw up a little in my mouth.
I will attempt to discuss Cadsuane more rationally in the future, I promise. I won’t promise to succeed, but I promise to try.
Chapter 20: Patterns Within Patterns
Sevanna sits with her inner circle of Shaido Wise Ones, and comments that either the Car’a’carn is not pursuing them, or he can’t find them, and either one works. She notes with contempt how poorly the others hide their fear at the mention of him; she thinks there is reason to be afraid, but no reason to show it. Rhiale mutters that they should get on with it, and Sevanna takes out the gray cube the wetlander Caddar had given her and explains how it is to be activated with Fire to summon Caddar. The Wise Ones dither, but in the end obey, and some react with disgust when they realize the cube is drawing saidin as well as saidar once it is activated. Modarra wonders what will happen if they try Fire somewhere else.
“Power the callbox too much or in the wrong way, and it may melt,” a man’s voice said out of the air. “It could even ex—”
The voice is cut off as the Wise Ones jump up, searching for the voice, and Sevanna irritably orders them to sit down and start channeling again. They do, and Caddar’s voice asks if she has al’Thor. Sevanna is warned by his tone, and discards the lie she’d prepared, answering honestly that she does not, but still needs to meet with Caddar. Caddar congratulates her dryly for not lying, calling her “girl”, and tells her to hold the line until he comes to her. Sevanna is incensed at this disrespect, but commands the Wise Ones to keep channeling into the device. The Wise Ones don’t like this, and argue about the situation until two wetlanders, a man and a woman, emerge (noisily, by Aiel standards) from the forest. Sevanna recognizes Caddar, and Someryn whispers to her that his companion can channel very strongly, in a way which makes Sevanna suspect the woman is considerably stronger than Someryn herself.
Right then, she did not care whether the woman could move mountains or barely light a candle. She must be Aes Sedai. She did not have the face, yet some Sevanna had seen did not. That must be how Caddar could put his hand on ter’angreal. That was how he could find them and come. So soon; so quickly. Possibilities unfolded, and hope grew. But between him and her, who commanded?
She whispers back to Someryn to touch her leg if she senses the woman channeling, and invites Caddar “and his woman” to sit. Caddar introduces his companion as “Maisia,” which seems to infuriate her, but she says nothing. Sevanna asks if Caddar has the thing that will control Rand al’Thor. Caddar wants to know why, when she doesn’t have al’Thor in the first place, and Sevanna replies that she will; Caddar smiles, and answers that she will get it once she has secured al’Thor, then, as it will not help overcome him, only control him afterward. Sevanna asks if this thing will control Aes Sedai as well (which rivets the Wise Ones’ attention), but Caddar only replies, perhaps. One of the Wise Ones (Tion) flatly demands proof, and Caddar smiles tightly and orders Maisia to play with the callbox. The gray cube rises up and bounces about; Maisia says to Caddar that she thinks that’s quite sufficient, but the callbox keeps moving until Caddar tells her to stop. Maisia looks furious, and Sevanna tries not to appear too eager.
What worked on one woman with the gift would work on another. No need with Someryn and Modarra, perhaps, but Rhiale, and Therava . . . She could not appear too eager, not when the others knew there were no Aes Sedai captives.
Caddar tells her it will take time to procure, though. Sevanna asks if he can teach how they traveled so quickly to the meeting, and Caddar says the woman can’t do that, but he can obtain “traveling boxes” to take the Shaido to richer lands. Sevanna casually asks to know more.
The watcher slips through the forest, watching Graendal and Sammael leave the Aiel camp, and wonders if it was wise of Sammael to let the link between them dissolve.
The watcher followed and listened. They had no idea. The True Power, drawn directly from the Great Lord, could neither be seen nor detected except by who wielded it. Black flecks floated across his vision. There was a price, to be sure, one that grew with each use, but he had always been willing to pay the price when it was necessary. Being filled with the True Power was almost like kneeling beneath Shayol Ghul, basking in the Great Lord’s glory. The glory was worth the pain.
Sammael is marveling to Graendal that “the silly girl” had suggested herself exactly what he wanted, and Graendal points out that that silly girl will “cut out [his] heart and eat it” if she gets a chance. She mentions Sammael’s claim of a truce with al’Thor, puzzled by it in light of the conversation they’d just had, and the watcher thinks that claim was as risky as it was untrue. Sammael answers that he’d had nothing to with al’Thor’s kidnapping; Mesaana was definitely involved, and perhaps Demandred and Semirhage, “despite how it ended”, but not him. He suggests that perhaps Graendal ought to consider what exactly the Great Lord meant about leaving al’Thor “unharmed.” The watcher notes that Graendal is not flirting with him at all, and knows that it means Graendal considers Sammael to have been set above her, for the moment at least. Graendal demands to know what Sammael’s game is with the Aiel, and if he really intends to allow these savages to get hold of al’Thor; Sammael opens a gateway, and tells her small increases in chaos are as important as large, and “Maisia” will learn to be satisfied with what he gives her. Graendal tells him if he calls her that again, she will kill him.
Her voice held even less expression than her face. She meant it. The watcher tensed. If she tried, one of the two would die. Should he interfere? Black flecks sped across his eyes, faster, faster.
Sammael met her stare with one just as hard. “Remember who will be Nae’blis, Graendal,” he said, and stepped through his gateway.
Graendal almost leaves by her own gateway, but then follows Sammael, and the watcher grins to himself, thinking that claim was an even greater risk than the one about a truce – unless it were true, of course. He muses that the Great Lord delights in setting his servants against each other to see who was stronger. He considers killing the Aiel women in the clearing, but decides to leave them for now.
To his ears, the world screamed as he used the True Power to rip a small hole and step outside the Pattern. Sammael did not know how truly he spoke. Small increases in chaos could be every bit as important as large.
Sevanna: Is annoying. And uses a cube. The End.
Okay, not really, but damn. A Cadsuane chapter back-to-back with a Sevanna chapter? That’s just cold, man. Why hast Jordan Forsaken me?
Yes, I know, that was awful, straight to punner’s hell I go, etc. But seriously. At least there was sexing in the middle. (Yay)
Although, at least on the Forsaken side of things there’s a lot more going on here than I initially noticed. On first reading, for example, I didn’t really analyze why Sammael had dragged Graendal to this little pow-wow; I just assumed that he was doing it to be a domineering jerk, more or less.
And of course he was being a domineering jerk, but that was just a bonus: the real purpose of having her there was to give Sevanna a plausible explanation of why a supposedly non-channeling man had access to Power objects and could do all the funky things he does. Not to mention, his little trick with linking with Graendal and making the box dance cemented his credentials re: really having something that could let a nonchanneler control channelers. Rather clever, really (she says, archly).
Of course, there is the fact that he really does have something that will let a nonchanneler control a channeler, which actually kind of ruins the cleverness, sort of. Maybe. Or, I’m short on sleep. The POINT is, none of this is terribly deep insight or anything, but I did not see it before and on reflection the chapter title is well chosen and yay layers.
“Chosen,” hah. Okay, okay! I’ll stop, I swear.
Then there is the infamous Watcher, who I swear created more confusion and illogical wild-theory-spinning than just about anything in WOT, with the notable exceptions of Asmodean and Taimandred, of course. But the Watcher/Wanderer thing is definitely up there, and there are people who are STILL to this day confused about this.
Let me help! I can point you to the FAQ entry explaining this, which is worth reading, but the short version is this:
Watcher = the guy we just saw in this chapter
Wanderer = the guy who sort-of helps Rand in Shadar Logoth at the end of this book
Both = Moridin.
The End. No, really. No, really. They are both Moridin, end of discussion.
REALLY. I TOTES SWEAR.
Oh, and also, Moridin = Ishamael Reloaded. If you dispute this in the comments you will be Smote with the Wrath of Cluebat for being too dumb to live. Don’t be that guy. Really.
Not that it wasn’t meant to be confusing—it was—but at this stage of the game, come on, you guys. Release.
(Oh, and also also, the titles “Watcher” and “Wanderer” are straight from the text: Moridin is called a “watcher” here by the narration, and in Shadar Logoth he calls himself a “wanderer” when Rand asks who he is. This is another thing that seems to confuse the hell out of people, and I’ve never really understood why.)
(Oh, and also also also, “fancloth”, which I just realized I forgot to mention in the summary that the watcher is all wrapped up in = Warder cloak material, except presumably Moridin’s is weapons-grade quality. I don’t remember where I heard this but I’m pretty sure this was confirmed by Jordan at a signing or on his blog. I may have made up the weapons-grade part.)
And of course there’s the other fun stuff in here, like Sammael’s comment about who was and was not involved in Rand’s kidnapping, which has spawned a whole host of incestuous interlocking loony theories covering everything from Asmodean’s murderer to Demandred’s whereabouts to where they buried Jimmy Hoffa and who knows what the hell all.
For my money, this is pure red herring misdirection bullsheet from start to finish, and the only Forsaken involved in Rand’s kidnapping was the obvious choice—it was Mesaana, in the Tower, with the Black Ajah. This, however, I will brook argument on, because there is wriggle room here and the issues are admittedly still not definitively resolved.
The Watcher/Wanderer/Moridin/Ishamael thing, though, no. SILENCIO. Bzzt!
And on that stern and forbidding note, we out! Have a loverly weekend, and see you next week!