What ho, WOTians! I bring you a Wheel of Time Re-read, in which we re-read the Wheel of Time.
Today’s entry covers Chapters 26 and 27 of A Crown of Swords, in which the 26th and 27th chapters of A Crown of Swords are covered.
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 information 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.
Please insert witty statement here, and then a backwards reiteration of said witty statement, in keeping with the theme that I randomly made up for this intro, because I am nothing if not symmetrical.
Chapter 26: The Irrevocable Words
Morgase lies in bed, trying to not think about what had happened to her, and hoping Elayne and Gawyn and Galad were safe. She wishes she could see them again.
She had always thought she was brave enough to do whatever needed doing, to face whatever came; she had always believed she could pick herself up and continue to fight. In one endless hour, without leaving more than a few bruises that were already fading, Rhadam Asunawa had begun teaching her differently. Eamon Valda had completed her education with one question. The bruise her answer had left on her heart had not faded. She should have gone back to Asunawa herself and told him to do his worst.
Breane enters, scaring Morgase, and offers her something to drink; Morgase knocks it away and snaps at her to wait until she’s summoned. Breane, furious, tells Morgase she “moans like a sheep”; others have endured far worse than her, and she should let the past go. Morgase flushes, but grabs Breane and asks anxiously if the men know, thinking that they would try and avenge her, and die doing it. Breane sneers that she and Lini have kept them in the dark, but makes it clear that she would reveal Morgase for the coward she is if it wouldn’t have put her Lamgwin in danger. Morgase is outraged, but doesn’t answer.
However she had screamed under Asunawa’s ministrations, Valda was the one who had showed her the true borders of her courage, so far short of where she had believed. Valda’s touch, his bed, could be forgotten, with time, but she would never be able to wash the shame of that “yes” from her lips. Breane hurled the truth in her face, and she did not know how to reply.
Tallanvor enters, scaring Morgase again (Breane squeezes her hand in comfort, to her surprise), and says something is happening; Gill and Lamgwin follow him in, and Gill tells them about how he saw a “big bird” land on the south barracks. Lini enters and harangues him for a fool, asking why a bird is worth waking Morgase for, but Gill explains that men climbed off its back, and then another one landed and did the same. At the window, Tallanvor exclaims that he sees another one landing on the north barracks. Morgase wishes they would all go away, but gets up and goes to the window; after a long moment, she sees the creature too, and her jaw drops. Then there is a boom and a flash of light, followed by screams and shouts. Morgase realizes saidar is being used, and says it must be Aes Sedai. Tallanvor is skeptical of this, pointing out that Aes Sedai aren’t supposed to be able to use the Power against people, and as she turns to confront him, misses being skewered by an errant arrow by inches.
She did not move, but Tallanvor pulled her away from the window with an oath. Even by moonlight, she could see his frown as he studied her. For a moment she thought he might touch her face; if he did, she did not know whether she would weep or scream or order him to leave her forever or . . .
Tallanvor thinks it’s more likely that the attackers are “these Shamin or whatever they call themselves,” and thinks this is a perfect opportunity to make their escape. Lini thinks this is insane, and points out that Morgase would know if channeling is occurring. Tallanvor wishes for his sword, and then says he can at least go see what is happening; Morgase blurts out that he must stay, please, and then tries to sound more nonchalant. Tallanvor is angry, but acquiesces, and goes to wait in the anteroom; eventually they all end up there, listening to the battle/siege rage outside, and Morgase feels the saidar being wielded all through it. After an hour, the fighting dies down, and they continue to wait. Sometime after dawn, someone pounds on the door, which opens to reveal a squad of men in strange insectlike armor. The officer in charge asks if she is Morgase, Queen of Andor, in a harsh slurring accent, and orders her to come with him without waiting for a reply. She goes with them alone, and the officer ignores her attempts to talk to him. They approach the Lord Captain Commander’s quarters, and Morgase is befuddled to see Taraboner soldiers on guard outside; then she sees a damane and sul’dam (though she does not know what they are), and is sickened by the way the sul’dam pets the other like a dog, and the damane’s grateful reaction.
Morgase made the necessary effort to keep walking, to keep her knees from folding, to keep her stomach from emptying itself. The sheer servility was bad enough, but she was certain the woman being patted on the head could channel. Impossible! She walked in a daze, wondering whether this could be a dream, a nightmare. Praying that it was.
Inside, a woman with one side of her head shaved announces that she is in the presence of the High Lady Suroth, “who leads Those Who Come Before, and succors The Return.” The officer forces Morgase to prostrate herself, and Suroth immediately chastises him for treating the Queen of Andor like that, and sends him to be punished. He obeys, but Morgase sees his considering look and realizes the whole thing was staged. Suroth asks with false solicitousness if Morgase is harmed, but Morgase is distracted by two more pairs of sul’dam and damane in the room, and then by the huge creature lounging on the floor, which Suroth tells her is a lopar, and had saved her from her first assassination attempt, but that of course a lopar cannot compare to her damane, Pura and Jinjin. The two gray-clad women prostrate themselves.
“We have many more damane since returning than before. This is a rich hunting ground for marath’damane. Pura,” she added casually, “was once a . . . woman of the White Tower.”
Morgase’s knees wobble, but she refuses to believe it. The shaved-headed woman (Alwhin) barks at one of the servants crouched on the floor to bring kaf for the High Lady and her guest, calling her “Thera,” and Thera leaps to obey. Morgase asks where Suroth comes from, and Suroth explains that they come to reclaim what was stolen from the heirs of the High King, Artur Paendrag Tanreall. She says she’s already begun in Tarabon, where their king died for opposing her, and now a new King and Panarch loyal to the Crystal Throne rule there. It will soon be the same everywhere, she assures Morgase. Morgase answers that while all honor Artur’s memory, his time is long past; she points out that Tarabon had been a war-torn and troubled land, and that Suroth will not find other nations such easy conquests. She advises Suroth make peace. Suroth smiles and makes a gesture, and Alwhin barks for Thera to perform Poses of the Swan (which was the wrong thing, but Suroth lets it go). Thera immediately begins a stylized dance which Morgase thinks her sheer robe makes absolutely scandalous, and Suroth remarks casually that Thera is new and not fully trained yet, but that it is pleasant to own such beautiful things. Morgase is confused, wondering how a person can be owned, and Suroth goes on to mention that the Panarch of Tarabon refused to take the oath before returning to the subject of Thera, managing to repeat her name several times. Morgase makes the connection, and gasps that she doesn’t believe it.
“Thera,” Suroth said, “what was your name before you became my property? What title did you hold?”
Thera froze in her up-stretched posture, quivering, shooting a look half panic, half terror at sharp-faced Alwhin, a look of pure terror at Suroth. “Thera was called Amathera, if it pleases the High Lady,” she said breathily. “Thera was the Panarch of Tarabon, if it pleases the High Lady.”
Morgase drops her cup in shock, and Suroth steps close and says all must make choices. She’s heard that Morgase spent time in the White Tower, but promises that she will not suffer the eventual fate of all marath’damane, if Morgase makes the right choice. Then she dismisses Morgase, and Morgase is escorted back to her rooms, where Lini and Breane are waiting alone, the men having gone out to scout around. Morgase goes to the window, wondering what to do. She thinks that every decision she had made for months has seemed to lead only to disaster, and looks down at the courtyard below.
A twenty-foot fall, and Suroth lost her lever. Maybe it was the coward’s way out, but she had already proved herself that. Still, the Queen of Andor should not die so.
Under her breath, she spoke the irrevocable words that had been used only twice before in the thousand-year history of Andor. “Under the Light, I relinquish the High Seat of House Trakand to Elayne Trakand. Under the Light, I renounce the Rose Crown and abdicate the Lion Throne to Elayne, High Seat of House Trakand. Under the Light, I submit myself to the will of Elayne of Andor, her obedient subject.” None of that made Elayne Queen, true, but it cleared the way.
Lini asks what she’s smiling at; Morgase answers that she was thinking of Elayne, and Lini hisses and yanks her away from the window. Morgase tells her that what she does is for the best, and Breane angrily wants to know what will happen if these Seanchan decide they killed Morgase; Lini yells at Breane to shut up. They are still shouting at each other when Tallanvor and the others reenter, shutting both women up immediately as they pretend all is well. Morgase notices that all three of the men are armed again, and then Sebban Balwer follows them in. Tallanvor tells Morgase that Balwer has a plan to get them out of here, and informs her that they are accepting his offer. Morgase wants to know why Balwer would risk helping them, and Balwer answers that he had already planned to get them away from Valda, and it turns out to be even easier to do now that the Seanchan are in charge, since they grant considerable freedom to anyone willing to swear their Oath. Balwer has a pass for himself and ten others to leave Amador as wine merchants. Tallanvor moves close and murmurs to Morgase that they are going with Balwer if he has to tie and gag her.
She met him stare for stare. The window or . . . a chance. If Tallanvor had only held his tongue it would have been much easier to say, “I accept with gratitude, Master Balwer,” but she said it. She stepped away as if to see Balwer without having to crane past Tallanvor. It was always disturbing being so near to him. He was too young.
Morgase can’t believe it is so easy, but after dispatching the guards on the suite’s doors, she soon finds them all leaving Amador. She supposes Balwer is hoping for a big reward for rescuing a queen, but thinks no one else needs to know what she had done, and now she would see what kind of life she could find without a throne, and far away from Tallanvor. Lini asks why her smile is so sad, and Morgase answers that there is a long road ahead of them yet.
See, this is the thing. I love the Wheel of Time. Duh. But obviously I do not love every last word/thing/character/plotline in WOT. Also duh. And the bits I do not love can be attributed to a number of things, boredom and/or irritation with them usually being a frontrunner cause.
However, I think the Morgase thing holds a special place in the annals of WOT Things I Do Not Like, because Morgase is essentially the closest thing to a Morn Hyland character the Wheel of Time series possesses, and that makes it extremely hard to read about her with anything approaching objectivity on my part.
And look, I am not knocking Stephen Donaldson’s writing ability at all. Quite the contrary, actually; the fact that I actually finished the Gap books is more than proof enough the man can write, because his stuff makes The Red Pony look like Happy Sparkle Rainbow Hour at a Care Bear convention.
“Depressing” doesn’t even begin to cover it, is what I’m saying. I read the Gap Cycle at least twelve years ago, so the details of the plot have mostly faded, but what I do remember is thinking, Jesus Christ, man, is it really necessary to put your heroine through basically every form of torture ever invented? And then, you don’t even get a happy ending to make up for it! At least not that I recall, and I think I’m pretty safe in thinking happy endings are in general just not Donaldson’s bag, so.
Morgase’s plight is not nearly so graphically portrayed, Jordan being Jordan, but you know, you don’t have to get all the gory details of what’s been done to her to be horrified by it. For all the jokes I make about WOT being FCC-compliant, there’s no getting around the fact that Morgase’s journey as a character has consisted of her being brainwashed, repeatedly raped, exiled, held hostage, politically coerced, physically tortured, raped AGAIN, threatened some more, made a penniless fugitive, held hostage again, and, yeah.
And the WORST part is how hardly anyone knows what she’s been through. Even Morgase herself doesn’t really know about some of it. It’s like her storyline has been tailor-made to fill me with frustrated rage. Gargh.
Actually, that’s not the worst part. The worst part is how often I am, as a reader, impatient and irritated with her, mostly for things which are not, in the end, her fault at all. Like that thing with her continually insisting Tallanvor is too young? Yeah, that has nothing to do with Tallanvor’s age, perceived or actual. That’s an excuse so that Morgase does not have to face what being attracted to Tallanvor means, or may bring as a consequence. I’m sure there’s a psychological term for it; “displacement” is close but not quite correct. Whatever it is, we can for sure include “suicidally depressed” in there, with a healthy (or unhealthy, as the case may be) dollop of post-traumatic stress disorder to boot.
Anyway, my point is that I think the reason why I so dislike reading about Morgase is because doing so reminds me of how distressingly easy it can be to blame the victim.
And which may also be why I would like Breane to be real and in front of me for a moment so I can KICK HER BITCHY, BLAME-Y ASS UP BETWEEN HER EARS. God.
Chapter 27: To Be Alone
Perrin leaves his rooms in the Sun Palace, and watches as the servants scurry off in fear at the sight of him; he thinks no one wants to be near a man who had the Dragon Reborn furious at him. He remembers pushing himself up on the column Rand had hurled him against as terrified nobles look on. Rand shouted at him that he will deal with the Aes Sedai as he chooses; Perrin retorted that he has no idea what the Wise Ones are doing with them, and told Rand that he was not the Creator.
With a snarl of rage, Rand threw his head back. “I am the Dragon Reborn!” he cried. “I don’t care how they’re treated! They deserve a dungeon!” Perrin’s hackles stirred as Rand’s eyes lowered from the vaulted ceiling. Blue ice would have been warm and soft beside them, the more so because they stared from a face twisted with pain. “Get out of my sight, Perrin. Do you hear me? Get out of Cairhien! Today! Now! I never want to see you again!” Pivoting on his heel, he strode away with nobles all but throwing themselves to the floor as he passed.
Perrin thumbed a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth. For one moment there, he had been sure Rand was going to kill him.
In the corridor, he runs into Loial, who tells him sadly that Rand should not have done that, but Loial is sure he will reconsider. Perrin tells him it’s all right; Cairhien is “too polished” for him anyway. Loial suggests that Perrin come with him and Karldin to visit all the steddings with Waygates in them; Perrin recognizes the young man with him as an Asha’man though he is not dressed as one. Karldin glares at Perrin and tells Loial they have to go, and Perrin wonders if he’s holding the Power. Loial tells Perrin that he doesn’t like how Rand is sending all of them off, and is now even avoiding Min.
“He’ll be alone, then, Perrin. ‘It’s terrible to be alone.’ That’s what he said to me. He is planning to send all of his friends away.”
“The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills,” Perrin said. Loial blinked at that echo of Moiraine. Perrin had been thinking of her a lot recently; she had been a restraining influence on Rand.
He bids Loial farewell, wishing he didn’t have to lie to him, and heads to the stables, which instantly clears of grooms at his approach. He saddles Stepper and rides out of Cairhien, until he is out of sight of the city. Faile, mounted on Swallow, meets him there and greets him coolly, but Perrin smells her anger and jealousy. Aram is with Faile, as are Bain and Chiad, but to his surprise so is Sulin and a dozen more Maidens; Perrin thinks of Gaul saying he’d wanted to get Bain and Chiad alone. Then he sees Selande and several more of her “society,” and asks what they are doing here. Suddenly cautious, Faile answers that she took Selande and “a few” of her friends into her service, just to keep them out of trouble, and promises to keep them out of Perrin’s way; Perrin sighs and thinks a wise man doesn’t tell his wife he knows she’s lying, and lets it go. He says he’d like to leave before some fool decides to curry favor with Rand by taking Perrin’s head.
“No one is going to take your head, husband.” Faile showed white teeth, and went on in a whisper she knew he would catch. “Except perhaps me.”
They go to where the Two Rivers men are lined up, and Perrin sighs again at the eagle and wolf banners; they are accompanied by a dozen more Maidens, a rather sullen-looking Gaul, and two Asha’man, Jur Grady and Fager Neald. Grady tells him they are ready, but Neald wants to know if it’s really necessary to take “those women” with him. He’s referring not to the six Wise Ones standing off to the side, but the two Aes Sedai with them, Seonid Traighan (Green) and Masuri Sokawa (Brown). Perrin thinks they worry him too, not least about whether their oath to Rand really means they will obey him as well, but only answers that everyone comes. Grady and Neald salute, and one of them creates a gateway in the open field. Grady and the Maidens dash through immediately, and Perrin, Faile and Aram follow, but Faile swings away from him on the other side (Aram goes with her). As the Two Rivers men start coming through, Gaul stalks over to Perrin and opines that women are “beyond belief.” Perrin asks Grady if he’s married; Grady says yes, and muses to himself that Sora is missing him, and her knee hurts.
“Her knee hurts,” Perrin said flatly. “Right this minute, it hurts.”
Grady seemed to realize he was staring, and Gaul was too. […] “It’s something a fellow named Canler worked out. The M’Hael doesn’t like us trying to figure out things on our own, but once it was done . . . ” His slight grimace said perhaps Taim had not been all that easy about it even then. “We think maybe it’s something like the bond between Warders and Aes Sedai. Maybe one in three of us is married; anyway, that’s how many wives stayed instead of running off when they learned what their husbands were. This way, when you’re apart from her, you know she’s all right, and she knows you are. A man likes to know his wife’s safe.”
“That he does,” Perrin said. What was Faile up to with those fools?
The Aes Sedai and Wise Ones come through, followed by a very long train of supply carts (since neither Grady nor Neald can make a gateway big enough to accommodate wagons). Perrin considers ordering Neald to close the gateway then, but it’s too late, and Berelain emerges, followed by Nurelle, Gallenne and nine hundred Winged Guards. Perrin groans as she places herself where she can stare at Faile, who stares right back. Neald comes through and closes the gateway, and Perrin rides to a rise to address the company.
“As far as anyone’s eyes-and-ears back in Cairhien know,” he said loudly, “I’ve been banished, the First of Mayene is on her way back home, and the rest of you have just disappeared like fog in the sun.”
To his surprise, they laughed. A cry of “Perrin Goldeneyes” went up, and not just from the Two Rivers folk. He waited for it to quiet; that took a while. Faile neither laughed nor shouted, nor did Berelain. Each woman shook her head; neither believed he should tell as much as he intended to. Then they saw each other, and those shaking heads froze as if trapped in amber.
Perrin tells the company that they are in Ghealdan, fifteen hundred miles from Cairhien, and once they have assured Queen Alliandre that they are not here to invade, they’re going to find a fellow who calls himself the Prophet of the Lord Dragon and explain to him that Rand doesn’t like having people scared into following him. The company all shouts and cheers, and Perrin prays that this goes quickly, so he can get himself and Faile as far away from Berelain as possible.
Oh, Perrin. We wish that too. AND YET.
Do I have to explain how I feel about this, the commencement of That Plotline? Will a simple *headdesk* suffice? Ah, thank you.
Well, at least we don’t have to deal with it until the next book.
The “Wife” Bond: this is one of those things I would really (nerdily) like some explication on. Like, okay, fine, it’s sort of like the Warder bond, but how much alike is it? How is it different? Are the wives all gliding around with deadly grace now? Do they get the endurance and stamina thing, or the sensing Shadowspawn thing? Are there other benefits (or disadvantages) they get that Warders don’t?
I mean, the list goes on. Do they go nuts if their husband dies? Would they even know if they would at this point? Has any Asha’man who’s bonded his wife died thus far?
Rrr, so annoying. My geekiness on this matter has still not been appeased! More Input!
We sort of get an answer to the “compelling” aspect of the bond, anyway, once Toveine’s whole debacle goes down and we’re told about the “extra bit,” which I always rather assumed meant that for Asha’man, the “compelling” part was less an inherent component of the bond thing (like it is for the Warder bond) and more an… an add-on. Or something that doesn’t make me sound like I’m talking about a web browser.
(Plug-n-Play? Okay, I’ll shut up now.)
Whatever. On reflection, the “extra bit” probably raised more questions than it answered, really, but more on that whole can of worms as we come to it. But let me take this opportunity to reiterate my standard grumble about how little we have gotten to see of the Asha’man as a whole, compared to the Aes Sedai. I mean, they were introduced in Book 6, and we’re now up to Book 13; the “Johnny come lately” excuse has long since passed its expiration date, is all I’m saying. Innnnnput, we wants it, preciouss.
(I am rather surprised to note that “Canler,” the Asha’man who Grady says invented the Wife Bond, appears in person later on, in WH. Law of Conservation of Characters in full effect, y’all!)
Loial: Law of Loial Adorableness is also still in full effect. Just in time for him to disappear for three books.
Karldin: He’s only on screen for a hot second, and yet I kind of liked him, for no other reason than that his dislike of Perrin here suggests to me that he might be genuinely loyal to Rand. Something, by the way, which I am not at all convinced is a common attitude among the Asha’man in general, even discounting Taim’s special pets. NOT THAT WE WOULD KNOW. Of course, Rand has no one to blame but himself for that.
Speaking of Rand, yikes.
…But that’s really all I have to say about him, since we will be dealing with his massive issues in future episodes.