Hidy-ho, WOTers! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 3 and 4 of The Path of Daggers, in which things continue to continue.
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.
And now, the post!
Chapter 3: A Pleasant Ride
The party travels through the drought-ridden countryside, the Warders guiding them so as to avoid being sighted by people. Elayne tries to enjoy the ride, but is not having a lot of success. Aviendha has found out that the Windfinder she stopped at the gateway did not pass her message of warning to Elayne, and Elayne is trying to convince her not to do anything that will “start a war” between the Windfinders and the rest of the party, when Adeleas comes up and suggests that it might be best if Elayne let Aviendha have a “loose rein” regarding the Sea Folk, since they are so much more wary of the “savage Aiel” than anyone else. Elayne looks at the other Aes Sedai, who are busily looking elsewhere, and asks why; Adeleas answers that it might restore some balance against “other things”, if the Sea Folk think they need Aes Sedai protection from the Aiel woman. Elayne knows what she’s referring to, and sends Adeleas back curtly; she obeys courteously, but with a small smile.
The older Aes Sedai accepted that Nynaeve and Elayne stood above them and spoke with Egwene’s authority at their backs, but the truth was, that changed little beyond the surface. Perhaps nothing. They were outwardly respectful, they obeyed, and yet…
After all was said and done, Elayne, at least, was Aes Sedai at an age when most initiates of the Tower still wore novice white and very few had reached the Accepted. And she and Nynaeve had agreed to that bargain, hardly a display of wisdom and acumen. Not just the Sea Folk getting the Bowl, but twenty sisters going to the Atha’an Miere, subject to their laws, required to teach anything the Windfinders wanted to learn and unable to leave until others came to replace them. Windfinders allowed to enter the Tower as guests, allowed to learn whatever they wished, leave whenever they wished. Those alone would make the Hall scream, and probably Egwene as well, yet the rest… Every last one of the older sisters thought she would have found a way around making that bargain. Perhaps they really could have. Elayne did not believe it, but she was not sure.
Aviendha comments that she’s more than willing to “serve honor” even if it helps some Aes Sedai end as well, and after a moment of hesitation Elayne nods; she has misgivings, but thinks something has to be done to rein in the Sea Folk before there is an explosion. She asks that Aviendha not be too “emphatic”, though. Aviendha grins and falls back to ride next to Kurin, the Windfinder who had failed to deliver her message. Elayne glances back and sees Aviendha speaking quite calmly, and Kurin staring at her in astonishment; after Aviendha pulls away, Kurin heads over to Renaile, who a few minutes later angrily sends Rainyn to Elayne to demand that she “snub in” the Aiel woman. Aviendha grins “toothily” at her, and Elayne replies she will ask Aviendha to be careful, but she can’t make her do anything, adding “you know how Aiel are”. The Sea Folk having some very odd notions of “how Aiel are”, this makes Rainyn go pale before she takes off. Aviendha chortles with glee, but Elayne wonders if the whole notion is a mistake, noting that the Sea Folk look angry, not frightened – and not at Aviendha, but at the sisters. The Aes Sedai seem pleased about it, though. The interruptions continue through the trip, with the Kin and the Aes Sedai alternating to come up one by one to Elayne and make different arguments about why Ispan should be held by the sisters and not the Kin. Elayne refuses each one, growing more and more irritated, but when Merilille obliquely suggests that they might be Darkfriends, Elayne becomes furious, reminding Merilille that the Kin had faced two Black Ajah and the gholam in the Rahad, losing two of their number in the process, and that Merilille had better never dare suggest a thing without hard evidence again, threatening her with a penance that will “make her eyes pop”. She is shrieking by the end of this speech.
Everyone was looking at her, most in astonishment. Aviendha nodded approvingly. Of course, she have done the same had Elayne plunged a knife into Merilille’s heart. Aviendha stood beside her friends no matter what. Merilille’s Cairhienin paleness had become dead white.
“I mean what I say,” Elayne told her, in a much cooler tone. It seemed to make even more blood leave Merilille’s face. She did mean every word; they could not afford that sort of rumor floating among them.
Even after this, though, the campaign continues. Next is Sareitha, who argues that the Kin must be lying about their ages; then Vandene has a go, though her argument is more subtle. She talks of how to counteract the bargain Elayne and Nynaeve had made with the Sea Folk, and segues from there into a discussion of how the Tower had held sway for so many thousands of years, which is by remaining apart from the rest of the world, seeming mysterious, and “of a different flesh”. It takes a Elayne a minute to see what she’s getting at, but realizes that Vandene is saying that it does not maintain the mysterious, aloof mien of Aes Sedai to have one of their number, even an evil one, tied in a sack and drugged up for all the world to see. Elayne thinks this might have actually had some weight with her if it had been used first, but as it is she sends Vandene back with the others. But the campaign continues, and Elayne is sure it wouldn’t have done so if Nynaeve was there to back her up, but Nynaeve has glued herself to Lan’s side, and every time she comes back to check in, it always manages to be right at a point when no one is badgering Elayne about anything. Elayne tries explaining, but Nynaeve answers that she’s sure all Elayne’s queen training is more than up to the task, and takes off; Elayne considers shrieking again. Aviendha then decides to start a discussion about how much she liked when Rand kissed her neck; Elayne remembers she had liked that too, but is not exactly in the mood to talk about it at the moment.
Aviendha had some knowledge of men—she had traveled with them as a Maiden of the Spear, fought beside them—but she had never wanted to be anything but Far Dareis Mai, and there were… gaps. Even with her dolls as a child she had always played at the spears and raiding. She had never flirted, did not understand it, and she did not understand why she felt the way she did when Rand’s eyes fell on her, or a hundred other things Elayne had begun learning the first time she noticed a boy looking at her differently than he did at the other boys. She expected Elayne to teach her all of it, and Elayne tried. She really could talk to Aviendha about anything. If only Rand had not been the example used quite so often. If he had been there, she would have boxed his ears. And kissed him. Then boxed his ears again.
Finally Nynaeve returns to say that the Kin’s farm is just ahead; she sends Lan to bring Reanne up front, so the inhabitants will see a familiar face first, and orders the Aes Sedai to make sure their faces are hidden in their cloaks to avoid scaring them. Then she comments to Elayne that she doesn’t know what Elayne was so upset about; everything seems perfectly fine to her. Elayne grinds her teeth and wishes she were in Caemlyn already; surely even handling a potential Succession would be easier than this.
So this chapter is where we finally learn (some of) the actual terms of the bargain Nynaeve and Elayne made with the Sea Folk, and I have to say that even as someone often annoyed with the Aes Sedai, this “deal” made my hair stand on end. I mean, YIKES. That is horrible.
It gets even more horrible later, when we learn what being “subject to Sea Folk laws” actually entails (though I’ll hold off on covering that pile of stupid until we get to it), but even without this knowledge, given the general Tower “aloof and apart” stance which Vandene details here, to say the Aes Sedai are going to “scream” about it may just be the understatement of the century.
And honestly, I would be on the Aes Sedai’s side if they did. While I have been frequently on record in decrying the Aes Sedai tendency to disdain or belittle anyone not Aes Sedai, that doesn’t mean humiliating them in turn is either ethical or effective. Two wrongs not making a right, and alla that; not to mention that just as violence often only begets more violence, degradation in return for degradation is generally just as downward-spiral-inducing.
I now realize that this is also part of my discomfort with the “kneel or be knelt” scene at the end of LOC, though I did not state it in so many words when I recapped that scene. As much as we might initially like to see arrogance get its comeuppance, there is no getting around the fact that the most frequent result of revenge is not resolution, but escalation.
Actually, that is the problem with the entire Bowl of the Winds storyline, which can be characterized as a series of petty vengeance upon petty vengeance in multiple directions, continually threatening to escalate out of control. Since this behavior is pretty much the definition of “counter-productive”, maybe we should stop being surprised that it takes so goddamn long to resolve. The only saving grace here, really, is a meta one, in that as screamingly annoying as this behavior may be, it’s hard to dispute that it is also unfortunately very true to the way people in opposing groups often behave. This is why the world has problems.
So I guess my point is, Damn, humanity, stop sucking so much!
As to Elayne’s (tentative) claim that none of the other Aes Sedai would have fared any better with the bargaining, I can’t decide whether she’s kidding herself or not. Going by Merana and Rafela’s results in their bargain on Rand’s behalf, I come up with a solid “Um”. I guess it depends on whether you think the terms Merana obtained are better than Elayne’s, or not.
The only thing I am sure of is that if I lived in Randland, I would avoid having anything to do with bargaining with the Sea Folk AT ALL COSTS. Actually I would avoid having anything to do with the Sea Folk, period, because damn.
Okay, now I’m too irritated to talk about the neck-kissing thing, except to say that I found it amusing for the “horny teenagers” image it produces.
As a final note, Elayne’s thought about Caemlyn at the end of the chapter contains a nearly toxic level of irony, which I shall refrain from touching except to point out and then run away very fast. ¡Ándale!
Chapter 4: A Quiet Place
The farm is actually more like a small village, with over a hundred inhabitants, except that they are all women. They don’t seem that surprised by the party’s approach, and Aviendha points out to Elayne the lookouts on the hill. A woman who looks to be middle-aged comes to meet them, and Reanne tells Elayne that the woman’s name is Alise, and adds that she “does not suffer fools gladly”. Alise smiles as she recognizes Reanne, and begins to greet her before trailing off, staring beyond them.
Elayne glanced back, nearly loosing a few of the choice phrases she had picked up in various places, most recently from Mat Cauthon. She did not understand all of them, not most of them really—nobody ever wanted to explain what they meant exactly—but they did have a way of relieving emotion. The Warders had doffed their color-shifting cloaks, and the sisters had drawn up the hoods of their dust-cloaks as instructed, even Sareitha, who had no need to hide her youthful face, but Careane had not pulled hers forward far enough. It simply framed her ageless features.
Careane jerks her hood forward at Elayne’s glare, but it’s too late; a woman shrieks “Aes Sedai!” and instant pandemonium ensues, all the farm folk screaming and running in every direction. Nynaeve yells for Lan and the Warders to go catch them; Lan seems skeptical of the usefulness of this, but obeys. Elayne agrees with Lan, but shrugs and gestures for Birgitte to follow. Alise doesn’t run, instead promising to make Reanne answer for betraying them; Reanne scrambles down and hurriedly explains the situation, with the wonderful (to Reanne) news that they can go back to the Tower. Alise, on the other hand, is less than thrilled, and demands to know why she should want to go back to the Tower only to be told again she isn’t strong enough, and either sent away or kept a novice for the rest of her life. Nynaeve dismounts and opines that she doesn’t know why strength matters as long as you pass “the fool tests”, but at any rate Alise can go or stay, whatever she wants. Nynaeve goes on to Reanne that time is wasting; if there’s anyone here they can use, say so, so they can get on with it. Alise is doubtful when Reanne names Elayne and Nynaeve Aes Sedai, and doesn’t accept it until Merilille comes up and says the same; Elayne is annoyed once again by this, but admits Nynaeve carrying on like that hadn’t helped. Merilille has come up to tell Nynaeve (with a smile) that the Windfinders have dismounted, and that she thinks some of them may need Healing. Nynaeve looks at the hobbling Sea Folk a moment, then tells Merilille to Heal them—if they ask nicely. Merilille smiles again, but Nynaeve has moved on to the farm, and heads off with Alise, telling her how to go about getting all the women back and calmed down. Elayne notes that Alise is alternating between nods and “very level looks” which Nynaeve doesn’t seem to notice. Elayne heads toward the packhorses, but then notices that all the Kin with them have gone to the farm and left Ispan with Adeleas and Vandene, who have linked and are sharing Ispan’s shield, and are dragging her toward a small outbuilding off to the side. Angrily, Elayne follows them, Aviendha in tow, and finds them inside. Vandene tells Elayne that the drugs are wearing off, and she and Adeleas thought it would be good to get some questioning done now and find out what the Black Ajah had been up to in Ebou Dar. Ispan sneers and says the Black Ajah are a “filthy fable”, and she was obeying orders from the true Amyrlin Seat.
“Elaida?” Elayne spat incredulously. “You have the nerve to claim that Elaida ordered you to murder sisters and steal from the Tower? Elaida ordered what you did in Tear and Tanchico? Or do you mean Siuan? Your lies are pathetic! You’ve forsaken the Three Oaths, somehow, and that names you Black Ajah.”
Ispan answers sullenly that she doesn’t have to answer questions from rebels, and Aviendha states matter-of-factly that she will; wetlanders fear pain. She’s playing with her knife as she says this, and Ispan shrinks back, but Adeleas interjects that it is not permitted to shed blood during questioning. Elayne thinks that Ispan had been much more frightened when she thought only Elayne and Nynaeve had captured her, but once she found out there were older sisters there who would adhere absolutely to the laws governing Tower interrogations, she had regained her confidence. Elayne takes a deep breath and tells Vandene and Adeleas that she wants them to leave her and Aviendha alone with Ispan.
She could hear another voice, not Lini’s this time, but her mother’s. What you order done, you must be willing to do with your own hand. As a queen, what you order done, you have done. If she did break the law… Her mother’s voice again. Even a queen cannot be above the law, or there is no law. And Lini’s. You can do whatever you wish, child. So long as you’re willing to pay the price.
Elayne thinks that she will submit herself for penance after, if necessary. Ispan’s eyes widen in fear; Adeleas and Vandene look at each other, then Vandene takes Elayne and Aviendha each by an arm and more or less drags them outside, where Nynaeve and Alise are (literally) herding frightened Kinswomen inside one of the other buildings. Vandene contemplates Elayne and Aviendha for a moment, then says she thinks it is best if women with experience handle “this sort of thing”; younger women can either do too much or not enough; or worse, develop a taste for it. Aviendha hurriedly sheathes her knife. Vandene then seems to consider her recommendation taken, and goes back inside.
No sooner had she disappeared behind it, than Elayne felt the use of the Power within, a weave that must have blanketed the room inside. A ward against eavesdropping, certainly. They would not want stray ears to catch whatever Ispan said. Then another use hit her, and suddenly the silence from within was more ominous than any shrieks that ward would contain.
She rather breathlessly suggests to Aviendha that they go look at the packhorses, and Aviendha quickly agrees. Meanwhile Alise has ordered the Windfinders to follow her; Renaile is infuriated by her lack of respect, but Alise ignores her, and eventually they all waddle after her, still saddle-sore. Elayne automatically begins thinking of how to smooth the waters, then realizes she doesn’t really want to, and leaves it alone; Aviendha is grinning openly. They go to searching through the Rahad stash, and find a wealth of ter’angreal in four packhorses’ worth of stuff, most in the form of either dishware, figurines, or jewelry, though there are others:
Aviendha found a dagger with gold wire wrapped around a hilt of rough deerhorn; the blade was dull, and by all evidence, always had been. She kept turning that over and over in her fingers—her hands actually began to tremble—until Elayne took it away from her and put it with the others on the cistern’s lid. Even then Aviendha stood for a time, looking at it and licking her lips as though they had gone dry. […] a pair of peculiar hats seemingly made of metal, too ornate and too thin to be helmets […] A rod, as thick as her wrist, bright red and smooth and rounded, firm rather than hard for all that it seemed to be stone; it did not warm slightly in her hand, it almost felt hot! Not real heat any more than the warmth was real, but still!
They also find two more angreal: a bracelet-and-finger-ring set, and an ivory figurine of a cross-legged woman Elayne likes very much:
One hand rested on a knee, palm up and fingers arranged so the thumb touched the tips of the middle two fingers, while the other hand was lifted, the first two fingers raised and the others folded. The whole figure carried an air of supreme dignity, yet the delicately worked face showed amusement and delight. Maybe it had been made for a particular woman? It seemed personal, somehow.
They are still going through the stash when a rather disheveled Nynaeve comes up and tells them that can wait; it’s time.
What, this isn’t over yet? Eesh.
Hah, Elayne doesn’t even know what her own profanity means. That explains a lot—though it still doesn’t explain what “summer ham” actually refers to. I guess the possibility that several commenters offered—that summer hams are just kind of like low-end crappy meat—is the best explanation, but that strikes me as… weak. There’s plenty of ways to be way more insulting than that without even resorting to “real” profanity, is all I’m saying. Oh well.
That’s just one of several reminders in this chapter of how young Elayne is—and Aviendha too, for that matter. The other big one, of course, being what happens between them and Vandene over Ispan’s interrogation. I was kind of torn about this scene when I first read it. On the one hand, Vandene’s point is well taken, but on the other, I was getting really annoyed by this point at the seeming ongoing erosion of Elayne’s (and Nynaeve’s) authority—especially since in some ways it seemed rather deserved.
It’s a real dilemma when, on the one hand, you want your protagonist to win out and prove herself, and on the other, you have to keep wincing at how she’s screwing up. This does not make for comfortable reading, you guys! But, I guess it is kind of more realistic than if Elayne and Nynaeve just effortlessly bested every obstacle in their way—including their own internal flaws. I SUPPOSE, she says, grumpily.
The scene with Vandene also strongly suggests, by the way, that the Aes Sedai may be tied to their strength-based hierarchy by both entrenched custom and law, but that at least some sisters are quite capable of coming up with ways around it if necessary.
I can’t decide, at this point, whether to be annoyed by this, or relieved. Argh.
Careane: I’ve got to say, in hindsight this was a risky move, setting the farm on its ear like that. It wouldn’t have been if this was the only thing Careane did, but since I have to assume she was planning all along to murder Ispan as soon as she got the opportunity, drawing attention to herself by almost sort of disobeying Nynaeve here doesn’t seem like it would be worth the trouble it caused, which in the end was not all that much.
Of course, I say that now, but there is the point that no one, either within the story or among the readership, could come to a consensus that Careane was definitely the Black Ajah mole in Elayne’s party until she basically outed herself three books later. So maybe I should shut up, eh?
Nynaeve’s speech to Alise is interesting in light of the discussion going on last post about whether Egwene would try to enforce her declaration re: channeling women and the Tower, since it seems that Nynaeve, at least, thinks the offered association is strictly voluntary. Of course, Nynaeve could just be putting forth her own opinion as fact (something Nynaeve has been guilty of more than once), but I think she’s right, myself. Even if Egwene wanted to force the association, I don’t think she could do so—and I think Nynaeve and Elayne would have serious objections to it if she did. And I don’t think she does, anyway. Want to force it, I mean.
The ter’angreal: I’m really wondering what is up with that deerhorn knife Aviendha was so twitchy about. I don’t think it’s come up again, but then again as I’ve said my memory for a lot of things post-ACOS is pretty sketchy, so there’s that.
I do, however, remember what happens with the, ahem, Hot Rod Elayne finds. I’m just… I’m just going to leave that straight line, you know, lying there.
The metal hats: am I the only who immediately assumed that these were some type of Power-activated walkie-talkie? I’m pretty sure I’m not. I don’t remember if we hear anything more about these either.
On the seated female figurine angreal: I spent over an hour Googling to try and identify that pose, because I’m virtually positive it’s from something I’ve seen before. Though obviously the one hand is using a traditional yoga meditation pose, the opposite upraised hand is different. I thought maybe it was a reference to one of the Hindu pantheon, but nothing I’ve found matches exactly, though Vinayagar comes close. As there are literally thousands of gods and goddesses in the Hindu tradition, I gave up after a while, but if anyone else wants to give it a go, I’d love to hear if you find it.
And that’s what I got for this one. Tune in next Tuesday, when I do believe Something Happens. Astounding, I know. Ciao!