Hey-hey, Re-readers! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 5 and 6 of The Path of Daggers, in which we learn the importance of the proper distribution of personnel skills, background research, and hats.
Oh, and also, Shit Blows Up. Whee!
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.
Here, have a post!
Chapter 5: The Breaking Storm
The party climbs up to the top of a steep, flat-topped hill, which offers a spectacular view of the countryside for miles around. Beside Elayne, Nynaeve grumbles about the hour wasted determining whether there were any Kinswomen strong enough to be useful in the circle at the farm, and mutters that Garenia had better quit fainting on her; Elayne looks at Reanne, Kirstian, and Garenia, who all look terrified, and thinks that at least Garenia isn’t moaning to herself anymore. Elayne notes that Merilille is giving the Windfinders covert nervous looks, and wonders if something had happened while she was Healing them. Merilille is a Gray, and therefore a skilled negotiator, but Elayne thinks of the old joke about the Domani merchant, the Sea Folk Cargomaster and an Aes Sedai, and that in the joke it was always the Aes Sedai who came off worst. Elayne walks over to Aviendha, who is standing by the plateau’s dropoff, and asks what’s troubling her; to Elayne’s shock, Aviendha answers that she has failed Elayne, first with her crappy gateway, then panicking over a servant, then by pretending she could assist with questioning the Shadowrunner when Maidens are not allowed to even watch interrogations until they have ten years’ experience. She says she is weak and soft, and if she fails Elayne again, she will die. Alarmed, Elayne hastily pulls her back from the cliff edge and tells her emphatically that Aviendha has never failed or shamed her in any way, and that Aviendha is about as weak and soft “as a stone”. She then confesses that even the notion of trying to question Ispan herself made her want to throw up. Startled, Aviendha answers that she only meant she didn’t know how to question Ispan without killing her, but touches Elayne’s cheek and smiles.
“We both have weakness in us,” she whispered, “but it brings no shame so long as only we two know.”
“Yes,” Elayne said weakly. She just did not know how! “Of course it doesn’t.” This woman contained more surprises than any gleeman.
Elayne gives Aviendha the seated-woman figurine angreal to use in the circle, though she had planned to use it herself; Aviendha is hesitant, but then tells Elayne this is a great gift and presses her fingers to Elayne’s cheek again, which is the Aiel equivalent of an embrace. Nynaeve then pulls Elayne aside to speak privately, and to Elayne’s shock tells her that she has been behaving like a fool, and it’s all Lan’s fault for making her unable to think of anything else, and begs Elayne to tell her when she’s acting like that. Elayne is stunned, but not about to miss the opportunity, and tells Nynaeve that it is not Lan’s fault that she is behaving “like a giddy girl” (pushing away thoughts of how she had behaved over Rand), and tells her to get a hold of herself already. Nynaeve hangs her head and apologizes meekly, and Elayne almost chokes in amazement. Then Nynaeve briskly changes the subject and demands to know which angreal she gets; Elayne sighs and gives her the bracelet-and-rings set, whereupon Nynaeve marches off yelling for everyone to take their places. They gather by the Bowl, which is on the ground at the center of the plateau, and Renaile begins barking out the names of the Windfinders who will participate in the circle, who include Talaan, Metarra, and Caire, who Renaile names to be in charge of the circle (Renaile herself is not participating). Elayne gives the turtle brooch angreal to Talaan and begins to explain how to use it, but Caire roars for silence and orders Talaan to report herself for punishment later. Caire then makes what Elayne considers an absurdly grandiose speech about what they are about to do, with no small praise for herself thrown in, and then barks at Nynaeve to explain this linking thing, now. Nynaeve looks to be on the edge of apoplexy, but reins herself in, and she and Elayne begin demonstrating how to link, though Nynaeve’s technique is rough; to Elayne’s amazement again, though, she actually shrugs in apology to Elayne for metaphorically bouncing her around.
“This is dangerous!” Renaile broke in, shouldering roughly between Caire and Tebreille. Her scowl took in Nynaeve, Elayne, and the sisters standing off from the circle as well. “You say that one woman can simply seize another, hold her captive, use her? How long have you Aes Sedai known this? I warn you, if you try to use it on one of us—”
Sareitha interrupts to explain that it doesn’t work that way; a link cannot be formed with another woman against her will. Renaile demands to know why the Tower would study such a thing anyway, and Sareitha tells her that it arose from the problems of how to deal with men who could channel, mentioning in passing that men can be brought into circles as well, though obviously no one does that anymore, and reiterating that it is impossible to force a woman into a circle. Renaile reluctantly accepts this, but Elayne notes a change of inflection in Sareitha’s tone at one point, and resolves to question her further on the matter later. Caire commands Nynaeve to continue; Elayne is nervous about Nynaeve’s ability to pass control to her, but it is accomplished, and Elayne goes about bringing in the rest of the circle, starting with Aviendha, and shivers as the amount of saidar flowing through her grows higher and higher, and her awareness not only of her surroundings but of the other women’s emotional states heightens. Nynaeve is a “maelstrom” of emotions, including “waves of heat” that Elayne can’t quite identify; Aviendha, to her surprise, is suppressing a small amount of fear. Kirstian and Garenia are about to expire with terror, but Reanne is eager; all of the Windfinders are wary and alert, and Elayne realizes these emotions are focused on Caire. It takes four tries to bring Caire in, and Caire abruptly rips control of the circle from Elayne as soon as she’s in. She studies the Bowl a moment, and Elayne notes with consternation that there is a tiny amount of uncertainty mixed in with her determination, but then she draws deeply on the circle and begins.
She watched closely as Caire channeled, forming a complex weave of all Five Powers, a four-pointed star that she laid atop the Bowl with what Elayne somehow was sure was exquisite precision. The star touched, and Elayne gasped. Once, she had channeled a trickle into the Bowl—in Tel’aran’rhiod, to be sure, and only a reflection of the Bowl, though still a dangerous thing to do—and that clear crystal had turned a pale blue, and the carved clouds moved. Now, the Bowl of the Winds was blue, the bright blue of a summer sky, and fleecy white clouds billowed across it.
Caire continues to lay more and more complex weaves on the Bowl, each time changing the weather pattern it shows, and soon the Bowl itself begins drawing a huge amount of saidar on its own, which shoots up into the sky in a “writhing, braided column”.
It was a very good thing she had not wanted to focus the flows for this circle, Elayne realized; what the woman was doing required years more study than she had. Many years more. Suddenly, she realized something else. That ever-changing lacework of saidar bent itself around something else, something unseen that made the column solid. She swallowed, hard. The Bowl was drawing saidin as well as saidar.
The others have noticed, too, but Caire is unfazed, and fans and threads of saidar spread out from the top of the column in every direction until they stretch out of sight. Caire weaves on and on, until suddenly she shuts the whole thing down and releases the Source, saying it is done. Everyone is staggered by the very unorthodox way Caire had dropped the link, and sweating and exhausted besides. Nynaeve wants to know if it worked or what, and Caire retorts that when you move the rudder on a ship with “a beam as broad as the world”, it takes time for results to show, but it is done, and the Bowl is theirs. Renaile goes to gather up the Bowl, and says now it is the Aes Sedai’s turn to fulfill their part; Nynaeve answers that they’ll see, when Caire’s “rudder” turns, if it does. She then mutters that she feels “an echo” of the Power, and wonders if her angreal is at fault, but Elayne says that she feels it too, and realizes it’s like feeling channeling at a great distance.
She turned. On the horizon to the south, lightning flashed, dozens of bolts vivid silver-blue against the afternoon sky. Very near to Ebou Dar.
Elayne shivers at how much Power it must be for her to feel it at this distance, and wonders if it could be Forsaken. Nynaeve agrees, and quietly points out that if so, they’ll surely have noticed what they were doing just now. Nynaeve tells Elayne to take the rest to Andor, and Nynaeve will meet her there.
“Mat’s in the city. I have to go back for him. Burn the boy; he came for me, and I have to.”
Elayne wrapped her arms around herself and drew a deep breath. Queen Tylin she left to the mercies of the Light; Tylin would survive if it was possible. But Mat Cauthon, her very strange, very instructive subject; her most unlikely rescuer. He had come for her, too, and offered more. And Thom Merrilin; dear Thom, who she sometimes still wished would turn out to be her real father, and the Light burn what that would make of her mother. And the boy, Olver, and Chel Vanin, and She had to think like a queen. The Rose Crown is heavier than a mountain, her mother had told her, and duty will make you weep, but you must bear and do what must be done.
Elayne tells Nynaeve she can’t go; she’s exhausted, and it’s they the Forsaken will be after, not Mat. Nynaeve protests they can’t just leave Mat, but Aviendha agrees with Elayne, pointing out that Mat may have left the city already, and they would risk knowledge of the Bowl falling into Forsaken hands for nothing. Nynaeve’s face crumples, and Elayne goes to hug her, when someone screams “Shadowspawn!”, and the Aes Sedai bring down a winged shape from the sky with Fire. Kirstian points out another one, and everyone throws more fire at it, but it escapes; Merilille mutters that this proves that it’s Forsaken in Ebou Dar, at least.
“Not Shadowspawn,” Elayne said hollowly. Nynaeve’s face was a picture of anguish; she knew, too. “They call it a raken. It’s the Seanchan. We must go, Nynaeve, and take every woman at the farm with us. Whether we killed that thing or not, more will come. Anyone we leave behind will be wearing a damane leash by tomorrow morning.” Nynaeve nodded, slowly, painfully; Elayne thought she murmured, “Oh, Mat.”
Renaile is frantic about the ship she left behind in the harbor, and tries to weave a gateway right there, but it fails. Elayne snaps at her that she can’t make a gateway to a moving ship, and she can’t go anyway; neither of their bargains is fulfilled—either the one she made with Elayne or the one with Mat. She commands Renaile and all the others to run back to the farm, now, and to her surprise, they obey.
Hello, something seems to be happening. Yay!
So finally the Bowl is used, and it was pretty impressive, I think. Very cool imagery, as usual, most of which I left out of the summary, so you should go back and read it. Not quite a Moment of Awesome, but good stuff, nonetheless.
Aviendha: Damn, girl, ease up on yourself already. Also, wow: remind me to never get interrogated by the Aiel.
Nynaeve: Time for another round of Apologies Are Fun, I see. Also, heh: “waves of heat”, I bet. We might quibble over when exactly Mat lost his virginity, but I think there’s no doubt about when Nynaeve did. Perhaps it’s no wonder she’s acting so scatter-brained over Lan, eh?
Sareitha: I’m not sure if Elayne’s little suspicion here re: Sareitha’s explanation of linking is ever followed up on, or what it means. I’m also not clear on why Elayne thought it was strange in that context; if it had been me, I would have assumed that Sareitha’s hesitation in her statement (that no one could be forced into a link) was because of the now known existence of a’dam.
Windfinders: Yeah, still not liking the Sea Folk, at all. That business with Caire screaming at Elayne when she was trying to explain the angreal to Talaan made me want to smack her into next week. Not to mention the rest of it, but that part especially, if for no other reason than explaining to Talaan how to use the angreal was kind of, you know, important. Sheesh.
All that being said, however, it’s a damn good thing Caire was there no matter how obnoxious she is, since apparently using the Bowl was less like switching on a light, and more like playing a Beethoven sonata. This is a problem when Elayne et al were evidently not even aware the Bowl was a piano. So to speak. Caire can, possibly, be forgiven at least a little bit for her pride, therefore—though I definitely think there is such a thing as taking it too far.
(Come to think of it, Beethoven himself was not exactly big on social graces either; and in fact in my experience there is a rather high correlation between people of prodigious talent also being assholes. What this says about human nature I leave as an exercise for the reader.)
Still not really clear, though, on how the Bowl used both saidin and saidar when only saidar was used on it in the first place. But, I guess after a certain point it was kind of like a machine on automatic, or something, so whatever. I’m also trying to remember if we’ve ever seen another Power object that uses both halves of the Power, but I can’t think of one off the top of my head. (The Choedan Kal don’t count, because each only uses one half; it was Rand who combined the two halves together for the Cleansing.)
The Seanchan are coming!: Mainly notable (in this chapter, at least) because of the reactions the news provokes in Elayne and especially Nynaeve regarding Mat. I had forgotten how upset Nynaeve gets here at the notion of leaving him behind, and even though she phrases it as a tit for tat thing (he came for me, I have to go for him), it’s pretty obvious that’s just her usual downplaying of her softer side. As for Elayne, the fact that she classes Mat with Thom in the scale of her regrets (arguably, even above Thom) shows how much her opinion of him has changed. All in all, I liked that about them very much here.
Chapter 6: Threads
Everyone runs pell-mell down the hill, Nynaeve elbowing people out of her way, and Elayne feels like laughing despite the situation; she had behaved like a queen would, taking charge, and everyone had obeyed her. She is very proud of herself until she trips and falls flat on her face in front of Birgitte. Humiliated, she expects Birgitte to make a cutting remark, but Birgitte only pulls her up and asks what they’re going to do.
“I recognized those Seanchan fliers from Falme, and truth for true, I suggest running. My bow is the ordinary sort, today.” Aviendha gave her a slight frown, and Elayne sighed; Birgitte had to learn to guard her tongue if she really intended to hide who she was.
Nynaeve cuts in that of course they’re running, but interrupts herself to shout for Alise as they see the farm in even more turmoil than when Careane had showed her face, everyone dashing here and there, including even some Warders. Alise appears and calmly remarks that Birgitte told her what those “big birds” are, and she figured they would be needing to leave, so she set about getting things organized; she’s already sent off the women who aren’t Kin. She advises them to calm themselves and splash some water on their faces, and marches off. Nynaeve stares slack-jawed a moment, and Elayne comments that she did say the woman was very capable; Nynaeve snaps back that she never said “very”, and bets Alise doesn’t know where her hat’s got to, anyway, and flounces off. Elayne wonders if working that much saidar has unsettled Nynaeve, thinking she feels a little strange herself, as though she “could pluck little bits of saidar out of the air”, but dismisses it to think of the little Egwene had brought herself to tell about her captivity among the Seanchan, and concludes that she will die before letting them collar her. She and Aviendha dash to the cistern, only to find that Alise has already had all the ter’angreal packed up; Aviendha doesn’t understand why this perturbs Elayne so, and Elayne doesn’t admit aloud that it’s because she doesn’t want anyone else touching them.
They were hers! The Hall was not going to hand these over to some other sister just because she was older and more experienced, or hide them away because studying ter’angreal was too dangerous. With this many examples to study, maybe she could finally figure out how to make ter’angreal that worked every time; there had been far too many failures and half-successes.
Elayne sends Careane to keep watch on the hill, and Adeleas and Vandene bring out Ispan; Elayne notes that while the Black sister seems unharmed, she is now being perfectly meek and compliant, and decides she doesn’t want to think about why. Alise finds Nynaeve’s hat, to the latter’s astonishment, and continually fixes problems before Nynaeve has a chance to, including retrieving both the Bowl and the turtle angreal from a spluttering Renaile. Finally everything is ready, and Elayne makes a gateway to one of her smaller estates in Andor, about two weeks’ ride from Caemlyn; she is very tired, which makes the flows difficult to manage, and she thinks it is worse this time than she ever remembers it being. Birgitte and Lan are first through, and Nynaeve almost runs after Lan, but stops herself furiously; then Alise starts chivvying everyone through the gateway, leaving Nynaeve out of it altogether.
Nynaeve’s head swung wildly, pained indecision painting her face. For some reason she touched her wide hat, a few of its blue plumes broken and drooping, before pulling her hand away. “Oh, that goat-kissing old !” she growled, the rest lost as she dragged her mare through the gateway. Elayne sniffed. And Nynaeve had the nerve to speak to anybody about their language! She wished she could have heard the rest, though; she already knew the first bit.
Everyone goes through the gate; at the end, Alise hands Elayne her hat, with a comment that she’ll want to keep the sun off that pretty skin. Elayne stares after her while Aviendha cracks up; Elayne threatens to find her a big froofy hat too, which shuts Aviendha up. On the other side, Nynaeve is continuing to be one-upped by Alise, and irritably asks Elayne why she hasn’t taken the gateway down yet. Elayne takes a deep breath and tells Nynaeve to take everyone on ahead, and begins unweaving her gateway, to Nynaeve and Aviendha’s horror.
“It has to be done,” Elayne sighed. “The Seanchan will be at the farm in hours, for sure. Even if they wait until tomorrow, what if one of the damane has the Talent to read residues? Nynaeve, I won’t give Traveling to the Seanchan. I won’t!”
Nynaeve growls that she has no intention of letting Elayne kill herself, but Aviendha tells her that once started, the process cannot be stopped. Nynaeve glares a moment, and then abruptly hugs Elayne hard and threatens to “skin her alive” if she dies. Elayne laughs, and Nynaeve turns away with suspiciously bright eyes, to find that Alise has gotten everyone ready and even brought Nynaeve’s horse for her. Nynaeve looks mortified, and Elayne wonders why she doesn’t just put Alise in her place. The party sets out, but Aviendha and Birgitte don’t move; knowing Aviendha wouldn’t budge, Elayne tries to send Birgitte on ahead, which Birgitte rejects with dry mockery, but Elayne feels her affection through the bond. Elayne chokes up a bit and tells them she is lucky to have two such friends; Birgitte grins, but Aviendha blushes and hastily changes the subject by warning Elayne that she must not wait too long to finish the unweaving, as the threads grow “slick” after a while. Elayne doesn’t think it sounds too hard, but when she begins, discovers that “slick” is an understatement, and it is only with great effort that she grips them and pulls them apart.
To her eye the gateway resembled some monstrous, distorted hundred-heads on the bottom of a pond, surrounded by flailing tendrils, every one thickly haired with threads of the Power that grew and writhed and vanished only to be replaced by new. The opening visible to anyone flexed along its edges, changing shape and even size continuously. Her legs began to tremble; strain stung her eyes as much as sweat did. She did not know how much longer she could go on. Gritting her teeth, she fought. One thread at a time. One thread at a time.
Through the gateway, she can see the Seanchan have arrived at the farm; one of the sul’dam sees the gateway, and her damane embraces the Source. Elayne screams for Aviendha and Birgitte to get down just as lightning stabs through the gateway. It cuts off as a Seanchan shouts something about taking them alive, and soldiers start to leap through the gateway; Birgitte and Aviendha go to work with arrows and knife, taking them down, but the Seanchan begin shooting back, and Aviendha gets a bolt in the arm and Birgitte in the thigh. Distracted by her distress for them, Elayne realizes she doesn’t remember where she was in the process, and now doesn’t dare let go of the thread she’s holding. Aviendha screams defiance at the soldiers, and embraces the Source and begins flinging fireballs through the gate, but she is already exhausted and can’t keep it up for long. Elayne begs them both to run, but Birgitte tells her to shut up, and helps Aviendha mount up backwards on her horse, so she can continue to fire at the gate; she goes to do the same for Elayne, but Elayne says she doesn’t know if she can hold the weave if she moves.
Muttering curses in the Old Tongue—they had to be; nothing else ever had the sound!—Birgitte shoved the horses’ reins into Aviendha’s hands. Nearly falling twice, she hobbled to Elayne and bent to take her by the shoulders. “You can hang on,” she said, her voice filled with the same conviction Elayne felt from her. “I never met a Queen of Andor before you, but I’ve known queens like you. A backbone of steel and a lion’s heart. You can do it!”
She helps Elayne up and gets her on her horse, as the remains of the gateway twists wildly, and they gallop away from the gateway; Aviendha keeps flinging fireballs until they are almost at the crest of the nearest hill, when her strength gives out. The Seanchan start pouring through the gate as soon as her barrage stops, including five sul’dam/damane pairs. Elayne sees one of them forming a shield, and shouts for Birgitte to go faster, but it is too late, and the damane cuts Elayne off from saidar.
Down in the meadow, the weave that had been a gateway fell in on itself. Haggard, looking as though she could not possibly move, Aviendha hurled herself from her saddle at Elayne, carrying them both off. Elayne had just time to see the far slope of the hill below her as she fell.
The air turned white, blanking her sight. There was sound—she knew there was sound, a great roar—but it lay beyond hearing. Something struck her, as if she had fallen from a rooftop onto hard pavement, from a tower top.
She wakes up to find herself all the way at the bottom of the hill, covered in blood and hurting all over; she can feel that Birgitte is in pain, too, but still alive, and forces herself up to search for Aviendha, finding her thirty paces away. She crawls over, and Aviendha gasps in relief to see Elayne is okay; Elayne is puzzled a moment, since she is definitely not okay, but realizes Aviendha meant that she had not been burned out, and shivers in relief. All three of them struggle painfully back up the hill to see what had happened, and see that the gateway site is a blackened ruin; Elayne murmurs a prayer for the Seanchan’s souls. She comments that she didn’t do quite as well as Aviendha had, but perhaps it was for the best; Aviendha answers that the first time she tried unweaving (just a knot of Wind) it took her fifty tries before it stopped blowing up. Elayne notes dryly that she has a habit of leaping in over her head, and supposes it’s good that they’ve found a new weapon, at least.
“You do not understand, Elayne.” Aviendha gestured toward the center of the meadow, where the gateway had been. “That could have been no more than a flash of light, or even less. You cannot tell until it happens. Is a flash of light worth the risk of burning out yourself and every woman closer to you than a hundred paces or more?”
Elayne stared at her. She had stayed, knowing that? To risk your life was one thing, but to risk losing the ability to channel “I want us to adopt each other as first-sisters, Aviendha. As soon as we can find Wise Ones.” What they were to do about Rand, she could not imagine. The very idea that they would both marry him—and Min, too!—was worse than ridiculous. But of this, she was sure. “I don’t need to know any more about you. I want to be your sister.” Gently, she kissed Aviendha’s bloodstained cheek.
She had only thought Aviendha blushed fiercely before. Even Aiel lovers did not kiss where anyone could see. Fiery sunsets paled beside Aviendha’s face. “I want you for my sister, too,” she mumbled. Swallowing hard—and eyeing Birgitte, who was pretending to ignore them—she leaned over and quickly pressed her lips to Elayne’s cheek. Elayne loved her as much for that gesture as for the rest.
Birgitte sees Lan and Nynaeve galloping back toward them, and the three women sit down to wait for them, which Elayne thinks heroes in stories never do; she thinks she might be a good queen, but it’s clear she’ll never be a hero.
Chulein rides her raken, Segani, with her partner Eliya, and watches as balls of fire fly out from apparently nowhere in the meadow below. Eliya comments that there are supposed to be hundreds of marath’damane down there, and they discuss what they’re going to do with their share of the bounty award. Then something hits Segani and he goes into a spiraling fall, but pulls out of it at the last moment. Chulein sees that Eliya has fallen to her death, and then she sees the ground.
The farm was gone. Foundations scoured clean of the white buildings that had stood on them, the big structures built into a hillside smashed heaps of rubble. Gone. Everything was blackened and burned. Fire raged through the undergrowth on the slopes and made fans a hundred paces long into the olive groves and the forest, stretching from the spaces between the hills. Beyond lay broken trees for another hundred or more, all leaning away from the farm. She had never seen anything like it. Nothing could be alive down there. Nothing could have lived through that. Whatever it had been.
Chulein thinks to herself that this new weapon proves how dangerous these Aes Sedai are, and that something would have to be done about them. She flies south to make her report.
I have to say, I totally forgot about this scene altogether. Wow, Elayne wiped out an entire brigade of Seanchan—not to mention multiple acres of real estate.
By accident, true, but still. Altogether, I’d say that this counts as a Moment of Awesome for her—but even more for Birgitte and Aviendha, who kick all the ass in the area—literally and figuratively. Yay! I do love me a good female warrior figure, by which I mean, “not a cheap excuse for improbably threadbare armor”.
I do have to take this moment to again be appreciative, despite all the criticisms I may have, of Jordan’s treatment of female characters in many respects, of which this scene is an excellent example. It’s a little difficult to explain, but I just really like that Birgitte and Aviendha (and Elayne, in a different way) are all depicted here not as “female warriors in a combat situation”, but as “warriors in a combat situation”, full stop. I’m not sure how to explicate the difference, which can often be very subtle, and additionally is obviously subjective anyway, but it is a frequent mild-to-major irritant to me in many depictions of female fighters in fiction.
Not in WOT, however. I may have my issues with some of Jordan’s choices in more social venues when it comes to his female characters, but when it comes to battle, he is 99% fail free.
I also really liked the way the bonds between the three of them (four of them, really, as I would include Nynaeve even though she’s not there for most of it) were shown and strengthened by what happened. I think this is one thing the Supergirls have in distinct advantage over the Superboys—their trust and love for each other. Which is something the boys have to some degree with other members of their respective entourages, but not with each other. The widening rifts between Mat, Perrin and Rand are something that I assume really has to be addressed before this whole shindig goes down. At least I devoutly hope so.
(Of course, it would help if they were ever in the same room together. Srsly.)
Concurrent to my earlier observation of the directly proportional ratio of ability to jerkishness, I think it is no accident how frequently Our Heroes (in WOT and in fiction in general) have a tendency to belittle or be unaware of their own awesomeness, as Elayne does here in her “I’m no hero” bit. After all, if they were conscious of just how awesome they are, they’d be, well, jerks. And As You Know, Bob, heroes cannot be jerks.
Well, they can’t be total jerks, anyway. Or they can be jerks about some things, but not about their own hero-ness. In fact, I’d theorize that a hero can be a jerk and still be a hero in almost any other way but this. You’ll note how many people’s opinion of Rand—including mine—took a nosedive the moment he started getting all Do You Know Who I Am? to the people around him. This is instructive, is what I’m saying, about what makes a hero a hero.
(Antiheroes, now that’s another story. Literally.)
And now both the word “jerk” and the word “hero” have lost all meaning, so let’s move on.
It’s worth noting, speaking of unaware awesomeness, that Elayne unwove her Gateway—apparently an incredibly difficult undertaking—not only under the then-unknown circumstances of One Power weirdness due to using the Bowl, but while staggering with exhaustion. And it was the first time she’d ever done it!
Nynaeve: I was annoyed here re: Alise for the same reason I was annoyed on Elayne’s behalf in the earlier chapters—that not only is her authority getting undermined, but it’s not entirely without cause. I mean, yes, Nynaeve is kind of acting like an idiot here, but anyone who’s had this “efficiency backstab” method of office politics happen to them (which is basically what Alise is doing to Nynaeve here) should at least be able to sympathize a little. And if you haven’t ever had this kind of thing happen to you, watch your back. It’ll happen, sooner or later, and it will be incredibly frustrating when it does, trust me.
As a last random note, Adeleas and Vandene are kind of fabulously creepy sometimes. I said earlier that I would not want to be interrogated by the Aiel (well, I really don’t want to be interrogated by anyone, but anyway), but Elayne’s point about the ominousness of Ispan’s sudden good behavior is well-taken. The Aes Sedai can’t go full-bore Jack Bauer on their prisoners, maybe, but there are evidently subtler ways to go about it.
(Maybe they used figs and mice!)
And I’m spent. Have an interrogation and explosion-free week, kiddos, and I’ll see youse later!