Happy Friday, people of Tor.com! I bring you a Wheel of Time Re-read to usher in the weekendy… weekendness. Whatever.
Today’s entry covers Chapters 19 and 20 of The Path of Daggers, in which we learn you can’t fight in here, this is the War Vote!
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 19: The Law
Everyone is eager to get back to camp, and the ride back is tense. Even though Egwene sets a hard pace, both Lelaine and Romanda manage to hold warded conferences with their lackeys in the Hall, and the other Sitters confer variously with each other as well, with the exception of Delana, who only speaks to Halima and seems very worried. Sheriam and Siuan both tell Egwene that they didn’t learn much about the rumors of Aes Sedai in Andor before starting to snipe at each other; Egwene shuts them up and gives Sheriam instructions for when they reach camp.
Sheriam’s tilted eyes went wide at the orders. “Mother, if I may ask, why… ?” She trailed off under Egwene’s level gaze, and swallowed. “It will be as you say, Mother,” she said slowly. “Strange. I remember the day you and Nynaeve came to the Tower, two girls who couldn’t decide whether to be excited or frightened. So much has changed since then. Everything.”
“Nothing stays the same forever,” Egwene told her.
Once they reach camp, Egwene expects Bryne to peel off with the rest of the soldiers, but instead he asks her to allow him to accompany her “a while longer”. Egwene knows it isn’t a good idea for him to declare his allegiance to her so openly yet, and tells him no. She adds that if she doesn’t send Siuan to him that night, he should leave, as staying could prove dangerous or even fatal if Egwene is blamed for what happened today. Bryne replies that he gave his word. He glances at Siuan, and tells Egwene she has Bryne and the army at her back, and that should count for something even among Aes Sedai. He leaves (Siuan watches him go with “anguish”), and Egwene is amazed at his openness now, of all times. Egwene and Siuan head to her tent to eat while Sheriam makes the announcement that the Amyrlin calls for a formal session of the Hall. Over stew, Siuan asks if Egwene would really tell Bryne about her feelings for him, as she thinks he would make her life “the Pit of Doom” if he knew. This makes no sense to Egwene, and she threatens to pay off Siuan’s debt to him and forbid her to see Bryne anymore if she can’t stop being so “half-witted” regarding him; Siuan answers that she will work off her debt, and also that Min told her she’d have to stay near Bryne or they’d both die, “or something like that”, but Egwene sees her blush, and realizes she’ll just do anything to be near him.
“Siuan,” Egwene said warningly. “You deny one more time what’s plain as your nose, and I’ll tell him and give him the money.”
Siuan pouted sullenly. She pouted! Sullenly! Siuan! “I don’t have time to be in love. I barely have time to think, between working for you and him. And even if everything goes right tonight, I’ll have twice as much to do. Besides…” Her face fell, and she shifted on the stool. “What if he doesn’t… return my feelings?” she muttered. “He’s never even tried to kiss me. All he cares about is whether his shirts are clean.”
It suddenly occurs to Egwene to wonder why exactly Bryne had agreed to maintain his and Siuan’s “preposterous” arrangement, or throw his loyalty to Egwene (whose only ally, as far as he knows, is Siuan), or for that matter why he had agreed to build the army in the first place—something that he had to know could get him executed.
Could the answer to all of those questions be as simple as… he loved Siuan? No; most men were frivolous and flighty, but that was truly preposterous! Still, she offered the suggestion, if only to amuse Siuan. It might cheer her a little.
Siuan snorted in disbelief. It sounded odd, coming from that pretty face, but no one could put quite so much expression into a snort as she did. “He’s not a total idiot,” she said dryly. “In fact, he has a good head on his shoulders. He thinks like a woman, most of the time.”
Siuan then adroitly changes the subject to the impending meeting, but they’ve gone over everything so often there’s little to discuss, so the result is Siuan getting more and more morbid with gallows humor until they are interrupted by Sheriam with the news that it’s time.
Siuan bounded to her feet and seized her cloak from Egwene’s cot, but she paused in the act of draping it on her shoulders. “I have sailed the Fingers of the Dragon in the dark, you know,” she said seriously. “And netted a lionfish once, with my father. It can be done.”
Sheriam asks rather petulantly why Egwene will not trust her Keeper with her plans, and Egwene gives a noncommittal answer; to herself, she thinks she only trusts a forced oath so far, even with Aes Sedai. They head to where the pavilion tent is set up, and most of the sisters in the camp are circled around it. Sheriam starts the ritual just as a flustered Delana runs up, the last Sitter to arrive; Aledrin (White) makes a ward against eavesdropping in accordance with ritual as Egwene paces to her seat. Lelaine is already standing and Romanda rising when Egwene reaches her place, but she forestalls them both by speaking first.
“I call a question before the Hall,” she said in a loud, firm voice. “Who will stand to declare war against the usurper Elaida do Avriny a’Roihan?”
Everyone stares at her in amazement a moment. Then Lelaine answers that the Hall does not declare war on individuals, and in any case there are more important matters to address. She starts in on her issues with what happened with the Andorans, and Romanda cuts in to say she has more important issues than that, one of them regarding Lelaine’s fitness to serve in the Hall. Egwene interrupts them both with the declaration that Tower law forbids shelving a question of war. Everyone blinks, and Janya (Brown) turns to Takima (also Brown) and asks her opinion, saying she remembers Takima saying she had read the Law of War.
Egwene held her breath. The White Tower had sent soldiers to any number of wars over the last thousand years, but always in response to a plea for help from at least two thrones, and it always had been their war, not the Tower’s. The last time the Tower itself actually declared war had been against Artur Hawkwing. Siuan said that now only a few librarians knew much more than that there was a Law of War.
Takima appears nervous, but finally answers shortly that Egwene is correct, and Egwene realizes Takima knows, and prays that she keeps silent. Romanda rather ungraciously acknowledges the point and invites Egwene to speak her case. Egwene makes a speech, in which she makes the point that Arathelle and Pelivar exemplify the doubt with which they are regarded, and that no one will take them seriously until they remove all doubt as to their purpose, by formally declaring war on Elaida.
“We have walked to the door and put our hands on the latch. If you are afraid to walk through, then you all but ask the world to believe that you are nothing but Elaida’s puppets.”
Romanda impatiently calls for a vote, and Janya gets up immediately, saying they might as well. She is followed by Escaralde (the third Brown Sitter), Moria (Blue), and Samalin and Malind (two of the Green Sitters). The third Green, Faiselle, is shocked by this. They are followed by Salita (Yellow, ignoring Romanda’s frown), Kwamesa (Gray), Aledrin and Berana (both White). Delana stands slowly, looking sick to her stomach, but no one else rises, and Egwene feels sick herself, realizing the count is short. Then Moria rounds on Lyrelle and Lelaine (the other two Blue Sitters) in a fury, asking why they wait, when no woman in the history of the Tower deserves the declaration more. Lelaine sniffs, affronted, and opines she hardly thinks it worth a vote, but shrugs and stands, pulling Lyrelle up with her. Takima grunts as if punched, and Egwene can hardly believe it. A wide-eyed Sheriam declares the lesser consensus, and asks for the greater consensus for unity’s sake, but Romanda says flatly that she won’t get it, and proposes they turn to other matters.
“I don’t think we can,” Egwene cut in. “Takima, what does the Law of War say about the Amyrlin Seat?” Romanda was left with her mouth hanging open.
Takima’s lips writhed. The diminutive Brown looked more than ever a bird wishing to take flight. “The Law…” she began, then took a deep breath and sat up straight. “The Law of War states, ‘As one set of hands must guide a sword, so the Amyrlin Seat shall direct and prosecute the war by decree. She shall seek the advice of the Hall of the Tower, but the Hall shall carry out her decrees with all possible speed, and for the sake of unity, they shall…’ ” She faltered, and had to visibly force herself to go on. “ ‘…they shall and must approve any decree of the Amyrlin Seat regarding prosecution of the war with the greater consensus.’ ”
There is a dead silence, and then Delana vomits on the floor, and several others look like they might join her; Romanda looks like she might “bite through a nail.”
“Very clever,” Lelaine said at last in clipped tones, and after a deliberate pause, added, “Mother. Will you tell us what the great wisdom of your vast experience tells you to do? About the war, I mean. I want to make myself clear.”
“Let me make myself clear, too,” Egwene said coldly. Leaning forward, she fixed the Blue Sitter sternly. “A certain degree of respect is required toward the Amyrlin Seat, and from now on, I will have it, daughter. This is no time for me to have to unchair you and name a penance.” Lelaine’s eyes crept wider and wider with shock. Had the woman really believed everything would continue as before? Or after so long not daring to show more than the tiniest backbone, had Lelaine simply believed she had none?
Romanda smiles, and Egwene wipes it off her face by telling her Tiana can find two birches if necessary. Still looking sick, Takima rises and shakily praises the notion of staying here a month “or longer”, but Egwene tells her there will be no more delays.
Would she be another Gerra, or another Shein? Either was still possible. “In one month, we will Travel from here.” No; she was Egwene al’Vere, and whatever the secret histories would say of her faults and virtues, the Light only knew, but they would be hers, not copies of some other woman’s. “In one month, we will begin the siege of Tar Valon.”
This time, the silence was broken only by the sound of Takima weeping.
I believe this is what the Youth of Today (or, possibly, the Youth of 2005 or thereabouts, anyway) mean when they say “Girl, you got SERVED.”
Or “girls”, in this case. Singular or plural, they got served, you guys. On a platter, no less. Parsley may have been involved. So ha! Suck on that, Hall! Nyah! Neener neener!
Why yes, I am the epitome of sober maturity, thank you for noticing. But I dare you to claim you didn’t mentally stick out your tongue at Romanda et al and wiggle your fingers in your ears in diabolical childish glee here, because c’mon. You totally did.
Also, unless I’m really forgetting something, this is without question the most awesome moment in this book.
(And if I am forgetting something, that in itself kind of strongly argues against the hypothetical awesomeness of that something, doesn’t it? Or, uh, something. This totally makes sense in my head, I swear.)
Anyway. Let this be a lesson to you all: never mess with an Ooh Ooh Girl, for we will cut you. We will cut you DEEP. Ignore this wisdom at your peril!
I’m sure there’s some criticism you could level at Egwene here about dirty political tricks and end-runs by way of technicalities and yadda blah snore, but I ain’t trying to hear that, y’all. First of all, the Hall started it by raising Egwene via legal loophole in the first place, so KARMA, is what I’m saying, and second, it was Extremely Cool, and also moves the plot, so la la la, I can’t hear you.
Meanwhile, my medal for Airtight Logical Thinkings and Arguing Real Good is in the mail. Whoo!
Takima: Awesomeness of the scene aside, the one thing that always rather puzzled me about the War Vote is why Takima didn’t say anything to warn the others about the trick Egwene was pulling. Even if she didn’t really care about the fact that Egwene was about to achieve an effective coup (though I can’t see how she wouldn’t care about that!), Takima is also one of the “Obstructionist Five” Sitters who constantly angled for a rapprochement with the Tower and tried to block any decisions that moved toward prosecuting the war. So it always seemed rather unbelievable to me to suppose she wouldn’t have torpedoed the whole thing—just as much to prevent a formal declaration of war on Elaida in the first place as to sabotage Egwene’s hostile takeover. Basically, she had double the reason to pipe up as any of the others, and yet she didn’t. Why?
I did notice a small detail this time around which may be meant to explain it. There was a brief aside in Chapter 16 about Takima, when Egwene sees Morvrin talking to her (about the Reds and Logain, as Egwene had instructed), and Egwene being a bit puzzled at the choice of Takima to chat up as opposed to Janya or Escaralde (the other two Brown Sitters). The only thing I can figure is that it was brought to our attention so that we could assume Morvrin’s talk of the Reds’ (alleged) suckiness gave Takima a reason for keeping her mouth shut—or at least kept her indecisive long enough to give Egwene the win by default. If so, Morvrin really did Egwene a solid there, since apparently Janya and Escaralde needed no convincing at all on that score—they were the first two to stand for the War Vote. If Morvrin had chosen one of the other two Brown Sitters to propagandize, I presume the War Vote might have gone very differently.
Delana: Why the vomiting, again? Wouldn’t a formal declaration of war against Elaida and a seizure of power by the one person (Egwene) who can be presumed to actually vigorously pursue it be a good thing for the Shadow? More chaos, dissent, strife, etc.? Eh? Man, these evil people confuse me sometimes.
Sheriam: Speaking of evil people. One thing that her being definitely Black makes annoying is that for hopefully obvious reasons, it makes the sincerity of everything she says extremely suspect. This jumped out at me here especially with her tacit compliment to Egwene at the beginning of the chapter, which I originally thought was a very cool indicator of how much Egwene has accomplished re: getting her followers to respect her, but now of course I must regard as nothing more than Evil Sheriam blowing smoke up her ass. Bah.
Siuan and Bryne: Siuan continues to be hilarious. “She pouted! Sullenly! Siuan!” I LOL’d, you guys.
I don’t think I found her uncertainty about Bryne’s feelings for her (and the situation in general) as endearing before I read TGS; I’m under the impression that I previously mostly regarded their romance as annoying and unnecessarily drawn out. And slightly skeevy, too; don’t think I’ve forgotten the damn spanking thing!
But there is definitely a difference this time around, possibly because at least now I know there’s an end in sight—of this particular storyline, at least. And also possibly because for whatever reason I’ve been liking Siuan on this re-read about forty times more than I ever did before, so maybe I have more sympathy for her, or something. Who knows. But in any case, I’m glad I’m enjoying it!
And, yeah. So, in conclusion, yay War Vote, Egwene = Awesome.
And now, on to… other things.
Chapter 20: Into Andor
As Nynaeve Heals Elayne, Aviendha, and Birgitte of the wounds received from the exploding gateway, Elayne hopes that the trip to Caemlyn goes smoothly. Lan has to yank out the bolt in Birgitte’s thigh before Nynaeve can Heal her, and compliments her stoicism by saying “Tai’shar Kandor”.
True blood of Kandor. Birgitte blinked, and he paused. “Forgive me if I erred. I assumed from your clothes you were Kandori.”
“Oh, yes,” Birgitte breathed. “Kandori.” Her sickly grin might have been from her injuries; Nynaeve was impatiently shooing Lan out of the way so she could lay hands on her. Elayne hoped the woman knew more of Kandor than the name; when Birgitte had last been born, there had been no Kandor. She should have taken it as an omen.
They head back to Elayne’s estate to find the party in general chaos and disgruntlement over the situation, but Alise is swiftly settling everyone, and even the Windfinders and Aes Sedai are cautious of her. Nynaeve glares at Alise and stalks off, and Elayne asks Lan where Ispan is. He tells her Vandene and Adeleas have taken her to a small hut half a mile away, and intend to stay there for the night; Elayne divines from this that Ispan is to be questioned again that night, and shivers. She and Aviendha, Birgitte, and Nynaeve are obliged to sleep in one bed owing to the overcrowding, and the next morning they set out again, and Elayne reflects that while the chances of their party going unnoticed were likely impossible, there is no reason for anyone to think the Daughter-Heir herself was part of it. She expects trouble from the noblewomen and rich merchants traveling with them, but Reanne and Alise settle that potential explosion before it begins. As they come upon more settled land, Elayne attempts (anonymously) to get a feel for the sentiment regarding herself and the throne. She learns that most people believe she was killed by Rand along with her mother, and favor Dyelin for the throne.
Elayne heard a great deal about Rand, rumors ranging from him swearing fealty to Elaida to him being the King of Illian, of all things. In Andor, he was blamed for everything bad that happened for the last two or three years, including stillbirths and broken legs, infestations of grasshoppers, two-headed calves, and three-legged chickens. And even people who thought her mother had ruined the country and an end to the reign of House Trakand was good riddance still believed Rand al’Thor an invader. The Dragon Reborn was supposed to fight the Dark One at Shayol Ghul, and he should be driven out of Andor. Not what she had hoped to hear, not a bit of it. But she heard it all again and again. It was not a pleasant journey at all. It was one long lesson in one of Lini’s favorite sayings. It isn’t the stone you see that trips you on your nose.
Elayne worries that the tensions between the Windfinders, the Aes Sedai, and the Kin will escalate, but they never quite seem to do so. Ispan ceases to be a problem in that she grows meeker and more eager to please by the day, but Adeleas is frustrated that they can only get information on outdated Black Ajah plots that are no longer relevant, and only names of Darkfriends Adeleas is sure are already dead. Vandene is beginning to suspect that Ispan has taken an Oath against betraying her fellow Black sisters. Meanwhile Nynaeve is irritating Elayne with her behavior over Lan.
It was her own fault for choosing a Sea Folk wedding, in Elayne’s estimation. The Sea Folk believed in hierarchy as they did in the sea, and they knew a woman and her husband might be promoted one past the other many times in their lives. Their marriage rites took that into account. Whoever had the right to command in public, must obey in private. Lan never took advantage, so Nynaeve said— “not really,” whatever that was supposed to mean! She always blushed when she said it—but she kept waiting for him to do so, and he just seemed to grow more and more amused. This amusement, of course, screwed Nynaeve’s temper to a fever pitch.
Elayne’s studies of the ter’angreal from the Rahad are not going well, either; one makes her dizzy, another gives everyone around her a blinding headache, and while studying the crimson rod that “feels hot”, she wakes up the next morning with no memory of anything that had happened between. Almost everyone in the party seems extremely amused when they see her, but no one will tell her what she had done; Elayne decides to study the ter’angreal in greater privacy thenceforth. Nine days after leaving Ebou Dar it begins to rain and then snow, and they realize the party is completely unprepared clothes-wise for winter; Elayne, Nynaeve, Reanne, and Merilille all blame themselves, and actually argue with each other over who gets to claim the blame until the absurdity of the fight strikes them, and they end up laughing together. Aviendha eventually solves the problem by producing a sack of gemstones to trade for winter garments. Elayne asks Aviendha where she got them.
“Rand al’Thor tricked me,” Aviendha muttered sullenly. “I tried to buy my toh from him. I know that is the least honorable way,” she protested, “but I could see no other. And he stood me on my head! Why is it, when you reason things out logically, a man always does something completely illogical and gains the upper hand?”
“Their pretty heads are so fuzzy, a woman can’t expect to follow how they skitter,” Elayne told her. She did not inquire what toh Aviendha had tried to buy, or how the attempt had ended with her near-sister possessing a sack full of rich gems. Talking about Rand was hard enough without where that might lead.
Soon after this, Renaile decides she’s waited long enough, and demands both the Bowl of the Winds and Merilille, who is to be the first of the Aes Sedai teachers to the Windfinders, in fulfillment of the terms of their bargain. She orders Merilille out like a deckhand, and Merilille has no choice but to obey. Over the next few days it’s clear that the Windfinders consider Merilille’s status to be somewhere around Talaan and Metarra’s (i.e. very low), and Elayne notices that Merilille’s increasing obsequiousness to Renaile et al is having a distinct effect on the Kin, especially Alise and Sumeko.
More and more of the Kin slid from horrified gaping to thoughtful observation. Perhaps Aes Sedai were not a different flesh after all. If Aes Sedai were just women like themselves, why should they subject themselves once more to the rigors of the Tower, to Aes Sedai authority and Aes Sedai discipline? Had they not survived very well on their own, some for more years than any of the older sisters were quite ready to believe? Elayne could practically see the idea forming in their heads.
Nynaeve pooh-poohs the significance of this when Elayne mentions it to her, but then adds that perhaps they shouldn’t mention any of it to Egwene; Elayne agrees, not particularly eager to have her “nose snapped off” the way Egwene had when she found out about their bargain with the Sea Folk. Elayne knows it was proper of Egwene as the Amyrlin Seat to chastise them, but still hadn’t enjoyed being called a “witless loobie”, especially since she agrees. When they go to Tel’aran’rhiod, though, Egwene is not there; she’s left a message scratched into the wall of the old Amyrlin’s study in Salidar, telling them to stay in Caemlyn, and be “silent and careful”. Elayne leaves in return the number 15, to indicate her guess of how many days before they reach Caemlyn. Nynaeve grumbles about the difficulty of having to jump when Egwene snaps her fingers, when Nynaeve used to change her diapers; unable to resist, Elayne snaps her fingers, scaring Nynaeve half to death. Nynaeve gets her revenge the next morning by waking Elayne up with an icicle.
Three days later, the first explosion came.
Aaaand the most awesome chapter in TPOD is immediately followed by the most boring one. At least so far.
Seriously, nothing happened. I… I have to come up with something to say about this, really? Sigh. Okay.
Well, there is the revelation of what is exactly is up with Nynaeve and Lan’s marriage vows, which I guess was much more interesting when I, you know, didn’t know about it yet. I do have to say that the arrangement makes quite a lot of sense culturally; the Sea Folk are not very high in my estimation these days, but this tradition strikes me as eminently reasonable—even if I couldn’t see conforming to it being feasible outside the cultural infrastructure it’s meant for. The Aes Sedai/Warder thing may constitute an exception, though. When you think about it it’s a really nice way to address the fundamental permanent unequalness that would by definition have to be in that relationship. Maybe Nynaeve will convince Egwene to do the same thing with Gawyn?
Also, Nynaeve’s protestation that Lan was “not really” taking advantage of the situation was pretty funny, I grant you. I also left out the bit about how she was freaking out about sneaking him off to haylofts whenever she got a chance, so okay, heh.
And then there is the infamous ter’angreal Hot Rod Incident, which naturally has always inspired the fandom to take to a MUCH dirtier place than I think Jordan ever meant to imply. I seem to recall that the post-TPOD online discussions about what could have happened there were nearly majestic in their prurient loopiness. Those crazy fans, I swear. Minds always in the gutter, you people!
We sort of find out by inference, by the way, what really happened in WH, when Birgitte expresses her intention of getting drunk enough to “take off [her] clothes and dance on the table”, which Aviendha finds hilarious in an in-joke kind of way. Which… okay, stripping in public is really somewhat dirty too, isn’t it, but still, I think the fandom had way more fun with this than Emily Post would approve of in a million years. Heh.
And… yeah, there’s nothing else here I care about enough to muster up commentary on. At least there’ll be a murder soon!
And we out, kiddie-kadanzies. Have a super-fun weekend, and I’ll see youse Tuesday!