Greetings and yos to alla y’alls, and welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 19 of Winter’s Heart, in which Mat basically reenacts bits of Hitchcock movies. Sweet!
Today’s entry is a short one, because my week has continually verged on the insane, in some bad ways including more dental work (did I mention my teeth are fired? BECAUSE THEY ARE), but in one completely and totally rockin’ awesome way, in that as of about 48 hours ago as I write this, your Auntie Leigh became an actual Auntie Leigh, and she is so damn skippy about this that she has begun to refer to herself in the third person. O the Humanity.
(I have a nephew! His name is Remy! And he is adorable! Squee!)
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 that’s what that is, so I will have a toast, and you will have a post!
Chapter 19: Three Women
In the common room of the Wandering Woman, Mat notes with interest a high-stakes card game going on, where a “tiny black-haired man” is cleaning up, but decides against trying to join. Unfortunately, Mistress Anan is out, and her daughter Marah doesn’t like Mat at all, ignoring him in favor of yelling at the tavern employees, scolding Caira for failing to keep “Air Captain Yulan’s” cup full; Yulan proves to be the man winning the card game. Mat wonders briefly what an Air Captain is, but dismisses it, telling Marah he’ll wait in the kitchen. Once there, Enid the cook gives him a sly smile.
“So, you found out I was right,” she said, pointing the spoon at him. “You squeezed the wrong melon, and it turned out the melon was a lionfish in disguise and you were just a plump grunter.” Throwing back her head, she cackled with laughter.
Mat forced a grin. Blood and bloody ashes! Everybody really did know! I have to get out of this bloody city, he thought grimly, or I’ll hear them bloody laughing at me the rest of my life!
He now thinks his fears about the hidden stash are foolish, and covers the reason for his visit by telling Enid he came to thank her for her cooking, which is better than anything at the Palace (and he’s not lying). To his surprise, Enid serves him up a gilded fish right there, and Mat can’t resist eating it. As he’s finishing, Setalle returns with another woman in a hooded cloak behind her; Mat catches a glimpse of her face and almost falls over. Setalle clears everyone but Mat out of the kitchen.
“What a surprise,” Joline Maza said, tossing her hood back. Her dark woolen dress, with a deep neckline in the local style, fit loosely and looked worn and frayed. You would never have thought it from her carefree attitude, though. “When Mistress Anan told me she knew a man who might take me with him when he left Ebou Dar, I never guessed it was you.” Pretty and brown-eyed, she had a smile almost as warm as Caira’s. And an ageless face that screamed Aes Sedai. With dozens of Seanchan just the other side of a door guarded by a cook with a spoon.
Joline hangs up her cloak, to Setalle’s irritation; she starts to tell Joline it isn’t safe when there is a commotion outside the door, Enid trying to block someone with a Seanchan accent from entering. Mat grabs Joline and puts her on his lap and pretends to be kissing her; Joline is about to fight him when she registers what is happening, and plays along, terrified. A heavyset so’jhin with a beard (oddly) enters, pushing Enid aside; he is followed by a Seanchan woman with hair cut in the manner of lesser nobility. In an Illianer accent, the so’jhin announces Captain of the Green Lady Egeanin Tamarath to Setalle, and demands her best rooms.
Mat gave a start when the man spoke, and Joline, perhaps thinking someone was coming toward them, moaned against his mouth in fear. Her eyes shone with unshed tears, and she trembled in his arms. The Lady Egeanin Tamarath glanced at the bench when Joline moaned, then grimaced in disgust and turned so she could avoid seeing the pair. It was the man who intrigued Mat, though. How in the Light did an Illianer come to be so’jhin? And the fellow looked familiar, somehow. Likely another of those thousands of long-dead faces he could not help recalling.
Unimpressed, Setalle tells him calmly that her two best rooms are occupied by Captain of the Air Lord Abaldar Yulan and Banner-General Furyk Karede of the Deathwatch Guards, respectively, and Egeanin is welcome to try kicking them out herself if she wants. Mat expects Egeanin to explode, but Egeanin is dryly amused by Setalle’s “nerve.” Egeanin frowns at Mat and Joline, though, and hopes Setalle doesn’t let that sort of thing go on a lot, and Setalle assures her she will never “see the like again” here. The so’jhin is frowning at them too, until Egeanin drags him out, which Mat finds a bit rich considering what he’s heard about Illianers. Everyone, even Setalle, is shaken once they are gone; Mat tries to stand Joline up, but she clings to him, sobbing; Setalle makes him carry Joline down to the cellar, which he might have enjoyed if it weren’t for his leg. Mat asks Setalle if she makes a habit of rescuing Aes Sedai.
“I heard whispers there was a sister still in the city,” Mistress Anan replied, “and I managed to find her before the Seanchan did. I couldn’t leave a sister to them.” She glared back over her shoulder, daring him to say different. He wanted to, but he could not make the words come. He supposed he would have helped anyone get away from the Seanchan, if he could, and he owed a debt to Joline Maza.
Mat puts a still-sniffly Joline down, and Setalle comments that her nerve is broken after being on the run from the Seanchan for days. Mat tells Joline he will help her if he can, though he’s not at all sure how he’s going to do that, and remarks that Teslyn wasn’t as lucky as she. Joline spits back that she’s glad Teslyn was caught, since Joline is sure that Teslyn had drugged her so she could not escape until it was too late to get out of the city. Mat is rather shocked at her viciousness (Setalle looks like she wants to slap her), but hurriedly repeats that he will help her, since he is in debt to her.
A tiny frown wrinkled Joline’s brow. “In debt?”
“The note asking me to warn Nynaeve and Elayne,” he said slowly. He licked his lips and added, “The one you left on my pillow.”
She flicked a hand dismissively, but her eyes, focused on his face, never blinked. “All debts between us are settled the day you help me get outside the city walls, Master Cauthon,” she said, in tones as regal as a queen on her throne.
Mat swallowed hard. The note had been stuck into his coat pocket somehow, not left on his pillow. And that meant he was mistaken about who he owed the debt to.
Feeling sick, he leaves soon after without calling Joline on the lie-by-omission and goes back to the Palace. After dithering a bit in Tylin’s rooms, he grows disgusted with himself and quickly sneaks up to the “attic” level of the Palace, which has been partitioned into tiny wooden rooms, and starts opening doors. The first damane he sees is a former Windfinder, who looks at him first with fear and then hope.
He closed the door without saying a word. I can’t save all of them, he thought harshly. I can’t! Light, but he hated this.
He finally locates Teslyn’s cell and slips inside; Teslyn only stares at him, and Mat asks why she put a note in his pocket. Teslyn answers that Elaida wants Elayne and Nynaeve, and Teslyn wished to “inconvenience” her, even dosing Joline with forkroot to keep her from interfering, and look what it got her. Mat sighs, and tries to convince himself that Teslyn’s petty motive for the note clears him of any debt to her, but fails. He tells her he will try to help her escape; calmly, she points out that no woman who can channel can get past the city gates. Mat mutters that he’ll figure out something.
“You do be serious,” she whispered, so low he nearly did not hear. “I did think you only did come to taunt me.” Slowly she sat, swinging her feet down to the floor. Her eyes latched on to his intently, and her voice took on a low urgency. “Do I want to escape? When I do something that does please them, the sul’dam do give me sweets. I do find myself looking forward to those rewards.” Breathy horror crept into her voice. “Not for liking of sweets, but because I have pleased the sul’dam.” A single tear trickled from her eye. She inhaled deeply. “If you do help me escape, I will do anything you ask of me that does not encompass treason to the White—” Her teeth snapped shut, and she sat up straight, staring right through him. Abruptly, she nodded to herself. “Help me escape, and I will do anything you ask of me,” she said.
Mat tells her he’ll do what he can, and Teslyn tells him there is another Aes Sedai they must take, Edesina Azzedin. Mat says he thought there were three or four former Aes Sedai among the damane, but Teslyn tells him that Guisin and Mylen (whom Teslyn knew as “Sheraine Caminelle,”, but she won’t answer to that anymore) are “changed,” and would betray them; Edesina, though, is still herself, and Teslyn won’t leave her even if she is a rebel. Mat tries to protest, but Teslyn shoos him out, with a comment that maybe he should try dressing less flamboyantly. He stalks out, muttering about Aes Sedai, and runs straight into Tuon. She tells him coldly that damane kennels are forbidden to men; thinking fast, Mat tells her he was trying to bring a pastry to a Windfinder who did him a favor once.
“I didn’t see her, though. I suppose she wasn’t caught when…” He trailed off, staring. The stern judicial mask the girl always wore for a face had melted into a smile. She really was beautiful.
“That is very kind of you,” she said. “It’s good to know you are kind to damane. But you must be careful. There are men who actually take damane to their beds.” Her full mouth twisted in disgust. “You would not want anyone to think you are perverted.” That severe expression settled on her face again. All prisoners would be executed immediately.
“Thank you for the warning, High Lady,” he said, a little unsteadily. What kind of man wanted to bed a woman who was on a leash?
She leaves, and Mat concerns himself with the now three Aes Sedai who are all expecting “Mat bloody Cauthon” to save them, and how they might start talking if he takes too long about it. He thinks he could plan a battle in his sleep, but this is different, and decides to track down Thom and Juilin.
Part of the problem with doing such a close reading as I have been doing with this series is that things tend to get magnified beyond what they might normally have done on a more casual perusal.
By which I mean, I know that I found the damane thing repugnant before, but this recap has brought my revulsion for the concept to a whole new level. Probably because by definition, I can’t just zoom by the stuff that pisses me off and get to something I like better, which has always been my standard method of rereading WOT (or rereading anything, for that matter). But I can’t do that here; no, now I have to think about it, and (horrors!) come up with reasonably intelligent things to say about it.
Yes, my life is such a vale of tears, I know. But still: sometimes that’s awesome, and sometimes it makes me want to beat people up for being such a shitty species, even fictionally. Because while sul’dam and damane are happily Not Real, the historical (and sometimes not so historical) institutions upon which they are based are way, way too real. And that sucks, in a word.
“Nausea-inducing” is not even in it, you guys. Especially with Tuon’s casual (and all-too-believable) mention of some of the more heinous abuses available to visit upon a population of totally helpless and exclusively female slaves who are regarded as being subhuman at best. Granted, not that being male would necessarily stop that from happening either, but the single-genderedness of the situation unavoidably adds that special something to the whole stinking stew. The fun, will it ever stop?
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.
Given all that, I wonder if I’m being too harsh or cynical in kind of raising my eyebrow at Mat’s mental commentary on Tuon’s remark. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all kinds of pleased my favorite character finds the idea repellent, but with umpty-thousand memories packing his head, the vast majority of which are from soldiers in time of war, let’s just say I find his total astonishment at the very notion a little… disingenuous. And not on the character’s part, so much as on Jordan’s. It was just a little too “HEY, HERO HERE, NOT DISGUSTING PERV AT ALL” neon-sign-y for me, like, thanks, I knew that already.
I dunno, I just find it hard to believe that I could be more jaded than Mr. Military over there about the realities of being a female POW (or equivalent). But then again, I guess none of his memories ever had to think about that sort of thing. Lucky them.
All that being said, other than the stomach-turning damane business I generally liked this chapter, mainly because of how much it put the lie to Mat’s continual blathering that he’s no bloody hero. Because really, if he isn’t one, who the hell is? Exactly!
And, the whole vaguely WWII/Nazi occupation/underground resistance sneakiness flavor of this chapter helps with the liking too. The “fake makeout” scene was highly amusing to me just because it proves (in my opinion, anyway) that some clichés refuse to die for good reasons instead of bad. I think this gag is in, like, every spy story ever, and yet, it still works. Heh. If it ain’t broke…
Teslyn and Joline continue to throw the universe out of whack by being an (relatively) awesome Red and (comparatively) sucky Green, respectively. (Adverbs are fun!)
Though I did have a certain amount of sympathy for Joline’s freakout, that was rather tempered by the fact that she is, well, a sulky twit of the type just born to cause trouble. A sulky phony twit, to boot, though perhaps I don’t entirely blame her for doing what she thought she needed to to keep her incipient rescuer on the hook, but still.
Normally I would cut her more slack considering she’s basically the Ebou Dar equivalent of Anne Frank right now, but she was a sulky twit long before that, too, so, well. Like Setalle, I can feel for her even while wanting to smack her. That’s because I can multitask.
For obvious reasons, though, I felt for Teslyn a hell of a lot more. I think I made this observation back during Egwene’s (mercifully brief) stint as a damane, but there’s a certain amount of disadvantage involved in tending to viscerally identify with characters’ situations. Panic sums it up, I think.
It’s interesting, by the way, that Setalle obviously so implicitly trusts Mat. I mean, yes, she trusted him before, but hiding an Aes Sedai from the Seanchan? That is major. Nazi occupation shit, etc., as I said. And yet, she didn’t even hesitate to bring Mat in on it. Says something, don’t it?
Tuon: It’s tempting to read more into her reaction to Mat’s lie than may be really there. On the obvious level, there is her pleasure that her future husband isn’t a perverted rapist, which, you know, totally understandable, that, but perhaps also she might feel more of a subliminal connection to the imprisoned channelers than she might admit to herself, possibly? Or, not. I don’t know. I am, possibly, not making a lot of sense here.
Egeanin and Domon: We’ll talk about them more in upcoming chapters, but I did want to note that I immediately guessed (and was immediately indignant about) who Egeanin’s so’jhin was even before we found out for sure, but somehow missed that Domon had obviously recognized Mat here. I are the most smartest, sometimes.
Also of minor note is the fleeting appearance of Air Captain Yulan in this chapter, of whom we are going to hear a lot more from down the line, at least in an indirect, getting-his-ass-kicked way. Hooray!
And that’s a wrap, y’all! I hope you have a fabulous weekend; mine will be spent telephonically kissing babies, so I win! See you Tuesday!