Buenos dias, my little huevos rancheros! Welcome to another Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 19 and 20 of New Spring, in which everyone is incredibly mature and reasonable. And dry. NOT
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general, including the newest release, Towers of Midnight.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 13, Towers of Midnight. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the rather soggy post!
Before we start, don’t forget that there will no longer be a WOT Re-read post on Fridays; instead starting this Friday I will be posting my Read of A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. You can read all about it here.
Chapter 19: Pond Water
Moiraine leaves her packhorse behind and rides out. She finds three men waiting at the gates when she arrives; one older and a “hard-faced” younger man who she thinks might be Malkieri, and a third Arafellin, who is the same man she saw leaving the inn earlier. When the gates open, Moiraine follows the men at a fair distance. She pauses at a village to get food and ask about Avene Sahera, the next name on her list, but has no luck. She leaves and catches back up to the men, debating with herself about the best way to approach them; she has no fear that she can’t handle them if they turn out to be Darkfriends, but doing so would draw far more attention to herself than she wants. In the afternoon, the three men suddenly stop and then split up: the Arafellin and the older man continue on the road, while the younger Malkieri turns into the woods. Moiraine frowns, but decides to follow the latter, who she thinks is no woodsman, judging by the messiness of the trail he left. She finds him sitting cross-legged by a pond, staring at nothing. Moiraine decides to sneak up on him and unnerve him a bit by snatching his sword with Air before asking questions.
He moved faster than thought. No one so large could move so fast, yet her grasp closed on the scabbard, and he uncoiled, whirling, one hand clutching the scabbard between hers, the other seizing the front of her dress. Before she could think to channel, she was flying through the air. She had just time to see the pond coming up at her, just time to shout something, she did not know what, and then she struck the surface flat, driving all the wind out of her, struck with a great splash and sank. The water was freezing. Saidar fled in her shock.
She flounders to her feet, furious, and finds him staring in puzzlement at where she had been standing, before coming over to offer her a hand.
“Unwise to try separating a man from his sword,” he said, and after a glance at the colored slashes on her dress added, “my Lady.” Hardly an apology. His startlingly blue eyes did not quite meet hers. If he was hiding mirth…!
Muttering under her breath, she splashed awkwardly to where she could take his outstretched hand in both of hers. And heaved with all of her might. Ignoring icy water tickling down your ribs was not easy, and if she was wet, so would he be, and without any need to use the One…
He straightened, raised his arm, and she came out of the water dangling from his hand. In consternation she stared at him until her feet touched the ground and he backed away.
He starts a fire and drapes blankets around it so she can dry off in privacy; although Moiraine dries herself with the Power, of course, she stays behind the curtains until the other two men reappear. Moiraine is puzzled when their comments make clear that they had known she was following them. Then the Arafellin makes a comment about having never seen a Cairhienin “in her skin,” and Moiraine peeks out to see that the younger Malkieri (who the others had called Lan) is in front of her shelter with his sword out.
“You remember the sight of the Thousand Lakes, Ryne,” Lan said coldly. “Does a woman need protection from your eyes?”
Moiraine thinks Ryne might challenge Lan, but the older man (Bukama) distracts them by proposing a game called “sevens,” which seems to involve testing who can almost slit the other’s throat with his sword faster. Moiraine tries to remember what she knows about Malkieri, and recalls something about “distressed women,” and decides to stay with them to see what she can learn. She comes out and tells them she claims the right of “a woman alone,” and asks for “the shelter of their swords” until she reaches Chachin. Then she gives each of them a silver coin and promises more once they reach Chachin. To her surprise, this seems to anger Ryne, though Lan shows no expression; Bukama formally pledges “her life above his,” but also will not quite meet her eyes. She tries to draw the men out over dinner, but only Ryne talks at all freely, and he says nothing of consequence.
When she finally inquired why he was going to Chachin, his face turned sad.
“Every man has to die somewhere,” he said softly, and went off to make up his blankets. A very odd answer. Worthy of an Aes Sedai.
When they turn in for the night, Moiraine weaves wards of Spirit over each man so that she is alerted each time they change watches. When Lan takes over from Bukama, the older man says something Moiraine doesn’t catch, but Lan replies, “I’d sooner trust an Aes Sedai, Bukama. Go to sleep.” This infuriates Moiraine again, and she channels to create a funnel of water to crash down on Lan, waking the whole camp. She expects to see him down on the ground, but to her surprise he’s on his feet, sword out. Ryne exclaims, asking if it is Shadowspawn, and Moiraine barks a sharp denial.
With an effort she gave her voice every bit of cool Aes Sedai serenity she could muster. “It is unwise to show anything except respect to an Aes Sedai, Master Lan.”
“Aes Sedai?” Ryne whispered. Despite the dim light, the awe on his face was clear. Or maybe it was fear.
No one else says anything, and Lan makes no attempt to dry himself or even move from the muddy spot he is currently in, with a glance at her that has no trace of humility in it. Moiraine makes her Spirit wards again, trying to figure out why none of them had even asked why she was following them. As she drifts off, she hopes that Ryne doesn’t turn out to be a Darkfriend, and thinks that he’s really rather pretty and charming.
Ha ha ha ha!
Oh, Moiraine. You really do not come off too well here, do you?
I mean, it’s obvious all through NS that Moiraine’s got some maturing to do, but this chapter really highlights how very young and inexperienced she is in many ways. Especially, I would guess, when it comes to men.
Granted, I think Malkieri ways and Cairhienin ways are different enough from each other that she would have made some blunders anyway, but given Moiraine’s cloistering in the Tower for most of her adult life so far, men must probably seem almost like an alien species to her—and a species that she’s quite predispositioned to severely underestimate, to boot.
I mean, she concluded Lan was a lousy woodsman, instead of considering the possibility that he knew exactly what he was doing and leading her on. Oh, honey. No.
And I’m sorry, the bit where she tries to pull Lan into the pond and he just lifts her right out is hilarious. Also, impressive. I know Moiraine’s supposed to be tiny and all, but damn—factoring in the weight of a soaking-wet dress and the drag of the water and the angle, that right there is a feat of serious muscle power, you guys.
I vaguely recall when I read this the first time that I was indignant on Moiraine’s behalf when Lan threw her in the pond, but I really don’t know why, because this time around my sympathy is pretty much all with Lan. All things considered, tossing someone into a pond for trying to steal your weapon (and one of your most prized possessions) is really a quite restrained reaction. Especially considering we later find out Lan is more than halfway convinced at this point that Moiraine might be an assassin, or at least a spy.
Oh, and it turns out Ryne is our maybe-Darkfriend from the inn. And Moiraine is attracted to him. WHAT.
I seriously didn’t remember that part. Which is something I seem to be saying a lot.
Chapter 20: Breakfast in Manala
The strange little woman tells them the next morning that they may call her “Lady Alys,” and Lan doubts the name as much as he doubts the Great Serpent ring she produced, especially since she tells them she must not be known as Aes Sedai. He’s met a sister before who had not yet acquired the ageless look, but he’s never encountered a sister who was anything but serene even in anger, and he’d seen her face when the water stopped.
Childish glee at playing a prank, and childish disappointment that it had not worked as she wished. Aes Sedai were many things, and convoluted enough with it to make other women seem simple, but they were never childish.
Lan supposes Edeyn could have set “Alys” to watch him, perhaps thinking him foolish enough to not regard a woman to be as much of a threat as a man. Even though Bukama doesn’t trust her either, he is upset with Lan that he did not offer the same pledge to her the night before as Bukama had; Lan tells him to let it go, but Bukama ignores him, claiming that it is disrespectful to her and shameful to Lan. Lan does not want anything tying him more to an Aes Sedai; if she really is one, she might be hunting for a Warder. Ryne flirts with her when he offers to saddle her horse, and she smiles warmly in response and seems to be flirting back. Lan shakes his head.
He understood what drew Ryne. The woman’s face was beautiful, and however childishly she behaved, the slim body inside that blue silk belonged to no child. But Ryne was right; he had seen a Cairhienin in her skin, more than one. And they had all tried to mesh him in a scheme, or two, or three. Over one particularly memorable ten days in the south of Cairhien, he had almost been killed six times and nearly married twice. An Aes Sedai, if she really was one, and a Cairhienin? There could be no worse combination.
They ride on, but when they reach the village of Manala, Alys insists on stopping for some food. Bel Tine is in full swing in the village, but in contrast to the merriment there are six Trolloc heads on spikes by the road, freshly killed. Alys makes a comment about the courage it must take to face them with only a sword, and Lan asks in surprise whether she has faced Trollocs before. She answers yes, but looks irked at having admitted it, and refuses to divulge any more details. They pick an inn, where the innkeeper assumes they are all Alys’s retainers; this doesn’t bother Ryne, but Bukama scowls, and Lan decides to have a quiet word with Alys when he gets a chance about what is and is not insulting. They eat at a separate table from Alys and argue about her; Ryne is convinced she is Aes Sedai, and doesn’t think they should pry, but Bukama thinks if she is Aes Sedai it’s more important than ever that they find out what she wants. Lan thinks she is a wilder placed on him by Edeyn, even though the coincidence is a little much; but then again there had been the six assassins, and he couldn’t think who else might have sent them. Then they realize Alys is gone from the common room; Ryne suggests leaving before she gets back, but Lan replies that he will honor Bukama’s pledge (“Better if you honor your own,” Bukama grumbles), and Lan and Ryne go out to try and track her down.
He did not want Alys meeting someone behind his back, perhaps arranging some surprise for later in the day. Just because the woman had not tried to kill him did not mean Edeyn wanted him alive.
They find her asking a villager about someone named Averne Sahera, who points her to where some folk of that name live. The villager leaves, and without turning around, Alys asks him coldly whether she should show him how eavesdropping is punished in the White Tower.
He very nearly blinked. First she managed to leave the common without him hearing, and now she heard him when he was trying to be quiet. Remarkable. Perhaps she was Aes Sedai. Which meant she might be looking at Ryne for a Warder.
“I think not,” he told the back of her head. “We have business in Chachin that cannot wait. Perhaps your search will go more quickly if we help you find this Avene Sahera.”
She turned very quickly and peered up at him, straining for height. He thought she might be up on her toes. No, she was no Aes Sedai, despite the icy look of command on her face. He had seen shorter Aes Sedai dominate rooms full of men who had no idea who they were, and without any straining.
She replies coldly that it would be better for him to forget that name, and orders him off to be waiting for her when she’s ready to leave—if Malkieri keep their word as she’s heard they do. Lan thinks she has a tongue “like a knife,” and he and Ryne go back to the inn. Bukama brightens at their report, opining that perhaps all she wants is protection until she finds this Sahera woman, but Lan points out that that doesn’t explain why she followed them all the day before. He adds that he can’t believe it was because she was afraid to approach them, as he thinks she frightens about as easily as Bukama does. Bukama has no answer for that.
Part of the reason prequels are fun is getting to see how the relationships between characters that are well-established in the series proper first develop and grow. This is a lot of that here, with Lan slowly finding things to respect about Moiraine even as she continues to alternately puzzle and irritate him.
The funny thing is that in many ways Moiraine has no idea how insulting she’s being, given her ignorance of Malkieri culture—which, in her defense, some of the customs of which are pretty un-obvious (and overly touchy, too) if you ask me. Though of course in other ways she’s deliberately being as annoying as possible, though she probably wouldn’t phrase it that way herself.
Though, wow, Lan’s description of her expression as “childish glee” when she dumped the pond on him makes it seem even worse than it did from her perspective. Which is to be expected, I suppose. And really, Moiraine, half-drowning a man in icy water for saying something mean about Aes Sedai, when he didn’t even know that’s what you were, was just, well, childish.
Although, Lan’s reaction, refusing to move from the mud puddle or dry himself off and all sort of not-glaring at her, actually rather highlights his own brand of immature petulance, too. I mean, come on, giving yourself pneumonia just to be all Didn’t Feel It, Don’t Care, Neener is really pretty childish too.
What a pair, y’all. Sheesh.
(Also, I was going to say something critical to the effect that this fondness for pranks seems out of character for the Moiraine we know twenty years later, but then I stopped and considered what I was doing fifteen or twenty years ago, and very wisely decided to keep my mouth shut.)
I just had a “duh” moment here re: the six guys who tried to kill Lan in Canluum, when Lan was musing about them in this chapter. Even with all Ryne’s pointed commentary back then about Lan having “the Dark One’s own luck,” I still assumed for some reason that Ryne was also right about the assassins having been sent by Edeyn. When of course we’re in the middle of open season on unusually lucky men, even if our heroes don’t know that yet. Duh, Leigh.
Oh, and I have to quote this part again, because it is awesome:
Over one particularly memorable ten days in the south of Cairhien, he had almost been killed six times and nearly married twice. An Aes Sedai, if she really was one, and a Cairhienin? There could be no worse combination.
And also: ooh, burn.
And also also: I would pay to see a short story of Lan’s adventures in Cairhien. Seriously. I wants me the skinny on that, y’all.
But that’s all the skinny we have in stock at the moment, so we out! Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you (on this blog, anyway) next Tuesday!