Fancy that, it’s a Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 20 and 21 of Knife of Dreams, in which we have half a *headdesk*, a rather slapdash coronation, and a Moment of Awesome.
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 post!
Chapter 20: The Golden Crane
Rand walks through the mountains of dead Trollocs with Logain, Min, Cadsuane, Alivia, and fifty Maidens. He makes no attempt to shield himself from the rain, afraid to seize saidin again despite Lews Therin’s agreement (Lews Therin mocks him for this). Logain is disgruntled about using “his” Asha’man’s and Aes Sedai’s energy in burning up the Trollocs, and Lew Therin weeps that Rand should have killed them all.
The Source is clean now, fool, Rand thought.
Yes, Lews Therin replied. But are they? Am I?
A servant brings Rand a letter from Verin, which he puts in his pocket until they get to the barn where the dead Saldaeans are laid out. To everyone’s dismay, the barn is filled with flies, but Alivia quickly disperses them with a weave Cadsuane is displeased to discover she had learned covertly by watching the Aes Sedai; Alivia doesn’t care about Cadsuane, but asks Rand anxiously if he doesn’t mind. Rand tells her she should learn as much as she can, which angers Min.
“Your viewings are never wrong,” he broke in. “What you see always happens. You’ve tried to change things, and it never worked. You told me so yourself, Min. What makes you think this time can be different?”
“Because it has to be different.” she told him fiercely. She leaned toward him as though ready to launch herself at him. “Because I want it to be different. Because it will be different. Anyway, I don’t know about everything I’ve seen. People move on. I was wrong about Moiraine. I saw all sorts of things in her future, and she’s dead. Maybe some of the other things I saw never came true either.”
It must not be different this time, Lews Therin panted. You promised!
Rand pulls out Verin’s letter, which tells him that she’s decided that her oath to him can best be fulfilled elsewhere, so she’s left. She tells him she thinks he can trust Cadsuane, but to be wary of other sisters, even those who have sworn fealty; she reminds him that such an oath means nothing to a Black sister, and even those who are not may obey it in ways he might not like. Rand finds this last rather ironic, considering, and gives the letter to Cadsuane, who is visibly surprised that he did so. She reads it, and opines that Verin is “a woman of many masks,” but her advice is sound. They are joined by Haman and Loial; Loial tells Rand he’s already gotten married, but solemnly promises that he will be there with him at the Last Battle. Rand thanks him sincerely, but says he needs him before that, to find the rest of the Waygates. Haman tells him there is no way, as Loial must return to the stedding and rest from being Outside so long. Rand says he must find another Ogier to do it then, and to everyone’s surprise, Haman volunteers; Cadsuane comments that apparently Rand “infects” even Ogier. Elza Penfell enters to announce that Bashere has returned.
She was a handsome woman in a dark green riding dress; her brown eyes seemed to grow feverish when they found Rand. She, at least, was one he did not have to worry about. Elza was fanatical in her devotion.
Bashere enters, and Rand gives him time to mourn over the fallen Saldaeans. At length Bashere tells him that the Daughter of the Nine Moons will meet Rand in three days at a manor house in northern Altara, and that she will bring six sul’dam/damane pairs; Rand may bring a matching number of channelers, plus one other. Min takes his arm, and he tells her no; she merely answers that they will discuss it.
Nynaeve is in her rooms with Lan, recovering from a headache. She tries to insist she is well enough to go back out and help again, but Lan refuses to let her go. They watch the Asha’man and their bonded Aes Sedai work from the window, and Nynaeve is puzzled at how well they seem to get on with each other, and appalled at her suspicion that Gabrelle and Logain are not the only ones sharing a bed. Nynaeve asks what Lan is thinking, and Lan says that an attack from the Blight could come at any time, and yet Rand sits here, “weaving his Seanchan schemes.” Nynaeve guesses sadly that he has to go back. Lan tells her his place is with her, but Nynaeve disagrees, and offers to take him to the Borderlands, implying “Shienar” within that request without actually agreeing to take him there specifically. Lan agrees.
She wanted to cry, to scream at him that he was a fool, that his place was with her, not dying alone in a futile private war with the Shadow. Only, she could not say any of that. Bond or no bond, she knew he was torn inside, torn between his love of her and his duty, torn and bleeding as surely as if he had been stabbed with a sword. She could not add to his wounds. She could try to make sure he survived, though.
Lan packs, and they head to the stables. Nynaeve asks him for an oath: that he will ride to Fal Moran before entering the Blight, and that if anyone wants to ride with him, he will let them. Lan is suspicious, but swears it. They kiss, and Lan mischievously suggests she spend the night with him in Shienar, as he will miss “having his back clawed”, but Nynaeve blushes and refuses. They ride out, and Nynaeve weaves a gateway; once they are through, Lan angrily recognizes the place as World’s End, in Saldaea, as far from Shienar as you can get and still be in the Borderlands. Nynaeve reminds him of his oath, weaves another gateway, and leaves him there before he can stop her.
In an inn called The Queen’s Lance in Saldaea, Weilin Aldragoran negotiates a sale, pleased that the reputation his hadori gives him allows him to drive a hard bargain. He is approached by a woman who says she’s heard he has a wide correspondence by pigeon. Aldragoran sees the Great Serpent ring on her finger, and is startled that she wears the ki’sain on her forehead, but agrees without hesitation, unwilling to risk angering an Aes Sedai. She pulls out another ring on a cord around her neck, and asks if he recognizes it.
His breath caught, and he stretched out a hand, brushed a finger across the heavy gold signet ring on the cord. Across the crane in flight. How had she come by this? Under the Light, how? “I recognize it,” he told her, his voice suddenly hoarse.
“My name is Nynaeve ti al’Meara Mandragoran. The message I want sent is this. My husband rides from World’s End toward Tarwin’s Gap, toward Tarmon Gai’don. Will he ride alone?”
He trembled. He did not know whether he was laughing or crying. Perhaps both. She was his wife? “I will send your message, my Lady, but it has nothing to do with me. I am a merchant. Malkier is dead. Dead, I tell you.”
The heat in her eyes seemed to intensify, and she gripped her long, thick braid with one hand. “Lan told me once that Malkier lives so long as one man wears the hadori in pledge that he will fight the Shadow, so long as one woman wears the ki’sain in pledge that she will send her sons to fight the Shadow. I wear the ki’sain, Master Aldragoran. My husband wears the hadori. So do you. Will Lan Mandragoran ride to the Last Battle alone?”
He was laughing, shaking with it. And yet, he could feel tears rolling down his cheeks. It was madness! Complete madness! But he could not help himself. “He will not, my Lady. I cannot stand surety for anyone else, but I swear to you under the Light and by my hope of rebirth and salvation, he will not ride alone.”
He offers her wine, but she tells him she has several more towns to visit before returning to Tear that day. Aldragoran marvels as she leaves, and turns to the rest of the common room, who had all been listening in, and demands of the other two Malkieri there:
“Well, Managan, Gorenellin,” he demanded, “do you still remember who you are? Do you remember your blood? Who rides with me for Tarwin’s Gap?”
For a moment, he thought neither man would speak, but then Gorenellin was on his feet, tears glistening in his eyes. “The Golden Crane flies for Tarmon Gai’don,” he said softly.
“The Golden Crane flies for Tarmon Gai’don!” Managan shouted, leaping up so fast he overturned his chair.
Laughing, Aldragoran joined them, all three shouting at the top of their lungs. “The Golden Crane flies for Tarmon Gai’don!”
I really missed Nynaeve-brand Moments of Awesome, so this was extra-special cool as far as I am concerned. This is probably the first truly awesome thing she’s had an opportunity to do since, erm, ACOS, probably.
Well, the Cleansing in WH should probably count, but I don’t really think of that as being a Nynaeve Moment of Awesome; that was more kind of a group MoA thing. Or, you know, something that doesn’t sound vaguely dirty. You know what I mean!
And I think the most awesome part, really, was not the scene in the inn, but rather that Nynaeve gained the maturity to recognize she had to let Lan do his thing in the first place. There’s a cliché here about letting what you love go and it’ll come back to you, but hey, things become clichés for a reason. I do think that’s one of the hardest things for people to recognize or accept about being in a relationship, that the other party is still a whole complete person unto themselves even when they are also half of a couple, and that has to be allowed for.
Of course, for most of us “letting go” usually involves rather less dramatic things than “letting my spouse go off to attack Hell all by himself.” All things considered there are definitely relationship problems out there I am perfectly happy to be without, you know?
I remember it distinctly worried me, on initial reading, that we’re seeing here for the first time a conflict between Rand and Lews Therin that isn’t just Rand needing/wanting something and Lews Therin being too crazy to give it to him, but an actual, direct disagreement between them over something—and something pretty darn fundamental, too. It transpires that I was right to worry, given what happens in TGS. Yay?
Sneaky Verin sneakily continues in her sneak-filled pursuit of Ultimate Sneakiness. Her reminder to Rand that the oath of fealty means nothing to a Black sister made me snort out loud. Hah.
I assume, though, that Verin didn’t know that Elza was also (and more) Black, because I have to believe she would not have left her unmolested there, the worm in the proverbial apple. At least, I sincerely hope so.
So, bye, Verin! See you EXTREMELY AWESOMELY in TGS!
Also: GRRRR, Elza. I really want to smash her, you guys. AND I CAN’T. My life is so filled with frustrations! *woe*
I’m trying to figure out if I would still consider Min’s determination to come to the meeting with Tuon to be stupid if I didn’t already know how the meeting is going to turn out, i.e. badly. But, I think that probably yes, I would still think it was stupid—although I might have been persuaded, in Rand’s shoes, that the advantage her viewing abilities would give him outweighed the danger. Maybe.
Eh, I dunno. Probably the least stupid option would be for Rand not to be love with anyone who might get killed in the first place. Or, in other words, no one, seeing as we have this big apocalypse thingy coming up, and the death toll on those tend to, shall we say, exceed the average.
Which just goes to show, sometimes there are worse options than the stupid one. But still, I must fling a general ARGH toward our narrative future: ARGH, future!
“Even when I know there’s a Waygate actually in a city, I can’t find it by myself, and then there are all those cities that don’t exist anymore. I need you to find the rest for me, Loial, or Trollocs will be able to flood into every country at once, and no one will know they’re coming until they’re in the heart of Andor or Cairhien.”
Speaking of the future: Elder Haman FAILS, apparently. Okay, that’s probably harsh, or something, but man. I’m not clear on how much time passes between this scene and Olver’s scene at the end of ToM, but I’d really have thought finding the Waygates in the major cities, like, oh, say, Caemlyn, would be a top priority. But I’d be wrong, apparently! Sheesh.
Chapter 21: Within the Stone
Rand, Alivia, Cadsuane, Min, Nynaeve, and a small guard of Maidens ride into Tear more or less incognito, but Rand knows that the twisting of chance that occurs around him will give him away sooner or later. He is astonished to see a great wagon loaded with machinery that whistles and steams move through the streets by itself. He thinks that Master Poel got his steamwagon to work after all, but wonders aloud how it got here. Two street urchins (Com and Doni) tell him that four (or six) of the steamwagons pulled a hundred (or fifty) wagons all the way from Cairhien to Tear, and covered over a hundred miles a day doing it. Rand pronounces it remarkable.
Remarkable was hardly the word. A hundred wagons or only fifty only! incredible was more like it. Would merchants start using those things instead of horses? It hardly seemed likely. Merchants were conservative folk, not known for leaping at new ways of doing things. For some reason, Lews Therin began laughing again.
Min looks after the urchins with a sad face, and Rand does not ask what she saw. He sees more ta’veren twisting of chance as they ride toward the Stone, and Rand resolves to get out of the city quickly. He senses Alanna in the Stone, and again feels that her bond is an intrusion, unlike the others’. They go an inn called the Dragon (the women snicker at the poor illustration on the sign), where they overhear a Seanchan accent, but the man leaves before they can catch him. They procure a room with a view of the Stone; the close confines of the room almost spur a panic attack from Rand (and Lews Therin), but Rand ruthlessly suppresses it and seizes saidin, fighting the nausea and wary of Lews Therin, though the voice does not try to take it from him.
The face of the man from Shadar Logoth floated in his head for a moment. He looked furious. And near to sicking up. Without any doubt he was aware of Rand in that moment, and Rand of him. Move a hair in any direction, and they would touch. No more than a hair.
He weaves a gateway to the Heart of the Stone; once through, he holds on to the Power, still wary of Lews Therin, though the voice snarls that Rand has to trust him. Rand greets the two Defenders guarding the room, and they tell him he might want to take a guide to find Darlin, because sometimes the corridors change.
So. The Pattern truly was loosening. That meant the Dark One was touching the world more than he had since the War of the Shadow. If it loosened too much before Tarmon Gai’don, the Age Lace might unravel. An end to time and reality and creation. Somehow he had to bring about the Last Battle before that happened. Only he did not dare. Not yet.
Rand declines the offer, which the Defenders accept without question. As they head through the Stone, Cadsuane comments that it is not a good thing to have too many people ready to hop when he says “toad”; Rand finds this rich, coming from her, and tells her harshly he’s fighting a war that everyone loses if he does, and if he could make everyone obey, he would.
Cadsuane nodded. “As I thought,” she murmured, half to herself. And what was that supposed to mean?
Rand lets his bond with Alanna guide him to a room that contains her, Darlin, Caraline, and Astoril, as he had expected, and also Weiramon and Anaiyella, which he had not. Rand demands to know what they are doing here. Weiramon intones that they had come to help Darlin “crush” the rebels; Alanna reports disgustedly that all they did was get a lot of men killed and undo all the progress she and the other Aes Sedai had made in negotiations up to that point. Angrily, Rand tells them he left them in Cairhien for a reason, and they will return there as soon as possible.
“My Lord Dragon, I will serve you where you command, but I can serve best on my native soil. I know these rebels, know where they can be trusted and where-“
“As soon as possible!” Rand snapped, slamming his fist down on the chair arm hard enough to make the wood creak loudly.
“One,” Cadsuane said, quite clearly and quite incomprehensibly.
They discuss the hunger situation in the city, and Rand orders Darlin (to his puzzlement) to find two urchin boys named Doni and Com and provide for them when he can.
Min made a sound in her throat, and the bond carried sadness so bleak it almost overwhelmed the burst of love that came with it. So. It must have been death she saw. But she had been wrong about Moiraine. Maybe this viewing could be changed by a ta’veren.
No, Lews Therin growled. Her viewing must not change. We have to die! Rand ignored him.
Bera Harkin enters, and reports that all the other High Lords and Ladies Rand had left in Cairhien were now on their way to Tear as well. Rand leaps up in a fury, and thunders that they’re to return immediately or be hanged. Cadsuane says, “Two.” Bera goes on to tell him that the rebels have reached an agreement: Darlin remains Steward in Tear for Rand, but only if the rebels have their titles and lands restored and can swear fealty to Darlin as King of Tear. The rebels will also feed the city for a year as a fine. Darlin is astounded, and Rand even more angry; he hurls his goblet to the floor and growls that they can stay commoners and swear to Rand. Cadsuane says “Three,” and switches Rand with Air on his bottom.
“Don’t make me have to keep reminding you about manners, boy.” Cadsuane went on. “Alanna told me the terms you offered before she left Darlin as Steward, your laws kept, everything else on the table and it seems they’ve been met. You can do as you wish, of course, but another piece of advice. When the terms you offer are accepted, hold to them.”
Else no one will trust you, Lews Therin said, sounding entirely sane. For the moment.
Rand glared at Cadsuane, fists clenched hard, on the brink of weaving something that would singe her. He could feel a welt on his bottom, and would feel it more in the saddle. It seemed to pulse, and his anger pulsed with it. She peered back calmly over her wine. Was there a hint of challenge in her gaze, of daring him to channel? The woman spent every moment in his presence challenging him! The trouble was, her advice was good. He had given Alanna those terms. He had expected them to bargain harder, gain more, but they had gotten what he actually asked for. More. He had not thought of fines.
“It seems your fortunes have risen, King Darlin,” he said.
Darlin wants to know why they’d want him as king, and Bera replies that it’s preferable to swearing to the Dragon Reborn; Caraline adds that it also makes “Steward of Tear” a lesser title in their eyes. Darlin asks her if she would marry a king.
“I’ll accept the crown, if you will. Though I’ll have to have a crown made.”
Min cleared her throat. “I can tell you how it should look, if you like.”
Caraline laughs and says she will consider it if the crown makes him look pretty. Rand cuts in to tell Darlin that he will accept the crown, and then will arrest any Seanchan in the city before gathering every able-bodied soldier in Tear; Rand will have Asha’man take them to Arad Doman. Weiramon eagerly asks to go along, and Rand allows it reluctantly. Darlin wants to know what he’ll be doing in Arad Doman, which is “a madhouse” from what he hears.
“Tarmon Gai’don is coming soon,” Rand said. The Light send not too soon. “You are going to Arad Doman to get ready for Tarmon Gai’don.”
*sigh* *half-hearted headdesk*
Seriously, Cadsuane, in three hundred-plus years of living you MUST have encountered a way to make people listen to your otherwise perfectly sound advice that doesn’t involve publically humiliating them. In front of people from whom it is vitally important to have respect, too!
Again, that’s what always gets me about her. Make him listen, fine, get him to control his temper, great, but don’t fucking undermine his authority with others to do it. How is that a good thing, ever? It isn’t!
I’m only half-heartedly outdone, though, because I now know just how spectacularly this tactic is going to blow up in Cads’s face Real Soon Now, and while I certainly can’t be overly thrilled at how all that is going to go down (at least not until the eventual
Jesusing resolution), I can feel a tiny bit vindicated that it did. Because I Told Her So. Nyah!
Min offering to design Darlin’s crown cracked me up. That is all.
Weiramon: Okay, so my memory of ToM is not as clear as it could be, but I do remember (I think) that we found out in it that Weiramon was, actually, a Darkfriend. Which is a tad egg-on-face for me, since I’ve been espousing since the man was introduced that he was not a Darkfriend, and that sometimes an incompetent pompous moron is just an incompetent pompous moron, when in fact he was actually a cigar. Um, or something.
So, mea culpa on me. And in hindsight, that makes this whole sabotage-disguised-as-incompetent-rescue-attempt he pulled here rather diabolically clever, actually. Huh.
Well, shit. I is all discombobumalated now!
I talked a couple of posts back about the Caemlyn Palace warping, where I assumed that that was due to the Dark One’s influence. Someone in the comments pointed out that this was probably less the Dark One directly than it is his influence on the Pattern, and how the Pattern is getting seriously stressed out and potentially in need of a patch job as a result. Though whoever it was (sorry, it’s 5:00 in the morning right now and I am just not up to sifting through hundreds of comments at present) probably didn’t phrase it quite that weirdly.
And it looks like Rand agrees on that score, judging from the bit I quoted up above. So, uh, there’s that. Just thought I should point it out. Good call, commenter!
By the way, we almost in passing here get a confirmation that the dizziness symptoms from crossing the streams are affecting Moridin as well as Rand. Personally, I was very relieved, in a weird way. At least Rand isn’t the only one for whom this sucks, for once.
A very dark fellow with tightly curled hair, at a square table beside the door, seemed not to notice the Maidens at all. Rand took him for one of the Sea Folk at first, though he wore a peculiar coat without collar or lapels, once white but now stained and wrinkled. “I tell you. I have many, many of the the worms that make yes, make silk on a ship.” he said haltingly in an odd, musical accent. “But I must have the the andberry yes, andberry leaves to feed them. We will be rich.”
His companion waved a plump, dismissive hand even while staring at the Maidens. “Worms?” he said absently. “Everybody knows silk grows on trees.”
This is probably one of the only times I wished I could be a merchant in WOT, so I could get on this like white on rice and make a million bazillion dollars. (Get in on the ground floor on the steamwagon thing, too, while I was at it.) Talk about an untapped market .
Of course, I don’t wish this too hard, seeing as buying silk is probably going to become a rather low priority for Randlandians in the very near future. Along with any other commodity you can’t either eat or kill things with. Nothing like the end of the world to get folks to cut down on the consumerism, I always say!
And on that cheery note, we out! Have a week, and I’ll see you in the next one, yeah? Later!