All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.) The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay! All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 6: Dark Prophecy
Two red-clad Aes Sedai stepped through, bowing their master in. A mask the color of dried blood covered Ba’alzamon’s face, but Rand could see the flames of his eyes through the eyeslits; he could hear the roaring fires of Ba’alzamon’s mouth.
I am completely certain that I am far from the first person to notice or mention this, but: some people I know were yelling at each other about Harry Potter the other day (like you do), and as a result it reminded me just now of the rather sharp parallels between the Red Ajah, and the Hogwarts House of Slytherin.
If you have had anything to do with Harry Potter fandom ever, you’re probably familiar with this argument, which has to do with some fans’ anger and/or skepticism over how one entire fourth of the student population of Hogwarts was destined to be Sorted into a House comprised, evidently, of nothing but over-privileged bigots, bullies, and occasional power-mad would-be despots and their hangers-on. As the argument goes, it seems like poor planning on the school administrators’ part to separate out all the eeeeevil kids and then stick them all together to stew in their own hatred juices until the inevitable explosion occurs. If they’re all such irredeemably awful people, they say, why not expel them the moment the Sorting Hat calls them Slytherin and save yourself the trouble? And if they’re not all irredeemably awful people, why not make that clearer in the series proper? One Severus Snape does not a balanced portrayal make, they say.
It’s not a 1:1 correlation, obviously, but it seems like an awful lot of the arguments leveled at J.K. Rowling’s treatment of Slytherin in the Harry Potter novels can also be applied to the portrayal of the Red Ajah in WOT. Bigotry? Check. Bullies? So much check. Occasional power-mad would-be despots avec hangers-on (coughcoughElaidacough)? Yeah, got it covered.
I made the comment somewhere in the original commentary that I’m pretty sure we don’t meet a single non-horrible Red sister in WOT until the introduction of Pevara Tazanovni in ACOS. Which is, in case you forgot, not until halfway through the entire series. And up to that point, pretty much every Red Aes Sedai we meet is either Officially Evil (Liandrin, Galina, etc.) or Accidentally Evil (see a’Roihan, Elaida do Avriny). Not exactly a shining track record, there. And later in TGS/TOM, we get more specific numbers on the Black Ajah, and we learn that a disproportionate percentage of them are from the Red. Now, obviously this is at least in part owing to the simple fact that the Red Ajah was the largest Ajah to begin with, but still, this definitely contributes to the impression that the Red Ajah was basically crap overall.
I think that Jordan was a tad less biased in his portrayal of the Red versus Rowling’s portrayal of Slytherin, in that there were at least four non-crap Red sisters in the series proper (Pevara, Tarna until she was Turned, Silviana, and Teslyn post-damane-ing), whereas other than Snape, and to some small extent Professor Slughorn, I can’t think of a single Slytherin offhand who came off well in the HP novels. (Neither Draco nor his mother count in my opinion, as their “redemptions” are more like buyer’s remorse than anything else. Tchah.)
This is a problem that’s possibly endemic to the general need of a story to have conflict, and the reality that in stories of the epic length and scope of Harry Potter and WOT you have to have at least some antagonists who aren’t the antagonist, or your conflict will get pretty one-note pretty fast. Plus it’s a thing: every school story has to have a bully, and every… er, story of an apocalyptic global battle between good and evil has to have that one (or two, or five) pack(s) of idiots who don’t even realize they’re on the wrong side.
For the first time, he realized that Nynaeve was not wearing the Two Rivers woolens he was used to. Her dress was pale blue silk, embroidered in snowdrop blossoms around the neck and down the sleeves. Each blossom centered on a small pearl, and her belt was tooled in silver, with a silver buckle set with pearls. He had never seen her in anything like that. Even feastday clothes back home might not match it.
When you consider that silk is (apparently) something that can only be obtained from Shara via traders brave enough to traverse the Aiel Waste, and the amount of work that must have gone into hand-embroidering that many flowers, to say nothing of the pearls, which probably came from the Sea Folk (to landlocked Shienar, which is nowhere near an ocean), the only thing to conclude is that is one damn expensive dress. I wonder if even Nynaeve knew at this point how much of a luxury item it was. (Rand obviously did not.)
“And I wasn’t watching you when the Dark One’s eye fell on you just now? Don’t tell me you felt nothing, or I’ll box your ears; I saw your face.”
“He’s dead,” Rand insisted. The unseen watcher flashed through his head, and the wind on the tower top. He shivered. “Strange things happen this close to the Blight.”
“You are a fool, Rand al’Thor.” She shook a fist at him. “I would box your ears for you if I thought it would knock any sense—”
The rest of her words were swallowed as bells crashed out ringing all over the keep.
He bounded to his feet. “That’s an alarm! They’re searching…” Name the Dark One, and his evil comes down on you.
I do like that this was one of the things left ambiguous, possibly a reality but also possibly pure superstition; does saying the Dark One’s “true name” lead to disaster, or was it only coincidence? I feel like this is, in both real life and fiction, a question more effectively left unanswered.
Then a woman came out into the hall, face-to-face with him, and he stopped in spite of himself. He recognized that face above the rest; he thought he would remember it if he lived forever. The Amyrlin Seat. Her eyes widened at the sight of him, and she started back. Another Aes Sedai, the tall woman he had seen with the staff, put herself between him and the Amyrlin, shouting something at him that he could not make out over the increasing babble.
She knows. Light help me, she knows. Moiraine told her. Snarling, he ran on. Light, just let me make sure Egwene’s safe before they… He heard shouting behind him, but he did not listen.
This is another moment I think would be awesome to see on screen. One of many, obviously, but this is one of the ones that struck me in particular this time around.
And actually, also the moment after this, when Rand encounters Trollocs in the hall and completely fails to adequately fight them. Mainly because it demonstrates the truth that excellence in theory (Lan complimenting him on the tower-top) can mean very little in practice, and also because it provides a great reference to show how far Rand will eventually go re: battle prowess.
“No one will pass those gates, from inside or out. As soon as Lord Agelmar heard what had happened, he ordered that no one was to be allowed to leave the keep without his personal permission.”
As soon as he heard…? “Ingtar, what about before? What about the earlier order keeping everyone in?”
“Earlier order? What earlier order? Rand, the keep was not closed until Lord Agelmar heard of this. Someone told you wrong.”
Rand shook his head slowly. Neither Ragan nor Tema would have made up something like that. And even if the Amyrlin Seat had given the order, Ingtar would have to know of it. So who? And how? He glanced sideways at Ingtar, wondering if the Shienaran was lying. You really are going mad if you suspect Ingtar.
Or, you know, not. I’m not sure why this confused me in the original commentary, because it seems totally obvious now. Oh well.
Rand hurried out. Even if they had not been Aes Sedai, he would not have wanted to remain in the same room with anyone who thought reading Trolloc script written in human blood was “interesting.”
Well… but it is interesting. I mean, it’s also terrible! Obviously! But also… you know, interesting. For historical reasons.
*tucks away latent Brown tendencies guiltily*
Chapter 7: Blood Calls Blood
Speaking of Brown tendencies. Enter: VERIN. Huzzah!
(I mean, she was in the story prior to this, but this is where she enters the story, if you know what I mean.)
So reading this chapter is rather different now that I know the end of the series, and Verin’s story in particular. Basically everything Verin does in the entire series, I predict, will acquire an extra patina of awesome on top of the awesome that was already there, now that I know what Verin was really doing all along. I heart her so very much, you guys.
“I can only give you what I know, Mother,” Verin said, looking up from her notes, “and leave the decision in your hands. I believe the last of Artur Hawkwing’s foreign armies died long ago, but because I believe it does not make it so. The Time of Change, of course, refers to the end of an Age, and the Great Lord—”
Heh. One her first significant lines in the series, and she gives us a clue as to her real affiliation. Except absolutely not!
It’s sort of gleefully awesome (see?) in this scene to see how adroitly Verin misleads even Moiraine into thinking she is just one more research-obsessed Brown, with no real knowledge or interest in the tiger she just picked up by the tail, when of course in retrospect it’s clear she knew exactly what she was doing the entire time. I mean, I knew that on the first Reread as well, but now I know she really knew what she was doing. Hah, such a secret badass, I love it.
It’s a little weird that the last chapter was the one named “Dark Prophecy”, and yet this one is where that prophecy is actually discussed. I Would Have Done Things Differently, she says, with twenty-twenty hindsight.
I rather sped by the Dark Prophecy bits of the chapter in the original commentary with a link to the WOTFAQ (which no longer works, but this one is still good), because at the time I had five chapters to get through in one evening, because at the time I was insane. And by now, I think, most of the “prophecy” here (I use the quotes because it’s never been confirmed whether this was legit prophecy or just Darkside propaganda) has been rendered obvious or irrelevant. That said, there are a few snippets which are of some interest:
Daughter of the Night, she walks again.
The ancient war, she yet fights.
Her new lover she seeks, who shall serve her and die, yet serve still.
Back in the day, of course, we all assumed the “lover” was Rand, and that’s probably still the correct assumption. However, in light of events in AMOL, an argument can be made that this actually refers to Perrin, methinks. True, Lanfear and Perrin were never actual lovers in the physical sense, but then, I would point out, neither were she and Rand. And certainly the Compulsion Lanfear uses to subtly twist Perrin to be on her side in AMOL can count as making him her “lover” in a more esoteric sense.
I dunno, maybe it’s a stretch, but that’s what I thought of when I read this passage again, so I brought it up. There’s really no way to say unless Team Jordan chooses to confirm it (or not) at some point, but if Jordan’s plans re: Verin were this long-term, what’s to say this wasn’t too? Food for thought!
Luc came to the Mountains of Dhoom.
Isam waited in the high passes.
The hunt is now begun. The Shadow’s hounds now course, and kill.
One did live, and one did die, but both are.
I am still vaguely irritated that this whole melding thing was never really explained in the series proper, but it really does seem like the explanation we are to go with is, basically, “Once upon a time Luc and Isam were two separate dudes, and then the Dark One smushed them together into one dude for assassin reasons. The End.” Okay then!
Again the seed slays ancient wrong, before the Great Lord comes.
(The “seed” being “the Seanchan”). So, did we ever find out what “ancient wrong” the Seanchan were supposed to slay? I mean, this is Dark Prophecy, so the “wrong” is probably something that’s actually awesome.
Hmm. Maybe what they were supposed to slay was PERSONAL FREEDOM. You know, because SLAVERY.
Which, as you may possibly have sorta kinda noticed, is not my favorite thing. Maybe just a little!
[Perrin] tried to slide around [Leane] to the door, but suddenly her hands shot out and grabbed his face, tilting it down so she could peer into his eyes. Something seemed to pass through him, a warm ripple that started at the top of his head and went to his feet, then came back again. He pulled his head out of her hands.
“You’re as healthy as a young wild animal,” she said, pursing her lips. “But if you were born with those eyes, I am a Whitecloak.”
“They’re the only eyes I ever had,” he growled. He felt a little abashed, speaking to an Aes Sedai in that tone, but he was as surprised as she when he took her gently by the arms and lifted her to one side, setting her down again out of his way. As they stared at each other, he wondered if his eyes were as wide with shock as hers. “Excuse me,” he said again, and all but ran.
Yep, this is still hilarious. Made so, I think, by the fact that there is no real threat here, on either side. Perrin’s casual demonstration that he can totally just pick up a woman like she is, um, something easy for non-muscley people to pick up, is made funny because we know Perrin would never use that strength to her disadvantage, even if Leane couldn’t kick his ass six ways to Sunday with the Power. So it’s funny. Aaaand I think I am ruining the joke by explaining it, but whatever, I laughed, it was great.
And woe, I am 99% sure this is the only time Leane and Perrin meet in the entire series. Obviously the standard (and legit) excuse of “sorry, much bigger fish to fry than this random reunion of supporting characters” applies, but they were just so bizarrely endearing in the three seconds that they did meet that I still kind of wish they’d encountered each other again, even if only briefly. Oh well.
Rand and Perrin, though, are still a stupid duo. Ugh, I hate this “hate on Rand because he pretended to love being a lord” thing.
Rand frowned. “Why are you telling me this, Lan? You’re a Warder. You’re acting as if you are on my side.”
“I am on your side, sheepherder. A little. Enough to help you a bit.” The Warder’s face was stone, and sympathetic words sounded strange in that rough voice. “What training you’ve had, I gave you, and I’ll not have you groveling and sniveling. The Wheel weaves us all into the Pattern as it wills. You have less freedom about it than most, but by the Light, you can still face it on your feet. You remember who the Amyrlin Seat is, sheepherder, and you show her proper respect, but you do what I tell you, and you look her in the eye. Well, don’t stand there gaping. Tuck in your shirt.”
Besides Lan just generally being squeeable here, there’s probably merit in his remark on Rand’s lack of freedom. You can justifiably yell at Rand for failing to take the opportunity to run he was given, maybe, but from the necessarily fatalistic point of view of “The Wheel weaves as it will”, his leaving was never going to happen in any case. Which is depressing, but convenient. And it leads to the awesome that is the next chapter, so whatever, I’ll take it.
But not until next week, my pretties! Try not to broil to death if your weather is anything like mine, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!