I won’t be much when you get through with me, Wheel of Time Reread Redux, but I’m still hanging on!
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 29: Seanchan
Yeah, that icon still looks like a weird ornate urn to me. Or maybe a particularly non-functional teapot. An abstract Buddha figurine? I dunno. Basically it looks like anything but an insect helmet.
His legion was too scattered for his liking, with Questioners having too many of the commands, but his orders had been explicit: Obey the Questioners.
Wow, is that the worst re-ordering of military hierarchy ever. The moment you let your torturers oh I’m sorry interrogators run your campaign, is the moment you gave up the remotest claim to even a semblance of honorable warfare.
Of course, given from whom these orders are coming, that’s obviously the point. But I’m just saying. Because when you do, you get shit like this:
He had seen Questioner tactics before, but this was the first time he had ever been faced with children’s bodies.
[…] “Cut them down,” Bornhald said wearily. “Cut them down, and make sure the villagers know there will be no more killing.” Unless some fool decides to be brave because his woman is watching, and I have to make an example. He dismounted, eyeing the prisoners again, as Muadh hurried off calling for ladders and knives. He had more to think about than Questioners’ overzealousness; he wished he could stop thinking about Questioners altogether.
I am almost certain I’ve talked about this before regarding Bornhald the Elder, but just in case I didn’t, let me just go ahead and invoke that nearly-overused old saw that everyone’s heard before: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
(I say “nearly-overused” because there’s a depressingly valid reason for why that quotation comes up so damn often, and it’s that people suck. But anyway!)
Not that I would agree that Bornhald is actually a “good man,” obviously, but I will certainly grant that he thinks he is one, so the maxim still applies, I think, albeit in a somewhat warped way. That he can so casually gloss over atrocities committed right in front of him, atrocities committed by his fellow brothers-in-arms, no less, in a certain way makes him even worse than the rabid weasels who actually committed those atrocities in the first place. Because it is the inherent consent implied by the silence of men like Bornhald that allows said rabid weasels to continue to perform those atrocities, and that is monstrous.
Let’s just say, if I believed in hell, I would hope that there is a special place reserved for the Bornhalds of the world.
Still, I give him a small—a tiny, a miniscule—amount of credit, at least, for correctly sussing out that Carridin’s orders were complete bullshit and deciding to ignore them. If for no other reason than that it would get him away from massacring hapless villagers and ultimately (and fatally) pit him against the other horde of giant pus-laden assholes in the region, i.e. the Seanchan.
Oh, cause you thought I was only going to rant about the Whitecloaks in this chapter, did you? Oh, sweet summer child. No. Not when there is so much rant-worthy assholery to be found!
But, you know, I can sum it up for those of you who’ve heard it before: slavery slavery brainwashing slavery slavery Stockholm Syndrome slavery slavery slavery SLAVERY. Yup.
(Well, and of course that’s not the end of the topic, considering what’s coming up, but I’ll at least save it for more relevant chapters. You’re welcome.)
And when the people had been thoroughly cowed, when they had been made to kneel and swear, bewildered, to obey the Forerunners, await the Return, and serve Those Who Come Home with their lives, the Seanchan sailed away and usually never returned. Falme, it was said, was the only town they held fast.
I initially identified this as a completely cockamamie method of establishing governance over a subjugated land before, I think, but that was before I realized that the Corenne in particular probably really didn’t so much care at this point about actually subduing the populace, as they did about culling them for ammo marath’damane (SLAVERY SLAVERY SLAVERY), and also incidentally laying a foundation of pants-shitting fear to come back and capitalize on later for the real subjugation.
Viewed that way, this “conquer and ignore” method of invasion is actually pretty effective, probably. Certainly more efficient in terms of needed personnel. Doesn’t make me like them any better, but at least doesn’t allow my initial assessment of “stupid” to hold water. “Assholes,” sure. “Stupid,” no. Bah.
“You are in the presence of the High Lord Turak,” the yellow-haired man intoned, “who leads Those Who Come Before, and succors the Return.”
Not for long, sucker.
(Hahaha, succor, sucker, okay I am twelve.)
Am I the only one who thinks “Turak” is a 100% straight-up Vulcan name? I could never picture him except as with black bowl-cut hair and pointed ears, even though this chapter explicitly describes him as bald.
Also, hi, Egeanin! Didn’t think much of you at this point, I must say! Fortunately she (briefly) sucks less later, then sucks a lot, then stops sucking again and I think was more or less awesome at the end. Basically she was very much a yo-yo character in suckage terms. And now I can relax in the knowledge that today I have, once again, produced a sentence that no one else has probably ever written ever.
Hey, I take my triumphs where I can find them, people.
Chapter 30: Daes Dae’mar
I like how the Old Tongue italics are reproduced even when they are in the chapter titles. Yay consistency!
Rand held out his hand, and Hurin laid the two folded parchments in it. The one was sealed, not with the Tree and Crown of House Damodred, but with Barthanes’s Charging Boar. The other bore Galldrian’s Stag. Personal seals. Apparently he had managed to rouse interest in the highest quarters by doing nothing at all.
“These people are crazy,” he said, trying to think of a way out of this.
“Yes, my Lord.”
I stand by what I said in the original commentary: I would not want to actually be in Rand’s shoes for this situation, but man was it fun reading about it. Ridiculous (fictional) political intrigue is nearly always fabulous to read about as long as you know you’d never have to be personally involved, in it or anything similar. This is why I always vaguely suspect anyone who really does get involved in actual real-life politics of either masochism or megalomania. Or both. No other explanation for why you’d jump into that particular cesspool-slash-combine-harvester makes sense to me.
Incidentally, this entire Cairhien sequence strongly reminds me (in retrospect) of The Warrior’s Apprentice, the first of the Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold, which you should absolutely read if you haven’t already because they are awesome (though you really should start with Cordelia’s Honor to get the full effect of the series, in my opinion). The book’s title, of course, is a play on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, in which the hapless titular apprentice effectively picks up a tiger by the tail, without the knowledge of how to put it down again without getting himself killed. And if that’s not a description of Rand’s experiences in playing the Game of Houses here, I don’t know what is.
“It doesn’t matter how many he has,” Rand said. “Ten are as bad as a hundred. If ten Trollocs attack us, I don’t think we’ll get away again.” He avoided thinking of the way he might, just might, deal with ten Trollocs.
Or, you know, eventually, a couple hundred thousand Trollocs…
*pets baby ninja Rand*
It’s a standard twist at the end of this chapter—Rand losing the prize right before it becomes essential to have—but that doesn’t make it any less effective. Sometimes things are tropes for a reason.
And that’s the what it is for now, folks! Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!