So, do you think Robert Jordan actually believed that there were some seductresses out there who had an itemized list of every way you can touch or kiss someone? Or is this as much of a fantasy as the One Power and women having to get naked every time they go through a portal?
Welcome back to Reading The Wheel of Time. This week covers Chapters 26 and 27 of The Fires of Heaven, in which Siuan, Leane, Min, and Logain finally find the rest of the Aes Sedai, and Siuan has to put her plan in motion without anyone knowing that it’s a plan, or that she’s affecting anything, or anyone, at all. You have to admire Siuan. She’s good at what she does, and she never quits.
Chapter 26 opens with Min watching Logain as they ride west and south of Lugard, following the directions Siuan claims to have discovered. Logain has been slowly fading, his shoulder drooping and will flagging until has to be prodded and guided in order to keep him moving at all. Still, that blue and gold halo continues to flicker around his head, perplexing Min. Leane drops back to lay a hand on Logain’s arm and encourage him, but Min remarks that she’d have more luck with a dead man, and suggests that she try kissing him instead. Leane gives her an icy look, but Min was never as intimidated by her as she was by Siuan, and the flirting lessons have made that even more true.
How could you be intimidated by a woman who had told you in dead seriousness that there were one hundred and seven different kisses, and ninety-three ways to touch a man’s face with your hand? Leane actually seemed to believe these things.
Min can’t tell if Leane really has feelings for Logain or if she’s merely trying to keep him going; she and Siuan seem to have come to some sort of agreement where Siuan talks to all the women they encounter and Leane handles all the men. Siuan drops back to ask Min if she’s viewed Logain today, and Min answers that it is still the same. Siuan still doesn’t seem to understand that what Min sees is true—even if she hadn’t seen the halo again since Tar Valon, she would still have wagered that he would make a miraculous recovery. She knows that he is destined for glory, just as she knew the first time she saw Rand al’Thor that she would fall in love with him, and that she would have to share him with two other women.
Siuan tells Min off for her tone, and Min wishes she could sound at least a little sarcastic and not so sincere when she promises to try not to be so sulky. But Siuan has that effect on people, even now. Leane asks if it’s much farther, expressing concern for Logain, and Siuan tells her, sounding irritated, that it shouldn’t be, as long as the last directions she got were right.
Not much, if those last directions I had are right.” Siuan sounded irritated. She had asked questions at that last village, two days ago—not letting Min hear, of course; Logain had showed no interest—and she did not like to be reminded of them. Min could not understand why. Siuan could hardly expect Elaida to be behind them.
They continue on, Min trying to decide where exactly she thinks they are, geographically, since they left any kind of well-traveled path some time ago, and worrying that Siuan might be lying about knowing where to go. Then, suddenly they come upon a village. Min notes something odd about it, how it seems newly built, and how there are too many women and not enough children, then suddenly realizes that she is seeing auras flickering about most heads, and realizes that they are Aes Sedai and Warders, along with some who must be White Tower servants and their kids. Siuan has found her gathering.
They ride in, and Min is put off by the odd and silent stares they get. Siuan stops in front of the town inn and has Min bring Logain in. Inside is a bustle of activity, women working on documents or sending Warders and servants scurrying off on errands, and the travelers are met by four Aes Sedai, Sheriam, Carlinya, Myrelle, and Anaiya. Min notes rays of silver and blue flashing around Sheriam’s head, as well as a soft golden light. She addresses Min rather than the others, asking why she brought Logain, and how she found them. Carlinya observes that it would have been better if Logain had died, and Min sees an image of a drawn raven beside her, perhaps a tattoo. As the others join in, demanding answers, Min tells them to ask Siuan or Leane, not her, shocking everyone.
Myrelle observes that stilling could have this affect, while Sheriam wonders if someone might have found women who look similar to try to trick them for some reason. Leane suggests they quiz them, make them answer questions only Siuan and Leane would know, and the Aes Sedai begin grilling the two about moments from their lives as novices and Accepted. Min is amazed at some of the stories of pranks and rule-breaking. Eventually the Aes Sedai determine that they are, in fact, Siuan and Leane. Carlinya wonders what to do with them.
Siuan was dark-faced—Leane had seemed amused if anything at her recounted girlhood misdeeds and penalties, but Siuan had not liked the telling one bit—yet in contrast to her near-glare, her voice was only a little tight. “You wanted to know how we found you. I made contact with one of my agents who also works for the Blue, and she told me of Sallie Daera.
Min doesn’t understand about Sallie Daera, but she realizes that Siuan has let them know that she still has access to the eyes-and-ears network of the Blue Ajah. Leane and Siuan are taken into another room, while Min is instructed to wait with Logain at an empty table. Min considers that, if any of the other Aes Sedai knew about her viewings, that she might become trapped again, just as she was by Siuan in the White Tower.
Helping Siuan find this gathering, helping bring Aes Sedai to Rand’s Aiel, was all very well and important, but she still had a personal goal. Making a man who had never looked at her twice fall in love with her before he went mad. Maybe she was as mad as he was fated to be. “Then we’ll make a matched pair,” she muttered to herself.
A novice comes by—carefully avoiding even glancing at Logain—to ask if Min wants something to eat, and informs her that she is in Salidar, in Altara. Where better to hide than where Aes Sedai would never be looked for? An Accepted Min recognizes, Faolain, complains that they should not have to hide, that it’s Siuan’s fault, and that she didn’t believe that Siuan helped Mazrim Taim escape, but if she brought Logain to Salidar, perhaps she did after all. Then an Aes Sedai named Edesina arrives and sends the two away; Min sees a silvery collar around the woman’s neck, which then seems to shatter. Min doesn’t like having viewings connected to the Seanchan, but she’s glad to see that Edesina will escape somehow.
Edesina examines Logain, telling Min that the gentling has stopped him from wanting to live, and that there is nothing she can do. As Min and Logain are ignored by the rest of the Aes Sedai, she can only hope that Siuan and Leane are finding a warmer reception.
And they are, at least in the literal sense. Siuan and Leane are sitting across from the four Aes Sedai, as well as Morvrin and Beonin, in a room that is quite warm despite the open window; Siuan tells herself that she is past being jealous of the other women’s ability to channel, but she does envy their ability not to sweat. She tells the Aes Sedai that they are rudderless, that all the bustle of activity is no more than a show to fool the Warders. She doubts the Gaidin are fooled, but she herself certainly is not. They know that Elaida will mismanage Rand, that she’ll probably panic and gentle him before Tarmon Gai’don arrives, and that the Tower is at its weakest when it should be at its strongest. And yet all the Aes Sedai here are doing is “twiddling [their] thumbs and blowing bubbles.”
Anaiya asks Leane if she agrees with Siuan, and Leane temporizes, saying that she agrees about Elaida and the danger, but that she is sure that they have worked very hard to gather all the exiled sisters to them and to figure out what to do about Elaida. Sheriam sniffs, thinking about how all the papers she saw were about planning the settlement and none were reports about Elaida or the Tower; all it would take was one Blue getting captured and put to the question and Elaida would know exactly where to find them.
Carlinya, a White, tells them coolly that they are not the Amyrlin and Keeper any longer, or even Aes Sedai. Some of the others look embarrassed, not liking to be reminded of stilling at the best of times, and no doubt thinking it harsh to bring it up now, but Carlinya continues to say that they do not believe the charges against the two, or they would not have left the Tower, but that they cannot assume their old places among the Aes Sedai. Sheriam adds that the letter of the law was followed, but no the spirit, and that the charges were so thin that they should have been laughed away.
“Not the charge that she knew of Rand al’Thor and conspired to hide him from the Tower,” Carlinya broke in sharply.
Sheriam nodded. “But be that as it may, even that was not sufficient for the penalty given. Nor should you have been tried in secret, without even a chance to defend yourself. Never fear that we will turn our backs on you. We will see that you both are cared for.”
Leane thanks them, but Siuan points out that they do not have the Aes Sedai head of the Blue network here, that they’ve left the agents sending their reports to the Tower. She suggests that she could arrange things so that both the Blue network and the one she had as Amyrlin could be sending their reports to the Aes Sedai at Salidar instead, and sending messages to the Tower that contain what they want Elaida to believe.
Leane adds, more diffidently, that she could also put them in touch with agents she had as Keeper within Tar Valon. The others are surprised to learn she had such a thing, and Leane admits that she always thought it was foolish that they paid so much attention to distant cities and so little to their own.
Morvrin asks, sharply, why they should let Siuan do what she wants. She has been stilled and is no longer Aes Sedai. If they want the names, they will give them.
Leane shivered visibly, but Siuan’s chair creaked as she stiffened her back. “I know that I am not Amyrlin anymore. Do you think I don’t know I was stilled? My face is changed, but not what is inside. Everything I ever knew is still in my head. Use it! For the love of the Light, use me!” She took a deep breath to calm herself—Burn me if I let them shove me aside to rot!—
Myrelle observes that Siuan has a young woman’s temper to go with her young woman’s face, but there is sympathy in her eyes as she assures Siuan that what she knows will be of great use, that no one wants her to feel useless. But Siuan doesn’t want that sympathy, and brings up Logain instead. She tells them of the plan she has devised, to have Logain reveal to the Tower, or even the world, that he was set up as a false Dragon by the Red Ajah. She tells them that the Reds found him in Ghealdan a year before he revealed himself, but instead of bringing him to the Tower to be gentled, they planted the idea in his head of claiming to be the Dragon Reborn.
“He does not know who Leane and I are. He talked with us sometimes on the journey here, late at night when Min was sleeping and he could not rest. He said nothing before because he thinks the entire Tower was behind it, but he knows that it was Red sisters who shielded him and talked to him of the Dragon Reborn.”
The Aes Sedai ask why the Reds would do such a thing, and Siuan claims that Logain did not know. Leane adds that they aren’t suggesting that the Reds had anything to do with Mazrim Taim, and that Elaida will be able to answer their questions.
Siuan watches them mull it over, thinking again about the benefits of being able to lie, and certain that Logain will fulfill his part of the plan—she hasn’t told him about it yet, but she’s certain that he will do it, now that he’s trapped amongst Aes Sedai again. This is his only chance at revenge, though it will only be over the Red Ajah, not all the Aes Sedai. And she knows he will live long enough because of Min’s vision. Finally Sheriam declares that this changes things, that they cannot possibly follow an Amyrlin who would do such a thing.
“Follow her!” Siuan exclaimed, for the first time truly startled. “You were actually considering going back to kiss Elaida’s ring? Knowing what she has done, and will do?” Leane quivered in her seat as if she wanted to say a few choice words herself, but they had agreed that Siuan was to be the one to lose her temper.
Sheriam and Myrelle look abashed, but the others do not, and Carlinya sternly reminds them that the Tower must be whole and strong, now that the Dragon has been Reborn and the Last Battle is coming.
Anaiya agrees, saying that it isn’t necessary to like the Amyrlin Seat. She admits that she never liked Elaida but then she never liked Siuan, who has “a file for a tongue” and who “pushed sisters where [she] wanted and only seldom explained why.”
Siuan says that she will try to smooth her tongue, all the time thinking how ridiculous it is for Anaiya to expect the Amyrlin to treat every sister like a childhood friend. The others discuss how they cannot go back to Elaida now, and all who are with her save the Reds can probably be approached and negotiated with. They also decide that they will not take the eyes-and-ears network away from Siuan, who can’t hold back a relieved sigh.
“Thank you, Aes Sedai,” she said in the meekest tone she could find. To call them that pained her; it was another break, another reminder of what she was not any longer. “I will try to give good service.” Myrelle did not have to nod in such a satisfied way. Siuan ignored a small voice that said she would have done as much or more in Myrelle’s place.
Deftly and respectfully, Leane offers a new suggestion. She points out that, to the eyes of the world this group of Aes Sedai will only look like a group of dissidents, while Elaida commands the respect of the Amyrlin title. She suggests that they elect a new Hall of the Tower and select an Amyrlin. That way they can present to the world “the true White Tower, in exile, and Elaida as a usurper.” With Logain’s accusations added on, the world will surely support their Amyrlin Seat. There is clear interest in this idea, with only Sheriam offering the objection that this will mean that the Tower is truly broken. Siuan snaps at her that it already is, and then regrets it.
This was supposed to be purely Leane’s notion. She herself had a reputation as a deft manipulator, and they could well be suspicious of anything she proposed. That was why she had begun by scathing them; they would not have believed her if she had begun with mild words. She would come at them as if she still thought herself Amyrlin, and let them put her in her place. By comparison, Leane would seem more cooperative, only offering the little she could, and they would be more likely to listen to her. Doing her own part had not been difficult—until it came to pleading; then she had wanted to hang them all in the sun to dry. Sitting here, doing nothing!
She thinks that she didn’t need to be so careful; they think she is broken, and although it’s a painful accommodation to make, Siuan knows that she must play that part, that they will accept her only on their terms.
The Aes Sedai discuss the prospect a little further, obliquely suggesting each of themselves, or at least their Ajah, as best fit for the job. Morvrin suggests Sheriam, though the former Mistress of Novices shakes her head, and promises that the Greens will all support her. Before this idea can build up too much steam, Siuan offers, as meekly as she can manage, the suggestion that their choice should not have been in the Tower the day she was disposed. That way no one could accuse her of choosing sides. Leane adds that she should be very strong in the Power, so that she can show all that the Tower stands for.
Siuan could have kicked her. That thought was supposed to wait a full day, to be tossed in once they actually began considering names. Between them, she and Leane knew enough of every sister to find some weakness, some doubt to be dangled subtly as to her fitness for stole and staff. She would rather wade naked through a school of silverpike than have these women realize that she was trying to manipulate them.
But no one seems to notice that, and Sheriam praises Siuan for her suggestion. They all agree that strength in the Power is important too, and that this will come with strength of will as well, which the new Amyrlin will certainly need. Siuan is pleased and confident that, when the time comes, she can bring them around to her point of view that they should choose not a strong-willed woman, but one who can be guided by them. And Siuan, secretly, will guide both. She and Moiraine have worked too hard to find and guide Rand al’Thor to “risk the rest of it being bungled by someone else.”
Respectfully she asks if she may offer another suggestion, and forces herself to wait for Sheriam to nod for her to continue. Siuan explains that she heard many rumors about Rand al’Thor and she believes that she has reasoned out where he went—the Aiel Waste. She explains that Gitara Moroso believed that some Aiel could channel, and that when Siuan was an Accepted Gitara had her read old books about them. In one, she learned that the Aiel sometimes call themselves the People of the Dragon. What’s more, the Prophecies said that the Stone of Tear would never fall until the People of the Dragon came, and it’s been confirmed that there were Aiel in the taking of the Stone.
The others find this a rather thin chance, but after some discussion it’s agreed that they will send two Green sisters (Myrelle is irritated it can’t be her) and choose Kiruna Nachiman and Bera Harkin, who have seven Warders between them. Talk turns to sending Siuan and Leane to rest, although Siuan assures them that she is not weak anymore from her stilling. Just then there is a knock and Arinvar, Sheriam’s Warder, comes in to report that there are twenty-odd riders approaching from the east. The Aes Sedai are just discussing the best way to either capture or kill them, to keep the Aes Sedai presence a secret, when another Warder, Nuhel, appears. He winks at Myrelle before addressing the group to report that most of the riders have stopped, but one is coming on alone, and he has been recognized as Gareth Bryne.
Siuan feels herself go cold, and is mentally kicking herself for asking directions at that one village. She tries to get hold of herself, but all she manages to do is say exactly the wrong thing, telling the Aes Sedai that they send him away or kill him. They realize that Siuan and Leane know exactly why he’s here and don’t want to confront him, to the point where they would like the Aes Sedai to kill him for them.
“There do be few great captains living.” Nuhel marked them off on gauntleted fingers. “Agelmar Jagad and Davram Bashere will no leave the Blight, I think, and Pedron Niall will surely no be of use to you. If Rodel Ituralde do be alive, he do be mired somewhere in what do remain of Arad Doman.” He raised his thick thumb. “And that do leave Gareth Bryne.”
“Do you think that we will need a great captain, then?” Sheriam asked quietly.
The Warders exchange glances, and then Arinvar replies that it is their decision. If they intend to return to the Tower they could use him; if they mean to wait for Elaida to send for them, then maybe not. Aniya remarks that Siuan is right. They have not fooled the Gaidin.
After a brief discussion of how to convince Bryne to side with them, the Aes Sedai tell the Warders to bring Bryne to them without saying anything to him. Once they are gone they turn their gazes back to Siuan and Leane, and Siuan realizes that she has no choice but to tell them the whole truth. Because if they catch even the smallest lie, they will know she can lie, and everything will be ruined.
Whew! I have to say, after recapping all of that, I might be as tired as Siuan and Leane must be from keeping up all that façade and manipulation. I ended up leaving in a lot of little quotes from this chapter’s narration, just because Siuan’s thoughts say so much in so few words. It’s one of Jordan’s great strengths as a writer: He’s really good at saying things without saying them, at giving you a lot to read in between the lines.
Recapping chapters that are mostly conversation can be a little tedious, but they are a lot of fun to analyze. Next week we will see Gareth Bryne observe how the Aes Sedai almost seem to have invented the Game of Houses, but we don’t need to wait for an outsider to interact with them—there is plenty of that manipulation and maneuvering for power in this one interview alone. And in fact, seeing the Aes Sedai interact amongst themselves provides an even clearer view of how their society is structured, especially when it comes to its extremely hierarchical nature.
I say “amongst themselves” because while Sheriam and the rest might not consider Siuan and Leane to be Aes Sedai anymore, I certainly do. There’s a lot to explore in the series about the dynamic between channelers and non-channelers, but while so far I’ve focused mostly on the prejudice experienced by channelers and the ways that prejudice comments (sometimes well, sometimes poorly) on sexism in our world, right now I’m pretty much on the side of those who think the Aes Sedai are puffed up, self-important jerks. The way Sheriam and the others are more concerned with Siuan and Leane’s lack of channeling ability than what they have done—either positive or negative—really irks me. It’s like I’m watching my most hated moment in X-Men 3: The Last Stand when Magneto abandons Mystique after she’s shot by the cure dart. I found it incredibly out of character for Magneto to reject her after part of herself was violently and unjustly torn away by those who would do the same to Magneto and all his fellow mutants. I could easily see him as being prejudiced against her in other ways, sidelining her from the fight in a sort of mutant-ableism, but not leaving a fallen comrade behind in the field, especially one he was close to.
On the other hand, it’s not out of character for the Aes Sedai; Siuan even has the thought that she would have acted similarly if she was in the others’ place. And as Aniya points out, there wasn’t a lot of closeness between the former Amyrlin and the rest of the Aes Sedai, despite the years they shared as novices and Accepted. Once again the discipline of the Tower shows its weak side: There are few bonds besides channeling and the duty that comes with it to hold the Aes Sedai together.
That being said, I do wonder if Siuan was more distant than former Amyrlins. It’s not that she didn’t see the value in kindness and connection—look at how she treated Laras when she came into the kitchen to secretly meet with Nynaeve—and she clearly had affection for her friends when they were training together. I wonder if she didn’t keep herself especially distant, if she wasn’t occasionally overly harsh with people, because she was working in secret with Moiraine. She wasn’t just focused on leading the White Tower, she was also devoting a lot of time and energy to the search for the Dragon, and she had to keep it absolutely secret at all costs. Perhaps if she hadn’t been she might have been a little bit more forthcoming when she gave commands to her daughters, or perhaps she wouldn’t have been quite so harsh with her tongue if she hadn’t had so much more pressure riding on her shoulders. It’s even possible she might not have wanted to be Amyrlin at all, though she was clearly always going to end up in a position of power.
In any case, the entire structure of the White Tower—its hierarchies, its function, and its purpose—are built upon a single flagstone: the ability to channel. An ability that is no more than a chance of birth, and one that is becoming much less strong and common in the population. The way a former channeler loses the will to live probably exacerbates this problem, but it was disheartening to learn how the Aes Sedai treat those who lose the ability to touch the True Source—women who burn themselves out in some accident or by studying ter’angreal—tucking them away somewhere or marrying them off like a medieval family’s inconvenient daughter. The suggestion that the only purpose a woman might find in family is a condescending one at best. It is a perfectly valid and good purpose, of course, but certainly not the only one open to a woman. Why couldn’t such a woman, one who has been educated and trained in the Tower, still have purpose amongst those who were her peers—who still are her peers, as far as I’m concerned?
Now, I said that the ability to channel is a “chance of birth” but of course, within the world of The Wheel of Time, that isn’t necessarily true. In this universe we know that the Pattern directs the lives of every human being, so technically the ability to channel or not channel is at least somewhat predestined. Perhaps this is the justification within the minds of the Aes Sedai for viewing themselves as (at least on some level) superior to non-channelers. It is certainly a justification for hierarchical thinking in general—the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, and it chose you to be a peasant and me to be a Queen, as it were.
In a way, it makes me understand the Black Ajah a little better. Is it really surprising that they should feel a certain level of greed and desire for power, if this is the baseline for Aes Sedai thought? I’ve talked before about how the D&D alignment of lawful good doesn’t bear out in practice, unless one posits that the universe itself is inherently good and just. There’s that conversation that Moiraine and Perrin have in Chapter 33 of The Dragon Reborn, about the nature of the Pattern, as they follow Rand towards Tear and see the changes he leaves in his wake. Some things are good, like happily married people, but others were bad, like failed crops or a spree of murders. Perrin doesn’t understand how the Pattern could be so evil, comparing the bad events to a tool with no purpose. Moiraine answers;
“The Creator is good, Perrin. The Father of Lies is evil. The Pattern of Age, the Age Lace itself, is neither. The Pattern is what is. The Wheel of Time weaves all lives into the Pattern, all actions. A pattern that is all one color is no pattern. For the Pattern of an Age, good and ill are the warp and the woof.”
Given that, I don’t think one could go so far as to say they were “meant” to be a channeler, or “meant” to be above other people. Nevertheless, the Aes Sedai are very hierarchical in their thinking, as are most of the cultures we’ve gotten to know so far. It’s not surprising, given the mostly western, mostly medieval basis for the world’s construction. After all, hierarchy is built into a great deal of our own world’s thinking, even today. It’s sometimes religious, sometimes secular, but in all cases can result in a rigidity of thinking that the Aes Sedai are definitely displaying here. They have plenty of experience manipulating others, and yet they completely fall for everything Siuan and Leane have set up for them without ever even noticing how they’re being led about by the nose. Even Leane’s slip-up goes entirely unnoticed, and the two plant not just one but several new ideas in the Aes Sedai without breaking a sweat, figuratively anyway. One can only conclude, as Siuan does, that they aren’t on guard against the two because they see them as lesser now. They’re quick to see weakness, anger, and distress, but not keenness, judgment, or self-restraint. It’s kind of remarkable.
Speaking of sweat, I wonder what kind of channeling trick that is. Are the Aes Sedai using the One Power to cool their bodies? Or is it just a stopping of the sweat itself? Either way, I loved the detail, though I’m suspicious of Siuan’s claim that she doesn’t envy the women their ability to channel anymore. I think she was sweating under the pressure too, not just the heat.
There is still a great deal of unfair prejudice against the Aes Sedai and the One Power, stoked by the taint on saidin, and I imagine also by the machinations of Darkfriends over the years after the Breaking. But the Aes Sedai’s relative isolation keeps them disconnected from “ordinary” people; one of the things that makes Moiraine both a more effective Aes Sedai and a more likeable character is how much time she spends out in the world. When she speaks of things like the greater good and making hard choices, it rings much purer than when someone like Elaida does. And I have to wonder if this wasn’t one of the functions of the Da’shain Aiel, to act as a sort of bridge between channelers and non-channelers, keeping the two worlds connected and the ambition of the Aes Sedai somewhat grounded. The Warders are primarily soldiers, and can’t provide that in the same way that the Aiel, with their kindness, connection to peace and the Earth, and obedience to the Way of the Leaf, could. It’s a fascinating thought.
And I keep forgetting about Mazrim Taim! There are so many rumors flurrying about that I can’t remember who is actually responsible for his escape. Darkfriends, I think. Anyway, I think Siuan’s plan to say that the Reds encouraged and helped Logain in declaring himself as the Dragon is a smart move, and there’s a really nice amount of justice in it, considering that Elaida’s been claiming that Siuan and Leane helped Mazrim Taim escape… they’ve been blaming her for Logain’s escape too. Turn about is fair play, Elaida, and this is what you get when you make up lies in order to get people to stage a coup. Any justification she had in being suspicious of Siuan (she was going behind the Tower’s back, after all, and manipulating them for her own ends, even if they were good ones) but she had to lie and sneak around in order to usurp Siuan, rather than following proper Tower precedent, which she knew very well wouldn’t have gotten her the result she wanted.
It’s interesting to see Sheriam in a leadership role here. Of all the Aes Sedai we’ve gotten to know, she’s the one I’m least certain how I feel about. Maybe it’s just because she was Mistress of Novices and I’m disdainful of the use of corporeal punishment in the White Tower (and in The Wheel of Time in general, but that’s a conversation for a different post). It might also be because of how oddly she behaved with the gray men in the Tower, and how the corpse of one was found in her bed. It seemed too specific, too intimate to be a coincidence. In any case, she seems to have taken a position of authority here, though she shook her head when Myrelle suggested her for Amyrlin.
She’s someone to watch, in any case, and I’m super curious about what Min’s viewing means. It seemed a little similar to the viewing of Logain, although Sheriam’s halo is more silver and blue than gold and blue.
I like Myrelle a lot, and was happy to see Anaiya again. I like the spirit of the Greens, and it makes sense to me that Egwene feels an affiliation with the Greens even outside of the obvious—that she knows the Last Battle is coming in her lifetime. There is a passion about the Greens that borders on mischief, and they are more fun than the other Aes Sedai. I mean, Myrelle’s Warder winked at her, in front of all those other Aes Sedai in the middle of an important meeting. Can you imagine Lan doing that? I can’t.
I’m curious about the rumor that Myrelle has married several of her Warders. It seems like the kind of malicious slut-shaming that might follow an Aes Sedai woman who engaged with men the way the Greens do, and I could easily see, if Myrelle has a close relationship with her Warders, that people might suspect that she has sexual relationships with them as well, or is even married to more than one of them. Which, more power to her if any or all of those things are true! My only thought is that marriage seems redundant when one already has that kind of intimate Bond, especially if there are no religious or legal institutions that would officiate such a union.
But yeah, Greens. I mean, look at this excerpt of Siuan considering Aniya.
Siuan had never been able to understand why Moiraine liked the woman. Trying to get her to do anything she did not want to was like hitting a sack of feathers. She did not stand up to you, or argue; she just silently refused to move. Even the way she sat, with her hands folded, looked more like a woman waiting to knead dough than an Aes Sedai.
Are you kidding? That’s exactly the kind of woman Moiraine would like. But again, Siuan is thinking as someone with a job to do, for whom everyone else is a chess piece in the most important game ever. She’d probably love Anaiya too if they were just two women in the Tower.
Regarding slut-shaming in these chapters, I wasn’t sure how to read Min’s new opinion of Leane. It was unclear to me if she just isn’t intimidated because she has a new intimacy with Leane now, or because she looks down on Leane’s Domani ways. And maybe Min herself doesn’t know, since she’s a little curious to learn a few techniques, but also put off by the idea on a personal level. The fact that Siuan suggested that Leane’s techniques could be used on women as well as men just made me laugh. I mean, take away for a moment the suggestion that men can’t think as soon as they see a pair of boobs. What are you left with? The idea that people who have more power, intelligence, and authority (or at least think that they should) don’t like those with less telling them what to do, but might be more amenable to gentle suggestions and deference. Which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but it can easily be taken too far. Leane’s Domani tricks are based on the idea that men are kind of stupid, but also on the idea that patriarchy won’t make room for women in other ways. And now we see the Aes Sedai dismiss Leane and Siuan’s experience and wisdom merely because they were Stilled.
And yes, losing one’s ability to channel does affect people’s will—we see how Logain is holding up these days, and he’s tougher than most—but Sheriam and the others don’t actually seem that concerned with it. They’re more worried about Siuan showing proper deference to her betters, now that she’s no more than a servant to be used… if she’s lucky.
On a more exciting note, we see Egwene moving one step closer to becoming Amyrlin Seat. Since we were forearmed with the knowledge that Egwene will become Amyrlin since her Accepted trials, I’ve seen a lot of traits emerge in her that showed how fit she would eventually be for that office. But I never suspected this. It makes sense that Siuan would choose her though—she wants Egwene for the role much in the same way she chose her to be one of her Black Ajah hunters. I’m quite amused that she thinks the new Hall will be able to use Egwene as a puppet, and that Siuan can manipulate both. To be fair, Siuan hasn’t seen how Egwene has walked the line between deference and rebellion with the Wise Ones, nor is she aware of all the parallels I’ve been drawing between the two of them, but she sure is in for a surprise if they really make Egwene their new Amyrlin. Also, I remembered that in Egwene’s future vision during her trials, she had never sworn the three oaths required to be raised to Aes Sedai. I guess now we know how that happens—I’m pretty sure those fleeing Elaida didn’t stop to grab the Oath Rod on their way out of the Tower. So they’ll have an Amyrlin who can lie, and who can use the One Power as a weapon. That’s going to be very interesting.
Also, isn’t it kind of silly, or at least naïve, that the Aes Sedai assume that some cultures out there don’t have any channelers amongst them, just because they haven’t seen them? Why should the Aiel be different than other nations?
Next week we move on to Chapters 28 and 29. First we’ll see how Gareth Bryne fares when he finally catches up to his quarry, only to find himself faced with the Aes Sedai’s request for his services. And then we’ll take a quick trip into Kadere’s head, which I’d rather we didn’t, but such is the nature of things. The Wheel, and Robert Jordan, weave as they will.
Shout out to the folks on Twitter who helped me remember when Perrin and Moiraine had that conversation about the nature of the Pattern, and I hope you all have a good week.
Sylas K Barret enjoyed the mention of Lord Agelmar this week, and hopes to see him again one day. Also he kind of forgot to talk about Min in this post, so he’ll have to do right by her in her next chapter. You rock Min, never stop wearing pants.