Spoilers for books 1-11 and The Gathering Storm to ch.30| More info and previous posts |Please no spoilers for future books/events
In my plan to read The Wheel of Time, and post about my experience, I’m now on book 12, The Gathering Storm. This post covers chapter 20-30.
On A Broken Road
Mat is complaining about women. Nothing new there. But this time he picks a hypothetical situation to make his point and then just goes way too far with it. It’s funny how ridiculous it gets. I’d quote it, but the whole thing is too long.
Oh who cares, I’ll quote it anyway:
“Women,” Mat declared as he rode Pips down the dusty, little-used road, “are like mules.” He frowned. “Wait. No. Goats. Women are like goats. Except every flaming one thinks she’s a horse instead, and a prize racing mare to boot. Do you understand me, Talmanes?”
“Pure poetry, Mat,” Talmanes said, tamping the tabac down into his pipe.
“Reasoning with a woman is impossible,” Mat continued, eyes forward. “It’s like . . . Well, reasoning with a woman is like sitting down to a friendly game of dice. Only the woman refuses to acknowledge the basic bloody rules of the game. A man, he’ll cheat you—but he’ll do it honestly. He’ll use loaded dice, so that you think you’re losing by chance. And if you aren’t clever enough to spot what he’s doing, then maybe he deserves to take your coin. And that’s that.
“A woman, though, she’ll sit down to that same game and she’ll smile, and act like she’s going to play. Only when it’s her turn to throw, she’ll toss a pair of her own dice that are blank on all six sides. Not a single pip showing. She’ll inspect her throw, then she’ll look up at you and say, ‘Clearly I just won.’
“Now, you’ll scratch your head and look at the dice. Then you’ll look up at her, then down at the dice again. ‘But there aren’t any pips on these dice,’ you’ll say.
“‘Yes there are,’ she’ll say. ‘And both dice rolled a one.’
“‘That’s exactly the number you need to win,’ you’ll say.
“‘What a coincidence,’ she’ll reply, then begin to scoop up your coins. And you’ll sit there, trying to wrap your head ’bout what just happened. And you’ll realize something. A pair of ones isn’t the winning throw! Not when you threw a six on your turn. That means she needed a pair of twos instead! Excitedly, you’ll explain what you’ve discovered. Only then, do you know what she’ll do?”
“No idea, Mat,” Talmanes replied, chewing on his pipe, a thin wisp of smoke curling out of the bowl.
“Then she’ll reach over,” Mat said, “and rub the blank faces of her dice. And then, with a perfectly straight face, she’ll say, ‘I’m sorry. There was a spot of dirt on the dice. Clearly you can see that they actually came up as twos!’ And she’ll believe it. She’ll bloody believe it!”
“Incredible,” Talmanes said.
“Only that’s not the end of it!”
“I had presumed that it wouldn’t be, Mat.”
“She scoops up all of your coins,” Mat said, gesturing with one hand, the other steadying his ashandarei across his saddle. “And then every other woman in the room will come over and congratulate her on throwing that pair of twos! The more you complain, the more of those bloody women will join the argument. You’ll be outnumbered in a moment, and each of those women will explain to you how those dice clearly read twos, and how you really need to stop behaving like a child. Every single flaming one of them will see the twos! Even the prudish woman who has hated your woman from birth—since your woman’s granny stole the other woman’s granny’s honeycake recipe when they were both maids—that woman will side against you.”
“They are nefarious creatures indeed,” Talmanes said, voice flat and even. Talmanes rarely smiled.
“By the time they’re done,” Mat continued, almost more to himself, “you’ll be left with no coin, several lists’ worth of errands to run and what clothing to wear and a splitting headache. You’ll sit there and stare at the table and begin to wonder, just maybe, if those dice didn’t read twos after all. If only to preserve what’s left of your sanity. That’s what it’s like to reason with a woman, I tell you.”
Talmanes’ dry humor just makes it even better.
Returning to the plot, they’re somewhere in Murandy, and seem to be lost. I wonder if the Dark One’s touch swapping stuff has something to do with this. Mat and Talmanes continue chatting about their battles and Mat’s marriage. It’s pretty clear to me that Sanderson’s tweaked Talmanes to give him a very dry sense of humor. That man just has to have one of those in all of his books. But I like the change.
The Aes Sedai come to meet Mat. They are in a hurry to reach Caemlyn, and Mat points out they’re welcome to go ahead and leave, now that they’re out of Seanchan territory. They’re willing, but they also want a bunch of horses and soldiers to escort them, and Mat is unwilling to do that. I completely support it. Damn entitled Aes Sedai.
The Band stops for the day and Mat and co. head into a nearby village to get supplies. Which is tough given the general food shortage, but Mat seems to have some sort of a plan.
Embers and Ash
Perrin wakes up in the wolf dream, hoping to find his damn “answers”. I really don’t like this turn in Perrin’s character, whether it was added by Sanderson or part of RJ’s plan. He’s always been calm and thoughtful, but never this level of navel-gazing. He annoys Hopper too, with his whining and demands to learn, and so hopper slaps him out of the wolf dream.
Meanwhile, Faile, after ensuring that Perrin is asleep, goes out and has a memorial service of sorts for Rolan and friends. It’s good to see her remember them and regret their deaths. They totally deserved better.
Perrin wakes up and formalises his three big troubles : to control the wolf inside of him, to learn to accept his leadership, and to make peace with the fact that he’d have to let Faile face dangers in the future. None of which sounds like that big a deal. Dude, if you want to know what real internal turmoil feels like, go chat with Rand. You are just making a fuss over small things.
The Last That Could Be Done
We get a Semirhage POV. She’s still kinda reeling from Cadsuane’s spanking, and steeling herself to not give in next time, when Shaidar Haran appears. He seems to be under the Dark One’s direct control. Or maybe he is the Dark One? That would be quite the twist. Pretty sure that’s not the case though.
The superfade removes her shield and disappears. Outside the room, she finds the Aes Sedai that were shielding her are dead and Elza asks her to remove the compulsion from her and gives her the male a’dam. Well fuck.
Meanwhile, Rand has brought Ituralde’s forces to the Blight as agreed. He tells him to keep his eyes peeled and make daily reports to him. I sort of thought that the Last Battle was just figurative, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that there is going to be a very literal and big battle.
Rand returns to the Manor, spending the walk wondering about the future and how to deal with the Dark One. Lews Therin gives him some of the info we got from The Strike at Shayol Ghul, but nothing that might help him do it better this time. Which makes sense, if LTT had better ideas, he’d have used them the first time around. Plus he’s crazy now.
Min breaches the topic of Rand’s increasing harshness. Rand has a moment of distrust towards Min, and then he’s ashamed for that. He reluctantly agrees that maybe he is going too far. And then Semirhage strikes. In a moment she has Rand collared, and well, well this is bad.
Oh dear God why didn’t you kill her Rand! Rand tries to struggle, but of course it’s useless. Semirhage tries to torture him, but Rand says that after what he went through in the box, this is nothing. But he underestimated Semirhage’s cruelty. She forces him to torture Min, and he begs her to stop. But she just forces him to strangle Min. With his own hands.
It’s pretty much the most horrifying scene I’ve ever read in the series:
“No. . . .” he whispered in horror as his hand, against his will, cut off her air. Min stumbled, and he unwillingly forced her down to the ground, easily ignoring her struggles. He loomed above her, pressing his hand against her throat, gripping it and choking her. She looked at him, eyes beginning to bulge.
This can’t be happening.
Ilyena! Lews Therin wailed. Oh, Light! I’ve killed her!
Rand squeezed harder, leaning down for leverage, his fingers squeezing Min’s skin and pushing down on her throat. It was as if he gripped his own heart, and the world became black around him, everything darkened except for Min. He could feel her pulse throbbing beneath his fingers. Those beautiful dark eyes of hers watched him, loving him even as he killed her.
Just…. horrible. Shudders.
And then something happens, and Rand can sense a new source of Power. The True Power. Rand reaches for it, and in that moment a face flashes in front of him. The Dark One himself?
In any case, the collar clearly doesn’t interfere with using the True Power, and in short order Rand destroys it, and balefires Semirhage and Elza. Whew.
Not really. Rand decides that he must be harder still. Not steel, but cuendillar.
A switch to Cadsuane’s POV. She comes to meet Rand after all this goes down. And Rand has changed. He’s crossed the line from intimidating and reserved into downright scary and heartless. He exiles Cadsuane for failing to keep the a’dam secure, threatening to kill her if he saw her again.
You know, it’s ironic. All this time, I’ve been bitching about how Rand refuses to kill or harm women, and now that he no longer has that reservation, I wish he did. I wish he hadn’t killed Elza, and even Semirhage. Because this new Rand is almost evil. Listen to this:
“Cadsuane,” he said softly, “do you believe that I could kill you? Right here, right now, without using a sword or the Power? Do you believe that if I simply willed it, the Pattern would bend around me and stop your heart? By . . . coincidence?”
And thinking about it all, it’s just too convenient that Rand got forced into a desperate situation and in that moment he suddenly could access the True Power. It smells of a plan. Did this power, associated directly with the Dark One, corrupt him in some way?
Poor Rand just keeps getting beaten down, punch after punch after punch. Each time I think we’re at rock bottom, he gets punched even lower. It’s a wonder he hasn’t cracked already.
A New Commitment
Gawyn arrives at the rebel camp. The guards try to bar his way, refusing to believe that he’s nobility, so he just beats them up to make a stir and get to Bryne. After reprimanding him for this stunt, he and Bryne get to the point. Gawyn wants to rush off to rescue Egwene, shrugging off the fact that Egwene has instructed them not to rescue her. But Bryne does agree to get him a meeting with one of the Aes Sedai so he can try and persuade her.
Gawyn mentions seeing an Aes Sedai amongst the camp followers, and Bryne and he go to check her out. On the way, they discuss Andor and Morgase. Bryne tries to tell Gawyn that Morgase was totally out of control before her death, but he just refuses to believe it. See this is what I was talking about. He’s taken into his head that Rand killed his mom and is refusing to listen to anything to the contrary.
Anyway, they find the Aes Sedai, or rather, ex-Aes Sedai. It’s Shemerin. Bryne takes her to talk to the Aes Sedai.
Sheriam is visited in her tent by Mesaana herself. We finally get it stated clearly that Sheriam is Black Ajah. It’s not much of a surprise, we did know that Halima was beating her up. I guess I just didn’t want to think that good old Sheriam would be Black Ajah too. Mesaana orders her to steal all the dream ter’angreal ASAP and undermine Egwene’s support in the camp.
Egwene is visited by Seaine in her cell. Poor Egwene is in pretty bad shape, but she’s still holding strong. It’s interesting to see the difference in how she’s handling her captivity vs. how Rand handled it. Which is to say, she’s doing way better. It can be argued that her situation isn’t as bad as Rand’s, but still. I guess that’s the difference between being hard and being strong.
Anyway, Seaine tells her that Elaida is probably going to be punished for what she did to Egwene, but it’s not nearly enough – it’s just going to be some penance.
A Crack in the Stone
Aviendha is watching the people in the manor pack up. She herself is still busy with her punishments. Min stops by to chat with her, but all she succeeds in doing is piss Aviendha off by pointing out her punishment. I don’t blame Min.
So Aviendha goes all in a fury to talk to the Wise Ones, and demands that either they tell her what’s their problem or stop this bullshit. Turns out that’s what they wanted her to do all along:
“No woman is ready to join us until she has declared herself ready,” Amys continued. “She must present herself as our equal.”
OK this is just bullshit. I’m really pissed at the stupid Wise Ones right now. Stupid Aiel. Stupid Women. Stupid Aiel Women. Let’s just move on. They dispatch Aviendha to Rhuidean to formalise her Wise One-ness.
Meanwhile, the Aes Sedai are interrogating Shemerin. The only info of interest is the secret watergate through which she left Tar Valon. And a bubble of evil strikes, resulting in huge cockroaches erupting from the ground and covering the tent. Eewww. The Aes Sedai take the only reasonable approach: kill it with fire!
The Tipsy Gelding
Mat and co. arrive at the village. Mat and Talmanes split off from the group to dice and drink. The Mayor barges in with instructions to do their business and be out of the village by sunset. He’s strangely insistent on it. Something is up.
Anyways, Mat finds a tavern/inn – the aforementioned Tipsy Gelding, and sets to dicing. This time, he uses his luck to lose, time after time after, increasing the bets each time. Talmanes grows worried, but Mat’s confident in his scheme. Finally, he loses all his cash and has the big gold chest fetched. And then he reveals his plan. He offers to bid the whole chest, and the villagers of course are totally eager to get that sweet gold, so they’re willing to bet barter – horses, wagon, food and drink. And of course Mat will win the last throw and take it all. Nice plan, so long as the village full of now pissed people don’t turn on him.
The Mayor insists on making the throw, but I’m not worried at all. And of course, the dice roll Mat’s way and he wins all the food. And then the sun sets, and things go nuts.
The people all seem to go into a frenzy of sorts, madly attacking anyone they spot with no regards to safety. Mat and Talmanes decide the gold and the food isn’t worth their lives, and make a run for it. They meet Thom on the way, and go to rescue the Aes Sedai. For once, the women Mat’s rescuing actually don’t need that much of rescue – they’re holding up pretty well, since they can use the Power now that their life is in danger. But he still manages to convince them to leave, and they escape the village.
They spend the night in a nearby cave, and Thom tells Mat someone in a nearby town is looking for them. They’ve passed around eerily accurate photos of him. In the morning, Mat decides to return to the village.
Surprisingly, all seems fine. There are no corpses, no blood. Everyone is just going about their day, normal as can be. The mayor meets them and tells what’s going on. Turns out the villagers are caught in a crazy loop of sorts – each night they kill each other in a frenzy, and each morning they wake up in their beds, totally fine. This is some next level spooky shit. The worst part is that they can’t even leave – no matter how far they flee, the next morning they find themselves in their beds. No wonder he was so insistent about outsiders leaving the village before sundown.
But they send Mat off with his gold and the wagon laden with food supplies, so that’s good. They’re honest folk, just caught in a really crappy situation.
Into Bandar Eban
Rand arrives in Bandar Eban, and yep, his new dark mode is not a one off thing. He now carries the statuette with him. I’m surprised that it was not taken, even though it was in the same box as the a’dam. More evidence that what happened was planned by the Dark One.
Merise comes to talk to him about relenting towards Cadsuane, but he is not to be moved. Instead, Rand scares her off. The new digs are the mansion of a captured Merchant. Rand goes to meet with the woman who owns the place. He asks her about the king’s whereabouts. She’d received a messenger from him, but he’s nowhere to be found now. Haha, not really. She was lying, and Rand caught it. The guy is locked in her dungeons. Rand wants to find Alsalan, because that’s where he’ll probably find Graendal too.
He will find her, and he will kill her. No hesitation this time.
Gawyn is meeting with Lelaine, trying to convince her to attempt a rescue operation. She acts all loyal and reasonable, but we know she has little desire to see Egwene returned, so there’s no way she’ll actually help Gawyn.
After that he meets Bryne. The two talk about stuff, causes and the Last Battle etc.
That’s it for this post. Some pretty big stuff. Mat’s adventure in the crazy village was pretty fun to read through, and also a bit scary at times. Not as scary as Rand’s plot though. When Semirhage forced him to strangle Min… Oh my God. That was just so horrible.
We’re over halfway through the book at this point. Actually, I’m done with it. I originally intended to do the rest of the writeup in this post, but that would’ve made it too long. And anyways it’s 9 pm here and I have stuff to do, so I decided to stop here. But I will be posting the final TGS posts by Monday. And after that, just two more to go.