Spoilers for books 1-11 and The Gathering Storm to ch.41| 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 31-41.
A Promise To Lews Therin
The exiled Cadsuane is still hanging out around Rand. She’s taken to wearing a hood to avoid showing Rand her face. Typical Aes Sedai. She goes to an inn to meet with one of her informants, to ask him about the missing king and stuff. Nothing major. Notably, according to him, while there are freak occurrences in the city thanks to Rand’s ta’veren nature, they are all of the bad kind. A reflection of the growing darkness in Rand?
Indeed, as Cadsuane spots Rand on her way back, she notices a literal halo of darkness around him. She has another idea on how to deal with Rand, and she goes to discuss her plan with the Wise Ones.
Meanwhile, Rand is discussing the upcoming meeting with Tuon with his attendants. He decides to set Falme as the venue. Nynaeve comes to talk to him, and the conversation gets around to Lan. Nynaeve wants Rand to help him with forces, but Rand instead wants to use Lan as a decoy so he himself can attack from somewhere else. This of course pisses off Nynaeve. And me too, for that matter. I mean, it’s Lan. But I have to admit this time Rand’s idea does make a sort of horrible, by-the-numbers sense.
Returning to his mansion, Rand finds out the captive messenger is now conveniently dead, and he sends the Merchant lady to her own dungeon as punishment.
Nynaeve takes up her complaint about Lan and stuff, and Rand just loses it.
Rand’s anger surged. He spun, pointing at her. “Would you end up exiled like Cadsuane, Nynaeve?” he bellowed. “I will not be played with! I am done with that. Give advice when it is asked for, and the rest of the time do not patronize me!”
Did he just threaten Nynaeve? Dude is out of control.
Later, Nynaeve is out sightseeing. The sight in question is a procession of the dead walking. Cheerful stuff. Nynaeve considers what to do about Rand. She stops to help a random sick child, which earns her major karma points with me. She’s tough as nails, but Nynaeve is in the end a person who just wants the best for people.
And then Nynaeve realises that although everyone else has failed, Moiraine did succeed at making Rand listen to her. (Who, BTW, should be returning soon. GET HYPE!) So she decides to show Rand that she’s on his side, that she’s only trying to help him. Of course, what she doesn’t consider – or rather considers and ignores – is that Moiraine didn’t do it with a “plan”. She just told this to Rand’s face and agreed to obey him to boot. But I guess Nynaeve’s ego won’t allow that.
Returning to the Manor, she gets a bunch of guards with her and goes to check out the dungeons where the messenger was being kept. It seems she’s fishing for something that she can then show Rand and earn some goodwill with him. The whole trip takes up a bunch of pages, but the point is she gets there, and inspects the dungeon. All seems in order. The interrogators there claim that they just found the guy dead, not their fault. And she believes them. However, before leaving, she notices Lady Chadmar looks a bit sick, so delves her and finds that she’s being poisoned.
Nynaeve heals the woman, and more digging reveals the food was being prepared by a young apprentice. The man tries to run off, but they manage to capture him and take him to Rand.
They find a heavy layer of compulsion on him, and Rand tells Nynaeve to remove it. She does so after much effort, but unfortunately that doesn’t really heal the man. He’s just an empty husk now without the compulsion guiding him. Horrible stuff. But he does manage to tell Rand Graendal’s location before dying.
Nynaeve is angry that Rand didn’t tell her beforehand that removing the compulsion would do this to him. But Rand just shrugs it off. Nynaeve tells him, like Min before her, that he’s becoming too hard. Shockingly though, Rand knows this.
“You all claim that I have grown too hard, that I will inevitably shatter and break if I continue on. But you assume that there needs to be something left of me to continue on. That I need to climb back down the mountain once I’ve reached the top.
“That’s the key, Nynaeve. I see it now. I will not live through this, and so I don’t need to worry about what might happen to me after the Last Battle. I don’t need to hold back, don’t need to salvage anything of this beaten up soul of mine. I know that I must die. Those who wish for me to be softer, willing to bend, are those who cannot accept what will happen to me.”
He’s totally given up on life post-Last Battle. He doesn’t want to hope. Oh Rand. Even Nynaeve doesn’t have a response to this fatalism.
Mat is preparing for a raid on Trustair, where the woman looking for him is supposedly located. Part of that is cover stories for the people who’ll be going in. And some people are taking it way too seriously:
“Wait, Mat,” Mandevwin said, scratching his face near his eye patch. “I’m to be an apprentice gleeman? I’m not certain my voice is suited to fine singing. You’ve heard me, I warrant. And with only one eye, I doubt I’ll fare well at juggling.”
“You’re a new apprentice,” Mat said. “Thom knows you don’t have any talent, but he took pity on you because your great-aunt—with whom you’ve lived since your parents died in a tragic oxen stampede—took sick of the clover pox and went crazy. She started feeding you table scraps and treated you like the family hound, Marks, who’d run away when you were just seven.”
Mandevwin scratched his head. His hair was streaked with gray. “Aren’t I a little old to be an apprentice, though?”
“Nonsense,” Mat said. “You’re young at heart, and since you never married—the only woman you ever loved ran away with the tanner’s son—Thom’s arrival offered you an opportunity to start fresh.”
“But I don’t want to leave my great-aunt,” Mandevwin protested. “She’s cared for me since I was a child! It’s not honest of a man to abandon an elderly woman just because she gets a little confused.”
“There is no great-aunt,” Mat said with exasperation.
After finalising this stuff, Mat goes to meet Aludra. She’s finished her designs for cannons, AKA Dragons, and wants a load of stuff to start production. I’m pretty sure Rand will be more than willing to fund this operation.
Talmanes comes to tell Mat that someone has come in to meet him. That someone turns out to be Verin, who it turns out was the one looking for him.
A Halo of Blackness
Rand arrives at Falme for the meeting with Tuon. There is much reminiscing about events that went down here, which feels like ages ago, but was hardly a couple years ago. The POV switches to Tuon, who’s putting on a brave face, but is rather intimidated by Rand. Also, apparently their version of the Karaethon Cycle mentions Rand going blind too. Oh man, at this rate there will be nothing left of him to fight the Dark One. Literally. (And I mean literally literally, not figuratively literally like sometimes it’s used. Which, by the way, I hate)
The meeting does not begin well, and only gets worse from there. Rand wants unification, but Tuon wants the unification to be under the Seanchan, which Rand is unwilling to accept. And then Rand does something, which feels a lot like ta’veren, but is accompanied by a halo of blackness around him. Is he using the True Power? Or can he somehow control the ta’veren, as his threats to Cadsuane implied? Either way, this attempt to bully Tuon makes up her mind, and she refuses to make any treaty with him. She won’t accept anything except him bowing down before her. Which he won’t accept.
And so Rand’s hopes for peace with the Seanchan end in failure.
You know, I’m pretty sure that they could’ve worked something out if Rand hadn’t been like this. So overbearing and inflexible. And that attempt to force Tuon to accept his offer was just over the line.
Once Rand is gone, Tuon formally declares herself Empress, and orders for the attack on Tar Valon to go ahead pronto.
The Death of Tuon
Verin is telling Mat what she’s doing there.
Wait, The Death of Tuon? Is this title for real? Come on, I like Tuon. Don’t die Tuon! Anyway…
Verin claims she ended up here because of Mat’s ta’veren pull. I’m skeptical. The woman is clearly up to something. As usual.
She says that she got the drawings she’s been circulating from a Darkfriend. Which raises the question of what she’s doing meeting Darkfriends?
Anyway, she offers to help Mat by making a gateway to Caemlyn, but in return he wants him to follow some as yet unknown instructions when he gets there.
Wisely, Mat flatly refuses. In the end they strike a bargain – Mat can either follow the instructions, or he can tear them up without reading them, but then has to wait a while in Caemlyn before moving on. This is okay for Mat since he’d rather chill out in Caemlyn than march there, plus it’ll give him time to start the cannon making operation.
As for the “death” of Tuon, it’s just her taking up a new name now that she’s Empress. Whew. Oh, and I love how her new name – Fortuona, contains her old one. She sees off the soldiers on their raid on the White Tower. Egwene’s dream is going to come true. And of course thanks to stupid Elaida, no one listened to her and so they’ll be totally unprepared.
A Force of Light
We get the first Min POV after the Semirhage incident. It’s sad to see the strain that is putting on her and Rand’s relationship.
Rand is planning to take care of Graendal. First, he sends off a Domani noble to the place, telling him to gather support for him, and then he follows by gateway. The fellow returns, and Rand tells Nynaeve to check for compulsion, which is indeed there. And then Rand uses the statue, and Balefires the fortress out of existence. Then he has Nynaeve confirm that the compulsion is gone from the fellow, thus confirming that Graendal is dead.
And yes, so are a lot of other people – all of her servants and guards in the building. But I think it was worth the price. And they would be compulsioned beyond the point of no return anyway. But it does scare Nynaeve and Min, and they go to meet Cadsuane. Cadusane tells Nynaeve to find Perrin if she wants to help.
News in Tel’aran’rhiod
Egwene is meeting with Siuan in the world of dreams. Siuan tries to convince Egwene to accept escape, but Egwene is adamant. At least she agrees to a rescue in case Elaida decides to have her executed. They talk about the increasing division in the rebel camp, and then Siuan leaves. Egwene spends some more time roaming around, contemplating the sorry state of the Tower.
She wakes up, and she’s in pretty bad shape in her cell. As her Red guards are preparing to give her her regular beating however, Katerine arrives and tells them that Egwene is to be released. Turns out that Elaida has realised that she can’t win this one, and has instead decided to put the blame on Silviana for failing to properly discipline Egwene. Crafty.
On the way to her rooms, Saerin comes to talk to Egwene and gives her more details. Turns out that Silviana met the Hall and demanded that Egwene be released and Elaida deposed. And now as a result Elaida has declared she is to be stilled and executed. Saerin wants to go ahead with it, since it will ruin the Red Ajah and they’d be able to disband them and be done with it, but Egwene is not having it. She tells Saerin to try and stop it.
Returning to her quarters, Egwene finds Verin of all people waiting for her.
Verin tells her that she’s wearing a green dress. Which is a lie. The plot thickens.
A Visit From Verin Sedai
Verin comes right out and tells Egwene that she is of the Black Ajah. What?! But… but she totally worked for Rand! Compulsing all those Aes Sedai to follow him! And all those other times. Even her own POVs suggested that she wasn’t on the side of the Shadow.
But no. Turns out that Verin was trying to infiltrate the Blacks or something, and had to choose between taking their oaths or dying. And she chose the latter. Said oaths include clauses to prevent her from betraying the Dark One. Until, that is, the hour of her death.
So now Verin has poisoned herself, to tell Egwene all this stuff. She gives Egwene an encrypted book, containing a lot of details about the way the Shadow and the Black Ajah works, and crucially, a list of all the Black sisters Verin knows about. She also warns Egwene about Mesaana’s presence in the Tower, though even she doesn’t know under which name she is hiding. And then she dies.
Okay. *Deep breaths*.
HOLY SHIT! So that’s what Verin’s game’s been all this time. I knew something was up with her – but this. Oh my god. So much respect for Verin for all that she did man, in such a hard situation.
“You will be Amyrlin. I’m confident of it. And an Amyrlin should be well armed with knowledge. That, among all things, is the most sacred duty of the Brown—to arm the world with knowledge. I’m still one of them. Please see that they know, although the word Black may brand my name forever, my soul is Brown. Tell them. . . .”
“I will, Verin,” Egwene promised. “But your soul is not Brown. I can see it.”
Her eyes fluttered open, meeting Egwene’s, a frown creasing her forehead.
“Your soul is of a pure white, Verin,” Egwene said softly. “Like the Light itself.”
Too much feels! Rest in peace Verin, you’ve done something truly great. Respect.
Also, to all my readers, especially those on /r/Fantasy and /r/WoT, thank you so much for treading carefully around me, taking care so that big twists like this one aren’t spoiled in the discussions. It’s greatly appreciated.
Moving on with the story, Egwene sets to studying the knowledge that Verin gave her life to collect. She sets about decrypting the list of names, and oh my god, it is shocking. For her because of the names – Alviarin, Sheriam, Katerine and more. For me, because of the sheer numbers. Two hundred! That’s like, one fifth of the Aes Sedai on the Shadow’s side. I remember talking about the seemingly large number of Blacks in an earlier post, but this is just so many more than I suspected. It’s a wonder the Tower even continues to exist with this kind of corruption. I guess they’d rather just let it stand and use it to pull strings all over the world rather than take it down.
Meidani comes to meet her. Silviana’s execution has been stopped, and Egwene tells her about Verin’s sacrifice and to test Alviarin ASAP.
Then Egwene meets with Siuna, and tells her about Sheriam and Moria being Blacks and to watch them, but then she’s woken up by Nicola. The Tower is under attack. The Seanchan have come.
The Tower Shakes
Siuan wakes up worried that something might be happening to Egwene. She’s talking to Bryne, when a soldier comes in to report of the fighting in Tar Valon. Siuan decides to go rescue Egwene, and Gawyn agrees to go with her, as does Bryne. He also asks Siuan to bond him, which she does. Well that’s finally out in the open. And they set out to rescue Egwene.
Meanwhile, Egwene rallies resistance within the Tower. She calms the novices and teaches them to make circles, and then goes to get the sa’angreal kept in the Tower. Good thinking.
The raid proceeds as expected – most of the Aes Sedai are too unprepared to resist much, but Egwene turns on her badassery and makes the Seanchan pay for every captive. Meanwhile, Gawyn, Siuan and some soldier sneak into the Tower in the chaos, and find an exhausted and almost unconscious Egwene. That is because she spent so much strength fighting in the raid, but they think it’s because of her mistreatment and stuff, and whisk her off. And just when she was getting enough support to overthrow Elaida. Stupid macho Gawyn. Although the blame is actually more on Siuan.
We also find out that Elaida was one of the captives taken in the raid, and get a very satisfying POV from a collared Elaida. Good riddance.
That’s it for this post. We’re almost done with TGS now, just one more post to go. Big stuff happened in this one. Mostly Egwene’s plotline. I was a bit exasperated with the whole rebellion subplot that’s been going on for what feels like ages, but I have to say, with Egwene’s capture, it’s become quite great. There was the attack, which wasn’t much of a surprise but still tense and exciting to read.
And of course, the big shocked. Verin. Not much more to say beyond what I’ve already said in the post. But seriously, mind = blown. Well played, Mr. Jordan. Well played. Damn but it’s satisfying when the brackets start to close, and you get answers to questions that’ve been itching you for so many books.
One more post to go, and then it’s Towers of Midnight. Damn but that’s an abstract title.