Monday 3 September 2012

The Wheel of Time So Far: Part 12 - The Path of Daggers

Previous instalments of the series:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11.

Spoilers for those who are unfamiliar with the series. Note that this summary is designed to help people who have already read the books get back up to speed before the release of the final volume in January. First-timers are advised to read the books directly, as in some cases these summaries may spoil things that are not revealed in the books until much later.

 Rand al'Thor leads his armies into battle against the invading Seanchan.

Follow the break for the summary:

The Path of Daggers

In the depths of the Black Hills, in a place no-one goes for stories of a spire that radiates death, the rulers of four powerful kingdoms meet: Queen Ethenielle Cosaru Noramaga of Kandor, King Paitar Nachiman of Arafel, King Easar Togita of Shienar and Queen Tenobia Kazadi of Saldaea. Tenobia is enraged that her uncle, Lord Davram Bashere, has agreed to follow Rand al’Thor, and all the Borderland leaders are concerned about al’Thor: is he the Dragon Reborn or another false Dragon? Tar Valon is divided and al’Thor runs amok in the southlands. Since the Aes Sedai seem unwilling to help (indeed, most of their Aes Sedai advisors fled back to Tar Valon or headed for Salidar the second news of the division arrived) and several riots have erupted in Borderland cities over this affair, the Borderland rulers must take matters into their own hands. With more than 200,000 troops at their back they ride southwards, to find al’Thor and make a decision on what must be done.

In the Aiel camp outside Cairhien Verin Mathwin has been permitted by the Aiel Wise One to question the Aes Sedai taken prisoner at Dumai’s Wells. Verin is stunned to learn that Katerine Alruddin, second-in-command of the Tower embassy and the strongest of the prisoners, has escaped. She uses the One Power to force certain answers and enforce certain requests on Beldeine Nyram, one of those Tower Aes Sedai. Verin has been following a plan for the last seventy years, a plan she will not let anyone stand in the way of, not even the Aiel.

In Ebou Dar the Sea Folk Windfinders, the Kin, Elayne and Nynaeve pass through a gateway to a farm belonging to the Kin a few miles north of the city. Aviendha sees a disturbing-looking man staring at her and suddenly panics, sure it is one of the Forsaken. After crossing the gateway to the other side she unravels the gateway, picking it apart weave by weave. No Aes Sedai, Windfinder or Kin-member can do that, but some Wise Ones can. Unravelling the gateway leaves no trace for anyone to follow. Moridin is watching this from the palace and is shocked; even in the Age of Legends unravelling a weave led to death. He learns from a servant that the Aes Sedai took angreal with them, even a ter’angreal capable of altering weather patterns. Moridin kills the servant in vexation at being thwarted.

The Bowl of Winds is being used to restore normal weather to the world. And also to create a stompin' light show.

At the Kin’s farm rivalries and dislikes begin cropping up between the Wise Ones, Aes Sedai and Kin-members, but Birgitte, Elayne, Aviendha and Nynaeve manage to keep the situation under control. They climb a tall hill so they can see the city to the south and begin channelling into the Bowl of Winds. The Bowl suddenly activates itself, drawing saidar from them and saidin from somewhere else, unleashing the One Power across the skies of the entire subcontinent. Afterwards the women are drained, but can still sense the One Power being used. They see a storm of light and fury raging in Ebou Dar and feel saidar being channelled on an even greater scale than here on the hilltop. They assume that one of the Forsaken has attacked the city and Nynaeve prepares to go in to rescue Mat, Juilin, Olver and Thom, but suddenly thinks otherwise when two raken attack the hill. One and its rider are killed but the other escapes. Realising the Seanchan have returned, they decide to Travel to Caemlyn as fast as possible. After gathering their belongings Elayne opens a gateway to an estate she owns a week or more south of the city. After crossing through she decides to emulate Aviendha and unravel the gateway, but she lacks practice and begins to loose control of the unravelling. Seanchan damane and sul’dam, along with troops, begin to pour through the gateway and Aviendha tries to get Elayne away from the site. Both are shielded from the One Power by damane just as they cross a ridge a mile away. Elayne looses control and the gateway ruptures and explodes with tremendous force, vaporising everyone in a half-mile radius on either side of the gateway. Both the meadow in Andor and the hilltop in Altara are obliterated and hundreds of Seanchan are killed. Afterwards Elayne and Aviendha decide to adopt one another as first-sisters.

Perrin Aybara and his party approach Bethal, a town in southern Ghealdan and the current location of the court of Queen Alliandre Maritha Kiagarin of Ghealdan. They stumble across a group of travellers being waylaid by bandits and rescue them. The travellers are in fact Queen Morgase Trakand of Andor, former Guardsman-Lieutenant Martyn Tallanvor, former innkeeper Basel Gill, Lamgwin Dorn, Breane Taborwin, Lini and former spymaster for the Children of the Light, Sebban Balwer, all lately escaped from Amador. They disguise their true identities and Morgase decides to attach herself to Perrin’s group to learn more about what Rand is doing to her homeland. Perrin recognises Basel Gill and Lamgwin from Caemlyn (The Eye of the World) but they manage to come up with a convincing cover story. Sebban Balwer ingratiates himself as Perrin and Faile’s secretary. In Bethal Perrin and Berelain confront Alliandre and she agrees to bring the Ghealdanian army to Rand’s banner in Illian (the news of the fall of the city has only just reached Ghealdan), but only if the Prophet Masema is tamed. Faile suspects she means to go back on her word and ‘convinces’ her to journey south with them to confront the Prophet. The Wise Ones and Aes Sedai both urge Perrin to kill Masema because of some prophetic dream the Aiel dreamwalkers had, but that is not what Rand ordered. Perrin will take him alive. Perrin is also reunited with Elyas Machera, the man who first taught him how to talk to wolves (The Eye of the World), and from him learns some interesting facts about Saldaeans that ease his relationship with Faile. Then, suddenly and without warning, a storm breaks and autumn finally falls across the Western Nations, more than five months late...

Two days east of Amador Sevanna and her sept of the Shaido Aiel capture a Seanchan scout and torture him for information. Sevanna disbelieves that hundreds of thousands more Seanchan are coming from across the Aryth Ocean, but knows that if they hold Amador they are more than a match for her sept. Where the rest of the Shaido are is unknown, with the only reports being that pockets of Aiel are turning up across the kingdom, dotted here and there. Sevanna is furious at being tricked by Caddar (Sammael) and his tame Aes Sedai wench, but tries to gloss over her mistakes and find a new way forward. She urges an attack on Amador, but is stopped by the Wise Ones. Galina Casban, the leader of the Tower Aes Sedai sent to kidnap al’Thor and also the Aes Sedai captured afterwards by the Shaido, is forced to swear oaths of fealty to Sevanna and the most powerful Shaido Wise One, Thevara, on a ter’angreal that acts like the Oath Rod. The Wise Ones tell Sevanna that Thevara will advise her in all things from now on. They will travel north into the Mountains of Mist, establish a new clan hold and re-gather all the Shaido they can find. They were strong once and can be again, if united against the storms that are the Children of the Light, the Prophet of the Dragon and the Seanchan Hailene.

In her palace in Arad Doman Graendal is surprised by a visit from Moghedien and a powerful female channeller, whom Moghedien calls Cyndane, meaning ‘Last Chance’ in the Old Tongue. Graendal thinks they mean to challenge her and reaches out with the One Power, but is stopped by Shaidar Haran, who materialises out of an orb of darkness. He tells her scheming with Sammael has come to naught and now he is dead. The time has come for Graendal to be reeled back into the Dark One’s master plan.

In Cairhien City Cadsuane meets with Sorilea, most respected of all the Aiel Wise Ones. Despite their different backgrounds they have the same goal in mind: the salvation of the world through the actions of Rand al’Thor. They decide to join forces and Sorilea demonstrates to Cadsuane how to Travel.

In Illian Rand roots out a band of Illianer troops who oppose his new role as King. Rand, Lord Gregorin of the Council of Nine and First Captain Demetre Marcolin, First Captain of the Companions, manage to convince them to surrender, though Rand’s head is again aching with the convoluted politics he has to deal with: Lord Semaradrid of Cairhien, High Lords Tolmeran and Weiramon of Tear, Gregorin and Marcolin, Bashere and more besides. News has come east of the Seanchan in Ebou Dar and Rand fears they next plan to attack Illian, before the quarter-million-strong army he used to break Sammael can recover fully from the battles and march westwards to face them. Torval, an emissary from Mazrim Taim at the Black Tower, arrives with news of the rebel Aes Sedai marching through Murandy. They will reach the Andoran border within days and, if as Rand says they mean to press on to Caemlyn they will pass very close to the Black Tower along the way. Rand refuses to let there be a confrontation between them. Taim also confirms that there are now twenty-nine Asha’man, ninety-seven Dedicated and 322 soldiers enrolled at the Black Tower. Torval reluctantly admits that fifty-nine Asha’man have died or burned out during the training. Another Asha’man loyal to Rand, Fedwin Morr, returns from a spying trip to Ebou Dar and confirms that the Seanchan are rallying for a move eastwards. Small groups of soldiers, a few hundred here and there, sometimes as many as a thousand, have been ‘seeded’ throughout the Venir Mountains that run from Ebou Dar to Arran Head, ready to descend on any army that moves against them out of Illian. Rand decides the best thing will be to knock those troops out of the mountains and send them all reeling back to Ebou Dar, where Rand can close his hand and crush them against the Sea of Storms. Rather than risk his entire army, he assembles a relatively modest force of 6,000, including many of the more unreliable Cairhienin and Tairens and 500 of Marshal-General Bashere’s Saldaean cavalry. Rand is bemused by Morr’s reports of saidin feeling ‘twisted’ for a hundred miles all around Ebou Dar, apparently centred on a blasted hilltop a few miles north of the city, and dismisses it as nerves. Rand now plans to deal with the Seanchan and also to find a way of cleansing saidin, much to the surprise of the Asha’man. Rand gives another Asha’man, Narishma, special orders, whilst sending Torval back to the Black Tower and having the other Asha’man assemble for battle orders.

The rebel Aes Sedai are less than a week from the Andoran border across hills and forests, where travel will be difficult. Captain-General Gareth Bryne reports that a strong force of Andorans and Murandians is heading south, commanded by Lord Pelivar and Lady Arathelle, two of the ‘regent’ Lady Dyelin’s strongest supporters. Bryne guesses they will fight only if pushed, but their first job will be to keep them out of Andor. A meeting is arranged, but deliberately kept from the rebel Hall of the Tower. When they find out both Romanda and Lelaine, the leaders of the strongest factions in the Hall, confront Egwene and tell her they will speak for her at the meeting tomorrow. Egwene pretends to be sullen and angry, but then laughs: they have as good as handed the Hall to her. Meanwhile, someone sets about interrogating Sheriam for what she knows.

At the meeting Pelivar and Arathelle and the other Andorans put their concerns to Egwene. The rebel Aes Sedai’s army numbers 30,000 troops, whilst the Band of the Red Hand that is still following it has more than 15,000 now. Yet the Tower Guard is being increased to 50,000 and rumours spread that some sort of pre-emptive strike might be launched on the rebel Aes Sedai before they reach Tar Valon. If it comes to that, that battle may very well take place in Andor. Rumour already speaks of a pitched battle to the north-east, in Cairhien or just north of it, between Aes Sedai and the same thing will not under any circumstances happen in Andor, even if the rebels must be stopped by force of arms from entering the kingdom. Much to Romanda and Lelaine’s shock Egwene agrees. The Aes Sedai will stop where they are and rest for one month. They will not move into Andor, nor will they remain in Murandy after that one month. The Andorans are mollified at their easy victory. Lord Talmanes tells Egwene he suspected that she was using the Band to frighten nobles and their soldiers into joining forces with her and that task now seems to be complete. The Band has received an offer from King Roedran Almaric do Arreloa a’Naloy to help him consolidate his control over the always-fractious Murandian nobles and Talmanes has agreed, though really he just wants to stay in the southlands until Mat can catch up with them again. Egwene wishes him and the Band well.

Back at the Aes Sedai camp Egwene calls a full meeting of the Hall of the Tower and calls a question before them: who will stand with her in declaring war against Elaida do Avriny a’Roihan, false claimant to the Amyrlin Seat? The Sitters are stunned: the Tower has not declared war on any individual since Artur Hawkwing. Lelaine and Romanda both try and take control of the meeting, but as the Law of War says a question of war cannot be delayed for other matters. After considerable persuasion on Egwene’s part, the lesser consensus of the Hall, including Lelaine, stands for declaring war against Elaida. Romanda and the rest refuse to join. Once again Lelaine and Romanda try and take control of the meeting, but Egwene reminds them that according to the Law of War the Amyrlin Seat is fully authorised to take whatever actions she sees fit in a time of open warfare without consulting the Sitters. They have just handed ultimate power into her lap. The Sitters are stunned at Egwene’s deception. Egwene proceeds to tell them that after they have rested here for a month they will Travel to Tar Valon and lay siege to the city. The waiting is almost over.

Rand's plan of battle against the Seanchan. From the excellent 13th Depository site.

Rand’s attack force takes shape north of Illian and Charl Gedwyn arrives with forty-eight Dedicated and soldiers, enough Asha’man to hopefully deal with the damane and sul’dam. 1,000 of the Bashere-trained Legion of the Dragon arrive as well, and Narishma turns up with something he delivers to Rand. Then they Travel into the Venir Mountains and soon find themselves pressing the attack. The Seanchan are taken by surprise by the assault and soon reports trickle back to the main Seanchan camp on the plains north-east of Ebou Dar about the fighting. Given the sites of the battles and the time involved at least 40,000 men seem to be moving against them, though the Seanchan generals change their mind when the High Lady Suroth tells them that Rand is moving his men using the One Power. There is something wrong with the damane as well, some sort of malaise in the Power that makes it difficult to use near the city. Eventually the Seanchan admit they cannot hold the Dragon Reborn back and mount a full retreat, withdrawing their troops onto the plain where they can be gathered together. Almost 50,000 Seanchan, Taraboners, Amadicians and Altarans gather for the counter-attack, but Rand plans to press on to Ebou Dar, overriding Bashere’s urgings to leave them where they are. The attack is launched but Rand is outnumbered by more than eight-to-one. He himself and the Asha’man are also weakened by the bizarre twisting of the One Power in the area. Rand unleashes the weapon that Narishma brought to him: Callandor. However, Rand is suddenly struck down by a fit of madness and before he knows what to do more than half his own men lie dead. Horror-struck, he retreats to Illian. However, he does not know that more than 20,000 Seanchan and their allies are dead as well, including their senior-most general. The Seanchan fall back to Ebou Dar, broken.

In Tar Valon Elaida is trying to maintain her independence, but Alviarin’s blackmail holds her close. Many of the Sitters have been disciplined for minor infractions and Elaida now worries that that Ajahs are close to all-out war against one another. Alviarin forces her to sign a decree denouncing anyone who treats with Rand al’Thor except through the White Tower as a traitor to the Light, much to Elaida’s horror. The Forsaken Mesaana warns Alviarin about getting carried away with her power. Meanwhile, Seaine and Pevara’s conspiracy to root out the Black Ajah is gaining momentum. They have secured the Oath Rod and re-sworn the Three Oaths on it in front of one another to confirm that neither are Black Ajah. They add another to their conspiracy, Zerah Dacan of the White Ajah, and are shocked when it turns out she is a rebel, sent from Salidar to make sure as many Aes Sedai know about the Red Ajah setting up Logain as possible. They dispatch Zerah to track down the other nine rebels and make sure they come to the cellars of the White Tower that afternoon. They may be rebels, but they can also be used to sniff out the Black Ajah. Then four other Sitters enter: They know Seaine and Pevara are up to something and are shocked when they discover what. Saerin, Yukiri and Doesine re-swear the Three Oaths and confirm that they are not Black Ajah. However, Talene starts resisting to the point of using violence: the first sister of the Black Ajah has been uncovered.

Toveine Gazal and her fifty Aes Sedai sisters regroup outside Caemlyn for the strike on the Black Tower, but are intercepted by more than a hundred Asha’man. Toveine is captured by none other than the former false Dragon Logain Ablar. The Asha’man have discovered a new way of controlling Aes Sedai prisoners, by bonding them in the same manner that Aes Sedai bond Warders. It makes it impossible for Aes Sedai to harm them or ignore their ‘suggestions’. Once all fifty Aes Sedai are taken prisoner they are marched back to the Black Tower.

Rand Travels to Cairhien and is reunited with Min. Lord Dobraine Taborwin has been placed in command of Cairhien until the situation with Elayne and the succession can be resolved. Taborwin reports that Toram Riatin, Daved Hanlon (commander of the White Lions) and Padan Fain have vanished without a trace, though Toram’s sister, Ailil, has been imprisoned within the Sun Palace. The High Lord Darlin of Tear and Lady Caraline Damodred are staying with Cadsuane, under her protection and authority. Min’s Viewings has revealed that Darlin and Caraline will wed and that Darlin will be king, though of what country she doesn’t know. Caraline will support Elayne for the Sun Throne. The threat of the Tairen and Cairhienin rebels has therefore been neutralised, at least temporarily. Merana and Rafela arrive, having concluded their bargaining with the Sea Folk. Rand is annoyed that in return for the Atha’an Miere’s loyalty he must accept a Sea Folk advisor, but it seems a relatively small price to pay. Then he learns the Sea Folk want an Atha’an Miere sanctuary in every city that touches the water, including Ebou Dar when it is retaken, Tear, Illian, Cairhien, Aringill and Mayene. Most irritatingly, Rand must also answer a summons from the Mistress of the Ships, though not more than twice in any three consecutive years. Rand is irritated, but accepts the terms when Merana points out that he chose to leave the negotiations to them when he might have gotten a better deal if he'd remained.

Rand goes to see Cadsuane and formally asks her to be his Aes Sedai advisor, the first he has had since Moiraine. Cadsuane agrees, but then warns him about Callandor. The Sword That is Not a Sword not only magnifies saidin when it is used, it also magnifies the taint, temporarily driving the user mad. Rand is stunned and also horrified: he hoped to use Callandor to help in the task of cleansing saidin, but now it seems that will not be possible. There are only two more powerful sa’angreal he can use for the task and to accomplish that he needs a woman to help him...

Elayne and her companions reach Harlon Bridge, a town not far south of Caemlyn. Adeleas is set the task of pumping Ispan for information, but the next morning both are found dead. Vandene mourns her sister’s death and the others consider the possibility that there is a traitor amongst them. They ride into Caemlyn two days later and Elayne formally claims the Lion Throne. Dyelin Taravin is the first to back her claim, but warns her that many Andoran nobles think she has been gone too long. Whatever her reasons, were they worth letting Andor drift towards civil war? And what of the Dragon Reborn? Even Dyelin is shocked when Elayne tells her that she will bond him as her Warder.

Daved Hanlon rides into Caemlyn and makes contact with Shiaine. He meets her just as she tires of torturing Jaichim Carridin, who has failed virtually every assignment the Shadow has given to him, and kills him. She then tells Hanlon they are about to lay their hands on a queen.

In Cairhien Rand is shocked when five of the Tower Aes Sedai who have been imprisoned with the Aiel (Elza Penfell, Nesun Bihara, Sarene Nemdahl, Beldeine Nyram and Erian Boroleos) ask to be tortured as Rand was done. The Aiel meet their requirements somewhat until Rand allows the five of them to swear fealty to him as the rebel Aes Sedai have done. Rand and Min leave their rooms just as a sudden eruption of the Power, of saidin, almost kills them both. Rand chases down those responsible and discovers that his opponents are Dashiva, Gedwyn and Rochaid, three Asha’man all with close ties to Mazrim Taim. Rand tries to kill them but they escape. Taim himself comes and says that two others, Kisman and Torval, are also missing. Narishma and Flinn both seem to be still loyal to Rand, but he isn’t taking any chances, especially after Fedwin Morr is found with the mind of a child. Rand poisons him to put him out of his misery. He tells Taim that he will be moving around for a while and tells Min to collect her things. They are leaving the Sun Palace.

Perrin reaches the town of Abila in northern Amadicia, where he makes contact with Masema. After some difficulties Masema agrees to go with him to see Rand. Meanwhile, Faile learns that Masema has been treating with the Seanchan in secret. Before she can send a message to Perrin in Abila, Shaido Aiel surround her camp and take her, Bain, Chiad, Morgase and her companions and Alliandre prisoner. Berelain escapes and Faile has to hope that she can get to Perrin with word of what has happened.

On the plains surrounding Tar Valon, hundreds of gateways open and the rebel Aes Sedai and their troops fan out to surround the city. For the first time in a thousand years, Tar Valon is under siege.


Ted Cross said...

The reason I eventually got tired of WoT and gave up on it was that the characters never seemed to grow. They made the same old mistakes and had the same old habits over and over and over again ad nauseum.

rex said...

These have been great, really appreciated them


Dave Drown said...

Ted, you must have not read very far. The characters have grown so much that some don't even seem to be the same person anymore.