Saturday 8 September 2012

The Wheel of Time So Far: Part 13 - Winter's Heart

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, Part 12.

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.

Perrin Aybara leads his forces through the snow-strewn forests of Altara.

Follow the break for the summary:

Winter's Heart

In the cellars of the White Tower in Tar Valon, Saerin, Yukiri, Doesine, Seaine and Pevara are using an Aes Sedai ter’angreal built for discipline, the Chair of Remorse, to pump Talene for information about the Black Ajah. Talene admits to being Black but also claims that Elaida is as well. This hasn’t been admitted to her, but it is the only explanation she can think of for how much information the Black Ajah has suddenly gained access to, virtually everything that comes into the White Tower now goes before the Supreme Council of the Black Ajah. Saerin, who has taken command of the investigation, refuses to believe the theory until hard proof is produced, since it was Elaida herself who set Pevara and Seaine on this task. They make Talene re-swear the Three Oaths on the Oath Rod and also swear oaths of allegiance to them. They then set about ‘persuading’ the other undercover rebel Aes Sedai into joining their faction as well. They will give them enough numbers to seek out all the members of the Black Ajah in the Tower.

In Caemlyn Elayne is feeling under great pressure. Though Dyelin is backing her claim to the Lion Throne, many of the noble houses formerly supporting her are now switching allegiances to other Houses. Luckily, the three most powerful are currently occupied down on the Murandian border dealing with their new Murandian allies and with Egwene’s promise to depart soon for Tar Valon (The Path of Daggers). Dyelin agrees that Andor cannot sustain another Succession War, not now, but the other Houses are annoyed by Morgase’s abandonment of the kingdom and Elayne’s lengthy absence. Most flatly do not believe that Gaebril was Rahvin and lay the blame for all of Andor’s woes at the feet of House Trakand, which is obviously no longer fit to rule. Elayne will have an uphill battle to secure her claim. At the moment her writ extends barely five miles from Caemlyn itself. To secure her position she is hiring mercenaries and even Hunters for the Horn to fill out her Queen’s Guard (which Birgitte, now Lady Birgitte Trahelion, is in command of). Dyelin dislikes the idea of using foreigners to guard the Queen but the proper number of guardsmen in the city is far too low to adequately defend it from attack. Elayne’s assessment of the situation is that there are nineteen Houses in Andor large and powerful enough to sway dozens of the lesser Houses after them. Six have sworn to Elayne’s three principal challengers, Arymilla Caeren, Naen Sarand and Elenia Arawn, whilst only two have so far sworn for Elayne. Dyelin plans to bring as many people as possible to Elayne’s side but Elayne knows, deep down, that this may still come to civil war. Luckily, Elayne’s supporters have Naen and Elenia under house arrest in Aringill and she sends orders for them to be brought to Caemlyn immediately.

Two Sea Folk Windfinders enter Elayne’s chambers, angry that Elayne is not fulfilling the bargain she and Nynaeve made with the Mistress of the Ships (A Crown of Swords). In return for the Windfinders’ help in finding the Bowl of Winds the Aes Sedai would release all Athan’an Miere Aes Sedai from the Three Oaths and return them to the Sea Folk Home Isles, return the Bowl of Winds to the Atha’an Miere (which has already been done, its purpose fulfilled) and teach Windfinders in the ways of Aes Sedai channelling. As Elayne points out there are only five Aes Sedai in Caemlyn under (or equal to) her authority: herself, Nynaeve, Vandene, Merilille, Careane and Sareitha. Merilille is being run ragged teaching the Windfinders what they want to know. Elayne is far too busy to deal with such matters and Vandene is still greiving for Adeleas, as well as teaching two of the Kin who have been permitted to become Aes Sedai novices again. Elayne agrees to let Sareitha, Careane and even Nynaeve teach them, though Nynaeve is ‘busy’ with her new husband much of the time. Elayne would rather have the Sea Folk out of her hair altogether and suggests that they join the massive Sea Folk armada which has been gathering in Tear, both at Rand’s order and also to investigate the fate of the dozens of Sea Folk ships lost when the Seanchan conquered Ebou Dar. The Windfinders decline the invitation.

Mazrim Taim arrives and Elayne announces her annoyance that the Asha’man have walled in their Black Tower and four square miles of surrounding territory. Taim is unrepentant but agrees to let supervised visits to the Tower take place. Elayne is suddenly summoned by the Aiel on a matter that cannot wait. To prove that she is not a puppet of Rand al’Thor’s Elayne has ordered all Saldaeans, Aiel and members of the Legion of the Dragon to withdraw beyond the city walls. However, she has to go to the Aiel to carry out an important ceremony: the adopting of herself and Aviendha as first-sisters. This actually turns out to be a ceremony involving the One Power, bonding herself and Aviendha together.

In the village springing up around the Black Tower Toveine Gazal awakens, still enraged at her treatment by Logain (The Path of Daggers). She answers a summons to Logain’s house, but along the way sees Elayne and a group of Andorans visiting the Tower under Mazrim Taim’s direction. She reaches Logain’s house, but much to her shock sees that Gabrelle, Logain’s other bonded Aes Sedai, has started sleeping with the man! Gabrelle claims it is to gain information on him but Toveine is sickened by the idea. She and Gabrelle observe that there are two distinct factions gathering pace in the town, one following Logain and the other following Taim. Logain’s followers bring him news, some of it interesting to the Aes Sedai. Rand has apparently ordered some Asha’man to go undercover into the Two Rivers and locate men there who can channel. Two boys have so far been found with the ability, but since both are younger than 14 there is some dispute over the moral right of teaching them. Logain and the other Asha’man are shocked to learn that Taim has placed the names of seven renegade Asha’man on the noticeboard: Gedwyn, Torval, Rochaid, Kisman, Flinn, Hopwill and Narishma. Gabrelle and Toveine are banished inside the house whilst Logain mulls the matter over. Inside Gabrelle tells Toveine that Logain found their written orders from Elaida ordering them to still every male channeller they encountered in direct violation of Tower law, but burned the papers rather than expose them. The two Aes Sedai decide to contact the other forty-nine Aes Sedai being held prisoner and find some way around the bond and the oaths in order to escape.

Rand and Min have Travelled back to Cairhien City in secret and taken up residence in Rand’s academy. Lord Taborwin arrives with updated news reports. Repairs have commenced on the Sun Palace’s wing which was half-destroyed by Dashiva, Gedwyn and Rochaid in their attack on him. Rumours are flying through the streets: Aes Sedai attacked and killed the Dragon Reborn; the Dragon Reborn has been captured and taken before the Amyrlin Seat to swear fealty to her; the Asha’man have gone mad and started laying waste to the world; Rand himself has gone mad. Rand prepares three documents for Taborwin to deliver. The first makes Dobraine Taborwin himself Steward of Cairhien. The second makes Darlin Sisnera Steward of Tear. The third makes Gregorin den Lushenos Steward of Illian. Whatever else happens, Cairhien, Tear and Illian must remain loyal to him. He also commands all three nations to support Elayne Trakand’s claim to the Lion Throne of Andor, even to the point of offering military support if she asks for it. That done, he and Min Travel to a hidden campsite about 500 miles north of Andor, not too far from Tar Valon itself. Here Rand tells Min his plan: he means to cleanse the male half of the One Power, remove the taint from saidin forever. But before he can do that he must find and kill Dashiva, Rochaid, Gedwyn and the others who have turned against him.

In Abila Perrin leaves his meeting with Masema, incensed at the man’s stupidity and insanity in not allowing the Asha’man, Aiel Wise Ones or Aes Sedai with Perrin to create gateways for Travelling straight back to Cairhien from here. Instead, it looks like they’re going to have to march more than 2,000 miles across the war-torn southlands to get back to Rand. All such thoughts are abandoned upon reaching their camp and learning from Berelain that Faile, Bain, Chiad, Alliandre, ‘Maighdin’ (Morgase) and others have been captured by the Shaido Aiel. Elyas, Gaul and other scouts immediately set out to locate them, whilst Berelain warns Perrin about Masema’s secret meetings with the Seanchan. Balwer has news of two titanic battles in the south: one no more than 100 miles west of Abila at Jeramel, between the Seanchan and the unified armies of the Children of the Light and the Amadician army under King Ailron, rather unexpectedly (Ailron being the most likely king on the entire subcontinent to throw his lot in with the Seanchan, just to increase his power beyond that of a figurehead). The Amadician army was wiped out and Ailron and his court captured, though the Whitecloaks managed to escape largely intact. The second battle occurred hundreds of miles further away south and east, somewhere in Altara. A large Seanchan army was defeated and sent reeling back into Ebou Dar, but the details are still sketchy at best. Perrin is more concerned about his wife at the moment. When Masema and his escorts turn up Perrin tells him they are using the Power to Travel after the Seanchan who took his wife. Masema agrees surprisingly easily and they set off.

Faile, Morgase and Alliandre plot their escape, though it won’t be easy given the size of the Shaido force they are joined to. Sevanna herself comes to size up the latest captives and makes them her own personal gai’shain, whilst Thevara orders the three women to spy on Sevanna for her. Faile, Morgase and Alliandre also meet Galina Casban. Galina agrees to help them escape if they can retrieve the Oath Rod-like ter’angreal from Thevara’s tent and give it to her so she may free herself from her oaths. When Faile lets slip her surname is Aybara, Galina realises who her husband is and threatens to tell Sevanna if they do not help her. The three women reluctantly agree.

In Caemlyn Elayne’s stressful life continues and is further complicated when Vandene tells her that the two former Kinswomen who have become novices have started thinking about who could have killed Adeleas and Ispan, something they shouldn’t be considering. Vandene complains about not having enough time to teach them properly and Nynaeve has a fit when Elayne suggests she help out, since Nynaeve is now being drilled for information by the Windfinders. Complicating matters even further, Rand has sent all thirty-four of the Seanchan damane and sul’dam captured in the Venir Mountains and on the Altaran plains to Caemlyn (The Path of Daggers). There was a misreport that the rebel Aes Sedai and their army was in Andor and he meant for them to take the Seanchan in hand, but Elayne has been forced to turn the captives over to the Kin since no-one else has the time to deal with them. Elayne’s plan is for the sul’dam to be forced to admit they can channel and then send them back to the Seanchan. Under interrogation they are sure to admit the secret and collapse the entire foundation the Seanchan Empire is based upon. Remarkably, three of the damane are saying they are ready to be set free (the damane usually would rather die than be let off the leash). Two of these are explainable because they are natives of the West, a Wise Woman from Falme and a noblewoman from Tanchico, but the other, Alivia, is from the Seanchan home continent and has been damane for 400 years! Even more stunning, her power far outstrips that of Nynaeve and even some of the Forsaken! Elayne is very wary about taking the leash off her, but Lan points out that if she doesn’t trust her, then all the damane will have to stay leashed forever, no matter their true allegiance.

Elayne hears Elaida’s proclamation that only the Tower Aes Sedai may treat with Rand and anyone who talks to him without Tar Valon permission shall be considered an enemy of the Tower. Elayne is stunned by Elaida’s arrogance and wonders why she has made such a stupid move. There are rumours of an army in Murandy aimed at Andor, but Elayne realises it is the Band of the Red Hand and they are carrying on their plan to unite Murandy under King Roedran (The Path of Daggers). Rand’s troops are gathering in Illian to resist a Seanchan assault but many of his forces are still recovering from the battle near Ebou Dar. There are also reports of numerous sea battles between Seanchan warships and Sea Folk vessels, some won, some lost, but all that is confirmed is the vast number of Sea Folk craft now moored in Tear Harbour and off the Fingers of the Dragon. There is another report about the Queen of Kandor and the King of Shienar going missing as well as Queen Tenobia of Saldaea’s very long sabbatical in the country. Elayne also receives support from several major noble Houses of Cairhien offering her ‘assistance’ in securing the Lion Throne so she can also claim the Sun Throne more quickly. Elayne politely turns them down, knowing the consequences of letting Cairhienin troops operate on Andoran soil to her own claim for the throne.

The Lady Dyelin Taravin arrives with almost bizarre news for Elayne: an army of Borderlanders has set up camp in Braem Wood, just north of the Andoran border. According to Dyelin’s scouts there are almost a quarter of a million troops spread across the countryside, stripping it bare to support themselves. However, further discussion is curtailed when Elayne suddenly feels drowsy and realises she has been poisoned. Armed men burst in to kill her, but a guardsman holds them off long enough for help to arrive. Recovering, Elayne learns she was poisoned with forkroot (The Fires of Heaven), but will make a full recovery. Dyelin was injured in the skirmish, but will recover with the help of Aes Sedai Healing. Doilin Mellar, the guardsman who saved Elayne, is promoted to Guardsman-Captain as a reward for his service.  Elayne and Nynaeve enter Tel’aran’rhiod to meet with Egwene and update her on the latest news. Egwene reciprocates, grumbling on how the Hall of the Tower is doing its best to evade her orders. She does startle Nynaeve by telling her of a powerful novice they have recruited, Sharina Melloy. Nynaeve recognises the name: Sharina was her and Lan’s Aes Sedai advisor in the vision she had during the test for Accepted (The Great Hunt). Nynaeve and Elayne are stunned when Egwene tells them that she will continue to use the Oath Rod to impose the Three Oaths upon the Aes Sedai, despite the growing evidence that it is the Three Oaths which causes Aes Sedai to die at least two to three centuries before other channellers (Aiel Wise Ones, Sea Folk Windfinders, the Kin and Seanchan sul’dam and damane). Egwene plans to use the Kin as a ‘retirement’ community. When they reach advanced age, Aes Sedai will be able to voluntarily remove themselves from the Three Oaths and join the Kin. Elayne and Nynaeve agree with this idea. Suddenly the trio discover they are being spied upon by a strange man, who runs off when he notices them looking at him. The three are puzzled: the man resembled Rand, and some of the Shienarans in Egwene’s army. This reminds Elayne of the news of Borderlanders in Braem Wood and she guesses that all of the Borderland rulers are with that army as well. She guesses they mean either to join Rand or oppose him, but doesn’t know for sure. She decides to make contact with them to find out.

The surviving members of the Black Ajah group that fled Tar Valon a year or more ago (The Dragon Reborn) have started regrouping in Caemlyn. Chesmal, Asne, Temaile and Eldrith are lying low, waiting for Moghedien to make contact again. However, there is dissent in the ranks, particularly over Eldrith’s foolishness in letting her ‘masking’ slip, allowing her Warder, Kennit, to almost locate her before they managed to evade him. Asne, meanwhile, has contacted her four Warders and recruited them to her service, though only one, Powl, a Darkfriend, knows their true agenda.

Elsewhere in Caemlyn Shiaine is basking in the glow of her increased status among the Darkfriends, even to the point of the disgraced Black Ajah member Falion being forced to serve her by Moridin following her failure in Ebou Dar. Shiaine’s assoicate, Black Ajah member Marillin Gemalphin, warns Shiaine about becoming over-confident, but they are joined by Daved Hanlon, who beams with pleasure as he announces his promotion to Captain of the Queen’s Bodyguard.

Rand opens a gateway right into a storeroom in the Royal Palace in Caemlyn and brings Min with him. He weaves a disguise around him to appear as a common serving man and gets to see Nynaeve. However, Min takes the first opportunity to take off and alert Elayne and Aviendha to Rand’s presence. When Rand confronts Nynaeve and Lan he is surprised that Lan did not follow his own advice and keep himself out of Nynaeve’s way (The Fires of Heaven). He is also shocked that Nynaeve and Elayne are still ‘masquerading’ as Aes Sedai, and flabbergasted when Nynaeve and Lan tell him they are Aes Sedai and that Egwene is the rebel Amyrlin Seat! Rand guesses that Mat is with Egwene’s army but ploughs on before they can correct him by producing the two ter’angreal linked to the super-powerful sa’angreal in Cairhien and Tremalking. He wants Nynaeve to help him cleanse saidin of the Dark One’s taint but needs to find the renegade Asha’man who tried to kill him in Cairhien first (The Path of Daggers). Nynaeve agrees to help him, but only on the condition that she and Lan go with him. Rand, very reluctantly, agrees.

Elayne and Aviendha confront Rand (and Aviendha meets Min for the first time) and learn that Alanna Mosvani has bonded him (Lord of Chaos). Neither are amused, but tell Rand they have worked out a way of bonding him like a Warder but through Min, in effect bonding the four of them together. Rand is doubtful but agrees to the procedure. Afterwards Aviendha and Min leave Rand and Elayne alone as they have not yet spent ‘time’ together. Birgitte, feeling the emotional spin-over from Elayne, is unhappy with Elayne’s decision, but understands it. The next morning Elayne is initially happy that their relationship has been resolved, but is unamused to discover that Rand, Min, Nynaeve and Lan have disappeared with only a hastily-written note from Rand left behind to explain what is going on.

At the Sun Palace in Cairhien, Cadsuane is vexed by Rand and Min’s disappearance and displeased when Wavemistress Harine din Togara confronts her about a Windfinder being held captive in the palace, Shalon. Shalon and a Cairhienin noblewoman, Lady Ailil Riatin (Toram Riatin’s sister) were found to have been meeting in secret and been in close proximity to Rand’s chambers when the Asha’man tried to kill him. Cadsuane is holding both captive to find out if they are Darkfriends. She tells Harine the matter will be dealt with and refuses to answer any further demands. After Harine leaves, Verin Mathwin arrives with what she has learned from the two captives, namely that they had simply become friends and then lovers during their lonely sojourn in the palace. The Aes Sedai are puzzled why they would put up with days of interrogation to hide that, although both are married and impropriety in marriage is forbidden under both Cairhienin and Sea Folk law. Cadsuane orders them both released, with ‘tenuous’ promises that their secret will be kept...if it benefits her to do so. Sorilea then arrives and reports that last Tower Aes Sedai sisters captured at Dumai’s Wells (Chisaine Nurbaya, Janine Pavlara, Innina Darenhold and Vayelle Kamsa) have swore fealty to the Dragon Reborn. That means that all nineteen of the Tower Aes Sedai have now sworn fealty. Cadsuane is astonished that Red Ajah sisters would swear and is at a loss to explain why they did, save it might have been more ta’veren activity. However, she orders them watched closely in case they are Black Ajah. She remembers almost rooting out the Black Ajah in the Tower only to watch them vanish like smoke: her bitterest failure, save for failing to find out what Moiraine Damodred was up to in Kandor twenty-one years ago (New Spring). A Yellow sister, Corele, arrives with interesting news: Damer Flinn, the Asha’man who Healed Rand of the injuries sustained from his stabbing by Padan Fain (A Crown of Swords) has Healed Irgain, one of the Aes Sedai Rand stilled at Dumai’s Wells. The Aes Sedai are stunned and Cadsuane grants Flinn permission to try and Heal the other two stilled Aes Sedai, Sashalle and Ronaille as well. Then another Asha’man, Jahar Narishma, enters with news that Alanna has passed out.

Cadsuane and her entourage go to see Alanna, but are intercepted by Lord Dobraine Taborwin. Dobraine informs Cadsuane that he has released Lord Darlin Sisnera and Lady Caraline Damodred. Darlin is to be the Lord Dragon’s Steward of Tear and has gone to fulfil that duty. Caraline volunteered to go with him and Dobraine agreed that it was a good idea to remove her from the country and any nobles who might try and use her claim to the Sun Throne. Cadsuane agrees with his reasoning and proceeds to see Alanna, but none of the Aes Sedai can wake her up. Cadsuane decides to simply wait until she awakens of her own accord.

Some of the surviving Forsaken gather at a meeting place near Shayol Ghul: Demandred, Graendal, Osan’gar and Aran’gar. Demandred is slightly unnerved that his ‘allies’, Mesaana and Semirhage, were unable to attend this meeting, whilst Graendal makes the unsettling observation that if al’Thor does cleanse saidin, then the Dark One will no longer be able to trust Demandred, Aran’gar, Osan’gar and Moridin. Before a general argument can erupt, Moridin and Cyndane arrive and Moridin assures them that the Dark One continues to trust their loyalty. Demandred is disturbed that Moridin has been using the True Power so much, but keeps his fears to himself. All are startled when Cyndane tells them that al’Thor has recovered several of the access key ter’angreal linked to the Choedan Kal (the giant statue sa’angreal in Tremalking and Cairhien). Moridin tells them that when Rand tries to use them, it will be as if a great beacon were lit: he and his allies will be using so much of the Power than the Forsaken can find them and kill them before the task is completed.

The Seanchan Imperial Flagship Victory of Kidron sails into Ebou Dar, carrying the Daughter of the Nine Moons, Tuon Athaem Kore Paendrag, and her retinue to the lands conquered by the Hailene. The true Corenne has now begun, with over 300,000 settlers, artisans and craftsman arriving in occupied Tarabon and Altara. Tuon feels shamed after ordering one of her damane, Lidya, beaten after she read Tuon’s future and gave an unfavourable prediction. As part of her self-punishment, Tuon chooses not to claim her title and rank upon reaching Ebou Dar, but go among her people there simply as a noblewoman, not as heir to the Crystal Throne. Among Tuon’s retinue is Ronde Macura, the Yellow Ajah servant from Mardecin who tried to poison Elayne and Nynaeve with forkroot (The Fires of Heaven) and now takes great delight in spilling Aes Sedai secrets to the Seanchan. Going on deck as the ship pulls into the harbour, Tuon tells her Truthspeaker, Anath, that she must make contact with the Dragon Reborn and convince him to kneel before the Empress, otherwise all is lost.

In Ebou Dar itself Mat Cauthon continues to recover from the wounds sustained when the Seanchan invaded the city (A Crown of Swords). He has made contact with Aludra, a member of the Guild of Illuminators whose life he once saved (The Dragon Reborn) and now living in a menagerie run by one Valan Luca (The Fires of Heaven), but has failed to convince her to give up the secrets of the explosive compounds the Guild of Illuminators used. Even the news that the Seanchan have dissolved the Guild and arrested all Illuminators fails to get her to change her mind. However, Aludra gives Mat a riddle to solve. If he can solve it, she will give him the secrets he wants. The riddle is what possible use could she have for a bellfounder? Mat is at a loss to answer. Mat goes to see Thom, Beslan and Juilin, who are talking to Luca. Thom reports that Luca will take them with him when he leaves Ebou Dar, but that won’t but until spring at the earliest, a month and more away. Mat decides they have to leave sooner and Beslan is unhappy about helping his mother’s ‘pretty’ escape, but agrees that they need to leave and return to the Dragon Reborn.

The rest return to the palace, but Mat decides to lie low before the inevitable unpleasentness of confronting Queen Tylin Quintara Mitsobar again. He stays at an inn until nightfall, but is attacked by the gholam as he returns to the palace. Using his ter’angreal he holds the gholam at bay until the sound of other people coming makes it run off. However, there is only one man, one with a hooked nose who has met Mat before (A Crown of Swords). The old man reveals his name as Noal Charin and accepts a bed for the night at the Tarasin Palace.

At the palace several high-ranking Seanchan have also taken up residence, including the High Lady Suroth Sabelle Meldarath. Mat does his best to avoid the Seanchan, but still finds it difficult to see Teslyn as damane, or forget that Nesta din Reas Two Moons, Mistress of the Ships of the Atha’an Miere, and her Master of Blades both died burning on the stake. When he arrives at Tylin’s apartments, however, he finds her talking to Suroth, Tuon and Anath. Something about Tuon annoys Mat and he takes pride that his injuries were caused by the Seanchan invasion. Tuon is amused and offers to buy him from Tylin, but is disappointed when he turns out to be a freeman. Over the days that follow Tuon keeps an eye on Mat, and Tylin consumes every waking hour she has free of the Seanchan making sure of her claim to him. Tuon sees Mat’s ashandarei (the spear he got from Rhuidean in The Shadow Rising) and offers him ten times the price he paid for it, but Mat tells her the price was not in gold and he cannot accept the price once more, let alone ten.

Mat goes to the Wandering Woman Inn and rents a room. He starts transferring his belongings there, one-by-one, a day at a time, from the palace to cover his escape when the time comes. Setalle Anan asks him to meet another friend of hers, who turns out to be the Aes Sedai Joline Maza! Joline wants to escape Ebou Dar for obvious reasons and Mat, reluctantly, agrees to take her with him when he escapes. A Seanchan Captain of the Green arrives, Egeanin Tamarath (last seen in The Shadow Rising), along with her so’jhin, who Mat only later recognises as Bayle Domon, captain of the riverboat Spray (The Eye of the World). Mat decides that he can’t leave Teslyn behind either and manages to get a message to her promising to help her escape. Teslyn responds by telling him there is another newly-captured Aes Sedai damane in the city, Edesina Azzedin, who should be rescued as well. Mat agrees, but wonders how the hell he is going to pull it off.

Elsewhere in Ebou Dar a sul’dam named Bethamin is walking a tightrope. She is one of the sul’dam known by Suroth and her Voice, Alwhin, to be able to channel. However, in order to stop this becoming public and destroying the Seanchan Empire, Suroth has repressed the news. She can’t even kill the sul’dam since that would bring about a response from the Seekers for the Truth. So, for now, the sul’dam are allowed to go about free, only forbidden to link with any damane. At her inn Bethamin is confronted by a Seeker for the Truth, the same one Egeanin met in Tanchico (The Shadow Rising). He tells Bethamin to renew her ‘friendship’ with Egeanin and spy on her for him. He is convinced that Egeanin and her so’jhin, Bayle Domon, were involved in the High Lord Turak’s death at Falme (The Great Hunt) and means to seem them punished. Bethamin agrees because she has no choice.

At the Wandering Woman Egeanin reflects on how fate has brought her and Domon to this place. Although now of high rank, Egeanin ponders why Suroth left them at Cantorin Harbour in the Aile Somera for so many months before summoning her to Ebou Dar, but not for any declared purpose. Domon again agonises that they should have dropped the male a’dam Nynaeve and Elayne gave them over the side (The Shadow Rising) but Egeanin again points out that if the Seekers had not found what they were looking for, they would all have been killed. As it is, they have their freedom and some measure of power. Bethamin arrives and tells Egeanin about the Seeker forcing her to make friends with Egeanin. Egeanin agrees to help her evade the Seekers’ wrath and begins feeding information to the Seeker that she wants him to hear. Egeanin also gives permission for Domon to contact Mat. Domon knows that Mat is an associate of Thom Merrilin, who was useful to them in the Tanchico incident (The Shadow Rising), and ponders if he is here as well.

The city-state of Far Madding.

Rand, Nynaeve, Lan, Min and former damane Alivia have arrived in Far Madding, an independent city-state nestled in the foothills of the Hills of Kintara, between Caemlyn, Tear and Illian. Built on an island on a large lake, Far Madding is protected by three powerful ter’angreal known as the Guardians. Between them, the ter’angreal generate a field similar to that of an Ogier stedding, preventing any male or female channeller from using the One Power within the city limits. Rand has left hints that he will be here and, sure enough, the bait has been taken when Rand sees Manel Rochaid in one of the markets. He follows the man into an alleyway, but Rochaid turns on him. Rand uses his unarmed combat skills (learned from the Aiel) to kill Rochaid in the space of a few seconds and then turn on Raefar Kisman, who is lying in wait. Before Rand can kill the second renegade Asha’man, the Far Madding Street Guards approach and both men flee. Kisman reflects that Taim, Demandred and Moridin all ordered Rand’s death and ponders on Dashiva’s disappearance, but suddenly someone stabs him in the arm with a poisoned blade, announcing that Rand belongs to him. Kisman promptly expires.

At the Crown of Maredo Inn Rand instructs his companions to pack up and move to another inn, in case Kisman and Rochaid knew where he was staying. As they prepare to move out, Rand discovers with a shock that he can draw good pictures of Kisman, Gedwyn, Dashiva and Torval despite not being able to draw at all. Stunned, he remembers that Lews Therin could draw very well.

In Tel’aran’rhiod the being known as Isam prepares to carry out his latest commission. He opens a gateway into the real world, shifting into Luc as he does so. He emerges in the bedroom of an inn in Far Madding and kills the two staying there. Unfortunately, they are not his targets, his nephew Rand and his lover, Min. Annoyed, Luc reports his failure to his master, one of the Forsaken, who agrees to let him try again, but not right now. Luc remembers his previous kills, two Aes Sedai in the Stone of Tear (The Shadow Rising) and a Grey Man in Tar Valon itself (The Dragon Reborn), and looks forward to his next successful assignment.

Cadsuane gathers a group in the stableyards of the Sun Palace in Cairhien: herself, Verin, Alanna, Kumira, Daigian, Beldeine Nyram, Erian Boroleos, Sarene Nemdahl, Corele, Merise, Nesune Bihara and Elza Penfel of the Aes Sedai; Eben Hopwil, Damer Flinn and Jahar Narishma of the Asha’man; and Harine din Togara, Swordmaster Moad and Shalon of the Sea Folk, plus seven Warders. Alanna has recovered from her ‘discomfort’ and identified Rand as being located far to the south-west. It isn’t long before they reason that Rand is in Far Madding. The group Travels to outside the city and enters, whereupon they head straight for the Hall of the Counsels, where the ruling council of the city meets. Cadsuane demands, and receives, a meeting with First Counsel Aleis Barsalla and the other Counsellors. It rapidly becomes apparent that Cadsuane is not popular in the city and with Barsalla in particular. Bizarrely, Verin does not give her real name, calling herself Eadwina. She notes that, according to the Guardians, a man has just channelled outside the city and Barsalla agrees, but tells the Aes Sedai that even the Asha’man can enter the city without fear of punishment or incarceration. Verin ponders why Far Madding would want the Dragon Reborn’s spies scouting out the city and reminds them that the Guardians didn’t stop Guaire Amalasan’s conventional army overrunning the city eleven hundred years ago. Barsalla doesn’t like being reminded of that, but chooses not to address the problem.

The next day Cadsuane and Alanna see Rand, alone. Cadsuane tells Rand that Narishma, Flinn and Hopwil have been bonded by Merise, Corele and Daigian respectively and that the Sea Folk and the other Aes Sedai want to talk to him. He refuses and manages to swallow his pride enough to convince Cadsuane to respect his wishes. Once left alone with Alanna, he tells her that he has bonded someone else. Alanna is annoyed, but convinces him to start actually using the Aes Sedai who have sworn fealty to him. He agrees and gives her orders to give to Rafela, Merana, Bera and Kiruna. They are to go to Haddon Mirk and put down the rebellion against his rule. Darlin Sisnera is Steward of Tear and Tear remains under the Dragon Reborn’s rule, but anything else is negotiable. Rand refuses to let Tear slip out of his control with the Seanchan threat gathering pace in the west.

At the Barsalla palace Verin talks with Cadsuane and learns that Cadsuane has no particular interest in Rand other than that he must remain alive long enough to face the Last Battle. Other than that, Cadsuane’s concern is that Rand is turning himself into a stone, repressing emotion and passion so he can make himself harder than the Shadow itself. Verin is relieved that Cadsuane is not a threat to Rand after all and chooses not to poison her. Verin also forces herself to keep up the pretence of being ‘Eadwina’, since she doubts the arrest and exile warrants for her have lapsed, despite the length of time that has passed since she was last in the city.

Elayne and Egwene meet in Tel’aran’rhiod and are bemused by the changes to Emond’s Field, which they visit. Egwene is astonished at how the town has swelled in size with refugees from Tarabon and Arad Doman hazarding the mountains, whilst Elayne is not amused at the Red Eagle of Manetheren flying over the town. She ponders sending an Andoran contingent to remind the Emond’s Fielders who they are really ruled by. Egwene has enough on her plate: in a few days’ time the rebel Aes Sedai Travel to Tar Valon to begin the siege of the Shining Walls. Before she leaves Egwene tells Elayne she has heard rumours of Rand chaining up Aes Sedai like damane, but Egwene will not tolerate that at all. Back in the real world the news is disquieting: Naean Sarand and Elenia Arawn, the two challengers for the throne who Dyelin had imprisoned, have escaped; the Borderland army isn’t moving as yet; and rumour speaks of Aes Sedai in Cairhien swearing fealty to the Dragon Reborn, which Elayne surely rejects as nonsense. Elayne meets with a group of Illianer and Kandori merchants and assures them that Andor will ally itself with the Dragon Reborn but is not his conquest. Elayne is feeling weary, especially since she has discovered she is pregnant with Rand’s baby, but Dyelin and Aviendha do not give her any comfort, insisting that exercise is good for the pregnancy. Soon, Merilille Ceandevin Travels back to Caemlyn from Braem Wood, where she has finally located the Borderland army. Her estimates suggest at least 200,000 soldiers are encamped not too far from New Braem. Elayne decides to confront them immediately and sends Merilille back to prepare them for her arrival. Elayne arranges a bodyguard and takes Birgitte and Aviendha with her as well. They meet with King Easar, King Paitar, Queen Ethenielle and Queen Tenobia, the latter distinguishing herself with disgust at an Aiel’s presence at the meeting. The Borderlanders demand to know Rand al’Thor’s location and prove remarkably knowledgeable about events at the Battle of Falme, including the fact that Elayne was there (The Great Hunt). Elayne tries to find out more about their motives, but when Easar expresses annoyance that the Dragon Reborn is concerning himself so much with the southern nations when the Last Battle will be fought in the Blight, Aviendha points out that if the Borderlanders are coming south to swear themselves to his banner than they will fight where he directs. The Borderlanders do not respond. Elayne gives them a vague answer the Rand is in the south, possibly Murandy, and that they have permission to cross Andor to find him. The Borderlanders realise that by entering Andor, they will alarm numerous nobles. Elayne will be able to use the ‘threat’ of the Borderlanders to unify Andor against them and will then ‘negotiate’ their departure, leaving Elayne untouchable as Queen of Andor. After considering the matter they agree.

Returning to Caemlyn, Elayne is intercepted by bad news: four small armies, totalling between 20,000 and 30,000 men, are approaching Caemlyn from the east. Who they are, who leads them and what is going on is unclear. Elayne immediately orders her city to prepare for siege.

In Ebou Dar Queen Tylin informs Mat that she is leaving the city. The High Lady Suroth is to take her on a tour of how much territory in Altara House Mitsobar now controls. Mat is relieved to see her go, so he can work on an escape plan in peace and also not implicate her in the escape. They have ten days now to get out of the city. Mat’s preliminary plan is to slip Teslyn, Joline and Edesina out of the city disguised as damane. He sends Juilin to make the necessary preparations (by stealing the extra damane dress, three sul’dam dresses and, most difficult of all, an a’dam). Setalle Anan has sold the Wandering Woman and volunteered to pretend to be one of the sul’dam they will need to get out of the city. Unfortunately she cannot channel and an attempt to put the a’dam on Joline leaves them both in agony. Mat ponders how he is going to pull this off when he meets Bayle Domon and Egeanin. He quickly learns that the Seekers are after them and they need to get out of Ebou Dar as soon as possible. Mat agrees and asks if they can get three sul’dam to flee with them. To his utter shock, Egeanin says yes. Thom and Juilin agree that Domon and Egeanin are trustworthy and also, reluctantly, tell Mat about the male a’dam they found in Tanchico (The Shadow Rising). Mat realises that Rand himself doesn’t know about it and resolves to warn him at the first opportunity, although Juilin points out that it is at the bottom of the Aryth Ocean...or should be.

The night of the escape comes. Setalle Anan, Joline’s two Warders and a group from the inn pose as Egeanin’s entourage. As one of the Blood, she can commandeer sul’dam for a mission and the gate guard won’t have the authority to question her. Joline quickly poses as damane to Bethemin and the escape gets underway. Seta and Renna, two of the other sul’dam who know they can channel, will take Teslyn and Edesina. They enter the damane ‘kennels’ and set about the task. Mat takes the opportunity to set free one of the Sea Folk Windfinders captured in the battle for the city, Nestelle din Sakura South Star. She agrees to liberate her sisters. Once free they will use the One Power to escape and free their fellow Sea Folk crew, imprisoned on the other side of the river. Mat gets her to agree to wait three hours and he continues with his own plans. Returning to his apartment to pick up his things, he is shocked to find that Tylin has returned. Apparently news came from Murandy that over 30,000 troops have vanished into thin air without a trace and Suroth wanted to return here to fully analyse the facts. Mat tells Tylin he is leaving and she wishes him well, though insisting he ties her up first. Once free in the morning, she will send every troop loyal to House Mitsobar after him, so he has to get away before then. Once on the move Mat meets Tuon, who promptly guesses he is leaving and attacks him. He overpowers her, thanks to the timely intervention of Noal Charin, but Selucia, Tuon’s so’jhin and personal servant, appears. Mat takes them both prisoner and Egeanin is horrified that he has laid hands on the Daughter of the Nine Moons. Mat is shocked that he has at last met his future wife, and determines to take them both with him out of the city. The group gets moving, knowing that the city will be in an uproar when the morning comes.

At the Golden Wheel Inn in Far Madding, Rand continues his search for the rebel Asha’man. He hears strange rumours of discontent in Illian, civil war in Andor and, most worrying of all, that the Stone of Tear is under siege, even though that is surely a massive exaggeration of the problem with the malcontents there. Rand gives up trying to find Peral Torval and leaves the inn, only to run into Verin. Verin gives him some very unwelcome news: advance units from the Seanchan in Altara have crossed the Illianer border and set up fortified camps along the road and towards the mountains. If Rand wants to stop them before they reach the capital, he will have to complete his plans here in Far Madding as fast as possible. Rand decides that he is wasting time waiting for Torval and Gedwyn to turn up and decides to leave tomorrow. He asks Verin to pass on a message to Cadsuane apologising for his past actions and asking her to be his advisor. However, once back at his own inn, Rand receives an anonymous message telling him that Kisman is dead and that Torval and Gedwyn are staying above a bootmaker’s near the Illian Gate. Rand, Lan and Nynaeve leave to confront the Asha’man, whilst Min and Alivia have to stay behind. Alivia refuses to let Min chase after Rand, but agrees to help her warn Cadsuane about Rand’s actions.

Nynaeve uses one of her ter’angreal, a Well which can store saidar for use in a stedding, to lift Lan and Rand onto the roof of Torval and Gedwyn’s residence. However, inside they find the two men already dead. They are suddenly attacked by Padan Fain and Toram Riatin. Fain sent the note to lure Rand into a trap and killed the Asha’man so he could have the pleasure of killing Rand himself. Rand overcomes Fain in battle and he runs off. Lan kills Toram in combat, but is injured himself. They try and escape from the building, but both tumble from the rooftop and are apprehended by the Street Guards. Nynaeve plans a solo rescue, but is forcibly stopped by Cadsuane. Cadsuane gathers a group of Aes Sedai and Asha’man and confronts the Counsels once more. Using both Nynaeve’s Well and one of her own, Cadsuane channels the One Power, convincing the Counsels that there is a flaw in the Guardians that the Aes Sedai have exploited. Barsalla agrees to release Rand and Lan to Cadsuane’s custody and they leave the city.

With the help of Nynaeve, Rand al'Thor cleanses the male half of the True Source.

Rand takes the group to a hilltop overlooking the city and there digs out Callandor from where he left it. He then opens a gateway to another hill, this one overlooking the ruined city of Shadar Logoth. The group Travels through and Rand begins his plan to cleanse the male half of the True Source. He and Nynaeve link and begin drawing the One Power through the two statues. At the same time Narishma takes control of Callandor and links with Merise and Elza. Sarene and Corele link with Flinn and Nesune, Beldeine and Daigian with Hopwil. Verin, Kumira and Shalon form the last circle. Cadsuane and Alivia both stand guard by themselves.

In the town of Tremonsien, just inside Cairhien’s northern border, the half-excavated statue outside the town immediately starts blazing with unnatural light, scaring the villagers. On the remote island of Tremalking a similar statue similarly explodes with light, awing the Amayar working the fields nearby.

The massive eruption of saidar and saidin attracts the attention of the Forsaken: Cyndane, Moghedien, Aran’gar, Osan’gar, Graendal and Demandred respond by Travelling immediately to the area. Graendal runs afoul of Verin’s group and is fought to a standstill, whilst Demandred is forced to retreat by Flinn’s group. Hopwil’s group comes across Aran’gar and Hopwil is stunned when he realises the ‘woman’ is holding saidin and immediately attacks. Osan’gar, bored of having posed as Corlan Dashiva for the past few months, prepares to attack Rand whilst his followers are distracted by the other Forsaken, but Elza senses his presence and kills him with a torrent of fire from Callandor, regretting that she has to kill one of the ‘Chosen’ but sure that the Dark One would understand since her epiphany in Cairhien that the Dragon Reborn must reach the Last Battle. Cyndane and Alivia battle one another to a standstill, Cyndane shocked that the Seanchan woman is even stronger than she herself was ‘before’ the Aelfinn and Eelfinn held her.

The battle ends and the Dragon Reborn completes his task, draining the taint on saidin into a colossal sphere of energy that then collapses in upon itself, obliterating the ruined hulk of Shadar Logoth at the same time. Rand and Nynaeve both pass out from the exertion and the female access key ter’angreal is destroyed, though the male remains intact. Alivia and Beldeine were both wounded in the battle, but Flinn’s superior abilities with Healing have already restored them. More unacceptable are the deaths of Hopwil and Kumira, with only a rebel Asha’man (Dashiva, but of course really Osan’gar) slain in response. Cadsuane gathers together the various angreal, ter’angreal and sa’angreal scattered among the group and announces they are leaving as soon as possible.

And on the island of Tremalking the Amayar announce that the Time of Illusions has ended.


Hrishi Diwan said...

Excellent summary again, Adam. One or two nitpicks - the phrase "Dashiva promptly expires" probably needs to be "Kisman promptly expires". I also spotted another name substitution as I read through, but I can't remember what it was. :)

Best of luck summarising Crossroads of Twilight mate... most boring of the lot IMNSHO

Mike said...

I read the first 6 books so long ago, and I loved it. It was the first truly giant EPIC opus that I started.

I miss the series, but, the middles book I hear nothing but how boring it is.

I still miss the series. :/

Garrett said...

Honestly the only book i didn't like was Crossroads some of the others were a little slow but they all had some memorable moments and moved the story crossroads did noting.