Sunday 9 September 2012

The Wheel of Time So Far: Part 14 - Crossroads of Twilight

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, Part 13.

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 makes a fateful decision over his destiny.

Follow the break for the summary:

Crossroads of Twilight

In Arad Doman Lord Rodel Ituralde, commander of the country’s armies, meets the leaders of the Dragonsworn rebels under an oath of truce. Ituralde has received orders to march against the Seanchan in Tarabon from King Alsalam, but a conventional assault would be suicide. He comes up with an alternate plan: a series of guerrilla attacks designed to provoke the Seanchan into mounting an invasion of Arad Doman, and into a trap. The Dragonsworn, impressed by the plan, agree to support it.

In north-eastern Amadicia the Children of the Light regroup after their disastrous defeat at Jeramel. The Amadician army has been destroyed and King Ailron has been slain. Thankfully, Lord Captain Commander Eamon Valda has saved over 9,000 Whitecloak troops and gathered them together. High Inquisitor Rhadam Asunawa is all for abandoning Amadicia to its fate and riding east through Altara and Murandy in pursuit of the Aes Sedai witches they have heard about, fleeing north from Salidar. Valda thinks that plan is preposterous and has already arranged an alternative, a meeting with factions which may aid them in battling their foes. Asunawa agrees to go to this meeting with Valda and the Council of the Anointed.

Logain takes his two captive Aes Sedai, Gabrelle and Toveine, with him on a ride through the forests near the Black Tower. Gabrelle ponders why Logain hasn’t made them swear an oath to do no harm to the Black Tower, but it might have something to do with the rift between Logain and Taim. One of Taim’s lackeys, Mishraile, arrives and informs Logain that he has permission to go on a recruiting expedition. Logain is satisfied, but Toveine realises that he is up to something and tells Gabrelle that they must both accompany him no matter the cost.

In the White Tower Yukiri, one of the Aes Sedai hunting the Black Ajah, is in a fit over the growing chaos in the world: horrifying stories coming out of Seanchan-occupied lands, mayhem in Arad Doman and Murandy, and rebel Aes Sedai all over the Sun Palace in Cairhien and the Royal Palace in Caemlyn. Yukiri has been assigned to guard Meidani, one of the rebel Aes Sedai that was smuggled into the White Tower months ago. Both are keeping an eye on Atuan Larisett, an Aes Sedai they know for sure is Black Ajah. They also know that Galina Casban and Temaile Kinderode are Black Ajah, but both are absent from the Tower. Atuan is the hunters’ only link to tracking down more Black sisters. Yukiri suggests that Meidani try to re-start her friendship with Elaida, whom she was friends with whilst they were novices. Meidani has already tried, but has been put off by Alviarin. Yukiri tells her that Alviarin left the White Tower yesterday for an unknown location and the way is open to Elaida now. Meidani agrees to try again. Both are then approached by Seaine, the sister Elaida first put on the trail of the Black Ajah two months ago. Seaine and Yukiri discuss a puzzling matter. The original reason that Yukiri, Saerin and Doesine approached Seaine and Pevara was that they were confused why the heads of the six Ajahs in the Tower were meeting one another in secret. However, further discussions have revealed that each of the five Ajahs who lost Sitters to the rebels have elected a young Sitter years before she should have even been considered for the post. A conspiracy between the Sitters and the Ajah heads sounds ridiculous, but Seaine and her conspirators realise it may be connected to their own quest and the division in the Tower. They must try to find out what’s going on before the rebel Aes Sedai arrive.

A few days later, Gawyn Trakand and a detachment of the Younglings are returning to their base in Dorlan, a town not far from Tar Valon (from where they have been exiled by Elaida), when their scouts encounter over 25,000 men holding the bridge towns on this side of the Erinin. Reports indicate a similar number on the far side. An army has materialised out of nowhere and laid siege to Tar Valon itself, an almost incomprehensible idea. As a result of the siege, Gawyn and his troops and fourteen Aes Sedai - Katerine Alruddin and Tarna Feir most newly-arrived - among them, are unable to get any closer to the city. However, one Aes Sedai, Narenwin, has managed to slip out of Tar Valon with orders for Gawyn from Elaida. Katerine and Tarna immediately depart to find the boat Narenwin sneaked out of the city in. They need to get into the city no matter the cost. Gawyn is annoyed with Elaida having used the Younglings then thrown them to one side, but agrees to hear out her requests.

Marshal-General Davram Bashere and Bael, clan chief of the Goshien Aiel, observes the large number of troops gathering outside Caemlyn. 5,000 men in one camp, and seven such camps going up around the city at equal distances. The Andorans don’t pay the Saldaeans or the Aiel any attention, since they know that Elayne wouldn’t dare to use outlanders to resolve an Andoran situation. Bashere is still confused by the situation: two former claimants to the throne, Naean Arawn and Elenia Sarand have apparently thrown their support behind Arymilla Marne, the least capable of the rulers of the Great Houses of Andor (apart from the insane Nasin Caeren), challenging Elayne Trakand’s claim to the throne. Bashere is also slightly worried by the news that his own Queen Tenobia is less than 200 miles to the north of them. Although he could see no other way of proceeding, he knows his actions might be construed as treason. Returning to his camp, he is horrified to see his wife, Deira, injured, but learns her wounds are not serious. Two men tried to plant a fake note in his tent, but Deira and her bodyguard chased them off. The note, written in Bashere’s own hand, commissions two men to carry off certain ‘items’ from the camp.

In Cairhien, reconstruction of the Sun Palace continues following the battle between Rand and the Asha’man. Dobraine Taborwin is following Rand’s orders by running the city and the country efficiently, feeding those made homeless by the civil war and the Shaido War, and supporting Elayne Trakand’s claim for the Sun Throne. Samitsu, the senior-most of the Aes Sedai who follow Cadsuane, meets with Sashalle, a Red sister who has sworn loyalty to Rand, and learns that the senior members of House Riatin are urging the Lady Ailil to take the High Seat of the house, following Toram’s disappearance (word of his death in Far Madding has not yet reached Cairhien). Samitsu doesn’t want to upset the balance of power in Cairhien, but Sashalle is sure that it is the right thing to do: Ailil has forsworn House Riatin’s claim to the Sun Throne and promised to swear allegiance to Elayne Trakand. Before they can discuss the matter further, they learn that an Ogier has arrived in the palace with a human companion. Puzzled, they sweep down to the kitchens and confront the new arrivals, who pretend to be an Ogier mason up from Stedding Tsofu and his human travelling companion. Samitsu points out that she knows that Rand sent his Ogier friend Loial and an Asha’man, Karldin, from the city on an unknown errand. Loial is deflated that his attempt at misinformation failed and Karldin prepares to leave the city immediately, but suddenly word comes that Lord Dobraine has been murdered! The group immediately heads for his chambers and finds Dobraine on the edge of death. Samitsu, one of the most talented Healers the Aes Sedai possess (bested only by Nynaeve), manages to save him. They discover a note, forged to look like Dobraine himself wrote it, ordering certain men to carry off ‘items’ from his chamber. Loial guesses what they were after, but refuses to divulge it to Samitsu and Sashalle. Just as they face off with Loial and Karldin, a messenger arrives, reporting that Aes Sedai sisters are approaching the Sun Palace...and Logain Ablar is with them.

 Mat and his party fleeing through the Altaran woodlands.

Several days have passed since Mat Cauthon and his companions fled Ebou Dar with the Daughter of the Nine Moons, hidden in Valan Luca’s menagerie. However, rather than immediately flee, they have remained in the vicinity of the city. Sure enough, Seanchan patrols have hurtled off in all directions, not bothering to look right under the city walls. Mat is puzzled why a general alarm has not gone out, but Egeanin says that if the news that Tuon had been kidnapped got out, then half the Seanchan nobility in the city would have to kill themselves or surrender to the Seekers for the Truth (pretty much the same thing) in shame. Mat goes out to look at the harbour again, still aghast at what happened on the night they passed through the city gates. The Sea Folk Windfinders they set free were discovered by the Seanchan before they could give Mat his three hours, so unleashed hell immediately. They launched an attack on the damane quarters, killing many of them, before sinking half the Seanchan fleet in the harbour and destroying their own rakers to deny their use to the Seanchan. Many of the Sea Folk died and hundreds upon hundreds of ships were destroyed in the battle that followed, but hundreds of the Sea Folk escaped out to sea and, presumably, safety in the east. Mat realises that the Seanchan don’t have enough surviving ships to take them all home once they are defeated, but Egeanin points out that as far as the Seanchan are concerned, they are home.

Back at the menagerie, Valan Luca is enraged that they aren’t further away from the city. Mat agrees that they have lingered close to Ebou Dar long enough for any search effort to have passed them, and they prepare to depart. Egeanin is annoyed about Mat taking charge of the situation and tries to challenge him, but Mat deflects her. He sees Tuon, who is enraged that Mat has spread tales of her being a dishonest servant to explain why he has her under guard. Unexpectedly, she asks Mat if he remembers Artur Hawkwing’s face (which, thanks to the memories he gained in Rhuidean, he does). Mat says not. Thom Merrilin returns from the city with the news that no general alert has gone out about Tuon’s disappearance. It seems that the Seanchan will leave their Seekers for the Truth to locate Tuon, a far from appealing prospect. Thom’s next news is horrifying: Tylin Quintara, Queen of Altara, is dead. Her decapitated body was found in the palace. The Seanchan are planning to bury her and crown Beslan, her son, on the same day. Mat realises that the gholam killed her whilst looking for her. This makes him feel guilty. Tuon is pleased that Mat felt something for Tylin – his honesty does him credit – but doesn’t believe that Shadowspawn are real. One of the Aes Sedai in the camp, Joline, calls Mat away and tells him that their planned route to Lugard is too dangerous, suggesting they make for Illian instead. When he asks why, the Aes Sedai and the former sul’dam alike confirm that they can feel someone channeling saidar far, far to the north, a torrent of the One Power like nothing ever seen before. Mat suddenly sees a swirling image in his head, of Rand sitting with an unknown woman in a clearing, and realises that Rand is behind what is going on. He tells them they make for Lugard as planned.

In Ebou Dar Furyk Karede of the Deathwatch Guard is answering letters about the nature of the Asha’man, whom he has faced in battle, whilst Lord Yulan has asked him to look at – as a thought experiment only – a way of attacking Tar Valon. A Seeker for the Truth named Mor informs Karede that a woman answering Tuon’s description has been linked to a Tar Valon agent named Merrilin and Tylin’s ‘pet’ Cauthon, all of whom vanished along with Captain Egeanin on the same night. Mor’s intelligence has them heading north. After thinking on the matter, Karede assembles a taskforce of some 100 Deathwatch Guard, including 20 Ogier Gardeners, and sets out in pursuit.

Perrin and his comrades have been continuing their pursuit of Faile for twenty-two days. They headed south for a while before turning east, crossing the River Eldar into Altara near small hamlet named Brytan. By now they are only two days behind the Shaido. Some of Faile’s scouts report to Perrin that Masema has been sending riders back towards Amadicia for purposes unknown. Masema’s followers have also begun claiming that Masema died and was reborn as the Prophet of the Lord Dragon and no longer permit the use of his former name. Perrin is angered that Masema’s followers are indulging in wholesale looting and executing those who refuse to swear loyalty to the Dragon Reborn, but he still needs Masema’s troops too much to punish them. Perrin also learns that two of the Aes Sedai accompanying him, Masuri and Annoura, have been visiting with Masema in secret. Balwer Sebban offers his advice on the reports, but there are too many variables. Perrin has him arrange to insert Faile’s loyal retainers amongst the Aiel and use a high-ranking Tairen noblelady member of their number to try and talk to Berelain, to see if Annoura’s activities are at her behest.

Reaching the outskirts of the camp Perrin sees pawprints burned into the ground: Darkhounds. Perrin sends Aram to alert the other soldiers and follows the prints. He is disquieted to see that the Darkhounds circled the camp once before vanishing off into the night. Before he can follow them further, Berelain leads some their associates out to meet him. Berelain slips him a note one of her thief-takers took from Masema’s tent, revealing that Masema has been in contact with the High Lady Suroth of the Seanchan. Perrin tells Berelain her advisor has been meeting with Masema in secret, to Berelain’s disquiet. She promises to find out what’s going on. Meanwhile, Masuri is studying the Darkhound tracks. One of her specialities is in studying Shadowspawn. She reports that the Darkhound pack may have consistend of as many as fifty creatures and they didn’t find what they were looking for. They are more than an hour gone. Masema arrives with some bodyguards and reports that his people have found a nearby town called So Habor. They can stop there for resupply but Perrin wants to press on to find Faile. Elyas and an Aiel scout arrive with news: the Shaido have seized a fortified town in ridge country forty miles away to the north-east. There are at least 10,000 of them. Perrin is shocked: he only has 2,000 troops under his direct command. Masema has around 10,000-12,000 but most of them are looters, murderers and criminals of little military use.

Perrin has one of the Asha’man open a gateway near to the Shaido camp and he leads a scouting party through to investigate. On the far side of a ridge they see a large, fortified town swallowed in the midst of a vast mass of Shaido. The channellers in the party report that there are at least 400 Shaido Wise Ones in the camp (all of the ones that survived Dumai’s Wells), much to Perrin’s surprise. Suddenly Perrin sees a flash of colour and has a vision of Rand and Nynaneve sitting opposite one another. The channellers in the party can all sense an eruption of the Power like nothing they’ve felt before. Perrin tells them it is Rand and to start coming up with plans to free Faile and the others from the camp.

In the camp Faile is being questioned by a Wise One named Someryn. All of the Shaido Wise Ones have been intercepting and questioning those gai’shain who have been serving Sevanna, questioning them on her activities. Faile is responding as best she can when Someryn suddenly starts staring off into the north-west. Every channelling Wise One Faile can see is doing the same thing. Someryn absently dismisses her and Faile ponders what the channellers have sensed. Faile heads for the nearby city – Malden – which the Shaido overwhelmed in a single night following a surprise night attack. She finds Chiad nearby. Bain and Chiad helped two of the other women captured with Faile – Lacile and Arrela – to escape towards Perrin’s pursuers, but will not countenance fleeing themselves in violation of ji’e’toh. Faile moves on but is grabbed by a drunk Aiel warrior named Nadric, who carts her off. Another Aiel, Rolan, the one who grabbed her in the forest, intervenes and forces Nadric to leave. Escorting her back to the main camp, Rolan reveals that he finds Faile attractive, despite her having a husband. Faile starts thinking how she can use this to help her escape. Later, another of Sevanna’s servants, Aravine, finds Faile and reveals that Lacile and Arrela have been recaptured and punished as runaways. Aravin knows who Faile really is and offers to keep that knowledge secret in return for Faile taking her with them when they escape. Faile reluctantly agrees.

Reaching Sevanna’s tent, Faile overhears Sevanna and Thevara arguing. Thevara thinks they should keep heading east no matter what, whilst Sevanna wants them to stay for another few weeks until the snow starts to melt. Sevanna has found a knife Faile hid in her clothes and has her stripped naked and left bound in the snow as a punishment. Rolan stops by and leaves some burning logs to heat her up and Faile becomes convinced she can get Rolan to help her escape.

Twenty miles from the River Erinin, on the other side of a spur of the small range known as the Chishen Mountains along Andor’s southern border, Elayne Trakand is visiting the manor house of House Matherin. Elayne has spent the last several days Travelling around Andor, visiting the estates of minor houses sworn to Trakand, getting them to assemble their bannermen and agree to support her in the struggle to come. A maid, Elsie, helps Elayne prepare for an audience but suddenly panics, saying she saw a ghost. Elayne dismisses her fears. House Matherin sends several green boys and ‘veteran’ (aka retired) warriors to help her, but most of their strength is heading for Caemlyn on foot. Elayne and Aviendha Travel back to Caemlyn with their new recruits, but just as they open the gateway they sense a torrent of saidar in the distance. Elayne thinks it has something to do with Rand but cannot be sure what. Aviendha convinces her not to intervene until they know what has happened.

Back in Caemlyn Elayne learns that Dyelin Taravin has not yet returned to the city. Dyelin, aided by Reanne Corly (who is making gateways for her), is sounding out support for Elayne among some of the other noble houses. There are 400 houses in Andor, but only 19 strong enough to have a deciding vote in the choosing of a new queen. At the moment only two – Trakand and Taravin – have sworn for Elayne. Six have sworn for Arymilla Marne. Houses Carand, Coelan and Renshar have offered support for Dyelin, but not for Elayne. Norwelyn, Pendar and Traemane have not yet declared at all. Elayne learns that eighty bannermen from House Norwelwyn breached the siege to reach Caemlyn and were rescued by Captain Doilan Mellar’s men. Angered, because Lord Luan Norwelwyn has not yet declared for her and his men could be assassins, Elayne curtly dismisses Mellar from her presence. She offers comfort to the other Aes Sedai, Windfinders and Kin worried by the massive eruption of the Power from the west, pointing out that they cannot worry about it now.

Supplies are continuing to pour into the city: gateways mean that Arymilla’s siege is nearly pointless in keeping troops and materials out. Rumour has come in with, but no news of Galad or Gawyn, to Elayne’s distress. There is talk that Tairen nobles opposed to the Dragon Reborn are besieging the Stone of Tear, demanding that High Lord Darlin help them boot out Rand’s forces, but so far the Stone is holding out. There are also reports of several Aes Sedai sisters newly arrived from the White Tower staying at an inn in the New City, suggesting that Elaida is supporting her claim for the Lion Throne, even if Elayne’s support for the rebel Aes Sedai will have to be punished one day.

The Atha’an Miere Wavemistress who is staying at the palace, Zaida din Parede, reports the death of the Mistress of the Ships and that she has been summoned to meet the other Wavemistresses for the election of a new leader. So that Elayne’s bargain with the Sea Folk is kept, she demands that Elayne send some of the Aes Sedai with them to continue teaching them about the Power. Elayne refuses, pointing out that the bargain was with the Mistress of the Ships. Once a new one is selected, the Aes Sedai will fulfil their part of the bargain. One of the Aes Sedai with them, Merilille, had already agreed to be a teacher so she can go, but the remainder will stay with Elayne. Zaida then suggests a new bargain. In return for some of the Windfinders remaining with Elayne’s group (who need them to make gateways), Zaida wants a square mile on the River Erinin in Andor ceded to the Sea Folk in perpetuity. Elayne nearly chokes on that but counter-suggests all 21 of the Windfinders with Zaida remaining behind and another 21 being sent when they leave, for as long as Aes Sedai teach Windfinders about channelling. Eventually they come to a compromise: nine helping Elayne for as long as it takes her to gain her crown. Even so, Elayne realises she has the better of the deal.

Dyelin returns with the High Seats of Houses Mantear, Haevin, Gilyard and Northan. Lord Perival, Lady Catalyn, Lord Branet and Lord Conail, the respective High Seats of those Houses, swear fealty to Trakand on the spot, much to Elayne’s pleasure. Even better, they have brought more than 3,000 troops to help defend Caemlyn. Lady Catalyn Haevin has brought the largest contingent, 1,200 troops. All have sent to their pledged armsman and more troops should be on the road, though whether they can reach Caemlyn before the issue is decided is another matter entirely. After that meeting, Elayne learns that several more spies have been unmasked in the city. Attempts have begun to feed them false information. There are also reports that the Borderlander army in Braem Wood is moving, but slowly. It will be nearly a month before they get close to Caemlyn. Some of the undecided Houses who treated with Egwene on the Murandian border are also heading north, though whether to winter at their estates or to head for Caemlyn is as yet unknown.

Elayne learns from a Wise One who is helping her through her pregnancy that she is expecting twins! That joyous news is cut short when the beacon of saidar blazing in the west suddenly cuts off. Minutes later news arrives that Merilille and two Sea Folk apprentices have vanished and the Sea Folk are in an uproar about it. Elayne puts her followers to work trying to track them down.

In the besieging camp, Lady Elenia Sarand is trying to think of a way of escaping the trap Arymilla has set for her, essentially blackmailing her and the other houses who have sworn to her with forged letters. Lady Naean Arawn offers to help Elenia in escaping, even promising to swear Arawn to Sarand’s banner in return and Elenia accepts.

Meanwhile, Daved Hanlon reports to Shiaine that Caemlyn will hold as long as the gateways continue to bring in fresh food and supplies. Shiaine suggests that Hanlon try to get closer to Elayne and promises to let him loot the city when it is taken.

At Tar Valon Egwene spies on the city with Gareth Bryne. They see riverboats docking at the harbours, bearing fresh troops for the Tower Guard. Bryne urges Egwene to let him attack the city, since every day means his own troops’ morale gets less and the enemy’s rises. Egwene refuses to accept that. She wants to seal off the harbours and starve Elaida into submission, however long that takes. Some of the sisters – mainly from the Grey Ajah – suggest opening negotiations with Elaida. Egwene agrees, but the sole condition is that Elaida must resign from the Amyrlin Seat. If she does that, Egwene will order her forces to surrender in order to reunite the White Tower peacefully. However, that seems a most unlikely outcome. Some of Egwene’s advisors suggest that, if nothing else, negotiations will show that something is happening. They’ve spent two weeks staring at the walls of Tar Valon and doing nothing. It’s unlikely that Bryne will find the ships he needs to blockade the harbours any time soon (since all ships bound for the city now make their last anchorages a hundred miles or more up- or downriver and then make full speed for the city to avoid being seized), and morale will suffer if the waiting continues. Large amounts of the rebel army’s supplies have spoiled, with weevils multiplying and meat rotting even when placed within a saidar-wrought Keeping, another headache for Egwene but, as yet at least, not a critical one. Another headache is keeping all the new novices (more than 900 of them, recruited on the road from Salidar to the Murandian border and then in the area surrounding Tar Valon) fed and clothed.

Back at the camp Egwene visits a group of novices who are working on her latest discovery: how to make cuendillar. Egwene wants large numbers of cuendillar artifacts made so they can be sold for vast profits, helping keep the rebel army supplied and its troops paid. Some of the Aes Sedai are unhappy with this, seeing it as demeaning, but accept the need as one borne of desperation. After Egwene, Leane, Kairen and Bodewhin Cauthon are the fastest and most effective at creating cuendillar. Tiana, the Mistress of Novices, complains to Egwene about Nicola Treehill, stating that she suspects Nicola has begun using her known ability to Foretell to her own advantage, faking predictions to enhance her own power. Nicola’s latest batch has included visions of battles with the Seanchan and the Asha’man, an Amyrlin chained and a vision of Tarmon Gai’don. Most of the other novices no longer believe her, making it difficult to judge the value of her gift. She has also been caught trying to eavesdrop on sisters and also trying to spy on the opening of a gateway to see how the weaves are made.

Back at her tent, Egwene talks to Siuan. One of her headaches comes on which Halima offers to treat, but Egwene packs her off. Siuan reports that during a sojourn in Tel’aran’rhiod she found out the names of new Sitters in the White Tower: five relatively young women, none in the Tower longer than seventy years. That makes eleven Aes Sedai raised to the Hall years before their time between the rebels and the Tower Aes Sedai. That makes it more than coincidence, but they can’t all be Black Ajah (otherwise the White Tower would have fallen years ago). Yet a conspiracy of sorts seems underway. Reports from the Tower’s eyes-and-ears comes in, along with Leane’s reports from her spies in Tar Valon. The Tower Guard has abandoned its traditional policing role to fortify the bridge towers, harbours and some of the walls, allowing crime to rise for the first time in centuries within the city. The White Tower has been sealed since the siege began and no sister has been seen outside the compound since then. Elsewhere, many people in lands occupied by the Seanchan seem to have accepted their lordship, since they rule better than many and no worse than some. There are confused reports out of Arad Doman, reports of battles and of Lord Rodel Ituralde leading Arad Doman’s armies to war. There is word of the Borderlander army in Braem Wood, with the Green Ajah concerned about the weakening of the defences against the Blight. Luckily, the rumoured 50+ sisters with the Borderlanders seem to preventing the Green Ajah from sending their own delegates to investigate, since the sisters with those rulers may be Elaida’s. Other reports come from Illian and Tear. Lord Gregorin has gathered large armies outside the city of Illian, ready to repulse a possible Seanchan assault, whilst Sea Folk armadas have gathered in both Illian and Tear (along with reports of wilders among them). The Grey Ajah is considering opening negotiations in Tear between the High Lord Darlin Sisnera and the besieging armies of rebel nobles. Reports from Cairhien and Tear are also hinting that Rand al’Thor may have used Compulsion on Aes Sedai sisters – including Melana and the legenday Cadsuane! – to do his bidding. Luckily, that idea hasn’t spread to the rebel Hall of the Tower.

A meeting of the Hall is convened. Several sisters sent to investigate the massive torrent of the Power which ended several days ago report that the ancient, ruined city of Shadar Logoth has been destroyed. Several sisters suggest that if this weapon was to be deployed against them they would not be able to handle it with their traditional thirteen-sister circles. They must countenance the impossible: expanding the circles with men who can channel! Egwene is surprised by the boldness of this suggestion, beyond what she would dare to suggest, and even more startled at how much support the idea garners, with even arch-rivals Lelaine and Romanda agreeing to support the idea. A delegation to send to the Black Tower is assembled.

Egwene goes to sleep and enters Tel’aran’rhiod. She meets Aviendha (using a ter’angreal to enter the World of Dreams) and they exchange news. Both are anxious for word from Rand or Nynaeve, but have heard nothing. Afterwards Egwene experiences some of her prophetic dreams. She sees Mat rolling bowling balls at pins and knocking them flying, but each pin represents thousands of men. An Illuminator is involved, somehow. Egwene is climbing a cliff-face and almost falls to her death, but a Seanchan woman armed with a sword appears and saves her, offering to help her reach the top. Again Egwene is climbing a cliif-face, but this is actually a path winding to the top of a spire. At the top of the spire is an oil candle burning a solid white light, the Flame of Tar Valon. Suddenly two night-black ravens fly out of the clouds and knock the candle over, nearly toppling it. Egwene realises that the Seanchan are planning to attack Tar Valon.

Awakening in the night, Egwene hears Halima come into the tent to sleep, complaining of having worked hard that night. The next morning Egwene is awoken by one of her loyal Aes Sedai, Nisao, who reports that Anaiya and her Warder have been found dead whilst out in the camp. No-one knows what they were doing. A resonance testing revealed that both were killed with saidin, indicating that a man who can channel is in the camp. Egwene knows they must alert the Hall, but orders Nisao to investigate the murder further.

Inside the White Tower Alviarin emerges from a gateway, having Travelled from the Sea Folk island of Tremalking. She goes to see Elaida. Along the way she bumps into Talene and is surprised to see Talene looking to Yukiri and Doesine for guidance when she is above them in the Tower hierarchy (Talene is the Blach Ajah sister exposed by the hunters including Yukiri and Doesine). Pondering this, Alviarin arrives at the Amyrlin’s study and is astonished when Elaida orders her to be silent until she has finished dealing with a delegation of Sitters. They want her to open negotiations with the rebels. Elaida agrees, on the sole condition that the rebels accept the disbanding of the Blue Ajah and that their punishment will be decided by Elaida herself, not their Ajah. After the Sitters go Alviarin tries to take Elaida in hand, but Elaida storms over her. She has had Alviarin stripped off the rank of Keeper of the Chronicles after disappearing for nearly a month and now has scapegoats for the disasters of Dumai’s Wells and the Black Tower, respectively Coiren and Toveine Gazal, making her immune to Alviarin’s blackmail. She tells Alviarin she knows she has her own agenda and is actively investigating her. Panicking, Alviarin summons Mesaana to her rooms using a ter’angreal and tells her she is at risk. Mesaana is furious at being disturbed for such a little thing and prepares to punish her, but Shaidar Haran appears from the shadows. He marks Alviarin as his tool and unleashes horrific punishments upon Mesaana for refusing to show up at the Battle of Shadar Logoth. Horrified, Alviarin realises that Shaidar Haran is somehow projecting the Dark One’s will at great distance from Shayol Ghul. Haran orders Mesaana to locate and kill those Elaida has put on her trail.

Pevara, one of those very hunters, is talking to Tarna Feir, who has been raised Keeper of the Chronicles in Alviarin’s place. Tarna reports how she went to negotiate with the rebel Aes Sedai. With the failure of that mission she headed straight back to Tar Valon. Along the way, at a village in Murandy, she happened to see an Asha’man recruiting party. That party consisted of six of them. Doing the maths, Tarna worked out that in order to spare six Asha’man on one recruiting party, there would have to be at least a couple of hundred of them in total. Too many to gentle before Tarmon Gai’don. Tarna suggests that the only way to keep the Asha’man in hand is for the Red Ajah to bond them as Warders! They know how to handle men who can channel. Pevara is astonished but agrees there is some logic to that thought. However, most Red sisters will not be so reasonable. Pevara shows Tarna a message that has come from Toveine Gazal via an agent in Cairhien. Tarna merely thinks it confirms her idea, but Pevara thinks it changes the world.

In eastern Tear, less than a day from the Spine of the World and perhaps a week or two from Stedding Shangtai, Cadsuane has taken refuge with a Tairen Lord of the Land, Algarin, who owes her a favour. Rand, Nynaeve, Lan and everyone from the Battle of Shadar Logoth are there as well, recuperating from the battle. Verin makes a report, that their Sea Folk allies led by Harine have been delivered to Tear. The city is in an uproar. High Lord Astoril has joined his defensive forces to Darlin, making the chances of the Stone falling to the besiegers almost nil. The bored besiegers have taken to fighting one another on the streets of the city or staggering around drunk. Some have taken to fighting Sea Folk, but given the colossal size of the Sea Folk armada in the harbour they have not been joined en masse for fears of sparking full-scale war in the city. Harine is convinced she will be the next Mistress of the Ships, but Min bursts in at that report, angry that the Wavemistress misinterpreted her viewing again. Cadsuane is amused by Min’s inability to listen with care and clarity. After Min is sent off, Verin reports that only the High Lady Estanda is keen on keeping up the siege. Hearne and Simaan are keen to break it off, afraid of being trapped against the Stone when the other High Lords return from Illian with their retinues. Cadsuane dismisses the situation and orders Verin not to intervene. Cadsuane goes to see Rand. Along the way she learns that the Asha’man are growing more skilled and powerful in the Power, but in fits and starts, not the smooth curve that the Aes Sedai enjoy. Arriving at Rand’s rooms, Cadsuane is denied entry by Elza, one of the Tower Aes Sedai sworn to Rand, but Alivia, the former Seanchan damane, convinces her to let Cadsuane in.

Rand has been talking with Algarin and reveals that the Tairen lord wants to be tested for the ability to channel: his brother Emarin could channel and had been taken away by Cadsuane for gentling. That’s why Algarin is grateful to Cadsuane, since Emarin survived for ten years afterwards before comitting suicide, far longer than normal. Rand ponders this. He also reveals that he has been talking to Alivia about the Seanchan. Their army, the Ever-Victorious Army, has never lost a war and only rarely have lost battles. When they have suffered reverses, they have studied the exact reasons why and formulated a response, a doctrine dating right back to Artur Hawkwing's day. He worries that the Seanchan can only be stopped by spilling the blood of the armies he has carefully built up over the last year: Tairen, Cairhienin, Aiel, Mayener and Illianer. To stop the Seanchan, he may have to destroy the armies he has mustered to fight the Shadow, which is unacceptable.

Bashere and Logain arrive, accompanied by Loial, several Asha’man and eight Aes Sedai. Whilst they freshen up Rand tries to puzzle out what they want. He thinks of Mat and suddenly sees a brief flash of Mat riding on a wagon, something that hasn’t happened before. Lews Therin sounds in Rand’s head, pointing out that Alivia will help them die before the end. Rand seizes saidin and, although it is now pure and clean of the Dark One’s taint, touching it still makes Rand feel nauseous. Loial arrives and reports on the success of his mission to warn the Ogier to guard all the Waygates (A Crown of Swords). Most of the Ogier stedding agreed, but Shadoon and Mardoon on the Shadow Coast refused to believe Loial’s tale. He didn’t visit Shangtai but sent messages there via other stedding. Loial tells Rand that the Aes Sedai that have come with them have been bonded to Asha’man. Rand goes through the roof and angrily confronts Logain, knowing that this will throw huge numbers of problems in the way of his future dealings with the Aes Sedai. Logain replies that the order came from Taim. He also reports that Taim has put the names of all of Rand’s loyal Asha’man on the deserters’ rolls and that most of the Asha’man are now loyal to Taim, not al’Thor (most of they have never even seen him). Rand is incredulous when he realises that Logain does not believe that Rand cleansed saidin, who instead believes that the Creator has taken a direct hand in affairs. However, Rand (and Lews Therin) know that the Creator has created many worlds and that if one should wither on the vine, it would not matter as long as most thrived. Bashere reports on the attacks on himself and on Dobraine. He thinks the attackers were looking for the seals on the Dark One’s prison. Loial thinks if just one or two more shattered, the Dark One could break free. Rand makes a sudden pronouncement: he is sending Loial, Bashere and Logain to negotiate a truce with the Seanchan.

In the north of Altara Perrin is preparing to visit So Habor to arrange for fodder and food for his forces. Berelain is going with him, along with a modest bodyguard for both and Sebban Balwer, who has an ‘acquaintence’ (actually a spy) in the town. They Travel to the outskirts of the town and soon see a Seanchan raken fly past. If there are Seanchan nearby, that is another complication Perrin does not need. So Habor turns out to be a heavily defended town surrounded by thick walls, explaining why Masema did not attack it. After much debate, the guards agree to let them enter, but insist they prove they are not dead, which is a bit confusing. The local lord is away, but the grain merchants are present and Perrin is directed to them. They do not bargain very hard. Suspicious, Perrin investigates the grain warehouses and finds them infested with rats and weevils. The merchants agree to winnow the sacks thoroughly. Suddenly one of the Ghealdanin troops sees someone walk through a solid wall. An Aes Sedai reports that many people in So Habor have seen the dead walking, that some have died from the touch of a ghost and others have lashed out in fear at them, sometimes killing friends and family in the process. So Habor seems to be a town of the damned.

Leaving his cart-drivers and the So Habor townsfolk winnowing the weevils out of the supply bags, Perrin returns to the camp. He learns that five Shaido Stone Dogs have been taken prisoner. They resist all attempts at torture until Perrin cuts off one’s hand. He tells the Shaido that he will remove all his limbs and leave him a cripple begging on the streets of the nearest city unless he gives up the information they need. This scares the Shaido into complying. Perrin storms off into the night and flings his axe into the night, disgusted with his own behaviour. Three days later the wagons return from So Habor and they prepare to depart. Balwer brings a man to see Perrin and Perrin recognises Martyn Tallanvor, who has been chasing the Shaido (who also have Morgase prisoner) on his own. Tallanvor tells Perrin that there is a Seanchan army encamped nearby, consisting of more than 15,000 troops (mostly Taraboner) and more than a dozen damane. Tallanvor suggests an alliance to help free Faile and the others. To his own surprise, Perrin finds himself considering the idea.

In southern Altara Valan Luca’s travelling show continues to creep northwards towards Lugard in Murandy, but their rate of travel is minuscule. After a week they have only gone thirty miles from Ebou Dar. Passing Seanchan colonists and soldiers report that the Seanchan are amassing in the east and that the High Lady Suroth is planning to present the city of Illian to the Empress before the end of spring at the latest. Mat is unimpressed with that news, but on the other hand it hopefully means the northern roads will be clear into Murandy. However, as they head north rumours begin of hordes of savage Aiel ravaging the north near the Murandian border and many settlers have been diverted eastwards towards the Manetherendrelle. The word is that Suroth has concluded an alliance with someone powerful who will deliver many new lands to the Seanchan. One of Mat’s retinue, Noal, tells Olver about the land of Co’dansin, which lies beyond the Aiel Waste (aka Shara). Mat dismisses it as a story. He also dismisses it when Noal recites a passage from the Prophecies of the Dragon, that a fox shall make the ravens fly and will pluck moons from the sky with lightning from his eye and luck from his soul. Mat and Tuon continue their dance, with Mat trying to talk to her whilst Tuon ignores or insults him. To get Tuon more interested in him, Mat plays stones with her, winning five out of eight games. She consents to walks at night, but Mat gives away more than he learns. Tuon seems bemused that Mat’s father is a farmer whilst Mat is shocked that Tuon trains damane for fun. Later, Egeanin tells Mat that when he named Tuon his wife three times (Winter’s Heart) he was effectively proposing to her. If Tuon replies within a year and a day, the wedding ceremony will be completed. Mat laughs at that.

The fair reaches the ferry crossing over the Eldar upriver from Ebou Dar, with the town of Alkindar on the west bank and Coramen on the east. The fair passes through, stopping to perform, and heads east to the town of Jurador. Tuon makes a request of Mat and he agrees: to buy her a new dress. On the road Mat nearly walks into a dense knot of people walking along, but Tuon and her handmaid, Selucia, can’t see them. The people vanish like ghosts, leaving Mat agape. Convinced it’s the stress, he takes them on into Jurador. After buying the silk they came for they return to a camp in uproar. One of the former sul’dam, Renna, has stabbed Egeanin and fled. One of the Aes Sedai, Teslyn, manages to save her with a Healing. Egeanin reveals that Renna knew that she knew her secret, the secret of all sul’dam, that they can channel the One Power. Damane are those who have the inborn spark, sul’dam are those who can learn. Everyone is shocked by that revelation and Mat remembers Tuon mentioning that she can train damane as well, maybe a hint she can learn to channel as well. Mat orders his forces to abandon the show and flee east and northwards. Mat then sets off in pursuit of Renna with two of his troops, Vanin and Harnan. They spot Renna as she approaches Coramen and shoot her dead, to Mat’s reluctance.

Returning to the travelling show, Mat is shocked to see his followers are still there. Tuon has offered her personal protection to the show and everyone in it...but specifically not Mat! Mat is left laughing at the sheer bizarrity of the situation.

At Tar Valon the negotiations being undertaken at the bridge town of Darein are coming to an end, neither side able to make the other budge an inch. Raiders have begun hitting Gareth Bryne’s forces on the east side of the Erinin. More devastating news arrives. Kairen is dead, leaving just Egwene, Bodewhin and Leane who can create cuendillar. Someone has divined Egwene’s plan. Like Anaiya before her, Kairen was killed with saidin. Theodrin sends Egwene a note, revealing that Romanda has sent two sisters to Travel to Cairhien and investigate some tale that has the Yellow Sitters astonished, something to do with Nynaeve. Theodrin doesn’t know what exactly, but promises to try to find out. Word then arrives that Nicola Treehill has disappeared without a trace, to Egwene’s fury. Sheriam, in her role as Keeper of the Chronicles, reports that the Hall is unconcerned about Egwene’s warning that the Seanchan are planning to attack Tar Valon. The official view is that the Seanchan are a thousand miles away, they don’t know how to Travel and the Hall will hear of it before they arrive.

Romanda, Myrelle, Maigan and other Aes Sedai arrive for a private meeting with Egwene. Egwene simply lays out the facts for them about the Kin: that there are more than one thousand of them, that some are five or six hundred years old, they are scattered across every country and they have evaded Tower scrutiny for more than two thousand years. Egwene outlines her plan for the Kin to be a retiring society for the Aes Sedai but Romanda denounes it as foolhardy. She will die Aes Sedai. Some follow her lead, but others are more cautious. Egwene says it is for the Hall to decide: she will abide by their decision. Lelaine comes in after Romanda departs and suggests that the Aes Sedai will have to take Asha’man as Warders to keep them in line. Lelaine also suggests modifying the Warder bond to control the male channellers. Horrified, Egwene tells her that is to suggest Compulsion, which is anathema to Aes Sedai. Lelaine merely replies that the Aes Sedai have made mistakes in the past which need to be rectified. She leaves before Egwene can even bring up her idea about using the Kin as a retirement home.

That evening Egwene goes down to the riverbank and gets in a boat, ordering Bode Cauthon to stay behind. The boat takes her out to the Erinin, where the great chain seals off Tar Valon’s Northharbour. Egwene uses a weave of the power on the chain to turn it into cuendillar, meaning that it can’t be lowered again. With Leane doing the same on the south side, both harbours are now sealed off. However, someone on the Northharbour wall embraces saidar and a club of air knocks Egwene out. She wakes up on the harbour with an Aes Sedai pouring something down her throat. Egwene passes out, aware that she has been betrayed.

In Tear Rand sees a storm passing out of the Spine of the World. Bashere arrives with news from their negotiations with the Seanchan. The Seanchan want to meet Rand face-to-face. Rand is to have a meeting with someone from the Seanchan Imperial Family, the Daughter of the Nine Moons (Tuon is still with Mat in Altara). Rand agrees and thunder sounds in the distance.


Ahmet Batmansuyu said...

I really enjoyed these summaries. Looking forward to others. Thanks Adam.

RobB said...

I'm in the midst of my own re-read leading up to AMOL and this is the book where I left off initially.

In your humble opinion, is it skippable?

Caligula_K said...

I'd argue it's very skippable. Read the first and last chapters of every (major) character and Wert's summary (which honestly provides more information than you need) and you'll be fine.

Daddio said...

First, I believe this is a typo: Mat realises that the gholam killed her whilst looking for her. This makes him feel guilty.

Meant to read "whilst looking for him."

Next, regarding skipping: I find reading only the dialogue and skipping the text between an interesting way to refresh my memory of WoT books that I have previously read. However, if you have not read this one, enjoy the ride and read this one...realize the destination is still distant.