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aCoS 17-20 (FRR-2012)

 
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Rhodric
Lord of the Morning


Joined: 19 Sep 2007
Posts: 1659
Location: Shanaine, Manetheren

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:07 am
Post subject: aCoS 17-20 (FRR-2012)
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aCoS Ch 17 "The Triumph of Logic"


"The worst moment--the very worst of a dozen bad--had been when Beslan teased his mother, saying she should find herself a pretty for the balls, and Tylin laughingly claimed a queen had no time for young men, all the while looking at Mat with those bloody eagle's eyes. Now he knew why rabbits ran so fast. He stumped across Mol Hara Square not seeing anything. Had Nynaeve and Elayne been cavorting with Jaichim Carridin and Elaida in the fountain beneath that statue of some long-dead queen, two spans or more tall and pointing to the sea, he would have passed by without a second look."

And so it begins, the taming of Mat Cauthon! Poor Mat will never be completely single again. As soon as he is free of Tylin, his destiny catches up with him. I had a big belly laugh picturing the cavorting in the fountain--poor Mat.

" 'The boy's out back in the stable," he went on before Mat could ask, "with his book and one of the innkeeper's daughters. Another of the girls spanked his bottom for pinching hers." Finishing the last knot, he gave Mat an accusatory look, as if it had been his fault in some way.
"Poor little mite," Corevin muttered, twisting to see whether the bandages would stay in place. He had a leopard and a boar inked on one arm, a lion and a woman on the other. The woman did not seem to be wearing much except her hair. "Sniveling, he was. Though he did brighten when Leral let him hold her hand." The men all looked after Olver like a gaggle of uncles, though certainly the sort no mother would want near her son.
"He'll live," Mat said dryly. The boy was probably picking up these habits from his "uncles." Next, they would give him a tattoo. At least Olver had not sneaked out to run with the street children; he seemed to enjoy that almost as much as he did making himself a nuisance to grown women."

That gag never gets old, Mat is so oblivious. Might even be better than the Rand/Mat/Perrin really understands women one.

Everyone is getting into fights and duels...everyone but Vanin. Don't mess with the fat man, especially one who's the best horse thief in three plus countries. Mat sends him to reconnoiter around Carridin's palace. Harnan reports a bubble of evil in the Rahad. Well, he doesn't call it that, but that's what Mat decides it is.

"He looked back--and spun just in time to drop his hat and catch the descending truncheon with his left hand instead of his skull. The blow stung his hand to numbness, but he held on desperately as thick fingers dug into his throat, forcing him back against the door to his room. His head hit with a thump. Silver-rimmed black spots danced in his vision, Obscuring a sweating face. All he could really see was a big nose and yellow teeth, and those seemed hazy. Suddenly he realized he was on the far edge of consciousness; those fingers were closing off blood to his brain along with air. His free hand went beneath his coat, fumbling over the hilts of his knives as though his fingers no longer remembered what they were for. The cudgel wrenched free. He could see it rising, feel it rising to smash his skull. Focusing everything, he jerked a knife from its scabbard and thrust.
His attacker let out a high-pitched scream, and Mat was vaguely aware of the club bouncing off his shoulder as it fell to the floor, but the man did not let go of his throat. Stumbling, Mat drove him back, tearing at the clutching fingers with one hand, driving his knife repeatedly with the other.
Abruptly the fellow fell, sliding from Mat's blade. The knife nearly followed him to the floor. So did Mat. Gulping breath, sweet air, he clung to something, a doorway, to hold himself on his feet. From the floor a plain-faced man stared up at him with eyes that would never see anything again, a heavyset fellow with curled Murandian mustaches, in a dark blue coat fit for a small merchant or a prosperous shopkeeper. Not the look of a thief about him at all.
Abruptly he realized he had stumbled through an open door in their fight. It was a smaller room than Mat's, windowless, a pair of oil lamps on small tables beside the narrow bed providing a murky illumination. A lanky, pale-haired man straightened from a large open chest, staring oddly at the corpse. The chest took up most of the free space in the room.
Mat opened his mouth to apologize for intruding so roughly, and the lanky man snatched a long dagger from his belt, a cudgel from the bed, and leaped over the chest at him. That had not been the look you gave a dead stranger. Clinging unsteadily to the doorframe, Mat threw underhanded, the hilt no sooner leaving his hand than he was scrabbling under his coat for another. His knife stuck squarely in the other man's throat, and Mat almost fell again, this time from relief, as the man clutched himself, blood spurting between his fingers, and toppled backward into the open chest.
"It's good to be lucky," Mat croaked."

It's good to be lucky, indeed. Mat has the best fight scenes. I don't know, even with the "luck," his seem the most realistic or maybe he's more of an ordinary guy. Average size, probably strong for his size, but lean--his fights seem equal part luck, desperation, and skill. Well, the attacks on Mat have started. The tangled web Ebou Dar weaves is really bizarre. Carridin is trying to abduct/kill Mat, Mat is having him watched. Carridin has orders to abduct Elayne, but can't, and orders to find the "cache." Multiple people are looking for the same thing but none know it. It is really well done. I'm almost going to be sorry when we have to leave in uh...four books. Oh--Mat finds a note in his coat:

ELAYNE AND NYNAEVE ARE PUSHING TOO FAR. REMIND THEM THEY ARE STILL IN DANGER FROM THE TOWER. WARN THEM TO BE CAREFUL, OR THEY WILL BE KNEELING TO ASK ELAIDA'S PARDON YET.

The note doesn't make any sense, and Mat concludes that could have put it there make no sense either--Joline or Teslyn. When I first read, for some reason, I was thinking Thom--but I wasn't thinking. It was Teslyn. Which will present its own unique set of complications.

***

RJ gives us a scene of Joline and Teslyn in their chambers, immediately following Mat finding the note, form Joline's point of view. Joline is really annoying--she's been an Aes Sedai for a long time but she comes across as just a spoiled brat. At one point she is thinking of the weather and the Dark One touching the world, and is afraid--thinking their only hope is a boy running wild. I could almost sympathize with her about that, about how she feels about Rand--if the solution wasn't even worse. Just lock him in the Tower and then win the Last Battle by dropping him off at mount doom when the time is right. At any rate, Teslyn manipulates her quite skillfully. She brings up what Elaida said about her, that she is a child. And then talks about capturing Elayne, Nynaeve, and Mat and presenting them to Elaida to get back in her "good graces." Knowing full well, that after hearing that, Joline will do everything in her power to thwart anything Elaida wants. Of course, Teslyn doesn't want to do that either, after all, she did put the note in Mat's pocket. Not out of any since of goodness toward the girls, but to get back at Elaida. Still, for a red, she's pretty darn cool.

***

"The woman on the table arched up as far as her bonds would allow, eyes bulging, throat corded with a piercing scream that went on and on. Abruptly the scream was a loud choking rasp instead, and she convulsed, shaking from wrists to ankles, then collapsed in silence. Wide-open eyes stared sightlessly at the cobwebbed basement ceiling."

Falion Bhoda torturing and killing the Wise Woman, Callie, to try to get information about the "cache" of angreal, et cetera. Ispan Shefar is with her as well. Falion does not believe that the cache exists and wants to capture Nynaeve and Elayne and present them to Moghedien instead. Ispan believes it does exist because others are looking for it too. Falion's beliefs and plan are the more realistic and easily believed, but Ispan is right--an irony seen throughout the series--sometimes what is too absurd to be believes, is the truth. Falion tells her cronies to make it look like Callie was robbed and dispose of the body -- a very big mistake. No one will believe she was robbed, as they try to tell her, but she won't listen. Oh well, dumb evil.

***

"Sitting on an upended barrel in the sparse coolness of a narrow, shaded alley, he studied the house across the busy street. Suddenly he realized he was touching his head again. He did not have a headache, but his head felt...peculiar...sometimes. Most often when he thought of what he could not remember.
Three stories of white plaster, the house belonged to a gold smith who supposedly was being visited by two friends she had met on a journey north some years ago. The friends had only been glimpsed on arrival and not seen since. Finding that out had been easy, finding out they were Aes Sedai only a trifle more difficult.
A lean young man in a torn vest, whistling his way down the street with no good on his mind, paused when he glimpsed him sitting on the barrel. His coat and his location in the shadows--and the rest of him, he admitted ruefully--probably looked tempting. He reached under his coat. His hands no longer possessed the strength or flexibility for swordwork, but the two long knives he had carried for well over thirty years had surprised more than one swordsman. Maybe something showed in his eyes, because the lean young man thought better of it and whistled his way on.
Beside the house, the gate that led back to the goldsmith's stable swung open, and two burly men appeared pushing a barrow piled high with soiled straw and much. What were they up to? Arnin and Nad were hardly the lads to be mucking out stables.
He would stay here until dark, he decided, then se whether he could find Carridin's pretty little killer again.
Once again he pulled his hand down from his head. Sooner or later, he would remember. He did not have much time left, but it was all he did have. He remembered that much."

I would say the plot thickens, but if it were any thicker, it would be porridge. Mat's old man from both the Silver Circuit and Carridin's palace. And--Dare I say it? Jain Farstrider??!! It's hard to remember 1996, but I think there were theories that it was Jain--clues from The Eye of the World about Farstrider getting captured by the Shadow help. Also, the age is right, and the injuries and amnesia conjure up certain possibilities, as well him staking out all the Darkfriends in town. Everybody is looking at everyone else-- like a Mexican standoff. Elayne/Nynaeve/Birgitte/Aviendha are looking for the Bowl, almost everyone else is looking at them. At least three different parties seek the cache, Mat is looking at the girls and Carridin, Carridin him and the Bowl's cache. The Black Ajah are looking for the cache and at Nynaeve and Elayne. The old man Carridin and the Black Ajah. A web in the Pattern is forming.


aCoS Ch 18 "As the Plow Breaks the Earth"


Poor Rand, everything is going so bad for him--his chapters are so very gloomy. I guess the consolation is hey chin up things could be a lot worse, and in fact are going to get a lot worse. I guess that's like saying to somebody, cheer up, you think you're FUBAR now, but just wait until next week. Rand is meeting with Indirian, Janwin, and Mandelain,--clan chiefs of the Codarra, Shiande, and Daryne clans. The professed reason for the meeting is the Shaido but the underlying reason is to convince the chiefs that he's not an Aes Sedai puppet. In support of this, he has Merana serving them all tea.

"[Only a fool thinks a lion or a woman can truly be tamed.]"

I don't think the are convinced. The comment is made that an Aes Sedai will do anything to get what she wants. The talk turns to the Shaido, but that talk is almost as grim. Nearly all the Wise Ones will march with the spear fighters when the clans move north to destroy the Shaido. More than a breaking of custom, Wise Ones fighting and killing is like a rending of culture. The one amusing thing in all of it is how much every single Aiel seems to despise the Shaido. I think even the ones who go to them because they cannot accept Rand as the [Car'a'Carn] are just accepting the lesser of two evils. The meeting ends with Mandelain wondering if any of them will ever see the sun rise again in the Three-Fold Land.

"[As the plow breaks the earth shall he break the lives of men and all that was shall be consumed in the fire of his eyes. The trumpets of war shall sound at his footsteps, the ravens feed at his voice, and he shall wear a crown of swords.]"

Fast on the heels of the chiefs' departure, Berelain storms in with Annoura in tow. She's incensed, and to be honest she has a right to be. Rand informed her he is sending her back to Mayene by letter, delivered by a servant. Maybe that's like breaking up with someone via e-mail? Berelain professes to be mad because he will forget the service she has done so far and others who serve will later demand Mayene as reward. The reason he is sending her back is that assassination attempts have begun, both on her and against Faile--though Rand has already nipped that in the bud--though Perrin will not thank him for it, should he know. The real reason Berelain wants to stay around though, or at least a major one, is to stay close to Perrin, so she can win that bet she has with Faile.

Enter: Cadsuane Melaidhrin. Cadsuane might be the most polarizing character in the series. Love her or hate her--personally I think she is my least favorite "good guy." New Spring and subsequent main series novels make me feel a little better about Cadsuane but there is still this: do her methods and actions stem from knowledge of what must be and what it will take to win the Last Battle, or do they stem from her Far Madding upbringing, where men are submissive and subservient, and if they aren't, they are put in their place. Oh Robert Jordan, why did you have to toss Moiraine Damodred through the magic wardrobe to Narnia and saddle me with Cadsuane Melaidhrin? Why oh why. Cadsuane swoops in and ignores, insults, belittles, and insults Rand. The specifics aren't particularly important, she'll be doing it for the next oh so many books.

"The woman looked at the battered tea things as if she had all the time in the world. "Now you know," she said at last, calm as ever, "that I know your future, and your present. The Light's mercy fades to nothing for a man who can channel. Some see that and believe the Light denies those men. I do not. Have you begun to hear voices, yet?"
"What do you mean?" he asked slowly. He could feel Lews Therin listening.
The tingle returned to his skin, and he very nearly channeled, but all that happened was that the teapot rose and floated to Cadsuane, turning slowly in the air for her to examine. "Some men who can channel begin to hear voices." She spoke almost absently, frowning at the flattened sphere of silver and gold. "It is a part of the madness. Voices conversing with them, telling them what to do." The teapot drifted gently to the floor by her feet. "Have you heard any?' "

Well, that certainly let the cat out of the bag. Dashiva and Narishma's reactions could mean anything. There is a theory that the taint brings down the barriers between lives, the barriers between memories of past lives, and men interpret that as hearing voices, that perhaps all men who can channel eventually hear voices. Cadsuane takes Annoura and Merana and leaves, and Rand throws everyone else out of the room.

" 'I am not mad,' he said to the empty room. Lews Therin had told him things; he would never have escaped Galina's chest without the dead man's voice. But he had used the Power before he ever heard the voice; he had figured out how to call lightning and hurl fire and form a construct that had killed hundreds of Trollocs. But then, maybe that ad been Lews Therin, like those memories of climbing trees in a plum orchard, and entering the Hall of the Servants, and a dozen more that crept up on him unawares. And maybe those memories were all fancies, mad dreams of a mad mind, just like the voice."

Rand has the same problem that a lot of readers have--thinking you have to accept both the voice and the memories or reject both the voice and the memories. Rand might have needed this, to jar his perception loose, I'm not quite sure--but she sure isn't going to cure him. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Rand doesn't have much time to brood alone--Idrien (the headmistress of his school in the city of Cairhien) staggers into the room, escorted by Maidens, with the news of Herid Fel's apparent assassination.


aCoS Ch 19 "Diamonds and Stars"


Cadsuane leads Merana and Annoura to the room Kiruna and Bera share in the servants' quarters, where they are met by Daigian Moseneillin and later by Corele Hovian, when she escorts in Bera and Kiruna. Daigian and Corele are what you would call "Cadsuane's faction." That is, not actively allied with either Egwene or Elaida. Corele is Yellow Ajah and an accomplished healer. She has a wicked sense of humor. Daigian is White and mostly pours the tea. That is because, she can barely channel at all, and so, every other sister socially, and politically out ranks her. Though, with anyone else, Rand included, she is arrogance on a mountain top, as if being able to light a candle and a pretty shawl really meant anything--nobody can match Aes Sedai for hubris. Though Cadsuane doesn't actively adhere to White Tower niceties, which is interesting. Cadsuane is much more concerned with strength of will, rather than strength in the Power, which ironically, makes her closer to a Wise One than an Aes Sedai.

Cadsuane grills them on everything concerning Rand and recent events, and some surprising things come out. Berelain has been sending regular letters to Annoura since she arrived in Cairhien and Berelain disobeyed Annoura's advice in the first place, by coming to the city at all. Likely, Annoura would have Berelain steer clear of Rand all together.

"Cadsuane shook her head in pitying style. "If you want to see what a man is made of, push him from a direction he doesn't expect. There's good metal in that boy, I think, but he's going to be difficult." Steepling her fingers, she peered across them at the wall, musing to herself. "He has a rage in hit fit to burn the world, and he holds it by a hair. Push him to far off balance...Phaw! Al'Thor's not so hard yet as Logain Ablar or Mazrim Taim, but a hundred times as difficult, I fear." Hearing those three names together clove Merana's tongue to the roof of her mouth."

By way of explanation of why Cadsuane acted the way she did toward Rand. Merana is scared spitless to hear Rand compared to Logain and Taim. I guess because they are false Dragons and their eventually fate, or the intended eventual fate: severing. I'm not so sure Cadsuane means it that way, of course I'm not so sure she doesn't either. Her and everyone else's motivations and actions have to be taken with the assumption of a tainted saidin--at this point the cleansing of the Source is an impossibility. Cadsuane wants to know if Berelain's slept with Rand or intends to--it's amazing how everyone thinks Rand is a puppet for the first pretty face to come by. She wants to know if Taim was really at Dumai's Wells and if the Asha'man can really Travel or if they arrived on horses. She manages to ferret out the abduction from the palace, and infer that the sisters have sworn fealty to Rand--though his treatment is for the moment kept hidden. It's more than implied that swearing fealty to the Dragon Reborn is treason to the White Tower. I would assume that fealty to anything but the White Tower itself might constitute treason by Tower law. Bera asks if Elaida is a lawful Amyrlin, why Cadsuane hasn't obeyed her order to return to the Tower. Merana find herself thinking that they will be opposing a legend. The night before, they had argued about the oath of fealty and decided it meant exactly what it said--no loopholes, they must defend and support as well as merely obey.

***

"His head lowered so slowly. It was a brother's kiss, at first, mild as milk-water, soothing, comforting. Then it became something else. Not at all soothing. Jerking upright, he tried to pull away. "Min, I can't. I have no right--"
Seizing two handfuls of his hair, she pulled his mouth back down, and after a little while, he stopped fighting. She was not certain whether her hands began tearing at the laces of his shirt first or his at hers, but of one thing she was absolutely sure. If he even tried to stop now, she was going to fetch one of Riallin's spears, all of them, and stab him."

Yay, Min and Rand finally get it on. She grabs his hair just like Aviendha did, of course he was trying to "do the right thing" with both, so I guess maybe it's only the most convenient handle. Min had come to tell Rand about finding Colavare dead in her room, she had hung herself. Min had wanted to believe that Rand could have changed her viewing that Colavaere wasn't really going to die--I think that was part of why he had exiled her, even when treason calls for execution, he didn't want to believe that he would order a woman hung. The Pattern though, took his reservations in stride, Colavaere had to die, so she died, and nothing can change that. Min tells Rand about Colavaere and he tells her about Herid Fel.

***

"All her life, the fastest way to interest her in anything, had been to tell her it was impossible. But then, over two hundred and seventy years had passed since she last encountered a task she could not perform. Any day now might be her last, but young al'Thor would be a fitting end to it all."

Cadsuane thinks that she may skin Elaida, because "that fool child," has made her task nearly impossible. She doesn't know the half yet, so I can only assume she means the magnified distrust that exists between Rand and any Aes Sedai as a result of the kidnapping. Like most other sisters, in her private thoughts, she thinks of Rand as the "al'Thor Boy" or "young al'Thor." Well she might though, she's nearly two-hundred ninety-five years old, which puts her as almost as old as the youngest forsaken. Interestingly, she thinks that she will have to see to the problem of Aiel not sending girls to the Tower eventually. I find it funny that she just thinks that she, and I guess the White Tower as an entity, can just force all Aiel girls who can channel to become novices...I think they've never had a culture or nation that could actually stand up to the Tower before. Its impossible to get an accurate count of how many Aiel Wise Ones can channel, but if the Shaido are any indication, and we extrapolate out, there could be as many as four to five thousand. That's more than all the Aes Sedai, accepted, novices (after Egwene opens the novice book), and Kin put together. I don't know what Cadsuane considers impossible, whether its to get Rand to trust Aes Sedai, or rediscover his humanity, or something else undiscovered, but there is an interesting tidbit about Cadsuane from the glossary. Those men who can channel, that she confronted and brought back to Tar Valon, all lived significantly longer after gentling than those brought in by other sisters. That's more than interesting it might be world shaking. I don't know if she shows them how to live without the Power or something else, or if there's any compassion on her side toward them, but sometime she does increases the survival rate significantly, and it might also do other things...


aCoS Ch 20 “Patterns Within Patterns”


Normally I hate Sevanna chapters, but when they include the forsaken, I can make an exception. Well, I do hate Sevanna but it is edifying and amusing to see Aiel vs Aiel interactions, especially between her and the other Shaido Wise Ones. Sevanna and seven Wise Ones who can channel: Alarys, Belinde, Modarra, Tion, Meira, Rhiale, and Someryn, are gathered in a clearing one-hundred miles east of Dumai’s Wells. Two days have passed since the battle (how’s that for story progression? Two days have passed and we’re on page 348!) and less than twenty-thousand spear fighters have regroups or been found (out of over forty-thousand who participated).

“Sevanna took the small gray cube from her pouch and placed it atop the brown leaves in the middle of the circle. Someryn put her hands on her knees, leaning over to examine it until she appeared in danger of falling out of her blouse. Her nose nearly touched the cube. Intricate patterns covered every side, and close up you could see smaller patterns within the larger, and still smaller inside those, and a hint of what seemed smaller yet. How they could have been made, the tiniest so fine, so precise, Sevanna had no idea. Once she had thought the cube stone, but she was no longer certain. Yesterday she had dropped it accidentally on some rocks without marring one line of the carving. If it [was] carving. The thing must be a [ter’angreal]; that they knew.
“The smallest flow possible of Fire must be touched lightly there, on what looks like a twisted crescent moon,” she told them. “and another there on the top, on that mark like a lightning bolt.’ “

“Sevanna saw nothing, of course. In fact, she realized that if they did nothing, they could claim the cube failed to work, and she would never know.
Abruptly, though, Someryn gasped, and Meira almost whispered, “It draws more, Look.” She pointed. “Fire there and there, and Earth, and Air and Spirit, filling the runnels.”
“Not all of them,” Belinde said. “they could be filled many ways, I think. And thee are places where the flows...twist..around something that is not there.” Her forehead furrowed. “It must be drawing the male part, as well.”
Several drew back a little, shifting shawls, brushing skirts as though to rub away dirt. Sevanna would have given anything to see. Almost anything. How could they be such cowards? How could they let it show?
Finally Modarra said, “I wonder what would happen if we touched it with Fire elsewhere.”
“Power the callbox too much or in the wrong way, and it may melt,” a man’s voice said out of the air. “It could even ex--’ “

A “callbox” huh? Can we say telephone? Or perhaps the proper term is cellphone? Though this was written in 1996, so maybe not that. I am imagining how you would set it up. Maybe the sides contain the “numbers” and the top and bottom could be “area codes” or “country codes.” I am a bit confused about how they could be used when you have to actively channel into them and the amount channeled must be precise. A moment later it came to me though, the standing flows. The standing flows were probably tapped to activate it and then, as seen, it taps the True Source by itself.

“Caddar” appears with a woman, “Maisia.”

“The woman, Maisia, paused in the act of smoothing her skirts under when he gave her name, glaring at him with a fury that should have stripped his hide away. Perhaps she had thought to keep her identity hidden. She said nothing, though. After a moment she sat beside him, her smile returning so suddenly it might never have gone. Not for the first time Sevanna was thankful that wetlanders wore their emotions on their faces.”

I can’t quite figure out, or decide, if the Aiel are just that good at reading facial expressions and body language that not even AoLers (forsaken--former Aes Sedai who can no doubt out daes dae’mar modern Aes Sedai in their sleep) can deceive them, if Sammael and Graendal are not bothering to hide what they would from others because of their contempt for the savage “so-called Aiel,” or if they are completely playing the Shaido like a harp. A little of all three, with a greater emphasis on the last two, most likely.

Sevanna asks for something that will control Rand al’Thor, but is denied, unless she actually manages to capture him. It’s hinted that binding a man who can channel is harder than binding a female, and binding someone who can’t at all is hardest of all. Then she asks for something to bind a female channeler and gets a maybe in return. “Caddar” (Sammael) demonstrates “Maisia” (Graendal) controlling the “callbox” with the Power. It’s really hilarious because they are actually linked, so he’s controlling the entire operation, which is probably why Graendal is acting so pissed. That and “Maisia” means something like “pet” in the old tongue. Finally, Sevanna asks for something to travel as quickly as he and Maisia did in arriving there. He says those will take some time to prepare and then departs.


***


"The Watcher ghosted through the trees, making no sound. It was wonderful what you could learn with a callbox, especially in a world where there seemed to be only two others. That red dress was easy to follow, and they never looked back even to see whether some of those so-called Aiel were trailing them. Graendal maintained the Mask of Mirrors that hid her true form, but Sammael had dropped his, golden-bearded again and just head and shoulders taller than she. He had let the link between them dissolve, too. The watcher wondered whether that was wide, under the circumstances. He had always wondered how much of Sammael's vaunted bravery was really stupidity and blindness. But the man did hold saidin; perhaps he was not completely unaware of his danger.
The Watcher followed and listened. They had no idea. The True Power, drawn directly from the Great Lord, could neither be seen nor detected except by who wielded it. Black flecks floated across his vision. There was a price, tube sure, one that grew with each use, but he had always been willing to pay the price when it was necessary. Being filled with the True Power was almost like kneeling beneath Shayol Ghul, basking in the Great Lord's glory. The glory was worth the pain.
"Of course, I had to have you with me," Sammael growled, stumbling over a dead vine. He had never really been at home away from the cities "You answered a hundred questions for them just being there. I can hardly believe that silly girl herself actually suggested what I wanted." He barked a laugh. "Perhaps I'm [ta'veren] myself."
A branch that partially blocked Graendal's path flexed away until it snapped with a sharp crack. For a moment it hung in the air as if she intended to strike her companion. "That silly girl will cut out your heart and eat it, given half a chance." The branch flew aside. "I have a few questions of my own. I never thought you would keep your truce with al'Thor any longer than you must, but this...?"
The watcher's eyebrows rose. A truce? A claim as risky as it was false, by all evidence.
"I didn't arrange his kidnapping." Sammael gave her what he probably thought was a wry look; his scar made it more a snarl. "Mesaana had a hand in it, though. Maybe Demandred and Semirhage as well, despite how it ended, but mesaana certainly. Perhaps you ought to reconsider what you think the Great Lord means about leaving al'Thor unharmed."
Graendal considered that, so much so that she tripped. Sammael caught her by the arm, keeping her on her feet, but as soon as she regained her balance, she jerked free. Interesting, even given what had happened back in that clearing. Graendal's real interest was always the most beautiful plucked from among the most powerful, but she would have flirted, just to pass an hour, with a man she intended to ill or one who wanted to kill her. The only men she never flirted with were those of the Chosen who stood above her for a time. She never accepted being the lesser of any pair.
"Then why continue with them?" Her voice dripped molten lava, although normally she had exquisite control over her emotions. "Al'Thor in Mesaana's hands is one thing; al'Thor in this savage's is something else. not that she'll have much chance at him if you really intend sending them off to loot. [Traveling] boxes? What is your game there? Do they hold captives? If you think I will teach them Compulsion, erase it from our mind. One of those women was not negligible. I will not risk strength and skill residing together, in her, or in someone she teaches. Or do you have a binder hidden away with your other toys? For that matter, where were you earlier? I do not like having to wait!"
Sammael stopped, glancing behind them. The watcher stood very still. Swathed in fancloth except for his eyes, he had no worry that he would be seen. Over the years he had learned expertise in many areas Sammael scorned. In some he favored, too.
The gateway opening suddenly, slicing away half of a tree, made Graendal jump. The split trunk leaned drunkenly. Now she also knew Sammael held to the Source.
"Did you think I was telling them the truth?" Sammael said mockingly. "Small increases in chaos are as important as large. They will go where I send them, do as I wish, and learn to be satisfied with what I give them. As will you, Maisia."
Graendal let her Illusion fade and stood golden-haired as he, as fair as she had been dark. "If you call me that again, I will kill you." Her voice held even less expression than her face. She meant it. The watcher tensed. If she tried, one of the two would die. Should he interfere? Black flecks sped across his eyes, faster, faster.
Sammael met her stare with one just as hard. "Remember who will be Nae'blis, Graendal," he said and stepped through his gateway.
For a moment she stood looking at the opening. A vertical silver slash appeared off to one side, but before her gateway began to align, she let go the weave, slowly, the streak shrinking to a point before winking out. The prickling vanished from the watcher's skin as she released [saidar] as well. With a fixed face, she followed Sammael, and his gateway closed behind her.
The watcher smiled crookedly behind his fancloth skulker's mask. Nae'blis. That explained what had brought Graendal to heel, what had stayed her from killing Sammael. Even she would be blinded by that. An even greater risk for Sammael than claiming truce with Lews Therin, though. Unless, of course, it was true. The Great Lord delighted in setting his servants one against another, to see who was stronger. Only the strongest could stand near his glory. But today's truth need not be tomorrow's. The watcher had seen truth change a hundred times between a single sunrise and sunset. More than once he had changed it himself. He considered going back and killing the seven women in the clearing. They would die easily, he doubted they knew how to form a true circle. The black flecks filled his eyes, a horizontal blizzard. No, he would let that run its course. For now.
To his ears, the world screamed as he used the True Power to rip a small hole and step outside the Pattern. Sammael did not know how truly he spoke. Small increases in chaos could be every bit as important as large."

When in doubt, quote it all. The watcher is, of course, Ishamael. It's not indicative and we don't actually know he's been reincarnated as of yet, but it is delicious all the little hints RJ sprinkles through this little passage. The black dots aren't termed as [saa] yet and Ishamael's original body was in a more advanced state of stigmata and decay, but there's only one villain with freaky eyes! By his comments about saidar and saidin we know he is a male channeler and his opinions and knowledge of Sammael and Graendal speak of intimate knowledge. Fancloth, by the way, is the material that Warder's cloaks are made out of. Prior to the War of Power it was used as fashion, during as camouflage for regular soldiers and others -- and now the Aes Sedai keep it completely to their selves. And they wonder why they can't recapture past glories. "Servants." The watcher's mask is a nod toward Ba'alzamon's mask but the most damning evidence are his thoughts on the malleability of truth. Ishamael-"Betrayer of Hope." If there's one thing Ishy does it is lie. "A lie is our shield." He is known for it by EVERYONE. And finally, he uses the True Power to Travel. The only person we've ever seen use the True Power is Ishamael. Welcome back champion darkness, prophet of Nihilism.

As far his other comments concerning Sammael and Graendal, I don't think there is much to say. Sammael is selling Graendal some ocean front property in Arizona for sure--that's ok. There's also the theme, that has been going on for a while now, about the Shadow using chaos as a tool. A tool to help unravel and destroy the Pattern. "Belief and order give strength..."
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