The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Shadow Rising, Part 2

Fear my flu-fighting fabulousness, friends, for here is your Wheel of Time Re-read, on schedule and under budget! Go me!

…Although Friday’s might still be delayed. Sorry, guys, still playing catch-up here. I swear, I die for like ONE DAY and everything goes nuts when I get back. Okay, so it was more like three. But still. This is so not in the resurrection handbook, y’all.

But all blasphemy aside, here! Have a Part 2 of The Shadow Rising, Chapters 3-8!

Previous entries (or, as I just typed it, “pervious entires”) can be found here. SPOILERS DUH.

And now, the post!

Chapter 3: Reflection

What Happens
Perrin and Faile head through the Stone, Perrin trying to hide his eyes from the servants and Defenders they pass. He wishes they wouldn’t look at him like they were scared of him, and Faile explains that they are worried he will get them in trouble for being out and about at this hour, since this is the time they can go about their off-duty pursuits without running into lords. Perrin is a little surprised that Faile knows so much about it, but supposes that as the daughter of a wealthy merchant she must have had at least some servants herself. He dismisses the matter and concentrates on what he’s going to say to Rand. They emerge into the anteroom to Rand’s chambers to find the High Lord Torean and his bodyguards there. The guards jump when they see Perrin and seem ready to defend themselves, and Perrin notes that they and Torean smell of fear. Torean greets them politely, but his eyes travel up and down Faile’s figure in a way that Perrin does not like at all. Perrin replies civilly, or so he assumes, but after Torean takes off Faile upbraids Perrin for being so cold.

“He was looking at you as if he wanted to dandle you on his knee. And I do not mean like a father.”

She sniffed dismissively. “He is not the first man ever to look at me. If he found the nerve to try more, I could put him in his place with a frown and a glance. I do not need you to speak for me, Perrin Aybara.” Still, she did not sound entirely displeased.

They discuss the odd jumpiness of Torean’s guards, but do not come to any conclusions. Then Berelain appears from the direction of Rand’s rooms, almost running. To show Faile he could be courteous if he wished, Perrin sweeps her a bow, but Faile barely dips her knee. Perrin misses this as he registers that Berelain smells absolutely terrified. He stares after her, and Faile asks softly if he’s filling his eyes. Perrin starts to explain, but stops as Torean steps out further down the hall and intercepts Berelain; Perrin overhears something about overstepping her place and offering her protection, and Berelain says something sharp in reply, pulls herself free and leaves. Torean notices Perrin watching, and departs as well. Faile says Berelain hunts the sun, and she thinks she will go to bed instead of meeting the Lord Dragon. Perrin doesn’t understand why she’s angry, and says so, and Faile gazes at him and softens. She tells him it is his innocence she loves most of all, and tells him to go on. She kisses him and leaves a confused Perrin behind. Perrin goes on to the anteroom, not bothering to stop for the fifty Defenders posted there, and comes to the doors to Rand’s chamber, where he is halted by Bain, Chiad, and four other Maidens. Bain tells him she may not let him by, and he tells her he has to see Rand. Spears appear at his throat, but he ignores them, picking up Bain and setting her down out of the way.

Chiad’s spear only needed her to breathe on it to draw blood, but after one startled widening of dark blue eyes, Bain abruptly took hers away and grinned. “Would you like to learn a game called Maidens’ Kiss, Perrin? You might play well, I think. At the very least you would learn something.” One of the others laughed aloud. Chiad’s spearpoint left his neck.

Perrin says another time, perhaps, and Bain says it’s his head; Rand has already chased out better company than Perrin. He thinks she must mean Berelain, but before he can think about this he looks inside and gasps at the wreckage, and at Rand slumped against a bedpost with Callandor across his knees, bathed in blood. Perrin orders the Maidens to get Moiraine immediately, and Rand tells Perrin to shut the door. Perrin frowns, but obeys, and then tries to staunch the wound in Rand’s side, not knowing what else to do. He asks Rand what he did, and why he tried to kill Perrin too, but Rand replies it wasn’t him, but one of the Forsaken, it had to be. He adds that Mat and Perrin must wish he’d never been born. Perrin asks what he is going to do, and Rand says feverishly, what everyone least expects. Rhuarc enters, and tells them the guard captain outside sent word to his commander, and now rumors are flying all over the Stone, but he had the truth of it from Berelain. Rand is amused, and says he guesses the Lord Dragon does not rule Mayene, and Rhuarc replies that he thinks she only told Rhuarc and no one else. Moiraine and Lan enter, and Lan looks at Rand and comments he thought Rand was old enough to shave by himself by now; Rhuarc adds that he is young yet, and will learn. Moiraine gives them both withering looks and goes to Rand; Perrin moves out of the way as she tells Rand in a coldly angry tone that at least he is alive, and to try to touch the Source. Rand asks why, and Perrin thinks Moiraine seems on the edge of an outburst, but takes a breath and merely explains that if he can use the Power to replace what is taken from him when Healed, it will mean much less exhaustion afterward. Rand tries for a moment, then confesses he can’t concentrate enough to do it. Moiraine says it will have to be the old way, then, and takes his head in her hands.

Rand lurched to his feet with a roaring gasp, as if all the breath were being squeezed from his lungs, back arching so his head nearly tore free of her grasp. One arm flung wide, fingers spread and bending back so far it seemed they must break; the other hand clamped down on Callandor’s hilt, the muscles of that arm knotting visibly into cramps. He shook like cloth caught in a windstorm. Dark flakes of dried blood fell, and bits of glass tinkled onto the chest and floor, forced out of cuts closing up and knitting themselves together.

When it is over, Rand slumps again, and Moiraine tries to take Callandor from him to replace on its stand, but Rand will not let her. Irritated, she turns to examining the wound in his side, which is a tender scar again, even though all his other injuries are gone. She murmurs that it still does not respond.

“That is the one that will kill me, isn’t it?” he asked her softly, then quoted, “ ‘His blood on the rocks of Shayol Ghul, washing away the Shadow, sacrifice for man’s salvation.’ ”

“You read too much,” she said sharply, “and understand too little.”

“Do you understand more? If you do, then tell me.”

“He is only trying to find his way,” Lan said suddenly. “No man likes to run forward blindly when he knows there is a cliff somewhere ahead.”

Perrin is startled that Lan would openly disagree with Moiraine in public, but thinks that he and Rand had been practicing the sword a lot lately. Moiraine ignores Lan and says Rand should be moved to another bedchamber, but Rand tells her he will sleep here; he will not be chased anymore, even out of a bed.

Tai’shar Manetheren,” Lan murmured.

This time even Rhuarc looked startled, but if Moiraine heard the Warder compliment Rand, she gave no sign of it. She was staring at Rand, her face smooth but thunderheads in her eyes. Rand wore a quizzical little smile, as if wondering what she would try next.

Perrin starts edging toward the door, thinking if Moiraine and Rand are going to have a showdown he does not want to be there for it, but Moiraine snaps for him to stay still, and Perrin stops. She asks Rand to explain what happened, and he does so, leaving out any mention of Berelain. He asks if perhaps Sammael could have done this from Illian, but Moiraine says no, not even if he held Callandor, and anyway she does not think this was a Forsaken. She explains:

“As the seals holding the Dark One’s prison weaken,” she said after a time, “it may be inevitable that a… miasma… will escape even while he is still held. Like bubbles rising from the things rotting on the bottom of a pond. But these bubbles will drift through the Pattern until they attach to a thread and burst.”

Perrin wants to know if that means things like this will start happening to everyone, and Moiraine says eventually, perhaps, but for now it is far more likely to happen to ta’veren. Rand asks if Mat is all right, then, and Moiraine isn’t sure, but Rhuarc says he saw Mat earlier, and he’s fine, and also not headed to the stables. Bain and Chiad come in with wash water and towels, and explain that the maid refused to enter, and Moiraine tells Rand he cannot afford to sit still for much longer; the Tairens are getting used to him, and one does not fear what one is used to as much as something new. Rand tells her not to harry him, and asks everyone to leave; he will talk to Moiraine tomorrow, but he will decide, not her. As Perrin leaves, he can hear Rand trying to make Bain and Chiad go away as well, and they cheerfully refusing. Outside, he remarks to Rhuarc that the Aiel do not bow and scrape for Rand as the Tairens do, or call him Lord Dragon. Rhuarc replies that the Dragon is a wetlander prophecy; the Aiel’s is He Who Comes With The Dawn. Perrin says he thought they were the same thing, and Rhuarc says Rand has yet to prove that. Perrin asks what happens if he doesn’t prove it, and Rhuarc refuses to answer. Perrin thinks of the Stone empty of Aiel, and shivers.

Commentary
Bleagh, the beginning of the Berelain/hawk – Faile/falcon thing. At least this time Faile recognizes that Perrin literally doesn’t know what she’s talking about; now, why can’t she keep recognizing that? Sigh.

I left it out of the summary, but Perrin makes an observation about Moiraine that I think is spot-on:

[Moiraine] nodded as if she had expected nothing else. Perrin shook his head; she was so used to hiding her real thoughts, she seemed to veil them out of habit.

Old habits are hard to break, and after so long having to be, essentially, a covert operative, hiding her true feelings and employing misdirection is just automatic for Moiraine, whether it’s necessary or not. This is to her detriment, in my opinion; most of the reason she almost loses Rand in TSR is because he doesn’t trust a word she says.

I remember getting so annoyed by Perrin and everyone else immediately assuming that Rand had blown up the room by himself, instead of recognizing it as an attack, but then again, which is the more reasonable to assume – that a man destined to go mad has, well, gone mad, or that a random bubble of evil came and attacked him with mirrors?

It might be an interesting experiment (if a completely unethical one) to set up a scenario where you put a perfectly sane person in a situation where everyone around him treats him as insane; after a while, would he come to believe everyone else is right?


Chapter 4: Strings

What Happens
Thom sits in his room in the servants’ quarters, writing an anonymous note supposedly to Lady Alteima that he intends to leave where High Lord Teodosian will find it, and jumps at a knock on his door. He hurriedly hides what he’s doing and limps over to open the door. To his surprise, it’s Mat, and Thom says he thought Mat would be busy helping noblemen lose money.

“They didn’t want to gamble any more tonight,” Mat said sourly, dropping onto the three-legged stool that served as a second chair. His coat was undone and his hair disheveled. His brown eyes darted around, never resting on one spot long, but their usual twinkle, suggesting that the lad saw something funny where no one else did, was missing tonight.

Thom frowns, but chooses to pretend that Mat’s visit at this hour is nothing out of the ordinary, and offers to pull out the Stones board. Mat says it is too late for games, and soon tells Thom what happened, and that he is thinking of leaving Tear. Thom is chilled, and wonders why he himself hasn’t left Tear long since. But if he had, there would be no one to help Rand deal with the Tairens except Moiraine, and while Thom has no doubt that Moiraine, as an Aes Sedai and Cairhienin to boot, is more than up to the task, he is also sure that her help only comes with strings attached to the White Tower. Thom thinks he is a fool to stay mixed up in this just because of something that happened over fifteen years ago; maybe he should leave. He says to Mat that Mat’s been talking about leaving ever since he got here; Mat glares and says he still means to, and invites Thom to come with him. Thom asks, if Mat means to go, why hasn’t he yet? Mat comes up with a number of flimsy excuses, and Thom asks if he has considered that it might be – Mat interrupts to say that if Thom mentions ta’veren, he’s leaving.

Thom changed what he had been going to say. “—that maybe it’s because Rand is your friend and you don’t want to desert him?”

“Desert him!” The boy jumped up, kicking over the stool. “Thom, he is the bloody Dragon Reborn! At least, that’s what he and Moiraine say. Maybe he is. He can channel, and he has that bloody sword that looks like glass. Prophecies! I don’t know. But I know I would have to be as crazy as these Tairens to stay.”

Mat asks if Moiraine could be keeping him here with the Power; he keeps getting this strange feeling, like something big is going to happen, whenever he thinks too much about leaving, and suddenly he’s made an excuse to stay another day. Doesn’t that sound like Aes Sedai work to Thom? It sounds like ta’veren to Thom, but he doesn’t say so, instead suggesting that Mat ask Nynaeve for advice. Mat does not think this would be a good idea.

Mat shook his head. “All these holes in memory. Sometimes I think if I could just fill them in, I’d know… Burn me, I don’t know what I’d know, but I know I want to know it. That’s a twisty riddle, isn’t it?”

Thom says he’s not sure even an Aes Sedai could help with that, and a gleeman certainly can’t. Mat jumps up and declares he’s leaving right this second; Thom says, in the middle of the night? Surely the morning would do. He invites Mat to play a game until then, and Mat hesitates and then sits back down, agreeing that the morning is soon enough. Thom thinks of how easily Mat is diverted, and concludes Mat is snared by a stronger ta’veren than himself:

A greatness he refused to recognize clinging to his back, and an Aes Sedai intent on keeping him for one of her pets. The lad was well and truly caught.

He wonders if he, Thom, isn’t also caught in that net. They begin to play, and Thom decides that if he is caught, it would be worth it to keep one man free of Aes Sedai, and make good on that fifteen-year-old debt, and is suddenly strangely content.

Commentary
As always, I enjoy seeing the boys from an outside perspective, especially a sympathetic one. Poor Mat, he needs to get his twinkle back!

Thom loses some of his coolness once he becomes little more than an adjunct to Nynaeve and Elayne later on, or at least that’s how I remember it, but here he’s still the Cool Old Guy. It’s also really nice that Thom seems to be the only person on Rand’s side for more or less unselfish motives; yes, he’s atoning for what happened to Owyn, but that hardly rates as “selfish”, and it’s not a motive that’s angling for a material reward, certainly. Even Moiraine has a prize in mind, if the highly noble one of, you know, saving the world and all that. Thom just wants to help Rand because in his view no one else will. Not even Mat and Perrin, who while on Rand’s “side”, are a little too plagued with youth, uncertainty, and a wealth of their own supernatural problems to be entirely reliable in this regard.


Chapter 5: Questioners

What Happens
Sitting at the table in the room they are using for questioning, Egwene asks Aviendha if she knows what Moiraine and Elayne were wanted for; Moiraine had promised them an hour, after putting them off for days, and then left after five minutes. Sitting cross-legged by the door, Aviendha shrugs; the Maiden who summoned Moiraine had whispered in her ear. She apologizes, calling Egwene “Aes Sedai”, and Egwene feels guilty about maintaining the subterfuge about her and Nynaeve and Elayne being full sisters to Aviendha, even though Moiraine had gone along with the deception; she was coming to think of the Aiel woman as a friend. Nynaeve mutters that they will have to go to Tanchico, and Egwene replies that she is not convinced of that. She looks at Joiya Byir, one of the two Black Ajah that had been captured during the fall of the Stone, and checks again to make sure the woman is cut off from the Source, and the flows of Air binding her and stopping up her ears are still in place. She is much more worried about Joiya than the other prisoner, Amico Nagoyin, who is standing slumped at the other end of the table; Amico had been stilled in the battle, and all the fight had gone out of her as a result. Amico repeats that they should go to Tanchico, and Nynaeve orders her to tell them something new, like who else in the Tower is Black Ajah. Amico says she does not know; each Black sister only knows two or three others. In the Tower, Amico only knew Liandrin, Chesmal, and Rianna. She thinks Liandrin might know more, though. Amico repeats her story wearily, that she had overheard Liandrin and Temaile talking about how there was something in Tanchico that was dangerous to “him”, meaning Rand, but that Liandrin had also said whatever it is was also dangerous to whoever used it, which is why Liandrin hadn’t gone for it already.

“And she said being able to channel would not protect him. She said, ‘When we find it, his filthy ability will bind him for us.’ ” Sweat ran down her face, but she shivered almost uncontrollably.

Egwene starts to say something, but Nynaeve speaks first, saying enough of this, she wants to question the other prisoner. She and Egwene trade stares for a moment, until Amico breaks the impasse by meekly turning to the wall to be bound. Egwene binds her and weaves blocks for Amico’s ears, and is about to loosen the bonds on Joiya when Aviendha suddenly observes that Amico’s face is different than before; it doesn’t look as if “the years have passed her by”. Is that because she was stilled? Egwene moves to look at Amico’s face, and observes that Aviendha is right; Amico looks young, now, instead of the ageless look Aes Sedai got after years of working with the Power. She tells Aviendha she is right, but Egwene doesn’t understand why, and then realizes admitting that is not very Aes Sedai-like of her. Nynaeve covers by telling Aviendha that very few women are stilled, and no one likes to study it when it does happen, since it is irreversible, and few women who are stilled or burned out live very long afterwards. Egwene then unknots the flows binding Joiya, and the woman turns and smiles at them, saying may the Light illumine them. Nynaeve says she will not hear that out of the likes of Joiya, and Joiya says serenely that she has come back to the Light and repented her sins. None of them believe a word, and Egwene thinks it is clear that the Oaths must have been removed somehow when these women became Black Ajah. She orders Joiya to tell her tale again, using different words this time, and Joiya calmly tells them that Liandrin means to break Mazrim Taim, the false Dragon captured in Saldaea, free from Aes Sedai captivity before he can be gentled, and use him to pose as Rand al’Thor and commit atrocities in Rand’s name, so that the nations would unite against him and hopefully bring him down before Tarmon Gai’don even begins. Egwene thinks to herself that it is a far more plausible story than Amico’s, and yet Egwene believes Amico and not Joiya. Before they can say anything else, the door bangs open and Moiraine enters with Elayne on her heels; Moiraine looks absolutely furious.

Commentary
The Agelessness-stilling-Three Oaths mystery that is put into play here was, I think, more confusing than Jordan meant it to be. Not that his puzzles didn’t tend to the Byzantine in nature, because they totally did, but the reason people argued about this one in the fandom for so long was more due to the gaffes made concerning the issue prior to this point – the main one being various Aiel’s assertions in TGH that the Aes Sedai looked like Wise Ones, when the latter of course could never have sworn on the Oath Rod. It’s ret-conned later, sort of, but some people are like bulldogs regarding outdated theories in WOT. Like the people who still think Olver is Gaidal Cain, even though Jordan has flat-out said that he isn’t.

I do think it is amusing that Nynaeve is the one who brings up the “fact” that stilling is not curable.

Obviously, later events prove that Amico wasn’t lying about the Sad Bracelets in Tanchico (more on that as we get to it), but Joiya’s tale about setting Taim up as a false Rand is actually a fairly clever scheme, assuming the Black Ajah could get Taim to play ball, which they could have by forcibly turning him to the Shadow… hmm.

But, as far as I can recall, nothing ever comes of this until Taim turns up on his own in LOC, which it’s pretty obvious is for nefarious purposes, but is also nothing like what Joiya describes here, so I guess that shows her story is a complete fabrication. However, I can’t help thinking that maybe this is what the Black Ajah should have done.


Chapter 6: Doorways

What Happens
Rand al’Thor,” Moiraine told the air in a low, tight voice, “is a mule-headed, stone-willed fool of a… a… a man!”

Nynaeve smugly tells her that they breed them like that in the Two Rivers, but Two Rivers women never have trouble with them; from the startled look Egwene gives her, Elayne thinks that must have been quite the whopping lie. Egwene asks Moiraine what Rand did, and Moiraine glances at Joiya and Amico, and composes herself somewhat. She stalks over to Joiya, and informs her that in three days she and Amico will be shipped to Tar Valon, where they will not be so gentle as here; she will not speak to them again unless it is to hear something new. Joiya looks murderous, but remains silent under Moiraine’s stare, and Elayne is regretful at how easily Moiraine cows the Black sisters, even though Elayne and Egwene and Nynaeve were all more powerful than her. Moiraine has them sent back to their cells, and Egwene asks Elayne why she looks like she’s about to cry, but Nynaeve interrupts to chew out Moiraine for refusing to help them interrogate the Black Ajah, and now sending them off in three days. Moiraine tells her not to presume too far on the Amyrlin’s authority; she is still Accepted, and knows practically nothing. She then admonishes Elayne to pull herself together; not every nation has the same customs as Andor, and she doesn’t understand why Elayne is so upset. Egwene is confused, and Elayne whispers that Berelain was in Rand’s chambers. Moiraine sighs and says to Egwene that she must realize nothing could have come of it for her anyway, and Egwene ignores her to whisper to Elayne that she loves Rand like a brother, and Elayne as a sister, and wishes her well of him. Elayne hugs her fiercely, murmuring thanks.

“She got it wrong,” Egwene said half to herself, a delighted grin blooming on her face. “Have you ever been in love, Moiraine?”

What a startling question. Elayne could not imagine the Aes Sedai in love. Moiraine was Blue Ajah, and it was said Blue sisters gave all their passions to causes.

The slender woman was not at all taken aback. For a long moment she looked levelly at the pair of them, each with an arm around the other. Finally she said, “I could wager I know the face of the man I will marry better than either of you knows that of your future husband.”

Elayne and Egwene gape in surprise, and Elayne asks who, and Moiraine dodges the question, implying that perhaps she only meant they share an ignorance. She adds that if she did ever choose a man, it would not be Lan. This was meant to be a sop to Nynaeve, but Nynaeve does not seem to like hearing it, and asks acidly if they can get back to important topics, like whether Amico or Joiya – or both – are lying, and what to do about it. Moiraine looks dangerous, so Elayne diverts them both by explaining why she and Moiraine were summoned in the first place, and what had happened to Rand. Egwene and Nynaeve are aghast, and Egwene asks if there is nothing to be done about these “bubbles of evil”. Moiraine says Rand might be strong enough to push them away, but only if he learns to control his abilities. Nynaeve says there must be something Moiraine can do to help him learn, but Moiraine explains again that the nature of saidin and saidar are too different. Egwene asks what Rand is being stubborn about, referring to the temper Moiraine was in earlier.

“He must move,” the Aes Sedai said at last. “Instead he sits here, and the Tairens already begin to lose their fear of him. He sits here, and the longer he sits, doing nothing, the more the Forsaken will see his inaction as a sign of weakness. The Pattern moves and flows; only the dead are still. He must act, or he will die. From a crossbow bolt in his back, or poison in his food, or the Forsaken banding together to rip his soul from his body. He must act or die.” Elayne winced at each danger on her list; that they were real only made it worse.

Nynaeve says she supposes Moiraine has a plan for him, and Moiraine answers that Sammael is in Illian; the Tairens will eagerly follow Rand if he moves on their old enemy. Nynaeve exclaims that if she wants Rand to start a war against a Forsaken, it’s no wonder he’s being stubborn. Moiraine replies that he has to face the Forsaken sooner or later, and there will be war no matter what he does. Egwene and Nynaeve don’t understand this, but Elayne does. She explains that war will come whether Rand starts one or not, and it will be the Forsaken coming after him; Sammael may not be the only Forsaken in control of a nation’s armies. Moiraine finishes for her that the war she proposes is not any cleaner than any other, but it will cement the Tairens’ loyalty to him, and the Illianers’ too, assuming he defeats Sammael and takes Illian. Thus he will have the strength of two nations behind him, and make any other Forsaken wary of moving against him.

“He must move first, be the hammer, not the nail.” The Aes Sedai grimaced slightly, a hint of her earlier anger marring her calm. “He must move first. And what does he do? He reads. Reads himself into deeper trouble.”

Nynaeve and Egwene are horrified, and Elayne feels sympathy for them. Egwene asks how reading can get Rand into deeper trouble, and Moiraine says he has decided to read the Prophecies of the Dragon for himself. Moiraine pointed out to him the verse that she thinks applies here:

“Power of the Shadow made human flesh,
wakened to turmoil, strife and ruin.
The Reborn One, marked and bleeding,
dances the sword in dreams and mist,
chains the Shadowsworn to his will,
from the city, lost and forsaken,
leads the spears to war once more,
breaks the spears and makes them see,
truth long hidden in the ancient dream.”

She grimaced. “It applies to this as well as it does to anything. Illian under Sammael is surely a forsaken city. Lead the Tairen spears to war, chain Sammael, and he has fulfilled the verse. The ancient dream of the Dragon Reborn. But he will not see it.”

Nynaeve defends Rand, saying he is desperate and trying to find his way, and Moiraine replies she is desperate too, almost desperate enough to – but she breaks off, and merely says she will do what she must. Egwene asks sharply what that is, and Moiraine tries to change the subject, but Elayne adds her voice to Egwene’s, and Moiraine tells them that in the Great Holding, the collection of Power-related objects the Tairens have been squirreling away for centuries, there is a ter’angreal that until three hundred years ago was in use in Mayene, before a particularly foolish First gave it to Tear to try to keep Mayene independent. It’s a twisted redstone doorway that you may step through to gain three true answers, about past, present, and future. The other three immediately jump on the idea, saying they can ask about the Black Ajah, and what the dangerous thing is to Rand, and all sorts of things, until Moiraine cuts them off and tells them there are rules, and dangers: a person may only go through once, frivolous questions are punished, and questions pertaining to the Shadow have “dire consequences”.

“If you asked about the Black Ajah, you might be returned dead, or come out a gibbering madwoman, if you came out at all. As for Rand… I am not certain it is possible to ask a question about the Dragon Reborn that does not touch the Shadow in some way. You see? Sometimes there are reasons for caution.”

Moiraine suggests that in lieu of risking the doorway, they ought to concentrate on questioning Joiya and Amico until they leave, and adds that she thinks Tanchico is the better bet for them to go after, since she has already warned Siuan by pigeon about the possibility of a plot to free Taim. Elayne murmurs sarcastically that it was so nice of her to let them know this, and Moiraine unironically tells her she’s welcome before bidding them goodnight. After she leaves, Elayne asks if Egwene meant what she’d said about Rand, and at Egwene’s nod, sighs and says she thought Min’s joking about sharing him was a viewing that she wouldn’t tell Elayne about; she’d assumed it meant that Egwene loved him too, but now she still doesn’t know what to do, if Rand still loves Egwene. Egwene assures her they will put Rand straight about that.

“My mother says men are different from us. She says we want to be in love, but only with the one we want; a man needs to be in love, but he will love the first woman to tie a string to his heart.”

They discuss the problem of Berelain, and what Elayne’s mother will think, and Nynaeve presses Elayne to make sure she wants a man who is destined to go mad. Elayne says maybe it is foolish, but she loves him and wants to marry him, and Nynaeve smiles and says she wanted to be sure, and joins them in planning how to deal with Berelain, and how to let Rand know Elayne is interested. Elayne asks if they think it foolish, worrying about this when so much else is going on.

Nynaeve said, “Rand is not the only one who might die next year, or next month. We might, too. Times are not what they were, and we cannot be, either. If you sit and wish for what you want, you may not see it this side of the grave.”

It was a chilling reassurance, but Elayne nods.

Commentary
I’m not sure, but I think this is the first time we’ve had an Elayne POV. Though I’m confused – was Elayne supposed to be in Rand’s room with Moiraine in Chapter 3? Because she, uh, really wasn’t. So what, was she just standing out in the hall the whole time? Am puzzled.

This is mainly an infodump chapter, setting up what’s going to happen with the Tear doorway and the romance plotline (with a nice little tease about the Moiraine/Thom thing, of you caught it), but it also features the next of Moiraine’s inevitably-to-be-wrecked Plans for Rand. The first time reading this, even not knowing what was going to happen I already was certain that whatever did occur was going to be nothing like what Moiraine proposed. Silly Aes Sedai.

Also, another example of Moiraine’s natural secretiveness shooting her in the foot. It might have all gone differently had she just told Rand straight out what she thought the prophecy quoted here meant. Though maybe she does, and he still doesn’t believe her? I’m not sure.

On getting pissy about Rand reading the Prophecies in the first place: I can kind of see Moiraine’s point, but did she seriously expect that he could be persuaded not to read them? I mean, I don’t know about you guys, but if I wandered into a library and spied The Big Book of Everything That Happens In Leigh Butler’s Life And Why on a shelf, well, I’d be picking that puppy right the hell up, is all I’m saying.

In other news, just to show I can be fair, I have the same problem with Egwene’s little Two Rivers saying about how men and women fall in love as I do with Thom’s proverb about how men and women forgive in TDR. All generalizations are false!


Chapter 7: Playing With Fire

What Happens
Early the next morning, Egwene drags a reluctant Elayne to Rand’s chambers. Elayne is decked out in blue silk and sapphires borrowed from Aviendha. Gaul, one of the Aiel guarding the door, informs them that Rand may be in a foul mood; he’s already thrown out some High Lords – literally, in the case of Torean. Gaul lost a bet on how far he would slide. Egwene is startled, thinking that Rand had never been violent before, and wonders how much he’s changed. She and Elayne enter nervously, and Rand drops the book he’s reading and jumps to his feet, scowling, but it fades as he sees who they are. Egwene notes that he has changed: he looks harder, now, and he moves more like Lan and the Aiel do. Rand mumbles he thought they were someone else, embarrassed, but then grows suspicious and demands to know if Moiraine sent them; Egwene tells him not to be a goose, and Elayne says they want to help him, if they can. Rand and Egwene trade humiliating memories of pranks they got punished for as children for a moment, and then Egwene tells him they want to see if they can help him with channeling. Rand is still suspicious, and tries to make excuses.

Elayne spoke up fiercely. “No one sent us. No one. We came because… because we care for you. Perhaps it will not work, but you can try. If I… if we care enough to try, you can try, too. Is it so unimportant to you that you cannot spare us an hour? For your life?”

Rand gazes at her for a long moment, then mutters he will try. What do they want him to do? Egwene tells him to look at her, and embraces saidar. She asks him what he sees or feels, and Rand tells her nothing, of course, except goose bumps; he can’t help being nervous around a woman who is channeling. Egwene releases the Power, and asks whether he feels goose bumps now; he say yes, and Egwene triumphantly tells him that Elayne is now holding the Power, which proves he can sense a woman’s channeling. Then she asks him, a little hoarsely, to embrace saidin. He just stands there, and Egwene and Elayne start discussing whether he would be trying to fool them or not, and cut off with yelps as something pinches their bottoms. Rand tries not to grin, and suddenly yells in pain and dances in a circle, cursing at Egwene that there was no need for that. Egwene and Elayne smile at each other, and Egwene tells Rand sternly that she thought he had grown up by now, and to try to cooperate and do something with the Power. He glares at them, and suddenly Egwene and Elayne are lifted off the floor. Egwene tries to embrace saidar, realizes that she is shielded, and tries not to panic. Two small tables start dancing, and flames fill the empty fireplace, and a silver and gold sculpture on the mantelpiece starts melting and weaving itself into cloth.

“Do something,” Rand said. “Do something! Do you have any idea what it is like to touch saidin, to hold it? Do you? I can feel the madness waiting. Seeping into me!”

Suddenly the dancing tables burst into flame and the mattress erupts, spewing feathers everywhere. Rand stares wildly, and lets Egwene and Elayne go, and all the flames go out. Elayne and Egwene stumble into each other and embrace saidar simultaneously, but Rand just stands there, stunned. Egwene uses Air to gather all the feathers together, and Rand laughs shakily and says he might not get another mattress after ruining two in less than a day. He apologizes, and says maybe they should go, but Egwene says they are not finished yet, trying to hide her chagrin.

With so many exclaiming over their strength—everyone said she and Elayne would be among the strongest Aes Sedai, if not the strongest, in a thousand years or more—she had assumed they were as strong as he. Near to it, at least. She had just been rudely disabused. Perhaps Nynaeve could come close, if she was angry enough, but Egwene knew she herself could never have done what he just had, split her flows that many ways, worked that many things at once. Working two flows at once was far more than twice as hard as working one of the same magnitude, and working three much more than twice again working two. He had to have been weaving a dozen. He did not even look tired, yet exertion with the Power took energy. She very much feared he could handle her and Elayne both like kittens. Kittens he might decide to drown, if he went mad.

But she is not ready to give up, and she sees neither is Elayne, and they tell him so. They sit down, and discuss the differences between how they touch the Source, and establish that it seems men do it the complete opposite way that women do. They also talk about the five flows, Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Spirit, and Rand tells them he doesn’t have to think to do anything with Fire; Egwene recalls her lessons that said that men were always strongest in Fire and Earth, while women were strongest in Air and Water. They eventually conclude that perhaps the differences are too great for them to help much, though Egwene is not reconciled to this, but Rand thanks them for trying anyway. Egwene moves on to the other reason they are here, and tells Rand that she cannot marry him. He replies that he knows, and she blinks, but continues that she doesn’t want to hurt him, but she does not want to marry him.

“I understand, Egwene. I know what I am. No woman could—”

“You wool-brained idiot!” she snapped. “This has nothing to do with you channeling. I do not love you! At least, not in the way to want to marry you.”

Rand’s jaw dropped. “You don’t… love me?” He sounded as surprised as he looked. And hurt, too.

Egwene says, not in that way; she has changed, and now she loves Rand, but only as a brother. He smiles and ruefully admits that he does not want to marry her either, but didn’t know how to tell her without hurting her. She thinks fondly that he is putting on a brave face, and gives him a kiss on the cheek, telling him he will find someone else. He agrees, and she takes her leave, thinking that he was all set for Elayne to pick him up, as they discussed.

Commentary
This has always been one of my favorite chapters in TSR, possibly in the series. Partly because of the cool practical working knowledge of the Power we get here, but mostly because it features the extremely rare occurrence of characters actually TALKING to each other, and working together, without (much) rancor or misunderstanding. They may not have gotten very far in terms of results, but the fact that they tried is occasion for wild freaking applause as far as I am concerned.

Also, I am such a geek sometimes, like getting all thrill-y when Egwene realizes that Rand is about ten times as powerful as she and Elayne. Though I wonder about her thought that Nynaeve might possibly match him; I know Nynaeve is Forsaken-class in strength, but it gets established later that she was an even match for Moghedien, who is definitely not as strong as Ishamael, who Rand is a match for. Of course, there’s nothing to say Egwene isn’t just plain wrong.

By the way, I deliberately elided the bit about saidar/surrender saidin/fight, because that whole… thing makes me want to chew rocks, and I’m too far behind schedule to give that rant the attention it deserves. But we will be returning to this, OH YES.


Chapter 8: Hard Heads

What Happens
Elayne concentrates on remaining calm as she waits for Rand to notice she’s still in the room. He turns and sees her, and gives a start; she is glad to see that he looks as panicked as she feels. He bows unnecessarily and stammers something, calling her “my Lady”, and she replies that if he calls her that, she will call him “my Lord Dragon”, and curtsy; he should call her Elayne. He does so, and she thinks it is ridiculous to feel so thrilled to hear him say her name. She asks if what Egwene told him hurt very much, and Rand doesn’t know, but he told her the truth. Elayne is happy to hear that. Rand suddenly asks her if she would like a flower, and tries to make one from a bunch of feathers.

For long moments he stared at the fluffy mound in his hands, a slow frown on his face. Abruptly he let the feathers fall, dusting his hands. “Flowers,” he said. “That’s no fit gift for you.” Her heart went out to him; clearly he had tried to embrace saidin and failed.

He awkwardly offers her the length of silver and gold cloth he had accidentally made earlier from the sculpture, and she accepts, but also gathers up the feathers he had dropped, without explaining that she wants them because he had tried to make her a flower with them. She asks if he likes her, and he replies of course he does, frowning. She says that she is fond of him – more than fond – but she will have to leave Tear soon, and could not go without letting him know how she felt. Rand replies that he is fond of her, too, and stumbles over what to say next. Elayne flushes, but tells herself she will not let Berelain go one better on her, and moves closer. She tells Rand that she would like him to kiss her. Rand stammers something about not wanting to promise more, it’s not like they are betrothed, but…

She had to laugh at him, with all his confused earnestness. “I do not know how things are done in the Two Rivers, but in Caemlyn you don’t wait until you are betrothed before kissing a girl. And it does not mean you must become betrothed, either. But perhaps you do not know how—” His arms went around her almost roughly, and his lips came down on hers. Her head spun; her toes tried to curl up in her slippers. Some time later—she was not certain how long—she realized she was leaning against his chest, knees trembling, trying to gulp air.

“Forgive me for interrupting you,” he said. She was glad to hear a touch of breathlessness in his voice. “I am just a backward shepherd from the Two Rivers.”

“You are uncouth,” she murmured against his shirt, “and you did not shave this morning, but I would not say you are backward.”

Rand starts to say something else, but Elayne stops him, and thinking of Berelain, tells him that some women only see men as a prize, but she sees with her heart, and for him to remember that. Rand looks confused, and Elayne decides to dial it down a little, and points out that he hasn’t tried to convince her he’s too dangerous to be around, and therefore it is too late to try it now. Rand thinks of something, and asks if she and Egwene cooked this up between them, but Elayne gives him indignant outrage in return, throwing him off, and asks if he’s sorry about what he did to them earlier. He says he’s sorry about the other stuff, but not about the pinch; they deserved that, for talking over his head like that. Elayne embraces saidar briefly and soothes away the hurt she had given him in retaliation, “for being honest”. They are interrupted by Gaul, who tells Rand the Tairens are waiting, and Elayne slips out before Rand can stop her. She looks back as the Tairens file into the room, and observes that there is something about him now that says he commands there by right.

He thought probably they bowed just because he was the Dragon Reborn, and perhaps they thought so, too. But she had seen men, like Gareth Bryne, the Captain-Commander of her mother’s Guards, who could have dominated a room in rags, with no title and no one knowing their name. Rand might not know it, but he was such a man. He had not been when she first saw him, but he was now. She pulled the door shut behind her.

Rand ignores the High Lords, gazing after Elayne and marveling that a dream should come true like that. Sunamon tries to get his attention, and he snaps back to the present and starts arguing with the Tairens about taxes, trying not to be distracted by thoughts of either Elayne or the things he was finding in his books. They try to convince him that they cannot lower taxes on the common folk while their granaries are bursting, since practically all trade with Cairhien has stopped. Rand tells them to offer it in Illian, or Altara; they can hire extra boats from Mayene if necessary, with a treaty pledging to leave Mayene alone in return. The Tairens are horrified at the idea of selling food to their archrival, not to mention letting up on Mayene, and as always Rand is forced to abandon explanations and start issuing ultimatums.

Egwene is startled when Mat falls in with her as she walks through the Stone, and even more unsettled when he remains silent. Finally she asks if last night was troubling him, and Mat misses a step. He says he supposes he’s not surprised she knows about that, and shrugs the whole thing off as nothing. Egwene pretends to believe him, and comments that she and Nynaeve don’t see much of him; he mutters that he’s been busy playing cards, and grins at a maidservant who winks at him when she thinks Egwene is not looking.

Egwene’s eyebrows rose sharply. That woman had to be ten years older than Nynaeve. “I see. It must use up a great deal of time. Playing cards. Too much to spare a few moments for old friends.”

Mat retorts that the last time he saw them, they trussed him “like a pig for market” so they could ransack his room and take back the Amyrlin’s letter; and besides, she and Nynaeve are obviously busy, and he wouldn’t want to bother them. Egwene grimaces, thinking it’s Aes Sedai he doesn’t want to be around, and points out that the letter was only a loan, after all. After more muttering, she finally asks him why he’s sought her out now, then, and at length Mat says he needs some advice. Egwene boggles, and manages to calmly ask what about. Mat says he doesn’t know, and Egwene considers throwing him over the balcony, but finally asks how is she supposed to advise him, then? He says he is trying to decide what to do, and Egwene hopes he is not thinking of leaving; Mat replies tightly that he doesn’t think he could even if Moiraine told him to.

“Believe me, Egwene, I am not going anywhere. I just want to know what’s going to happen.” He gave a rough shake of his head, and his voice grew tighter. “What comes next? What’s in these holes in my memory? There are chunks of my life that aren’t even there; they don’t exist, as if they never happened! Why do I find myself spouting gibberish? People say it’s the Old Tongue, but it’s goose gabble to me. I want to know, Egwene. I have to know, before I go as crazy as Rand.”

Egwene feels bad for him, and gently tries to suggest that he go to Moiraine, but he vehemently refutes the idea of going to an Aes Sedai. Then he backpedals and says of course Egwene is different; isn’t there something maybe that she learned, that could help him? Egwene tells him she’s sorry.

His laugh reminded her of their childhood. Just so he had always laughed when his grandest expectations went astray. “Ah, well, I guess it does not matter. It’d still be the Tower, if at second hand. No offense to you.” Just so he had moaned over a splinter in his finger and treated a broken leg as if it were nothing at all.

Egwene says slowly that maybe there is a way, and tells him about the doorway ter’angreal, being sure to emphasize the dangers that Moiraine had told her, though she’s not sure Mat really listened to her. Mat assures her, though, that it’s less he wants to do with the Power, not more, and he won’t be going anywhere near this door thing. He’ll find something to fill the time, and is distracted by a passing maid for a moment. Egwene wants to slap him, but then he asks if she ever wishes they were still at home, which startles her coming from Mat. She replies no, not even with everything. Mat agrees, and Egwene asks him to promise not to go near the ter’angreal without getting permission first. He solemnly swears not to go near it unless his life depends upon it, and Egwene reflects that however much everything else changed, Mat never would.

Commentary
Romance may not be one of Jordan’s strengths, but I always thought this scene between Rand and Elayne was very sweet. Though the why of the two of them falling in love in the first place was a bit forced, the way it actually plays out here is quite believable in its puppyish awkwardness, and reemphasizes just how young the two of them are, something which is easy to forget otherwise.

Nice bit of subtlety here, with Rand’s snap decision to make the Tairens send grain to Illian, which sets up what happens allll the way at the end of A Crown of Swords, with the Council of Nine offering Rand the crown as a result. Even if Jordan hadn’t planned that far in advance, it’s still very nicely tied together.

It’s interesting that I keep assuming Egwene and Mat are rarely together in the series, when in fact they are both in Rand’s entourage all the way to midway through Lord of Chaos if I’m not mistaken. I guess they just don’t interact much despite that, which makes this little interlude stand out. Or the flu killed more brain cells than previously advertised. One or the other.

Also, Mat is still hilarious. Egwene’s thought that he would moan and complain about minor things and yet never about major things (which Rand will reiterate later when they are returning from Rhuidean) is for some reason one of my favorite observations about him. I’ve never been able to articulate exactly what’s so endearing about that, but there you go.


Is End! Is Chapters 9-15 Friday, theoretical! Is might happen! Is goodbye!

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