The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Shadow Rising, Part 21

Hello! ’Tis moi, your friendly neighborhood Wheel of Time recapper, with the absolute last final for true no I mean it installment of The Shadow Rising, in which we cover Chapters 57 & 58. Which are the last chapters. No, really. Scout’s honor!

Previous entries can be found here. Please note that there are rampant spoilers throughout for all the Wheel of Time novels currently published, so if you haven’t read, don’t read. I’m serious, y’all.

Scheduling note: There will be no WOT Re-read post on Friday, as I want a little prep time before getting started on the next book. However, I may—MAY—have something else up for you on Friday instead, so keep an eye out, ya heard me?

All righty then! So, look fondly for the last time on my least favorite of all the WOT covers (in which The Little Woman cooks for Random Archer Guy and his friend Eighties Sweatband Guy, who clearly fell through a time warp from a Richard Simmons workout tape onto the Oregon Trail, where he never got a chance to learn how to wear them old-fangled coats before they all died of dysentery) and click for The End of the Longest Book.

Chapter 57: A Breaking in the Three-fold Land

What Happens
Rand watches the approaching mountains as he rides toward Alcair Dal, surrounded by an honor guard of ten Maidens. He notes that Aviendha, who is striding along beside him as usual, refuses to take off the ivory bracelet he’d given her, but also hides it from view anytime she thinks the Maidens might be looking at it. Rand also thinks about how he had tried to suggest that another society besides the Maidens might provide his guard, and Adelin’s answer that chiefs are usually accompanied by a few members of their former society; Rand has no society, but his mother was a Maiden.

For countless years Maidens who would not give up the spear have given their babes for the Wise Ones to hand to other women, none knowing where the child went or even whether boy or girl. Now a Maiden’s son has come back to us, and we know him. We will go to Alcair Dal for your honor, son of Shaiel, a Maiden of the Chumai Taardad.

When he had accepted (since it didn’t look to him as if Adelin would have taken kindly to a refusal), the ten Maidens there had repeated the “remember honor” ceremony with him, except this time instead of tea they gave him a drink called oosquai, which Rand soon realized is stronger than distilled brandy. He ended up thoroughly drunk, and remembers with embarrassment that the Maidens had eventually put him to bed, making a game out of it and tickling him until he was breathless with laughter. Aviendha had watched the whole thing with an expression like stone. They are followed by most of the spears of the Taardad clan, stretching back for two miles; Rand estimates their numbers at over fifteen thousand. Rand soon arrives at the fair set up for the meeting, which looks nearly empty, and sees five camps set up on the surrounding heights, all but one of which are equally low in population. Rhuarc approaches with his escort, Heirn with his escort, and forty more sept chiefs with their escorts, which together is a force larger than the one that took the Stone, and remarks that the large camp is Shaido, which makes Rand not the only one to break custom. Rand replies it’s as well he did, and asks Rhuarc if he could have forced his way into Alcair Dal at two-to-one odds. Rhuarc sees what he means, and grows angrier at Couladin. He asks if Rand expected this, and Rand replies, not exactly, but he couldn’t think of many other reasons Couladin would have been in such a tearing hurry to get here. Rhuarc seems uncertain of whether peace will be maintained with so many different clans here. Mat, Egwene, Lan, Moiraine, and the Wise Ones approach, and Lan eyes the Shaido, murmuring that that could be a problem. Moiraine is vastly displeased that she is not allowed to enter Alcair Dal, but Amys tells her that a clan chiefs’ meeting is men’s business, and that if Wise Ones insist on coming along, then they will have chiefs trying to attend their meetings. Melaine looks at Rand distrustfully, though, and Rand thinks that he had hardly slept since leaving Cold Rocks, and if they had spied on his dreams they would have only seen nightmares.

“Be careful, Rand al’Thor,” Bair said as if she had read his thoughts. “A tired man makes mistakes. You cannot afford mistakes today.” She pulled her shawl down around her thin shoulders, and her thin voice took on an almost angry note. “We cannot afford for you to make mistakes. The Aiel cannot afford it.”

Rand watches as Kadere’s wagon train arrives. Egwene pulls up next to him and tells him that he has not spoken to her since Cold Rocks, and reminds him that he does not fight alone, that others do battle for him too. He asks what she means, and Moiraine interjects that she fights for him, as does Egwene, plus many more he doesn’t even know about; his forcing the Pattern causes ripples in the lives of people he will never meet, and if he fails, it will all come apart. She asks that if she cannot go with him into Alcair Dal, for him to take Lan. Rand answers that Lan should stay with Moiraine, and Far Dareis Mai carries his honor, which displeases Moiraine but causes the Maidens to grin widely. Rand notes Isendre and Keille having a staring contest down among the wagons, and tells Egwene and everyone to be on their guard. Amys tries to tell him even the Shaido would not bother an Aes Sedai.

“Just be on your guard!” He had not meant to be that sharp. Even Rhuarc stared at him. They did not understand, and he dared not tell them. Not yet. Who would spring their trap first? He had to risk them as well as himself.

Mat suddenly asks if there’s a problem if he comes with Rand, rolling a coin across his fingers; surprised, Rand says he’d thought Mat would want to stay with the peddlers. Mat frowns and answers he doesn’t think it would be very easy to get out of here if Rand gets himself killed, then murmurs “Dovienya” to himself, which Rand’s heard Mat say before (Lan told Rand it means “luck” in the Old Tongue), and flips the coin, but fumbles the catch. The coin lands on edge and rolls all the way down to the wagons before finally falling over, where Isendre picks it up, staring back up the hill; Mat growls at Rand to quit doing that. Rand tells Mat he can come. The Taardad Aiel begin playing pipes, and the warriors sing, which they only do for battle songs and laments for the dead. The other Aiel and the peddlers watch in amazement, and the Taardad begin streaming into Alcair Dal. Rand, Rhuarc, Mat, and their escorts start down the hill, as everyone left behind watches, and Rand thinks that he can barely remember what it was like to have no one watching him. As they reach the fair, they are stopped by a delegation of Goshien. One of the men, whom Rhuarc greets as Mandhuin, answers Rhuarc’s query that besides the Goshien, the Shaarad, Chareen and Tomanelle are here, and Sevanna convinced the clan chiefs to go in a short while earlier. A woman next to him puts in that she heard He Who Comes With the Dawn has come out of Rhuidean, and that the Car’a’carn will be named today.

“Then someone spoke you a prophecy,” Rand said. He touched the dapple’s flanks with his heels; the delegation moved out of his way.

Dovienya,” Mat murmured. “Mia dovienya nesodhin soende.” Whatever it meant, it sounded a fervent wish.

The Taardad have come up on either said of the Shaido, who are all veiled, still singing, outnumbering the Shaido fifteen to one. Rhuarc raises a hand to his veil; Rand tells him not to, as they are not here to fight them, but Rhuarc takes it differently, calling out “no honor to the Shaido!” to the Taardad, who drop their veils. The Shaido blocking the entrance shift uneasily, and finally part slowly to let Rand’s delegation through; Rand sighs in relief. They pass through a gorge into the canyon of Alcair Dal, and the Taardad who had come in with them peel off to join their respective societies, which Rhuarc had said was an aid to keeping peace; there are perhaps three thousand Aiel present in the canyon. Only Rhuarc’s Red Shields and the Maidens stay with Rand’s party. Rand sees that Couladin is among the sept chiefs gathered at the far end of the canyon, and a golden-haired woman who must be Sevanna is on the ledge itself with the clan chiefs; her voice carries clearly as she demands that Couladin be given the right to speak. Han, clan chief of the Tomanelle, tells her that only one who has been to Rhuidean may speak here, and Couladin was refused. Couladin shouts something Rand can’t hear, and Erim of the Chareen shuts him up sharply. Bael, clan chief of the Goshien and the tallest man Rand’s ever seen, says that if this is all Sevanna wants to talk about he will go back to his tents; Jheran, clan chief of the Shaarad and Bael’s blood enemy, naturally disagrees and wants to talk about water. Sevanna calls them fools, and then they all notice the new arrivals, and fall silent to watch their approach. Rand thinks that Sevanna is pretty, but has a “greedy mouth”, too much cleavage showing, and a calculating air at odds with the clan chiefs around her. Rhuarc strides straight to the ledge and climbs up to join the other chiefs, and Rand hands his reins to Mat and steps directly from his saddle to the ledge. Han demands to know what Rhuarc is about, letting this wetlander stand like a chief, and Rhuarc asks did not the dreamwalkers tell Han about who Rhuarc was bringing? Han is in disbelief that this is who Melaine had meant, and Sevanna jumps in and says if Rand is allowed to speak, so is Couladin. Couladin immediately jumps up on the ledge, to a roar of protest from Han.

“It is time to be done with worn-out customs!” the fiery-haired Shaido shouted, stripping off his gray-and-brown coat. There was no need for shouting—his words echoed across the canyon—but he did not lower his voice. “I am He Who Comes With the Dawn!” Shoving shirtsleeves above his elbows, he thrust his fists into the air. Around each forearm wound a serpentine creature scaled in crimson and gold, glittering metallically, feet each tipped with five golden claws, golden-maned heads resting on the backs of his wrists. Two perfect Dragons. “I am the Car’a’carn!” The roar that came back was like thunder, Aiel leaping to their feet and shouting joyously.

The clan chiefs are stunned, even Rhuarc. Couladin begins shouting to the Aiel about the glory he will bring them with the conquest of the wetlanders as Rand stands there, thinking that of all the things he had thought might happen, this one had never occurred to him. He takes off his coat, pausing to stick the fat man angreal in the waistband of his breeches, and rolls up his sleeves, stepping up beside Couladin and raising his arms as well. It takes the cheering Aiel a few moments to notice, but soon the silence is total. Sevanna looks shocked, and Rand guesses Couladin had failed to inform her that Rand had the markings too, no doubt thinking he would have more time to establish himself before Rand arrived. Couladin knows what the silence means and shouts without looking at Rand to look at his clothes, he is a wetlander. Rand agrees, a wetlander, and then calmly gives his parents’ names, and reminds the Aiel that the prophecy of the Car’a’carn states that he will be born of the blood but raised elsewhere. Bael and the other clan chiefs nod reluctantly. Couladin sneers that the Prophecy is probably corrupted, and insists that Rand is a dupe set up by the Aes Sedai he has with him to “bind them with fakery”. Rhuarc steps up and declares that Couladin never went to Rhuidean, but Rand al’Thor did, and returned marked, and that Rhuarc witnessed this.

“And why did they refuse me?” Couladin snarled. “Because the Aes Sedai told them to! Rhuarc does not tell you that one of the Aes Sedai went down from Chaendaer with this wetlander! That is how he returned with the Dragons! By Aes Sedai witchery!”

He adds that he went to Rhuidean in secret, and only revealed himself now because that is proper for the Car’a’carn; Rand thinks it is very clever, lies flavored with just enough truth. The clan chiefs are displeased that Couladin claims to have gone to Rhuidean without permission, but Couladin retorts that his coming breaks the rules. Mat gestures to Rand to get in the saddle, but Rand knows that unless he can convince the Aiel Couladin is the fake, he was unlikely to get out of here alive.

“Rhuidean,” he said. The word seemed to fill the canyon. “You claim you went to Rhuidean, Couladin. What did you see there?”

Couladin snaps back that no one is to talk of what they see there, and the other chiefs try to say they should go apart to discuss it, but Rand ignores them and continues.

“I walked among glass columns beside Avendesora.” Rand spoke quietly, but the words carried everywhere. “I saw the history of the Aiel through my ancestors’ eyes. What did you see, Couladin? I am not afraid to speak. Are you?” The Shaido quivered with rage, face nearly the color of his fiery hair.

The chiefs are uneasy now, and Sevanna, sensing the change, quickly accuses Rhuarc of telling Rand about Rhuidean, but the other chiefs refuse to even consider the possibility of Rhuarc doing such a thing. Couladin shouts that he saw the Aiel’s glory, which he will return to them.

“I saw the Age of Legends,” Rand announced, “and the beginning of the Aiel journey to the Three-fold Land.” Rhuarc caught his arm, but he shook the clan chief off. This moment had been fated since the Aiel gathered before Rhuidean the first time. “I saw the Aiel when they were called the Da’shain Aiel, and followed the Way of the Leaf.”

A cacophony of denial goes up from the Aiel gathered in the canyon, even from the Taardad sept chiefs, and Adelin looks stricken. Couladin ignores Sevanna’s attempt to caution him, and shouts that Rand is a liar, that the Aiel have always been warriors. The Aiel roar approval of this, but the clan chiefs stand silent; oblivious, Couladin shakes his arms and plays to the crowd. Rhuarc asks Rand why, quietly; doesn’t he understand why they never speak of Rhuidean? To face the fact that Aiel were once as the despised Tuatha’an kills one in three who go to Rhuidean, and now it will spread everywhere. Rand answers sadly that he brings change and turmoil, not peace. After a moment, Rhuarc accepts this. Couladin is still basking in the adulation of the crowd, but Sevanna is staring at the chiefs and knows something is wrong. Finally, reluctantly, Bael declares that Rand al’Thor is the Car’a’carn, and the other chiefs follow suit. Couladin stares in disbelief a moment, then suddenly leaps down and grabs a spear from one of his men and hurls it straight at Rand. Adelin jumps in between and blocks the spear with her buckler, and instant pandemonium ensues, everyone shouting and shoving. Rand sees spears being used, knows he has to stop this somehow, and thinks of water. He seizes saidin and channels without really knowing what he is doing, and creates a rainstorm. Suddenly the rain is gone from the ledge, blocked by an expanding dome that is pushing the Aiel and Mat away with only him under it.

“You utter fool, playing games with these other fools! Wasting all my planning and effort!”

He turns to face Lanfear, and remarks that he didn’t expect her to reveal herself so soon, and asks where “he” is. Lanfear says she knew he would give himself away by coming into Rand’s dreams, but Rand cuts in and tells her he knew from the start, had expected it since the day he left Tear, and the trap is his, not hers. Rand asks again where he is, and Lanfear shoots back that if Rand knew, why did he chase him away with talk of what had to be done?

Scorn weighted the words like stones. “I brought Asmodean to teach you, but he was always one to leap to another plan if the first proved difficult. Now he thinks he has found something better for himself in Rhuidean. And he is off to take it while you stand here. Couladin, the Draghkar, all to hold your attention while he made sure. All my plans for nothing because you must be stubborn! Do you have any idea what effort it will take to convince him again? It must be him. Demandred or Rahvin or Sammael would kill you before teaching you to lift a hand unless they have you bound like a dog at heel!”

Rand thinks that Rhuidean was weeks away, but that he had done something, once… He asks why she let Asmodean go if she’s so interested in aiding Rand, and Lanfear reminds him, not openly. She starts trying to tempt him again with the two great sa’angreal, and stops at the look on his face as he remembers.

With the Power he folded reality, bent a small patch of what was. A door opened beneath the dome in front of him. That was the only way to describe it. An opening into darkness, into somewhere else.

Lanfear looks at it, and says it seems he does remember a few things, and wants to know what’s so important in Rhuidean. Rand answers, Asmodean. He hesitates, wishing he could make himself kill a woman who was only frowning at him, but then steps through the door and closes it behind him, knowing the making of her own would slow her down.

Kudos to Jordan, because of all the things I thought might happen at the big Aiel Show and Tell the first time around, the duplicate Dragons thing was a twist I genuinely never saw coming. I remember being seriously upset when Couladin stole Rand’s thunder; in fact I think I may have even yelled something along the lines of “Oh, you did NOT!” at the book when it happened. This is the kind of thing that is embarrassing when it happens in a Starbucks. Not that I know this from personal experience or anything.

But it was extremely dismaying, especially coming from a modern perspective (which I think Jordan definitely shared) that this is the kind of loss of PR momentum which can never be truly regained. The annoying thing about people is that the cliché “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” is really true, and this is borne out throughout the series in regard to the Aiel’s half-assed acceptance of Rand. Even crushing the Shaido at Cairhien in TFOH isn’t enough to overcome the initially instilled perception that Rand is not the Real True Chosen One, hence the damn ongoing “Shaido rebels” storyline which is still plaguing us through the end of KOD.

It’s a subconscious thing, which I think Jordan comments on specifically later, though I can’t recall the exact circumstances. Something where someone (Elayne?) thinks about how if people see you on a throne initially, they will always on some level think of you as a king or queen even if you get down and roll in the mud afterwards, but that unfortunately the same applies in reverse. And it’s damnably true.

This chapter is also the real start of the highly dysfunctional relationship between Rand and the Maidens, which I’ve always found by turns either incredibly amusing or incredibly irritating, depending on the situation. Rand, by the way, contributes just as much to the dysfunction as do the Maidens; to say it is a culture clash of epic proportions is probably understating the case. But hey, it does definitely make things interesting.

This particular one was amusing, in a kind of “Tickling? O…kay?” kind of way, which I actually find kind of irritating of myself. Because, you know, it is possible to have relatively intimate physical contact between people of mutually attracted genders (in whatever combination is relevant for the people involved) without it being necessarily sexual in context. But it doesn’t seem like I’m helped to realize this culturally. Lack of agape-style affectionate expression in American culture FTW!

Mat: this is one of the few times his presence seems really superfluous. I’m not sure why such a big deal was made of his coming along, only for him to do precisely nothing, other than mutter in the Old Tongue. I dunno, I guess not everyone has to be significant all the time, plotwise, but it seems like a minor failure of the Chekov’s Gun principle, in this case.

You know, it’s still unclear here whether Lanfear knew about the fake Dragon/Couladin ploy in advance or not. I vote not; I think she’s just quick on the uptake. Remember: crazy, but not stupid. And with much better dialogue than Dennis Hopper.

Chapter 58: The Traps of Rhuidean

What Happens
Rand is surrounded by blackness, with stone steps hanging seemingly in midair in front of him and stretching out of sight. He knows somehow that they will take him where he wants to go, but wonders if he created them or if they were here some other way.

With the thought, the gray stone under his foot began to fade, and all the others ahead shimmered. Desperately he concentrated on them, gray stone and real. Real! The shimmering stopped.

He starts to run up the stairs, taking them three at a time, and winces to see they have accommodated themselves to his stride and are now only appearing at three-step intervals. He forces himself to keep going, ignoring the growing pain in the wound in his side. Then he sees a man in a red coat ahead and to his left, standing on a silvery platform that glides forward. Rand knows this is Asmodean, and immediately stops running; the step he’s standing on starts moving forward in imitation of the Forsaken’s platform. Rand also sees what looks like black threads or wires running off from Asmodean, disappearing into the dark, and thinks he’s seen something like them before. Then Asmodean turns his head, and Rand sees to his surprise that the face is Jasin Natael’s; Rand had been sure it was Kadere. Asmodean sees him at the same moment, and sends a mile-high sheet of fire at Rand. Rand channels desperately and bursts it into shards, but Asmodean keeps sending one after another at him, and Rand angrily returns in kind at first, but then stops himself, because he does not want to kill the man, but catch him. Then the Forsaken’s platform stops and a door appears in front of it; Asmodean jumps through, and the door begins to close. Rand channels wildly, somehow stopping the door from closing, and his step stops dead, flinging him through the narrow opening, landing him outside of Rhuidean.

He took a step toward the wall of mist and stopped, lifting his left foot. His bootheel was sliced cleanly though. The tug he had felt; the doorway closing. He was dimly aware of shivering in spite of the heat. He had not known it was that dangerous. The Forsaken had all the knowledge. Asmodean would not escape him.

He runs into the fog surrounding the city, and as he reaches the inner edge flings himself down and rolls just barely in time to avoid the razor-edged rope trap Asmodean had left for him. He disperses the Power-made wires, and then channels again, pulling down buildings in front of the running Asmodean to keep him from getting to the central square. Asmodean sends lightning and fire at Rand as he clambers over the rubble, and Rand weaves himself a shield and keeps running. They continue back and forth in this manner, fighting to be the first to reach the square, wrecking the city in the process. Asmodean searches wildly through the square, and dives for a figurine of a man holding a crystal sphere aloft, but Rand reaches it at almost the same time, and they both grab it and reach through the statuette ter’angreal for access to one of the two largest sa’angreals ever made.

Vaguely Rand was aware of a great, half-buried statue in far-off Cairhien, of the huge crystal sphere in its hand, glowing like the sun, pulsing with the One Power. And the Power in him surged up like all the seas of the world in storm. With this surely he could do anything; surely he could even have Healed that dead child. The taint swelled as much, curling ’round every particle of him, seeping into every crevice, into his soul. He wanted to howl; he wanted to explode. Yet he only held half what that sa’angreal could deliver; the other half filled Asmodean.

They struggle back and forth, both physically and on an entirely different level:

Hammers of Power large enough to level mountains struck at Rand, and blades that could have pierced the earth’s heart; unseen pincers tried to tear his mind from his body, ripped at his very soul. Every scrap of Power he could draw went to hurl those attacks away. Any one could destroy him as if he had never been; he was sure of it.

Rand is nearing exhaustion, and knows Asmodean is tired too, but doesn’t know which of them will falter and break their impasse first. Then he feels the fat man angreal pressing against him where it is still stuck in his breeches, and wonders if it is even possible to draw on that and on the great sa’angreal at the same time. He can no longer see the black wires around Asmodean, but he visualizes where they were, and makes himself one with his target. He draws on the little fat man angreal and strikes at the cords.

Asmodean’s eyes went wide, and he screamed, a howl from the depths of horror; like a struck gong the Forsaken quivered. For an instant there seemed to be two of him, shivering away from each other; then they slid back together. He fell over on his back, arms flung out in his now dirty, tattered red coat, chest heaving; staring up at nothing, his dark eyes looked lost.

Rand loses saidin and rolls away, still clutching the access ter’angreal. He pushes himself to his knees, and sees that almost everything in the square – and the city – has been destroyed, including Avendesora, though the glass columns still stand. The fog surrounding Rhuidean is dissipating as well, and several of the mountains surrounding the city have collapsed or been visibly altered in shape. Asmodean starts to crawl toward him, eyes on the ter’angreal, but Rand raises a fist at him and tells him not to even think about it. Lanfear appears, and observes that she likes to see men fight, but this is ridiculous. She comments that Rand has destroyed whatever shield had been over the city, and crouches to examine the ter’angreal Rand is holding.

“So that is what he was after. I thought they were all destroyed. Only half remains of the single one I have seen; a fine trap for some unwary Aes Sedai.” She put out a hand, and he clutched the ter’angreal tighter. Her smile did not touch her eyes. “Keep it, certainly. To me it is no more than a figurine.”

She rises, pretending not to search for the figurine’s mate, and asks Rand what it was like to use it, and again tells him they could displace the Dark One himself with the two sa’angreal together. Asmodean crawls toward her and begs for help, and Lanfear sneers at him. Rand gets up and tells her tauntingly that he cut Asmodean off from their precious Dark One, which shocks Lanfear; she says surely he doesn’t think to bring him back to the Light, and Rand says no, but none of the other Forsaken will believe he hasn’t switched sides. He will not be taught by a man still linked to the Dark One, and now he has one who isn’t. He thanks her for the idea, though. Asmodean pleads with her that the others will believe her if she tells them he is still faithful, but she ignores him, staring at Rand.

For the first time ever that he had seen, she looked uncertain. “How much do you remember, Lews Therin? How much is you, and how much the shepherd? This is the sort of plan you might have devised when we—”

She cuts herself off, and answers Asmodean that he’s right, they will believe her – when she tells them Asmodean has thrown in with the other side. She tells Rand the shield she has put on the man will only allow him to channel a trickle, though it will dissipate in time, but it will be enough to teach him in the meantime. Asmodean screams and pleads with her again, calling her “Mierin”, and she snarls at him that her name is Lanfear, and begins pummeling him with the Power. Rand wearily draws on the fat man angreal again, and flings the Power between them in hopes of distracting her from killing Asmodean. Instead he causes a ten-foot high wall of fire that almost kills Asmodean. Lanfear rounds on him, infuriated, and Rand thinks she might kill him, but then she regains control of herself and purrs seductively at him. Rand asks if she hurt anyone back at Alcair Dal.

Her face never stopped smiling, but her caress changed, fingers suddenly poised as if to rip out his throat. “Such as who? I thought you had realized you did not love that little farmgirl. Or is it the Aiel jade?”

Rand says he just needs to use them for a while longer, trying to seem callous about it, and she laughs and says she remembers when he was too soft-hearted to use people, and tells him she does not kill without cause. She surveys the city again, and tells Rand to use Asmodean’s teaching well, for Sammael, Demandred, and Rahvin will be more eager than ever to destroy him once they learn he carries that ter’angreal. She seems to consider taking it from him again, but then opens a Power-wrought doorway to someplace full of white marble and silk hangings. Rand asks as she steps toward which one she had been, and she smiles coyly.

“Do you think I could stand to be fat, ugly Keille?” She ran hands down her rounded slimness for emphasis. “Isendre, now. Slim, beautiful Isendre. I thought if you suspected, you would suspect her. My pride is strong enough to support a little fat, when it must.”

She laughs at Isendre’s foolishness, and says that Rand might get back in time to save her from punishment for the thievery Lanfear framed her for. She marvels at the changes in the Aiel from her day, and tells Rand to learn well and quickly, and leaves. Rand takes a breath, and remembers the name “Mierin” from his trip through the glass columns; he wonders if she had known what she was doing when she bored the hole into the Dark One’s prison. Asmodean staggers to his feet, and informs Rand that he’s a lousy teacher, and that now he is fated to go mad just like any other saidin channeler. Rand totters off and searches the rubble in the square until he finds the female access ter’angreal, and considers destroying it.

“She was looking for that.” He had not realized Asmodean had followed him. Wavering, the man scrubbed at his bloody mouth. “She will rip your heart out to put her hands on it.”

“Or yours, for keeping it secret from her. She loves me.” Light help me. Like being loved by a rabid wolf!

He decides to keep it, as it might come in handy. He looks out over the altered valley and sees that the water formerly deep below the surface has been broken free, and is already forming a lake at one end of the valley. He thinks that people will come to live here, and maybe even rebuild Rhuidean; maybe he’ll even live to see it. He opens a doorway back to the dark place, and Asmodean sneers at the step he creates for them both to ride back on. As they travel, Rand says he can’t call him Asmodean; Asmodean shivers and tells him his real name was Joar Addam Nesossin, but Rand says he can’t call him that either. He decides they will stick with Jasin Natael, and he can be the gleeman to the Dragon Reborn. He tells Asmodean the first thing he will teach him is how to guard his dreams. They arrive back at Alcair Dal, where the Aiel have stopped fighting and are watching Moiraine, Egwene, Lan, and the Wise Ones, who have joined the chiefs on the ledge. Mat and the Maidens squat a little ways off. Everyone gapes as Rand and Natael step through onto the ledge, though Mat grins as well. Rand asks Adelin to go and tell the Aiel at the fair to stop beating Isendre; Adelin is startled, but sends another Maiden to do it. Moiraine demands to know where he’s been, and watches as he wraps his coat around the two statuettes, trying to keep them hidden.

He did not know if she even suspected what they were, but he intended to hide them as best he could from anyone. If he could not trust himself with Callandor’s power, how much less with the great sa’angreal? Not until he had learned more of how to control it, and himself.

He asks what happened here, ignoring Moiraine, and Rhuarc answers that Couladin and the Shaido have left, along with portions of the other clans except Taardad; all who remain support Rand. Rand thinks he is not done with the Shaido, and tells himself he has to be hard. Rand mounts his horse, motioning Asmodean to stand beside him, and tells those still on the ledge that it is a long and bloody road back, and it begins when the other clan chiefs get here.

“It began long ago,” Rhuarc said quietly. “The question is where and how it ends.”

Rand has no answer for that.

The inevitable climactic epic battle scene that is invariably a part of the Big Ass WOT Ending is very cool, as always. However, not to be a Debbie Downer or anything, but I can’t help noticing that it’s been four times in a row now that Rand has been thrown into a Colossal One Power Showdown without having a clue of what he’s doing, and basically just making shit up, channeling-wise, and pulling a win out of nowhere, when by all rights he should have been killed, well, four times over. At least this one doesn’t still include Ishamael somehow.

So I think the best thing that this particular Big Ass Ending provides us, therefore, is the hope of assurance that the next Big Ass Ending will not be more of the same, as presumably Rand will have actually learned something about channeling by the end of the next book. I mean, finally! (And we are right, mostly. But more on that as we get to it.)

This is also, as usual for a WOT Big Ass Ending, a scene which I would kill to see on film, and yet simultaneously can’t imagine that a film version would be able to do the esotericness of it justice, no matter how much money you spent on the FX. I’m just saying, any duke ‘em out single combat scene which also collapses mountains has got issues going in re: a coherent visual representation.

The chapter also nicely sets up a lot of what’s coming in The Fires of Heaven, in particular the Battle of Cairhien (to this day one of my favorite scenes in all WOT) and Lanfear’s nuclear meltdown of Crazy on the docks of same. Because remember: not stupid, but really fucking crazy. I mean, damn.

So, to put my initial confusion on the whole Lanfear/Asmodean plot to bed, it seems that Lanfear was definitely Keille, not Isendre, Lanfear did not know about the Couladin thing (or the Rhuidean thing) beforehand, and while Rand knew the two of them were skulking about, he totally fell for the Kadere/Isendre strawmen.

Oh, and Lanfear is a whole Planter’s factory of nuts. Well, I knew that last one already.

The tag prophecy here is also one of my favorites:

And when the blood was sprinkled on ground where nothing could grow, the Children of the Dragon did spring up, the People of the Dragon, armed to dance with death. And he did call them forth from the wasted lands, and they did shake the world with battle.

Which, of course, is a reference to the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, which is probably my favorite Greek myth ever, because I’m pretty sure it was the first of them I ever read. I think I was probably eight or nine, and I just loved the hell out of it, and was like “why isn’t there more stuff like this?”

And lo, I found out there was, and the rest, as they say, is history. Or mythology. Ba dum dum.

So here ends The Shadow Rising. While it is not my personal favorite of the books, at least going by which I’ve voluntarily reread the most, I do think it is probably the best written of the currently published novels, taken individually: elegant, tight plotting, well-woven and satisfactorily resolved plot threads, fabulous character development, and some of the most gripping (and moving) action sequences in the whole series. I’m glad this is where I chose to slow things down, as I think I was much better able to appreciate it as a result.

Good times, y’all. Good times.

Four down, and still alive! Aw, Yeah. Join me next time, Gadget, next time mrrrrrow, for the start of Book Five, The Fires of Heaven. Whoot!


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