You get a line and I’ll get a pole, honey, and we’ll go fishing for a Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry, the good Lord willin’ an’ the creek don’t rise, covers Chapters 21 and 22 of The Path of Daggers, in which the Fun Never Stops. Or begins. Whichever.
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of information regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 21: Answering the Summons
Rand is surprised at how much the fierce winter storms are delaying his plans. The small force of Asha’man (eight Dedicated and forty Soldiers) he sent for arrives with a man named Charl Gedwyn as their commander and Manel Rochaid as his second; Rand is less than thrilled to learn that Taim has invented ranks for them (Gedwyn is “Tsorovan’m’hael”, or “Storm Leader”, and Rochaid is “Baijan’m’hael”, or “Attack Leader”). Gedwyn doesn’t understand why Rand wants so many Asha’man, opining that he and Rochaid could take on an entire army on their own, or Rand could himself; Rand coldly declines to explain and kicks him out of the tent. Lews Therin giggles about killing Gedwyn before he betrays Rand, and Rand mutes him.
Since his reappearance inside Rand’s head, Lews Therin seldom went silent unless forced. The man seemed madder than ever most of the time, and usually angrier as well. Stronger sometimes, too. That voice invaded Rand’s dreams, and when he saw himself in a dream, it was not always himself at all that he saw. It was not always Lews Therin, either, the face he had come to recognize as Lews Therin’s. Sometimes it was blurred, yet vaguely familiar, and Lews Therin seemed startled by it, too. That was an indication how far the man’s madness went. Or maybe his own.
Not yet, Rand thought. I can’t afford to go mad yet.
When, then? Lews Therin whispered before Rand could mute him again.
Rand shifts camp, making no effort to hide his movements from all those he assumes are watching him. Weiramon comes up to pretend to be grateful that Tairen Defenders are guarding Rand instead of Illianer Companions, as the “world would weep” if anything happened to him; Rand dryly comments that he knows how hard Weiramon would cry, which Weiramon takes as a compliment. Weiramon thinks it’s good that Rand has sent away most of the Cairheinin and Illianer forces, and that Rand is keeping Weiramon with him while sending most of the other Tairen nobles away, but thinks he should get to keep all of his armsmen. Rand tells him he doesn’t need more “bodyguards”, as he’s not planning to start a war; each of the nobles he’s kept with him (Gueyam, Maraconn, Aracome, Gregorin and three other Illianers, and Semaradrid) have only been allowed a small number of retainers, and are all the ones Rand trusts the least out of his sight.
How many have died for my pride? Lews Therin moaned. How many have died for my mistakes?
“May I at least ask where we are going?” Weiramon’s question, not quite exasperated, came right atop the voice in Rand’s head.
“The City,” Rand snapped. He did not know how many had died for his mistakes, but none for his pride. He was sure of that.
Rand thinks that it’s almost a shame that Weiramon isn’t “stupid enough to do something that would get him executed.” He makes the gateway himself to Illian despite the dizziness, mainly because Gedwyn and Rochaid are watching him. They go through a little north of the actual city, and Rand frets that Narishma is not back yet. He sends Morr into the city while camp is made; the rest of the army is freaked out by the Asha’man using the Power to erect their portion of the camp (and also that some of them seem to be talking to themselves). Dashiva tries to chat with Gedwyn and Rochaid but is rudely rebuffed. Rand goes to his tent and thinks “feverishly” about the thousand items on his to-do list; Lews Therin gibbers in terror when he thinks about cleansing saidin. Then Narishma enters with a cylindrical bundle, which Rand snatches from him, demanding to know what took him so long. Narishma answers that Rand hadn’t told him everything, and almost got him killed; Rand rejects this as ridiculous, and warns Narishma that he will kill him if he breathes a word about this. Narishma acknowledges this sourly.
Kill the whole world, Lews Therin laughed, a moan of derision. Of despair. I killed the world, and you can, too, if you try hard.
They are joined the next morning by a thousand of the Legion of the Dragon, marching out of the city. Weiramon is typically contemptuous of foot, but the other nobles are clearly wondering what it means that Rand is taking the Legion instead of their armies wherever they’re going. Rand orders the camp struck, and lets Dashiva make the gateway this time, putting them on the Silver Road in the Nemarellin Mountains. Everyone but Weiramon thinks this means Rand knows the Seanchan are coming this way (Weiramon has to have it explained to him), and plans to defend from here. Rand sends out the Asha’man to find the rest of the people he wants, all nobles he trusts even less than the ones he already has with him.
He could not watch all of them all the time, but he could not afford to let them forget that he did watch sometimes. He gathered them, and he waited. For two days. Gnashing his teeth, he waited. Five days. Eight.
Finally, Bashere shows up, who Rand reflects is one of the very few men Rand would trust with his life. Bashere complains mildly about not knowing what’s going on, and hopes this gathering isn’t for a battle, when every noble out there would be thrilled for a chance to stab Rand in the back. Rand replies, who better to die for you than those who want you dead? And besides, the Asha’man are going to be doing all the work.
Bashere snorted so hard that his heavy mustaches stirred. “I think it’s a deadly stew, is what I think. Somebody’s going to choke to death on it. The Light send it isn’t us.” And then he laughed as if that were a fine joke.
Lews Therin laughed, too.
Yes, okay. I remember now—it is this stretch, here, that made me hate TPOD. This whole thing—the campaign against the Seanchan, and Rand being ugly and bitter and mean to everyone whether they deserved it or not, and the unrelenting drizzly gloom and doom, and the corresponding total certainty I had that the entire venture was going to end in disaster.
I’ve said before that I specialize in not guessing plot twists beforehand, but even I am not that karmically blind; this thing was Dee Oh Oh Emed from the get-go, and I knew that even before Bashere predicted it. I would have been much happier to have been proven wrong, personally.
And it sucks, y’all. I just didn’t even want to read this part. I still don’t.
The worst part, I think, was how Rand treated Narishma. Seriously, what a dick move. He just went and retrieved the third most powerful Magical Thingamajig in the world for your ungrateful ass, dude. At least say thank you!
Of course, we now have something of an explanation for why Rand suddenly starts turning into a total asshole in TPOD, and the first inkling of it is provided in this chapter. I refer, of course, to the mention of the new face Rand and Lews Therin see in Rand’s dreams, which is the beginning of the whole “Third Man” Thing.
The exact nature of this “other one” in Rand’s head kept the fandom a-wrangle for well over a decade, impinging as it does on the even more strenuously debated issue of the Lews Therin Thing. For my own part, I remember being distinctly less than thrilled about the appearance of this Third Man regardless of what his deal was, because really? More people in Rand’s skull? Yeah, that’s EXACTLY what he needs right now. Sheesh.
Post-TGS, of course, it is even less thrilling, since that book pretty much confirmed that the Third Man is actually Moridin. Clearly, the “crossing the streams” incident in ACOS established a connection between Rand and Moridin, like some kind of jacked-up mental timeshare, which has only been growing stronger over time. Now with Lews Therin gone and Rand having used the True Power, God only knows what’s going to happen with this in TOM. Somehow I doubt it will be fun.
I have to say this is one mystery that most of the fandom got totally, utterly wrong. Including me. Practically all of the serious debates about this topic, as I recall, centered on two camps: the one which claimed this Third Man was another Dragon from another incarnation, or the one that thought he was “Amalgamation Man”—a sort of proto-Rand/Lews Therin mashup, based on Min’s vision about Rand merging with another man. Despite having some philosophical (not to mention chronological) issues with it, I favored the latter theory, since the “another Dragon” theory depended on Lews Therin being real, which I didn’t believe, and the Amalgamation theory worked whether you thought Lews Therin was real or you thought he was a psychological construct.
But regardless, most of the fandom tended to fall in one of these two camps. People who claimed the third man was Moridin, by contrast, were somewhat scorned, and generally deemed purveyors of Looney Theory-ness. I am sheepish on this score, because I was definitely one of those who thought the idea was utterly stupid, and that definitely shows in the FAQ section devoted to the topic, despite my general effort to be as unbiased as possible. So, uh, my bad. Sowwy.
So, it’s Moridin, and that really does explain a great deal. Rand’s mental comment here, for instance, that he kind of wished Weiramon would fuck up badly enough to justify executing him, which kind of made me go “Wow” even the first time around, and now strikes me as a very Moridin-like thing to say, n’est-ce pas?
I’m not sure if it makes things better or worse that I can now retroactively attribute Rand’s increasing asshole factor to an outside influence. Better, I suppose, because that implies that Rand himself is not to blame, and that if Moridin’s share in the Brain Condo were to lapse Rand would go back to being, well, not an asshole.
The problem, of course, is that even as of TGS Rand doesn’t know Moridin is even on the premises, so to speak. It’s difficult to evict a squatter when you don’t even know he’s there, if I may be permitted to completely beat this metaphor to death. Also, I might be over-ascribing the influence here, especially at this early stage; after all, Rand has occasionally been a jerk all on his own. Either way, hopefully the end of TGS will give him some traction to better handle becoming Not An Asshole, because man am I over it.
Asha’man: I think it was this chapter that sparked one of the more controversial “real-world reference” debates in WOT among the fandom, which was the contention that the Asha’man were in some ways modeled in the style of the Nazi SS.
I know—DUN, right? But there are some evident parallels, as noted in the FAQ:
SS stands for Schutzstaffel (Guardian Group) and was originally created to protect Hitler. Asha’man means Guardians, and one of their functions is (nominally) to protect Rand. […] The leader of the Asha’man is called “M’Hael,” which is “leader” in the Old Tongue. The leader of the SS was the “Führer,” which is “leader” in German. There were 12 officer and 9 enlisted ranks in the Waffen-SS; of these, 5 officer and 1 enlisted rank(s) contained the two words Sturm (storm) and Führer (e.g. Sturmbannführer, Obersturmführer, Sturmscharführer). This is also seen within the Asha’man in Tsorovan’m’hael [Gedwyn’s title, which means “Storm Leader”].
I’ve always been slightly uneasy about this notion, myself. While I certainly grant that Jordan could have borrowed or imitated the infrastructure of the SS without necessarily implying any philosophical similarities between the two groups, even supposing such a superficial association is enough to give me a bit of the willies. And if it were more than that… well. I think it goes without saying that in this day and age, practically any comparison of a group to Nazism is tantamount to censure of it, if not outright condemnation. And the Asha’man, after all, are supposed to be among the Good Guys.
But then again, maybe that uneasiness is the intent. While it’s true that Rand created the Asha’man to be a force for the Light, there’s never been any bones made about the fact that doing so was one of the morally grayer things he’s done in the series (well, thus far, anyway). Not to mention that I’ve been spending half this recap railing against him for leaving such a volatile and potentially disastrous organization in the hands of—well. In the hands of a frustrated, murderous megalomaniac of dubious sanity, actually.
Chapter 22: Gathering Clouds
In the rain, Rand waits impatiently as his forces organize themselves; he had seized saidin in his tent so no one would see him stagger. He thinks the taint seems especially foul at the moment; he’s been holding the Power as much as possible lately to avoid the dizziness problem, though he knows how dangerous this is. He feels the bundle strapped to his mount’s side, and wishes the Forsaken would come after him now, so he could make them weep as he intends to make the Seanchan weep. None of the nobles are happy that they’re doing this with only six thousand men, and Rand thinks they don’t understand that fifty Asha’man are more than sufficient an army.
Rand wondered what they would have said had he told them he was hammer enough by himself. He had considered doing this by himself. It might come to that yet.
Weiramon comes up to complain about having to take orders from Bashere, and Rand tells him to deal or he won’t be with the army at all; he only means that Weiramon will be left behind, but Weiramon goes pale and leaves quickly. Lady Ailil (Cairheinin) and High Lady Anaiyella (Tairen) come up to him to protest their inclusion in the army; Anaiyella adds that she’s heard he has a “particular care for women”, so surely he won’t make them go. Rand is so astonished that this is common knowledge that he loses saidin, and almost falls from his saddle from the dizziness. Cautiously, he acknowledges that he tries to “be careful” of women, but that’s why he wants to keep them close; however, if they prefer he can send them to the Black Tower to keep safe. Anaiyella goes gray at the notion; Ailil refuses calmly, and comments that her brother Toram may be rash and impetuous, but she is not. They leave, and Rand orders Gedwyn to get started. Eight Asha’man form gateways to the Venir Mountains in Altara, and Rand ignores Lews Therin’s pleas to kill them; he sends Flinn to make the ninth, since he doesn’t dare seize saidin again in front of everyone. He notices Gedwyn and Rochaid watching him with “knowing smiles”, and imagines that all of them are staring at him askance. Then he shivers, wondering if he’s coming down with what Nynaeve called “the dreads”.
A kind of madness, a crippling dark suspicion of everyone and everything? There had been a Coplin, Benly, who thought everybody was scheming against him. He had starved to death when Rand was a boy, refusing to eat for fear of poison.
After going through, most of the Asha’man create new gateways (as it is possible to Travel short distances without knowing the land first), spreading out to search for Seanchan. The rest of the army comes through, and Rand starts off by himself; catching up, Bashere comments to Rand that there are no Seanchan here, but there could have been. Rand reluctantly concedes the point, and changes the subject to ask about the remains of a giant statue of a woman nearby, wearing a crown that looks like it’s made of daggers. Bashere thinks she was probably a queen of Shiota, and a conqueror, judging by the remains of a sword in her hand.
“In her time, she might have been as feared and respected as Artur Hawkwing was later, but now even the Brown sisters may not know her name. When you die, people begin to forget, who you were and what you did, or tried to do. Everybody dies eventually, and everybody is forgotten, eventually, but there’s no bloody point dying before your time comes.”
Rand snaps that he has no intention of doing so, and just then sees a man step out of the trees and draw a bow. Rand snarls and seizes saidin, but the dizziness prevents him from doing anything in time, and the archer looses. Only a bevy of quail flying up saves Rand’s life, and the arrow just misses him; fireballs strike the archer a second later and he goes down. Rand vomits, losing saidin and almost falling again. Bashere is concerned, but makes no comment; Rand is deeply relieved to realize he hadn’t burned himself out, but is worried that the sickness is getting worse every time he seizes the Power. They go over to inspect the archer, who is dead, and Rand sees it is Padros, the man who led the remnant of Sammael’s army he co-opted earlier. Gedwyn, Rochaid, Flinn and Narishma are there, too, and Rand notes that Flinn and Narishma are now both stronger than Gedwyn and Rochaid, though none of them come close to Rand himself. Rochaid finds a purse of thirty Tar Valon crowns on Padros, and declares that there’s no doubt who paid him; Bashere counters that Tar Valon coin is very common, and he has some himself. One of the Asha’man scouts returns via gateway, meaning the Seanchan have been found, and Rand tells Bashere it’s time to move.
“What do we do with him?” Gedwyn demanded, gesturing to the corpse. “We ought to send him back to the witches, at least.”
“Leave him,” Rand replied.
Are you ready to kill now? Lews Therin asked. He did not sound insane at all.
Not yet, Rand thought. Soon.
Assid Bakuun watches his Taraboner forces return to the camp, and thinks that while he is proud to be part of the Forerunners, he never expected that over half his command would consist of “descendants of thieves”. He strides over to the sul’dam tent, and asks one of them, Nerith, about her damane; Nerith strokes the damane’s hair and answers that whatever the “indisposition” is, it’s gone now and she’s fine. Bakuun grunts, not really believing this.
Something had been wrong, though, back in Ebou Dar, and not just with this damane. The sul’dam had all been as tight-lipped as clams—and the Blood would not say anything, of course, not to the likes of him!—but he had heard too many whispers. They said the damane were all sick, or insane. Light, he had not seen a single one used around Ebou Dar once the city was secured, not even for a victory display of Sky Lights, and who had ever heard the like of that!
They are interrupted when a raken flies overhead and drops a report. Bakuun goes to his tent and reads it, then tells his lieutenant (Tiras) the news: there is a army ten miles east of them, with about six times their numbers. He wonders how they’d gotten there without being detected, and comments to Tiras that while he doesn’t think this army can know they’re here, he’d like reinforcements. Tiras thinks the damane will do well enough for them, but Bakuun reminds him of the “Aes Sedai weapon” near Ebou Dar, and Tiras sobers and runs off with the message Bakuun hands him. Uneasy, Bakuun orders the camp struck and moved to the forest.
Hubris and paranoia and despair, oh my!
Could we BE having any more fun, you guys? I don’t think it’s possible!
At least Rand isn’t stupid enough to fall for Gedwyn’s attempt to aim his wrath at the Aes Sedai, though I can’t quite remember if Rand thinks that Gedwyn engineered the assassination attempt himself, or that he just took advantage of the opportunity. If the latter, I will have to amend the first sentence of this paragraph—Rand is just not totally stupid. But he’s at least a little stupid, if he doesn’t even slightly suspect Gedwyn of being the perpetrator (whether he actually is or not. I think he is, but I don’t think it’s ever confirmed one way or the other).
So yay, not. The fact that the alleged bribe was thirty pieces crowns was a nice touch, though.
Yeah, guys, sorry, but I got nothing else for this chapter. I can talk about most anything, but this storyline may actually tap me out. So I think I’m going to cut my losses for now, and hope I can rally for a fresh assault next time.
Whatcha gonna do when the creek runs dry? Sit on the bank and watch crawdads die! At least until Friday, so see you then. Yeehaw!