Greetlings, WOTlings! Welcome back (finally) to the Wheel of Time Re-read, eh?
Today’s entry covers Chapter 32 of Winter’s Heart, in which we contemplate Risky Business, though with surprisingly little sock-sliding.
“Distinctions”, the Prologue for Towers of Midnight, the upcoming newest release in the series, is now available for download, and a preview of Chapter 1, “Apples First”, is available here. A special preview of Chapter 8, “The Seven Striped Lass”, can be found here. If you would like to read my completely spoiler-free advance review of Towers of Midnight, you can find it here.
Please refrain from posting spoilers for the Prologue, Chapter 1 or Chapter 8 in the posts for the Re-read, in order to protect those who have not yet read them, or do not intend to before the release of the entire book. Spoiler discussion is going on here, in a special post just for discussion of preview material; please keep all spoilers there. Thanks.
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to all of the above plus links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time 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.
Also, scheduling note: Due to various circumstances, not the least of which being that I need to come up with a suitably stupendous (or lengthy, at least) spoilery review of ToM Real Soon Now, I have made an executive decision to finish off Winter’s Heart by the end of the month, and then we will be going on hiatus again for the release of the new book. But probably not for as long as I did when TGS came out; I’ll have more specifics on that later.
However, for the nonce you can expect the one-post-a-week scheduling to continue for the rest of October, which is to say there are two more posts after this one to go to finish off WH. So expect the next one next Friday.
Okay, so there’s all that. And now, a post!
Chapter 32: A Portion of Wisdom
Rand shows a serving man in a large inn his drawings; the man is not certain, but thinks that one of the men in them is staying at the inn. Rand orders wine and goes to sit at a corner table, hearing snatches of talk from the patrons, including rumors of plague in Far Madding (triggered by a black and bloated corpse found in the streets), and that the Stone of Tear is under siege. The latter is a new one on Rand, but he thinks that Rafela and Merana should be able to handle whatever is going on there. Two men come in while he waits, but neither are Torval, and Rand thinks of how Min, Nynaeve and Alivia have gotten sick of canvassing for the Asha’man, and believe Kisman and the others fled after Rand killed Rochaid; the women are outside the city today, and Rand can tell Min is very excited about something. Lews Therin thinks the women are right, because no one sane would stay where there is no Source, and wants to know why he has a madman in his head. Rand mutes him, and thinks that he can handle not touching the Source in order to kill the renegades.
That is not the reason! Lews Therin shouted, forcing past Rand’s efforts to shut him up. You are afraid! If the sickness takes you while you are trying to use the access ter’angreal, it could kill you, or worse! It could kill us all! he moaned.
Wine slopped over Rand’s wrist, soaking his coatsleeve, and he loosened his grip on the winecup. […] He was not afraid! He refused to let fear touch him. Light, he had to die, eventually. He had accepted that.
They tried to kill me, and I want them dead for it, he thought. If it takes a little time, well, maybe the sickness will pass by then. Burn you, I have to live until the Last Battle. In his head, Lews Therin laughed more wildly than before.
Rand leaves the inn, and runs into Verin; he asks if Cadsuane sent her, trying not to sound hopeful, and Verin answers that Cadsuane would never do that, and adds that Cadsuane is out riding with “the girls”. She natters a bit about Alivia’s potential until Rand asks her for news; she tells him the Seanchan have crossed the border into Illian, though they have not yet reached the city. Rand is very upset by this, thinking all that slaughter in his campaign against them had been for nothing; Lews Therin disagrees that battles change nothing, but adds that the problem is you don’t know what they change until it is too late. Rand asks Verin if Cadsuane would talk to him about something other than his bad manners if he went to see her. Verin replies that Cadsuane is very much “a traditionalist,” though she’s never actually heard her call a man “uppity,” but thinks she will listen to Rand if Rand can mitigate the bad impression he initially made on her.
“Few sisters are impressed by titles or crowns, Rand, and Cadsuane less than any other I know. She cares much more about whether or not people are fools. If you can show her you aren’t a fool, she will listen.”
“Then tell her… ” He drew a deep breath. Light, he wanted to strangle Kisman and Dashiva and all of them with his bare hands! “Tell her I’ll be leaving Far Madding tomorrow, and I hope she will come with me, as my advisor.” Lews Therin sighed with relief at the first part of that; if he had been more than a voice, Rand would have said he stiffened at the second part.
He adds, with a bit of difficulty, that he apologizes for his behavior in Cairhien and promises to watch his manners in future. Verin asks if his leaving means he’s found whatever he was looking for in Far Madding, but Rand dodges the question; Verin tells him where to find Cadsuane, and adds that he could hardly do better for an advisor. She leaves, and Lews Therin murmurs that “that woman” frightens him; Rand allows only that Cadsuane makes him “wary.” Rand meets up with Lan back at their inn, and explains his decision to leave, saying he’d thought he could afford to take the time to deal with the renegades, but realizes he cannot.
“I thought I’d be done with them by now, but events are already marching ahead of what I expected. Just the events I know about. Light, what’s happening that I don’t know about because I haven’t heard some merchant nattering about it over his wine?”
“You can never know everything,” Lan said quietly, “and part of what you know is always wrong. Perhaps even the most important part. A portion of wisdom lies in knowing that. A portion of courage lies in going on anyway.”
Rand asks Lan what Nynaeve and the others are doing with Cadsuane; Lan tells him they asked Cadsuane to teach them, because Nynaeve thought it would help Rand to catch Cadsuane’s interest. Lan informs Rand coldly that he’d better appreciate the sacrifice his wife made in doing this, considering how Cadsuane treats her like one of the Accepted. Rand mutters that that’s how Cadsuane treats everyone, and tries to figure out how to deal with her. Nynaeve, Min and Alivia enter the common room, and Rand asks casually how their ride with Cadsuane went. Nynaeve glares at Lan, but Rand tells her Verin told him, and also apologizes for whatever she went through; he adds that he has asked Cadsuane to be his advisor, and is less than pleased at the admonishing approval he receives from them (though Nynaeve is less enthused than the other two). Nynaeve is excited, though, because Cadsuane has shown her what two of her ter’angreal do: one of her rings can detect saidar and saidin being woven up to three miles away, and her belt is a Well, which can hold a small reservoir of saidar. She demonstrates the latter by brushing his face with Air. Nynaeve thinks Cadsuane knew them because her hair ornaments do similar things, which thrills Rand not at all, to know Cadsuane can channel in Far Madding. The innkeeper interrupts with a letter for Rand, which she hands to Min, along with the (to her) highly suspicious news that a woman was asking after him. Rand says it was Verin, impatient for the woman to be gone; the innkeeper admonishes Min that she should keep a close eye on such a pretty husband. Min is highly amused by this, and opens the letter herself, “as if she were a native of this mad city.” Rand is warned by the bond and snatches the letter just before she goes to hurl it in the fire.
“Don’t be a fool,” she said, catching his wrist. She stared up at him, her large dark eyes deadly serious. All that came to him through the bond was a grim intensity. “Please don’t be a fool.”
“I promised Verin I’d try not,” he said, but Min did not smile.
He smoothed out the page on his chest. The writing was in a spidery hand he did not recognize, and there was no signature.
I know who you are, and I wish you well, but I also wish you gone from Far Madding. The Dragon Reborn leaves death and destruction where he steps. I now know why you are here, too. You killed Rochaid, and Kisman also is dead. Torval and Gedwyn have taken the top floor above a bootmaker named Zeram on Blue Carp Street, just above the Illian Gate. Kill them and go, and leave Far Madding in peace.
It’s got to be worrisome when the crazy dude in your head is the one making more sense. Mmm… although, Rand is sort of also making sense, too, at least in the sense that denial and revenge aren’t actually crazy excuses, just kind of lame ones. Lews Therin continually demanding to know why he has a madman in his head, nevertheless, is both kinds of funny—funny ha ha and funny ouch.
Lan’s words about a portion of wisdom—well, not to get all surfer dude on you, but that’s, like, way deep, man.
Seriously, though, this is a thing which has been observed and commented on throughout history. The temptation to stay put and not go forward because you don’t know whether it’s all going to work out in the end is, in my opinion, one of the single largest factors that hold people back from going for what they want in life. It’s kind of a “duh” statement, maybe, but taking risks is scary. And no one ever achieved anything great without taking some kind of risk to do it.
You could have a debate, of course, over whether the risk Rand is contemplating is not a tad over the top. I mean, there’s taking a risk that something will blow up in your face, and there’s taking a risk that THE WORLD will blow up in your face. Taking the latter chance might be considered just a weensy bit irresponsible, you know?
But then again, the risk is commensurate with the possible result. The taint on saidin shattered the world, pretty much literally; it’s only fitting that removing it should hazard the same consequences.
It helps, of course, that all things being equal we can be pretty sure Jordan wouldn’t have had Our Hero end in that way, but that’s the type of meta observation it’s better to attempt to ignore if you’re going to properly enjoy narrative tension, so, yeah.
The other part of the risk Rand is taking, of course, is of a different kind: having the courage to not achieve a goal—to recognize that failure is actually the better option. It was a very mature decision for him to make, actually. Until Fain went and screwed it all up, natch. I hate him a really lot, you guys. Stop standing in the way of Rand’s Emotional Embiggening, dude!
…And stop trying to murder him, too, that would also be great.
L’anyway. Possible gaffe in this chapter, in that Nynaeve demonstrates her Well to Rand by brushing his face with Air, and yet guards do not storm the inn ten minutes later. I suppose the implication is that a tiny enough amount of saidar would get under the radar (literally)?
And as for Verin’s conversation with Rand: NOOOO, DON’T—crap. I am with Lews Therin on this one. Rand making Cadsuane his advisor: does it prove he’s gullible, insane, or just insanely brave? I think the answer is Yes. Sheesh.
Also, wow. I… really did not remember that Verin actually used the word uppity here. For those of you who may not be aware of this, “uppity” is a serious trigger word, in America at least, when it comes to bigotry, both in a racist and sexist context (Google it and look at the first ten hits if you don’t believe me), and there is no way that a man raised in the American South, as Jordan was, would not have known that. Verin’s implication that this was a typical derogatory term applied to men in Far Madding, therefore, is basically Jordan’s way of indicating in no uncertain terms that they are, collectively, a bunch of straight-up bigots. You know, if the revelation later in the chapter that it was typical for wives to open their husbands’ mail wasn’t indication enough (because are you kidding me with this crap, seriously), but the “uppity” thing really made me blink.
I remain uncertain whether this is intended to excuse Cadsuane’s behavior toward Rand, or an attempt to make us impressed that she’s as “non-traditional” as she is considering her upbringing, or what. But this combined with her frequent use of the appellation “boy,” which previously I had tried to ignore… um, yikes.
To be fair, though, she later refers to Nynaeve as “girl,” so I don’t think the “boy” thing was intended to be quite as… pointed a reference as “uppity,” but, well. I am just rather… befuddled, shall we say, at being asked to reconcile blatantly prejudiced attitudes with a character I am supposed to be rooting for. I’m trying, because I recognize that it could be considered hypocritical of me not to, considering what I’ve said in the past about accepting other gray moral areas in various Lightside characters, but this one is… well, let’s just say this is a gray area that’s particularly hard for me personally to stomach in a character I’m (evidently) meant to like.
Either way, though, it’s certainly a risk to take as an author, to ask the reader to do so. Hmm.
And on that, Like, Way Deep Thought, Man, I leave you. Time of your life, huh kid? *air guitar* See you next week!