What up, yo: Welcome to a brand shiny new installment of The Wheel of Time Re-read! Today we will be covering Chapters 34-36 of The Shadow Rising.
Previous entries can be found thataway; this and all other posts are rife with spoilers for all of the currently published Wheel of Time novels. Read ’em or weep!
And... that’s all I got to say about that. Onward!
Chapter 34: He Who Comes With the Dawn
Rand and Mat shuffle painfully away from Rhuidean, trying to beat the sun back to the camps. Mat is in particularly bad shape, frequently stumbling and clutching his head; Rand notes that Mat is not complaining, which is a bad sign. Rand is not much better, but is only thinking about the prophecy that said he would destroy the Aiel, and the others that say he will Break the world again, which horrifies him.
“Light,” he said harshly, “I don’t want to destroy anybody.” His mouth felt lined with dust again.
Mat glanced at him silently. A wary look.
I am not mad yet, Rand thought grimly.
He thinks to himself that he had to do it, though; he needed the Aiel, a people who followed him for a reason other than greed or fear. He and Mat have almost reached the Wise Ones’ camp when Couladin yells at him, demanding to know what he has done with Muradin; he says Rand must have murdered him, and attacks, casting a spear at him, followed by two more from other Shaido. Rand slices two of them out of the air with saidin and Mat knocks aside the third with his spear, and Couladin howls that this is proof – they went into Rhuidean armed and are covered with blood. This time a dozen spears come at them. Rand and Mat fling themselves aside, and the spears bounce off each other and somehow end up stuck in the ground in a perfect circle around the spot he had just been standing. Everyone is stunned for a moment, even Couladin. Bair runs down the slope in a fury, yelling at Couladin to stop; if he violates the peace of Rhuidean again he will be outlawed. Couladin starts to protest about Rand and Mat’s weapons again, but Bair declares they went unarmed, though she asks Mat in an undertone where he got the spear.
“I was given it, old woman,” Mat growled back hoarsely. “I paid for it, and I mean to keep it.”
Bair sniffs, and tells Rand to get rid of his fire sword and show them the signs before Couladin whips them up again. Rand doesn’t know what she’s talking about for a moment, and then remembers what Rhuarc showed them. He pushes up his left sleeve:
Around his forearm wound a shape like that on the Dragon banner, a sinuous golden-maned form scaled in scarlet and gold. He expected it, of course, but it was still a shock. The thing looked like a part of his skin, as though that nonexistent creature itself had settled into him. His arm felt no different, yet the scales sparkled in the sunlight like polished metal; it seemed if he touched that golden mane atop his wrist, he would surely feel each hair.
He raises his arm above his head, and mutters rise, but the Aiel seem to want more. Bair grabs his other arm and pushes back that sleeve too, revealing a second Dragon wound around his right arm, and her breath catches. Rand thinks of the prophecy (“twice and twice shall he be marked”) and wonders what the price is, and when he will have to pay it. Bair thrusts his right arm in the air too, and proclaim him the Car’a’carn, a chief of chiefs, and that prophecy was begun to be fulfilled. The reaction of the Aiel is not what Rand expected; they stare, and then silently drift away, except Couladin, who snarls first. Rand asks where Moiraine is, and Egwene tells him she must still be in Rhuidean, along with Aviendha, and then shocks him by telling him that he and Mat were in the city for seven days. Rand is appalled at the time lost, and asks how long until Moiraine returns. Bair answers that if she has not returned by the tenth day, she will not; Rand restrains a snarl and asks if one of the Wise Ones will Heal Mat. They say they cannot, and Egwene explains to an indignant Rand that not all women who channel can Heal like Moiraine can. Rand asks Lan why he did not go with Moiraine, and Lan answers darkly that the Wise Ones “convinced” him not to go after her. Rand asks Rhuarc how he is supposed to unite the Aiel when none of them will even look at him. Rhuarc answers that it is one thing to know a prophecy will be fulfilled one day, but another when it starts in front of you. Rand knows he means the prophecy spoke by the old Aes Sedai at Rhuidean, and asks if everyone sees the same thing in the columns; the Wise Ones protest that no one is allowed to speak of what they see in Rhuidean, but Rand answers that he means to change what is and is not allowed.
“Change,” Rhuarc said. “You know he brings change, Amys. It is wondering what change, and how, that makes us like children alone in the dark. Since it must be, let it begin now. No two clan chiefs I have spoken with have seen through the exactly same eyes, Rand, or exactly the same things, until the sharing of water, and the meeting where the Agreement of Rhuidean was made. Whether it is the same for Wise Ones, I do not know, but I suspect it is. I think it is a matter of bloodlines. I believe I saw through the eyes of my ancestors, and you yours.”
Rand feels strange about the reiteration that his ancestors were Aiel, and changes the subject, asking about the “sharing of water”; Rhuarc explains that from the start of the Breaking of the World to the time the Aiel entered the Waste, only one people did not attack them, and offered water freely. He adds that that is over and done with now, and the treekillers spat in their faces. Rand shakes his head, thinking of the amazing complexity of the events that had happened in order for him to be born when and where he was.
How many more points like that had there been, where a single decision one way or another affected the weave of the Pattern for thousands of years? A thousand times a thousand tiny branching points, a thousand times that many, all twitching the Pattern into a different design. He himself was a walking branching point, and maybe Mat and Perrin, too. What they did or did not do would send ripples ahead through the years, through the Ages.
He looked at Mat, hobbling up the slope with the aid of his spear, head down and eyes squinted in pain. The Creator could not have been thinking, to set the future on the shoulders of three farmboys. I can’t drop it. I have to carry the load, whatever the cost.
They reach the tents, and take Mat inside to tend to his wounds, but Lan stops Rand and asks if he saw Moiraine in there; Rand says he did not, but assures Lan that if anyone would make it out, Moiraine would. Lan grunts, and warns Rand to be careful of Couladin. Rhuarc agrees, and says he will detail Jindo to guard Rand. Rand joins Mat inside to get his injuries tended to; and asks Rhuarc how he could get ahead of Couladin, to tell the other clan chiefs about his markings. Rhuarc replies that there are places that clan chiefs meet; the closest is Alcair Dal. Mat repeats the name, giving it a subtly different sound, and translates: “The Golden Bowl?” Rhuarc nods, though he says there is nothing golden about it. Rand frowns, and thinks he was not the only one marked in Rhuidean; Mat understood the Old Tongue whole now, though he didn’t seem to be aware of it. Rand notes that Egwene has noticed this too. He asks Rhuarc how long it will take to get all the chiefs to Alcair Dal, and Rhuarc says weeks, though it will go faster if the Wise Ones visit their clan’s chiefs in the dream. Rand asks Amys if they will do it, and she asks bitterly if he is so eager to destroy them. Rand answers that he has no time; nine Forsaken still live, and he cannot afford to wait. Amys does not seem surprised by the news, and finally says that they will do it. Rand feels some of his tension lift, and asks Amys to tell him about his mother. Amys tells him Shaiel came to them while Amys was still Far Dareis Mai, and how they had found her wandering the Waste in silks and finally out of curiosity gave her water. She never gave her real name, instead taking “Shaiel”, which means “Woman who is Dedicated” (Mat nods, and Lan eyes him).
“She spoke of a child abandoned, a son she loved. A husband she did not love. Where, she would not say. I do not think she ever forgave herself for leaving the child. She would tell little beyond what she had to. It was for us she had been searching, for Maidens of the Spear. An Aes Sedai called Gitara Moroso, who had the Foretelling, had told her that disaster would befall her land and her people, perhaps the world, unless she went to dwell among the Maidens of the Spear, telling no one of her going. She must become a Maiden, and she could not return to her own land until the Maidens had gone to Tar Valon.”
Rand thinks he’s heard that name, Gitara Moroso, before, but cannot think of where, and also wonders at the thought that he has a half-brother somewhere. Amys continues that no one not Aiel had ever become a Maiden, but somehow they found themselves agreeing to let her try, and though it was hard, Shaiel succeeded. Seana picks it up, commenting that Rand looks a little like her, and less like Janduin, his father. Janduin had been the youngest clan chief of the Taardad in memory, and had done much to bring peace among warring clans. Rand asks how he died; Amys says he was devastated by Shaiel’s death, gave up leadership of the clan, and went north to fight Trollocs and Fades in the Blight. Those who returned, though, said he’d been killed by a man; Janduin had claimed that the man looked like Shaiel, and would not defend himself when the man ran him through. After this, Rand spends the rest of the day watching Rhuidean, waiting for Moiraine to return; at one point he asks Melaine, who is angry with him for refusing to eat, why she is not plotting with Couladin to kill him, since he is supposed to destroy the Aiel. Melaine storms out, and Bair answers that he is both the Aiel’s doom and their salvation.
“Without you, no one of our people will live beyond the Last Battle. Perhaps not even until the Last Battle. That is prophecy, and truth. With you . . . ‘He shall spill out the blood of those who call themselves Aiel as water on sand, and he shall break them as dried twigs, yet the remnant of a remnant shall he save, and they shall live.’ A hard prophecy, but this has never been a gentle land.”
Some time after this Aviendha returns, exhausted and sunburned; when she catches sight of Rand, she glares at him with hatred in her eyes, and Mat advises Rand not to turn his back on her. Rand supposes that she has been through the columns and that’s why she hates him. At sunset Moiraine appears, almost collapsing with exhaustion, and Rand regrets that the only thing he feels is relief at the time saved. Mat asks what he is going to do now.
“Something you should like. I am going to break the rules.”
Yay, infodump. Fun to read, not so much to recap.
I mentioned it before but it’s worth reiterating how much I liked the little detail that Mat will yowl and complain if there’s nothing really wrong, but is silent when in real pain. Why I like it so much I’m not really sure about. Something about how it indicates what a person’s like when their back is to the wall, or that they know when to drop the bullshit and buckle in, maybe.
So, yeah, I was wrong earlier about the glass columns using only one genealogical line to send everyone through, mea culpa. On reflection, it works, since the Aiel traveled in one humongous group for practically the entire span of time covered in their Wayback Machine, and as Rhuarc says, everyone only gets the same coverage once they reach the Waste and split up into clans. Though how the glass columns handle that logistically is... something I’m not going to bother thinking about, honestly. “It’s The Magic, Stupid” works for me on this one.
I think the thing that really made the Aiel storyline in general work is their entirely believable reaction to Rand’s coming and declaration as Car’a’carn. Which is to say, their distinct lack of enthusiasm at the news, which is I think at least in part Jordan’s gentle poke at how these things often go in stories of this type, as Rand himself notes:
In the stories, when somebody fulfilled a prophecy, everyone cried “Behold!” or some such, and that was that except for dealing with the villains. Real life did not seem to work that way.
I note in passing that Rand’s thought about the Creator laying the fate of the world on three farmboys upholds my Character Pyramid argument from the previous entry. I’m just saying!
I can’t remember off the top of my head whether Rand puts it together that Gitara is also the Aes Sedai Moiraine told him in TGH had announced his birth just before dying. Not that it matters, I suppose, though I think realizing this may be partially what helped him figure out that Shaiel = Tigraine. I wonder if he’s ever going to tell anybody about that? Not that he needs to, I guess, but I just think it would be cool if someone besides him knew that he is actually of royal blood, just to see their reactions.
Chapter 35: Sharp Lessons
Egwene enters the Heart of the Stone in the Dreamworld and is startled to see a woman there dressed like a Sea Folk woman, except with no blouse. She gasps, “Elayne?”, and Elayne jumps and whirls, suddenly dressed in a very demure green dress, and explains embarrassed, that that is how the Sea Folk women dress at sea, and she just wanted to see what it was like. She tells Egwene that Juilin and Thom are with them, sent by Rand and Lan (and Moiraine), and that Nynaeve is quite set up about it, though she won’t admit it.
Egwene smothered a small smile. Nynaeve was set up? Elayne’s face was beaming, and her dress had changed again, to a much lower neckline, apparently without her realizing it. The ter’angreal, the twisted stone ring, helped the Daughter Heir reach the World of Dreams as easily as Egwene did, but it did not confer control.
Elayne asks how Rand is, and Egwene tells her everything that happened, adding that she is worried that Rand is getting harder, that he only sees pieces on a game board instead of people, but Elayne replies that sometimes to do what’s right, a king or general must sometimes hurt some people in order to avoid hurting everyone. Egwene doesn’t like it, but accepts this, and moves on to the subject of Wise Ones, and the fact that some of them can channel, including Aviendha; Elayne says of course: she felt the same kinship for Aviendha that she did for Jorin. Then she grimaces, realizing she has betrayed her promise not to say anything about the Windfinders, and asks Egwene to keep quiet about it. Egwene agrees thoughtfully, reflecting that that was two societies now that had channeling women as integral and respected members of it without imposing any type of binding on them. Elayne moves on and tells Egwene that the Sea Folk think Rand is their Coramoor, and that she thinks they are ready to follow him without question; Egwene sighs and wishes the same were true of the Aiel. As it is, Couladin would kill him given half a chance.
Elayne took a step forward. “You will see that doesn’t happen.” It was not a question or a request. There was a sharp light in her blue eyes, and a bared dagger in her hand.
“I will do the best I can. Rhuarc is giving him bodyguards.”
Elayne seemed to see the dagger for the first time, and gave a start. The blade vanished. “You must teach me whatever Amys is teaching you, Egwene. It is disconcerting to have things appear and disappear, or suddenly realize I’m wearing different clothes. It just happens.”
Egwene promises to do what she can, but warns Elayne that she might not always be able to make their meetings. Elayne glances at Callandor, driven into the floor, and asks Egwene why she thinks Rand did that. Egwene replies that he said it would hold the Tairens to him, to know that he was coming back, and hopes he’s right. Elayne says hesitantly that she thought it might have been because he was angry about something. Egwene asks, like what? Elayne mentions the two letters she gave him, and when Egwene asks if she said something angering in them, she laughs it off, but her dress flickers wildly and her hair springs up in all directions. Then Egwene feels something snatch her away, and is gone.
Egwene wakes in her tent with a gasp, and finds Amys sitting there. She asks angrily why Amys pulled her out, and Amys cuts her off, saying she may be Aes Sedai in the Tower, but here she is an ignorant child playing with snakes. Egwene tries to protest, and is suddenly hauled into the air by one ankle; furious, she tries to embrace saidar and finds herself blocked. Amys snarls that she was warned, but went anyway.
Her eyes seemed to glow in the dark, brighter and brighter. “Never a care for what might be waiting. There are things in dreams to shatter the bravest heart.” Around eyes like blue coals, her face melted, stretched. Scales sprouted where skin had been; her jaws thrust out, lined with sharp teeth. “Things to eat the bravest heart,” she growled.
Egwene screams as jaws close around her face, and wakes again in her tent, still cut off from the Source. She starts scrabbling for her knife, and Amys tells her acidly to calm down. Egwene asks shakily if it is really her this time, and Amys replies it was her both times; sharp lessons are the best. She continues that she did not know Aes Sedai could lie, yet Egwene went into the Dreamworld after promising she would not. She lets go of the shield around Egwene, sighing that she cannot hold it any longer, as Egwene is so much stronger than she in the Power, but says that if Egwene will not follow directions, she will not teach her. Egwene swears to do as she is told from now on, but implores Amys to let her meet with her friends – they need her help. Amys stares a moment, and then tells Egwene to braid her hair. Egwene is confused, and Amys says that she will wear her hair in two braids with ribbons, like little Aiel girls wear it, and will keep her hair that way until she shows she can be trusted as a grown woman. Egwene tries to bargain with Amys, but Amys is having none of it, and finally Egwene agrees. Amys tells her that she has a strong talent for the dream, and will likely outstrip all of them one day, but not if she doesn’t live to see that day. Amys waits to see if Egwene is going to try bargaining further, but Egwene manages to stay silent, and at length Amys adds she will go with Egwene to meet her friends. Then Amys tells her there is work to be done, and brings Egwene to a tent set up as a sweat bath. She and Egwene join the other Wise Ones and Moiraine already inside, with a sullen Aviendha tending the coals. The Wise Ones begin discussing Rand, and how to make sure as many of the Aiel as possible survive his coming, and also to make sure he survives as well, and for that he will need guidance. Egwene asks if Rhuarc cannot guide him in Aiel ways, and Amys answers that her husband is a good chief, but no peacemaker; they need someone to be there to tell him when he is about to step wrong. Also, they need someone to watch him, to help them figure out what he is going to do so that they can know what to do to most help the Aiel. Bair asks Egwene whether he would confide in her, but Egwene replies that she doubts it; he does not trust as he used to. Moiraine puts in coolly that she will help where she can, but that she has little influence with Rand these days. Bair sighs, and tells Aviendha that she will stay as close to Rand al’Thor as she can manage, from waking to sleeping, and listen to him in the hope he will let something slip to a pretty woman. Aviendha spits that she will not; Bair is amazed, and Egwene hastily interjects that it would not be betraying Elayne to merely keep an eye on him. This only makes Aviendha angrier, and Amys demands to know what her problem is.
“I do not like him!” Aviendha burst out. “I hate him! Hate him!” Had Egwene not known better, she would have thought her close to tears. The words shocked her, though; surely Aviendha could not mean it.
“We are not asking you to love him, or take him to your bed,” Seana said acidly. “We are telling you to listen to the man, and you will obey!”
The Wise Ones mercilessly browbeat Aviendha, but she will not comply, until Egwene puts a hand on her shoulder and asks her if she will do it for her, as her near-sister. She could think of it as watching over him for Elayne. Aviendha slumps, and acquiesces. Business done, everyone goes back to enjoying the sweat bath, and Egwene asks Moiraine in an undertone if Rhuidean was very bad. Moiraine replies quietly that the memories will fade, and as for those that don’t:
“The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, and we are only the thread of the Pattern. I have given my life to finding the Dragon Reborn, finding Rand, and seeing him ready to face the Last Battle. I will see that done, whatever it requires. Nothing and no one can be more important than that.”
Moiraine: still awesome.
Egwene: slightly... less awesome. I used to not get why people got so annoyed with Egwene, but reading this now, I see it, because she is totally the “Ooh! Ooh!” Girl.
You know who I mean: that annoying girl in grammar/high school who was always the first – and middle, and last – person to raise her hand in class; and she wouldn’t just raise it, she would shoot it up like a cannon going off, it was like she was trying to bust her own hole in the ozone layer over there. She’s the girl who is completely convinced she knows everything, and is unfortunately just smart/talented enough that it is very difficult to convince her otherwise. She has an opinion on everything, and is eager and excited and impatient and confrontational and tactless and even though you know she at least theoretically will go on to do great things one day (or at least definitely graduate college), right then she basically drives everyone there including the teacher right up the goddamn wall.
Egwene is totally that girl. And yet, though I see why others would therefore be annoyed with her, I cannot get annoyed with her, because I was also totally that girl.
Maturity has blunted the edges a bit (no, really, it has – think of that, and shudder), but yeah, I was totally that girl, and at her age, in her situation, I doubt I would have fared better in the “Sharp Lessons” department than Egwene. (Mrs. Scarcello, if you’re still out, there, I hereby officially nominate you for sainthood.)
So I get why people don’t like her, but I cannot participate. Us “Ooh! Ooh!” Girls gots to stick together, aight?
Chapter 36: Misdirections
The Aiel head out from Chaendaer in three parties: the Taardad with Rand, the Shaido, and the Wise Ones in their own small party between, to keep hostilities from erupting. The Shaido left when the others did, even though by tradition Couladin should have waited another day for Muradin to emerge. Egwene, Moiraine and Lan ride with the Wise Ones; Rand watches them and wonders what they are saying. He also wonders why Egwene is wearing her hair in pigtails. Walking beside him, Aviendha abruptly tells him that Elayne is the woman for him, and Rand thinks she had obviously been set to spy on him, and that he is supposed to be stupid enough not to realize this just because Aviendha is pretty. He asks what she means, and she begins describing Elayne to him in rather graphic detail. Mortified, Rand tries to cut her off, but she says implacably that if Elayne did not arrange for him to see her at her bath, Aviendha will act as her near-sister and remedy the lack. The Aiel nearby (and Mat) are vastly amused at his efforts to shut her up, and Aviendha angrily tells him that Elayne laid her heart bare to him in those two letters, and meant every word, and yet Rand rejects her.
Rand scrubbed a hand through his hair, and had to rearrange his shoufa. Elayne meant every word? In both letters? That was flat impossible. One contradicted the other nearly point for point!
He misses Min, who had only occasionally insulted him or made him feel a fool, unlike Elayne or Aviendha, who both made him feel like a complete idiot. Aviendha stalks in silence, staring at him, and he wishes she would go away.
Mat shades his eyes against the glare and wonders why Rand is putting up with the Aiel woman, who in his opinion makes Nynaeve look meek. He watches the Wise Ones and Moiraine, and thinks about his situation.
I’ve been to Rhuidean. I’ve done what those snake folk said I had to. And what did he have to show for it? This bloody spear, a silver medallion, and . . . I could go now. If I have any sense, I will.
He looks out over the barren landscape, and grimaces. Maybe he should stay a while longer. A Maiden scout who Mat regrettably recognizes as Dorindha (she had played Maiden’s Kiss with him in Tear) comes back to the column with the news that peddlers are approaching; Mat perks right up, but notices that Rand has gone stone-faced at the news. Rhuarc orders the column to pick up the pace, looking displeased, until the huge caravans of wagons comes into view. Mat asks why everyone seems upset; he thought peddlers, gleemen, and Tinkers were allowed free passage in the Waste. He doesn’t get an answer, and Rand sidles up to him and mutters that he should probably not bring up Tinkers. Once the wagons stop, Rhuarc and Heirn go to meet them, and Rand, Aviendha, Rand’s bodyguard of a hundred Jindo, and Mat all follow; from the Shaido side, Couladin approaches as well. Mat notices that no one from the Wise Ones’ party comes, instead gathering around Moiraine and something in her hands that sparkles. The leader of the wagons introduces himself as Hadnan Kadere, and Mat notes that though he sweats copiously, he does not seem intimidated by the Aiel. Kadere tells them he seeks Cold Rocks Hold, and Rhuarc informs him coldly that he is nowhere near Cold Rocks, and if he had continued another day, he would have reached Rhuidean. Kadere goes pale and hastens to assure the Aiel that he would never have done so deliberately, and Rhuarc says he may travel with him to Cold Rocks. At this, Couladin jumps in, saying that the Shaido have the larger numbers, and therefore the peddlers should travel with him. Rhuarc bitingly asks if Couladin became a clan chief while he wasn’t looking. Couladin reddens, and retorts that the Shaido are also concerned with He Who Comes With the Dawn, and will follow him. Mat notes that he did not say that Rand was that person. Rand, staring at the wagons, doesn’t seem to be listening. After a moment, Rhuarc says the Shaido will be allowed to camp outside Cold Rocks Hold. Kadere sighs with relief and offers to start trading then and there, but Rhuarc says they will camp at Imre Stand that night, and trade will be done then. Kadere starts to put his hat back on.
“A hat,” Mat said, reining Pips closer to the peddler. If he had to remain in the Waste a bit longer, at least he could keep that bloody sun out of his eyes. “I’ll give a gold mark for a hat like that.”
“Done!” called a woman’s huskily melodious voice.
Mat starts at the sight of the immensely fat woman in cream-colored silk approaching; Rand frowns and shakes his head. The woman introduces herself as Keille Shaogi, and snatches Kadere’s hat and offers it to Mat, saying he will need it to survive the Three-Fold Land, where a man can die just like that. Mat thinks she is very odd, but thinks the broad shady hat is worth it, and pays up. Keille turns to Rand and asks if there is anything she might sell him, but Rand merely shakes his head and says nothing. Mat notices, as they get ready to head out, that a gleeman is standing back by Keille’s wagon. Mat tries to engage Rand in conversation about how strange the peddlers are, but Rand says nothing, unnerving Mat, and Aviendha opines that Mat understands nothing. Rand finally says something about Kadere’s eyes, how they had never changed, and that Kadere was a dangerous man. Mat agrees uneasily.
Rand changed his study to the tops of the nearest spires and buttes, twisting his head this way and that. “Time is the risk,” he murmured. “Time sets snares. I have to avoid theirs while setting mine.”
Mat asks, snares? Rand doesn’t answer directly, but leans toward Mat and says in a loud stage whisper that they ride with evil now, and to watch himself. Mat is incredulous that he thinks Kadere is evil.
“A dangerous man, Mat—the eyes always give it away—yet who can say? But what cause have I to worry, with Moiraine and the Wise Ones watching out for me? And we mustn’t forget Lanfear. Has any man ever been under so many watchful eyes?” Abruptly Rand straightened in his saddle. “It has begun,” be said quietly. “Wish that I have your luck, Mat. It has begun, and there is no turning back, now, however the blade falls.”
He heads back toward the Taardad, and Mat follows, wondering what the hell all that had meant, and thinking he simply had to find a way out of here before it was too late.
I read this chapter, and all I can think is to say, in a Vaguely Aussie Gamekeeper Guy From Jurassic Park voice, “Clever author”.
Okay, where to start with all the clever on display. First there is the chapter icon, which is so one of those tests you get where the professor tells you to read ALL the instructions before starting the test, and of course no one does, and it’s only at the end of the test you find out that all you had to do to get a passing grade is write your name at the top, Wah-wah horn noise! In other words, if only you had paid ATTENTION, dear reader, you would totally have known what was up with this chapter even before you read it.
Which I could put down to Jordan being snarky, except for how, 98% of the time, he was totally right. Very, very few people I’ve talked to have claimed (believably) that they noticed the icon or its significance the first time they read this.
(And if you did notice it, I have to bust out Kate’s favorite quote from The Princess Bride: “Yes, you’re very smart. Now shut up.”)
Then there is the tactic of switching to Mat’s POV before we meet the peddlers, just so we can be suitably bothered and bewildered (and bewitched, I suppose) by Rand’s ominous comments of Apparent Crazy. You can tell that was the purpose, because this is one of the few Mat POVs that is really not about Mat in any significant way, other than some hints that will be expanded upon in the next chapter (and, of course, the acquisition of The Hat).
I really did not twig for the longest time to the fact that Rand knew Keille was Lanfear from the moment she appeared – no, scratch that, he knew something was up from the moment he heard there were peddlers. I didn’t pick up on this even though he specifically brings her up at the end of the chapter, apropos of apparently nothing. Don’t I feel sheepish. What’s more, Rand’s comments right there also indicate that he knows (or at least strongly suspects) that Moiraine and Co. were listening in as well.
It’s probably a matter of opinion as to whether his bringing up Lanfear was meant to be a warning to Moiraine, snarky bitterness over his funny-ha-ha-but-not-really predicament, or both. Or, possibly, even a warning to Lanfear, though I would think that would be a rather tactically unsound move, all things considered. But, hey this is Rand we’re talking about, so maybe he thinks it’s the chivalrous thing to do, blargh. I guess the only real question was whether he had figured out that the gleeman was really Asmodean already, or if that came later.
As a piece of writing, it is, as I’ve noted, bloody freakin’ clever (“Misdirections”. INDEED, Mr. Jordan); as a character note on Rand, though, I’ve never been able to decide if it veers into Out Of Character territory or not. As portrayed, Rand’s certainly no idiot, but Holmes-like logical insight has never struck me as one of his strong suits; he seems like more of a “quick thinking in a crisis” kind of guy.
However, now that I think more on this, maybe I’m not being fair to the character. Rand does do a pretty fair amount of deductive reasoning from small and/or obscure clues (the decision to go to Rhuidean itself being one example). I guess that, to me, this is just somewhat occluded by the number of times he’s let his ta’veren-ness lead him around by the nose – or alternately, the number of times he’s reasoned out something that turns out to be dead wrong.
Then again, I guess it would be boring if he was right all the time. Right?
As a last note on this chapter, consider the following:
... rough flats broken by hills and tall stone spires and flat-topped buttes, gray and brown and every hue between, some streaked with long swirls in shades of red and ocher. Occasionally a great natural arch loomed as they moved north and west, or strange, huge slabs of rock balanced improbably, forever on the brink of falling. Every way Rand looked, jagged mountains reared in the distance. All the wreckage of the Breaking of the World seemed gathered here in the place called the Aiel Waste.
Is this a shoutout to the badlands of the American West, and the nuclear testing done out there, or what?
And I’m spent, kiddies. See you Wednesday!