Salutations! Welcome to another Wheel of Time Re-read post!
Today, my fine feathered jalopies, we are covering Chapters 16-18 of The Fires of Heaven, in which we ogle pretty boys, watch bad things happen to bad people, and run away to join the circus. You know, like you do.
Previous entries are here. Please note as always that this and all other posts are swarming, nay, seething with spoilers for all currently published novels in the Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, don’t read. And you have read, bring Raid.
And I think that puts us straight with the Lawd, or at least with people who hate spoilers. Which might include the Lawd, for all I know, except you’d think an omnipotent being would already know the ending to everything, so she probably couldn’t BE spoiled, hey?
...What was I talking about? Oh yes. Onward!
Chapter 16: An Unexpected Offer
Nynaeve wakes from bad dreams of being dragged before the Amyrlin, who is either Elaida or Moghedien, while Rand lies next to her desk, leashed and muzzled like a dog. She had told Elayne the night before that her scratches came from brambles, though she suspects Elayne didn't believe her. Elayne rises soon after, and as they prepare for the day they debate over whether Elayne's plan to take ship for Tear is better than Nynaeve’s idea to go overland, as Nynaeve still cannot remember the name of the place the Blues were supposedly gathering, but come to no decision. They go downstairs for breakfast, even though the common room is half-filled with Whitecloaks. As they finish their meal:
“I thought it was you, Elayne, but the hair put me off at first.”
Nynaeve stared at Galad, Elayne's half-brother. Stared was the word, of course. Tall and steely slender, dark of hair and eye, he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. Handsome was not enough; he was gorgeous.
Nynaeve tells herself to get a grip, and asks fairly calmly what he is doing here, and Elayne asks, in a low fierce voice, what he is doing wearing that, and Nynaeve finally notices that he is in a Whitecloak uniform, with two knots of rank. Galad smiles (Nynaeve takes a deep breath) and says he is here because he was recalled from the north.
“And I am a Child of the Light because it seemed the right thing to do. Elayne, when you two and Egwene vanished, it did not take long for Gawyn and me to find out that you were not doing penance on a farm, whatever we were told. They had no right to involve you in their plots, Elayne. Any of you.”
Nynaeve comments that he gained rank quickly, and he shrugs, dismissing it as unimportant. Still quietly, Elayne asks if their mother knows about this, and Galad replies slightly uneasily that he hasn’t had time to write her. He adds, though, that she may not disapprove as much as Elayne thinks; he’s heard that she is not as friendly with “the north” as before. Elayne is puzzled, and says, but she trained in the Tower too, and Galad hushes her warningly, and Nynaeve realizes he has not once directly mentioned Aes Sedai or the Tower. He asks if Egwene is with them, and Elayne says no, and he sighs, commenting that Gawyn was “nearly unhinged” with worry over her, as he cares for her too.
Nynaeve took note of that “too.” The man had become a Whitecloak, yet he “cared for” a woman who wanted to be Aes Sedai. Men were so strange they were hardly human sometimes.
Elayne asks if Gawyn is here too, and Galad tells her that he remained in the north, though Nynaeve thinks that can’t be right, as it would mean Gawyn was supporting Elaida. Galad continues that all the corruption and vileness in that place “bubbled to the top”, and the woman who had sent them away has been deposed, stilled and executed. With a disgusted look, he says it was never a place for any of them, and he is sure he can get permission to escort his sister home to Caemlyn, where she will be safe. Nynaeve is numb with shock over the news about Siuan, and after a moment Elayne tells Galad that she must think on his offer, and asks for a little time. Nynaeve stares at her, and then they are interrupted by another Whitecloak, who claps Galad on the shoulder and asks to be introduced to the pretty ladies. Galad diverts the other man, and leaves with him, glancing back once with an indecisive expression. The moment he leaves, Elayne announces she is going back to her room, and requires her footman and driver. Nynaeve follows her upstairs to find her packing furiously. She asks what’s the matter, and Elayne tells her they must leave, immediately.
“Right this minute, wherever he is, Galad is puzzling over something he may never have faced before. Two things that are right, but opposite. To his mind it is right to tie me to a packhorse if necessary and haul me to Mother, to salve her worries and save me from becoming Aes Sedai, whatever I want. And it is also right to turn us in, to the Whitecloaks or the army or both. That is the law in Amadicia, and Whitecloak law, too. Aes Sedai are outlawed here [...] I embraced saidar the moment I saw him, and I won’t let it go until we are far from him.”
Nynaeve thinks she is overreacting, and Elayne tells her again that Galad always does what is right, no matter who it hurts, and if he decides the wrong way they could end up walking into a Whitecloak ambush. Juilin and Thom enter, and Elayne tells Thom that Galad is here, and he must remember what a monster he was as a child, and now he is a Whitecloak...
The words seemed to catch in her throat. She stared at Thom, mouth working soundlessly, but no more wide-eyed than he stared at her.
He sat down heavily on one of the chests, never taking his eyes from Elayne’s. “I —“ Clearing his throat roughly, he went on. “I thought I saw him, watching the inn. A Whitecloak. But he looked the man the boy would grow into. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise he grew into a Whitecloak at that.”
Thom says he thought she’d forgotten, and Elayne replies she remembered in Tanchico, and smiles and tugs one of his mustaches, both looking unsteady. Nynaeve has no idea what they’re going on about, and begins discussing with the equally puzzled Juilin how to get out without Galad seeing them, as Nynaeve sees from the window that he is seated outside watching the inn. Juilin offers to crack his skull, and Nynaeve thinks attacking a Whitecloak in Amadicia is a very bad idea.
She leaned over and yanked Thom’s nearest mustache. “Do you have anything to add? Any brilliant plans? Did all your listening to gossip yield anything that might help?”
He clapped a hand to his face and gave her an offended look. “Not unless you think there’s help in Ailron laying claim to some border villages in Altara. A strip the whole length of the border, from Salidar to So Eban to Mosra. Is there any help in that, Nynaeve? Is there? Try to pull a man’s mustache out of his face. Somebody ought to box your ears, for once.”
He begins explaining to Elayne the politics behind the move, and Nynaeve interrupts to bring them back on topic, though she thinks something in what Thom had said tickled her memory. Juilin reports that the only thing the thieves and smugglers in town want to talk about is whether that traveling menagerie will be allowed to perform, and Nynaeve cuts him off, saying that’s it, the menagerie. They all look at her like she’s crazy.
“Of course,” Thom said, much too mildly. “We can get Luca to bring the boar-horses back, and make off while they destroy some more of the town. I don’t know what you gave him, Nynaeve, but he threw a rock at us as we were driving off.”
Nynaeve nobly forgives him for his sarcasm, and explains that Luca said he wanted a patron, and now he’s going to get one. Elayne thinks this is a wonderful idea, and adds that Galad would never think to look in the direction of Ghealdan either. Nynaeve hadn’t thought of this, but pretends she did, and then tries to ignore the sudden taste of catsfern and mavinsleaf in her mouth. She sends Thom and Juilin off to get supplies, over their protests that one of them should stay behind to guard them. After they leave, Elayne points out that channeling doesn’t make them invincible, and Nynaeve acknowledges the value of the men’s help after the Macura incident, but is still determined that it will be when she says, not them. As they pack, she asks Elayne casually about whether she knew Thom from before; Elayne freezes a moment, then answers that he was Court Bard at her mother’s court when Elayne was little, and her mother’s lover. Nynaeve is astounded.
Now she knew why the girl behaved as she did with Thom. She had seen the same back in the Two Rivers a few times. A girl just old enough to really think of herself as a woman. Who else would she measure herself against except her mother? And sometimes, who better to compete against, to prove that she was a woman?
She’s not sure how to counteract the behavior, though. Nynaeve tries to suggest that he must have been like a second father to Elayne, and makes pointed references to his age, but Elayne doesn’t take the bait, and Nynaeve sighs and gives up for the moment, and thinks that for now Thom looks at Elayne as a daughter, but if she keeps this up he might remember she isn’t, and then she’ll be in real trouble. She asks if Elayne is certain about Galad, and Elayne is more than certain.
Muttering to herself, Nynaeve pulled a silk riding dress out of her chest. Sometimes she thought the Creator had only made men to cause trouble for women.
Holy crap, but Nynaeve cracks me up. Her pulling Thom’s mustache makes me laugh out loud every time.
She is also exactly on target re: Elayne’s infatuation with Thom. I saw someone in the comments refer to this as “an Electra complex”, but that’s not exactly what this is, I don’t think, especially since Thom is not her biological father or even her stepfather or anything similar. I don’t know what you would call Elayne’s situation or if it even has a name, but it should if it doesn’t, because I’ve seen this in action in real life.
As a side note, I went and read the Wikipedia entry on the Electra complex, and wow is that a pile of sexist bullshit. Please tell me there aren’t people who still believe penis envy is real.
Nynaeve’s nightmare at the beginning of the chapter about Rand being leashed and muzzled, while a horrible image, was a nice reminder of her loyalty to Rand at the same time.
Although, I have to say, his becoming a Whitecloak is not nearly so headdesk-y as it used to be, since I read the Prologue to KOD. Galad killing Eamon Valda in single combat, in fact, is one of the few things from KOD I remember clearly, because regardless of anything else Galad’s done or will do, killing Valda, aka the man who is such a tool even other Whitecloaks think he’s a tool, is unquestionably a great service to WOTkind. So Galad regained a great deal of credit in my eyes for that.
But pre-KOD, damn. I remember the first time I read this I was like OH YOU DID NOT, YOU STUPID STUPIDHEAD. Gah. Really, I think it’s kind of a tie between Galad and Gawyn over which one of them had the more asinine response to the Tower coup. Though I had to snicker a bit at Galad’s description of Gawyn as “nearly unhinged”. See, we’re not the only ones who think so!
By the way, why does no one ever believe Elayne when she says Galad is horrid? Granted, I think calling him a “monster” is a little much, but God knows I would never want to grow up with him. And anyone who would even momentarily consider turning his own sister (or half-sister, even) over to be tortured and then burned at the stake because of a point of law... well, in retrospect I think we can upgrade Galad to an Eurgh.
Chapter 17: Heading West
Elayne pretends to be napping when the serving girl comes to bring them the deep bonnets Nynaeve had sent her for. As soon as she is gone they gather up what they can carry, don the bonnets, and head out the back, through the stableyard and out of town. They walk along the road until Thom and Juilin catch up with them in a green wagon. Thom mentions that he’s heard that Pedron Niall is trying to unite the nations against Rand, claiming he is a false Dragon; Elayne says firmly that her mother will support Rand, and she has as much influence as Niall.
The slight shake of Thom’s head denied the last, at least. Morgase ruled a wealthy nation, but there were Whitecloaks in every land and from every land. Nynaeve realized she was going to have to start paying more attention to Thom. Perhaps he really did know as much as he pretended.
She asks Elayne if she thinks they should have let Galad take them to Caemlyn, then, and Elayne says absolutely not; even if that would have been Galad’s decision, if Morgase is really turning against the Tower, Elayne wants to do all her talking with her mother via letter for a while. Thom comments that Morgase would teach Nynaeve manners quickly, and only grins when she sniffs loudly at him. They reach the menagerie camp, and Valan Luca sneers when he recognizes them. He says he sees Lady Morelin has come down in the world, or maybe she was never up in the first place, and is now running from the noble whose carriage she stole. Nynaeve tells him they can be his patrons, and he sneers again, but Elayne tells him that they will pay all his expenses plus a hundred gold marks if they can travel with him till the Ghealdan border. That stops Luca short, but he asks suspiciously if the Whitecloaks or the army is after her; Elayne tells him she’s discovered a marriage has been arranged for her in Cairhien, to a fat man three times her age, but there is “a red-haired Andorman” she intends to wed whatever her father wants. Luca demands that they show him the money, and Nynaeve angrily pulls out a purse and shakes it at him, and says he’ll be paid when they reach Ghealdan. Luca smiles unpleasantly and says they are still running, and he can’t risk them standing out, so if they come they will have to work just like everyone else. And since they have no talent to perform, he says, they can clean the animal cages. Thom stops Nynaeve from answering this, and begins juggling pebbles. Luca is not impressed at first, but then Thom adds more until he is juggling two circles of six at once, and adds he can also eat fire and throw knives, among other things. Luca is reluctantly won over, but says that doesn’t help with the rest of them. Elayne asks what the contraption over there is, and Luca tells her it’s the highwalker’s apparatus. Elayne says she can walk on it, and starts forward. Luca blocks her and tells her that their highwalker knew what he was doing and they just finished burying him.
“I will tell you what. You do not have to clean cages. You move into my wagon, and we will tell everyone you’re my ladylove. Just as a tale, of course.” His sly smile said he hoped for more than a tale.
Elayne makes him get out of her way, and Nynaeve thinks that Thom and Juilin should realize what she is doing and not look so anxious. Elayne climbs up on the platform, lifts up her skirts, and walks across the narrow rope as if walking down a street.
Abruptly Elayne put her hands down and turned two cartwheels, raven-black hair flailing, silk-stockinged legs flashing in the sun; For the merest instant as she righted herself, her skirts seemed to brush a flat surface before she snatched them up again. Two more steps took her to the far platform. “Did Master Sedrin do that, Master Luca?”
“He did somersaults,” he shouted back. In a mutter, he added, “But he did not have legs like that. A lady! Hah!”
Elayne tells him Juilin can do this too, and would have added Nynaeve, but Nynaeve shakes her head fiercely, knowing her stomach would not be able to take it, platform of Air or not. Juilin looks terrified, but goes up and highwalks once, quickly, praying the whole time. Luca likes the effect of Juilin pretending to be frightened to death, and swirls his cape over to “Nana”, asking what marvelous talent she had.
“I dole out the money,” she told him, slapping the scrip. “Unless you want to offer me your wagon?” She gave him a smile that wiped his clean away and backed him up two steps besides.
Luca introduces them to the rest of the menagerie crew, and Nynaeve is especially interested in Cerandin, the boar-horse handler, who speaks with a slurred accent Nynaeve finds very familiar. Everyone is generally welcoming, including Luca, who gives Elayne an invitation off to one side that earns him a slapped face. Nynaeve goes over to Cerandin and asks what the boar-horses are really called, and Cerandin tells her they are s’redit. Nynaeve asks if there are many s’redit in Seanchan, and Cerandin freezes a moment, then pretends not to know what she is talking about. Elayne joins them and tells Cerandin they heard Seanchan accents in Falme, and they will not hurt her.
That was more than Nynaeve was willing to promise; her memories of the Seanchan were not fond ones. And yet . . . A Seanchan helped you when you needed it. They are not all evil. Only most of them.
Cerandin sags, and admits she was left behind in Falme, and these three s’redit were all she could save. Nynaeve asks if she was a sul’dam, but Cerandin answers that she has no ability with the a’dam, and has always been a s’redit trainer. She comments that they know a lot about Seanchan, and Nynaeve tells her they want to know more. Elayne adds that they will protect her if need be. Cerandin studies them for a moment, and suddenly prostrates herself in front of Elayne.
“You are a High Lady of this land, just as you told Luca. I did not realize. Forgive me, High Lady. I submit myself to you.” And she kissed the ground in front of Elayne’s feet. Elayne’s eyes looked ready to leap out of her face.
Nynaeve hisses frantically for the woman to get up before someone notices, but Cerandin doesn’t move until Elayne tells her the same. Elayne tells her such things are not required here, and she will teach Cerandin the proper way to behave in return for answering their questions. Cerandin bows nearly as submissively as the prostration, repeating she is Elayne’s, and Nynaeve thinks it’s going to be a long trip to Ghealdan.
Luca’s reaction to Nynaeve sharing his wagon is ten times funnier when you know what is eventually going to happen.
On Luca in general: I used to work in the entertainment industry, and let’s just say, I’ve met that guy. Multiple times. And yes, he’s hilarious – as long as you don’t have to actually work with him.
Is it just me, or is it a little strange that Juilin is that terrified of highwalking? Wasn’t he traipsing all over Tear’s rooftops with Mat the night the Stone fell?
Thom: I remember there was something of a fight back in the day over whether Thom’s feats of juggling were unrealistic, which resulted in one of my favorite email back-and-forths I ever got for the Missteps section in the WOTFAQ:
In TEOTW, Thom teaches Mat and Rand to juggle. By the time they reach Caemlyn Mat can perform “six ball circles”.
Which David Mortman interprets as a six-ball shower, and says: “No way. You could probably count the number of people in the world today who can shower six balls to a performance standard on the fingers of one hand. Assuming there are any. I’ve only twice seen a five ball shower done well. It’s certainly not something somebody could learn in a few weeks.”
Rachel Collier, however, disagrees: “A six-ball shower isn’t actually that uncommon. My ex-boyfriend was a serious (professional) juggler, and has juggled nine (I saw him - it certainly wasn’t graceful, but there were nine), which he says could possibly win him a world record if he could get in more than four full juggles which is the current record. Apparently eight is pretty rare, but seven is more common and six just takes a little skill and some practice. I agree with you though, that many of Thom’s juggling feats are awfully farfetched - given that nine is the VERY top number anyone has juggled now, when RJ mentions 10 and up to 14, I think, it’s unbelievable - do you suppose RJ doesn’t know anything about juggling, or is he just making Thom an even cooler guy by making it such a mind-boggling feat?”
Heh. I don’t know why that debate tickles me so much, but it does.
Cerandin: Kissing the ground? Ew. Especially when you consider they’re in an elephant paddock.
Speaking of which, I’m having trouble believing that keeping three elephants, even if one of them is a baby, could possibly be a paying proposition for Luca. Do you know how much elephants eat? Dainty gourmets they are not, is all I’m saying. Not to mention what the bears and horses and the strongman eat! How on earth can he afford all that?
Well, economic realism has never been one of the strong points of WOT, and really I’m pretty sanguine about it. Because economics is BORING.
Yes, I am twelve. But seriously, I don’t read fantasy to listen to characters debate the virtues of mercantilism vs. a free market economy. I... don’t read anything for that, actually. You guys should be happy I even know what mercantilism IS.
Chapter 18: A Hound of Darkness
Liandrin rides through Amador, sneering at all the Whitecloaks from the safety of her deep bonnet, and enters the merchant’s house where she and the others are staying. Liandrin is annoyed she doesn’t have the palaces she was promised yet. She meets the merchant’s wife, Amellia, in the entrance hall, who tells her that there is someone upstairs with the others, from Tar Valon she thinks, and then begs her to help her husband. Liandrin tells her he should not have thought his oaths to the Great Lord could be so easily forgotten, and Amellia avers that he has learned his lesson. Liandrin tells her that she will see what Chesmal can do, and heads up, thinking Temaile had gotten carried away that time.
[Temaile] had been Gray Ajah before becoming Black, and she always made a point of spreading the pain evenly when she mediated; she had been very successful as a mediator, for she liked spreading pain. Chesmal said he might be able to do small tasks in a few months, so long as they were not too hard and no one raised a voice. She had been one of the best Healers in generations among the Yellow, so she should know.
She goes upstairs and is startled at the atmosphere in the drawing room; all of the other Black sisters look shaken and nervous, and Jeaine Caide is crying. Temaile is handing tea to a middle-aged woman who looks vaguely familiar to Liandrin; suddenly she recognizes her as Gyldin, their maid in Tanchico, and snaps that she’s gone too far this time. She tries to embrace saidar to teach her a lesson, and finds herself blocked. The woman tells her she is Moghedien, not Gyldin; Liandrin looks at the way the others are behaving and realizes it must be true, though she can’t understand why one of the Forsaken would willingly masquerade as a servant.
Liandrin spread her divided riding skirts as best she could in a deep curtsy. “We welcome you, Great Mistress. With the Chosen to lead us, we shall surely triumph before the Day of the Great Lord’s Return.”
Moghedien compliments her dryly on her erudition, and Liandrin tries to apologize for treating her as a servant in Tanchico, but Moghedien dismisses this irritably, saying of course Liandrin didn’t know who she was, that was the point. Liandrin says there is no need to shield her, and Moghedien is skeptical, since she’d had to teach all of the other sisters their place, but the glow around her vanishes. She tells Liandrin that she has tasks for her and the rest of the sisters there, and perhaps they will not be so inept now that Moghedien is at the reins. Liandrin protests, saying they have orders from the Tower, but Moghedien tells her that they serve whichever of the Chosen “snaps them up”, and no doubt whoever they took orders from in the Tower is now groveling before another of the Chosen. Liandrin notes that Moghedien not knowing who led the Black Ajah meant that the Forsaken were not all-powerful after all.
Liandrin had always imagined the Forsaken as close to omnipotent, something far beyond ordinary mortals. Perhaps the woman truly was in flight from the other Forsaken. To hand her over to them would surely earn her a high place. She might even become one of them. She had a trick, learned in childhood. And she could touch the Source.
Liandrin tries to assure Moghedien that they serve the Great Lord the same as her, and Moghedien disdainfully tells her that they are half-trained puppies compared to her. She tells Liandrin that the others have already tried their strength against her and learned their lesson, and she prefers that Liandrin get her lesson over with as well, so go ahead and try something. Asne Zeramene shakes her head slightly in warning to Liandrin, but Liandrin thinks there is still her trick. She goes to her knees and begins groveling, and suddenly lashes out with the Power. But Moghedien blocks her instantly, and Liandrin writhes in pain on the floor. Moghedien stops the pain, and asks if Liandrin would like to see what the real version of her pitiful little trick is like.
Liandrin gazed up at her adoringly. Crawling across the floor, she pushed words through the sobs she still could not stop. “Forgive me, Great Mistress.” This magnificent woman, like a star in the heavens, a comet, above all kings and queens in wonder. “Forgive, please,” she begged, pressing kisses against the hem of Moghedien’s skirt as she babbled. “Forgive. I am a dog, a worm.”
Moghedien remarks that she is not Graendal, and releases the Compulsion on Liandrin, who lies weeping in horror at the memory of it. Moghedien asks if she is convinced, and Liandrin say yes, while thinking if she could only learn that, next time she could be sure of success. Moghedien observes that she may be one of those who needs a second lesson, but lets it go for now. Liandrin joins the rest of the Black sisters against the wall, where her ears and mouth are blocked shut with Air. One by one, Moghedien releases them and gives each orders that the others cannot hear, and sends them out. Rianna looks relieved at her orders, Marillin surprised and then eager, Jeaine horrified. Berylla and Falion show no expression, and Ispan kisses the hem of Moghedien’s dress. Then Moghedien releases the rest all at once, and tells them they will stay with her for the most important task, a “personal harvest”. She says there is a woman named Nynaeve al’Meara, and stops when she sees Liandrin’s reaction. She asks if Liandrin knows her, and Liandrin replies truthfully that she despises her.
“Very good. You five are going to find her for me. I want her alive. Oh, yes, I do want her alive.” Moghedien’s smile made Liandrin shiver; giving Nynaeve and the other two to her might be entirely suitable.
Liandrin listens eagerly as Moghedien continues, thinking that for this, her move against Moghedien could wait.
Liandrin kind of reminds me of the old joke about the minister who said that the definition of Satan was that he had no redeeming virtues, and the old lady who pointed out that he was persevering. Whatever else you want to say about Liandrin, girl does not give up. Even when she really, really should.
Moghedien’s statement about “you five” really confused me at first, because in the text it only says that when Liandrin is released she kneels between Chesmal and Asne, and never refers to the other two doing anything or even that they are there. But counting the ones who were sent off leaves, by deduction, Temaile and Eldrith, so, okay. It just seems weird to not-mention them that way.
Oh, and I guess Jeaine survived playing with balefire in Tanchico. Pity.
I believe this is the first hint that we get that there is a Forsaken in the Tower itself, which is old news to us now but at the time was Holy Crap-like in impact, I recall. I remember I thought at the time that it would turn out to be Semirhage, though I have no idea what led me to that (completely wrong) supposition.
Maybe I just really wanted to see Semirhage by that point, considering how much she’d been built up. Unlike Mesaana, who I think got mentioned maybe twice, total, before appearing in LOC. Really, though, Mesaana was kind of shafted throughout the series in the screentime department, even after LOC. So, so sad. (Not really.)
Aaaaaand that’s all I got for now. Have a scrumptious weekend, and if you have an excess of summer anywhere, please send it New York’s way, because I am over this cloudy gloomy stormy shit. This is not the June I ordered! See you Monday!