Hola, amigos! It is time for you to siesta from your productive-type workings, for I have another Wheel of Time Re-read post for you! Yay!
Today we will be covering Chapters 19-21 of The Fires of Heaven, which means this section of the recap series is now officially old enough to drink. So thank God for that.
Previous entries are here, and as always this and all other entries are rife with spoilers for all currently published novels in the Wheel of Time series. If you haven’t read, don’t read.
By the way, I don’t know if I am allowed to participate in comment surveys, but since you can’t stop me if I do (ha ha, neener neener), I would like to state for the record that I would so be a Green. Battle Ajah, waw!
Chapter 19: Memories
Morgase is in her room reading, though she can’t remember why she decided to stay there all morning, when a young guard interrupts her. After a moment she remembers his name, Guardsman Lieutenant Martyn Tallanvor. He tells her he is surprised she is in her rooms, considering the news; she asks what news, and then gets distracted thinking about how all she seems to do is gossip with Alteima these days, while Gaebril watches. She finally remembers Tallanvor, and asks again about his news. He stares at her with angry eyes, and she blushes at first at the extremely revealing dress she is wearing, but then thinks that Gaebril likes it, and stops worrying. Tallanvor tells her the news is rebellion; someone has raised the banner of Manetheren in the Two Rivers.
Morgase drummed her fingers on the book, her thoughts coming more clearly than it seemed they had in a very long time. Something about the Two Rivers, some spark she could not quite fan to life, tugged at her.
She thinks that the region is hardly part of Andor at all, but rebellions had a way of spreading, and should be nipped in the bud for that reason. She asks if Gaebril has been informed, and Tallanvor says he has, and that he laughed and replied that it was a minor annoyance that would have to wait its turn. She jumps up and sweeps out (Tallanvor smiles grimly), and goes to find Gaebril in a courtyard, where she is shocked to see that she recognizes less than half of the courtiers attending him, and those she does recognize (including Elenia Sarand, Naean Arawn, and Arymilla Marne) are her worst enemies among the nobility. She tells Gaebril she wants to speak with him in private about the Two Rivers, and he tells her it’s dealt with and she should return to her room. She tells him coldly that she thinks not; he will come with her now.
Suddenly he was on his feet, a big man, towering over her. She seemed unable to look at anything but his dark eyes; her skin tingled as if an icy wind were blowing through the courtyard. “You will go and wait for me, Morgase.” His voice was a distant roar filling her ears. “I have dealt with all that needs dealing with. I will come to you this evening. You will go now. You will go.”
She had one hand lifted to open the door of her sitting room before she realized where she was. And what had happened. He had told her to go, and she had gone. Staring at the door in horror, she could see the smirks on the men's faces, open laughter on some of the women's. What has happened to me? How could I become so besotted with any man? She still felt the urge to enter, and wait for him.
She forces herself to turn and walk away. Reflecting on what she had seen in the courtyard, she can only conclude that Gaebril is plotting against her. At first she thinks she is wandering aimlessly, but soon realizes she is in the Pensioner’s Quarters, heading for her old nurse Lini’s room. She goes in and sees that Lini is not there, and examines the ivory miniatures of the three generations of Trakand women Lini had been nurse to. Lini enters, and after establishing that she will always treat Morgase the same as she did as a child, Lini asks what brings her here, saying she hasn’t been to see her in some time. Morgase doesn’t know what she means, saying that she comes to visit every week, and Lini looks at her and says she has not seen Morgase since the spring. Morgase is confused, and says that Lini cannot help anyway, and Lini answers that her problem is Gaebril. Morgase is amazed that she knows, and Lini gently tells her that everyone knows, but no one is brave enough to say it to Morgase’s face. Incensed, Morgase says it was everyone’s duty to let her know, and now it may be too late to change it.
“Too late?” Lini said incredulously. “Why should it be too late? You bundle Gaebril out of the Palace, out of Andor, and Alteima and the others with him, and it is done with. Too late, indeed.”
For a moment Morgase could not speak. “Alteima,” she said finally, “and . . . the others?”
Lini tells her about Alteima and the six others Gaebril keeps in the Palace, except for the one he bundles in and out. Morgase sits down heavily, and thinks about Gaebril watching her and Alteima gossip together like a man watching two pet cats, and abruptly is filled with fury, far more than for when she’d thought he was trying to take her throne.
The man had ensconced his jades in her palace. He had made her just another of his trulls. She wanted his head. She wanted him flayed alive. The Light help her, she wanted his touch. I must be going mad!
She asks after her allies – Pelivar, Abelle, Arathelle, Aemlyn, Luan, Ellorien – and Lini gives her an odd look and replies that she’d had them all exiled; she’d had Ellorien flogged for demanding to know why. Morgase is staggered by this, as Ellorien had always been one of her strongest supporters and a close friend besides, though now she dimly remembers the flogging. Lini is anxiously checking her, saying that she has no fever, but needs an Aes Sedai for Healing. Morgase rejects this suggestion harshly, though she thinks that her animosity toward the Tower now strikes her as unreasonably harsh, even considering their failure to produce Elayne. She sends Lini to find Lieutenant Tallanvor, and fights her urge to go back to her room like Gaebril had ordered while she waits.
The urge was that strong, especially now that she was alone. And once he looked at her, once he touched her, she had no doubt that she would forgive him everything. Forget everything, maybe, based on how fuzzy and incomplete her memories were. Had she not known better, she could have thought that he had used the One Power on her in some way, but no man who could channel survived to his age.
She reflects that her choices in men had never been good: Taringail Damodred was a political marriage, and he had been cold and distant; Thom had been wonderful at first, and she might have married him, but he disappeared without a word, she still did not know why, and then when he returned he had said unforgivable things to her. Gareth Bryne, who had turned out to be a treasonous fool; and finally Gaebril, the worst of all.
Not so many men for one woman's life, but in another way, too many. Another thing that Lini sometimes said was that men were only good for three things, though very good for those. She had been on the throne before Lini had thought her old enough to tell what the three things were. Perhaps if I'd kept just to the dancing, she thought wryly, I'd not have so much trouble with them.
Lini returns with Tallanvor, who goes to one knee and says he sees that her meeting with Gaebril did not go well. Morgase replies that he is a “sharp lad”, and she believes loyal too; he snaps that he is not a boy, but a man who has sworn service to his queen. She flares back that she is still his Queen, “young Tallanvor”, and he apologizes respectfully, though his eyes are still defiant, and she thinks he is as stubborn as Bryne was. She asks how many men in Palace are still loyal to her, and Tallanvor tells her that other than himself, there are none left in the Palace who are not Gaebril’s men, and they have sworn to the throne of Andor, not Morgase herself. She hadn’t really expected otherwise, and tells Tallanvor she must leave the Palace, to try and rally support elsewhere. He suggests that she find a way out of the Palace and meet him an an inn called The Queen’s Blessing, whose innkeeper is as loyal as himself. She agrees to the plan, and he suddenly asks in an anguished voice why she waited so long. She doesn’t know, but tells him only that that is not for him to question, and he bows and leaves. Lini wants to know why she kept calling him “young”, and Morgase says because he is, almost young enough to be her son.
Lini snorted, and this time there was nothing delicate about it. “He has a few years on Galad, and Galad is too old to be yours. You were playing with dolls when Tallanvor was born, and thinking babes came the same way as dolls.”
Morgase sighs, and moves on, asking Lini if she thinks he is truly loyal, as it seems a little convenient that he is the only Queen’s man left in the Palace. Lini tells her that Tallanvor swore the new oath, but that afterward Lini saw him behind the stables in tears, swearing the old oath over and over, and slicing his arm with his blade in the old way.
“I know a thing or two of men, girl. That one will follow you against an army with nothing but his bare hands.”
That was good to know. If she could not trust him, she would have to doubt Lini next. No, never Lini. He had sworn in the old way? That was something for stories, now.
Lini insists on coming along, and they disguise Morgase in a rough woolen dress and put soot on her face and hair. They sneak out of the Palace through a side gate and make their way to the inn, where they meet Tallanvor in the stable. He has Basel Gill with him, as well as Gill’s bouncer Langwin and his woman Breane, whom Morgase pegs as a Cairhienin refugee, probably nobility. All of them kneel to her a little uncertainly. Morgase thanks them for their loyalty, but suggests that Breane remain behind, to which Breane replies sharply that Langwin is loyal to Morgase, but she is loyal to Langwin, and she goes where he does.
A fine seed for the army to retake her throne: One young soldier who scowled at her as often as not, a balding innkeeper who looked as if he had not been on a horse in twenty years, a street tough who appeared more than half-asleep, and a refugee Cairhienin noblewoman who had made it clear that her loyalties went only as far as the tough. And Lini, of course. Lini, who treated her as though she were still in the nursery. Oh, yes, a very fine seed.
Gill asks where they are going, and before Morgase can answer Tallanvor says they need Gareth Bryne. Morgase doesn’t like this much, as she still thinks of Bryne as a traitor, but agrees that he would be a powerful incentive for other Houses to pledge their loyalty to her again. They head out for Kore Springs.
Padan Fain creeps through the Tower’s halls, seeking the dagger. He comes to a locked storeroom and picks the lock, giggling to himself about the folly of a building full of Aes Sedai who use ordinary locks to guard treasures. He goes inside and quickly finds the lead box holding the dagger.
He sighed as soon as he touched it, stretched languorously. He was whole again, one with what had bound him so long ago, one with what in a very real way had given him life.
He hears the door creak and darts back, slashing the young Accepted at the door with the dagger and pulling her inside, where she dies swiftly, writhing and clawing as her face turns black. He giggles again, and a voice behind him calls him a fool. He whirls, slashing with the dagger, but flows of Air bind him fast in midair, and Alviarin shuts the door and asks if he really thought no ward would be set on this room; if the stupid girl had done her job right there would be a dozen sisters and Warders in here by now. Fain notes her total lack of concern about the dying Accepted, and says that she is Black Ajah. She answers that that is a dangerous accusation, and no one believed Siuan when she claimed its existence during her interrogation. She tells him that the dagger’s jewels are not worth what it will do to him, and he ignores this and instead offers to kill Elaida for her, so that she would be first and not second anymore. She laughs and tells him second suits her quite well; she knows where the power lies. She demands answers, and reluctantly he tells her that he has seen Thakan’dar, and gone down into the heart of Shayol Ghul itself. She is silent a moment, then asks if one of the Chosen sent him. He laughs and asks if the Chosen confide everything to her, that she should know what he is about.
Something inside seemed to shout that this was not the way, but he hated Aes Sedai, and that something inside him did, too. “Be careful, pretty little Aes Sedai, or they'll be giving you to a Myrddraal for its sport.”
She glares at him, and answers that they will see which of them stands higher with the Chosen, and backs out of the room, only letting him out of his bonds after she is gone. Fain berates himself for messing up the excellent place he’d had here, and decides to leave town before Alviarin gets around to telling the Forsaken about him.
Ugh, what a miserable chapter. Not so much for itself, but for who it features: Fain, whom as we all know is so not my favorite, and Morgase, who just makes me sad, and annoyed, and then angry at myself for being annoyed. Because really, this poor woman can simply not be held responsible for practically anything she’s done for the past... uh, however long it’s been since Rahvin set up camp IN HER BRAIN. Eurgh, fo’ sho’.
I think the most frustrating thing about reading about Morgase is how neither she nor anyone around her could possibly be in a position to deduce or discover that all her horrible screw-ups of the past months were not her fault. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad no one did say “Hey, it’s like someone’s been controlling your mind!”, because that would have been pat to the point of absurdity; even Morgase’s fleeting and dismissed thought about Gaebril using the One Power on her veered dangerously close to being far too on point. From a narrative logic perspective it had to be that way, but damn is it annoying.
This is just one of my own particular Things in reading fiction: I tend to get intensely annoyed and fractious when a character is falsely accused of something, or when their actions are wildly misinterpreted, or even when they fail to get proper credit for something they did do.
I know, you’re like, and you volunteered to recap which series, again? Apparently I am a glutton for punishment?
I do like, though, that Perrin manages to exert a life-changing influence on a queen without being anywhere near her or even being mentioned by name. Go ta’veren in absentia!
Chapter 20: Jangai Pass
Rand rides into Jangai Pass with the wagons, trying to ignore Moiraine, who is talking to him about Cairhienin customs. She’s been lecturing him from dawn till dusk on court behavior and politics and the like, and Rand thinks it’s like she’s trying to cram a lifetime’s worth of noble education into him before they cross the Dragonwall. She had startled him with the news that Elaida was now Amyrlin Seat, and that he should trust no Aes Sedai other than herself, Elayne, Egwene, and Nynaeve. He’s looking at Taien, a town in the mouth of the pass, and sees that birds seem to be circling it.
“Are you listening to me?” Moiraine said suddenly, reining her white mare closer. “You must —!” She took a deep breath. “Please, Rand. There is so much that I must tell you, so much that you need to know.”
The hint of pleading in her tone made him glance at her. He could remember when he had been overawed by her presence. Now she seemed quite small, for all her regal manner. A fool thing, that he should feel protective of her.
He tells her gently that they have plenty of time, and not to worry; he means to keep her close from now on. She sighs and agrees, and Rand sets off toward Taien, the others following, including Natael, who is not pleased to be carrying Rand’s banner, which depicts the ancient black and white Aes Sedai symbol of old, on a field of red. Rand thinks that the Rhuidean prophecy said he would conquer under this sign, and hopes that it will be less frightening to people than the Dragon banner. He sees that the walls of the town are decorated with bloated and rotting bodies, and the town inside is a fire-gutted ruin. He thinks it is “like Mar Ruois”, and tries to shake the memory away, knowing it is not his; if he must die at Shayol Ghul, he is determined to die as himself. Lan tells him there is someone watching them from the rocks, and Rand is glad he left the Aiel back at the mouth of the pass, as survivors would be even more terrified to see more Aiel. Soon two men and a woman emerge, in filthy rags, and approach hesitantly; one of the men picks out Rand as the leader, calling him “my Lord” and tells him it is another Aiel War, they were attacked in the night by the savages before anyone knew.
“In the night?” Mat said sharply. Hat pulled low, he was still studying the ruined town. “Were your sentries asleep? You did have sentries this close to your enemies? Even Aiel would have a hard time coming at you if you kept a good watch.” Lan gave him an appraising look.
The man answers no, as they have not seen an Aiel in years. He introduces himself as Tel Nethin, and his sister Aril tells Rand that they also stole people, called them guy-shan or something and stripped them naked and hauled them off, including her two children. Tel suddenly notices Rand’s belt buckle, and gasps, saying that the leader of the Aiel who attacked them had markings like that on his arms; Rand makes sure his own forearms are covered, and asks how long ago the attackers left. Tel says six days. He tells Rand there are maybe a hundred survivors, and Rand angrily asks why they haven’t taken down their dead; Tel is frightened, and answers that the leader told them not to touch anything, that the bodies were a message for someone behind him, to tell him what he was going to do on the other side of the Spine. Suddenly Tel and the other two scream and run, and then collapse to the ground sobbing as Aiel appear from everywhere and surround them. Rand sees that Rhuarc is approaching with Dhearic, which means the Reyn Aiel have joined him. The Miagoma are still to the north, and the other three undecided clans - the Codarra, the Shiande, and the Daryne – are to the east. He asks Rhuarc if that was strictly necessary, and Rhuarc shrugs and says they are only treekillers. Rand takes a breath and tells him that the survivors broke no oaths, and orders him to find the others and be gentle with them. He asks what they thought about what Tel told him about Couladin, and Rhuarc and Dhearic are both appalled about Couladin’s taking wetlanders as gai’shain, because it means that Couladin has abandoned ji’e’toh. Mat wants to know why this surprises them, all things considered, and they give him flat stares. Some of the Maidens join them, and Rand decides they will camp where they are and send scouts ahead to make sure Couladin hasn’t left any surprises for them in the pass. He suggests Water Seekers, and avoids the Maidens’ stares in his direction. He tells Rhuarc to see the survivors are treated well, and to bury the dead.
Two random notes first: ooh, shiny new icon! And, “Jangai Pass” is a thoroughly awesome place name. Jordan in general is really good at naming things. And people, too. Considering the sheer volume of places and people he had to come with names for, that’s even more impressive than it might otherwise be.
I remember I was intensely interested to see what would happen when Rand returned from the Waste, mostly because he is a very different person from when he went in, and I wanted to see how non-Aiel people would react to him. In that regard Jordan gave me all I wanted and more. More on this in the next few chapters.
Moiraine: I suppose it’s possible that her growing desperation to pack Rand’s head with everything she can before she (as she believes) snuffs it can be viewed as merely a logical and cold desire to prepare Rand as much as possible for leadership, and certainly that is a large part of it, but I prefer to also read into her actions a genuine concern for him as well. Whether that is the case or not, I prefer it because it makes me like her that much more.
I find it interesting that she tells Rand to only trust herself and the Supergirls among Aes Sedai. First, because it tacitly acknowledges the Girls as Aes Sedai, which is a little surprising, and second because really, no other Aes Sedai? I believe she thinks Siuan is dead at this point, so there’s that, but I mean, not even, say, Myrelle, who she trusts enough to hand off Lan to?
Also, although it’s pretty much already happened, a point is made here of acknowledging the sea change in Rand’s view of himself as related to Aes Sedai: as them being adjuncts to him, instead of the other way around. Whether Moiraine’s decision to submit to him was intended to have that effect is a topic of interest. Discuss!
Chapter 21: The Gift of a Blade
The camp goes up quickly, and Rand notes that the Wise Ones have managed to position their camp between his and the clan chiefs’ tents. He is a little surprised to see Melaine there, as she had married Bael and Dorindha only three days before. Egwene and Aviendha have come up, and Rand wishes he could keep them from seeing the carnage at the town, but Aviendha is expressionless, and Egwene’s face only shows pity. She comes over to him and says she is so sorry, but this is not his fault; he answers that he knows, and she nods and heads off, talking to Aviendha before they are out of earshot about his habit of feeling guilty over things he cannot control.
“Men always believe they are in control of everything around them,” Aviendha replied. “When they find out they are not, they think they have failed, instead of learning a simple truth women already know.”
Egwene giggled. “That is the simple truth. Once I saw those poor people, I thought we would find him heaving somewhere.”
Rand frowns, and thinks he only takes responsibility for things he can do something about, or should have done something about. He sees Mat squatting nearby, staring at the town and muttering to himself, and wonders where that remark about sentries had come from. He notes that Mat had been saying odd things like that ever since Rhuidean, and wishes that he was willing to talk about what had happened there, but Mat still denies that anything occurred. He wonders if Mat knows that the Maidens are laying bets on whether Melindhra will give up the spear for him, or if she will teach him to sing, though they still refuse to explain to Rand what that means. He goes to find Asmodean, who asks him why he has to be the one to carry Rand’s banner.
“You carry it because you were chosen, Master Jasin Natael.” Asmodean gave a start and looked around, though everyone else was too far away, and too busy, to be listening. None but they two would have understood, anyway.
He tells Natael he is too tired for their “discussions” tonight, and to sleep in his own tent. He as turns to go, Natael asks if he begins to trust him, now, if he is not weaving wards around Natael’s tent, and Rand tells him he trusts him like a brother, until the day he betrays him. He adds that that is him talking, Rand al’Thor, and marches off, berating himself for giving Natael more clues that a dead man was in his head. He channels and sets wards around the camp, to give warning should Shadowspawn approach. He thinks that he could have made it so that they would die upon touching the wards, but that the ward would then be like a beacon to any male Forsaken searching for him. He comes to his tent, and Aviendha shows him the carcass of a bloodsnake she had found and killed with her belt knife. He asks if she ever thought of using the Power, instead of getting close enough that she could have been bitten, and she replies stiffly that the Wise Ones say you should not use the Power too much. He shakes his head and ducks into his tent, and she follows him. She observes flatly that he was worried for her, and he lies that of course he wasn’t; she says good, and tosses a bundle at his feet, saying that since he would not take the belt buckle as canceling debt, perhaps he will take this, ignoring his protest that there is no debt. Sighing, he unwraps the bundle and gasps; it is a sword encrusted with so many jewels it would be impossible to use. He says this must have cost a fortune, but Aviendha said it cost little.
“It was the treekiller's sword. Laman's. It was taken from his body as proof that he was dead, because his head could not be brought back so far. Since then it has passed from hand to hand, young men or fool Maidens who wanted to own the proof of his death. Only, each began to think of what it was, and soon sold it to another fool. The price has come down very far since it first was sold. No Aiel would lay hand to it even to remove the stones.”
Rand tactfully says it is beautiful, though he thinks it is gaudy beyond belief, but then looks at the blade and realizes it is a heron-mark blade, and is positive it is Power-wrought like his old sword. He slices a cushion with it, and tells her he will take the blade to cancel his debt, but she must keep the jeweled scabbard and hilt. She glares instead of looking grateful. Later, he lies in his blankets and tries not to hear the sounds of her undressing; to distract himself, he asks if Bael really had no idea about the marriage before Melaine laid the wreath before him. Aviendha replies of course he didn’t, and laughs that Melaine went crazy trying to find segade blossoms this close to the Dragonwall. Rand remembers that those were the kind of flowers he had sent Aviendha, and asks if they have any special significance. She answers that they mean she has a prickly nature, and means to keep it, but he does not need to know all the different flower meanings, as he will not have an Aiel wife; he belongs to Elayne.
There had been more of a muffled sound to her voice at the end. Pulling her blouse over her head, he realized. He wished the lamps were out. No, that would have made it worse. But then, he had been through this every single night since Rhuidean, and every single night it was worse. He had to put an end to it.
He asks about the part at the end of the wedding, where all Melaine’s relatives had surrounded her, and Bael and his relatives had had to fight through them to get to her, and Melaine herself had fought “like a cornered ridgecat” before Bael managed to carry her off. Aviendha says she had to show him her worth, and that she was no trinket for him to put in his pocket. He asks what “teaching a man to sing” means, and she laughs and asks if he is thinking of Mat. She explains that sometimes a foolish man wants a Maiden who will not give up the spear for him, so he arranges to be taken gai’shain by her, but then the Maiden makes him sing songs to entertain the Maidens at meals. He thinks that Aiel are very strange, and asks again who gave Aviendha her necklace.
“A friend, Rand al'Thor. We came far today, and you will start us early tomorrow. Sleep well and wake, Rand al'Thor.” Only an Aiel would wish you a good night by hoping you did not die in your sleep.
He wonders why he cares about the necklace so much, and falls asleep and dreams that Min and Elayne are helping him throw Aviendha over his shoulder while she beats him over the head with a wreath of segade blossoms.
Sexual tension, ho! And only ten more chapters till it’s relieved, ha. Poor Rand. And he can’t even be alone in his tent to, er, practice his mantra. No pressure there!
Regarding Egwene and Aviendha’s commentary about men vs. women accepting what they can’t control: as usual Jordan is highlighting the whole battle of the sexes thing here, and how silly it is to assign broad character traits by gender. If you remove the “men vs. women” aspect from it, though, it is a pretty accurate comparison between Type A and non-Type A personalities.
I say “non-Type A” because I don’t generally subscribe to the school of thought that believes you can neatly categorize people’s personalities – people are far too complex to be contained in a pie chart – while at the same time acknowledging that there is definitely a loosely recognizable and probably culturally mandated “type” of personality out there which all of us can recognize.
Most people think of it as the impatient, driven, control freak stress junkies, the kind of people who end up millionaires by 25 and dead of heart failure by 50 (or alternately end up as contestants on The Apprentice), but while that is often part of it, Type As (in my mind) are more like Rand as he is portrayed in WOT: the people who take everything upon themselves, not because they don’t think others can handle it, but because they think delegating to/relying upon others represents laziness or failure on their own part. In the same way, they berate themselves for anything they cannot handle or achieve on their own, because in their minds, anything less than perfection also represents failure, and makes them bad people. Which is ridiculous, of course, but there you go.
And of course, the relevant point is that this kind of personality is decidedly not gender-differentiated; it is found among both men and women. I know, because I happen to be one. Which is why I have a certain sympathy with Rand’s ability to simultaneously recognize when he’s being an idiot for flagellating himself about not being able to do something, and yet be unable to stop himself from doing so.
(It’s just too bad the whole “millionaire at 25” part didn’t come along with that, eh? Although, if lack of that also means the “dead of heart failure at 50” part won’t occur either, well, I’ll take it.)
Anyway. Other than that I don’t have much else to say about this chapter, except to observe that I kind of perversely enjoy the notion of a wedding that ends in a pitched battle. Though I think for myself I would prefer that the worst injury anyone receives at my wedding be a hangover.
That’s all, folks! Have a merry Monday, if such a thing be even physically possible, and I will see you anon with more commentarying! We out!