Hello, Internets! Welcome to another Wheel of Time Re-read post!
Today’s post covers Chapters 16-17 of Lord of Chaos, in which we have genealogical revelations, fateful geographical relocations, and exsanguinatological communication.
(Look, Ma, I made a word!)
Previous entries are here. Please note that this and all posts contain spoilers for all currently published novels in the Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, don’t read.
And that’s all she wrote! Well, actually, no, that isn’t remotely all she wrote, but that’s all she wrote above the clickin’ line, so there!
Chapter 16: Tellings of the Wheel
Rand lounges on his throne, trying to ignore Alanna’s presence in his head, while Chief Clerk Halwin Norry drones impassively about the state of affairs in Caemlyn; Rand reflects that nothing seems real to Norry except the numbers in his ledgers.
Where are they? he wondered furiously. Why hasn’t Alanna at least tried to sidle up to me? Moiraine would never have been frightened off so easily.
Where are all the dead? Lews Therin whispered. Why will they not be silent?
Rand chuckled grimly. Surely that had to be a joke.
Bashere appears in the doorway and nods, and Rand cuts Norry off and dismisses him (Norry doesn’t seem to care). He leaves, and Bashere enters with two men and two women, who react with varying degrees of shock and outrage at the Aiel standing all around. They also seem to be taken aback by their first sight of Rand, exchanging wondering glances; Rand supposes they’d thought he would be older.
“My Lord Dragon,” Bashere intoned loudly, halting before the dais, “Lord of the Morning, Prince of the Dawn, True Defender of the Light, before whom the world kneels in awe, I give to you Lady Dyelin of House Taravin, Lord Abelle of House Pendar, Lady Ellorien of House Traemane, and Lord Luan of House Norwelyn.”
Rand thinks that he and Bashere had worked out the titles beforehand, but the world kneeling part had been new. Rand is following Moiraine’s advice:
How people see you first is what they hold hardest in their minds. It is the way of the world. You can step down from a throne, and even if you behave like a farmer in a pigsty, some part in each of them will remember that you did descend from a throne. But if they see only a young man first, a country man, they will resent him stepping up to his throne later, whatever his right, whatever his power.
Rand greets the Andorans pleasantly but not in overly friendly fashion (more Moiraine advice), and invites them to join him for wine. They do so, and Rand reflects that Andorans are incredibly easy to read compared to Tairens and Cairhienin, as he notes their relief at Bashere’s departure, followed by concern that Rand could treat a general of royal blood like a servant. After a moment of small talk, Dyelin comes to the point by asking what he wants from them; Rand replies they must have heard his proclamation, that Elayne is to be crowned queen since Morgase is dead. Dyelin is happy with this, but Ellorien snaps that she wants no more of House Trakand on the throne, and stands for Dyelin instead. Luan agrees, but Dyelin replies that she stands for Elayne. Abelle doesn’t think it matters what they want; if Rand killed Morgase – he cuts himself off, daring Rand silently to retaliate. Rand asks sadly why they would believe he would kill Morgase only to put Elayne on the throne. Ellorien replies that no one knows what to believe about him, after all the things said about him. Rand asks, what things? But Dyelin answers instead.
“That you will fight the Last Battle and kill the Dark One. That you are a false Dragon, or an Aes Sedai puppet, or both. That you’re Morgase’s illegitimate son, or a Tairen High Lord, or an Aielman.” She frowned again for a moment, but did not stop. “That you are the son of an Aes Sedai by the Dark One. That you are the Dark One, or else the Creator clothed in flesh. That you will destroy the world, save it, subjugate it, bring a new Age. As many tales as there are mouths. Most say you killed Morgase. Many add Elayne. They say your proclamation is a mask to hide your crimes.”
Rand sighs and says he won’t ask which of those she believes, and asks if they will help him keep Andor whole or not. Abelle points out that nothing in the Prophecies says anything about the Dragon Reborn ruling, and Rand tries to keep a grip on his temper as he repeats that he has no wish to rule Andor, and will leave as soon as Elayne is crowned. Ellorien replies if he means it, then crown Dyelin and go, but Dyelin still refuses. She tells Rand she will wait and see, but if he does not find and crown Elayne soon, she will come against him. The other three add firmly that they will do the same.
Rand threw back his head and laughed in spite of himself, half mirth, half frustration. Light! And I thought honest opposition would be better than sneaking behind my back or licking my boots!
He tells them do as they must, but also consider that Tarmon Gai’don is approaching, and ends the audience. He asks to speak to Dyelin alone, though, and once away from the others, asks why she and the others looked at him so strangely. She regards him, then asks who his mother was. Surprised, Rand tells her his mother was a Maiden of the Spear named Shaiel, and his father Janduin, clan chief of the Taardad Aiel, though he was raised in the Two Rivers, and wants to know what that has to do with anything. Relieved, Dyelin tells him it must be a chance resemblance only, but Rand asks who she thought it might be.
She hesitated, then sighed. “I do not suppose it matters. Someday you must tell me how you had Aiel parents yet were raised in Andor. Twenty-five years ago, more now, the Daughter-Heir of Andor vanished in the night. Her name was Tigraine. She left behind a husband, Taringail, and a son, Galad. I know it is only chance, yet I see Tigraine in your face. It was a shock.”
Rand felt a shock of his own. He felt cold. Fragments of the tale the Wise Ones had told him spun through his head... a golden-haired young wetlander, in silks... a son she loved; a husband she did not... Shaiel was the name she took. She never gave another... You have something of her in your features.
Rand asks how Tigraine vanished, and Dyelin tells him Tigraine just disappeared one day and was never seen again; her father Taringail was half-mad with grief, and her disappearance led the Cairhienin to suspect Andor wanted to break the treaty Taringail’s marriage to Queen Mordrellen had cemented, which eventually led to Laman’s Pride and all that followed it. Dyelin’s father thought Gitara Sedai was at fault; Rand recognizes the name with a shock.
“Gitara was counselor to Queen Mordrellen,” she said briskly, “but she spent more time with Tigraine and Luc, Tigraine’s brother, than with the Queen. After Luc rode north, never to return, whispers said Gitara had convinced him that his fame lay in the Blight, or his fate. Others said it was that he would find the Dragon Reborn there, or that the Last Battle depended on him going. That was about a year before Tigraine disappeared.”
She concludes that Mordrellen died of grief soon after, which led to the Succession and eventually the ascent of House Trakand, and remarks he would have found a very different Andor had Tigraine not left. She leaves, and Rand thinks it would have been very different indeed, for he would not have been born, and marvels at the chain of events that had led to his birth. He wishes he could have met Tigraine/Shaiel just once.
The Wheel of Time and the wheel of a man’s life turn alike without pity or mercy, Lews Therin murmured.
Are you really there? Rand thought. If there’s more than a voice and a few old memories, answer me! Are you there? Silence. He could use Moiraine’s advice now, or somebody’s.
He realizes he’s facing in Alanna’s direction, and furiously rejects the notion of replacing Moiraine with a woman “who would ambush him that way”. Bashere appears and says there’s someone here he needs to see, but Rand tells him he’s going to Cairhien. Bashere says fine, but he needs to see this man; he claims to have come from “Lord Brend”. The Aiel guards snap upright; surprised, Rand tells him to bring the messenger in. The messenger comes in under heavy guard, and Rand sees there is something very wrong with him; he has a fixed, rictus-like grin on his face, but his eyes are filled with fear. He tells Rand in an Illianer accent that he comes from Sammael with a message for the Dragon Reborn, and then abruptly begins talking in a completely different voice, which Rand recognizes from Lews Therin’s memories as Sammael’s. Sammael offers him a truce until “The Day of Return”: as long as Rand will not move against him, Sammael will not move beyond what he already holds, so that on the Day of Return it will only be Rand and Sammael left, “as it was meant to be.” In growing fury, Rand realizes he has seized saidin, and Lews Therin is snarling as well.
“Take this message back to Sammael,” he said coldly. “Every death he has caused since waking, I lay at his feet and call due. Every murder he has ever done or caused, I lay at his feet and call due. He escaped justice in the Rorn M’doi, and at Nol Caimaine, and Sohadra... ” More of Lews Therin’s memories, but the pain of what had been done there, the agony of what Lews Therin’s eyes had seen, burned across the Void as if Rand’s. “ ...but I will see justice done now. Tell him, no truce with the Forsaken. No truce with the Shadow.”
To everyone’s shock, the messenger begins bleeding from every pore and collapses dead in moments. Bashere supposes his death indicates Rand’s refusal; Rand orders that the man be properly buried, and tells Bashere he may spend the night in Cairhien. Aviendha appears, disregarding the bloodied dead man, and tells his she must go with him to Cairhien, to speak to the Wise Ones. Rand grimaces, for he had hoped he might have one night without her distracting him, but agrees. Bashere reminds him that he was supposed to inspect his horsemen this afternoon, but Rand tells him it can wait; all he wants is to be away from here.
Moiraine’s advice about thrones and pigsties is one of the quotes from WOT that has always struck me as being a particularly accurate summation of the peculiarities of human behavior, enough so that I’ve already brought it up in the commentaries before now. You really don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and nowhere is that more true than in the arena of power. I think Moiraine’s influence on Rand was damaging in some ways, but in most ways, she did right by him.
This chapter does a lot to cement the Andoran cultural image as being rather doofy but laudable in their (comparatively) honest approach to politics. Which, of course, is what makes Andoran politics so frustratingly sludgelike, as we will have more than ample opportunity to experience in coming books. There’s a saying somewhere that I can’t remember the wording of, but very loosely paraphrased says that any government you can change quickly or easily is an utterly corrupt government.
Also in this chapter, of course, is the big DUN! regarding the true identity of Rand’s biological mother. As usual, I can’t remember whether I had guessed Tigraine = Shaiel before Rand’s conversation with Dyelin here the first time around, but certainly all the clues were there to make the connection long before this point.
I’m personally more interested in the bits concerning Luc. I really wonder if we’ll ever get to hear what exactly Gitara Foretold concerning him. I mean, did she know she was sending Luc to get turned into the Dark One’s hitman (hitmen, I guess I should say), or was it vague enough that she just knew it was important for him to go? I assume the latter, of course, since Gitara was pretty definitely a Good Guy, but you never know.
And while we’re at it, WHY was it so important for Luc and Isam to get smushed together and homicidal? Is this like a Gollum thing? Is Fain going to have to file an infringement of copyright suit?
Either Rand or Lan (or, ideally, both) meeting up with Slayer is definitely high on my wish list of Things I Hope Happen in the last three books, if for no other reason than hopefully this damn mystery finally gets cleared up.
Sammael: I guess terminally self-involved people really don’t get how altruism or moral principles can motivate non-narcissistic personalities to act against their own best interests, but really, dude. Why on earth would you have expected that to work?
On the gripping hand, I can’t decide whether to think Rand’s outright “fuck off” response was noble and awesome, or foolish and a loss of opportunity. I’m certainly in agreement with “no truce with the Shadow”, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t help thinking it would have been useful to have made Sammael think that Rand was amenable. All the better to hamstring him from behind later, of course.
Or is that too underhanded? I don’t know, maybe that makes me a bad person, but all’s fair in cliché cliché. Or So I Hear.
Rand going to Cairhien: NOOOOOOO! Don’t Do Eeeet… damn.
Chapter 17: The Wheel of a Life
Rand makes the gateway to Cairhien right there, and he and Aviendha and the Maidens and Red Shields all go through. He is met outside the room set aside for this use by thirty Far Aldazar Din (Brothers of the Eagle) and a contingent of Berelain’s Winged Guards. Rand realizes that he can still feel Alanna even six hundred miles away, though much fainter.
You never escape the traps you spin yourself. Lews Therin’s murmur sounded confused. Only a greater power can break a power, and then you’re trapped again. Trapped forever so you cannot die.
Rand shivered. Sometimes it really did seem that voice was speaking to him. If only it would make sense once in a while, having it in his head would be easier.
Then he notices that Aviendha has already slipped away; irrationally annoyed by this, he orders the guards to take him to Berelain and Rhuarc. The two find him in the corridors first, and as he looks at Berelain Rand suddenly realizes Lews Therin is humming tunelessly, the way a man might when admiring a pretty woman, and yells at him in his head to shut up; the voice falls silent. Berelain and Rhuarc tell him all is well in Cairhien, and Rand reflects that the decision to put Berelain in charge here was working out well. He asks after Egwene; Berelain, who dislikes Egwene for no reason Rand can determine, says nothing, but Rhuarc replies that Amys says she is recovering well. Rand starts to say he wants to see her, but is distracted by the sight of a group of Cairhienin women in the courtyard below training with swords, being attended by servants dressed all in white. He asks what that’s all about; Rhuarc snorts in disgust, but Berelain smiles and tells him many of the younger Cairhienin women have been very impressed by the Maidens, and want to be Maidens themselves, but of the sword, rather than the spear. Sulin and the other Maidens stiffen in outrage, and Berelain continues that it is not just the women; many younger Cairhienin are adopting ji’e’toh. Rhuarc growls that they are mangling it, but Berelain counters that they are merely adapting it; Rand gets the feeling this is not the first time they have had this argument.
“They change it,” Rhuarc repeated deliberately. “Those fools down there in white claim to be gai’shain. Gai’shain!” The other Aielmen muttered; handtalk flickered among the Maidens again. Havien began to look a trifle uneasy. “What battle or raid were they taken in? What toh have they incurred? You confirmed my ban on fighting in the city, Berelain Paeron, yet they fight duels wherever they think they’ll not be found, and the loser puts on white.”
He tells Rand that it should be stopped, but Berelain points out that since they started this, not one young man has died in a duel, which alone makes it worth it, but furthermore she has stood up to the parents of those young noblewomen to allow them to study the sword, and she will not go back on her promises to them. They look to Rand for his decision. Rand thinks that he understands the Cairhienin’s impulse to adapt the customs of a people who have now conquered them twice, and in any case considers some of the so-called legitimate ways in which Aiel can be taken gai’shain to be no less ridiculous.
Really it came down to one thing, though. He had put Berelain in charge; he had to support her. It was as simple as that. “Cairhienin offend you by being Cairhienin, Rhuarc. Leave them be. Who knows, maybe they will eventually learn enough that you won’t have to hate them anymore.”
Rhuarc grunted sourly, and Berelain smiled. To Rand’s surprise, for one moment she seemed about to put her tongue out at the Aielman. Only his imagination, of course.
They go on to Berelain and Rhuarc’s shared study, where Rand manages to get rid of all but two of his guards, and they give him their reports. Toram Riatin and Caraline Damodred are hidden in the foothills of the Spine of the World, supposedly with ten thousand Andoran soldiers, though Rhuarc doubts there are that many; he thinks Rand should do something about their rebellion, but Rand considers that he has bigger fish to fry at the moment. The Shaido are building holds in Kinslayer’s Dagger, and Rhuarc doubts that they intend to ever return to the Three-fold Land. There are reports of fighting in Shara, sparked by rumors of the Dragon Reborn.
Suddenly the wine tasted sour. Another place like Tarabon and Arad Doman, torn just by hearing of him. How far did the ripples spread? Were there wars he would never hear of in lands he would never hear of, because of him?
Death rides on my shoulder, Lews Therin muttered. Death walks in my footsteps. I am death.
Rand says his concern is Sammael, for now. They discuss that and other matters, and Rhuarc appears fondly amused at Berelain’s businesslike briskness as she gets into it. They are interrupted by Jalani, who says Mangin is here to see Rand. Rand starts to tell her he will see Mangin later, but Rhuarc stops him and says he should see him now, and Berelain looks at the floor. Rand agrees slowly, and Mangin enters and tells Rand conversationally that he killed a man six days ago, and now wants to know if he has toh to Rand for it. He tells Rand that the man offered him no violence, but was wearing a tattoo of a Dragon on his arm, so Mangin killed him.
“He was pretending to be a clan chief?” Rand realized he was searching for an excuse ...him will I hang. Mangin had been one of the first to follow him.
“No,” Mangin said. “He was drinking, and showing off what he should not have had. I see your eyes, Rand al’Thor.” He grinned suddenly. “It is a puzzle. I was right to kill him, but now I have toh to you.”
“You were wrong to kill him. You know the penalty for murder.”
“A rope around the neck, as these wetlanders use.” Mangin nodded thoughtfully. “Tell me where and when; I will be there. May you find water and shade today, Rand al’Thor.”
He leaves, and Berelain marvels that he will no doubt just show up for his own hanging; Rand tells her off for leaving him to handle this, but Rhuarc cuts in that Mangin’s toh was to Rand, not Berelain. Rand snarls back that his toh was to the man he murdered (Rhuarc looks shocked), and next time they are not to wait for him.
That way, perhaps he would not have to pass sentence again on a man he knew and liked. He would if he had to. He knew that, and it saddened him. What had he become?
The wheel of a man’s life. Lews Therin murmured. No mercy. No pity.
For some reason I found Lews Therin’s ogling of Berelain, and Rand’s “Quit it, perv!” response to be really funny. Though of course it wasn’t funny at all for Rand. But still. Heh.
Why does Berelain not like Egwene, again? I assume as a result of something that happened while they were both in Tear, but I can’t recall offhand the two of them really interacting very much. Maybe it’s just because she was there with Moiraine, who was rather dismissive of Berelain if I recall correctly.
It should come as a shock to precisely no one that I was highly pleased by the whole “Maidens of the Sword” movement in Cairhien. I was even more delighted by Berelain’s wholehearted endorsement of the practice, though it’s hardly surprising, given her drubbing of Faile in the Stone; Berelain is a woman who definitely knows the value of being your own last line of defense.
And by the way (*drags over soapbox*), the idea that women should not be taught to fight because they are physically weaker than men is officially the stupidest notion sexism has ever come up with. That is precisely why they SHOULD be taught to fight. I mean, this is so obvious to me as to be ludicrous. That’s like saying, to pull an example not at all from thin air, that because a levee system might not be able to withstand the worst hurricane ever, that you shouldn’t bother building a defense against hurricanes at all.
(Or building one RIGHT in the first place. Or re-building the one that’s already there! Assholes.)
(Wow, I jumped from one soapbox right to another there, didn’t I? I’m like Q-bert with the inflammatory commentary today! Whoo!)
Berelain is generally awesome in this chapter, actually. Rand’s surprise and Rhuarc's amusement at her ability to be something other than a sexpot is a trifle condescending and annoying, but otherwise I love the father-daughter/mentor-protégé relationship she has with Rhuarc, and the comfortable way they get on together despite their differences. It’s the kind of thing that is irritatingly rare in intergender relations in WOT, and so was all the more pleasant to see as a result.
It’s too bad that couldn’t have been continued, instead of sending Berelain off to be an additional annoyance factor in what probably stands as the most annoying storyline in WOT, for me anyway. But that’s for later!
Mangin: I’m with Rand on this one. Had to be done; really, really sucks. There’s really not much more to say about it in my opinion.
So I WON’T, ha! That’ll do us for today, goys and birls. Be good, and see you Wednesday!