Heigh-ho, it’s another Wheel of Time Re-read, innit? It is!
Today’s post covers Chapters 8-9 of Lord of Chaos, in which there is much stompage and schemeage, respectively. Huzzah!
Previous entries are here. This and all other posts contain spoilers for all currently published novels in the Wheel of Time series, but you knew that. Didn’t you.
The only other thing I have to say is FFRRRRIIIIIDDDDAAAAYYYYYNOM
Chapter 8: The Storm Gathers
Nynaeve wakes up grumpy; she feels a storm coming even though the sky is cloudless and clear. She listens sourly to Elayne’s account of the previous night’s adventures, almost as annoyed that she wasn’t awake to help Heal the Aes Sedai as she is to hear that they once again had paid no attention to her warning. She asks how Elayne had ended up mired in the nightmare with the rest of them, and Elayne shrugs that part off as unimportant, hoping the Aes Sedai had learned a little humility from the experience.
[Elayne] had probably let herself be caught in the nightmare, though the girl would never admit it. Nynaeve was not sure whether Elayne thought taking credit for bravery was boasting or whether she simply did not realize how brave she was. Either way, Nynaeve was torn between admiration for the other woman’s courage and a wish that just once Elayne would acknowledge it.
She tells Elayne that she thinks she saw Rand in Tel’aran’rhiod while searching for Leane in Tar Valon, or someone who “looked a little like him”; it was only a glimpse. Elayne mutters that Rand needs her, and Nynaeve opines that what he needs is someone to “box his ears once a week on general principles”. They discuss the news gleaned from Elaida’s study briefly before Elayne has to run; she is teaching novices for the first time that day. Nynaeve goes to find Moghedien, only to discover her doing laundry (and very upset about it), apparently at Myrelle’s orders. Nynaeve stalks off, wondering if Myrelle had some kind of personal issue with her, and wanders around, looking busy so no Aes Sedai will shanghai her into some useless task. She reflects on Lan, and her desperate hope that he’s alive, and her shame that her first thought on hearing of Moiraine’s death was joy that he was free. She sees Myrelle coming toward her and hastily ducks into what she thinks is an empty building, only to find Lelaine Akashi, one of the Blue Sitters in Salidar, displaying Logain to three Altaran nobles. Logain is telling them his story about the Reds setting him up as a false Dragon; Nynaeve watches how much he seems to be enjoying it, and thinks that he really does hate Aes Sedai. The few times she had studied him, the burning contempt in his eyes had been unnerving.
Aes Sedai had shut him away from the One Power forever; Nynaeve could imagine her own feelings if anyone did that to her. He could not revenge himself on all Aes Sedai, however. What he could do was destroy the Red Ajah, and he was making a fair beginning to it.
This is a process that’s been going on for a while, in the hopes that nobles would be convinced to throw their support to the rebels, or at least not support Elaida. Nynaeve listens until Lelaine notices her, and beats a hasty retreat back onto the street, where she comes upon Siuan confronting Bryne. Bryne is growling that she is incapable of taking a compliment, while Siuan accuses him of just being smug because she has to iron his shirts; Bryne retorts that it’s not his fault she took such an oath with no expectation that she would have to keep it, and then asks what she’s heard about plans for the army to march while she’s been “groveling” for Aes Sedai. Siuan suddenly goes icy, and tells him that is not part of her oath, and he would do well to follow his oath to the Hall.
The change in Bryne was as lightning quick. “You would be an enemy worth crossing swords with,” he chuckled admiringly. “You would be a better... ” That fast the chuckle faded back into a glower. “The Hall, is it? Bah! You tell Sheriam she might as well stop avoiding me. What can be done here has been done. Tell her a wolfhound kept in a cage might as well be a pig when the wolves come. I didn’t gather these men to be sold at market.”
He strides off, and Nynaeve asks what that was all about, making Siuan jump. Siuan shuts her down coldly, but Nynaeve presses her instead on letting Nynaeve study her. Before she can make headway, though, Leane appears, and while pretending to be pissed, lets Siuan know that her attempts to get in on the meeting with the Wise Ones tonight have failed. Siuan snarls (“Fishguts!”) and storms off, and Leane takes off in the other direction. Nynaeve is irate at being ignored, but is interrupted when Lelaine joins her. Lelaine laments Siuan and Leane’s lack of decorum, and Nynaeve reluctantly helps hold up their subterfuge. Lelaine abruptly asks what Nynaeve thinks Rand al’Thor will do; Nynaeve replies that she has no idea, and hesitantly asks what the Hall plans for him. Lelaine doesn’t answer, but comments on the extraordinary number of exceptional people – like Rand and Nynaeve – all coming out of one village, and then jumps to the subject of Nynaeve’s study of Siuan and Leane, advising her to give it up and stop reminding them of what they’ve lost.
“From the way they behave, the only thing that keeps them from forgetting completely is you, and your foolish attempts to Heal what cannot be Healed. They are no longer Aes Sedai. Why hold out false hope?”
There was a hint of compassion in her voice, and a tinge of contempt too. Those not Aes Sedai were less, after all, and Siuan and Leane’s ruse had definitely painted them among the least. Plus, of course, no few here in Salidar blamed the Tower’s troubles on Siuan, on her plotting while Amyrlin. Very likely they believed she deserved everything that had happened to her and more.
Nynaeve replies carefully that Sheriam Sedai has given her permission; Lelaine notes with amusement her grip on her braid, and replies that a wise woman learns to limit how often she is a fool. She asks if Nynaeve has ever considered cutting her hair short, and leaves. Nynaeve is livid.
Months sitting here in Salidar doing nothing—for all practical purposes it seemed she was, no matter what she and Elayne managed to pull out of Moghedien—amid Aes Sedai who did nothing except talk and wait while the world went on its way to ruin without them, and Lelaine thought she should cut her hair! She had pursued the Black Ajah, been captured and escaped, captured one of the Forsaken in turn—well, none of them knew that—helped the Panarch of Tarabon regain her throne however briefly, and now all she did was sit and take credit for what she could shake loose from Moghedien. Cut her hair? She might as well shave herself bald for all the good it would do!
Nynaeve stalks on, passing a newly arrived Aes Sedai she does not recognize (and who frowns at her sharply), until she comes upon Uno. Uno gives her a grin, but she grimaces back, for seeing him has reminded her of his offer to get them out of Salidar. She walks on, musing on the notion, wishing that Thom and Juilin were not still off scouting in Amadicia, and debates where would be the best place to go if she were to leave; Elayne would certainly come if she decided to go to Rand in Caemlyn. At the thought, she comes upon Elayne’s novice class, which includes Nicola, and Nynaeve reflects that once the age bar had been lifted Salidar had acquired more novices than the White Tower had had for years. Theodrin joins her abruptly, making her jump again, and asks if she would like to be teaching novices. Nynaeve pooh-poohs the notion, but Theodrin smiles and merely comments that once Nynaeve’s block is broken Theodrin has no doubt she’ll be raised soon after, with all the amazing things she’s discovering. Theodrin then mentions that Nynaeve never told her what her “trick” was.
“People got well when they shouldn’t. I would get so mad that somebody was going to die, that everything I knew about herbs wasn’t enough...” she shrugged. “And they got well.”
Theodrin thinks that’s much better than her trick, which was she could make boys want to kiss her, or not. Her block was men; she couldn’t channel unless there was a man who she strongly liked or disliked in the vicinity. She tells Nynaeve how they broke her block, by having a handsome young man she really liked be in the room while she had lessons, and then unbeknownst to her switched him out with his twin sister.
“When she took off her coat and shirt one day in the middle of my lesson, I was so shocked I fainted. But after that, I could channel whenever I wanted.”
Nynaeve and Theodrin both laugh, and Theodrin swiftly takes the opportunity to press Nynaeve to stop avoiding her and learn how to break her block. Nynaeve resists, but Theodrin is adamant, for Myrelle has asked her to make “special efforts”. She walks away, and an astounded Nynaeve is then promptly knocked down by Dagdara Finchey (Yellow), who’s running through the streets for some reason. Nynaeve stomps back to her room, only for Moghedien to storm in moments later to rant about her “ruined” hands and being made to labor like a commoner, until Nynaeve shuts her up with an imaginary switching, and settles down to try and learn the latest thing, a weave which Moghedien claims will let a woman detect a man’s channeling, but is so complicated that so far it’s only given her and Elayne blinding headaches. She works on it until Elayne barges in, scaring Moghedien half to death, to tell Nynaeve the news: an emissary has arrived from the Tower, a Red named Tarna Feir, and the whole town is in a taking. Nynaeve observes sourly that she and Elayne had told them Elaida knew where they were, but Elayne points out that it’s one thing to be told and another to know for sure. Nynaeve kicks Moghedien out and asks Elayne what message Tarna brought, but Elayne doesn’t know. She worries that the Hall might actually seriously consider an offer to return; Nynaeve is incredulous at the notion, but Elayne replies that Nynaeve does not know Aes Sedai the way she does, and she thinks any of them would give almost anything to have the Tower whole again.
Nynaeve rubbed her arms irritably. She had no answers, only hopes, and her weather sense told her that that hailstorm that was not there was beating the roofs of Salidar like drums. The feeling went on for days.
Interesting chapter title, all things considered...
Poor Nynaeve. The world just rains crap on her head, doesn’t it? It’s very funny to me how I can be in almost total sympathy with her virtually constant state of high dudgeon, and at the same time find it hilarious. Basically this entire chapter is Nynaeve stomping around being irate at everything, and it is amusing as hell.
Not that she doesn’t have plenty to be legitimately irate about, of course. I do kind of wish she’d been nice to Uno, though. For some reason her treatment of Uno is one of the few things that irritates rather than amuses me about her. I have no idea why I have such a soft spot for the guy, but there it is. Be nice to Uno, dammit!
Completely random sighting of Slayer: Seemingly unrelated to anything in particular, unless you buy the theory that Slayer planted the Trolloc nightmare that trapped Sheriam et al, which personally I don’t. Maybe it’s just Jordan reminding us that he exists. Wild-eyed conspiracy theorists are invited to have at.
Logain: This whole thing with the Red Ajah and all that made me nervous from the start. I was convinced it was going to blow up in the Rebels’ faces from Day One, probably because of the lying and the karma and all.
Of course, then it just kind of... didn’t have any effect at all, that I can recall, so okay then. Bullet: dodged!
Bryne: Siuan would be a better what? Wife? Sparring opponent? Small green fuzzy creature from Alpha Centauri? Tell me! Grr.
Lelaine: Her introduction is so innocuous, and yet she is going to become such a giant pain in our asses, it’s amazing. Also, her commentary on the unlikelihood of so many “extraordinary” people coming from one village is about as close as Jordan ever comes to lampshade hanging.
Thom and Juilin: Well, at least we finally found out what the heck happened to them. For a while there I thought they’d fallen down a plothole. *rimshot*
Theodrin: I love her story about how she broke her block, and I love that she seems like such a normal person, which makes her a downright anomaly in Salidar. I do hope she does not turn out to be a Darkfriend, as a friend of mine stoutly avers she must be, because (he says) otherwise she is way too “nice”. B-but, why can’t we have nice things?? I cry.
Moghedien: Heh. Poor widdle Forsaken has to do laundry, oh woe!
And also, perhaps it is screamingly obvious and I shouldn’t be proud of this, but I instantly called bullshit on this “detecting a man channeling” weave the first time through, and was very annoyed (perhaps unfairly) at Nynaeve and Elayne for not catching it themselves. Go me!
(Give me a break, I hardly ever guess plot twists ahead of time.)
Speaking of Elayne, I love that she is this proper and elegantly brought-up princess, and yet is continually described as slamming doors open and barging into rooms and scaring the crap out of everyone. Probably because people getting fake scares like that is just generally funny. As long as it’s not happening to you, naturally.
Last but not least, how long can it possibly take for Nynaeve to catch on that her “storm sense” is working just fine, as long as you go meta? Ain’t you never heard o’ them there cymbalical thingys, girl? (Smash!)
(No, I do not know what is wrong with me. Move along, please.)
Chapter 9: Plans
In his office, Niall dresses down his spymaster Abdel Omerna for letting Illuminators past the quarantined border of Tarabon. Omerna argues stubbornly (and stupidly) for allowing their admittance until Niall finally shuts him down and asks for his report. Omerna goes on at great length and very little accuracy, claiming (among other things) that Mattin Stepaneos is ready and eager to ally with the Children, with Alliandre of Ghealdan, Tylin of Altara, and Roedran of Murandy close behind, the Borderlands are in rebellion, and the Prophet’s army is sure to break any day now against Ailron’s forces.
Niall listened just enough to know where to nod. Omerna had been an adequate commander in the field, so long as someone told him what to do, but in his present position, his credulous stupidity was trying. [...] The simple form of it was this: where a spymaster should doubt his own face in the mirror, Omerna believed anything.
Niall thanks Omerna and sends him out, and as an afterthought Omerna gives him a message come by pigeon for him. After Omerna leaves, Niall doesn’t open the message, but instead contemplates the drawing of Rand al’Thor fighting in the sky at Falme. He wonders if he waited too long, and thinks that if so, the “knife in the dark” may be the only solution left. His secretary, Balwer, enters; Niall asks him if he thinks Stepaneos will really join him, and Balwer replies perhaps, but he’s just learned that Stepaneos has also agreed to an unknown proposal from the Tower.
The truth was that Omerna was a decoy, a fool who did not know himself that he was only a mask hiding the true master of spies in the Fortress of the Light, Sebban Balwer, Niall’s prim dried-up little secretary with his disapproving mouth. A man no one would ever suspect, or credit if he was named to them.
Where Omerna believed everything, Balwer believed nothing, perhaps not even in Darkfriends, or the Dark One. If Balwer did believe in anything, it was looking over men’s shoulders, listening to their whispers, rooting out their secrets. Of course, he would have served any master as well as he did Niall, but that was all to the good. What Balwer learned was never tainted by what he knew had to be true, or wanted to be true. Disbelieving everything, he always managed to root out truth.
Balwer gives Niall the real report, including the news that Davram Bashere is in Caemlyn, and the fighting in the Borderlands (over whether al’Thor is a false Dragon or not) is dying down. Niall thinks it’s no wonder Tenobia is avoiding his envoy, then, and reflects sourly that so far everything seems to be going al’Thor’s way. He is horrified by the sheer size of the army al’Thor’s building in Tear, and Ailron’s retreat from the Prophet’s forces has only stopped because the Prophet has stopped advancing. Niall reminds himself, though, that all is not lost yet; Carridin is doing well in Altara and Murandy, and Niall maintains confidence that the fence-sitting nations can be convinced to come down on his side – even Saldaea. Additionally, Eamon Valda will soon be back from Tar Valon, and while Niall has little love for Valda, it means that the Children will be at full strength again. He abruptly remembers the message, and breaks the seal while Balwer looks primly displeased at this evidence of sources that don’t go through him first. The ciphered message is from a rug seller named Varadin, whom Niall had thought dead and now concludes has gone mad.
In the jerky hand of a man on the brink of madness, it was a wild disjointed ramble about men riding strange beasts and flying creatures, Aes Sedai on leashes and the Hailene. That meant Forerunners in the Old Tongue, but there was not even an attempt to explain why Varadin was terrified of them or who they were supposed to be. Plainly the man had taken a brain fever from watching his country disintegrate around him.
Niall tosses the message aside and tells Balwer to continue. Balwer tells him that the rumors about the Ogier holding meetings are true, though there is no way to tell what those meetings are about; Balwer comments they are showing “unusual haste” for Ogier. There is also an unusually large number of Sea Folk ships in the southern ports, not doing any trading or sailing.
“The news of middling interest is... peculiar, my Lord. Al’Thor has reliably been reported in Caemlyn, in Tear and in Cairhien, sometimes on the same day.”
“Reliably? Reliable madness. The witches probably have two or three men who look like al’Thor, enough to fool anyone who doesn’t know him. That would explain a good deal.”
The last and most interesting item in Balwer’s report is the news that the witches in Salidar are claiming that the Red Ajah had set up Logain Ablar to be a false Dragon, and are telling this story to anyone who will listen. Niall frowns, and wonders if perhaps he might have been wrong, and the Tower really was split. He thinks the information very dangerous, as many of the Children would see this as a prime opportunity to attack the witches in Salidar, and Niall is determined that this will not devolve into a Children vs. the Tower scenario. Niall and Balwer discuss how to turn this to their advantage, and eventually come up with a plan to spread four rumors:
“The first, that the division in the Tower was caused by a Black Ajah uprising. The second, that the Black Ajah won, and control the Tower. Third, the Aes Sedai in Salidar, repelled and horrified, are renouncing being Aes Sedai. And fourth, they have approached you, seeking mercy and protection. For most people, each will be a confirmation of the others.”
Niall approves, and moving on, tells Balwer that he wants Elayne and Gawyn Trakand found and brought to Amador. Balwer diffidently suggests that he press Morgase, as she has been in the Fortress for over a month, but Niall replies that Morgase is too “rugged” an opponent to press too hard; if cornered, she will fight, but every day that she is here ties her to Niall more closely.
“It is always harder to abandon an alliance the world thinks you entered freely than one you can prove you were forced into. Reckless haste leads to ruin, Balwer.”
Morgase is out hawking with Basel Gill, Paitr Conel, some loaned ladies-in-waiting, and a large escort of armed men, supposedly to protect her from roving Dragonsworn, even though the nearest were some two hundred miles away. Two of the ladies compliment her on her son Galad’s quick attainment of rank in the Children, and Morgase thinks of how Niall had dropped that bomb on her the night before, and knows it to be yet another knife to her throat. The only protection she can give him is to pretend she doesn’t care about him, and so replies indifferently to the ladies. Another more powerful noble, Marande, cuts in spitefully, saying she hears Rand al’Thor displays the Lion Throne “like a trophy from the hunt”.
“I have heard as much,” Morgase replied blithely. “The lion is a dangerous animal to hunt, and the Lion Throne more so. Especially for a man. It always kills men who seek it.”
Marande smiled. “I also hear he gives high places to men who can channel.”
This is not as easy for Morgase to laugh off, and Marande presses her advantage, telling her that al’Thor consorts daily with Andoran nobility: Arymilla, Naean, Jarin, Lir. Morgase abruptly ends the hawking party and heads back to the Fortress. Marande smiles in triumph; Morgase is careful not to reveal her own smile as she thinks Marande is poison, but her need to hurt Morgase makes her reveal far more information than she should. And the names she gave Morgase were very comforting, for they had all been Gaebril toadies, and the news gives Morgase hope that her old allies – Pelivar, Abelle, Luan, Ellorien, etc. – have not yet knelt to al’Thor and might even return their support to her. They pass crowds of dirty, hopeless-looking travelers on the road, and Morgase asks the leader of the “armsmen” (really, Whitecloaks), Norowhin, if they are refugees from the Prophet. Norowhin doesn’t want to talk to her, but finally answers no, they are refugees from the false Dragon. Morgase doesn’t understand this, as al’Thor is hundreds of leagues from here.
“They believe he is the true Dragon Reborn,” he said at last, sounding disgusted. “They say he has broken all bonds, according to the Prophecies. Men forsake their lords, apprentices desert their masters. Husbands abandon their families, and wives their husbands. It is a plague carried on the wind, a wind that blows from the false Dragon.”
Morgase watches them, and vows that if al’Thor has done the same in Andor as here, she will make him pay.
Whitecloaks, bah. Morgase, agh. Infodumps, grar. Me no like mean chapter.
Though Balwer, I admit, is cool. Especially knowing where he will end up, but even without that, he’s an interesting character, made more so by his contrast with a pompous ass like Omerna.
Niall is a bizarre mix as a character; on some levels he is extremely insightful, as when he notes what makes Omerna a rotten spymaster and what makes Balwer a great one, but in the next breath he himself fails to live up to Balwer’s recipe for success. Niall terms Balwer’s secret as “believe nothing”, but a more accurate way to put it is “color nothing”. By which I mean, Balwer is great at ferreting out truth because he takes things as they are, and does not let his own personal prejudices and preconceptions alter how he interprets them. This is harder than it sounds.
I think Niall believes he does this as well, but he really doesn’t. He’s not as bad as your average fanatic Whitecloak, but he has several very large blind spots that he’s not even aware of.
Of course, so do we all, right? But I think the difference is there are certain kinds of personalities that are self-aware enough to at least recognize they have biases, and can therefore work to counteract them. The problem is, you rarely come across that kind of personality in an organization like the Whitecloaks. Niall comes close, but close, as they say, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. And Aludra hasn’t gotten around to inventing the latter yet. Ba dum dum.
Infodump: Blah blah. Balwer’s information does clear up what the fighting in the Borderlands was about, if not exactly how it was resolved, and presumably this is what will lead to the BoTO (Borderland Treaty Organization, as it was dubbed on Usenet back in the day), which is the big ass Borderlander army that tromps all over looking for Rand for like a hundred years, and as of KOD is still playing decoy for Elayne in Andor, if I recall correctly, which I may not. In any case, they still haven’t found Rand, and therefore this is one more thread that has managed to hang fire for six books – more, actually, since the first rumors about the Borderland fighting showed up earlier, in TFOH or even TSR. So, yeah.
The rug merchant’s message: the Seanchan are already back in Tanchico? Eh? I thought they didn’t show up until ACOS, in Ebou Dar. Well, whatever.
Morgase: As usual, she manages to say at least one thing that completely pisses me off. Seriously, woman, how is it Rand’s fault that people he’s never been anywhere near decided completely independently to go haring off into the wild blue yonder because of him? Of course, he’s going to feel guilty about them himself, but he would.
And is it just me, or is that the most loonball thing to do ever? The world is on the edge of famine and drought, there’s war busting out all over, and the End, quite literally, is Nigh, like for reals, you guys – so, obviously, this is an absolutely PERFECT time to abandon your family and friends and livelihoods and go on a road trip with no money and no food and no protection! That makes so much sense! Except for how it’s retarded, of course. Sheesh.
“Fallout shelter”, guys. Look it up. Hatches, battening down the. Seriously.
Aaaand that concludes this week’s installment of me trying to talk sense into people who don’t actually exist. It’s a tough disorder but somebody’s got to freak people out with it! See what I sacrifice for you? Yeah, you be real grateful, and I might even come back on Monday. MAYBE. Ciao!