Salaam and good day to you, worthy friends! It is time for Wheel of Time Re-read, yes? Yes!
Today’s installment covers Chapters 10-11 of Lord of Chaos, in which I LOSE MY SHITE, because AAAAAHHHHHH. It’s... kind of not pretty.
(Do I know how to advertise or WHAT?)
Previous entries are here. Please note that 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 so, brace yourselves, gird your loins, butter your popcorn, and click the link!
Chapter 10: A Saying in the Borderlands
Rand walks through the Palace, accompanied by Bashere with half a dozen Saldaeans, Bael with the same number of Sovin Nai (Knife Hands), and Sulin with twenty Maidens, and thinks wistfully of times when he used to get to be alone. He keeps thinking of details he needs to take care of, and each thing leads to another thing; Rand reflects that it is like “being beaten to death with feathers”. He is grateful, though, that Lews Therin seems to be mostly leaving him alone at the moment, and that the trick Taim had shown him of ignoring the heat seemed to be working. Bashere and Bael are worried about the number of people arriving in Caemlyn; even if none are Rand’s enemies or Darkfriends, trouble is brewing. Bashere tells him a number of people have been beaten for doubting Rand is the Dragon Reborn, and one man was hanged in a barn for laughing at Rand’s miracles.
“My miracles?” Rand said incredulously.
A wrinkled, white-haired serving man in a too-large coat of livery, with a large vase in his hands, trying to bow and step out of the way at the same time, tripped on his heel and fell backward. The pale green vase, paper-thin Sea Folk porcelain, flew over his head and went tumbling end-over-end across the dark red floor tiles, spinning and bouncing until it came to rest, upright, thirty or so paces down the hall. The old man scrambled to his feet with surprising spryness and ran to snatch up the vase, running his hands over it and exclaiming in disbelief as much as relief when he found not a chip or a crack. Other servants stared with just as much incredulity, before abruptly coming to themselves and hurrying on about their tasks. They avoided looking at Rand so hard that several forgot to bow or curtsy.
Bael and Bashere look at each other, and amend it to “strange occurrences”, and Rand notes they do not list examples of the bad kind, like a loose roof tile getting blown into a window and killing a woman eating supper. He thinks that even without the Dragons on his arms, he is still marked.
There was a saying in the Borderlands: “Duty is heavier than a mountain, death lighter than a feather.” Once you had that mountain firmly on your shoulders, there was no way to put it down. There was no one else to carry it anyway, and no use whining about it.
Rand tells Bashere to have the lynchers found and arrested, but also to find and arrest the ones inciting rebellion against him for supposedly killing Morgase. Moving on, Bashere tells him Pelivar Coelan and Ellorien Traemane sneaked into the city three days earlier, and Dyelin Taravin is rumored to be nearby. None have responded to Rand’s invitations; Rand tells him to send fresh invites via Arymilla. Bael says that the Red Shields tell him two Aes Sedai are in the city as well; Rand asks if one of them is “our friend who likes cats”, referring to the persistent rumors that an Aes Sedai who Healed dogs and cats was in the city, but Bael doesn’t think so. Rand supposes these two Aes Sedai might be in the city for some reason unrelated to him, but can’t imagine what that might be. Lews Therin abruptly pipes up:
Pride fills me. I am sick with the pride that destroyed me!
Rand hardly notices, because Aviendha is standing in the garden they’ve just come to, watching the fountain in wonder, and he stares at her, trying to figure out if he is in love with her.
He did not know. She was all tangled in his head and his dreams with Elayne, and even Min. What he did know was that he was dangerous; he had nothing to offer any woman except pain.
Ilyena, Lews Therin wept. I killed her! The Light consume me forever!
Rand decides not to enter the garden, and says he intends to visit the inn where the Aes Sedai are staying. Enaila and Jalani start into the garden anyway, but Rand says sharply that “anyone who wants to put on a dress and discuss matchmaking” can stay behind; Sulin handtalks at them, and they return, shamefaced. The party leaves with Aviendha never seeing them, and Bashere and Bael both make sententious pronouncements about the foolishness of young men in love.
Irritated, Rand looked over his shoulder again. “Neither of you would look well in a dress.” Surprisingly, the Maidens and Knife Hands laughed again, more loudly. Maybe he was getting a grip on Aiel humor.
He heads out into the city, trying to enjoy the ride as much as he can, though his pleasure is dampened by the number of refugees wandering aimlessly, having abandoned everything to follow him here. Rand wonders what on earth he’s supposed to do with them, but knows it is his responsibility whether he asked for it or not. They arrive at the inn and troop inside, and Rand sees that the common room is filled with young girls, and then realizes with a shock that he knows many of them.
“Bode?” he said in disbelief. That big-eyed girl staring at him—when had she gotten old enough to put her hair in a braid?—was Bodewhin Cauthon, Mat’s sister.
He asks what she’s doing here; Bode gapes back at him, but answers excitedly that they are on their way to Tar Valon to become Aes Sedai, just like Egwene and Nynaeve. She asks after Mat, and Rand says he is not here, but is well. The other girls chime in, asking about him, for Lord Perrin hardly told them anything, and Verin and Alanna Sedai are always asking about him. Rand reacts to the “Lord” part, and the girls deluge him with an account of everything that had happened in the Two Rivers, and Rand feels guilty for not being there even as he acknowledges that it was the price he paid for what he gained in return. They babble on until suddenly Verin and Alanna enter, both gazing at Rand. Rand hasn’t met Alanna before, but notes that her eyes look slightly red, as if she had been crying. Their two Warders follow them in, and the Aiel and Saldaeans instantly go on alert; Rand says loudly there will be no trouble, unless Verin starts it.
Verin studied him with birdlike eyes. “Who are we to start trouble near you? You have come far since I saw you last.”
Rand doesn’t want to talk about that, and replies that they must have heard about the Tower split by now (the girls react with shock) and asks if they know where the Aes Sedai opposing Elaida are. Alanna says they should talk alone, and they head for the private dining room. There is almost an incident between Rand’s escort and the Warders until he and the Aes Sedai convince everyone to stay outside. Inside, he asks if they mean to take the girls to the rebels, and Verin frowns that he appears to know more about recent events than they do; they had only learned of the Tower split in Whitebridge. Rand says he means the rebels no harm, and has reason to believe they might support him. Alanna and Verin tell him if they did know they would have no right to tell him, and he should wait for them to come to him, if they so decided to.
“It is foolish to treat us as enemies,” Alanna murmured, moving toward him. “You look tired. Are you getting enough rest?” He stepped back from her raised hand, and she stopped. “Like you, Rand, I mean no harm. Nothing I do here will cause you any injury.”
Since she had said it straight out, it must be so. He nodded, and she raised her hand to his head. His skin tingled faintly as she embraced saidar, and a familiar warm ripple passed through him, the feel of her checking his health.
Alanna nodded in satisfaction. And suddenly the warmth was heat, one great flash of it, as if he stood for a heartbeat in the middle of a roaring furnace. Even after it passed, he felt odd, aware of himself as he never had been before, aware of Alanna. He swayed, head light, muscles watery. An echo of confusion and unease rang from Lews Therin.
“What did you do?” he demanded. In a fury, he seized saidin. The strength of it helped hold him upright. “What did you do?”
He realizes they are trying to shield him, and slams his own shields on them; Verin staggers. He demands they tell him what Alanna did, threatening them, and Verin quickly explains that Alanna bonded him as a Warder, “that’s all”. Alanna looks at him with contentment and says she did not lie, that what she did is the “opposite of injury”. Rand tries to choke down his rage, and tells them since they said they wouldn’t be going to Tar Valon, they can stay here in Caemlyn, but they will stay away from him unless he sends for them; otherwise he will leave them shielded and throw them in prison to boot. Neither of them like this, but agree, and Rand storms back into the common room. Bode, who had been talking to Bashere, tells him that this man has been saying horrible things about him, that he is the Dragon Reborn. Rand replies wearily that he is, and the Two Rivers girls all scoff at him.
Saidin still filled him. Gently he wrapped Bode and Larine in flows of Air and lifted them until their shoes dangled a foot above the floor. “I am the Dragon Reborn. Denying won’t change it. Wishing won’t change it. I’m not the man you knew back in Emond’s Field. Do you understand now? Do you?” He realized he was shouting and clamped his mouth shut. His stomach was lead, and he was trembling. Why had Alanna done what she did? What Aes Sedai scheme was hatching behind that pretty face? Trust none of them, Moiraine had said.
Alanna touches his arm and begs him to let them down, he is frightening them. Rand sees that it is true – Bode is sobbing, as are most of the girls in the room – and Rand hastily lets them back down and tries to apologize. None of them will look at him, though, and Bashere comments that done is done, and maybe it was for the best. Rand nods slowly, and wishes that he could have been just Rand al’Thor to them for just a little while longer.
Best that they were afraid of him. Best that he forgot the Two Rivers. He wondered whether that mountain ever got lighter for a time, or only kept on getting heavier.
There are not enough headdesks in the world, you guys. IN THE WORLD.
I don’t think I actually threw the book against the wall when I got to this chapter, but it was undoubtedly a close call. To say I was pissed off by what Alanna did would be to drastically understate the situation. Sorry, make that AM pissed off, because it still infuriates me now.
Acts of violation, in case you haven’t noticed, are tops on my list of Shit Your Scumbag Ass Should Bleed For. And that is unquestionably what this is. How DARE she? How dare ANYONE do such a thing? I would have smacked that bint into the Fourth Age! AAAAAHHHH
Did I mention that this might have pissed me off a bit?
I’m pissed at everyone, too, not just Alanna. I’m pissed at Verin for not slapping her stupid cohort upside the head, I’m pissed (unfairly) at Bode and the other Two Rivers girls for making it worse afterwards, and I’m even pissed at Rand, for (a) being so goddamn stupid as to let her touch him in the first place, and (b) for not being angry enough after.
Seriously. Yeah, he’s angry, but I really thought his reaction wasn’t nearly commensurate with the offense. Not by HALF. I recognize that a stronger reaction would probably have been an even greater disaster than it was, and possibly have led to an unforgivable act on his part, but still. Not angry enough!
It’s possible that I am projecting. (Naw!)
As for her claim that she did “the exact opposite” of injuring him by bonding him, obviously she’s referring to the fact that he’ll get the benefits of Warderhood—most usefully, the ability to survive wounds that would kill anyone else—but this is sophistry on a level that even most Aes Sedai don’t indulge in, and in my opinion doesn’t mitigate the outrage of her act in the slightest. I’ve always said Alanna’s had a big fat target painted on her from the moment she bonded Rand, and I say that not only because it would be a way to send Rand ax-crazy (well, ax-crazier) without sacrificing any of his three loves, but because in my book it’s only karmically fitting. That might not apply in the real world, but epic fantasy is another matter. We’ll see if I’m right. I’d BETTER be right.
Slightly less vengefully, I will note that I’ve always been slightly puzzled as to why Jordan felt this particular plot twist was necessary. Yes, it could send Rand over the edge if Alanna dies, but frankly there are already a plethora of ways in place which could accomplish the same goal, and I can’t think offhand of any particular plot-related use it has been or could be other than that.
Well, I guess other than generating drama. And chaos. Okay, fine. Bah. Grump. I am moving the hell on.
Black Ajah: Are in the city, whoo! At least Marillin Gemalphin is. This will be important later. Nice clue there.
Lews Therin: Is still supporting my theory by directly commenting on Rand’s hubris. Unless of course you take that to mean he’s real. Heh. At this point I’m just harping on it to annoy people.
Bode: One thing I am definitely hoping we get to see at some point is Mat’s reunion with his sister Bode. The reasons why should be screamingly self-evident. Hee.
Random reference: the name of Verin and Alanna’s inn, Culain’s Hound, is a reference to Cú Chulainn, one of the most famous heroes of Irish mythology. I don’t think anything in his story is supposed to evoke or refer to what happens in the inn, but may I just say, Cú Chulainn did some messed-up shit, y’all. That is all.
Chapter 11: Lessons and Teachers
Verin sighs with relief the moment Rand is out the door, and reflects that neither Moiraine nor Siuan had listened to her about how dangerous he was. And now Siuan was stilled and probably dead, and Verin assumes that Moiraine must be dead, too, otherwise she would never have let Rand out of her sight. She wonders if Rand turned on Moiraine, and whether he was already struggling with madness.
Verin tsked irritably. If you took risks, sometimes the bill came due when you least expected, in the last way you expected. Almost seventy years of delicate work on her part, and now it might all go for naught because of one young man. Even so, she had lived too long, been through too much, to allow herself to be dismayed.
Verin tries to settle the girls down, but they refuse to be calmed, especially Bode, who is demanding that they find Mat. Alanna loses patience and scares the girls silent with an Illusion of herself growing bigger, and orders them to their rooms immediately. The girls stampede out of the common room, and Verin sighs, thinking that had not been necessary. She calms the terrified inn staff as best she can, and then takes Alanna back into the private room, where Alanna immediately starts ranting about Rand’s gall in restricting them. Verin reflects that Alanna had held her emotions over losing her Warder Owein in check for far too long, and points out that Rand can’t really hold them in Caemlyn if they are determined to leave (reasoning that no matter how much he’s taught himself there’s no way he could have discovered wards), but neither she nor Alanna have any intention of abandoning the treasure trove of channeling talent they had found in the Two Rivers. She asks if Alanna thinks he’s right about a rebel faction; Alanna finds the notion repellant, but thinks the message from her informant in Caemlyn (“All loyal Aes Sedai to return to the Tower. All is forgiven”) more or less confirms it. Verin further points out that Siuan’s hiding al’Thor’s existence was undoubtedly part of her downfall, and before Alanna can ask how she knows that, asks what Alanna was about, bonding him like that.
“It was the logical thing to do, with him right there in front of us. It should have been done long ago. You could not—or would not.” [...] “They all should have been bonded at the first chance. They are too important to run loose, him most of all.”
Verin thinks that the only reason Alanna hadn’t bonded Perrin in the Two Rivers was because of Faile’s threat to kill Alanna if she did so – not because of the threat itself, but of Faile’s ignorance of what that would do to Perrin if she did. Verin considers it was the frustration of that which led her to bond Rand without his permission – something that hadn’t been done in hundreds of years.
Well, Verin thought dryly, I have broken a few customs in my time.
She asks what Alanna expects to do with him now that she has him, adding that she’s reminded of the old story about the woman who saddled and bridled a lion. Alanna can’t believe how strong he is, and Verin almost shivers, thinking of how easily he had shielded them both. She moves on to the subject of Rand’s amnesty, and they discuss whether it could possibly be true or not, and what to do about it if it is. Verin has a plan for that, and as she is detailing it to Alanna, thinks that there are a great many questions to be answered, and it is perhaps lucky that Alanna’s emotional state is so frayed, for that will make it easier for Verin to make sure they are answered the way she intends them to be.
Rand races back to the Palace, outdistancing Bashere and the Maidens, skin crawling as he realizes he can still feel Alanna in his head.
If he could feel her, could she feel him the same way? What else could she do? What else? He had to get away from her.
Pride, Lews Therin cackled, and for once Rand did not try to silence the voice.
He arrives at the Palace and runs to the Great Hall, where he quickly opens a gateway to the farm and jumps through to a nearby clearing. The feeling of Alanna’s presence is fainter, but still there, and he knows exactly what direction she is from him. He tries seizing saidin again, but it doesn’t help. He realizes he is laughing and can’t stop.
His fool pride. Overconfidence. It had gotten him in trouble before, and more than him. He had been so sure that he and the Hundred Companions could seal the Bore safely...
Leaves crackled as he forced himself to his feet. “That was not me!” he said hoarsely. “That was not me! Get out of my head! All of you get out of my head!” Lews Therin’s voice murmured indistinctly, distantly. Alanna waited silently, patiently, in the back of his head. The voice seemed afraid of her.
Rand pulls himself together after a few moments and heads to the farm, where Taim is training the seven students he’s found so far, including Damer Flinn, Jur Grady, Eben Hopwill, and Fedwin Morr; Sora Grady is now the only woman left at the farm. Rand watches as Flinn inexpertly wields Fire and Earth and blows up a rock, causing everyone except Taim to dive for cover as shrapnel flies everywhere (Taim shields himself with Air). Taim comes over to Rand as the students continue; Rand asks if it’s safe to leave them alone as Eben blows up another stone, but this time all the students have woven shields for themselves. Rand pushes away the one Taim had over both of them, which makes Taim almost smile, and Taim points out that Rand had told him to push them, and he is. They have to do all their chores with saidin, and if they can’t heat their own food, they eat cold. Rand asks where Haslin is, and Taim replies that he sent him away; what need has a man who channels with swordsmanship? Lews Therin shrieks to kill him, and Rand fights down anger, telling Taim coldly to bring him back; the students must be able to defend themselves if they are ever in a position where they can’t channel. Taim is contemptuous, but replies he will obey. Rand moves on, telling Taim that there are Aes Sedai in Caemlyn, and visits to the city will have to stop.
Taim shrugged. “Doing an Aes Sedai’s head like one of those rocks isn’t beyond them even now. The weave is only a little different.”
He offers to “remove” them himself, if Rand is “not up to it”; Rand replies if he wanted them dead, he’d have killed them himself, and warns Taim that until he gives the word, he and the students are to avoid all Aes Sedai and harm none of them. Taim shrugs and acquiesces, and changes the subject to the idea of going out recruiting, which he has been pressing Rand on for some time. He’s pointed out that at the current rate, it will take them six years to match the Tower’s numbers, and Rand knows they don’t have that kind of time. Taim’s plan is to use gateways to visit villages and recruit for men to follow the Dragon Reborn, and test those who come along after they’ve arrived. The ones who don’t pass can be formed into a fighting force.
“It’s time you started raising an army of your own instead of depending on others. Bashere could change his mind; he will, if Queen Tenobia tells him to. And who can know what these so-called Aiel will do.”
Taim bets Rand that in one day of recruiting he’ll match what would have walked into Caemlyn on his own in a month, and further that he’ll match the Tower in less than a year. Rand is leery of the risks of letting Taim loose, but finally agrees.
I usually applaud Verin’s general sneakiness, and certainly a large (and awesome) aspect of her character has always been her hidden ruthlessness, but my personal prejudices on the matter of Alanna’s forced bonding of Rand makes me less than thrilled with her here. She knew Alanna was a ticking time bomb on the subject, and yet did nothing. Bah.
Alanna: Still would like to drop-kick her. Emotional instability my ass! (aaaaahhhhh) It should also come as no surprise that I find Alanna’s “logic” on why the Superboys should all have been bonded right off the bat to be repugnant. I will note that I think she’s pretty alone in that sentiment among Aes Sedai; most of them pretty reliably find the notion of bonding someone against their will to be horrifying. AS THEY SHOULD. Grr.
I forgot Verin’s observation here that Alanna would totally have bonded Perrin were it not for Faile—though honestly I’m still not sure why that stopped her. I mean, as long as we’re going to completely violate tradition and all moral notions of respecting free will, why would Faile’s threat have been a concern? All she would have had to do was explain to Faile what Perrin’s bond-induced reaction would have been to Alanna’s death, and Faile’s hands would have been tied—not that Faile would have had much of a chance in killing Alanna in the first place.
Although, it’s true that it’s not impossible for mundanes to successfully ambush channelers, as we will see, so maybe that was it, but... enh. The rationale seems pretty thin, even so, and it’s unlike the arrogance of channelers in general and Aes Sedai in particular to seriously consider that a non-channeler poses a threat.
Of course, Aes Sedai hardly hold the monopoly on arrogance, as Taim’s contempt for swordsmanship clearly demonstrates. Fortunately Rand’s not nearly so foolish, though of course he’s had ample experience to prove the wisdom of having a back-up option.
“So-called Aiel”: I really would like an explanation of this quote someday. Of all the arguments for Taim being Demandred, this one was (in my opinion) by far the strongest, and now that we know for sure Taim isn’t Demandred I would really like to know where the hell it came from. The common speculation is, assuming Taim is working for Ishy and/or Demandred, that he just picked up the phrase from one or both of them, but that seems like an awfully random phrase to adopt, if you ask me. I guess it could simply be an authorial gaffe, but I remain unsatisfied on this score.
More Verin: Speculation has run rampant on the exact nature of Verin’s “70-Year Plan”, and I must confess I’ve forgotten what if anything we’ve discovered about that. I tend to think that thus far it’s never been explicated for us, but again I am very vague on events in KOD so I could be wrong. I’m sure someone in the comments will be able to enlighten me.
So! I’ll leave you chickies to do just that, why don’t I? And, of course, to make fun of me for my histrionics. (aaaaahhhhh) Happy Monday, if there is such a thing, and I’ll see youse guys anon, yo!