Send not to know for whom the Wheel of Time Re-read posts! It posts for THEE.
Dat’s wight, wabbit: Today we cover Chapters 20-21 of Lord of Chaos, in which potential and potent plot problems are pondered and partially placated, possibly. Also, Ogier.
Previous entries are here. All posts contain spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, so if you haven’t read, don’t read.
As a scheduling note: this Monday is a holiday in the States (Labor Day), but I still intend to put up a re-read post as usual. If this changes I will post a comment in this entry to that effect.
And, yeah. The post, I give you.
Chapter 20: From the Stedding
A servant bursts into Rand’s rooms and falls to his knees with the news that three Ogier have come to the Palace and asked to see him. Rand considers the man’s behavior, and decides it would be more appropriate to go to them instead of the other way around. Rand finds them in a courtyard surrounded by a crowd of Aiel, including Sulin and Urien. The male Ogier greets Rand and introduces them: Haman, son of Dal son of Morel, an older woman named Covril, daughter of Ella daughter of Soong, and a younger named Erith, daughter of Iva daughter of Alar; Rand remembers meeting Erith in Stedding Tsofu. He has a brief argument with Sulin over asking the Aiel to leave, in which she gets rather huffy. Haman tells Rand that this has been a “very exciting” trip Outside, what with the Shaido Aiel besieging Al’cair’rahienallen, and Rand leaving there before they could get to him.
“I cannot help feeling we have been impetuous. No. No, you speak, Covril. It is for you I left my studies, and my teaching, to go running across the world. My classes will be in riot by now.” Rand almost grinned; the way Ogier normally did things, Haman’s classes would take half a year to decide he really was gone and a year more to discuss what to do about it.
Covril turns to Rand and demands, talking very fast for an Ogier, to know what he has done with her son Loial; Rand promised the Elders of Stedding Tsofu he would look after him, and Loial is too young to be Outside, and she asks Rand to hand him over so that he may be married to Erith so she can “settle his itchy feet”. Erith adds shyly that Loial is very handsome. Rand, remembering how Loial had seemed to think getting married would be the end of his ambitions to see the world, is about to tell them he doesn’t know where Loial is, when he suddenly has a thought, and asks how long Loial has been out of the stedding. Haman and Covril both say “too long”, Haman adding his confusion over why Loial thinks anything Outside could possibly have changed that much from his books, and Erith adds that it has been more than five years, and she will not let Loial die from “being foolish”. Rand says that Loial mentioned Ogier who stayed Outside for up to ten years, but Haman tells him that of the five Ogier who stayed out that long and lived to return, three died within a year, and the other two were little more than invalids for the rest of their lives.
“The Two Rivers,” Rand said. Saving a friend’s life was not betraying him. “When I last saw him, he was setting out in good company, with friends. It’s a quiet place, the Two Rivers. Safe.” It was now, again, thanks to Perrin. “And he was well a few months ago.” Bode had said as much when the girls were telling what had happened back home.
Erith tells the other two they must start out immediately, and wilts when the older Ogier stare at her in surprise; Rand invites them to rest at the Palace, and adds that Haman can help him in the meantime. He needs to locate all the Waygates; Shadowspawn are using them, and he needs to guard them so Trollocs and Myrddraal can’t ambush them from nowhere. To himself, he wonders why none of the Forsaken have just used gateways to inundate him with Trollocs, but concentrates on what he can prevent. Haman and Covril consult, and Haman thinks this is all very hasty, but agrees. Rand immediately yells for maps; Sulin puts her head in the courtyard, and he tells her to go find all the maps in the Palace and bring them there.
She looked al him almost disparagingly—Aiel did not use maps, indeed claimed not to need them—and turned away. “Run, Far Dareis Mai!” he snapped. She looked over her shoulder at him—and ran. He wished he knew how his face looked, so he could recall it for use again.
Haman doesn’t understand why Rand is having so much trouble locating the Waygates; there is one outside every stedding, plus one in every city with an Ogier grove, like Al’cair’rahienallen. Rand reflects that the name he uses sums up the problem right there, and explains that despite what Haman might think, an awful lot can change in three thousand years among humans, and some cities that Haman knew are gone so long even their names are not remembered. Haman is incredulous that Rand doesn’t even know where all the stedding are, much less the cities, and Covril and Erith look very sad. Sulin returns with gai’shain carrying a great pile of maps, and tells Rand stiffly that they are looking for more; Rand thanks her, and that seems to make her feel a little better. Rand starts sorting through the maps.
Borders and names were enough to rank the maps by age. On the oldest, Hardan bordered Cairhien to the north; then Hardan was gone and Cairhien’s borders swept halfway to Shienar before creeping back as it became clear the Sun Throne simply could not hold on to that much land. Maredo stood between Tear and Illian, then Maredo was gone, and Tear and Illian’s borders met on the Plains of Maredo, slowly falling back for the same reasons as Cairhien’s. Caralain vanished, and Almoth, Mosara and Irenvelle, and others, sometimes absorbed by other nations, most often eventually becoming unclaimed land and wilderness. Those maps told a story of fading since Hawkwing’s empire crumbled, of humanity in slow retreat. A second Borderland map showed only Saldaea and part of Arafel, but it showed the Blightborder fifty miles farther north too. Humanity retreated, and the Shadow advanced.
Haman starts marking where all the stedding are, explaining to Rand that the Breaking folded the land in many places, which is why some stedding are only a few miles apart. He is saddened by the stedding which have been abandoned for lack of population, and even more upset by the ones swallowed in the Blight. Haman begins marking the cities, first the few that still exist, then the ones that are no longer there.
Mafal Dadaranell, Ancohima, and Londaren Cor, of course, and Manetheren. Aren Mador, Aridhol, Shaemal, Deranbar, Braem, Condaris, Hai Ecorimon, Iman... as that list grew, Rand began to see damp spots on each map when Haman was done. It took him a moment to realize that the Ogier Elder was weeping silently, letting the tears fall as he marked cities dead and forgotten.
One of them catches Rand’s attention; Haman calls it Aridhol, but Rand corrects him: it is Shadar Logoth. He asks if they would show him that Waygate if he took them there.
One thing that always makes me snort a little is the tendency in fantasy novels to name places (or things, or people) with reeeeeeally long names, and then inexplicably fail to have the populace at large assign it a nickname. Because that is what people do, you guys; you name a place El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula, and you end up with “L.A.”. It is the way of things.
Jordan, thankfully, seems to tacitly acknowledge this. “Cairhien” from “Al’cair’rahienallen” may not be a nickname per se, but it’s close enough for government work. Not to mention about a hundred times less annoying to type. So that’s good.
We come back to one of the overarching themes of WOT in this chapter, one which we’ve gotten away from recently, that despite the progress being made in Rand’s school, the Third Age in general has been of history in decay; of a breaking down as opposed to a moving forward, a sign of the Dark One’s effect on the world. From this point of view, you can say that everything Rand is doing, not just with the school but in his campaign of conquest in general, has indirectly been a fight against this “retreat of humanity”. The people of Randland may not be having a particularly good time since Rand came on the scene, but you certainly have to admit he got them all moving.
Gateways: Is Rand’s confusion about why none of the Forsaken are moving Trollocs via Traveling our first hint that Shadowspawn cannot pass through gateways, or have we been told this already?
Either way, I have to say that’s always been slightly suspect to me from a plot convenience standpoint, because otherwise it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Gholam not being able to use gateways I can certainly see, of course, and a reasonable case can be made for Fades because of their abilities with shadow-travel and alla that, but why can’t Trollocs use them? They’re ugly and mutated and all, but they’re still flesh-and-blood creatures who appear to have no particular inherent magical attributes that might logically prevent them touching something made with the Power, so the fact that they can’t use gateways seems rather arbitary to me. It can’t be because of their evilness, because the One Power is self-evidently neutral on the question of good vs. evil; if it weren’t, no Darkfriends would be able to channel. It seems to me, then, that the only reason Trollocs can’t use gateways is because the plot needs them not to be able to. Oh well.
Ogier culture, I’ve decided, kind of gives me hives. They’re very nice and all (at least the mainland Ogier are), but as anyone who’s ever seen me drive (or walk, or talk) can attest, I don’t understand people who aren’t in a hurry. There’s a reason I consider roller coasters to be the highest form of fun, is all I’m saying. Just GO! Sheesh.
On a less superficial level, I have a very large problem with the way we are presented with Ogier gender relations – specifically in the arena of marriage. The only thing I can figure on this score is that Jordan is making another of his gender-flipped points – highlighting the absurdity of arranged marriages by making it the men who have no choice in the matter, where historically in the real world it was women who were (and, in some places, still are) handed off to husbands like sacks of meal at market.
If so, however, I really think in this case it rather backfires, because the primary result in my view is that practically every female Ogier we’ve met comes off as a horrible bulldozing harridan – even Erith, to a certain degree – with whom no one in the reader audience can possibly be reasonably expected to sympathize, while all the male Ogier are then given license to act very put-upon and make up the most blatantly sexist proverbs in WOT (the one in this chapter was “Women do not become exhausted, they only exhaust others.”). Nice.
Not to mention, of course, that the idea of arranged marriages just completely offends me irrespective of which gender it’s being forced on. Excuse me, but fuck off. I’ll marry who I want when I want, and that should be the case for everyone. And the LAST thing I would want is someone being forced to marry me! Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. I would be as much against this if I were Erith than as if I were Loial. Free Will is the New Sexy, y’all!
(And it only adds insult to injury that later on Loial finally does get dragged to the altar, so to speak, and he decides it’s the most awesome thing that’s ever happened to him. But I’ll rant about that when we get to it.)
Chapter 21: To Shadar Logoth
Covril and Haman refuse Rand’s request; Covril will not lose any more time in finding Loial, and Haman says Aridhol is no place for Erith. Rand explains that they will gain time, because he will take them there via Traveling. The Ogier go off to consult, where it is clear Haman is still against it, but Covril and Erith gang up on him and wear him down; finally, Haman tells Rand they will go, and adds he will have much to say about Rand to the Stump.
Rand did not care whether Haman told the Stump he was a bully. Ogier held themselves apart from men except for repairing their old stonework, and it was unlikely they would influence any human one way or another about him.
He opens up a gateway just as Sulin, Liah, and Cassin reenter with more gai’shain carrying more maps, and Sulin gives the gateway an accusing look. Rand tells her he can protect himself better there than she can, against things that spears cannot fight. Sulin replies, all the more reason for them to be there, which Rand reflects would only make sense to an Aiel. He tells her she can bring whoever she can get to the courtyard by a count of fifty; she flashes handtalk to Jalani, who runs off, and then to the female gai’shain, who are visibly startled, but run off as well, Sulin following. Moments later the courtyard begins filling with Aiel leaping from balconies and through windows, all veiled for battle; they are confused that nothing is happening.
Quickly it became clear that she had spread the word the Car’a’carn was in danger, the only way she felt she could gather enough spears in the time allotted. A little sour grumping passed among the men, but most decided it was a fine joke, some chuckling or rattling spears on bucklers. None left, though; they looked at the gateway and settled on their haunches to see what was happening.
Rand overhears Nandera whisper to Sulin that she spoke to gai’shain as Far Dareis Mai, and Sulin replying that they will deal with it once Rand al’Thor is safe. Rand has a brief fight with the Aiel over which societies and how many of each can come, and warns them not to touch anything nor enter any building; the Aiel are impressed by the Ogiers’ fervent agreement with this. They go through to Shadar Logoth; the party is silent, looking at the ruined and deadly city.
This place frightens me, Lews Therin murmured beyond the Void. Does it not frighten you?
Rand’s breath caught. Was the voice actually addressing him? Yes, it frightens me.
There is darkness here. Blackness blacker than black. If the Dark One chose to live among men, he would choose here. Yes. He would. I must kill Demandred.
Rand blinked. Does Demandred have some connection to Shadar Logoth? To here?
I remember at last killing Ishamael. There was a sense of wonder in the voice, at a new discovery. He deserved to die. Lanfear deserved to die, too, but I am glad I was not the one to kill her.
Was it just happenstance that the voice seemed to speak to him? Was Lews Therin hearing, answering? How did I—did you kill Ishamael? Tell me how.
Death. I want the rest of death. But not here. I do not want to die here.
Rand sighed. Just happenstance. He would not want to die here either.
He tells Haman to lead on, and Haman mutters that he had not realized it would be so bad here. They walk through the city, Rand trying not to think about the memories the place calls up; he ponders Padan Fain and how Shadar Logoth had changed him, and wonders what he had been doing with Whitecloaks, until Haman tells him they have arrived at the Waygate. Covril asks that Rand not open it, and Haman volunteers to lock it, but Rand replies that it might have to be used in an emergency, and thinks his desire to cleanse them is almost as grandiose as his ambition to cleanse saidin. He weaves and then inverts a trap around the Waygate that will not affect humans, but any Shadowspawn passing through it will die slowly, so that they will be far enough from the gate not to warn others coming through with their corpses.
From the first flow he channeled, the taint seemed to pulse inside him, a slowly building vibration. It must have been the evil in Shadar Logoth itself, a resonance of evil to evil. Even in the Void he felt dizzy from those reverberations, as though the world swung beneath his feet in time to them; they made him want to vomit up everything he had ever eaten.
He finishes the trap and begins to form a gateway for them to leave, and then realizes someone is missing; the Aiel confer, and Sulin says it is Liah. Enraged, Rand shouts that he said for everyone to stay together. He fights to be calm, and tells everyone to split into pairs and search, which they do, leaving Jalani to guard Rand; Haman and Covril volunteer to search as well, but both Erith and Rand vehemently refuse. Rand thinks that his temper has gotten far too difficult to hold lately, and apologizes to the Ogier, asking that they stay with him. They search, calling for Liah and finding nothing. Finally Jalani says that she doesn’t think Liah would have gone this far, but Rand replies that he won’t leave her here. The sun is going down when Sulin and Urien find him; Sulin thinks whatever is watching them is waiting for nightfall, and Haman adds that from what he’s read, if they are here when the sun sets they will all die.
Duty is heavier than a mountain, death lighter than a feather.
Lews Therin had to have that from him—memories passed both ways across that barrier, it seemed—but it cut to the heart.
“We have to go now,” he told them. “Whether Liah is alive or dead, we—must go.” Urien and Sulin only nodded, but Erith moved closer and patted him on the shoulder with surprising gentleness for a hand that could have gripped his head.
Haman asks if he would carry them outside the city, but Rand replies he’ll go them one better, and take them directly to the Two Rivers. He makes the gateway, and looks back at the city as the Ogier and Aiel go through. Sulin hisses when she notices that he has gashed the back of his hand with his fingernails; Rand thinks that he has made a more permanent mark inside, one for each Maiden who died for him, and steps through to a field some distance from Emond’s Field. A shepherd boy notices them and runs off toward a farmhouse; Rand suggests the Ogier stay there for the night, and asks that they not tell anyone about Rand or how they got to the Two Rivers. Haman and Covril exchange glances, and agree.
Haman stroked his beard and cleared his throat. “You must not kill yourself.”
Even in the Void, Rand was startled. “What?”
“The road ahead of you,” Haman rumbled, “is long, dark, and, I very much fear, bloodstained. I also very much fear that you will take us all down that road. But you must live to reach the end of it.”
“I will,” Rand replied curtly. “Fare you well.” He tried to put some warmth into that, some feeling, but he was not sure he succeeded.
They wish him the same and head off; Rand stares for a moment in the direction of the farm where he had grown up, and turns away to Travel back to Caemlyn.
So, who wants to take bets that Rand not caring whether Haman tells the Stump he’s a bully will come back to bite him later?
Lews Therin: Well, we all know what I think this means (“I killed Ishamael” = “Rand killed Ishamael”, ha ha!), but no matter which Lews Therin theory is true, it doesn’t change how creepy it must be for the voice in your head to start actually having sort-of conversations with you.
Also, I remember it was around this point on first reading that I started wondering whether Rand’s “conversations” with Lews Therin were noticeable to other characters yet. Meaning, during the above bit, did it look like he was talking to no one? Was he standing there tilting his head or whatever for a minute, and then sighing, sort of like the way Dashiva was pretending to behave later on? ‘Cause, if so, yikes.
And yet, I can’t recall offhand anyone mentioning anything like that when we get to see Rand from someone else’s point of view, so I guess that means he must be hiding it, and hiding it well. Which has to be a lot harder to do than it might sound. I can’t speak from personal experience, of course, but I’m pretty sure if I started having chats with a disembodied voice in my head, people would frickin’ notice.
Taint: It’s obvious from Rand’s observations about the “resonance” of the taint with Shadar Logoth’s evilness that Jordan already knew at this point how Rand was eventually going to cleanse saidin. I don’t have any particular conclusion to draw from this, I just think it’s neat.
I’m also interested in the dizziness Rand feels here; it’s made pretty clear (especially in KOD) that Rand’s later dizziness problems stem from crossing the balefire streams with Moridin in ACOS (which is Bad), but then again that incident actually also happened in Shadar Logoth, so maybe there’s more of a connection there than I previously supposed.
Liah: Poor Liah. The one WOT character whose name is within shouting distance of my own, and she gets lost in Hell on Earth. And also, makes Rand a cutter. Figures.
Jokes aside: poor Rand. The first time I read this chapter I wanted to yell at him for not just going to see Tam already, but I get why he didn’t now. Doesn’t make it suck any less.
No man may be an island, but I kind of wish I were on one. An ISLAND, you perv, jeez! Have a lovely Labor Day weekend if that be your national duty, and have a lovely random weekend if it ain’t. Be nice in commentage, and see you Monday!