Hi, and welcome to another Wheel of Time Re-read! I apologize for my current lack of brain; I have the dumb today. In lieu of brainage, please pretend that this intro is clever and/or witty in some way.
Today’s post covers Chapters 40-41 of Lord of Chaos. Please pretend that I followed this with a clever and/or witty list of things these chapters contain.
The Prologue of The Gathering Storm, “What the Storm Means,” is available for download here on Tor.com or at multiple online vendors. Chapter 1 is still available as well, and now Chapter 2 is available in audio format. Please refrain from posting spoilers for either the Prologue or Chapters 1-2 in the posts for the Re-read, in order to protect those who have not yet read them, or do not intend to before the release of the entire book. Spoiler discussion is going on at the respective posts announcing the releases, linked above; please keep them there. Thanks.
And now, please pretend I had some clever and/or witty closing line to segue into the main post, and then click the link!
Chapter 40: Unexpected Laughter
Mat distracts Thom from staring at the letter he’d passed on to him by asking Thom to help Mat “talk some sense” into Egwene et al. In answer, Thom tells him a story about the time he tried to rescue a woman from a man who he thought was abusing her, only to find out it was the other way around, ending up with Thom barely getting out alive. Mat doesn’t see what that has to do with anything.
“Just that you shouldn’t think you know the whole story when you’ve heard part. For instance, do you know Elayne and Nynaeve will be leaving for Ebou Dar in a day or so? Juilin and I are to go along.”
Mat is aghast, considering the stories he’s heard about the city, but Thom ignores his entreaties and instead asks how Mat feels about Egwene. Mat is confused by the question, but answers that she’s Egwene, which is why he has to save her, and Elayne and Nynaeve as well, if he doesn’t end up breaking the latter’s neck himself. Thom asks if he’s ever considered helping them do what they want instead of what Mat wants? Thom would like nothing better than to see Elayne in Caemlyn, but he’s accepted that she has other things to do first, so he does his best to protect her until then. Thom adds that while it’s strange to think of Egwene as Amrylin, he thinks she has the backbone and the brains for it; the question is whether she’s tough enough to survive it. Mat doesn’t know what he means, and Thom explains that the Aes Sedai don’t really accept any of the three girls as real Aes Sedai, even while accepting Egwene as Amrylin, which he doesn’t understand himself.
“Egwene is walking the edge of a precipice, Mat, and three factions right here in Salidar—three that I’m sure of—might push her over if she makes one wrong step. Elayne will follow if that happens, and Nynaeve. Or maybe they’ll push them over first to pull her down.”
“Right here in Salidar,” Mat said, flat as a planed board. Thom nodded calmly; and Mat could not stop his voice from rising. “And you want me to leave them here?”
“I want you to stop thinking you’re going to make them do anything. They’ve decided what they are going to do, and you can’t change it. But maybe—just maybe—you can help me keep them alive.”
Mat jumps up, thinking of the woman he had killed long ago, and asks if the letter is from a woman Thom rescued, or one he left? Thom answers, “I left her”, and walks away before Mat can stop him. Mat goes looking for information, and sees Nynaeve on the street. He heads toward her, thinking she owes him answers, but Nynaeve sees him and hurries away, plainly avoiding him. Mat thinks that this is their plan, to let him stew a while, and vows it won’t work. Mat joins Vanin and the others, and quietly orders Vanin to sneak out of Salidar back to the Band and tell Talmanes to sit tight a few days, then get back if he can. Vanin is less than thrilled about the situation, but agrees and walks off immediately. One of the squadmen asks nervously if everything is all right. Mat thinks he is “headfirst in a sack”; he promised to see Elayne to Caemlyn, but he couldn’t leave Egwene on the chopping block either.
It might be—Light, how it rankled!—it might be that he was going to have to take Thom’s advice. Try to keep those bloody women’s bloody heads on their bloody shoulders by somehow helping them make this whole mad impossible scheme actually work. While trying to keep his own neck in one piece, incidentally. And that left out keeping Aviendha from Elayne’s throat. Well, at the least, he could be around to get them away when it all fell apart. Small comfort that was. “Everything is just bloody fine.”
Elayne looks for Aviendha as the streets buzz with questions about Mat and his connection to the Dragon Reborn and etc., but Elayne notices no one asks how Rand al’Thor had known where to send Mat; everyone seems very jumpy. She finds Aviendha the same way, as many sisters are gossiping about the amazing appearance of an Aiel wilder with such strength. Elayne heads to where they are holding Aviendha, but is intercepted on the way by Birgitte (and Areina). Birgitte tells her in a low voice that she’s found out Adeleas and Vandene are going with them to Ebou Dar, and Elayne is less than pleased at the inclusion of “real” Aes Sedai chaperones. She tries again to ask about letting Egwene in on Birgitte’s identity, but Birgitte again vehemently rejects it; frustrated, Elayne asks to know why, and promises if it is a good reason she’ll never bring it up again. Birgitte explains carefully that in every other life she’s lived, she lived and died never knowing she was bound to the Wheel; she only knew in between, while in Tel’aran’rhiod. Even when she became famous, she was still just a person like everyone else. But now it’s different.
“This time I was ripped out, not spun out. For the first time wearing flesh, I know who I am. For the first time, other people can know too. Thom and Juilin do; they say nothing, but I am sure. They don’t look at me the way they do other people. If I said I was going to climb a glass mountain and kill a giant with my bare hands, they’d just ask if I needed any help on the way, and they would not expect me to.”
Birgitte just doesn’t think she can live up to that towering reputation. Elayne answers that she, Elayne, doesn’t look at her that way, and neither does Egwene. Areina interrupts, asking rudely if they are done yet, and Birgitte tells Elayne she will think on it before grabbing Areina’s braid and towing her away to have a talk about manners. Elayne continues to the house where Aviendha is, and is momentarily startled by the change in the Aiel woman’s costume and appearance. Aviendha leaps to her feet the moment she sees Elayne, her face openly showing pain. Elayne pulls rank on the Aes Sedai in the room to take Aviendha from them, noting that several almost protest even though she clearly stands above them in strength. She’s just glad that Myrelle isn’t there, who Elayne has discovered to her dismay is the Head of the Green Ajah in Salidar upon being accepted into it. Elayne and Aviendha walk to Elayne’s rooms; on the way Aviendha grabs a stout stick and begins peeling it with her knife, which makes Elayne wonder uneasily whether there really was some strange Aiel way in which she had offended Aviendha. In her rooms, Elayne faces Aviendha and says Mat claims Aviendha is here to kill her; Aviendha blinks, and comments that wetlanders always get everything backwards before laying her knife and the stick down.
“My near-sister Egwene asked me to watch Rand al’Thor for you, which I promised to do.” Bundle and shawl went on the floor beside the door. “I have toh toward her, but greater to you.” Unlacing her blouse, she pulled it over her head, then pushed her shift to her waist. “I love Rand al’Thor, and once I let myself lie with him. I have toh, and I ask that you help me meet it.” Turning her back, she knelt in the small space available. “You may use the stick or the knife as you wish; the toh is mine, but the choice is yours.” She tilted up her chin, stretching her neck. Her eyes were closed. “Whichever you choose, I accept.”
Elayne is flabbergasted at the revelation that Aviendha is the third woman in Min’s vision, then suddenly registers what Aviendha had said and is tempted for just a moment, but tells Aviendha to get up; she is not going to hit her and she is definitely not going to use a knife on her. She says Aviendha has no toh to her, and lies that she doesn’t care that Aviendha loves Rand too. Puzzled, Aviendha asks if Elayne is proposing they share him; she thinks it will take to time to know if they can be close enough friends for that.
Realizing her mouth was hanging open, Elayne closed it. “I suppose it will,” she said faintly. Min kept saying they would share him, but certainly not that way! Even the thought was indecent! “It is a little more complicated than you know. There’s another woman who loves him, too.”
Aviendha was on her feet so fast she simply seemed to be one place then the other. “What is her name?” Her green eyes blazed, and she had the knife in her hand.
Elayne almost laughs, and tells herself it could have been worse; it could have been Berelain. She sits Aviendha down and explains about Min and her visions, and firmly argues down Aviendha’s proposals that they “do Min in”. Finally Aviendha reluctantly says she must get to know this Min, then, and Elayne wonders if she is the only one of the three normal enough to not want to share him.
“Is anything in life ever simple, Aviendha?”
“Not when men are involved.”
Elayne was not sure which surprised her more, to find that she was laughing or that Aviendha was.
Thom is currently my favorite character, for the sense he talks in this chapter. THANK YOU, yes, let’s at least consider the notion that the Supergirls do actually have the competence to decide their own agenda, and that their agenda may actually be something worth doing and not just silly girls acting sillily!
(Sillishly? Silly-like? Well, now it doesn’t even look like a word. If it ever was one.)
At the same time, and perhaps contrarily, I do give props to Mat here for being genuinely indignant that the Aes Sedai are not giving Egwene her props, and for his loyalty to her which is all the more endearing for being unexamined. I still think he was acting like a dick earlier, but then so was everyone else, so.
Birgitte: Yeah, you know, that’s got to kind of suck, having that kind of reputation to live up to, especially when you’ve never had to do so before. That’s hella pressure, right there. I’m not really clear on how that relates to Egwene, though, since as Elayne points out, she already knows, so it’s not like confirmation of it is going to materially change Egwene’s expectations (or lack thereof) of Birgitte. But it’s probably just a denial thing; it’s clear that she hasn’t acknowledged it aloud to Thom and Juilin either.
Aviendha: So, am I right in inferring from her offer to Elayne to use the knife, that under ji’e’toh Aviendha’s offense here is serious enough to justify a punishment of death? Because I’m a bit startled if so. I know there are offenses which warrant a death sentence under Aiel law, but that seems a little extreme for infidelity – or poaching, or whatever this would be called.
Of course, back in the day the penalty for adultery was stoning (for the woman, anyway. I think the man just got like a fine or something. Adorable), so maybe it’s not all that extreme for the mindset involved. And then again, maybe Elayne was just meant to, I dunno, slice her up a bit. (Yeesh.) However, if killing Aviendha with the knife was meant to not be an option, you’d think that Aviendha would have mentioned that, seeing as Elayne could hardly be expected to automatically know where the line was drawn. The fact that she set no limits suggests that she thought Elayne could basically punish her any way she wanted, including killing her. Which, wow.
Chapter 41: A Threat
Min rides to the Palace in Caemlyn, barely noticing the city, having snuck away from Merana and the rest of the Salidar embassy. She catches herself thinking that maybe she should have worn a dress, when she’d never willingly worn a dress in her life, and thinks angrily that she will not change for a man, even though she knows she already has done so. She tells the Aiel guard at the gates that she has an important message for Rand al’Thor, and that he knows her. The Maiden she speaks to, Enaila, laughs and says if Rand does not know her she will go out much faster, and Min sees a wreath of some kind over her head, though she has no idea what it means. Enaila leads Min to the throne room, and Min watches him from the door as Enaila goes in to announce her. She thinks he looks tired, and beautiful. As always he has images flickering around him continuously.
One of those images she had seen every time she saw him. Countless thousands of sparkling lights, like stars or fireflies, rushed into a great blackness, trying to fill it up, rushed in and were swallowed. There seemed to be more lights than she had ever seen before, but the darkness swallowed them at a greater rate, too. And there was something else, something new, an aura of yellow and brown and purple that made her stomach clench.
She tries viewing the nobles with him, but sees nothing. Then the nobles begin leaving and Rand stands and smiles at her, gesturing her in.
Min thought her heart might burst out of her chest. So this was what it felt like for all those women she had laughed at, throwing themselves at a man’s feet.
She goes in, praying her knees hold up.
Rand bounds over to Min and picks her up and swings her around, laughing that it’s good to see her, and then apologizes when she sags dizzily against him. She mumbles that he is a wool-headed sheepherder, and asks if he never learned any manners; he laughs again and says he actually missed her calling him that. Holding her hand, he takes her to his own apartments, not understanding why Somara and Enaila look sullen about it, and once inside asks all about what she’s been doing. Min answers hesitantly that she cannot tell him where she came from, but Elayne is there, and then is startled when he tells her he knows about Salidar. She hands him a letter from Elayne, saying she swore to give that to him first thing.
I have made my feelings clear to you. Know that they have not changed. I hope that you feel for me what I feel for you. Min can help you, if you will only listen to her. I love her like a sister, and hope you love her as I do.
Rand stares at the letter, and wonders aloud if women all try to drive men crazy. Half to himself, he talks about Elayne and Aviendha, how one writes him two completely contradictory letters, which he wants the one that said she loved him to be the true one, and the other fighting with him every day, and yet he misses the battle. Min asks, doesn’t he know it’s rude to talk to one woman about another? Rand replies that he thinks of her as a friend, not a woman, and instantly knows this was a mistake.
“Oh?” Tossing back her coat, she placed her hands on her hips. It was not the all-too-familiar angry pose. Her wrists were twisted so her fingers pointed up, and somehow that made it very different. She stood with one knee bent, and that... for the first time he really saw her; not just Min, but the way she looked. Not the usual plain brown coat and breeches, but pale red, and embroidered. Not the usual rough-cut hair that barely covered her ears, but ringlets brushing her neck. “Do I look like a boy?”
“Do I look like a man? A horse?” In one quick stride she reached him and plumped herself down in his lap.
“Min,” he said, aghast, “what are you doing?”
“Convincing you I’m a woman, woolhead. Don’t I look like a woman? Don’t I smell like a woman?” She smelled faintly of flowers, now that he noticed. “Don’t I feel—? Well, enough of that. Answer the question, sheepherder.”
Rand says he meant no insult, it’s just that Min makes him feel comfortable; he can be open with her, relax around her. She considers this, then says that it sounds to her like Rand loves both Elayne and this Aviendha; Rand replies slowly that maybe he does, and wonders if this makes him a lecher or just a fool, but continues that it doesn’t matter, he’s sent both of them away and will keep them away. Astonished, Min asks what right he has to make that choice for them, and Rand answers that he is a target, and arrows aimed at him might hit someone next to him instead, and tells her about what Lan had said, that they “radiate death”. Min is silent a moment, and then says that’s not going to make her give up; she will make him acknowledge her as a woman.
“Min, I said I—”
“Oh, no, sheepherder. Not good enough.” She wriggled round on his lap in a way that made him clear his throat, and pinned a finger against his chest. “I want tears in your eyes when you say it. I want drool on your chin and a stammer in your voice. You needn’t think I won’t make you pay.”
Rand could not help laughing. “Min, it really is good to have you here. All you see is a mudfoot from the Two Rivers, isn’t it?”
Her mood changed lightning quick. “I see you, Rand,” she said, strangely quiet. “I see you.”
She changes the subject, telling him about the Salidar embassy, and Rand smiles, thinking it proof that the rebels are running scared. Then Min tells him there are nine sisters in the party, and at his start hastens to assure him it’s meant for an honor; even kings and queens only get three. She is sure they mean him no harm; she viewed them every day of the journey here and saw nothing untoward, but then reluctantly adds that she saw a viewing around him that means Aes Sedai (or, at least, women who can channel) are going to hurt him, and it might happen more than once. Rand asks if she can sure it’s not the Aes Sedai she came with, and she admits she can’t.
I have to be careful, Lews Therin whispered intently. Even these half-trained girls can be dangerous with nine of them. I must—
I must, Rand thought firmly. A moment of confusion from Lews Therin, and then he fled back to the shadowed recesses. He always did now, if Rand spoke to him. The only problem was that Lews Therin seemed to be seeing and hearing more, and intending to act on it. There had not been another incident of his trying to seize saidin, but Rand was careful now. The man wanted Rand’s mind and body for his own, thought they were his own, and if he managed to gain control even once, Rand was not certain it would not be just that way. Lews Therin Telamon walking and speaking, while Rand al’Thor was only a voice in his head.
Min tells him anxiously that she is on his side, not theirs, and won’t tell them one word about him that he does not want her to; the Aes Sedai don’t know about her viewings either. Rand assures her of his trust in her, and tells her to tell Merana they can send three sisters to him, instead of the one they had been planning, but that the others are to stay out of the Inner City, and none may channel around him. Min doesn’t think they’ll like it much, but agrees to tell them. They are interrupted as Sulin (still in servant’s garb) enters with a wine tray, and drops it with a crash as she sees Min on Rand’s lap. Min tries to get up, but Rand pulls her back down, deciding it was time to emphasize that he was done with Aviendha. He chastises Sulin for dropping the tray, as part of his scheme to ensure that her punishment was easier, by having her serve only him.
He suspected she would rather every Aiel this side of the Dragonwall saw her shame than allow him to, but he had eased her labors notably, eased his conscience somewhat, and if having to work for him made her decide her toh was met sooner, all to the good. Sulin belonged in cadin’sor carrying her spears, not in livery folding bed linens.
He warns her that Min is his friend, and he would be very put out if something happened to her, but Sulin answers grimly that none but Aviendha would have cause to, and almost falls over trying to curtsy before storming out. Min is very confused by the whole incident; Rand tells her he’ll explain some other time. Then Melaine enters to tell him that Egwene has left the tents to go to someplace called Salidar, where there are Aes Sedai, and adds that these Aes Sedai are “forward, undisciplined, contentious and full of themselves beyond reason”. Rand thinks this is quite a change from how the Wise Ones had formerly regarded the Aes Sedai, and notes that Min is falling asleep on his lap, and that it feels very nice to have her there. Melaine continues that he must be wary of the Aes Sedai, and “use a firm hand”, and then Min murmurs that Melaine will have two daughters, “twins like mirrors”. Melaine is astounded, and demands to know how Min knew, and Min gives Rand a dark look before reluctantly explaining about her visions. Melaine seems to consider that Min’s ability puts her on par with a Wise One, and they quickly get into a discussion about childbirth until Rand directs them back to the Aes Sedai. Min continues to argue that the Salidar embassy is trustworthy, though Melaine is skeptical, and runs down the names and personal proclivities of each of the sisters. Rand tells them he will show them as much respect as possible while not trusting them until they show proof of their good intentions, which pleases neither woman completely. Melaine hugs Min and tells her she will name one of her daughters after her, and warns Rand again to be wary of the Aes Sedai before leaving. Rand and Min are alone again, which suddenly seems awkward.
Rand and Min are both very likeable in this chapter, and Rand’s demeanor in particular is almost startling considering how he gets later on, with the no laughing or crying thing Cadsuane is supposedly going to teach him how to do again. I say, can’t happen fast enough.
It occurs to me that there aren’t many nicer compliments to be given than that you make someone feel comfortable and relaxed when you’re around. Beats “baby, you hot, baby” by about a zillion miles, sez me. And again, I don’t know who Rand or Min think they’re kidding here. “Just friends” do not walk through hallways holding hands, much less take naps on laps. I mean, come on.
Speaking of which, I wonder if the rather hilariously underhanded last line of Elayne’s note was intentionally or unconsciously disingenuous. “I hope you love her! Like a sister! SISTER!” Heh.
Also, I just tried to figure out how one puts one’s hands on one’s hips with the “wrists twisted” so the fingers are pointing up, and I have to say there’s no way to do that without it being rather painful. I dunno, maybe I am just not bendy enough in the wristal arena. Maybe my carpal tunnel is the culprit?
Also, I left out the bit where Min thinks about her three “aunts”, but I forgot that we actually get their names in LOC. Too bad I can’t think of any way to make the names “Rana, Jan and Miren” match up with Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos in any immediately obvious way.
Min vision: Obviously the upcoming locked-in-a-box episode counts for one time women who can channel will hurt Rand, but I’m wondering if there’s really any specific incident that closes this viewing off, because by my count it’s going to happen a heck of a lot more. Clearly, Semirhage charring his hand off in KOD could count, but he’s also still got to deal with Graendal, Cyndane, Moghedien, Tuon, any number of random Black Ajah, and so on and so forth, so really the possibilities are endless. Yay, not.
Of course, “hurt” is a pretty vague term, so possibly this could apply to Alanna biting it and giving Rand Psycho Warder Syndrome, or even Egwene yelling at him whenever he gets around to “knowing her anger”. Will the fun never end?
Melaine: I really can’t blame the Wise Ones for writing off the Aes Sedai; I’m just surprised it didn’t happen sooner. The Tower is very lucky they will get Egwene as Amyrlin, I have to say, since she is about the only one who hasn’t managed to burn her bridges with, er, everyone.
Though of course we have yet to see what happens when she and Rand meet up again; the “know her anger” thing could have a negative effect just as easily as a positive one. I would find it hilarious, though, if when they finally meet up, Elaida’s prophecy gets fulfilled by the two of them calling each other stupid names and then giggling about it. Mind you, I highly doubt this is what will actually happen; I just think it would be funny.
I elided the descriptions of the embassy sisters in the summary, but I do have to note sadly that of all of the sisters in the party, naturally it’s Demira who Min judges to be one of the most favorably disposed toward Rand. Sigh. Stupid chaos.
And, the end! For now. See youse Wednesday, I promise to try to re-brain by that time. Eyb!