Hi de do, campers! Gather round for another Wheel of Time Re-read post!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 44-45 of Lord of Chaos, in which we have some dirty dancing (for WOT values of “dirty,” anyway), some sour grapes lyricism, and some Sirs Finally Appearing In This Novel.
Previous entries are here. This and all prior posts contain spoilers for all currently published novels of the Wheel of Time series up to and including Knife of Dreams, so if you haven’t read, don’t read.
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 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.
Thanks for all the well wishes in the comments last post, by the way. I’m fine, just dealing with some ongoing issues. No worries, eh?
Also, thanks to everyone who has “shouted” at me in my profile here on Tor.com. I must confess I’ve never quite figured out how to “reply” to those things, but I have read and sincerely appreciate each one of them. Just so you know.
And now, let’s get to it, shall we?
Chapter 44: The Color of Trust
Mat finds a stable for he and his men to bunk in, and as a gesture of defiance has Rand’s banners hung on the outside of it, which almost gives the innkeeper a heart attack but otherwise elicits disappointingly little reaction from the Aes Sedai. He tries to see Egwene, but is told she is busy; then he looks for Thom and Juilin, but they are nowhere to be found. To show he doesn’t care that Egwene is leaving him to stew, he goes dancing, ending up dancing with a gorgeous woman named Halima.
But after a while he noticed that Halima had a way of brushing against him, a way of leaning to look at something so he could not help seeing down her dress. He might have enjoyed it, if not for the fact that she glanced at his face every time with a sharp eye and an amused smile. She was not a very good dancer—she kept trying to lead, for one thing—and he finally begged off.
It should have been nothing, but before he had gone ten paces the foxhead went icy cold on his chest. He spun around, looking furiously for anything at all. What he saw was Halima staring at him in the firelight. Only for an instant before she seized a tall Warder’s arm and whirled back into the dance, but he was sure he had seen shock on that beautiful face.
He asks about Halima, and finds out she’s not Aes Sedai, and thinks he must have been mistaken. The musicians are playing a tune he recognizes from a thousand years before, and he thinks no one must know the original words for it to be played here:
Give me your trust, said the Aes Sedai.
On my shoulders I support the sky.
Trust me to know and to do what is best,
And I will take care of the rest.
but trust is the color of a dark seed growing.
trust is the color of a heart’s blood flowing.
trust is the color of a soul’s last breath.
trust is the color of death.
The song goes on, ending with “the love of your life”, and Mat remembers writing the song because of the love of his life, and walks somewhere else. He runs into Myrelle, who offers to bond him as a Warder; Mat refuses politely, and to escape her goes up to a pretty blue-eyed woman to ask her to dance.
Too late he saw the Great Serpent ring on her right hand, and then that sweet mouth opened and a voice he recognized said dryly, “I asked you once whether you’d be there when the house was burning down, boy, but it seems you make a habit of jumping into fires. Now go away and find somebody who wants to dance with you.”
Siuan Sanche! She was stilled and dead! She was glaring at him with some young woman’s face she had stolen, was what she was, and wearing an Aes Sedai ring! He had asked Siuan Sanche to dance!
Then a young Domani woman comes up, glares at Siuan, and snatches him out on the dance floor, and Mat almost falls down when she informs him that she’s Leane, by the way; at the end of the dance she compliments him on his skill and then kisses him very thoroughly, before laughing and going off to dance with someone else. Mat decides to go to bed. The next day Vanin is back with the news that Talmanes will sit tight, and also with Olver, to Mat’s displeasure; Olver informs him he is watching Mat’s back, as “she” cannot be trusted, meaning Aviendha. Mat endures having Olver follow him everywhere as he tries to see Egwene again and is refused. Thom and Juilin are still missing as well, and Vanin ferrets out information about Logain and the Red Ajah and Bryne’s army that makes Mat very unhappy, more convinced than ever that Egwene is in danger from the fools she’s supposedly leading. That evening Myrelle approaches him again about bonding, and is none too pleased to learn that hers was the fifth offer he’d received that day, including one from Delana. The next day Egwene finally summons him, and tells him he has two choices: go with Elayne and Nynaeve to Ebou Dar, or back to the Band by himself. He answers sourly that that’s no choice at all, and Egwene says she’s glad to hear it before dismissing him again. He meets Talmanes outside the village while waiting for Elayne and Nynaeve to join him, and tells him to have the Band follow wherever Bryne’s army goes at a non-threatening distance, and if a young woman named Egwene shows up, to get her to Caemlyn with no questions asked; Mat will be taking Nalesean with him to Ebou Dar, as well as Olver, Vanin, and a squad of Redarms. Talmanes is not pleased that Nalesean is going instead of him, and unsmilingly insists that Mat must take his serving man Nerim with him, then. Elayne and Nynaeve arrive, but to his surprise not alone; they are accompanied by Aviendha, the blond Hunter who Mat finds familiar, two white-haired Aes Sedai, and an aged Warder that must belong to one of them, as well as Thom and Juilin. The latter apologize to Mat for avoiding him, but say Elayne ordered them to stay away (Juilin adds that Nynaeve threatened to “punch his ear” as well). Mat looks at Nynaeve, who ducks behind her horse, and apologizes to Thom for what he said about the letter, and hopes it was good news.
But Thom only shrugged. Mat did not know what to make of him without his gleeman’s cloak. “Good news? I haven’t puzzled that out yet. Often you don’t know whether a woman is friend, enemy or lover until it is too late. Sometimes, she is all three.” Mat expected a laugh, but Thom frowned and sighed. “Women always seem to like making themselves mysterious, Mat.”
As an example, he tells Mat he recently ran into Aludra, the Illuminator they rescued in Aringill, but she pretended she did not know Thom, and Thom returned the favor. Mat thinks he would like to meet Aludra again, as her fireworks had proved very useful, but tells Thom he doesn’t know anything about women, Perrin’s the man for that. He mutters that hopefully this won’t take more than “five or ten days”, but Thom tells him even with this gateway it will take them five days just to reach Ebou Dar, whereupon Mat stomps over to where Elayne is talking with the white-haired Aes Sedai, ignoring Vandene’s introduction to demand to know why they aren’t traveling straight to Ebou Dar. Vandene informs him he’s talking to the wrong Aes Sedai; Elayne coolly tells him he doesn’t know as much as he thinks, and points out there are dozens of towns and villages surrounding Ebou Dar, and gateways can be deadly if opened in populated places. Mat hates her tone, but hates more that she is right, and then sees Egwene approaching. She is surrounded by Aes Sedai, but they are all ignoring her.
Knowing her, she was trying very hard to be what they had named her, and they let her walk alone, with everybody watching. To the Pit of Doom with them if they think they can treat a Two Rivers woman that way, he thought grimly.
Striding to meet Egwene, he swept off his hat and bowed, making the best leg he knew how, and he could flourish with the best when he had to. “Good morning, Mother, and the Light shine on you,” he said, loud enough to be heard in the village. Kneeling, he seized her right hand and kissed her Great Serpent ring. A quick glare and a grimace directed at Talmanes and the others, and hidden by Egwene from those behind her, had them all scrambling to kneel and call out, “The Light illumine you, Mother,” or some variation. Even Thom and Juilin.
Egwene looked startled at first, though she hid it quickly. Then she smiled, and said softly, “Thank you, Mat.”
He asks quietly if maybe she wouldn’t like to tell him what this is all about now; she hesitates, then merely tells him to try to stay out of trouble. Mat is indignant, but answers wryly that he will try, and goes to his group. Elayne creates a gateway, and as soon as everyone is through Vandene and Adeleas set off without waiting for anyone else; Mat sees Elayne and Nynaeve exchange irritated glances before following. Mat sighs, thinking he doesn’t get why women always give him trouble, and follows.
Egwene watches the gateway disappear, and hopes Elayne and Nynaeve manage to keep Mat out of too much trouble. She feels slightly guilty about using him this way, but she had needed him away from the Band, and might be of use in Ebou Dar besides. Talmanes watches them for a moment before riding off, and Romanda and Lelaine comment it will be well to get away from him and the Band.
Egwene did not let herself smile. Mat’s Band had served its first purpose, but a great deal depended on exactly what orders Mat had left with this Talmanes. She thought she could depend on Mat in this. Siuan said that man Vanin had rooted out things before she had a chance to put them under his nose. And if she was to “come to her senses” and run to the Band for protection, then the Band would have to be close to her. “Shall we go to our horses?” she said. “If we leave now, we should catch up to Lord Bryne well before sunset.”
“Trust is the color of death”, eh? Bitter, party of one, your table is waiting...
Not that it isn’t thematically appropriate, since people believing such cynical crap is how everything ends up completely FUBAR by the end of this book, but damn. That’s like the WOT equivalent of an Alanis Morissette song.
Ha ha, I totally forgot that Leane steals a kiss from Mat here. Awesome. Poor Mat, eh? I confess that his numerous shocks here are pretty damn funny, overall, even while I sympathize with his frustration. And I have to grin at the numerous Wardering offers Mat gets; true, at least some of that was no doubt motivated by a “let’s control the ta’veren” thing (except for Delana, eek), but it’s established pretty firmly that Aes Sedai as a rule do not ask someone to be a Warder unless they think he’s seriously worth it, so overall it’s really quite flattering if you think about it.
And of course, he has his moment of awesome here when he kneels to Egwene, which always makes me go “Awww” when I read it. I could wish he got more return for his gesture, but it was sweet that Egwene sincerely thanked him, at least. And though it’s frustrating that, as usual, Egwene doesn’t trust Mat enough to just explain what her purpose was, I do think her notion to use the Band as a goad for the rebels was fairly brilliant. God knows whatever gets these people moving is a good thing.
Nynaeve hiding behind her horse: Ha!
Thom: The thing with Aludra here always smacked to me of a retcon, to explain why Thom and Aludra never acknowledged that they had met before while traveling with the circus. The funny thing is, it’s a discrepancy that I would have never noticed if Jordan hadn’t specifically pointed it out. However, that’s just me; I suppose others would have. Fans tend to be good at that sort of thing.
Halima: Well, we finally get definitive proof that the medallion blocks saidin as well as saidar. It was always rather ambiguous before. I wonder what exactly it was Halima tried to do to him? The mind shudders to think. Compulsion, maybe. Mat will never know what a bullet he dodged there. Although, I have to say the fact that Halima kept trying to lead in the dancing was rather hilarious.
Chapter 45: A Bitter Thought
Vilnar rides with the rest of the Saldaean patrol to the Whitebridge Gate, thinking about how he’d always wanted to see an Aes Sedai; he sees a woman he can’t put an age to coming out of a merchant’s house, but thinks that surely the “timeless face of an immortal” is harder to mistake than that, and dismisses her. At the gate, he watches in surprise as a long column of what looks like farmers ride up, all armed with the longest bows Vilnar’s ever seen, accompanied by three Aiel, two of them Maidens, and a Tinker with a sword.
The leader seemed to be a heavy-shouldered shaggy-haired fellow with a short beard and a wicked axe on his belt, and at his side rode a Saldaean woman in dark narrow divided skirts who kept looking up at him with the fondest...
Vilnar sat forward in his saddle. He recognized that woman. He thought of Lord Bashere, in the Royal Palace right that moment. More, he thought of Lady Deira, and his heart sank; she was in the Palace too. If some Aes Sedai had waved her hand and turned that column into Trollocs, Vilnar would have been overjoyed.
Perrin looks uneasily at the Saldaeans guarding the gate; Aram suggests that they could cut through them, and Gaul has veiled himself, but Perrin tells them to stand down, and they obey reluctantly. Perrin introduces himself to the Saldaeans and says that he thinks Rand al’Thor will want to see him; Vilnar manages to mention Bashere’s name very loudly in his reply, pointedly ignoring Faile, and tells Perrin that no one is allowed in the city with more than twenty armed men. Perrin orders Dannil to have the Two Rivers men make camp outside the city, and sends Aram with them, to the Tinker’s displeasure; Bain and Chiad take off into the city to find their societies, and Gaul quickly follows.
Perrin shook his head. Gaul wanted Chiad to marry him, but by Aiel custom, she had to ask him, and though according to Faile she was willing to become his lover, she would not give up the spear and marry. He seemed as affronted as a Two Rivers girl would have been in the same circumstance. Bain seemed to be part of it too, somehow; Perrin did not understand how. Faile professed not to know, if a bit too quickly, and Gaul grew sullen when asked. An odd people.
They ride through the city, Perrin thinking about how much he was not looking forward to confronting Faile’s father, and how Rand had pulled him to him, though it was only because of rumor that Perrin had known to come to Andor specifically. They reach the Palace and are escorted to where Rand is; Rand greets them with congratulations on their wedding day, kissing Faile, and explains about Bode and the others being here in Caemlyn with Verin and Alanna, which is how Rand knows about it. Perrin sees Min is there and greets her with a hug, until he smells the jealousy from Faile and lets her go. Faile greets Min cordially, though, and Perrin is puzzled when the jealousy scent goes after Min glances at Rand, changing to surprised pleasure instead. Rand asks after Loial, and Perrin explains that he went to rest in a nearby abandoned stedding for a while, but will be following after soon. He thinks that Rand looks harder than he had in Tear, and tired as well. Faile excuses herself and Min to Rand, and under cover of straightening Perrin’s coat warns him in a very low voice to remember that Rand is the Dragon Reborn, not his boyhood friend, and to remember that he, Perrin, is the Lord of the Two Rivers. She and Min leave, and Perrin asks after Mat; Rand replies that with any luck, Mat is currently escorting Elayne to Caemlyn to be crowned, and bringing Egwene and Nynaeve with him. Then he asks if Perrin would go to Tear for him, telling him Rand can have him there tonight. Perrin suddenly wonders if Rand is still sane, and answers that he can’t yet; there is someone in Caemlyn he has to talk to first.
Rand did not seem to be listening. He flung himself into one of the gilded chairs and stared at Perrin bleakly. “You remember how Thom used to juggle all those balls and make it look easy? Well, I’m juggling now for all I am worth, and it isn’t easy. Sammael in Illian; the rest of the Forsaken the Light only knows where. Sometimes I don’t even think they are the worst of it. Rebels who think I’m a false Dragon. Dragonsworn who think they can burn villages in my name. Have you heard of the Prophet, Perrin? No matter; he’s no worse than the rest. I have allies who hate each other, and the best general I can name to face Illian wants nothing better than to charge off and be killed. Elayne should be here in maybe a month and a half with luck, but I may just have a rebellion on my hands here before then. Light, I want to give her Andor whole. I thought of going to get her myself, but that is the worst thing I could do.” He rubbed his face with both hands, speaking behind them. “The very worst.”
Perrin asks what Moiraine thinks, and Rand tells him about Moiraine’s death in Cairhien, to Perrin’s shock. Perrin asks about going to Verin and Alanna instead, which Rand rejects harshly. Perrin warns Rand about the dangers of angering Aes Sedai, and Rand explains to him about the split in the Tower, and the two embassies sent to him; Perrin is appalled at the notion that Rand is positioning himself between the two factions, but Rand asks him if he really thinks Aes Sedai would leave him alone regardless of what was happening, and opines that the Tower split might be the best thing for him in the long run.
“If the Tower was whole, I’d have so many strings tied to me by now, I could not move a finger without asking six Aes Sedai for permission.”
Perrin very nearly laughed himself, and no more in mirth than Rand. “So you think it’s better to—what?—play the rebel Aes Sedai off against the Tower? ‘Cheer the bull, or cheer the bear; cheer both, and you will be trampled and eaten.’ ”
Rand tells him smugly that there is a third faction, ready to kneel to him, and then changes the subject to the Two Rivers, asking Perrin to tell him all about what’s going on there. They talk for a while on the subject, and Perrin is saddened that Rand refuses to go visit the Two Rivers men in the camp. Finally Rand tells Perrin he should go and freshen up, but asks him to think on Tear; Perrin promises to do so.
Hi, Perrin! Thanks for finally showing up, sheesh! I honestly did not remember that he takes so long to reappear in the main narrative. Of course, he has an awful lot to do in the last third of LOC, so I guess that makes up for it, or something.
Vilnar: I have a perverse liking for these little once-off POVs we see from time to time, mostly because I am continually fascinated by the idea of getting to see the protagonists from an outside point of view. However, Vilnar’s POV was mainly only notable in that we just saw Marillin Gemalphin (she of the Black Ajah/Healing cats persuasion) in it, whose presence in Caemlyn has been continually hinted at throughout LOC.
I’m not really sure why we keep hearing about her, because I don’t think anything ever comes of it, and we don’t see Marillin again for at least two books, but hey. At least we’ve established that Vilnar doesn’t know jack about Aes Sedai.
Gaul: Aw, poor Gaul, still in his weird triangle situation. For some reason Perrin’s assertion that Gaul gets “sullen” when you ask him about it made me chuckle, though. So the (prurient) question is, if Chiad is “willing” to be his lover, have they actually slept together, or is Gaul, er, saving himself for the wedding night, so to speak? Perspiring minds want to know!
Aram: bloodthirsty much? Seriously, dude, I know you’re going to get bad religion and try to murder Perrin later, but still, some common sense, please. It’s generally not a good idea to slaughter your own ally’s forces to get to see him. For some reason that kind of thing seems to put people off, you know?
Faile: Oh, Faile. Jealousy is so unbecoming a trait, my dear. Especially when it’s screamingly obvious your husband is about the non-cheatingest human being on the planet. Unclench, hon, kthx.
At least she’s also fairly sharp. I am amused that this is the second time a female character has taken one look at Min looking at Rand and is like, “Oh yeah, girl is gone”, when all the male characters (including Rand!) are completely oblivious. I am pretty sure that men are not quite as universally clueless in these matters (nor women as universally gifted with laser-like perception) as they are popularly portrayed, but it’s just enough true to be funny.
Rand’s speech here to Perrin is a pretty accurate summation of the multiple and myriad ways in which his life sucks. And I thought I had stress issues. I would strongly suggest to Rand (who is, of course, listening to me right now) that seeing the forest for the trees is a highly unwise exercise – especially when your particular forest happens to be on fire. I’m just saying, that’s a good way to drive yourself nuts... oh, wait. Oops.
All that said, he’s pretty badly wrong about the Tower split being a good thing for him. If the Tower hadn’t split, Siuan would still be in charge – you know, the only Aes Sedai on record as saying she wasn’t going to try to control him! Granted, she was fudging that a little, but still. And regardless, anything that puts people more on edge – which sure as hell includes your entire organization falling apart – is not a good thing for anyone. People under extreme stress or pressure tend to do stupid things. As we are about to learn, sadly.
And that’s about all I got on this one, kids. Enjoy, and see you anon!